NOT another Resolutions List

I received an email today from someone who has inspired me with a great idea.  It may or may not be her own original, but y’know – I don’t care.  I’m going to try it, and promote it, anyway!

Instead of having a ‘New Years Resolution’ list of things I want to achieve, I’m going to concentrate on how to achieve those goals I’d otherwise have written down.

Here’s a starting point:

Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your behaviour
Your behaviour becomes your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny
– Mahatma Gandhi

So there’s my challenge.  Not just ‘think positive’ – I already do a lot of that.  But speak that way too, and act it.  Create some new habits.

“Getting better every day” may be a cliche, but cliches only become so by repetition, and repetition doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t true.

I will try to do my best, and the more I do it, the better that ‘best’ will become.  And that, my friends, sounds like the road to success.

Wherever your roads lead you in 2017, may you travel them with courage.  We can’t always control our destination but we can control the way we carry ourselves in getting there.

Peace.DSCF0203

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TAKE ME AWAY

We should all have the right to die with dignity, on our own terms. Visit www.dwdnsw.org.au if you’d like to know more, or show your support. 

Imagine the sound of a bullfrog whispering.

That’s what Lander’s voice reminded the staff of, whenever he’d manage to make them hear him say, “Take me away, please…”

He didn’t manage that often. Not any more.

It wasn’t anything wrong with his throat that was the problem, although people hearing him lately for the first time tended to assume he was another victim of too many cigarettes.

Truth: the deep gravel voice was natural – he’d never been much of a smoker, other than a brief flirtation with a pipe in the mid-Sixties when he’d first been recognized as A Writer.

Scott William Lander. Creator of the Morton the Lunatic series of novels. The eponymous Morton was a teleporting hero who operated from a base on the moon, hence the ‘Lunatic’ tag. Scott couldn’t resist a pun.

He was never quite a darling of the critics, especially in his early career. He was dismissed as a bit too populist, perhaps, at a time when science fiction was meant to be intellectual, deep and meaningful. Lander’s work had seemed almost a throwback to the pulp fiction heroes of the Thirties, like Tarzan and Doc Savage.

But Scott and his hero were made of sterner stuff than the critics realised. When Armstrong and Aldrin kicked up the moon dust in ’69, some thought that would end Morton’s adventures. After all, anyone with a television now knew what the moon looked like. Nobody could really live there. NASA or the Russians would know if there was any sort of base there, wouldn’t they?

Lander saw it as an opportunity, though. In his next book, What The Eye Doesn’t See, he referred to how Morton used his own advanced technology to keep his base from the prying eyes of the space programs. It raised gentle questions about how trustworthy those agencies might really be, long before any conspiracy theorists proposed that the whole Apollo XI landing was an expensive hoax.

Scott had smiled in quiet delight when he read a magazine article headlined “DID ‘LUNAR’ LANDER GET IT RIGHT?”

That had all been a long time ago. Although his book appearances had become fewer and further between Morton had learned to overcome time as well as space. Alas, the same could not be said of his creator.

Scott Lander had fallen prey to Alzheimer’s Disease. It was insidious – slow and progressive. That had been the most distressing aspect of all for both Scott and his son William – both of them knew what was happening to the older man, and neither could do anything to prevent it.

After his diagnosis Scott had broken the news to Will, also an aspiring author, in a discussion about writing.

“Writers never retire,” Scott had observed. “We go in and out of fashion, and in and out of passion with our muse, but writing isn’t a job you can retire from. It’s a compulsion.”

“A need,” said Will, nodding.

“Like a driving force,” agreed his father, who then sighed deeply. “But I’ve realized I can’t steer.  Then I forgot and kept trying. And kept on realizing, and forgetting, and realizing again. I spoke to the doctor about it, he did some tests, and now he’s told me why. It’s only going to get worse.”

Continue reading TAKE ME AWAY

Cancer has limits.

Cancer is so limited.

All it can do is damage cells.DSCF1746

 

There is so much it can’t do.

 

It cannot cripple love.

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot dissolve faith.

It cannot destroy peace.

It cannot kill friendship.

It cannot suppress memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal eternal life.

It cannot conquer the spirit.

 

It can take away the ones we love,

But it cannot take away the love.

The ones we notice

I used to drive around Australia a lot. Various routes and journeys connecting Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Beechworth, there and back again. A short trip might be three or four hours, a longer one twelve or fourteen or more. Much more of the driving was done at night than during daylight hours.

Many of the trips were made on my own, with only the cassette deck for company (provided it was working). Regional radio was a matter of chance, with reception fading in and out and the actual content of the airwaves often being a choice of earnest chat or country music, neither a preferred choice for me.

Melbourne by night
Melbourne by night
Brisbane by night
Brisbane by night

One of my regular strategies for staying awake was to count trucks as they approached or overtook me. I seldom seemed to overtake them. If I was ‘stuck’ on any number for a while because the road was quiet I’d turn my memory to what I connect with that year. So trucks #79, or 179, or 279 might prompt memories of a show I worked on, or a new romance, or a band I sang with.

In the early hours of one dark morning I was a little way outside of Yass approaching Canberra. So far I’d counted 491 trucks on an uneventful drive. I was on my way up a winding hillside road when my rear view mirror went white.

It was the glare of the high beam headlights of an eighteen wheeler semi-trailer, thundering onto my tail at high speed. Have you ever seen the movie Duel? Dennis Weaver is a motorist pursued on a winding mountain road by the unseen homicidal driver of a monster truck.

I was having flashbacks to the movie as I put my foot down and threw my sedan around bends trying to stay ahead of the semi that seemed to be a split second away from driving right over the top of me. To my enormous it didn’t take long to find a space at the side of the road wide enough to pull into and let the truck roar by.

