18 December 2018

Tis the season to lie with abandon

I love Christmas don't you?

It brings out everybody's inner arsehat in ways which are copious, plentiful and annoying to different people in different ways.

But my favourite annual beef by THEM is the endless discussion about whether LYING to your kids and telling them Santa is a real thing is setting them up for a LIFETIME OF BAD RELATIONSHIPS, and various other traumas FOR WHICH WE AS PARENTS ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE (AS IF OUR KIDS AREN'T SMARTER THAN US ALREADY.)

Kids like to believe things. It's one of the wonderful thing about kids. Their imaginations can take them from playing Teen Titans Go, to being a famous dancer, to being a horse in less than the time it took me to type this sentence. 

Adults get to do the boring stuff. Pay bills, move the elf, teach manners, be Santa. It's just what you do. And you do it because kids at Christmas are bloody adorable and you will do whatever you have to do to keep the magic alive for them. 


Let's take my Mum.  She's a pretty honest woman.  But about 30 years ago she threatened the five eldest of her children with certain death if we told our baby sister that Santa wasn't real.  My sister is now 34 years old and all six of us still get presents from Santa TO THIS DAY because not one of us doubted my mother. Not for a second. If my baby sister knows that Santa is not real - it is not because any of us told her. 

My 8 year old is having one last year of believing in Santa, and that's just basically because she's a logical soul. Her friends told her that Santa is really the parents who get up during the night and put the presents under the tree.  But she's worked out that couldn't possibly be true because she spends so much time in our bed of a night, there's no way we could sneak down and do it. 

We just said "Good thinking 99" which led to a complicated discussion about old TV shows and successfully diverted her away from Santa.

The 6 year old believes in presents and I suspect if we told her Santa wasn't real, her main concern would be that somebody will be responsible for delivering dolls and junior monopoly in 7 days time. She's focussed like that.

Yes. It's lying. But we all lie all the time.  We say we are 'fine' when we're having bad days. We threaten to throw all of the childrens' toys in the garbage bin when we know that we won't because we paid for that plastic crap and buggered if we're just throwing it into the trash because we lost our cool one Monday morning.  We fake listen when our beloved offspring take an hour to tell us the plot of a three minute cartoon.  We tell people they look great when they look like shit or exclaim in delight at gifts that we find inexplicable.

The great thing about kids is that for them - all things are possible, probable and believable. It is why they can believe in the tooth fairy, in Santa, in gods of various denominations at the same time as we teach them about science, maths and other more practical matters.

It's why kids don't care if you're gay, if you're of a different religion, come from a home with two dads, or one mum or anything else.  It is not about innocence, it's not about teaching them truth, it's about letting them all come to their own conclusions in their own time, in their own way.  Kids are generally very accepting of differences, largely because they don't notice them. Which is why kids are much better people than adults.

And that belief that the world is a good place, a giving place, an inclusive place - if that is sustained by letting them believe in magic, in Santa, in fairies - I'm all for being the biggest 'Liar, liar, pants on fire' around! *

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*Even if I do have to google the maths to explain how fast Santa and his sleigh goes to deliver presents to the children in the Southern Hemisphere before getting to the Northern Hemisphere and who delivers the presents to the children of different religions that don't do Christmas Christmas but do their own kind of Christmas at different times of the year.





29 November 2018

Teaching kids to give a shit #kidsoffnauru

Explaining things to children is never easy. They have more questions than you could have ever dreamed possible when you started the conversation, and they often (thankfully) don't have the experience to realise just how awful humans can be to one another so can't fully picture the scenario you are explaining.


Our daughters have been attending protests, marches and other 'activist' activities since they were in the womb - we are all rounders. We're all about human rights for all people - so we've marched in support of women, equality for our LGBTQI friends, refugees, asylum seekers, not being a racist numpty, and so on.

I'm not even going to pretend they had much of a clue about it all in the early days - they came along for the sunshine, the snacks and because they go where we do. I've had people accuse me of brainwashing my children, forcing them to believe what I believe, and these are people fresh from taking their children to church. The irony.

