Australia is burning. People have died, over half a billion animals have died and the world watches on in horror as our little piece of the planet is dying. The Government has officially declared a State of Disaster. Conditions ahead are forecast to deteriorate, which means unimaginable horrors await the people and animals of our country. Despair seems to be as present as the smoke that hangs in the air around me, despite being hundreds of kilometres from the nearest hazard zone.
Surrounded by these thoughts and images, I cast my mind to how I can restore the mental fortitude which will enable me to remain hopeful and continue to support a community that so desperately needs support. My mind turned to the words of Amanda Lindhout, who I had the great fortune to meet in 2019.
As a young woman, Amanda was filled with a sense of adventure and travel, fuelled by thrift store copies of National Geographic she saved her pennies to buy. Losing herself in the magazines allowed Amanda to escape the poverty and violence of her childhood in a small Canadian town.
As soon as she was able, Amanda escaped her small hometown to adventure to countries she’d only previously seen in the pages of National Geographic. Amanda travelled to some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world, but also some of the most perilous. It was when she was working as a freelance journalist in Somalia that she was abducted and held hostage for 460 days. During those 15 months, Amanda learned to survive on strategy, fortitude and hope in the face of unimaginable adversity.
A House in the Sky
A House in the Sky is Amanda’s memoir, in which she recounts how she was moved between a series of houses during her capture and what took place during the 460 days she was held hostage. From converting to Islam as a survival tactic, taking ‘wife lessons’ and by recalling every lush memory of her life before being captured to simply survive. When the moments became simply unbearable, Amanda retreated to her ‘house in the sky’, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark and being tortured.
Lessons from Amanda Lindhout
And so, as our country burns around us, I think to the unfathomable torture Amanda endured and what lessons she’s taught me. About what we need to do when we feel totally overwhelmed by life:
1. Feel your inner resilience and feel ways to connect to it
Think of ways to feel hopeful. Think of memories and connections to what makes you say YES to life. Make a conscious choice to connect to positivity and hope.
2. Purpose and joy can live alongside pain and discomfort
Life is exceedingly complex and we have capacity to feel a breadth of emotions on any given day. It’s okay to give yourself permission to feel joy alongside pain. To feel purpose alongside discomfort. We must allow ourselves to feel a full breadth of emotions to allow us to heal and to move meaningfully towards a place of reduced pain and fear and away from hopelessness.
I found it compelling to hear someone who had experienced so much pain and unbearable horrors to offer these thoughts and words of encouragement. And so, if Amanda can have the bravery to face an uncertain future, one seemingly devoid of promise to rebuild a happy future, I feel that I too can draw on inner strength so as not to be overwhelmed by life; and to learn what I’m really made of.
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“With this breath I choose peace. With this breath I choose freedom.”
To those whose country has failed you, we’re sorry. If you’d like to volunteer or donate, this can be done so via Red Cross (People), WIRES (Wildlife, NSW), Wildlife Victoria, and many other local community organisations.