Weekend? What weekend? Oh, you mean the last two days? The ones that normal people, with normal Monday to Friday jobs spend doing things like the weekly shopping, mowing the lawn, washing the car and getting drunk? THAT weekend? Oh, I spent those days doing stuff for the accountant, you know, updating spreadsheets, downloading data from the bank, checking and cross-checking everything, filling in gaps, making sure everything balances and adds up, that kind of thing. And I really don’t enjoy doing it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the things in life that I truly loathe doing. I get a small satisfaction from seeing everything add up and reflect what’s on the bank statement, but that’s just the OCD side of me getting a hit of Dopamine and going on a restrained little gambol of joy around the living room. I spent my weekend doing the accounts so that I could have this week free and clear, happy in the knowledge that all of the detested bookkeeping work is completed for another year. Now THAT is cause for celebration. I felt so good when I finally not only sent off last year’s info to the accountant but I also updated the current year’s info to match how he’d suggested I do it. I am on top of my game! Watch me and turn green with envy. I am where everyone wants to be, I have it handled, it’s all done, sorted, completed and put away. I am Organised, the Queen of the Annual Accounts. I went to bed last night feeling incredibly smug and proud of my achievement.
Today started beautifully: a nice breakfast with John, a long chat about what we’re creating this year, some writing followed by a trip to the gym. I called into a café after my gym session to finish off my article (not this one), opened up my laptop and heard the DING of new mail arriving. It was from my accountant. Secure in the knowledge that I was about to receive high praise from him about how fabulously awesome my spreadsheets were and how meticulous and accurate I’d been with my calculations, I couldn’t wait to open up the email to receive my well-deserved adulation.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was not one word of acknowledgement. Instead, there was an unflatteringly long list containing SEVENTEEN changes he wants (needs) me to make to the spreadsheet that I thought was the height of perfection. Seventeen. My smugness lay shattered to smithereens in among the fragments of the towering pride in my work. It was a veritable trashing of all the hard work I’d put in over the weekend, pointing out that, in actual fact, I have bugger all to be smug about because I got the entire thing completely ***ing wrong. He’s not even convinced that I got the opening balances right.
My accountant is, I have to say, a lovely guy and he doesn’t deserve all the things I’ve said about him in the privacy of my own head or the nasty things that I’ve been fantasising will befall him over the next few days. He is a genuinely nice guy who’s only trying to help and whose OCD is quite obviously in a totally different league to mine.
All this means that the pleasure of putting fingers to keyboard and creating literary masterpieces is denied to me for probably another week or so. He sent me a second email not long after I closed the first and began inventing swear words to describe him. I haven’t had the courage to open that one yet. I need to get me a strong, sweet tea (and maybe a box of tissues) before I go anywhere near the damn thing.
I’m in this bizarre space where I’m flitting between pride, excitement, severe worry and sleepless nights. And we’re nowhere close to the time of The Event.
Last November, Keeley asked if she could go on exchange with school this year. “Sure!” says I, keen for her to spread her wings and experience the world in all its diverse glory, “Where do you want to go?”
“Somewhere warm,” says Keeley, who’s a cold-blooded creature like myself, “So I’m thinking maybe Fiji or… what about Colombia?”
Okay, Colombia is a bit left field, I didn’t expect that. Fiji I can understand, it’s close to Australia, she’s been there before and she likes it. England I’d expect, France definitely, possibly Canada, but Colombia? That's an interesting choice. Why Colombia?
“Don’t you remember?” she said, “My friend, Mariana, was on exchange from Colombia in Term 1. I really like her so maybe I could go there.”
I wasn’t entirely sure how to react to that. “Okay, so, liking someone from the country is one reason to decide to go there. I’m sure there are other reasons.”
I was a little hesitant about Colombia to be honest, but drug lords and the resulting media hype notwithstanding, I couldn’t think of any valid reason why Colombia was a bad choice. I mean, I’m sure most of the population of Colombia are law-abiding citizens who have nothing to do with any drug cartels nor are they involved with any other inhumane or illegal activity. Logic dictates that has to be the case, right? As an Australian with the majority of my family and many of my friends living on the other side of the world, I’m well used to people making vast assumptions about Australia and then coming to bizarre erroneous conclusions. “I’m never going to Australia,” says one niece, “There’s too many spiders and other creepy crawlies there. I might get bitten by something and die!” I mean, okay, yes, nine of the top ten most poisonous creatures in the world live here, and yes, 90% of the country is desert, and I’ll admit that a number of people get killed by Great White sharks every year, and yes, you do have to check under the toilet seat for red back spiders, and no, you can’t go into the very blue, warm and inviting waters round the entire top half of the country because of the jellyfish, stonefish, lionfish, sharks and crocodiles. But, you know, 25 million of us live here and most of us are okay. Darwin’s Law takes care of the stupid ones.
On top of that, as an Australian, I can’t point an accusing finger at any other country about their criminals, because here in Australia, we love our crims! We revere them, laud them, build statues to them and name landmarks after them. Every schoolkid in Australia learns all about Ned Kelly, for example. For any non-Aussies reading this, Ned Kelly was from a family of Irish immigrants. He and his brothers decided that stealing things from other people would make life a little easier for their family. Knowing that the authorities wouldn’t agree with them, not to mention the people they were stealing from, Ned came up with this great idea of sticking an iron bucket on his head to prevent himself from being shot in the inevitable final shoot-out with the police. He got caught (shot) and his final words before being hanged can be found on many a bogan’s car these days: “Such is life”.
Ned Kelly isn’t the only bushranger known to Australian schoolkids, by the way. Just to make sure anyone who isn’t from rural Victoria (Ned’s home) doesn’t feel left out, our Primary schoolchildren do projects on the most famous of the bushrangers from their local area, too (“bushranger” is an Australian euphemism for “19th century Australian criminal”). In Armidale, it’s a guy called Captain Thunderbolt, who has a road and various other landmarks named after him. In Perth, it was a guy called Moondyne Joe.
I come from a country whose main source of migrants for many years was criminals. While I may have understandable parental concerns about Keeley going to a place that I’ve never been to or experienced, I have zero moral grounds to object to the trip. I sighed. “Okay, yes, go for it.”
The original plan was for the Colombian student to come to Australia in Term 2 and for Keeley to visit Colombia in Term 3, however, the two girls got chatting and decided they didn’t want to wait that long. A couple of days before Christmas, they announced that they’d much prefer it if Isabella came over here in Term 1 and Keeley went to Colombia in Term 2. Isabella’s mum and I donned our capes and shiny shorts and went into full-on Supermum mode. Visas were gained, arrangements were made, flights were booked and before we could blink, it was time to go and pick Isa up from the airport.
Armidale airport. Not the Gold Coast airport, the one that's 20kms from our house. Armidale airport, the one that's 520kms from our house.
It slowly dawned on me that in all the rush to get everything sorted, I didn’t make it clear just how far away from school we live. Isabella’s mum knew Keeley was a boarder but she understandably assumed that we lived an hour or so from school, which would be the norm for most countries. But this is Australia, where there’s nothing for thousands of kilometres and it’s not unusual to drive for 6, 10 or 18 hours to get somewhere. So, Isabella was booked to fly into and out of Armidale and Expedia, being the kind of company that they are, wouldn’t allow any changes to be made to the flights. Gits.
The first weekend back at school involves a trip to the coast for the boarders. To meet new friends, help new students settle in, and allow everyone to catch up with their old friends after the summer holidays. It turns out that Isabella isn’t the only exchange student at TAS this term.
“Hi Mum! How are you?!!!” I know that when I get this kind of greeting in this tone of voice from Keeley, she has something to ask of me, something that I may not like very much, something that she’s very attached to getting and is prepared to put a lot of effort into ensuring that she gets it. Consequently, I was quite wary, even a little reserved in my response: “Yes, good. What is it? How’s the weekend going?”
“Oh, nothing, everything's great, really great!! We’re having an amazing time!! We’ve had so much fun!!!”
“Uh-huh.” I’m waiting for the punchline. I know it’s going to come, I’m just trying to figure out what it is. Whenever Keely puts that many exclamation marks into her sentences, I know that it’s likely to cost me a lot of money, a fair bit of time and probably hours of effort. Plus, there’s usually some persuading of her dad involved, too, because he’s generally reluctant to go along with these bright ideas of Keeley’s.
“You know how Isa is on exchange from Colombia?!!” she exclaimed, “Well, there’s another girl here from PERU!! Isn’t that AMAZING?!!”
I agreed, non-committally, that was pretty amazing that two girls from South America were both over on exchange at the same time. I was beginning to see where this might be heading and if it was going in that direction, John was not going to be happy at all.
“I know, right?!!! It’s so cool, isn’t it?!! But, it’s so sad because Peru (yes, Keeley did call her Peru) doesn’t have anyone to exchange with! The poor thing is coming over here and there’s no one to go and visit her! So, I was thinking…”
Oh, here we go, I thought to myself. I had a vague idea of where this was going, and I wasn’t going to ease it along the way.
There was a nervous little pause while Keeley cleared her throat before continuing, “So, I was thinking, right? Maybe, what if… I went to Peru as well as Colombia?!! Isn’t that a great idea?!! That means that I’ll have the same time in South America as Isa gets in Australia! It’s just split between two schools! And it’s not that far from Bogota to Lima, I can just hop on the plane!!! Wouldn’t that be cool?!!”
Right. So, my fifteen-year old daughter not only wants my blessing to go to Colombia, she now also wants to travel from Colombia to Peru. By herself. I need to start on the Valium right now so that I’m fully prepared and supported well before it comes time for her to leave on this Grand Voyage of hers, and I’m definitely going to need them before I run this past her father. I’ll need to be really chilled before I speak to him about this one.
The thing was, the three girls had it all planned before Keeley even got on the phone to me. I swear, that child should head for a career as a defence barrister or maybe even a politician. Why she isn’t on the school debating team, I don’t know but they’re missing out on an incredibly resourceful raconteur. After getting my rather vague and bemused semi-approval, they went in to see the lady at school who’s responsible for organising exchanges, and in her words in the email she sent to the schools in South America, “The three girls have certainly hatched a plan”. By Monday afternoon, the whole thing was organised: In mid-April, Keeley will go to Colombia for 5 or 6 weeks, then head over to Peru for another 5 weeks or so.
The only problem was, John still didn’t know anything about it.
I filled him in on the details about the student having no one to exchange with and Keeley wanting to “hop on the plane” to Lima instead of coming back here. John chuckled indulgently, “She’s got some cheek! I don’t know where she gets these ideas from, honestly! Peru. I ask you.” Then he stopped laughing and turned to me, “You haven’t told her she can, have you?”
Ryan sent me a video to watch the other day by a guy called Simon Sinek, who’s talking about how Millennials are struggling with forming relationships, having rewarding careers and life in general. I shared the video (and I’ve put the link at the bottom of this post) with the intention of putting up this post to go with it. unfortunately, I got sidetracked. Several days later, I’m picking up where I left off. Well, kind of. I also had several conversations about the video with Ryan and my Uncle and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to get their views on the video, too: three generations of commentary.
At the start of the video, I was intrigued; Simon makes several great points. But I don’t agree with his ultimate point at all, because he’s saying that Millennials are the way they are and it’s not their fault, poor them; they’re victims of poor parenting and the narcissism of today’s technological lifestyle.
Excuse me? Millennials are the way they are and it’s up to them to take responsibility for it, look at how things are, take what works and move beyond what doesn’t work. That’s the way it is for all of us. That’s the way it has been since time immemorial. It’s called growth, development, maturity.
Simon points out that companies need to support their employees and bring out the best in them, and right now that’s not happening. The poor Millennials want to make a difference in the world and because they’ve grown up with this need for instant gratification, they’re getting disillusioned and moving from job to job. Employers need to change the way they do things to stop that. Employers definitely do need to change. Some of them have an appalling culture that affects not just the poor millennials but every other employee, too. We’re all human, we all want to make a difference in the world, but as time goes on and the world changes and grows, we’ve become more aware that making a difference is a basic human driver. We’ve moved away from mere survival to something more. This can be said about every company towards every employee. When a company’s main focus is the dollar, when it’s all about efficiency and profit and production, something needs to change. It’s no longer a sustainable business model. A successful business today needs to be about the people within the company, not the product. The people are the true resource, not the product.
Each generation has its own hurdles to overcome. If I look back at my grandmother’s parenting technique, “Bring me that brush so I can hit you with it” will never form a part of my child-rearing armoury. But my Granny was rearing her children to the best of her ability, in the way that she felt was appropriate at the time. She wanted her kids to do well, she wanted them to succeed, she did her best. Did my parents have crap to deal with as a result of that? They sure did? Do I have stuff that I need to deal with because of things that my parents did? I sure do. We all do. My parents did their best, my grandparents did their best, I did my best, AND WE’RE STILL GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES. It’s called growth, learning, development, maturity, wisdom. It’s called being human.
On the whole, parents ALWAYS try to do the best they can for their kids, it’s an inbuilt survival mechanism, it’s difficult to avoid. Parents are also people. They’re growing, learning, making mistakes. Parents are – shock, horror - fallible. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing most of the time, they make it up as they go along. There could never be a manual for parenting but we’re all so individual. Our personalities and unique experiences mean that each of us will deal with every situation in a slightly different way. We have to learn for ourselves. That’s called LIVING. That’s what being a human is all about: learning, growing, maturing, becoming wiser.
The Millennial generation has it no harder or easier than any other generation, their experiences are simply different. The outcome of that particular style of parenting is different to previous generations. Their lifestyle is different to any other generation. The expectations that they have from life are different. And conversely, every older generation since the year dot has commented that the younger generation don’t know how easy they’ve got it and that they don’t know how the world will survive when they younger generation take over.
This is all GREAT news, because it means that as a human race, we’re growing and developing. We tried something, maybe it didn’t work as well as we wanted it to and now it’s time to take whatever learnings we need to take from it, integrate them and grow.
But the overall feel of the video, intentional or not, was that of “oh, the poor millennials” like they’re somehow weak, powerless, victims who have zero control over what happens to them and how they’re so hard done by and how they’ve got so much to overcome. That is not my belief. My belief is that these generations are the strongest we’ve produced yet. They may have different problems to overcome, problems that haven’t been seen before in the history of mankind, but so has every generation before them. It’s all balanced: the size of the problems/experiences/expectations I believe is balanced out by the size of the opportunities and potential rewards.
This generation is far from powerless and they’re definitely not victims. Or at least, they can be if they want to be, the same as everyone else, and maybe they have the power to be far more victimised and powerless if they want to be. It’s a choice. My feeling is that they’re the best generation humanity has produced yet, and the following generations will continue to improve. Yes, they face different challenges to me or my ancestors, but they’re more than capable of dealing with them. And yes, the older generations need to change and grow and adapt in a way that gives the younger generations the best foundation they can have for the future. That’s how it’s supposed to go… in a perfect world. We’re becoming more and more aware of what we need to do to make things work best; we’ll get there.
