Dining with the Dragon


Monday 30 September 2013

Sometimes, insights gotta come slowly.  Especially when the insights are around traumas, when Whatever It Was split off into a hundred different pieces, sent itself all around your body so that you could walk around and be in your life until it was time as a big girl to begin to piece it together again.  But first you needed to begin the slow long remembering that you had forgotten to feel it in the first place.  And then one day/month/year/decade you slowly start waking up.  And you start feeling your body, and feeling yourself, and you watch yourself ~ the ocean watching the wave.  And you come upon many things that are ugly, things that have come out of your trauma which are not your fault, things which go out into the world and misrepresent you, which are flaccid where you want to be ripe, and straight where you want to be a circle, and mean where you want to protect yourself, and harsh where you want to be sweet.  They are not your fault, and you need to learn that first before you can begin to change them.  Because they are not your fault but they are also your responsibility.

You come upon all of these ways you've learned, from in your beautiful protective self, to run away from the things you could not bear.  Those things have been pillars for you to hold onto while you've been growing up into the process of being able to bear up, as a big grown up girl, under their weight.

And you have learned again today what you keep falling across in the last week or so, in different places and at different times, that you still are not living in acceptance.  You are running from the dragon.  You keep being surprised by the fact of your non-acceptance.  What you think is acceptance is at times a rolling in the waves of retrauma, where the past is present, and you can't even tell the difference between what is safe and what is not.

You are reminded today, by the words of another, that there are times when you are too courageous.  It washes over you like a mother and like comfort.  You are not not-enough ~ you are trying too hard.  There are times in your courage that you can retreat.

And then you love you, because yes, you've always loved your own courage.  You are the girl who wants to pat security dogs.  She lives alongside the scaredy cat with the resilience of a wet paper bag.

But now yes ~ you see that you have been trying too hard.  That when the waves broil is not the right time then to turn and face the dragon.  That you get to turn your hypervigilant back on that dragon and swim away to a safe place.  That this is the best sort of fight-or-flight, when it is a flight to safety, the safe places that you have still not quite learned to develop within yourself even though you are wrinkly around your eyes and your tits are starting to sag.

But you begin, and you've begun, and you pat yourself on your heart and you say, "It's alright, darlin'.  I'm looking after you," and you remember once again that this is still what you do not yet know to do, the fleeing to safety.

It's only from there that you turn to face the dragon.  It's only from there that you are strong enough to stand so that you can look him in the eye and witness his transformation.  Your running from him, in your trauma (my God, you really can see it now how traumatised you were - how we all are) has made him bigger.  But it's a paradox that you need to sometimes run from him to face him.

And then from that little distance, a few centimetres away from your amygdala, he too is the ocean.  He is the deep at the bottom of dissociation.  But the light shines even in the darkness of the deeps, and even he is able to be welcomed into Rumi's guesthouse for dinner, for acceptance.

Until the next time that I forget, and the next waves that come, and the next time I am caught up again, until the time when the waves aren't quite so high, so that I can remember to swim to safety first.

Listening to:  Meditation and Healing Trauma by Tara Brach

Breathe by Lucid Light

The Price and the Power of Passion

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Friday 27 September 2013

In a culture that’s a little fractured in meaningful shared narratives, sport dishes up stories for us to eat together, and to replay afterwards.  Stories that make us soar or swoop.  Hawthorn’s win over Geelong (and itself) last Friday night to make it to the Grand Final is a prime example.

I came across a brochure in my papers the other day.  From 1996, it’s printed in glossy four-colour and titled Why Hawthorn and Melbourne Should Merge.

Seems a little incongruous now, with the Hawks in the Grand Final on Saturday.  But merger pushes came at a time when there was much less cash in the AFL’s coffers, and where the expansion from a Victorian-based league to a national team was only 10 years old.  The AFL felt that Victoria simply could not sustain its current amount of teams.  Hawthorn, though with a proud on-field history, was in financial trouble, while Melbourne had little on-field success but was doing well financially.  Hawthorn foresaw that on current figures it simply would not survive.  To do so, it would need a membership base of 20,000, a minimum turnover of $12-14 million, a minimum annual profit of $1.5 million and a competitive team that was capable of playing finals and winning flags.  Both Hawthorn and Melbourne’s stats reflected at the time that neither of them met that criteria.  It seemed wise to combine the on-field success of Hawthorn with the off-field financial success of Melbourne and make something viable out of the two.

There was another big narrative game that year, 1996.  As luck would have it, Hawthorn and Melbourne played against each other in the last round.  Jason Dunstall kicked a lazy 10 – and his 100th goal of the season – the Hawks won by a point to give them a chance to play finals, and after the game Chris Langford famously tore off his guernsey and held it over his head.  A week later, Hawthorn would be beaten by Sydney by six points and no one would know whether that was the last they had seen of their club.

