Friday, February 16, 2018

are they talking about me?!

I've just read 'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty.  Gobbled it up in one weekend, not because I'm four years behind the rest of the world in discovering it's a cracking story, but because it really is a cracking story.  Filled with so many little observations of life that are just spot on.  Insightful about human nature and what makes us tick. And as I said, a cracking story.  I was bleary eyed for work on Monday because I had to know who did it.  Heck, I couldn't put it down because I didn't even know who had died, leave alone who did it!

Anyway, I began to wonder if Liane Moriarty modelled Madeline on me.  From the moment she jumped out of her car at the traffic lights to give the teenagers in front what for over texting while driving to her indignation over... everything.  Madeline is me.  I am Madeline. (OK, I've never actually got out of the car to tell someone off for using their phones, but I've been mad about it inside my car.  And I have stalked up to a group of teenagers who threw litter on the ground in City Park, snatched up the rubbish and told them tartly that littering is not OK, it's just not OK).

Page 239 was the clincher.  The whole page.  Change the name, and it is me.

"She didn't know how to be around Abigail anymore.  It reminded her of trying to be friends with an ex-boyfriend.  That studied casualness of your interactions.  The fragility of your feelings, the awareness that the little quirks of your personality were no longer so adorable; they might even be just plain annoying.

"Madeline had always played up to her role in the family as the comically crazy mother.  She got overly excited and overly angry about things.  When the children wouldn't do as they were told she huffed and she puffed.  She sang silly songs while she stood at the pantry door, 'Where oh where, are the tinned tomatoes?  Tomatoes, wherefore art thou?'  The kids and Ed loved making fun of her, teasing her about everything from her celebrity obsessions to her glittery eye-shadow.

"But now, when Abigail was visiting, Madeline felt like a parody of herself.  She was determined not to present to be someone she wasn't.  She was forty!  It was too late to be changing her personality.  But she kept seeing herself through Abigail's eyes and assuming that she was being compared unfavourably to Bonnie.  Because Abigail had chosen Bonnie, hadn't she?  Bonnie was the mother Abigail would prefer.  It actually had nothing to do with Nathan.  The mother set the tone of the household.  Every secret fear that Madeline had ever had about her own flaws (she was obviously too quick to anger, often too quick to judge, overly interested in clothes, spent far too much money on shoes, she thought she was cute and funny when perhaps she was just annoying and tacky {emphasis is mine}) was now at the forefront of her mind.  Grow up, she told herself.  Don't take this so personally.  Your daughter still loves you.  She's just chosen to live with her father.  It's no big deal.  But every interaction with Abigail was a constant battle between 'This is who I am, Abigail, take it or leave it' and 'Be better, Madeline, be calmer, be kinder, be more like Bonnie'."
Inside my head, I tell you. It was a bit of a worry actually, thinking that if Madeline was the murderer, perhaps that said something about me.  No spoilers here - if you haven't read it, I recommend the book.  And it may well have been Madeline who knocked another school parent off.  Or it may not have been.  Ha.

[In other news, I'm feeling good about reading a book last weekend, because I've set myself a goal of reading a book a month this year... I wasn't meaning novels when I set the goal, but I'll take it.  Got myself off Facebook enough to take in some dubious literature.  And now I've blogged about it.  Two goals ticked off.  Winning.  Kind of.  Now I'm off to find the TV series somewhere.]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

before facebook i...

Read books
Looked at the sky
Cooked cakes
Wrote letters
Knitted jumpers
Had more time
Kept a journal
Hunted out information for myself
Tidied up
Grew vegetables
Made cards
Reflected on who I am and where I am going
Weeded the garden
Had coffee with friends
Dusted the house
Wrote a blog
Borrowed books from the library
Had original thoughts

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy Birthday to me!

Another new year, another birthday almost immediately afterwards.  So much opportunity for reflection in two short days.

I've had a lovely day.  Frank put a present out for me before I awoke, we went to the raspberry farm for lunch, the boy wrote me several sweet birthday notes and so many friends have sent me cards, gifts and lovely messages on facebook.

Here's the thing though.  Birthdays feel a little self indulgent to me.  I'm not that special and I've had enough birthdays to make the day feels like it's just a day.  I indulge myself by asking that I not have to cook... then spend the day feeling a bit guilty about how much money gets spent on eating out. (No one else cooks much around here)

I feel the love from other people, so it's not anyone else's problem.  It's me.