Ryan’s commentary on the video:
There are, apparently, two schools of thought:
In the first, the idea is that, originally, humanity was at its peak, morally and emotionally. Since then, with the invention of more and more weapons and unnecessary technological clutter, we have come steadily further and further away from that basic state of human nature. People point to heroic eddas, or classical epics, and claim that because the people in those were unquestionably heroic, we have definitely come downhill from there. Now, instead of lying around being tragically moral, we just sit on our phones and ignore the more general problems facing our species.
In the second, however, the idea is that as we develop more and more advanced technology, moving further away from the necessity to spend the entirety of our days finding food or shelter or other such banal trivia, we come to a state in which we can develop our morality and emotion consciously. Being rid of the superficial, we can focus on what it really means to be human.
So: either we were better in the good old days, or we're getting better with every passing day. Sound familiar? Is the glass of cognitive understanding half empty, or half full? Do Millennials really contribute anything to the world, or were things better before the invention of the internet?
I saw a video a couple of days ago, and promptly sent it to my mum, who's generally interested in these kinds of things. In it, a speaker 'diagnoses' why Millennials have such different expectations in the workplace. His reasoning was to enable the older employers to understand why Millennials want standing desks, or to have their phones on them at all times, or to - and I'm not exaggerating - "make a difference in the world".
[Quick Point: I'm a Millennial, according to most measurements on the topic. I grew up when Facebook was in its infancy, I watched the internet grow into what it is today, and the changes that it made impacted on how I developed as a person. Just so you know: it might make my viewpoint different to yours.]
This speaker said that the differences between the newer generation and the older are caused by four distinct effects: bad parenting, changing technology, ingrained impatience and a communication-filled environment. And while, as he goes through the list, he makes a few good points about how we were raised differently and how technology has impacted on the way that we interact with the world, in the end I found that I didn't really agree with him. For two reasons.
Firstly: all of this assumes that our generation is different to the one before. "Millennials are so entitled." "Millennials are impatient." "Millennials don't know how good they've got it." Should I bring everyone's attention to the 60s? At what point do people think that the fact that technology has changed mean that the people who grew up with it are somehow worse for having different expectations about how life should be lived? Where does the change occur in a person, going from "technology is great" to "technology is ruining young people"? Because I will guarantee: the people who complain about iPhones and Apps are the same people who defended the rise of mobile phones.
Secondly: we shouldn't be tiptoeing around the fact that young people act differently to old people. Young people have their phones ringing, and if we don't like it, it's up to us to bring it up. It always takes a while for society to develop an etiquette about new technology, and in the last ten years we've gone from "don't speak to strangers on the internet" to "set up a date with a random person over an App based on nothing but a picture and a short paragraph". Sure, young people may be rude in the eyes of old people, but old people are behind the times to young people.
And that is the way that it has ALWAYS been.
My point is that, in the end, people are all the same. Every generation since the dawn of time has complained about being sandwiched between a generation that doesn't move with the times and a generation that moves too quickly.
We weren't any better before, and we won't be any better in the future. But maybe we can get rid of the idea that our generation is better than the others.
I’ll add my Uncle’s commentary as soon as I can.
I went to the laundry twice on holiday. Hoping to forestall at least some of the post-holiday pile of washing. But no matter how hard I try, no matter what hopeful strategies I put in place, a few hours after we’ve arrived back home, my laundry looks like a volcano that’s spewing smelly, slightly damp, filthy clothes, whose aroma indicates that new life is beginning to burgeon within its mass.
I met a lovely young woman on holiday recently, who proudly announced to me that she does an average of five loads of washing a week. FIVE! Most of her friends have two loads of washing a week maximum, but she has five. I think she mistook my stunned silence for admiration at the amount of washing she produces, and I was definitely admiring, but not in the way she thought, just in a more wistful, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful kind of way. Five loads of washing A WEEK! It’s unimaginable. Three days of hard work and approximately 18 loads of washing later, I got to the bottom of this weeks’ pongy post-holiday volcano.
I was a little cross with my husband because he had 14 pairs of shorts in that pile of washing when I’d specifically asked him whether he had any washing when I did the laundry three days before we left Bali and he said no, he didn’t. He was probably trying not to give me any work while I was on holiday, but it’s a Catch-22 situation: I either work a little on holiday or I work even more when we get home.
The largest laundry volcano in my family’s history was after a 2-week holiday over Christmas and New Year, with 4 young children in a resort that didn’t have any laundry facilities. That time, I had 33 loads of washing. That is the Crowning Glory in my long and laborious history of Laundry Tasks. It took 5 or 6 days of me and the washing machine working hard for 18 hours a day to clear that pile.
Apparently, when Miele test their washing machines and guarantee them for 20 years, they base it on my friend’s five loads of washing a week. Or less. The Miele repair guy confirmed that I’d gone past that number in 4 years. My average for washing (the repair man kindly worked out) was between 25 & 30 loads a week. That’s 1,300 – 1,500 loads a year. Which means that, making allowances for the number of children increasing over the years, since Jamie was born, I’ve probably done somewhere close to thirty thousand loads of washing.
Now, bear with me here while I extrapolate a little; if each load takes an average of 20 minutes to sort, put in the washer, hang out or put in the dryer, fold and put away (I’m not even going to look at the ironing here), that means that I’ve spent 375 DAYS - as in 24 hour days – more than a YEAR – doing nothing but laundry. 375 full days! Jesus Christ. No wonder I feel like time is slipping away from me and I have no idea where it’s gone. Now I know: it’s that bloody washing volcano that’s continuously erupting and reproducing in my laundry.
PS I was just looking for a picture to go with this article and I came across numerous posts about how to clear your laundry pile. Really? Do people actually need to be told how to do the laundry? And of course the laundry isn’t completed till it’s dried, ironed, folded and put away. OF COURSE it isn’t. Do people actually leave piles of laundry around, waiting to be folded or ironed? That is a sure-fire way to overwhelm, people. Just put the washing away already. If you want any tips on how to stay organised, message me, I have an abundance of experience in this area!
PPS My Miele washing machine lasted for 12 years before it finally went to the big scrapheap in the sky. Actually, it was still working but I got a new one (another Miele) because I felt that it had done its job and it was due a well-deserved rest/retirement.
One of the wonderful things about living in Perth is the Fremantle Doctor. Every afternoon… actually, I’ll rephrase that, MOST afternoons he comes to visit the sweltering suburbs, bringing relief in the form of what the Sand Gropers (Western Australians) call “a light breeze”. It quickly became blatantly obvious that my idea of a “light breeze” is completely different to that of a Western Australians’. Personally, I’d describe the Fremantle Doctor as anything from a brisk wind to a howling gale, but it’s just an opinion.
Since we lived on the escarpment overlooking Perth, we received the full benefit of the doctor almost every afternoon. The only days the doctor doesn’t do his rounds are during a week in February when, like every other doctor in Australia, he decided to leave his patients to their own devices and go on holiday. Unlike most other doctors in Australia, though, the Fremantle doctor only takes a weeks’ holiday. Most specialists seem to leave their patients for six weeks.
Unfortunately, the Fremantle Doctor’s holidays coincide with the hottest summer temperatures and I can only conclude that the incessant 45 degree daily highs finally get the better of him and (heat) exhaustion force him to take a short break, leaving the rest of us to sizzle and suffer in the scorching heat.
We took a drive out to a place called Toodyay on one of these summer days, comfortably – and more importantly, coolly - ensconced in our air-conditioned four wheel drive, as we entered town, we passed the local outdoor swimming pool. It was obviously the easiest and cheapest way for the local populace to keep cool because I swear that the entire town was in that pool. It looked like the crowd from a Manchester United game had been plucked from the packed stands at Old Trafford and dropped in this pool, en masse. No one was more than an arms’ length from their watery neighbour in any direction. The temperature in that pool must have been hot enough for a warming winter bath.
Over here on the eastern seaboard of the country, we don’t have the pleasure of the Fremantle Doctor. What we get instead are out-of-the-blue squalls. John & I are fortunate/misfortunate enough to live across the road from our local Bowling Club. Neither of us bowls but that doesn’t stop us, and most of our neighbours, from enjoying the noisy hospitality available in the club house. The Club House being an old-fashioned, fibro shed that’s been painted and had a couple of air con units put in there so it’s at least bearable in the summer months.
We’d gone across to the club with some of the neighbours for a pre-Christmas drink and were happily sitting in the covered area outside, vaguely wondering whether we should risk having one of the sausages from the Christmas barbie stand that the club had set up that afternoon, when all of a sudden, there was a boom and the wind hit us! The sausages, bread, napkins, plates and ketchup went sailing past us and plastic chairs literally flew the full length of the bowling green without ever touching the ground. People ran to help the guys on the barbecue to rescue the food and furniture and we all took shelter as the heavens opened and the rain came belting down like a waterfall. I quickly called the girls to place a bucket under the leaky roof in the dining room (that’s another story) and we went inside to finish our evening.
I really must be getting old because I spent most of the rest of the evening lip reading. The fibro walls of the club house, coupled with a tin roof and zero noise insulation, mean that as the evenings go on and the drink starts to go to people’s heads, there is no protection or dampening of the racket that a group of semi-inebriated people make. It is LOUD in there. I couldn’t hear a thing. I spent an exhausting evening trying to hear enough of people’s conversations so that I could fill in the gaps and understand what they were saying. Hopefully. I’m sure I got it wrong once or twice, judging from the weird looks the others gave me.
What I didn’t consider during that entire evening was how our brand new Gazebo had fared in the storm. We bought it a couple of weeks ago, somewhere to shelter when we’re in the pool area, a nice place to have an evening drink, a bit of shade when we’ve had enough sun. It’s a big thing and John half-filled the legs with ricks because we don’t want to permanently fix it to the tiles. When we got home that evening, the girls could hardly wait to show us what the storm did. The bucket under the leak was half full of water, but the best bit was in the pool. The Gazebo was in the pool. Still intact, curtains still on, rocks still in the legs, upside down in the pool area.
We spent several hours of the following day underwater, unhooking curtains and covers, unscrewing fixings and getting rocks from the bottom of the pool.
I’m not talking about leaving your lunch behind when you head off for school or work here, I’m talking about vomiting. Puking. Barfing. Chundering. Praying to the Porcelain God. Regurgitating. Spewing. Upchucking. Throwing Up. Doing the technicolour yawn.
I have been blessed with a child who can do all of these things WITH STYLE. The girl has class. She can hit a moving target at three paces with a steady stream of highly toxic, foul smelling, stomach contents, the stench of which no washing machine or cleaning compound has ever been able to remove. This girl is a Master Hurler. Literally. She makes the kid in the exorcist look exactly like what she is: a kid. A mere novice in apprenticeship to renowned Masters of the high art of expelling one’s lunch with velocity.
I was under the happy illusion when Ryan was young that I knew all about projectile vomiting. As a very young baby, I’d have a Catching Cloth ready and waiting, optimum placement about two feet directly opposite his face, as I sat him up, ready to catch the excess contents of his stomach. I could never figure out whether he was just greedy and didn’t know when to stop eating or whether he actually had a problem swallowing his milk. He put on weight and he seemed happy, even the barfing didn’t bother him, so I just left him.
When he was about two weeks old, I went into Monsoon to buy a dress for a works Christmas dinner that we were going to. Ryan was screaming as I tried the dress on in the shop, and, like a moron, I picked him up to comfort him, at which point he vomited down the back of the dress, completely removing the dye from the fabric where the puke touched it. Needless to say, I had to buy the dress.
So, when Kira came along, a few smelly years later, I thought I knew all about baby puke. The boys had their fair share of tummy bugs, too, so even toddler and young child puking was old hat by then. Oh, the bliss of the ignorant.
Kira’s keen to remind me of the humiliation she suffered at my hands when she was sick one time at the age of about 8 or 9. We were in the car, having dropped the boys off at school. Kira wasn’t well but I couldn’t leave her at home by herself, so I popped her in the car in her nightie. As we were driving past chapel at school, in front of the senior school, Kira announced that she was going to be sick. I was well used to the split second warning that kids seem to think is enough time for their parents to help stop them be sick or get them to a puke-safe space, so oblivious to the long line of parents in their cars behind me, I slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car and ran round to the passenger side, screaming, “Get out of the car! Now! Get out of the car!” I all but dragged Kira from her car seat and just about managed the save my car from stinking of puke for the next three years anytime it got even slightly warm inside, and since we live in Australia, that’s pretty much every day. Poor Kira was standing there, in her nightie, vomiting her guts up in full view of the 600 or so boys heading in for their days’ education. They, of course, thought it was great viewing and yelled encouragement for Kira to see how far she could get the cascade of stomach contents to go.
As she got older, Kira decided that merely vomiting wasn’t enough, after all, anyone could vomit. So, Kira added another dimension to it: vomit and then pass out. She was at breakfast one day in the boarding house and told the boarding mother that she didn’t feel well. Unaware of Kira’s propensity for stylish spewing, the boarding mother told Kira to finish her breakfast and then go and see Sister if she still didn’t feel well. Kira took another mouthful of breakfast and vomited all over the table, the other seven people and their breakfasts. Then she passed out. It was all that effort, see?
It was the start of the following school year and the new art block was finished. Kira’s class had their first lesson in the new classrooms, but Kira wasn’t feeling too good. She put her hand up to tell the teacher, but the teacher just told her to go and see Sister after class. Again, the bliss of the ignorant. Unfortunately, the proud new occupier of a brand new classroom was about to find out exactly what happens when Kira says she “doesn’t feel well”. Not ten seconds later, Kira spews forth and “incredible amount” (the teachers’ words) of vomit all over the new desks, chairs, floor, other students, the work that was on the desks, everyone’s shoes, and then passes out and falls off the chair onto the floor.
See what I mean? Style. The girl has style. I was called in to school to pick her up and because she was still feeling very wobbly from all that effort, I pushed her to the car in a wheelchair. Mobile phones are great. By the end of the day, the stories whizzing round the kids had gone from “Kira’s sick” through “she fell over and hurt herself” to “She’s got a broken leg! I saw them wheel her past to the ambulance!”
The crowning glory in this foul, smelly story happened when she was about six years old. We landed in Sydney after a holiday and for some reason known only to himself, John decided to put us all in a backpackers’ bus to take us to the five star hotel in Darling Harbour where we were staying. It was as hot as Hades outside and even hotter in the van. There was no air con, we were in the rush hour traffic, stopping and starting and lurching around, we couldn’t open the windows because of the fumes from the other cars and I was sitting on the back seat with Kira, wishing all sorts of slow, painful deaths would rain down on my idiot husband. The longer the journey went on, the greener Kira got. I grabbed the sand toys and wedged the biggest bucket I could find between the poor kids’ knees, all while telling my husband what I thought of his shite idea.
As soon as we pulled up at the hotel, I jumped out of the van, telling the others to get Kira out and into the shade. I wanted to check in as quickly as I could and get her into a cool bath in a cool room. I was trying to hurry the reception staff along, explaining the situation to them, when a tap came on my shoulder.
“Mum!” Jamie said
“Not now! Give me a minute, I’m almost done.”
Jamie was insistent, “Mum, Mum, you really need to look!”
