Ratios to live by


Fear not, this isn’t a blog post extolling the wonders of the 5:2 diet! 

New Atkins on the other hand, spruiked by the impossibly handsome Rob Lowe… kidding, I’m just kidding! 


Lately I have been feeling neglectful of this space, yet when I try to write, nothing seems to flow. I’ve been thinking about this lack of flow for a while now, and I think I’ve worked out how to articulate why I haven’t been as ready to put fingertips to keys.

I’ve been concentrating on listening, rather than writing. 

As anyone paying any attention to the world around us knows, we are in quite the state of global flux. 

Sexism isn’t going the way of the dodo quite as easily as we perhaps anticipated, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. Women are still ‘asking for it’ in the minds of far too many. 

Governments seem to be turning towards authoritarianism and civilian protest is becoming more dangerous. 

Racism seems to be spreading like wildfire rather than evaporating as we ‘evolve’ as humans.

Violence against women continues to rise here in Australia, and nothing seems to be done about it. Mess with strawberries, and the government acts immediately. Kill a woman, crickets. It’s deeply disturbing and disheartening. 

The temptation to either bury your head in the sand or strike a defensive posture may be an initial reflex, but I’ve found that neither of those reactions does me any good. 

To pretend that everything is hunky dory is offensively Pollyanna-ish in the extreme, and to be in fight mode continuously is utterly exhausting. 

There are far too many things happening in the world for any one person to be engaged meaningfully across them all. 

As a very, very small cog in the wheels of global political and social justice upheavals, I made a decision to focus on listening to those who know through experience what they’re talking about and who can therefore educate me the best. 

I chose an area where I knew I could benefit a great deal from taking the time to listen:


Isn’t that a comfortable topic for a white, middle-ish class Australian? 

Nothing to see here of course, I’m not racist… except that there is, and I am. 

Yep, I just said that. Read more about why here.

I definitely would not be saying that without having begun to take the time to listen and reflect. 

Listening takes many forms in our super-connected world. I started listening on Instagram and Twitter. I listen by following women who don’t look like meand who have different life experiences than mine. I took advice to folloMuslim women, black women, African-American women, Indigenous women, queer women, women of colour and women I’d never cross paths with in my small orbit of Melbourne’s suburbs.

I have become a student of women including Ashley C Ford, Layla F Saad, Sonya Renee Taylor, Roxane Gay, and Maxine Beneba Clarke

I listen by reading their feeds, reading articles they write and link to, and books recommended by these authors, educators and activistsAnd boy do I learn a lot by reading through the comments! 

The more I read, the less I feel ‘entitled’ to speak, especially in defence of white responses to the things they share. 

Listening isn’t our default posture on social media, we are quick to jump in and have our say (or is that just me?). I’m trying to do that less. 

The other night I started typing a response to something that wasn’t about me and didn’t need my input, and then half way through my response I deleted it. I did this about three times with that same thread… ‘Note to self’ my brain screamed, ‘this isn’t about you, just LISTEN!’

I listen by watching a broader selection of documentaries and trying to expand my knowledge of history. Thank you, Netflix, Stan, iView et al. 

As I listen, I have felt schooled, deeply uncomfortable, defensive, curious, sad, ashamed and empowered. As I listen, I realise how far I have to go, I am most definitely at the beginning of my listening journey. 

My decision to listen means I have learned enough about white privilege that I don’t recoil when it’s mentioned or rush to defend myself. I understand that it has bugger all to do with work ethic, and everything to do with structural, racial inequality that’s been built up over the centuries by white people. 

I’m privileged, not because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but because I was born in this white skin. My skin colour impacts everything about the way I experience the world. Whiteness as an identity is a bit of a new concept for many of us, as we (white folks) have pompously assumed the default position when it comes to identity. 

Sometimes I wonder about how I lived in blissful ignorance around issues of race for so long. Then I remember where I grew up, in the whiter than white Australian suburbia of the 1970s and 80s. 

Look around at our society, and ask yourself, who has power?

Look at who is publishing newspapers and running global media empires.

Who do you see on TV? 

How diverse is any locally made show on Australian screens, really? 

Now that I’ve worked out why I haven’t felt like writing, I could write for days. I won’t though. Thank goodness, right?

What I want to leave you with is an idea about ratios to live, listen and learn by. 

It’s not my idea, it’s not a new idea, but I believe it’s worth repeating, particularly in the context of educating ourselves about issues that genuinely matter.