As I sat there waiting for my heartbeat to come back down to normal I cursed and swore at “bloody maniac truck drivers that think they own the bloody road – something should be done about them!”

Remembering to breath I gradually calmed down. As I pulled back out onto the road a thought occurred to me.

“There have been 491 quite unremarkable, well-behaved truckies on the road with me tonight. Number 492 is the dangerous lunatic I’ll remember and complain to people about. That’s not fair on all the others, is it?”

There are thousands of priests and elders of various religions across the globe. I’m sure many of them took their vows out of genuine devotion to their faith. I seriously doubt that one in five hundred of them world-wide is a child molester.

There are millions of Moslems on Earth, some in pretty much every country on the planet. I honestly don’t think that one in five hundred of them truly believe they have a responsibility to kill anyone who disagrees with them, or that such an act means a reward of however many virgins in the afterlife.

It’s the exceptions to the rule that we notice. The outstanding ones, or the ones that are made outstanding by the publicity they get.

When you see footage of a shamed Father Whatsisname being led into a courtroom please think of all the humble and decent parish priests who’ve spent their lives earnestly serving their flock as best they could to little recognition and little earthly reward.

When your TV screen is full of images of men in black balaclavas waving guns and celebrating a successful suicide bombing, please think of the millions of followers of Allah who live in peace with their neighbours and who believe that their scripture preaches tolerance.

The 492nd truckie didn’t mean all the others on the road were dangerous. Whatever dreadful stories make the news, please remember the ones we don’t notice. The safe and the sane ones. The ones like you.

Sharing love at Christmas

Christmas looks like this somewhere, I'm sure!
Christmas looks like this somewhere, I’m sure!

Christmas is a time to share with those we love, and who love us.

They may be near and dear – that’s a fine thing.  To hold and be held.  To look someone in the eye, smile and say, “Thank you for caring.”

They may be far away.  A phone call or an email or a postcard away.  Maybe as far as the realisation of a shared thought about each other.  A smile and a nod and a wink of the mind’s eye.

They may live now only in our memory.  Passed on or simply passed out of our life.  Take some time to remember the good things shared and be glad of them.  Acknowledge but try not to dwell on the moments missed.

Take time to honour and thank the person most loyal and faithful to you.  The one who’s put up with your faults and failings, and shared your joys and triumphs every single day since last Christmas.  Look in the mirror, even if the view isn’t all you’d like it to be.  Look that person in the eye, smile, raise a glass even, and say, “Thanks – I appreciate your being here.”

It’d be nice to do this more than once per year.  The messy business of Life gets in the way too often.  But Christmas is a time to make that time – to share and acknowledge that love.

Merry Christmas, my friends.  Thank you for being here.

Renoir

A Long Dying

I don’t normally post other people’s writing on this site.  But this is different.  Special. It’s written by my mother-in-law Maggie, about her mother.  And what it says has particular resonance for me.  There are people I’ve cared about who’ve died too long, and without the dignity they wanted.  Like Maggie, I don’t want to be among that number.  And especially not because someone else – politician or any other ‘authority’ – denies me my choice.

My mother was 84 when she had a stroke, 88 when she died.

A woman who loved to talk, she became aphasic. Her greatest fear – that she wouldn’t be able to communicate verbally – became reality. She could speak, but what she said made no sense. And she knew it, knew that the words coming out of her mouth were gibberish. She used to beat the arms of her chair in frustration.

I watched when she refused food and drink in a rehabilitation hospital, trying to kill herself, trying to control the end of her life. That wasn’t allowed, and so a naso-gastric tube was forced into her trachea; a second attempt, under xray, managed to get the tube down her oesophagus.

Then I was told I should allow her to have ECT, somewhere between eight and twelve sessions,  “Because her kind of depression responds well to ECT.” When I refused, I was told ‘the case’ would be put before the Guardianship Board which might grant the permission I was denying.

My mother decided to eat and drink again and I never knew just what it was that made her change her mind.

I watched her in the nursing home as she shrank, physically as well as mentally. After four years she was bedridden, curled up like a foetus, her hands like claws. Following multiple admissions to a hospital for treatment for pneumonia I was told I could write to her doctor asking for ‘no more active treatment’. I wrote that letter, feeling both relief and horror. And resentment.

My mother had a long dying.

I don’t want to face a death like my mother’s. I want to be able to choose the time and place of my dying. Surely that’s not too much to ask?

The blind leading

I’m always impressed by people who overcome adversity to achieve the stuff they really want to do. Economic, social, psychological or physical adversity.

That last one used to be called ‘disability’ or more recently, being ‘differently abled’.

I was chatting to a bloke recently who works for a really big Information Technology company based in Europe. With enormous respect in his voice he told me about a small group of programmers in his company.

The distinguishing feature of this group is that they’re all blind.

Think about that for a moment. Blind computer programmers – they have Braille keyboards but can’t see any monitor screens. As my mate explained, they retain the equivalent of whole screens full of coding (the raw data of programming) in their heads.

I wonder if they’re able to do it because they don’t have the distraction of a lot of visual information cluttering up their memories?

One step at a time…

I apologise if you’ve missed me!

It’s been a challenging few weeks since the last post.

Some significant Unwellness, then what can be best described as a mojo deficiency.

Thanks go out to my darling bride Meredith, my housemate Stevie, my doctor Jess, and a bunch of good people at Lismore Hospital.

I’m back now, taking it gently, but importantly back in front of my keyboard and writing again.

Best piece of advice I’ve heard lately:

  • Follow
  • One
  • Course
  • Until
  • Successful!!