Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Better Dream

I didn't bother checking the mailbox on the way in to see if the postman had been.  I figure if he had, it was years ago and those bills are probably as forgotten as this blog.  It's possibly quite safe to venture in, and sit amongst the dust bunnies and pontificate, or just reflect.  For a while I tried keeping a paper journal.  I made a deal that every day I would write a page of something.  An A5 page.  As small as the task was, it was still a fruitless exercise.  After a while that stopped and while lots of thoughts kept happening, writing them down was a whole other story. I ebb and flow through my commitment to these kinds of things.  All things, let's face it.  I also tried for a while to write using Facebook.  My commitment there is better, but the reflection of true self is probably more puddle deep than ocean deep.  And you, my little trusty forgotten old friend, have been waiting patiently, as you always do.  Password almost forgotten.  Readership doubtful.  And yet, so inviting.

In any case, I was moved to write.  I'm not sure what form this will take but I suppose it won't be glass half full, if I had to venture a guess.  That's the mood, anyway.

Speaking of Facebook, I was reading an article this evening that popped up out of the blue into my so called news feed.  Mr. Man explains how one phone call saved him from committing suicide.  Well, that peaked my attention as I love a good happy ending.  I don't believe in them for me, of course, but boy do I wish like buggery that it happens for everyone else. It's just all too painful if it doesn't.  Anyway, Mr felt it was time to go.  The teen years weren't too great for him and before he knew it, he was in a depressive spiral that was leading him to "make plans".  I imagined him, for some reason, on a trip to Bunnings.  Not sure what one would find there that would help themselves in such a fashion but I imagine that if there is a place to go to buy what you need Bunnings would be a good place to go.  It's big, they are very helpful and most of their machinery would kill someone if they didn't know how to use it anyway.  Regardless, axe in hand and testing the sharpness of the blade using a single hair plucked from his head (I'm extrapolating here, the article mentioned no such thing) Old Mate received a phone call.  It turns out that his crush, and one true love, was on the other end.  She had felt compelled to call, for some unexplained reason.  And just like that she talked him out of his fatal act.  He hung up the phone and sat down and wrote something lovely.  Those same words that he would use to propose to her 10 years later.  The moral of the story, of course, is don't kill yourself because you don't know what delights await you around the corner.

Nice message.
No really, nice message.

About 3 years ago, give or take a couple of months I came to the same Bunnings related conclusion for myself.  My plan was much, much better though.  I'm not sure how one would go about axe murdering oneself anyway - how dumb, (again, I may have the wrong end of the stick here), but plans are plans.  It's nice to have one.  I had a pretty good one and I rehearsed it all very meticulously in my little old head.  It's one thing to rehearse, it's a completely different thing to enact!  Did I mention that I'm a sucker for a happy ending?  I thought for a moment, in that moment (and in the many moments that followed), of a time that hadn't happened yet... a time a year down the track. Perhaps in a year things would be so vastly different that I would look back and count my lucky stars that the best laid plans weren't carried through.  One year, I said.   These happy ending stories always have a big reason to live, it's just not known yet.  The idea that suicide shouldn't be an option because there are other, better options is a compelling thought to a desperate person.  Living is a better option.  Life may indeed bring happiness and joy and ... maybe something to actually live for.  I gave it a year.
And then another.
And another...

And now it's later.
And things are not better.

I'm a sucker for a happy ending but I'm no fool.  I appreciate brutal honesty more.

I don't look back and think I made the right decision in waiting. I don't think that at all.  I regret waiting.  I regret thinking that there would be a happy ending.  I'm not mad at myself.  I want to hug her, that strange girl-woman who put a bit of faith in the smallest sliver of light in that dark room of hers.  She didn't know that slivers of light for a girl like her were just reflections of herself from a whole generation ago and just a mirage now.  How could she know?  She believes in fucking happy endings, for fucks sake! God love her for trying to live, but it was the wrong decision.  That article, and all the ones like it, the 'wait it out' articles... I'm not sure how real they are.  Where are the articles about people regretting not pulling the plug?  Surely these exist too.

Those happy endings don't come to everyone.  There's something more certain than happy endings and that's gut feeling.
I regret not doing it.
I regret it really consciously every time I think of it.  But I have to be honest, in this little safe space that no one visits anymore, I don't think I can go through with my plan.  Or maybe my plan isn't good enough.

I don't believe in happy endings for me.
I do believe in having better plans that you won't back out of though.
I must keep believing in that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Beads

My grandmother had a string of rosary beads.

