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When all else fails, create something.

Beardy-Creek-Camp-Ground-Glen-Innes

I learned something this morning. Well, re-learned, actually.

Pamela Slim gave me some great advice at the first MisfitCon in Fargo in 2013:

When all else fails, CREATE SOMETHING.

This morning, I woke up feeling heavy and depressed. I planned to get up at 6am and write. When my alarm went off, it was obvious to me that my head wasn’t agreeable about that, so I sat up next to my wife and attempted to meditate instead. I fell asleep almost instantly – sitting up – and woke again when Bel’s 20 minute meditation timer went off.

I argued with myself for a while (about 10-15 minutes probably) about getting out into the fresh air and exercising. Unsuccessfully.

It was cold and wet outside, and the bed was warm and dry. I chose immediate comfort, rather than the discomfort of sitting in the cold and typing, or going outside into the damp morning air. I lay back down, and slept some more. I woke a short while later with my kids pottering around the bus with Bel, and sat up looking outside my window. I felt numb, like nothing in the day held any appeal.

Fortunately my amazing wife Belinda made a delicious breakfast of eggs, vegies, and crepes, which I devoured. I made us a cup of tea, and explained to her that I was having a crisis trying to understand my answer to the question “Why?”.

I was stuck in “should” … I SHOULD exercise. I SHOULD write. I SHOULD be happy – after all, I’m living a dream most people never realise. But the writing part was the kicker. I was frustrated with myself, overwhelmed, and feeling heavier with each minute.

“Well, why did you go to the writing workshop with Joanne Fedler?” Bel asked.

“Because I wanted to learn how to tell my story better,” I responded.

“You’d started writing before that workshop, so why did you start writing the book?”

“Because I wanted to share my story of how we got here.” Even as I said this, I noticed myself resisting it.

Some small part of me thought then – and still thinks – that there’s an inspiring story of perseverance and courage in there somewhere. That telling my story of how I learned to manage my depression, how my wife and I re-designed our business and our lives to enable us to travel full-time in a big frigging green bus, might be interesting to a few punters here and there.

My hope is that maybe it will be a lighthouse to someone caught in their own personal storm. Maybe it will encourage someone to leap out of their unhappy circumstances and choose a brighter future for themselves. Maybe it will be the inspiration someone like you needs to dream a new dream, and take the first step towards it.

So I sat with that for a while.

I thought about how all the self-help stuff I’ve learned over the years. About how I could instantly choose to be happier, to let go of the feelings of overwhelm and pointlessness. I half accepted that idea, and half dismissed it. (The black dog was hairy and heavy this morning, as he lay on my chest, straddled my shoulders, suffocated my nostrils with his long fur…)

Ultimately, I realised I should at least attempt some writing. I have set myself a deadline for having the first draft completed, ready to send to an editor. I’m not ready to share that deadline publicly, but I have at least set it. Sitting in a hole feeling miserable wasn’t going to get the book written, and the date keeps creeping inexorably closer.

So I poured a cup of English Breakfast with goat’s milk, set up my laptop, and opened the Word document which contained my book so far.

Reading a passage I’d written a week or two back, I was surprised and a little impressed.

“This is actually not a bad read,” I thought.

A glimmer of inspiration and positivity ignited at the base of my skull, gradually warming my brain and cocooning it in a gooey, mild happiness.

I started to write.

In the space of about forty minutes I wrote something like 1200 words, and I can say honestly that I feel better, stronger, more alive, than I did before I sat at my computer.

When all else fails, CREATE SOMETHING.

I now feel like I’ve accomplished something already, and my day is looking brighter. Sure, the 1200 words might not be awesome, but they’re at least written. The shape of the story is beginning to be revealed more clearly.

The point here is to simply force ourselves to start creating something. Without judgement, without second-guessing or doubt. Just push on and create something. The act of creation – in my experience – becomes consuming and intoxicating, and tends to burn away the funk.

It worked this morning.

Thanks, Pam, for the advice of a few years ago.

Thanks Bel, for graciously making me breakfast when I felt (and acted) like a lost cause this morning.

