Going in and going out


Friday, 29 June 2012

I'm so tired of talking about myself on this blog!!  It feels so stale and boring here.  Post after post about my own internal machinations, leading you to conclude that I'm possibly the most self-absorbed person you've ever (not) met.  But like Gilbert's mother, I wasn't always like this.

It's not even anything like how I want it to be.

But when I haven't been doing a whole lot out in the world recently, there's not a whole lot to write about.  And so I fall back instead on writing about my internal world - which in some respects is way more interesting and fun and awesome to me than what's happening out there.  It just doesn't make as interesting material, especially if you've read it all before.  And really, to be honest, what is not rehashing after five years of blogging?

Still, writing frustrations aside, the internal world and the external world are totally interlinked.  Whatever is going on in here tends to get projected out there. The world can appear so different on different days that it's amazing to consider that it's the same place.  And the interlinking of that rich internal world with the outer world I guess is why I feel like I can be alone and yet communing with the whole world at the same time.  It's pretty special.

The problem with being so much on the inside is that going back out into the real world is a shock to the system.  Man, it's loud out there.  And it's a bit scary.  I go through this recalibration over and over again.  Go in, go out.  Go in, go out.  When the wave is receding and its time to hit the sand again, going back into the topside world I feel more vulnerable than when I was there last time.  Going back out in to the world gets a bit daunting again.  I never thought I'd ever say that.

I'm going to the football this evening, which means a train trip from one end of the line to the other.  I miss catching trains and observing people.  Which is why I'm looking forward to taking a pad of paper with me and observing and scribbling my way through the train ride.  Of course, the fact that I am consciously intending to do this will probably mean that nothing of any note will happen ;)

I'm maybe catching up with some friends on Saturday night.  Which will be lovely.  But I feel nervous about it.  See, this is the negative side-effect of so much time alone - when I go out and meet up with others, even friends, beforehand I feel small and thin-skinned and like the me that I experience in my communal solitude and which is comforting is nowhere to be found, and the Susie that interacts with others is claggy-mouthed and clotted and that other people can never really see me.  Which is true, in a way.  But then the anxiety about that is just a passing thought or a feeling, I guess.  I don't need to heed it in any way other than acknowledging its presence.  It just feels strange that it's there at all.

Oh for Ice-Skating Thoughts

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Thursday, 28 June 2012

I must say that I am a little disappointed that I haven't managed to blog every day of the NaBloPoMo challenge.  My inner perfectionist and pleaser is nervous.  My inner relaxed chilled out mystic says, meh, I tried my hardest, so who really gives a shit ultimately anyway?

Some of those days I missed out were health-related.  But yesterday's I lay squarely at the feet of my dog ... and my job.  Or, to be more accurate, at the attention deficit issues I face when doing my job.  These two things collided in the middle of Tuesday night that made for a slightly hellish Wednesday in terms of bushy tailness.

Do your thoughts jump around or glide? NaBloPoMo asks me today.  Well, when it comes to my job, they tend to Duracell bunny.  I work from home doing transcription work, which I am excellently good at and which pays pretty well, but which (a) I hate and (b) is boring beyond belief and (c) feeds right into those attention deficits.  I am never any more attentionally challenged than when I am on the internet, where I'm about as successful at keeping only one webpage open at a time as I am at eating only one row of confectionery masquerading as chocolate.

On Tuesday I did a job that ended up taking a whole lot more time than I could have anticipated (this is a regular occurrence.  Two hours of daily audio can be quite different to assess in terms of how long it's going to take to get done).  Add to that the fact that I'm not so great at time management.  Living under the threat of a clock is difficult at the best of times.  And working from home gives a certain sort of flexibility so that going out for a walk when it is still daylight in the middle of winter is much better use of my time than sitting on my numb bum typing interviews conducted by governmental bureaucratic cogs to employeeish bureaucratic cogs.

All of this translated out to me finishing work at about 2.30 on Wednesday morning.

Which is insane by anybody's reckoning.  I am embarrassed to admit that I took so long to complete the day's work.  But some days every single day I struggle with concentration.  Which means flicking backwards and forwards between the job that pays the bills and reading much more interesting fare on the interwebs.  I also write blog posts and submit writing to editors when I should be working as well.  It stops me from impaling myself on sharp objects.

(Actually, Tuesday was a record in terms of submitting a piece and having it rejected.  Writers get used to submitting something and not hearing back for months on end.  It's unavoidable but that doesn't make it not rude.  This one though - I submitted it to The Monthly at 1.31 pm and at 3.51 pm had another rejection email to add to the mix.  Albeit one which said it was "original".  I'll take encouragement, even while it's nestled in the midst of rejection, whenever I can get it).

So because I felt so shite yesterday, I thought the best way to utilise what was left of the morning was to watch some David Attenborough.  His stuff is like balm to my inner raw baby's bum.  Even an episode  about insects, which sounds dangerously boring to watch when tired, was fascinating.  I watched a bunch of ants climbing up blades of grass and chewing their way through the blade, and then falling to the ground with their prize and take it back to the nest, along with all the other ants doing the same thing (hilarious).  Ants can't digest grass.  What they are doing is taking it back to the nest to feed to the fungus that they share their housing with.  The fungus lurves the grass.  And the ants lurve the fungus.  A win-win situation).

I was also happy and completely unsurprised to see a crow in this episode.  He was having his heels nipped by irate insects until he went away.  And so the universe delivering me crow/raven symbolism continues.

So anyway, where was I up to?  Oh yes, that's right.  The dog.  I haven't yet got to the dog.

The dog has taken to getting up in the middle of the night and barking.  By the time I got to bed on Tuesday night I managed to get about 30 minutes before he started.  Got up, let him out, went back to bed.  Fifteen minutes later he was barking again, and this time Anthony got up.  Rinse and repeat.  And then rinse and repeat.  Eventually, the dog, in his senility (he does not get entitled to a name when he is in the doghouse) managed to settle down to sleep, and so did I.  And even though I managed to sleep for somewhere between four and five hours, I still felt like I'd drunk a row of Sambuca shots before I'd gone to sleep.  And hence no blog post.

So.  Do my thoughts jump around or glide?  Well, see how I've jumped around in this post?  This feels really structured compared to the thoughts that slid past the void and came out of my mind to form the words of this post.  They were pretty much all over the joint.  And I write much more cohesively than I talk.  Which is a concern.

But my thoughts really are all cohesive.  It's just that so often I seem to be a big picture thinker, and so while one thought may seemingly jump from one subject to the next, from within my head they're all part of the same fabric, all linked in with each other.  It's just that sometimes it's a bloody big piece of fabric, and those words have to traverse the Chasm of Cottonness to come out of my mouth.  And in the meantime there are about 16 other thoughts that all link to the first thought I've had, and they want to speak too because it's all linked, and I simply must make some sort of an effort to try to define what's in my head, even though I am always, and constantly, disappointed that what is in my head to say is never, ever, ever anything quite like what is spoken or blogged out into solidity :)

And this is why I'm off to do some yoga.  Because yoga helps take me to the space where my central nervous system takes a deep breathe and from there, even I get to sometimes experience the beauty of a mind where the thoughts glide through like an ice skater and out the other side :)

I Want


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

I want to live in a different system than the one we live in where we are forced to work every day and accumulate and buy crap we don't need because the economy is geared to making profits for banks and not profits for us, the people who live in this system.  I want to live in a system that is not insane.  Our system is insane.

I want this to end sometime soon, sooner rather than later.  I want the old system that is evil, and corrupt, to descend into the dirt and a new one to rise from its ashes where people are central and money is peripheral, and one where, bringing it all the way back to myself, I get paid for writing instead of typing.  I want to be writing my own words and have the time and the space to think and ponder and to craft them as they deserve. I want one of the editors through whom I submit my words for publication to finally publish what they keep telling me is "original" but which they cannot find a space for. 

I want to live in a world where people are free to follow their passions instead of being chained to desks doings jobs that are becoming more and more mundane, where they earn money and then are too tired to do anything else.

This is not a pipe dream.   It is not a dream of utopia.  Living in the world will always be hard and we will always suffer.  But suffering because of the greed of a small group of people is living like subjects under a king who elected themselves.

I want to live in a world where the economy is not completely unsustainable, and where the sustainability rug was ripped out from under our own noses long before any of us was born but where we still beat for justice.

I want justice, not revenge, for everybody in the world.  I want those who suffer most to have the biggest voice to keep our hubris in check.  I want us to remember to recognise what is sacred, and that when we say "Namaste" it is not just at the end of a yoga class.  I want us to be able to recognise the divine in each other, and that the person in front of us is bigger than we can imagine, rather than the small pointlessness we see them as now.

I want a small percentage of people of the world to stop raping the earth I love for profits and thereby ruin it for everybody.  I want them to stop thinking they are going to get away with it.  I want the insane of the world to stop being the ones who are ruling it.

