Saturday, June 30, 2007
In reading the book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson I was struck by a simple piece of advice and that was to have patience. Way too often we allow things to upset us and a recurring theme in Richard's books is to ask ourselves the question "Will this matter a year from now?"
Of course many of the small things that increase our stress will not matter at all in a year and if we can understand that we will reduce our stress levels. He suggests taking a step back when we find ourselves getting angry or upset about something. If we learn to practice patience then it becomes easier not to stress about some of those things whether it be waiting at a red light or standing in a queue, or being interrupted when doing something we regard as important.
In those situations recently I have taken his advice and the mere uttering of the word "patience" has the effect of making those little stresses less important.
From Journal 1 – 14/06/1980
“You must never doubt that a man can rise in the world. Otherwise, we are no better than little ants that creep and crawl – and if that is God’s will, then God is the littlest and of all.”
- Samuel Pepys (Nicholas Monsarrat; Running Proud, p.250)
Friday, June 29, 2007
“In a time in some respects similar to our own, St Augustine of Hippo, after a lusty and intellectually inventive young manhood, withdrew from the world of sense and intellect and advised others to do likewise: ‘There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity…It is this which drives us on to try to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which men should not wish to learn…In this immense forest full of pitfalls and perils, I have drawn myself back, and pulled myself away from those thorns. In the midst of all these things which float unceasingly around me in everyday life, I am never surprised at any of them, and never captivated by my genuine desire to study them….I no longer dream of the stars.’ The time of Augustine’s death, 430 AD, marks the beginning of the Dark Ages in
- Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden, p.236-237.
A time similar to our own was succeeded by the Dark Ages to paraphrase Carl Sagan. It must be asked what justification there is for such a statement. Perhaps the widespread resurgence of interest in the occult, the willingness of many to believe in magic and prophets, the general rejection of rational thinking and of scientific investigations is a common theme to both these times. Many religions, including Christianity preach of an impending Apocalypse and indeed this may well occur not through a worldwide catastrophe but through a gradual decline, as science is further discredited.
The reasons for this are manifold. As man’s technology far outstrips his ability to comprehend all aspects of it (and there ate no late twentieth century cosmographers that I am aware of) the ‘ordinary’ people are naturally subject to future shock. Science which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was seen as a new God that would continue to raise everyone’s living standards is now considered by people at large as a threatening dark force. Here is something that has given man the capability to destroy himself many times over; it has drawn him into many wars, minor and major, cold and conventional; in the west where rising unemployment is the great tragedy of our times, technology is considered a threat to many jobs; in the east and the third world the capacity of technology to raise living standards and provide food for all has failed to keep pace with population growth. Is it any wonder then that science is considered an ogre rather than a boon? This may be the reason for the comeback of the occult, for the unknown is sometimes less frightening than the known. There is no rational basis for a belief in spirits, telepathy, flying saucers, magic or any of the other new or renewed ‘religions’. But perhaps it just needs to be looked at in another perspective.
In nature, natural selection prevents overcrowding. In an overcrowded situation the weak die or are killed, or another force more wonderful comes into play. That force is speciation, where subtle changes or mutations in the genetic makeup allow expansion into other niches. Although I have no proof, it would be reasonable to assume that the larger the population the greater the number of mutations, thus providing another inbuilt safety valve when overcrowding occurs, or possibly before the overcrowding becomes critical. If telepathy, telekinesis etc. are one day scientifically proven they may simply be a result of our response to overcrowding. What sets man apart from other animals is his intellect. Where natural selection and speciation in other animals is restricted to an improved hunting technique or utilization of different food sources, in man such solutions are not possible. It would make sense for the forces of natural selection to act upon that part of mans anatomy that has served him so well, his brain.
I was forever the sceptic when it came to things psychic. Sure I'd dabbled in a few things over the years - an evangelical Christian movement during High School and talking in tongues, ouije board spooky things with my cousins and grandmother - but I was a supreme rationalist. When I re-read the post above it made me realise that perhaps in being rational I have actually tended to look for rational explanations to things rather than dismiss them out of hand.
If our thoughts are simply electrical impulses which can be measured is it not possible that some people are more attuned to them than others? If there are electrical and magnetic fields in the body is it not possible that disruptions to those fields occur through illness and injury, and they can also be felt by some people? If radio waves can continue to travel for infinity maybe simply diminshing in strength, what is the nature of thoughtwaves and can they too travel over physical distances? Certainly brainwaves and brain activity is measurable, is it such a stretch to believe that some people can actually feel them more than others? What is the nature of intuition? How do we sense things, like people walking into rooms, when our eyes are closed? How often do we say exactly the same thing as someone else, or finish another persons sentence?
So many questions.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I have thought about when this thing called midlife began for me and I guess I can trace the roots back to just before my 40th birthday when I was beginning to become a little dissatisfied with my job in the Police Force. Whilst I loved the work I was doing [Chief Intelligence Analyst in the Victoria Police Counter-terrorist unit] it was becoming obvious to me that the Police Force was moving away from encouraging specialization and expertise. It was in fact being increasingly discouraged, both systemically by placing maximum limits on time in position, and culturally by making it very difficult to move laterally if you have been in one place for any length of time.