Source: My facebook feed circa 2013
We don't take our children to these events for fun. We do it because we believe that the standard we walk past is the standard we accept and we are just lucky that we live in a country where we can say what we like about our government's policies and our politicians without fear of retribution. (Note: unless you're Richard di Natale calling Barry O'Sullivan 'a pig' - which is actually much nicer than most Australian's would call him to his face given the opportunity)

Nick (Richard's mate) and Jimmy (everybody's mate)
Photo courtesy of Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
On Tuesday this week I took my daughters' out of school for the day to go to Canberra to take part in the #kidsoffnauru protest outside Parliament House.  Along with a couple of other kids we're connected with via Mums4Refugees, they presented a petition containing over 170,000 signatures requesting the immediate removal of children from Nauru to the politicians Kerryn Phelps, Andrew Wilkie, Derryn Hinch, Rebekha Sharkie and Nick McKim. The event was organised by World Vision Australia and over 400 other organisations working tirelessly to improve our treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and others not lucky enough to be born into a safe country.

Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine

Photo: Screen Shot of Jana Favero's Twitter Feed



I am totally blown away by the tirelessness of the people and organisations involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. It is a dispiriting process because as soon as you think the government has gone as low as it's possible to go, they go lower. These organisations are constantly reconfiguring their offerings and fundraising endlessly to make sure nobody slips through the cracks if at all possible.

Presenting the petition full of signatures that happen because people are ace
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
Shortly after, Scott Morrison, one of the great orchestrators and believers in imprisoning innocent children, women and men, walked out on Kerryn Phelps maiden speech.  The labour party voted along with the government to stop supporting refugees in our community - no funding, no medical, no working, no education.  On the same day, I'm trying to explain why it's important to listen to other points of view, and to do all that we can to help others, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us - my government, their government, is demonstrating exactly the opposite.

From the archives

And during the road trip down to Canberra, and in the sun under the giant Australian flag, we were still having the conversation where I tried my hardest to explain (yet again) to a six year old and an eight year old why our country would lock up refugees.  Tully heard one speaker say 'no parent takes their child into the ocean unless it's safer than the land' and she wanted me to explain why we jail people that were desperate for peace.

I had no answer.

Cassidy wanted to know if we were the lucky country why we didn't want to share with people that were unlucky?

I had no answer.

Tully asked me why we are so afraid of people who need to be refugees on boats but not the ones that come other ways?

I had no answer.

Cassidy was outraged about the fairness. The unkindness. The cruelty. 

I had no answer.

I tried to explain why people worried about refugees and their impact on our society and our 'way of life'. But neither of them could get their heads around those as legitimate reasons.

They weren't sure initially about going to Canberra to be part of it.  It sounded like there would be a lot of talking (there was), a lots of people (there were) and they weren't sure what politicians looked like (just like old people in case you wanted the truth by Cass) or how you held a petition (nailed it).  But when I asked them after the event what they had thought, both were very pleased to have been part of it.

"Mum, I would get in so much trouble if I was unkind deliberately at school. I don't understand why Australia is being so unfair but if us coming with you helped those poor kids in the camps, I'm really pleased we came."

"Yeah, we'd come again wouldn't we?"

"Yeah, I can't imagine being locked up. Even with your Mum. It makes me feel so very sad"

"And Mum, just the other week we did that thing at school about remembering war so that there would be no more wars and yet there are still wars. Why do we do the remembering if there are still wars?"

I had no answer to that either.

South Sudanese refugee Akual Garang spoke. She said "I was forced to live as an adult and have to witness many things children should not have to go through, so bombs and suicide and things like that are common memories that children like me - and refugee children like me - experience every single day. "Those are the memories I live with. And I don't want any child to have to go through the things I went through."
Akual Garang
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
As a human person, I don't want that for Akual, I don't want it for my own girls Tully and Cassidy, and I sure as hell don't want it for any other child on this planet.  I know I can't change everything at once. But I do know, that it is people like me, people like my daughters, turning up, showing up, speaking out and basically boring the pants off every one we know, is the only way we can make any change at all.

And I want them to know that now. That there is nothing so important as standing up for people who don't have the freedom to stand up, for speaking on behalf of somebody with no voice, and most of all, how kindness impacts people in many more ways than you can possibly imagine.

Dirt Girl and Small Girls with Big Beautiful Voices
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia

I can't say if we're getting it right, but as parents we are trying. Because as Dr Seuss said in the Lorax
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

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7 November 2018

HumanKind. Be both. Or don't choose nursing

I have a friend who is studying to become a mid-wife. She was working the other day in a maternity ward and helped a patient out and was afterwards spoken to her by the supervising nurse who said that there was 'no time for kindness' and she needed to get on with her job.

As she told her story over a coffee, she said, quite rhetorically, what is nursing without kindness? Is there ever a time we don't have time to be kind?  We agreed that she was right, nursing requires kindness. 

It turns out that that conversation was quite triggering for me. It has made me furious.

