I walk in gratitude every day. By that I mean I am thankful for everything I have, do, create and experience. I don’t wait for greatness to happen before I’m grateful, I’m happy for the smallest things: sunshine, my morning chai, the way my legs move when I get out of bed, my family, hot water. You can see where I’m going with this. 

Making the effort to frequently experience gratitude balances out negativity and cultivates awareness of what we want in our lives, not focusing on what we don’t want. I’m not saying that we should ignore problems or be superficial about the challenges of life, but our spirit is enriched by feelings of gratitude, and good memories are formed by focusing on what’s working and what we are grateful for. 

Gratitude is an instant mood booster. When we consciously shift our attention to what’s thriving in our lives, our need for safety, satisfaction and connection is met. Activating gratitude tones down the alarm system of the brain (the amygdala) and reduces the stress response. Practising gratitude reduces levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body and releases dopamine, the natural feel-good chemical in the brain, which supports more focused attention. 

  • Slow everything down by walking in gratitude; appreciate your surroundings. 
  • Soften towards your family, friends and colleagues. 
  • Thank others for the smallest kindness. 
  • Forgive yourself, be gentle on yourself.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt; don’t take things personally. 
  • Actively notice new things to feel grateful about. 
  • Show compassion to self and others. 

The Promise

The story of The Promise begins at a launch of my previous children’s book, The Flying Angel in 2021.  It is my second book written about a nurse in WW2. 

The Flying Angels tells the story of a group of RAAF nurses who were handpicked to rescue injured soldiers from the frontline of Papua New Guinea in WW2, and transport them safely back home to Australia. These nurses where known for their courage and compassion, and this story was inspired by the life of one of these remarkable nurse’s, Sister Marie Craig.

At the launch of The Flying Angels, I was seated next to Terry O’Neill, who during his 50 years of living and working in Papua New Guinea and the Asia Pacific, had the desire to support vulnerable communities which have been impacted by war and social disruption. He placed a silver Kina in my hand as a gentle reminder of the local Papua New Guinea people who also assisted, and helped our Australian soldiers in WW2. They were called the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Immediately I thought of my father Henry George McGregor, who was stationed in PNG during WW2 in the Signals Corp. He told me that without the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels that he, and indeed I, would not be alive. With care and love, these PNG natives became the Australian soldiers’ unsung heroes, rescuing injured Australian soldiers and bringing them to safety.

Terry’s passion about these PNG’s unsung heroes, encouraged me to start my journey to find this amazing story about Maiogaru Taulebona. A Papua New Guinea Mission Nurse, who was one of those brave locals who took enormous risks to help injured Leading Aircraftsman, John Donegan, and with the risk of grave personal danger to herself, cared for his wounds and secured him away from the enemy. 

Maiogaru Taulebona was awarded the loyalty medal by the Royal Australian Air Force. The Promise, is a celebration of the bond between Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

This is the story of courage, resilience, kindness and hope. It is the first of a series of books I have been asked to write about Papua New Guinea heroes.

Love is a skill-set

I interviewed hundreds of people for my latest book 100 keys to Love and found that we are not alone, each one of us is searching for love and self-discovery. Many people I spoke with are over-achievers in their work but have felt frustrated about how to find love and happiness in their personal lives. 

Life is challenging. We are expected to work, be perfect mothers and fathers, friends and lovers. Calmly juggling everything, balancing our lives, whilst looking fabulous and buying just the right gift for St Valentine’s Day. 

But when it comes to love, we struggle to find it, express it, keep it, or untangle from it.

Kind and gentle self-care is essential when falling in love. Nurturing yourself. Think about what you want and how you feel. Do not let your thoughts and actions about another person pull you ahead of getting to know yourself first. The more you know and like yourself, the more chance your relationship has of success. Care about yourself as much as you care about the other person, then falling in love can happen more naturally and sustainably.

Love is a skill-set that includes care, honesty, respect, affection – physical, emotional and mental. Open, honest and direct communication and personal responsibility are our agency.

There are times when you may not feel loving at all towards others but still choose loving actions because that is what love is.

“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”
― Victoria Erickson

Telling our Stories to the World.

‘Did you see any cattle in the long paddock?’ asked a local woman in her 40s, as I stepped from my car in Julia Creek after a 234 km drive from Mt Isa. 