So I began to look around at other business opportunities with a view to working hard and making enough money to improve my lifestyle and give more time to pursue other interests, like time with family and travel to name a couple. I bought a franchise and the franchisor went into liquidation 6 months later. Faced with the dilemma of walking away then or continuing in another form and hopefully making the whole thing work, myself and all of the other franchisees formed a company to operate as a single business. Truth was though, we were operating with a lot of franchisee baggage, locked into supplier contracts that left us little place to go in terms of savings for cost of goods, and excess staff and vehicles that weren’t fully utilized.
Idealistically, we failed to make hard decisions at that time and rather than put people off, thought if we could grow the customer base over a short period of time, that we would need all of those staff and more. After another year, and having invested around $200,000 we closed the doors and I was left to start again.
Fortunately I didn’t lose my house but the cracks in the marriage were probably starting to appear. Not overtly, because, we both realized that we had to work harder to try and recover what we lost financially, but certainly emotionally it is fair to say that I began to withdraw. It wasn’t a conscious thing, I put my head down and bum up and worked a couple of jobs, and long hours took me from the family. I certainly didn’t realise it was happening and it’s only in the past year that I have had it pointed out to me.
So that trip down the river continued in the rapids for a while. Financially it was tough, I often felt like we weren’t making any headway at all, but that wasn’t unusual, I’d made a number of bad decisions throughout my life – investments in the stock market just before the crash the 1980’s; the purchase of an untried business; advice I acted on to buy into an insurance company that went bust a couple of weeks later. All done in good faith and from the advice of supposed experts.
Was there any sudden revelation or waking one morning to the belief that life was passing me by and that I was dissatisfied with things? I would have to say no at that stage, unlike the experience of many men I have since read of.
For me a critical point was the death of my father in August 2004. I couldn’t sleep properly, didn’t eat, dropped around 12 kilos in weight over a couple of months and began to question where it was I wanted to be. I treated people badly, again not knowingly, and I do regret that. Grief does funny things to the way you act and behave and whilst you’re going through it you cannot actually step back and analyse and assess what is happening. One day you realize that you have spent a lot of time being things for other people, but not being yourself.
What is that self? Truth is I’m still trying to learn how I came to be what I am. I went to a psychiatrist early on because some people thought I was depressed. I came away from those couple of appointments dissatisfied with the result but knowing that this wasn’t depression it was simply a re-assessment of all that had gone before. I only learnt later on that this was midlife and a normal part of life and growth. It is a sad reality in many ways that other people do get hurt along the way, inevitably, unknowingly sometimes, and certainly without malice although that may not seem to be true to those who are hurt.
This journey has been a roller coaster in many ways and if I had to describe only one revelation that has come to me over that time it is that it is now time for me. That sounds at times to be incredibly selfish, but it is the only way to break the pattern of unhappiness that has followed me for a number of years now. Some relationships have been shattered, others rekindled or reborn, and new ones begun. Whilst I am still living through these times it is sometimes difficult to believe that the future is bright. But in times of calmness I can truly believe that it is, and I can look forward to it. That doesn’t mean that everything that has gone before is invalid, nor that the rocky times are completely behind [I still have some bridges to cross with my kids] but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There is comfort in knowing that this journey is not unique and this blogging community has helped me to understand that. I have learnt things about the spirit that few years ago I would have scoffed at. I am still not truly sure what those things mean, nor where they will lead, but I will leave that discussion for another day.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
"To thine own self be true" - William Shakespeare
What exactly does this mean? For me it is about recognising that doubts are OK. There is nothing wrong with accepting that there are times when we must compromise what we believe, or what we would really like to do, in order to satisfy the needs of the other people in our lives. That compromise is not about being untrue to ourselves but a recognition that we all have roles to play and there is good in playing those roles to the best of our ability. Thus the father is different to the son, and the friend to the husband or lover. We can be true to ourselves in every role we play if we recognise the boundaries of those roles and the fact that our true self is an amalgam of all of those parts. We should also embrace the fact that each and every role is legitimate and important in determining who we are.
I am coming to realise that each mask I have worn is part of who I am. I no longer need to sort through and seek to jettison any one of them, but I can celebrate the true diversity of who and what I am.
"I yam what I yam and thats all I yam" - Popeye
Simply said but a really important thing to accept. Never try to be something you are not - in the end you will get found out. The person who tries to play a role that they do not believe in will eventually be destroyed by the contradictions and inconsistencies in their behaviour. You cannot be more nor less than what you are. That is not to say that we cannot become better people than who we currently are, which brings me to the next tenet.
"The only person I have to be better than is who I am right now" - Colonel Sherman Potter, MASH 4077
I wrote this down many years ago when I first heard it. It is this tenet that allows us to recognise that we all have weaknesses that we need to work on. We can all be more loving, more compassionate, more passionate and more caring. We can all make a difference to the lives of others, by a smile or paying a favour forward, or volunteering in our community in some manner. And we can do it in small steps that makes us a slightly better person than the one we were yesterday.
If we can come to understand each of these three things, we can begin to place our self into the true context of our lives. The self doubts and the lack of self esteem that seem to be hallmarks of the "crisis" part of midlife can then be put aside. In being true to ourselves we can learn that it is OK to accept all of the parts that make us who we are, and then we can begin to work on making ourselves better people. And the other important thing to understand is that we don't have to get better than anyone else, or wear the burdens of other peoples beliefs of who we are, we simply need to be honest to ourselves and do our best. But don't worry that your best isn't always of the same standard.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
The Saturday before last, 28 May 1988, was my Dad's 60th Birthday. Mum gave him a surprise party which I'm sure was probably no surprise, every milestone birthday in our family has been celebrated with a birthday.