Quite frankly, her supervising nurse shouldn't be nursing. Especially in a maternity ward.

When I had my first daughter, I was diagnosed with complete placenta previa early on in my pregnancy.  I had two scans and they told me I would have to have a caesarean before my due date because if I went into natural labour and the placenta ruptured it would be bad news for the baby and me.  

It wasn't what I had wanted but that's the way the cookie crumbles. During that pregnancy, every time something unexpected happened I was hauled in to check on the baby and make sure there was no rupturing etc. It was a stressful time. I finished work two weeks before my scheduled c-section, turned up the day before for the scan to confirm where the placenta was. 

It was then the doctor told me that whoops, a mistake had been made, I didn't have this, and in fact, looking at the early scans I didn't have it then either. It was a misdiagnosis.  I should go home and come back when she was ready to be born 'vaginally'.

So being a good patient. I did.  Despite having spent the last 4 months mentally preparing to have a c-section when I had wanted to give birth 'naturally'. Accepting that sometimes the way we end up doing something is not what we had hoped. 

I went in at once stage shortly after my due date because my waters were slowly leaking out of me, but was told I didn't know what I was talking about and sent home.

I was finally induced two weeks after my due date. Over the next 55 hours, I would be poked, stretched, swept, moved from my bed in the middle of the night to make way for 'somebody who needed it', ignored, talked over, poked, prodded, squeezed, stabbed and so on.  I had failed inductions, a couple of failed epidurals and by the time I had been doing this for almost 48 hours they hooked me up to a drip, gave me some gas and put the induction up to maximum.  The pain kicked in like a steel boot to the vagina. My midwife told me not to suck on the gas until I was properly in pain. When I asked her if she had ever had a baby she said no. I felt bad for feeling pain. So much pain. While I was giving birth. Get your head around that. 

I was not only in pain, but I was tired. I hadn't slept since Sunday night and it was now Tuesday night. I had had my private parts looked at by so many nurses and doctors I had lost count.  Despite the inductions and all the rest of it, I was still not even half way dilated. My daughter went into distress shortly after midnight on the Wednesday morning and was born by emergency c-section four and a half weeks after my scheduled c-section. During that time I was told off by the surgeon for chatting to my husband - yes, a woman who had just been paralysed from the chest down, after 55 hours trying to give birth, who had an extreme reaction to the anaesthetic and couldn't stop shaking, whose child's heart beat had plummeted and who was understandably really worried, was told to stop trying to distract herself by the person cutting her open.

My baby girl was born safely shortly after, with scratches on her head from some of the instruments used to examine me and they concluded I was right, my waters had broken some time before I gave birth. However, the main thing was that she was okay. Yay team. And I told myself that they were right. That was the main thing. 

Eventually, I was moved to a maternity ward. I finally drifted off to sleep when she started to cry. I tried to sit up to get her but couldn't move. Not because of the stitches but because I felt like I was tied to the bed. I rang the bell and a nurse came in and when I asked her to hand me my baby, she said no. She then launched into a diatribe accusing me of being lazy, and saying it was a hospital and not a hotel and I might as well get used to getting up to get my baby now.

About twenty minutes later she returned and said 'sorry - I didn't realise you were the c-section', and I felt FUCKING grateful can you believe it? She then checked me over and realised that my catheter was wrapped around the winding mechanism so I was literally pinned to the bed.  She fixed that up, handed me my baby and left.

In hindsight, I was able to see how many ways the professional staff - both doctors and nurses let me down during that whole experience, but particularly after I was admitted for induction. But that hindsight wasn't to come for some time. 

It is a hospital and not a hotel. But nurses can't not be medically competent and unkind. People in hospital are vulnerable, particularly mothers who are going through something that is profoundly physical whether or not the birth is vaginal or otherwise. 

Following the birth of my eldest daughter and before the birth of my second daughter 19 months later, I was diagnosed with PTSD and PND. I felt like a complete failure as both a mother and a person. Before those diagnoses I thought about killing myself and I wept for days for the life my daughters were going to have without a mother. I kept telling myself that the main thing was she was okay, but if I had got it so wrong the first time, what could go wrong the second. 

It was hell. It took me a long time to recognise that I hadn't done anything wrong. I had trusted my instincts. I had done what I was supposed to do.  It was the medical professionals that turned what I had hoped to be one of the best experiences of my life into one of the worst.