I'm still figuring out if I'm healthily humble and realistic about my place in the world, or if my birthday discomfort is yet another faulty signal from my busted sense of self worth.  Maybe it's both? 

I remember someone asking why we celebrate birthdays - it's not like they are any great achievement.  Stay alive for another 365 days and you've made it back to where you started, another birthday.  They are kind of inevitable.  Someone else told me that nobody in one of the more populous countries of the world thinks they are specially chosen to change the world and leave a mark - they are one of more than a billion and they are tiny.  Maybe my birthday discomfort has grown from these snatches of conversation - I'm no great person for surviving another 365 years, and in a world of seven billion and counting, I'm just one of the crowd.

I don't want to sound ungrateful - I've loved every message and greeting and wish and card and restaurant meal.  They have given me a sense of connection and place.  Thank you for every bit of love and care you have sent.  I'm feeling the love.  (But I did three loads of washing, stewed the rhubarb, made a cake and folded the washing to keep my feet on the ground.  It's not all about me, even on my birthday.)

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year!

After four years of neglect, I am still able to access my blog account.  Piles of spam aside, keeping the same email address and mobile number has worked for me on this occasion. 

Hello happy chatter, and welcome back to the world of blogging.

It remains to be seen how long I stick with this, but one of my intentions for 2018 is to get back into writing.  I've missed it.  A personal journal might be a better place for most of my jumbled thoughts, but I like writing with readers in mind, so I'm officially kicking off again.

And since it's new year, here are some of my other intentions:

- have a go at yoga (a suitably broad intention - even if I just watch one YouTube vid... I've had a go)
- use less plastic (I've gotten a bit slack in this department.  I plan to sew some calico bags and get serious about reducing my plastic bag usage)
- clear out stuff from the recesses of my mind our overflowing cupboards
- practice more self-compassion (my revelation of 2017.  I want more to be revealed)
- mark the progress of time and the effect of life more deliberately (write, write, write...)
- be a nicer person

I'm sure a few other intentions have formed in my mind over the last few days, but alas, I have forgotten them.  They'll come to me again...  maybe by the time they do, I will have already worked my way through the above list.  (Kidding - that cupboard clearing is going to take all year at my pace)

Anyway, Happy New Year.  May 2018 be productive and fruitful and uplifting.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

a little birthday perspective

It's happened - I have officially entered the last year of my thirties... my fortieth year even. Woah.

Apart from wondering when this all happened, I have also been worrying about whether I look as old as I am, or (heaven forbid) perhaps older than my age!  Over the years many have thought me younger than I am, but lately not so much - a bit too much grey hair, a few too many crinkles at the edges.

Whatever anyone else thinks, I feel I don't know myself anymore, my face isn't what it used to be... I just don't look young anymore and I've lost my bearings.  This has been bothering me so much that I, a strong advocate of graceful greying and 'original highlights', have even been contemplating dying my hair.  Because that will make me younger. Ha.

I'm not sure which I find more confronting, the signs of aging or my obsession with them.  I've never been one for hiding my age - what is the point of being coy when we're all on the self same journey?  I am the age I am and no point pretending to be eternally 21.  What is there to be embarrassed about?  Time passes, I get older, so do you.  It's all very simple.  To find myself so caught up with appearances is, frankly, disappointing.  I thought I was better than that! I thought I was brave and strong, practical, and not given to (too much) superficiality, yet here I am quivering over an ever increasing head of grey hair, constantly assessing those around me to measure how I look for my age in comparison to them, considering giving up talking and smiling in order to preserve the smoothness of the skin around my eyes and mouth.  What is the source of such ridiculousness?!

I have a few thoughts on what my angst may stem from.  The first is not having children but wanting them.  I am fast running out of time - if I look older, I must be older, and that does not bode well for those ovaries and their precious eggs. Some romantic part of my brain seems to think that if I keep looking young then I just might be young and that baby is suddenly more likely.  Ah,  the games the mind does play.

The other source of my angst is probably the obsession of our society with eternal youth.  You just don't see many women who look their age sashaying their way around our screens and magazines.  Now I'm not one to spend a lot of time looking at screens and magazines, but the values of our culture have still seeped their way into my brain such that I feel a whole lot less worthy if I look older.  I look at a world full of young women and I want to shout at them, 'Don't just walk around without noticing how fabulous you look.  You are young and lovely.  Your skin is smooth, your hair lush, your eyes bright.  It won't last, so relish it while you have it!'  I also look around and see a plethora of gorgeous women (and men, but mostly I compare myself with women) who are aging gracefully and I think they look lovely and just right.  Age doesn't detract from their beauty.  But somehow, when it is me we're talking about, I worry that I might not be aging gracefully.  The rational part of my brain knows this is ridiculous, but I can't seem to help it. In short, I have double standards.

