Friday, 29 December 2017

[ the pen is mightier than the stylus ]


Walking through MYER recently, a friend of mine mentioned how small their collection of fountain pens was. Even being xmas time, he was disappointed that such a lovely tradition was dying out. 

You see, when he was a younger man, a good fountain pen was a highly regarded gift. People not only signed their name with it; they wrote letters and cards, did their Sunday crossword puzzle, and if you were especially lucky, they might lend it to you - briefly! - to sign something yourself. 

Don't get me wrong, this friend isn't that much older than me, so it got me thinking; there are so many things that are either becoming obsolete or going out of fashion, or even sadder still - both. And the things we have to 'replace' them really aren't that great. 

***

With almost every new laptop tablet you can get a stylus, and for those of you who haven't had the dubious pleasure; it's a pen for your computer. You use it much the same way, except you write on the screen. Most computers will let you use it to add to what you type, some even 'translate' the written text into font. 

Which, to be fair, sounds kind of cool. It's crafty and techy, and oh-so-convenient. You also realise two things though; no-one really writes anything anymore, and we no longer really need actual pens. 

If you were born after 1990, this may not seem like such a big deal. Pens take up a little space, need ink, and may not always work. Here's the thing though; your grandparents only ever wrote letters to each other. Sweethearts scribbled sweet nothings on scraps of paper with their elegant Mont Blanc, something they probably got from their parents as a birthday gift. And these gifts meant something. As did the letters and notes they wrote them with.  

***

Which leads me to paper. We all know I'm very much about the paperless office, saving the forests, and general, all-round, save-the-planet stuff. 

But, the above notwithstanding, I still write notes. On paper. Delicately detailed notepaper that I keep for special occasions, thanking people for gifts; quirky coloured squares for sending friends little well wishes; even scraps of recycle for doodling my thoughts. 

But it's not fashionable to do this anymore. Why would you, when you can text, email, or even instant-message-with-added-emojis? Why indeed...

***

Hands up those of you who own a Kindle or love a good eBook? Thought so; nearly half the people I know do, and the other half - well, isn't that interesting - they'd rather not. 

Why not, you say? They're great! You can hold thousands of books in one place, eReaders are light, easy to carry and use, and these days, you can buy them for nix. The titles you buy can be bought for even less. 

I'll admit it might be hard to explain to someone who never really got into them; but you can't recreate the experience of a new book. The shiny, exciting cover. The back blurb, tempting you with a story not yet read. The pages; smooth and scratchy at the same time. Clutching it to your chest as you pause in contemplation between chapters. 

Let's be fair, folks; the cold, smooth surface of your Kindle isn't exactly going to evoke such emotion. Particularly if you plan on pressing it into a loved ones' hands, compelling them to read it too. 

It just doesn't have the same frissom to it really. 

***
About this point is where I was overwhelmed with a mini-avalanche of other things, not yet gone, but already starting to be missed.

Online music such as mp3's have replaced CD's, your phone has replaced the good old wristwatch, and forget keys - we all have electronic access to everything.

No one has playing cards anymore, all your games are in cyberspace, we don't need maps because Google provides, and the humble candle has been replaced - not with a decent torch - but again with your phone, which now comes with its own handy, multi-purpose flashlight in the camera.

And I started to feel wistful and nostalgic, and wondered where this might leave some our most treasured possessions, things that some of us have been collecting and preserving for our whole lives. Where would they all be in ten years time? Twenty?

***

On account of all these thoughts, with all gloom that we might be seeing the last scented candle, the last minted coin, the last colour photograph...

I smiled. Because the lights will not always stay on (sorry South Australia), Google will not always be at your beck and call (honestly, not that way!), and eReaders do not dry out well if you accidentally dip them in the bathwater.

***

So, never fear, my old-school-cool chums, it might seem like books are getting passe, candles are considered a bit lame, and a deck of cards the height of being square. However, think on this...

When power fails and the lights go out, when everyone's latest tech toy dies in a gurgle of dishwater, when the boredom kicks in and there's just nothing to do...

We'll still be here; beeswax candles already on, books stacked on the coffee table, and pens jotting down the score of who's winning at Scrabble. We might even have room to share our toys with others.

~*LTM*~




















































Saturday, 23 December 2017

[ laughing and sleeping - just quietly, you're not doing enough of either ]





Every weekday morning, my alarm goes off at 6am. I'm usually in bed by 9.30 the night before, but wake around 5.30, and rolling over for that extra kip is extra nice.

On Sundays, I used to get up at 7 for archery, but my routine has changed a little so I don't go as often as I'd like. Still, my body wakes me up between 6.40 and 7.20 most of the time anyway.

Saturday is my only sleep-in day. Depending on how my week has gone, what season it is, or whether I have anything on that day, I consider anything past 8.30 pretty great. It's over an hour more than most other days, and even if I do wake, I can lie there dozing and daydreaming without a bother.

Doing the maths, you'd think I was averaging 7-8+ sleep a night, right? Which is quite respectable, and within the daily recommended amount.

Except, I'm not. Literally half my time is run on 4-6 hours a night, large amounts of caffeine, and the ability to work hyper-efficiently on autopilot for a few hours, at least until the caffeine kicks in.

How does that work? Hold that thought for a moment...

***

My partner tells brilliant dad jokes. My mum has a wicked sense of humour and excellent timing. My brother and I send each other various cheeky memes and videos which basically demonstrate we're siblings through our sense of humour. 

Most days, I get a decent laugh out of life. I find badly translated street signs, commuters morning behaviour, and Sydney-siders dress sense hilarious. I like to think of myself as moderately funny, and able to make people crack a smile even in dismal circumstances. 

You'd think then that I was getting sufficient doses of chuckles in my life. That I was having enough stress relief - because that's what laughter is - to be pretty chillaxed, correct?

Not so much. I get stressed about traffic, cranky at rude people in transit, and overwhelmed in shopping centres. I find all sorts of large crowds intimidating, tech failing overly frustrating, and teenagers in general annoying. 

No, I'm not unwell, I'm just a little anxious and overly serious. But how come? Well, back to the sleeping...

***

One of my very favourite people used to tell me this old saying. He passed away a few years ago, but I never forgot it, and I think of it a lot these days. 



Coming from a people who have known some serious hardship, it's tough not to take this on board and have it sink in. Or if you paraphrase it a bit, there are few things a good laugh and a long sleep can't fix.

For it's true really; we don't sleep enough, and we sure as hell don't laugh enough. We spend all our time busying ourselves with randomness and worrying ourselves with trivia. 

Some people would say that obviously laughing and sleeping can't fix everything, and these people are clearly neither laughing or sleeping enough, so we're going to use their pedantic cynicism as the rule example. 

And there it is; you're not sleeping enough because you're not laughing enough, and you're not laughing enough because you're not sleeping enough. 

If you think I've over-simplified things, then you haven't been listening, and that mindset is part of the issue. 

We're constantly trying to find time to relax and stressing ourselves out about finding that time, so we squeeze ourselves into every, little, single hour and minute of every day, desperately trying to make time...to make time. 

We sleep less because we think we have less time, but get tired and burned out by having less sleep,  and so crash at unfortunate moments... At which point, we're not really getting quality sleep, per se, our bodies are just pulling the plug because they've had enough of our exhausting nonsense.

***

One more time, if you think I'm over-simplifying, you haven't been listening. Take it from the pot here, who spent a lot of years calling the kettle a decidedly dark shade of black; not everything in life is simple, but this bit is. 

There will be days when you can worry over money. There will be nights you cry over family. Certainly, endless months, maybe years, feeling underappreciated at work or in your social group. 