‘No,’ I replied, ‘I didn’t see a long paddock.’ 

‘You would’ve been in it, Luv. I’m talking about the highway. That’s what we call the long paddock around here. The cattle are allowed to graze on the side of the road but you have to keep an eye out for them. Don’t want to run into one of those at 100 km an hour.’ With that, she gave me an “I’ve won the Gold Lotto” smile, that welcomed me to the town. 

The students from grades three, four, five, and six at Julia Creek State School were very pleased and delighted that I was bringing the Queensland Writers Centre workshop, Telling Our Stories to the World to them. They learnt how they can share their unique stories through the use of postcards. 

The children talked of other towns where they have travelled: Normanton, Karumba, Hughenden, Charters Towers, Townsville, Bundaberg, Longreach, Barcaldine, Winton, and Mareeba. They dreamt out loud of countries where they might travel in the future, and of relatives – grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, and cousins – scattered wide over this continent and other continents across the globe. There was lots of discussion about their environment and how they fit into their land, what they notice on the horizon, what they see when they look out their windows at sunrise and sunset, and their deep love for the outback. 

They became so excited about writing their stories; a grade four student unexpectedly leapt up and told the captive audience her compelling story about a car running into some cattle, and just missing her family as they were getting ready to muster. Her excitement in telling her story was contagious. Tracey, their teacher, told me how when she wore her much-loved beach hat to school, one of the students asked her if she’d been mustering, as her hat looked like it had been trampled by stock. She was new to the area at the time, and this question introduced her to the outback way of thinking.

Another young student talked of the Min Min lights her family experienced whilst driving late at night to their property near Boulia. She recounted that the lights followed their car for some time, then disappeared only to reappear a little later beside the car. She was entranced by the experience and proud that she had experienced this much spoken-about phenomenon. 

She said that some Aboriginal people believe the Min Min lights are the spirits of their ancestors, protecting their land. In 2018, Wyndham local, James Birch said, ‘As a kid growing up the old people used to tell me, that the Min Min lights were old peoples’ spirits looking after country.’ 

‘There’s a suggestion that they perform a “guardian’s role” to check on sacred sites and perhaps to scare off people who aren’t supposed to be there,’ commented Dr Curtis Roman. Another legend purports that anyone who chases the lights and catches them, will never return to tell the tale.

Located between Boulia and Winton, the Min Min Hotel and mail exchange is said to be the place where the lights were first observed by a European stockman. Famous for its connection with the Min Min lights, this hotel burnt down in 1918. Stories of the lights abound, with students from Camooweal to Julia Creek re-counting their experiences.

My drive back from Julia Creek to Mount Isa was overflowed with thoughts of the Min Min lights, of mustering, and of the environment and its changing patterns. Halfway to Mt Isa I stopped to stretch my legs. A local woman who had also pulled up to do the same offered me a cuppa from her thermos, and a piece of cake she’d made that morning. Her smile was as big as the horizon as she told me about their property 200 km north of Julia Creek. Her pride and resilience shone through in her words, and her passion for the land and its surroundings. She spoke of the difficulties they had to overcome: drought, distance, and isolation. The outback certainly brings life into perspective. 

Between Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa and Camooweal, nine school groups and many locals were included in this Telling Our Stories to the World initiative. QWC also presented two Journalling workshops for adults eager to tell their stories. 

One night while preparing to settle into my bed in Mt Isa, an advertisement on the TV declared, “This regional community holds outback values, and we are global citizens”. I thought about the children of this harsh outback land; their stories of their home, their ideas, creativity, and willingness to embrace this wide, brown country of north-west Queensland. I agreed with the bloke on the tele, closing my eyes, thinking about the kindness of the lady with the cuppa at the road stop, and her openness to a stranger. Her values will stay with me forever. 

I now carry this wild place in my imagination, to remember and to wonder about. A place carved through with a long paddock, where cattle graze on the native grass. 

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands I travelled through – the Mitakoodi, Kalkadoon, Indjalandji-Dhidhanu, Yulluna, Mitakoodi, and Wunumarra people, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

Vicki is an author, artist, and speaker. She has written thirty books and covers many genres: personal development, children’s, young adult and adult fiction. Her books include:  Two Pennies, The Little Stowaway,Oliver’s First Big Spy Adventure, The Book of Hope – Antidote to Anxiety, and The Flying Angel. She has written and co-produced a documentary, Never Forget Australia. Vicki also helps other writers as a coach and mentor.

