The Sun Is Waiting

When Ukulele Me made an appearance recently, I gave a commitment to post some ukulele music in the not-too-distant future. Accustomed as I am to doing things the hard way, I’ve chosen to write an original song.

Life has been a bit difficult lately but through it all I have been grateful for the gift of being able to express the unexpressable through the written word and through music.

It’s a song about hope, the only thing you can cling to when the world turns dark. The sun will always be waiting to shine light into the deepest shadows.

This song is dedicated to my friend Lisa who knows more than most about waiting for the sun.

 

 

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Lighting The Dark

Light the Dark

On Sunday 23rd of February 2014, an event called Light The Dark was held across Australia. Tens of thousands of people gathered in large crowds and small groups, in capital cities and country towns, to hold candlelight vigils in memory of Reza Barati, a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who was killed in the Australian detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. It was also a protest at the inhumane levels our recent governments on both major sides of politics have stooped to in their asylum seeker policies.

It was an incredibly moving experience and while many tears were shed, there was also hope. Hope that the voices of compassion will be heard. Hope in the knowledge that we are not alone. Hope that a movement of people can and will bring about change.

Sometimes the written or spoken word fails me. Sometimes the only way I can respond to feelings felt deeply is through song: “Light The Dark” – a song of light and hope in a time of darkness.

To see some inspiring photographs from Light The Dark:

36 “Light The Dark” Photos That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

 

 

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2014: Sailing Away From The Safe Harbour

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world. 

So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them. 

And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation. 

So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.

– Neil Gaiman, 31 December 2012

I took Neil Gaiman at his word in 2013 and did a number of things that scared me. It’s not that I joined the Peace Corp and went to a war zone but I pushed myself to do things that were well outside my comfort zone.

I left a highly comfortable and easy job to venture into a career where I really had no idea what I was doing. I started a blog, recorded some of my own songs and put them on SoundCloud, sang a solo for the first time at my community singing group, submitted a book to a publisher and attended a number of workshops that pushed me into unfamiliar territory.

All of these things frightened me but also, once achieved, brought great joy.

I usually prefer not to make New Year resolutions. I don’t need a year of guilt that I’m not doing what I promised myself I would. I tend to be the Make It Up As You Go Along type.

But for 2014, I resolve one thing: To continue to do the things that scare me most and to always find the joy.

There’s a quote, often attributed to Mark Twain (falsely as it turns out), about sailing out of the safe harbour and pursuing your dreams.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This is my resolution for the new year and my wish for you.

Chase your dreams and find your joy.

May the coming year bring you new adventures and
may your trade winds always be favourable.

HNY

 

 

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A Sister Lost – Remembering Keryn

Twenty years ago today my eldest sister and her newborn daughter died in a car accident. In the space of a little over a week we went from celebrating the joy of new life to the horror of sudden death. We were a family not so much ‘touched by the road toll’ as slapped, kicked and punched by it.

As we each struggled to recalibrate our lives in this new reality, the family fractured. In time, most of those fractures have healed, some forming a bond stronger than before, but some have never mended and remain a constant reminder of the scar of family tragedy.

Nine years older than me, Keryn was my Big Sister. The most alike of all our siblings, in looks and interests, we had a unique bond. It began as that of small child and substitute mother. She was always the one to care for us when our parents were out or away, particularly when we lived overseas in my earliest years and there was no other family to help. When my mother was hospitalised for several weeks when I was three, it was Keryn who dropped me off at childcare on her way to school as my father had to be at work very early.

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I have a scar on my forehead. As a recalcitrant five year old, refusing to get in the bath, I was dragged to the bathroom where my head accidentally connected with the door frame. I needed three stitches. For many years I blamed this incident on a sibling with whom I had a fractious relationship. It was not until after Keryn died I discovered that it had in fact been my beloved eldest sister who had inflicted the damage. It’s interesting how our childish brain can rearrange an historical event to fit the more obvious narrative. I wish I had learned of it before she died. I would have apologised for my behaviour.

It was Keryn who introduced me to theatre, specifically musical theatre. She had been a member of the local Gilbert and Sullivan company for a number of years and when I was sixteen, she took me along to join the chorus. We spent nine years sharing the stage. After she died, I couldn’t bring myself to perform with the company without her. I didn’t join another theatre company for 15 years but when I did, I joined one that had known and loved my sister and that still honoured her memory.

In my late teens, it became my turn to play babysitter as I took the role of occasional carer of her children. After I married, our lives met on more equal terms and our relationship grew to that of friends. Then, just as it seemed our lives had synced, she was gone.

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When my husband and I decided to start a family, we always planned to give a daughter my sister’s name as a middle name. We had three boys. But in the way of the universe sometimes, for our third and last child, we had chosen the name Kieran if the baby was a boy. We chose it just because we liked it. It wasn’t until he arrived and I had to accept I would never have a girl that I realised how similar the name we had chosen was to my sister’s name. It became a way to remember her in the only way we could.

When Kieran was five years old, he was at a well-known fast food restaurant for a birthday party. The young man running the party was asking each child their name and what they wanted to order. When I asked to see his list to check what my son had ordered, the young man had spelt my son’s name ‘Keryn’.

She is never far away.