I guess the fact that my father is now 60 means I too must be getting older. I remember Dad's fortieth birthday, not with any great clarity I'll admit, but I distinctly remember thinking that he had reached middle age. Those twenty years at once seem both long, and n some ways, feel as if they have passed in the blinking of an eye. Much has happened, myself and my two sisters have married, both Karen and I have two children whilst Debra is due to have her first in September.
And whilst we have welcomed those new lives we have bid farewell to froends and family. All of my grandparents have died, Nana Smith only six weeks ago. Uncle Arthur Brown, Dad's oldest and probably his only friend outside family died about five years ago.
So Dad's birthday, although a time for celebaration, has made me wonder what the next twenty years will bring forth. Sadly, my parents and Lyns may well have died in that time. My children will have grown and may well have families of their own and Lyn and I will be passing from middle age to old age. Twenty years suddenly seems a short time.
In 1988 I was 30 years old and whilst we are not yet at the twenty year mark I mentioned in that post I thought it was worth postin here because another milestone birthday is approaching for me. On Bastille Day this year, I turn 50. Oddly I no longer worry about aging like I seemed to be doing in that post. Certainly, 50 no longer seems old, and I am betting when I get to my 60th like I described my Dad's in that post, I will not feel any older than I do now.
I have four children now, my sister Karen also has four, and my other sister Debra has three. Many more family members have passed on and the extended family has continued to grow with my cousins having children and in some cases grandchildren of their own.
My career has changed several times in the ensuing years- both within the police force, in which I was to serve for 16 years until 1997, and beyond where I have had three further major chanes of direction.
The other thing that struck me on reading this post in my old journal was the comment about Uncle Arthur possibly being Dad's only friend. That was very true and I had forgotten that about him. Dad was gregarious and always the life of the party, people enjoyed his company, but he had few friends. Maybe that was because his mates were drinking buddies and when Dad drank, he got drunk and that caused all sorts of issues. Maybe he chose to give those mates up, or maybe Mum forced it, all I know is that he didn't seem to have any mates visit, nor did he go out with any that I knew of. Perhaps the loner in me is more of a reflection of my Dad than I realised.
Finally, whilst I said that we always celebrated milestone birthdays with a party, that also was something that has gone by the by since I wrote it. I chose not to have a 40th birthday party, although we did go out for dinner with a handful of people, and I certainly won't be choosing to have a 50th birthday either.
Anyway, yesterday we went over to see my Mum, who wasn't home, so we didn't actually get to see her. I'm not sure where she was but given it was Saturday she could well have been down at the TAB putting her bets on the horses, or maybe even having a little tipple on the pokies. Bottomline was we waited for around 15 minutes then I decided to visit my best mate, who lives about 1 kilometer away from Mum as the crow flies.
Now Ian and I have known each other since Primary School but became close after we left high school and have spent a lot of time together over the years on holidays and doing other things. We actually went to a football match together Friday week ago and saw my side Carlton absolutely belted by his side Hawhtorn but that's another story.
Ian emailed me dring the week saying that he'd had a good time [and so he should have - his side won by 100 points]. But what he meant was that it was good to catch up because our friendship has really been neglected in recent years. Not on purpose, just that both of us have been dealing with a lot of deeply personal issues. For my part, although he is the person closest to me who I maybe could have spoken to, I felt like I didn't want to burden him with any of my problems. That's a blokey thing to do I think, we tend to think it's better to keep things to ourselves.
Still I noticed that the friendship had been neglected when it was my separated wife who Ian rang when his brother died and not me. That stung, made me realise that maybe he was more important to me than I was to him. I'm not sure whether that's true or not, but it could be.
So yesterday when Mum wasn't home I thought it was a good opportunity to visit Ian even if only briefly. I knew he had other people coming around and that he was doing a lot of last minute stuff prior to flying out to Scotland next Saturday, but I wanted to make an effort to see him before we went away and whilst we only stayed for around an hour, it was good.
When I got Ian's email this week I replied saying that I was sorry that I hadn't been much of a mate for him over the last few years and that I'd like to try and fix that. He didn't reply.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
I’m not sure whether a meme has been done along these lines before but it may be a bit of fun.
Rules are simple.
1. Name between 5 & 10 songs that have made an impact on your life. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how many you wish to describe
2.Pass it onto five other people with a link back to your own post and this one as the original.
1. Ballad of Davy Crockett – We didn’t have a radiogram when we were kids but we did have a Bakelite record player and am radio. Mum had a huge collection of 78rpm records but the only one I ever wanted to listen to was the Ballad of Davy Crockett. Sadly I still remember the words. I must have been around 4 or 5 years old when I first heard it.
2. Edge of Reality – Elvis Presley; this was the first 45rpm record that I ever owned and I was given it one Christmas along with Suspicious Minds and a Jim Nabors EP. Don’t know what Father Christmas was thinking when he gave me the last, although I was a fan of Gomer Pyle at the time. Now Suspicious Minds was a number 1 hit in 1969 so that would have made me 12 years old.
3. Eagle Rock – Daddy Cool. Well known to Australians and still gets a great run at parties for people of all ages – my kids even love it. I remember listening to this in the back of a bus on a school history excursion to the old gold mining town of
4. Desperado – The Eagles. I was introduced to them by an American exchange teacher who played it to us one rainy-day lunchtime at school and I was hooked immediately and have been ever since. I’ve written about this previously here.