And I don't have all the answers to all those problems. We all have to find our own way in this world, fight our battles and win some wars. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

But I do know this; while that's all happening, while we are busy making plans, there are still going to be beers to be drunk, naps to be had, and animal videos to watch. 

While we make plans, all the fun stuff still happens. And while the fun stuff still happens, plans still get made. 

What I'm saying is this; take a nap at 3 o'clock on a Saturday. Watch rubbish television for five hours on a Tuesday night. Go to work, be productive, follow all your set ideals - but make some room. 

Not room in your day, or room in your schedule. Don't force it like a dentist clamp keeping your jaw open for root canal.

Room in your head. Just a little space, enough to fit a dad joke or two, a sneaky nap on the train, or even a silly meme you send to your besties.

Into that space will be giggles and snoozes, chillaxing and calm. Into that space will fit things you didn't know you liked as much as you do, because you never made space for them

To finish off, I'll leave you with a lovely cliche that I always thought should be a mini-motto; from a tiny seed, great things have grown. 

Think about it. Maybe after you've watched some Comedy Channel and had a catnap on the lounge...

~*LTM*~

























Wednesday, 20 December 2017

[ Hating Hallmark isn't cool and you all need to shut up about it ]


During the holidays last year, I watched Die Hard, Love Actually, How To Be Single, and What To Expect When You're Expecting. These were all interspersed with a variety of sitcom reruns, a few more actions flicks, and some cooking shows (ok, a lot of cooking shows - how great is Jamie Oliver?!).

Also, quite a few Hallmark movies. I know; I can hear you all groaning from here. I will be watching them all again this year, but trust me, I do understand where you're coming from.

Every Hallmark movie is formulaic, to say the least. And the xmas ones are even more so; some well-coiffed girlie from the city with too much corporate and not enough grassroots needs to find herself in the country. Or the snow. Or a little country village with snow. At xmas.

Anyway. The small town that said heroine ends up in ('stranded', 'escapes to', 'has-a-last-minute-errand-for-her-father-in', whatever), obviously has a hunky male love interest who alternately irritates and helps her throughout the storyline.

Which is quite thin, to be honest (the storyline, that is, not the girlie. Though she's generally on the trim side too...). That's the other part I get that you all loathe just a little more every time a new film gets released; plotlines with holes like a good Swiss. Nobody's that clumsy, that lucky, or that clueless.

Oh, but they are, my friends! This is Hallmark, after all.

You can probably also lay the blame for the xmas bulge at Hallmark Channel's expansive feet. I know the last thing I need to see during the holidays is what basically amounts to a two-hour long infomercial for xmas treats. But that's essentially what you end up watching.

Glistening fat turkeys with bowls (ehem, buckets) of gravy and cranberry sauce. Colossal legs of ham like works of art, dotted with cloves and smothered in glaze. Potato salad, bean salad, pasta salad, cheese salad; pretty much any salad that may or may not actually have vegetables in it, but usually as an afterthought.

Then there's the desserts. Given Hallmark's penchant for films that feature an unlucky-in-love but plucky baker, we were all doomed from the start. You've never seen so many cookies, tarts, pies, pastries, petit fours, tortes, or cakes in your life.

No, I mean really; you probably haven't. To be fair, Anna Polyviou probably hasn't either, and she's worked at it.

During December, I tend to be able to space out my holiday eating, dividing my day into a decent breakfast, a dubious second breakfast, a healthy lunch, another possible dubious choice in afternoon tea, then pure 50/50 chance at dinner. Each meal may or may not have a festive addition, such as pudding, some custard, or ham anything really, and so on.

Once the break starts - as does the xmas viewing - so does the excessive binging. Really, I'm generally ok until I see our spunky leading lady get stuck in a snowstorm at the huge, yet picturesque, B&B that just happens to be serving the xmas fare already - because they do that for ya'll All Through The Holiday Season! (obviously) - and I'm done.

Suddenly I'm stuffing gingerbread into my face like no ones business, stripping slices off ham off the bone every hour, on the hour, and quaffing custard from the carton like it's Verve Clicquot. It's really rather unladylike...

Then there's the Scenery. Because you can't call what Hallmark does just plain old set-dressing.

Stunning little cottages trimmed in lacy ironwork that would make a Spaniard weep. Log cabins brimming with furry rugs and heavy chairs and roaring fireplaces and did I mention the furry rugs? Stately family homes that haven't seen a speck of dust, like, ever, with maids who clearly pride themselves on being the best of the best in service, as it were.

Then there's the castles. Oh, but the castles. Which we all really need to take a moment of silence to truly appreciate...


Hallmark find the most extensive, detailed, wondrous castles you can imagine; glorious towering structures in shimmering splendour, displaying workmanship not seen since the 12th century. These things are barely short of a full-on, utterly-decked-out, Disney castle, complete with twinkling fairy lights by the thousands.

In fact, I'm not convinced Disney and Hallmark aren't the same company, they've just been keeping it secret like a Hallmark plot-twist for the last 50 years...

Sure, I get there's only so much belief you can suspend. I get that there's only so much schmaltzy dialogue you can stomach. And I really do get that your actual stomach's sugar-coping abilities are pushed, even when it comes to *imaginary* goodies.

This is the thing though folks; this time of year is a bit of a mixed bag. At best, a merry-go-round of shopping, eating, working, and socialising. At worst, a general anxiety-fest-free-for-all for your emotions. I won't assail you with all the depressing details (that's the previous post), but I will say that it can be pretty exhausting either way.

At the end of the day (or the middle of the afternoon, as we say in my house), is it so hard then to understand why people want just a few hours of blissful relaxation? Where everything goes gratifyingly right, where everything ends up in its place, where we all get - however briefly - a happily ever after?

We forget about political bickering in our nation, unrest in the Middle East, violence in the streets, and all other manner of horrors - just for a short while?

Come on, you know the answer to this one.

This year, obviously, I will again be watching as many schmaltzy, decked-out, situationally unbelievable Hallmark specials as I can cram in. And all I'm asking is that you don't rain on my parade here, or anyone else's.

Besides, who knows; maybe if you try watching one, just once, you may even like it...



All the blessings of the season to you, lovelies!
~*LTM*~



*Picture credit to Terri Pringle Wood, who clearly watches oodles of Hallmark. Follow her delicious work on instagram here.















































Monday, 18 December 2017

[ xmas rant ]


Stay calm. Move slowly. Breathe deeply.

I know, I know. It snuck up on us again. Without warning, without fanfare. Shock. Horror. *Gasp*

Or not, rather. That'd be like, 12 years in a row now, right?

It's xmas*. It's 8 days away and everyone is losing their proverbial shit. To be fair, the CBD is feral, the humidity has gone up, and no one has had a good nights' sleep since October.

A little panic is not unjustified.

But that's where my patience ends, good people. That's where I draw the line and start to think about real stress, real anxiety.

Going a little serious on you, here it is; this is not a great time of year. People are spending every waking hour at the office trying to get things done so that they can spend the break with their family.

Health workers are doing shift work and getting hammered by incidents mainly involving drunk twits, while desperately trying to help nanas who've had falls in their kitchens.

Retail workers are pasting on their brightest smiles, and using their chirpiest voices, to deal with aggressive idiots while listening to carols on repeat for 9 hours.

It's tense, it's full-on, and it's really, really hectic.

At the same time, there is this pervasive and insidious weirdness to the season. An enforced jollity and creepy cheer. You know the one; where we all pretend to be shiny happy people holding hands,  celebrating the 'joy' of the season.

And being judgey-McJudge-judges on each and every way that people like to spend their holiday season. But in a passive-aggressive way, and delivered with that horrid, jokey laugh we put on when we're being awful.