Thanks Joanne Fedler for your gushing enthusiasm to see me write more.

Thanks to my kids, for cuddling and encouraging me when I most need it.

Thanks to you, dear reader, for sticking with this. Hopefully it’s been useful.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

 

The photo accompanying this blog was taken out my front door after writing it. We are in Beardy Creek Camping Ground, about 10kms North of Glen Innes, in the New England region of NSW. The weather is alternately freezing cold and searing hot. I can’t figure it out. But it looks like this, which is lovely. 

 

What’s the point, anyway?

Well, what is the point?

Of what, you ask? Oh, you know… life, work, anything…

For some reason my subconscious threw me this question as I started to write. I figure something in me needs to see this answered and also shared with you. 

Fortunately for you, dear reader, in the long dark evenings of my depression and subsequent recovery, I have come up with an answer, of sorts, to this question over the past few years. 

Firstly, let me pre-qualify this in all blunt honesty: it really makes no difference what I say in this essay about the point of anyone else’s life or work, because the point of our life is whatever we choose to make it. 

It is not dependent on or answerable to other people’s opinions or beliefs. It is not up to anyone else to decide for us – not our spouse, our parents, our peers, or our children. It is up to us. 

Our lives are our own creation and our own adventure. We can make anything of ourselves and our lives that we are brave enough to choose. 

So whether I say “This is the point” or “That is the point” makes no difference. 

Your life, you choose. 

If we then consider the idea purely for curiosity’s sake, I can put forward a couple of my own ideas that I believe have some merit. 

One: LOVE

I’m a sucker for love. Always have been, always will be. I believe one of the most incredible forces in the world – rivalling even “The Force” – is LOVE. 

Lennon/McCartney sang: “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” Totes agree. 

See that photo up the top? That is MY love. She married me to that song I just mentioned by John, Paul, George & Ringo. 

THAT is a good point of one’s life, work, or anything. Don’t you think?

Two: Adventure

I’m all about adventure. Clearly. And why not? Why not see, smell, feel, hear and taste all that the world has to offer during our (most likely) one and only life?

Given the choice to enrich our lives and broaden our experiences, why would you not take it?

I think Yoda had it WRONG when he said: “Adventure? Excitement? A Jedi craves not these things…”
Unless a Jedi does not crave these things in the same way they do not crave oxygen; it is simply essential to live. 

I can live with that reading of the sacred text. 

Three: Giving Our Gift

I’ve heard it said that the point of life is to discover our gift and then give it away as much and often as possible. 

I love this and will gladly put it as my third answer to the question of “What is the point, anyway?”

It’s my current quest. 

Four: Family

Define family how you will – blood relations, children, or simply people with whom you share a common bond and love for. 

I reckon family is everything: a compass, a home base, an anchor, a pair of wings, a jumping off and a landing point…

You get the idea. 

So, what is the point?

They are my points. Love, adventure, family and giving our gifts. That sums up what I choose my life to be about. 

Is one of these more important than another? Nah. Well, maybe love. Love really is all you need. 
What is your point?

With love & wellness,
Israel. xo

The hustle and the reward. 

In any endeavour, there is a point at which one must overcome the inertia of being still and, through sheer might of will and force of effort, drive the whole enterprise forward. 

A complicated way of saying that sometimes you just gotta hustle. 

But why complicate a simple concept? Obfuscation? Misdirection?

Actually I posit that “hustle” is an over-simplification of what it takes to get anything new started, and the complexity of language mirrors the complexity of creation. 

New ideas take time to germinate. They need nurturing and pruning in equal parts. The end goal must be considered, as must the jumping-off point, along with the waypoints and operational elements. 

A myriad decisions necessarily infest any new endeavour – from idea and planning through to execution and reflection after the fact. 

But, now I think about it, the only complexity about creation is when our heads get in the way and we slip out of the present moment.  

Pure creativity is simple – allowing the inspiration to pour through you into the creation. 

Over thinking it? Probably. It’s getting late (again) and I’m struggling a bit with my ideas. 

So we hustle to create something new. 

Why? 

Because creativity is its own reward. Because art. Because the world always needs new ideas. Because appraising the completed idea/artwork/thing is a deeply satisfying reward too. 