I had my second daughter via an elective c-section. The experience was quite different, but due to some complications with her breathing she had to go to NICU.  They were great. She came out a few days later and we went home. But by then I was on anti-depressants, and I worried constantly through the whole experience. There was no relaxing for me.  Another experience transformed because the of the unkindness shown to me during the first.

So, dear supervising nurse, if you can no longer find time in your day to be kind - you need to quit. My story is but one in a myriad of stories both positive and negative.  But it is our ability to be kind and empathise which makes good humans.

And if you don't have time to be one of those, nursing is not for you.

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5 November 2018

Dear Terrified of Turramurra

Dear Al,

I’m suffering from anxiety and depression caused directly by Donald Trump. I am losing sleep, and have no idea where to turn. My friends just laugh at me. What should I do? 

Terrified of Turramurra



Dear Terrified of Turramurra

Well firstly - your friends are arseholes. I think that's where we should start. It might not seem rational to them but that's not the point.  The whole point of friends is that they should support you and love you even if they think you are batshit crazy.  I suggest new friends.

Secondly, I think that anybody that isn't feeling some level of anxiety about Donald Trump is clearly over medicated or perhaps not living on Planet Earth.  I mean, the man is the President of the United States of America - a position so deified that Hollywood have been making movies about it for years. 

I mean lets be honest, there has been no movie where somebody abducts the Prime Minister's of Australia's plane and the closest anyone has given a shit about the Prime Minister of England is when Hugh Grant got to defend Martine McCutcheon's honour in Love Actually.  


The horrible thing is, in America, the guy in charge has a great deal of influence.  And when that influence is in the very, very tiny hands of a megalomaniac who lacks impulse control, respect for any kind of human being that isn't himself and could potentially set off the third world war in one fucking tweet - that is anxiety inducing.

Not to mention if anybody but anybody ever paid attention in history class, you would be able to see the parallels between whats happening in 2018 and what happened in the 1920s/1930s. Except now, despite having access to more information than ever before, people say they don't want to know.  Well of course you don't want to know. Who does? But standing back and doing fuck all about it doesn't make it go away. 

Ask ANYBODY that was Jewish or a minority how that turned out for them when a teetotaling, megalomaniac decided to play on the fears and insecurity of people based on the economic climate of the time by vilifying, blaming and building up a storm of hate towards other people.  ANSWER: REALLY FUCKING BADLY.

So in short, Terrified of Turramurra, the anxiety is reasonable. But counter act that by doing things that are meaningful in your local community to break down stereotypes and create connections with people that you might not ordinarily meet. Find ways to to meet people from different backgrounds and life experiences to ensure that there is no US and THEM when it comes to our own little corner of the world.

Because it is cliched sure, but the fact is - the only way to change the world is to do something. And it all spirals from there. 

And lastly, if you can't sleep - see your doctor.  A good night's sleep makes all of us feel better no matter what. You need to sort that shit out pronto.

Love,
Al 

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12 October 2018

There were no gay people at my school

Not one.

I went to a Catholic school so it's entirely possible they were all expelled because they would have made it hard for me to learn English, or fail maths, or any of the other things I did at school.

It was really great that I grew up with no gay friends too because the world is easier to traverse when everybody is exactly the same as you.  Well not exactly, but you could tell who the Italian lads were because they insisted on wearing white socks instead of the grey uniform ones.

Which is clearly bollocks. Well, except for the bit about the Italian boys wearing white socks which was definitely a thing.

I went to school with loads of gay people.  I just didn't know that they were gay, and in the case of a few, they didn't know they were gay. Being gay in 1991 as we graduated wasn't something you shouted from the rooftops. As a society, being gay was a long way from being something we were comfortable enough to not give a fuck about.

And let me tell you as a heteronormative, white girl with 12 years of religious education under my belt - most of real life was confusing and contra to all the things that I had learned.  Imagine if you were coming out of 12 years of religious education and in addition to that, you were attracted to persons of the same sex? That was really fucking hard they tell me. Really, really hard.


I look back at the 16 year old me graduating from Year 12 and I am bewildered by how naive and unworldly I was. I am sure that I wouldn't have cared my friends were gay (because I never have as more and more of them 'came out'), but I am also sure that I wouldn't have known how to support them in any meaningful way.

Move the clock forward 26 or so years and that 16 year old girl has learnt quite a lot. She has learned for instance that it's not enough to love somebody for who they are irrespective of who they love, but you need to stand up for them and cry bullshit on bigotry because it is exhausting having to defend who you are all the time on your own.