Oh, you're doing a beach xmas this year? How quaint!

You're going to get them that for xmas? That's...nice...

Sit around and watch xmas movies? Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have the time!

Xmas isn't festive. Xmas is torture wrapped in tinsel with a side of pavlova. 

***

Every year, scores of parents tell their spouses that they will be the one taking the kids to the shops, or the one doing the xmas shopping this time. Grandparents say they'll come to the kids place this year. Cousins and close friends arrange holiday houses, where you can all get together for a special xmas catch up. 

Every year, scores of these same people - these generally reasonably-mannered people - turn into nasty, rude, occasionally violent nutters who inflict their displeasure on all and sundry, as if everyone in a 100m radius is set on doing them wrong. Set on challenging them to an argument.

To be fair, some of them don't. Some of them actually potter through the season, hanging out with family, giving and receiving gifts, and generally having a decent time.

Half of latter do it purely to avoid a confrontation with the former...  


***

Which leads me to something I'd like us all to keep in mind this time of the year. Just a moment of contemplation. Be warned; it's not pretty, it's not festive, and it sure as hell isn't wrapped in novelty holiday paper.

December is a tricky time for people emotionally. Add that to our increasing suicide rate throughout the country, and you have a seriously worrying trend. And I'm going to say something really blunt, so brace yourself. 

Xmas makes some people want to kill themselves. 

There, I said it. 

Pretty shocking, right? You thought I was being dramatic, building tension. I wasn't. I stated a fact, an inconvenient truth that we make concerned faces over, but don't really do much about. Xmas is a lonely, stressful, and anxious time of the year. And some people will listen to and put up with the most appalling behaviour just to get through it.

I don't have an answer to such a mammoth issue, and I certainly don't expect any of you to. Mental health is still blushed with taboo in our culture and the times are changing, but ever so slowly. 

What I do expect however, is compassion and love. And yes, dammit, goodwill towards your fellow beings. And yes, I do expect it a little more of it at this time of year.

***

Having to take your kids to the shops isn't stressful. Just because little Timmy is screaming his lungs out for a Batman action figure, and little Alice is pouting her bottom lip in a fashion a Kardashian would be proud of, does not make you hard done by. 

The woman in the corner of the cafe, quietly trying to get her sick baby to feed, looking sleep deprived and close to tears; she's doing things a bit hard. She is heroically trying to keep it together, and deserves our sympathy.  

Not getting the park you want, even after you waited 10 minutes behind some fool in a 4WD, is not a great burden on your day. Circling around for another 10 is not, in fact, going to utterly ruin your life as you know it. 

Grandpops, in his little Mazda, beetling along slowly, deserves a break. He's a polite driver, he doesn't get out much, and he certainly isn't as quick as he used to be. So when he accidentally pinches your spot and gratefully waves to you enthusiastically, he hasn't earned your aggression. He hasn't earned you calling names out your window, or worse, fronting up to his car and Hulk-ing out. 

If I haven't quite made it clear, let me put it this way; your problems are not insurmountable. They are not earth-shaking, they are not life-altering. And what you think you deserve at this time of the year - let alone any other time - is not actually what you're justified in getting.  

***

All the little things we enjoy, all the ease with which we sail through life, suddenly becomes more apparent at xmas. At least to me. With all the hard times I've been through, there is someone having a harder one. And that's certainly not the platitude it sounds like.  

Can't afford the holiday to the UK you wanted? Whining to the family the only reason you are coming to xmas lunch is because the airfares were just so expensive? There are people who haven't had a holiday in years; they can't afford to go to the Gold Coast, let alone international. 

Cranky because, yet again, you have to schlepp all the way down south to the parents' place, where you will eat too much, drink too much, and fall asleep in your childhood bedroom, still dressed in your party gear? How embarrassing...

But better than the woman who barely gets to see her kids, has to beg to spend time with them, and then spends a fortune she doesn't have on a xmas day she's not sure her family will end up coming to. 

***

Not to sound like a broken record, but xmas is hard. It's depressing. And it goes on for weeks.

In the end, I'm not asking a lot, and I'm not asking anything that I'm not already doing myself.

Stop taking your kids to the shops. Plan your day so it's not going to be feral, the kids aren't going to go mental, and you're not going to lose your mind. Get public transport, arrive early, take a friend if you need moral support. Spend less on crap, more on stuff you want to, and have the cajones to tell the family we're you're at. 

You're all grown ups, you know how. 

***

During the holiday season, no matter what your faith or inclination, you reflect on all you're grateful for. You perform little traditions to show how thankful you are for the people around you, the privileges reap, and life you lead. Some of them are fun, some of them are lame, some of them are both.

But some people don't. They don't have family around, they don't the time or the money to go somewhere to relax and celebrate. Some people aren't appreciated for all they've done; in fact, they are openly taken for granted. 

So for those of you who want to tell me how much you miss your family right now, or how this time of year makes you sad because that someone special isn't around; come here. I have a hug, some spiked eggnog, and many hours of comfort at your disposal. 

But for the rest of you, those of you who whine that Aunty Mary is only going to give you socks again, or Cousin Dave is just going to tell you the same story, or even that your parents are making you travel again, I have something to tell you.

This year, I'm giving out candy canes and smack-downs. And I'm plumb out of candy canes... 

~*LTM*~



*To avoid the inevitable; I spell it like this out of respect. Not because I'm an illiterate tween who thinks this is how it's actually spelt. 20-odd years as a pagan and bought up a Catholic, I still want to show my respect in my way for religion by not using names, terms, or even curses really, I don't have faith in. Little odd, sure, but respect is still respect. We all have that in common.





























Wednesday, 6 December 2017

[ The Rise of the Breakfast Biscuit* ]


A few years ago, some bright spark invented the breakfast biscuit, which is ostensibly a more modern version of a breakfast bar, which is again basically a healthy/morning version of a muesli bar.

Apparently, we are all so time poor that we need to have our first meal of the day delivered to us in a convenient, processed, hand-held parcel. One we can carry on the bus or train, or even while we're driving (which is ridiculous and dangerous in and of itself, but here we are).

To be fair, conceptually, the original idea had merit; when muesli (or granola) bars were invented in the late 19th century, they were a way for hikers to carry light-weight, nutritious, high-fat snacks good for such activities.

They also quickly became a popular way to get kids to eat more fruit, nuts, and grains; by packing them into a fun, hand-sized rectangle, slathering them in yoghurt or chocolate, and packaging them in bright colours, you had a much more appealing snack than a piece of fruit. Putting aside the high levels of sugar and other preservatives, it was still a success in terms of getting kids to eat regular, reasonably-wholesome nibbles between meals.

Jump forward a few decades, and 'museli bars' today are like the difference between '80's and '00's Stallone; 20 years of steroids and too much time on your hands. Somewhere in that time, things got a little bit weird...

What used to be a grainy bar of goodness is now some sort of hybrid; it looks like something astronauts from the future will eat, and is designed to inject more nutrients, more energy, more stuffinto our busy lives and bodies.

And then we took it on a strange tangent; into the world of the humble biscuit. Suddenly, we are all being encouraged to eat a monstrous, oversized wheat oval, halfway between a muesli bar and a cookie. Except not. At all.

Biscuits are primarily a flour-based product, classified mainly as a type of bread or soft cake, eaten in small, round discs. Generally also considered a dessert snack or confection.

Not, obviously, what nutritionists would have us eat for breakfast.

But because industry likes to treat society like children, the breakfast biscuit was formed as a shiny, convenient, and endlessly tempting way to have a wholesome start to the day. And sadly, we bought it.

