The Bluebird of Happiness, as I remarked to a friend, was well and truly back in Bluebird of Bitterness territory, and any attempts at landing on my shoulder and singing a happy tune would undoubtedly have ended in me giving it a lesson in just how unlucky it is for a bird to crap on someone, despite beliefs within the Jewish faith to the contrary, as there's no good luck in having your feathers used in a new and interesting headpiece for the racing season.
But as I lie here now, post Weekend of Whoah, mulling over this pile of Prussian blue plumage-related poo, and daring that bloody BOB to whistle anything other than Johnny Cash's 'When The Man Comes Around', I recognise the following self-evident truths.
Despite all the sorrow, all the anger, the truly heart-shattering words, encounters, and elements that made up the last 72 hours, I couldn't say I didn't find gratitude in them... nor grace.
Because both were present in so many small gifts I am grateful for.
I woke up yesterday morning quite early, sadly (in terms of future earning potential as a police psychic) not due to any eerie premonition of doom or ominous foreboding, but simply because I have such incredibly bad hay fever that even breathing through my mouth was beginning to require an oxygen mask. STAT (always wanted to say that).
Then my breath really was taken away by the news that one of my favourite authors in the world, the galaxy, the universe - had died. Yes, he was 87, and had been suffering from cancer for a long time - but so what? I think that for many people, the expectation was that somehow, Gabriel García Márquez, or as he was known to his many, many friends, 'Gabo' - would simply always be there, arguing passionately, writing his stories of magical realism, infusing the world with passion, and love, and fire.
The first book of his I read was Love In The Time of Cholera, as a very precocious 11 year old. Of course it was far too old for me, but even then, although I didn't recognise much of what the book was about, I saw what Márquez wanted to say. I understood his language. I loved the inner fire of Fermina Daza. I saw the dedication to true love - any true love - of Florentino Ariza. And strangely, I felt the most empathy for the third person in that strange little triangle - Dr Juvenal Urbino del Calle.
Maybe even then I saw that sometimes the desire of one's heart may not desire you in the same way - and also that you may not realise exactly what you yourself desire until it is too late.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.
THE GENERAL IN HIS LABYRINTH.
NO-ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL.
OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS.
All novels I devoured, and re-read and re-read again - because there was always something new.
Gabo was a friend to Castro. He was a Nobel Laureate. He was an outspoken critic of the corruption of the Colombian government - a dangerous thing to be, especially in one's own country. He was, in many ways, a modern day Simón Bolívar, with a pen instead of a sword. His books contained a source of magic and his language a lyricism which it is impossible to reproduce.
It is strange to love novels which have at their heart a profound sense of the loneliness of life - and in many ways, of disappointment. But this is the way of true life, and it was the way of Márquez's own life. He drew from what he knew.
But clearly, he also knew the human heart's best side. For who but Gabo could write a phrase like this:
It occurred to me this morning that I hadn't written a gratitude post in literally months. It hasn't been deliberate; there is quite a bit in my life that I am grateful for. By the same token, there are quite large chunks of craptacularity which I would like to throw into a vortex (or at a certain misogynistic Herald Sun columnist - same thing really) and which I find it hard to feel grateful for at all.
I realise that this is rapidly sounding like an ingratitude post but it isn't. I just need to state, for the record, that things aren't necessarily rosy.
Which is why it's all the more important to be grateful for the everyday bits of bliss.
It's the unguarded moments, the 'sneak up on you and hug you' good things that happen which we need to learn to appreciate more.
Today is an incredibly hard day for my family. The aforementioned craptacularity is in full swing, and it is't going to de-craptacularise any time soon. Which gives me ten - a hundred - times the reasons to appreciate what is great about my life. For a start, I am still kicking, which was dubious at a few stages last year. So yay for that. But this post isn't about the big showstopping, Oscar-worthy reasons to count your blessings.
It's about being grateful for someone you love coming into the room and dancing around, being silly and making faces at you whilst you're being incredibly serious and professional on the phone, using that voice you NEVER use in real life. You know the one; your 'yup, yup, I can totally see where you're coming from' voice.
It's hard to maintain that when someone is crossing their eyes at you and sticking out their tongue.
Have some gratitude for that chance to laugh when there is terror and pain ahead.
Be grateful for some silliness with a friend. Chances are, they might be having a bit of a rough day too - so pull them out of it. It may be at the expense of someone else, but if said someone else is a fairly unpleasant individual and also has very bad grooming standards, then I have no issues with using them as a comedic prop.