I want the sacred to be a column in spreadsheets.   I want all of us to wake up and to start demanding change until it comes.  I want the wise to sit enthroned instead of rich white people.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.

I want to ride the trains and write about people while they don't know I'm writing about them.

That's what I want today.  How about you?

Speaking Shit


Monday, 25 June 2012

When it comes to versatility, you really can't beat that shit.

I mean, think about it - you can lose your shit and be packing shit until you get the shits.  But shit happens.

You can be - if it's my dad talking and you happen to be gay - a turd burglar. You can be up shit creek without a paddle.  You might not give a shit about how shithouse stuff is, but you may be speaking shit.  You might think you're king shit, but you'd definitely be making shit up, and you may very well exasperate others to the point where they will sometimes wish you would eat shit and die.

You can take shit.  Or, if you're me in a couple of weeks, you can give a shit.  Which is what I plan on doing when me and colonic irrigation become acquainted for the first time.

If you're really, really nice, I'll make it a pictorial blog post, just for you.

Nah.  Just shit-stirring :)

Pic by Koolman

She's Apples, Mate


Sunday, 24 June 2012

I'm back on the fruit bandwagon again.  Mm, apples are very nice, aren't they?  Especially juiced with carrot and celery.

They are very nice, unless they happen to be in the no-no foods category.  Battling adrenal fatigue?  They were in the almost-no-no category for me.  Eating for my liver?  They were a good choice.  Trying to get on top of a candida overgrowth situation?  I needed to keep away, at least in the short term.  Now, after months of dragging my feet, being told by my naturopath and my hair mineral analysis results that my body is in a highly acidic state, I am finally turning my attention to trying the alkaline/acid approach to nutrition. And in that world, apples are back in the good category again.

I have become so used to not eating fruit that it feels almost decadent to do it now.  Some people are quite strident in saying that we should stay away from fruit altogether.  Their reasoning is that fruits are high in sugars, and that sugars are bad for the body.  Which is true.  And in certain situations you definitely should limit or stop your intake for a time while you try to get your body right.  But many fruits are so good for you (and help curb your cravings if you have a sweet tooth like me).  And there is a big difference in the way your body will respond to eating, say, an apple, compared to a chocolate eclair, even though there is sugar in both.

When your body digests an apple, it creates alkalinity in your system.  A chocolate eclair will do the opposite, and contribute to acid forming.  A slightly alkaline body is optimal.  In that environment, your organs are in the best state to function optimally.   Your lymph is free to move throughout your body picking up the stuff that needs discarding as it goes.  Your muscles won't ache, in the way mine have been in recent months.  Viruses and parasites and other organisms find you a rather uncomfortable environment to live in.  They much prefer an acid environment, which is what the standard Western diet contributes to.  Unfortunately, all of what many of us find is the good stuff - meat, dairy, processed wheat - are all acid-forming (although interestingly, if you sprout the wheat, it becomes alkalkine-forming.  There is a whole world out there of sprouting, fermenting, different applications that people in times past have used to lengthen the life of their foods, to make them better for us.  A really strong and deep wealth of knowledge gained by experience over thousands of years).  An alkaliine-forming food is not necessarily one that doesn't have high acid content.  For example, lemons are a very acidic fruit, and yet they are one of the most alkaline-forming substances you can eat for your body (along with parsley).

My aim with this way of eating is to get myself to a place where I am eating 80% of alkaline-forming foods, and 20% of acid-forming foods.  Which is really, really daunting.  But it seems I have an uber-sensitive system, one that did not take kindly to having antibiotics shoved into it over the space of a year, and one which now finds it hard to get rid of that which is bad for it.  An acidic body is a stressed body.  And I've been battling that.  Pretty badly, actually. 

And so my back is really up against the wall when it comes to my health.  I can feel the clock ticking.  I am a 41 year old female.  I need to get myself in order before I go through menopause (and that little baby is knocking at the door.  Just ask Anthony ;)  It's a real challenge and I am feeling pretty frustrated because I have been trying for so long to get myself right, and I have become, as the scientist who performed my hair analysis informed me the other day, a hard-basket case.  Well, he didn't say it exactly like that.  I think he said I was someone who was in the "too hard basket."  But I prefer "hard-basket case."  Because then it's a multi-use description with just a flip of a hyphen.  Move the hyphen over one word in the times when I'm being a "hard basket-case," and there you have it :)

Health and emotional health and mental health are all linked.  And mine have all been swaying recently.  I am up against it, and I have to do everything I can to get myself healthy.  It is the difference between living in heaven on earth and hell on earth.

Ravens and Midwinter


Friday, 22 June 2012

It was officially Midwinter yesterday, the winter solstice, the longest night of the year and the shortest day.  It has been the bottom of the light trough for several days in a row now where the sun has set at 5.08 pm.  From a few days hence, the days will slowly, incrementally begin lengthening again in the continuous cycle.

I guess it’s no coincidence that I have been seeing references to ravens/crows everywhere for the past three weeks.  It is quite delicious when this happens, even though I don’t quite know what they represent for me.  Three weeks ago I went and saw two men, Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe talk, as part of indigenous week, about the depth and breadth of land management that the indigenous people right across Australia practiced before whitey came and fucked it up (more on that at some other point in the future).

At the end of their fascinating and inspiring talk, Bruce looked out the window and said, “See those two crows sitting out there on that tree?  They've been sitting there and taking an interest in us the whole time.  Talking about us."

Crows are a totem of one of the two Wurundjeri moieties.  From my greatly limited understanding, a moiety is a way of dividing a particular group, and served (probably many) functions, one which was to keep genetics strong, as people from the Bujil moiety (the wedge tail eagle) could only marry someone from the opposite moiety, the Waang (the crow).

After hearing Bruce talk about those crows taking an interest in what we were doing in there, my interest was piqued.  Which seemed to in turn set something in motion out there, because ever since then I have been delighted by the disparate places where references to these birds have come from.  There was Sam writing  an awesome poem about The Raven Bride, and then one of my Facebook friends was talking about how she was exploring the Celtic Raven goddess, Morrigan.  An episode of Ace of Cakes around the same time saw them making a cake for an Edgar Allen Poe-themed restaurant that of course had a raven on its top.  I was paid a visit by one of the crows with the strange eyes who live roundabouts here and who come visiting on rare occasions.  I was delighted, but somehow not surprised, to see it at that time.  And then the other day I watched a video for Book of Days, the ongoing art journaling group I’ve been taking an interest in, and semi-participating in, where of course at the end she came up with a picture of a raven.

The harder part is working out what all this means.  Ravens/crows have got a bad rap because of their propensity to hang around places where dead people dwell to see if they can get a slice of the action.  Their folklore and symbolism ranges from culture to culture.  In Celtic mythology they are associated with war.  In Greek mythology they are cast as the portenders of storms and rain (and indeed, it has been raining almost constantly here for the past couple of days, ever since the earthquake on Tuesday).  In Native American lore a raven is both a trickster and a keeper of secrets. 

But what resonates most are the associations of the raven with the underworld, the darkness, the unconscious, with far-seeing prophecy and with mysticism.  “Raven encourages us to experience transformation, so that we can be reunited with the mysteries of the universe, and rid ourselves of our inner demons.” (http://www.squidoo.com/raven-symbolism-lore).

Which fits right into this time of year, where Winter is an encouragement to let go of that which no longer serves, to let die what needs to die, to make way for the new growth that shall come in the spring.

Seems I’m right on time :)



Thursday, 21 June 2012

It's both enlightening and disturbing to realise how much we make our own reality.  It comes in over time, dripping in like raindrops on carved rock, via those big and little thoughts that are constantly moving across our minds like clouds.  We are free to accept or dismiss any one of them.  Except for when we've become chained.  Most times we are chained before we are old enough to know that we are.  And then we move into our lives feeling beholden to accept certain thoughts every time they come, though they torment us.  They have become like the monster Snow White must turn and fight off deep in the forest.

Those hardest-to-dismiss thoughts become deeply carved ruts in the road of our mind, where they harden into beliefs.  Our little carts fall into them and get jammed every time.  We've driven down these roads countless times before.  Sometimes, perversely, we even like to drive down them precisely because they are painful, and we want to punish ourselves for not being what we expect ourselves to be.  The ruts have become part of our story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Sometimes we find ourselves down the rutted roads not out of self-punishment but simply because we've driven down them so many times that it has become second nature.  Just like when we drive well-worn routes and then realise at the end of them that we have no conscious recollection of actually driving here.  Finding ourselves once again in these spaces can make us feel as helpless as a newborn, swamped by despair at how to change what feels unchangeable, that which we can barely see.  The despair comes out of spaces of frustration where we don't know what to do, how to change, how to stop, how to start, where parts of us are still weeping, and that need reconciling, healing, hearing, patting, soothing.  What we need is encouragement that we can turn off the rutted highway and forge a new road where there isn't yet one.