I sighed impatiently, wondering what the hell it was that John couldn’t handle this time, and turned to look on a scene indelibly etched into my memory forever. This five star hotel had a huge, gorgeous, glass revolving door with brass fittings, lovingly kept clean and shiny at all times by the porters and concierge, and Kira had projectile vomited right into it. There was puke from the bottom to the top of this door, it had splattered over the glass surrounds and was happily spraying its way both into and out of the hotel with every rotation of the door, covering the floor, several guests and the door staff.
It’s Christmas, the time of year when all my angst and anxieties about money are dusted off, dragged into the spotlight, dressed up in tinsel and baubles, and sprinkled with glitter. I buy too many presents for too many people who don’t really matter to me, there’s always those little (or not so little) things I get for our loved ones even when I’ve already bought all the presents that I planned for them, I buy in enough food and drink to end a small famine and we all spend the next week (or two) eating leftovers. As time goes on and the preparations for the Big Day get more frantic, I grow more anxious and stressed, and there’s this underlying feeling of overwhelming guilt and fear lurking just beneath the surface of my seasonal cheer, that I desperately try to pretend isn’t happening.
I’m very lucky in one way because I don’t have to do the whole invite-people-round-that-you-don’t-get-on-with-but-you-have-to-because-it’s-Christmas thing. We live in Australia, a long way from most of our family members, and people tend to stay with their families or go away for the holidays over here. I am heartily glad that I don’t have to invite people round that I wouldn’t normally see, just because it’s Christmas. I’ve never been much of a one for doing what people say I ought to anyway, but inviting people that I don’t get on with, just because it’s Christmas, seems like a really stupid idea. Like, I’m not stressed enough with all the overspending and preparations and overeating that I’m doing, without having some arsehole come in and irritate the crap out of me like they do every time I see them? I don’t think so. I’m not going to put myself through that, regardless of who they are. I’m not going to invite someone over that I don’t like just because they’re family or attached to someone else that I do want to invite. It’s not going to happen. There are any number of horror stories about ‘Uncle so-and-so’ or ‘our xxx’s girlfriend’ whose idea of Christmas cheer doesn’t involve goodwill to all men in general and the Christmas party host in particular.
To help alleviate the stress of all this goodwill and cheer (not to mention overindulgence and overspending), I head for the Boxing Day sales, happy in the knowledge that since I’m buying things at a massive markdown - a total bargain and well below the retail value of the item - THIS spending doesn’t affect my bank balance at all. I have a friend who is convinced that buying bargains only affects her bank balance if she buys more than one of them because when you buy something in a sale, you actually SAVE money, therefore the money stays in your account. There is some kind of weird logic in there somewhere.
This year, though, after decades of this pre- and post-Christmas trauma, I decided that maybe I could do things a little differently (sometimes I’m a slow learner), so I made a conscious effort not to overdo things. I’ve spent decades going through the cycle of overspending on presents, buying too many people too many things, overdoing the food (which I do whether it’s Christmas or not), and spending the whole Christmas period (and most of January and some of February) feeling depressed, stressed, guilty and ashamed, not enjoying myself, and each and every year, I swear that I’ll never do it again. Till it comes to the following year and then, in an effort to make sure the kids enjoy themselves and have an ever better (and bigger) Christmas than the previous year. It’s exhausting. And depressing. And not much fun.
I see all of these posts about how people should stop spending money, about how this isn’t what Christmas is about, even one which was talking about not buying your own kids expensive things because other people couldn’t afford to buy their kids those things, which is like saying ‘don’t eat because someone else is going hungry’. I hate that kind of thing, the whole scarcity-there-isn’t-enough-to-go-around, rich-people-are-greedy-and-immoral stuff and the excuse it gives people to be completely judgemental and hypocritical. I say “hypocritical” because pretty much every person that makes that kind of statement wouldn’t be at all upset if they won the lottery.
Then this article that I wrote on Christmas Eve last year appeared as a memory in my newsfeed:
I put up a post [about the money we’ve created doing property developing] last night and someone commented “Why do you need so much money???”
It’s not about the money. It never is. I don’t “need so much” money, I want to live a life of freedom and choice. Money gives me that freedom and choice. It’s as simple as that.
“Well,” I can hear some people say, “I don’t want that much, I’m happy with what I’ve got, maybe a little bit more would be nice.”
There are very few people in the world for whom that statement is really true. Most people who say that are doing one of two things: they’re either trying to take some perceived moral high ground to prove that they’re above this whole ‘materialistic thing’ and they don’t need any money. And/or they have self-worth issues. Or maybe both. Actually, most of the time, it’s both. I know that from personal experience: I spent many years justifying why I didn’t want/need any more than what I had until I finally got honest with myself and asked myself, truly, if there were no limitations, would I want more? And once I’d moved beyond the initial, ‘ok, if I won the lottery, I’d buy… and go to… and do… and take them to…’ and gotten down to the deep stuff, I realised that the experience that I wanted in my life is one of freedom and choice.
It’s not about the money. It’s about something else: the freedom to do whatever I want to do and to choose how to do it. It’s about being (feeling) unlimited. Being rich and building a business/property empire is about expanding and growing, and giving myself every opportunity to learn and explore. I want to do more than work a job, save money in order to do things, and live a steady, careful life. I want to be carefree, to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I want to live a life of unlimited abundance. I’m not going to be able to do any of those things unless I can create money easily and effortlessly, not because there’s something special about money – there isn’t – but because money provides the access to what that freedom and choice.
As a society, though, we believe that money is difficult to get and having lots of money has all sorts of negative connotations attached to it, as though money itself somehow more and more morally reprehensible as the amount of money increases. Mind you, to some people, wanting lots of ANYTHING is morally reprehensible because they believe there’s a shortage of absolutely everything (personally, I don’t like being around that kind of people. It’s probably very judgemental and discriminatory of me, but I find they tend to be unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives and they tend to want to spread their misery around). People who want lots of money are seen as greedy and selfish, money itself is seen as being tarnished, evil even, but if we can move beyond that to the point where we’ve released all of those beliefs, restrictions and boundaries to create money freely and effortlessly, then everything else falls into place that much more easily.
It’s not about the money. It’s about moving my life forwards. If I can create as much money as I like, particularly in the face of so much criticism and negative judgement, then I can create anything. It’s the biggest block I can move beyond and it’s the one that stands between me and freedom, choice and abundance.
Almost everyone who says they’re happy with where they are, and they don’t need much, also dream of winning the lottery. Hmm. Interesting.
When I finished reading the article, I had another think about what it is that really irritates and depresses me about the whole Christmas thing. It isn’t the actual spending or giving or overdoing or anything like that. It’s because I feel like I’m compelled to do things that, if I stopped and thought about it for a moment, I wouldn’t choose to do.
I wouldn’t choose to have a day where we all do nothing except eat and drink. That’s a recipe for disaster (particularly since I turned into a caged tiger if I try to spend an hour doing nothing, never mind a day). If wouldn’t spend time with a particular person normally, then why would I choose to invite them round to my place or go out with them just because it’s a particular time of year? I’m already stressed out because of doing all this stuff that I don’t really want to do and then I add in the extra stress of inviting someone that I only see once a year because they’re a complete prat, to my place. It’s just not going to end well. It’s a guaranteed excuse for me to vent all my pent-up irritations. Why do I think that doing all of this stuff, just because it’s a certain day of the year, is going to make me feel good? It’s just not going to. I’m setting myself up for failure (and misery, guilt and shame). I’m guaranteeing anxiety and depression because I’m doing things that don’t make me feel good. And that includes – bizarrely enough – spending money.
I like spending money (I love it, in fact, as John will attest), but in this situation (i.e. at Christmas) I’m spending money in a way that isn’t positive, I’m spending money because I OUGHT to, not because I want to, and that’s the cause of the angst: I’m not doing things that I feel are right for me. It’s not about how much I’m spending, it’s about how much I’m spending out of obligation. I can spend the same money on people at other times and not bat an eyelid. My only problem is that I’m spending because I HAVE to because it’s Christmas and that’s what we’re all supposed to do, right? Maybe it’s time for me to do something different?
(written Christmas 2018 but not published till now)
Keeley is very, very clever, with a wicked sense of humour and a knack of seeing the absurdity in people’s behaviour, but she also has a few areas of… let’s call it confusion.
We were in the car on the way back from our diving trip, salty, tired, thirsty and in dire need of a shower, but Keeley was on top form, entertaining us with stories of school and life in the boarding house. “I love Ms P [the boarding mother who’s now moved to another school], right, but I won’t miss the prayers she used to do. [Keeley’s voice drops a couple of octaves and takes on a solemn, sonorous tone] Dear God, thank you for all the girls in the boarding house. Thank you for Annabelle and her English exam. Thank you for Jessie and her Maths HSC. Thank you for Lucy who played really well in hockey this week, she did an amazing job [pause], even though we didn’t win and we’re bottom of the table. Thank you for Sophie, who washed the dishes for the first time on Tuesday without being asked…”
After this was an ongoing conversation between the girls about Kira fostering children. Kira wants kids but doesn’t want to give birth, so she’s decided she’s going to go down the adoption route. Keeley’s decided that “foster kids” sounds better than “adopted kids”, so no matter how much she’s told that she’s saying it wrong, “foster kids” it is.
It was a long and convoluted conversation about just how many kids Kira was going to adopt/foster, then Keeley suddenly got a brainwave. She drew a sharp intake of breath and slapped her sisters’ arm, “Oh my god, Kira! You could have twelve kids and then you could name them after those rocks in Victoria, the Twelve Apostles!”
Kira’s a lot more cluey than her sister on this kind of thing but tends to go along with these conversations because they’re a lot of fun. Sometimes, though, she feels that her sister needs a little guidance. “The rocks are named after Jesus’s apostles, Keeley.”
“What, really? Why didn’t they just name them after his disciples?” A bit of verbal scuffling ensued as Kira tried to explain that apostles and disciples are one and the same thing, till Keeley exclaimed, “But that works out really well! We know the names of the apostles/disciples, whatever they are.” She turned to me, “Mum, what are the names of the twelve disciples?”
Like I’d know? I haven’t been to church in a very long time, and I definitely can't remember the names of the disciples, but in my job description as a mother, I am required to know everything at all times. I'm well versed in thinking on my feet when the kids ask me a knotty question, so I rattled off the names of the books in the New Testament, fully aware that most of them weren’t disciples, but also certain that Keeley would neither know nor care about a minor detail such as that. “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John...” then I had to start thinking a little harder and switch my foggy and ancient Religious Education memory on, “Peter, Paul, James, Judas…”
“Wow,” says Keeley, “they sound like a bunch of Aussie kids. It’s funny that they’ve got the same names. Oh, I’ve got another one: Corinthians! I’ve never heard of anyone being called Corinthians, though, what would you call it for short? Corrie?”
I made a half-hearted commitment to myself that I’d kind of journal/write every day during these holidays so I could record what’s happened better. I haven’t managed it yet. Been too busy. This is Club Med, there’s a gazillion things to do all the time! In fact, in just sitting here, writing this piece, I’m missing yoga. Okay, that’s not something heartbreaking for me, I must be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t find yoga relaxing and rejuvenating. Personally, I just find it boring and dull. That’s not very enlightened of me, I know, but I suspect that, all things told, I’m not very enlightened anyway, so we’re all good, I can miss yoga and my soul will still be just as unenlightened s it was before.
That paragraph was as far as I got before getting distracted again. I have no idea what with, snorkelling or Pilates or trapeze or swimming or maybe even a spa treatment. It is very hot at the moment (and I’m not talking about some hunky guy lying next to me), so hot that even the Balinese are complaining about it: 29 degrees, feels like 36, with off-the-charts humidity. I think I’ve found the optimum combination to enjoy the weather: 10 minutes pottering about in the pool followed by 30 minutes lying on a sun bed seems to be the go. As long as the sunbed is in the shade. If it isn’t, you’re screwed.
The resort is built along Balinese style, with heaven wooden doors to all the rooms. I was walking into the ladies behind this tiny, tiny Asian woman and her child yesterday, but when she tried to push open the door to the room, she couldn’t. I patronisingly assumed that the door was too heavy for her. But when I tried to come to her rescue and show her how big and strong I was by opening the heavy wooden door, I found that the reason she was struggling, wasn’t, in actual fact, a lack of strength. It was because there was a three-year old Aussie kid wedged behind the door, pushing it closed with all his might, and yelling abuse at anyone who tried to enter his domain.
This morning, I went out snorkelling on the boat from the resort for the first time this holiday and I was really saddened by how much the reefs nearby have died off. We last went snorkelling here eight years ago and it’s completely different now; there’s no coral, no colours and so much plastic rubbish everywhere. It’s heartbreaking. The fish are still abundant but I don’t know how they’re affected with the demise of the coral. We’re going out to dive with Manta rays tomorrow, watch out for the pictures when we get home; Keeley got a GoPro for Christmas so hopefully, we’ll get some good footage, which I’ll post when we get back to Aus.
John always finds this kind of holiday a real struggle; he doesn’t cope well with the heat and he’s a good red-haired Celt, so when he and the sun get together, I end up with a tomato-coloured husband. Which is exactly what’s happened. He decided yesterday that he wanted to recreate his one-and-only hole in one that he achieved on our last visit to the resort and persuaded Keeley to accompany him to the golf course. In 36 degree temperatures. Keeley was understandably unenthusiastic about the whole thing but play they did. For five holes. After which, Keeley threw down her club and told her dad she was going back to her room because this was ridiculous. John admitted later that she was absolutely right; he wasn’t enjoying himself, either.
Tomorrow, we’re off on a boat to dive with Manta rays. I’m excited/terrified…
Just over a year ago, I decided to write a book about how we went from having ordinary jobs to being property developers and turning over a hefty amount of money annually. I wanted to explain to people, maybe “tell” people is a better expression, what we did to make the necessary changes in the way we think that allowed us to make that transition.
Before we started doing all this wealth creation stuff, we thought it was all just about making money, having a business, lots of employees, sell stuff and somehow the money will come. It isn’t about that at all. It was very hard to believe for a long time, but it’s actually about the thoughts we have about money that make the difference. That sounded really bizarre and we felt like we were being totally led astray and up some fairy garden path for a while, but enough books & people said the same thing that we began to pay attention and eventually give the whole “money mindset” thing a try.
The book was intended as a guide on how to go from normal, average jobs to wealthy, and to have people see that if we can do it, anyone can because we’re just run-of-the-mill, bog standard, ordinary people.
The book got as far as final draft prior to launch & publishing. I never gave the go ahead to launch it. It just didn’t feel right. I felt like I was preaching and the whole thing just felt… off, as though the book wasn’t meant to be printed. The people that read it said it was great, an easy read and insightful. My dad said I was very hard on myself, my brother said it put things into a whole different perspective. Friends said they had no idea what we’d created and gone through. About four or five months ago, I decided to rewrite the whole thing, take out all the lessons and anything to do with wealth creation, and recreate the whole thing as a novel-style version of what’s happened in the past 18 or so years because it’s really interesting. The point of the book was still about wealth creation, going from jobs to fairly wealthy, but there was more information, more background stuff in there, more stories.