Keryn and Me

Grief takes an unusual and sometimes confusing path. As one would expect, for the first few years birthdays and anniversaries were highly emotional days to be confronted and endured. As time passed, these seemed to become easier. Sometimes the day would pass barely noticed. Then, a few years ago, so many years after the event, these days became difficult again. Perhaps it was the realisation that she really wasn’t ever coming back. Perhaps it was my own arrival at significant life moments that triggered memories of what I had lost. Perhaps it was the signs that life had moved on and I secretly yearned for it all to return to ‘normal’.

So now I sit simultaneously in a state of acceptance and denial. I accept that she is gone and our lives have adjusted accordingly and yet I still find myself wanting things to be as they were even whilst knowing they cannot.

All I can do, in light of the unimaginable, is remember the time that we did have together, hold on to the memories that last and continue to miss her every single day.

(I felt a very strong need to write a song to remember my sister this year. It wasn’t easy but this is my song for Keryn.)

 

 

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The Friends We Deserve

I had a birthday recently. Let me just say I am not the world’s most enthusiastic birthday celebrant and the older I get, the less enthusiastic I become. Friends asking “So, what are you doing for your birthday?” are inevitably met with “Nothing.”

It’s not that I’m unhappy to have a birthday. As Larry Lorenzoni pointed out, “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.”

I’ve just always felt mildly embarrassed to invite people to celebrate my birthday with me. It seems somehow selfish and self-aggrandising. Birthdays were never lavish affairs growing up and I’ve toned them down since then. (Although, I do remember my 11th birthday when I and my friends were taken to the circus. We had whistlepops.)

This year, some of my friends decided a non-celebratory birthday was unacceptable so they kidnapped me and gave me a birthday celebration anyway. It made me wonder what I’ve done in my life to deserve them.

Do we get the friends we deserve? Is there a Friendship Karma? A Buddy Balance Sheet? Do the friends you get measure up to the friend you are? If there is a balance sheet, I think I’m in the red. I’ve been blessed with friends far in excess of what I deserve.

Some friends have come into my life when I’ve needed them and exited when I no longer did. Some have come into my life and stayed. Even the Poor Choice friends of my youth have served a purpose, showing me the lifestyle I didn’t want and pushing me towards new friends who made me feel safe instead of scared.

I’ve certainly tried to be a good friend but at times I’ve failed, as I suspect we all do at some point in our lives. Lack of contact, being unavailable and, worst of all, hurtful words spoken out of thoughtlessness have all been committed by me. Perhaps it’s the errors we make that show us which of our friends are the stayers. I feel an eternal debt to those friends who have forgiven and forgotten the mistakes I’ve made and stuck by me.

I can’t imagine a world without friendship. While your family is meant to love you, friends choose to love you. They choose to spend time with you. And they are often the ones who know the Real You, especially the Lifelong Friend. Lifelong friends have seen you at your best and at your worst, they’ve shared your growing up, your life-changes, your highlights and your lowlights. That doesn’t mean that lifelong friends only arrive in childhood. Sometimes they appear later in life but come to know you so well it’s as if they have been a part of your life forever.

I wrote this song for my friend Carolyn for her birthday a couple of years ago. The words are equally applicable to so many of my friends. Friends I continue to do my best to deserve.

 

 

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Chasing Time

Chasing Time

I’ve lost half an hour. I’m not sure where or when I lost it exactly but it’s definitely missing.

I’ve been running constantly late for everything recently. I figure if I can just insert another half an hour at a strategic point, I’ll be able to catch up. A Time Winder would be helpful right about now. Or a TARDIS. Or any time machine really. I don’t want much. I’m not asking to go back 20 years and do a reboot (as tempting as that may be). Just a little hop back, or maybe a couple of hops so I can get ahead.

I love time. Since hiding behind the cushions from the Cybermen or marvelling at a town that can have a shop that survives hundreds of years with the same shop window dummy, I’ve found time and its mysteries a fascinating topic.

The magic of time is its simultaneous steadiness and rubberiness. I mean, scientifically, time progresses in an orderly manner – 60 seconds to a minute*, 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day**, 365 days to a year*** – and yet in our day to day living the same amount of time can take all day or only a moment. Spend an hour in a tedious committee meeting and it feels like it’s gone on all night. Spend the same hour doing something you love – singing, fishing, sorting your sock drawer – and the hour disappears in seconds.

Time even changes depending on how old you are, have you noticed? When you’re a kid, summer holidays seem to last forever. The start of school is years away and you’ve got all the time in the world to do what you want. As you get older, the years seem to take less and less time to get to the end. It’s already well into October and I’m still somewhere back in the middle of May. It’s no wonder I’m running chronically late.

It gets worse when you have children. One minute you’re battling sleepless nights and toddler tantrums and the next minute they’re young men and women. (And you’re still battling sleepless nights, waiting for them to come home from a party. Time doesn’t change everything.)

Whether your life is moving through time like you have a jetpack attached or like you’re riding on the back of a giant snail, in the end the time you’re given is the time you’ve got. All you can do is make the most of it while you can.

The following song says it all. (It should. I wrote it.)

By the way, if anyone happens to find my missing half an hour, I’d appreciate a prompt return. Thanks.

*Except when they have to add that extra second every now and again because all the numbers are approximate.

**Except that the Earth actually rotates on its axis in 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.09 seconds.

***Except for leap years when they add another day because really a year is about 365 and 1/4 days.****

****I told you the numbers were approximate.

 

 

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