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I have a dream

Have you got a dream?  A dream that is so big you worry that you may never achieve it?

I have one.  It has been with me for quite some time now.  It stemmed out of my love of books, and especially book clubs.  Book clubs are way too thin on the ground for my liking.  I’m not talking about online book clubs, though they certainly have their place.  I’m talking about book clubs where people meet in person and get to talk and connect and laugh and cry and share.  Books, words really, have an amazing way of bringing people together.

The power of words to connect should never be underestimated”

Yes, about the dream.

My dream is to own a bookshop – a risky business in this world of online books and living in a country where hard copy books are incredibly expensive.  But I don’t care.  It’s my dream.

This bookshop will be unlike any other.  In it will, of course, be lots of books.  But it will also run book clubs, poetry evenings, author events.  It will run philosophy evenings where people can come and debate the meaning of life.  It will have a coffee shop, that brews amazing coffee, that encourages people to grab a book and just be, just for a while.  There will be a “donate-a-book” section so that people who cannot afford books will still have access to them, because who of us doesn’t have books in our shelves that we are simply never going to read again, and some we have never read at all.

Location will be key.  Think sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life.  I’m thinking a couple of meditation evenings thrown in for good measure.

There will be big leather seats that envelope you as you settled down to read those words, and escape to a world that enthralls.  A roaring fireplace is a given for those wintery days and nights.

Is it too much to imagine a space for classes on calligraphy and letter art, permaculture, paper art, wordsmithing and more?  I think not.

I like to escape to this dream every now and again.  I imagine my shop, full of people, absorbing words.

I, of course, got the idea from a book.  A couple of years ago my husband bought me a sony ebook reader.  The first book I downloaded, whose name can you believe it eludes me right now, was about a woman who had divorced her husband and decided to move down to the coast.  There she meets a man (of course) who owns a second hand bookshop filled to the brim with books he had been collecting over the years.

I wasn’t so much interested in the love fest as I was about the book shop and the stories that it told of the other characters of the book.  It was a hub, a meeting place, where people came to belong.  And that is what I want, my own sense of belonging, and to give other people that sense of belonging too.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea how I am going to get this idea off the ground.  Apparently, it is a very risky business, this bookshop thing.  Nevermind.  I’ll keep working on it.  I have the name and the domain name, you know, just in case.

What are your dreams?  Make them as big as you possibly can, because, you know, you are SO worth it.

Much booky love,

SHW Signature

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Weightloss Chronicles

A heart thing, alcoholism + the need for weightloss

Heart and weight

Last week I was in hospital.  I went in for a “small” “procedure” that was meant to be an in and out job, but I ended up staying a week.

The procedure (which really is surgery in my opinion) is called an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography involving a tube being put down your throat until they reach your bile duct and pancreas and then having a good look around.  I also had to have a Sphincterotomy as it was discovered that I had Sphincter of Oddy dysfunction which is where the sphincter isn’t working properly.  

As bad luck would have it, I ended up getting pancreatitis, which resulted in my admission.  Just as I was about to be sent home after a couple of days, however, I got a palpitation in my heart and before I knew it, I was admitted to the cardiac ward.

For over 18 years I have suffered with palpitations of the heart.  They are very intermittent (about 8 – 10 a year).  They start with a massive thump, then the heart palpitates like crazy, and then they end with another massive thump.  I am usually breathless, dizzy and have to lie down.  Most of the time, I think I am having a heart attack.  Over the years I have been to the doctor a number of times, but because the palpitations have usually stopped by the time I get there, I have always been told it is just a minor palpitation thing, quite normal.

Except, it turns out, it isn’t normal.  Whilst in hospital, they managed to get one of the palpitations on the monitor that I was forced to wear for 24 hours a day.  They happen so rarely that it really was lucky to get it at all.  Transpires, I have idiopathic non-sustained ventricular tachycardia.  Try saying that fast!  This is where a rogue electrical impulse fires off, interrupting the natural rhythm of the heart, forcing it to go into palpitations – like a lone ranger looking for attention!

Thankfully, it isn’t all that serious and I am more likely to be run over by a bus than fall down dead from a heart attack.  It requires periodic monitoring as I am now at risk of developing heart damage, but all in all it’s a good heart condition to have.

Except it isn’t really all that good at all.  Whilst my heart is strong it was pointed out to me during my cardiac stress test that I am considerably overweight and extremely unfit for my age.  I loathed the guy for saying it, but the truth is the truth hurts – like shit.

