I’d say it’s what separates us, not from the beasts, but the bestial. Creating the future, renewing a learned past - these are reasons to strive. Writing for and with love, taking and framing an image, stretching new melodic skins onto old skeletons of song… it’s how we manage to fly. It’s how we stay you and me, not us and them.
Unlike Osk, who seemed to establish his own tactical task force wherever we lived, scooping up neighbourhood feline troublemakers as sidekicks (including the memorable ginger behemoth Watson, with whom he used to scope the street from the safety of the shed roof), Jelly has the intelligence gathering skills of a sponge cake.
Anyway, somewhere in between my 'and then you should've done this' and 'why didn't you say x and y, rather than z', and 'for the love of monkeys and the general public's eyesight, you didn't honestly wear that heinous shirt did you', something he was saying about the dating extravaganza we were picking to pieces finally penetrated my cloud of self-congratulatory cumulo-waffle.
"Most people don't talk about how dates are progressing as a tender process, do they?" he asked.
"She said I was 'part way through the tender process' and that she was judging me on my submission. I'd like to think there was irony involved, and I think at the time I may have given an admittedly weak "haha, yesssss, quite". Looking back, I'd have to conclude, computer says no on the presence of Fabulon or other aids to achieving crisply pressed linen."
In what can be viewed as both a positive and a negative of the Age of White Noise, social media has given us the opportunity to invent new selves - sometimes, it seems, a hundred of them, to be used for different people, situations, even moods. It has given us the chance to smile when we are crying on the inside, if we aren't feeling very brave, or if we feel like we need to put on one of those hundred different selves. It has allowed us to share our despair, our wonderful happiness, our big thinking, and our dreams.
But what it has also done is laid us bare to criticism and a lack of care, both in our own actions and those of others. We cannot hide from hurtful situations. We cannot hide from what we say and do, and sometimes - achingly, angrily, and agonisingly - we cannot hide from what others say and do to and about us.
John Lennon was a wise man by the time he died, and he knew what was what when he said the words 'instant karma's gonna get you'. The Buddha had his own time of mortification - imagine what it would have been like if it had been fed back to him on Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter?
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.
I have never been a particular fan of New Year's Eve. Much like Valentine's Day and other Hallmark Holidays, it is one of those occasions where it seems to be about proscribed fun; enjoy yourself or else. You must make it to midnight, you must be having a good time, you must be doing something that is more fun that at any other time of the year - because it's NEW YEAR'S EVE!!
This alone makes me want to go to bed early and pull the covers over my head, simply because I am a contrary minded sod and can't stand being told what to do.
2013, has, on many levels...
Sucked. Like a very big sucky thing. And this in itself for once makes me want to see the year out with a bang... mainly to make sure that it actually disappears and doesn't hang around making more trouble.
I am also not one for New Year's Resolutions, mainly because I tend to break most of them within the first twenty four hours of making them. As most sensible people know, resolutions are made in earnest and with the best of intentions, but are also made with absolutely no expectation of actually keeping them. It's almost an end of year security blanket for the soul; if I make a list of things that I intend to improve about myself, then I will give myself good luck for the new year to come.
This may sound very cynical, and it probably is, but I don't think of it that way; I think I am just realistic. Part of the reason 2013 was craptacular was that I didn't handle a lot of things particularly well, so it has to sit on my shoulders. The other reason 2013 was craptacular was completely beyond my control, and it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference whether or not I had stuck to any or all resolutions made, so again, why make them in the first place?
Rather than resolutions, I think what the turn of the year should teach us is to put our faith in what is most important in our lives, and to make sure we hold fast to it as the calendar clicks over.
What do you most care about? Is it success, or family, or love, or health, or learning? Is it a combination of these things? What can you truly not imagine the next year containing? What is the one thing that for you, 2014 has to hold to make it better than 2013? What, in other words, will make the next 365 days a Happy New Year?
I think if you can answer that question then you will find your reason to be, if you will, 'resolute'. And it's not about making silly promises to yourself about how to lose weight, or drink less, or not gossip about friends behind their backs, or get a better job. It's about happiness. Pure and simple. About being able to say, at the end of 2014, 'I had a really great year.'
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 was sitting last night, feeling mildly - actually, really, really stuffed after a very big work week - and having a thoughtful glass of wine, as one does - and I realised something tremendous.
I was happy.
Not content, not 'yep, life's good' - but really happy.
But it wasn't because of my own life (not that I am complaining about that).
It was because so many great things seem to be happening in the lives of those I care about - and for many of them, it comes after a period of darkness, or yuck, or in some cases true tragedy.