Surely it's the hardest work we do in our lives, forging new paths, though the benefits are amazing and the work is honourable.  But how do you get to where you want to go when you have never been there before?  How do you know what you need to carry with you that is going to help you get there?  Sometimes our dreams tell us, sometimes what comes off the end of the pencil as we doodle tell us.  Fairy tales tell us.  Images that come from a disparity of sources tell us (for me lately it's ravens).  It's a very foggy guessing that feels quite unreliable.  But we just start where we suspect we need to start, suspecting that to carve out this path maybe we are going to need a machete, and a hoe, and a ... what the hell?  What has this bloody raven got to do with anything?  And you shrug and start hacking away, and oftentimes you find, like a present some deeper part of you has wrapped up for yourself, answers and deeper understanding further along the path.  For me, I am thinking at the beginning of yet another path that getting to where I want to go is possibly going to involve some of this tool, and some of this tool

The hardest thoughts of all to diminish and dismiss are the ones that are tied to unconscious beliefs.  You know, those things that in the commonplace world of logic you know you don't want to believe, and in a sense you don't.  But in another deeper sense you do, which is why they keep appearing all the time.  Oftentimes they appear disguised as irritations we feel about others, things we are projecting onto them that are really what is hounding us on the inside.

Chances are those thoughts and neuroses are hooking their tails around something that lives in that shadowy realm of the unconscious, where all those dreams and images live, where we are like enormous icebergs and the unconscious is the part that is submerged.  Where we know not what we do - or if we do, we know not why we do.  Not clearly enough to see a clear path.

I've become pretty enamoured with sitting in the middle of the road until I see where I need to begin carving a new path.  One that leads to I barely know what.  But other parts of me know very well where those paths lead.  Being prepared to walk them is part of the conscious mind's work.  Believing that there is something magical at the end of those paths becomes easier now I've walked some of them before.  I get to see the trees light up in my own forest.  I get to meet characters that I have not known before me, who wish to help me when I return to the topside world.  How beautiful it is.

Believing I shall carve a path when it relates to the biggest monster in my arsenal is much harder.  And yet, all those other paths I have carved are related to this same monster.  It seems that he needs to be beaten by carving many paths, not just one.  And carving out the new path does not really get any easier, it just gets more hopeful that there may possibly be a resolution.

But still, all I can do is walk the path.  And keep my eyes open for the surprises.

Jumpy n Nervous - Groupthinkery

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Describe a time that I felt jumpy and nervous?  Sheesh, which second of the day do you want me to single out, NaBloPoMo?   :)

Okay.  Here's one.  I felt jumpy and nervous a few weeks ago when I went to a meditation group for the first time.  I love meditating, but I'm having trouble doing sitting meditation much at all lately.  I used to use that to begin my days, and it was such a beautiful bow to the day.  These days, I meditate a little in the sauna, and in bed before I fall asleep, but it's not the same.

I am both drawn to group things and loathe them.  The older I get the stronger this ambivalence about groups.  The ambivalence contains wisdom - "Be careful about who you hang around with.  Us humans have herd mentalities;  it's our limbic way.  The more fearful a people, the more they will herd together.  Be careful about this;  you have the same propensity in you, too.  Be in the group but not of it."  The ambivalence also contains crustiness - "I'm getting older, and perhaps a little more inflexible, and bending to other people is harder.  And anyway, other people so often are unlikable."  Ah, Susie.  How Crusty, crusty, crusty you are.  Loving people has nothing to do with how likable they are.  I need to get out more.

And so these are some reasons why it feels more necessary than ever for me to get out in some sort of group situation, even once in a while.  Because I work from home, and I can go days without seeing anybody other than my beloved, I feel that it's important to force myself to get out of the house when I'm able, and with a handful at least of people, because I feel better afterwards.  Because I love communality, even if I don't always love community.

And so I went to the meditation session.  But then after that one time the health shutters came down, and I haven't been able to return.  Until this evening.  I'm quite capable of going tonight, only I've gone cold on it.  Again.

I've gone cold on it because I always feel coerced in a group even when no one is coercing me.  Even if people are genuinely kind and wanting your best, they still have such a propensity to want you to do things their way.  I find that most people are like this.

I sort of like the way this meditation session runs - it's very simple - but it also makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.  But that's okay.  I am used to feeling ambivalent about things that I know I really want to do.

The thing that is annoying me the most about returning is that I feel distracted by one of the other participants.  During our meditation I could hear her every now and then in her bliss do this little sort of laugh to herself.  She told me before we began the meditation that I may feel like laughing, or crying, and to not hinder it but not give myself over to it as well.  Well, I feel like she is giving herself over to it.  Why does she need to do it out loud like that, even if it is quiet?  That laugh is distracting to me.  It feels like she is using it as a display of how spiritual and wonderful she is, how deeply embedded she is in the bliss, of which it's most patently obvious to everybody that I aren't, and here, why doesn't she show me how?

That's what makes me jumpy and nervous about being around other people.  The problems isn't so much that they are all trying to get me to conform (even though everybody is, in their own way).  The bigger problem is that I have these defensive feelings even at such banal things.  It is a defensive fence that has been there for as long as I can remember, once imposed by adults, but which is now mine to dismantle now that I am one too, board by board, removing the nails.

It takes an awful lot of decades to really grow up, methinks.

Get Real!

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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

So there is an Aussie Rules player called Will Minson who is in all sorts of trouble for what he said on-field the other day to an opposition player, Danyle Pearce.  Minson's club, the Western Bulldogs, have suspended him for one game after it erupted all over the media like a giant pus-filled pimple that he made a sledging comment to Danyle Pearce allegedly about sleeping with his mother.

I'm a female, and I don't find what Will Minson said offensive because I know something.   I know that Will Minson was not being serious. An eight year old child can tell the difference between stuff you say to try to razz someone you're playing against and the truth. It's a completely different scenario than if he had been saying it with intent. Does context not count at all in any situation?

And then all the bobbleheads on the TV are all nodding up and down and saying yes, hmmm, it shouldn't be tolerated and  blah blah blah.  But maybe the problem is that there is not enough tolerance for untolerable behaviour.  What Minson said was stupid, and totally unfunny.  And the fact that nothing at all should have been done about it says nothing at all about my stance on women's rights and respect for women.

This is not about right or wrong morality where the AFL is concerned. It's about an arbitrary line that the AFL has drawn that says "This is acceptable" and "This isn't" which is exactly why Daniel Giansiracusa skirted around an answer to AFL 360's question when they asked him if Danyle Pearce maybe shouldn't be so reactive. This is about the AFL wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing, not doing the right thing. And those are two quite different things.
My inner perfectionist thinks I shouldn't play NaBloPoMo anymore because the whole point of it is to blog every day, and I've missed a couple of days here and there because of fatigue.  Well, up yours, inner perfectionist.  I'm still playing.

What animal makes you jumpy and nervous? is today's prompt.  How unoriginal of me (and I bet pretty much everybody else who responds to this writing prompt) that what automatically springs to mind are spiders.

What is that about, anyway, that fear?  It feels feral and primal.  Here's what I think happened.  Or something like it.

CC pic by Open Cage Systems
Okay.  Well, before we go any further, let me introduce myself.  That's me there, to the left.  Or one of my exceedingly distant relatives, anyway.  This is what I once was.  Or rather, it's who I once was.  Or something like him, or her.  Millions and millions of years ago, in one of my earliest incarnations, I was a fish, somewhat resembling a stickleback.   I lived in Europe.  In England, in a fen.

I mean, all of that's just conjecture really.  I feel in my spine that it was in that area called England by the humanish, but what did I know about countries?  I could have been in France.

My sort of language was much different than the human language.  Both better but more limited.  It was ... a fishy language.  I didn't speak, but man, we spoke volumes.  We had 120 words-spoke-fishly for water.  What I could see as a fish I have lost as a human, though sometimes I get glimpses of it;  it filters occasionally through the veil, and if I am watching very closely I can catch it.

But yeah, I miss that, being a fish.  Nobody can ever see the world in quite the same way that a fish somewhat resembling a stickleback fish living in a fen in England can.

Anyway.  So I'd lived my life, you know, communing with the mystery that can only come in via my particular fishness.  Swimming will never be quite like it was then for me, ever again.  I miss the flit of the shoal.  I miss being part of that group swim, where we just knew to all flit to the right and up and left, and we all did it together like a dance.  Though we were too busy escaping for it to be a dance, but still, that's what it was.

I'd hatched four loads of babies.  There is a feeling I felt when I saw all of those babies hatch and swim off into the water, but it doesn't really translate.

So I was a male, then.  In our world, the males make the nest, the females hatch the eggs into the nest, and then us guys look after the eggs till they're ready to spill.  And so that's what happened four times.  I had lots of babies, and I suppose I was getting on a bit and was a good old age.  And then the spider came.

