Whānau time

Whānau time

It started when Thomas my eldest son arrived at the Airport after four and a half years in Europe. Walking into the terminal I told myself that I was good, I had been good during his departure, then cancelled trips due to Covid and then Cancer. But I felt it. “Are you okay Dad?”, not really, you? “no same for me too!” Then it was a booth breakfast with Thomas and his Mum and I. Twenty four hours ago working, looking after his family, now jammed in the booth, being grilled and given pocket money! It was a great start.

My next son Tim had a big birthday a couple of days later, then it was Dad’s 90th, a trip to Christchurch and a most special celebration – Mum and Dad’s 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Grandma had declined permission for Dad to marry when he was nineteen. You can’t blame her really. But on turning twenty, it was off to the Christchurch Registry Office a few days later in Manchester Street – midweek – and nuptials. Smiles all around and the happy couple settled in Christchurch where they still live. Mum’s still an Aucklander though “that easterly wind always gets you”, and as a family we had many happy holidays at Stanmore Bay, Whangaparaoa.

About 20 marriages a year make it to 70 years in New Zealand. No wonder you can’t find the pre-printed cards at Whitcoulls!

So what are Mum and Dad secrets: good genes, garden vegetables, sugar-infused bottled fruit, boysenberry ice cream, wholemeal bread, married young and keep a healthy bit of disagreement going on are my observations. When I interviewed Mum in advance of the big day she said having your own interests was really important. Fiercely independent was what it felt like as a child. Dad said Mum’s insights on money were really important, he said she was usually right in hindsight. Pocket money for Dad is what we saw.

We had 55 people join us to celebrate the big day All whanau. It felt rich and full.

Then it was my turn – move into my new house, a big birthday and a Whakawātea for friends, neighbours and those involved in the construction.

Going back to work I felt replete. A real turbo boost of those most special to me.

Think I need another break now!

Stephen

-I really did interview Mum and Dad. Some family were present. It was the conversation you won’t ever wish you had. I’ve done a few interviews in my time. This was beyond special.

-Statistics available on marriage length indicate that in the US about .001 of marriages make 70 years. About 20,000 marriages take place annually in New Zealand.

    Just like riding a ski

    Just like riding a ski

    I’ve been fortunate enough to see if I could ski again after a bit of chop and change in one of my legs a couple of years ago. No one was more surprised than me when I gave it a go at Coronet Peak a few weeks ago, and I managed a few runs, backed up a fortnight later.

    I found myself telling people I could still ski thanks to a special ski week quite some time ago and it got me thinking about that ski week.

    Back in the school holidays in the sixth form (year 12 now) I spent a glorious week learning to ski properly at Mt Olympus Ski field near Lake Coleridge, Canterbury with a group of school boys. It now promotes itself as the place to “Ski in the Playground of the Gods“. It was a big week.

    We got dropped off at a Canterbury Farm Station somewhere, and me and three other boys were driven up in the couple’s two door Range Rover. I assumed they operated the Station, but at that age, you don’t know much really, and I didn’t ask, or was told. Mind your own business my mother would have said anyway! They were club members I do recall, and I can see that the club is still running the field – the Windwhistle Winter Sports Club – as it has since 1932. I’ve had a thing for skiing and those early Rangies ever since.

    Then there was no milk and I started drinking black coffee which tasted quite bitter and was instant – I think that was “normal” then – but I’ve been a black coffee drinker ever since. And on the first day of skiing the instructor told us “leave your poles boys, you’ll be learning to ski properly”. And we did.

    So when I thought I’d give skiing a go at Coronet Peak with limitations to my leg I found I could. What came straight back to guide me were the lessons at Mt Olympus, coming sharply back into focus. Shifting the weight from ski to ski to turn. Poles just for balance.

    It’s worth learning something properly. It stays.

    Stephen

    The original Range Rover was introduced by British Leyland under the Rover brand in 1969 and continued in production until 1996, by then under the Land Rover brand. It was a two-door model until 1981. You’ll see restored two door models for sale in NZ for ~$50,000 and a lot more overseas.

    Those rocks are smaller than you think

    Those rocks are smaller than you think

    Coming to the end of The Obstacle is the Way I was surprised when the author announced that I was now a philosopher in Stoicism. Although the title of the book is perhaps an obvious clue as to what follows, I hadn’t framed my approach this way. But I found much of the book confirmatory of the usefulness of the concepts of stoicism – especially in a world of disruption (i.e. always!).

    The challenging client? Covid anxiety? A war? The intractable work issue? Passive behaviour that feels aggressive? Too many life admins outstanding? All of the above all at once? I try to monitor and notice my own reactions to life’s obstacles – does my heart rate increase, am I irritable, do I start doing detailed work and planning? To notice is to be present in the here and now.

