Animal Cruelty – how to find the balance you need when you work in an emotionally challenging industry

Baby elephant on Koh Samui, Thailand

I am in my second year of University, studying Animal Welfare.  And I am often baffled at how the word “Welfare” actually made it into the title, because some days it seems I see so little of it – I think I am perhaps studying the ABSENCE of it.  And when you are in an industry, because of a strong driving love for those you are trying to care for, their abuse and suffering can be a very heavy load to bear.  And I am no saint.  I have dark days (and sometimes even months) where I conjure up all sorts of dire acts of revenge that I would like to dish out to my fellow humans.

But then I remind myself that I didn’t get into this industry to take my love away from humans, and give it to the animals.  Surely, the well of love is big enough to find enough inside of me for both.  And I don’t want to lose the love I have for my fellow man in this process – and yet sometimes, I feel like I come very close to losing it entirely.   So I have to work very hard to maintain a balance.  And it isn’t easy.

Some fellow animal advocates were talking about how difficult it can be some days to not actually ‘hate’ other humans, and I shared these thoughts with them.  If you also work in the animal industry, and have days of darkness, I hope these words can bring you some comfort and guidance to come back to a place of light.  The animals need you.  And the animals feel your love, so don’t ever let those people on the planet who haven’t yet found enough love in their own lives, steal yours away!!   Here is what I shared with them today…..

Ah, yes, I have been in that place of dark hatred many many times – and I still go there, often.  But believe it or not, I have found a way to ‘understand’ my fellow humans.  And I work very hard on finding a place in myself where I can also forgive them.  And it is so incredibly hard, and some days I just get so damned angry that there is no forgiveness inside me.  But them I quieten back down, breathe deeply, and hit the meditation pillow again.  And rather than ask – “why do they do that” – I imagine that I am that person.   I try to find that place of ‘Oneness’, rather than ‘Separation’ (that is the core of all the world’s problems).  I try to imagine/understand their background, what has happened to them, influenced them – remembering that they may not have had my education, or been exposed to the things I have in my life.  And I try to imagine – “how could I have done that”“What messed up way of thinking did I fall victim to, to act this way”?   And as strange as it may sound, I become flooded with answers.  I feel the gaps in their lives, the sadness, the desperation.  The stories they have been told, and that they have brought into that have shaped the lives they live.

And then, I come back to the one thing I truly believe – and that is simply this – I believe that when we die, it isn’t ‘God’ in heaven who judges us – I believe it is US, who judge ourselves.  From a place of pure love, where our ego has completely disintegrated – and I imagine we must be utterly appalled with our actions at that point, if we haven’t gone through a major process in this life of changing things – if we’ve wallowed in ignorance or been too ‘lazy’ to care or make the effort to change the world around us.  If our ego has totally over-ridden our heart.

And I think we judge ourselves very, very harshly indeed.  So that gets me thinking even more – and  then I wonder if the suffering we see in the world, is in fact, the manifestation of all of that shame – that we actually ASK and WANT to come back here and suffer to pay for our past sins. (A sort of self-directed Karma if you will).

So, I could then be very cynical and say “well, let them all suffer – they are probably right, they absolutely deserve it”.  But then I remember, I too am human.  I too have made very poor choices at times.  And I am sure will in the future too, sometimes not even intentionally knowing the suffering I might cause to another.  I was born into a culture (white European) for which I feel immense shame for the many things that have been perpetrated by ‘my people’ in history.  In the name of Elitism, in the name of Eugenics.  I have born that shame very deeply at times.

And I could just say – hey, it wasn’t actually ME that did that, and anyway, I can just let it all play out, it can’t all be my responsibility – but then the cycle just goes on and on and on.

Instead, as hard as it is, I sit with the horror and disgust, and rather than push it out of my mind, or fight it – I let my soul take it on board, and I just end up feeling deep, unending sadness for every single soul involved in this circus called life.  And I wish I had the power and capacity to forgive every single one of them – because then, maybe it could stop? But, as hard as it can be at times – I really do find that forgiveness.  I found forgiveness for myself for my own bloodline, and I found it for my past eating habits.  And I find it, even in the times I truly doubt it will come, for those I perceive as the most vile and terrible people on the planet too.

And one by one, I process that, and I can only hope that that will be one soul who WON’T choose to come back and play a part in this disgusting suffering any more.  I then imagine the power that could be wrought if we could all find this forgiveness, and start spreading it outwards now.  The entire planet seems to be so desperately in need of it.

If I didn’t think these things – I’m pretty sure the hatred would have overwhelmed me by now, and all I would then succeed in doing is feeding the negativity and probably doing something insanely stupid like taking out a few misguided individuals, in my pursuit of justice.  And then losing my own life or sanity to the unconquerable despair.

And I’d be damned sure I was right in doing that too.  Until I died – and then found myself sitting there, ready to pass that judgement on my own life.  And I would see those people as the pure souls they actually are, underneath the covering of ‘personality’ they were born into.  And I would look at myself, in the space of pure and utter love.  And I know, with all the hatred gone – I wouldn’t be happy with the choice I made.


This is the only solution.  And when you get to a place where you can find it, I swear, it empowers you to create change in a way anger never can.  And when it gets really hard, and you think that forgiveness is unachievable – just go watch an abused animal reconnect with a human being – they are the EPITOME of forgiveness – and they might just be here to teach us to be the same!!!