CC photo by Simon Huguet
I'm guessing it was a spider somewhat resembling a great raft spider that grabbed me.  I presume it was one of this mob because I knew them.  I'd managed to keep away from them up until then, and between the time I was swimming and then the time I wasn't, a glimpse out of the corner of my eye showed me something resembling this.

And so the spider somewhat resembling a great raft spider ate me, and then that was the end of my life.  I'm still surprised at how painless it was.  I mean, there was pain, but not in the way you imagine.  It was a peaceful sort of a pain.  And then that life was over, and yes, sometimes, I still miss it.

And that fear has continued down with me through all of my incarnations.  But even though I understand the fear, seeing I was killed by one of those things, the fear I feel as a human somewhat resembling a human living in the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges in Australia seems far too overblown.  It is a manageable fear, but then again if a Huntsman fell on my head from the roof I would scream and part of me would detach and think that this is what's going to tip me over the edge into insanity.  If there is a Huntsman on the wall, I flinch.  I be so many more times bigger than it;  the flinch beggars belief.

One of the things I miss about being a fish somewhat resembling a stickleback living in the fens in England is that things were so much simpler.  What was important rose to the top.  Or didn't even need to rise to the top;  it was just there.  I could look out of the fishy eyes on the side of my head and not even need to know what I needed to know, because I just knew it already and there was nothing more to know.  How peaceful that was.

Whereas being a human somewhat resembling a human living in the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges in Australia is so much more complicated.   And I do actually think that we humans too know all we need to know, but it gets hidden in the complicated ways we manage ourselves.  It's very easy to forget as a human what you know.  And that what you know is probably closer to a fishy knowing than what counts for human knowing, at least in vast tracts of the fens that we humans live in.

Still, being human - it's a pretty wondrous and beautiful thing, being a human, being so intricate and all, but because it's so complicated, it's easy to forget stuff.  And so you sit down to write a blog post thinking, "Oh, I don't know what to write about animals that make me jumpy that hasn't already been written before," and then once you start you get really into writing your blog post, and you can tell you're starting to feel better than you have been because it just sort of springs out of you from that rich place where all the stories spring.

And then the phone rings and you realise with a jolt in your chest that your massage/chiropractice adjustment appointment has been and gone and you've completely forgotten about it, even though you totally remembered it last night when you were going to sleep and was pretty sure you wouldn't forget that.  But you did.  Completely and totally.

And so you are jealous of the fish that did not need to make appointments that it could then forget.  And you think it's nice to not fear the spider eating you, even though it still makes you jumpy, but being at the top of the food chain has its other jumpy and nervous challenges, like when the telephone rings.

Half Full AND Half Empty


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Today, NaBloPoMo poses the question, Is the proverbial glass half empty or half full?

My personal proverbial glass is not static.  It moves as if it's liquid, like I'm constantly glassblowing it.

I imagine the DSM-IV and the DSM-V would probably have a few different pharmaceuticals for that floppiness, to stabilise the ship.  But I don't think the ship is meant to be stabilised in that fashion.  A bridge is built so that it sways.  It is the in-built sway which gives it its strength.  It's learning to lean into the curves that is the beginning of wisdom, not trying to straighten them out so that every road is a ruler.

But this is especially true for me lately because how that proverbial glass appears on any given day is determined by what is happening in my body.   I try to listen to what my body needs in order to do what it does - heal, magically, with the right ingredients.  But sometimes taking the very ingredients your body needs can make you feel temporarily worse before you feel better.  Sometimes stopping what you are doing because it is making you feel worse is the very worst thing that you could do.  But then sometimes it's the best.  And sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

In the times when I am laid low, through healing crises, bodily malfunctions, or through simple colds and flus, the glass can be as empty and as dry as if it had always lived its life in the desert and the only time it is filled  is when it's caked up with dead, dry sand that is threatening to submerge it entirely.

But those times pass.  Just like the good times must pass too.  When my ship is on a more even keel, and the seas are calm, then that glass does seem half full.  There is something within me that returns to optimism, and joy, when I feel well, like one of those babies' toys that are weighted in the base so that they never topple for good.  Beauty siren-calls me back, and possibility, and simply the lack of suffering.  But when wellbeing hits, it is its own reward.  It's remembering when those times hit that bad times will return again, and not being averse to that, which puts the extra weight in my bottom and wind in my sails, to mix a couple of metaphors.  It's not the absence of those bad times that makes for good times.  But it's so easy to forget this.

When I think of the collective glass, the world I live in and take my part in, and whether it's half-empty or half-full, it becomes more complicated.  I know that the times we are living in now are dark, and the way we are living may possibly destroy the very earth that we depend upon.  We are knowledgeable but unbelievably stupid, and allowing ourselves to be led by the nose by corruption that leaks out of all of the institutions we have depended upon in the past.  There is much to be depressed about in this insane world, and it's here that it is tempting to see the glass as half empty, and that human stupidity and ignorance will be our downfall for good.

But maybe not for good.  I like to look at the march of time not as linear, in the stupid and boring way that is our Western inheritance, but as circular.  That is a much wiser way to look at it.  I read this the other day about traditional Hindu conceptions of the passing of cultural time:

... the Iron Age is the last in the great cycle.  It begins with the Golden Age, a period of great stability and very slow change, in which the wise are recognized, and rule.  In the Silver Age, things are changing more, though still slowly.  In the Bronze Age, change is faster, people are turning more outwards, "doing" more.  Finally, in the Iron Age, which is the shortest of the four, change becomes more and more rapid, the wise long ago ceased to have any say in the form of our outer life, and we all become more and more materialistic.  It ends in self-destruction, but from the flames arises the phoenix of the next Golden Age.
(Tilo Ulbricht, 'A thousand roots: an introduction to the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke,' Parabola magazine

I love this recycling and composting view of the degeneration that comes at certain periods of time :)  How very wise.  Whatever comes up must go down. But then, whatever goes down must come up.  And so in this instance, when I look at the way the Western civilisation works now, knowing that it is not sustainable for us or for the earth, the most positive way to view the future is to go right through the most negative, and to see that our current way of living must destroy itself.

Paradox.  The seeds of the new are in the midst of the old and will sprout, just the way they do after fire.  And that's a beautiful thing, and it's both glass-half-full and glass-half-empty all at the same time.

Which are perhaps the most beautiful moments of all.

Good Food


Friday, 15 June 2012

What food brings me intense joy to eat?, NaBloPoMo asks me today, on this fine and gently sunny winter Friday that I can enjoy a little better now that I am feeling less ill than I was earlier in the week.  I am still feeling crappy today, and so distracting myself by writing about good things to eat is an extremely good medicine to take alongside the nettle tea, the litres of water, and the sauna.

Cheese.  Oh, cheese.  Very little tastes as good to me as a good quality vintage tasty cheese.  Oh.  Cheese.  But me and dairy do not appear to coexist well, and while cheese may taste so good in my mouth, it rankles in my guts.  I am beginning to think it tastes better than it ever has before, simply because I know I shouldn't have it.

Which is sometimes the best reason to partake ;)  Just a little.

If quitting dairy is an ongoing thing, removing black and white thinking from the equation (ie, not eating dairy equals, well, not ever eating dairy from the day you decide it's to be so) then things are going reasonably well.  I have taken to black tea pretty easily.  But then quitting milk was never going to be an issue - the thought of it makes me feel a little ill, and has done so for a long time.  Rice milk, oat milk, especially almond milk, are very yummy and I don't miss cow's milk at all.  But take that very same substance and whip it into a frenzy and I'll love some of that, thanks.  Keep whipping it and I'll smother it on toast.  Mix it in with some other bits and mature it and do whatever else you do to make cheese, and you have one of the finest substances to grace God's green earth.

That's weird, isn't it?  The same substance, and it assumes so many different forms.  How creative we people have been over the millennia, experimenting with one particular substance and coming up with so many alchemical alternatives.

~ . ~

The other food is invisible, doesn't live in the fridge or the pantry, but fills me up with nutrients as if it was chlorella.  When I was feeling really bad the other day I got out a charcoal pencil and did some sketches of a picture that had come to me while in the shower (where else?)  And so now, with the aid of this man here, I am going to make a few changes of my own while I play along with him and see if I can paint it.  Eek!

This other sort of food is more satisfying even than cheese.  But it's harder to eat than cheese.  I wish that I was forced to do it every day, even when I'm feeling really bad, the way I am forced to eat.  But not every day can be a creative day when you are ill.  But what about the days when you are well, and you still don't do it?  I think you have to actually learn that what you are starving for is it.  Self-expression, creatively messing about for the fun and the food of it.  And then go do it.  There is resistance to be overcome to being creative, which is always a curious thing to me even while I understand it.  What fear (of failure, of achievement, of clarity) can ever hope to override the satisfaction that comes when you see something you have made?  (And the satisfaction lies not in the dexterity or technique, of which I have little, but in the pure doing itself;  being creative is the closest thing to being a child again as I can imagine).

