The slow burn of destruction

While there are no longer any doubts that domestic violence is truly ‘in play’ when physical evidence is apparent, many of us, still maintain ‘false truths’ about the breadth and depth of this type of violence.

There is a deep sadness and an overwhelming fear, that all women harbour, when confronted with a ‘sister’ who is ‘sporting’ a black eye, split lips or finger bruises on her arms.

Perhaps our language is to blame, for this is no ‘sport’.

Maybe like myself, you have witnessed domestic violence and not intervened. Walking in similar shoes, can leave you too traumatised to act for another.

With the advent of the internet, information can be sourced so easily. There are plenty of resources and support services to assist those that feel that their lives are being controlled by the intervention of another.

If you think that you maybe at risk, you can test yourself for ‘early signs’ of domestic violence here:

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/knowledge-centre/quizzes/quiz-warning-signs

The violence of denigration is a too subtle weapon. Sometimes, there is no ‘verbal judo’, there is just a one sided attack.

Recently returning from interstate travel, a young urban couple with their two small sons, waited in the queue, in front of Greg and I. There was a long delay. Seriously, it would have tested the patience of Job.

I thought it curious, that these young boys looked only to their father, for reassuring approval when testing boundaries. A stern look was all it took for them to immediately cease what they were doing and wait quietly.  Later on after waiting in line became too torturous, the boys sought comfort from their father directly, avoiding their mother.

She remained withdrawn and quiet. She kept eye contact with the boys and would smile and occasionally when he wasn’t looking, wink. The young couple appeared to be quite fit and healthy, although she was noticeably thin. I noted that when she did respond to her children, she did so in a quiet calm voice,  in order not to gain any attention from him.

On the way to the plane, she accidentally dropped the tickets. It was then that he launched, what could only be described as a subtle but persistent verbal attack.

He mocked her capability to hold onto the tickets.  Reminding her that they would need them to board the plane. He asked her ‘if he needed to hold the tickets for her’. He said, that she was clearly incapable. His tone was not one of loving concern.

He spoke to her like she was a toddler. He framed his words slowly. He edged them with sarcasm.  He persisted, mocking and belittling her.

For a brief moment, she told him to ‘shut up’ in a quiet voice. Perhaps she felt protected by the crowd of people around her?  Maybe she was close to cracking?

If I pointed out this young Caucasian couple, with their expensive travel luggage and well dressed children,  you would have thought it unlikely. But all the signs were there.

I looked at this woman. She wore beige pants and beige shirt, no make-up, no jewellery except her wedding ring. The only thing that she appeared to be in control of was her weight. Her bones screamed that on this account, she was victorious.

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Twisted Twine – Part Two

I believe that we can never truly appreciate the depth of the impact that we have on each other.  Our interactions can leave the softest of footprints and sometimes the deepest of wounds. As humans, our lives are inextricably interwoven.

I like to think of everyone, as coloured twine. The length of the twine determined by the days of our individual living experience.

A person’s twine, shifts and changes in texture and strength, varying between vibrant and strong and frayed and bleached in colour.  It can be matted with extraneous clutter, weak at points, even diminished to a single strand, only to become robust again, a distance further and so it goes.

This twine is not severed with the umbilical cord, instead it is set free, to roll forwards.

Science would describe the life force, as atoms of energy attracting and repelling, creating ‘pure light’, and at our death, returning to join the ‘great universal matter’, only to be recycled once again.

At this point, our beliefs may indeed, dictate the direction of those released atoms and the reincarnated recycling.

My faith promises me, that my father’s atoms, are heading straight to join the ‘atoms formally known as Mary’,  his beloved wife and best friend.

My father’s twine has been woven though the lives of others,  over the course of 101 years.  His kindness and his generosity has enabled him to be deeply loved by many.

Some of these people, as his only daughter, I will never know. There are many who say that they ‘love him’.  He has been blessed by many of these relationships, and burdened by several others.

I have always respected an individual’s right  to choose whom they will love. I have shared this old school gentleman, my father,  with my beloved family and friends, because his intelligence and wisdom governed by his deep faith, has been far too bright an energy to selfishly trap in a box of neediness. He has taught me well how to ‘pay it forward’.

Now in the final weeks of his life, a woman has emerged claiming to be a ‘surrogate daughter’.  There are no dirty secrets. No trysts, no cheap liaisons. No front page news.

