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Saturday, January 25, 2014

No Complaining

It's a wet Saturday morning and all is not exactly great.  I should have been out rowing this morning  but as it is, I am holed up in bed with the last dregs of a migraine still lurking at the permimetres of my brain.

The migraines are an infrequent occurrence so when I have one,  it does tend to take me by surprise.

Last night it was particularly unpleasant as I found myself heaving over the toilet bowl as well.  I spent two hours wandering around in the dark, trying not to wake the household while attempting to 'think through' the headache and hoping the two Panadol I took would eventually allow me to sleep.

At one stage, I lay on the bed quietly groaning.  I went to the lounge room and lay against the cool leather - like some sort of frizzy haired and titless Ophelia - while Spunky plodded noisily behind me.  Al came out and stroked my face and I apologised for waking him.

Welcome to the world of breast cancer recovery, nearly two years after finishing chemotherapy,  Every day there's a reminder that the medication I'm on does have side effects - not one of which, alas, has translated to an insatiable sexual appetite (sorry Al).

Most mornings these days I have difficulty uncrooking my fingers (in fact, they are a still a little sore).  I still walk a little like a paedophile released from prison when hobbling to the shower.

My feet are shot and I have to be careful as I tend to twist them easily.   I suspect I have some issues with my peripheral vision as I have a tendency to misjudge the distance between myself and certain objects.  Oh okay, that's just an excuse.  I don't think through my actions, Al says, so I am really very clumsy.  As a result, I've nursed a broken little toe for quite a while and I tend to be continually limping.

However, I don't let these nuisances get in the way of the things I want to enjoy in my naturally active lifestyle. I really don't.  (Relentless run-throughs of the Karma Sutra not withstanding).

Most days I don't waste a minute thinking about them.   I am just doing my best to keep going, to keep moving, to keep dreaming, to keep hoping and, as it turns out on some days, to keep hopping.

I try not to complain.

But this morning, I felt so god damn awful I did something I haven't done for a long time.  (I ran topless through South Bank screaming "I am Tony Abbott's Love Child"…. no, wait, that was last week).

What I did is this.  I posted a rare Status Update on my Facebook page relating to my medical dramas.

My many lovely, caring and dear friends began to 'tut' and 'tsk', empathising with me as they invariably do.

It was at this point that I was suffused by guilt.  For a minute I thought:  "OMG, like, I hope they don't think I'm asking, for like, you know, sympathy".

I felt guilty that I was using my Facebook page to unload about a shitty night.  (Which is not exactly accurate as it was more like a spewy night: diarrhoea is not a sign of a migraine, guys.  No, not even if your brain is up your bum).

I felt guilty that I was placing an unnecessary pall over the mornings of my 260 or so friends who may pause to consider my little rather bleak offering to the planet today.

It was at this point that I was reminded of a recent article posted in a well-known social commentator's blog.  (So well-known that their name escapes me and I can't seem to locate the URL to share with you).

In a nutshell, what the writer contended was that most people try to make out that their lives are much jollier than they really are on social media sites.  She maintained that most people don't want to portray the realities of their lives, you know, the bad hair days.

It's true isn't it?

Nobody ever posts a picture of the boiled tripe they have lovingly created for dinner.  I mean, check this out:  doesn't it simply ignite your taste buds?

Nobody posts pictures of the large DIAMOND-cut chain saw they received for their 23rd anniversary.

We don't see Iphone pics of the E Minus little Dudley received on his report card, or of the ugly bug-eyed mutt picked up from the pound for a song (they are all designer dogs - mine included!).

And no, we definitely don't see any hour-by-hour updates from the glamorous family holidays at the cheap motel in Gympie.  (Aah, I remember my own family's first real holiday… to Bundaberg)

We just don't.  And with good reason.

I for one am all in favour of only seeing the good side of your life.  I mean, how in the name of God can I vicariously live a glamorous and beautiful life if you're sharing pictures of your inbred bastards, your cow-hoof soup, or your holidays in Horana, Sri Lanka?   (Which, if you care to know, is a god-forsaken backwater in the country of my birth where I was summarily squeezed from my mother's loins, two weeks overdue.  Trust me.  The place is so insignificant you can only find two sentence on it in Wikipaedia).

Call me weird, but I really don't want to be daily shocked out of my comfort zone by pictures of your extensive library of rubber thongs or close ups of your haemorrhoids.

Who wants to hear about the 12 rounds of shock therapy you needed as some sort of mental disorder has you convinced you are Benny Hill.  Or worse.  Justin Beiber.

I, personally, like happy people and happy lives.  I like to see people dancing gaily through the tulips with the brilliant morning sun kissing the tops of their shining, well-coiffed hair ... not being chased by a rabid warthog through Horana, with their Lonely Planet guide unravelling behind them, and a squirrel  stuck in their Afro.