5. For a Dancer - Jackson Browne. I could pick anyone of a number of Jackson Browne songs but this one is a favourite. I remember seeing him when he came to
6. Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams. Because it makes me remember good times. 1969 I was actually a bit young to be doing those things but certainly in the 70’s a group of mates and I had a bit of a band thing going. Many nights were spent sitting around living rooms playing guitars and harmonicas, singing the songs we cared about. As students our disposable income was low so we made out own entertainment because we couldn’t afford the club or disco scene.
7. Boys of Summer – Don Henley. As above really, everytime I hear it I’m transported back to those days of summer of my childhood.
8. The Dance – Garth Brooks. This was played at my Dad’s funeral and the words say it all.
9.The Living Years – Mike and the Mechanics. I think this is a song for most people about their fathers. It came out long before my Dad passed away but has held a particular poignancy for me since he died.
10. I hope you Dance – Leeann Womack. I have used words from this song on birthday cards or special occasions for my own kids and nieces and nephews since it was released.
Now for the tags - and I know I have tagged each of you before - as usual only participate if you feel that it is a worthwhile topic.Holly's list is here
Jeff's list is here
Amber's list is here
Apologies to anyone who has already strated a meme like this one.
Here are some others who have also published their lists -Drive by Blogger
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
For the record the lyrics are here -
Open the window
Let the sunset in
If only for the last time
Let me see you smile again
I'll take my records
You can have your books
I'm sorry I never read them
But it says so much about us
To make love out of care
The perfect recipe
But something wasn't there
Sunrays and Saturdays
Perfect starry nights
Sweet dreams and moonbeams
And a love that's warm and bright
Sunrays and Saturdays
Friendship strong and true
Oceans of blue and a room with a view
To live the life you choose
You'll write me letters
I'll call you on the phone
A wire away from touching
And never quite alone
We'll get to know ourselves again
And we'll heal our hearts
It's not that we're bad together
We're just better off apart
To have one and one make two
And even though it never worked
I still feel love for you
I wonder when my kids stopped hugging me and I wonder because today one of my work colleagues 8 month old granddaughter was in the office and kept giving me great big smiles and when I held her at one stage buried her head into my shoulder.
At some stage my sons – who are now 23 and 21 – stopped hugging me. When did that happen? Was it something I unconsciously discouraged? Was it because I stopped doing it to them first?
Our family have always been kissers. Whenever we saw family we kissed them hello and goodbye. I remember when I was about 12 or 13 my Grandad said to me “Son, you’re too old for that now. It’s time we started shaking hands.” And I never kissed him or my other Grandfather or uncles again.
I don’t remember when I stopped doing the same to my own Dad but it was probably around the same age. I can remember the last time I hugged him and that was at his 70th birthday in 1998, but if you asked me the time before that I would have to say that I can’t remember.
I have been hypnotized a couple of times in the past year or so and one of the revelations surprised me. I went back to a time when I was around 4 years old and I was in bed at night calling out to Dad to ask him for a drink of water. Dad was an alcoholic and would often come home drunk and inevitably when he walked in the door at night there would be a verbal altercation with my Mum. I used to lie awake and wait for him to come in and when I heard him I would call out for a drink of water. It was only under hypnosis that I realized I wasn’t calling out because I was thirsty but because I knew when I saw him that he was safe and I could go to sleep.
He would come down to my bedroom, give me a drink, say good night and then disappear until I woke up the next day and saw him sober and spruced up ready for work again. I don’t remember when he stopped kissing me goodnight just as I don’t remember when I stopped kissing my own sons goodnight.
I have never been overtly affectionate, but I still get a kiss from my daughters and an occasional hug but I didn’t realize how much that meant to me until the last year when I haven’t seen them every day. I do miss that day to day contact.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
From Journal 1 – 19-03-1978
“The difference between sex and death is that with death you are alone and no is going to make fun of you. I’m not afraid of dying…I’d just rather not be there when it happens.”
- Woody Allen, The Sun 20/03/1978
From Journal 1 – 21-03-1978
To err and ignore it is divine; to show that error to all and beg forgiveness is human.
Beware of religious fervour; it’s one of the outward trappings of a closed mind.
From Journal 1 – 27-03-1978
“My conscience is provincial in nature, in that its origins are territorial. I shall invariably delude myself, however, that it is universal and thus brings to my actions the authority of universal law. It does nothing, of course, of the sort. It commands me simply to act in the interest of my society or societies.
My conscience is totally amoral. I shall delude myself that it directs me to act in the interests of the human good, and well it may. But with equal force it will direct me to act in the interests of human evil, if such evil is in the interests of my society.
My conscience, I may tell myself, is my own. It is anything but my own. Nothing I seem to possess is so little my own. It is the exclusive property of those territorial or social institutions of which I am a part.”
- Robert Ardrey: An African Genesis, p.392
From Journal 1 – 08-04-1978
Friendship is the one true constant in the universe. It cannot be bought or sold, devalued or revalued, inflated or deflated. For that reason it is priceless, and it should be valued more highl than anything else imaginable.
From Journal 1 – 10-05-1978
“…the main difference between the young and the old, the cause of the so-called Generation Gap – a gap in understanding that has existed throughout all time – is that the young simply cannot believe that the old ever really were young…whereas to an old person his youth is something that happened just last week, and it annoys the hell out of him when someone in effect denies that this old duffer ever owned a youth.”
- Robert A Heinlein: I will fear no evil, p.96
From Journal 1 – 14-06-1978
Time is the enemy of friendships, but may also be their greatest champion.