Their friendship is not one that I recall being mentioned in the weekly conversations that I have had with my father or have been made mention in any of the hundred of letters exchanged between my father and I.

We have through our life choices and through circumstances,  lived in different states of Australia.  This has not prevented us maintaining a strong loving relationship. The art of letter writing is something we both have embraced.

I have no real knowledge of who she is, and who she has been to him since the death of my mother in 2003. I suspect that she is like many people, been attracted by his light.

This woman, whom my father has struck up some ‘undefined friendship’ , unbeknown to him,  has claimed him, as her ‘surrogate father’. A woman whose psyche, I suspect,  has been disrupted by grief of the loss of her own parents (this she divulged to me ), and the suicide of her partner (third party report, that she had told another aged care resident).

This is also a woman who does not understand boundaries. In the past week, after a claimed absence of three years, she gained access to my father, undertook personal tasks she insisted were directed by him, accessed his wallet, his address book, opened his mail and read my private correspondence.

She introduced herself as his ‘surrogate daughter’, to me, when she proclaimed that I could ‘speak to him, through her’.

I did not hesitate to correct her regarding her role, to question her presence and request of the nursing staff that she was not allowed to gain access.  She did however return twice more, throughout the week and gained entry once.

Her ‘claimed need’ was only to ‘be there and to hold his hand’.

Her needs, it seems, outweighed my father’s right for peace and my need to keep my stress levels down. It is challenging to have your aged loved ones living at distance. It is not always practical or possible to be able to sit with them over the many weeks or months, while the twine slowly rolls to an end.

She did not recognise or adhere to any protocols, seek permission, respect family wishes or interact with professional staff regarding my father’s current medical state.  Her presence included harassment of myself and the staff. The police have been informed and a standing order is in place.

It is questionable, that this woman’s development of several new relationships with two other elderly people at the same residential facility,  (who are on the continuum of dementia), can be construed as simply charitable. Their families can decide if they want her to access their loved ones.

I am clear about who has access to an 101 year old man, who has diminished cognitive capability, is physically weak, and whose twine is slowly coming to an end. It isn’t someone who doesn’t understand ‘ethical boundaries’ or skilled in caring for the highly vulnerable.

It isn’t only death, that finally separates us from the living. It is our own selfishness and a twine knotted tight,  tangled with grief and loss, weakened by self interest and deep fear of loneliness.

Embracing the state of being uncomfortable – part one

I am committed to ‘doing the work’. Sometimes this means a metaphorical barefoot stroll on manicured lawn, other times I am body slammed against the sheer cliff face of my own stubbornness.

The roundabout of unresolved anger and disappointment willingly revisited is like agreeing to a daily paint ball session, blindfolded while wearing a mankini. Seriously, would you?

But we do. Perhaps we are addicted to the emotional trauma? Is feeling angry preferable to feeling nothing at all?

There is a desire for karma to prevail, for balance to be restored and for those that treat others with contempt, to be held to account.

Embracing the state of being uncomfortable, is accepting that life is not fair and that justice may not be realised.

But when that injustice is targeted towards your elderly father, for me, a brand new kind of anger recently emerged.

 

Towards the end of days

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My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends — it gives a lovely light! – Edna St Vincent Millay

My father’s candle has been alight for many years. It is expected that soon, there will be no wax left to burn.  Is it, as the night, follows the day.

But I am in not in the wings for this performance. I am like others, living at distance from their ageing parents. I call and talk to care staff often, listening for hope that my father will rally and recover his will to rage on into the grainy dawn.

At 101 years of age, his protest is a quiet, polite one…simply refusing to eat much… to walk unaided….to talk on the telephone.

Tell my daughter, I am as fit as a fiddle’, he said.  He is not.

Truly, there is nothing that has been left unsaid….I love him and he ‘loves me more than dearly’.

We are not into protracted goodbyes, and still here we are..in one.

I am managing it from a distance and it is not easy. It is not about control, it is about ensuring that he is treated with respect. We place such faith in carers to do so and for this we pay so little.

How did we get it so wrong? Our teachers, nurses, emergency services, armed forces and carers are paid less than they deserve. What did the recently resigned Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour do to justify his 5.6 million salary?  Sounds like the price for a commercial hit man’s wage to slash jobs, reduce services and implement software to replace human labour.