For now I’m enjoyjng creativity as its own reward. But I know other rewards will follow. 

With love and wellness,
Israel. xo

Being kind to myself.

On mornings like these, when I wake tired after a late night’s work, I am learning to be kind to myself. 

But not in the way that you think. 

“Being kind” to ourselves typically has the connotation of taking it easy, sleeping in til midday, having a big coffee, and not asking too much of ourselves. 

Often routines slip, and we let go the things we promised we would do, because we’re being kind to ourselves.

“I won’t go to the gym today, because I’m being kind to myself.”

“I’ll eat this snack today, because I’m being kind to myself.”

You get the idea. 

But I believe this approach – one where we think we’re doing the right thing by indulging ourselves – actually hurts us more than we realise. 

I’m currently running four small systems of behaviour that I know will bring me joy, peace, health and creativity this year. Each day, I am meditating, writing, exercising and making music. 

This morning after I woke I felt like I’d been sideswiped by a truck in my sleep. I felt like skipping my meditation and exercise, in an attempt to be kind to myself. 

But actually, that behaviour would have the opposite effect. 

By continuing my meditation practice, I am actually enhancing my mind state despite my fatigue. Likewise with my exercise and creative tasks (like this essay).

Will I have a nap later on? Probably. 

But I will have honoured my own promises to myself regardless of how tired I feel, and that is true kindness to myself. 

With love & wellness,
Israel. xo 

Reflecting on days past. 

How often do you reflect on your days? How regularly do you stop and think and ponder and wonder and unravel things in your mind – or even let your mind unravel?

It’s important. Really. 

I’ve learned so much today, by thinking a little obliquely about the day that was, and yes, reflecting. 

Today I realised that I feel a lot like Charlie Brown in the Snoopy / Peanuts movie. I often feel like I’m the guy who tries really hard and then messes everything up at the last second. I cried buckets at the end of the movie when the Little Red-Haired Girl explains why she chose Charlie Brown as her Summer pen-pal. 

Here’s the dialogue, straight from IMDB:

————–
Little Red-Haired Girl: Oh, hi, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown: You remembered my name?
Little Red-Haired Girl: Of course I did.
Charlie Brown: Before you leave, there’s something I really need to know. Why, out of all the kids in our class, would you want to be partners with me?
Little Red-Haired Girl: That’s easy. It’s because I admire the type of person you are.
Charlie Brown: An insecure, wishy-washy failure?
Little Red-Haired Girl: That’s not who you are at all. You showed compassion for your sister at the talent show. Honesty at the assembly. And at the dance, you were brave yet funny. And what you did for me, doing the book report while I was away, was so sweet of you.
————–

This scene killed me. I was wiping streaming tears off my face as discreetly as I could, because if my daughter saw me, she would loudly ask (with no shame and considerable glee): “Are you CRYING?!”

On one level, it’s the climax of the film where the hero gets the girl, and they all live happily ever after. Obviously it’s tear-jerking emotional territory. 

But on a deeper level it showed me how much I needed to see Charlie Brown win today; I had projected myself so far into the story, and I was the guy I really needed to see win. 

I realised – after some reflection – how often in my life I feel (and have felt) like an insecure, wishy-washy failure. It gave me some peace to see Charlie Brown win, but it highlighted something else in me that clearly needs some work.  

A grease and oil change for the subconscious, perhaps?!

Stay tuned. 

With love & wellness,
Israel. xo

Seeing the pattern.

 

A while ago I did a self development course that focussed on helping people see the underlying – and unconscious – patterns of their behaviour. The idea is that once we become aware of a pattern, we can begin to change it. 

The course was absolutely life-changing. Seeing my own patterns so clearly helped me make some dramatic shifts in my own behaviours and actions. I moved rapidly through the ranks of my new chosen career, earned more money, had better relationships; life was going brilliantly. 

Over time, the shine of the course and its lessons gradually dulled. The “grind” of day to day life crept in again, and new experiences pushed me and challenged me in new and unforeseen ways. 