They were made of small round pearl-sized black onyx, held together with links of what looked like silver but was probably an alloy of some kind.  I would sit at her feet with my head on her knee and watch her rolling those beads between the thumb and forefinger of her papery, wrinkled hands while she prayed each night.

Fascinated by all questions without answers(as I am now), I remember asking her what a rosary necklace was for.  To pray, she said.  It brings you closer to God. I didn’t really know much about God, beyond Sunday school communion sessions with naughty boys who would throw spitballs and play kiss chasey at “recess” or that place, church, that we were forced to attend and spent a good deal of time trying not to laugh and then being spanked later because of it.  God was a man on a throne with a white beard and sandals (probably) and maybe he was a bit kind sometimes and patted you on the head with a ghost-like hand you never felt or sometimes would punish you if you did something bad like eat the Nutella right out of the jar and then smooth the remaining goo up the sides so that, from the outside anyway, it looked like you hadn’t touched it… The fact that one could be closer to Him with a single string of rosary beads spiked my curiosity to no end.  It seemed too good to be true.

Planning to harness this power for myself, I asked how to use a rosary necklace.  She told me that you start at the beginning and work your way around to the end; each bead holding a prayer you must say with your heart.  The thing is, I couldn't see where the end was.  All the beads looked the same to me, endlessly going round and round and round as necklaces do. I knew how to say prayers.  I knew them in three languages; one I never even understood!  And I knew how to really mean it too. I knew how to make wishes and have hopes and give my heart fully; because I had been doing that my whole life; even if my life was only 8 years young by this stage.  Sometimes I wish I had never learned how to do that – give the heart.  I still haven’t seen what kind of good that brings.  I suppose nothing you do brings good or bad.  I’ve seen that with my own eyes, in fact.  I know that to be true.  There is no plan or rhyme… Heart or no heart; prayer or no prayer; beads or no beads.  Things just happen; it shouldn’t work like that but it just does.  Out of all the faiths I'd had challenged this is the one this year that has had the greatest impact.

My grandmother explained that you may indeed say the same prayer for each bead, but when I saw her mouthing the words in a whispered Italian that I could barely understand I noticed that her prayers were different.  Not all, but some.  I said the ones I knew with her sometimes, mumbling myself into a deep meditative trance where the words didn’t even matter anymore and the room disappeared from all around me and God wasn’t even there and all I could feel was my head on her knee vibrating with each word and nothing else.  She’d keep going until her voice was hoarse and broken and there was nothing left to whisper and prayers were done and the beads were gone.  It always made me so curious, how she knew she’d gotten to the end. I wonder why I never asked.

I tiptoed into her room many times when she wasn’t there and picked up those beads, watching them intently, wishing their secret power to be bestowed onto me, not even knowing what that secret power could be.  A conversation with God, maybe?  What would I even ask?  So in awe was I of something I couldn’t even see… a possibility, a hope.  I don’t even know.  I tried to sit there and pray, like my grandmother did but never got past the first or second bead.  It was too hard. I didn’t feel that sense of reverence or meditation I felt with my head on her knee. I wanted so badly to believe, but couldn’t…  In the end, I put them back, disappointed that their power would not ever be something I could behold.

She kept up the prayers until she died. I didn’t always sit and listen, by this stage I had episodes of Charles in Charge to watch on the tele or net balls to shoot in my backyard.  Summers were long and hot and there were endless seas to sail and adventures to undertake. Sometimes I would listen though, noting when she stopped.  Always at the end, whatever that means. Sometimes though, she would stop suddenly, I’m tired, she’d say slowly – but she wasn’t talking about sleepiness. There are many kinds of tired, and this kind was the tired that meant that the soul, or whatever it is that exists beyond neurons firing (if anything), was ready to go.

When I was 24 and my grandmother had been gone for over half my life I visited Vatican City, in the heart of Rome.  By this stage I knew that God was not a man in a throne or anything at all really.  Sitting and praying at my grandmother’s knee was a dusty memory well and truly hazed by nostalgia by then.  In fact praying at all was not something I ever contemplated. By the time I set foot in the Sistine Chapel I had seen a million churches, pondered my way though a hundred galleries and walked across cobblestones older than a thousand Melbournes.  I was hoping to see something as nice as Notre Dame there.  I only really had one objective here and that was to buy a set of rosary beads.  Not for me though. I don’t think that any amount holy water (and trust me, there’s been a lot of it in my life) could have prepared me for the supreme calm and beauty I felt in that space. It was a holy moment, even if God or my grandmother wasn’t involved.
I separated myself from my companions and walked for a while staring at the magnificence that was truly the greatest piece of wall-graffiti I have ever seen.  Perhaps I’m understating it a little.  It is beyond amazing and even if you don’t believe and I’m by no means an advocate of doing so but I defy you not to be humbled by such a space of tribute, despite all the money and the pain and the cruelty that went into it.  For the first time in a long time, and not since may I add, at 24 and exhausted beyond belief after missing the world’s most packed train and arguing with a taxi driver and waiting in the Universe's longest line on the first day of trade after the New Year in Italy, I started praying.  I don’t even know why.  The words came back as if from a 16 year old memory lapse and I walked in silent contemplation saying the words that I thought I had forgotten a long time ago. I guess you don’t really ever forget your foundations, even if you don’t believe in them anymore.