I think it is in books, photography and music that I find the ability to reach this forgiveness plateau.  They are like lights at the end of long dark tunnels at times – and I need to revisit them often, and immerse myself in their beauty.  To keep the darkness at bay, and connect with the infinite flow of love that is buried within us all.  And I think it is important to reach out, to others who share your passion, and understand the depth of the grief that can accompany it.  Sometimes I feel very alone here, fighting the world in what sometimes seems such an un-winnable battle.  But then I meet one other person, who’s passion shines even more brightly than mine – and I am reminded – we may be spread far and wide, but we are an army, and we are strong, and we are a TEAM!!!   Together, we just may change the world.

So wherever it is you find your peace, visit it often.  I hope it can bring you comfort too, so that the darkness doesn’t overwhelm you.  Remember – the animals need you, and I am very proud to be on your team!!!

© Michele Harrod 05.11.2012

Words of Wisdom for the New Arrival

Today I wrote a card for a friend who has just had a new baby. I wanted to offer some sage words of advice for this wonderful new human, and it got me to thinking – if I could sit with him today and tell him the top 5 most important things I have learned at this moment in time, they would be this….

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You are indeed a wondrous, rare and precious miracle – as is every other wondrous, rare, precious and miraculous human being on the planet. Love them all as much as you can – 99.9% of them are inherently good – they are all, at times, a little bit lost and often confused, as you will be too. But provided you can remember not to take yourself too seriously, you will find your way. And with good humour, and a heart filled with love, you just might help a great number of those other rare diamonds find theirs too.

2. Perspective. Gain it wherever you can, and judge nothing until you have considered it. Every view of the world is unique to the observer. You will feel intensely right at times, yet viewed from another’s perspective; you may find that a fact is more of a mirage, than a solid object. You may learn that you can also not be exactly right about all things, and that your opinions, like the wind, can change. Always be open to this, as the world will change around you every single day. Be ready to dance to her evolving music. Life may be a foxtrot one day, and a tango the next. Don’t be stuck in a place, or perspective, that no longer serves you.

3. Everything isn’t your responsibility. But be responsible for every action you take. Don’t take the world on your shoulders, as it isn’t your load to bear alone. Sometimes it is OK to ask for help, and it certainly is OK to say “No”. You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, but you are always responsible for how you handle their heart, in the process of the pursuit of your own freedom. Be kind to everyone.

4. The best things in life are free. From the moment you open your tiny eyes, we will be bombarding you with marketing campaigns to make you ‘want’. Society will demand that you ‘crave’, and your ego will demand that you ‘have’. When the screams of advertising become too loud, step outside and sit with your old friend Mother Nature. She bears you gifts every day of unbelievable abundance: the sea, the trees, a lake, the birds. Walk the streets and watch the people. A smile may befall you from a stranger, a tune from a street musician. Talk to an old man at your local library. Lie with your head next to an animal’s chest and listen to it purr. These free things will add more value to your life, and light in your heart, than any object you will ever buy. Feast on them.

5. This too shall pass. There will be days of great joy and days of immense sadness. All will pass. Days to come may surprise you, or delight you. They may break your heart, or light it up like a sky filled with fireworks. Let these come as they will, but don’t ponder them too much before arrival, nor dwell on them too long after their departure. Today is the day you should spend most of your time in. This moment right here, that you have right now, in the palm of your hand – this is your life, treasure it. Live every single moment with everything you have. For this too shall pass.

Vineyard’s Own Cure for the Flu

I started this blog from the confines of Lurgy Quarantine a couple of weeks back, as I was struck by the dreaded bug that seems to wreak havoc as the seasons start to change and tease us with promises of spring. I have been astounded by the numbers that were down with me over the last few weeks locked away in sickness, and by the innumerable modus operandi that this clever little virus uses on different people. For me it started with a sore throat – and I mean sore. Cut glass jammed in your tonsils and a bonfire at the back of the throat would be a good description. So it’s off to the chemist for Difflam, and Benatine throat gargle (that alleges to kill both bacterial and viral infections). I am sure I will be all sorted by tomorrow! By 5 o’clock that day, none of these things have made an ounce of difference, and I’m slugging ice and the ears feel like they are about to explode out the side of my head. So it’s off to another chemist, and after loads of sign language, (as it really is so bad that even words can’t get pass this throbbing red mass right now). Something for the pain, I manage to imply, and some Strepsil throat spray comes home with me. With the first spray, the only analogy that comes to mind for me is ‘pouring petrol on fire’. And I paid for this?? Finally, I realize that what I really, really need is a good old Nurofen hit.

I am almost at the point that I’d willingly mainline it, but thank goodness for the new fast acting stuff, I just drop a couple of tablets and about twenty minutes later- what a relief. Why is it that we think of all of these external cures, like lozenges and sprays and gargles, when at the end of the day, it’s what’s going on inside your body that is the problem. So my tip for you is – painkillers first. Well, this war is over I’m thinking as I finally sit back with a sigh of relief. A sigh that doesn’t make my throat bleed – you have no idea how heavenly such a simple thing can seem. A nice hot bath, a quiet night, and she’ll be right. Oh, how I underestimated you!

