Words for a memorial: We will get through

We love Christchurch

A year ago today I wrote:


Words just seem so futile at a time like this. The entire dictionary – even every word ever uttered – can’t describe what’s going on right now.

A nation sits in shock. This isn’t our burden, surely? This isn’t our event? This is what happens in some foreign land, some distant place, to people who aren’t us.

But no, this is our place. This is our event. This is our land.

As a mother hen gathers her chicks in close, so New Zealand gathers its people together. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have lost everything. We protect those who are weakened. We guard those we have lost.

Nightfall is coming. The rescuers will continue to search, and we will continue to hope. ‘Recovery’ is a word still far too raw to be uttered. Until we have our people back, we will hold fast.

We will get through this.


As I look back on what happened, I can’t help but admire the people of Canterbury. Those who worked selflessly for others. Those who ignored frayed nerves and kept on. Those who had everything taken away – everything but their smiles. Those who made the brave decision to stay. Those who made the brave decision to leave.

I don’t think I’d be overstating the case to say that New Zealand changed as a nation that day. We all took a knock on some level – even those of us who didn’t feel the quakes with our bodies still felt it in our hearts.

We watched on, desperate to help, wanting Cantabrians to know how much we cared. We longed to make things right, but couldn’t really do anything. And as the quakes kept coming, we despaired with those who continued to suffer.

They say these things make you stronger. I agree, but what a fucking painful growth spurt. Almost one you don’t come back from; one you maybe don’t get through in one piece.

But the people of Canterbury did get through it. They will continue to get through it.

And we will all continue to stand with them.

Kia kaha, New Zealand.

The Postsecret and the Swamp

Reading the weekly Postsecret offerings is a bit of a ritual in my world. As I think about each one – sometimes in passing, sometimes at length – I often see reflections of myself.

I found one particularly touching:

As I read it, I felt really sad.

I lived in a swamp for a long time. I had an overwhelming feeling that it was my destiny, that the hard drudgery is what life is… That to escape from such a place requires a miracle not offered to those in the depths.

I think many people have felt the same way.

If you’re in that place – where the path out of the swamp feels too hard – don’t give up. Life is not all roses and sunshine like we often expect it to be. Life is hard work, it can be rough as guts, and it can hurt. But there’s a very important thing you need to know: The swamp – the place you were born into or now find yourself – is not a reflection on how precious and important you are.

Because you are so very precious, and do not deserve to live your life hidden away in a dark place.

So what can you do about it?

It’s time to start walking out of the swamp. Today. Right now. Change a mindset, change a habit. Stop talking down to yourself. Reach out to someone who can help you. Whatever your swamp is, now is the time to look towards something new.

It’s going to hurt, because hope hurts the heart that’s not used to it, but, trust me, even though the pain and scariness of change may be greater than the pain of living where you are right now, it’s worth it.

Think of it this way: You get a nasty infection in your elbow, which causes it to seize up. You’re not having any joy moving the joint, and you can’t carry much weight on it, but it’s functional. It doesn’t really matter that you can’t do everything, does it? Then a doctor takes a look at your elbow and suggests that cleaning out the infection will fully heal you. You agree to the treatment, and the doctor starts work.

It hurts. It fucking hurts.

You have a choice. You can persevere, or you can give up. You can fight through, or you can succumb.

Hand on heart, from someone who has walked the path out of the swamp – out of multiple swamps – it’s worth the fight. Don’t ever let the pain of healing rob you of your future.

Because what a future you can have.

This was a Postsecret that reminded me of how far I’ve come, and hopefully, it’ll inspire those who read this and need to hear it – you matter, your life matters, and it will get better.

Be brave.

We are like trees

If you’ve ever studied a tree stump you’ll know all about the rings. Looking over them is like caressing a lifetime. You can see exactly how different events in the tree’s life affected it. The grafting, the pruning, the good years, and the bad years – they are all right there in those rings. The events are so woven into the tree that they shape it and give it character.

In many ways, you and I are like trees. We are shaped by the events around us – the good and the bad. But unlike trees we have a choice about what we prune.

Maybe you are an emotional spender. Maybe you jump from relationship to relationship. Perhaps you feel jealous when others succeed. Whatever it is, it’s costing you peace and wellbeing – and possibly some friends too.

There is a model that’s really helped me clear out some of the emotional junk hanging around my life: Face, trace, replace.