Sneak the snorts in. Find the common link. Summon up some sunshine for each other. Enjoy the perfect little moments which come out of nowhere and feel like a butterfly kiss.
Don't try too hard to create a perfect moment mind you. They don't exist if you manufacture them. A perfect moment is a moment that just happens. If you are smart, you will realise that every moment of every day in which you are not actively miserable or in horrendous emotional or physical pain is perfect.
Because despite the fact that you may be a bit glum, or things aren't going right at work, or you've had a bit of an argy-bargy with the boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/dad/whatever floats your boat, think on this:
In this moment, this perfect, perfect moment...
You are alive. You are here. You have the chance of happiness just around the corner.
From heartbeat to heartbeat.
So make the most of every one of them.
And realise, in gratitude, despite the black clouds which are just over the horizon - that if you are as lucky as I am - there is always someone who is willing to hold that metaphorical umbrella for you.
Even if it's just by dancing into the room with their eyes crossed.
Look at that photo. That is (fairly obviously) my mother and father on their wedding day. I would like to say that my dad looks as dashing as my mother looks beautiful, but basically he just looks naughty. It's quite possible that he was also feeling extremely hungover or even inebriated, but as that's not my story to tell I won't tell it - oh wait, I just did.
Yesterday I was incredibly humbled (and pretty chuffed) to be named Team Fox Australia and Shake It Up's Hero of the Week. There are two reasons I mention this; one, I am supremely egotistical (actually, it's so you go to the website and donate lots of money) - and two - it made me think a lot last night. Admittedly my thinking was slightly blurry as I was having a bit of a bad evening, and therefore muscle relaxants were involved... but still. I won't be the first to write with some mind altering substances under my belt.
So last night's thinking.
I am a complete geek. And a big kid. I recognise this. I embrace it. I happily admit to liking Lego, Dr Who, Matchbox cars, have heinous taste in music and movies, love any techno gadgetry I can find... and oh yes.
I have a thing for superheroes. And Asterix, but that's possibly a different discussion. Perhaps one could even count Dr Who as a superhero, but again, big, big discussion and it makes me think of David Tennant and I get off topic.
Sigh. Where was I? Oh yes, superheroes.
I have never understood, I admit, how Diana Prince just had to undo her hair and turn around really fast to become Wonder Woman. Maybe the dudes were distracted by her golden lasso? Smirk. It's like Clark Kent - a pair of black rimmed glasses is a truly craptacular way to hide your secret identity. Yes, people are a bit on the thicky side sometimes, but seriously...
Batman on the other hand - how the hell would you know who was under that rubber blankie? Kudos to you, Bruce Wayne, on actually wearing something which could be considered under the definition of an actual 'disguise'.
What is fantastic - and fascinating - to me about superheroes in general though, is not just their super powers. It's the whole 'put the public good before myself' mentality. It's something we all aspire to, and the reason we love the Justice League et al is because these men and women go out and do what we can only dream of. Who wouldn't want an invisible jet to fly around and fight crime in? I'd certainly like to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound - usually when there's really bad traffic admittedly - and as for the Bat Cave... oh yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Superheroes are the side of ourselves which most people only think about showing, before rolling over and hitting snooze. It's much easier to do imaginary good when you're warm and comfy under the doona than it is to get up and cracking and actively volunteer to help people out.
I am as guilty of this as the next person (unless the next person happened to be Batman. And I wouldn't know it was him, BECAUSE HE WEARS A PROPER DISGUISE). But I am attempting to change this. Yes, it is mostly through self-interest, but so what? I have Parkinson's. I want a cure. So I am getting off my butt and doing as much as I can to help raise money to find out what the hell is wrong with my brain.
And the reason this is a gratitude post?
Because so many of the people I care about support me not only with moral fortitude, but they are actively trying to raise awareness and cash too. How can I not be grateful to these everyday superheroes?
Without sounding preachy, if you care about a cause, don't just talk about it.
Get up, get dressed, put those underpants on the outside of your tights and get ready to be faster than a locomotive. Because everyone has superhero potential.
Today, I was reliably informed earlier this morning - and under the circumstances, suitably, by a very close friend - is International Friendship Day. OK, it may have originally been a Hallmark Holiday (seriously) but now it is a 'really really' day about all that is good about our mateys.
How do you describe your friends? How do you put your finger on what makes a good friendship? More importantly, how do you say 'I am grateful' to those who stand by you through thick and very, very thin?
