Saturday, July 31, 2010

Taking Responsibility

The biggest things about taking responsibility for me is the gut wrenching knowledge that if things stuff up, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Which is why I am rather prone to not taking responsibility at times, sticking my head into the sand and letting the world go by. And every time I do this, things turn to crap. Once I step up to the plate again, things get better. Things start to happen. And I begin to get happy again.

Being honest, I've had my head in the sand for a while. There are many ways of describing this. Work woes. the Blues. Out of sorts. The health issues. Things aren't quite right. I've not been looking at things clearly.

And it takes a funeral and a card reading to see this clearly and start to set things in forward motion again.

The funeral on Wednesday was a turning point. I'd took the day off, not knowing how long proceedings would take, not knowing what my reaction to the whole situation would be. It's not that I was close to Maria - but as a member of my lodge, the person who bumped me into freemasonry and a guiding light in the lodge, I had to be there. In the end, I was very glad I went. Most of the service was in Greek. The Church was packed to standing room only. Maria's husband and children were up in the front pew, distraught. And all I could do was observe.

The Greek Orthodox liturgy was beautiful. The sung sermon and responses resonated through the old church. Women crossed themselves continually. Men hung their heads. Candles burned quietly in the back. People appeared from every door until well into the service. A true mark that Maria was loved and respected.

Most of the lodge were there. Women ranging in age from their mid thirties to their mid eighties. It was strange seeing some of them in civvies - I'm used to seeing them in their mason's garb. This too was a lovely thing - we came out as one to see one of us off to the great beyond. We know that wherever Maria is now, her bubbly, bossy presence will be making herself felt. She'd be pleased at the turn out.

Walking my dear old friend Barbie back to her car, we got talking about things. Barbie is 87. She's wonderful. As sharp as a tack and funny as, like most of the older women of the lodge. Her husband Reg is in hospital with some minor ailment. She still drives herself around. She's an enigma.
"You know Maria was only 54," she said.
"I did."
"You have to love a person who lived a loved life."
I felt myself well up, turning my head away from Barbie.
"You have to admire a person who takes life by the bollocks, like Maria. She lived life on her terms."
"Very true, Barbie."
I thought back to Maria's last months. She allowed nobody but family to see her. Until that time, she really was her own woman. Shunning many of the norms of Greek Orthodoxy and social says so's to get out there and do things her way.
"I see you like that," said Barbie.
I saw Barbie into her car and watched her drive off to see Reg.

Kick in the guts of the day number one: People see me as taking life by the balls. Me?

So, I have something to live up to.

Later in the afternoon I went off to have my cards read. As a tarot reader, this is something I do only once or twice a year. I wait for the inner voice to call me in for a reading and then I call in the best. You can't read your own cards objectively - soembody else, and somebody you trust has to do it.

As the ex head of the Tarot Guild, dream group facilitator, counsellor, practical Kabbalist and all round good person, Viv greeted me at the door.
"You've had your head in the sand for a few weeks. What's going on?

When Viv says something you know you're in for it.

What it comes down to, time for me to start taking responsibility. Time to start looking at I want, not what I think everybody else wants. And I will be fine. Take the sabbatical. See what life deals you. Go on. Viv shows me the Fool card. "Take a leap of faith. You know what it means. What are you waiting for? Oh, and there's a relationship there waiting for you soon."
I've mentioned in past posts that I'm a happy, positive card reader, practical, full of insight and very straight to the point. Viv's readings are in the words of a friend, "Like being ripped a new arsehole" half the time. Brutally frank, honest and intensely confronting at times.
"Me, a relationship? You never, ever say that."
"I know."
"What do you mean, relationship?"
"You will meet somebody who wants to be with you. Who wants to love you."
"And you are going to be frightened beyond belief. This one you can't afford to mess up."
Glumph. I reach for the tissues.
"Because the universe sees you as deserving this. It's about time."
More tissues.
"Oh, and to get this, you have to get your head out of the sand. This will push every button that you possess. You'd better be ready for it."

Okay, so here I am, I have to get on with things. I have to fix the work situation. Get moving.

So the decision has been made. The following morning I talked to Popeye. Let's investigate the sabbatical option. The wheels aren't in motion, but the car has started.

Since making this decision, things have begun to clear. I've got my diet back on track. I started running again , albeit slowly and carefully - doing an hour and a half on the treadmill today - and loving every minute. I know the marathon is probably out of reach, but the walk/run/bail option is there - and I'll do what I can in October - and I'm okay with this.

Most of all, I've been instilled with a sense of hope. Something that's been lacking for months now.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Abyss

I'm going to a funeral in a few hours, so I'm sitting here at home, in my gym clothes, trying to find the energy to get my bum onto a cross traiiner for half an hour. My body, and mind, and spirit feel decidedly battered. Not helping matters, the next door neighbours are renovating, so I'm listening to the grating drone of a sander.

The funeral is for one of my lodge members, the lady who bumped me in to co-freemasonry. A beautiful, loving, etherial presence, who even when going through the ravages of chemotherapy kept her spirit and courage. She was in her late fifties - too young really. But knowing that this spirited, joyous mother and grandmother had a wonderful life fills me with some peace. I have no qualms taking a day off as a mark of respect. I need to do it. These guys have become part of my extended family. You do this for family.