I became a Dad, twice. I went (almost) broke at least twice. I trained for, and ran, a 42km marathon. I did a whole heap of stupid shit, like sacrificing my own health for the pursuit of money; getting angry and depressed instead of being a decent husband and father; not sleeping enough and not eating properly …

Guess what happened?

I retreated. I withdrew. 

I chose to step back from confidence and instead chose insecurity and a desire to remain aloof. At least there, I reasoned, I wouldn’t get hurt. 

I have only just realised – 5 years later – that, faced with these challenges, I went back to my original patterns of behaviour before the personal development course. 

I chose safety, and distance from harm. I chose to eliminate risk wherever possible. 

The trouble with this approach – eliminating risk and staying “safe” as much as possible – is that we don’t grow and develop. We simply stagnate. 

I’m reading a brilliant old book by Dr Wayne Dyer titled “Your Erroneous Zones”, which covers some very similar ideas about ourselves and our patterns of behaviour – similar to the self development course of years ago. 

It’s a great read, full of revelations. I’m starting to see my own patterns laid bare – again – which is confronting, but definitely worthwhile. 

I’ll let you know how I get on. 

With love and wellness,
Israel. xo

With any luck. 

  

With any luck I’ll get that promotion. With any luck I’ll become fit and happy. With any luck I’ll experience the life of my dreams. 

There really isn’t luck. Stuff happens or it doesn’t. You are ready and willing and able to make it happen, or you aren’t. 

We are the architects of both our own imprisonments and our own freedoms. 

It’s a tough gig to recognise and accept that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with ourselves. But once we take that responsibility and own it, life becomes simple. 

Note: “simple” and “easy” are two very different and unrelated things. 

I want a simple life. For the most part I have achieved a simple life. 

Is it easy? Hells no. 

Simple means I decide how my time is spent on any given day. Simple means I own all my possessions with no debt. Simple means I choose how, when and where I work, and I even choose what I earn from that work. 

But. 

That kind of simplicity and freedom is not easy to accept, achieve, or maintain. 

My income doesn’t arrive in a predictable manner each week or month. My home is not in the same place every week, meaning my roots have to be of a kind not related to geography. My routine is largely set by myself rather than by when I must start or stop working at a job for someone else. 

Here’s my observation: 

In our pursuit of an easy life, we have made our lives too complicated.  

Better if we pursued a simple life, free from complications. Then we would have the space and time to consider how we really want to spend our minutes, hours, and days. 

With any luck I’ll have a simple life. 

Nope. 

With conscious choice, accepting responsibility, and taking action… you can have anything you can dream of. 

It begins somewhere. Might as well be here. 

  

With barely any embarrassment I am once again embarking on a daily blogging adventure. I have committed to myself to write for at least 10 minutes daily in an attempt to rejuvenate my atrophied writing muscles. I shall share something (hopefully useful) here, each day. 

Each day is a new opportunity to be creative, I have resolved – in both a very “New Years Resolution” kind of way, and also in a very “Today is the first day of the rest of my life” kind of way. 

Many colleagues and people I admire choose words they use as guiding principles or ideals for the year. They are an ever-present compass with which to measure success or, more importantly, impact in a given moment. 

This year I choose the word CREATE.

CREATE

It is a word imbued with power: a sense of possibilities not yet uncovered; a sense that at any moment something new will germinate and become real. 

I am choosing this word because I wish 2016 to be my most creative year ever. 

I will write and release a book and an album of music, as well as produce a solo exhibition’s worth of new visual art in a medium I’m not familiar with. 
Further, I will start laying the foundations for a new literary fantasy universe with my daughter, as a collaborative project.

But CREATE also means that I choose to create my day, every day, and I choose to create my life. 

I am not a passenger stuck in the traffic jam of mediocrity and average. 

I am the vital and vibrant creative director of my life, forging new paths through untrodden terrain and across uncharted oceans. 

Happy New Year / Happy New Life. 

Create. 

With love & wellness,
Israel. xo

Renee & James’ Wedding

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I haven’t been a “wedding photographer” for several years, once my daughter started school and I decided I’d rather see her more on weekends. I didn’t “burn out” or “get sick of girls in white dresses” – I simply chose my family.