To me, friendship doesn't have to be about talking to someone every day. Sometimes the best of friends don't talk for weeks or months - maybe even years. It's not about material things or keeping a record of who has done what for whom over the years. It's not about the longevity of a relationship; with some people you know in a heartbeat that there's going to be some serious silliness ahead and that's that.
The best friends are the ones who give you a hard time when you talk rubbish. Who don't roll their eyes (too badly) when the 3 a.m. text comes through saying 'I need to talk to you now'. Who catch your eye at a social gathering when things are a bit tricky biscuit and make you bite down on the inside of your lip so that you don't snort with inappropriate laughter.
They are the ones who catch you when you fall. And fall hard.
They listen to your hiccupping attempts at talking through monster tears. You may have even been sick near or on them. They hold you tight - as tight as they can - and threaten vile recriminations and concrete-shoed death threats against those who have hurt you. They nourish your heart and your soul, and give you everything of them that they can. Sometimes more than they can afford, both emotionally and in some cases even financially, just because they love you. They will be truthful and sometimes tell you things you don't want to hear, and you may not like them very much at times, but there is beauty in honesty.
This is what friends are.
If you are like me, and therefore a bear of very little brain, they are the Piglet - and in some very special cases, the Tigger - to your Pooh.
So today, on a day that the entire world has decided is all about friends, tell your mates, your cobbers, your besties, your collective fidus Achates, your soul mates, your confidantes, the group of idiots who know all your deep dark twisty turns...
Tell them you're grateful for them.
Give them a very, very big hug.
And some chocolate. Because no doubt you owe them about 25 tonnes of the stuff.
I realise this may sound too twee for words, but seriously - we get so wrapped up in whether we ourselves are happy or unhappy that at times, we tend not to celebrate our friends and families' exciting moments in a way that does them justice. I am not talking about hiring a blimp or skywriting 'CONGRATULATIONS ON TURNING 38 AND THREE QUARTERS' across Sydney, mind you - I am just saying when there's something big going down, let them know how fantastic you think it is. Take time out from your own blather and bullshit for just a moment and say 'Squee!' Or, in the immortal words of Babe the Pig, 'la, la, la!'
Those who read this blog (thank you, all three of you. You know who you are, and I love you very much) may have noticed a fall off in the number of posts recently. There's a very simple reason for this.
I have been ill. Wretchedly, horribly ill.
It's a common malaise. Many people suffer from it. It's endemic to those who profess to put words on a page for a living, it is heartbreaking in its severity and can cause symptoms as wide ranging as glugging wine straight from the bottle, headbashing on desks, throwing laptops across rooms and screaming randomly 'sod THIS for a joke!' and storming out of the room.
I refer, of course (I don't even want to say the words) -
To Writer's Block.
Sometimes the muse deserts me. Hell, she doesn't just desert, she goes on a bender in Vegas, wins big at the tables, gets comped a suite at Wynn and next thing I know she's married Prince Harry and I never see her again.
For those who write, the need to put words on a page, or a screen, or on the back of an envelope is overwhelming. They need to get out of your brain somehow before it turns into the Woolworths parking lot on Christmas Eve. But that doesn't mean they are worth sharing with the world. And for me, the last little while has been a case of frosty wind making moan in my thoughts - every topic which has sprung to mind has ended up in the mental shredder.
Until last week, when thankfully, discussions with two witty and wise friends brought the neurons back into a semblance of cerebral celebration.
The relief at feeling words starting to flow again cannot be underestimated. And this is not about thinking 'maybe someone will enjoy reading this' - because quite frankly, I don't actually write for anyone but myself, and I think the day you do start concentrating primarily on what other people think, then the words will dry up for good. Nope, it was 'man, I am really loving just getting this out of my noggin'.
And that is why this is a gratitude post.
Gratitude for two people understanding that sometimes words - they don't come easy to me, to quote an old(ish) song; and even more gratitude that with a bit of verbal Drano, the blockage was no more.
Whether others will be grateful remains to be seen, but as for me...
I'm lying here in bed this Friday morn feeling very grumbly. Not only do I have the flu (and yes it is the flu, Mum, not just a bad cold, I'm not playing Hypochondriac Heaven) - but I've just read through the magic of Facestalk that juniper berries are being threatened with some weird disease. So not only am I sick, but there exists the possibility of NO MORE GIN.
Time for a strategic retreat under the Doona of Destiny methinks. Unfortunately without a gin in hand, but eight o'clock in the morning would be pushing it.