    I remember many moons ago working in the Auckland Central police watchhouse – where people who had been arrested were “processed” – until they were bailed or taken to court. As you might imagine, not all customers were particularly happy – many drunk, aggressive and abusive. But you had to search, photograph and fingerprint them, whether they liked it or not. In some respects, achieving the outcomes required behaviour that was the antithesis of the macho, forceful imagine of a uniform cop tackling an alcohol-infused melee. It required the ability to depersonalise the anger directed at you. It’s surprisingly difficult to fingerprint someone – hold their fingers over an inkpad, and roll each finger on the paper – all ten of them – if they don’t want it! I must have achieved a modicum of success as the senior sergeant asked me to stay on for a second six month tour because he said, I had the temperament. I declined, patrols were far more exciting.

    But it must have been part of my journey of stoicism, which has really come to the fore these last couple of years, although I’ve never really framed it for myself that way. Perception, Action and Will make up the three disciplines of this book and underpinning it is turning every obstacle into an advantage. In business we might say “turning lemon into lemonade”, or “pivoting now”, but what we’re doing is turning the challenge, the obstacle or disadvantage into an opportunity.

    Put another way, declining to be a victim despite the circumstances of apparent unfairness, avoiding catastrophising a situation – living in the present – the book says that unfortunately “We have to dive endlessly into what everything “means”, whether something is “fair” or not, whats “behind” this or that..”. Actually most of the time when something isn’t going our way, the person, or people that might be the perceived cause, are more than likely not particularly interested in us. Sad, but good too! It can put perspective into our lives.

    Been “disrespected” at work? Who hasn’t been? (who hasn’t done it too?). Was the other person acting with intention? Possibly, but more than likely it was just a moment. So don’t worry. Feed off what they said and come back more powerful appearing more considered and patient as a result.

    It’s a perfect day for stoicism. Rain is here after what feels like months of fine weather (unconscious bias of course – there’s been some!), and it’s got that cosy, rain on the roof feeling.

    An opportunity to catch up on life admin, and even restart a blog!

    Stephen

    Headline Photograph: Stonehenge from a visit in 2015. The rocks were quite a bit smaller than I had imagined.

    It’s in your head

    It’s in your head

    I’ve been grappling a bit over the last couple of years with resilience – the concepts more than the actual thing (I think!). People talk of building it up, focussing on your wellbeing to make sure you are resilient, especially during this Covid era when uncertainty about work, health, travel, whanau is ever present. It’ll be coming up four years soon since I saw my eldest son, now settled in Ireland with children of his own, one I’ve not seen in person. There are thousands of similar, and far more challenging situations for many Kiwis. I’m thinking especially those who have lost their employment or had their earnings restricted from business, or who haven’t been able to say farewell to loved ones who have died. It’s tough. And resilience is needed.

    I was out at my little piece of paradise this long Waitangi weekend, doing some cleaning up, after a big clean up – moving bits of old metal, some electric power line fittings – trees in pots that had fallen over and so on. I’ve been very cautious – one of my legs is not what it used to be and I’ve been looking after my resilience by protecting it, having others to do the hard graft, leaving me for such strenuous activities as watering and fetching cold drinks from the fridge in the container (should you leave it on? – I hope it’s alright!).

    Something switched – maybe I suddenly reached a tipping point and got tougher, but I grabbed all the old metal, electrical fittings and some bits of timber and lugged them up the hill to the bin. Cripes it felt good. Then I did it again. Then I moved the plants back upright. Then I attacked the door to the bore shed that’s been jamming – fixed that.

    I’m certain it wasn’t all in my head, I have been weaker, but it had got in my head and now it’s out and I’m free and strong to do what I can. Well that’s what it feels like – probably won’t make the Olympic team quite yet, but you get the drift!

    Mount Taranaki

    In The Mental Toughness Handbook by Damon Zahariades he separates resilience from mental toughness. He says Resilience:

    “is the ability to bounce back from unforeseen complications. It’s the ability to adapt. For example, suppose you leave your home at a normal time en route to your workplace. Unfortunately, you run into expectedly heavy traffic on the freeway. This setback is sure to make you late for a meeting scheduled that morning.
    A resilient person might grit his teeth and curse under his breath, but he’d ultimately adapt to this circumstance. He might seek a different route to his workplace, using his phone’s GPS feature. Or he may call his office and reschedule the meeting. Or he might compose an explanation for his tardiness that allows him to avoid others’ disapproval.

    Mental toughness is a mindset. It not only reflects our ability to bounce back from unforeseen complications, but also demonstrates a positive outlook during the experience. It’s not just the ability to handle stressful situations. It reflects how we handle them. For example, a mentally tough person caught in unexpectedly heavy traffic might take the opportunity to listen to an inspiring audiobook. In fact, she might be pleased with her circumstance because it gives her the opportunity.”

    Obviously there’s more to it in the book than I can relay here, but think about the times when things go wrong – do you see it as an opportunity? Or do you try and make sure the tracks are covered?

    I’m not advocating pulling yourself up by the bootstrings necessarily but there is something to be said for thinking of the opportunity. But it’s tough. Mentally tough, but it might just be in your head as to which way you choose.

    Resilience vs Mental Toughness. Subtly different.

    Stephen