Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boxing Day bumbling 'bout

Christmas Day has come and gone, and in its wake left wrapping paper, half-naked Barbies, scattered Lego, wilting salads, and tired but happy children.

Boxing Day we spent with family up at Mum's farm, reading multiple sets of instructions. There were instructions for tamagotchis (given to the kids by my sister), and instructions for a game called Hyperdash (given by my mother). We puzzled over how to set up a magician's kit, a science project set and a remote-controlled car. We sat around talking silly talk, eating lychees and rumballs, and then went walking, looking for koalas (from left to right - my sister, Benjamin, me holding hand of unseen niece, and Laura).

This big sleepy-looking guy was more than happy to pose for photos.

This year, I wanted to get through the celebrations without getting frustrated with any relatives. Christmas doesn't feel very loving when you're mentally berating a loved one in your mind! I prepared myself beforehand, reminding myself that we are all different people, with different ways of thinking and living - none of them 'right' or 'wrong'. And miracle of miracles, I enjoyed myself, and enjoyed being with everyone else, and I don't think I drove anyone else nuts either (that I noticed!). Of course, there was the moment when my husband and brother got a bit tetchy with each other, but that's not anything to do with me!
Even if Aunt Sal made a snarky comment about your weight, or the fruitcake you'd slaved over turned out dry; even if you got a little snippy with your mother or yelled at your kids; even if there was sadness or sickness to face - I hope you all had some truly happy moments over Christmas.
Seasons Greetings my friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

yuletide blues and gratitude

"I sort of feel disconnected from everyone", Belly said softly. "Everyone's just so busy - I don't get time to talk to anyone."

Another friend wrote a blog post about feeling lonely in her own home, surrounded by kids and husband, despite the rapidly approaching festive season. 'It shouldn't be like this', she seemed to be saying.

I'm also feeling a little pensive. Belly was right - we get so busy attending Christmas functions (during which we buzz here and there, talk to this person and that, but rarely touch on anything more than the superficial) that we get stressed and harangued and lose the closeness to loved ones that we all so desire. We find ourselves sitting on the back deck with our beagles (or labradors, or Great Danes, or whatever!)

I always tell my patients that Christmas is never a good time to stop their anti-depressants. It's just too much. Too much family bickering, too many parties to attend and meals to cook, too much brandy eggnog, too many gifts to buy in crowded shopping malls, too many hours spent together in close proximity. We all adore the idea of Christmas .... it just doesn't always live up to expectations.

So if we aforementioned women - all women who have families who love us, challenging professions, plenty of food, safe homes, decent clothing, and good health - if we privileged and fortunate women feel inexplicably bereft with the approach of Christmas, then how do less fortunate women or men feel? How does it feel when your child asks for a remote-controlled jeep and you know the budget will only stretch to a supermarket Matchbox car? How does it feel to know the only Christmas dinner you'll be eating is baked beans on toast? How does it feel to know that your alcoholism/drug habit/mental illness has driven away everyone you ever loved, including your own family?

I don't know how it feels. I can only try to comprehend. I can try to comprehend, and then I can shake myself a little and put a minor mood swing into perspective. Because even if Christmas can become hurried and hassled, the goodness and giving is in there somewhere to be found. I'm going to sit and write some heartfelt Christmas cards tonight. I'm going to squeezehug my husband when he gets home from playing squash. And next week, Belly and I have a date for coffee, dessert and girl talk. Christmas is going to be flawed yet fabulous this year!

To all of you who take the time to read and to comment here - to leave witty, inspiring, empathetic or just plain silly comments on my blog .... thank you. Your support and friendship to me is one of the most truly Christmas-y things there is! And if any of you have been struck with a touch of the Yuletide Blues - fear not; you are not alone. I propose we all drink some spiced cider, hold hands in a circle (swaying a little from the cider), and sing "Auld Lang Syne" kind of off-key but spiritedly.

You are some of the most funny, interesting and kind people I have met. I am grateful to 'know' you.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

good dog

Now that she's middle-aged, bordering on elderly, my beagle is sweeter to me and nastier to others. She reminds me of those eccentric older women, who get softer and more generous with their children and grandchildren, but increasingly cantankerous and demanding with the rest of the world.