Being creative is like the reverse of eating cheese.  Sometimes it rankles in your mouth while you're doing it, a metallic taste, with your critic maybe sitting on your right shoulder whispering sour everythings into your ear.  But afterwards, when you've gone away for a day and come back and looked at it again, even with the smudge in its corner and the blobs of stuff over here, and the fact that it is nowhere near the picture you had in your head, regardless of how it actually looks, the fact that it is in front of you is like medicine, tastes as good and intensely joyful in your guts as a big slab of Margaret River.  Minus the guilt, the calories and the decrease in kidney function.

Back in the Land of the Living


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Well, that was a particularly awful experience.

The last few days, as I've recovered from doing the latest cleansing thingy, I have had so much sinus pressure in my head, and felt so unbelievably toxic, felt so depressed that I basically was feeling like I wanted to die.
Which sounds awfully melodramatic.  Especially seeing I wasn't feeling particularly suicidal the few days before that, and I am not feeling particularly so now.  My head seems to have become somewhat my own again.

It turns out that my kidneys are not functioning as they could, which explains why I feel so toxic whenever I try to detox.  I have also found out that I have rather too high levels of barium in my system.  Barium - great.  A poison.  Right up there with arsenic.  My poor old body, having to secrete this stuff away in fat cells, in my lungs, in my kidneys, in my brain so that it can get on with its business. 

I don't know how many years this has been going on for.  Quite a few.  The person who has been conducting the tests said that he suspects that the barium levels came via the antibiotic therapy I  had eight years ago.  The antibiotics give, and then they take away for years to come. 

So this why every time I signal to my body that "Hey, guess what, guys?  Time to take some of that lovely barium and whatever other nasties you've got secreted away and put it out into circulation" - well, that explains why those times utterly floor me, and make me feel so awful that I just don't even know how I can explain it to you.  It is like an iron shutter going down over my sensibilities.

This is the reason why I originally bought a far infrared sauna, which I have been relatively slack on using recently.  But not now.  Now that I've had another reminder that I have these nasties that are doing so much damage, I'm back on and recommitted to sweating those buggers out from where they do not belong.  It is the only way that I can get rid of this stuff without it making me feel so bad.

In fact, it feels pretty damn nice, sitting all steamy in the sauna outside the back door while it's cold and wintery and raining outside of my little cabin.

Memento Mori


You know, it really doesn't pay to trust people who are "up" all the time.  Or who insist on always looking on the bright side of life.  That doesn't ring true to me.  It feels like they're lying.  Or at least that they're hiding their less pretty sides. 

Sometimes I think that people who insist on always looking at the bright side are really in denial and terrified of what they may find if they go scrabbling around in their own closets.  Sometimes people who don't wanna go down are suffering from one of the diseases pertinent to our culture - the sort of excessive hubris that automatically comes after a while when you're up too long.  It starts to feel illegal to go down in a death-denying culture which insists that you must be always up, and that if you go down we'll medicate you.

That's insane.  That's like being a parent and allowing a red lemonade-drinking child to have as much as they want and to stay up for as long as they want.  Who isn't allowed to see dead Uncle Fred in the front parlour because that's too scary for children.  (But then what kid would see dead Uncle Fred anyway these days?  We secrete him away before he can give the game away.  Chances are Uncle Fred will wait out his closed-casket funeral in a funeral home.

It doesn't pay to shield ourselves from the dark, simply because we'll always be afraid of it.

When you are down, there are no end of advisers on hand to recommend how to change your viewpoint,  your habits, your diet, to quite simply harden the fuck up.

But no.  When you fight tooth and nail not to come to the dark place like I consistently do and consistently have, once you are here there is a clear-seeing that strikes you, that is beautiful in its starkness, so that you almost don't want to leave.  There is a space here and a silence that you wish to try to remember to take back with you when you swim back up to the surface.

You want to find a way to bring these anti-hubris eye drops back with you when you go back.  To remind you of that which you keep forgetting, that both sides of the coin belong. 

And that your sadness is beautiful. Though it not be sociable, or you be palatable when you are in that space.  That's okay.  Let it be.  Despite what anyone else may say, your sadness and your darkness is a holy space.  It is sometimes best to walk the holy and dark space in your own solitude.  It's okay.

I think this is why people have skulls on their desks.  It is a reminder of the darkness, of that which is not able to be seen when you are in the light.  Memento mori - remember that you shall die.  It's not really as morbid as we've been led to believe. 

Favourite place to be.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Where is your favourite place to be? asks NaBloPoMo today.  And my answer is, anywhere but here.

Here is the brainfog that still remains, the cotton wool head, the depression.  The questions, the feeling like I'm a little nuts, and the dealings with the medical profession that bruise.

The desire to be far away from the entire world because I am leprous, and they can smell it.

Which is sorta why I've got nothing more to say today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Joy Jumping


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What makes you jump for joy? NaBloPoMo asks today.

It is giving me pause this morning that I am racking my brains to think of something that would make me so exuberant as to outwardly jump up and down.  But I'm feeling a little battered and bruised today by the tail end of a sinus flare-up, the remains of the most recent parasite cleansing activities, and the monthly visit.  When I feel like this, it's hard to imagine feeling excited by anything.  Then, sure as the sun goes down and comes back up again, the next day I'm in exactly the spot I couldn't imagine myself in the day before.

It's a strange thing that after years of dealing with a chronic illness, feeling bad still feels surreal.  It's like I am now the dual citizen of two countries in which I forget what it's like to be in one as soon as I set foot in the other.  But still, I remain haunted by both.

I think of these things because yesterday I spent a dreadfully horrid afternoon edifying myself by reading The Alchemy of Illness by Kat Duff, who also has dual citizenship in the land of CFS/CFIDS.  She puts into words some of the stuff I have been struggling for years to find words for (though really, I don't think there are words to describe it).  But here are a few:

Illness is an upside-down world, a mirror image reversing the assumptions of our normal daily lives.  I think of it as the underside of life itself, the night to our days, the roots of our trees.  The first thing that happens when I get sick, even before physical symptoms appear, is that I lose my usual interests.  A kind of existential ennui rises in my bones like floodwaters, and nothing seems worth doing: making breakfast, getting to work on time, or making love.  That is when I know I am succumbing to the influence of illness, whether it is a minor cold or a life-threatening case of dysentery.  I slip, like fluid through a porous membrance, into the nightshade of my solar self, where I am tired of my friends, I hate my work, the weather stinks, and I am a failure.

Sometimes I ask myself, "Why didn't I see this before?"  Then some sure voice from the depths of my illness replies, "You could not see before."
And this:

I find it very difficult to reconcile the contrary visions of health and illness, or even hold them both in my mind at the same time.  They slip away from each other, like oil and water.  After a few months in bed I could not remember what it felt like to swim a mile, which I used to do almost every day.  I had forgotten the pleasure of cool water on my skin, the comfort of a smooth stroke.  I could only imagine it to be cold and exhausting from the vantage point of my warm water bed and interminable fatigue.  It happens the other way around too.  A friend of mine who is recovering from CFIDS confided the other day, "I'm afraid I'll forget what it was like;  I already do on my good days."

... There is, perhaps rightly so, an invisible rope that separates the sick from the well, so that each is repelled by the other, like magnets reversed.  The well venture forth to accomplish great deeds in the world, while the sick turn back onto themselves and commune with the dead;  neither can face the other very comfortbly, without intrusions of envy, resentment, fear, or horror.  Frankly, from the viewpoint of illness, healthy people seem ridiculous, even a touch dangerous, in their blinded busyness, marching like soldiers to the drumbeat of duty and desire.

Yes and yes!  Wonderful!  Who can understand the joys that can be found sometimes, unbidden, in the midst of sickness?  When you are repellent to everybody else, and repellent to yourself?

Yes.  Now that I have pondered what it's been like holding dual citizenship and travelling within those two very different internal countries, I can think of something that would definitely make me jump for joy ~ a couple of plane tickets, being the first leg of a series of overseas jaunts that span, oh, the next decade or two.

Yeah, I think that'd do it.

Pic by Sel

Sunday Selections


Sunday, 10 June 2012

The bird on the left is One.  She is the mother of Richard the Third, all starey there on the right.  One is the kookaburra that started the whole thing.  One day, several years ago, while Anthony was barbecuing chicken, she came onto the railing for her share.  And now, her, her partner, and her several generations of kids - about 12 when it's a full house - come visiting every day for some delicious raw mince.  Mmm.  Yum.

Only a few months before this photo, One was more than happy to feed Richard the Third, one of two fuzzy little babies she had in the last nesting.  Now, her and Two both get a little irritated at his pushy ways.  Up he flies onto the decking (the throne, for all intents and purposes) and just shoves his way in-between them.  These days, One and Two both turn from Richard the Third to eat their bits of meat in peace, away from his prying beak.