Then the other morning, just before I woke, I dreamt that my book was being made into a film with Russell Crowe playing the part of John! I actually thought that was an inspired choice, personally. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to play the role of me, though. The problem was that I only had six months to live, so it was imperative that the movie contained all the things from my life that I felt were important, the things that moved me or made a difference, the things that changed me, memorable things, things that made me laugh or cry or feel proud or happy, and I realised that while I’m very glad we went along the path to wealth, it’s really not the most significant or important thing in my life. All of that stuff, while it’s shaped who I am, it isn’t the core of me. I realised that I needed to rewrite the whole thing.
I also realised that I didn’t need to justify writing about myself and my life. I realised that the wealth creation thing gave me what I saw to be a legitimate reason for people to read about me, a “look at me, I’ve done something special” validation, a Unique Selling Point, something to get people interested enough to want to read about me. This is why I didn’t feel comfortable with the book as a teaching tool: I was justifying myself. Er… that’s a bit obscure, you’ll have to trust me on that.
The thing is, my life is interesting. I don’t do boring, tedious, run-of-the-mill, steady, predictable anything. I also notice things. I remember things and I find the humour in them. Take yesterday, for example. There I am, driving along, taking the car to the garage to be repaired after a young woman ran into me on a very curvy (would ‘curvaceous’ be appropriate here?) mountain road. The woman didn’t see the 90 degree bend coming up and if I hadn’t been in her way, she would have gone over the edge and very probably come to a flat and grisly end. Just call me the Angel in the Beamer, thank you.
Anyhow, as I’m turning yet another corner yesterday, a woman standing at the traffic lights just keeled over and passed out. I pulled over and ran to help her, as did a young couple in a car going the other way. The guy and I helped the woman up, while his partner went back to the car. After a few minutes talking to her, we called an ambulance. It turned out that she was on all sorts of medication (some legal, others not) and had decided to have a drink. Or two. Possibly three. Maybe four. She was a mess, incoherent and drifting in and out of delirium, shaking and not really able to get her bearings at first. As she began to recover (apart from everything else, she’d cracked her head hard on the pavement when she went down), suddenly she focused with pinpoint clarity on the young woman waiting in the car. The couple had come up to the coast for an afternoon out and she was dressed in a nice outfit. The injured woman looked at her, her face changing into a mask of fury as she desperately tried to stand up (and failed), yelling furiously, “Who does she think she is, pushing her tits into my face? She’d better put them away or I’ll go over there and smash her face in!” Excellent. Right. Better get my diplomatic skills into action then. I suspect that the couple were just as relieved as I was when the ambos arrived and we could hand her over to them, safe in the knowledge that she would be taken care of.
As I was walking past the couple’s car, the young woman said goodbye to me, and I couldn’t resist giggling and saying, “You’d better put those tits away or you never know what will happen!”
“I wouldn’t mind,” she laughed, “but I don’t really have any! I couldn’t believe she was talking to me!”
This kind of stuff happens all the time. I remember it. I love it. If I had six months to live (and hopefully, I have a lot longer than that to go!), I wouldn’t want people at my funeral to be talking about how we’d changed the way we thought and gone on to make money. I don’t think that’s what they’d talk about anyway. At someone’s funeral, you remember the humanity, the incidents, the laughter, the shared times. Everyone has them but it’s as though we (I!) discount them completely. I didn’t feel like I could justify writing about the ordinary things, the daily things, little things, I had to have a Purpose to my writing, there had to be a point to it. What if there isn’t a point? What if my writing is simply about getting my memories down? Shit happens to me all the time, it’s the same for everyone, that’s life. It’s also worth recording just because. I would dearly love to know what the lives of my grandparents and great grandparents was like, what their daily experiences were, what were the highlights and lowlights of their lives, what their friends and family said about them, who they were as people. That’s the stuff that will be remembered at our funerals, which is a pretty depressing way of saying that all the ordinary things matter. I don’t have to justify myself of my writing, none of us do, and I can guarantee that others – our family and friends – will definitely find it interesting.
Note to self: just write as though you’re having a conversation with friends. You don’t go into a conversation with an outcome in mind, you go into it with the sole purpose of connecting and sharing.
We’re on a diving course at the moment, as in SCUBA diving. John and I first learned how to do SCUBA when we first landed in Australia in 1991. I was always a keen aquatic and one of my biggest dreams as a child was to be a mermaid. More specifically, I wanted to be Aqua Marina from the British children’s TV show, Stingray. She was beautiful and brave and the only downside that I could see to being Aqua Marina was that she couldn’t speak. But that was okay because I could speak, so all good. At some point in my growing years, I heard about the theory of evolution and came to the conclusion that if I just pent long enough lying on the bottom of the swimming pool trying to breathe, then I would eventually develop gills and clear vision. I do remember one brief moment where my vision did fully clear underwater, but, to my vast disappointment, the clarity disappeared as soon as I blinked. I spent literally hours of my holidays and evenings just lying at the bottom of the pool, looking up at the surface trying to force evolution to turn me into a mermaid. After that I did a lot of swimming, synchronised swimming, water polo, diving and whatever other watery activities were available.
I hadn’t, however, done SCUBA diving. But in 1991, we were in Australia, doing the obligatory backpack tour up the Queensland coast, and we were close to the barrier reef; it was the perfect opportunity. The only downside to the possibility of SCUBA diving being John: John and water don’t mix. At all. In fact, I’d already rescued John from the water on several occasions, including on our honeymoon when he panicked because of the depth of the water. He was adamant that he wasn’t going to spend any money on a SCUBA course because he didn’t want to do it. So, I did what any self-respecting creator would do: I won the diving course in a $5 raffle! And not just any old diving course, I won a 6-day trip on a yacht out to the Barrier Reef, and John had little choice but to go.
I won’t say that he was a complete convert and he’s loved diving ever since because he definitely hasn’t. In fact, he hasn’t been diving since 1991; no matter how much I’ve harassed him about it, he deftly steers me away from the activity and we never seem to actually get into scuba gear. Until now. What’s made the difference now is that I’ve agreed that we’ll meet my brother, Alan – a keen diver - in Egypt next April to help him celebrate his 50th birthday. We’ll be diving wrecks and reefs and generally having a fat old time, so John needs to get his scuba gear on again and he’s not happy about it.
In preparation for the Egypt adventure, I booked John, the girls and I onto an Open Water Divers course. We’ll do some more diving when we’re in Bali and try to get our Advanced Divers Certificate before we go to Egypt. At least, that’s the plan. Judging by the state of high anxiety that everyone’s in today, I think I’ll be doing any future diving by myself.
I lie in bed, in that wonderfully comfortable world between sleeping and waking, the world where I seem to have access to ideas and knowledge that I don’t have access to once I get out of bed and start doing things. I love my time in that world and I dedicate at least 20 minutes each morning to exploring that world and finding out answers to questions and conundrums that I have, it’s like all the answers that I need are right there, waiting for me to access them.
Except the answers to one thing. One thing is eternally elusive in my omniscient morning world. One topic never appears in there, the answers just don’t come, no matter how hard I try. Actually, getting the answers is very much NOT about trying, it’s about letting go and ALLOWING, if that makes sense. A couple of days ago, I woke in the middle of the night with the solution to a dress-making problem that had been bugging me, bugging me to the point of redoing the bloody thing three times. All that stitch unpicking… [groans and cradles head in hands]…
But regardless of how much time I spend in my magical morning world, this is what happens when I think about what I’m going to write about today:
‘Okay, what am I going to write about today?’ I pause for a few seconds, waiting for a celestial answer to hit me between the eyebrows like it usually does when I ask a question in my half-awake world, although sometimes it does kind of just seep into my brain with no grand fanfare. But when I ask THIS question – what shall I write about today – the silence is deafening. There are no crickets chirruping in the background, no stirring music, just a heavy, dull, leaden, nothing.
I lie there for a while, in anticipatory purgatory, tensed and coiled ready for the blast of inspiration from heaven, but it doesn’t happen. Aware that I’ve tensed up, I force myself to relax, and gently ease myself back into my half-awake world, letting everything flow, allowing thoughts and ideas to drift effortlessly into my consciousness. At least, that’s the plan. But there’s no drifting of anything, and definitely no dazzling brainwaves about awe-inspiring subject matters.
Maybe it’s time for another tack: let’s try panicking. I allow my hyperactive brain to take over the task: Oh god, what am I going to do? What do I say? I actually have nothing to say? Okay, okay, don’t panic, things have happened for sure. Think, think… the girls, what’s happened? Well, nothing really. Okay, what about opinions? What about self-discovery? No, I don’t want to talk about that; I start lecturing. I mean, I’m an INTROVERT for god’s sake, I don’t start conversations with people, I don’t like SHARING what’s going on in my life. On top of that, this is HARD WORK. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this if this is hard work, maybe it’s just not for me, maybe I just shouldn’t be writing. And all I seem to do is moan and whinge about how hard this is. Oh my god, maybe I should just stop.
Every day, every single day, this is what happens in my head. Every single day, I have to come up with a new bloody Purpose, a new reason for writing, a new WAY of writing. Do I write about personal development stuff? Do I give an opinion? Do I talk about a memory? Do I tell a story? Do I write a journal-type piece? What about an observational thing? At some point, my morning mind will cotton on to the fact that I write for me. For my family, for my friends. I’m not writing for any purpose other than to talk and chit chat and make connections with people which, introvert or not, I do quite well.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make myself a dress. We’re going on holiday, it’s summer and I like dresses. I also find it exceedingly difficult to find dresses to fit me. It’s all that swimming that I did in my youth, I have the classic swimmers body shape: broad shoulders and narrow hips. I’m lucky that childbirth and age hasn’t really changed that. It’s very nice but it means that while a size 10 dress might be a little big on the hips, I can’t zip it up past the bottom of my rib cage. I used to make a lot of clothes for myself when I was at Uni, on an old Singer hand-powered sewing machine. I would love another one, but you can’t get them over here in Australia. Every now and then, I’ll drag out my modern machine and set to on the summer dresses. Like the other week. But, as in most things in my life, I get carried away with things: I’m now on my FIFTH dress with the fabric for two more in the cupboard. And one of the unmade dresses is for Kira so I’m feeling a bit guilty about not making hers yet, which means that I’ll keep going until it’s done. And then I may as well just get the last one done because it would be a shame not to, etc., etc. When I get like this, everything else goes out of the window and I launch myself into whatever it is I’m doing until I’m heartily sick of it. That’s just how I do life: it’s all or nothing.
…I actually have no idea where I was going with that last paragraph. There was a point to me talking about all that, I just don’t know what it was. 😂 Maybe I’ll finish it off another day.
One of the things I love about spending one-on-one time with Keeley is the little things she comes out with. Like yesterday.
The kids went on a weeks' camp in the bush last week, and because it's done as part of the Army Cadets program, it's proper camping: set up your own hoochie, carry your gear, cook your food, no showers, etc. At the end of the camp, each of the platoons creates a War Cry which is then performed in front of all the students and judged by the teachers & instructors.
It's an intense competition with the winners gaining a lot of prestige over their rivals.
The girls of 7 Platoon (I hope I've got that right!) spent two days coming up with the words while they were marching, kayaking and canyoning, and an evening crafting the moves to complement the music and words. One of Keeley’s friends, Issy, is new to the school and was a little concerned about how she should behave. The school (TAS) was a boys’ school until 3 years ago and still retains a lot of the boy-ish behaviours, which is one of the reasons the girls & I love the school.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and possibly upset a few people, but in my observation, boys have way more fun than girls. That’s a vast generalisation, but as a whole, teenage boys don’t take themselves anywhere near as seriously as teenage girls, particularly not when a group of them get together. When a group of teenage girls get together, they bitch and moan and backstab. Boys just play footie and wrestle while shouting abuse at each other. TAS has managed to retain that quality and the girls there do a lot less bitching and enjoy themselves a lot more than they do at all girls’ schools. Like I say, it’s just my opinion.
Back to the story. As the girls’ were about to perform their war cry, Issy sidles up to Keeley and asks how she should behave. Should she be restrained and try not to make a fool of herself, like at her old school or should she really go for it and go all out, throwing restraint to the wind and giving it her all, no matter what?
Keeley: So, I said to her, “This is TAS, you’ve got to just go for it! We’ll get marked down if you don’t and it’s the opposite to Armidale High: people will make fun of you if you don’t give it your all”. And Mum, it was so great to watch, Issy was like a little Pistachio! You know, kind of closed up with only a little bit of the lovely green nut inside showing and then she burst open in all her glory! It was great!
Me [giggling and laughing]: A pistachio? Not a rose?
Keeley: Oh, I knew there was a way to say that but I couldn’t remember it! Rose, not pistachio, she opened up like a rose!
I dunno, I quite like the pistachio analogy, personally, it has way more character.
A 500-word-a-day challenge. Pfft. Not a problem. Except that it’s very likely to be a complete challenge over the next couple of months. Let’s rephrase that and “be responsible”: I’m EXPECTING it to be a challenge. I’m ANTICIPATING that it will be a challenge. Ergo, it will be a challenge.
Sorry, sorry, my personal development training just won’t let me get away with crap like that. “Take full responsibility”, “Nothing happens that isn’t your own creation”, “Own everything in your life, it’s the only way to have full power over your life”. Well, that’s all fine, but sometimes I just want to whinge about how hard my life is. Sometimes, I just want everyone else to feel sorry for me because I’m so busy and I’m so stressed. Also, I want everyone to be IN AWE when I post something because they know how busy I am and they’re amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that I get done in a day, plus they’re all then completely understanding when I flake out and don’t do things that I said I’d do; I’m really busy so it’s totally understandable, right? I put a lot of effort into convincing people of how busy I am, I can’t burst the bubble and admit that I actually spend half my life just wasting time.
But anyway, on with the task of enrolling you all in my story of just how extraordinarily busy and full and stressful my life is. Hopefully, you’ll all appreciate it and stand in reverent wonder of just what I have on my plate. I’m heading off to Armidale on Monday, that is, if I don’t do the trip in one go tomorrow (see the article that I still haven’t finished but is way more than 500 words long and will go up later). Hang on, let’s go back a couple of steps. I picked up Kira from the airport yesterday. Tomorrow or Monday, I’m picking up Keeley and spending most of next week in Armidale catching up with friends. The likelihood of getting any writing done over that time? Close to zero. Then we’re into the Christmas build-up, then we’re on a diving course (so excited!), then Ryan & Jo and maybe Jamie arrive, then we’re off on holiday. After that, it’s the build up to the return to school/Uni so maybe in February, I can get back into writing.
Are you enrolled in how busy and stressful my life is yet?
That’s how my life goes. I resist that busy-ness, that focus on everyone else, I get grumpy and resentful about it, but that’s how it goes. I set my life up like that, it’s my doing, I create it that way. I love my family, I want to spend time with them, they are the priority. To give you some idea of the extent to which I’ll go to prove just how busy I am, earlier this year, I signed up for an intensive 6-week course, but when it came to signing on the dotted line, I hesitated, wanting to delay starting it because the kids were coming home plus my dad was over on his bi-annual holiday from England. When I mentioned that to the course sales guy, he responded with “Well, you know what you need to do, don’t you?” No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me. I’m also certain that you’re about to disappoint me by proving yourself to be a complete arsehole with no comprehension of either family life or just how busy I am, by saying something ludicrous like ‘you could do your work on the program after everyone goes to bed’.