The last few days have been hard. Really hard.There's been a lot of emotion flying around. I've had numerous people crying, actually, make that sobbing, in my arms over the last few days. Card readings will normally bring out a few tears, but these were hard core. Seriously huge things are happening to people out there. And all I can do is witness this.

The Grounded Dutchman is going through his own readjustments. He's finding his limitations, which I know is frustrating him no end. Our daily reading and diction sessions continue and he's doing well - but it's other little things that are getting to him. Before the accident, nothing seemed to bother him. Now, he's a lot more sensitive and emotional.  We went to see Inception last night and he had to leave part way through - the whole experience was too noisy and intense for him. He went to a bar to celebrate a leaving do - similar experience - he had to walk out, unable to cope with the noisy atmosphere.

Maybe not so strangely, I get where he's coming from with the noisy environments. Maybe it's me getting old, or just being rather sensitive, but I hate crowded, noisy spaces. I can do concerts at a push, but I would rather be out of the mosh pit (unless the Pixies are playing). It was sad to see him go early - it was a fabulous film. 

And as for me - I'm just trying to find some direction. The pain in the side contintues. I had my regular appointment with the myotherapist yesterday, telling her of the joys of St Vincents Emergency Room. She started pummelling my back. "We need to get some of this trauma out of you. You're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. No wonder you feel like you're giving way."

And she's right. It's just how I feel.

A lot of this has to do with the situation at Tin Can, String and Whistle. It really is in a state of flux at the moment. People are leaving left right and cente, nobody is sure what we'll be doing in the next three months - and I've been editing a large document and what ever dribs and drabs I can get - this makes me feel really undervalued. Going from a dream job where I loved the work and the people to where I am now is so deflating.

So, what are my options?

Leave and find someting new. Start over. Get out now?
Take up the six month sabbatical that is on offer at the moment - 14 weeks pay to take 26 weeks off - and to come back to a job, not sure what - maybe get moved to India or Vietnam? Find some contracting work in between?
Or keep on going the way things are, waiting to be made redundant.

I'm also looking at why I'm so resistant to move. A lot of this comes down to the fact that I love the people at Tin Can, String and Whistle. I'm at a place where I know I'm respected and my real work, when I do it, is valued.

Even putting my name down for roles in India and Vietnam is daunting. This wasn't done on a whim. I look at what I have here - no property, no animals, no family. It's just my friends, who are my support network and joy, that keep me here.

Honestly, I feel like wrapping myeself in cotton wool. All a bit pointless when you're staring down into an abyss. If you jump, you don't know how hard the bump at the bottom is going to be.

Then again, you don't know if you going to jump and fly off to somewhere miraculous.

Cards of the Blog:  The Hermit, The High Priestess and The Ace of Swords.

Look within, trust your instincts and get your head around it. You'll do just fine.

Great. Keep drinking the Rescue Remedy, get your cards read.
And most importantly, view my wonderful future.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Advice for Young Dory

I thank my friend Fletcher Beaver for this idea.

It's been an interesting week for reminiscences. Dinner on Monday with some friends I hadn't seen for over twenty years have made me really look over some of my actions and behaviours. The old statement,"If I knew then, what I know now..." rings so true. What may have happened if I knew what I know now?

Thankfully, I'm a great believer in what is - just is. You are exactly where you need to be at any given point in time. I have no regrets. There are just a few things I would do a little differently, but as there is no going back and changing things, there is no point mulling over it.

So lets wind up the time machine and go back twenty four years.

I find eighteen-year-old Dory, as I was known back then, surrounded by books in the Keith Murray Building of Lincoln College, Adelaide. The room is a mess, books and paper everywhere, a snoopy mug on her desk filled with instant coffee. There is a hideous red, floral bedspread across the single bed, a poster of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. Dory lies on her bed reading Little Dorrit, aware that she's having the crap bored out of her but unaware of how to change the situation. Dory's not good at making changes happen. The words of TS Eliot run through her head like a lament.

"Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool."

Being cautious to the point of stagnation is young Dory's downfall. She doesn't know how to take risks. She only knows how to be stuck and scared. Eighteen -year-old Dory is still getting over the destruction of her first love, a spotty lad named Stephen, six months before. Dory had never really experienced love until Stephen had come around and she's still perplexed by what she's feeling.

Dory is also unaware that her family situation over the last ten years has dragged her into a depression that she will wear for another fifteen years. She thinks crying yourself to sleep is normal. Dory has no self confidence or self esteem.

She's not popular in the college, nor is she unpopular. She sits at the third table in the dining room - the one next to the Asian students, but far away from the popular kids. She has an amazing sense of bravado, for despite the depths of despair she is feeling, she faces people head on with a smile for the most part. Her friends tend to be the ordinary and the studious - of which she is not the latter. 

So, what would I tell this young, frightened girl twenty years on?

Firstly, she needs a hug and a kiss. She needs picking up, dusting off and told that she is beautiful, inside and out. The mass of reddish brown hair, big green eyes, the long, slim legs, snub nose and dimples are lovely. She isn't ugly. She needs to be told this, and taught how to make the most of it. She wont do this for years either, but I'm telling her now. It's a pity she wont listen.

