Galvanize Me

I’ve been feeling rather at odds with the world in the past couple of weeks. It’s like I’ve reached a tipping point and I’m just so fed up with all that is wrong with the world—the lack of female representation in the media and in my work environment;  the casual disowning by retiring baby-boomers of the myriad issues facing their children and grandchildren; the modern economic lens that frames every decision as ultimately selfish; the way so many people are locked into a consume-and-dispose mindset…

At the same time, I’m surrounded by events that roar with love—close friends getting engaged, another recently married, and the celebration of some big milestones in my own marriage.

And a part of me realises that this slow-burning fury can galvanize me into action, into living as though a better world is possible. After all, surely the point of anger is to help us protect ourselves and those we love most. So, in that spirit (and with an unapologetically cheesy wedding theme), here are a few things that have been inspiring me recently:

Something old: I’ve rediscovered the pop punk anthems of my teen years—and I still love them! I was amused (but somewhat disheartened) to find that the rebellious songs of my youth still feel so applicable, what with all the condescending advice older generations keep spitting in the local media.

Something new: I’ve started using instagram, and it’s bringing me a lot of joy. The combination of artful pictures and simple words packs a powerful punch. I’m even tempted to start posting my own photos, although I’ve always preferred to express myself using words rather than images.

Something borrowed: A wonderful blog post by Ryan Cope on Plastic-Free Tuesday highlights the gossamer-thin line between being either weighed down or motivated to keep fighting by the endless stream of plastic waste humanity is generating.

And some blues: Mahogany L. Browne’s poem, litany, captures some the essence of blues music, as well as some of my own recent feelings of frustration. I’ve written before about my love for blues dancing, but reading litany made me question whether I—as a privileged white woman from halfway around the world—have the right to seek and receive so much pleasure from a music style with deep roots in hardship and struggle. Perhaps the answer is to further educate myself about the history of blues while continuing to appreciate the music and the dance for the joy it brings me and others in my community. After all, it’s times like these we most need shared moments of joy to bring us together and remind us what’s most important in life.

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A little bit of spring sunshine

A month has passed since my last post, thanks to an urgent deadline at work that kept me too busy to blog. (In fact, for a couple of weeks there my life consisted solely of work and blues dancing. Although it was far from a perfect work-life balance, blues is an excellent way to spend one’s limited free time!)

While I’ve been otherwise occupied, Mother Earth has been hard at work too and the season’s first bright, fragrant flowers are springing up all over the place. With the warmer mornings and longer days, it truly feels like summer is coming. Now I’m just waiting for the sun to stop hiding her radiant face behind grey cloud and misty drizzle.

A piece of sunshine in the garden

A sunny pair of daffodils

But perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place? It turns out sunshine comes in many forms, and I was delighted to discover a little piece of blogging sunshine in the guise of an award nomination from Simple Is The New Green! I have to start by saying thank you for the nomination; it’s wonderful to receive recognition from fellow bloggers. For those who haven’t come across Simple Is The New Green before, I recommend you go check it out. The author has a refreshingly grounded take on simple, green living.

And now, here are my answers to the questions posed:

1. What does your ideal day look like?

There are too many enjoyable activities in life to fit into a single “ideal” day, but a damn good day might start with a lazy morning reading in bed, followed by an afternoon amble through the bush or along the shore, and topped off by a night of blues dancing!

2. How do you find instant gratification that doesn’t cost anything?

Snuggling with the resident cat (or any cat really); strumming on a ukulele; being in a park or on a beach. Honestly, this is such a brilliant question — what are some of the simple things that give you pleasure?

I was trying to take a photo, but she was determined to smooch. Human 0 - Cat 1

I was trying to take a photo, but she was determined to smooch. Human 0 – Cat 1.

3. If you knew a disaster was coming and you have 10 minutes to evacuate your house, what would you take?

I actually have two answers to this question. My immediate response was: my wedding ring and the necklace made by my husband (both of which I would normally be wearing), childhood teddy bear and cat. However, that answer is more appropriate to the question “What would you save if your house was on fire?” i.e. those things that are most precious and irreplaceable.

When I reframed the question in terms of evacuation due to a natural disaster, then I’d add in the survival kit that I keep meaning to assemble (food, water, solar-powered torch, matches, etc), some warm waterproof clothes and sturdy boots, and a cellphone to get in touch with family.

Spreading the sunshine

As the final part of the award, I’d like to nominate the following blogs that I thoroughly enjoy reading:

And here are my questions for these bloggers to answer, if they feel so inclined:

  1. What motivated you to start blogging?
  2. Have your motivations changed over time, and if so, how and why?
  3. What is one book that changed your life? (If you aren’t much of a reader then you could share a movie, life event or even blog that’s had a big impact on you.)
  4. What are some of the simple things in life that give you pleasure?

If you aren’t one of my nominees, feel free to answer these questions anyway — I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The most addictive thing I’ve ever done

I spent the past weekend at an amazing blues dance workshop taught by Lucky Skillen and hosted by Swing Out Central. Spending a whole weekend dancing is such an intense way to learn, and it gave me a huge boost to my confidence, skills and understanding of blues.

The workshop also left me craving more. On Sunday evening at the social wind-down, despite my aching calves and exhausted body, I just did not want to stop dancing! I believe partner dancing is incredibly addictive and incredibly good for you because the combination of listening to music, physical exercise and human touch triggers your brain/body to release feel-good hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Some of the many benefits of these chemicals include pain relief, better immune function, feeling happy and increased empathy.

If everybody would dance there would be no war

— Dawn Hampton

Lucky finished the weekend with “micro-blues” workshop. The simplest way to describe micro-blues is this: We hugged! Of course, there was a lot more to it than that. We started by adjusting our breathing to follow the music (when we were leading) or our partner’s breath (when we were following), then gradually added in very small/slow movements.

Here’s the interesting thing about micro-blues. One would normally expect spending 5 minutes hugging a near-stranger to feel exceedingly awkward. Instead the experience was soothing and meditative. Because we had our eyes shut and our attention focused on the music and the subtle movements of our partner’s body, we were able to reap the benefits of human touch without feeling our normal apprehension about prolonged touch.

So if you’ve never tried partner dancing before, give it a go! I’m a big fan of blues and lindy hop, but any partner dancing involves music, exercise and touch, and will give you the same sort of benefits I’ve described here.