Face the fact that you’ve got a problem. This might sound easy, but sometimes self-awareness is one of the hardest things to learn. Don’t let shame stop you – face up to your issues and the underlying feeling, be it jealousy, anger, sadness – acknowledge it. Get to know what triggers it.

Trace the problem to its root. The inappropriate emotion you’re feeling harks back to something earlier – where did it start? How did it start? What lies did you learn at that time – “I’m not good enough”, “I’m ugly”, “I don’t matter”, “No one listens to me” are examples.

Replace the lies with truth. Whatever you told yourself that caused you to go off on this understandable tangent, replace it with honesty. “She really didn’t mean to overlook me, it was a mistake. She loves me”; “I am beautiful, even if he didn’t say it. He probably didn’t know how to say it”; “I really do matter. They were just rude and horrible and I don’t have to believe what they said”… see what I mean?

I’m not a counsellor. I’m just telling you, from a person that’s struggled, that this worked for me. Yes, it took a long time. No, I’m not perfectly healed… But this is a big step in the right direction.

So next time you see a tree stump, stop to admire the rings… and know that you have a choice.


The thing about baggage is that it falls into one of two categories: You’re carrying it because you’re going somewhere, or because you’ve been somewhere.

If you’re like me, carrying baggage because you’re off somewhere is great. Your suitcase is tidy, full of clean clothes and extra space, ready for all those little nick-nacks and pressies you’re thinking of bringing back. You’re off into the unknown and it’s exciting and perhaps a little scary.

If you’re carrying it because you just got back, then those bags are going to be heavy, full of laundry and random crap, and you’ll be tired from the trip. So what do you do when you get home? You have a rest, then you unpack. Maybe a couple days later, but you will unpack.

At the very least you’ll put the suitcase down, right? So why don’t we do that, emotionally speaking?

You came from somewhere, having collected a heavy load of stuff – some helpful, some not. And years later you haven’t unpacked it all. It’s all still sitting in baggage that you’re dragging around your day-to-day life. Perhaps you figure it’s easier to ignore it, pretend it’s meant to be there, that it’s really a part of you now. Maybe you don’t know who you are without it.

I don’t know your story. But mine has caused many, many suitcases full of crap to gather around me. I’d sit on them, use them as a fort, use them as a reason to not do something.

But there comes a time in life where, to move on and be ready for the next adventure, you really need an empty suitcase and a spare hand to hold it with.

What suitcases from journeys long passed are you still refusing to put down?

Kiwis share September 11 experiences

Casually asking Twitter anything is a dangerous sport – none moreso than when discussing the September 11 terror attacks.

Without ado, or too much editing, here are the responses I recieved when I asked Twitter users where they were when they heard the news.

Some woke up directly to the news
LittleIchiban I’d fallen asleep with the TV on so I woke up at 5am to it being broadcast, thought I was having some crazy dream
Margie186 Woke up to messages from US friends and didn’t grasp the enormity and horror at first.
jinnee79 I woke up from a nightmare about a plane crash in Sydney. Turns out it was the news on my clock radio alarm
splatdevil My dad came in to my room, waking me up, telling me they had collapsed. We then watched the coverage and talked of nothing else.
amandimoo At home. Hubby was doing late shift, woke wondering why he hadn’t come to bed in time to see the 2nd plane hit. Glued to TV from then
nicki_nz Woke up to the news on the radio. Grabbed my kids and made them watch it, realising it was one of those life moments.
PaMelville Alarm clock went off with Kim & Corbett sober and quiet. TV went on. Boom. Spent day doing corporate massage to very tearful people.
rmccarten Woke up to news blaring on radio. Husband said in dazed state “woah, this is massive”. Watched tv coverage before and after work
alliekatnz woke up at the exact time the first tower collapsed and looked and the clock wondering why was I awake. I turned on the radio…