The next big lesson for this shell of a girl - stop putting yourself down. There are enough people in the world to do this, there is no reason to do it to yourself. Dory doesn't see the quick brain, her ability with words, her kindness or her empathy as anything special. Little does she realise that words will become her life, she is loved and trusted as a friend and her empathy, at times verging on a psychic awareness, will give her the edge in many a decision.

Now, money, Dory. You know how your Uncle John told you to bank at least 10% of every pay check. LISTEN TO HIM! He's right. While we're talking of money, avoid the BT Time Fund like the plague. And the lesson learned in investment banking - don't get emotional about stock or money - live by it. Money is money. It's how you use it that counts, not where you got it from.

Dory also needs to be told to take some risks. Fifteen years later she will be sitting in Fitzroy Gardens one sunny, Summer afternoon, mourning the loss of a colleague, reading "Who Moved My Cheese?" She will read the words, " What could you do if you weren't scared?" and her world will suddenly expand exponentially. Her life will turn around quickly after reading this. She will move to Greece, work on an island, and start to plan her escape from a career she despises and find herself in a much better place. It's amazing how one small book can change your life. I'd leave her a copy if it was written back then. It may have changed things.

Men, for Dory, are always going to be problematic. She needs to realise that for every time she has her heart broken she will only become stronger. Men need to be your friend before you let anything happen, no matter how strong the urge to act on the need for attention or intimacy. As a girl who has never felt loved, she will make a lot of mistakes. She needs to realise how special and beautiful she is. Don't give herself away freely. She needs to learn how to trust. That one will take a very long time to learn too - as without trust, she cannot get close. These will be painful lessons to learn, but she'll get it in the end.

What Dory will not be aware of is that beneath the shell she is one of the most courageous people she will ever meet. She will end up living away from her family and friends, in a foreign country, illegally for a number of years. She will travel the world alone. She will do some amazing things. She just has to reach into her inner strength and run with it. She'll get good at that in her thirties.

Oh, and Dory, you are strong enough and stubborn enough to do ANYTHING you set your mind to. Your forty-year-old self runs half marathons. Don't baulk. Trust yourself and go do it - there is very little you can't do.

And if there were three moments where she would change her actions, and go the other road.

Dory, when you monumentally stuff up an Australian Literature essay in second year and are offered counselling. TAKE IT! It could have got you on the road to happiness sooner. You won't beat yourself up for this as you will learn other lessons first.

Also, sweet girl, trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel good, get out, and get out now. Your instincts are normally on the ball. Always trust them, they will never let you down. You will spend your twenties very lost, even more lost than you are at eighteen. Trust your instincts - they're your signposts to better things.

And remember, dear Dory. Drinking vodka out of your boss's belly button will never lead to any good. Never. Thankfully, only the two of you know about this moment. You wont do that again in a hurry. Belly button fluff vodka will never catch on.

I'll leave Dory to the joys of Dickins and her view of the KMB lawns.

It's good to know she will get somewhere in the end.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Successful Thistle Sifting

It's 1975. My seven-year-old self, long white socks, school shoes, yellow skivvy, brown pinafore. Hair in long, unruly pigtails. I'm at the Flinders Medical Centre Speech Pathology Unit. Tammy Riley and I have been taken there for my weekly session with Miss Carter.

Tammy has a stammer. She rarely talks in class.

I never shut up.

Tammy goes off in one direction. I follow Miss Carter to her small room, filled with games, letters and sounds. I enjoy this time. Back at school they're doing games. I don't like games where you have to run about. This is far better.

"Can you read this?" asks Miss Carter.
"Give it a go."
"She things the thongs of Tholomon, they thound the thtart of day."

I've been graced, since early childhood, with a lisp. Thanks to Mith Carter, age and time, the worst of it has gone. It still catches me out sometimes - words like photosynthesis, thus and thistle - any word where the "th" sound is followed quickly by an "s" - I'm screwed. I'm transported back to 1975, sitting in front of my grandparents singing "All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." and watching their merriment.

My tea breaks now have a new purpose. Grounded Dutchman has asked me to give him a hand with his speech. Since the accident he's been left with a slur, a common mark of those who have suffered some sort of brain injury. GD's been lucky, his language skills are still there, it's just getting things out. He's more than understandable, but he's also self-conscious of this new imperfection. I've been at him to seek out some real speech therapy, but he is resistant after the therapy he received after his accident. "It's useless. They're no good," he keeps stating.

So tea breaks are now spent working with him. Reading things from the paper. Discussing topics. Making him talk, out loud, and lots.

I'm unsure why he's asked me to help him out, other than being a friend he can trust. And he knows I've done a few acting classes in my day. Where diction and elocution were part of the curriculum. So a bit of searching in the internet and we've come up with some beauties to get his tongue around.

I'd dearly like to get the HMS Pinafore out of my head. He did well with "I am the very model of a modern Major-General." But he couldn't believe that the whole thing is sung in less that a minute.

There's lots of resources on the web, lots of tongue twisters (or tongue breakers as they're known in Dutch) to help get his mouth moving. I remember an old language coach said that singing could help too - but he's welcome to do that in the car. He was tone deaf before the accident.

