28 September 2012

The thing about death is....

it's permanent.

There is no coming back from it.  And it's an inevitable conclusion to life.  And yet, we are so woefully unprepared for it.  Not our own.  In so many ways, it's easier to accept it for oneself.  But for our family and friends it is something we wish we could change.  And it's a visceral and selfish desire because ultimately it is our life which is affected most profoundly by the loss of another.

The outpouring of sympathy for Jill Meagher's husband and family comes from the realisation that what happened to Jill was so random, that it could have happened to any of us.  And while our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are real, there is always an element of relief that it is not us.  Because how many of us have had no clue how we got home after a big night out, have refused lifts because the fresh air would do us good or have encountered dickheads along the way who might have given us a hard time but have passed on by?

A work colleague has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and we endeavour to wrap our minds around how one of the stalwarts of the company is no longer going to be around.  How do we we move from after work drinks, dinner parties and water cooler conversations to a silence that is irreversible?

Whether its sudden or drawn out, death creates an absence in our lives which we have to resolve - Find a new confidante, a new friend, a substitute mother, a mentor or hero.  Whether our relationship with the person was positive or plagued with difficulties, they generally help shape us, our world views and the person we become and sometimes, when they are no longer there - we wonder who we will be.  What might have been different if we'd had a bigger conversation or indeed a different conversation altogether?

And we miss them. And that doesn't change.  Not even with hallmark sentiments like 'to live in the hearts of those you leave behind is not to die'.  Because the physicality of death can never be eradicated by the fluidity and frailty of memory.

So, trite as it may seem, we should embrace life with both hands and our friends and family too. So that when the party is over there are no unfinished conversations and you can be remembered for who you are - with no whitewashing you into some kind of sainted creature with no flip side.

Because for myself, I do not want to be remembered in glowing cliches but as myself*.  Permanently.

*Awesome, self aware and occasionally (like once or twice only) - wrong.

24 September 2012

Not so sweet on confectionery

Am I just ageing in some cantankerous manner or are the sweets of 2012 not a patch on the lollies we ate back in the 80s?

Obviously lollies were a huge treat but when you got them they dripped with flavour and texture.  These days they nearly all just taste execrably sweet and are no more distinctive than the paint colour white is from the paint colour bridal.

I loved the milk bottles, pineapples and strawberry creams and would hunt them out of a party bowl the way Lindsay Lohan hunts out a PR disaster.  The jawbreaker gum was so flavour intense it used to give me a headache even before I almost broke my jaw crunching down on the exterior.

I was given a small pack of jellybeans today which is what has started me on this rant.  Full of original flavour the packet boasts.  Original flavour of what?  They all taste exactly the same - aspartme flavoured insipidity.


20 September 2012

The comfort of pinstripes

I had reason to see a neurologist yesterday.  Nothing overtly serious - just a case of suspected carpal tunnel, which though uncomfortable is hardly life threatening.  However, given my experience with the medical profession over the last few years, I got really nervous about going to see him.

And I turned up to the trendy St Leonard's address, he had a small old fashioned office with an incredibly gregarious and helpful secretary.  Who bless her, was using shorthand.

When I met him he was a courteous, elderly gent dressed impeccably in a pinstriped suit, with a crisp shirt, polished shoes and a big fat signet ring.  Pictures of his grandchildren dotted the walls behind his formulaic 1980s office desk.

And I was instantly at ease.  He had the old school manners and gentle disposition to go with his attire and he was thorough and impersonal in his examination, yet warm and approachable in his conversation.

I asked questions and he answered them patiently, even going so far as to volunteer information about what happens next and what the options would be.

And then his secretary took my payment, arranged appointments with various people and gave me my referrals and sent me on my merry way.

And it struck me on my merry way that its a tragedy that I should be surprised by good customer service from the medical profession.  That I had inherently expected a negative experience.  And yet, when I mentioned it to a friend she suggested that my expectation of a negative medical experience was by no means unique.