And I guess, like knowing when to stop all things, I just knew when to stop praying.  The words ended and it was over.  I went and bought the rosary beads and just sat for a while and stared and wondered.  Sometimes you just know when things should end.  They end at the end.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Inside every one of us beats a little heart.  It pumps blood around the body.
Ba boom.
Ba boom.
It’s just a little thing.  The size of a fist or palm but it does an important job.
Inside that heart are lots of fleshy things; like ventricles and aortas and bits of bloody membrane.
And cells.
Inside those cells there’s all this other stuff I learned about in Biology, back in high school but don’t care too much about now.
It’s not important anyway.
The Doctors that look inside the heart never talk about the important bits, like feelings and love.
It’s like those things are not medical enough, so they don’t get included in those expensive textbooks or serious Doctor/Patient conversations about heart disease.
But those feelings are as real as the mitochondrion, aren’t they?
Perhaps a microscope powerful enough to see feelings hasn’t been invented yet.
But they are there.
You don’t need a microscope to feel the feelings.
You just feel them.
That’s how I know they are really there.
That’s how I know they are as real as the right coronary artery.
You feel them; as real as a heart beat.
Ba Boom.
Sometimes the heart dies.
I know this because my father’s heart died and then he died too.
The Doctors said it might be genetics or a high cholesterol diet will do it and no exercise and if someone takes a gun and shoots you right in it…
Well, that’ll kill the heart dead and then you die too.
Because the human can’t live without a heart, you see.
It’s very important.
It’s essential.
There are lots of ways to kill a heart though.
You can squish the feelings right out of there.
You can take an emotional hook and just pull all the good things out of someone else’s heart and then you can do what you want with it.
I know that can happen.
It can even happen with your friends.
That’s why you have to be extra, extra careful with feelings.
You won’t find this in a textbook.
It might not even be on Google.  I don’t know.
But it’s like we’re all Doctors doing operations on each other.
We should be taking a Hippocratic oath – but one about looking after each other's feelings.
Some people do terrible things to others by accident and other people still, will take a lot of pleasure in making sure that your feelings are good and hurt.
Or not care too much because they believe for every life there must be a death, or they have a misconception that they are justified above all others, even if it’s you, or me or whomever.
They are not very nice people.
But it doesn’t matter.
The point is…
There are many ways to kill a heart
And just because I am still here doesn’t mean I didn’t already die.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


My crisis of faith wasn't a crisis at all.  There is no crisis when truth is uncovered.  It just is.  I think truth comes into your world and that's the end of it.  Regardless of whether your truth be spiritual or scientific; it still brings about an enlightenment.  Your truth is enlightening to you.  I am philosophical enough to know that there is my truth, your truth and *the* truth. However *the* truth isn't ever going to matter anywhere but in the court of law. Even then what point is *the* truth when there is no way of ever proving it either way?  Does it even exist anywhere but in one's own heart?  That's hardly scientific but perhaps empirical knowledge is the key to understanding, here.

I used to believe in God but now I do not.  I used to believe that when humans die they stay with us as spirit.  That notion has helped me get through a lot.  It's helped me get through my father's death.  It helped me make sense of a world turned upside down to still feel him there with me - to talk to him when there was no one else to talk to and to feel comforted by the notion that someone still had my back, even if they weren't human at all.  It helped me to think (know!) that there was life after death, even if I didn't believe in God... or heaven or even if I didn't follow a dogmatic approach to things...and even if I was morally and intellectually opposed to anything religious.  It didn't matter to me that it was confusing that God was dead but my dad had somehow lived on.  My truth didn't have to make sense.  The truth doesn't have to make sense for it to be real.  Those kinds of details really don't matter when you are grieving.  They really don't matter even if you aren't grieving to be completely honest.  Don't judge until you have been there at age 16.

