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The Call to Return

It has been several years since I returned from my adventure in the Middle East. Like Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, The Call to Return also sparked not only a resurrection of my life in a new context, it made me grateful that I have had the privilege of the adventure.

The Hero's Journey, courtesy Joseph Campbell

The Hero’s Journey, courtesy Joseph Campbell

The new Star Wars ‘The Force Awakens’ movie, made me realise that the Light side coexists naturally with the Dark. There more light, the more apparent shadows it casts. And so it was upon my Return.

I had learnt a lot in Qatar. Looking back, it was both the most unlikely place to be, and also the most perfect place to be at the time in my life. Without immersing myself there, how could I speak about feeling simultaneously repressed and free.

Repressed – because there were more constraints compared to how I had been when I was living in Australia – the dress code, the language, the climate, the food, the contradiction of old and new, the seeming divide between the genders, the chasm between the have- and the have-nots.

Free – because I can keep an open mind to notice that all is as it should be: nothing is absolutely good or bad. Celebrating a so-called good event: the privilege to come to live in a country I had never even considered to bring my family gave me the adventure of a lifetime. I realised I had an uncanny resilience to adapt to daily normalities. What a gift! A bad event at the time? Reframing it – I counted my blessings that it happened when it did, so the situation gave me a new reference structure: Now I can say I have expanded my epistemology… stretched my comfort zone! How wonderful. I learnt something.

For instance, when my assignment ended prematurely in Qatar – another occurrence of regularity in that part of the world – I found an extraordinary agility to act in adversity: a resilience to make decisions clearly, manage stress of many tasks to be accomplished in a tight deadline, and deal with roller-coaster emotions calmly. I had to move my family out within 7 days with the expiration of my resident permit. Within the week, I had to pack down the home, deregister my children from their schools, research new schools and new options of work, organise immigration and organisational exit, ……move home, move countries, move work, move my life!

A Whole New World

A new adventure in the desert

I could only see opportunities and possibilities from this.

Having begun this practice of mindfulness in the midst of madness in the Middle East: such as regular meditation, open minded/open hearted/openly willing approach  in the market place, this next chapter of co-sensing and co-creating my own future is absolutely exciting.

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”― John H. Schaar

I used to feel guilty about looking into the past – a bit hysterical about the historical! There is no way we can change the events gone by, yet we have the power to make new meaning of them. Rewriting it as I move forward by glancing back to see what I have learnt, and what still needs addressing …. I am going to re-present my essence in my future through understanding role models that have played out in my life: past and present. Review and reflect constantly in a design thinking sense: so I may reorganise my life to be more response-able.

In these next new series of blogs, I intend to journal my reflections of the new Call to Adventure in the next cycle of my Hero’s Journey. What a paradox: the more enlightened I thought I had become, certain shadows in my life became even more defined. In fact, they were magnified – shouting out to be dealt with.

I am tentatively naming this new series: Love and Duty. My first book ‘Intentional Parenting – how to get results for both you and your kids’ was the first Call to Adventure -which excited me to write my first book.

In this series of blogs, I hope to use these musings to support my penning a fiction about the life of a woman whose lessons of balancing love and duty (more often than not it was Duty OVER Love), reflecting on what she had learnt from 5 women in her family: great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter and her developing self. Literary licence gives me, as the writer, to explore her insights and lessons from the past lives of this fictional female lead character (yet to be named!) whom she meets in dreams and waking meditations.

Love your thoughts and feedback! After all, the future is a place we can make, together.

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Settling into A Whole New World

We have been here in Qatar for 6 months on March 3, 2013 – I cannot  believe it! Time flies when having fun, right?

Qatar seems like the new frontier. I feel like a pioneer.  There is a lot of getting used to – things we take for granted are not yet set up. In a way – that can be frustrating. In another, that means possibilities of helping set it up to best practice is there!

Initially navigating through the unfamiliar bureaucracy of a foreign land was uncomfortable. I was fortunate to be supported by the patience of my manager and his family, and a community of expats who are so willing to help my family and I settle in.