This article was first published in the WO Climatic issue 276, March 2022.

Healthy boundaries = self-respect

Having our own set of personal boundaries influences the quality of our inner life. 

Boundaries solidify the ground we walk on and create a safe place in our internal and external life. No one necessarily needs to know about our personal boundaries. They are not something to be negotiated with others. They don’t require recruiting other people to our viewpoint; someone being right and the other being wrong is not a boundary. Having clear boundaries is at the heart of effective self-care. 

A boundary is set when you decide not to blame or shame another person, or yourself in your internal dialogue. You automatically become more respectful and kinder when you have a strong internal boundary of what you will and won’t do. You have the right to determine when, where, how and with whom you want to do things. When you set boundaries, you demonstrate self-dignity – a powerful message. 

A boundary roadmap consists of the following:

  • Being clear with yourself about what you can and can’t do. 
  • Caring more about yourself than what others think about you. 
  • Trusting your instincts by listening and acting on your feelings. 
  • Not deciding if you’re not sure of it. 
  • Trusting your decisions. 
  • Not be too hard on yourself, treating every experience as learning. 
  • Letting go of people-pleasing. 
  • Finding time and space for yourself.
  • Accepting that you don’t need to share everything by creating more privacy in your life. 

To implement this roadmap, you need to hear your own voice, to be able to shut out the noise and clutter of the world. To go where it’s quiet enough to truly hear your voice above everyone else’s. 

Empower yourself with clear boundaries. Use visualisation to imagine what living with these boundaries will look like; picture yourself as a strong, independent thinker. Make healthy choices that take responsibility for who and what you are and what you want to become.

This excerpt is from The Book of Hope – Antidote for Anxiety by Vicki Bennett.

It can be relatively easy to be kind to someone else but how kind are you to yourself?

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Kindness begins with being thoughtful about how you speak to yourself about yourself. Be aware of negative thinking about the past or the future as it can be very painful. Draw yourself back into the present moment by searching out three things you can see and focus on, noticing three things you can smell, and three things you can touch. Doing so helps you to concentrate on what’s working in your life.

Self-talk tends to be repetitive. Telling yourself stories about what you believe happened, or what you think will happen is painful. Thinking these stories will protect you from failure, or make you feel safe, is a form of avoidance. Blaming yourself over what has happened in the past is unkind and isolating. 

Maximise the present moment by reading or listening to something inspirational, then share this with a friend or family member. By sharing small moments, connecting to others can help overcome the sense of isolation that you may feel. Make sure you look for and make several connections in a day.

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for kindness. Don’t bully, guilt, or shame yourself about what’s happening around you. As soon as you feel yourself ‘should-ing’ yourself around, talk to yourself in a kind, supportive and caring way so that you can do better next time. Nothing beats the loneliness of being unkind to yourself. 

Heightened self-care is an act of personal bravery. Focus on improving yourself before saving the world. If you’re tweeting about what’s going on somewhere else in the world and not looking after your own levels of stress and anxiety, you’re going to feel hopeless. 

The approval and validation we seek is an inside job. Hope is a by-product of the strength and dignity felt inside. We contribute most to saving our world, by saving ourselves first. When we board an airplane, the flight attendant tells us that in case of an emergency, first give ourselves oxygen, then help others. When we take steps to develop our emotional health, we can then put our hand out to help others. A key question you could ask yourself about your relationship is, ‘If I were married to yourself, how long would it last?’ I am surprised to be constantly told by seemingly kind, caring people that, for them, they doubt the marriage would last very long. The most intimate relationship you can ever have, is the one you have with yourself.

Having a kind and honest relationship with yourself can be the ultimate in human understanding. Let go of seeking approval from others, look after yourself physically and emotionally, and being true to yourself. Integrity-based sacred service begins when you treat yourself with the same integrity as the external customer: family, friends, and colleagues. 

A key question you could ask yourself about your relationship is, ‘If I were married to yourself, how long would it last?’ I am surprised to be constantly told by seemingly kind, caring people that, for them, they doubt the marriage would last very long. The most intimate relationship you can ever have, is the one you have with yourself. Having a kind and honest relationship with yourself can be the ultimate in human understanding.