This has not been a good week. It may be the Winter Solstice, but there will be no naked skylarking to celebrate this fact. It's too bloody cold, even in Golden Queensland. And sniffles and nude frolics don't really go together, so again doona downtime wins out.
What else can I grumble about? My hatred of telecommunications behemoths? Hmmmmm. Possibly not. That would take up more time and space than a dozen blog posts, reduce people to tears and/or yawns and make me so cross that I might get a bit vigilante-ish and end up in the news on Facestalk myself.
So maybe I will just say this.
Yesterday was a bloody awful day for a lot of people out there it seems. This week and in fact 2013 in general seem to not be on the money for many of my loved ones; and I'm buggered if I'm going to be the one saying 'turn that frown upside down' when their crises are real and significant.
For me, I know that my grumbles are (mainly) just that; grumbles. They are the product of feeling physically heinous and frustrated with said condition. This year could be dubbed 'The Year Of The Sick As A Dog' if the Chinese horoscope felt like breaking with tradition, and yes I'm fed up with it.
But I will stand tall - or lie tall, as I can't get out of bed without fainting - and be positive. Ish. When it comes down to the crunch, I am grateful for so many things. Not least of which is the fact that I have people to care for me when I am sick (grammatical pats don't really count Dread P, but I'll take what I can get) and that I have friends and loved ones to rely on when things are tough.
That's a privilege, not a right, and my gratitude for these people is very wide and deep.
So perhaps I shall stop whinging for a little while at least, and count my blessings instead. As a wise friend said just a few moments ago on the ever present Facestalk, Mother and Father to us all:
"When life hands you over-ripe bananas, make strawberry-orange-banana smoothies."
I am, I realise, more and more every day, a fortunate woman.
I am living where I wish to live.
I am, if not healthy, on the path to health.
I am able to do the work that I love.
And above all else, I am truly blessed in the amazing women that I am lucky enough to not only plot and scheme with on a professional level, but also call my friends. This has been very much brought home to me in the past few months, when times have not been so great, and the solidarity and support which they have shown me has been beyond description.
And the standout sister - for me, and I know for so many others - of these fabulous females, is having a birthday today!
Happy Birthday Janine.
When I thought about writing this post, and saying how grateful I was to JG, I thought "oh, this will be simple - I know how much she means to me, I'll just say it". But as it turns out I'm a little bit flummoxed. How do you express your gratitude to someone whom you have so much respect for without sounding cheesy? How do you say that their guidance, and enthusiasm, and simple passion for what they do manages to lift you up when things are really grim, without it being just words on a page?
I suppose I can only say what I feel, and hope Janine doesn't roll her eyes (not that she would, because she's far nicer than me), and understands the message behind the meanderings.
Janine, I don't think you understand the impact you have on so many, many people. And yes, especially women - of all walks of life. You give out absolutely everything, without expecting anything in return. I'm constantly floored by your energy and fire for making things better. It's extraordinary. You make me laugh like an absolute idiot (I'm so not going there with the stories), and you make business fun. You and your rock star hair!
I am grateful for your friendship. I am grateful for your grace. I am grateful for your strength. I am grateful you are you. You have taught me more about being a strong woman, without lecturing or bossiness, than anyone I have ever met before. The gratitude is ever present, and always will be.
If you are lucky enough to be a part of this extraordinary woman's life, don't undervalue her. And make sure you tell her how fab she is.
Because I guarantee she tells you on a regular basis.
So. I am living in Queensland, yes? Yes. And in theory, that means several things. Slower voices. Strange words like 'port' for suitcase. A sudden overwhelming urge to support the Reds in the Super 15s. Banana bending. (Just kidding, large mob of angry Queenslanders coming towards me with pitchforks). Endemic to where I am living, of course, lots and lots of fake tan, fake hair and fake boo- uh... body parts.
And I assumed, glorious, glorious warm weather. Sunshiny days. Mild evenings. A winter of blissful non-frostbitey 'ha-has' to my Southern sisters.
Yes. In theory... yes.
There is no denying that the people watching is amazing around these parts. It's a veritable smorgasbord of 'come as you are, or perhaps as you always wanted to be, but didn't have the guts to be anywhere else'. I feel bewilderingly normal, and thus stand out like a sore thumb, because I have no image. None. I need to develop one, but as everything I have seen so far involves heavy body inking, tandoori tanning, bleaching and/or inserting of silicone, it might take a while and involuntary anaesthesia before it happens.
As for the weather?
I arrived back home Sunday night from an unexpected weekend away, and it was, as our lovely pilot cheerfully informed us, eight degrees. Apparently the night before it had been four; the second coldest night in Gold Coast history.