However.

While I stopped marketing myself as a wedding photographer, I have still photographed a few weddings for friends and family. I choose my assignments very carefully, and sporadically.

This particular wedding was a unique situation where the bride is a cousin to my best man Mike, and the bride’s Mum was terminally ill and given weeks to live.

Plans for the wedding came together within about a week, and I made plans to travel from Newcastle to photograph the event for Renee and James.

To say the wedding affected me would be a gross understatement.

Here’s a few words I had to say on Facebook about the event, when I was first booked:

HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH

A few nights ago, I was contacted by my best mate Mike. His cousin Renee had just gotten engaged, and her mum is terminally ill. Renee and her fiancé are planning a super short notice wedding so they can include mum in the ceremony.

I was (and am) honoured to be invited into such an intimate, delicate set of circumstances, and fortunately I was available to shoot it on the weekday they’d originally locked in.

Sadly, Renee’s mum has deteriorated much faster than anyone expected, and they have mentioned they might need to bring it all forward as a result. I don’t yet know the new date, but have committed to move mountains to be there for them.

I have so many emotions going on. I am gutted for Renee, her fiancé, and her extended family. I wish they didn’t have to endure these circumstances. I wish NO-ONE had to endure these kinds of circumstances.

I also feel … guilty, I guess, or maybe cynical… that I have had this thought:
Why, in today’s world, does it take these kinds of events (funerals, terminal illnesses) for us to gather close the people who matter, and to make our lives the havens of love and warmth we deserve, and in fact, NEED them to be, every day, all year round?

And also this thought:
Oh well. That’s part of life.

Here’s the take-away messages, I suppose:
Hold your favourite people close. Not just for birthdays and special occasions – but EVERY day. Be unashamedly full of love and be willing to share it with everyone. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes at least once a day, and see how things feel.

Everyone has their struggles. Sometimes, a bad day or a low ebb makes me feel like my challenges are worthy of an all-consuming despair. Sometimes, though, I am able to see clearly enough that everyone faces challenges, and 100% of the time there are shitloads of people suffering much worse, far more silently, and with far more grace, than I.

Bring your empathy A-game, people.

Use understanding and consideration as weapons of togetherness.

Be brutally loving and recklessly compassionate, each and every day.

By these things will you make a positive change in the world, and enrich your existence.

How do I know these things? Partly because of intuition and empathy and shit. Partly because I feel a million bucks for putting my own shite aside and sending love to Renee – someone I’ve met only once about a half-dozen years ago. She called me “An angel. But a masculine one.”

‪#‎masculineangel‬ ‪#‎warrioroflove‬ ‪#‎holdtenderlythatwhichyoucherish‬

(Original post: https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152970710045785)

HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISHA few nights ago, I was contacted by my best mate Mike. His cousin Renee had just…

Posted by Israel Smith on Wednesday, 22 July 2015

 

 

A few days later, the day after shooting the wedding, I wrote this post:

HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH – PART 2

A few days ago, I wrote about a wedding I was commissioned to shoot, for a couple who had to plan and hold their wedding within less than a week, because the bride’s mum is terminally ill.

In case you missed it, and want to catch up, the post is here ->https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152970710045785

Yesterday, Renee and James held their wedding. It was small – only 21 people including the couple and myself – and intimate. It was held in the backyard of Renee’s family home where she’s lived for her entire life, and it was heart-rendingly beautiful.

Renee’s mum was – despite her illness – positively radiant in her love and pride, and was clearly thrilled to be a part of the ceremony.

The whole day was special, and intensely emotional for me. I cried several times during the ceremony, and have cried already while trying to edit the images. I had to leave Newcastle early to be there for them, and Bel and the kids caught the train back to Sydney in time for me to collect them after I finished shooting. It was a minor change in plans, to accommodate such a moment for Renee and James and their family.

Frankly, I’m still an emotional mess. All I can say is that everything I said in my previous post holds even truer on the other side of this special event. I’ll hopefully be able to post a photo – with the family’s permission – to show you just how beautiful this event was.