She has learned how insidious and impactful the public debate such as they one we're seeing unfold in the media right now can be on people who identify as gay or queer. She has learned that a person can be comfortable in their sexuality, in their relationships and in their skin but still be deeply affected by hate speech or negative media.

Because for so long, the person that they are, has been deemed something 'shameful'. It was Maya Angelou that said "People will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." And she is right.

Imagine what Australia is telling our young LGBTQI folk at the moment. What messaging are they reinforcing to adults that have fought for years to be accepted as they are. Which is all any of us really want when it comes down to it.

I also find the shameful, blatant hypocrisy of religious leaders wanting the right to turn away gay and queer students or teachers, when they hid, supported and nurtured KNOWN sex offenders in their midst for so many years physically nauseating.  Especially, when so much of the child abuse was men abusing boys.

We can't say anymore that this kind of public rhetoric is acceptable as free speech. I want all people identifying as LGBTQI, whether I know them or not, to know that I am an ally. A proud and vocal ally. I will be writing to my MPs. I will not be voting for people that support this kind of tomfuckery.  I will do whatever I can to make sure there are voices out there that are an alternative to the ugliness.

I want all my friends who are the parents of LGTBQI children to tell them that they are loved and supported by real people, in the real world. That if a school was to reject them on the basis of their sexuality that there is NOTHING that the school could teach them that would have any value anyway. That people that reject people on the basis of sexuality, ability, race or religion are the people that are flawed, not them.

Also remind them that change is happening. Children don't need to 'come out' as often anymore because families and friends don't care who they love, as long as they love a person that makes them happy. Children are growing up surrounded by families and friends where gay and queer couples elicit no more attention than their own parents - because basically all adults are boring.

But most of all, remind them that you don't have to be a hateful, bigoted white man to make a change in this country despite what our current government looks like. Remind them, that the future government is going to be full of people just like them - diverse, interesting, and basically wanting the world to be a better place.

It's going to be more Penny Wong and Jordan Steele-John and Linda Burney.

And I for one can't wait.

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10 October 2018

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Cry and you cry alone.  Unless the cumulative effect of various external factors leaves you sobbing like a loon to The Notebook while you're flying on a plane FULL of people between London and Sydney.  In which case, your crying is so excessive they don't believe it's just The Notebook making you cry, give you cups to hold over your ears with some kind of oil or essence inside to alleviate pressure AND page any passengers who are doctors to check you over.

But enough about 2004.  And yes, The Notebook is a tear jerker.  In case you haven't yet watched it.

It's World Mental Health Day today and I've been thinking a bit about communicating with people who are living with depression and anxiety, reaching out to people you think are affected, and all the other things initiatives like RUOK encourage you to do.

Here's the thing - depression is not subtle.  It's an insidious beast who strips away any dredge of self worth, self esteem or sense of value you have. When you ask somebody who isn't okay - Are you okay - mostly they're going to say they are fine.
Source: Unknown - Please let me know if you do

Want to know why? Because they don't believe that anybody really wants to know because they are worthless.

When you are depressed - you frequently don't have the language to express how you feel. And that's even if you're a highly articulate individual.  There are no words that express the feelings. There are words that come close. There are words that convey elements. There are songs. There are pictures, but rarely anything which can explain the darkness.

That is because everybody's experience is absolutely unique to them and finding common ground with other depressed people can be hard enough, let alone finding the language to connect with somebody with no lived experience.

What people can do though is persist. Don't just ask 'how are you doing' or 'are you okay'. Say 'Dude - I know you've got a lot on but I'm worried about you because you don't seem yourself - can I do some listening?'.  And then say it again a slightly different way tomorrow. And then again.

And if you know you don't demonstrate love the same way as somebody else - acknowledge it. Say 'Hey there, I don't know what's the best way for me to show I love you so for the moment - it's going to be a call and some memes, but if you need something else from me, we'll work it out together'.

Basically - don't assume somebody knows you are there or understands your intentions. Be present. Be present even when they don't make you feel welcome. Be present in a way that shows them that you are looking out for them and that you care.

If somebody cancels on you AGAIN, ring them and ask if you can come and veg with them in front of the TV instead of going out for drinks. Don't just dismiss them. Don't say stupid things like 'snap out of it', or 'get off the couch' or 'eat better' or 'drink less' or 'exercise more' or 'in my day we just got on with it'.  It's an illness, not a pity party.