But I really hope he does seek out some real help. Our sessions at tea break may help - but I wonder what a professional could do for him - a good one.

I still think he's going to be monumentally unhappy with tomorrows tongue bender:

Theophilus Thistler, the thistle sifter, on sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles stuck three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.

I can't even manage that. Bad Pandora.

I'm still thankful, nearly forty years on, that my parents named me what they did. And not like my thister, Thoothie. (Susie)...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reconsiderations, Anti-Gravity and Why I'm not a Jedi

90 Days to the Mount Desert Island Marathon.

Reindert and I had a heart to heart on Sunday. After the stress of the day spent in the Emergency Room and the realisation that this pain in my side is more than a muscle strain, I'd been working out what to say to him. The words came more easily than I thought.

At the end of May I cruised throught the Williamstown Half Marathon - well - I did my best time and came out really well. A week later I'd nearly torn my calf muscle, putting me six weeks behind my training schedule - and now this. It hurts to walk. Joy.

We had a pleasant afternoon. On hearing that there was a place near Hanging Rock that was somewhat magical, where you could roll your car uphill - something to do with magnetic forces or anti gravity - Reindert was sold and we made the return trip to the rock to hunt out this place.

It was truly amazing. Your set your car into neutral at this one point in the road - and sure enough - it rolls uphill! We tried it four or five times. Reindert's engineering brain was about to explode. "It has to do something with magenetics. I reckon if you were in a horse and cart it wouldn't work." he explained to me.
"Why can't some things just be left unexplained?" I asked in return.
"Because everything needs an explanation. It's science."
"Spiritual Agnostic, thank you."

The lovely German doctor at St Vinnies had remarked on my notes that as a religion I'd put down Agnostic.
"Why did you put that down?" he had asked me.
"They asked. I'm not a Christian. I'm not an atheist, as I sort of believe in God. I'd put down Freemason if I wasn't in a Catholic hospital. Kabbalistic Wiccan just sounds wanky. I was tempted to put Jedi down just out of spite."
"We get lots of Jedis here." he smiled back.
If I had put down Jedi as my religion and things got messy it turns out they would have called upon some guy in Preston who turns up in robes and talks to you in the language of Tatouine to adminster last rites. Hmmm.

Back to rolling cars uphill. We finished our trip, happy that we'd found this freak of nature place.

On the way back, after a lovely coffee in Woodend we started talking about the marathon.
"I'm all in a quandry."
"About what?" he asked.
"The marathon. At the end of May I was travelling well. Then came the calf - and now this. I can barely walk without pain, let alone run. I just thought I'd done a groin muscle for a bit."
"You walk alright."
"It hurts. I doesn't hurt too bad, but it hurts. And I'm not going to whine about it. But I can't run at the moment. I can't train. It shits me."
"I can imagine."
"I don't know how long this will be going on for."
"And the marathon is three months away. I don't know what to do. It feels like I've put most of this year into getting myself ready for this only to fall over now."
"I've been thinking about this too."
"You have."
"Yep - and you have three choices. Run - and see how you go. Run/walk, and see how you go. Or bail. And there is no dishonour in bailing after a bit in your situation."
"That's how I see the options."
"And what do you think?"
"See how I travel over the next week or so  and go for the Run / Walk / Bail option. I'm not a piker, but to run a whole marathon in October is lunacy.Walking is an option - and I'm still considering contacting the organisers and starting with the walkers and then see what happens."
"Then I think you're doing the right thing."

So, it comes down to wait and see. Wait and see if I can't run at all, run a bit of it, or if I'm lucky, be able to get back into training soon and complete the 42.2 kms, albeit at a run/walk pace.

Never would I have guessed that in two years I've transformed from this occassionally gyming slob to this running person. Somebody who misses the joy of movement as I traipse around the streets, somewhat red faced, but free.

I saw a doctor at my regular practice today - asked her to check up on all the results and the ultrasound pictures from Tuesday, half comforted by the fact that no matter which way I go, getting to the bottom of this will take a few weeks, not just days. She said to take it easy - and no running until the pain had gone.

So, I am without running for a while. What shall I do?
Finish that Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment?
Finish that Greek Travel writing job.
Get into Pump class again?
Ponder my five weeks abroad in October.

There is plenty to do. I just know I'd prefer to be out on the Yarra path - training my body, puffing away, adoring the feeling of achievement and freedom.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Waiting Room

93 Days to the Mount Desert Island Marathon

And I spend the afternoon in the Accident and Emergency Ward of St Vincent's Hospital.

Over the last few days I've had an off again on again pain in my lower stomach which was getting worse. Last night it woke me up - which is unusual. It hadn't done that in the past. On arriving at work, I told Popeye about the pain. He then marched me over to the local doctor for an appointment.

It's not like it's bad pain. More growly, grumbly pain that is bearable, but there. Nothing too bad. The Nurofen I took in the morning didn't touch it, but I wasn't doubled over - just uncomfortable.

So, 11.45am, off to the GP across the road from work - not my lovely GP near home. This guy has little bedside manner to speak of - you only go to him if really necessary. He had a prod around my belly, stuck a thermometer in my ear, took my blood pressure and announce that I'd better get myself over to St Vincents for the afternoon - something was going on, but what he couldn't tell. Ovarian cyst? Appendicitis? It needed to be investigated.