My once active father is now bed bound. Hoisted and cradled in a sling, like a slightly bruised overripe banana in a hammock.His humour has not quite dissipated, although the waves of pain medication, has dulled the flame.

Talking with his carer Andrew today, we laughed about my father’s idiosyncratic ways.  I asked if he had a call button close by.

‘Oh he now knows how to use that’, he laughed. ‘Never heard a peep out of him for years, so independent, now he calls me whenever he needs me’. He calls it, ‘ The Communicator’.

On the rare occasion, that he has sat in his chair, he has asked for the ‘slippers with the zippers’, in a singsong voice, amused by the rhyme.

Andrew was able to mimic him, like many of us can. We do it out of respect for him, and because of his distinct use of language and his Cornish accent.

He does not have Alzheimers, or dementia, though he is forgetful. In my crowd of menopausal and post menopausal women that is a given.

My father, Reg and I have found ways to bridge the distance over the past fourteen years, since his beloved wife, Molly, my kind mother passed over. I have travelled to Tasmania, to many times to keep mentioning. We talked on the phone each week and wrote a flood of letters.

I have kept his ‘pearls of wisdom’.  One year I constructed a book of his poetry with accompanying images and presented it to him.

A writer or perpetual ‘communicator’, lives to be published, self or otherwise. He offered me, his second edition, which I kindly refused on the last visit.

He is no Wordsworth. He has not been a lover of great narrative fiction, preferring autobiographies of war heroes and the occasional politician.

His is no Edna St Vincent Millay or  e.e. cummings, my favourite two poets, but his poetry reflects his love of nature and the need to preserve the environment. ‘Oh wondrous Mother Nature..’

I confess in my twenties I stole, ‘The Collected Works of e.e.cummings’.  There are worst things to do.

The poet’s defiance of using lower case resonated with my twenty something, middle-class socialist rhetoric of ‘rebellion’ and ‘free education’, so I released it from the university.

I didn’t factor in that a ‘future me’, might also enjoy reading it. I returned it over 10 years later and paid a whopping fine.  My parents  had royally screwed with my consciousness, early in my life.

When that dreaded phone call comes, and I race to see him for the last time, I will be deeply in grief.  There is no better words, in my opinion,  than these from e.e.cummings to describe the power of love.

 

 

 

 

 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Clearing the road on the way to clarity

Four months or so, have passed since I committed to declutter. I have been chipping away at drawers, piles of paper, cupboards and shelves.  There is a renewed feeling that the battle waged is being won incrementally.

Before you start envisaging me, trapped in a room between towers of newspapers, empty food containers and a collection of memorabilia of a life lived without restraint, I don’t own that much.

I have, I admit only tiptoed around my bookshelves. A new shelf of books for ‘library loan’ to close friends is now available. Here collected are great examples of storytelling, escapism and hope.

I have also shredded a lot of paper.  I have learned that lining the chicken coop is problematic. It only takes one enthusiastic fowl, or a ill-timed gust of wind for snippets of useless information to fly into the air.  Like we aren’t already waist deep in information?

While I do save to the ‘Cloud’, let’s get real,  if your vocation is education or training, you may as well roll up the recycle bin to your front door and shovel it in! Staying current is an educator’s nightmare.

I have relinquished the salad spinner. I implore you, please do not under any misguided need to inform me of my error, now offer me reasons that I should have kept it! It has taken years to let it go!

I have also noted some odd disturbing idiosyncratic behaviours.

As a researcher and one plagued with the voices of my pro-green parents, ‘Kumbayaing’ in my ears, I have over the years, acquired a selection of approved water bottles. No bisphenol.A’s for me!

To those of you, who missed that lesson – BPA or bisphenol.A is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics. BPA is believed to ‘leech’ into the fluids kept in containers made with the chemical, especially when heated. No I’m not guzzling hot water, but many of the bottles of water are stored in warehouses for long periods and even in the sun.

It is with some irony that I admit to struggling with dehydration for years and have resoundingly underestimated the impact of it. I have, like millions of others, instead of drinking water, substituted ‘fluids’ for….tea, coffee, alcohol and the occasional soft drink.

Over the past three months, I have embraced a clear water container,  no BPA’s of course.

I throughly enjoy watching litre after litre of water disappear. Seriously….how did I miss that?

