For A Time

bater-na-porta-emprego-canadaThe door was locked but my fist was not. Nor was my anger. I bloodied my knuckles on the solid door I’d erected to keep out the worst of intruders.

She’d had enough. I got that. Enough of joblessness. Enough of feuding family. Enough of life. And that enough leaked onto me.

I worked long hours but that was just for a time while I paid off the apartment behind the door. Yes, I enjoyed my job and the perks – car, phone, executive parking, executive office, weekends away overseas. I was liked, respected and feted for promotion. However, for her, I made that just for a time.

That time was too long for her, though. My success swam before her like a tasty morsel of human, waving at a shark trapped in an aquarium. My success taunted her, reminded her of her ineptitude.

She screamed at the world, about family, employers, everything. I saw an amazing and beautiful woman. She saw an abject failure.

Like all good addicts, she ran from the challenge and sought solace in the inconsolable. She warned me she was losing it, that we were losing it and I’d said, “Just for a time. It’ll be okay then.”

Not the answer she expected. Not the answer she demanded but I had no other.

depositphotos_25298735-stock-video-husband-arguing-with-wifeShe warned that she would leave as every untruth was paraded before my astounded ears – my gambling, not caring, falling libido … events which were nothing more than a conversation with her mirror.

She taunted me with threats to leave with ever more implausible excuses. I was concerned, surprised, angered and, eventually, exhausted. Out of options.

The whipping boy no longer responded and so she paraded names of men she might leave me for. Seeing my pain obliterated hers … for a time. She smiled with derision at my latest (illusory) incursion and her latest flame. I thought her obsession to the game would wear thin … after a time.

This morning, though, her grim smile brightened. She laughed. Laughed that it was over. The play-back song was the same but the brightness was new. I was unnerved but late for work.

Now, this unconcerned slab of wood wouldn’t take my key. I took on her rage, her impotence and slammed my fist into a world that wasn’t listening. Then reason dropped my hands. Dropped my demands. Indignation turned to emptiness and in floated a lost memory. I was knocking on another, more fragile door; a six-year-old enraged while his mother eA boy knocking on a doorntertained yet another client – someone to pay the rent, food and my school fees.

I was my mother’s world – in all of it except when I wasn’t. Then I was banished, forgotten, for a time.

Today the bones of angels scurried back to haunt me as the sounds of male and female floated piecemeal to my shuttering ears. It felt familiar … for a time.

Then the door opened to her and our son. She apologised. That felt familiar. Way too familiar.

This was for a writing competition for a 500-word story containing the phrases The door was locked, She laughed and It felt familiar.

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Risking Valentine

valentines-day-15I know you’re supposed to just, like, send Valentines to the one you’re married to. Pretend you’ve got the secret hots for them and all that, when it’s not a secret anyway. Well, not sure about the hots with Geoff but I’m in love with him, I guess … you know, kind of contented, safe, predictable. Nice house, nice neighbourhood. Job for life.

They say council inspectors have a special sort of contraceptive device. Their personalities. Yeah, say no more. So that’s what they say love is … well, what my mum settled for and what I should be happy with. So she says.

See, she warned me about the other stuff. The enemy of love. The heart-pounding, breathless, sphincter-clenching stuff. It never lasts, she says. Like a bee-sting – it hits, hurts and leaves you with a lump.

So I settled for love and I can’t really say I’m bored. Not really but I just can’t bring myself to send this Valentines card to Geoff. He’d inspect it for grammar and syntax and grumble about the waste of paper. He’d miss the point and leave me feeling a bit hollow. Disappointed and empty. I don’t need that.

But, you know, I wouldn’t mind a bit of that other stuff, that sphincter-clenching stuff, just once in a while. And, if there’s disappointment afterwards, well, I’ve got that anyway, haven’t I?

Geoff’s good with money and saving and all that and likes to quote some old actor who said why dine out when you can have a good steak at home. I suspect the actor was talking about sphincter-clenching at home but Geoff … well, a bit literal for all that.