From Journal 1 – 10-07-1978
“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”
From Journal 1 – 23-10-1978
A belief in fate is an excuse for the mistakes we make.
From Journal 1 – 28-03-1978
Pessimism isn’t such a bad state of mind. At least that way, if things begin to go right for a change, you can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed.
The rules are these -
- Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
- Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
- Players should tag 8 other people and notify them that they have been tagged.
2. Mum lost a brother between my two sisters and I have always wondered what it would have been like to have a brother.
3. I have only lived in two places I would really call home.
4. My dog Chai, part German Shorthaired Pointer, lived for 17 years.
5. I started a Masters in Geography but joined the police force instead.
6. I have been out of Australia twice - once to Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic, and once to Washington DC for a counter-terrorism conference four months before 911.
7. I saw my first dead body whilst at the Police Academy in early 1982.
8. I was once petrified of public speaking but now I'm OK with it.
I will try and tag people who I haven't tagged before and who I don't know may have already answered this one -
Little White Liar
Looking Beyond the Cracked Window
Wiping Up Snot
The Rest of Me
Sleeping Kitten Dancing Dog
As always folks - I'd like to read the replies but don't feel obliged :)
We are lucky in Australia that these types of incidents are comparatively rare and that is why there is always such outrage and disgust when these things do happen. What we muct not do is allow fear to prevent us from going about our normal business, to allow beliefs to form that result in a siege mentality. We must focus on the bravery of the two men shot and celebrate that part of the human condition that means we will rush to the aid of people in trouble.
The gunman will be caught. He will be revealed as a career criminal and thug. He will be shown to be callous and cowardly. Anyone who feels the need to beat up women, who resorts to the use of a firearm to prove he is stronger than someone else must by nature be a fool? He has taken the husband from a wife, the father from three children, the son from parents, and the friend from friends. One moment of anger? Or an ongoing testosterone boosted, chest puffing, pathetic attempt to prove manhod?
I have stepped in during situations where altercations have occured, as an ex-copper it is a natural thing to do, and I was speaking to my oldest son last night [who is in the army] and he agreed his training would ensure that he would do the same. These incidents show that ordinary people will react in extraordinary situations to respond and help if they can. I guess the x-factor means that you may never know whether your decision will be a mere ripple in the river of your own life or whether it will have lasting impact upon the lives of many.
Monday, June 18, 2007
I got my drivers licence when I was 19 years old – I think – I say that because I don’t think I was one of those who rushed out when I turned 18 and got it straight away. For starters, I didn’t have a car, secondly, the whole process of learning to drive was a terrible ordeal. I can’t remember Dad taking me out for lessons, I do remember what a terrible passenger my mother was, so sitting next to her whilst she was trying to teach me was close to a fate worse than death. I clearly remember, one time, after I’d had my licence for a few years and was driving her somewhere, pulling up the car throwing her the keys and telling her to drive herself.
Now I have three of my kids with licences and I have some sympathy for my mother. Son number one’s first lesson was in a new housing estate at Narooma one Christmas and the very first time he turned the engine on with the steering wheel on full lock, lifted the clutch and spun the wheels in the gravel shoulder, catapulting us straight towards a ditch and barbed wire fence, forcing me to yank on the hand break, I knew it was going to be an experience.
I visited the
I wasn’t that great a driver when I look back. Like most I did some stupid things like the time I got Mum’s HT Holden up to 100 miles an hour on a country road near Corowa one Christmas.
When I joined the police force I had to do a number of specialist driving courses and it was only then that I actually learnt how to drive defensively, but at speed and safely. The best course I did was just before Pope John Paul II was visiting the State and I was chosen as one of the drivers for the visit. We learnt all sorts of fun stuff like hand break turns and reverse 180’s, stuff that at the time gave you a great deal of confidence in your own ability.
But, I’ve also learnt that it is a skill that needs to be practiced and we often lapse into lazy bad habits when we drive. How many of us, have drifted off on occasions, gone into auto pilot only to wake up and wonder what happened over the last few seconds. Dangerous things that need only a little tilt of the X factor to end in disaster. I’ve had my share of near misses, nearly got cleaned up by a Semi trailer one day when it crept over double lines onto my side of the road. I have been t-boned once by a bloke who was reading a Melways [which is a Melbourne Street Directory] balanced on his steering wheel at the time. It was his bad luck that the car I was driving and the one he hit was full of five uniformed coppers, all of whom fortunately, were able to walk away from the car with a few minor cuts and bruises.
For a number of years he has been a visitor in his own house, sleeping on the couch, cooking and doing most of the housework, but unwilling to leave the family home for the sake of his kids. In recent months he moved from the couch onto a mattress on the floor of the study and over that time his wife gradually packed up everything belonging to him and placed it in boxes in the study.
A few weeks ago he decided to finally leave and his children have not spoken to him since. He is lonely and depressed and I can empathise to a degree.
He admitted that he is going through a grieving process but the major issue for him is that issue with his kids. He is bewildered and hurt and I think a large part of that may be due to what his wife is saying to them. Fortunately for me, whilst some of the issues may be the same, that has not happened in my situation.
Of course children are going to all react differently to these sorts of events, and at some stage we should expect sadness, anger and hopefully one day acceptance. But I can't help thinking that people assume a few things about how the man in the situation will react and cope. One thing we discussed yesterday is that women often have a much bigger support network than a guy. That they have people they can talk to and talk through issues with. For blokes, though, we are often expected to grin and bear it. To actually be open and speak about how you feel is something that is not encouraged. In fact if you do, you risk ridicule and ostracism in some quarters, or at the very least have people think you are a bit strange.
