Friday, September 21, 2007

living in the lap of luxury

Thinking back to school days I have no doubt my teachers intended me to learn all sorts of weighty knowledge, and it's likely that I did imbibe some of what they sought to impart. Perhaps I even learned huge swathes of facts and figures - I sure studied hard enough!

Thinking back though, it's mostly irrelevant things I recall... creating volcanoes in the sandpit, concocting rotten egg gas, resting a needle on the meniscus of a glass of water, the extra trill tacked onto the end of a piece of music, crying with Bob Hawke over Tiananmen Square, the quirky personality of a lecturer donned in thongs rain, hail or shine. Arguably the most useful thing I remember is the definition of osmosis: the movement of particles from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration through a semi-permeable membrane.

All those years spent studying and I can only hope my knowledge base is fat with a general air of knowing. Because the facts and figures slipped away long ago!

In the intervening years since school not that much has changed - I still seem programmed to remember the incidental, inconsequential things and forget the relevant bytes of information. Working in my favour is the way all those incidental, inconsequential things weave themselves together into something truly useful that guides my life. (I'm still figuring out the useful contribution of needles on menisci and rotten egg gas...) Snatches of truth, principles, generalities... all converge to produce an idea that gains significance in the nitty gritty of everyday life.

Lately a host of truths, principles and generalities have been snapping together like magnets in my mind. World poverty, ethical eating, environmental conscience, sustainable living... these and many other ideas swim around in my head, seeking each other out, forming values and beliefs, influencing my behaviour.

A thought from my recent residential school is a case in point. We were discussing the counselling needs of people who have experienced trauma and loss when the lecturer pointed out that the very fact we have time and space to discuss such events with a counsellor is testimony to the privilege and luxury we enjoy. Many of the world's population do not have access to this privilege - their trauma and losses are incomprehensibly greater than our own, yet they are so caught up in the task of survival that they have no resources left for processing their experiences.

I can't shake that thought, the thought of the luxury and privilege I enjoy. For one, I can afford to study! (Leave alone having the chance to learn to read) Then there is my choice to work part time, not because I have children or an injury, but simply because of the quality of life it affords me. As I sit and study, or read, or cook for pleasure I am plagued by visions of those who must work tirelessly through every day to simply survive: gathering wood; milking goats; grinding wheat. And what about our new car? The one with the six stack CD player? Most people of the world can only dream of such a grand possession.

Yes, I live in the lap of luxury.

It all came home a little more strongly this afternoon. Today Frank and I heard about a young orphan boy in Kenya who lives in a single room with his grandparents and plays with cars he makes from wire. I wept.

What a world. That I can be so, so rich while this boy is so, so poor. That I have food, and shelter, and transport, and education while he has so little. That we in the West perpetuate his poverty with our systems of exploitation and greed. This is a travesty.

May I be responsible with my wealth, using it to ease the pain of those who experience little in the way of luxury, promoting the principles of justice and compassion and resisting the urge to think only of myself.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

where did those two years go?

Night shift has swallowed up two weeks of my life, but last night it took two giant years off my age! It was quite pleasant really.

At 4am we admitted a young woman whose birth year was the same as mine. 1975.

'She's my age,' I thought, 'Thirty. How nice!' (I always feel a greater affinity with patients who are almost the same age as me)

Sitting down to read through her history I found a record of her age as 32. Now hang on a minute... she's the same age as me remember? Thirty! Don't be going and adding an extra year or two just because you feel like it.

And then it registered with me - not thirty! I'm not thirty. I'm 32. Tricked out of two years of my life by the dopey dullness of a night shift mind. Or was it those delusions of eternal youth catching me out? Thirty always was my ideal age. Whatever, I was mightily shocked to remember how quickly time ticks on. (I mean, half way through September already... what is this?!)

I suppose the good thing about time ticking past so fast is that my night shifts are already all done. I can rip the make shift curtains (three hastily hung blankets) off the window and start reengaging with the world.

There was another bonus to working night shift (apart from the hefty penalty rates warranted by loss of beauty sleep)... Frank missed me a lot.