I know this sounds daft, like, but I’ve never been in a taxi. Geoff says why take one when you’ve got a good car at home. Two good cars. But it’s like being pampered, in a way – just sitting back while someone else serves you. Especially if it was one of those executive taxis, a bloke in uniform and champagne in the back seat with a bit of sphincter-clenching going on.

But Geoff won’t hear of it, especially as I won’t tell him. Be too embarrassing and disappointing to suggest it.

It’s that old enemy, me mum says, the need for lust. Excitement. Your blood comes up, flash in the pan and then you’re worse off than when you started. And Geoff agrees. Wholebloodyheartedly. Maybe I sorta’ married my mum.

But I really wanna’ send this Valentine’s Day card. Bought it the other day. All embarrassed. Waited round in the shop till no one was looking. Got my change out so I could pay for it quick and run, as if they could all see the dirty thoughts in my mind.

I tucked it away so Geoff can’t see it. Bring it out when he’s gone and it’s become a bit dog-eared and shagged round the edges a bit. Wishing I could be shagged round the edges a bit. Oops, did I say that? Yeah, well, you know what I mean. Just being symbolic, really, to be living on the edge of the storm, not in the placid centre.

Taking a symbolic taxi, not my own boring car. On the edge. Take the deadly enemy of love, as Geoff and Mum say. Take the passion for a test-ride.

Passion. Pass I on. Yeah, okay, gotta’ say it. Get it outa’ me gullet. Wanna’ take the bee-sting for a test-ride, knowing I could be hurt, disappointed and all that. Just be nice to sit back, lay back, and enjoy the ride, see where it went, without having to plan and inspect and analyse every little thing.

So, what’s a girl to do? Can I pretend to be what I’m not? Can I bottle up these fizzing urges? I don’t think so. I don’t think I can settle for what Mum calls a life. Others do but I can’t. I just can’t.

valentine-romanticFriends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your fears. That’s all I’ve got to lose, isn’t it? My fears.

Right, blow it. What do I write?

My Love,

I yearn to plunge to the dark of abyss,

Not knowing if we’ll hit or we’ll miss.

I want to dance naked and unashamed,

Knowing we’ll be judged, charged and defamed.

I want to dive deep, calm and wide,

Not sure if we’ll reach the other side.

I want to do them all with you,

To live each day, refreshed and anew.

Your Secret Risk Taker

Okay, card in the envelope, stamp it, address it, walk to the Post Office, send it off. Yikes, I’m terrified and can’t get the card back. Burned my bridges, burned my bra and it’s all out there for him to see. Yikes, talk about heart-pounding stuff. I feel like I’ve done enough clenching for a lifetime, already, in the last half hour!

As I wander back home, there’s a Valentine’s card in our mail-box. Hand-delivered. My mind and other parts in a fog, I read the contents:

My Love,

I want to be your reckless lover,

But I’m scared and I hover.

I want to be your shining white knight,

car-sunsetBut I’m paralysed in fright.

I want so many things in life,

But fear I’ll end them in strife.

Can I lean on you for the carefree,

And you lean on me for the carefully?

Your Hopeful Risk Taker

I look around to see a council car disappearing up the road, taking the corner a little recklessly.

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Political Purity Laws

1-2314Tony Abbott (ex-Prime Minister) and Barnaby Joyce (Deputy Prime Minister) and a slew of other politicians were caught up in the citizenship controversy recently, in Australia. Twelve of them were under threat and four had to resign. Though they were all full Australian citizens, they also had citizenship in one or more other countries, a crime punishable by scorn and, in Tony’s and Barnaby’s case, by threat of eviction – though not actual eviction – from their seats in the House.

But there’s a country not too far away that doesn’t care how many citizenships you have. If you’re a citizen of fifteen countries, as long as one of them is of New Zealand, you can be a New Zealand politician.

But wait: it’s the same in Britain where you can have fifteen citizenships; as long as one is British you can be a British politician.