The next day, the chest infection starts. A bit of a cough builds up, and it becomes increasingly hard to breathe through the litres of liquid rubber that my chest seems to have produced overnight. It’s a wonderous thing the human body – it plans to drown the virus you see. Very clever. It’s just fails to understand that we will drown too if we lie down with this. And it’s not just trying to drown the bugs in my chest, but in my eyes and my nose, oh my goodness, it is flooding in here. Not sure if you’ll all remember the 80’s TV series “The Young Ones”? But right now, I feel like Neil in the episode where he was expelling so much gunge, his flatmates nailed a black rubbish bag over his head. It seemed so hilarious on the telly at the time. Poor Neil. I’m sorry I laughed, really I am.

So I manage to sort of sleep, sort of sitting up, for the next three nights. And then finally, it is back to the chemist – for the Codral Night and Day. I have to make a plea here – I am all for the John Key plan to eradicate the plague of P in this country. But John, you can’t take away my Codral Night and Day. Not unless you run a jolly good special on black rubbish bags, nails and good loving health care trained flatmates. I’d be doomed. Seriously.

Today, I finally relented and actually went back to bed for a nap. It lasted 5 hours. I feel like I’ve smoked half and ounce of pot my brain is so fuzzy. And I’m sure I still have enough rubber in my lungs to produce a couple of spares for the next Indy Car challenge. But I feel like I’m winning here. We don’t just have colds for a couple of days anymore. Colds like to behave like fine wine, They want time to ferment. Between one and two weeks it seems, just like wine again. Interesting! And during this time, yeast converts most of the sugars in the grape into ethanol (which is of course, alcohol) and carbon dioxide. Liquid is then transferred to vessels (just like from chest to face perhaps?).

Such similarities. I have decided to marry like with like. I am so totally repulsed now by the sickly sweetness of cough mixtures and throat lozenges, that I have decided to turn to the medicine of the gods. Wine and Whiskey.

So I’m now off to find a good heavy Cabernet Sauvignon. And of course science now agrees that resveratrol, a compound found in all red wine, will reduce the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. So it’s really a very positive thing. Thanks to this cold, I’ll now have some lovely red wine, and chances are, I won’t forget the name of it either! Splendid. So if you are laid up somewhere with the horrid bugs, just remember, that there really is a bright side to everything, and like good fermentation time, even flu’s come to an end. Hang in there, have a drink, and take the time out that your body is telling you it needs.

Gee you look a lot like…

 I have the sort of face that was never meant to be photographed.  Truly, you’d be lucky if 1 out of every 100 photos taken of me even resemble a human being.  I have large features, and they are not remotely symmetrical – which is apparently the foundation on which ‘beauty’ as we know it, is measured these days.  Perhaps many years ago, I would have been the perfect model for the great artists (certainly Picasso – in fact, I think God might have been having a day of dabbling with the Picasso look when he made me) and every year, I can certainly see that I am becoming more of a Rubenesque work of art than ever before. 

 But remarkably it seems that I have a face that always reminds people of lots of other faces.  For years I have been compared to Stevie Nicks, Charlene Tilton, and Kerre Woodham.  And at first I was rather miffed when people made these comparisons – not because these women weren’t all utterly fabulous, but because I was trying so damned hard to be like ‘Michele Harrod’, that I felt like all I was managing was to be a mere shadow of someone else.  And I was desperately wanting to make a far bigger impact that that. 

And I just couldn’t see the resemblances at all.  I wasn’t a great fan of Fleetwood Mac at all, so really hadn’t even seen many shots of Ms Nicks. And whilst I was a huge fan of Dallas, Charlene was just little Lucy, and I wanted desperately to be like Pamela.  And I had left for London when Kerre Woodham had first hit the scene on TV and Radio, so was really quite unsure whether to feel complimented or offended on that one.  When I got back to NZ, there were mixed messages out there in the world of media about Ms Woodham.  Which ‘one’ of her did people think I was like.  I was remarkably suspicious.  And the comparison was relentless.  I used to wonder, does Kerre Woodham ever get told – hell, you remind me of Michele Harrod?  It must drive her nuts!?   

I had the same wild curly hair and of course, now that Kerre’s book is out (From Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner) I can completely understand – I am indeed a short fat chick.  And I do have a rather loud and distinctive laugh…   

I was recently clearing out an ancient chest, with my treasured childhood toys – my Rupert Bear, and Noddy and Big Ears Annuals, my matchbox cars, (that are still in that sturdy little cardboard bag with the metal handle that was later my first school bag), and my buidling blocks.  Really, it is quite incredible I never ended up a city planner, or in politics, with that sort of educational foundation!!  And there amongst this paraphernalia of the past, were years of photo albums.  As I was going through the photos, I stopped in sudden shock.  Oh my goodness, there was a photo of Stevie Nicks at one of our parties at the flat in London?  I don’t remember her being there?  Ha, I suddenly realised…. I really did look like her back then.  A lot.  You remember that really long frazzled hair we had back in the eighties, well before any decent product or my now revered GHD’s came into existence to get all of that wildness under control?  Wow, how cool, to have looked like the great Stevie Nicks.  I did have to laugh.

 And late last year marked the 5th birthday of the Sunday Herald.  Oh my, I can still remember the day the Sunday Herald was first published.  I had grabbed a copy and there was Kerre Woodham’s column.  This was when I began to really see who Kerre Woodham was.  And I remember reading it and actually yelling, YES, I totally agree!  I was almost exploding with pride.  She ‘speaks’ just like me, thinks just like me (or rather – I think just like her).  And I’ve been a converted follower ever since.  Her wit, wisdom, and wry rhetoric leaves me in awe.  So, needless to say, as time goes on, I feel truly honoured to be told that I remind people of Kerre Woodham.   In fact, I feel a bit like a fraud, like I have to step-up. 