The spirit of simply having faith has been a new attitude that has been my saving grace: Insha’Allah (meaning ‘God Willing’), as the locals usually respond. This has been a discipline of being present, patient and receptive to things in a timely manner. What used to bug me because I am always wanting it all yesterday – has melted away as I learnt to slow down. It has even been healthier for me – it has literally lessened my blood pressure.

I have observed that verbal covenants seemed more valuable and important than written contracts. Hence, relationship building is key to surviving – I stand corrected – thriving in this part of the world. This has been a new map to navigate for me. It seemed a more intuitive and natural way to be – and I am loving this adaption.

My children, Xian and Jett, are enjoying their new school from Day 1. That’s simply so comforting. They had been so apprehensive about coming to a strange place. Now, they  look forward to meeting their new friends who have welcomed them so wholeheartedly into the community of 75 nationalities, and working with their passionate teachers at the American School of Doha. They described them as friendly, helpful, kind and supportive. That’s a nice culture to move into. That does not mean they do not MISS their family, friends and teachers in Sydney. We still have moments of high emotion (and tears). Overall, this has been the best reason for them being here. The experience of learning in a positive environment of such diversity is priceless.

My work environment is stimulating, and my colleagues warm, welcoming and encouraging. Work begins at 7am – that took a bit of getting used to. 3.30pm is quitting time and I can usually leave on time. (Kids are 8-3pm) Except for duty travel which could be quite regular now that we have sort of settled down into a routine and my manager is comfortable I can leave my family (family values are very strong here) for an extended period – I have lots of daylight and family time at home. How refreshing!

I get to go on duty travel at least once a month for 4-7 days. I have been to Frankfurt to meet my European counterparts. Then Bangkok for our Asia Pacific connection. I was recently in Tunis and excited as this was my first sojourn to the African continent.

It has been hardest on my husband Ken – as he has to straddle 2 continents. He has been getting here every 3-4 weeks, staying about 2-3 weeks and heading back. That’s the beauty of being part of the aviation industry. Still we miss him heaps. As another chapter of Intentional Parenting opens here, we are firmly setting out minds that he will be here more than he is there – reversing the ratio. Insha’Allah (God Willling) as we say it here in the Middle East.

During our relocation, the kids thought it was a great start to fly Business (and we unanimously voted Qatar Airways the best Business Class experience to date), and to be put up for a week in the 5-star Oryx Rotana hotel. As much as it was nice to luxuriate in our 5-star abode, we were glad to move to an apartment and cook-and-clean (Never thought I’d admit to that!)….What a relief to be settled, unpacking our boxes and making it feel like home….

Because I haven’t gotten my head around the roads yet – we have a driver who take Xian & Jett to school (and they adore him), for my work, and  the errands I need to get to. In time, I will get a car ….most expats pick up a gas guzzler here that they will never do so back home as the price of petrol is one Qatari riyal per litre (ie about 30cents equivalent)! On top of that, the price of tax-free luxury vehicles is easily 30-40% cheaper than back home, and the bank loans are very attractive – works out at about 2% p.a. for a car lease! However, even with my driver and cabs to get around – this works out quite economical and convenient at present. Still better than thinking about car leases, registration or insurance! (Not to mention manouvring the chaos of peak hour road traffic in an unfamiliar city.)… At this rate, I can get used to just being chauffeured around!

It is interesting that barely 60 yrs ago – this country was traveling on boat and camel. It has leapt to jumbo jets in that time, and roads. Rail is the next network due to open in 2016. Kind of the reverse of how transport and communications developed in the rest of the world! Like this country, the organisation I am working for has had a meteoric rise to success under the leadership of The Chief, as the CEO has been endearingly called. He has taken this little regional airline of 4 aircraft to a 2-time winner of “best 5-star airline in the world” (voted by Skytrax) in 2011 and 2012. This is such an opportunity to work with and under his leadership – to be able to contribute and learn at the same time. I have been drawn to study the leadership of Mr Akbar Al Baker and to add value to his vision.

Overall settling into A Whole New World has been a great start to our new adventure as a family – albeit quite a few unsettling adjustments. But that is all so good for the soul. I am looking forward to more exciting discoveries over the next six months.

Posted in Intentional Parenting, Leadership Development, Parent Leadership, personal coaching, Transformational Leadership | Leave a comment