Today I discovered something of an antidote to my obsession with appearances.  I bumped into a work colleague I haven't seen for a few years.  We were buying fruit and vegetables next to each other and she turned to say hello, only I couldn't really understand her because her words slurred so much.  I thought she told me she had had a stroke and I was hopeful for her recovery, but once she gave up on my poor abilities to decipher her words she pulled out a note pad.  She hadn't had a stroke, she has motor neurone disease and has resigned from work because she is dying.  Slowly yes, but whichever way you look at it she is dying.  I cried after we said goodbye.  It was quite a shock to see her like that.  She might be in her fifties but she only has such a short time left.  Where is all my worry about appearances now?  Relegated to the dust bin I hope - people in the real world, outside of the movies and magazines, get sick and deteriorate and die, sometimes when they are old and sometimes well before their time.  When it all boils down, appearances don't count for that much really.  I'd rather be fit, healthy, grey haired and wrinkled than disintegrating or dead.  When you put it like that I have a whole lot to be thankful for.

Yesterday I read something else that also gave me pause.  I found it in 'Art as Therapy' by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, part of a discussion about the moral messages of art.

Moral messages - messages that encourage our better selves - can be found in works of art that seem, initially, to have little interest in 'saying' anything to us.  Take a Korean moon jar.  Aside from being a useful receptacle, it is also a superlative homage to the virtue of modesty.  It stresses this quality by allowing minor blemishes to remain on its surface, by being full of variations of colour and having an imperfect glaze and an outline that does not follow an ideal oval trajectory.  Impurities have found their way into the kiln, resulting in a random array of black dots all over its surface.  The jar is modest because it seems not to mind about any of this.  Its flaws merely concede its disinterest in the race for status.  It has the wisdom not to ask to be thought too special.  It is not humble, just content with what it is.  For a person who is give to arrogance or anxiety about worldly status, and who frets about recognised at social gatherings, the sight of such a jar may be intensely moving as well as encouraging.  Seeing the ideal of modesty so clearly may make it obvious that one is in exile from it.  All the same, here it is, waiting for us in the jar.  It would be understandable if a person who was at heart sincere and good, whose arrogance was only a habit built up to protect a vulnerable part of themselves, shouls, as they contemplated the moon jar, find themselves yearning to make a change in their lives under the aegis of the values encoded in a piece of ceramic. (2014, p42)

The words that struck me most were these: The jar is modest because it seems not to mind about any of this... It is not humble, just content with what it is.  I dearly want to be like this.  At the moment I am caught up in minding all my seeming imperfections which aren't really imperfections. I grieve the loss of youth while forgetting the pleasures of increasing age such as a broadened outlook on life.  (This is exacerbated by not having had children to mark the years and remind me of their passing.)  I don't want to waste the rest of my life moaning that I am no longer young.  I want to not mind about any of this, to be content with what I am - grey hair and all.

So as I stare down the path of the next year to the big 4-0, I'm going to work at giving myself permission to stop worrying about the aging process.  Whether I can do this is a whole other question, but for now I'm going to embrace every one of my 39 years and who they have made me to be.  I'm alive and a whole lot bigger and wiser and better than I was the day I was born.  That's something worth celebrating!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

reason for voting green #7: liberal party policies are unconscionable and labor aren't much better

To be honest, I've pretty well zoned out of the 24/7 political news cycle.  My facebook feed keeps me up to date with policy announcements via a range of groups, and when I feel like it, I check in with twitter.  The daily policy announcements of the various political parties is little more than a dull hum in the background.

That being said, I am aware of the policies Labor and the LNP have been announcing lately.  One that stands out in my mind is LNP's policy on asylum seekers.  Here is their policy (as taken from the ABC asylum seeker policy webpage):
  • Establish a military-led response to border protection called Operation Sovereign Borders
  • Direct Navy to turn boats back when safe to do so
  • Mandatory detention for all boat arrivals
  • Offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island
  • Reintroduce temporary protection visas
  • Boost capacity on Nauru to house 2,000 people, eventually up to 5,000
  • Impose behaviour protocols on asylum seekers on bridging visas
  • Prioritise claims of asylum seekers in refugee camps over claims of boat arrivals
  • Maintain refugee intake at 13,750 per year
The temporary protection visas the Coalition intends to issue would last for three years, after which a refugee would have to have their situation reassessed (so much for cutting red tape).  If the security situation in their home country is assessed as having improved - back they go.  Family reunions will not be allowed, and refugees will not be allowed to work - except they may work for the dole.