After the time was right for Richard the Third to come out of the nest, the next step was leading him out to a tree branch on the edge of the property where he was closer, and could watch what was going on and start sorting it out for himself.  One wears herself thin in those months, flying backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, taking meat to her babies.  Her life partner, Two, does the same thing, and so do some of the other children too.

Richard the Third has been the most brave baby burra I have ever seen.  Not too many weeks after One first led him out, there he was, wobbling himself over to the railing to be hand-fed himself, even though sometimes I can see he is shaking.  Of all of the babies I have got to see in the last couple of years, he is the only one game enough to do this.

Richard the Third gets full points for effort and for excitement.  A couple of times Anthony and I have taken some meat outside only to have Richard the Third go all nutsy and come and fly onto our arms to get closer to the meat.

These days he is far less wobbly - that's if he is a he.  It's hard to tell what sex infant kookaburras are.  From what I've been able to discern, male burras are identifiable by more teal coloured feathers on their rumps.  It remains to be seen yet whether Richard is a boy or a girl.  But I'm pretty sure whatever sex he is, he's making a tilt at that throne at some point.  Or maybe he is going to start his own posse.  Kookaburras live in groups, with the matriarch and patriach of the group being the only ones who breed.  This gang seems to have split itself a few times, though.  And I think Richard the Third will be a fine new patriarch ... or matriarch, as the case may be.

I've been playing Frogpondsrock's weekly photo partay.  Come and play too.

Death is Underrated


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Don't be morbid, people sometimes say if you talk about death.  As if by mentioning it you're ruining the mood of the party.

Death gets a bad rap.  It is considered one of the rudest of conversational topics.  It's bad form even to speak of it, unless it's in a whisper.  Death has become to our always-on era what sex was to Victorian times.  You don't speak of it, but everybody does it.

Which is part of its attraction, I guess.  Anything that our culture likes to deny, there I am, digging in the middle of it.

There is more than one way to view our demise.   Some days, I feel despair at living in a world which is patently insane and dragging its constituents along with it.  (When I speak here of "the world," I am not referring to the beautiful earth that we live on, which is more alive and sustaining and wise than we give it credit for.  The earth in many respects is the salvation from "the world" that is the the stupid and narrow-minded ways of late Western civilisation, where everything is somewhat broken and the emperor and all of his constituents are ignoring the little kids that are telling him his willie is hanging in the breeze.)

This morning I am feeling constrained and straightjacketed as I only can when I wake up tired before I even get out of bed, being at the tail end of a parasite cleanse that is clogging up my sinuses and fogging up my brain.  Add on top of that an impending "less dainty time of the month" and my mood is a little ... well, shall we say black?  But that's okay.  These moods pass and joyful ones take their place, and they too pass.  For me I feel that the more I welcome these moods to learn from them, the more the joy comes in also.  I don't think we can't have one without the other.  Though we try.

Some days, when the world is a drag, envisioning that you are going to some day die is ... well, this may seem strange, but it's a comfort.  Black moods of depression aside, on those days when an examination of the self-destructive-but-let's-not-talk-about-it ways of the world we are forced to live in breeds despair, a reminder that death comes to us all carries two strands with it, flying along behind.  Firstly, there is always the cold slap, like having an icy jug of water poured over the top of your head, that this death thing is not simply an abstract concept for you to play with inside your head, moving it around like furniture to see what happens when you put it over here, to see the way the light hits it, to see how its shadow hangs across the other items in the still life picture in your mind.  That it is something that is one day going to happen to you is probably never going to be something you will get your head or your ego around.

But if you can get past the cold slap, contemplating your own impending death brings with it a sort of sanity.  It's like it shakes you from the stupor that settles over you by virtue of living in 2012;  from the daily doses of reality TV or porn or whatever else is is your particular tipple that you like to take a dose of to try to escape.  The stupor, however, weaves its way through those things, the incessant constancy of the 24-hour 7-Eleven, the 24-hour news cycle, so that there is no rest for the weary, for the wildlife, or for you.  No silent spaces where you are forced to confront the things you are running from, unless you carve them out yourself.  Trying to escape from this madhouse via those means just means you're entering back in through the front door.  It becomes like the alcoholic needing a few drinks to straighten himself up before lunchtime, just so he can feel normal.

Contemplating the fact that you are going to die brings home to you the fact that everything and everyone is going to die.  Civilisations, countries, your children, the dog, the sun, the seeds you are planting right now into the cold soil.  There may not seem to be any comfort at all in that, but there is a fire that exists within its core, underneath the layer of ice, like a seed inside a grain.  When things try to live forever, they die instantly.  Any life that they had was never theirs to hold onto and make their own.   Where they came from before they will go to after, and the only way to live properly in the intervening period is to know that it won't last forever.

The beauty inside this space is perhaps an acquired taste.  The best way to live is to learn how to die.  The news channel does not broadcast this and the 7-Eleven does not sell it, not even under the counter in plain wrapping.

Looking and Leaping


Friday, 8 June 2012

Do you need to look before you leap? today's NaMoBloMo prompt asks.

Yes.  Increasingly so.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, even though it feels like it is.  Where does that feeling come from, that to be more cautious is sort of a bit ... well, boring?  That if you are cautious it's a negative?  I do still have those assumptions flitting around into my mind. Do they come from the inside, or do they come from the culture?

I do have an incautious streak.  It's just not so apparent on days like today, where I am tired, at the end of a parasite cleanse, and am arm-wrestling a dose of bitterness and closed-heartedness.  (I've decided to welcome them into my house, like Rumi suggests, and be their student).  On days like today I feel like my trajectory shall equate to something like an old woman living in the country pointing a shotgun every time the guy comes onto my property to check the gas meter. 

I enjoyed practising incaution as a teenager, where it manifested itself as feeling daredevillish and rebellious and fuck you.  While I still feel that way sometimes about the world, the whole self-punishment-to-get-back-at-you version thankfully lost its lustre a long time ago (in general.  But it's funny when those moods occasionally strike.  They are generally in response to feeling hurt, and Susie circa 1978 pops up with a desire to hurt-myself-to-hurt-you-because-you-hurt-me, and I recognise the childishness of it, even while feeling the desire to act it out.  We are strange and complex beings and very fragile :).

It's true that as you age you become a little more conservative in certain areas, and greater caution is probably where mine manifests itself.  The trick is to separate caution-as-wisdom from caution-because-of-a-developing-crustiness.  One is welcome, the other probably requires what may feel closer to incaution than anything else, to dispel it.  Being cautious about your decisions is something that parents spend every day teaching their children, and a lesson that children take decades to learn.  The choices we make count.  Taking time and taking silence to measure our options is not only smart, it's kinda counter-cultural in a way, considering the speed frenzy we live under.  Being cautious about the people we want to spend our time with is smart, and self-lovin', and I've taken years to work this one out, and still feel like in this particular paddock I still have a whole stack of fence that needs restringing along the road line.

For me, these days, looking before I leap is based a little more on the fact that resilience just ain't really one of my strong suits.  Ever read any of the books about highly sensitive people?  That's pretty much me.  I get sensory overload in shopping centres and have to come home and lie down in darkened rooms (a true story, I'm afraid).  I get upset about the most minor and inconsequential things sometimes.  I feel rejected at the drop of a hat or any other item of clothing you care to let go of, and if you do not respond to the comment I have taken the time to leave on your blog as a first-time visitor, I generally start waning in my affection for you right there and then.  I guess I have old-fashioned ideas about courtesy and politeness which a good portion of the rest of the world just doesn't seem to share.

I don't like that I am so sensitive.  But I do like the fact that I recognise that I am, and embrace it, and look after myself accordingly.  But there is a sort of feeling of being a cripple at the side of the road while the marathon runs by.

And yet, who doesn't feel this way in some measure?  I'm sure we must all have unattainable standards in our heads that we believe society is asking us to achieve, and if we don't, then we fail.  Because think about it - how many "spokespeople" for our culture display their flaws?  Very few.  And when they do, we generally soften towards them (unless we get childish and demonise them, but that's another story).  They are human too.  Perhaps it's okay for us to have these flaws.

It's a paradoxical thing that a person becomes more trustworthy the more they share their fragility on their sleeve at least a little every now and then.  It's also true that to be able to be that fragile is something that we must feel is within our own power to choose to either do or not to do.  It must be freely given, and it is a gift when it is.  When somebody has the guts to reveal a bit of their soft underbelly, my automatic response is always one of a softening of my own heart.

But it's true that as I get older, some days I can feel a crustiness that has developed around the edges of my shell when it comes to the human race.  Perhaps it's simply a sign of not getting out enough, or of idealism, but I often feel quite disappointed by other people.  The way they  behave feels coarse and inconsiderate. 

And of course here is that paradox that plays itself out so often - those things that I am feeling so frustrated about in the human race are often the things I am feeling frustrated about in myself.  I have become adept at noticing how I have learned to close my heart down, and at those times I must appear just as crusty and untrustworthy to others as they feel to me. 