Equally sadly, we did not shun the continuing homage to our dying ability as capable adults, able to manage our own sustenance, without being spoon-fed, or rather, teething rusk-fed. As if we were too inept to gather and create a healthy meal. No, we fell all over it like ants on spilled cordial.

But I may have gotten a little carried away here. Over zealous in my dislike of such things perhaps. Except, well, there's the other things...

Like leaf blowers.

Leaf blowers are the yard equivalent of pursing your lips and blowing on a house fire. And just as effective. A more useless 'tool' I have not yet encountered.

What appears to be a time saver in terms of cleaning up your yard, just moves the leaves and soil from one place to another. Especially as people appear to think that is all that's required in garden work, now that a piece of machinery has been invented that does half the work for you.

Our townhouse complex has a young lad turn up at 9am every Friday to do just that. He wanders in, turns up the leaf blower to industrial-noise-level, and proceeds to move all the leaves from the walkway into all our courtyards...then he makes like a tree himself, and buggers off.

And yes, that's all he does. There's no sweeping, no collecting of garden waste, nothing. One wonders how much this sort of job pays, but personally, I still like the idea of being employed in a job that requires more skill than a trained monkey.

When did we all become so weak and un-able-bodied that we needed a machine to work for us? When did a bunch of brushes on the end of a stick become so passe, that we abandoned it for a environmental pollutant about as useful as Trump's hairdresser?

Are we so completely devoid of necessary survival skills that this is what we've come to? Have we forgotten all the basic expertise of our ancestors, and handed our lives over to technology and time savers? Apparently so.

It's best not to get me started on mobile phones, social media, and auto-pilot-self-parking cars. I'm confused by this, frankly baffled by this, and completely underwhelmed by this.

In an age where I haven't had to correctly spell the word 'convenience' for at least a decade (dubiously thanking autocorrect here), I feel we might have taken things just a little too far.

Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Black Mirror, maybe the machines won't rise up against us, maybe we will survive after the apocalypse with all our natural aptitude intact...

The point is this; if we're all so busy that we can't put some cereal in a bowl and add milk or juice (it's a thing, shut up), or toast some bread and slather on a spread, or - gods forbid - actually cook something, then sit and eat said prepared meal...

Well, let's be honest, humanity has a lot bigger issues than whether you can handle your breakfast biscuit and watch cat videos at the same time.

~*LTM*~



*and other appalling 'time savers'.




Thursday, 2 November 2017

[ Old friends, new times, same people ]




Everyone is trying to bring back the '90's. To be fair, and especially as someone who grew up in them, they were pretty awesome; good music, hilarious clothes, great movies. There are so many fabulous trends to come out of that time. But can we say the same of people?

The last few years has thrown up more than a few flashbacks to my teens and twenties, and more than a decent amount of characters I thought buried quite firmly in the past. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with a stroll down memory lane, but I've always been a little bit suspicious about people trying to recapture their youth. Let me explain.

A while back, I ran into a girl I knew in my 20's, whom I met through an ex. We reconnected again recently and ended up getting together to go jogging or have brunch, and talk about what we wanted from our lives and careers. She worked in high end interior design retail, also lived in the inner west, had high hopes and drive for the future.

All sounds great right? Reconnecting with someone from the days when we were younger and stupider, and finding that we were older and perhaps a little less stupid, with a little more life experience.

Except she wasn't. She'd changed jobs four times in the just over a year, ostensibly jumping ship from company to company because of a position opportunity, then back when she found it all just verbal promises from above. This combined with massive shouting matches with her boss over his inability to understand her, and him stating her unprofessionalism.

We talked about what she might do, and how her career might turn if she made a decision about what she really wanted, all very casually and optimistically. I found myself falling back into tired old lines like, I'm sure it's just the companies you work for, and Sure, you can absolutely take time to figure it out.

Stuff I didn't mean, stuff I had spent time breaking the habit of because it was crap; things you tell yourself when you're young and haven't learned yet that some things are other people being assholes, and some things are your responsibility, your decisions to make.

Whereupon she decided to take a month long holiday in Japan without the leave accrued to do so.

Sadly, and obviously, she got fired on her return. Her opinion was that is was all her boss' fault, and she couldn't see how this had happened at all, and she should be able to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

I couldn't figure it out; where was the girl who had clear goals and corporate understanding? It had been over SIX years; what had she been doing all that time? I may have gently asked as much, and the response wasn't pretty. I didn't understand, I had no knowledge of how corporate worked (as if nearly a decade in corporate myself was nothing), it's really hard all the time.

We weren't reconnecting anymore, we were reenacting; she was the superstar and I was the back up. It took a little while to become obvious, but I realised that we'd both changed and all we had in common were hazy memories of days past.

We slowly stopped hanging out, and I slowly stopped holding my breath about what fresh drama she would produce on her next call. I wished her the best the rare times we did run into each other, but it became like interacting with an old work colleague who I could barely recall.

She knew I wasn't the person from her past, and I knew she still wanted us both to be those people. No one was ever going to win, but I think under the surface she knew at least this way, no was ever going to lose.

***

Not long after we stopped spending time together, I ran into a guy on a film set whom I went to high school with. I felt awkward at first and hovered in the corner, trying not to be noticed. Being that he was the director, it wasn't long before he found me and we had what can only be described as a Hallmark-worthy catch-up; one of those really satisfying encounters you want to write down to replay later. 

He'd married the love of his life; a woman I also went to high school with and incidentally actually had a good hand in getting him together with. She also popped over at some point and suddenly it was like a surreal moment from the past when we used to hang out - laughing and telling stories, catching each other up on what we were doing now. 

And it felt real and relaxed. None of us pretended we were anything like we used to be, or had any of the spontaneity of our teenage years. We had new skills and new experiences, whole new lives with whole new people. And all those things coloured the people we are now - built on the people we were back in the day.

I don't see much of these folks at all, and certainly not as much as of my closest friends (people who, unexpectedly, only came into my life in the last few years), but when we do bump each other, it's pleasant and lovely. If we've changed jobs or houses, we talk about it like that's what people do when they grow older - change.

Because we do. For better or worse - hopefully the former - everything changes. It's not the mammoth drama some people make it out to be. It's just life. 

***

Basically, that's the wonderful nature of looking back. You can see the people you were and see who they are now. Old friends might fade, but new friends can pop in all the time. Some of them might be people you've never met before, but sometimes it might be a figure you used to know, all grown up.  A walk in the past isn't always a bad thing.



~*LTM*~
























































Friday, 20 October 2017

[ passion ]


Passion; a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. A strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. An outburst of strong emotion or feeling.

That's the literal definition of what passion is. Strong emotion, strong feelings. A forcible enthusiasm for something or someone. But that doesn't quite cover it, not really.

Passion is the bloom of warmth in your chest when you discover your greatest ability in this life. It's the butterflies in your stomach when your crush is near. It's that visceral jolt when your heart is broken by reality.

It's that quiet, fierce intensity you've developed over years, decades perhaps, for something or someone, pursued with your undivided attention, unsure of success, always pursuing, no matter what the cost, no matter the time it takes.

Passion is a quintessential element of our natures; it defines who we are as beings. The depth of it, the lack of it, the level we display it at. It is a seeking, a searching, a constant need.

Sometimes we deride those who we deem have too much of it. Sometimes we dismiss those we believe are without it. Passion - or deficiency of - makes us do strange and wondrous things, and in turn see ourselves as strange and wondrous.

It is a deeply personal thing, and therefore means we search long and arduously for understanding, for recognition, or even just a reflection; the same contained or unrestrained depth of feeling in others as ourselves.

*

The level of importance to us also depends solely on the individual. Some value integrity and confidence over passion; the quiet walk through life. Some prefer to see emotion written clearly in the atmosphere and enjoy the taste of it on their tongue, the rush of it through their system. 

