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Friday, June 9, 2017

We Go On

Today is an exciting day.

In what is turning out to be a productive year,  I have managed to strike two things off my very short bucket list.

One was a trip to Antarctica - a never-to-be-repeated once in a lifetime experience that will stay with me until the day I die (which hopefully isn't any time soon).

The second is this.  I wrote a song.  It's my third one actually but...   not only did I write it but I took it all the way.  I have had it produced and as you will see from the nifty little download button to the right, I am hoping all my dear readers will see their way to parting with $2.50 to download it.   (You can also download it from Spotify, iTunes and other streaming services).

All proceeds go to Mental Health Research.

Now some people who heard my own pathetic attempts to caterwaul this song were less than complimentary.  In fact, the girl I work with was positively rude.  My eldest son, Harry, seemed to think the song was miserable.

Well it's not...

And the 50 ladies from the Redlands Branch of the Cancer Council would back me up there.

Because today, I unveiled the song at a presentation I made at the Redland Bay Golf Club.  (Do you know the Redlands chapter of the Council - all those wonderful ladies who man all those roadside stalls, who so generously bake and sew and crochet - last year alone raised $92,000 and took out the top fundraising prize for the organisation?).

The event was the Club's first ever Biggest Morning Tea (capably organised by the lovely young girl who runs their functions, the bubbly Chelsea Morris).

In a nutshell, what I explained to the ladies is that - after the complete utter shit fucking bastard arsehole time I've had, I have kept going.  Despite the whole saga of cancer and a double mastectomy, I have managed to still travel widely, undertake new hobbies and interests, and notch up some achievements such as my book and the commencement of my phD (most exciting!). I listed off all the major events that I marked over the past five years too:  turning 50, my dad turning 80, my sons turning 21 and 18 respectively, one finishing Uni the other finishing school.

Since 2012 as well, I kept going... literally... living at four different addresses.  (You do realise that moving house is up there with death in terms of stress levels, I suppose?)

In the meantime of course, you will all by now be well aware of all the other woeful stuff that has beset me:  more cancer, the death of my dog, my broken wrist, two savage defamation actions, and of course... the end of my marriage.

As I said today:  At any point, I could have given up, but I have kept going.  

17 minutes later, I had my audience literally in tears as I explained the important things that I have learned from all of this:  the indomitability of the human spirit; the relentlessness of life; and the way humans are in fact engineered not for failing but rising - not for suffering but celebration - and not for falling but flying,

I have to tell you it was good stuff... even if I do say so myself.

Many ladies told me I was "inspiring" and I also received a couple of hugs from ladies with wet lashes.  The local MP the lovely Matt McEachan (who I accidentallly called Mark) told me he was so inspired by my talk he felt like reciting a poem (which he did - not only is he a politician, I discovered, but a slam poetry afficionado!).

My mission, therefore, was accomplished.  A good speech is one that arouses emotions and it seems this was achieved...

You see, I really believe it  We Go On.  Life goes on.    Often in our misery we tend to feel as if the world stops - as if life isn't worth living - yet life is inexorable.  It's everywhere.  That's my point.

So no matter how hard a time you may be having - even if you are at death's door - there is something truly enlivening and exciting about knowing that we are all part of it, this amazing and wonderful thing that is living and life.  We are all in it and part of it.

LIFE IS EVERYWHERE AND HOWEVER LONG YOU MIGHT HAVE TO EXPERIENCE IT, TO BE IN IT, TO SEIZE IT AND TO SAVOUR IT, BE ASSURED THAT EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF IT IS INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND SIMPLY BURSTING WITH PROMISE.  EVERY MOMENT IS RICH WITH OPPORTUNITY….I told the ladies in All Caps, because that's how I write my speech notes.

IT IS FULL OF EVERYTHING THAT IS AROUND YOU – THIS VAST HUMANITY – WITH ALL OF ITS HURT, ITS RAGE, ITS INCESSANT WANTS.. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, ITS ENDLESS, FORGIVING LOVE.

We are all passing through it's true but in the process we all leave something behind, a piece of us that informs the whole - that whole thing that is this vast, endlessly pulsating thing that is LIFE. 

It is enough to know that our hearts have beaten -  for what big, brave hearts they are to have contributed to this huge and wondrously ever-expanding thing that is LIFE.

We. Go. On.

....

Now, if you'd like to hear the song before you choose to part with your $2.50, you can watch it here.  

With thanks to Harry's lovely friend, Trent who made my video for  me for a song (literally) :)  Also to the wonderful singer Sarah Calderwood who loaned me her fabulous tonsils (and flute-playing skills) and producer Michael Fix (who is quite famous I'll have you know).

A very special thanks too,  to my good friend and fellow breast cancer survivor Mary Holdsworth who encourages me to pursue these creative whims.   Mary is herself a wonderful country singer and has been there for me since day dot, providing her patient advice and counsel even as I sobbed my eyes out. 









Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transience

Three times a week - sun or rain - I walk the three kilometres to and from the City  to attend a small but satisfying part-time job.   I am among that cohort of people who is fortunate enough to have always loved what I do for a living.

The walks back home are particularly useful for mulling over the minutiae of life, for sorting out the roil of thoughts that have pursued me as I've dealt with recent events.

On Monday this week, my walk home was particularly useful.  As I rounded the corner for the last 100 metres to my unit complex, dusk fell softly and the setting sun burnished the Brisbane River.  In the last moments of the dying day, from nowhere my thoughts suddenly settled on my father.

Now my Dad, Hals, is certainly one of the more interesting people you can meet - some would say eccentric.  And in many ways, I am very like my father.  I have has his same short temper, his same impatience with idiots, and share his interest in politics.  (Dad had two brothers who were the first foreigners to be accepted into the Komintern and who were thrown out of Ceylon - according to Dad - for subversive activities).

He is also a great storyteller (some would say, liar) and has been known to rip off someone else's yarns and pass them off as his own (the low point coming quite recently when, as Father Dear was holding forth I had to interject with mild outrage to tell him:  'No Dad, that happened to me.  That's my story'.

Like Dad, I am also prone to choosing random hobbies and past times on a whim, investing ridiculous amounts of money on equipment in a fit of enthusiasm then kind of sticking it in the garage and wondering what possessed me.

Like my Dad, too, I am prone to accidents and, certainly of late, it has been a bit of a competition as to who has had more near death experiences.  (My Dad wins: I mean, there is no way I can compete against stories of snake bites, motorcycle accidents, being run over by lorries and careening over canyons in wayward four wheel drives.)

But there are ways in which I fear I struggle to be like my Dad - especially in recent times - as I do believe he sets an example.  One is his ridiculous generosity.  My father would literally give you the shirt off his back.  He has never been particularly mercenary - although he is quite a good salesman and could sell fake sun tan to an African - and would give away all his possessions if allowed.  (My sister Nicky has taken after him in this regard).  It's really one of his lovely traits.

More importantly, I have been working in recent months to emulate my Dad in another of his traits or rather in his beliefs.

My father, you see, is a Buddhist (like many Sri Lankans) and, as he has got older, dad has really promoted his belief in disattachment.

Dad doesn't believe in holding onto anything, even life and quite frankly, his bags seem to have been packed in preparation for the Great Beyond for some time.  (Life is just a transit lounge y'all).

As a career Type 1 Diabetic, he's had a few close calls in recent years and I think we are all surprised that he's still here.  (He is down to the wire with his nine lives, I'm telling you).

But Dad's insouciance when it comes to long living is quite understandable.

My father comes from a family of short-livers (if not cirottic livers), his dad, mum, sister and two brothers all GTG (Gone to God) before their 65th birthdays.  The first to go was Aunty Mona died at 33, from memory.  Some of my cousins too, have not fared so well.  One lost her life when a land mine exploded, two years after losing her husband and two sons in the tsunami.  (Yes, this shit really does happen to real people).

It's no wonder my Dad is such a fan of Buddha.

Buddhism teaches the inevitability of suffering given the mutability of all things.   The transience of life is held as an ineluctable fact. And it is an absolute truth that the only way to deal with the inevitability of that slippage, is learning to let go (something op shop owners rely on).

In accepting that holding on is fruitless, we learn to appreciate the fragility of everything we know and have.

And from this comes a literally wonderful realisation.

Accepting the inevitability of loss teaches us that life is temporary and passing and in this we can reclaim our ability to  really appreciate this moment and all that it might.  Instead of looking ahead to what comes next ,we regain the ability to focus on what is happening right now (the state of mindfulness).

From this, most importantly we can reclaim our sense of wonder.  By appreciating what we have now, we can reposition losing and loss not as unpleasant or hurtful, but as reminders that something amazing and brilliant once existed.

Pain and suffering, while creating discomfort. also remind us of the inevitability of the transience of life and, in seizing that idea, we can look at what comes next - good or bad - with anticipation and wonder.

Certainly, in my often unpleasant trip so far, while I have been by turns enraged, perplexed, confused and disoriented, it has also been enlivening.

Because I look back and you see just how much I have overcome and how far I have travelled.  I look back ...with wonder.

And I look at what I do actually have with increased enchantment and appreciate everything that is good in my life.  I appreciate what I have right here and now... with wonder.

And I have come to understand that nothing we have can be held forever.

In ascendance, we come to realise that life really is a balance of knowing when to hold on and when to let go.

And even if you have to let go (by choice or force), you understand that what's happening is actually not loss or losing.

What is happening is the End of Suffering.

And it's wonderful.