He lived up to my lowest expectations: “That’s not a problem!” he pompously declared “You could spend the day with your family, and then do the work you need to do on the program after everyone’s gone to bed.” He played right into my hands: he confirmed my suspicion that he was an absolute plonker and his declaration allowed me to set myself up to prove that I’m far too busy to do anything properly. But, to be fair to myself, he had absolutely no idea. He doesn’t have kids, he doesn’t have a family, he couldn’t relate at all. Most mothers will tell you that the kids come first and there’s no room for anything else. I look at women who can run their business and be a mother and I still wonder how they do it; I’ve never managed it.
Maybe that’s just me being single minded and focussed, which it totally could be. My family is scattered to the four winds, so when we get together, it’s special and it’s something that I give my complete focus to. Only someone who has no idea of what’s involved in having kids & a family (and, more to the point, someone who doesn’t know me very well) would even consider the possibility that I could spend the day with the kids and then, when they’d gone to bed, put in three or four hours work on study, because I’m not already worn out, right?
And yes, twenty years ago, I would have done what the sales guy suggested without any hesitation. I’d push myself through, I’d stay up late, and I’d make myself do it. I’ve been doing exactly that for years. It’s not pleasant. It’s stressful and exhausting and I totally get heaps out of behaving that way: I get to be a martyr and I get to push myself to the limits, I get to be a victim and I get to be better than everyone else and earn their admiration. It’s totally worth it! Or, at least, it has been so far.
As I’m getting older, hopefully wiser and definitely more tired, I just don’t want to do it any more; I don’t want to do the whole push, push, push thing. Okay, that’s not true, I totally do the whole push, push, push thing BUT I pick and choose what I push through because I know the emotional (and adrenal) strain that it puts me under. And Christmas is already an adrenal strain without adding anything else into the mix.
So, five hundred words a day? We’ll see. Am I making up excuses to not do five hundred words a day? Probably definitely. Do I care? Yes. Am I going to feel guilty about it? Totally. Man, reading this through, I’ve completely lost my sense of humour. See? That’s what happens when the adrenals take over!
PS That's 1111 words, 2 days' worth of posts! Awesome! What an over-achiever!
One of my great long-distance driving Stay-Awake tools is singing along to Robbie Williams. At top volume. I can’t sing for toffee, as Keeley so graciously confirmed once. I was happily squawking along to some swing tune or other, aiming for the high notes and missing by quite a long way, trying to do the harmonies – which, to be fair, I am quite good at for some obscure reason – but getting it wrong half the time, and, not wanting Keeley to miss out on all this fun, particularly as she’s the family musician, I enthusiastically urged her to join in; I was having so much fun, I was sure she would, too.
“No, it’s fine, thank you,” she says. I implored her to chill out, join in and enjoy herself a little. I know she can sing, why doesn’t she participate in the family singalong? It’ll be fun! “Because,” she says, “it’s really annoying when you hear people try to hit the right notes but always end up singing off key.”
Right. Bemused a little by the criticism inherent in that sentence, I finally consoled myself by singing for a while. Off key, of course.
A little later, one of Kira’s favourite Robbie songs, Go Gentle, a song Robbie wrote for his daughter, came on and as the two of us belted out the second verse (probably to Keeley’s chagrin) - “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…” - Kira paused in her operatic efforts, “We’re weirdo’s, you know, mum.” Sorry? Are we? I didn’t expect this turn of events. Why are we weirdos? In what way?
“Well, we are,” she continued, “None of my friends have families like ours. They don’t have relationships with their parents like we do, they don’t behave the way we all do, they don’t have the conversations with their parents about behaviour that we do, their parents don’t expect them to behave in the way that you expect us to behave. And the worst of it is, you expect everyone who comes to the house to behave in the same way that we do, so a lot of people [her school mates] don’t like coming round to our place because you won’t stand for any of the usual teenage behaviour.” Well, no, but isn’t that normal? I thought that was normal? I felt this need to defend my position; I’m sure I’m not weird. Or, at least, not so weird that anyone would notice. I wanted her to clarify, so I asked, “Why would anyone want to put up with tantrums and rudeness just because that person is a “hormonal teenager”? It’s not acceptable.”
“See?” Kira said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Most parents believe that that’s how teenagers are meant to behave so they put up with it. You don’t accept it from anyone, even if it’s the first time you’ve met them. Do you have any idea how weird we are as a family as a result of that?” Erm, no. I was sure that she was going to tell me, though, and this was really interesting; the main reason I don’t tolerate the usual teenage crap is because, in my opinion, it’s just an excuse for appalling (and very immature) behaviour and, from my part, it’s hard work to deal with. It would be interesting to find out what the impact is on the kids with their friends and social network.
“In general, we don’t like being around kids our own age because they want to moan and bitch about how awful their parents are. We can’t relate to it. We know that we’re free to do whatever we want to do as long as we try our hardest; you’re never going to tell us that we need to do a particular thing with our lives in order to be successful or whatever. None of this is normal, Mum, we’re a bunch of weirdos.” Kira concluded.
I have to say, I was a little bit bewildered for the second time in a few minutes. First Keeley declares that she never joins in with the singalong because we all sing off key and it pains her musically sensitive ears, then Kira tells me that we’re a bunch of weirdos. I decide to do a little familial surveying, “What do you think, Keeley? Are we weirdos?” “Yes!” she snorted and rolled her eyes in a ‘duh!’ kind of way. I called Ryan and explained the conversation to him, “Ryan, are we weirdos?” Ryan was a little more diplomatic than Keeley but after several minutes of building up to the point, he finished with “Well, we’re not your normal family so if I was to be particularly blunt, I would have to say that yes, we’re weirdos.” I spoke to Jamie who was a little affronted by the fact that Kira thought we were weirdos, but it took only a couple of minutes for him to reassess everything before happily concluding, “Actually, you know what? I think she’s right: we’re a bunch of weirdos! That would explain a lot!”
I bumped into my friend and former mentor, Kat, yesterday and I remembered how she used to laugh at me for trying to fit in and comparing myself to everyone else. “But you’re not like everyone else, Karen; you’re not normal! Let’s face it, you’d be bored out of your brain if you tried to be ‘normal’!” Bored and depressed, I responded… oh, wait, that’s right, I tried to be ‘normal’ for a few years and ended up on anti-depressants. It was the saddest and darkest few years of my life. There was a lot of other things going on, for sure, but trying to fit in, trying to be ‘normal’ didn’t help at all.
I did the Hogwarts Sorting Hat quiz a few years ago (of course I did) and ended up in Slytherin. The reason being? My greatest fear is to be ordinary. Well, actually, there were a number of other things, too, but I suspect that was one of the main ones. I’ve tried to sorting ceremony under three different names now and I ALWAYS get sorted into Slytherin.
I’ve come to the conclusion – and yes, it’s taken a very long time for me to get it – that I’m not normal. I’m not ordinary and I don’t fit in. AND – get this, this is the real clincher – I don’t want to. I don’t want to be ordinary, I don’t want to be normal and I don’t want to fit in. It makes me really unhappy when I try because I spent my time constantly comparing myself to everyone else and invariably, other people are doing way better than me, possibly because that’s what they’re meant to be doing. I’m not. It’s amazing (and very comforting) how many people stick their hands up and say, “Me too!” when I talk about things like this. I’m much, much happier being a weirdo and labelling myself as one, not least because it means that people don’t expect me to do the things that ‘normal’ people do; there’s such a lot of freedom in pronouncing myself to be a weirdo. All that weight of having to conform and having to fit in and behave in a certain way, got released.
Like Robbie said, “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…”
I’ve been thinking there was something wrong with me for the last few weeks. I’ve felt more and more listless, unable to sit at the computer and write, unable to get a string of words together. I make sure that I exercise and do all that stuff; after learning the hard way, I know that if I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep, and sleep is a vital ingredient to feeling good and having your life work. Sleep is as precious as diamonds. Hence, I exercise and stay physically active, I fall asleep quickly and I sleep well. So why am I feeling more and more lifeless, more and more depressed? Why don’t I have much enthusiasm for anything? Why are things getting to me so much? Why can’t I cope with life, taking things personally and blowing everything out of all proportion? What is wrong with me?
It all came to a head yesterday. It’s been a particularly stressful week and I’ve no doubt you’ll hear about it in one article or another. There have been massive upsets with Keeley, concerns about Kira, arguments with Jamie, things going on with Ryan, chats with teachers, emails flying all over the place, arrangements rescheduled, Christmas is hurtling towards us and I hate the whole Christmas thing, and John went into hospital for an operation on his jaw. He was understandably nervous about it, having had a similar operation 18 months ago and being in a lot of pain for several weeks.
I sat down yesterday morning, and decided to start putting down onto paper how I was feeling. Then the text messages started. I have a fantastic relationship with the kids and I speak to most of them most days. Plus, there’s always lots of text messages and photos flying round. On top of that, John’s operation had gone much more smoothly than the previous one and he was justifiably relieved and happy and wanted to share that happiness around. He was also keen for me to engage in one of our favourite pastimes: criticising other people’s eating habits and feeling all superior about ourselves.
He sent photos of the tray of food he was brought for breakfast. When the nurse put the tray containing white bread, cereal, milk, orange juice, a lemonade and (horror) white sugar down, John was told, “This isn’t yours, it’s for next door, but that’s okay.” Well, it kind of is but it also isn’t, because John asked for Gluten-free and lactose-free food. The nurses scurried round for so long, trying to find gluten-free and lactose-free anything, that John gave in, ate a packet of coco pops with milk and subsequently had to go and get some antacids to help sort out his stomach.
After heaven knows how many text messages from various members of the family, I switched my brain on and put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ but it was too late: I was so irritated that I was completely out of the flow and had no clue as to what I wanted to talk about any more.
John carried on texting me - pick me up now; no don’t, they’ve changed their minds; come now; no, do the shopping first; I’ll wait outside; you have to come in and get me – and then my emails started to play up with one account refusing to connect to the server. I tried everything Apple suggested and then did what the Apple community suggested, which was to delete the account and reinstall it. At which point, Mail decided to download three years and 3000+ emails that I already had on my laptop, and most of which were junk or spam anyway. Great. Nothing I did would stop it. By the time I left home to go and pick John up, I was late, I wasn’t sure whether I was going in the hospital or not, whether he wanted me to get stuff from the shops or not, whether I needed to sign anything or not. I basically had no bloody clue what I was meant to be doing and I was really fed up of the constant bombardment of text messages and the 3000+ emails that I now had to sort through and delete, and I was late. So, of course, it was inevitable that I would run into heavy traffic and idiot drivers. Which I did.
Probably due to the fact that I was no longer responding to his text messages, John decides to call me; he’s down at reception but he’ll grab a coffee so that I can go shopping before I pick him up. I take a left turn to head towards Robina Town Centre…
And end up on the wrong road. Stuck behind more idiot drivers in even heavier traffic. I start to swear because it’s the only thing I can do to stop myself having a complete meltdown and bursting into tears. There was a high possibility that if I started crying, I wouldn’t stop for quite a long time. The frustration at not being able to do what I wanted to do was immense, and I felt so unbelievably tired; I could have happily lay down and gone to sleep right then. What on earth is wrong with me? I kept wondering. I sleep well, I don’t have sleep problems anymore; what is going on? Am I sick? Am I depressed? Am I not eating right? What is wrong?
During a brief interlude at a coffee shop, I seriously considered whether to release all my pent-up frustration and irritation onto a single person when one of the staff was in a shitty mood and decided to take out her frustration out on the customers. I hate rudeness, I hate it. It really infuriates me. And it’s the little details that form that very fine line between disrespect and courtesy. I’d placed the serving number off to one side of the table. Having served our drinks, she asked whether we were waiting for anything else. When I responded that we were, she reached across the table, so close to me that I jumped back, grabbed the table number and slammed it down right in the middle of the table, right in front of my face. She has no idea how close she came to suffering a painful, lingering and very public death by humiliation. But I was very proud of myself, I managed to get a grip and not make everything worse by making some poor fool feel even worse than they already did.
Tea drunk, breakfast eaten, we headed home where the meltdown reached its climax. “I have no life,” I confided in John, “no future, there’s no point in me doing anything, I have no purpose, no one needs me, what’s the point?” After half an hour or so of me making no sense whatsoever, while John, befuddled from the medication, bemusedly wracked his brains to try to figure out what the hell was going on with me and what he could do to make it better, I was worn out by all the emotional turmoil. To John’s great relief, I decided to do a quick meditation to try to calm myself down and perk myself up… and woke up three hours later. The only reason I woke up was because the sun was shining right onto me and a little voice in my head was telling me that I had a chiropractors’ appointment soon.
I felt so much better! I was tired! That was what was wrong with me: I was simply tired. I am sleeping well at night, but I wake at dawn. My bedtime is the same, but dawn is earlier and earlier, so right now I’m getting maybe six hours’ sleep a night and it’s obviously not enough.
One of my friends tells me that there is a major astronomical event that’s going on that’s causing all sorts of angst and emotional turmoil and is responsible for how I’m feeling (me and half the planet, it would seem). Apparently, some planet is going backwards and some other planet is somewhere else. Oh, and there’s something about the moon being full too. All of this completely explains why I’m feeling the way I have, but not to worry, because soon it will all get better: in the next few days, the Sun joins one of the planets in some festive place, they’ll totally have a party and we can all join in and be merry. Just in time for Christmas.
In the meantime, I’m going to buy myself an eye mask to wear, which will hopefully help me to sleep a little longer and feel a little more emotionally relaxed. Mind you, I don’t really do emotionally relaxed at the best of times, and Christmas definitely isn’t one of my best times, so perhaps I shouldn’t set my hopes too high on that one.
It might be the season of planetary misalignment also known as Christmas, but, swear to god, I’m inundated with sagas of passionate people whose fervent desire to help the planet, protect the flora and fauna, and support numerous altruistic results in bullying. I’m not going to mince my words here, because I’m sick to the back teeth of how we all tolerate this behaviour because ‘they’ve got a good point’ or ‘they’re only trying to help’ or ‘that’s what they believe and they’re obviously passionate about it’.
I don’t speak up on this kind of thing for various reasons… actually, no, let me clarify that: I haven’t spoken up about this before because I do my best to be kind and compassionate to others and, besides which, who am I to tell someone that their belief isn’t right for me? Or maybe I believe that what they’re saying is completely wrong? It’s none of my business what anyone believes, everyone is entitled to believe what they like and no one else can tell them that they’re right or wrong. THAT is my belief: no one can criticise or judge anyone else’s beliefs because no one can fully understand someone else, they don’t have their experiences or personality, so just shut up and leave them alone. Consequently, I get pretty damned upset when someone forces their beliefs on me.
