Thursday, January 26, 2017


Today has been a funny day.  Not funny ha-ha, but weird and thought provoking.  Somehow the randomness of life came together like puzzle pieces fitting together.  Let me explain.

Today is Australia Day.  It's a divisive day...for some. There was a huge rally in Melbourne led by our indigenous peoples, who refer to it as Invasion Day or Survival Day. It warms my heart to see the swell of people at the rally, or using the hashtag online #changethedate. Having your national day of celebration on the anniversary of white colonialization is hurtful, thoughtless and stupid.  It should be a day for everyone, including the traditional owners of this land.  But enough about that...for the moment.

This morning as I sat on the couch eating breakfast, I scrolled through Facebook. There was a post by Toby Halligan referring to recent footage of Richard Spencer (alt-right nazi) being punched in the face by a passer by.  Toby asked 'when, if ever, is it ok to use violence when you disagree with someone'? Now there was a number of opinions flying back and forth under this post.  It got me thinking.  Sure, we all relished at seeing Joffrey being poisoned and Ramsey Bolton having his face eaten off by his own dogs in Game of Thrones. Evil got it's comeuppance.  But what about in the real world?  Someone stated that there was no reasoning with Nazis such as Spencer. This conversation made me assess my own perspective.

I looked through Facebook memories. About six years ago I was at the zoo and took a photo of koalas - stating, 'well it is Australia Day after all'.  A few years on I posted a Paul Kelly song, saying that I (like Catherine Deveny) felt more Melbournian than Australian.  All the flag cape wearing racists had made me shudder at the sight of our own flag. I copped shit online for this from some people. Flash forward to last year. Peter and I were at the Invasion Day rally. I felt part of a crowd making a statement to support the traditional owners.  I met lovely people in the crowd and had a great day.  In a short scroll through my own history I saw how my thoughts had changed and developed.

I feel a bit like this about becoming vegan. I turned vegetarian at 14, much to may parents concern. About three years ago Peter suggested we go vegan. You see he had begun following animal rights sites online. It made me stop and consider many things I had never thought of before. Like how cows just don't keep producing milk by themselves (like all mammals it's tied up with feeding babies). As I read more I thought more. I opened my eyes to things previously never considered 'because that's how things have always been'. This was my moment of inconvenient truth.

A friend and I have chatted on and off for years about how you change people's perceptions. How do you stop the general population from believing the bile spewed by politicians, spreading fear and hate towards refugees, or opinion pieces about indigenous people's 'lifestyle choices' or not being black enough. How do you get people to think deeper about complex issues and change the way they see the world? Change the beliefs they have held for many years? Or get someone to open their eyes and see the world differently?

This afternoon we watched the movie Arrival. It is everything a sci-fi movie should be, if you want emotion rather than explosions. Twelve space ships arrive in various locations around the world. Amy Adams is a linguist charged with trying to decode the alien language. With the threat of these mysterious ships hanging over countries, humanity reacts for the most part how you expect - with fear and suspicion. But Amy communicates with the aliens and talks to the military about how words can be misinterpreted - a weapon can also mean a tool. The gift she receives is to understand. I'm trying not to give away spoilers, but lets just say we loved it.

On today of all days I took this as a sign.  A message. How do you change people's minds? By listening and trying to understand.  It may take time, but it is the only way to see something anew. Opening someone's eyes to compassion, empathy and understanding can be hard. You just have to hope that someone is willing to see.  Ten years ago there were many things I didn't give a second thought about. But a combination of friends, different media sources and critical thinking has taken the blinkers off. I have the gift of trying to understand and maybe as importantly...caring.

Would this work on a Nazi? Probably not.  But you do see stories occasionally of people doing a complete 180 degree turn around.  Skinheads who saw through differences, changing their mindset. Or dairy farmers who became vegans. This proves change in perception is possible.  You just need the gift of understanding.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A series of unfortunate events

Happy 2017.  Well, that was the plan.  2016 was such a horrendous, hard clusterfuck of a year.  Everyone I have spoken to found it hard.  On new years eve we watched fireworks from our street and lit sparklers in the hope of warding off whatever crap-laden hoodoo was weighing over us like a shroud.  Clink went the champagne glasses and I awoke the next morning with a sense of hope.  It had felt like a long time since that had been the case.

The last 18 months have been filled with worry.  Peter found his workplace uncaring and bullying. This lead to a HR nightmare, complete with every trick in the book to break him (such as not paying him and hoping he would quit).  Then casual work proved sparse and irregular. Money became tight, and as the person with a regular income I began to feel the pressure of keeping us afloat.  My job was all consuming and stressful in it's own way.  2016 felt like a treadmill of work, sleep, repeat. Life got smaller as we tried to live off one wage...that actually doesn't cover all our bills. And then one of our dear cats, Bella, who had been with me for over 12 years died. It felt like the last straw.

Many of us, for whatever reason, spoke of 2017 being different.  Better. We had realised that  surviving through 2016 wasn't enough.  Things couldn't continue as they were.  We had to change.  I exhaled. Paused. And then I hurt my back. Talking to my lovely chiropractor he spoke of the connectedness of my back pain and subsequent tightness and spasming of my diaphragm and stomach. I said how stressful last year had been and I began to cry a little.  You see, I can cope for the most part except when someone digs a little deeper.  Asks me how I really am. My veneer shatters and I find my eyes welling with tears and a huge lump in my throat. He gave me a hug and said 'the sun will still come up tomorrow'. Prolonged stress was the cause of all of this.  My body was telling me that enough was enough.

Summer is kitten season and the hole in my heart left by Bella needed to be filled. Enter Pepper - a gorgeous weirdo black and tan tortie girl who is 12 weeks old.  Alas she came with cat flu and infected our other two cats.  In between vet visits and antibiotics for fevered and unhappy kittens, chiro visits for the torn muscle in my back and tender, upset stomach, Peter ended up in Emergency with an aggravated gall bladder and immense acute pain. Yes, all five of us were in the wars.  Hey, 2017...this wasn't the deal!

I have been wondering in the last couple of weeks how to make changes when you don't have money. This background stress doesn't seems to abate. I never feel like it's something I can put out of my mind 100%.  The other thing I've wondered is...who cares for the carers? I am not alone here.  Many of my friends have taken on similar roles for their partners or children. So how do you make sure that your wellness well doesn't run dry?

I'm trying small changes at the moment. Practical things like diet to help with my cranky stomach. Smiling at the antics of a new kitten helps too.  Talking to my friends who understand, emotionally support me and are free and flowing with hugs makes a huge difference to my own mental health. But I guess the reality is something has to change in my situation. So keep your fingers crossed that the pox on our house abates. That circumstances change and the pressure and load are lightened.  That perhaps just a little bit of luck comes our way.

And to any fellow carers...I salute you and hang in there.  I know how hard it is to put yourself first. Or even second.  In the meantime, here's photos of Pepper to help make us all smile.