Back at the office I collected my things, the spare clothes I keep in my desk, my mobile charger and a hairbrush. I could survive a week in the Sahara with these objects. By 12.45 I was being assessed by the Triage nurse across the road.

Hospital waiting rooms have to see the most diverse tangents of society. St Vinnies, which sits at the edge of the city, next to the once notorious Fitzroy and the occasionally seedy Carlton, sees its fair share of junkies, nutters, waifs and strays. Saturday night, it's Loony Central.

I've been lucky with hospitals. In my adult life I've never been admitted - only going to the emergency room once for suspected pnuemonia and once when I was bleeding out of both ears after a really nasty virus. Though I can cope with hospitals, I'm not fond of them.

Looking around the room, the prefab chairs took the weight of the every section of humanity. Under the light of Oprah who was being projected onto a wall sat the elderly with their wheelie walkers, a hunchback in a wheelchair, a young lifeguard sat holding her stomach, weeping. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. Greek, Chinese, Arabic, bogan were being spoken. A real melting pot.

From my perch at the back fo the room I watched as people came in and out, trying to ignore the increasing pain. A good looking man in a road crew vest asked for some attention to the laceration on his face. An old man with his zimmer frame stared at his foot encased in a plastic bag. An old Greek couple sat quietly, holding hands.

Some were angry, some dejected, some just wanted some attention. Some demanded loudly. Others just asked quietly.

I just felt a bit useless. I wasn't ill. I just had a pain in my tummy. All I wanted was something to eat and drink, which as I hadn't been diagnosed, was not allowed.

An obese woman, greasy hair, thongs, ill fitting clothing came in and out of the sliding door, popping outside for a cigarette ever half hour, on the half hour. The occasional yell. A drug fuelled rant. The squelch of sandshoes on linoleum. Names called. People shuffled by. People in lanyards and scrubs walked with purpose - different to the folks waiting for their attention.

The prefab chairs filled and emptied, filled and emptied once again.

After an hour or so Reindert came to sit with me. He's cried of a couple of meetings to be there. The phone ran hot. How was I? Where was I? Did I need anything? Standard answers. Ok. Still waiting. No needs, other than to get this over and done with.

Four hours later, things started to happen. Reindert returned to work - but his company until then meant the world to me. Ultrasounds with earnest, intelligent young women phographing me from the outside in and the inside out. More prodding and poking. More questions.

Finally, five and a half hours later, I was seen. I got my own cubicle, something to lie on, a curtain, an powerpoint to charge the phone and some privacy. A lovely German doctor, Sebastian, got to have a look. A flamboyant queen with a tyre rim in his ear took my bloods. More questions. How much do I drink? Smoke? Exercise? Questions of a more personal nature. Nothing really added up. I'm in shockingly good heath and live a rather stupidly healthy life.

At six-thirty, finally, they let me have something to drink. And I started to feel a bit better. Combined with the opium derived pain killer he gave me, things calmed a bit. Never doubt the power of a good narcotic.

They let me go at eight 'o' clock, just as Reindert and the Grounded Dutchman came to see me.

The diagnosis - ovarian pain to be investigated. Definitely not appendicitis. Not Ovarian cysts. But something that will need investigating in the weeks to come. I've been given some antibiotics to kill the inflamation. Got told to take it easy for a bit.

I'm just really glad we have access to a wonderful, free, health system over here.

I'm also glad I wasn't dying. After witness the full brunt of Accident and Emergency it's not somewhere I want to go back to in a hurry.

Reindert took me home, gathering some necessary dinner on the way. The calls to family and friends have been made. Viv, my dream group's leader made the comment. " Right ovary. 31st Path. You're not using your intellect enough."

She might have a point.

I'm just glad to be home, safe, in some minor discomfort - with the knowledge that I'm going to be okay.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Slap,The Scream, The Silence - Part Two

I received an email this morning which read "The Mount Desert Island Marathon is 95 days away."


Okay, let's have a look at this:

I'm nearly over a rather nasty injury.
I've had six weeks on the bench doing nothing more strenuous than swimming anda  light jog.
As a grizzly bear by nature, getting up in the morning to run is as foreign to me as wearing pink and calling myself Talullah.
This means in ninety days I will be taking off for the chilly climate of the North Eastern USA  - for a start.

Calm down, Pandora.

After last night's missal I've made a few decisions.

I'm going to be nice to myself. No more beating myself up, what will be, will be.
Eat good.
Exercise safely and daily.
Drink nothing stronger than coffee.
I can run walk the 42.2 kilometres. I'm going to contact the organisers and shift to the walk. Reindert can start with the runners and catch me up. It will be okay. I'm a warrior woman.
Breathe more.
Worry less.
Spend twenty minutes a day meditating.

With these decisions the sore throat began to abate.

Next fix, work.

This is a transient period. Keep busy. Don't stress. What ever happens, I'm employable, and I've only ever been unemployed for six weeks of my life. There's a few tarot and writing jobs coming up to keep myself occupied. I'm safe, even if not fully engaged.

There, that feels better. See, the throat is nearly mended. Just the last bit to go.

Lastly, Lachlan.