Labor policy isn't much better.  They will do this (again taken from the ABC asylum seeker policy webpage):
  • Mandatory detention for all boat arrivals
  • All asylum seekers arriving by boat will be sent to PNG for processing and settlement
  • No asylum seekers arriving by boat will ever be settled in Australia
  • Offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island and possibly other sites within PNG
  • Expand Manus Island detention centre to accommodate up to 3000 people
  • Increase refugee intake to 20,000 per year
  • Excise the mainland from Australia's migration zone
These policies make me unspeakably mad.  Both claim to be based on 'compassion' - they want to stop the asylum seekers coming to Australia in dangerous boats.  Well that must be the first time anyone in the western world takes responsibility for someone else's actions. Usually we try and worm our way out of taking responsibility for anything... but here, suddenly we feel so responsible for these people's lives we try and stop them taking a risky journey to our fair shores.  I smell a rat.  Both parties are telling big, stinking lies.  Their main motivation is not stopping people dying at sea - they just want to appeal to the red neck voter who is scared of asylum seekers.  The whole 'ethical' argument is ridiculous.  "Oh, we're so worried about them we're going to treat them like second class citizens, keeping their lives in never ending limbo, settling them in third world countries.  We can treat them badly, because what we really want is their safety."  What a load of codswallup!  The end does not justify the means, maleficence is maleficence whether the goal is beneficence or not.  (And I'm sorry - I've never walked in these people's shoes.  What gives me the right to tell them they are better off staying where they are, rather than jumping on a leaky boat and risking a perilous journey to safe shores?  We really have no idea what their every day life must be like!)

Here's some bible verses about the topic:

Exodus 22:21 Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner...

Leviticus 19:34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 24:17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice...

Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

I've scratched the surface of verses relating to the way a foreigner should be treated.  The whole bible is a story of sharing goodness with the many. Way back when, God spoke to Abraham and said all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 18:18).  We are not meant to hold our blessings close to our chest just for ourselves.  They are to be shared with those who are in need, including foreigners who come to us.  And it isn't just an Old Testament deal... Jesus made it pretty clear he wasn't just interested in serving his own people.  He healed a Canaanite woman's daughter (Matthew 15:21-28), threw demons out of a Gerasene (Mark 5), and healed a Roman soldier's servant (Luke 7:1-9).  Jesus was into sharing blessings.

LNP policies on asylum seekers make me want to weep.  They are cruel and heartless.  They appeal to all that is wrong in our society.  They go against biblical values.  Labor policies are little better. I absolutely cannot vote for a political party that takes the stance of these two parties.

So, another reason I'll be voting Green is because Labor and LNP policies on asylum seekers are unconscionable.  

(And I haven't even touched on the whole issue of push factors, international people movement, our contribution to war in the countries asylum seekers are coming from... the Greens policy on asylum seekers sees the bigger picture and seeks to address many of these issues.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

reasons for voting green #6: proactive action on poverty

Following on from yesterday, the Greens' policies aimed at addressing poverty and inequality in the world extend well beyond foreign aid.  They have a whole raft of policies to address poverty, and they can all be found categorised here

I like the sound of their policies a lot.  Here are a few of them:

 - Ban gambling on kid's TV
 - Cut housing waiting lists
 - Dollar bet limits
 - Homelessness
 - Housing
 - Social services
 - Getting smart on crime

I've read a couple of their information pages and I like their whole new approach.  'Getting smart on crime' is a play on 'Getting tough on crime' and it focuses on proactive prevention rather than dealing with crime after the fact.  I've always been keen on the idea of prevention, whether it relates to health or risk management... or crime.  Their policy for dollar bet limits is another example of the Greens' intention to be proactive rather than reactive.

After (briefly) outlining the biblical emphasis on addressing poverty yesterday, I won't add more to it today.  (Rest assured though, that I could.  Poverty and compassion are key biblical themes)  Suffice to say that I like the Greens' approach to dealing with poverty.  They have thought about many aspects of poverty in Australia (and the world) and developed a broad suite of policies to address them.  Once again their policies line up with biblical principles.

I'm voting Green because they have a proactive plan for reducing poverty.