I'm not quite sure how truth came in or how I got enlightened but however it happened, it happened and here I am; embracing truth.. as I have done before, albeit from a different vantage point.  I don't know if it is *the* truth, but it's enough.  I can't say it's a *better* place to be but whether the truth of my past was truer than the truth that exists now is irrelevant.  In the end what it presently true is essentially more true that what was true before just because it's true now, to me.  Right?

So as I approach the 20th anniversary of the death of an important man, that wasn't really all that important to anyone else but me and the few people who loved him, I'm reflecting a lot on humans and death and decay.  I'm reflecting on the truth of humankind. I'm reflecting on how one little human being can explode all over the place just by disappearing and how the domino effect of that is greater than anyone can ever understand and how unimportant that is at the same time to anyone else and anything else going on in the world.

I'm looking at the truth and the truth is that there is absolutely nothing more than what your eyes see now.  There is carbon and worms and stardust.  And if you happen to die and don't exist anymore then did you ever?  I mean you were here, there's the photo that proves it, there's the headstone and there's the memory of you.  All these things fade however - even the headstone.  Things that humans build when they are alive decay unbelievably quickly when you take away the human element from them.  Buildings deteriorate, friendships are lost, love is gone and there is nothing left once you take the human bit away.

And what of that exactly? Sure there are the trinkets left behind; cufflinks or faded smiling photographs or that one little gift left in the form of interlocking silver hearts I wear sometimes as a pendant. These are the tributes one has of a person and we wear them and look at them to remind us or to grip on to because the essence of the real them does not exist anymore. They are a tribute but what are we tributing exactly?  Ghosts don't exist, spirits don't inhabit, memories fade and love is lost.  All these tangible and intangible things that we hold on to so tightly eventually fade as if they never existed in the first place and after all is said and done and the dust has settled again and the last paper decays and the memory dies with the last person well what of that existence?  It ceases to exist completely like it never did. What is left?  I suppose there is the empty seashell; the meaningless chaos of tragedy and near-misses.  There's that.

And what to make of 20 years that has gotten a lot harder in the last year, harder than it ever has been before?  What do I make of you now, Dad?  Did you ever exist and does it matter?  Is the sum of you encapsulated in the trinkets left behind when you left? Is it the nostalgia of you, the not-quite memories of something that is basically an untruth that has been manipulated by time and my memories of the way you might have been.  And when that smashed up memory of you dies or fades then do you die again, or is that your one true death?   What is the sum of 20 years?  Is it just time?  Is it just emotion?  What are you?  Where are you?  Who are you?  ...Who am I?

How can I miss the ghost of somebody that doesn't exist anymore so, so much?

But I do, I really do miss you.  I miss almost everything about you and that's the honest truth.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014


I have this mantra that gets me through the tougher times of my day.  All times are tough, actually, but there are some moments where I am physically crippled with emotional pain so bad I can barely breathe.  Not everyone has the pleasure of knowing what that is like but if you do... I'm so unbelievably sorry.  I don't wish it upon anybody.   Anyway the mantra goes; ears, head, eyes, heart.  I touch those parts of my body while I recite it and I do that until I can breathe normally or until the noise in my head eases and I can function again.   It's a reminder of the things I do have in spite of having very little by way of worth when it comes to anyone else.

Ears; because all the beauty I have in the world comes from music.  I am humbled by my ability to hear.  I am grateful for that, which I think of as a gift  If I had to pick one thing - that would be the thing.  Hearing music is my thing.  It's the best thing I have.  It's a friend.  It's a companion.  It's everything.  It's often the absolute only thing.  I don't even have the words that could begin to express how amazing it is for me to hear music.  If music is just a casual acquaintance for you then you won't get this - you have other good things.  For me, music is the good thing.

Head; because of my ability to imagine the best world.  I have no doubt there are many people that can do what I do with a seed and turn it into a complete world inside my head but I'm exceptionally good at it.  I've met a few people who have to do that.  It's something that broken people have to do in order to survive. Sometimes you have to create your own world in order to survive the real world.  It's always a bit of a disappointment when you realise it's not real but I have lived so many almosts inside my imagination. It's awesome what I can create in there. I'm happy I can do that.  I don't even know what I would do without that ability.

Eyes; because I see truth.  I'm good at realising truths. And yes they hurt like hell.  My truths are messy, horrible, terrible truths but they are real.  Not that I necessarily always want to embrace real, but it's necessary for me not to kid myself.  There are no safety nets where I reside and so it's best to know exactly what the truth is at all times.  I see truths and that's important.  But also I recite eyes because I see beauty in things that are overlooked by other people.  This doesn't mean that others are kinder or nicer or afford me opportunities that I wouldn't otherwise have but seeing beauty in chaos is something I do because I think inherently I'm a pretty okay person.  I look beyond measures of beauty or talent.  I see something within.  I take the time to wonder about others.  I take the time to awe about the world.  I see lots of beauty around me.  It makes me a good person to have at your back.   It doesn't mean that others go out of their way to see beauty in me or the things I do but I do see those things.  It's not enough but it's a good thing to be.