A friend put up a post a couple of weeks ago about animal rights and veganism and all that stuff. I get where they’re coming from, I understand it and I love their passion. What I don’t like was their comment that went something like, “If you still eat meat then you’re condoning things like this. I love you but I can’t have you in my life, so goodbye.” The thing is, I get what they’re saying about getting people who aren’t aligned with you out of your life and I agree with it. I also understand the passion and commitment. But that’s not what this statement is about. In its current form, the statement is passive aggressive, sanctimonious and self-righteous. And dramatic. The same point could be made without all of that pious superiority, but it was designed to do one thing: draw a line. You’re either with us or against us, you’re one of us or you’re the enemy. There’s no room for any belief other than theirs. No one can do anything other than what they believe because everything else is wrong; it’s their way or the highway.
That’s the problem I have with this kind of behaviour: there is no room for discussion or argument or any belief other than the one that person holds. It’s closed-minded. There’s no discussion possible, no room for anything other than what they believe. They’re right and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong.
It is the intolerant demanding tolerance.
‘Tolerance’ in this case meaning “accede to my demands or else.” It’s that “or else” that triggers me, I think: convert to veganism or I’ll unfriend you. Be against horse racing or show that you are cruel to animals. Agree with me or prove that you’re a fascist racist sexist white trash money-grabbing despot.
One of Kira’s (hopefully now ex-) friends called Kira “an able-ist tw*t” the other day. I didn’t know what an able-ist was, nor do I know how to spell it, but it all came about because Kira didn’t agree not to use words like ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’ and ‘crazy’ because they are (apparently) demeaning to people with mental handicaps. Oh, sorry, mental disabilities. What is the bloody term I’m supposed to use now? Really? When I say something like ‘disabled’ or handicapped’, to me it means the same thing: it’s an illness, a genetic defect, an error in their makeup or whatever else it might be. It’s a description, it’s not a judgement, negative or otherwise. Words are simply words, WE place the meaning on them. My INTENTION is not to cause offence. If offence is caused, then the offence occurs in the listeners brain AND NOWHERE ELSE. We can change the words we use, but it’s really all about the attitude and attitudes like calling someone “an able-ist tw*t” or “an animal abuser” is exactly what they say they’re not going to tolerate in other people.
I know that people say things and they INTEND others to be hurt, I’m not stupid, but you can change all the words you like but if you don’t change the basic attitude, it’s not going to make a difference. I’m not only talking about changing the attitude of the people who are saying the words here, I’m talking about giving those who are getting offended the support they need so that they don’t get offended. This is about all of us being responsible fully for ourselves and what we’re thinking. WE are 100% responsible for any meaning we add to something someone says. One. Hundred. Percent. Forbidding people from using certain words changes very little other than making them more careful about the words they’re using. Yes, changes definitely need to be made, but it’s about attitude and beliefs, not words. Quit putting your limiting beliefs on me by telling me that I can’t say certain things because you find them offensive. That’s not my problem, that’s yours. Stop spreading your pain and upset around by making everyone else feel bad and tread on eggshells around you. Take some responsibility for yourself. Stop pretending you’re powerless. No one can hurt you with words unless you allow them to.
Here’s something for those ardent zealots to consider: passion and commitment is admirable, however you cannot force people into doing something; eventually, there’ll be a backlash. We’ll all be very polite and let you rant on for a while, but sooner or later, we’ll get sick of you and things will be worse than they were before you started ranting on and bullying people. All of this intolerance, all of these demands, all of this name calling and accusation that happens when someone doesn’t agree with you is nothing more than bullying. It’s dominating and controlling, exactly what you say you’re against. If you behaved like this in the school playground, the teachers would be down on you like a ton of bricks. You’re treating people like they’re the enemy, you’re giving them no credit for kindness or compassion, you’re assuming that they need to be beaten into submission. There’s no respect in this behaviour. You might feel that you’re justified in behaving this way because of the atrocities that you see are being committed, but you’re not. You’re trying to bully people into submission, you’re trying to use fear – fear of being labelled as an animal abuser, a racist, sexist, anti-equality, fear of being outcast, unfriended or whatever else - to achieve your own ends.
This kind of behaviour is part of the problem, it’s not part of the solution. The end NEVER justifies the means. Take a good long look at yourself: you’re letting yourselves down. You’re not setting the standards for compassionate, respectful behaviour because you only show respect to those who “deserve it”, in other words, those who agree with you.
Mother Theresa said something along the lines of “I will never attend an anti-war rally. When you hold a peace rally, invite me.”
PS I wonder if anyone will ignore everything I’ve said and make a comment about “yes but things need to change…”
PPS That’s apart from the people who will do exactly that because I’ve pointed it out, lol! You know who you are!
I wandered through Broadbeach, wondering whether I needed to shake myself and wake myself up. Was this a bizarre dream? Or some kind of not-so-scary nightmare? Surely I wasn’t actually awake and walking down the streets of a tourist-focused beachside suburb. Something weird was going on. I looked around and all I could see were sparkles, extra-large bows, lycra, shiny backpacks covered in that silver holographic material, sequins, over-the-top makeup, fake smiles and high ponytails. I felt like I was wandering though some strange My-Little-Pony-Meets-Barbie world not the beachy-touristy place that I was expecting. After a few enquiries, I discovered that the Gold Coast Convention Centre, located just across the road from where we were, was host to the National Cheerleading Championships and two and a half thousand competitors plus their families had descended on us.
I’m a synchronised swimmer. I’ve gone through all that stuff with sequinned costumes, perfect hair and fake smiles. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Although, if I’m honest, I was really hopeless at the fake smiling bit, I could never see the point. But I have never, ever been around 2,500 synchronised swimmers in full regalia, accompanied by the requisite scary mothers, or possibly entire families come to cheer them along (sic)!
Working as a swimming coach in my 20’s was a great experience: it showed me exactly who I didn’t want to be as a parent. It doesn’t matter what sport we’re talking about here, some parents are just nuts. There was one moment that was pivotal for me. I’d been teaching some 7-9 year old kids to dive in 1.8m of water: “put your arms over your ears, hands together, bend over and just plop into the water”, that kind of thing. After the lesson finished, the head coach came over to me, and with his back to the grandstand where the parents were sitting, he said, “No matter what I say, no matter what you’re thinking, I need you to look really sorry and upset. Do you promise?” Unsure of what to do, I just nodded. “Right,” he said, “One of the mothers has just complained that her son hit his head on the bottom of the pool and now she has to take him to hospital because he may be suffering from concussion.”
I opened my mouth to protest: this was 1.8m of water and the kid couldn’t have been more than a metre tall! Not one of those kids managed to touch the bottom, they even had a competition going to see if anyone could touch the bottom and none of them did.
But the coach cut me off before I could say anything, “I know, I know! You promised to look sorry and contrite! Just look upset, not angry! I was watching; the kid’s lying.”
As the coach carried on with ‘telling me off’, concentrating very hard on keeping a contrite expression on my face, I looked up to the grandstand. The mother, predictably, was looking angry, while at the same time managing to also looking smugly satisfied at my reprimand. The son, little shit that he was, was gleefully dancing behind her, swapping the gloating, victorious expression that he wore when her back was turned, to a helpless one that was full of pain and suffering, whenever she looked at him.
That was a defining moment for me, and for my kids. I swore that I would never, ever turn into a mother like that. It has happened on a few occasions, I have been sucked into supporting one of the kids in what turned out to be a wholly fabricated story, but the child in question has wholeheartedly regretted manipulating me like that.
I’ve never got much involved with Parents Associations at school or kids sports for the same reason: they tend to attract the intense, fanatical parents whose life is utterly devoted to their children’s success. They’re that most dangerous breed of human: Homo Vicarien, humans that live vicariously through their kids.
Today, Broadbeach was packed to the rafters with them. It was a human behavioural experts dream. The female Homo Vicarien wear clothes that match their kids: oversized baseball jackets in their team colours, trimmed with silver, and adorned with glittery lettering, mostly spelling out the troop name. Cheerleading troops have very interesting names: “Force Elite All Stars”, “Xplosion”, “Cheer Factor” and “REBEL 4ORCE”. Astronomical names are big in this world, as are names that have anything to do with explosions.
A more interesting phenomenon were those mothers who had things like ‘Team Tyla-Jaydye’ or ‘2018 Champion: Cheltzee’ embroidered hopefully on the back. Obviously, these ones aren’t the team-player mothers. They’re not interested in the team as a whole or making sure everyone wins, these ones take things to a whole new level. Generally the cause of much bitterness and tension within both the parents and the participants, this breed are only interested in their own child, believing that their child is the star of the team, the one who holds things together and the who wins all the medals for the team. No other member of the team is as important as their child, in fact, it would be fair to say that there would be no team, if it wasn’t for their child.
One lady, who was on the phone having a highly agitated phone conversation that involved many flamboyant arm movements, sported a top with the logo “Queer And Dance” printed on it. I could be completely wrong, since my exposure to the cheerleading world is about five minutes long, but I felt that this was a… let’s say, interesting… name even by their standards. I was dying to ask her about it, but she looked so agitated and angry, that I didn’t have the bottle to go over and talk to her. Instead, I treated myself to a happy few minutes pondering the possible causes of her passion: maybe her daughter was pipped at the post for the championship by her totally unworthy arch nemesis. What if her daughter was unfairly eliminated by some judge who didn’t know what they were doing? Or - ooh, I know – what if they’d had a run-in with the judge before and the mother thought that the judge was getting payback for whatever happened in the past? Perhaps a jealous team member who wanted all the glory, elbowed her daughter at a crucial moment causing her to fall over or mis-step. It could be that another team/competitor had copied their outfits or <sharp intake of breath> they’d copied the oversized, sparkly bows the girls wore in their high ponytails.
I’m not going to talk about the bows. I keep trying and I keep sounding like I’m a complete bitch, which I might be but I don’t necessarily want to sound like one. I’m just going to say this: oversized bows. Sparkly oversized bows.
I’m off to Broadbeach again now. Hopefully, I won’t find myself in the Crystal Empire today.
PS In case you’re wondering, I made the little shit who lied about hitting his head pay. Swimming lessons can be great fun or they can be exhausting and very hard work. He he he.
PPS The mystery of the “Queer And Dance” t-shirt logo was solved a little later when I saw someone else with the same top on. The writing actually said “Cheer and Dance”!
*Image screenshot from Australian All Stars Cheerleading Federation
What do I want?
I shook myself, trying to regain some semblance of control of what was going on inside my head and quell some of the more strident voices that are clamouring for attention. Get a grip, I told myself, these are my thoughts, I am in charge here, it’s time to stop. Just stop, okay? What is it that I actually feel is right for me? Take what John thinks out of it, take what Keeley or Kira think out of it, what do I want?
Oblivious to the Pacific Ocean, its surface glassy and sun-kissed, its waves dotted with tanned, fit surfie-types who had succumbed to the ocean’s seductive call to come and play (and possibly drown or get bitten by a shark), I continued my stormy stomp down the beach, completely unaware of the sand massaging the tension from my feet but uncomfortably aware of the sand scrubbing away the remnants of the blisters there. Blisters that I got after a beach walk a few days ago, when I crossed the carpark while wearing no shoes.
It was one of those scenes that Aussies are gleeful about posting on social media with titles like “Stupid tourist burns feet trying to act like local surfies. I almost died laughing! Watch this, it’ll make your day!” As I stepped onto the carpark, it took a couple of strides for awareness of the heat beneath my feet to register with my brain. Doing my best to be nonchalant about the whole thing and pretend this wasn’t happening; I am Australian after all, I should be able to walk across a red hot carpark without looking like a shoe-bereft city slicker. I walked faster and faster across the carpark, until finally, all decorum and composure thrown to the wind, my feet blistered and burned, I broke out into a tippy-toe sprint, desperately trying to put as little of my body onto the red-hot tarmac as I could while I frantically scurried to the safety of shade.
Today, my feet-protecting shoes left at the top of the beach for the walk back to the car, I grumped my way down the beach, wrapped up in my own little anxiety-ridden, stress-filled, what’s-the-point world as I turn the question over and over in my mind: what feels right to me? This was really, really difficult, much more difficult than it ought to be.
Cue rolling eyes. I’m fifty-five years of age, I’ve done a bucketload of personal development work, I’ve been a life coach, I can smell this kind of block at a hundred metres in a rainstorm. Let’s face facts, after everything I’ve done, I should be transformed and enlightened by now, in spiritual nirvana, I should not still be doing the whole people pleasing thing. A vision of a book with the catchy and not-at-all-dramatic title of ‘How People Pleasing Nearly Klled Me’ flashed through my mind and another wave of guilt hit me. I still haven’t read the thing. I bought it knowing that I need to get out of the habit of doing things to please others but quite obviously, I also didn’t want to ACTUALLY stop the whole people pleasing thing.
I sighed. Then I sighed again, just because I liked the feeling of hopelessness that comes with that kind of sigh. You know the one, your shoulders lift as you breathe in, and then when the air goes out of your lungs, your whole body seems to sink down into the ground, so you feel two or three inches shorter, like you’re getting smaller and heavier, more depressed and insignificant with every molecule of air that leaves your body. Some sighs make you feel contented or blissful or relaxed, they enliven and invigorate you. Not this kind of sigh. This kind of sigh enhances your feelings of despondency and misery and poor-me-I’m-so-misunderstoodness.
I tried again: what DO I want to do? What feels right to me? I struggle to take everyone else’s opinion out of the equation. The thing is, when you love people, it’s very difficult NOT to take into account what they want and as a parent, a good portion of your life is given over to making other people happy. Sure, there are times when you have to put your foot down and do things the child doesn’t like, but for the most part, the driving force is to make sure the child is happy. So how does stopping people pleasing come into the equation then? I’m damned if I know.
An attention-seeking wave made a solid attempt to get higher up the beach than its friends and after a brief but bitter struggle with my inner King Canute (the one who believed his innate Kingliness was sufficient to stop the tide), I irritably adjusted my walking course to avoid the wash of water, vaguely wondering whether the tide was coming in or going out because I wanted to walk in a fairly straight line and I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I was going to be inundated with water every few strides. I wrestled my mind back to the problem in hand. I’m in completely new territory here, a land never before inhabited by Mummy Karen: what do I want? If I ignore what anyone else thinks and whatever possible consequences there might be if I do what I feel is the right thing for me to do, then what would I do?
I listened to all the thoughts skidding across my mind. I can’t just ignore what other people think, if I do that, they might not like me. What if – gasp of horror – people think I’m wrong? What if – stomach lurches in a sharp descent - I actually AM wrong? What if I’ve been doing it wrong all these years? What if I’m really a crap mother and I’ve screwed up my kids’ lives by behaving the way that I do? If I ignore what John says, came one thought, maybe he’ll finally get sick of me and leave me. I felt like a knife was twisting in my stomach. Then the rational side of me snorted. ‘Mate, if he hasn’t left you yet, he’s not going to leave you over this. Next!’ The Poor Me thoughts took a turn towards the unexpected: well, what if I really do have an emotional IQ of about 2?