This is not what I signed up for.
My ugg boots were supposed to stay firmly in the back of the wardrobe; I was only to pull my coat out of same wardrobe when going to more southerly climes - I actually gave away the more substantial layers of style that composed the House of Kate. Winter? Winter, to misquote A Game Of Thrones, was not coming.
Last night I actually had to put socks on. This will not do.
I would like Queensland to get its act together please, and turn on the sunlamps. OK, so I may be the palest person on the planet, and my skin tone may somewhat resemble a speckled trout's tummy, but that is beside the point; I like to feel warm whilst I am sitting in my straw hat and thirty plus. You can be sun smart and smugly happy at the same time.
You may well ask, as I have just spent the last zillion paragraphs whinging, where the gratitude is in this post.
It's quite simple really.
It may be a touch frostier than I was expecting up here in the not so sunshiney state, but when it comes down to it, I am massively lucky. Unlike a hell of a lot of Australians, I am sleeping in a lovely warm bed, and if I need to, I can grab as many extra covers as I want to put on said bed. I have, for that matter, a warm coat.
If you want to get down to brass tacks, I have socks.
Things are a bit rough for me health wise at present, and it has made me more than usually aware of a few things. Every time I think about what I don't have, I am constantly reminded of what I do have. It makes me feel humble, and grateful, and very, very thankful despite all of my groaning and moaning about feeling a slight chilliness in the air, and I know how trivial my complaints are compared to what so many people are facing on a day to day basis - simply trying to survive.
I don't wish to sound preachy, but if you are lucky enough to be a 'have' this winter, take a moment to be grateful, and think about the 'have nots' - and actively do something to help.
You may just find the sun will come out if you do.
It has been, to put it mildly, a
very trying week. I am not even going to pretend otherwise. There are
times when it is better to lay down one's arms, stop trying to rule the known world and simply admit defeat; to say to the dragon 'come out, come out wherever you are' and let it
flame you for a few moments before taking up shield and sword again.
Even princesses in shining armour need a break every so often.
I was talking last week about not sucking it up. And yet again, I may
sound as though I am having a bit of a whinge. In a way I suppose I am,
because I am talking about being in physical agony. But I am also
talking about gratitude, and how I feel about normally having it - well,
normally having it pretty damn good.
Pain. It stinks. It is not a nice place to be - at all. I don't like
visiting, and I cannot believe that I used to basically live here on a full time basis.
What I also cannot believe is how much I take for granted now in terms of how well I am generally, and how grateful I am for the progress that I have made, and continue to make, in terms of staying healthy and fighting what my body and brain would quite like me to give in to at times.
I am also grateful that I know the reasons behind my pain this week, and that I know there is a 'most of the time I am fine' end in sight. For so many people whom I know who have Parkinson's or Dystonia - or both - they are not so lucky. They hurt all the time.
All. The. Time.
Imagine being 30 years old. Or 35. Or 40. And you wake up in the middle of the night and your back is twisted, and your feet are in cramps so severe that they form circles, and your jaw is trying to make its way through your collarbone just for the hell of it. And it just won't stop. Not just for minutes, or hours; but days. Or weeks. Or months.
I have only faced days at a time.
My beautiful Rogers - and in fact so many people I know - face, and have faced, the latter.
Sometimes I underestimate her bravery because of her silly sense of humour and because she is so gorgeous that you forget about the lean-over. And she doesn't talk about the pain.
But then whenever I end up as a pretzel I remember.
And I think all over again about how amazing she is. How amazing all of the wonderful people that I know are.
And how grateful I am for their strength.
I will say this, and it is something it has taken me a long time to learn; if you are in physical pain, don't be afraid to admit it. I am not talking about sitting there and constantly griping 'I'm hurting', because believe me, people will get sick of it pretty bloody quickly. But - if you don't speak out, then nobody will understand just what is going on, and when you are irritated, or sharp, or simply aren't coping, they will be puzzled, and perhaps angry, because it will be out of the blue. If you are factual and admit to what is going on with your body, then understanding from those who care about you will be there. Not from everyone - but from those who care for and love you, yes.
I am constantly and consistently grateful for those who express empathy to and for me. Not in a 'keep me in an illness box' way, or a pitying way - but in a 'let's get you better, constructive, slay that goddamn pain dragon' way. Particularly the Dread Pirate who has been very good (in a piratey fashion naturally).
It helps me put the armour back on, however heavy it may feel, and get ready to fight the good fight again.