Heart; because I have one.  Because I love.  I love with my whole heart.  I do that.  I do that to my detriment but despite the ongoing pain it brings it's better that being cold hearted.  Loving with your heart does not bring you love, though.  This I know to be a truth. But it's still an amazing thing to do.  Everyone deserves lovely things thought about them and everyone deserves love. If you are in my life, I've thought lovely things about you.  I think it makes a difference.  I really do.  I can feel my heart.  It reminds me I'm human.  This year I've discovered that there are people that can turn their heart off and be completely cold. I'm not one of those people.  I don't even want to be.  I want to be someone who loves.  It's something I can give and it's humane of me.  It kills me but it's what we are here to do, us humans.

Ears, Head, Eyes, Heart.
That's my mantra.
It doesn't bring me good things, but it reminds me that I can create my own little spark of something good in the chaos.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Insurance Policy.

I'm doing it tough.  I'm doing it more than tough.  I'm barely breathing on the inside - though I keep taking those pesky breaths of real oxygen on the outside.  I don't see this as an achievement or an accomplishment. I see it as a cowardly act, to keep breathing in and out.  Cowardly, because it's easy.  I mean, of COURSE it's not easy at all. It's excruciating.  I mean that physically too.  Some days it physically hurts to keep breathing in and out.  I don't know why I keep doing it.  I am a useless apparatus.  A defective robot left on the conveyor belt.  The accidental and excess dot that people unknowingly add to the end of an ellipsis.  But easy, because it means changing nothing. How does one stop breathing anyway?  Do you just hold your breath?  I don't even know.  Easier not to think and just keep doing it.

I have an insurance policy.  49 of them. I counted.  It's there, just in case.  I think about it a lot.  I think about the trapdoor in the sun.  I think about how if things could be better they would be.  They just would be.  Even the changes I make and those have been significant haven't brought dividends at all.  I wonder how is it that I even got here.  Alice followed the rabbit but I don't remember following anything at all.  I just got here - this realisation, this excruciating, horrible, terrible space where everything about me is completely wrong.  It's not a new space.  It's the realisation of what was always there.

This is it.  Deal with it.  This is the best it will ever be.  You can only depend on yourself.  You are useless.  If you were something, you'd be it. You are nothing.

And I am. I know.

This is the playlist on repeat in my brain.  It's the playlist that even on shuffle makes complete sense.  It's proven and researched and even experts agree.  It's just true.

Of course on the outside. I get up. I smile.  I go to work. I crack jokes.  I cope, amazingly.  Horribly, with a sledgehammer to my heart and head and body every time I take a step but I'm sure it doesn't matter.  I cope, even when I say I don't.  I am ignored even when I tell my colleagues that I am not coping.

But I have an insurance policy.  49 of them.