Last week a GP, advised me to ‘keep up the fluids’.   My advice – keep it simple – replace the word ‘fluids’ with WATER!

I think that nutritionist and celebrity chef,  Zoe Bingley-Pullen would agree. I have already learned how to boost my metabolism through water consumption, in the first week of her ‘Falling In Love with Food’ program.

See more here:http://www.fallinginlovewithfood.com

I look forward to more ‘sage’ advice over the next seven weeks.

Clearing the clutter, has challenged the ‘ghosts of my childhood’, leaving me a little rattled.

From my collection of stationery, it appears I have a deep affection for the stuff. I have collected a ‘shipload’ of it. This is despite sharing my addiction with children from third world countries.

Sure I could argue, it is an educator’s tool…blah….blah….blah….and if you work for government as an executive, you’ll naturally end up with stationery….well you do…..right?

If I unpack this conundrum a little more, and take this frayed piece of string and rewind it through my life, I would find myself at any early age, watching my father guard his art materials as if there were jewels cat-burgled from the Louvre.

There is also the case of the ‘recurring missing pen’….

Child (me) has new pens – fine-nibbed and expensive

One parent has undiagnosed stationery addiction

Child (me again) leaves the room…….

You get the rest…….it ends in denial and tears…..

Parent without addiction (Mum) retrieves pen…

REPEAT

Is it any wonder that I have anxiety around knowing where my pencil case is?

Saying this, it hasn’t prevented me from stamping my own brand of genetic madness, which I like to call ’empathy based parenting’ onto the psyche of my sons.

I raised my two sons mostly singlehandedly, though I had a small community of wonderful friends that assisted at times.  When I think back to that time, I was like an hamster on steroids, trying to reach the end of the wheel. I worked hard for every cent, with little regular maintenance, running a personal development program for children and working in after school care programs.

This did not prevent me from losing the plot, to what is referred to as the afternoon, that ‘Mum stole our bikes’.

I had bought the boys each a new shiny bike for their birthdays (a month apart). The boys had left them abandoned at the front of friend’s house on the street where we lived. They probably just lost track of time but when I saw the two bikes forlornly dumped on the grass, I spun out of my ‘wheel’ and out of control.

They returned home, mildly hysterical, weeping, shoulders hunched.  I  listened with mock concern, as they tried to explain the ‘terrible thing that happened, that wasn’t their fault’.

Hmmmm…….

Did that ever happen again? No! Are they avid bike riders?

No… probably too traumatised….

Is this admission of less than perfect parenting, a form of clearing the clutter?

If so, I a feel a tad lighter….

 

 

Boomerang traveller

Why would you want to go there?

It is like the twilight zone! Everyone is stuck permanently in 1970.

Despite the teasing, I was eager to visit my parents and older brother who had relocated from Brisbane, Queensland to rural Green’s Beach, Tasmania.

It was 1982.

My parents had purchased a house in need of repair, with a separate chalet, on a large parcel of land. Never showing any interest in golf, I was surprised to discover that the back-garden gate, led onto the green. The closest my parents, came to the Member’s Bar was to regularly re-cycle buckets of balls that they dug out of their garden.

My friends however, were correct on some accounts.

Living in Sydney, I had adopted an eclectic style influenced by Debbie Harry from the American band, Blondie. I wore my hair pixie short and dyed it platinum blonde. I fitted seamlessly into the Sydney band and club scene.

However, in Launceston, plaid shirts, mullet haircuts and corduroy flared jeans were still in full swing. I had traded neon lights for the sound of screeching tyres.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the local parade of car enthusiasts, showcased their Torana, Fairlaine, Cortina or Kingswood by bog laps around the city blocks.

In the daylight hours, I could be assured of at least a couple of wolf whistles and cat calls, walking down the Launceston main street, despite having little skin exposed. I soon adopted a more laid back style and bought a pair of Tasmanian made, Blundstone boots.

My adventures around Tasmania, over the past 34 years, remain my fondest. I have been ‘in love’,  since my first breath of full bodied air.

Armed with a bulging backpack, I hitched many times across the ‘Apple Isle’.  Despite my parents’ concerns about hitchhiking, I thumbed my way from north to south, east to west, sometimes with others, but mainly on my own.

