Photo by Jazzy Jazz

I am the queen of distraction. Any excuse will do. A ding on my phone? A dog barking? Stomach rumble? I’m up for it! Literally. I will get up to investigate, check the phone, open the fridge door…

Recently, I decided to spend more time in the office. Even with all the distractions there, I get more work done. Sure, I may have a chat to a colleague and make myself the odd cup of tea but somehow, I am more focused because I know this is the place for work and not play.

About a year ago I listened to Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. I felt motivated for about a week and then, slowly at first before accelerating with a vengeance, my old habits resurfaced. I didn’t want to be boxed in by time blocks, or make public commitments about my goals, I was happy to coast along, chop and change as my want and hit the panic button when deadlines emerged. After all, I work best under pressure. Doesn’t everyone?

Last week, London Writers’ Salon interviewed Nir Eyal. As I’m a bit of a self-help nerd, I decided to listen. I’m so glad I did. He explained my resistance, which is far from unique. There’s a psychological term for it. It is called reactance. ‘…when people feel coerced into a certain behavior, they will react against the coercion, often by demonstrating an increased preference for the behavior that is restrained, and may perform the behavior opposite to that desired (APA Dictionary of Psychology).’

This describes me perfectly. Even if I’m the one who sets the expectation, I will fight tooth and nail against it. Just knowing that I can name this pesky trait really helps. Now when I hear that voice saying, ‘I don’t want to do it that way, I prefer to do it my way,’ I can say, ‘hello reactance, I know what tricks you’re up to!’

Nir also had a great idea for people who get distracted by their children when working from home. His solution is to buy a cheap crown to wear when working. His kids were told that when he was wearing the crown, he was indistractable. They could only interrupt if it involved blood or vomit. I have used a similar tactic when teaching. I’d say to my class that I was in a bubble with my reading group. Only the people inside the bubble were allowed to talk to me. Surprisingly, kids really respected the bubble. If they ignored the rule I drew an invisible bubble with my arms, and they would walk away. It worked like a charm. At least until an enterprising young chap walked up to my invisible bubble with an invisible pin and pricked it.

I really like Nir’s idea of wearing a crown. I will go out and buy a tiara (much more elegant) and wear it to remind that naughty distracting child within me that I have work to do. If nothing else, I will at least look stylish when I raid the fridge.  

The smoking ceremony

A smoking ceremony is an ancient Aboriginal custom performed at rites of passage. Nowadays, it is also carried out by elders when they conduct a Welcome to Country. There is a reciprocity to being welcomed onto country. We ask for permission to enter and the elder in turn welcomes us with a ritual in which the history of the land and people is shared. A Welcome to Country, especially one with a smoking ceremony, is always a rich and moving experience.

Last Friday, I attended a workshop at Rylstone Public School with several teachers, principals and a special Canadian guest, Lyn Sharratt. Out in the playground, Local Elder Peter Swain welcomed us onto the land. He explained the importance of the matriarchal lineage to Aboriginal people, through which there is a deep connection to Mother Earth. A coolamon beside him contained white ochre paint and the women were invited to paint their forearms along their veins. We were asked to think of our ancestors whose lifeblood still flows within us and whose protection and strength we sought through this ritual. I found the symbolism deeply moving and felt a strong connection to my parents and grandparents who have departed long ago.

After this part of the ceremony, a coolamon was used for the smoking ceremony. There were leaves from various endemic plants including the bottle brush, which is used to wake up the brain. This was just what I needed so I kept crushing and smelling the leaves before I added them to the coolamon to burn. We also used eucalyptus leaves and other plants which have different healing and spiritual qualities. Peter then blew under the leaves to ensure there was enough of a fire to create the smoke.

We stood in a circle, and he brought the smoke to each of us, purifying our feet, our hearts, and our heads. It reminded me of Western religious ceremonies where frankincense is used in a similar way. Incense is also used in Eastern traditions for purification. This just highlights the deep spiritual connection that all cultures have to one another.