Many were disbelieving
ogamu I was chatting to a friend in NYC on MSN when the first plane hit. She ran to her window and was like OMG the WTC is on fire!
brenasmith I had just got my PC working with a tuner card, couldn’t believe what was on, ended up with TV and PC running just to be sure.
AliCopeman Got up early for breakfast out with colleagues. CC turned on TV One Breakfast and let out a stream of expletives
Al_2c 10 years ago I was working with two Americans whom I love dearly as we watched the horrors of 9-11 unfold!
duncn I watched it live on tv. Saw the second plane hit. Absolutely chilling. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. Very scary.
bookemdanno At work, following online and on TV. Numb, in shock, and dimly aware that we were watching the world change. Scared.
brentrobinsonz I was working at DSE, heard snippets on the train into work, sat in front of a computer watching a low quality stream of CNN
Guinea6 I just got back from a run up One Tree Hill. Sunk into the couch speechless ’til the flatties woke up 🙁 Seems like yesterday

Others were left with plans hanging
chrisjquin In Rotorua after our sales conference, was due to fly to San Fran on the 11th our time… Never left on that trip for 3 months

For one, it was a birthday they’d rather forget
NanaJ9 Waking up, it’s my birthday and I get a text “Happy Birthday, by the way New York is being bombed”

Some were expecting new life
WendyWings Asleep and nine months pregnant, my husband called and told me to turn on the TV
karenhurley Me too…
allstarangel I was 9 months pregnant too! Son turns 10 next Sunday. Mother in law woke me up at 6am and turned on tv. There is a photo of me in labour reading a paper with Osama on the front page
Kiwi_Chatter Lauren was pregnant too.
kittengloves I feared for our unborn child’s life. Thought the world was ending
MrReasonable Hospital waiting room with very pregnant MrsR. Office phoned me to get in as there was panic in the markets. I stayed with MrsR.

Some had wee children to explain it to
tellywriter The teens (then 3 & 5) came in to say there were no cartoons on TV, just news. I said they had the wrong channel. But they didn’t.
sarabeee I had to act normal and cheerily feed Timbee in his highchair, not quite 13 months.
TelcoKT A friend was at home with her newborn (8 days old), feeding her and wondering what world she’d brought a child into…

… And some were just young themselves
Edaemus I was eleven years old and in bed. I remember lying there watching it on my little TV, completely baffled. Surreal memories.
KrystleF I was in 5th form, had just woken up, heard it on the radio & ran to the TV, it was all we talked about at school that day
br0kenbutterfly Was home sick from Year 6 at school, thought it was WW3.  Then our schoolwork was based around it for ages.
akianz I was home, my parents woke us up and we watched the news in horror until we had to go to school.
tinopai I was 8 years old getting ready for school. The most memorable morning of my young life. Just shocking.
lilyandalma I ran and woke my parents up and we watched the whole night- after them telling me off for being up so late on a school night.
KirstiGrant Was at boarding school, had business studies 1st period. I remember the teacher attempting to incorporate it into the lesson.

Some were overseas
genebrarian I was in London. My (English) husband received confirmation of his New Zealand residency on the same day. *Sigh of relief*
TophHooperton I was watching Neighbours. The news interrupted it and I sat in that spot watching it go down all day. Seemed like a dream.
TelcoKT In the UK. Financing trucks. Watching it unfold at work. Freaky.
g33kytweet I was in Westlock Alberta Canada, just about to head off for a shopping road trip to Edmonton with a friend.
muffinmum Our stuff had been shipped to NZ the day before, a place we had never been. Was at one of last days of work at special needs school
ClaireLHuxley I was in Newcastle, UK. Working from home (waiting for our useless disappearing builder) the whole day watched in shock. We’d already decided to move here, that just cemented the decision.
kathadu At an internet cafe in Marrakech, reading an email from a London-based friend
Keri_little I was in a job interview at bank UK, came out of the room into open office of 300 peeps, everyone in groups in tears. I was So confused
NZ_judester It was my first ever week of teaching in Hexham, UK. Colleague came in, told us and we all rushed to library to watch the tv.

… Including in the USA
corinnespleen Living in the states… Spent the whole day watching the coverage – emotional day.
SoniaLee At work trying to locate my big brother who was in NY city that day for their first antenatal check up, he emailed me to say they were ok
kiwifrenzy Sitting on the end of the bed at Circus Circus, Las Vegas, getting ready to go to the Grand Canyon, and watched the 2nd plane crash on TV
honorarykiwi I grew up in Pennsylvania. People started getting called down to the office – being picked up. Announcement made around lunchtime. We were brought up believing we lived in an infallible, invincible country. One day, and entire world view shattered. Eye opening.
leahisaninja In LA, about to book a ticket to NY. Eep!