What does one say to somebody who appears to take great delight in messing the other person around?
Something like this:

Dear Lachlan,

We've been tippytoeing around eachother for the last fifteen years. For the last ten of those years you've been keeping me on a long leash, coming and going as you please, making empty promises for visits, forever asking when I will be coming over, never actually keeping your word, but also never actually letting me go.

Well, stop it - I'm over it. You know where I live. You want to see me? Come find me - I'm sick of being at your beck and call.

I deserve better. People who don't like me treat me with more respect. I'm not a toy which you can pick up and put down as you please.

Sort yourself out, decide what you want, but don't drag me into your despair any more - I don't want it and I certainly don't need you if you're going to persist in treating me like a whipping post or unwanted Christmas puppy.

I've plenty of other people to spend time with in England when I get there.

And I swallow, the sore throat has gone away. I can breathe calmly and deeply.

Existential crisis over.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Slap, The Silence and The Scream

I found myself at lunchtime, bare legged, prostrate, waiting in anticipation for the hot towel that was about to be draped over my legs. I was back at the myotherapist for another session to ensure the kink in my right leg is finally ironed out.

"And how's your day?" asked Liz.
"That good?"
"What's up? You're normally chatty." she said  as she moved from gently thumping my legs to my back, pressing in sections up and down my spine. Gentle, reassuring pressure.

I will admit to the following two things. I got into massage therapy some fifteen years ago (and associated modalities like reflexology, aromatherapy and reiki) because it allowed me some touch in my life. I also have a monthly massage to ensure that I get touched at least one a month - safe, gentle, healing touch. I hope this doesn't sound strange. It's not pervy or kinky, but necessary. I attribute my mental and physical health to my monthly relaxation and remedial massage. I do get out of sorts when I don't get a regular massage. It's not an indulgence - it's a necessary part of life. When you don't have a partner, touch is something that sadly lacks.

"So, Missy, what's the matter?" Liz prodded further as my back refused to budge.

"I need to scream, but I can't. My throat is sore."
"My right leg niggling tells me it's family stuff. The small kinks in my left leg say it's emotional stuff. The fact my throat feels like it's embedded with razorblades - I need to scream at something."

I know there's some elements of truth to this.

"Yep, that will do it," replied Liz, moving back down to my right leg to start belting it up.

Thankfully, the massage practice where I get my massages and the folk who work there are pretty tuned into the Body/Mind/Spirit connection. They're also used to me. I go in there occassionally to do a contra reflexology session with the therapists there.

"And when I get like this, when I feel like crap like this, I go quiet."
"And is that a good thing?"
"Probably not."
"Well, tell me, what's up."

Hmm, where do I start.

Things I want to scream at:

Work - I haven't been feeling too valued of late - but intellectually I know it's the climate and lots of change. It shall pass, but it's a bugger to go through.
Lachlan - I give up there. Still no contact. Stuff him
Myself - not being able to run, not being able to focus, letting myself have a too busy a diary, not losing weight... it's a long list.

That's a good start.

Liz got the above, potted version. Details weren't required.

My hackles rose a little further when she said I really shouldn't do the Half Marathon on Sunday. The ten kilometre race she was fine with, but not the half. Pull out of the long race or reinjure myself.

I know she's right. Yesterday I did at solid lap of the Tan with a few of the guys from work. We had a run and my leg came out of it well - but I've still got a few lingering tugs and pulls. Rang the organisers later in the afternoon and now I'm down for a slow ten kilometre run. It's for the best.

She then asked about my book group, from which I've just come back from. We read Christos Tsiolkas' "The Slap" this month. A controversial, polarising book about the fallout after an incident where a man slaps a child that isn't his own.

"Sounds interesting." she said.
"It will generate some great conversation."
"And why is this bothering you?"
"Brings up a lot."

She started what she calls "percussion" on my legs - firm slapping to get the blood running. I began to feel the release.

Six hours later I sat at book group, at our wonderful Irish pub. I sat in the corner, a little removed from the conversation. My throat contained by some butter menthols, a soda, lime and bitters in hand. A great night was had, fantastic book to talk about. Questions of loyalty and loss. Would you slap another person's child? How would you react? Did the author fairly represent Australian society. Were you slapped as a kid?

I once again kept pretty quiet - but as I'm the organiser and occasional referee, I interjected when appropriate.

But my head was full.

Was I bullied like one of the characters at school? Umm, yes. But I let most of it run over my head and they went away. What was going on at home at the time was worse.
Was I slapped as a kid? Yes. Rather frequently at times. I'm a child of the seventies. Who wasn't?
How would I react if I was betrayed like one of the characters in the novel? I would go silent.

Silence is my scream - a scream from within.

I now know that the silence is my time to start working throught the real reasons why I need to scream. It's my first trigger point before depression cycles. Catch it now and it doesn't blow into a deep spiral.

I just wish it was as easy as opening my mouth and letting it out.

Maybe a better start would be to go to the gym and belt up a punching bag.

All I know it that's it's better out than in.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Three National Parks

I miss running. Not being able to run has robbed me of my thinking time, my goals, my dreams and my sense of overcoming adversity. Finally, the gastrocnemius is mending. It only gets strapped when I do exercise and other than regular stretching and the odd bit of deep heat, it's coming good. Running still hurts, but it's now a dull ache rather than the harsh warning pain of a few weeks ago. Liz the Myotherapist has said that I could go back to exercise cautiously. Running one minute out of five on the treadmill is very doable. But this is going to take time - and patience. Not something I'm known for.

