The importance of connection
Ponderings at 4am..
I’ve spent the past 2 hours awake in bed pondering the world. Yep, things like this literally keep me up at night. There is no denying we exist in a time that will change the course of history forever. In one way or another, everybody’s life has been affected by the past 18 months.
I am privileged that our lifestyle has meant we’ve spent almost the entirety of the lockdown periods in places where we have hundreds of acres of space, a luxury many could only dream of, but that’s not to say we’ve been unaffected. Initially finding ourselves being constantly moved on due to lack of allowances for full-time travellers, we emptied our bank account just in fuel costs to get to Nat’s property in Kilcoy and have some stability.
Weeks earlier, Jaiden went snorkelling for the first time, a feat I could never have imagined him accomplishing just a few years ago. This experience inspired him, so we decided to spend the little savings we had on some snorkelling gear to explore this further. Suddenly, beaches were closed, and Jaiden was heartbroken. We’d also spent a lot of time in rural QLD, so he was looking forward to connecting with homeschool groups in more populated areas, but these plans too were dashed.
We came back down to Barcoos both because we love it here, and it would allow us to take a trip to the snow, which thankfully we got to do. I began focusing on our plans of buying a block of land and even redrew on my super to make it a reality. 6 months later, things had not fallen in place for our dream block so I decided that rather than letting the money sit in the bank, in typical “Responsible Cam form”, I spent most of it…
Jaiden and I began to discuss spending some serious time by the ocean, as in months, so he could further explore the world underwater. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on caravan park fees each week, we decided to buy a new car and park up our caravan instead living from a tent so we could Island hop for as long as our hearts desired. Remember that April fools post about a new car and tent life? It wasn’t a joke!
This decision meant a sizeable financial investment and a lot of physical work to create a 180cmx180cm space in the back of the Ute that we could live out of, off grid, indefinitely. Unfortunately, thanks to my ongoing back issues, a process that I thought would take a month has turned into 3 months, with a long way still to go. Now thousands of dollars into treatment for my back, I have only improved slightly. Our camping setup is not ready; this compounded with border restrictions means our dreams of spending several months snorkelling, spearfishing, and surfing seem more unachievable as each day goes by.
Our issues however, pale into insignificance compared to many. The seemingly endless barrage of bad news is compounded for many due to not working, seeing friends, or participating in the activities they enjoy most. At times, parents having to juggle working from home and the added stress of their children’s education. This pressure can fracture family relationships and cause untold damage and mental health struggles for those forced into it. To put some of this into context, attempted suicides by teenagers in Victoria increased 184% in the first half of 2021, and reports of child abuse are up by more than 60% in 2020, this is a genuinely frightening figure.
So what is the answer? How do we ‘fix’ this? While we clearly cannot control the situation we’re all in, we can still make a difference by focusing our energy on the things that are more likely to bring us joy. For me, those things have been and remain to be Gratitude, Human connection, and nurturing the mind and body.
Given the state of the world at the moment, the stream of negativity is almost unstoppable. More cases and deaths, the people are blaming politicians, politicians are blaming the people, war is breaking out overseas, and the list goes on. If I spend more than 3 minutes watching or reading the news, I find myself feeling quite pessimistic about the world and the direction we’re heading. As opinions divide, many seem intent on trying to sway each other’s views, which results in people losing friends and family members turning against each other. This just causes the feelings of isolation, sadness, and desperation to grow.
I made the conscious decision several years ago to stop engaging the media. Instead, I focus on the world (and the people) that directly surround me. Why? Because I can control these things and they directly impact the quality of my life every day. I used to think that knowledge was power, but over the years I realised that unless I can do something with that knowledge, it’s not powerful at all, and I am better off focusing my energy elsewhere.
Using meditation to shift my mindset and limiting the stream of negativity into my life, I wake up every day excited for the future and the life I am creating. The 15 minutes I spend each day watching the sunrise serve me far more than 15mins of morning news.
Just as I try and focus my energy on things that serve my mind, I do the same with my body. At a time in history where our health has never been more critical, I see the overconsumption of alcohol being celebrated, people rejoicing in their ballooning bodies due to over-eating, lack of exercise and Netflix binges. I am not sure at what point or why it became normal to glamorise unhealthy lifestyle choices, but I think it’s a damaging example to set for children and one that does not serve us as adults, either. Not in the short, or long term.
Gratitude is something I have written about a bit in the past. It can be challenging to remain grateful during tough times, as our brains are wired to focus on the negative, and it takes conscious effort to disallow those thoughts to rule us. As mentioned above, I choose to limit the negative influences coming into my world and instead focus on the world and the people surrounding me. I find something to be grateful for every day. Some days, it’s something repetitious or seemingly insignificant like the sunrise or a coffee, other days it is far more deep and profound.
On the really tough days, I look back to past experiences and events that I am grateful for; I’ve found this especially helpful during the darkest of days. While practicing gratitude does not make your problems disappear, it does have a positive effect on your brain AND body. Believe it or not, if you imagine a pleasant or positive experience, your brain actually thinks you are living the experience and releases the same ‘feel good’ chemicals as if you were living it. If you think negative thoughts, your body reacts as if you are living a negative experience, and vice versa. When I first learned this, it made me realise just how important our thoughts are. I find practicing gratitude, and visualisations a great way to shift my thoughts.
For reasons I don’t entirely comprehend, human connection seems to have lost importance over the past few decades, but I feel this is more important now than it has ever been. Throughout my own journey my morals and values shifted, and I slowly drifted apart from what was once my friendship group. This was a process I found particularly difficult and isolating, especially as life on the road in the early days was anything but easy. Over time I began meeting more and more people on the road, we shared stories, experiences, and opinions. These connections, although brief, often had a profound effect on me, just as I am sure it did with those I connected with.
Recently I had an experience that rocked me to my core, it hurt me in ways I was not even sure were possible; heartbroken is the word that comes to mind, but I feel it still doesn’t do justice to the emotions I experienced. I’ve written before about my tendency to become reclusive in tough times. Thankfully, in this instance, I had someone there to help me through it, because I am really not sure how I would have coped without that support. So to that person, and the other friends that helped me through the ordeal, thank you.
This experience made me realise that although Jaiden and I spend every day together, the quality time had decreased significantly over the past 6 months. The struggles with my back, focusing on finding a block of land, and then the arduous task of buying a new car and making it “camping ready” pretty much consumed me. Jaiden spent more time playing, reading, and gaming by himself as I (in typical Cam fashion) put my blinkers on and forgot about the world, fixated on the goal. The negative situation that unfolded was a reminder of just how important it is to make the time to connect with my friends, but also to spend quality time with Jaiden. I was so focused on making our dreams a reality, I neglected to stop and enjoy our reality.
We can’t change the events happening in the world, but we can change how much they affect us, and how we respond to them. Pick up the phone and call a friend, or play with your kids; instead of having a 5 hour Netflix binge. Find ways to nourish your body through exercise and healthy lifestyle habits, and support others who do the same. Find one thing you’re grateful for each day because despite everything, the universe is filled with beauty, and infinite possibilities for growth and progression in each and every one of us.
Today, I am grateful to have a platform where I can share my thoughts with the world. If my thoughts help just one person, who then help one person, it creates a ripple effect that CAN actually change the world.
Love to you all.