But hang on: it’s the same in every other country on the planet … every other country except Australia. Oh, okay, they’re a bit picky in China where you need to be a China-born, indigenous Chinese to represent the Chinese people.

So why do Australia and China stand out on this purity trip?

Is there something China and Australia know about those with diverse and interesting backgrounds? Are they more dangerous people? These questions have not been asked, let alone answered, and yet the Political Purity Laws still exist. It takes us back to the Eugenics Movement in the USA, and many other countries, where they legislated for a purer race of Americans … a movement that inspired the Nazi practice of purifying its race by eliminating the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, promiscuous women, homosexuals and racial groups.

The Eugenics Movement, which flourished particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, was a commonly accepted way of protecting society from those deemed inferior or dangerous – the poor, disabled, mentally ill, criminals and people of colour.

image-adapt-990-high-eugenics1-1396475617857-1Coerced sterilisations took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century; more than 20,000 in California and around 60,000 throughout USA.

The Southern states employed sterilisation as a means of controlling their black population. Mississippi Appendectomy was another name for unnecessary hysterectomies performed at teaching hospitals in the South on “women of colour” as practice for medical students.

In North Carolina, one third of sterilisations were done on girls under eighteen, some even as young as nine. The state targeted individuals seen as “delinquent” or “unwholesome”.

But it didn’t stop in the 1930s.

In California, prisons authorised sterilisations of 144 female inmates between 2006 and 2010. The state paid doctors $147,460 to perform tubal ligations that former inmates say were done under coercion. Nearly one third of those 144 California prison inmates who were sterilised did not give lawful consent for the operation.

These “Purity Laws”, as many called them, are a far cry from Australia’s and China’s Political Purity Laws; a very, very far cry. However, is the mentality behind them so very different?

Ten years ago the second-most spoken language in Australia was Indian. Today it’s Chinese. The changing demographic landscape is a cause for celebration or concern, depending on our respective biases. However, putting aside the emotions, we cannot deny or stop the changes. The students I taught in Brisbane came from over 40 different countries and more are coming, despite our fickle immigration laws.

The WASP – the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (or Catholic) – who once proudly ruled this land is now being swamped by those of different colours, shapes, languages, beliefs, experiences and aspirations.

6962058-3x2-940x627The News Of The Day, ladies and gentlemen, is that Australia is becoming more diverse by the day and, if we cling to our Political Purity Laws, the WASPs will soon find themselves leading a country in which he/she is a minority figure.

So, let us ask the one question that has not been asked: if someone is a bona fide Australian – passport, citizenship and all the palaver – what does it matter if they bring along, with their Australianess, a diversity of thought and background to this ever-changing country? Is that a no worries situation or a big worries one?

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Mind Controlling the Pulse of Life?

pb hospitalI was last in an operating theatre 58 years ago for the removal of my tonsils. It was not a space I was accustomed to.

I woke from my appendectomy operation – taking out my burst, gangrenous appendix – fighting through the fog of anaesthetics. It was not a normal day when I just got up of my own volition. No, today, the drug world was in control and so I fought valiantly and unsuccessfully.

I tried to stay calm, realising I was not in control, and that distorted my perception. I chatted with the Warriors of Medicine and then allowed myself to lose control and consciousness again. I vaugely remember being wheeled back down the corridor, down in the lift and back to a different bed space. I fondly imagined it was about 8.30 pm and later discovered it was closer to 11.00 pm. My, how time flies when you’re having fun … or an operation that goes for five times as long as anticipated.

This bed space was directly opposite the nurses’ station and, as I was wheeled into place, I was besieged by eight caring and chattering medics. The reason for this new bed space and the concern was that my pulse was down to 39 while I slept and shot up to 50 when I woke. I tried to explain that my 30 years of meditation had given me some control over my body. I tried, in my drowsy state, to explain that I had requested my body to save as much energy for healing as it could and the unseasonably 39 could be the result of that request. Then, to deal with the state of wakeful sense-making, I had to power my machine up. It happened every time thereafter – 39 while asleep and 50 as soon as I woke. It was a mystery to them and none considered my possible explanation. They probably thought I was bonkers.