Some were freshly home
2covet I was back in my NZ bed after having been standing on top of the South Tower & visiting the Pentagon just a few weeks prior.
kennewell I had returned from the USA the night before. Heard on the way to work. We all sat and watched tv at work. 40 of us. In awe.

September 11 seems to be one of those moments – you know where you were at the time because it was history-defining. You knew you were experiencing a moment that would make it to the history books.

Maybe it affected New Zealanders so deeply because we felt connected to America in ways we didn’t with the ‘stan nations – countries where things like this happen with horrifying frequency. Maybe it was because many of us had been there, or seen it in the movies, or on a playon on Friends. Maybe it was because it was televised. Maybe it was because it was so relatable, had such an impact on the way we travelled, or the subsequent war we entered into.

Feel free to leave your memories as a comment on this blog.

Walking a mile might save a friendship

There’s an old saying: Don’t judge till you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes.

It’s true. And we often forget it.

Today I spent a little bit of time with a friend who is in a rough place. Her work, home, and love life aren’t quite going to plan, and she’s struggling to stay positive.

And because of her general lack of cheer and smiley-facedness, she’s being judged harshly.

Rather than people saying “Oh, you’re having a hard time right now, I’ll show you a bit of grace,” they’re calling her out on it, adding to the pressure she’s feeling to stay in control, and suppress the bad feelings.

I can relate.

I felt I started the race ten paces behind everyone else, due to my more unusual upbringing. The anxiety I felt to cover up my “deficiencies” – as well as perform to an above-average standard – would build up and cause some terrible hurt.

It is really easy to sit on the peripherals of someone else’s life and call them out on all the mistakes we think they make. They’re not as nice as they should be. Not as patient. Not as tight-lipped or rational as we say they should be.

But little do we know what they’ve overcome – or are currently dealing with – just to be where they are right now.

Think of it this way: Identical twins are wearing backpacks. From the outside, the packs – and the muscles holding them up – look the same. But it’s not till you lift the packs yourself that you realise one weighs 20kgs more than the other. You’re not going to begrudge the twin wearing the heavier backpack the occasional complaint, are you?

How about this situation: A car accident happens, and one person is able to shrug it off, whereas another isn’t. Should they judge each other for their reactions? No. Perhaps the person who is able to shrug it off has had several accidents before, and this is minor in their scheme of reference… But for the other person, it’s a Big Deal. Neither is right – or wrong – just different.

It’s so easy for us to judge another on their reaction to something, but our ability to cope with things is dependent on many factors.

Communication. It is the glue that holds relationships together. If you’re struggling to cope, one of the best and bravest things you can do is reach out and tell someone what’s going on. Explain to your family, friends and workmates that you’ve got a lot on your plate, and ask for grace. Confide in someone you trust, and seek professional help if you need it.

There is no shame in admitting you don’t have it all sorted. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

And if you’re on the other side of the fence, try to not judge someone because they react differently than you would. You never know how many miles they’ve walked just getting to where you already are.

10 things teenagers need to know

After watching a few “It Gets Better” clips, and seeing “Dear 16-year-old Me” I’ve been inspired to share my own list of things I think teenagers should know.

  1. You are young, so enjoy it: Make mistakes. Work hard. Party hard. Have fun. Study. You’re probably full of energy; You won’t always be, so take advantage now.
  2. Be proud of who you are, and don’t let other people put you down. If they do, it’s probably because they’re not feeling so good about themselves. Don’t be mean back. You’re better than that.
  3. Sunscreen is your friend. Use it liberally all over your body, every day. Wrinkle-and-melanoma-free 30-year-old you will thank you for it.
  4. Only have sex when you’re ready to have sex, not before. And when you are ready: Use a condom. Every. Single. Time.
  5. Life is not always good times and happy-clappy. You may have to battle depression, you may have financial struggles, you may have trouble finding a good flat, you may lay awake at night because you can’t shut your brain down. All these things are normal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in whatever way you may need it.
  6. Don’t accept the bank overdraft or credit card till you’re earning twice the minimum wage.
  7. The world is a big place full of amazing people, exotic places, insider knowledge, and lifetimes of stories. You don’t know it all. Neither do I. No one does. Keep that in mind.
  8. Life after high school is nothing like life during high school.
  9. On that note: Soap operas are nothing like real life. Don’t try to mimic what you see on them, just enjoy them for what they are… Entertainment purposes only. See point four. And point two. And reality.
  10. You are beautiful and precious, even if no one’s told you that – even if no one treats you that way. You have something valuable to contribute to the world, and you owe it to yourself to be; to do; to share.