I have slept in many youth hostels, including one with a pet wombat, and played cards late into the morning with travellers from all over the world. In 1985, I returned to live in North Hobart for a year. I worked in a friend’s café, and made my debut, as a backup singer in a local band.

I have numerous stories that await another time to be told.

I have witnessed a lot of changes over the years. The shift from unlocked houses and cars, to security systems and the steady disappearance of the manufacturing industry. Tourism is Tasmania’s ‘bread and butter’ revenue.

The remote wilderness areas never fail to impress, as do the pristine beaches of Freycinet and the stunning Wineglass Bay. The tulip fields of Table Cape in full bloom are a rainbow of beauty.

The convict ruins of Sara Island, Port Arthur or Bruny Island remind us all of our humble national birth and the resilience of the Tasmanian people who have forged lives out of bush, so dense and inhabitable.

However, there are some casualties of time, the once iconic moonscape of Queenstown is now like a damp biscuit, forgotten and unappealing.

The avant-garde creative communities of Hobart, Burnie, Launceston and other Tasmanian rural townships have created strong networks where business innovation has flourished. There continue to be thousands of examples of great entrepreneurism, including the mobile coffee van with portable fold out tables and chairs, for tourists viewing Hell’s Kitchen at Eaglehawk Neck.

Salamanca Place markets, I believe are still the finest example of creative markets in Australia. I am not sure that in 2016, they are quite as eclectic as they were in the early 1990’s when bands played on the grassed area. In my younger body, I enjoyed freely dancing to the home grown indie rock.

In 2015, I discovered Tasmanian artist Dewayne Eversmith, when he was touring in Perth, West Australia.  In 2012, Dewayne, at that time an Aboriginal Health Worker, was the songwriter of the 250-million-dollar Australian tourism promotion. His inspiration was Strahan. He had not released any music at the time.

I have returned to Tasmania over 16 times, since 1982. It is my second home.

In the festive season of 2016, the lure of the Asian tourist dollar is reflected in dual signage written in English and Mandarin in most of the major attractions.

I deeply appreciate the importance of targeted tourism for the sustainability of small townships and the Tasmanian people in general. I wonder however, how much ‘cultural sensitivity’ is discussed to assist tourists before travelling around Australia.

Consideration works both ways. Perhaps our eagerness to sell our country has lowered the opinion of others of the worth that we value our land and our customs?

In the pristine wilderness of Strahan, I do not want to hear high pitched voices, loudly conversing, nor do I want to have my view interrupted with the taking of endless photos of the same scene with different members of the troupe.

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Here in Tasmania, if you are fortunate, you are still able to witness Australia’s fauna in situ.

Despite quietly stopping to view a wombat on the stretch between Cradle Mountain and Sheffield, I did not feel inclined to inform a car of international tourists who had stopped to seize upon a photo opportunity, the whereabouts of the live animal.

As an Australian and protective of our fauna and flora, I did not want this beautiful creature to be exposed to opportunistic tourists. There were no fences there, to protect these animals from our need to capture our experience of them.

Tasmania is to be embraced as a unique place of beauty and experienced through interaction, not viewed through the lens of a camera alone.

The slow march of humanity

As we age we can skirt sheepishly against the edges of once vibrant and inclusive lives. Like half-ghosts, our former selves begin to disappear. Our conversations are peppered with an apology for our thinning hair, sagging flesh and declining mental acuity.

Ageing in full view is exposing and humiliating in a society that promotes youth and beauty. Doctors surgeries offer up humanity, raw and on display. A menagerie of middle age tattooed flesh, crying babies, walking frames, recalcitrant toddlers and those whose burden is the fear of a bad news.

I have frequented doctors surgeries far too often over the past four years through necessity rather than choice. Some people however visit daily.

I knew a hypochondriac once. He manufactured and imagined a creative array of conditions. It was an impressive performance. There was a constant appeal for sympathy in every glance or verbal exchange. A headache was a medulloblastoma, a toothache an abscess promising jaw disfigurement and a twinge, an impending knee reconstruction.

In his defence, he was stuck in the mouth, by a horse when he was a toddler. A candidate for post traumatic stress disorder, he has been stuck in flight mode since.

These days, I have little patience for those who clog up the system with phantom aliments.

There are alternative options to socialise and maintain connectivity with others through a variety of community service programs or by the act of volunteering.