Friday, July 04, 2014

And The Tree Was Happy

One of the best books I know is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  I read it each year to the class; sometimes numerous times, I give it away as a present to new parents, I talk about it often, I think about it even more.  It’s one of those powerful books with an influential message about being selfless.  In this era where narcissism is so central to our lives it’s more of an important message now than ever before.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately; about narcissism and how it has now become a human ‘value’ to put oneself first.  Now, I think that putting oneself first is the only way that someone can get ahead in this world, don’t get me wrong; you need to look out for yourself.  But I think this is true as a product of the way we live now rather than because it should be something we hold fast to as a good value for humanity.  Over the past few years I’ve seen the old mantra of ‘don’t’ let others dictate who you are’ turn into ‘never mind other people, just do what is right for you’ (or even, ‘don’t let others hold you back’). Seems like a subtle and positive shift but I’ve been wondering whether it really is.  The former is about empowering yourself the latter is about stepping on others to get to where you need to be. I’ve amplified that, of course to make a point.  They are both about empowerment, but the latter is empowerment without considering the needs of anyone else, and sometimes at the expense of others too.
That seems right though, doesn’t it?  One shouldn’t think of others, one should only consider oneself when making any decision shouldn’t they?  What about your children, your parents, your partner, your family?  Are they a consideration or should they be?  I’m guessing if you have them your children come first. What about other people’s children?  No, too removed…  So what about when people don’t treat your children nicely… I mean if you don’t treat others with fundamental consideration then why should they consider you and yours?  They won’t.  Never mind other people, just do what’s right for you.  They’ll not mind you, you’ll not mind them and together we can all look out for ourselves.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about being selfless or selfish; giving and receiving.  They are fundamental to the human condition and there’s a big question mark that hangs in the air right now over my head about how we all fit together when it comes to giving and receiving. Sure, I do it – we all do.  Everyone gives.  Everyone receives.  It’s a fundamental part of being human to give to others.  What I never really contemplated though was that there are different ways that people give.  It’s in the capacity of the person doing the giving that brings about the difference and I think somehow they are related to those so-called positive mantras we keep telling ourselves – ‘don’t let others hold you back’ and ‘never mind other people, just do what is right for you’.   People give to the extent they believe in this.  It doesn’t make either type of giving any less important or positive but there are subtle differences.  There are other types of giving but I’ve narrowed it down to two that I see most commonly:
The Giving Gesture
Giving in Absentia: The Giving Tree
Perhaps there are better names for this.  I don’t know.  I just made that shit up on the spot because that’s how things happen in my brain.
The Giving Gesture
This is the most common type of giving. It’s a present, an invite, a phone call, a random text, a donation, a helping hand, an offer, cooking a meal for someone, etc.  It’s straightforward and everyone knows where they stand. It’s basically a grand gesture and that gesture says:  I’m thinking of you.  I care about you.  I want you to know that I’m here; right now, I’m here.  It makes someone else feel good and it makes the giver feel good too, because they are giving something tangible – an experience or a *something* that one can reference later; “remember that time we…”, “you know that time when I helped you…”
This type of giving is important because on the one hand it gives that person in need something tangible and on the other hand The Giver can put a time limit on it. It saves The Giver from being drained and also gives them something tangible to take away from the experience too: This is what I’m willing to give you.  I will give you this now.  See this thing, this thing is tangible and it’s for you and we can both share it.  There’s a lot of happiness involved in this type of giving because it’s visible.  One can always refer back to it.  One is usually celebrated for doing it and the person receiving knows who to thank and what to thank them for.  It will make someone’s day!  They will remember it.  It’s a lovely thing to do and people who do it a lot are thought of as lovely people.  Everybody wins.  It’s the Facebook of giving.  Everyone sees it… it’s on the wall.  It works well with our new positive mantra –Never mind others, just do what is right for you.  This type of giving allows you to give on your terms.  This is right for me right now and so therefore I’ll do it. If it wasn’t convenient, I wouldn’t do it but that's okay because it's giving you something you need.
Everyone does this type of giving.  Even Mother Teresa did it.
Giving In Absentia: The Giving Tree
Why absentia?   How can you give while absent?  Well you can’t, not really – but the absence is not absence of being there, it’s the absence of ego involved.  Ego is the thing that causes us to think of ourselves.  Of course, as we’ve established, in order to get anywhere in life you must think of yourself first but when it comes to giving it’s possible to do this without ego and still not be degraded by the act giving.  This kind of giving isn’t quite as visible as The Gesture, nor can you always reflect on something tangible afterwards.  It can be difficult to accommodate someone else and let’s face it, it’s usually without reward.  The person receiving might not even know they are being given something!  The gesture, if there is one, usually goes unnoticed.
An example of this might be bringing up someone’s name in a positive way in a conversation where they might not even be present because you know that doing so will shine a light on them in a positive way and may bring about a good thing for them (perhaps talking up a co-worker to the boss or helping to enable a someone else’s friendship to grow even if you may not even be part of it).  Maybe it’s being there for someone; listening whenever you are needed and being totally on call, anytime.  It might be offering to be there to sit with them when you know they might be alone, even if you didn’t feel like being social or you are missing out on something.  Maybe it’s letting someone else know that your mutual friend needs TLC even though that means that they get the TLC and you don’t.  Or maybe the giving might take the form of letting someone take your place in something, thereby enabling them to step forward and shine for a while even if it means that the focus is off you. It might even be a loving thought you have towards someone – a hope for them that is really beyond a fleeting thought but a truly intentioned moment devoted totally to them. This type of giving is not about a shared reward.  It’s totally about the other person and probably, no one will remember who did the giving or even know… but if they do know they’ll never forget, trust me.
This type of giving doesn’t fit with the positive mantra but one doesn’t have to be degraded in order to do it either.  I think that’s what’s so difficult about this type of giving.  We’re so obsessed with building ourselves up that we’ve forgotten that once we’re all built it’s just superficial.  So you flirted with his girlfriend to get a wife but your friend is gone – who cares, they weren’t a real friend anyway if they stand in your way… and you took an opportunity you saw was for someone else because it’s cut throat out there, if you didn't do it someone else would have - look out for you, that's important... and now you earn more but your co-workers can see how you got there, and phew, thank goodness you removed yourself from the situation where you were being drained by someone because their problems make you feel bad and you don’t want that, no matter how temporary.  You've saved yourself from that little 'I don't feel good right now so I'm not going to do it' moment that we all kid ourselves isn't part of being human but actually is.  You’ve done all that and you have fulfilled your mantra – never mind others, just do what is right for you.  And so, now what?  Nice Empire you have there.  The way we're going everyone will have that same empire.
In the book, the tree gives unconditionally.  It makes her happy, you see, to give to someone something they need to help them be better. Perhaps it is appropriate for Silverstein to have made such a selfless being a tree rather than a human. It’s difficult to give to someone else in a way that helps them without giving you accolades.  It’s even more difficult to think of someone else before yourself.  You’d think that the tree would be degraded… but she isn’t.  By the end, although the boy will never fully understand the extent to which he has been helped by the tree and that tree; having given almost everything she can to the boy she loves, they are still both fulfilled in their own way.  I always wonder at the end about how love is fuel for the best things and ego and narcissism isn’t.  I wonder about the people I know who are like that.  I wonder about narcissism and how it fuels ego and how is it that we have made it such a positive mantra to push someone aside and step in their place, calling it self-fulfilment or strength of character and positive self-image.  I wonder about where we are going with this.  I wonder where we will end up.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be a better giver and indeed who are the people who have given me the things that have truly helped me in my life.  I’m thinking about The Giving Tree.  I think you should read it.  Really read it.