I’ve been home for five days now pondering my options, whilst stuffing my face with chocolate – my drug of choice.  I have been on every diet known to man.  You name it, I have done it.  Yet the motivation to lose weight, even under the threat of death by heart attack bus, eludes me.

Why is this?

I have no bloody idea.

I do know that I didn’t start putting on weight until I was 32.  I mean, I thought I had a weight problem before then but it transpires I didn’t – I was a very healthy weight for my height.  Go glossy magazines and unrealistically skinny models for a dose of body image issues!

My mom moved in when I was 32.  She had temporarily left my dad and moved in with me.  She loved to drink wine from around 4pm almost every night.  I didn’t want her to drink on her own, you know, because I am altruistic that way, so I drank with her.  Within 18 months I had put on 20 kilos.  I actually weighed more than when I was 9 months pregnant.

Mom only lived with us for a few months before realising she actually missed and loved my dad, but I kept the drinking thing going.  I never lost the weight, instead I continued to gain.

My drinking increased, I gained a bit more and so it went.  I started to notice that my normally outgoing personality started to change.  I hated going out, I hated having my photograph taken and I hated my body even more.  Suddenly, in a relatively short space of time, I had become a recluse.

My drinking took on new proportions.  I prided myself on the fact that I never started to drink until after the kids went to bed.  This was my way of kidding myself that I did not have a drinking problem.

I tried every diet going.  Of course, each one required me to restrict my alcohol intake.  Yeah right!  So I drank, and became more lonely, more obese and more sad.  So I drank some more again.

Four years ago, I became sober.  I stopped drinking, expecting my weight to miraculously drop off.  It didn’t.  I replaced alcohol with chocolate.  I have been known to become a raving lunatic if there isn’t chocolate in the house.

So I ate chocolate, and became more lonely, now in a new country, without family, and became more sad.

I really don’t want to give up chocolate.  My cardiologist (yes, I now have a cardiologist) asked how much chocolate I eat.  I told him – two bars a day.  He gasped.  He actually gasped.  I don’t think that’s all that bad.  Okay, it is.  “That has to be knocked on the head immediately,” he said, once he’d composed himself.  I said okay, but the truth is, I have had those two chocolates every day since I left the hospital.

They don’t taste as good.  It’s true.  I know I’m damaging/poisoning my body.  That knowledge fucks with your taste buds.

Today a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a while posted a photograph of herself having lost 20kgs.  She puts it down to being completely happy, living her truth with a bit of modification of the diet.  I stared at her photo for ages. And secretly I was as jealous as hell.

I want to feel comfortable in my own skin.  How on earth am I going to do this.  I’m not wanting to lose weight for vanity.  I NEED to  lose weight.  I am 30 kilos overweight.  My heart and its mischievous impulse might not be so tolerant of my size in the future.  Reason tells me that this is not a good thing.

I wrote in my diary a while ago that I need to lose weight.  I wrote it and then forgot ignored it.

So, I am going to try to do this thing.  I can’t make promises.  I know, I know – if I am going to achieve something I am meant to say I CAN do it and then set myself the goal to actually do it.  Truth is, all I have, all I can do is try right now.  But by writing to you guys, perhaps I can hold myself accountable.  It will be like the gazillionth time I have tried, but hey, never give up, right?

Did I mention I am really not a fan of Twiggy?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Til next time,

SHW Signature

 


 

Categories
Ramblings

How death defined me

Death define

To those of you who subscribe by email, apologies.  You are getting two emails today.  It’s a necessity.  I just can’t keep this inside.

I am not a serial follower of blogs.  Blogs are, for me, a source of information.  That thousands, nay millions, of people blog is fortuitous for an insatiably curious mind like mine.  I just plug in what I want to find out about and voila, there it is.  As I have only used the internet as a tool, it never really occurred to me to actually follow a blog religiously.  That was until I came across Edenland.

Eden is pretty massive in the blogging world.  Her blog is individual, about her experience of living life on life’s terms and quite often it isn’t pretty.  I may have mentioned her before, but I love reading her blog because, well, she is raw.  She writes in a way that strips herself bare – honest, unapologetic, so very human.  She shows a bravery I have not had the courage to find in my own writing.  I care too much what people think.  It is limiting, and diminutive.  I hate that.