Like a an experienced emergency nurse once said’, It is called Emergency, come back when you f*cking have one!’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing the winds of change

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Husband and Wife – Lockie and Jess

Saturday last was a pleasantly warm but a persistently windy Perth day. The Australian salute was in full swing, at the arrival of the spring flies. We Australians are born with a coping mechanism to deal with these annoying insects. We accept them, along with our diverse oceans, pristine sands and majestic gums. In our hotter climes like Western Australia, flies dance around our faces and join the party at any given chance. The wind made both their landing and the taking of photographs, precarious.

It was a significant day for my eclectic family and a day of many firsts. For my youngest son, the day marked the first one, married to his best friend. For my eldest son, it was the first wedding that he had attended, the first in the role of ‘best man’ and his first public speech. I was exceptionally proud of the kind, considerate, handsome and intelligent men that they are. All of them excelled in their duties on the day. I am very pleased to have another developing writer and public speaker in the family.

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Right to Left: Jay (Best Man), Cam (Groomsman) and Lockie (Groom) – The Three Amigos!

It was the first day that I would come face to face with my ex-husband’s third wife. Reportedly she speaks little English.  I was polite and introduced myself, but did not feel inclined to stretch beyond the social pleasantries. We have so little in common.

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Beautiful young woman, sister Bayley.

It was also the day that I reconnected with my ex-husband’s daughter, from his fractured second relationship. I had not seen her for over 14 years.  A day that a distanced daughter came face to face with her absent father.  Her mother and I have more in common, we have both raised outstanding children. She is her ‘mother’s daughter:- graceful, intelligent and guarded in his presence. On this day, his daughter thanked me for enabling the relationship between the siblings to occur and for not being a barrier between them 16 years before.  Since her father and I will one day be but dust, and leave behind our collective children, what right do I have to prevent such familiar love occurring?

Many of us on this day, were riding the waves of uncertainty and anxiety, but collectively there was greater intent to rise above old grievances and disappointments and to celebrate the coupling of hope and promise and experience the opportunity to reconnect.  For me, the old wounds, picked at, did not bleed. Perhaps for others they are still too fresh.

I continue to chip away at clearing the clutter in a physical sense and I take the opportunity to remove anything that does not resonate joy. Our country cottage has been undergoing renovations, including exterior painting, the building of a fence and arbour, replenished front and back decking and new lighting. A new path is planned with sparkling quartz and standard roses for the garden beds.

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I have learned the importance of boundaries, physical and personal.

There is more work to do but isn’t that the case with home ownership and relationships?

All of the wedding preparations were handled by Jess and her mother and father, Sharon and Brenton.  They have raised their children with respect, kindness and boundaries. I know that our collective grandchildren, will be raised with those values as well.  I thank them sincerely as I am no longer able to cope with any additional stress. My physical health is one that I am slowly accepting as more fragile than I care to admit.

I have progressed some what along the road of enlightenment, as I do not feel compelled to ensure that another person’s needs must always come before my own. The legacy of a childhood, where one sibling took all the sunshine and left little light for the other.  At this stage of my life, I must firstly consider my own well being.

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Best friends endure for life! Thank you Sue!
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Faithful Greg – sharing the best and worst of times.

Knowing what is and is not your responsibility and what you can and can’t do, is very liberating though profoundly frustrating. I managed only one dance and will pay for it for several days ahead. I am glad that I have taken the opportunity to dance along the way.

Having loved ones to share the journey and finding the courage to embrace change and forgive,  is all that really matters in the end.

Clearing the Clutter

There is an implied obligation that accompanies our possessions. Ideally each one should serve a specific purpose, bring joy through beauty, reflect our individual identity, link us to our heritage, confirm our allegiance to tribe, culture and/or team and collectively represent our living experience. But can they all claim to be doing so?

How much stuff do you own? Is this stuff a true mirror of your authentic self? Is your accumulation of things, preventing you clearing your emotional baggage?  If you are stuck, perhaps the answer lies in the process of ‘clearing’.

Many of us are drowning in useless possessions, that bring no joy and that are collecting dust, waiting for that ‘one day’ when their purpose will be realised.  I have a container of various lengths of string for a day, such as this.

Unwanted and unused possessions often mirror our unrealised hopes and dreams, unfinished projects, failed ambition and maybe the past selves that are no longer reflected in our thoughts, actions and lives. Are you being haunted by possessions that represent someone you have grown out of being?