I surprised myself by adjusting well, sleeping soundly during the day and remaining alert most of the night. Poor old Frank worried about me, pointed out my pale cheeks and blood shot eyes in a most concerned manner and just couldn't wait for me to return to the land of the living. After my last shift last week he was so relieved to have me back that he presented me with a bunch of the most beautiful roses ever - they even smelt like real roses, which is a real novelty! Hmmm. Maybe I should work nights more often!

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

over the pulp mill or ' wishing the pulp mill was over'

I'm heartily tired of this whole pulp mill business. (Years of having it's fabricated benefits stuffed in my ears are taking their toll)

I'm relieved it has become a national issue. (53% of us who live in the area don't want it, while 35% do. The rest don't know who to believe and choose fence sitting over becoming better informed. But even with those statistics - and yes, in case you missed it, that's a majority of people who don't want the mill - Gunns think they can swan into our backyard and do what they want because. well. they want to. isn't that reason enough? We need all the help we can get to beat this thing, so thankyou to all those mainlanders who've waded into the debate and are fighting with us)

I'm extremely upset that the bottom line is the almighty dollar. Always the almighty dollar. Everything is reduced to profit. Dividends. Value per tonne. Trade deficits balanced by pulp production over woodchip export.

I am going to buy this t-shirt and wear it everywhere.

Eat money?

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught
will we realise we cannot eat money.
It seems to me that our whole value system is totally mucked up. (I really want to swear there, but I am not as brave as some of you whose blogs I read. My Mum is reading... replace 'mucked up' with the expletive that best fits) We have totally stuffed up our world for the sake of a dollar and I am enraged and grief stricken all in one. I am distressed that I (separated from you only in degree), am a consumer who contributes to this system that rapes our earth in return for paltry money.

I've been reading a book called 'The ethics of what we eat' by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. In their tabulation of the atrocities of industrial size chicken production they make some statements that are relevant to the pulp mill debate:
Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity. These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser. p29.
What bothers me most about the Gunns pulp mill debate is that these externalities have been largely ignored. Obviously Gunns turns a blind eye to them because it wouldn't look so good in their Integrated Impact Statement. That the government has also chosen to ignore them is testament to the fact that not only will Gunns profit from this trashing of our environment, but so too will they. And while Gunns and the government line their pockets with trees ripped from the heart of my state, I and my fellow citizens will pay the enormous 'external' costs.

Is this justice? Is this right? I think not.

Bring on heaven, lush land of restored creation, kingdom of justice, haven from the evil dollar. I think I've had enough of it down here. Can I go to that new place right now please?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

hair through the ages

I've had a few hairstyles in my time...

Sweet bowl cut...

Big fringe...

Little fringe...

Long hair...

Short hair...

Pefect bob...

Crazy mess...

But in all that time I don't think I've tried anything like this...

In truth I always saw it as poor taste to put your hair up in a pony tail while it was still very short - as if you were impatient for it to grow and had gone to ridiculous lengths to prove you were getting somewhere.

And now?

Well this is the latest look. In Tasmania at least.
And it does cover up a less than perfect cut by the local apprentice... I really must remember to book in advance in order to access the pro cutter! Not that I'm a hairdressing snob or anything.

(Thanks to my Mum for the photographic record of each and every do I ever had... in fact, thanks to my Mum for the majority of the dos!!! ;)

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

puffy eyes

All of a sudden I'm draggingly tired again.

And it's spring! I should be bouncing and bounding with energy.

To take advantage of the delights of the season we went for a drive up the river today (have to fit as many trips in as we can before the stinking pulp mill is plonked on it's shores... if it happens). It was a delightful trip because the car drives like a dream, the sun was shining, the trees are covered with blossoms, the boats were bobbing and the birds were soaring. Delicious.

We visited our favourite Tamar Valley hangout, Koukla's Cafe, and munched on yummy Greek food. Even better than the food was Kathy's warm welcome. She catered for our wedding and somehow being married has reduced our drives up the river... she came bounding over to give us a huge hug and kiss and chat for a while. We felt very special!