By cautiously, she probably didn't mean going and scaling the 1000 Steps in the Dandenongs National Park...

Well what was I supposed to do? Reindert... yes, let's blame Reindert. At dinner, after beer club he said he was going up to the Dandenongs for a run. I sort of asked myself along. The trek up the 50 % incline would be fun. He could go off running, I could gently scale the steps, come down again and then go back to the car and read my book. Save him train fare and get me out in the fresh air.

It was a great move. A wonderful thing to do. The Kokoda Memorial Trek, up 660 steps to the summit, and seriously not for the faint hearted. I was pleased. Taking it easy to make sure there was no undue pressure on the leg, I made my way up the hill - thrilled that my recovery and CV fitness was holding out. Then the scary bit - coming down.

As a child I spend a lot of time in hospital having my legs fixed. Born knock kneed and with short Achilles tendons meant spending time in callipers and plaster boots at regular intervals until I was twelve. It was during this time I developed a fear of falling. While Reindert can fly down these hills, I have to carefully pick my way down. I wish I was sure of foot - but anything going down - stairs, escalators and steep hills normally fills me with dread. I even get nervous going down Anderson Street on the side of the Botanical Gardens. I love scaling the cathedrals of Europe - I hate crawling my way down - petrified of falling. It's a problematic, sort of embarrassing phobia.

Regardless, I made my way up and back in just over fifty minutes and felt great for it. Reindert gave me a good hour an a half to read my book before returning, muddy, but happy. Freak. Only Reindert would love running up and down these near cliff faces.

The following day, as a treat, Reindert and I joined the Grounded Dutchman on a wine tour of the Macedon Ranges. We say wine tour when really it was more a day trip. We planned on a visiting a few wineries, going to have a look around Hanging Rock, find a nice lunch and go home.

Reindert and the Grounded Dutchman have been regular day trip companions for ages. They're good company. They've also allowed me to see more of the state I've lived in for the last ten years. Until these guys turned up I rarely ventured out into country Victoria. As I child, we never went camping as a family and other than a few visits to places before I was eight, I don't remember visiting national parks - that was a thing for the campers and hippies to do.

The guys have been a blessing to have about. How wrong have I been?

The first stop was the Organ Pipes National Park. "Never heard of it." I said, but Reindert assured us it would be worth a visit.

For a small national park, Organ Pipes it packs a lot of wallop. The actual organ pipes are this natural wonder - just off the Calder Freeway, blink and you miss the turnoff. You can hear the gentle hum of the traffic in the far distance, the sites about a kilometre from the road. They're really cool. You just stand there and think 'How did that happen?".

 There was also this natural wonder called the Rosette Stone at the park - not the one that helped translate the heiroglyphs that got robbed by the English and now sits in the British Museum. This would be too big for the colonials to take back to brag about. Another natural WTF moment.

Then it was off to Hanging Rock. Another place I've heard about but never been to.

Another big hill to scale. Joy. Thank goodness I was wearning my calf strap and runners. It was already aching from the day before and my quads were feeling like concrete after picking my way down Mount Dandenong. Never to mind, can't have the boys think you're not up to it.

It's an amazing geological wonder - a fantastic place to wander. Silent and ethereal. You can see why Peter Weir made the film about it. Of course on the summit you have to cry out "Miranda!" and you listen hard for the pan pipes that George Zamphir is expected to play when you get to the top.

Explaining this to two Dutchmen was a bit difficult. Another missed cultural reference.

I look at this shot of Reindert and Grounded Dutchman under Hanging Rock, looking very Dutch, hands in pockets, rather earnest. I look at his and think it would make a great album cover. "Hurdy and Gurdy Sing the Greatest Dutch Football Anthems Volume One." I can see it now.

Grounded Dutchman made sure he climbed over every rock he could find, despite shattering his pelvis 15 months ago. I'm certain that man was a cat in his last life. However he climbed down from each rock with a huge grin of triumph on his face. Proof of just how far he's come.

The uneven ground made me rather cautious. I stuck to the track. Reindert could be spyed looking out into the distance.

The place also made me rather melancholy. Why hadn't I been there before? What had I missed? Why had I allow myself to forgoe days like this? Being single and rather isolated, I've really done myself a disservice. Time for that to change.

But there wasn't time to drown in self pity - there was wine to be tasted, food to be enjoyed and winery dogs to pat. Three of my favorite things.

And even better, as the Grounded Dutchman has to behave himself around alcohol - a designated driver!

Hanging Rock Winery was first off the ranks. Some pleasant drops which may have been nicer if the man behind the desk had half a personality. Next came Curly Flat, ( where the Pinot Noir's are velvety smooth and the winery cat, Chewbacca, a 10 kg orange moggy kept us entertained. The Pinot's were lovely, but the cat stole the show, using Grounded Dutchman for a sofa for the time we were there.