I have a morning ritual.  I drop Master J off at school, then toddle off for a coffee and muffin.  This is the time I read, catch up on stuff, get to be outside of the house.  Today, I used this time to catch up on a couple of Eden’s posts.  I was reading this one when a lump caught in my throat.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I had to get up and leave.  These words (which are not her own, but of poetry slam champion, Buddy Wakefield) took me completely and utterly by surprise:

Cemeteries are the world’s way of not letting go.”

I have an obsession with death.  I think that’s obvious.  I talk about it a lot.  Ever since my first husband died when I was 25, death, not him, has been on my mind almost every day.  Mr G died by drowning whilst scuba diving.  I had to drive 2 hours to identify the body.  It was shit.  The whole way down there I cried whilst my mom cradled me in her arms having to perform comfort that no mother should have to provide. I just kept groaning “Please don’t let it be true.  Please let it be a mistake.” And my mom just stroked my hair each time I said it.  For two hours straight.

His body was in the police station.  I still to this day do not know why.  An attempt was made to resuscitate him in hospital, so why he was moved to the station is beyond me.  We walked into a cold sparse room.  In the centre was a steel table and on it lay his body.  Sand was in his hair and around his body.  I had to touch him.  He was so cold.  My mother was crying, and my dad was holding her.  I noticed some blood at the back of his head.  I was not expecting this and was shocked.  There was a policeman in the room and I wanted to scream at him to get out.  I didn’t.  But I wish I had.  I just sat staring at Mr G, knowing that my life would never be the same.

Days later it was his funeral.  I insisted on him being dressed in his favourite tracksuit and not a suit.  He hated suits.  Prior to the funeral I was given the opportunity to ‘view’ him in his coffin.  What a fucking idiot term.  Who the fuck views their dead relative?  You sit with them, love them one last time, but you’re not there with popcorn and candyfloss to fucking view them.  Anyway, I sat with him.

He had had an autopsy done, though you couldn’t tell with the correct placement of the satin cover over his head and his tracksuit.  I had to touch him.  I lifted the lids of his eyes.  They were opaque, no longer blue, the life completely gone.  I then traced the incision mark down his chest, gently going down his body.  We had flown our school minister in for the funeral and he sat in the background, quietly watching.  I can only imagine what he must have thought.  Death.  It does strange things to us.

I grew up that day.  And I grew up again when my mom died 4 years ago.  Except there has been no moving on with her death.  After Mr G died, I found amazing love, different love and, yes, better love with Mr C, but there was no one to replace my mom.  My grief and subsequent depression hacks at me every day.  The truth is one day is good, but then the next it is fucking awful.  It is only by the grace of the school run that I make it out of bed.

Cemeteries are the world’s way of not letting go. It is true.  Except neither Mr G nor my mom have a cemetery.  Mr G had one, but I never visited it.  He was cremated and popped into a wall of rememberance.  I took Miss J there once, but I hated it.  To see him reduced to a box in a wall was simply too much.  Then his mom removed him when Mr C and I married and left for the UK.  She had someone dig a whole in the garden at the flats where she lived and popped him in there.  She has since moved.

When mom got sick, it was agreed that we would hold onto her ashes until dad passed and then scatter them together.  Not sure how that will play out – he is with someone else now.  I have a part of her in a medicine bottle on my dressing table – dad brought it over for me a couple of years ago.  I often wonder what part of her it is that I have.  I hope it is her heart.  I wonder if by separating her ashes, I have somehow prevented her from moving on to who knows where.  But then I remember I do not believe in an afterlife, so I feel better about keeping her on my dressing table.

And now I am studying death.  I have studied death rituals of varying cultures.  I obsess with death.  It’s possible by obsessing with death, I don’t live.  I want to write a book on how to die well.  There’s plenty of crap about how to live well, but nothing how to prepare for death.  It comes to us all and we are so fucking unprepared.  We are unprepared for when we are left behind and for when it finally comes to call for us.  I am a control freak.  I hate being unprepared.

Death has defined my life.  I had no idea.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

Categories
Ramblings

The connection between Robin Williams, Emile Durkheim, Capitalism and Suicide

Depression Suicide

A couple of nights ago, I watched the Emmy Awards.  I didn’t watch the whole thing.  I just watched as I was flipping channels.  To be honest, I am not a massive fan of the Hollywood award circuit.  It is far less about the acting, than who is wearing what, and don’t get me started on how many awards a particular actor has to win for the same role year after year.  It all seems so, well, contrived to me.

I digress.