 And to think I used to get miffed.   Sadly, now there is less and less chance anyone would spot any similarity.  I gave up with the long curly hair a few years back.  And the simple fact of the matter is – I’m never going to have the audacity – or the courage – to step up and run a marathon.  I believe I should get a gold medal when I get off my butt on a weekend and walk around Western Springs.  At least a bronze if I just nip round to the dairy and not take the car.  No, Kerre has surpassed my realm of ‘likeness’ and gone on to uber-fab.  And sadly, I feel a tad bereft.  

As a younger woman, evolving from the tom-boy that I was … (come on, surely you got that – Rupert Bear, matchbox cars and blocks?  There wasn’t a Barbie in site – I was like a little female Pinocchio – a lost cause on ever being a real girl) … I in all my arrogant and youthful glory, felt it rather insulting to be compared to other women.  Then the older I got, and the more wonderful female friends I acquired, my admiration and respect for these glorious creatures just grew and grew.  Suddenly I found there were role models that I was secretly aspiring to all over the place.  I was, for years, convinced that I would wake up at 32, and be just as dignified and graceful as my heroine of the time, Princess Di.  But alas, not one iota.  Still far more like the husky, bolshy, loud, power packed bomb-shells that are Stevie/Charlene/Kerre.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 I’ve crossed over to the ‘dark side’ now– out of the perfect thirties, and into the forties, where everything that we once thought so important starts to literally drop off, like old ceramic tiles that can no longer cling to the bathroom wall.  And at last you realize, that all the regrouting in the world is not going to restore this bathroom to its former glory.  It’s time for a total makeover.  Finally I have quit the fantasy that I will attend Yoga and Pilates classes 7 times a day and end up with a body like Gwenyth.   And there is nothing sad, or sorry about this transition either.  I can’t tell you what an enormous relief it is to finally not have the pressure of having to LOOK like someone else.  

 Now it’s all just about the being.  Being me, and finding ways of dong a better job of being just that.  Day after day.  And that’s where I am suddenly finding massive inspiration from all of these wonderful role models, all right there around me, shining like the glorious stars they are.

 So I’m watching you closely Kerre, you are leading the way.  And I have to confess, having seen Annie Whittle in ‘Four Flat Whites in Italy’ earlier this year, and having had the pleasure of immersing myself in Peta Mathias’s “Can We Help It If We’re Fabulous”, I am suddenly incredibly excited about the future.  I’m even excited about the concept of being 50 one day.  How utterly magnificent!  I have even considered trying on an outrageously floral Trelise Cooper dress, and have already purchased a pair of her gorgeous reading glasses.   Yes, really, I need reading glasses – I’ve finally made it!   

I’ve quit worrying about the bits of this body that I have tried viciously to change over the years without one iota of success.  When I’m out in public, I’m now highlighting the positive, and positively hiding the rest!    Those bits are MY secrets, and if you can’t see them, then I don’t need to worry about them.  How simple it has always been.   I’d heard that famous line – that women are like fine wine, and improve with age.  I can assure you, when you are young fresh Reisling, you think this is the biggest load of codswallop you have ever heard.  But as I pass from a lively Pinot Noir into a develping Merlot, I now cherish my continual improvement into a wonderfully rich port.

And look, I’m the first to admit, we ladies give up on it being ‘all about the looks’ simply because the ‘looks’ give up on us.  Nature is a vicious fiend who can strip your dignity down with one foul pull of gravity the minute you’re not paying attention.  And the fortunate ones amongst us, we leap off the beauty wagon and to that character train just as fast as our growing thighs will allow us.   Gravity ADORES character.  It seems to pull the sheath that we have kept it covered up in for years, (our skin perhaps?) out of the way so like a glorious flower, our true selves can emerge.  And then the real party begins.  So, the next time someone says…”gee, you know, you sure remind me of…..”, smile, and hope like crazy they are right!

Top Ten Motivators

It’s been a busy time over the last month, as I have been involved with a new event to fundraise for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust, in the aim of raising enough money for a second rescue helicopter. “Twice the hardware, twice the lives saved”, I say, so I’m very excited about this new venture. It’s been great to work with such a dedicated team of committed guys who have spent 40 years delivering a world class rescue service to the greater Auckland region.

Now this working for a good cause has really stirred some latent DNA for me, and I’ve hence gone forth on a bit of a journey to discover what it is that actually makes me tick. Do I work simply for work’s sake? Do I do it in the aim of gaining accolade for it? Is it for the love of financial reward or do I do it simply from financial necessity?

And it turns out, that it isn’t any of these things that motivate me in the slightest. So I thought I’d try to come up with a list of my Top 10 things that do …..

1. It’s working with inspired people who love what they do, and who share that passion in a way that lights up the everyday, mundane activity that any job will inevitably have.

2. Laughing often. Environments of doom and gloom, and excessive negativity are just not good for the soul, and where I once felt heavy and tired, I now find I smile a lot, I bounce rather than drag myself along, and have more energy than I know what to do with. Life just feels joyful.

