Let’s disconnect and connect

I’m still on a slight high after watching the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games this week. It’s not something I had even planned on watching but I flicked over just in time to catch the industry veteran Katie Noonan (who was also the musical director for the ceremony) singing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘I still call Australia home’, accompanied by the Gold Coast choir. Noonan’s ethereal voice was so calming as she sang songs aimed at welcoming other cultures into our land.

Next was a very special moment to honour and to showcase the indigenous culture of this beautiful land. Contemporary Indigenous artist Luther Cora conducted a traditional Smoking Ceremony with three generations of his family. The smoking ceremony involves burning native plants to produce smoke – it is about cleansing (oneself) and connecting (with each other, the land and spirit). It was such a captivating moment that slowed down the whole proceedings and made you feel like you were watching a piece of history from a faraway land unfold.

To add a little glitz, glamour and power vocals to the night; Goddess Goodrem appeared in the middle of the stadium singing her new single: ‘Welcome to Earth’. It’s not hard to see why Goodrem has led the pack in the Australian Pop music scene for over 15 years. She can write a song underwater, her vocals can carry for miles and she’s genuinely her happiest when on stage. The lyrics in this song are so perfect for these games and are really motivating me this week; “Welcome to Earth, where the broken and the beautiful collide”… “Make this moment all you’ve wanted, we were made to live our dreams out loud”. It’s the first time in a long while that I’ve played a song on repeat.

As beautiful as all of the performances were, what made me smile the most (and in all honesty, a little bit teary) were the faces of the past and current athletes taking part in the ceremony. From walking out onto the arena, waving to the crowd and representing their country, to parading around with the Queen’s Baton, to standing around dancing & clapping as the performances were underway. There was such pure joy and pride on each and everyone’s faces. I can imagine their parents and grandparents sitting at home with the ceremony on record, hoping to catch a glimpse of their pride and joy on screen. These athletes have most likely worked their whole lives to perfect their craft, and they’ve most likely dreamed of the moment when they represent their country on an international scale and it’s really moving to see people achieve their dreams.

Everyone in that arena was so fully immersed in the present moment and connecting with one another. I truly believe that there is no greater purpose for us in our lives than to connect. They weren’t looking down at their phones, they weren’t running late for work, they weren’t stressing over an expensive bill: they were sharing a moment together. And it was really special.

Of course the next day, journalists jump online and start stirring the pot about diva antics, possible lip-synching, the absence of major stars….yadda, yadda, yadda.

Watching the ceremony took me back nearly 18 years ago to my time as a wide-eyed 17yr old school girl, performing in the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. I, along with all of my school friends (Newtown High School of the Performing Arts) dance friends (Brent Street) and countless others, were the tap dancers who came running through the crowd, onto the main arena with metal plates and steel cap tap boots. What a time to be alive in Sydney. The weeks of rehearsals leading up to the event were both thrilling and exhausting but the actual night was just magical! I remember walking around the city after the event which was centre stage to tourists from all around the globe and not for one second did I feel scared, even though we were a group of scantily dressed teenage girls (it’s a safe assumption that I spent most of my teens scantily dressed). It was quite the opposite. Everyone was so warm and friendly. You would stop in the street and converse with complete strangers. The city was magical and buzzing, like a theme park for adults. Of course there were no smartphones or Social Media sites in the year 2000 so you had no choice but to be in the moment and connect with each other. How magical indeed.

Think of a time when you have gone to a concert to see your favourite band or singer. There is a particular buzz in the air. The strangers next to you become your temporary possy. You sing your favourite songs together at the top of your lungs and you feel like you’ve shared something with everyone in that room.

Whenever I attend mass at church (admittedly not as frequently as when I was a child), I always look forward to the part towards the end of mass where the priest says “now offer each other the sign of peace”. For my non-Catholic readers, this means you turn to your neighbours and shake hands whilst telling them; “peace be with you”. Such a lovely sentiment, no matter which, if any, sect you belong to. As a child I used to get so excited leading into this section that my palms would get sweaty and I would wipe them on my dress and blow air onto them so I wouldn’t have a clammy shake when the big moment arrived. I used to plan my targets of who I would shake hands with and in what order. Usually turning to my family or friends first, then everyone in the row in front of me, then swing around to nab everyone in the row behind me. I would do awkward leans to reach as many people as possible and I would keep shaking until the priest commenced the next segment. If you look around at everyone after this exchange, you can see them talking and smiling more, their body language has shifted and everyone is really jovial. That’s the power of the human spirit; sharing a moment with one another is like recharging the batteries of the soul.

I still carry this with me on my morning walks along the beach, smiling at everyone I can and saying “Good morning”, especially to grumpy faces (you get an extra ten points if the grumpy ones smile, 20 if they wish you a good morning in return).

I missed my train this week and it was a 12 minute wait until the next train. Instead of picking one of the empty seats and scrolling through my Instagram, I decided to sit next to an older lady and say ‘hi’. The lady’s name was Jill, and she was more than happy to enter into a chat with me until our train arrived. Jill grew up in Newtown and we both talked about how much we love Newtown’s culture and welcoming vibe. Though we reminisced about the awesome Op Shops that seem to be dwindling out. I could remember my first purchase of an aqua singlet top of just $3 in 1996. Jill bought a stack of fine China for just $10. We’re both Cronulla residents now and agreed that it’s nice to see people still stopping and chatting to each other in the street. Just like the good ol’ days (but with far more green juices & protein balls and far less cream buns & sausage rolls).

I set a challenge for you this week: Connect with three people who are not a part of your family, circle of friends or workplace. Strike up a chat with a neighbor (even if you’re ignoring him since his dog pooped on your lawn last year) keep your phone in your pocket or bag and talk to the lady sitting next to you at the train station or smile at the crazy guy trying to cut into your lane without so much as a thank you wave.

Happiness spreads like wildfire. Shoot every grumpy douche bag you see with an arrow full of it this week.

Happy hunting.