And be super mindful of people whose lived experience is different from yours but may be subject to some fairly intense external pressures.  Sure we've got marriage equality, but it's been a fairly brutal few years and with politicians still trying to implement homophobic and queerphobic legislation into the mainstream, the negativity is still alive and well for people in the LGBTQI community. Be an active ally. Be vocal about bigotry so that even the people you don't know are gay, know that you are on their side.

Call people that have just had babies. Not just the person who gave birth, but their partner. New babies are cute but they are not easy. It can be isolating.  Keep in touch. GO AND VISIT. Don't ask them to call if they need something - turn up and do something.

Keep in touch with friends and family that move to new cities for work or study or just a change. They say change is as good as a holiday but we've all had holidays that totally suck arse. Let them know that they might be away but they are still part of your circle.

Find things to laugh about - share good stories in your socials as well as disdain for the cricket team. Tell people about a show that made you laugh. Or a book that cheered you up. Or terrible unicorn jokes. Tell them about small things that you have done which have provided a solid dose of slapstick to the person that saw you fall on your face or mistake a stranger for a friend from behind.

Basically, do what the great JC (and all of them) commanded of his followers - "Don't be a dick"*

*This is not a direct biblical quote. But to quote Denis Denuto "It's the vibe of the thing"




 
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3 October 2018

This body of mine

Fact: This body of mine is overweight. It is overweight because at this current point in time I don't exercise enough, drink too much and eat erratically. I think way too much about this body of mine. The marketing tells me that I don't think about it enough.

This body of mine is sometimes treated well and sometimes not so well. Like all bodies - Mine is a temple - some times it is a well attended temple in a crowded city full of the very devout, and other times it's a derelict Mayan temple with centuries of roots growing through the broken rocks which signal the slow decay of a once magnificent structure.




This body of mine has canoed 100 kilometres down the Murray River in Australia, and several kilometres up the Volga in Russia. It has skinny dipped in the Mediterranean sea off the side of the boat at night time and it has snowboarded down slopes wrapped in as many clothes as possible.

This body of mine has squeezed through cave systems in various states of Australia, abseiled down mountains and prussicked up shopping centres.  It has hiked up, it has hiked down.  It has waded through rivers holding a back pack high in the sky.

This body of mine has broken bones, had surgeries and endured a long and ghastly bout of giardia through the length of Central America. It has laid water pipes in Indonesia, it has helped build a medical centre in Ecuador, and laid bricks in rural parts of Mexico.  It has danced in Taiwan, in Turkey and once, infamously, it even Irish danced in Tesco.

This body of mine has grown two humans. It has made love. It has lashed out in anger. It has held the hands of dying friends and hugged thousands of peoples. It has run races and once, it even ran an ultra half-marathon. It has lovingly smoothed the hair of a husband and kissed away the ouchies on daughters.

This body of mine has tried belly dancing, ballroom dancing, yoga, pilates, playing instruments, bungee jumping, tobogganing, sailing and dragon boating. It has marched in protest, it has performed on stage, it has spoken at events, it has cried until it was but a husk.

This body of mine has climbed volcanoes in Italy, in Costa Rica, in Indonesia. It has climbed temples in Mexico, it has walked the streets of cities and towns across the world. It has cycled, it has roller bladed, it has roller skated, it has ice skated. It has skied - badly. 

This body of mine has done so much more than I can put in a single post. This body of mine is more than it's weight. This body of mine is more than its imperfections. This body of mine is a deadset legend. 


This body of mine has lived with the kind of chutzpah and sass that I have only recently recognised to appreciate. This body of mine has lived with the kind of attitude I wish for my mind and to role model to my girls.

Fact: This body of mine is under rated. And I need to be kinder to me.

Do you need to be kinder to you?


 
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28 August 2018

I lost an earring at a Katy Perry concert and other tales about perspective

I often comment that some people are born to be an inspiration, and others, a lesson.


I definitely fall into the lesson category.


I don't think that I do any more daft stuff than anybody else, it's just that I tend to do it all at once and then tell everybody about it.  If you had ever told me my va-jay-jay was going to be the talk of the school playground I would have DIED.

But somehow in 2018, having ended up in hospital having emergency surgery after a cyst in my Bartholin's gland ruptured - there I was standing under the COLA chatting about unexpected mining of my nether region by a bunch of people I couldn't name (surgeon and accompanying theatre staff) and explaining how a week ago I didn't even know what a Bartholin's gland was. Anyway, everybody knows what it is now and since it has healed beautifully I even officially have a gynae - which is something every self respecting woman of a certain age should have I'm given to understand. The lesson for you all - don't ignore lumps and bumps.