Because feelings are hidden it is often difficult to even find someone in the same situation to talk to anyway. The public face is very different to the private one. Yesterday the conversation began quite innocuously and moved into what might sometimes be called a D & M. Pretty unusual for blokes, but I did find it valuable for myself to understand how someone else was dealing with a similar situation. It also helped to be able to talk about it with another male rather than a female.
It does not matter who is to blame for a marraige breakup and it certainly doesn't help anyone to sheet blame upon someone else. In a sense, everyone is a victim, irrespective of whether they were the initiator or not, and that is particularly true when children are involved. Any parent who suffers the ultimate hurt of losing touch with their children, even if that is only for a short time, will know what I mean by that.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
|2.||bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.|
|3.||given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.|
|4.||licentious; dissipated; wanton: The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies.|
|6.||of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues: a gay organization.|
|7.||a homosexual person, esp. a male.|
|8.||in a gay manner.|
So why post that? Couple of reasons really. Firstly, someone said to me recently that a person had read my blogs and thought that they were "so gay". And I don't think they meant "gleeful, jovial, glad..." etc. So I looked back over what I'd posted and how it was written and I have absolutely no idea where that comment could have come from.
Anyway for the record I am not gay - never have been, never have any inkling that I will one day be - "not that there's anything wrong with that". Nor am I particularly merry, bright, showy, licentious nor wanton. So in no real manner according to the dictionary definition could I really have a gay tag associated with me.
I do have some gay friends and one young lady friend who I was talking to the other day decided to come out to me. That was a pretty brave thing to do, even though I already knew. We got talking about how hard it was for her to do that to her parents and unfortunately they didn't take it well. For several years, she was not welcome at their house, did not see anyone on Christmas or for birthdays. It's only recently that her mother has started to come around and after this young lady had a major health scare, her father is now at least talking to her.
I guess people can become estranged from their families for all sorts of reasons. Most often though it appears that it can be something that may, when examined critically through clear eyes, not really be that big a deal. Nothing is worth holding a grudge over, or making someones life miserable simply because you don't agree with a lifestyle choice.
It really does seem so petty at times. My mother didn't speak to her sister for the last few years of her life because she'd offered an opinion on her niece that my aunt didn't appreciate. It was sheer pigheadedness that meant the issue will always remain unresolved. I dearly hope that it doesn't carry over into whatever next life there may be.
And this has turned into one of those rambling posts that begins one way, goes off on a tangent and never returns to the original point so I'll finish here before it gets even more muddied and lost.
I have been tagged with a "Thinking Blogger" Award by my blogging friend Holly which I am flattered to receive, particularly given my last post was about my porn star name and facial hair :)
One of the best parts about this award is that I get the chance to pass it onto five people whose blogs I enjoy reading and that make me think. Having had the tag already passed onto my other blog where you can see who I tagged first time around here - it is my pleasure to tag the following people with this "Thinking Blogger award.
1. A Life Less Ordinary by Finn. Always something different here - photo's, poetry, examination of her life. I enjoy my daily visit.
2. Rhonda's Ruminations by Rhonda. I wish I'd kept the details of how I stumble onto some of the blogs I have linked to. This is one I've found in the last couple of weeks and as with the others I regularly visit, Rhonda blogs about life, read her father's day post for a taste of what I mean.
3. My Rearview Mirror by Micki, is another midlifer pondering the journey.
4. The 4th Avenue Blues by Andrew a recovering alcoholic schizophrenic whose blog I have begun to regularly dip into.
5. Random Magus by Random Magus. Again a record of lifes trials, tribulations and triumphs.
I look at the list of blogs I regularly visit and find that for the most part they are personal records of the thoughts and feelings of the authors. I have chosen blogs by people I have come to care about through their writings and I still wonder about the nature of this type of friendship, if that is what it is. I have also chosen blogs that have apparently not received the award before - at least they don't display the logo.
And the other fun part of the award is reading the recipients responses and looking at the blogs they nominate in the hope that I will find more to add to my favourites.
For the record the rules are -
Congratulations, you won a !
Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.
The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
Saturday, June 16, 2007
When did you start blogging?
This blog began a couple of months ago as a result of realising that I was struggling with many aspects of midlife and having failed to write I was not able to examine how I was really feeling. I have been keeping a journal since 1976 so this was a natural extension to that. My second blog Sunrays and Saturdays began when my father died in 2004 with a bit of a flurry but then was ignored until March this year. A third one, Visions of Oz, just shows some of my photographs.
What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
I have no aims really. It is a place to write, purely and simply. I am certainly not in it for the money.
What are your feelings on the "blog popularity" issue?
I'm not 100% sure what the question means. Sure, like most, I enjoy the interaction with other people that blogging has brought to me. I love it when people respond and take the time to comment. And I have counters on the blogs which shows a degree of egotism.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
Are you a spiritual person?
I regard myself as an agnostic and until recently a totally rational man. But there have been things that have occured over the past year in particular that are forcing me to rethink some of this and I guess I've just found another blog topic :)
Do your moral values affect the way that you blog, and if yes, how?
Morality is an interesting topic on it's own and I have scratched the surface of it in a few posts. Read some of these if you wish -
Of Guilt and Other Just Desserts
So Which Voice do you Listen to?
Is there such a thing as a Virtuous Lie?