3. Freedom. It’s about deciding what it is you really want to do today. It’s about eating when you’re hungry, not when the collective crowd chants “lunchtime”. It’s about being able to look out the window and think “heck, it’s a really nice day out there” and walking to the post box, rather than madly driving there in the shortest possible time. I now stroll a lot during the day. Strangely I get so much more done now, compared to when I worked 12 hours a day in a sunless cube farm.

4. Learning. I finally have more time to read and explore new ideas. Without them being stifled by corporate mediocrity. My brain has been having some sort of bulimic episode over the last month or so, ravenously devouring every iota of information it can find, and spewing out new ideas and concepts. This feeling I can only describe as ‘awesome’.

5. Loss of fear. Ironically, walking away from what would have been considered a secure ‘salaried job’ in the midst of a so-called recession should have created more of a sense of fear, but for me, I have never felt so fearless and sure that I am on the right path. That whatever happens will be utterly right and that I have everything that I need, or will be provided with it, when I do. And I have exactly the same amount in the bank today as the day I left the company. It goes out, it comes in. The universe provides. Fear is our most crippling handicap, and for me, the loss of it has been incredibly liberating.

6. Choice. To be able to say yes to something just because it feels right, and to be able to say no when it doesn’t. My principles aren’t being dictated into a quiet corner for corporate gain. This interestingly enough seems to have empowered my principles and has them roaring their thoughts quite openly and freely. I now trust that gut instinct and let it play out. I say what I really feel rather than being politically correct, or feeling trapped in the need to ‘please others’. And by listening to this ‘inner voice’ and honoring, it comes down to one simple thing – I am choosing happiness. This I can only describe as ‘magnificent’.

7. Making a difference. I have recognised that it really is important to me to feel that I am contributing to the greater good. With trade shows, it’s about enhancing others’ businesses, with consumer shows it’s about delivering experiences that the visitors love and feel great about. I own another business simply because I thought the product was great (and is kind to animals) and so I brought the license. I’ve managed to break even each year for 3years – what I put into it, I get back, and nothing more. But I get calls from my customers to tell me how much they love this product and I think, ‘that’s what it’s all about’ and I love it. I have discovered that I have a strong altruistic bend. I actually really like helping other people.

8. Time. I can’t possibly say that I now have more time, as of course, I have the same 24 hours a day that you do. And the same 24 hours I had when I was a workaholic zombie. I now just manage him better. Or perhaps I respect him a whole lot more, now that I have allowed myself to get more closely acquainted with him. Time is now my friend, rather than the enemy I used to chase and try to beat each day. I hang out with him an intimate one-on-one session for an hour every morning while I meditate. He has explained to me his multiple personality disorder, and has shown me the 3 different faces he wears – “Past”, “Here and Now”, and “Future”. I spend very little time now worrying with “Future” (one of my most frequent hobbies in my past life). And I no longer spend too much time pondering regret with “Past” – we just spend some fond moments remembering some of our shared history, and know that all of it was perfect to get me to here….which brings me right to my favourite one of his personalities – “Here and Now”. I can promise that not enough people hang with this guy, and you really don’t know what you are missing – he’s the best one of the 3, the most honest, the absolute 100% most reliable, and the only one that is actually real. Find him, and become blood-brothers! And never forget the other 2 are merely shadows to distract you from his beauty.

9. Clarity. I’m not sure how to describe this one, but as I walk now, I see things – not new things that weren’t there before, but things that I just wasn’t taking the time to notice. Like nature, the colour of the sky, the light as it falls through the trees as I walk through the park. It was like I walked in a haze for the last 25 years, with only some end goal in sight. The haze has lifted and the only goal I have now is to keep it gone. The same can be said for my hearing. I listen to so much music now, both here in the home office, or on the iPod when I am walking. And because I’m no longer listening to what felt like 38 different voices in my head, reading out the manic ‘to-do list’ and the ‘shoulda list’ and that ‘if only list’ – it is peaceful and quiet and I am hearing the music. I am diving into the music and swimming in bliss. And this I can only describe as ‘euphoric’.

10. And the ultimate motivator – Sharing. There was a time there where I thought it would be easy to bar the doors and shut the curtains. To just turn away from the world for a while. I didn’t want to do any more events. I wanted to do something different and I figured I could work that out all by myself. But my inspiration still comes as much from without as within. And my ultimate joy, in whatever I do or achieve or create, is in the sharing of it with others. So much seems to come back when more goes out. I only wish I could share these feelings I describe above with every single person. There is a state of grace and happiness, and it is not a million miles away – it is right there beside you, just waiting for you to slow down and grasp it.

And on that note, for the season of sharing – I wish you the happiest of Christmases, and a New Year filled with frivolity, fine wine and friendship.


A Moment’s Silence – Meditation for Beginners

It had been suggested by a varying range of wonderful people in my life that I might benefit from the practice of meditation.  Which I thought was an enchanting concept, although really, slightly ridiculous.  Now I know that I am unusually full on, and that I have energy levels that do exhaust a number of people.  I apparently talk faster than most living humans, (or so people tell me, though I have yet to work out why their two ears can’t keep up with my one mouth?  I mean, do the math?). 