And the more I sat there and thought about the things that were happening in their lives, the more it made me smile, until I felt like giving a big 'yippee', which would have made my fellow building dwellers think I had gone even more mad and scared the local wildlife out of their feathers, but so be it.
It was, as Ren and Stimpy would have said, a Happy Happy Joy Joy moment. And we need to be massively grateful for them, because life is generally pretty dreary and joy is in short supply.
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!'
Well, maybe not 'Squee' if you're not a total dork like me, but you get my drift.
Joy is love of life. It is a soul enriching feeling. It makes your heart sing, and your feet want to do a little dance.
And the best thing about feeling joyous because someone else is happy?
It's unselfish. It's not about you, or your ego, or how good you are - it's simply about being thankful that all is good in the world of those who deserve it most - the people who hold you up when you are close to falling.
And that's something that deserves a whole lot of gratitude.
There are times in our lives when we all do one of two things; we either act in a way which means we hurt someone and need to make amends, or someone acts in a way which hurts us and they in turn need to make amends.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that we really are a pack of ratfinks, apologies - or rather sincere apologies - tend to be rather thin on the ground. And for every time we do manage to mutter the words 'sorry about that', there tends to be a follow up of 'but it wasn't my fault'.
I am not making myself out to be Saint Kate of the Immaculate Mea Culpa here. I am just as guilty as everyone else at finding reasons why my actions weren't really anything to do with my own nastiness or thoughtlessness - or sometimes sheer laziness of the brain. Much as I would like to think I am a perfect princess, I am well aware this is far from the truth, and sometimes the urge to say 'but it was because X did this, not because I didn't do this' grips the space between my brain and my flappy tongue and next thing you know the sorry becomes a slag off.
We also seem to be very bad - maybe it's an Aussie trait - at accepting apologies. I have noticed when I am genuinely sorry about something (and I will say this - I don't apologise to propitiate people, or to stop an argument, only if I am genuinely ashamed of my actions) - often those I am saying the big 'S.O.R.R.Y.' to will either shrug it off or even go 'whatever' and keep whinging about the same topic ad nauseam.
This isn't gracious and it isn't fair. If you are still upset, say 'well, I am still upset, and it may take me a long time to work through this.' Don't ignore the apology as if it hasn't happened. It takes a lot for someone (and I speak for everyone here, not for myself) to put their heart in their mouth and say 'I really regret my words/actions - please at least think about forgiving me.'
Saying sorry doesn't guarantee you forgiveness, and nor should it. Your actions stand. But bear this in mind; next time someone does something that really gives you a bit of a kick in the heart - and it will happen, because that's life - remember an occasion when you may have done the same to someone else because you forgot about engaging your brain cells.
Think about their response to you, bad or good.
And this time around... make sorry an easier word for both of you.
It may even lead to a bit of internal peace just that little bit sooner.
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, to (I don't even want to say the words)...
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.
There is no other way to put it; it's been an absolute bugger of a few days. Moving sucks. It sucks like a sucky thing that has been sucking sour stuff and is feeling really sucky.
In other words, it sucks a lot.
I have just worked out that this is Move Number 32 or something ridiculous. How on earth did that happen? More to the point, how did I collect so much china along the way? I have had to come to the realisation that I don't just have a shoe issue, I also have a kitchenware issue. And a bed linen issue.
At least when people stay over they will have nice sheets.
I have also had to come to a rather more serious realisation.
I am not very good at asking for help. I'm very, very good at telling other people what they should do and bossing them around - but when I need help myself?
But lately - well, I have had to change that behaviour. Because I have needed help, and I have needed it quite badly. I have needed emotional support. I have needed to be able to talk things through. I've needed pure physical support in terms of moving heavy stuff. And as difficult as it has been for the proudest woman in the world to ask for said assistance - once I managed to ungraciously start to open up, then I realised it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.
Because when it comes down to it, if you are incredibly fortunate, as I know I am, you will have people who are always willing to assist.
I am massively grateful for the realisation - at 41 mind you - that to ask for a hand is not weakness.
I am even more grateful for those people who without fanfare or the need for recognition or reward have helped me.
Now back to the boxes. And possibly - well, possibly a garage sale.
This post really belongs in two sections. Hmmmmm... actually, three. Because there is a lot of gratitude, quite a bit about shoes, and it sits nicely in the 41 bucket list items for the year.
What a woman.