I blinked. Well, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, that is probably an accurate depiction of my emotional IQ. I can be very immature in a lot of ways. Like right now. If I take away all the frills and fluffy stuff and get down to the bare, brutal facts, what I want to do, what I REALLY want to do, is emotionally hurt Keeley to the same extent that she’d emotionally hurt me. I cringed; there is such a thing as being too honest. But there it is: what I want is a bit… okay a lot… of righteous retribution. It’s what I’d normally do, how I’d normally react and to hell with the consequences for myself and the impact on others.
Tonight, though, Keeley is going to her first ever formal and is up to her well-trimmed eyebrows in nail-biting angst about the whole thing. Or she would be nail-biting if she hadn’t just had her nails done. I want to be included in that, I want to know what she’s up to, I want to share it with her and be involved in the excitement. But I also want to make her DEEPLY sorry that she lied to me. I’m almost afraid of talking to her… alright, I’m avoiding talking to her because although I do want to talk to her and find out what she’s up to and be a part of it, I also want to scream at her and make her understand that she is never to lie to me again. I’m avoiding calling her because I’m not sure which side of me will rise to the surface when I speak to her.
I groan to myself again because that’s me pussy-footing around the truth (again) but it does bring me nicely back on topic because John’s stated opinion, and the cause of this beachside existential crisis, was that I should just drop the subject until after the formal. Because, he said with upsetting candour, if the past is anything to go by, I’ll just make her life hell, ban her from going to the formal, then possibly catch myself because I’m being mean, and relent and let her go at the last minute. But I’ll only relent AFTER I’ve made sure I’ve embarrassed her in front of her friends and caused her all sorts of heartache and stress. Continuing his frank declaration, he stated that he doesn’t blame her for lying to me, what do I expect? Keeley knows how I’m going to react to what she’s trying to hide, and she’s not going to risk that getting in the way of her going to the formal.
He’s quite right. That’s exactly how I want to react. With an effort worthy of Wonderwoman, I grab hold of all the bickering factions in my mind, wrestle the different feelings - that I’ve let John down, that I haven’t done the right thing in raising the kids, that I’ve got everything completely wrong – to the ground, then firmly sit on them to give myself a bit of space (peace & quiet) to think. A couple of errant self-recriminations escape from under me and echoes of “I’m not good enough” and “I haven’t done this right” bounce around in all directions.
I really need to figure out what feels right to me. My immediate reaction of telling Keeley she can’t go to the formal is an old and well-used one, but is that just my ego wanting to spread the pain that I felt from being lied to and have the person who’d caused the pain to understand how I felt by making them feel the same way? Probably. Do I want to react like that? Yep, sure do. Is it mature and indicative of a high EQ? Probably not. Should that be a gauge in how I behave? Not if I’m going to trust myself.
Lord, sometimes I hate being able to think. I wish I was a cat and I could just laze around in the sun, looking for the next opportunity to irritate some human by sitting outside the door looking as though I want to come in and then walking away when they open the door for me. Life would be so much easier if I could just do that. Sadly, no can do. Realising that the sun is beginning to burn a hole in my nose and my chest is feeling suspiciously raw, I turn and walk back towards the car and continue my convoluted deliberations with the occasional distraction. It’s interesting how different the ocean looks, depending on whether you’re facing the sun or looking away from it; the light seems to reflect differently.
The thought that here is an opportunity to grow keeps niggling at me. I don’t know how to handle this, I’m in a strange new world of behaviour, I’m learning something new. Maybe I really could just sweep the lies under the carpet until the Formal is over. Doing that would be completely out of character, for sure. Dropping the whole thing and pretending it didn’t happen feels weird. In one sense, it goes completely against everything I believe in; I’m allowing someone to tell lies and get away with it, even if they only get away with it for a few days. That doesn’t feel right, it feels strange, it feels wrong.
The cries of self-recrimination and screams for righteous retribution were now quiet enough to allow a few new thoughts to come through: what is more important to me, communicating how upset I am (i.e. making Keeley pay) or being a part of Keeley’s first formal?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. My feelings of worthiness as a mother are intricately tied up with my children’s behaviour. If I allow Keeley to think for a second that lying to me is okay, then I’m letting myself down. I indulge myself in another one of those heaving, heavy-hearted sighs.
As I’m thoroughly enjoying wallowing in my moral crisis and pondering the depths of the ethic quandaries in which parenthood places us, a lady, who’s at least ten years older than me, overtakes me like a Porsche going past a Reliant Robin (the three wheeled car that Mr Bean had).
Where the hell did SHE come from? This is NOT acceptable. I am fit and healthy, the epitome of fifty-something womanhood. I will NOT be overtaken by galloping geriatrics.
Fine, I think to myself, I’ll leave hauling the little madam over the coals till Monday. This is an opportunity for personal growth, is it? Right, grow I will. I pick up the pace, heading after the striding woman with the sturdy legs. As I lift up my head to look around, I come to a second decision: you know what? I’m just going to go at my own pace and not worry about what anyone else is doing. Now THAT is an opportunity for growth for me.
I have my money stories like everyone else. I hug them to my chest and hold them close, treasuring them and trying to protect them from prying eyes. Sometimes, I fail miserably, and my precious stories get hauled unceremoniously out of their safe, cosy hiding place, after which a dazzling spotlight is shone on them for all the world to point at and analyse.
Today is one of those days. There’s a certain point where my money stories and John’s money stories meet. It’s a dark and seething maelstrom of twisted beliefs and painful, partly-formed ‘facts’. Most of them time, I manage to avoid getting caught up in the whirling vortex of intertwined dogmas, I know how it’s likely to go if I do get trapped in there, so as soon as I see the likelihood of this clash happening, I fire the five P’s into action: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
This time, for some inexplicable reason, instead of putting my usual preparations on high alert and pressing the big red button to launch everything in into action (Plan A in place? Check! Plan B ready to go? Check? What about Plan C? Do we have a Plan C ready just in case? We certainly do, sah!), I ALLOWED myself to be persuaded not to do that by my errant husband. It was a moment of barriers coming down, a moment of trust in my fellow man, a moment of hope for the future. I don’t know what I was thinking.
You see, I have this money belief that there’s never enough, money will always run out. I can live quite happily for. A few weeks or even months, never a whiff of a money shortage darkening my existence, and then it starts, and swear to god, within two days, I’m flat broke. There’s no money in my wallet and no money in the bank and panic begins to set in.
But then – ta da, ta DAH! Cue the trumpets and heroic music because here comes John, fully kitted out in half a tonne of stainless steel and tied to a huge white cart horse (he can’t ride for toffee, so he needs something to hold him on there), its long white mane and snowy feathers waving in the wind as they gallop to the rescue (the horse has obviously just been bathed because as every owner of every grey (that’s horsey speak for ‘white’) horse that has ever existed knows if it’s in the paddock, it will find the only patch of mud that exists for a thousand kilometres in any direction because of the drought, OR – and I know what you’re thinking here – you can just put it in a stable, right? Then your problem is solved. No! It doesn’t work. Every grey horse is genetically programmed to sleep using its manure as a pillow for its head. Or its bum, side, neck, legs, everywhere, in fact). Leaping from his snowy steed, clothes magically transforming in mid-air from noisy steel plate to suave black top hat and tails, John whips the hat from his head and pulls a rabbit out of it.
That’s how it goes: I run out of money and John comes to the rescue by - to paraphrase his favourite saying - pulling a rabbit out the hat, thereby assuring himself of remaining my hero and injecting himself with the fuzzy and warm feeling that he gets knowing that once again, he’s taken great care of his family.
All this happened yesterday: I ran out of money, John did his usual dance around his office for a few minutes (I think it’s something close to a Shaman’s Rain Dance only this is John’s Money Dance. It’s very effective) declaiming as always my profligate spending, the working of his fingers to the bone and how he dislikes having to “keep on pulling rabbits out of hats” (bwahaha!). I suggested (this was Plan A) that I transfer some money from another account into my spending account to give him a bit more time, but John assured me that no, the rabbit was already out of the hat and the money would be in my account this morning. Awesome.
I have no idea whether what happened was done on purpose, whether it was a subconscious thing or whether it was a complete accident. The thing that makes me suspicious is that this is the second time this has happened in the last couple of months: John put the rabbit into the wrong account.
Note to self: Put the 5 P’s into action next time.
For anyone who hasn’t been on the internet or seen the TV for the last week, it was the Melbourne Cup last Tuesday and social media is full of horror stories about the Cup & horse racing in general. Fortunately, the onslaught of annoying posts is starting to die down now.
Here’s the thing, right: this is not an article about the pros and cons of horse racing. This is not an article about animal rights, cruelty, veganism or anything else like that.
What this is about is whether what you’re posting is in alignment with your personal values and giving other people the freedom to live by their own personal values.
What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is that there’s been an onslaught of posts about the horrors of horse racing. They’re written in highly emotive rhetoric, stating “facts” about the racing industry and its poor animal welfare record and they’re usually accompanied by some outburst from the person sharing it along the lines of “Oh my god, this is terrible, it’s got to stop!”
A friend of mine posted an article with “statistics” about the Australian horse racing industry. Her comment on it was something along the lines of “I didn’t know any of this when I posted earlier about wishing they’d ban the Melbourne Cup but knowing this now, it’s got to stop!”
The article she shared opened with the headline: “If you don't like home truths keep on scrolling!!!!!!”
Seriously? FIVE exclamation marks? Good grief.
It went through a series of “statistics” and ended with:
“Spare a thought today for these guys [horses] who aren't being given a second thought while you're placing your money down at the TAB!!!!
Happy Melbourne Cup Day!!!!”
I put the word ‘statistics’ in inverted commas because the “statistics” quoted come from the US Racing industry not the Australian one, and they’re two completely different beasts (pardon the pun). If you’re going to argue something, get your facts right. Someone tried to point out to my friend that the statistics were inaccurate, but the damage was done.
This kind of article is sensationalist story telling with enough of a kernel of truth to make people believe the rest of it. It's designed to get people worked up with its eye-catching headline and emotional heartstring wording. It's manipulative, melodramatic and is filled with half-truths and outright lies cited as “facts”. It’s designed to get people up in arms and make them come to a certain specific conclusions and take certain actions, in this case, to share the post, get worked up and demand other people do the things that the writer of the post wants them to do.
Believing the things written in posts like these is like taking what's written in gossip magazines as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Core value #1 - Truthfulness. Broken.
Core value #2 - Honesty. Broken.
Core value #3 – Integrity. Broken.
Here’s what I find more disturbing: the nature of these articles is such that no one cannot comment against them. There is no reasonable middle ground and there is no tolerance or understanding of any viewpoint other than the one it puts forward. This kind of article is not a laying out of the facts in a way that allows people to make an objective choice based on their own moral compass. There is no free choice in articles like this; the tone of the article makes it quite clear that if you don't agree then you're wrong, you're guilty and you’re condemned. There's no freedom of choice and there's no room for discussion.
Core value #4 – Freedom. Broken.
Core value #5 – Choice. Broken.
There is no freedom in this kind of article/speech, there's no listening, no compassion, no thought that there may be another side to the story, that someone else has the right to their own beliefs. It's judgemental in the extreme. It's bullying. It's not a reasoned, well-argued point of view whose author is unafraid of dissent because they're confident, self assured and clear in their beliefs. It's all fear-based.
Core value #6 – Compassion. Broken.
I feel exactly the same way whether the article is talking about something I agree with or not. The style of writing/talking in the article is sensationalist manipulation. You can't even talk about the style of writing without people assuming that you disagree with the point the article was making. It’s divisive. It requires you to agree with what it’s saying or be proved wrong, believe or be condemned, support or be shown for 'the kind of person you really are'.
Core value #7 – Respect. Broken.
Core Value #8 – Fairness. Broken.
Even writing this post, about the style of writing in a particular kind of article, I feel the need to defend myself and say again that what I’m writing here has nothing to do with the pros & cons of the racing industry or the moral rights or wrongs or anything else, this is just me getting the shits about poxy half-truths written in a way designed to manipulate and dominate. And I don’t care how worthy your cause is…
…the end never justifies the means.
This is about freedom, about everyone having a right to their own opinion. It’s about the fact that if a child behaved this way in a schoolground, they’d be hauled up in front of the teacher for bullying, yet we tolerate it in the media and in posts like this because, oh well, they’re getting worked up about something, and you know, they’re right in what they say, something ought to be done about it, so it’s kind of understandable, just ignore it if you don’t like it, but definitely don’t say anything because they’ll get all rabid on you. We’re not allowed to disagree with any part of it under any circumstances.
There are many, many examples in history of leaders/causes using exactly this kind of rhetoric and method to convince people to behave in a certain way or to evoke change. Have a think about that.
If we try to change things and we use a lie or a half truth to convince people, regardless of how wonderful our cause, it’s never going to work because we don’t have a relationship or a cause that’s based in truth. There can never be any trust there, there’s no integrity or honesty in the relationship.
If we try to force people to do something (i.e. bully them), they may go along with things for a while, but it will backfire eventually. We’re showing people no respect, we’re giving them no freedom or choice.
Kira moved down to Melbourne this year and she was shocked when she saw some animal rights protesters yelling and shouting outside a steak house, then storm inside and scream and shout at all the diners, calling them murderers and animal killers.
Nice. What a bunch of respectful, compassionate and caring human beings. But I can’t even make a comment on how poor I think their behaviour is without being accused of supporting animal cruelty.
I’m very glad that people feel so passionate about things, that’s wonderful. But before we start sharing posts and getting all up in arms about things, we need to check out the facts that we’re promoting for accuracy and check out the other side of the story to see what their take on it is. Let’s show some compassion and respect for our fellow human beings. Let’s not rationalise lying or manipulating, coercing, bullying or disrespecting people. There is no excuse. We cannot justify it, regardless of how worthy our cause is, because when we try to do that, we’re going against one or more of our own personal values.
After a long day working my fingers and my brain to the bone yesterday, I decided to reward myself by binge watching some episodes of Project Runway. I only intended to watch one episode then go to bed but I got into things. Finally, at about 11pm (and I’m normally up before 6am, so 11pm is not a good bed time for me), after a brief but bloody struggle between my desire to watch more episodes and my need for sleep, I manage to stop myself from downloading any more programs and head upstairs to my bedroom.
As I’m faffing around like I normally do in my lengthy preparations before sleep, I hear a thump. Followed by another thump a few seconds later. I cautiously head towards the noise, treading very carefully in case the source of the thumping is something really vile like an oversized cockroach (though how an oversized cockroach would make a thumping noise, I don’t know), I gingerly look around.
And then instantly leap back with a shriek when the curtain moves with another thump. It’s a frog! In my bedroom. That’s located upstairs and nowhere near an external entrance. We have security screens on all the windows and doors. How did a FROG get into my room? And more to the point, how am I going to get the frog OUT of my room? Because I’m certainly not going to try to pick it up, it might squirt me with some foul-smelling and poisonous gunk, or worse, it might try to leap away, at which point, I’ll probably scream and let it go, then I’ll have to chase it through to the and I might never find it and it might die a horrible death under one of the beds and we won’t know where that awful smell is coming from until we move house. So, I need to get it right to avoid the disaster movie that’s running through my head.