I was flipping channels, when I came across the “In Memoriam” segment.  Sara Bareilles sang “Smile” whilst pictures of those involved in the film industry that had passed away this year filled the screen.  As I watched it, I felt something in me slip away.  I had grown up with a lot of those actors – Mickey Rooney, Ralph Waite (from The Waltons), Meshach Taylor (from Designing Women), James Avery (from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Ann B Davis (from the Brady Bunch), Peter O’Toole, Shirley Temple, Harold Ramis (from The Ghost Busters), Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Bob Hoskins.  All of these actors held a special place in my heart, not least because my mom would play me their movies time and again where we would laugh and cry together.  My heart ached with the realisation that the light had faded just that bit more.

Then there were those who had been taken far too soon – Paul Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and of course the wonderful Robin Williams.  Billie Crystal paid tribute to Mr Williams at the end of the song and by the end I was a mess.  I could not stop the tears and snot from flowing.  My husband put his arm around me and hugged me tight.

“You feel the pain of the world so much, Sarah,” he said to me.

It’s true.  I do.

Robin Williams meant such a great deal to me.  He helped me find my bravery with The Dead Poets Society and I was watching Mrs Doubtfire at the cinema when I was given news that my first husband had passed away.  It would take another decade before I could watch it in its entirety, but I am so glad I did.  I loved him especially in The Fisher King and The Bird Cage.

He was such an amazing light, such an amazing gift, such an amazing concept (thank you Billy).  But in all of his tributes in the last week, I found there to be one thread – that he derived his sense of self worth from what he could give to others – to make them laugh.  Time and again, people would say how he would be energised when people laughed, so much so that he never really switched off.  And we took, we took until he clearly had no more.  And so he took his own life, leaving us all stunned and asking the question “why” when he was so clearly utterly loved.  Indeed, why does anyone feel the need to take their own life?

I read an article over on The Philosophers Mail about a sociologist by the name of Emile Durkheim who was born in 1858.  He had witnessed massive change in France, going from a largely agricultural society to very much an industrialised one.  He studied Capitalism, the driver of industrialisation (and now technology), and what he found was startling.

He found that in countries that had become industrialised and where Consumer Capitalism had risen, suicide rates had also risen, dramatically.  There was a distinct correlation between the wealth of a country and its suicide rates – in the UK it had doubled, in Denmark, a richer country still, it had increased four fold.  Out of these findings, he published a book, Suicide, in 1897.

Sadly, things haven’t improved.  I cannot say if there continues to be such a stark correlation, but I can say that the US comes 34th in the world suicide rankings,UK 37th, New Zealand 38th, Canada 40th and Australia 49th – all really wealthy nations with that you would imagine would bring a great quality of life.  Yet in Grenada, Saint Kits and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti and Nepal there are no suicides.

The richer and more affluent a country is, it appears, the more suicides there are.  Something is deeply wrong here.  We are losing people all over the place.  For over 120 years the suicide rate has steadily risen.  We have known about this, yet nothing, really, seems to be done.  Certainly, not enough is being done.

I once applied to be a Suicide Educator.  I had no experience in this field,other than my qualification in Community Development, and the fact that I knew acutely what it felt like to want to die, but the ad said that training would be given.  This was our local council’s response to a spate of young children who had committed suicide by throwing themselves in front of a train.  The idea was that a preventative measure would be applied, talking to high school kids about the finality and consequences of suicide and where they can get help.

When I phoned, the woman on the other side was very curt.  She sounded like the tired and proverbially underpaid, overworked government employee.  I didn’t get the job and apparently the program never saw the light of day.  As I said, not enough is being done.

Depression drives suicide.  Those that take their own lives have become so depressed that they cannot see the wood for the trees.  They see no alternative.  More has to be done to help these people see an alternative.

What that is I do not know.  But I do know that I am going to try.  I hope you will too.  If you know any of your friends or family are depressed, please don’t avoid them, don’t get tired with them, don’t imagine for a second that they are “wallowing”.  People who are depressed would be anywhere else rather than in the depths of the dark place that is inside their mind, believe me.  Offer to help, offer friendship, offer to listen.  Just listen.

Here are some ways you can help:

Beyond Blue is a great organisation that helps people with depression.  They have a number of activities throughout the year that you could get involved in.

Life Line is that place where people in desperation can call, anonymously, to seek help.  Training as a counsellor is possibly one of the most important things a person could do.

Headspace is the national youth mental health foundation.  They do some amazing work with the young people of Australia.