My socialisation included the forensic examination of the value of material possessions. Surviving the horror of war, my parents, both born in 1914,  experienced first hand how quickly life can be extinguished. They emigrated to Australia, with meagre possessions and like many others of their generation, slowly built their life by industrious labour, preferring to pay for everything with cold hard cash.

You can accumulate a lot of stuff, ask anyone over 50 and you may find that which is annoying you, is not yours alone. Perhaps you are offering a free storage facility for your adult family? This is less of a problem if it is neatly packed in a shed. If it is filling up your cupboards and piling up in the corners of your living space, I suggest a family conference is required.

Many of us daily drag the heavy burden of emotional clutter where ever we go. The old hurts of battles lost and even those won with cost. The unforgiven, or forgiven but never forgotten. Our grievances in a world that is simply, unjust.

Why do we find it so hard to let go? Are we hard-wired to hold on? The stubborn child in me, would like to lay some of the blame, squarely at the feet of my enabling re-purposing parents. The adult in me, knows that this is beyond ridiculous!

I have recently taken up a 365 day challenge to clear. This may come as a surprise to some of my friends, some who have openly expressed, in a tone bordering on shocked concern, ‘It is looking very sparse in here’. I learned from a woman who lived in a shoe that it is best to keep a small space clear of unwanted things, if the people that matter are to fit in.

So then to the task of clearing. I started in areas that evoked the least resistance, for fear that I would abandon the quest altogether, if I launched head first into my richly evocative fabric cupboard. The time will come, but not yet. My aim was to commence the clearing of physical clutter, so that it will ultimately trigger the release of emotional clutter.

I started in my book shelves, however the non-fiction library of self help books is currently out of bounds.  I scanned the back of the novels that I had picked up from many op shop hunts, which at the time sounded interesting but have only served to guard the shelves for years. I am blessed to receive over six new books per year, from my loved ones and dearest friends (who know me well) and have many more books recommended to me to read. Unless I am actively in pursuit of a novel or a book launches itself off the selves into my hands, I am releasing these to roam other shelves and giving up the habit. Selfishly I am glad that the best op shop for books has closed down!

But what to do with unwanted gifts? OM, re-gift, recycle, release, out with the old, in with the new OM’.  I edit,”selectively in with the new OM”.

I am an experienced recycler and  I can let go of material possessions with relative ease, as long as I switch off the re-purposing gene, and no one is suggesting that I let go of my collection of high heels. That day is slowly dawning. My parents, were re-purpose gurus, there was no limit to the possibilities that two environmentalists would go. One litre milk cartons would be sliced off and slithers of used soap jammed into the trimmed base, to make new bars. A kaleidoscope of  options presented in a squared slab, that bewildered confronted visitors. This was in 1960’s, before the wash of homemade soap options, filled market stalls.

I am simply unashamedly unable to ‘re-gift’. Not for fear of giving it straight back to the giver, as I am a disciplined organiser, but because I have a high H ( Honesty – Humility) factor in my personality. This book, The H Factor of Personality- Kibeom Lee & Michael C Ashton, is one of the new, that has recently been introduced to me.  It outlines the missing 6th factor in the well established 5 Factor Model of  Personality Traits, those being Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience. It is proving to be a fascinating read. Thank you Caro for sharing this resource.

Beauty is reportedly in the eye of the beholder, but astoundingly absent when gift grabbing from the 24 hour corner store, the airport lounge or hotel lobby. Seriously, don’t bother.These half-arsed attempts shout volumes about the giver and nothing about the receiver. What about the gifts that mumble, ‘ I have no idea of who you are’ or ‘ I bought this really for myself, but I’m giving it to you ( hope you don’t mind, if I opened it?) or ‘despite the fact that we know each other for 20 plus years, I still fail to understand you’.

Bring me a simple flower, a beautiful quote, a great book that you know I will love…

I am relinquishing all that no longer brings me joy. I am not doing this alone but through the Daily Om – A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back, by Stephanie Bennett Vogt. It is available at http://www.dailyom.com

A small email will be sent to you, a quiet nudge to your consciousness to ‘slow down, simplify, sense, surrender and apply self care’ and you take action, release and repeat.