We’re (mostly) equipped with two ears, two eyes and one mouth. 

If we each choose to spend a little more time using our eyes and ears, and a little less time using our mouths (speaking or writing), maybe we’ll give our brains and hearts time to consider things from another person’s point of view. 

Who knows what that could lead?

Annette ❤️

Jump in to the comments, let’s talk! 

Let’s talk about race, baby

Let’s talk about you and me… 

Got anything to say about who you listen to, what you reckon about racism or the state of the world? 



Communication let me down….

Communicating – we do it every day, with words or by withholding them, with our body language, on our phones, via text, FaceTime, email, on Instagram, Google+ (which I still don’t get), Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr (anyone seen those missing letters?) and in an ever increasing number of other ways, but sometimes words can be as hard to decipher as morse code or naval flags. Then we’re left singing this truism from the best musical decade of them all, the 1980s… ‘Communicaton let(s) me down, and I’m left here’.

Here’s a quick for instance. This week I was watching a re-run of MasterChef Australia in which the contestants had to create a recipe which could end up being published nationally, and thereby cooked in homes around Australia. A nice prize for someone wanting to break into the culinary industry. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Think again.

The contestants stayed up until the wee small hours, perfecting their recipes, scribbling down methodology and ratios, getting all the ingredients, quantities and processes just right. They cooked their dishes, had them professionally photographed and then came the real challenge. Could someone replicate them, based only on the written recipe. Dum, dum, dummm – is that failure I smell bubbling over on your stove?

In march the four home cooks and they get to work with just the recipes and a photo of the final dish to go by. Not long after they start, it is apparent that recipe writing isn’t as simple as you’d hope. Oops, Dani’s recipe is THREE PAGES LONG and she’s doubled the quantity of stock required and was vague about what size stockpot to use, so her poor test cook has a pot overflowing with liquid, and a soup that was really watery and flavourless. And whoops, Kate forgot to omit the juice from her boozy oranges (I love Kate), so her test cook was left wondering what kind of juice to use, as there was none listed in the recipe.

Even though the contestants had cooked, drafted, and re-tested, there were lapses in communication that meant that their food didn’t turn out exactly as it should. Great TV, not so great if you’re under the pump at home, cooking for guests and your recipe is a dud. And FYI, the winner of the challenge was the sole male left in the comp, young Michael. On ya Mikey!

In a non-televised way, I had my own communication mishap this week. Being on social media is awesome, but one thing that’s becoming more and more obvious to me (perhaps I’m a bit slow on the uptake) is how limiting it can be to communicate with people solely in a text format. There’s no tone of voice, no facial expressions, or gestures to help get the meaning of your words across (emoticons aside) and sometimes that means you can really come a cropper, and be utterly misunderstood. It can lead to arguments, offending people, communications being severed, blocking and a general feeling of angst.

All I could do this week, after realising that a few people I chat semi-regularly with online had gone MIA was write a message and check in, asking if I’d offended them. The stuff we talk about is deeply personal, which sometimes leads to things getting heated. We’d addressed that previously, and I thought things were cool. So, off my message went and I got their replies – one said no (phew!), one said yes (crap!).

Ouch, that sucked. But at least I got the opportunity to apologise and we messaged back and forth and I think/hope we both came to a clearer understanding of what had happened. We may never reconnect again, but I’m glad I got to say sorry and I hope they are able to forgive me and leave it at that.

The internet isn’t a place where everyone is going to like you, or agree with you. Just like the real world, there are more opinions that people to hold them. That’s okay, wanting everyone to like you isn’t realistic, and can give you a big fat ulcer.

The communication lesson I take away from this is to ASK MORE QUESTIONS before assuming that I know what someone means, or that I’ve been clear in what I’ve said, and to ASK before jumping in with a rant about whatever I think I’ve heard. It’s up to me to try, try, TRY and promote openness and dialogue and patience when topics veer into uh-oh territory. It’s hard to do but it’s the only way to make this space work for me. I hope others will get on board, but I can’t control that.

Now, I wouldn’t leave you without a visit to those crisply suited dapper gents of the 1980s – sing along and remember, if you’re not sure, just ask! It may save you a whole lot of angst.

Spandau Ballet!

If you’ve got a communication breakdown story to share, or better yet, a tip on communicating clearly and fixing it when you don’t, I’d love to hear it. Please share in the comments.