The short answer is yes. The real question though is how hypocritical one can be if you self-righteously regard yourself as a moral person whilst lying and covering up what has gone before. For me blogging is very much about a critical examination of the person I used to be, who I have become, and whom I may one day be.
What is your best quality?
I think I've been a good father, although some may dispute that.
What is your worst quality?
I run from conflict and withdraw within rather than confront things and sort them out. I am getting better at it but I have spent a long time not just turning the other cheek, but retreating to my bedroom in a foetal position with the blankets pulled up over my head. That little boy still runs scared a lot of the time, and the grownup struggles to calm the voices sometimes.
So may I now pass this meme forward to some of those who have given me some pleasure in what they write, who have given me their time in reading what I write and whose answers to these questions will be worth reading - Random, Holly, Jeff, Finn and Micki.
Paisley, you are number six, not because I think you need any blog fodder, and I know you don't like passing memes on, but maybe answering some of this will take some of the focus off your visitor. :)
No pressure folks, just do it if you feel like it.
Now my beard is so white I go clean shaven.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Beth gives an interesting perspective on cyber-friendships and the fact that the blogosphere has exposed her to people from walks of life, cultures and places that she would never have met if not for her blog. That made me think about how limited in our friendhips that most people are. We are thrown together with school mates, work mates, neighbours and can make long lasting friendships from those places, but it is also truly a limiting factor. How much richer can our lives be with the random encounter with someone we meet online through their writing.
Jeff has expanded on his comments to an earlier post here on his blog "Psychosomatic Wit" with a post titled Are You a Friend . He asks the question about this blogosphere and whether we are truly friends or merely members of an online community. The comments in response to the post are also worth reading where Michelle raises the differences between the blogging community and some of the forums she belongs too.
And there is a major difference to this world and that of the chatroom. Here we have the luxury of tailoring our responses and perhaps writing and re-writing what we wish to say, in a chatroom the response is instant. So different aspects of our personalities are revealed, those with the quick wit may be better appreciated in a chat room than those who are slower to respond.
I sometimes have described myself as an observer in social situations rather than a participant. Maybe that has something to do with being a non-drinker, so that as the others get more lubricated and less inhibited, I tend to stand off to one side and watch. Perhaps that is one difference between the blogosphere and chatrooms, that of the difference between the observer and the participant.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The thing I have found in my short blogging career is that there are a lot of people who do blog who consider themselves loners in many ways. Many have found friends in the blogosphere and like me marvel at that. How is it that those of us who beleive that they keep so much of themselves to themselves, can be so open in this forum? Another rhetorical question I know, but worth pondering methinks.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
My mate Fog [sort of Geoff spelt backwards] sadly passed away of a stroke at the age of 39, ten years ago last month. Fog would spend every Sunday night with me at my parents house watching the Sunday night movie and for the most part that was good. But there were times when I cringed on hearing the knock on the door because I really couldn't be bothered seeing anyone. It didn't matter to him, in he'd come, make himself comfortable and we'd often sit in companionable silence, watching whatever happened to be on that night, and often the choices weren't great because it was pre pay-TV.
Fog and I became mates during high school and enjoyed a few bushwalks together, as well as a lot of country drives and nights out with other school buddies, and shared a passion for photography. He made a decision early on in life that he never wanted to have children. He stated this was because he had bad eyesight [coke bottle glasses] and a very bad back that was better off out of the genetic pool.
He was a groomsman at my wedding but after that, when my own children came along, we began to lose touch. We moved in different circles and our life experiences changed. Just like Jeff says in his post though, we were always mates, and like mates do, when we did get together we reminisced about old times, and laughed about the stupid things that happened.
So perhaps, that constant contact is not a necessary prerequisite of lasting friendship. Maybe it is the simple fact that you share life experience that means once a friend always a friend.
Monday, June 11, 2007
For me the silence of loneliness sometimes becomes way too loud and I yearn for companionship. At other times I am very comfortable alone. Sometimes I am envious of others and their friends, sometimes when in the company of others I wish I wasn't.
There are a few blogs I read every day - Paisley's is one - and I tend to find those I enjoy are like echos of me. Not in the sense that we have shared life experiences because there are too many points of difference to claim that, but because there is a common thread of exploration of self, of wishing to explore and understand what has gone before to make us what we are today. For better or worse.
So in the writing, parts of our selves are revealed, warts and all, the good the bad and the ugly, the previously unstated or hidden. Cathartic and confronting, hurtful and liberating, perhaps the beginning of the removal of masks and the opening of doors.
Thankyou Paisley for always thought provoking, raw and revealing posts.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
From Journal 09-04-1988
Scran was admitted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital last week. The cancer and old age are running their inevitable course and she is rapidly failing. I think she has just about given up. Today, I know, she said goodbye to me. I went in to kiss her farewell and she said “You’ve been a good boy.” Her eyes and mine filled with tears. I told her I loved her and she gathered herself together and said “Make sure your Mother doesn’t come back in tonight.”
It is hard to come to terms with my helplessness. I am not a religious person but it is times like this that I wish I had recourse to faith in a just God and an afterlife. I hate to think that there is an end to a soul. Grief would be so much easier to come to terms with if I could believe that the soul, or the essence of a person is not lost forever. There is little comfort at this time in memories although I know that time will eventually ease the heartache.
It is my Nana’s 81st Birthday tomorrow and I find myself hoping that she doesn’t have a long lingering death. She deserves peace and dignity.