And that is a sorry situation.  Because the vast majority of the medical profession do such amazing things and work incredibly hard.  And as happens in far too many areas, the few continue to ruin the reputation of many.

But if anybody asks - I'm definitely advocating a return to the days when doctors and specialists wore pinstripes.  There is something incredibly comforting about them. Who knew?

11 September 2012

Three books in a row

As I am unpacking this afternoon I have just amused myself beyond measure by placing Elisabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love between Mark Dapin's Fridge Magnets are Bastards and Charlie Brooker's The Hell of It All on the bookshelf.

I hated Eat, Pray, Love.  I found it whiny and soul destroying.  I will never get back the time it took me to read it and I resent Ms Gilbert for that.  However, it was a gift and I love the gift giver very much so I have kept it through recent book purges.  

Mark Dapin and Charlie Brooker are the kind of thinkers and writers that I love.  They get you thinking, they get you opining and they are cranky buggers in a world of white teeth and cloying positivity.  Which I am all for - but it is equally lovely to have dissent without ideology or the burden of principle to take away from it.  

And since I am unlikely to ever meet Mr Dapin or Mr Brooker, I must content myself with placing them either side of Ms Gilbert on the bookshelf and chortling away to myself as I continue to unpack and imagine the kinds of conversations those three books will be having in that alternative universe where books talk to each other.

After the breeding years - drink with caution

This is a brief cautionary and factual tale of derring-do.

So off I go to a wedding which is attended by my parents and various members of my extended family - all of whom are grown ups in the proper sense.  And we celebrate the happy couple's marriage in a truly joyful way and then progress to the golf club to toast their happiness and take part in a conga line.  And there is laughter and wine and dancing and all is fabulous until home time when I realise I'm rather drunk and have to be helped to the car by somebody who thinks you drink too much if you have a wine with dinner.  Oh dear.

It turns out (with the benefit of hindsight obviously) that one vegemite sandwich, one honey sandwich, two cheese sticks and a muesli bar were not sufficiently filling as my entire day's food intake before drinking liberal amounts of chardonnay. Especially after the 'breeding years' where my alcohol intake has been dictated by pregnancy, breastfeeding and small people.  I was distinctly out of practice.

I think it fair to say that if one is going to launch oneself back into the world of wedding drinking one should not choose a night where your husband is dead sober and your parents are witness to it all.

Though it was a great wedding and my husband can see the funny side of of it. Now.

And if it's any consolation - on Sunday I felt as well as I deserved to feel.  Which is to say death would have been preferable for most of the morning.

I'd like to say lesson learned but I'm unsure that would be entirely true. Truth.

2 September 2012

Love is not hateful or unkind

Two friends of mine became engaged on Friday.  They are a lovely couple.  Witty, engaging and passionate about life (and the transport options available to those in the NW of Sydney - please don't bring that up!).  To make the news official they updated their facebook pages and we're all waiting to hear the details of the proposal.  Their parents shared the news on their facebook pages as well and everybody was happy and wrote beautiful messages of congratulations and love.

Except for one tosser who wrote a vitriolic and hateful comment to one of the mothers because the couple in question are both of the male persuasion.  He was"shocked" that she could be celebrating her son's engagement to the man that he loved.  

And he was confident enough in his petty bigotry to write this publicly on the page of the woman that birthed this child, loves the man he grew into and the man he plans on sharing his life with for the entirety of happily ever after.  

He said he was shocked that she would share such news publicly and that her parents would not approve.  I don't know the grandparents but there is no way that as a mother in her own middle age she needs her parents permission to love her own son and share his joy in the same way as she would share his sorrows. 

I say this - better she has raised a son with the confidence to love freely, openly and deeply than a bigot.  I can think of no greater heartbreak than to find the child I raised was small minded and full of baseless prejudice.  

So a toast to the happy couple - and make the wine expensive.