It’s easy for us to be critical of the club’s stance 17 years down the line.  But the truth was that at that time there was some complacency amongst the less passionate of the brown and gold supporters at Glenferrie.  While Hawthorn’s membership in 2013 reached 63,353, in 1996 it was just over 9000, before the efforts of Operation Payback brought it up to 12,484.  Essendon’s was almost double that, with more than twice the number of attendances at its games in the ’96 season.

From a financial perspective, Hawthorn obviously thought that there simply wasn’t enough interest left in its supporters to be able to stay viable alongside the big boys like Essendon and Collingwood.  But whatever the figures were, they were overridden by the level of passion on the night of the extraordinary general meeting, when so many Hawthorn members came to vote that they spilled out the doors of the Camberwell Civic Centre and down the road.

It was a night of passion and fuming anger.  Members were so upset that they bayed at an ashen-faced board.  It was scary.  I think Peter Hudson was perhaps the first example I’d ever seen of a live person whose face was as grey-coloured as his suit.

Don Scott got up at that meeting and told people to shut up, and to have some respect for the people making up our board.  He tamed the angry mob.  I don’t know what was scarier that night – Don Scott or the crowd.  In a famous gesture, he held up a prototype of the proposed Melbourne Hawks guernsey.  “What have you got?  A velcro hawk and a Melbourne guernsey,” he said with disgust, ripping off the hawk, removing Hawthorn from existence.

That EGM did more than stay the club’s execution.  The passionate core of the club voted against the merger and it became the catalyst to rouse the supporters who’d become complacent.  Ross Oakley, CEO of the AFL, responded to the vote by saying, “It's all very well for people on the fringes to come out and rant and rave;  they will have to carry the responsibility.”

And they did.  Hawthorn’s membership doubled itself the following year, and the rest is history.  Hawthorn is as professional a unit these days as anywhere else.  The days are long gone when us volunteers would come through the doors of the club at Glenferrie each evening to enter memberships into databases to save the club the cost.  But you will still see volunteers at every game in the beginning rounds of the years selling memberships. In an age where football is so professional, and money plays such a central part, It’s heartening to remember that Hawthorn Football Club would not be here contesting for its eleventh flag on Saturday arvo at the G without us.  Volunteers and members matter.  And while we sit at games gnawing our fingernails because we know that there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome of a game except cheer and will our hearts, what we do off-field make a difference, in ways that simply cannot be reckoned into the bottom line of an Excel spreadsheet.
Pic mine.  CC attribution/share-alike

Silky-Threaded Stories


Thursday 19 September 2013

Perfect weather for cosying up inside.
I miss my doggy Lester.

But it's getting easier.

This morning I saw a black and white doggy in next door's garden.  And then I thought I heard him/her crying, so I went outside to see if I could see what I could see.

When I got down to ground level I couldn't see the dog anywhere.  I stood outside for a while, sexed up to the nines in gumboots and dressing gown, the overhead decking shielding me a little from the rain that's been relentlessly falling for the last day or so.

And my fancy (bless her, she's a doll) began spinning a silky-threaded story.  I remembered how almost a year ago Chook-Chook came into my life in exactly the same way, through next door's fence.  And I began weaving a reincarnationary love story where the dog in the garden next door has been dumped, the way that Chook-Chook was (I think) dumped, because this dog is pregnant.  And the reason she has wended her way to the garden next door is because of the love agreement that Lester and I made last week via the ether, where I informed him that if he wishes to return to the earth again as another dogsbody, that I would be most happy to go another round.  And so we take the dog in, and she has babies.  And one of those babies is Lester-and-another.

I do like that story.

I went inside when I couldn't see the dog, all the better to see with from a heightened vantage point.  And there it was, also taking shelter under next-door's decking.  And then I saw a man, in the sexually arousing fluorescent yellow common to workers in any environment that's not in front of a computer.  And he was calling for Buster.  And from my vantage point I got to see the dog and see the man who couldn't see the dog.  And so I was able to direct the man to his dog.

Who, it turns out, was an old boy who was getting rather blind, and who had got out sometime last night. 

And so the man picked him up, and then turned to me with him in his arms and said, "Thanks a lot.  I'm gonna take him home now."

I think that lovely doggy is very much going to enjoy being inside today, warm and cosy and fed.  Just like me.  I have had a few days in a row of being out and about, seeing lovely inspiring people who feed me intellectually, and eating food I really can't afford to be eating (which of course made it even more enjoyable than usual).  And now, being filled up with those interactions, I am so grateful to be home and pottering about in my beautiful solitude that for the next almost-24 hours, there is simply nothing that would remove me from the house (unless it has something possibly to do with chocolate.  And I have a block of Lindt 85% here, so I really can't see that happening).

Goodnight Puppy


Monday 9 September 2013

Even when the end comes slowly, it still comes by surprise.

