Survival

South of Adelaide lies the Fleurieu Peninsula, a fertile, undulating place of mild climate and lonely roads, rising no more than 800 feet above the sea. It juts out like a witch’s chin, pointing south-west towards Kangaroo Island. The peninsula has around sixty or seventy miles of coastline along the Gulf St Vincent and the Southern Ocean. There are sandy beaches, but it is mostly a jumble of rocky outcrops, bluffs, cliffs, coves, estuaries and windswept valleys. There is some development, but inaccessibility foils much human effort at such things. It is a beautiful, wild, raw kind of place.

I spent a lot of time there as a child. We lived at the beach near the city, but for vacations we went to other beaches. Oftentimes we went south, to the Fleurieu. Over many summers and school field trips, you learn a thing or two about nature, and the nature of life in water and near it. As a place to discover such things, there are few peers.

For a while, the life that lay beneath rocks near the water fascinated me. There are many tessellated outcrops between Adelaide and Cape Jervis, replete with tidal pools, corals and all kinds of life. I loved the crabs that live in this semi-sea, semi-land environment. Nothing made me happier than overturning a shoebox-sized rock to note the crabs living underneath. They scuttled away, but I caught them, sometimes paying for it with nips.

How did they squish themselves into such small spaces? Did they grow into big crabs or stay palm-sized? (Child’s palm-sized!) What did they eat? What did they do when the tide came in and covered their house in seawater?

~*^*~

We live in a time when the tide is coming toward us. We are living under a rock for the moment, more-or-less dry, more-or-less happy, kinda doing okay. But I fear that we will need to quickly adapt when the sea truly begins to roll in, as it will. That is the lesson from those afternoons spent fooling about in rockpools – some crabs survive, others don’t.

Which will you be?

Perspective

 

Happy Mother's Day, Carol.
Happy Mother’s Day, Carol.

Sundays have a specific feel to me, perhaps for you too. This Sunday, yesterday, was my first without work for weeks, and so it felt particularly special.

After some breakfast at The Coffee Loft (living the dream with coffee, panino, newspaper and Sunday Baroque) I tootled off to Barnes and Noble. They’ve changed B & N around since last I was there, it’s different and roomier. Hopefully bookshops will survive the Amazon onslaught.

Then to Best Buy. Best Buy can make me feel inadequate. Odd, I know, but it’s the combination of all that wonderful stuff that I can’t afford, and all that wonderful stuff that I don’t quite understand. The technology on sale is brilliant, but I have a need for only a tiny fraction of what’s available. Despite that, I would still like to have it all – ridiculous as that is.

Sunday was restful, a rejuvenation day. This morning I was at Lido Key at sunup, reveling in the absence of people and the quiet. At the beach, there’s space to think, to get calm, to find perspective. It made me happy that someone remembered to give Carol some flowers. That’s what’s important. And I’m glad that someone knows it.

Affirmations

Looking to build something?
Looking to build something?

 

In July of 2001, when I first moved from Sydney to Seattle, I figured the time was ripe for some self-improvement. I had the time to read and digest new ideas, and a new life ahead to contemplate.

I bought books and tapes. Dr Wayne Dyer and Anthony Robbins became my companions. Before bed I’d read their words of wisdom. On long walks I’d listen to their tapes. At the gym, they’d work out with me. These guys were in my head.

But that’s as far as they went. I didn’t notice my bank balance increase. There weren’t more women hitting on me. Things just seemed…well, more or less the same. Being analytical, it seemed clear that I was missing something, that I was the weak link in this beautifully narrated pathway to success. Just what was it that I wasn’t doing?

The continual doubt that I couldn’t shake was that the gurus’ version of the world didn’t match my version. In their world, you dream, tell yourself stories, convince yourself you deserve more than this, and tell everyone about it. In my world, you set goals, work towards them, sacrifice, work harder, deal with failure, try different paths, adapt to change, use your intelligence, seek guidance from experts, strive to be the best, and work some more.

Now, whenever I look at the self-help books in the bookstore, or hear someone tell me that “…affirmations have changed my life…” I’m skeptical. I’m happy for that person, if it gives them what they need. Good-oh.

My life, however, is different. The way to make things happen, better things, is to work at them. Be smart. Create good habits. Do the right thing. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Focus. Understand that doing a little every day is a more certain way than any other of moving towards your goal. Yes, there will be moments of setback, just as there will be quantum leaps forward. It’s not a single-speed universe. The only secret is to keep moving.

In essence, this is an argument for logic against emotion. There are minimum requirements in life. Feed, clothe and house yourself. Provide for your family. Plan for your future. Not always will you accomplish these by doing everything your way. Sometimes it will require sacrifice, especially of your need for self-expression.

Once you’re up and running with the essentials of life, that’s the time to indulge yourself. Then you can tell yourself that “it’s my time.” Until then, keeping paying the bills before they’re due, and save for a rainy day. Utility companies don’t accept good intentions, and life without electricity blows.

Opposing Currents

Late autumn, Sarasota Bay
Late autumn, Sarasota Bay

 

I notice in myself an ability to keep two opposing thoughts in mind at one time. For instance, I tend not to pay my household bills until about two days before they’re due. That’s a fondness for keeping hard earned cash in my possession as long as possible. What I know I should do is to pay all my bills by the fifteenth of each month. It’s a small housekeeping fantasy that I nurture with promises to self of “…there’s always next time…” on the 30th of each month.

The logic of paying early is to avoid the stress of a) having to remember to pay just prior to the due date, and b) to create a good habit of keeping a cushion in case something goes astray.

Are you similarly split? Another example might be that you know you should be eating kale and cucumbers for breakfast, but choose milk and cereal instead. Ahem. I might also have this dual current going on.

What I think is happening here is a mismatch between intellect and the flesh. We’re intensely tied to our habits. Think of smoking cigarettes, for example. I cannot imagine many smokers would, if asked, agree that the deliberate inhalation of burnt fermented vegetation is of any benefit to them. And yet they still continue to do so. The power of the rhythm of the smoking routine is so difficult to break, let alone the chemical addiction.

The problem with habits is their essential illogicality. If I could show you a more cost-efficient, safer, better quality way to do your laundry, would you be interested? Most people are not, because they’re so in the groove of tossing a giant container of Tide into their shopping trolley and calling it good. An inferior and more expensive pathway is easier to negotiate than changing to something new.

My theory is that our lives are made more difficult by change…at least initially. Change is hard, and requires effort. But aligning what we know is good for us with what we really do each day (cucumbers instead of cereal for instance) has enormous long-term effects. Not least among them is the stress reduction we feel every time we observe that we’re actually doing the right thing by ourselves.

And even the smallest changes work like this. Excuse me, I’m off to pay some bills. Or at least set a reminder.