Sane Australia is another organisation that assists people with mental health issues.  I particularly like how they have a section called “Stigma Watch” which keeps an eye on how mental illness is stigmatised in the press.

Black Dog Institute are pioneers in the management and treatment of mood disorders.  They have plenty of opportunities to get involved and are seeking people to speak about depression.  For a bit of fun, they have also partnered with Inspired Adventures to do the Cycle to Happiness tour in Cambodia.  To do one of these tours (they did it in Bhutan last year), is definitely on my bucket list.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Ramblings

The economics of blogging

The Economics of blogging

Over on one of the blogging Facebook pages I belong to we are having a discussion.  It’s an interesting discussion.  Quite philosophical in nature.  It asks the question of why we exist as bloggers.

Actually, that wasn’t really the question.  One person pointed out that as a blogger they are sick to death of constantly being bombarded with links to posts about SEOs, Analytics, Brands, Affiliates, Making Money From Blogging, and the like.  What happened, they lamented, to blogging for the sheer joy of it?

Her comment sparked a plethora of comments all in agreement with her.  In fact, not one argued for the benefits of such posts, which I found interesting.  However, a few did mention that one day they would love to make enough money from their blogs so that they could give up their boring day job, have more flexibility in their day and indeed more time with their family.  Their blog, it seemed, was a possible way to that work-life balance we seem to hear so much about.

In the inaugural issue of Womankind Magazine (great mag, please do get a copy, or better yet, subscribe), Flora Michaels wrote a piece entitled The one story that’s changing your life.  In it she describes that although the world is made up of many individual stories that shape our lives, throughout history there has always been one massive story that has dominated us, and indeed shaped us as a society, at any given time in history.

During the Middle Ages, she says, it was Religion (think burning of the witches and the Spanish Inquisition), but by the 17th century, Science had overtaken religion as the dominant story (period of enlightenment anyone).  Now we are in the 21st Century, Flora says, and our dominant story is without question Economics (thank you Capitalism).

She notes that during the 1950s international development research was done that said “family relations hindered the mentality of the market and corporate development.”  The role of the family, and our loyalty to it, was clearly changing in favour of making money.

Then this caught my eye:

But in the world of markets – where the economic story plays out – relationships become something else entirely.  You’re objectively and impersonally judged based on the value of what you have to exchange with someone else.  Your relationships become arms-length and transactional, and the story values you for what you can contribute to the economy as a buyer or seller. [….] You’re told you can be summed up as a personal brand and that you need to build an ever-bigger audience for it.

The blogging story is a perfect example of this.  In the early 2000s, blogging took off.  The likes of My Space and Blogger gave people a platform to write, tell their stories and connect with like minded people (now known as “Your Tribe” in blogging circles).  It was a case of people just wanting to connect with other people.  No economics involved (unless you were blogging to sell your services or wares, of course, but that is not what I am talking about here).

In the last 10 years things have shifted.  We spend our lives online.  We have largely replaced ‘real life’ for a pseudo second life lived out online.  Billions of us the world over are ‘connecting’ with each other through cyberspace.

It didn’t take long for marketers to notice.   They noticed that some bloggers had massive followings and that their ‘tribes’ seemed to hang on every word.  It was a perfect, wonderful, new way of getting product to the masses.  BAM, a new form of economic exchange had been born.

Suddenly, bloggers who were writing just for themselves, just to connect with others, were being offered book deals, writing gigs, offering advertising on their websites, having products thrown at them to review to their masses.  Blogging had gone from being personal and about connection, to being about economics.

And here we are in 2014.  People, lots of people, want in.  They chase that dream of wanting to earn an income from their blog for simply writing about what they are passionate about.  They look at the big wigs in the blogging world and want to recreate what they have.  They want to live that big old dream of making money doing what they love.  There are even conferences you can attend to learn how.

Thus, the spawn of hundreds and hundreds of posts on what is essentially about how to get noticed by those that will pay you money.  The answer of course is to develop a massive following – your tribe (which is why Google Analytics and SEO is considered so vital).  In order to do that you have to write about what’s on trend, use words that Google will pick up, write about what is going on in the world today.  You have to follow, largely, in my opinion, the masses.  Economics is cold, bland, cut throat and if you want to make money from it, you have to comply.

The ethos of blogging, largely, has changed.