I'm pleased to report there was no fighting over who would drive the new car - I felt a bit dizzy and unwell so conceded the honour to Frank!* After lunch we headed home to catch up on a few jobs here and there. That was the plan... in the end I fell asleep on the couch in the sun. I'm not a huge day time sleeper, but I dozed for 30 minutes or so before getting up and doing some weeding. (oxalis, oxalis, oxalis... and a bit of twitch. Yuck)

Then I came inside and looked in the mirror only to discover puffy, puffy nanna nap eyes. Not a good look.

Better get used to it though because tomorrow night I start working night shift for two weeks and I don't have a history of sleeping well during the day! Sigh.

* NB I am not pregnant. Please do not ask.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

love at first sight (or 'our new car')

We bought a new car.

I know. We're shocked too. We didn't really mean to. Well we did, but we didn't anticipate doing the deed for a while yet. Then on Tuesday evening, after 5pm, Frank suggested we pop down quickly to the local Subaru dealer to check out their second hand vehicles.

And there we saw it. The Subaru Forester of our dreams. A 2003 2.5SX Luxury model.

Actually we didn't know 2.5SX Luxury models existed before our quick trip to the dealer, but we soon learned all about alloy wheels, fog lights, super duper suspension, leather seats, sun roofs and six stack CD players.

We smiled politely, thanked the dealer and drove off into the sunset to 'discuss' our options. I still don't think either of us thought we'd end up buying a car. We were just checking out possibilities. But it was a nice car, one we both liked... so we phoned back and booked in a test drive for the next morning.

Wednesday saw the sun rising and Frank and I excitedly stepping out to the car dealer. We settled into the car and fell in love. Oh la la. Beautiful.

In the end we found another 2003 SX model in immaculate condition (it even had a floor cover in the boot!). And 45 minutes later we'd signed up to buy it. 16 hours after popping down quickly to the dealer.

How did that happen?!

In our defense, we have been discussing the purchase of another car for several months - it wasn't a complete impulse buy! We've debated the beauty (or not) of various makes and models, observed multitudes of cars on the road, dropped into various car yards and researched the strengths and weaknesses of numerous vehicles on the internet. Somehow when we stepped into the dealer on Tuesday... the time was right, the car was right... and so we bought it.

The features I particularly love about this car are windows that open and close on demand (my poor little Corolla's window won't budge no matter how hard I turn the knob); a driver's door that unlocks from the outside, negating the need to climb over the gear stick from the passenger side (I still haven't had the lock fixed since that Thursday night break in); and an absence of dirt and spider webs (I hate washing the car).

But I promise I will wash this car more often! (I haven't washed the old once since... um... Christmas) I must maintain our new Subaru Forster in its immaculate state - Tassie is so small I'm bound to drive past the old owners, and I wouldn't want them to see a neglected vehicle!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

still liking nursing

A couple of months ago I was beginning to think I didn't like nursing anymore. I wanted to quit.

This was rather troubling, as I've always been a nurse. And when I wasn't a nurse, I wanted to be one.

Wrapped up in my earliest memories are images of dolls in cradles nursed back to health by moi, decked out in a nurses apron and cap. Of course. Because everyone knows nurses wear aprons and caps. So there I was, in my little dress up outfit, proud as punch while I tempted my very compliant patients with drinks served through bendy straws. I credit my nursing career to those bendy straws... without them I'd never be where I am today. It was all I ever wanted, to be a real nurse using bendy straws to create drinking ease for the weak and infirm. (And yes, I ply my patients with drinks through bendy straws nearly every working day)

Throughout primary and high school I clung to my dream to nurse, fending off this teacher's suggestion to apply for medicine and that teacher's nudge towards physiotherapy. I wanted to nurse, and eventually I did, and I've never regretted it.

Until the last month or two. After two years educating new nurses I decided to return to the coal face of ward nursing. It's been a hard transition - shifts, crap, puke, aching feet, time pressure, horizontal violence... I know it's supposed to be rewarding, all that caring, but sometimes nursing is a lot of effort for not much return. I chose to stay because I haven't worked my way out of the hospital yet.