Which is a hard thing to get your head around.  It takes years to reclaim your own projections, to own your own shit, to realise that what it is about other people that is getting to you is really what it is about yourself.  And to return once more to those practices that help to soften you around the edges.  To realise that though caution is most welcome in its wisdom garb, its spiky defensiveness version has never served you very well at all. 

Living open heartedly can sometimes feel akin to being naked out in the freezing cold, sucking air into your lungs that feels like it's going to bust them open.  Living open heartedly with a little caution round the edges is wisdom.  Juggling those two balls in the air at the same time is a high-wire act. 

Unchained Melody


Thursday, 7 June 2012

This piece originally appeared in the inaugural issue of Tincture Journal :)

"Physicists tell us that the solidity of matter is an illusion. Even seemingly solid matter, including your physical body, is nearly 100 percent empty space – so vast are the distances between the atoms compared to their size. What is more, even inside every atom there is mostly empty space. What is left is more like a vibrational frequency than particles of solid matter, more like a musical note." – Eckhardt Tolle

In 1976, I was five. The Australian music institution Countdown had been running for two years every Sunday night at 6pm on the ABC. It was hosted by a passionate Molly Meldrum, with his enthusiastic recommendations to “do yourself a favour” and get onto the latest Supernaut or David Bowie offering. Once a fortnight we would visit Grandma and Grandpa’s place, and us kids would sit in front of the telly and indulge in a 70’s feast of rotating disco balls and men in satin shirts open to their waists. In stark contrast to the glitter that was fluffing up much of that year, AC/DC released “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”. It’s a song about a hitman offering his services to a variety of people who could use his help – a teenage girl being forced to sleep with her high school principal, someone whose boyfriend is double dealin’ with her best friend, and a browbeaten bloke whose nagging wife is driving him nuts. A bargain-priced solution could be arranged using several different methods – concrete shoes, cyanide, and TNT amongst them.

Not for me. I was waking in fright in my bed at night and lying there crying, “Mummmmy, Mummmmy,” softly, softly, so no one else would hear except her, embarrassed already for my need, until she came and climbed into bed with me. Then, the depths of the dark night retreated, along with the monsters that peeped through the chink in the blind. I didn’t know anything about hitmen. For me, that song was about two characters – Dirty Deeds and the Dunder Cheep. Dirty Deeds looked something like Mario or Luigi from Mario Brothers. But he wasn’t the important one. He was only the sidekick to the real star of the show, the Dunder Cheep, who was a giant baby chicken.

That was the song I loved, and the memory of that causes a jolt of pure, unadulterated, bittersweet what-it-felt-to-be-fiveness to flood over me. The same way it feels when you hear again a song you once loved but have completely forgotten. When I was 25 I recorded Counting Crows’ “Recovering the Satellites” from my brother’s vinyl LP onto cassette. If I hadn’t lived through the technological changes of the past 30 years I would find it hard to believe that cassette recording occurred less than 20 years ago; I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been there myself. Somewhere in-between then and the advent of CDs I lost that cassette, and forgot all about that album.

Twelve years later I bought that Counting Crows album again, one of a bulk lot of someone’s CDs they were getting rid of on eBay in favour of digitising their collection. Listening to those songs for the first time in 12 years, all of the lyrics of Angel of the Silences were coming back to me a split second before Adam Duritz wailed them out of the speakers and I loved that album twice as much as I had before, it grown more precious from the forgetting.

~ * ~

Last year I watched Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe twice. As quickly as he fed the second law of thermodynamics and string theory into my wondering and awe-inspired brain, just as quickly it flooded out again. I don’t think I will ever be able to explain physics; but I feel like maybe I could dance it. If no one was watching.

As is the irritating way of such things, when I was in high school I couldn’t have given a shit about science. I was more interested in being in love with unattainable people. In 1985 I cried myself to sleep more nights than I can remember yearning for a Brian Mannix I could never have. Of course, the fact that I could never have him provided the safety net to pour out all of my grief, my angst, my yearning into my pillow every night. If I could have had him, I would not have known what to do with him.

I traversed the suburbs of Melbourne following after Uncanny X-Men. I went underage to over-18s gigs; I saw them at the Nunawading Skate Ranch, at the Myer Music Bowl, at Festival Hall, where I once had to be taken, hysterical, out to the St John’s Ambulance, so overcome was I for my beloved. My cousin Andrea and I caught the train to Oak Park and walked the streets to the house where Brian still lived with his parents. “Brian is in Adelaide,” a sign said in the front window. I took leaves from his tree and some molting fur from his dog, for keepsakes.

The obsession with the lead singer aside, there was something about early Uncanny X-Men music that appealed to me. They wrote surfing parodies that made allusions to vibrators. They were politically incorrect. Before they were a squealy teenie band they were an irreverent pub band, a bunch of young guys from Melbourne. Before Brian was in the X-Men he worked in a tap factory. That was amazing to me. They were just normal blokes. And they were making music.

I was a suburban girl through and through and my musical tastes reflected that. I had fear running through my veins. There were so many bands going around then that would appeal so much more to me now – The Pixies, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins – that I had never heard of, or who flew over or under my radar. My brother was a relentless player of The Cure, but it was like they vibrated on a level too scary for me to contemplate at that time. The Sex Pistols were another story, but then they were safe by virtue of their distance in a way that, say, Nick Cave was not. That sort of music was too dark; far too close to my own barely understood feelings to contemplate.

I was now a teenager, and life had taken me light years away from the buffer of the innocence that had fostered the Dunder Cheep. I was screaming for a new story, to know where I fit into the new world. But there were no initiation rites, apart from the clumsy alcoholic ones we invented ourselves, and no songlines to map out the concrete earth I was living on.

~ * ~

I was that most irritating of high school students – the smart girl throwing away her education. I would go to school having not done my homework and give lip to my teachers, only to go to the library after school and borrow great swathes of books. I felt traumatised and tiny on the inside; the outside was all fear masked as cool rebellion, mistrust and sneering contempt. Some of that contempt was well-founded, when I consider the way science and history were presented to us. My high school had the stupendous ability to juice subjects and only hand us the skin. The facts without the narrative. Teenagers are blind to plenty of things. On the other hand, some things are more 20/20 then than they’ll ever be again: why do adults do the things they do – or don’t do the things that they should? Why is beauty so lacking, and why does everything feel so dense and stultifying and boring? Is this really the best we can do? I hadn’t come across Rousseau at 15, but his famous dictum that “Man [sic] is born free, but he is everywhere in chains” would have resonated. Not that I would have been able to articulate it.

Perhaps I would have been better off trying to dance my angst, instead. But I couldn’t dance without fiery self-consciousness. Not like the other girls I would go to the Bluelight disco with, and join them to dance in a circle with our handbags in the middle. For some it was fun, but dancing was excruciating for me. I didn’t even know I secretly yearned to do it – and other things like drama and music. Those things were for people who weren’t genetic mutations. I wasn’t free to dance; my feet felt frozen to the floor.

When a river gets a blockage upstream, everything congeals, and what is meant to flow becomes stagnant.

~ * ~

Every recess and lunch break of my high school years I sat with a big group of friends up the back of the oval, as far away from the school buildings as possible, and smoked cigarettes. Generally Peter Jackson Super Mild. Smoking was banned at our school. Out of all of my friends, I was the only one ever to be caught and to suffer the indignity of picking up rubbish with Mr Walsh, the grumpy janitor, after school. It didn’t stop me smoking, though. When I first began the habit I’d later struggle to quit, a packet of Alpine Lights was $1.78. My friend Karen and I would go halvies in a packet, go to the park halfway up her street and sit on the swings and the seesaw and smoke one cigarette after another.

The only memory that survives almost 30 years after the interminably boring hours that made up my science education (apart from the time we had to cut up a squirting cow’s eye) was the luminous day a volunteer was required. They were to take a long metal stick and move it through a metal contraption while touching the sides as little as possible. Then they were to go outside and smoke a cigarette and then redo the test to measure the effects nicotine had on the body.

I was deliriously happy to be that volunteer. It felt delicious to lawfully practise my self-destructive habit. It felt like it did when I would read a book and come upon a word or phrase I hadn’t met before. One of those good phrases, where the concept suddenly puffs out in front of you like a giant airbag that gives you not only a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that explains Why Things Are, but a buffer space between you and the world, in the same way that cigarettes create a smokescreen. With a new phrase or concept I could see a new horizon, sometimes an entire city that I could not see before. This was the way I felt standing outside having a fag, under authorisation from a teacher to do so. I wished for the principal and the janitor to come past and see me. Unfortunately, as is the way of these things, nobody did.