Sunday, June 22, 2014


I've been thinking a lot about words lately.

That saying; sticks and stones...What a dirty little lie that is. Try all your might with that sword or stick or whatever it is that people use and brandish so violently to get at someone, it's actually the word that will penetrate to the core every time. Anyone who has ever been any bloody good with them will know that. Anyone who has ever watched a face crumple or light up from things said will understand completely when I say that a word will go anywhere and everywhere because it really does. It's the word that will remain after all those walls have crumbled and cities have disappeared into the sands. The monument ceases to exist without them. The word is the last breath. It is the very last thing that you will ever do and be…even after the sword goes in for the kill.

I found myself, the other night night in a meeting where words were the topic: my words to be exact.

I wrote some, you see. Teachers tend to at this time of year; we write lots of them. Almost 10,000 in fact, twice a year. I counted. Mostly written under duress, sometimes while cradling wine and often after many sleepless nights in a row. Some teachers will agonise over them, unable to scrape together the right ones that will make sense and do the child justice and other teachers write them easily and with flair, the words almost dancing out from their fingertips and dying to get onto the page. Some will be boring and uninspiring and others will make you smile or laugh out loud or bring about the one thing that all humans must have; connection and recognition. I've read them all and it's a privilege to do so. Even the bad ones teach me something about myself.

For me, I admire the ones that are truly beautiful. I'm in awe of those who can use them to delight others and I really *am* delighted by the clever ones, the kind ones (especially the kind ones) and the ones I rarely hear are the most coveted of all. I love putting them to good use and sometimes I labour over them, trying to find the right ones to say or write and berate myself because I can't find the ones that fill the gap or hate myself because I used the wrong ones. I know that they can sometimes be inadequate and more often than not I am inadequate in the way I use them. Often, I am at a loss for the right ones, or misuse the ones I have at my fingertips, or misconstrue those said to me and had mine misunderstood by others.

I recognise all too well that a gap exists between the word and the subject though. The space can be infinitely huge with the word not quite ever being able to do the subject justice. How wrong to misrepresent what you mean in your heart with what comes out of your mouth. Sometimes I wish there were no words. Sometimes I wish I could just walk up to someone and place my forehead against theirs and somehow they would understand, not in their head but in their heart. Yes, words are everything and yet they are so fallible but there is no escaping them. Mostly, I long to say the important ones but I just can't... for some reason I feel that saying them will create a new reality that will change everything. It will. It does. It's amazing to think that telling someone something will change their reality forever and yours. Good or bad, words are absolutely powerful. I think you can create someone's whole world with a few choice words. You can also destroy someone. I've done both and I've had both done to me, many times over and many more times will come, I'm sure. Both these things are happening to me simultaneously right now actually. I don't know if this is the same for everyone.