Rather like a human, Millie was all for cuddles and snuggling as an wee thing. She would lie on my lap for hours; she would follow me around. She loved pats from anyone, and would wag her skinny little tail in delight. But soon enough she became irritated by affection. She would wiggle away from pats and hugs - off to follow a likely scent. I would find her and come sit with her, only to have her spring up and run away. I jokingly described my dog as a cat to anyone who would listen (and apologies here to all cat-lovers, because I know that many cats are in fact affectionate!)

As time has passed, though, Millie has become both more loving and more snarly. She would let me rub her tummy until well into the next century. She would taste a small morsel of anyone who stuck their hopeful patting hand through our front fence.

I sat, just now, at the top of our back steps. Millie sat beside me, and leant into my side. I patted her tan fur, and scratched just behind her ears. Millie lifted her muzzle and turned towards my fingernails. I rested my chin lightly on her soft small head; "Good girl Millie", I crooned. I sat by my beagle dog in the dense and balmy evening air until mosquitoes began to bite me.

I reluctantly came inside. I sat down to write about the comfort of a warm dog, leaning.

Friday, December 07, 2007

tinned sardines

Sometimes I forget how odd we humans can be. I fail to see the strangeness of a situation, because it has become so familiar.

Last night I was washing my face in the bathroom when I heard beside me a low, restrained cough. It wasn't an intruder. It was our neighbour Keith, whose master bedroom is a mere four metres from our bathroom.

All at once, I felt the sheer ridiculousness of urban living wash over me. I felt almost sheepish, thinking about my home. It struck me as fantastically bizarre that, with all the space on Earth, I have chosen to live in a wooden box, next to hundreds of other wooden boxes, in the middle of a veritable ocean of wooden and brick boxes. I live so close to the nearest house that I can hear my neighbour cough quietly in his bed. It's ludicrous.

I understand why, from a practical point of view, we humans have tended to congregate together. Now that we no longer till the soil and raise livestock to be self-sustaining, most of us need to live near other humans for employment. And with people grouped together comes the infrastructure we have come to rely on, such as roads, power and water. In cities and towns we find schools, law enforcement, welfare agencies, hospitals and many other important services. I also know that to own more than a standard block of land in the city costs a great deal - both in purchase price, and in annual rates. The larger city blocks have steadily been subdivided, until we are all living on tiny pieces of land, our houses teetering precariously close to each other. We live our lives scrunched closely together, witnessing each others' lives whether we like it or not.

I actually don't mind living near other people. I find people generally quite interesting, and I like our neighbours. I love living four streets away from my dear friend Belly. It's good to be close to shops and schools. And when I want some open space, I can retreat to Mum's sweeping acres of countryside.

I still find it strange to consider the closeness of city dwelling. Last night I could have piped up and offered Keith a cough lozenge.

I reckon I could have even chucked it in through his window.

N.B. - I suspect 'chucked' may be an Australian slang word, so for those non-Aussies - 'chucked' as we use it here means thrown or threw. For example:

"I got chucked out of class"


"I am going to chuck it all in and run off with my gym instructor"


"She got drunk and chucked up in the taxi"

OR (my personal favourite)

"If someone doesn't help me with this soon, I'm going to chuck a wobbly!!" (translation here - throw a tantrum)

As you can see, 'chuck' is a versatile and descriptive word. Try to use it at least once today!


Sunday, December 02, 2007

seven years ago

When they laid her on my chest, all bloodied and limp, I felt concerned and protective. I prodded her gently, and said, "C'mon .... breathe, baby, breathe." I waited anxiously to hear her cry, but once she did, and the nurse had taken her to be wrapped, I felt not profound love, but relief.

After relief came fatigue, and giddy excitement, and pride, all intermingled. But within a day or so, no more, came love.

There came a love so all-consuming that it left me sobbing at the end of each day, because never before had I known a love so blistering. I was blindsided by emotion. Suddenly I knew that my life would never be free from fear again, even if I pushed my fear to the deepest recesses of my mind. I had a daughter. I knew I must protect her for years to come; I knew I would love her as long as I lived.

That baby has grown into a brown-eyed, pony-tailed, soft-hearted girl. She is different to her mother - she is more confident, less impatient, kinder - but she thinks like me. I understand my daughter in a way that bonds me to her, far beyond any genetic connections. I love her not only because I am duty-bound to, but because I see in her something recognisable and warm and familiar. Just as I am drawn to my oldest, closest friends, so it is with my daughter.

It has been seven years since this girl baby came into my life. Still I am blindsided.

Happy Birthday Laura. You are a wonder and a delight.