Some even enjoy the combination, preferring to judge the moment and the circumstance, weighing up what is appropriate at the time. 

Passion is hard to define, but easy to eliminate. A relationship going sour can be described as no longer having passion, a job becoming tedious can be said to have the passion drained out of it. 

When we feel the emotion sucked out of anything, we blame it on lack of passion. Conversely, when a situation becomes too heated, the opposite can be said to be true; we've become too passionate, too involved in the issue.

Passion colours everything. Even if is only to display the absence of it.  

*

The fervour of such feeling changes with age. Not to say it necessarily gets stronger, but it certainly evolves over time. 

What was once the height of joy in years past, can now seem like an amusing phase that you cannot recollect such depth of response to. The opposite is also true; a passing fancy now engrosses you in a way you couldn't fathom. 

It grows, it evolves, and it also dies. Sometimes harshly, sometimes softly. It changes because you change.

*

Mark Manson hit a high note when he wrote Find What You Love and Let It Kill You; a piece he wrote around finding what gives your life passion and purpose, and doing it over and over again. Then doing it some more, screwing it up, adjusting, and continuing on. 

The key note here was that you had to keep doing it because you love it. Really, utterly love it. Be committed to it like you are to staying upright and staying in motion. 

Because here's the thing; no one wakes up one day and finds they can be content focusing on one thing day after day, year after year. You do it because you are passionate about it. And that passion consumes, because you know that fulfilment doesn't come without a price. Love doesn't come without pain, happiness doesn't come without tears, and satisfaction doesn't come without blood. 

The other thing is this; when you don't know what you're looking for, you have to look absolutely everywhere and try absolutely everything. No one draws you a map or hands you a guidebook. You can't check your own software and see the programming path. 

You have to hunt and seek and throw yourself into every crevice without a rope or even a hope of ever getting back out. You have to find that thing, make peace with the fact that it may never be exactly what you thought it would be, and build on it. 

Every day. Every time it comes to mind. Until it has a spirit of its own. Until it breathes life into you. See it what it is, and not what you thought it would be.

And then keep working on it. Keep changing. Keep evolving your passion. 



~*LTM*~

River of Dreams - Billy Joel


















Sunday, 8 October 2017

[ team spririt? what, you mean like a bramble royale*? ]


In high school, I didn't really get into team sports. It's not that I wasn't any good, I just wasn't very keen.

As a rule, P.E. enforced the mandatory Wednesday afternoon of dressing in the teenage version of gym gear (dorkier than the grown up version, but not by much), and toddling off to your elected sport for a few hours.

Invariably, I found myself rather adept at certain exercises year after year. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm dipped lower and lower, until, upon reaching years 11 and 12, I discovered we could do things like archery or just take the afternoon off as 'free periods'. Sweet!

Don't get wrong, I nailed it at soccer and hockey; I was never going to be the biggest or strongest, but I was always the fastest, and that was the key. And I certainly enjoyed running around, smashing things, and being good at something.

It's just I could never really get into the competitive side of sports; being better than the other team, pitting myself against my opposite player in the opposing side, revving up for a crushing game to defeat other schools.

Honestly, I had enough energy for my teenage angst, and that was about it.

It's really no surprise then that as an adult, I don't do team sports of any variety. Regrettably, I do occasionally have to encourage others to be interested in such things, and that's where it gets a bit awkward.

As someone who doesn't often engage in common competitive activities, it's hard to display that sort of ambition in the same way as a traditional sport would. So I've had to find other things to compare it to.

I mean, I have encyclopedic knowledge of Osher Gunsberg's wardrobe. I can tell you three different versions of pretty much any childhood fairytale you can name. And, generally, no one has eaten more desserts - nor tasted more flavours of same - than me (Adriano Zumbo and Katherine Sabbath would be so proud).

So, theoretically, I understand and can engage in some healthy rivalry, depending on the topic. And, lest I be mistaken, I like watching sport every now and then (though don't get me started on rugby not being what it was like when I was a kid. No one has time for that). I just can't necessarily activate it on queue.

Hey, let's all play touch football at lunch!

Let's not; I don't run unless something is chasing me, and I'll choose eating over running any day of the week.

Ooh, weekend cricket is coming up, who's in? 

Definitely not me. I'm already pasty without the assistance of cricket whites, and can't imagine something more dull and unhealthy than hours and hours standing around in direct sunlight.

Look, they have competitive frisbee now! That looks so fun!

No, it does not. It looks like an excellent way to encourage a variety of injuries, not least of which would be full-body collision followed by concussion. Considering my already exceptional ability to injure myself with everyday household items, perhaps we might skip the addition of running, looking up and not where I'm going, as well as jumping, to my repertoire of ways to maim myself.

***

Anyway. Now that we are coming into the warmer months, I think it's important to be active and get outside. I think a certain amount of vitamin D and fresh air are essential.

I just don't think we should all do it together. In a huddle. Or a group. Or dressed in outfits I wouldn't be caught dead in, even for Halloween (dead cheerleaders aside, obviously).

In terms of activities that we can all enjoy, I invite you to attempt the following with me...

Netflix marathons. The lazy of lazy sports. That being said, let us not underestimate the skill required to sit and concentrate intently through 5-straight hours of House of Cards, American Horror Story, or - ehem! - Hallmark specials. I watched all of season 1 of Frontier in one weekend. As well as cleaning my car, going shopping, and even peopling (read = socialising). Beat that!

Carb loading. I can eat around 3kgs of pasta in one sitting, if I'm feeling really competitive. And not be sick. And drink booze. And walk myself home (read = no one carries me, yay!). What's your special power?

Speaking of scoffing carbs, one of my ultimate goals in life is to eat my body weight in jelly. Preferably port wine flavour, but mango or quandong will do just as well. During the holiday season, I eat a whole fruit pudding to myself - with custard - every week until the 2nd week of January. I know, impressive, right? You should see how much ham I can get through.

Moving on.

When you were a kid, arts and crafts were the height of creative output. Macaroni masterpieces, clay 'animals' (yea, absolutely, totally a frog...), papier-mache. For some of us, the skills stuck and metamorphed into a weird aptitude for making anything out of, well, anything. Think of it like the MacGyver of the domestic world.

Last month, I made an entire robot costume from aluminium foil, silver duct tape, wooden skewers, and some leftover silver satin. Before that, a Japanese ghost costume from cobwebs, a black wig, some ripped red fabric, eyeliner, and talcum powder mixed with concealer.

Finally, should you be so brave to ask, I can convert your house into almost any theme you can think of, using what you already have there. Eat your heart out, Rockwell!

As an entirely underestimated skill, I invite you to attempt another one; matching. Sounds deceptively simple, doesn't it? It is - deceptive that is. You'd be amazed how hard it is to match food, clothes, colours, scents, and a variety of other things people like to put together.

It's not quite as straightforward as you hope food and wine matching is (actually, they've made it harder), so when given the question of red meat with what?, people instantly feel like answering red wine is a trick. 

Yours truly, for reasons best left unknown really, can match pretty much anything. I kid you not. Clothes, food, scents. Car colours to personalities. Whitegoods to kitchen styles.

Stationery items. Phone types. Coffee choices.

I'd blame (or commend really) the OCD for this strange little quirk, but as it seems to have given me a bizarre edge overall, I've gone with labelling it a 'skill'. If you can outdress, out-colour-code, or out-match me in any way, I'll buy you matching coffee mugs. On an appropriately matched occasion, obviously.

***

At any rate, for all of you super keen to get out in the sparkling bright sunshine this Summer, don't take this the wrong way, but...