Of course, there are those of us, that continue to blog because we like to write, or we just want to get stuff out there, or we just like to talk about our passion, but when it comes down to it, if a big brand came up to us and said that they would pay us for our opinion, how many of us would decline because we are only doing it for the “love of it”?

Economics is our dominant story.  We were all born into it.  It drives us.

But each story has a turning point.  A point at which critical mass is reached.  Nothing lasts forever.  A new dominant story will emerge.  Who knows what it will be.  Until then, I’ll just keep blogging, writing, in my little corner.  Telling myself that I don’t care for the economics of blogging.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

Categories
Action

Robin Williams has died and the world has gone mad

 

I’m meant to be studying.

As I try to focus on my readings about how language determines thought processes, how most things are a construct, that before the late 1800s there was no categories of a person being either heterosexual or homosexual, it was just deemed that as a person you had the propensity to either like the same sex or the opposite sex, my mind keeps wandering.

I cannot concentrate.

Our world is in crisis.

Last night I walked into the kitchen, “Did you see this?” Mr C asked.

He had paused the TV.  On it was an image of a young boy holding up something quite large that had been blacked out, with something else that had been blacked out at the bottom of the screen.

I looked at my husband confused.

What you are seeing there is a Facebook status of the father of a 9 year old boy, holding up a cut off head, with the comment below of ‘that’s my boy’, or something to that effect.”

I looked at him, my hand immediately clasping at my mouth.   A little scream escaped.

It’s not a human head?” I asked, praying like hell it wasn’t.

It is, Sarah.  Apparently it’s an Iranian’s head.  The boy is Australian.  Apparently, they have fled to Syria.

Without warning, I just burst into tears.  A gnawing at my gut immediately gripped me and I had to bend over, resting my head on the bread board on my bench.

What the fuck is happening to this world of ours?  What is happening to the media that it feels it is okay to give this evil fanaticism air time?  I had an urge to find out about the story, but resisted it.  I had seen the image, I didn’t need to know the back story.  There was no story that would ever make that okay.  Ever.

All of last night my heart felt sick.  So much war and devastation, so much inhumanity.  Even though it isn’t right on our door step, we get to live it each and every night with images of people being blown out of the sky, and into smithereens, and body bags being chucked about and heads being held up like trophies.  Tears stained my pillow as I fell into a dark slumber.

And then I woke up and Robin Williams had died.  Robin Williams, who had given the world so much joy and laughter, whose wit was uncompromising, whose humanity shone from him like the brightest lighthouse for miles around, whose very existence gave us common folk a reprieve from all that nastiness that we have to endure, had taken his life.  Because, even for him, the world was just too much to bear.

Sadness does not begin to describe how I am feeling right now.  Twitter is agog with the loss of Robin.  If only he had known how very much he was loved.

We need a new direction.  Humanity needs a change.  The definition of humanity needs something new.  We need to let the media know that this is not okay.  That the forms of entertainment and news currently on offer are not acceptable.  Our children do not need to see those images.  They do not need to become desensitised to war and death and evil.  They do not need to see a 9 year old holding up a human head as if that is a perfectly okay image to see.  Oh my god, on so many levels, it is so not okay.

And people who suffer with depression need to be taken seriously, dammit.  People should not be feeling so exasperated with the world that they feel compelled to take their own lives.  Why are we not doing more about this?

Please tell me that you get this.  Please tell me that you see, as I do, there is a mental madness going on in the world and that we need to fight to change it.  Our discourse has to change.  Somewhere, somehow, we need to make this stop.

It’s hard to study today.  It just seems so trivial in a world gone mad.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and you feel the need to speak to someone, please please call Life Line in your country.  In Australia, the number is 13 11 14.

 

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Action

Why humans are not all that smart

For my next post, I wanted it to be really upbeat.  I am a deep thinker, somewhat prone to the melancholy, so I thought that the next time I write, I’m going to try to balance said melancholoy with a little bit of lightheartedness.

Not going to happen.

Not today anyway.

I woke up feeling very sad this morning.  Not in an I’m-so-depressed-my-life-sucks kind of way.  More like, I-truly-wish-I-wasn’t-a-human kind of way.

Humans are purported to be the most sentient, evolved beings on earth.  Apparently not.  Apparently all the intelligence and “awareness” of our existence and mortality isn’t enough to stop us from blowing each other to smithereens, from oppressing those less fortunate from us, from creating an ‘otherness’ mentality to justify said atrocities, from pitting humans against each other in the name of entertainment.