Lastly, after a fine lunch at the pizza joint in Kyneton (highly, highly recommended) we made our way to Big Shed Wines. ( where we were entertained by the unflappable Felix and the three Border Collies who sat at your feet and demanded a pat. Felix was the find of the day, with a long wine list to taste, great prices and an interesting way of handling the stock. Since the mountains are so cold, the cellar door is not the best to store stock. So the reds, normally drunk around 12-14 degrees at a minimum needed warming. Seven seconds in the microwave did it.... Felix kept us entertained by the wood fire for well over an hour.

We trundled back, replete, content after dark. Only seven bottles of wine in the boot between us. A small haul for a great day.

And for me, a new love of Australian National Parks - more of which I will have to explore in the very near future.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Heights of Correctness

I exist in this politically correct world. I agree that in this environment of alleged equality that we take care to not offend minorities. There are good reasons not to poke fun at disabilities. It is a good thing to make people, however the same or different, feel at ease. Doesn't mean I like it all the time.

I get on the PC bandwagon occasionally. I take offence at being called Miss. I'm a Ms. It aint nobody's business if I'm married or not. I snap at telemarketers who call the landline at dinner time asking for Mrs Behr. "Bugger off, she was my grandmother and she's dead." is my standard reply to that one.

Working at Tin Can, String and Whistle I'm surrounded by people from many other nationalities, and I try to make sure I'm culturally aware. I've mentioned before in this blog that we all get on well. People are people. Especially with the World Cup on there's some good natured ribbing being poked about. I sit between a Brazilian and a Dutchman - their current spats are quite funny.

At the cry of "I'm in a minority," the normal answer come like, "Is that because you're wearing an ugly green shirt?"

It's a peaceful, contented place to work.

So today, when I was preparing the beer club flyer, which is my responsibility as Beer Club Chief - I got a raised eyebrow. Was the content PC? "Oh, that's poking fun at people. You can't say that!" came one naysayer. What, a thirties photo of two guys with wingnuts for ears? Un PC? The shot's quite famous -  been around since God was a boy. It was "Hug a Ranga Day", last week. Isn't that worse? Poking fun at redheads? (I had to feel for the teenage lad of one workmate who asked his father if this was his opportunity to "get some". Sort of felt sorry for the spotty, red headed fourteen-year-old)

As Beer Club Chief I have to use a bit of discretion. As the chief of the club I need some help. As I am the chief, I could have indians helping me - but as the guys who normally give me a hand are from Mumbai, Mangalore and Lahore, we've called them "minions" instead. It's a badge of respect being a beer club minion.

Back to the flyers. The last president was fond of putting half naked women on the flyers. Although I took a small amount of offence at this, I've been trying to find amusing content to put my slant on things - giving them a more topical bent.

So this week's flyer - you be the judge. Promoting responsible drinking.

It's cracked a few smiles when I put it to my podmates. It will go out tomorrow morning from the Beer Club email address.

But the daftest act of political correctness happened late last night when Geertt, Popeye's boss, went over to Jan Pieter's desk. As you can surmise, Jan Pieter (JP) and Geertt are members of the workplace Dutch Mafia. There had been a complaint about the photo pinned up on JP's pod wall. A photo of JP and his daughter Annika at Christmas. A photo that had been pinned up on the wall for over eighteen months.

The Dutch have this rather quaint tradition at their Christmas, which is held on 6 December. On this day, Sinta Klaus and his mate Black Pete come to bring presents if the kids have been good. If the children have been naughty, Black Pete takes them back on his ship to Spain where they are made to serve as slaves. So not only are there a heap of Sinta Klaus's, dressed like the normal Western Santa roaming the streets but there are any number of Black Pete's with them. Black Pete is traditionally dressed as a mix between a Vatican Swiss Guard and an Enid Blyton Gollywog.

Okay, over here it would be frowned upon, but it is in their culture? In this picture, both Jan Pieter and Annika were in the traditional Black Pete garb - the pantaloons, the ruffled shirts, the curly wigs and their faces blacked. Their cornflower blue eyes were shining from under the makeup.

"There's been a complaint about that photo." said Geertt.
"Why? It's been sitting there for eighteen months in plain view. Nobody's complained about it before." replied Jan Pieter.
"Well, the OHS people have done a sweep and said that people could find it offensive."
"Oh." said Jan Pieter, as he made a motion to take the shot down. "This was taken at your place, Geert. Annika and I dressed up for your kids."
"I know, and I took the photos and gave it to you to put up." said Geertt. "And we're pharking Clog Wogs and we can't celebrate our Christmas as we normally would. To think that we, the Dutch, invented slavery and apartheid - and some nimby namby Skippy with a clipboard gets offended by a photo of you and your kid. What is the world coming to?!"
We had a laugh over the whole event.

But once again, it's the boundaries which have been challenged. I can see where the incedent on "Oh Shit, It's Wednesday" a few months back could be seen as offensive where a group of multicultural doctors went on television with blackened faces to sing a Jackson Five song. Australian television should have moved on from that. Seriously.

But is the removal of  the photo of JP and his daughter doing a traditional Dutch activity discrimination?  Nine million Dutch people do this every year on 6 December? It's not particularly politically correct but it's part of Dutch life (this from a nation that calls putt putt or mini golf, Midget Golf...)

I think I had better take down my favorite Bunny Suicide postcard before the PC Police notice it.