Should you, however, decide that competitive axe-throwing is your thing, I'm in. Feel like seeing how many dumplings you can cram in before you have to roll to your car? Also me. 

Want to sit quietly inside, glaring at the outdoors like the humidity is an affront to your humanity, and everything good disappeared with the last chill day? Call me, I know all the best pizza places within a 25km radius. 

And I can bring matching beers. 

~*LTM*~



*Bramble Royale: 45ml gin, 15ml lemon juice, 15ml blackberry liqueur, top with sparkling wine, garnish with blackberries and a lemon slice. Perfect for cheering on English football.




























Thursday, 14 September 2017

[ 200 crappy words a day ]




In the past six months or so, I haven't written as much as I would like. The things in my head are just as prolific as they have always been, but the desire to follow through hasn't been as strong.

Or maybe it has, but my ability to let it all flow out of me like turning on a tap has stumbled somewhat. Ideas and stories and conversations have filtered through, some of them barely half-assed fragments, but getting them out hasn't seemed as easy as it once was.

There are a dozen or so drafts sitting here, just kind of taking up space, and I reread them sometimes and see if it all starts flowing again. Mainly, it just trickles.

Which is ok really. I know why this is, some of you even know why this is, and it is what it is. Strangely, I'm ok with that.

A while back I had another little episode of what I called 'writers block' (it wasn't, but I called it that). The ideas were still there, but I had even less ability then to get them out than I do now. And I guess that's why I feel ok about this bout.

Because I recognise it for what it is. I went through something awful and powerful and it took something away from me. It took a lot away, to be honest, and it hurts to realise how much it took later than it just took at the time.

The weird thing is this though; it gave something back. Or the void filled in; nature abhors a vacuum and all that. I'm still figuring out the things it gave back, opened up, and showed me. New things, shitty things, good things. But different things.

In that vein, I've become more chilled about life than I ever thought I could be. The highly strung version is no more, and this confident, clever (mostly), motivated woman is in her place.

But she's not always motivated or clever or even that confident. And that's ok. Which seems simple, but stills comes as a surprise.



I wanted to be a writer. I want to be a writer. I want for people to read my work and think. Then think some more. And laugh, and cry, and discuss. Mainly, I just want to write and keep writing until I physically can't anymore. And then, I may dictate.

But last month I think I only posted two pieces, as opposed to my previous once-a-week habit. Last week, I wrote nothing. This week, well, this week, I wrote this.

Since childhood, I've read voraciously, and continue to do so. Currently breezing through 3 books of utterly different genres (a book of death magic, a Norse novel, and an unconventional 'self-help' book), I've come across that phrase again...

200 crappy words a day

I've actually heard it so many times, it's a wonder I haven't started chanting it over my laptop. Which makes the next thing even more ridiculous; I haven't been following this little pearl of wisdom. Something I can wax lyrical about for hours and hours.

Instead, I avoid writing by scrolling through social media until I feel mildly unwell, in a state similar to eating too much sugar. I scoff and scoff and scoff and scoff still more.

Variously, this doesn't always end badly, but to take the metaphor further, there's a difference between scoffing a bag of liquorice all-sorts and scoffing a tub of Sara-Lee. Both will make you feel dreadful, (generally) only one will make you hurl.



So I've made a promise to myself, via this post. Littered with prepositions, repetitive connecting words, and unfortunate sentence-structure choices, I'm still going to do it. I'm still going to write 200 crappy words a day. 

Because - it's taken me a while to put the dots together, gods forgive me - I need to. I believe in myself and in that belief is the unshakable knowledge that I can get through anything. Really.

Let's put it this way; if multiple near-death experiences, heartbreak, and sadness didn't stop me, writers stumble, shall we call it, isn't exactly going to make a great dent.



Here it is then. My challenge to myself on a random Thursday in September; write more. Write so much more. And then, write more than that.

Write about old stuff, write about dodgy deeds, write those silly rants. Some of it will be good, some of it will be ok, some of it will be not-quite-average. Actually, most of it will be. But damn, that feeling when you get something out. There is nothing like it.

Because all of it will be my words. Stuff I wrote. And here's the thing; it's not necessarily the end-product you can be proud of. Sometimes, you can just be proud of the process.

~*LTM*~








































Thursday, 7 September 2017

[ I'm mildly unwell, so please act accordingly ]


It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one is even mildly under the weather, your nearest and dearest suffer the most.

Far be it from us to be calm and rational regarding a light sniffle, we act as if we are dying of the plague, and expect everyone to act accordingly.

In a truly astounding (but not really) contradictory turn, when we are exceptionally ill, we become calm and quiet, demure and accepting. Almost as if we have made peace at some point of no return, where we trust ourselves to medicine and science and whatever shall happen...

That being said, up to that point, we are irritatingly whiny; how dare a cold bring itself upon you, how dare your knees ache in cold weather, how dare this headache deign to make itself known.

And so on and so forth, until basically everyone within a 3km radius wants to murder us in our sleep.

Anyway...

***

Currently, yours truly has a nasty throat infection, kindly presented to me over a weekend by my young beau. As gifts go, this is one of the more appalling that I have received. Especially considering the returns policy (or lack of), and only a minor chance of regifting.

To be fair, his repeated paranoid concern that I would get sick was ignored, with the blissful ignorance of someone who hasn't had anything wilder than a mild sniffle in two years, and the blithe disregard of someone who cannot exactly recall  how miserable being sick is.

And so, taking into account the obvious fault of my own stupidity in this matter, I've come up with a list of things one should completely avoid when ill - mainly with colds and the like, as well as a few things you may wish to start doing to stave off complete debilitation, as well as your nearest and dearest taking to you with the closest sharp implement.

Much like this, but applicable to all, certain activities and decisions are best left for a clear head, a calm demeanour, and more than three hours of sleep a night.

I'm desperately attempting to follow these rules of thumb myself, so for those of you closest to me (mainly Mum, who makes me the Best Cup Of Tea Ever); I'm so very sorry, please don't leave me alone with my tissues and no tea. Crying, sick girl is so very unattractive a look...

***

Smoke
To be honest, I've never done this, but have discovered an unhealthy dislike of people who do. Much like people who smoke in Summer or bushfire season, smoking when you have anything respiratory seems like the height of ignorance, as well as the big middle finger to, well, generally everything.

You are, in fact, going to pass eventually. Perhaps you may wish to halt that process, albeit briefly, while your lungs regain the ability to fight back. Just a suggestion.

Exercise
Ok, this one needs to be taken into consideration depending on how ill you are and whether it will be a help or a hindrance. But again, if your lungs are in no position to fend for themselves, one hardly suspects they will be up for a brisk jog around the park in sub-zero temperatures. 

Reasonably sure the paramedics will be equally unamused.

Eat rubbish
From a headache to a cold, and everything in between, junk food is the go-to when you aren't feeling well. Admittedly, your body does actually need extra sustenance when trying to kick a cold or flu, as it's burning through what it has as fuel to fight the bacteria, but not the way you're doing it. 

If eating two large pizzas, a garlic bread, a pint of Haagen Dazs, and countless Tim Tams is how you get through a bit of a turn, now is the time to start wondering why you still feel crap when the illness actually passes. 

Try cramming some vitamin C in there (orange juice and Brussels sprouts, vile things, actually work wonders), eating a heavy but healthy pasta (good carbs are your friend), and for goodness sake, listen to your mother and drink more fluids. She's not saying it to torture you. Or not just to, anyway. 

Make life-altering decisions
Much like PMS decisions, this one seems self-explanatory. Things like getting a haircut, buying a car, asking someone to marry you, etc. should be postponed until your brain cells achieve acceptable levels once more. 

If you've already half planned something anyway, you might be ok...