From Journal 27-04-1988
Scran is still hanging on but is now at the Harold McCracken Hospice in Nicholson Street, Fitzroy. Some days are better than others, although the bad days are more common than not now. The cancer in her spine has paralysed her from the waist down and she is in such great pain that the morphine dosages have been increased to such an extent that she no longer knows who her visitors are.
Last Saturday was one of her better days, Lyn and I had a good conversation with her. She was so good that as we were leaving we took the boys in to say goodbye. Her eyes lit up when she saw them and she appeareda little like her old self.
From Journal 28-04-1988
At 8:10 pm last night, my Nana died peacefully. She had lapsed into a coma a few hours previously. Her suffering is now at an end and we as a family can get on with our grieving and our lives.
Grief is a funny thing, it lingers in the background, ever present but not constantly felt until a moment when something triggers the tears and fears of the living. Today is am unremarkable day, save for one thing, for the first time in my life I have no grandparents. I count myself lucky to have had them for so long, and, if there is one thing in particular that Nana gave me, it is a sense of family, a feeling of belonging to a family which to em is one of the most important, no, the most important thing in my life. Nana was the tie that binds and I hope the memory that binds us closer.
Nana leaves three children, twelve grandchildren, and each of their spouses, fifteen great-grandchildren and one on the way. Her existence lead to the existence of many others, her living brought something worthwhile to each of them. I told her often recently, how much I loved her, but it wasn’t necessary, she knew it and accepted it as her right and justly so. She had a lot of love to give and each and every one of us too it and I like to believe returned it in kind. I’m going to miss you Scran. I love you.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
I can probably count the number of true friends I have on the fingers of one hand, and I don't mean to offend anyone by that. I am sure that there are probably a lot of people who may consider me a friend despite the fact that we don't see each other, or socialise from one year to the next. I have been told that there are those who feel that I have somehow abandoned or ignored them in recent times as well as my family. But I'm not entirely sure of that. Since I moved out of the family home I have had no visitors of friends at the place I now live, I also have not invited anyone around I have to admit. I have also not received any phone calls from friends asking how I am travelling, although I have made some calls myself. Not many I will admit.
I look back at the various compartments of the years of my life and I realise that the friends I do have are from my school days. I see no one from university, nor from the 16 years I spent in the police force. I see little if anything of neighbours or people from my local community in a friendship sort of way.
I am sometimes envious of those who are always busy, always visiting or talking to others. And I am often comfortable in my own space which I suppose is both the blessing and the curse of the loner.
With the current estrangement from one particular family member I got to pondering about the nature of friendship. So here are a number of rhetorical questions -
1. How do you maintain friendships?
2. In order to maintain one, does there need to be regular contact?
3. Can you pick up a friendship where it leaves off when there hasn't been regular contact?
4. Everyone has parts of them that they wish to conceal, for many reasons, but what are the risks of revealing them to friends?
5. Is it possible to be a friend and also something else - e.g. father, son, boss, teacher etc.?
6. Can friendships only be maintained with a physical proximity?
7. I ask the last because I wonder about the nature of cyber friendships - are they real, are there risks in taking them outside the bounds of the cyber world in which you met - whether that be blogger, social network sites or whatever?
8. Is there a risk to friendship by assuming that the cyber world is semi anonymous? I.e. Can we reveal too much of ourselves to strangers here?
9. What is the definition of a friend? I'm sure everyone has come across those gregarious people who assume everyone they meet, not matter how fleetingly, is a friend, and the other type of person who take a long time to embrace a friendship.
So here's a challenge folks - write a post about your best friend and let us all explore the nature of friendship together. Let me know when you've done it and I will post all of the links here. And I guess if no one responds I can assume a bit about the nature of cyber friendship as well. ;)
From Journal 1 – 31-07-1978
Those who concern themselves overmuch with the opinions of others are dooming themselves to a life of worry. For although pride in self-achievement is a necessary condition for self respect, that achievement can only be measured against one’s own previous triumphs and defects and not the opinions of others.
From Journal 1 – 11-12-1978
The difference between life and death is companionship, which at its best is called love. Given the choice, I would have to choose life, for I have no real desire to travel anywhere alone.
A politician should be judged on the morals of the people and not on his own ideas of morality. Then and only then would the possibility of worthwhile leadership arise.
Judge not the worth of a person on his honesty or dishonesty, but rather on the times those traits appear. I would much rather know a person who lies so as not to hurt the feelings of others, than one who uses honesty as an excuse for callousness.
Self pity is the beginning of a loss of self respect.
There are a few things that strike me about some of these old posts. Firstly that I still hold some of the tenets I espoused more than a quarter of century ago. Secondly, that I actually wrote some of it at all. If I was reading it for the first time I might be convinced that the author was a bit of a wanker, or had way too much of an opinion of himself for his own good.
But in 1978 I was at university and enjoying the stretching of intellect and the exploration of new ideas free of the cloistered world of high school. It was fun to learn and for me still is.
Friday, June 8, 2007
- John Bechervaise - Australia - World of Difference, p.188
I read this book when introduced to it whilst studying geography at Monash University. It struck a chord with me because it made me consider my country through different eyes. I had never truly understood the vastness of this land nor the diversity of it's landscapes before, and for the first time I came to really understand it's beauty and it's harshness. The book was one of those that gave me a glimpse of an Australia I had yet to come to know and one in which I am still yet to fully explore. These words allowed me to look at things through different eyes to those I had used before.