However, times come when we have to take a cold hard look at ourselves, and accept that some suggestions are made with loving intentions, and that advice may be worth serious consideration.  So take a look I did….. and I’ll admit  – it wasn’t a pretty picture.  For example, when I get really excited about something, I am literally gasping for air after I try so desperately to explain it and get my ideas out as fast as they are arriving in my brain, and everyone else in the room are just looking utterly dumbfounded, and in fact feel ‘assaulted’ by the tirade of words I have just vomited forth at them.  I also like to do at least 4 things at once, and have never quite worked out why we couldn’t have 8 arms like an octopus, or why we need to sleep for more than a few hours – I mean, come on – I could read one of the 300 books I have waiting for me to devour, or watch 1 of the 248 movies on my fatso list, or paint another painting, or do another paper toward my degree, or come up with another business concept, or squeeze in an extra play, or write another chapter in my novel, or go and learn to play piano, or at the very least whack out a quick poem?    I don’t even do sleep very well – I tend to have wonderfully exciting dreams, then wake up thinking it would make a great movie, then I get all frustrated because by the time I have gotten past the memory of it being so fantastic I have completely forgotten it, so I can’t write it down.  And then I am far too wired to go back to sleep.  So I get up and I pace.  And I write lists.  And nothing stops me.  

At 36, I collapsed with heart problems.  I had a stent put it, and then went straight back to work 3 days later and just carried on like the above.  That was the norm for me.   “I’m OK”, I cried, “they threw a metal rod in there for goodness sake, I’m downright invincible”.  And I believed my own bollocks.  But this time, the bollocks wasn’t washing.  It was time to admit that the exhaustion was starting to catch me.  And I really didn’t want to scare the bejesus out of every person I worked any more.  And truth be known, my dearest friends were getting a bit worn out by me.   It was time to concede that it is not altogether healthy in the long term to go at the pace I’ve been going.  

So meditation it is!!  My first morning arrives, and the cushions are all set up, and there I head to undertake this fabulous art of meditation.  I mean, really – how hard can it be?  You just sit there, right?  And think…or not think…as the objective actually is. 

Well, after 2 minutes, my nuclear powered ‘brain’ was beside itself ….”Well, this is fun isn’t it…You know you have a heap of stuff to do today don’t you?…. And you’ve just been in bed for the last 6 hours…sleeping, like, hello, ain’t that meditation?… what do you call THIS?..Eh?..Hello?  ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?????”   Oh yeah, ‘brain’ was ON FIRE….and as you can probably guess, my brain talks really, really fast too.  Just like my gob.  So my first meditation session lasted 2 minutes and 6 seconds, exactly. 

Yes, my old pal ‘brain’ won the game hands down that morning.  

But one thing I am not, is a quitter – so at the recommendation of a friend, I grabbed a book called “Hurry Up and Meditate” by David Michie.  The title alone really worked for me, speedy, quick, get on with it – you’re talking my kinda language buddy!

And it was a revelation.  Most importantly, it gave me the facts.  I love facts.  Scientific, inarguable facts.  With irrefutable data.  Numbers and statistics.  None of this, you just “should”, because it will be good for you.   I wanted the real guts about why it would be of benefit to me to sit on my bum for an hour doing absolutely nothing.  How could that possibly be good for you?  And the book delivered.  There were a surprising number of benefits that far outweighed the pain of sitting quietly for more than 2 minutes. 

And best of all, it pointed out that most people find it hard to start with, so no, I wasn’t just a complete failure at this thing.  It even said, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do the full hour to start with.   Just start with 10 minutes.  (Gee, it’s OK not to be a world expert on your very first try?  How do most of us high achievers cope with that idea?)  

Well, even I can be quiet for 10 minutes, so I was pretty sure that I could negotiate with ‘brain’ to do that too.  And indeed I did.  I’m pleased to say, that we are now on week 4, and I have cracked the hour.  Many benefits kicked in for me remarkably quickly – my memory has improved 10 fold.  I am way, way calmer than I have been in years.  I do believe strangers can even understand me when I speak now, as I breathe between sentences, and even pause between words.  The blood pressure has stayed low, and I sleep better than I have in a very long time.  And I actually do just ‘feel good’.  And those ideas still come at me at the speed of light, but they enter, and hover a bit more gently, and let me pick them up and write them down in a much healthier and interesting way. 

So, come on – hurry up!  But don’t get off your butt, get on it.  Hurry up and meditate!  It is surprising who you discover there inside you when you stop to listen.

Oh, here is the one really practical tip that wasn’t in any book –  I knew I couldn’t just get up at the same old time, and then meditate for an hour – that really would be adding stress to my life, as I have never been much of a morning person as it is.  So I have had to have the discipline of getting up an hour earlier.  But let’s face it – I could get up and go for a run, or I can get up and go sit on my butt in the lovely wee spot I have created, and spend time with my new best friend – me.  Beats the tarmac any day.  And yes, some days it is a struggle.  ‘Brain’ still vies for control.  But we are working on that together.  I get the feeling ‘brain’ is starting to rather like this wee breather each morning too….and has also worked out that this means we will NOT be sitting in silence, navel gazing in the evening and missing out on any of the other of life’s great pleasures we so enjoy …. like drinking fine wine with friends and toasting this truly extraordinary life.

Michele Harrod says “Hello world!”

Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Kiaora!!  My name is Michele Harrod, and I live in Auckland, New Zealand.  And whilst many wouldn’t be shouting about getting ‘older’, I’m in fact really excited that I have the great fortune to say that I made it to 40 and beyond.  Believe me, there was a time a few years back that I was pretty sick and it seemed unlikely I’d last the week, let alone make it to 40.  And back then I didn’t care.  But live I did.  And the world seemed on a mission from that point on, to show me why it was worth caring that I did. 