Even when you know that there's obviously something wrong - you can't be 14 1/2 doggy years and have lost a quarter of your body weight and have had a possible seizure in the last couple of years and there not be something wrong.  But still, you were okay.  You were old and slowed down, but you still loved to walk, to go in the car, to play with the ball, to cuddle.  Even though a week ago today I was sitting on the couch with you, howling because Helen Razer's cat was put to sleep, and wondering how long it was before it was your turn, I didn't think it would be before the week was out.

I mean,you'd played with the ball that day, right?  And the day after that and the day after that.  We had an episode this week of ball-playing.  And while it wasn't like the ball-playing of your youth, where your exuberance needed abating by a many-times-a-day habit of hitting the ball clear across the yard with a tennis racquet over and over again, you were still able this week to chase it, several times, down the side of a hill, and shriek-bark when you hid it somewhere and then struggled to retrieve it again.  You were still able to walk on Monday evening.

But then Thursday came and with it what we know now was another seizure.  But still, when I debated whether to go to my class on Friday, looking worriedly at your lowered countenance, I was still guessing that you'd attracted another infection, a secondary one from the licking that goes on when your body comes in contact with the wandering jew.  But then Friday night and you still weren't right.  You were spacey and vacant.  You didn't even want to eat the piece of butter chicken I offered you.  Definitely an alarm bell.  And so to the vet, and a 24-hour wait on blood tests hoping that it would be something that could be managed.

But it couldn't, she said.  Things had caught up with you.  You were anaemic to the extent that if a blood transfusion would have given you anything more than a few days, you would have been eligible for it with a couple of marker points to spare.  That was why you'd stopped eating, because it was a choice of eating or breathing, and breathing was starting to prove hard enough.

You were a tough old bugger, though.  Your body had adapted itself to a situation that the vet guessed had been going on for some time.  But then it just couldn't adapt anymore, finally.  As will happen for us all.  But still, still a shock.  Still a big gaping hole where you were.

I slept a vigil on the couch on Saturday night, while you slept on the floor beside me.  Knowing what the morning was going to bring.  Dreading it in a way that you can only dread something that you've been ... well, dreading for years.  Staying in the moment.  Wanting to just be in all the moments that I could with you until then.  And so we shared the night.  When you weren't pacing, that is.  Which was pretty much from 2 am to when you tired at around 8 am.  This sort of behaviour has been going on for quite some time, although you really ramped it up in the last couple of days.  You've been causing a great deal of sleep loss in recent months, and I think now maybe the brain tumour the vet suspects was causing the seizures and the anaemia had something to do with that.  Like an old man with dementia, come 2 am you'd get up and you'd start wandering, not realising that that is the time for sleeping.  I'm sorry for the times when my bad sleep-deprived mood got the better of me.  Of course, now you are gone, the thought that I would do that seems horrifying.  But life is messy, isn't it, and we get sick and struggle and stress, and our eyes cloud over and we find it hard to live every day loving what is in front of us. 

But I'm sorry about getting pissed off at you.  You couldn't help it.  You wouldn't do anything voluntarily to upset me, being of a species that is on a higher evolutionary plane than mine.

I watched you on Saturday night and into Sunday morning.  You were pacing like you were searching for your lost energy.  You were a little confused.  But you could be consoled and pacified by a relentless round of patting.  You would let me pat your chest for a while, and then turn around and let me scratch your back.  On and on, through the night.

I dozed off and on.  At one point I woke up and you were right there, right in my face.  Looking, searching.  You always were a smart doggy.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  Thank you for that.

When you finally left us at 10.40 on Sunday morning, there were five people crowded into the vet's surgery.  That shows what sort of a dog you were.  You had a sort of quiet dignity about you, as if you were thinking about things.  You were always top dog no matter what group of dogs you were in.  The sort of innate authority that would be nice to be seen in our new Prime Minister.  You were a dog who changed us.  You did.  Like your granddaddy said, you were the one who taught us the lessons.
Oh, fuck, this hurts an awful lot.  But still, it was worth it.  And it was easy to let you go in the end because it's not like it is when you're a bounding energetic dog of four, or eight, or ten, full of vigour, where the thought of having you put to sleep is ridiculous.  The only thing that could override the dread of seeing you slip away was the desire to end your suffering.

It was easy to let you go.  It's proving a little more difficult to keep you let go.

Truly ruly, Mr Naughty, while I dozed on Saturday night, wishing for an end to this so that I could sleep, so that it would be over, but wanting it never to end, I was thinking about how I felt about us, Once in a Lifetime Dog.  And I thought that though I can't know for certain, I've got an idea that the pleasure and the love were shared equally between us.  But the honour ~ that has been all mine.

Goodnight my Puppy.  Thanks for walking the road with me for 13 1/2 years.

How Well Do You Know Melbourne?


Wednesday 4 September 2013

Come here to play my guessing game - can you guess these seven locations in Melbourne?

(And, if you like my article, please consider "liking" it.  Thank you).

Bad Sector

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Monday 2 September 2013

The effort in one end is
a trickle out the other end
through rusty pipes.

You are tired
to your marrow and
to the centre of your teeth
of being an example of
a bad return on investment.