I've been dealt a few life lessons of late, hence being quiet on the blogging. This is not a bad thing - life is fine, but I've found I've needed a bit if time out of late to ponder these rather major lessons. I've also been racing around like a blue bottomed fly for the last two weeks - it's made making time for writing really difficult.
So, what have a I learned in the last ten days?
Children's Hospitals are modelled on the eighth level of hell. Dante tells of the place where the fraudulent go, a placed that can only be reached by a winged creature down a steep ravine. The Royal Children's Hospital at 10.30 pm feels like such a place. One of Blarney's boys was in again with a bad chest cold - the only place for a little tacker who can't breathe that well. I got a call from Blarney after Masons on Monday, telling me that she was with Chance at the RCH. She also told me that she'd gone there straight from work and was a bit glum. Being a good friend, I raced home to collect some supplies for her - a toothbrush, toothpaste, some moisturiser, leggings and t-shirt, some dry shampoo and a pair of orange underpants. These along with a few stray magazines were taken to the hospital, where Blarney would wait for me at the McDonald's downstairs.
I can't be the only person who finds it strange that there is a McDonalds in the ground floor hospital of the Children's Hospital.
Regardless, arriving at 10.30 p.m., the main doors are all locked - the only way in is through the Emergency Department, which is badly sign posted and hard to get to being off the main road, down a ramp, around the corner and two storeys down in the hospital basement. It truly felt like I was descending into some Dante-esque oblivion. At least the gate keeper, a nice male nurse, gave me clear directions when I finally got there. The waiting room of the mmergency department was a flurry of sobs and shusshes - frazzled parents and even more frazzled children. Awful place.
Ten minutes later I find her, cup of tea drained, looking a bit ragged. We go up to the ward to see Chance. He's in the same ward as last time. He's in with the same thing as last time. Nothing life threatening, but in need of a bit of help to get him through. He's snoring like a steam train. That's a good sign.
"Never going to keep a girlfriend snoring like that, Little Mate." I tell him quietly, careful not to wake him. He looks like a normal little boy (or man for that matter - ever noticed that men look like little boys when they sleep?) just with a nasal canula taped to his face and a monitor strapped to his foot are the only anomilies.
Blarney looks around. "I could cope with this place if it wasn't for the bogans. The kid in the next bed has been having regular heart attacks. She's two. The other kid's mother is a drug addict. During the day the social worker is here. Both of them get fed McDonald's food. They're two."
"You realise how lucky you are, don't you."
She nods. Blarney is lucky. Her boys are ostensibly healthy - just being born early their lungs take a walloping when they get a cold. Nothing a day or so in hospital won't fix and they should grow out of it soon. Blarney also knows that her boys are going to have every opportunity to grow and live and enjoy a happy, healthy life. Not every child is that lucky.
I pass over the care package, showing her the items I'd brought for her.
"Orange underpants?" She questions. We're of a similar size. And yes, they're freshly laundered.
"Yep. How can you not have fun wearing orange underpants?"
I think her smile was the first genuine one I'd seen since I'd seen her two nights before when I was dropping the cat back.
I left the hospital twenty minutes later, absolutely drained. It's not a fun place. It's a place that reeks of illness and death and shattered dreams. I also know that it's a place where miracles happen as well to negate some of this bad stuff - but all I feel is the loss and sadness when I go there. I'm just thankful that Chance is now back to normal and that the time they spend there is minimal.
Life Lesson One: A small amount of gentle humour can go a very long way in most circumstances.
Life Lesson Two: Blessings can be found in the most awful of places. You have to look for them. Or look at what is going on around you to work out how blessed you are.
The next lessons have been found at work.
Bastard Bank has extended my contract for another three months. I can't complain about this. The consultancy will be happy. I'm fine where I am. The natives are friendly and the work is good when you can get through the bureacracy.
Yet I have been wondering about this work thing and the role the consultancy plays. I found myself at lunch in a boardroom full of men midweek. Standard catered sandwiches and party fare, cans of soft drink and a fruit platter. Anybody in corporate Australia knows this as the standard catered lunch.
I'm wearing a suit. My handshake meets that of the managing director and the rest of the board as confidently as the rest of the men in the room. I can hold my own. I'm a professional.
Yet I wonder, who is this woman? Why are they talking to me like an adult? Like somebody who knows what they are doing... I still don't get how people see me as this corporate flunky, but it appears it's the persona I take on at work. Hard working, professional, competent.
I had a similar reaction from another colleague later that afternoon. She was asking for my opinion on something. This is something I'm only just getting used to. I'm used to doing a good job and keeping under the radar. It seems I'm sticking out a bit more, for good reasons, of late. Another conversation with yet another friend had me meeting a similar comparison. I told her about the consultancy I was with to which she said ,"Oh, they only take on the best. I've been in the business for ten years - you only get top flight people from there." I was gobsmacked.
Life Lesson Three: How we perceive ourselves is not always how the world sees us.
This weekend has been lovely and quiet. Lots of exercise and a bit of cleaning thrown in for good measure. A trip the the naturopath has me back on herbs for blood pressure - herbs which taste a bit like a mix of dirt and compost. The mix might taste like crap, but it is good for me. Anything to keep me off the poisons the regular doctor will try and feed me. She's also made me swear off sugar, artificial sweetener and to give a wheat free diet a try to see if that makes any difference. My naturopath is a killjoy. She's also a realist. I've been told to give it a go and see if it helps bring my blood pressure down and my flagging energy levels up. If things don't get better quickly then I'll be encouraged to go back to the quack.
Speaking of pills, I've also been feeding another friend's cats this weekend - one lovely, but rather decrepit Burman and the fattest orange tomcat you'll ever meet. The Burman needs a pill twice a day. My friend gave me instructions the other night on how to use the cat pill giverer contraption - an item that looked like a large syringe. After two feeds I've worked out that shoving the pill down his throat with my finger was far easier, kinder and less problematic.
The cat is a junkie. He knows what's good for him, pill syringe or finger, it gets the job done.
Life lesson four: Medicine, in what ever form it comes in, may be revolting, but it is there to help. However it is administered. You have to trust the process.
The last lessons were learned at beer club. I popped in for the evening, catching up with a few old friends. Which is always good. I skulked home a few hours later, two beers down me.
I like beer. Beer keeps me honest. It makes me look at my life honestly - a bit too honestly at times.
Life lesson five: Beer is my friend.
Another friend was at beer club. One who I rarely see or speak to any more. We were once close but time and circumstances have deemed we have limited contact now. It's for the best. We're not the same people any more. It's not that we aren't friends any more, we just don't spend time together. It's not worth pushing it. Too much has happened. Glen Waverley brought it up at lunch the other day. I told him to leave it. Not worth pursuing. I can't go back there. There was too much pain associated with him. This loose friendship is all I can hope for and all I want. I'm better on the path I'm on now.
I can look at him now and no longer feel any remorse.
Life lesson six. Letting go is often the kindest thing to do when it comes to friendship. It's also the most humane for all concerned.
It's been a big week.