I think it’s fair to say I’ve traveled a bit. In my twenties I did what young New Zealanders do and did the big OE [Overseas Experience] – it’s sort of a rite of passage here because we are so far away from the rest of the world. Many young kiwis [New Zealanders] go to Britain and then on to Europe from there. Not all but most New Zealanders end up coming home at some stage. Until I traveled, I didn’t understand the reason so many kiwis come back home (other than family and friends).
I was overseas for several years the first time, then traveled again in my thirties but for much shorter periods. I’ve spent a lot of time in Britain, traveled through parts of Europe as far as Turkey (loved Turkey!), explored big chunks of southern and eastern Africa and Morocco (also particularly loved Morocco). Have spent a little time in the States (but not enough), parts of Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.
What I learnt from travelling (that I hadn’t expected) is that I love to explore. I never knew that I’d so enjoy exploring new cities – and it didn’t matter whether I was travelling with someone or on my own – I just loved it!
I also didn’t realise how patriotic I’d become until I was away from home. I didn’t realise what I loved about New Zealand until I was no longer there. I knew I’d miss family and friends but there’s so much of the kiwi lifestyle, and parts of kiwi culture that I really love. The mountains and hills, forests, lakes, the wide expanses and freedom, native trees and native birds – the incredible beauty that is my homeland – I just never really appreciated it until I was elsewhere. I also didn’t realise how friendly New Zealanders were until I wasn’t around them! Then there’s the culture, the ‘can do’ attitude, the mix of nationalities and the diversity those nationalities have brought to current kiwi culture. And ice cream. The koru. Jandals. Togs…. And there’s so much more I could say (I could go on and on).
The point is – I did all my exploring and came back to where I started, and because of the experiences I’d amassed along the way, I found that I saw things differently; my perspective had changed.
“…we shall arrive where we started and see the place for the first time”
That’s what coming home was like for me after that first trip away, and each time since. That sense of seeing my country for the first time, seeing it differently, and the renewed appreciation of being back home. It’s incredible and awesome. I’d even go so far as to say: priceless!
When I returned to the valley – my private gateway to another world
Sudden bombarding of the senses:
Heat and humidity press against the skin with palpable force
Cicadas form a wall of sound: an assault on the ears
The scent of jasmine and honeysuckle, of forest and dogs and bar-b-ques
Sometimes the distant scent of rain is carried on the breeze – smell connects with the touch of the wind, and a change in the barometer spells the knowledge, the taste of showers to come
Sometimes the welcome relief of a quiet shaded forest, cool and calm this hidden treasure
A sea of divergent greens, lush tree-lined valley walls: radiance of colour, the work a combination of nature and man
Ceiling of the deepest blues: a spectrum of azure, cerulean and cyan mixed with hues of ultramarine and thalo form a vivid mural, a thousand shades of blue line this pristine expanse of untroubled sky
Sights and sounds, the feel and smells at times combine to overwhelm the senses
Other times: the quiet beauty, the stillness, the calm, refreshing my soul
These hills, these trees, this sky, this valley and river- my pocket of the world
My quiet haven, my secret enclave, my sanctuary 5014.
Dappled light through trees this morning
Filters many shades of green,
Multiple tiny creations arranged,
Portrait of light and shadow play –
It’s just Nature playing with her toys.
I think I’ve always been good at rehashing my mistakes in my memory. That way you can play and replay your faults, mistakes and perceived imperfections over and over – just in case you might forget them.
Well I’ve stopped! Now, when I become aware that I’m reliving my past faults in my head, I stop and take a moment. I forgive myself and choose to not think about it. I’m trying to replace that thought with a positive one. In so doing I’m attempting to forgive myself and move on. I’m hoping that the more often I practice this, the easier it will become a habit.
It may be a simple practice I’ve outlined but it ensures that I don’t dwell on negative experiences from the past and take steps in line with my desire to establish positive self care.
I’ve given the past too much power for far too long. Time for change. Time for small steps in the right direction.
I grew up in an environment where there was no concept of self-care. If there had been it would likely have been equated to selfishness because I was taught to put others first.
Even as an adult it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with self care, self love and self compassion. I am still learning not to listen to those internal ‘shoulds’ and to actively change the thought patterns into positive ones that give me choices, rather than leaving me feeling defeated from the start, never living up to my own expectations, and not being good enough. The aim was perfection and surprisingly, I never made it! Even when I was good, my fear was that I was not really good enough.
Only recently have I really come to terms with the reasons why those ‘shoulds’ leave me in such a lose/lose situation every time. Even if I win I still lose because today’s win may well be over shadowed by tomorrow’s failure – because at some point there WILL be a failure because (surprise, surprise) I’m not perfect.
I hadn’t been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together until I learned that ‘shoulds’ are always based on expectations – whether they are my own or someone else’s. As a child and teenager I knew that my ‘shoulds’ were my parents’ voices being replayed inside my head. I think I probably assumed that my ‘shoulds’ were also the voice of my conscience.
As an adult I realise that I have the freedom to make my own choices, and that my choices can be expectation-free if I so choose. And where there are no expectations, there can also be choices free from a sense of failure. As I’ve written many times, I choose to no longer see life in the blacks and whites my parents used as their reference points. There were so many things in life that were either black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, absolutes. The choice was ‘A’ or ‘B’ with no other alternatives. I choose instead to view life as a series of many continuums and where I stand at any given point on a continuum is simply a snapshot in time (rather than a label or judgement) and may have little bearing on where I may choose to stand tomorrow. And each continuum is made up of thousands and thousands of different shades of grey (or any other colour or colours I choose at the time). I find that there are so many more options and opportunities than I was initially led to believe. And that brings freedom. And acceptance.
And the quote above also provides me with a sense of freedom – freedom to take time to rest, time for self-care, time to be, to replenish, regenerate and renew. And when I take time for myself I am actively choosing to look after myself. It’s not selfish because actually I am important too. And there’s freedom in realising that, and valuing myself.