Historically, in my opinion, the only thing that has evolved for us is technology.  This has created more ways to abuse each other and, worse, kill each other.  Our humanity, which I define as the ability to transcend our urge to annihilate one another, has not evolved at all.  We are still animals – territorial, violent, oppressive, greedy and power hungry.  How do I know this?  The media is full of it.  Apparently, this is what sells.  This is what drives us, what us ‘humans’ want to see.

It’s very depressing.  Especially for a melancholic person like me.

I like to call my melancholia the Eeyore Syndrome.  You know Eeyore right?  The sad little donkey in Winnie the Pooh.  I always felt for that little guy.  Always surrounded by his joyful little friends but never quite being able to enjoy life in quite the same way they did.  He always seemed to know instinctively that what they were celebrating or enjoying was not quite the real picture, that beneath that veneer of love, friendship and joy was the reality of a world that was hard and cold.

I’m with Eeyore.

Despite meme after meme adorning the interweb telling me to look around and see the beautiful world for what it truly is, to enjoy living every moment, to live in the moment, to love myself for the beautiful person that I am, I cannot.  The world, whilst perhaps rich in physical natural beauty, is not a great place to live.

How can it be when programs like The Bachelor adorn our screens pitting 24 women against each other to vie for the attention of one man.  Where we watch these women tear each other down, night after night, in a desperate attempt to get him to like her.  We haven’t evolved.  We have just bought lion fighting in the Colosseum to our little black screens in our living rooms.  The premise is still the same.  Pitting humans against each other all for entertainment of the masses.

How can the world be a great place when, whilst we are watching our ‘entertaining’ reality shows where humans tear each other down, other people across the globe are actually living a hell of war and devastation, funded largely by the western countries that produce this entertainment for us?

Do you see the theme?  The power hungry few feed the masses mindless entertainment, whilst funding mass warfare against countries (probably to control resources – at least that’s the conspiracy theory).  Us mindless few lap up said entertainment and “feel sorry” for those other people over there who are being killed and shit.

If we try to do anything about it, for example, protest, leak secret documents about the inhumanity of those in power or dare to write about the injustice of it all, we are branded a traitor and arrested.

In his book, A Brave New World, written in 1931, Aldous Huxley foretold this.  Huxley wrote of a dire world in which future governments would encourage mass entertainment, knowing it would pacify the people and divert them from political issues, how this fixation on entertainment would drown our desire for real knowledge and how society would allow itself to be so consumed with this entertainment, that it would disregard anything of any real importance.  Huxley clearly could not have had any idea how prophetic his book would be.

So what is to be done?

We could sit back and say, as people always have done, that there is nothing we can do.  That those in power have the means and power to oppress, create and maintain wars, bully us into submission.  And to that I say bullshit.

We have the means to make ourselves heard.

We can boycott the mindless entertainment, we can write and speak out against the atrocities the human race continues to inflict on each other, we can make a conscious choice to stand up and say ENOUGH!  We can think about a world in which we would like our children and their children to live and we can strive towards that.  We can take an interest in the people that would like to run our country and make an effort to vet them.  We can choose not to vote into power a man who stood at a protest rally next to a sign that said the words “Ditch the Bitch”.

As a melancholic person I constantly have to remind myself that I do have choices.  That this isn’t the way it has to be.  That, as an individual living in a crazy, violent world, I can make a difference.  You can too.  Believe it.

I once read that the only thing that separates humans from animals is not our intelligence, or that we have better technology, it our capacity to hope.  Hope for a better future, hope that one day we can defeat death, hope that no matter how shit it is today, tomorrow will bring more light.

I have learned that my melancholia is not a bad thing, some defect inside my brain.  Rather it is a response.  A response to the reality that surrounds us, but we so often choose not to see.  But I have hope, and through that hope the ability to choose, and that is what will make a difference.

How are you feeling about the world around you?  Have you wanted to make a difference?  Do you feel like me sometimes?

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

Much love,

 

 

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A second chance?

Ever since my mom died of lung cancer, and her revelation that all the women on her side of the family have died around the age of 60, I have been immobilised with fear.  Fear of dying.  Fear of dying before I got the chance to feel what true happiness feels like.  Fear of dying before I got the chance to fulfill my dreams.  Fear of dying before I got to feel what it means to be perfectly comfortable with the person I have become.

In the past few weeks, I have been beset with health problems.  I ended up in hospital where it was found that my liver function tests were off the charts.  I was released on holiday still feeling awful under the condition that I returned for tests.  Last week, I had those tests and made an appointment to see the surgeon on Thursday.  On Monday I got a phone call to say the surgeon would like to see me on Tuesday.