~ * ~

Several years ago someone on the radio was talking about the evolutionary history of octopusses. He kept referring to the evolutionary process as if it was something outside of the octopus, something imposed upon it. “Evolution has done X, Y and Z”, he’d say.
It was probably simply a shorthanded way for him to convey what he wanted to say, but the way he said it hit a nerve. Did the octopus have no say in its own unfolding – the world stomping down on its tentacles with its boots like late Western capitalism on the earth, insisting on it being this way? This version of evolution felt like simply another version of the dualistic god who lived far away in the skies, leaving his creation to rot. I prefer to think of the evolutionary dance of a million possible variations not only coming into the octopus, but also coming out of it, the way it came out of the stars, out of the Big Bang. Not like some boring, mechanical one-way sort of thing, but as Life dancing with itself. A myriad of possibilities that the octopus could have become, but now that it’s unfolded the way it has, it seems so solid that we can’t readily believe it could have turned out any other way than it did.

Of course, the octopus is a product of its environment. Its environmental homes over millions of years have shaped the way it has turned out. No octopus is an island, after all, any more than any one of us are.

Geez. Everything is so vulnerable; it’s a wonder anything is here at all.

And in a way it isn’t. At one level, the octopus is more not here than it is here. But yet it is, as solid as any other creature. This thought is somehow comforting to me, like a cup of warm Milo at 2 am.

I wonder – if the best science teacher in the world had been able to convey to me the poetry of string theory, would I have had the ears to hear it back then? I fielded a don’t-give-a-shit exterior, but I was desperate for someone to tell me a story, that there was a perfectly full void running through it all like a golden thread, and that it ran through me, too. This was the story that I was looking for. I still am. A story that includes everything. A space that opens up wonder and beauty and where people belong rihgt in the centre of it.

That kind of space would surely, given a couple of millennia, start unfreezing stuck feet. Because not only are we made of barely nothing. We are also, after all, made of stars.

A Book Review When You're Only 1/5 Through?

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

I couldn't sleep last night, and so as I finished one novel, I broke open the next straight afterwards.  It always takes some time to hit your straps with a new book.  The first few paragraphs can jar as you suss out the writer's voice, and shake off the previous one.

Last night on First Tuesday Book Club, author Dame Stella Rimmington talked about the unwritten contract of trust that exists between a writer and a reader, and how sometimes you can't hand your trust over straight away.  Sometimes you never hand it over at all.  By page 12 of The History of Love by Nicole Krauss I was crying (and that's a large-print edition version of page 12, too), reading in bed by my book light, hoping it wasn't going to turn into sobs and wake the bed's other occupant.

I'm about a fifth of the way through this book and already I don't want it to end.  There is an inevitability about the ending, both physically when the pages will run out, and also within the story itself.  Leo Gursky is at the end of his life, a man you wouldn't look twice at in the street.  We get to see him through a golden lens.  Nicole manages the magician's feat of accomplishing this without any schmaltz.  There's no Vaseline on the lens, but she writes about love and loss, tragedy, loneliness, despair, beauty, and death in a way that highlights the beauty of life.  Hard to do.  Not many can do it as well. 

I'm so glad to have discovered Nicole Krauss, and so look forward to reading everything she's ever written ;)
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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Today's NaBloPoMo question is, "How do you feel about starting new projects?"

I always feel excited and optimistic about starting new projects.  If they involve going out into the world in some way, then there is always a strong element of nervousness that goes along with it.  I have conflicting elements within my personality - anxiety beforehand, seemingly comfortable socialising during, wondering what people thought of me afterwards.  It's very tiresome :)

It's also a little stronger given my greater hermitlike habits in recent years.  But I think I'm actually okay with that.  I like being a crab.

But the beginning of a new project is always fresh, and I'm excited about what I'm going to learn (unless it's starting something I'm very unconfident about, like clay classes, where I feel people are looking at me, and then I fall into a highly-sensitive heap.  But then I start a writing subject at uni this year, in comparison, and while I'm like a duck with its legs scrabbling underwater, it all looks pretty serene on top, and I participate well in class discussions.  In fact, you would probably never know that there was any scrabbling going on underneath the surface.  And that, I suppose, is a good thing.  Even though I feel like I'm cheating in some way.

Sheesh, if there's not a problem, I'll just make one up :)

~ ~ ~

That's all for me today.  I have a book from the library that I've been waiting on for a while called Spaces in Her Day: Australian Women's Diaries from the 1920s and 30s that I'm definitely looking forward to getting my teeth into.  I have an idea for a short story that I may or may not end up writing, but the main character lives in 1920s Australia.  And what the hell do I know about that?  I'm hoping that maybe I will discover her "voice" through reading those of others.  So the book and the fireside calleth.  See ya later, blogosphere.

Ergonomics and Alchemy


Monday, 4 June 2012

I recently bought a new ergonomic keyboard.  The first sentence I typed was this:

This is the firt thing I'm typing on my new ergtononic keygoard. i can see i6t's going to tzaked some gtetting used to.

I transcribe for a living, so I was hoping that it wasn't going to take too long to iron out the issues :)  And it didn't.  Not at all.  A few hours after this I was typing minus all of those errors above, except still for the occasion mishitting of "g" when I meant to hit "b".  But now, four days later, that's not happening at all, and the way my hands are sitting on the keys is beginning to feel normal.  It sure felt weird for a while there, though.  The keyboard is "split", so that the left-hand keys are sloped to the left, and the right-hand to the right.  At the same time, there is a rise up to the middle of the keyboard.  It's all meant to allow your hands to sit more naturally, rather than facing straight ahead, straight down.  But at the start it felt as uncomfortable as it did when Anthony showed me how to play an A on the guitar.  How on earth do people ever manage to play guitars without busting their fingers off?   Practice, practice, practice.

The only real design flaw I can see so far is the position of the number 6, which is usually struck with the index finger of the right hand.  But in this configuration, the 6 has ended up on the left-hand side of the keyboard.  And so now I'm needing to relearn to strike it with my left index finger, instead of my right.

There's a little more resistance as we get older to changing things and doing things differently.  When I think of that little girl I posted about yesterday, she just took everything as it comes with no preordained ideas about how it should all be done.  A bit of a tabula rasa.  How liberating.

And yet even something as mundane as changing from a standard to an ergonomic keyboard does something in my brain.  It's as though some fresh air has been puffed in through my ears.  Like a spring cleaning.  It feels like exercise for my synapses, my brain relishing the opportunity to forge some new neural pathways, alternative routes to the rather ruttish ones that form some of the main highways in my mind.

Being a transcriber, I make plenty of use of hot keys and shortcuts.  Whenever I begin a long job I'm keeping my eye out for words that are going to be repetitive, particularly ones that are capitalised or that contain keystrokes that I tend to fumble with over and over again.  I assign them to AutoCorrect entries, so that whenever I type a particular small sequence of keys, that word hidden behind that sequence appears on my screen.  It is a little bit like magic, really. 

The magic happens when I get into those things that make life burble and lustre up.  For me, that's creativity in its many forms, and though my technique in some is still childlike, that's not even so much of a consideration for me anymore.  What can appear to be amateur to outside eyes is to me brilliant, coming as it did from that magical inside place where everything is dark, and sometimes scary, but beautiful too, deep and moist, mysterious.  Things spring out of there that I had no idea were there if I will only make a space for them to pour into.

I've just begun reading The Black Sun:  The Alchemy and Art of Darkness by Stanton Marlan (which, if you are interested, is available as a open-access download from http://repositories.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/86080/Marlin_585444251_Txt.pdf?sequence=1).  Marlan is a Jungian analyst who delves into the meaning behind the ancient image of the black sun, that darkness that is in every life and in our world, too.  He writes about the transformation that comes from entering into that space, and the care that needs to be taken while venturing there.

There is, he says a light in that darkness, and I have had some sort of experience myself of this, and the beauty that comes from walking in places that are wastelands.  I think this is what's called redemption.  These experiences remind me of fairy tales, where the main character goes deep into the dark forest, faces death, and comes out with something from the experience.  These fairy tales inform my own goings into the dark, help me to go in armed somewhat (even though it never feels like that; it always feels like death and only death, with no life to come afterwards, even though the best and most beautiful cultures and souls know what we in the West have forgotten - that the pattern is not life~death.  It is life~death~life.

And those fairy tales, so dumbed down and lightened up by misunderstanding parents with the aid of Walt Disney, are amazing ancient fragments written by people very wise, who bequeathed to us psychological and spiritual shortcut keys - symbols and images - that help us name and navigate that which is incomprehensible and terrifying, and to dignify it and make it something beautiful. 

Just as I was waxing lyrical about synchronicity the other day, how delighted was I this morning to come across the latest post by the uber-talented Rima Staines about a piece she did recently called The Alchemist.  When these tiny little serendipities happen, they never fail to give me a jolt and I fall back into that mystery of how we are all connected in ways we don't yet understand, and how beautiful that connection is.

¬ ¬ ¬

And, ahh, no, I don't quite know how I managed to get from ergonomic keyboards to here either :)