However, remember that time you thought getting a new do and a blowdry would be a fabulous idea in cheering your manky self, and you came out looking like Freddie Mercury (1975, not 1985)? Remind oneself of this should the desire persist.

D & M's
This is a tricky one, because it depends entirely what sort of person you are when you're not sick.

When well, I tend to be pretty good with the deep and meaningful stuff; I like to have frank and honest discussions, lovely heart-to-hearts, and  examine profound issues with respect and compassion. When unhealthy, I become cranky, moody, and overthink pretty much everything. If trying to decide what to have for dinner is a mission in patience, asking me how I feel about interpersonal relationships is likely to be exhausting.

On the other hand, some people become positively energetic in their debate skills when sick. They make effective decisions, discuss personal issues with ease, and have no problem sticking to their guns when engaged in arguments.

That being said, these people, when well, also answer "where do you want to go for dinner?" with "wherever you want to go", and can repeat this until essentially, you lose the will to live.

 Nobody wins here.

Google your symptoms and / or self medicate
Firstly, let me clearly state; this is the pot calling the kettle a rather distinctive and attractive shade of black in terms of the latter, so feel free to take this one with a grain of salt (or turmeric, whatever works...).

Googling your symptoms is stupid for So. Very. Many Reasons. Not the least of which is that Google is not a doctor, any sort of medical professional, or - more importantly -  a human being at all. Which almost completely negates its ability to have any idea what is wrong with you. Please tell me I don't need to explain this?

Self-medicating, on the other hand, is not all bad however. If we come back to the standard lurgy; taking a few cold and flu tablets, sucking some lozenges, gargling with an over-the-counter fluid, and generally dosing up with a few judiciously chosen meds, is a pretty decent idea. You're trying to kill the worst of the bugs, whilst giving your body a chance to work its own immune system magic.

It all goes a bit pear-shaped when you start taking those anti-biotics from 2014 you had leftover in a drawer, downing hot toddies by the bucketful, and popping random herbal remedies that may help your chest but also give you a decidedly unsexy rash.

If you're sniffing and croaking but keeping it together, grab some Lemsip and ride it out a bit. If you're coughing up muck and fear the loss of vital organs, go and see a doctor. Don't be such a wuss.

Caffeinate
Dear gods, I wish this wasn't true, but coffee and caffeine are actually bad for you when you're sick.

When you're healthy and bouncy and full of beans, caffeine makes the day just that teensy bit more so. It can perk you up, warm you up, and give you the warm and fuzzies to get through a Monday without saying fuck too often. It's red cordial for grown ups.

Sadly, when feeble and run-down, caffeine only makes this worse. Your body has no ability to rally because it's expending all its energy on fighting bacteria, and trying to push it further just makes it work harder.

Caffeine makes you even more dehydrated, can set you back even further, and possibly keep you up all night sniffling and unable to sleep.

Again, like your mama said, drink more fluids. She doesn't mean coffee, dummy.

Go to work
Likewise, this is a pot-kettle-black moment.

I do try much harder these days to distinguish between just feeling lousy and actually being quite sick, but occasionally I'll still schlepp myself into work, pale as off milk, gravel-voiced and dark-eyed, and sit there until someone tells me to take my pathetic ass home.

If you had to sit down between dressing and eating breakfast because the former tired you out, stay home. If the thought of public transport makes you want to cry, stay home. If your ability to be a professional is compromised, and you think the height of achievement will be not coughing on a client, STAY HOME.

The business will survive a day without you, and being the person who started the Great Gastro Epidemic of 2017 is not a prize to strive for.

***

Finally, try to remember; you will get better eventually. 

Admittedly, after the 8th straight day of coughing like an asthmatic camel, forgetting what sleep is, and having everything you put in your mouth taste decidedly medicinal, you're probably feeling like deep-fried poop with a side of snot. 

But really, I swear, you will get better. So, back on the lounge or into bed, fire up the Netflix and grab some hot water bottles, and drown yourself into tea.

And I'll see you all in Spring...you know, for hayfever season...

~*LTM*~












































Tuesday, 22 August 2017

[ ouroboros ]


Back when I was doing the tinder experiment, I met a guy who said he didn't believe me when I told him I wasn't afraid of death.

He said that was rubbish; everyone is afraid of dying and that anyone who says they aren't is kidding themselves. There were a lot of other reasons we only had one date, but that was in the top five for sure.

Let's be absolutely clear here; I'm not afraid of death or dying. I'm not afraid of what comes after, and I have no worries about where my soul will go, what form my energy will take, or what the next plane of existence looks like.

I am afraid I will leave here before I completely fulfil my potential. I'm terrified I won't get to tell my family I love them a hundred thousand times. I'm bone-chillingly scared of not getting to hold my mama's hand every day.

These fears are the deep and real things that worry me. Where we go, and what we do afterwards, are not.

***

When I was a little girl, I believed in all sorts of things. Some of them persist today, some not, and new things - things I never imagined - have come to take the place of others. 

There has always been the belief in something after this life. An unwavering sense of continuation, where my soul will mutate into something else and move on. Forwards, upwards, whatever. The direction never really mattered, I just knew we went on.

Through tragedy and heartache, sleepless nights and long, lonely days, that belief has never altered. In some ways, calling it a belief seems inadequate. It doesn't seem to convey the quintessential wiring in my core that knows this like I know the sun will rise tomorrow. 

Life's greatest joys have certainly solidified this, making them even brighter and more vibrant with the knowledge that perhaps I will take their experience with me always. However, even in my darkest moments, fear of the afterlife has never registered. 

***

Twenty-odd years as a pagan have unquestionably broadened my knowledge on the varying notions of where we go in the hereafter. So many ideas, so many situations we could be in. 

The Norse have Valhalla and Hel; a giant hall overseen by Odin where brave warriors go, and an underworld presided over by the goddess of the same name where, generally, everyone else goes. 

Heaven, the Christian version, up in the clouds, the place where god dwells, where all good souls go after they die. Then Hell, the underworld, where bad souls, those who have not repented their sins or tried to live good lives, go and burn in eternal damnation.

There's The Summerland of pagan origin; a resting place between lives for the soul. Should you have reached full enlightenment in earthly form, you may be able to stay; this means reincarnating as many times as it takes to learn all you can. The Summerland is also a place to be with loved ones from all your lives past.

Reincarnation; the idea that you live in this plane over and over again until you attain enlightenment. Each life varies depending on how you lived the last one; live kindly and compassionately and you get to come back as a a beautiful bird, soaring and floating, or a wonderful musician, creating great ballads until you die. 

Live a greedy and selfish life, taking and never giving, and you come back as a cockroach. Savvy? 

The continuity of reincarnation threads through many religions, and very basically here, revolves around consistently working on bettering this self, this energy, to join up with other like energies. Until, in the not-exactly-end, we all become part of the same energy. Sounds kind of blissful really.

All that these traditions have in common is the continuation of our energies. That this life, this experience, is only one in a line of experiences. That, even though we may do myriad things and make various choices, there is another, utterly distinctive reality awaiting us when we're done.

Kind of amazing, right?

***

It is no less valid to note those that conclude there's nothing after this life. Just because I don't believe this to be true, doesn't mean I don't occasionally hear them out. But not often or at length.

That being the case, it's interesting that some people think we die and nothing happens, because even then, that is some sort of next experience itself...

As a small note of why this scenario, for want of a better term, is so unlikely to me personally, I base some of my belief on science; energy cannot be created or destroyed. And though I struggle occasionally with the former, the latter certainly makes sense. 

So in terms of whether nothing happens afterwards, that seems a highly suspect and dubious possibility. Just saying.