What seemed to get in the way of my message was resistance to the thought that we have any mind control over our bodies. The only influence we have, they seemed to think, was at the same level as the body itself; the physical bodily level of knives, needles and chemicals.

We know what we believe. We see what we know. And, if we believe the mind doesn’t affect the body, that’s what we’ll come to know and, therefore, what we’ll observe. I knew I couldn’t change any perceptions – except the ones that wanted to be changed – and simply smiled and beamed out my okayness.

na_Rosemary_cornfieldsI was fortunate to have spent three months with Jimmy, an Aboriginal elder, near Alice Springs some 15 years ago. I also spent two days with John Imi, a Hopi elder. Both of these men showed me the power of the mind over the body; Jimmy becoming invisible before my eyes and John explaining how his people affected the growth of corn with song and loving thoughts.

My mind was opened to its power and it would not have been if it wasn’t open to being opened!

It’s now morning and the tribe of doctors is visiting and assessing their patients, a phrase heavy with the scent of control, their serious faces giving testimony to the gravity of their beliefs.

At the same time, I overheard a nurse telling my nurse, Nerisza, that it’s so lovely that she’s always smiling. Nerisza’s smiling reply was, “If you’re grumpy, the world will be grumpy with you. It’s much easier for me to be happy.”

Her choice to feel happy shapes her physical world in ways that knives, needles and chemicals cannot.

JK-1Yes, we need knives, needles, chemicals and other physical implements of this world but they’re not the only tools for shaping the world we see and experience. The choice to spread happiness with our smiles must be the cheapest, simplest and most effective tools we know.

Note: I really don’t know if my mind dropped my pulse rate to 37 and then up to 50, or if it just happened. It is, however, a coincidence that the four times they took my pulse when I was waking it was 37 – exactly 37 each time. Then, five minutes later, their shock and horror urged them to do it again, it was always up to 50 – exactly 50. We’ve all got to make our minds up on that one.

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Building A Better God

animated-bob-the-builder-image-0045The God I’ve built is not one with eyes, ears, judgement or kindness. This god is not even a He. Or a She. Or an It. This God is a process, a system.

It’s at this point you could become alarmed, upset, let down and/or generally disappointed. I was when I built this new God … and when I realised any alternative is little more than personifying that which is beyond human imagination or creativity; like giving clothes and a name to something like faith, hope or charity.

You see, I had this fond affection for a loving father watching, guiding and supporting my every move. My own father was both angry and distant and the God I built mirrored the father I wish I’d had – loving, accepting, communicating, guiding and always there. I felt safer in an unsafe world with this bigger Father watching my every move, looking out for me and clearing confusion whenever it enveloped me.

I’d heard of other gods – harsh ones, judgemental ones, dispassionate ones, fickle ones – and mine was better than any of them: accessible, able and artful. Never absent, avenging or arsehole.

Mine was special and he was mine … and he was definitely a He, echoing my need, I realised many years later, for a nicer substitute father. Someone in my corner.

heartSo I plodded through life in the glow of God’s ever-present kindness, falling back on him whenever pain or indecision cut in. This God got me through many scrapes – suicide attempts, physical and emotional attacks, abandonment, guilt fear and loneliness. I have so much to thank him for and, even today, I can call him up when the munchies chew at my soul.

Then somewhere, sometime, something went click. A dawning at the speed of thought over the softening landscape of my life. I noticed that I’d built the god I wanted, the god that filled the biggest hole in my soul … and that we all do this.

Some people like being slapped round the chops so they build a vengeful, punishing god.

Some people like being cuddled and caressed so they build a gooey, sweet god.

Some people want – and therefore see – a complicated world and so build a complicated god … or a whole congregation of complicated gods.

In fact, our gods tell us nothing about God and everything about us – the perfect analyst’s tool!

So, having peeled back the worst of the layers of anger at my father – do we ever peel them all back? – I realised that, as Forrest Gump might say, God is as God does.