I fell down the stairs, sober, doing housework and landed badly. Went to emergency with strange pains in my shins but turns out I'd actually fractured an ankle which meant a walking cast. Which as everybody who has ever had one knows - is a pain the everything.  Ankle healed. All good. The lesson for you all - don't do housework.

My laptop blew up. Since it's my livelihood this was disastrous.  The lesson - don't blow your laptop up when you're wearing a walking boot and have to add in additional walking to visit computer experts.

I went to a funeral. Then to the wake. Then when I was walking home, I tripped over on the footpath and stopped my fall with my face.  In gravel. The graze on the chin went FERAL and I had to go to the doctor to have it scraped out and then went and met a new client with the biggest chin bandages in the history of mankind. It looked like I had had surgery to remodel my chin in the shape of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Lesson for you all - pick up your feet and go to the doctor to make sure your remove gravel from your facial wounds.

I took my daughter to the Katy Perry concert. I lost one of my earrings. They were a gift from my husband and daughters and had huge sentimental value. The lesson here is sometimes earrings fall out and it's sad, but it's just an earring.

And yes, I laugh at myself. It means you guys don't look like complete arseholes when you start to laugh at my complete inability to stay upright.

It feels like it's been a huge 2 months. It has been. In addition to my exploration of the medical system, life has continued. The mum thing, the wife thing, the friend thing, the work thing.

But I know I'm lucky. I can access medical support without having to fight for the right. I'm not locked up in an Australian concentration camp. I don't live in a country where the gun culture means I have more chance of being shot by a toddler accidentally then I do being killed in a car crash.

I'm also not the parents who got a diagnosis of Leukemia for their youngest child last week. I am not the parents who have been unexpectedly and unwantedly thrust from their comfort zone into inspirational. I am not the parents who are traversing the nightmare of a life so different from the one they had a week ago.  The one where their six year old is going to become fluent in the language of cancer.  It's a club, but not one you'd pay money to join.

Perspective is strange. I have known all along that my mishaps have been small. They have been surmountable. That my tendency to give everything and anything a comic twist is representative of my own dark sense of humour. If I can laugh about living with depression, the other stuff is a breeze.

But if I could choose something for my friends, it is that they, their daughter and their other children, weren't unlucky enough to be at the start of their journey as 'inspirations'. Because, I know them well enough to know, that they have the courage, the humour and the love to navigate the scorched earth approach to cancer which is the best option available at the moment.

And I know that we will be full of admiration, and that their approach will be inspirational - because we've seen others go through it and even if they are absolute arseholes, we can not help but admire, and be inspired, by people who wade through the sludge of adversity in their own unique and definitive style. Inspiration is always about the trek - never about the destination.

Perspective is knowing that I'm blessed to be a lesson.

All love to you guys. And remember I know swear words if you need them.


 
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20 June 2018

Those other mothers (World Refugee Day)

The fact that it’s World Refugee Day and the US has pulled out of the UN Humans Rights Council is abominable.

The fact that when Australia ratified the UN’s anti-torture protocol last year they specifically excluded our off-shore detention centres is abominable.

The fact that our media gives more outraged coverage to the USA’s policy of putting children in concentration camps than they have to the fact that we’ve been doing it for years is abominable.

The fact that we have killed 12 people in four years in our off-shore detention camps is abominable.

Here they are. Source: The Guardian
 Abominable is defined as ‘causing moral revulsion’. And it’s not a big enough word to fully encapsulate all that it needs to in 2018.

What is also abominable is that refugees and asylum seekers are used as political pawns, denying the humanity of the great mass of individuals who have been displaced as the result of war, conflict, hatred and violence.

I’m a mother who loves her children which makes me like most mothers. Most parents in fact.

In fact, I love my children so much that I will do anything I need to do to keep them safe. Because they are lucky – they were born into a country where keeping them safe involves teaching them resilience in the face of bullying, looking both ways before they cross the road, wearing a helmet while riding a bike and other such life skills.

And believe me when I say that I think of the other mothers, the other parents all the time. Not just on World Refugee Day. Those other mothers who also love their children so much and will do anything to keep them safe.

Like moving them away from the city they live in so they don’t get bombed. 

Like selling everything they have to send their child to the other side of the world so they cannot be tortured or killed because of their religious or political leanings. 

Like offering their bodies to marauding soldiers to buy their children some time to escape.


Like getting into boats with them and hoping they reach safe lands. 
Alan Kurdi. Loved Son.
Like enduring detention in the hope their children will have a better life.