So that’s my list: Some things I wish I’d known and some things I think the teenagers in my life need to know. 

I’ll leave you to wonder which point is which!

When the going gets tough

“You need a lot of passion for what you’re doing because it’s so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple CEO

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about passion. It’s probably an overused word, much like ‘hero’, and ‘expert’. What does it really mean?

Wiki defines passion as to suffer and endure, and I think it’s a much more interesting definition than the stereotypical ones of ‘strong emotion’ or ‘sexual desire’.

Are you prepared to suffer and endure to see your dreams come true?

If we’re in it for the long haul, we’ve got to be prepared to put ourselves on the line, to push ourselves beyond what we thought we could and to be ready for longsuffering, complete with unglamorous and thankless tasks.

Hard work. Endurance. Dedication. Love. If you want to be successful and see your dreams realized, you need to get passionate – to suffer and endure.

You Never Know The Impact You Have

Today a friend and I went to Mission Bay for a swim – we were in the water at 10am and had enough by about 10.30.

She was content to lay on the beach but I wanted an ice cream, so I left her to search one out.

Ice cream store: Closed.

What? It’s summer, and the shop was closed? I wandered along the road till I reached Starbucks – not exactly an ice cream store but the couple sitting outside slurping up iced coffee sold me.

I order. I wait. And just as I pick up my frosty beverage, an accented voice behind me said a nickname I haven’t heard in about 10 years.

I turn, and there’s a tiny, tanned woman standing there with a gigantic grin on her face. She looks vaguely familiar but I have NO idea who she is.

So I’m there, in a coffeehouse I never go to, at a beach I rarely visit, and there’s this woman…

I guess she worked out that I couldn’t place her and she said, “do you remember, about nine years ago, you were at this music festival, and there was a crying girl who you talked to all night?”

It was her.

I remembered. She was alone, visiting from Canada, come to New Zealand to escape a boyfriend she didn’t know what to do with, unsure about her studies, and life in general. She had felt totally hopeless. I remember her confusion, and sadness. I remember talking to her for a good portion of the night, going over her thoughts, her hopes, her fears. Talking about the future, and just being there as she cried. I never knew what happened to her.

As she dragged me back to the table where she was waiting for a friend who was running late, she explained that she was back in New Zealand for a week, leaving tomorrow. She said that that night was a turning point in her life, and kicked off some changes. The boyfriend got the heave-ho, she finished her studies and got stuck in to the plans we had discussed.

As an 19-year-old, I had no idea what I was doing with the teary stranger who needed a friend. I just listened, and hoped my very basic “don’t give up; follow your heart” advice helped. It’s rare that you ever find those people and get the follow up story, but I was lucky enough to – and it had a happy ending.

Sometimes you never realise the impact your words carry, so choose them wisely.

And you’ll never know how a closed ice cream store might make all the difference.

Don’t lie unless you mean it

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.

W. Clement Stone

One of my pet peeves is broken promises. I don’t like breaking them and I don’t like having them broken.

And a step back from that means that when you say you’re going to do something, I expect you to do it – because you can expect that from me too.

I know that mistakes happen. I’m not inhuman and neither are you. We all slip a little white lie in here and there. We say we’ll be somewhere when we have no intention of being there. We overhype something. We weasel out of a committment, citing some lame excuse without a second thought. We overlook the thing we said we’d do because it’s not much fun, or not really what we wanted, or maybe we were just being polite in the first place.

But here’s a challenge: Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

If you know you don’t mean what you’re planning to say, don’t say it and if you have no intention of following through, don’t make the promise.

Don’t let your lips write cheques you know will be dishonoured.

If you say one thing and do another, what does that say about your committment, your follow though, your discipline or your honesty? Maybe you really did mean it at the time but you’ve changed your mind – that’s cool, but why not just say that?  The “maybe” function on Facebook needs to be used sparingly. If you’re just clicking it out of politeness, don’t. Just say no.

I am trying really hard to do this, and although it is difficult, I think it’s worth it. I want people to know there is value in my words.

I don’t want to make empty promises, not even to be polite.

Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.

 Paul Wellstone, American politician and peace activist