I have a bit of a think and come up with the solution of a bowl and plate. I dismissed the idea of using a plastic tub because this was a big frog and if it leapt hard enough and made the lid move, I’d probably shriek and throw the whole thing up in the air, thus releasing the frog and resulting in a scenario like the one I was imagining. No, the capturing apparatus had to be something heavy. Crockery it is. Armed with my bowl and plate, I spend the next 15 minutes or so chasing the little croaker round my bedroom and, let me tell you, he played extremely hard to get. There were a couple of occasions where the bowl went spiralling through the air because Froggie jumped at me and not away from me, causing me to leap several feet in the air and squeal like I’d been stabbed.
Finally, I managed to capture the slippery little fellow and put him downstairs, outside, back in the garden, where he belongs. Unfortunately, all that adrenaline pumping round my veins as a result of a confused and disoriented amphibian leaping at me, meant that it was very late when I finally managed to drift off to sleep and there wasn’t a single dream of frogs.
There’s a lot in the paper about the upcoming 2018 Schoolies Week, which actually isn’t a week, it’s more like Schoolies Month, but the mere thought of there being a ‘Schoolies Month’ would send most parents and every local council in the tourist areas running for the hills while clutching at a bottle of Valium.
For any non-Aussies reading this, you may not know what I’m talking about. I first heard about Schoolies Week when my kids were at Primary School, but at that point in time, it was simply a vague event in the possible future, so far away that I could patronisingly chuckle at the stress and terror of the parents of the students who were about to embark on their Schoolies adventure. Then as my kids began to approach the second half of their Secondary School career, I started to experience the full onslaught of the worry, anxiety and outright panic about my children’s upcoming debut into drunken debauchery, as I heard them begin to discuss with their friends, ‘Where are we going for Schoolies?’
‘Schoolies’ happens when the Year 12’s finish their exams. Finally released from all school restraints, intoxicated with their new-found liberty, our fresh-faced young adults take off with their friends and head into unknown territory for a week. Alone, without the supervision of any ‘responsible’ adults (i.e. parents or teachers), intent on experiencing the full gamut of life that’s available to them now they’ve left school and achieved adulthood, they head off into uncharted waters (especially if they’re going to Rottnest Island), where an entirely new dimension of experiences awaiting them.
Experiences like getting so drunk that you can’t remember a) where you are or b) how you got there, closely followed by confusion about the people you’ve woken up with, i.e. who are they? After that it’s time to embark on a little investigative detective work because there’s a vile smell. This detective work is much trickier than you vaguely remember that it ought to be; your brain just doesn’t seem to want to work. At all. Like, really not at all. This isn’t Calculus, for heaven’s sake, you’re just trying to work out what the smell is. Regrettably, your brain won’t surface from the murky depths in which it’s wallowing.
After a bit of a struggle, with you trying to wrestle your brain and get it to wake the eff up, for Christs’ sake, you then realise why your brain was so reluctant to move: it’s damaged! Holy cow! Some serious head injury must have happened during the evening because the simple act of lifting your head causes extreme agony to the point where you get dots in front of your eyes! You didn’t know that could actually happen except for at the moment of impact when something actually hit you. You spend a few moments reflecting on this new-found piece of information and hazily wonder whether you’ve just discovered a new scientific breakthrough.
Then you try to open your eyes. What the hell happened? Is Armageddon here or something? The sun is so much brighter than it normally is. Did some star go Supernova or something? And the sound! The noise coming from the air conditioning unit is like standing in front of the speakers at an AC/DC concert! What is wrong with the thing? Someone needs to see to the damned device.
There’s another period of time spent while you lie there feeling disgruntled about the appalling smell (as well as the ear-splitting noise and the blinding light), wishing that you could cobble together enough brain power and energy to get out of bed (or up off the floor), close the curtains and switch off the air con to give your poor, damaged brain a little respite, but most of all, you want to tell whoever it is that’s stinking the place out to get their act together and go and clean themselves up, because it’s disgusting and extremely selfish to just lie there, smelling as badly as they do and imposing that stench on everyone else. You’re assuming it’s a person, you’re hoping that it’s not the floor or a piece of furniture that’s smelling because even in the state of damage that your brain is currently in, you know that it’s much easier to clean a person and get the smell out of them, than it is to clean a floor or a piece of furniture. Pray to god, it’s not a piece of furniture that’s smelling.
Raising your head, taking care to move your head as slowly and gently as you can, you gingerly look around to see if you can locate the source of that awful smell. That tiny movement of your head sparks a foggy memory and you can put a name to the smell: it’s the stench of vomit! Some moron has puked somewhere. And the main reason you’ve identified the smell is because that tiny head movement has brought you close to barfing yourself! Swallowing the urge to throw up, and moving as carefully as you possibly can, you look around for the selfish moron who’s spewed and hasn’t bothered cleaning it up. You mentally sneer at your pathetic roommate: obviously, they can’t take their drink, the lightweight. Your eyes drift over your own body and your brain slowly begins to light up in a horrible foggy realisation that you’re the lightweight who’s vomited all over themselves and who’s stinking the place out.
Giddy with excitement at the prospect of having this kind of experience first hand, our school leavers head for territory that has already proven itself, places that are already legend from previous Schoolies Weeks. Bali, Rottnest Island, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast feature highly on this list and the newly-hatched educational alumni head to those destinations in their droves. Once in these iconic locations, they do what young adults in the Western world have done since time immemorial: they get hammered on whatever substance they can lay their hands on, cause chaos in the local neighbourhoods, trash their hotel rooms like the rock stars they said they were going to be in their Year Book, get into fights and generally seem to do their best to get themselves banned from every bar / nightclub / restaurant / café / event / shop / taxi / uber / public transport / hotel / motel / B&B / AirBnB and every other facility in the area, with the main focus being on behaving in a way that is guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 45 say things like “what’s the world coming to?” and “humanity is never going to survive this generation” or even “we would never have been allowed to do things like that in our day, we wouldn’t have got away with it. We’d have been beaten to within an inch of our lives.”
When it boils right down to it, Australians are a very pragmatic breed who set great store by the adage ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. They know Schoolies Week is going to happen, so they manage it as best they can. It’s basically three or four weeks of inebriated teenagers wandering round and, for the most part, having a good time (hangovers notwithstanding, but when you’re at that stage in your life, a hangover is hopefully a pretty new experience, and is treated with the utmost pleasure, as in “Oh mate, I was so hungover, I puked my guts up” or “I was so out of it, I don’t remember a thing after the 8th tequila we had in the fourth bar we went in” or “I felt so bad that I didn’t get out of bed till 5p.m., then I just got dressed and went back out to the pub to get a hair of the dog”. That kind of thing).
Schoolies Week doesn’t started for two weeks, but last Saturday night in Broadbeach it was as though Schoolies was already underway: gangs of inebriated men and gaggles of intoxicated women were staggering round, having a great time, being really loud, dressed up in all sorts of matching outfits so they could still recognise their mates even though they were off their faces after drinking for 6 or 7 hours straight. It was packed, it was loud, it was just like Schoolies Week…
Except the people wandering round in a noisy state of inebriation, laughing, giggling, falling over, yelling, losing their friends, forgetting where they were staying, wanting to hug everyone, sitting in the gutter because they were too “tired” to move, dancing down the street on bare feet because their shoes were hurting them, and dressed in feather boas and silly hats, were the parents of the kids that are about to descend on the Gold Coast for Schoolies.
The Gold Coast is currently hosting the Pan Pacific Master Games and thousands of “athletes” (I use the term loosely) have descended on the area and, free of kids and other familial responsibilities and obligations, are intent on having a good time, getting as drunk as possible, dancing the night away at the dinners and events that are an integral part of this kind of thing, vomiting in the Uber and possibly competing in one or two events if absolutely necessary. And if they’re not too hung over and are feeling up to it. So long as someone else drives and maybe brings a puke bag with them just in case.
Kind of like a Schoolies Week Class of ‘79 Reunion. These guys did Schoolies many, many years ago and they’ve been practising ever since. They out every bit of that partying expertise into practise on Saturday night. And they’re still going.
I sometimes think that there are occasions when the universe gets a bit bored, so it gathers its minions round and they all amuse themselves by creating things in my life that no one, and I mean NO ONE, would ever dream possible. If I’m going to be fair, I have to admit that the things that happen are, on the whole, equally balanced between positive experiences and negative, but just occasionally I get one that makes me curl my lip like Elvis and say “Whaaaaa?”
Last night, I’m fast asleep, the air con is on, the fan is going and the air purifier is buzzing away taking all the nasty bits of pollen that cause John to sniff and sneeze and get very grumpy. I’m happily curled up under the sheet, secure in the knowledge that if a mozzie does come into the room, I’m not going to hear it over all that background noise. Bliss.
Then I hear the familiar mosquito drone. “Are you kidding me?” I think, ducking my head under the cover. Then I stop. The droning is still there, but it doesn’t sound right. It sounds like the mozzie is injured and can’t fly properly. I must have already swatted it in my sleep. It drones some more. It also sounds like…
…the mozzie is in my ear!
I leap out of bed, desperately trying to hook it out with my fingernail while, in the pitch black of night and desperately trying not to make a noise so I don’t disturb John, I dive into the bathroom cupboard and scrabble round to try to find some ear buds so I can get the little sucker out of my lughole.
After the first foray into my ear canal with the bud, the droning stops but it’s too dark for me to see whether I’ve got all or even any of the bits of mosquito out of my ear canal. A bit of poking and general cleaning round later, I go back to bed to lie in the dark, sleep evading me, wondering what kind of warped sense of humour would create that kind of event in anyone’s life.
More family stories…
I’m probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this, but I’ve been in trouble my whole life, particularly with my family, so it’s not a new experience.
What I’d love is to hear family memories from people, not just my family but other people too. Old memories, funny memories, poignant, scary or hilarious memories. There’s so much stuff that we forget about and never really pass on the full experience to our children or younger relatives, and it’s such a shame to lose that experience because it is relevant and whatever has happened has helped create who we are today.
So, my family: I’d love to hear some of your memories. My friends, I’d love to hear from you, too. You can put comments on this post or message me, either one’s fine.
Today’s blog is one that I wrote more than three years ago about my Mum’s eldest sister, my Aunty Joan. She passed away at that time and these are some of the memories that came up for me.
I was always a little scared of Aunty Joan. She had seven children and it was always chaos at her house, so (of course) I loved going down there. It was always full of people, there was always lots of noise and there were always things going on. They also lived right opposite the local church so Sunday morning at 6.30, the bells would start ringing. All the family slept right through it and I could never figure out how they managed it.
Aunty Joan’s children's parties were legendary, at least, with me they were. She had to do everything on a budget: my Uncle Ernie hadn't been able to work since the older children were young; he was in a wheelchair and on oxygen for as long as I can remember. That didn't stop him from becoming Chairman of the Royal Deaf Children's Society, though. He worked tirelessly on behalf of disadvantaged children, as did my Aunty Joan.
Getting back to parties on a budget, Aunty Joan would always rope in my older cousins and their mates to run the games for us younger ones. I remember really clearly, it's indelibly printed on my memory in full technicolor, one party game called "The Blarney Stone". We were taken into a room, blindfolded, sat on a chair, and told that we couldn’t leave the room till we’d completed a particular task that was essential to us living a long and happy life and having all our dreams come true. The only requirement for us having everything we wanted in life, all the success, all the love, the money, the things, fame, fortune, the whole lot, all we had to do was to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Knowing my Aunty Joan’s sense of humour, some of us were naturally quite reluctant to kiss – or even pretend to kiss – anything at all and certainly not while we were blindfolded. But, when the carrot didn't work, they brought out the stick and we were promised dire and terrible misfortune if we didn’t kiss this Blarney Stone. I suspect I was quite difficult to persuade because I went in there knowing something unspeakably vile was likely to happen, something that I was unlikely to be allowed to forget for the rest of my life, no matter how blessed it was going to be from the kiss I was being asked to bestow on this piece of rock..
Eventually I caved in, played the game and kissed the Blarney Stone. At which point, my blindfold was whipped off just in time for me to see my cousin, Craig, pulling up his trousers after I'd just kissed his backside!
Those of us who’d been through the Blarney ordeal were allowed into the big secret, after we swore not to share the secret with anyone who hadn’t kissed the Blarney Stone: the kiss was bestowed on someone’s folded up arm, not someone’s a**e. But I still remember that bloody blarney stone! Can you imagine if you played that game at a kids’ party now? You'd get done for child abuse! It must have been priceless to watch the kids’ faces as you whipped off the blindfold, though and there are several children that I'd thoroughly enjoy playing this game with. I'm sure I was one of those kids Aunty Joan was very glad to have play this game.
Another thing I remember was Corporation Pop. Aunty Joan and her family lived in the city: darkest Salford, so when I came to visit them from where we lived in the country, there were some things that they had access to that seemed just amazing to me. One of them was the Alpine Man. There was a soft drinks company called Alpine who not only delivered to shops but also came round to the houses in the city every week to sell directly to the customers' doors. He was kind of like the ice cream van of soft drinks; he stopped and all the kids came running up and got their orders. Aunty Joan used to get two bottles of pop a week (I think) between the seven kids. It was gone in less than 2 minutes. After that, they were on Corporation Pop: water (water corporation => corporation pop).
On one stay at Aunty Joan’s, me and my cousin Beverly, the fifth child of the family and a week younger than me, were walking home when a car lost control (or something, I can’t remember the details) and hit Beverly. In shock, I ran back to the house and told Aunty Joan (I was probably almost hysterical) that Bev had been "run over". She gave me such a telling off afterwards because she'd been imagining Bev had been splattered all over the road. It was one of the few times she ever got really angry with me.
They had the most amazing cellar in their house, too. Well, it was actually a bog-standard normal cellar, but she’d had the boys turn it into their den. They coveredl the walls & ceiling with empty egg cartons in the hope that the cartons would help sound proof the room. I don't know that the sound proofing idea actually worked but it kept the boys busy for weeks. Particularly when they had to paint the cartons after they’d finished gluing them to the walls & ceiling.
I remember being amazed at the fact that making sandwiches for lunch for the family would involve at least two loaves of bread. She got everyone involved in buttering that lot.
Kira has a way of holding herself when she's analysing someone that I know is exactly how I used to look when I was trying to work something out. I remember looking at Aunty Joan that way one day. She'd been yelling at one of the kids for something or other and it must have been particularly bad in my teenaged opinion because I couldn't figure out why she'd want to speak to her children that way. She obviously saw the expression on my face because she sighed and said "What is it?" I'd always found her a bit scary and rarely stepped obviously out of line around her (I made sure any stepping out of line I did around Aunty Joan was entirely subversive) but I obviously felt very strongly about this because I asked her "Don't you love your children?"
Tact has never been one of my strong points.
What she said remained one of the tenets of motherhood for me and made things much, much easier than they might have been. I must also acknowledge the fact that she didn't just rip my head off and send me running, she took the time to answer my question kindly and honestly even though one of her friends was sitting with her at the time. She said, "I always love my children, I just don't always like them."
Rest in Peace, Aunty Joan, you did good.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...