Hug everyone. Hold on to the ones that don’t run away.

(Original post: https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152976392175785)

HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH – PART 2A few days ago, I wrote about a wedding I was commissioned to shoot, for a…

Posted by Israel Smith on Sunday, 26 July 2015

 

 

Now, I’m well and truly on the other side of this wedding.

I have delivered the album, and contacted Renee to follow up and see what she thought of the album. Here’s both her response, and her album, in its entirety. (Both posted with permission.)

 

Israel,

The Wedding album is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

It is my favourite possession.

James and I just love it. We thank you so much. It is beautiful and it is perfect. It was like opening up a treasure chest, just spectacular.

We showed our friend last night at dinner and he couldn’t stop complementing your photos; he just said you captured it perfectly and it made me realise once again how great you were on the day because you were so un-intrusive and every shot of every person is so natural. You made us smile because you were you, not because you had a camera in hand.

We love the imprint on the front and the paper and quality of the whole book is really stunning.

I was going to call you to tell you this but I wouldn’t be able to be this detailed in conversation, I want you to know that every aspect of it is flawless.

Thank you so much, I’m going to treasure it forever.

Dad summed it up perfectly “Wow”

Xoxox Renee & James

 

And here is the wedding album, telling the story of Renee and James’ wedding – that, despite their challenging, heart-rending circumstances, was the perfect day that they would do over exactly the same even without Renee’s mum’s illness.

 

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If only.

Today was the first day I’ve yelled at my kids in what feels like weeks. I have resolved that I don’t want to be a yelling parent any longer. I’ve been running and meditating most days for a while now, and I have worked hard to erase the yelling habit, while cultivating more calm in my life and my mind.

Tonight, in the quiet moments as I clean the kitchen, I feel like parenting is the biggest challenge I’ll ever face, ever. And I don’t know whether I’m slowly breaking my kids or slowly building them.

Being a parent is full of challenges, mostly without guidelines and certainly without rule books.

I want my daughter to be a wonderful human. I want her to realise that she can create the life of her dreams and make it come true. I want her to understand that working through the hard stuff is worth it, because when you keep going after most people have already quit, then you get to enjoy the rewards most people never see.

I want her to learn this by my example.

(I want all this equally for my son, too.)

But.

Sometimes, like tonight, when we’ve fought for the first time in ages, and she’s been punished for disrespectful behaviour, and there are tears before bedtime, and my wife is still in the kids’ bedroom having a D&M with her a full 90 minutes after they were supposed to be asleep…

Times like these, I reflect on the challenges that we’ve dealt her this year.

When your parents are online entrepreneurs, and have arguments about work and about life and about lost money and tight budgets. When you’ve had to give up your friends and your pets and your community and the only house you’ve ever known, because your parents have a crazy mission to travel the country in a green bus and try to change people’s behaviour, all for a bunch of kids they will hardly ever know.

When you get frustrated at the lonely, isolated 7 months you’ve spent waiting for your life to start again, because your Mum and Dad keep promising this amazing adventure, just over the next hurdle and beyond the next challenge and after the next argument.

When each day you plug in to the iPad that connects you to your schoolmates, but secretly wish they were sitting at your dinner table with you, so you could share cheeky looks and pass notes while the teacher wasn’t looking.

When your brother wails and whines and fights with you for the thousandth time, because he, too, is struggling with this life in limbo, but has neither the language or self-awareness to understand or articulate himself to the same level as you.

And when, in the face of all this, your Dad takes away your safe haven – books – because you got angry at him for a stupid reason, when underneath you were angry at him for everything he and your Mum have put you through this year so far, and angry because you’re only 9 and dealing with challenges that most adults would struggle with and come up short.

If only my daughter could feel my remorse and my pain at seeing her hurting. If only she could comprehend my total and utter love for her. If only she could see the future we see for our family and for her individually. If only she could understand that our work isn’t just for money, it’s for art, it’s for life, and it’s for humanity.

If only I could understand that she loves me as much as I love her, and her angry words aren’t at me, they’re at the situation she finds herself in.

If only I could understand that we’re all human, struggling through and trying to do our best with what life throws at us.