I am forever grateful for the generosity of Indigenous Australians who continue to welcome us onto their land despite the colonial history of the past 230 years. It is therefore in the spirit of profound respect that I acknowledge that I live, work, and write my stories on Wiradjuri land. I acknowledge elders past, present and those emerging who hold the hopes and dreams of Aboriginal Australia. I also acknowledge that this land was stolen and that it is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.


It has been raining steadily for days. The sodden earth is unable to absorb any more water and the ground is boggy underfoot. Paddocks have turned into lakes and livestock are moving to higher ground. Canola fields blaze yellow; the wheat has shot up. It looks like a bountiful season. Yet, I wonder if all this abundance could turn into a mirage should farmers be unable to harvest their crops.

Whole towns have been inundated with water this year. Months later, people are still without homes, some living in tents. There’s a housing crisis in these communities and still the rain keeps coming. Mould has stealthily invaded houses and everything feels damp to touch. Roads have become impassable. There is a feeling of despondency.

Yesterday, as I was driving through a cloudburst with my windscreen wipers working overtime, I saw flashes of a rainbow through the momentary clear screen, only to be blurred a second later. But it was enough. I kept my eye on that rainbow, remembering the covenant made between Noah and God, that never again will the whole world be flooded.

Then I see photos of droughts in England and America with lakes that have turned to dustbowls, and I am thankful for the life-giving water we have in plenitude. I remember too the last long drought we had in Australia from 2001 to 2009. Children were born and raised on farms where they had never seen rain in all their lives. Water had to be trucked into towns and plenty of farmers walked off the land. There were suicides too. At the time, it felt as if we would never see rain again.

Due to climate change, our weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. We can’t count on seasons doing what they have always done. It will take a gargantuan effort for mother earth to keep providing for us. We all have our part to play in how things will turn out for humanity. Not one of us is free of blame for the state of the world.

I accept the challenge to change what I can: be less wasteful, want less and recycle more of our precious resources. I cannot give in to despair. Hope still springs eternal. And as I watch the rain, I think about the story of that ancient covenant and look for the rainbow ahead.


Rain has washed away whole sections of country roads. Wherever I look there are potholes, thoroughfares which are no longer passable and ‘rough surface’ signs to alert drivers to the obvious. I recently punctured a tyre as I plunged into a hole much deeper than anticipated and last Thursday, a loose rock hit my windscreen leaving it with a sizable crack.

I have had ample opportunity to ponder the pothole, both real and figurative, as I white-knuckle clench the steering wheel. There have certainly been some rough rides. Last week as I drove along a dark country highway, trying to avoid both kangaroos and potholes, I suddenly found myself going over a flooded roadway. I could hear the safety ads loud and clear, ‘Do not enter floodwaters’ but it was too late. I was already deep in the water and accelerating out. The sun had dropped behind the horizon, and I was left to navigate unfamiliar, rugged roads at night.

While potholes are perilous for travellers, I find solace in the fact that we haven’t been able to bend nature to our will altogether. In the great battle between the elements and bitumen, the elements win every time.

And as I navigate the great and small potholes in my life, I draw some lessons from driving along country roads. If I am lucky to see the pothole ahead, I can always move over to the other side, as long as there is no oncoming traffic. There are often ways to mitigate the great and small disasters in life by course correcting.

Potholes make me slow down. Instead of rushing from A to B, I need to be measured and disciplined to get there safely. This is a lesson I need to learn over and over. When confronted with overwhelm, it is best to slow down and approach tasks with a well-considered plan rather than plough ahead at full speed.

Then there is the detour. At times it is well worth obeying the sign. It may take longer to get wherever I’m going but there’s a reason for the diversion. These roads are often scenic and may lead to unexpected pleasures along the way. A detour whether forced or voluntary can provide insights which otherwise could easily be missed.

I am learning to approach potholes as moments to pause and reflect. They may be an unwanted disruption, but they teach me that I can’t control everything. And ever so slowly, I am learning to accept the things I cannot change.

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