However (note use of caps, bold and underlining).  There is a small caveat.

You and I both know that the best stories have light and shade.  The most interesting lives really are the ones where there is a little struggle.

It's a little boring if it is all tiptoeing and entirely tulips.

How much more interesting if you happen to be tiptoeing through a tulip field in Gympie with your pet squirrel when you are attacked by a warthog?  You receive a severe injury to your face but after several rounds of plastic surgery you emerge with the face and body of Miranda Kerr?

You see?  Good day.  Become Bad Day.  Becomes Good Day.

What I'm saying is that the narrative of an endless utopia does start to lose appeal.  It makes for a very short movie if handsome boy meets handsome girl and they live happily ever after.

Rapunzel has to be kidnapped and wretchedly lonely before she is rescued by the Prince. Cinderella has to tolerate her miserable life with two ugly sisters and find the lost shoe before she gets to shack up with the prince in the downtown Castle.

So whoever and wherever you are - yes, even if you happen to be living a fairytale  - don't be afraid or ashamed of letting people know that it's not a good day today.

Because it's the bad days that allow us to relate to each other as human beings.

It's the bad days that make us interesting don't you think?

Even princesses have the occasional migraine.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Far from Perfect

Day 2 of the New Year and I am off to a staggering start.  After wasting Day 1 recovering from one eensy-weensy glass of wine too many, my morning today began with a 5 am row along the river.  Later, it is likely I will go for my usual Thursday swim, followed by my usual Thursday 6-10 clicker with Spunky in tow.

While it is business as usual for me, regardless of the time of year, I admit that I have been a little a-dither about what to resolve in 2014.   The truth is, self improvement for me is a continual and, I fear, infinite process.

But with each passing year, it becomes harder to concisely articulate what it is that I specifically, would like to change for the better.

Without meaning to sound smug or boastful, the reality is that, thanks to the devastation left by Cyclone Cancer, many of those goals that are the usual fodder of typical 'resolutions', have already been achieved.

In other words I have been generally looking after myself and at present, see my life on an upward parabola, if not exactly at its zenith.

Still there is always room for improvement, no?

I need to lose a couple more post-cancer kilos - and not just from my backside.  I could be svelter in the area of impatience, pride and arrogance.  I could afford to shed some of my critical and sarcastic words.  I could exercise my wisdom and my temperance a little more.  I could ease off on the empty calories in the unnecessary flattery that I unconsciously crank into overdrive when I'm trying to 'get on' with anyone I don't like -  I am ashamed of this tendency.

The thing is that perfection is a long way for me and I daresay, it is something I will never achieve.  Some things are simply a factor of personality and really, short of some undiagnosed psychiatric aberrance, isn't that something you are born with?

What I mean is that some aspect of you and me must simply be accepted.  Not everything can be changed with an 'I think I can, I know I can' attitude and a few verses of 'Auld Lang Syne'.

So why set yourself up for failure?

My tip for the year is, therefore, that whatever you resolve to change, do so understanding that there are also aspects about you that you - and those around you - must simply accept.

We are not all highly organised, disciplined exemplars of self control.

We are not all engineered to achieve - or even desire - physical or other perfection.

What we all need to resolve, therefore, is to cut ourselves some slack.

We all need to be easier on ourselves, to stop comparing ourselves to others and aspiring for unachievable standards.

Try as hard as I might, I am never going to wake up as Miranda Kerr and alas, the truth is that George Clooney will never know that I exist.

All I can be is a slightly better (wiser!) version of the me that was last year.  And I'm afraid, that's going to have to do.

All of us, I think, need to realise that we are no smaller, or weaker, or lesser in any way if we choose to rally on as usual.  Personal change is fantastic but not everyone is up for it.  Life can be pretty cosy in the comfort zone for some and, you know what?  That's okay!

You are still loved by someone.  There are still many people who care deeply about you.  And there are many people for whom you are perfect, just the way you are.  Alright, maybe not exactly 'perfect' but you know, pretty damn good!

So whatever goals you have set for yourself this year, do so accepting that if they are not achieved it's not the end of the world.

Love yourself and be kind to yourself - or it will be impossible for you to love or be kind to others.

What can be a better resolution than that?

In the meantime, I wish to announce that the winner of the competition to name my new plastic breast is Dieter Cornelius from Victoria.  Milli and Vanilli are the new starlets in my story.  Dieter, will receive the first hardback copy of 'The Breast is History' to be published this month.

(A Runner-Up prize of a free paperback copy also goes to Marlene Kelly (and Nicky Paull) for their suggestion, 'Kim and Khloe'.  (Alas it seems this line was used by Miley Cyrus in her brief role on 'Two and a Half Men' so may be questioned for its originality).  

Thank you everyone for who participated.

Happy New Year everyone!