And a transormation began.  Having been a rather boring workaholic for the years before, I was suddenly feeling great – and not expecting to live for long (I had a stent put in for a heart condition, and trust me, when that happens at 36, you really don’t start planning for retirement), so I PARTIED.  And I mean hard.  If there was any unrequited ‘rock star’ still embedded in my DNA, she came out and hit town between the age of 38-42.   And it was brilliant.  I could write a whole book just on the clubs and parties and Class A quality substances I was imbibing and I don’t just mean the French Champagne.   Then I got a bit bored with that.   I have an mild version of ADHD, and unless things constantly keep evolving (including me) I start to feel I am trapped in Dullsville.

So now, at soon to be 44, the evolution continues, and I am finding this age the most fascinating and exciting time of my life. 

So why am I blogging about it?  Well, I was asked recently to blog from some websites, as writing has always been a bit of a passion, and people seem to like reading it – and a few friends told me that I should do more of it and share it with the world – all that sort of stuff.  So, here I am.  Really, the only point is to make you laugh, maybe cry here and there (but in a really good way) and to hopefully help you see the world a bit like I do.  Which in my experience is …. this amazingly, wonderful fabulous ride that we are all on – and I, personally, am having the ride of a lifetime right now.   I see things every day that just amaze me, and I have these very strange thoughts invade my mind.  Sometimes I just can’t get them down fast enough – but they are all fascinating and I want to explore them further.  Or concepts that are just teasing me with a glimmer of what they are about to unfold.   Often these days, it feels as if  I get a glimpse of some wonderful simplicity in all of this madness.  A simplicity that I feel is mocking us –  as if it is a mischevious child that just as I think I can grab it, she whisks away again, and I have a fleeting sense that the hem of her dress just slipped through my fingers.  And she is fun and light and beautiful, and she wants me to understand what she is showing me… but I have to translate her pictures.  I think she has always been there, but I was so trapped in my fabulous ego of youth, that I just wasn’t ‘getting  the picture’. 

So now, I am on a mission to ‘get the picture’.  I have had the great privilege of being able to take a step back – from the ‘corporate world’, the ‘rat-race’ the ‘bullshit’ (whichever nom de plume for ‘the organised chaos we have made our lives’ best works for you) – to get a slightly better perspective.  And truly, the view is just glorious.  So I guess that is why I am here – to share the view from my middle-aged, fresher than ever, eyes.  And while  they certainly have a broader view as I get older, that comic act of having to hold a letter arms length away to read it – it is so true.  That struck about a week prior to my 40th.  Didn’t even have the courtesy to wait until after the party.  If I could give a proverbial ‘finger’ to aging – mine would go to the eyesight.   I know, it really does help first thing in the morning, that it’s all a bit fuzzy, I mean, it does get harder to look at, but still – reading????  Are you nuts??  That’s one of the highlights – I finally have time to?!?  And you make me half blind??   Thank goodness for the designer reading glasses on the market now. 

I have entitled the blog ‘Miraculously Middle-Aged’.  I went through a couple of options – from Musings of a Middle-Aged Miss, to Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Witch (you know – an aged version of those teenage turtles).  But Miraculously Middle-Aged seems to fit best – for a number of reasons.

1. It is a complete miracle I made it to middle age.

2. Now that I’m here, I’m actually starting to spotting a few miralces all around me… often, and

3.  I have huge confidence that there are a heap more of them to come.

And when they do, I’ll be here to share some of them.  I hope, if you find this page in the ether, some of them can make your day too.

So for now, I’ll start with my first blog I wrote for my friend’s website – I had just returned from a trip to beautiful Samoa (just 2 weeks prior to the terrible tsunamia that cost them so many lives) but my sentiments are still the same, and Samoa remains one of my favourite places on the planet.   And it’s where the evolution really began….

“Well I have had a wonderful few weeks of contrast.  I decided I needed a well earned break for some quality R & R and a good dose of Vitamin D to shake off any residual winter blues, so I decided to head off to Samoa.  I knew things would be back to basics there, so just before heading out, I had the pleasure of spending a wonderful long leisurely Friday afternoon with an good friend at Sails, one of my favourite Auckland restaurants.   They were running a fabulous ‘lunch special’ – of Crayfish, served with a glass of Nevis Bluff Pinot Gris.  The crayfish was just superb, and I really fancied one of those good old fashioned ‘long lunches’ that seemed to die a bit of death earlier this decade.  Bring them back I say – I think some of the finest ideas and the best win/win business deals are done over long Friday lunches.  And they are a good stress buster for the end of the week.  Just make sure you have arranged transport home of course!! 

So I went from lunch at a 5 star restauarant, to home, to pack the bags with little more than 8 pairs of togs, 4 sarongs, a pair of shorts and a couple of t-shirts (oh, go on, I threw one dress in for good measure).  This was no resort holiday for me – picture a fale on the beach, with nothing but a mattress on the floor, a pillow, sheets, a mozzie net, and one light bulb.  A few friends were horror stricken at the idea of such a place, and found it even more astounding that I was staying any place without a refrigerator full of champagne (in my fridge, even the vege bins are chocker with Champagne, all the time – so it really seemed outrageous that I would consider this a ‘holiday’).  But this is, in fact, my idea of paradise and not even the threat of a tropical cyclone would have kept me away.  Of course, I had no clue at that time that a tragedy of a similar sort was headed for this beautiful paradise. 