In other words, having become my best friend, I was in no need for a friend substitute. I was, however, in need of understanding about Life, the Universe and Everything. I wanted to know how it all worked. I was in mechanical mode – practical, objective and process-focussed.

So I built a Process God.

And, yes, there was grief. Sadness. Mourning. My old God was dead; a lifelong friend was gone. I missed him but knew he didn’t fit the new me that now walked this earth.

Oregon17I hear you asking and the answer is, “Yes, I still miss my old God, like an old friend I’ve lost touch with and feel little connection with, now. When we meet up it’s nice but it’s neither deep nor enduring any more.

My new God now suits me perfectly – as do all our Gods. Faceless, emotionless, impersonal and unerringly reliable; the Rolls Royce of gods who never breaks down, never has a bad moment and purrs in constant comfort. He never smiles nor grimaces. He just does the job he’s assigned to do and is content to do my bidding … as I am to do his.

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God Takes No Prisoners

God takes no prisonersGod takes no prisoners for he has no prisons. We build our prisons and wonder where he left the key.

The key is choosing acceptance. Choosing gratitude. Choosing forgiveness. Choosing peace.

We have the key.

We are the key.

God, you see, has no keys and no secrets. Yes, you’ve probably heard about the Secret Keys to Life, the Five Sacred Steps, the Ninety Three Blessings, the Sacred Archana, the 74½ Half-truths and every other clever phrase. None of them are from God. Not one of them.

The only rule God has – and I heard it from the dude himself, over coffee yesterday – is: You Are Already There. Enjoy It!

We started out right where he wanted us – right where we wanted us – and all was bliss and better. We were in a state that no words can describe … peace, contentment, joy, caring, stress-free, happy, free, creative … and all those (and more) combined and multiplied a thousand-fold.

And there we could have stayed. But, eventually, we wanted more … no, we wanted different. All those with curly hair want it straight. All those with straight hair want it curly. The blue-eyeds wanted green eyes and the green-eyeds wanted blue. We thought we wanted better but we just wanted different.

There was, in fact, no better. We started in utopia, in paradise, in love and, from there, the only way out was down. So began the “fall”, the descent of man, wanting different and different and different and, sadly, getting less and less and less.

And now we complain about God creating wars, poverty, injustice and all the other lesser that we made! If he’d had his way he wouldn’t have let us go; a loving father who loves us enough to let us go and to learn our lessons in growing up.

He’s not the control freak we all aspire to be and so he watches us as we flounder in the swamp of our own misery, refusing to reach out for his saving hands, his loving arms, just a thought away.

quicksandThe best way to escape from quick-sand is to stop thrashing about and lie back. But what do we do? Yes, we thrash about and wonder why we keep sinking. Afraid to ask for help. Afraid to admit we’re not the Master of the Universe. Afraid to give in, to give up, to the higher power we have within.

For God, you see, never left, though we imagine we left him. God remained right where he started – deep inside all of us. We need speak no words of request for God hears every thought, every prayer, every request, every fearful shudder and joyful smile. All of it.

What’s more, he acts on all of it. Yes, all of it. He doesn’t actually leap in and save us from the circling sharks but he provides the boat. Not being a control freak (have I already said that?) he provides the means to our own saving but he will not actually put us in the boat. It’s up to us to look up, to look around and, with grateful acceptance, to take hold of the life-line he throws.

Chuck_godIt’s not a secret. It’s not a set of steps. It’s not fifteen incantations a day while we bang a bell, wear funky gear and do certain stuff in a particular building every week.

It’s just stopping. It’s just lying back and looking around. It’s being grateful for what is and taking the simple action he quietly speaks into our hearts, our dreams, our impulses.

The problem is that we want it to be complicated, arduous and something we must learn … and it’s not. Simples!

Yes, I have written God in here as a bloke. I’m sure he/she/it is none of those things and is more than just a noun, is a process but, heck, what do I know? I just know that I don’t know the nature of God, though I know how She works and how we can work with It. Well, I know how God works for me, anyway!