Even the absence of them will create a catastrophe. After all, did you ever really believe that choosing to omit words would mean they wouldn’t be heard? Mostly those ones just echo louder in our thoughts (more words) or are whispered in actions one chooses to enact but not express. In this case sometimes those words are twisted and broken and may be pieced together wrongly but still they are there and will create a reality that, intended or not, truly exists. Insincerity: the same.

So back to the meeting... There we are, adjacent; parent and teacher - leaning in toward each other (as I tend to do), when the topic of words came up. I bring it up, as a matter of fact: Did you get a chance to read the report (duh, of course! But, sometimes they don't)? Do you have any questions about anything I wrote? I've asked this question roughly 300 times over the years …but this time the parent cried.

She was grateful for the fundamental human thing I did through my words and that was to recognise something beautiful within another human. I wasn't amazed that my words could do that but I was humbled and emotional alongside that parent. She thanked me as I have thanked others for their words in the past and we talked at length about why it was so important for those words to be written.

Later that same night, in another meeting I was insulted by some words hurled at me via a different source. To be honest, at first I wasn't, but a day later I have to admit that the sword would have been an easier wound to heal than this one. Words remain. Worlds have been created. Another reality was built ...or torn down and rebuilt, whichever. Both, probably.

Words, I'm thinking about them a lot.  I'm thinking about the words that exist in silence and I'm thinking about the words that will never be said.  I have spent a whole lifetime in the wonderment of words and their meaning and the way that they can change a reality.  I wonder how they are yet to change mine.

I am wondering.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I'm looking at you and I'm wondering how you slipped through the cracks.  I'm wondering how you can cope at * years old; daily, with what most people never know until they're an adult. It's a horrible realisation to know that adults can and will let you down.  Just to know this is a slap in the face.  To expect it as normal is debilitating to the human soul.  To know it as your reality is beyond words.

You deal with it daily though and don't think I don't know how you cope.  Oh, I know.  I see it every day.  I see it in the way you move in your seat.  I see it in the words you ignore - those both harsh and full of praise.  I notice the way you lash out when others wrong you; desperately trying to cling to that part of you that is still a little hopeful and protect it.  I understand the parallel universe you've created to exist alongside this real one and I also know that reality is a dicey concept right now anyway.  I know you slip in and out as you need to.  I know how protective you are of the world you've created and I know why.  I know how comforting that world is.  I know how essential it is.  I know you need it.  I think you're amazing for having concocted this space for yourself.  You've shown at * what most adults never have to do - that is to completely protect yourself from all sides; from all attacks; from everything.  It's unfair that you have to and they never do.  Most will never, ever, EVER understand because they never, ever, EVER had to deal.  Lucky them.  They'll be the people who will tell you to look on the bright side.  Nice.

You haven't learnt yet how to ask why and when you do that will be yet another hard pill to swallow because there won't be an answer that won't come pointing back at you; yet another little something to deal with.  I understand from that look you give me that you are completely resigned to this way of being.  This is your reality and mate, you are doing a magnificent job of using absolutely every resource you have to survive it.  And you are surviving but it won't help you in this reality; the reality that isn't all that dicey for everybody else.  In this reality you are barely treading water; slowly sinking into quicksand; gasping for Ventolin; sawing logs with a butter knife. I recognise this.

I think about you a lot.  I think about you when everyone else is long gone.  I think about you when I should be thinking about myself but I have no answers.  I don't want to be yet another adult who fails you; like all of us have done so far.  As I sit here for yet another night at my desk with my head in my hands, trying desperately to make a bridge between us that won't fall down, I know that I have failed you too.   I see the you, who you really are and I admire that person and can't think of a more imaginative, clever, resourceful kid and on top of all of that I completely understand.  I do.  I guess that's what makes it harder but in the end, despite all of this I'm just another adult and just another person who will fail you in the end and it's killing me.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Love Letter To You

Here's my love letter to you.

Dear Girl,

You are not in my class anymore but you visit me daily and you give me a hug.  That hug is the only regular human contact I have.  It's the most amazing thing in my day.  It's the most incredible thing I have - this tangible piece of loveliness that comes with a beaming smile that is all for me.  It is my only Technicolor moment amongst the dull monochrome that is every other breathing moment at the moment.

Somehow you don't see what other people must see in me - which is a broken person or an unworthy person.  You see through into the soul of me and for that 10 seconds I feel almost whole.  It is by far the best thing in my day.  You are by far the only person in my life who seeks me out for the sole purpose of you finding delight in seeing me.  You walk in.  You say hello.  You grin your wide grin and you give me a hug.

You are 9 years old and you have no idea just how important you are but you are very important.

I'm humbled.

Thank you.


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