***

Originally, I think someone asked me to write about what happens when we die. I guess it only just occurred to me that perhaps they were asking for some reassurance themselves, rather than just out of the curiosity for my opinion (though it was also nice just to be asked such a momentous question).

To my friend who asked; I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for, but here it is. And should my words not be enough, I hope the deep and abiding perception I have, the steel-like assurance I feel, gives you some comfort.

It never ends. We never end. Somehow, somewhere, we always live on.

~*LTM*~





























Saturday, 19 August 2017

[ sometimes, read stuff you don't agree with ]

Everyone can write these days. They can blog, video, or even live-stream their every thought and experience to the greater population, regardless of talent, education, or even understanding of appropriateness. Journalism, as such, is no longer just the domain of trained writers.

Which is what it is really. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing and, though I absolutely think there is a difference between free speech and hate speech, the ability for any citizen to make their thoughts known (in a hopefully constructive manner) is still a pretty amazing thing.

Just as random examples; a while back we talked about procrastination, and how unproductive it can be. I dipped into the death of romance, and what it means to me today. Let's not forget my cheeky swipe at BvS here too. These are my thoughts and not necessarily shared by my friends, family or workmates, whether in part or entirety.

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Recently, I introduced you to Alain de Botton, who writes a variety of books, my favourite of which is currently Consolations of Philosophy. It's thoughtful, funny, and jam-packed with ancient and modern references. It left me feeling both inspired and a little gloomy. Still one of my favourite books, however.

This guy is brilliant. Mark Manson is the bestselling author of this, and he's pretty inspiring to an amateur blogger like myself. He also talks a lot of bollocks occasionally and I really don't agree with some of the stuff he comes out with.

Clementine Ford makes me absolutely lose my mind on a regular basis; I'm alternately awed and baffled by her. She makes me hurrah, she makes me cringe, she makes me laugh my ass off. Here and here are the best places I've found to read her stuff, but are by no means the be all and end all.

Be warned, Clem is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the courage of their convictions. She is not here to make you feel better about yourself, but you will anyway and you'll probably learn something as well. I tend to agree with her about 75% of the time, and her methods about the same.

I read her stuff equally when I agree as to when I don't.

***

Here's where we come to my point; I read a decent amount of stuff that I don't actually agree with. Things I feel uncomfortable about, things that I don't really understand, ideas I generally think are, as stated above, bollocks.

Lest we mistake 'things I don't agree with' for hate reading, I'm not talking about going looking for all Trump's latest fascist vitriol, or what all the ex-Bachelor contestants (is anyone else uncomfortable calling them that...??) are up to post-eviction, or even the seemingly endless parade of malarkey our government has been trotting out the last few weeks.

Though to be fair; Trump's Twitter reads like a Garth Ennis comic, ex-Bachies seem to get more press after they've left the mansion, and when it comes to our government, I suspect even Malcolm is starting to get a nervous twitch, assuaged only by copious amounts of red wine and Valium.

But I digress.

Things I have issue with include, the now 'moved-on' (heavy on the sarcasm please, editor) tent city that was in Martin Place, blaming tap-and-go for kids financial literacy, and Westconnex (waaay too many links to just choose one).

Each of these things have such amazing contradictory elements, that I can't just gloss over and be happy with reading a story or two. Taking any of them at face-value would feel terribly superficial and trite, should I want to discuss them with others.

And that's the rub, isn't it? I often find myself in conversations with people about things they know very little about. Apart from being super annoying, it's also really disconcerting.

For example, I know someone who thought the tent city was an utter disgrace and was downright relieved when they heard it had gone. However, they hadn't actually seen it and I had (walking past twice a week on the way to training), and were unaware that the government didn't actually go very far in attempting to rehouse these people - only that it had been there, was an 'eyesore', and 'everyone' was relieved it was gone. The complexity of such a situation - who could have done what and when, including the residents themselves - was also lost on them.

This kind of social ignorance - willfully ignoring or not bothering to do research (a quick Google would have sufficed!) - kind of freaks me out. Especially when highly intelligent, skilled professionals - who are meant to be my peers - bring it up in conversation like they think it's important.

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Mistaking the forest for the trees seems to another modern tactic in keeping ourselves complicit in such ignorance.

Reading that children are in danger of being financially illiterate is certainly a very real concern. Blaming it on the system that was created to make financial transactions easier, more stream-lined, and keep customers less in touch with their finances, feels less like a blow in the right direction of education, and more like a clumsy attempt to nail down a complex issue without considering all the elements in play.

Children may become financially illiterate because we are developing faster and easier ways to make adults illiterate. We give our society options to manage money without explaining it in detail, and therefore have people racking up debt they can never pay off.

It's certainly not all as bad as that sounds, but it's not all good either. Choosing the relatively recent invention of tap-and-go and then focusing on our youth - who are years away from managing finances as it is - seems a woefully inadequate start, and a strange way to spend a researchers grant money.

***

Westconnex is the multi-layered beast for which there seems no clear way to define. 

Way back when, while I was having breakfast one morning, there was a long and loud protest march on King Street, Newtown . This was in the very early days, before any of the actual construction had started, and I knew very little about the project to be honest, except that it was destined to be the solution to our transport problems. 

Back then, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about; er, modern new transport system, surely a good thing, right...? 

Well, yes and no, as it turns out. Far from jumping off the bandwagon, I did my research (and continue to monitor developments), and found out how much more intricate it was, and continues to be. 

I'll spare you the endless articles and pieces, and give you the frills-free notes; Westconnex was set to be a brilliant transport solution (still is...ish). We got $16 million (no, not a typo) over budget before work even started. Ex-Premier Mike Baird jumped ship just as the going got tough, which really wasn't a great sign, to be honest. Sydney CBD started to look like one giant, mechano-set, construction zone, and things kind of went downhill from there...

But, (and this is where it gets sticky, because it's all sounding rather brown trousers time about now, isn't it?), nothing is ever as simple as all that. 

Westconnex will create a transport infrastructure the likes of which Sydney has never seen. It has created 10,000 jobs including apprenticeships, and 1,600 benefiting businesses have signed contracts to the tune of a cool $1.6 million. 

Confused? Yea, me too.

Because here's the thing; I thought Westconnex was great, then I thought it was a farce, and now I'm not so sure. I walk to work through mini dust-clouds of construction every day. The noise alone is utterly appalling. Even then, it's hard not to see the proposed structure taking shape. The sections are small, and they presently do not outweigh the monster building works around them...but they are there and they are growing.

And seriously, if you bullishly ignore the 10,000 jobs, then there's not really much more we have to talk about.

Maybe the weather?

***

Hate reading is bad, and spreading fake news is toxic (Trump didn't invent it, he just Tweeted it first). This shouldn't be something we need to discuss.

But being naive and uninformed is. I know, because I was. Not badly and not often, but certainly at times that made me look foolish and uneducated.

It's 2017; we can't be that person.

Whether we do it not to risk FOMO (I'm appalled I know this term considering how much I loathe YOLO, but at least I know it), want to be able to make intelligent conversation, or are actually involved in whatever it is (and if we don't know as much about it as our baristas, we should probably quit our jobs) -  we need to be informed, we need to be educated, we need to be armed with knowledge. Remember; knowledge is power.

So, go on, read about the South China Sea (it's ok to be confused at the end - we all are). Check out Wikipedia's Brexit if you're still unclear about it (more confusion, also fine). Follow some conspiracy-theory threads written by not-so-peer-reviewed writers.

And pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio occasionally (yes, we still have those, they are connected to the sound system in your car, it's not just house music and Beach Boys).

Besides, if nothing else, just remember; being smart is sexy. Looks will fade, being brainy is forever.

~*LTM*~