Ironically in the sorting out of my book shelves, I came across Stephanie’s book – Your Spacious Self – Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are. Obviously I had missed the ‘action’ pathway of the essential Four Pathways to Clearing, – Intention, Action, New Identification and Compassion’. I did however find it on one of those op shop roams.

It is only Day 9, I’ll check back in later. I’ll stop I promise if I find myself in a bare room without a chair.

 

 

 

Perhaps we all need a 12 step program?

This weekend I reconnected with a friend whom I have know since 1982, if my memory serves me. We met in an bar.  Being an Australian, this will come as no surprise.  The bar was styled in a country ‘n’ western theme.  I remember vaguely it had ‘wagon or wheels’ in the title?

My friend and I, were the purveryors of alcohol at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. Being early 1980’s, theme bars were unique and the Menzies had over 20 of them.

I distilled my barmaid duties mainly in the Porthole, a white collar businessman’s bar that traded until 12.00 pm and after that, in the Jungle Room until the wee hours. We poured a lot of Sydney Draught, in the pursuit of enabling social lubrication.

I had planned to visit my parents who had recently relocated to Tasmania and imbued with an adventurous spirit, she travelled with me. We hitched around the Apple Isle, listening to Bette Midler on a ‘walkman’.  We were kindred spirits, our sun in Libra, both born in Year of the Buffalo, in 1961.

I moved to Perth in 1984. We  wrote letters to each other for about 12 years after, before they became sparse and then replaced with infrequent random contact via Christmas cards or the ‘out of the blue’ telephone conversation. The tenuous link, like overstretched elastic.

Long since heeding the internal voice of reason, the grown up me, is bemused, like others, by the words used to describe the  state of alcohol intoxication.  Out of the 400 I located, I offer for you consideration, the states of being:

hammered, vulcanised, twatted, pissed, fossilized, amp-faced, parcel-forced, gashed, hosed, bullocksed, motherless, cucumbered, door-nobbed, mangled, embalmed, mortal, cemented, gooned, munted, pixilated, ring-pierced, bladdered, maggoted and laminated.

None of which, beats being farchnocheket ( Yiddish).

Addiction is however no laughing matter. Before you cast judgement and that ‘stone’,  thinking that the demons of drink, drugs or gambling are not your vices, check your ego or your over work compulsion or your Pokémon Go addiction. How balanced are you?

The 12 Step program was first published in the 1939 book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio, in 1953 AA gave permission for Narcotics Anonymous to use its Steps and Traditions.

In summary, AA is a process of admitting lack of control, recognising a higher power that can give strength, examining past errors, making amends for these errors, learning to live a new life with a new code of behaviour and helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

I think perhaps I have been co-chair of my own Auxiliary of Fellowship and have collected a discrete collective of members over my life. We have provided the opportunity for each other to explore the murky waters of our socialisation, confront the ghosts that will not pass into the light,  examine our moral inventory, dissect our adult choices and/or our foolish and some cases, nefarious actions. We have reviewed our personal catalogue, admitted our wrongdoings, and attempted to make amends.

Many of us pray and mediate and actively engage in a conscious connection to a higher power, God or whatever is greater than the indulgent ego.  My tribe have a well developed sense of humour after all we have been living with our idiosyncratic self for years and the mirror of our intelligent equals in the friendships that we have made.

We are all imperfect, fractured human beings. And many of us are warriors and survivors. I can too can be self obsessed and small minded. Hold your hand in the air, if you too can relate.

Open but confidential sharing of our human failings, help others recognise and admit their own. A 12 step program is not just for those of us that are swirling in the whirlpool of addiction or those who have made it to the calmer edges of the bank. It is for all of us on the active journey of self actualisation, as without deep contemplation of our human existence, what have we achieved? A collection of things?

My tribe are scattered around Australia and around the world, but the thread is not broken. We are members of an Auxiliary of Fellowship. Perhaps that is the true definition of a ‘soul mate’.

Some of us, are members of Alcoholic Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous,  Narcotics Anonymous or we are the adult children whose lives have been deeply and permanently affected and are attempting to ‘heal’ through Al-Anon, Nar-Non or CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous, which addresses compulsions related to relationships.

Some of us have no formal involvement with AA but have sought the confidential counsel of the wise, our beloved friends. There is something deeply satisfying in having friends for many decades, not in the realisation of your aging, but that you are lovable. Love is after all the only true ‘drug’ that ails the spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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