Like abandoning their wider families and communities to seek safety for their children.

Like carrying a child who had their leg blown off by a landmine while playing for days to get them medical attention.

The only reason that my love for my children is not tested in these ways is because of an accident of birth.

It was my good luck that I was born in a country that exists in relative safety.

It was my good luck to be born with a skin colour that doesn’t make me a target.

It was my good luck to be raised in a family whose religion was considered acceptable in the latter half of the twentieth century.

It was my good luck to live in a country where I can talk about religion or politics or sexuality without being tortured or even killed to silence me.

The only difference between me and those other mothers is geography.

When David Bowie sung that he hoped the Russians loved their children too, he wasn’t asking the right question.

What he really wanted to know is would the Russians put people before politics?

What I really want to know is when will Australia put people before politics?

When will we recognise that these other mothers, these other fathers, these other children – they are just like you and me.

Loved.

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12 June 2018

It is called Depression

*Trigger warning - suicide, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety* 

My feed last week was full of people talking about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths by suicide and encouraging people who are feeling suicidal or have suicidal ideation to reach out. To ask for help.

And then people shared some fabulous articles about what living with suicide feels like. And then more people shared it.

And then people shared the numbers of Lifeline and other support agencies. And said their door was always open – so just reach out. Just ask.

And then somebody shared a meme saying people that are depressed don’t ask for help, it’s up to us to recognise that our friends are suffering and reach out.

And now we’re at the stage where people are sharing articles saying just because people look like they have a wonderful life doesn’t mean that everything is wonderful. And sharing Pooh and Piglet memes saying it is okay not to be okay.

And in about a week – we’ll be on to the next thing.

Everything that is happening is good. It’s good that we talk about mental health, especially because EVERYBODY has mental health in exactly the same way as they have physical health. And while I appreciate that we’re talking about mental health because we most certainly need to – I’d like us to start talking about mental health less generically.

If somebody dies of cancer, we don’t say they died as the result of a physical health condition. If somebody has a week off work with the flu, we don’t say it’s because they have a physical health condition.

Less than ideal mental health conditions like depression and anxiety have names. I didn’t spend time planning on removing myself from the planet in 2016 because I had a mental health condition, I did it because I was severely depressed. I was very, very sick.
 

And not unsurprisingly, when I got professional help, things started improving. But just like any chronic illness, it didn’t get better overnight. It took the best part of 18 months to get back to ‘normal’ and building my strength back up took some more time after that. 

I am somebody that bangs on about everything I hurt physically - broken bums, ankles, scratches. I have no filter or notion of TMI when it comes to the physical. But when it comes to mental - I rarely talk about it when it's happening because there are NO WORDS AT ALL to describe what depression feels like. Every time you try and articulate what you are thinking the words at your disposal are inadequate, weak, lacking gravitas. 

And when you get the courage to try and get responses like 'exercise more, try mindfulness, eat better, drink less, eat more broccoli' or my personal favourite - when they pretend you didn't say anything and just change the subject - you stop saying anything until it has passed and you can talk about it dispassionately and with humour, so that it's palatable for other people. 

I’m not Kate Spade and I’m not Anthony Bourdain, but what I do know is this – to reach the point where you feel so hopeless, so sad and so devoid of all perspective as to think that being dead is the answer – the good intentions of other people are not part of the equation anymore.

What we need is a sustained change in our approach to depression and anxiety in all their complexities - both on and offline.

When we talk about anxiety and depression we need to name them. We can use all the colloquialisms, we can use French words instead of English, but we need to call them by their names.

We need to go beyond asking people if they are okay and say to our friends, ‘Hey there, how’s the old Black Dog going?’, ‘Hey, I know you’ve been in a good place since you last had a depressive episode, but is it still going well’, ‘How is the old Anxiety Monster Clive doing my dear – do you need me to listen for a while?’. You can even ask as one friend recently did, ‘Look at you still alive and all – not planning on changing that are you?’

If people (like me) that live with depression and/or anxiety are ever going to feel ‘no shame’ about having these conditions, people need to stop treating it as shameful. If somebody has cancer, you’ll ask how their treatment is going. If somebody is depressed, you can, you should do the same thing.

Those little acts of care, those bon mots of kindness, will do so much more than caring and sharing for a week or two when a high-profile person dies by suicide. Looking out for each other, genuinely caring about somebody’s physical and mental wellbeing already has a name – it’s called friendship.

And you don’t need some pesky high functioning depressive with a blog to tell you how to be a good friend.

So I won’t.

But be one.

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