There is a whole lot to be learned in Samoa.  Like the art of sitting still.  The art of afternoon napping.  The art of moving slowly.  The art of smiling and waving a lot.  I love Samoa.  I adore her people, I worship her beaches, and I secretly believe that someone closely resembling God resides in Samoa.  You find Him there in the tiniest places, laughing loudly and mockingly that it took you so long to get there.  And saying ‘see, this is how simple it is meant to be’.  This was my second visit to Samoa.  After the first trip, I walked back into my house and felt claustrophobic with the amount of garbage I had accumulated over the years.  I got rid of nearly half of what I owned.  All that ‘stuff’ just seriously felt like it was bogging me down. For in Samoa you see the happiest people, with very little ‘stuff’ at all. 

 And I left it a bit long before going back, and sure enough that materialistic western monster had crept back in to my life and started the ‘need’ routine again.

As one of the world’s most impressive Do’ers, I’ve been doing it and earning it, and spending it, like nobody’s business for the last 20 odd years.  And I realized lately, I don’t even use half of the things I buy.  I think I actually just like the idea of things.  When I see nice things, I buy them.  As if to say, “hey, what a great idea, good on you for inventing that!”  I personally didn’t need one.  It’s that and the evil slogan “because you’re worth it”.  Oh yes, I cry!  I work hard, and I’m a good person, damn right I deserve it.  Don’t need it, or even particularly want it, but I sure do DESERVE.  Like I really deserved those 1,000 thread sheets, that I fall into in such a state of exhaustion after working 60-70 hours a week, I doubt I’ve even noticed the difference to any other old sheet in the last 18 months.  I could fall asleep in an empty bathtub some days, I am so exhausted with it all.

So I knew that a return to Samoa was imminent.  The place for me to get pulled back to earth and reminded that it isn’t the ‘stuff’ that makes you happy.  Those great big smiles, and the laughter that floats on the air as the kids play rugby, or the village folk play volleyball at around 5 o’clock each afternoon.  You can hear the “Thwack, thwack, thwack” of the ball being played, and then the ball goes out, and every player on that Volleyball court is simply bursting their seams with laughter.  There is no malice, this is about fun, not competition.  They are playing for the sheer joy of it.  And when that ball bounces off your head and shoots off over the back of the court, it is the greatest cause for hilarity and celebration, so far today.  It is impossible not to smile a lot yourself in Samoa.

And as you do, on long hot holidays, I was pondering life.  Lying on the beach, wondering what on earth I wanted do when I got back home.  What really made me tick?  And I realised one thing was true for me, something I hadn’t actually thought much about before.  And that is, that many of our greatest pleasures in life come from the things that we share.  The things we buy, the moments that count, the love we feel.  I mean, read a great book and don’t you just want to tell the next person how great it was and pass it on to them?  Imagine a great chef putting together the most sublime menu, but never actually cooking it for others?  A wine-maker creating their finest blend, then hiding the barrels away where they are then never tasted by anyone else?  I know for sure that real pleasure comes from lighting others lives with our creativity, as well just our own.

I have worked hard, and I loved my time in Samoa, but I did sit there and think wow, it would be so great to hire this place out and have all my friends here with me – way more fun than telling them about it when I get home.  I wanted to share the moments, not just take pictures and ‘tell’ them about it.  This has inspired me on many levels.  I have been insular and solo for quite a few months.  I have hibernated and gone underground to regroup.  Now it is time to get back out and share with the world.  I find great inspiration in others, and I need that ‘sharing’ to let ideas take shape and grow.  It is time to open my home again, as what use is this couch or these glasses, or these chilled bottles of champagne, without friends sitting here sharing them with me?  It is time to open the doors of my heart to let in some of this spring sunshine.

So my challenge to you is simple – think of everything you have, and imagine that it is all only borrowed.  Tomorrow it could all be gone, (and believe me, this would not be the end of the world.  Just the end of the world as you currently know it).  But while you do have it, go and seek the greatest pleasure from it that you can – and share it with those you love.  Whilst the sun and the Vai Lima beer were just fabulous in Samoa, they were a far cry from my crayfish lunches, and so I know that I am lucky to be back in the land of plenty.  But most importantly, it is wonderful to have been reminded once again, to take the time to appreciate what we have here – and to share it more often”….

Postscript : Needless to say, 2 weeks after I returned and saw the news of the tragedy that had struck Samoa – I went on another mighty rampage to clear out my home of all the things I didn’t need or use, that I could send in one of the the thousands of containers that Kiwis filled over the next 2 months for our island brothers and sisters.   I was so proud of the enormous outpouring of sympathy and support our people gave for Samoa.  And I realised, that this was indeed sharing in one of it’s purest forms.  Completely with love, expecting nothing in return.  And in fact hungering to give more.  Humanity, in it’s finest form, evolves in times of crisis.  I dream that one day we will hold this shape, and  the world will not have to throw natural disasters at us, to elevate us to this condition.  We will do it naturally, and often, simply because it has become our nature.  Now that is a vision I ‘d like to just sit with and hold in my head for now…..

Till later, Mx  

(and below, a shot of the fale on the beach in Samoa)

"Paradise Revisited"