And as I've stuck at it, slowly my attitude has changed... I'm liking nursing again. It's a pleasure to go to work and be with the patients. (I still have issues with staff cliques and their bawdy singing of inappropriate songs at the nurse's station)

Today was a case in point. I enjoyed my patients. OK. That's not quite true. One was untalkative, another irritating, and the other in total denial about his lifestyle. Still, I found it satisfying. (Does it get much more satisfying than being told you look like you're 23 when you're actually 32?! I'm ignoring the fact he told another nurse last week that she looks 24...) I'm getting back into nursing, enjoying the chance to make a difference in people's lives, hoping to leave them more comfortable and at peace than they were before I arrived. I'm finding satisfaction in ministering to people's needs. It's good.

Of course there's the other side of the nursing coin, and that is the wrench of intersecting with the pain and sadness of someone diagnosed with cancer, the shock of a family coping with the dramatic personality change of a loved one after a freak accident resulting in brain injury, the exhaustion of an elderly man struggling with his wife's advanced dementia.

If I stopped and thought about each unique illness and accident, the personal tragedies of all these people - I would go under. I hope they find comfort in the gentle touch, soft word, or caring smile I weakly offer.

Today I allowed myself to be touched by the elderly parents of a patient. They brought him socks and bananas, expressing obvious love for their son in a small, tangible way. They must surely be heart broken by the changes they see in him. I am moved by the sadness of their loss.

This too is why I love nursing. Where else do we in the West allow ourselves to be stripped bare? When else are we honest about our pain but when undeniably confronted by our fragility? In nursing I pick my way through the broken pieces of people's lives, treading carefully, cradling gently, aware of the privileged position I hold in those moments when lives fall apart. No one plans on developing cancer, losing their mind, crashing their car. It happens. My role is to respect their pain, and honour their experience.

Yes, there are shifts, crap, puke, aching feet, time pressure, horizontal violence. But in nursing there are also precious shared moments. I wouldn't swap them for the world.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

muddled and befuddled

Eight whole days without blogging and I can't think of a single thing to say.

That's not entirely true, since I have a constant feed of potential posts running through the background of my thoughts. But now that I'm here, fingers on keyboard, ready to type... the feed has malfunctioned. And I'm stumped.

Or maybe my brain is in overload because the other constant feed running through the background of my thoughts is the pulp mill and whether it will be approved or not.

In fact, this pulp mill feed doesn't only run through the background of my personal thoughts - it has now invaded the consciousness of the whole of Tasmanian society and even other parts of Australia. There's a constant barrage of political slanging matches, scientific proclamations, and public outcry daily published in both print and televised media. We are all on tenterhooks, hanging on the outcome of the debate, and no matter which way the decision goes there will be many unhappy people in this small corner of the world. As it stands, both levels of the Tasmanian State Government have approved the mill. Gunns was all set to start building last Saturday... until the Federal Environment Minister decided that he had better look into things a bit more closely. After 25,000 people responded to his call for public submissions he felt careful thought was of the essence and he won't hand down his decision for six weeks, by which time the Federal election will have been called, so any decision he makes will have to be in consultation with the Labour Party... the whole thing could drag on for months. Meanwhile Gunns, who claimed they could not afford to continue with the the mill if it was not approved by July or August, have decided that, in fact, they can continue with their application despite the loss of more than a million dollars a day, or some such figure, in unfulfilled contracts. It's a dirty pulp mill and it's become an increasingly dirty debate. No matter what happens to the Tassie environment, the psyche of Tasmania is forever scarred by Gunns and their greedy proposal.

(What was that about fingers poised with nothing to say?)

My brain may also be malfunctioning due to the knock on effect of nursing two demented patients last night and this morning, both with husbands named 'Jack'. They were confused before hearing each other talk about their husband! And with perfect hearing in both pairs of ears, random, disconnected responses flowed around me all day. Crazy. My brain is befuddled. But it was kind of fun.

Actually my mind is completely swamped with a jumble of thoughts that won't go where I want them, and certainly won't be moulded into something manageable. Pulp mills, ugly self pity, counselling essays, familial niggles... on and on and on.

This I know for sure. God is good and Frank is lovely.

And on that beautiful note I'm going to go and escape my thoughts in sleep.

Labels: , ,