I don’t deny it.  I thought I had cancer.  I whipped out those scans and scrutinised them for all my layman’s worth.  Is that a shadow I see?  I looked up pancreatic and liver cancer, both of which have very little hope of survival at best – 90% die within a year and only 5% make it to five years.  Tears rolled down my face as I imagined leaving my children and husband behind.  I would miss them so much.

Then, suddenly, something weird happened.  I started to imagine how I would react and how I would want to live my life if indeed I had very little time left.  I thought of my own mom and how unprepared she was and I knew that I didn’t want to die like that.

I would write each of my family members letters, I thought, so that they would know how much I loved them and how very proud of them I am.

I would start enjoying my life.  Life is short and if I am going to die, I am no longer going to buy into this bullshit of trying to be someone I am not, or trying to improve myself to some ridiculous, imagined, unobtainable self that has been created by the marketing industry and simply does not exist.  I thought about my life and I knew that I had lived it to the best of my ability, given the skills I had, and that had to be enough.

I once took part in a team building exercise where we had to write our own obituaries.  I think it was a weird goal making exercise, the idea being if you could imagine how you wanted to be remembered, you could start to shape your life to achieve that.  My obituary read like a combination of Mother Theresa and McGiver.  I wanted to be remembered for being a beacon of light in my community but also the solver of all solutions – daring, skillful, full of hidden talents that could be called to the fore under the highest of pressures.

I thought back to that obituary and realised that I had created this image of myself that not only wasn’t me, but was also completely unrealistic.  Really, faced with my own mortality, all I wanted to be remembered for was perhaps, through my actions and words, leaving the world a slightly better place.  That those people around me felt better, not worse, for knowing me.

If I was going to die, I wanted to travel more.  Mr C and I had always said that our travelling time would come after the children had flown the coop since we had started our family so young.  That would have to change.  There were places I was desperate to see – Tuscany, Egypt, Bhutan, Nepal.

I knew that if I was going to die, and as hard as this might have been given that I would be quite ill before I died, I wanted to treat my body with more respect.  If the body is indeed the temple within which the soul resides, I had treated it like a slum.  I wanted my body to know that I was grateful for its tenure and to let it know that it had done its job well, considering the battering it had taken.  I also wanted to know what it felt like to fit into a size 12 pair of jeans.

I wanted to surround myself with family and friends as much as possible.  Instead of talking about it but waiting for the house to look just perfect, I would entertain more.  I used to love entertaining, but when I became sober, that largely fell away.  Sobriety brought with it a sense of dullness, that I was a boring person (and hence my reason for drinking), and I had avoided entertaining for four years.  That would change.

I would read more intelligent stuff and less crap.

I would definitely spend less time on social media and more time living my life and creating memories with those that mattered.

I would write things on my blog that would add to the world, not take away from it.  I would be brave enough to say that it is not okay to be mean, or unkind, or vitriolic, that it is important that we grow, believe in ourselves and nurture a new generations of humans that strive to be better people.  I would be brave enough to say that war is not okay; that anyone should get the opportunity to love and marry, no matter what their sexual orientation; that religions really need to pull their socks up and shake themselves into being better leaders of our communities, rather than fostering fear mongering and bigotry in the name of recruitment to the fold.

In essence, all I wanted to do was be brave enough to live my truth and to depart knowing that kindness and love had been my rudder in life. It sounds cliched I know, but it really was as simple as that.

I went to the doctor yesterday.  Mr C took the day off and came with me.  As tears streamed down my face at my nearing fate, I looked at him, held his hand and knew that I was so lucky have been so loved.

I do not have cancer.  It was an administrative error and my appointment on Thursday had to be moved to Tuesday because of it.  I told the doctor that I had lived 24 hours thinking I was going to die.  She laughed and said that I had a good few years in me yet.  I have something very minor that is going to require a small operation.

For four years, because of the legacy of the women down my mother’s side not surviving past 60-62, I had lost hope in living a long life.  I had allowed this to impact my quality of life.  It had informed how I lived my life, and largely, I had opted out of living it, almost just waiting to die.

Believing I was going to die for those 24 hours honed my sense of living, what I wanted out of life and how I would truly like to be remembered.  It has, in fact, given me a second chance and what a gift that is.

Until next time,

SHW Signature