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Parental Pain

PB looking outMy, how we siphon down our patents’ pain into our own lives! Distilling, condensing and concentrating it. We don’t take their real pain which was mingled with joy, peace, despair, success, failure, happy and sad. No, we just take the undiluted pain and claim it as our own.

You see, it’s my head, my bloody head. Sore as hell on the right-hand side. Like someone belted me with the side of an axe-head. The pain comes and goes and, sometimes, I realise I haven’t felt it for whole minutes at a time. Five minutes, even! Then it kicks in again.

I try to stand and need to do it slowly lest I lose my balance. It wakes me from sleep and, no matter which way I lie, it gets me. Bang! In the side of the head. Roll over. Bang! Again the axe-head. Roll back. Bang! Another thwump. I lie on my back with eyes closed, with them open and, unrepentant, it continues to thwump my scull.

And my parents?

My father had a brain tumour. It started with headaches. On the right-hand side. Then there was unsteadiness. Then he lost the ability to place his left foot accurately, which was dangerous on stairs. The tangled web of nerves and cancer threads made it difficult for the surgeons to isolate one nerve from another, bad tissue from good tissue. In the process, his thirteenth nerve was severed and that incapacitated his voice box, rendering him silent for nearly a year after the operation.

Because he couldn’t speak – could hardly move – after the operation, he could not communicate that he’d had no food or water for several days. We found him emaciated, dehydrated and, because of throat damage, unable to ingest anything. It took a lot of asking around the many people who said it wasn’t their fault or their job, to find someone who would listen or act. The intravenous fluid saw him as a desert flower after rain – his eyes opened, he could finally nod and gesture with one hand and he could, eventually, smile.

He was never quite the same dynamic, striding, strident, omnipresent man we had known before. He couldn’t answer the phone or the door without a voice and, with confidence gone, chose to hide at home like a shy boy clinging to his mother’s skirt.

Eighteen months later, Alzheimer’s claimed him. I wondered if he lost the will to live for he died a year or so later, an emaciated, paralysed parody of the man he was.

openness-to-experienceAnd that, my friend, is what my fearful mind is handing me on a platter, every time I feel a twinge. A hammer. A jolt. A pain. Every single time I Relive those dreadful hospital visits, the frustrating bargaining with doctors and nurses who would not look us in the eye, apologise or make amends. We could see him fading before our eyes and no one cared.

That is the scene, the feeling and the outcome that comes to me as I change sleeping positions, stand up, turn around and am reminded of the axe-head against my scull.

I cannot get those final years with my father out of my mind … which is right where the thumping pain is.

I want to leave this life striding off into the sunset, hale of mind and sprite of body, and just suddenly stop. A surprise to me and all. None of this lingering, creeping death – this slow decline into reliance on others; this creeping paralysis of limb and memory; this slobber I cannot wipe up for myself; this inability to dress, wash and toilet myself. That is the opposite of what I want but this bloody headache – now five days young – tells me it will be the slowly lingering dependence … and that I fear more than fear itself.

It’s like a sadly potent army marching across the swampland of a dismal ending. I’m David, facing Goliath without my sling. He will do with me what he will and I must meekly, compliantly allow myself to be achingly crushed to death beneath his uncaring boot; one nerve at a time, one sinew at a time, one muscle at a time, one memory at a time.

This bloody unmoving headache is a pain. No doubt about that. However, the greater pain is the spectre of squalid that it drags along with it the spectre of my father’s decline and the suffering I allow to be pulled along with it.

Of course there are those who will say I’m choosing the dismal, demented images. That I can change my mind. That I can focus on gratitude and life’s positivity. I know that’s possible for I can do it for moments at a time. Seconds. Even a minute, sometimes.

professional-writerBut then my father reappears in his helpless, wasting state and I strap that to my possible future.

I’m trying to change my mind about this. I really am. But, like my father’s end, I can feel no easing of the pain or the images.

So, here I am trying not to think it away but to write it away. I hope it helps. I really do.

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