How is it involved in the 41 Steps? I am glad you asked (even if you didn't). Step Number Five: Live Somewhere You Have Never Lived Before. So that I am. I am about to grace (they may disagree with that term) the fair shores of South East Queensland. To feel the sand between my currently broken toes on a daily basis, and to further my ambition of NEVER GOING THROUGH A CANBERRA WINTER EVER AGAIN.
So off I head to the Land Of The Long Orange-Skinned Meter Maid. Where ugg boot and bikini combos are considered the height of fashion and my paleness is a weird attraction for Japanese tourists on the Main Beach at Surfers. Where people watching is more than a hobby, it's a way of life, and where the best coffee and pork belly in the Southern Hemisphere can be found if you don't think like a tourist.
If there was a bookshop closer than Coolangatta (sorry - Gold Coast) Airport, all would be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Thank goodness for the interwebs.
As for the shoes - well, I am having to pack them. Which involves much effort. Much, much effort. And multiple pauses to appreciate just how lovely my shoesies are.
I am certain they will love their new home.
There are built in shoe racks in the wardrobes.
Mainly though, this post is about gratitude. Gratitude for those people who have made my time in the Can pretty damn amazing. Who have made me laugh until I've had to cross my legs and hope for the best; who have held my hand in some fairly spaztacular moments, several of them involving various hospital visits; who have cried with me, drank, eaten, cried, not cringed whilst I've sworn at the rugby and netty and AFL on TV, again when I've sworn at live rugby, cried some more; who have propped me up and been inspiring, irritating, huggable and horrible.
Who have loved me and been my friends.
Gratitude is not quite a strong enough word for the emotion I wish I could express for what you have given to me. But it will just have to do.
And as I set off on the reverse of the road trip that my gorgeous sister Oonagh and I made about six months ago, this time with a very suss Thelma to my Louise in tow (Thelma as far as I know didn't have a 5 o'clock shadow), I am happily aware that in a few days time, I will be crunching through said sand. And also, that not too far up the road from my new abode, a buccaneering boyo will soon be home from adventuring to help make my life well - interesting. To say the least. God help the Gold Coast.
I don't know why P. Pan was so keen on popping off the twig.
Life is a big enough adventure for this little duck.
This may seem initially like a very depressing post, and nothing at all to do with gratitude, or even shoes for that matter (and when shoes aren't helping it means it's a bloody great beast of a black dog kind of day). And you would be right in some ways. It isn't a happy, marshmallow-filled, fluffy bunny kind of entry. But that's OK. Because sometimes, life just isn't like that - which is one of the reasons why I write about shoes some of the time (see Heel Thyself for background on that one).
I have been having what I tend to term a Long Dark Teatime of The Soul, or as I also call it, A Need To Give Myself A Good Slap Around The Head And Sort Myself Out. I am aware that the latter is not a technical psychiatric or psychological term, and quite possibly is actually frowned upon in said circles, but it tends to work for me most of the time. And one of the ways I deliver said Slap is to write down what is wrong - and also what is right. Having now done that, things are seeming to make a lot more sense.
Nobody can be happy one hundred percent of the time. That would make them robots. But sometimes - well, sometimes the happiness quotient slips below the acceptable mark to a point where it's hard to get the energy to come back to the median point on the table. And this is where the Slap is so important - and also hard to deliver when one is physically and emotionally tired.
Please be aware that I don't go around physically hitting myself in the head - I may be depressed but I am not masochistic (those who have witnessed me wearing shoes that are vastly uncomfortable but incredibly gorgeous please hold their tongues. Oh - I just mentioned shoes - see, writing things down does help!).
What I am talking about with the Slap is recognising that something is wrong; that you are perhaps caught in the UnderToad of Life and are being swept out from the shore. That the frantic hand gestures are not a sign of buggerising around in the waves and having a good time but are actually a gesture for help.
This is where the gratitude comes in. And it takes two forms.
I am grateful that I have incredible people around me who both are close enough and intuitive enough to recognise when I am in fact flailing and coughing up salt water. They are supportive and empathetic without being sooky-la-la (which they know I can't stand above all else) and they reach out to grab me without my having to reach for them first. They are all incredibly busy people - some in massively stressful situations or even outright dangerous occupations - but they support me, and in the right way. And secondly - I am grateful to myself. Which sounds supremely egotistical I know; but once upon a time I would not have had the strength to admit I was going under the water; and would instead have just let it take me out to sea and ended up who knows where for who knows how long.
So you see, this is about gratitude. As it turned out, it was also a little bit about shoes.
Mostly though, it's about not going under.
Because the School of the Slap doesn't believe in that.