Who am I? (Let’s play the changing identity game!)

I was very present

very connected

hands on

responsive

responding

Responsible

Guiding,advising,caring

Always loving

Empathising

Feeling the pain, the hurts, the setbacks

And the joy

Celebrating achievements

Fostering resilience

Having lots of fun…lots of

Adventures

Recording the milestones

Saved in heart and head

Listening

Shepherding

Lots of support – of all kinds

Lots of driving

Picking up and pick ups at all hours

And now

Who am I?

Stepping back, step aside, hands off

Except for hugs and care when needed

Cheering from the sidelines

Anchoring

But new rules apply,

Mouth zipped unless asked

But always listening

Here when needed but not always needed now

Recalibrated role,

Who am I? What am I?

A parent.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Janus Years

So here we are in our 50s, 60s and 70s – looking back and looking forward. The Janus years. Janus, the Roman God who is depicted as having two faces as he looks to the future and the past. He is known as the god of transitions and beginnings and endings, sometimes to be found on gateways and above doors.

Now that we have less time than before, the looking back and looking forward takes on a greater meaning. There are more beginnings and endings.

Some of us still have parents or a parent. Some of us are dealing with the loss of parents. It is the dealing not only with grief but also coming to terms with emotional legacies.  It is also about regret and understanding.  Sometimes it is experiencing what our parents have become with time, in body and state of being, giving us an understanding and a view of our possible future.  There are also the insights that arrive only with time and which can be coupled with regret.

Being a parent conscious of time – of time not spent and time to spend. The regret of a friend with adult children who have moved away who only now has an understanding that leaving his parents in their country town for the excitement and a life in the city and not returning… not even for short visits, of the hurt inflicted. Adults with regret and not able to say so. Regret can be so painful and a warning.

Looking back and looking forward.

How blithely as ‘baby boomers’ we travelled, easy to do in our 20s with little concern and possibly regard for our own parents…but now as parents ourselves reaping what we have sown and in a more globalised world with perhaps more to worry about, our adult children are often happily elsewhere. The understanding of role reversal, of experiencing sometimes a sense of ‘loss’ at both ends. The feelings of parental loss we experience combined and conflated with the unstated, unspoken grief underpinning the support and understanding that our own adult children need to be elsewhere and must find their own way.

Looking back, looking forward.

We catch up over coffees with another generation in tow. Pushers and prams. Adult children creating their own and on a path to a different understanding. The pleasure and joys of parenting and watching adult children parent. No time for regret.

Looking back and looking forward?

 

 

” Not quite arrived in our minds

yet always arriving in the body,

always growing older

while trying to grow younger,

always in the act

of catching up,

of saying hello

or saying goodbye

finding strangely,

in each new and imagined future

the still-lived memory

of our previous life.”

David Whyte – “The Bell and The Blackbird”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floating

It is that time of the year when people connect. Connecting not electronically, but with the sea and the sand and to each other. Children and adults in and out of the sea. A slowing down on the sand, time to look to a blue beyond.  The pleasures of being at the sea remembered, intermingled with watching the happy busyness of children now, content with playing and being in sand and water.

But it is floating in the sea that takes you elsewhere. It is an act of trust. Trusting in yourself and the sea. Where does the trust come from to suspend your body and allow it to be held buoyant and gently buffeted? When and how did we learn to trust in ourselves and to find that point of balance? Did we learn to do that as part of a swimming lesson or swimming survival program in chlorine at school? I suppose so but it requires another level of trust and state of being to float in the sea.

Face warmed skyward, eyes pinky dark shutters closed filtering the sun, muffled sounds as waves tickle your ears. Immersed but held. Not only body but thoughts too are suspended. Drifting in a star shape, waves guiding and no need for direction. Maintaining balance. The pleasure of being held and cradled as an adult. A rare treat. And remembering how and why to trust.

To float as the sun dips and when there is a different light on the water, may be an act of bravery or even foolhardiness. There is a wariness too that seeps in. The heat of the day has gone and ripple light patterns now moon hued play on a sea changed to a navy blue velvet.  There is relief with the cool and the change especially after a hot day endured. Gentle wave sounds at the sand’s edge.

Trust takes a different form.

It is the floating in the smooth dark and the opening of eyes to an even darker space above. A night sky sprinkled with stars. My own solitary sea floating star-shaped being feels small, but there is an understanding that somehow I am a part of those other stars so very far away.

It is a benign darkness, a comforting sea and star blanket above. And just for awhile it as if I am part of a greater calm and that there is a merging; star to stars. I am floating but content in the dark.

A G(love) tale

This is a tale of a glove or gloves that crossed continents and countries and all in the name of love.

The first pair of gloves were bought in sub zero temperatures in Mongolia as a gift of love and care for the hands of a fellow who often travels in cold climates too. Warm gloves are such a comfort and are a necessity in many parts of the world. Gloves worn and given as a present are a reminder of those who care about our well being and whereabouts.

The first pair of gloves were needed in the bone chilling European cold of Germany in Winter. However as it happens, momentary distraction and being in too much of a hurry resulted in lost gloves. There was sadness at the loss and although everything can be replaced there were no more work trips planned to Mongolia to purchase another pair. A bit of lateral thinking and some sweet email conversations later resulted in a new pair of Mongolian made gloves being sourced from Tuya based in the USA. So the fellow returns to Australia in time for a birthday and a gorgeous new pair of replacement gloves with an extra warm cashmere cuff.  Love and smiles all round.

Then back to Germany for awhile but an important trip to America planned. Gloves packed.  This was the first visit to meet the girlfriend’s parents and to gain a sense of place that shapes identity. Crispy cold weather and Christmas just around the corner. Travel was challenging but relief on arrival. Meeting the parents and meeting the boyfriend for the first time – everyone wants a happy starting point.

But Maisie, as in ‘Crazy Maisie’ the French bulldog had not been factored into the new and unfolding dynamics! Maisie, a very solid and determined presence had her own view of the visitor and a returnee moving into her territory. An unearthly scream from the girlfriend heralded Maisie’s crime and quick act of revenge. One beautiful Mongolian glove had been Maisie’s target. Slobber and shreds of leather were all that remained. Relationships in formation fraught with distress at Maisie’s deed. Maisie slunk off to view the proceedings from the safety of the couch.

The gloves were beyond saving and the situation needed repair. To employ an apt cliche, what goes around…a message of distress from America sent to Australia resulted in reconnecting with Tuya (the Mongolian glove supplier) back in America who was just two States up the road from Maisie’s place,  who was regaled with the tale of the glove. A kind act of salvaging the glove (and love) situation resulted in the speedy dispatchment of  an identical pair which will hopefully arrive in time to not only prove that there really is a Santa but also that love goes hand in glove whatever country you may be in.

Postscript: Maisie is now undergoing retraining or her first real training under the tutelage of the new fellow, my son.

 

PHOTO-2018-12-20-06-40-29

 

 

 

Horses and High Plains

He really liked draught horses, especially Clydesdales. He admired their majestic stature, their hard working tenacity and their sheer physicality. There is a photograph of him astride a tall horse. A teenager sent to help relatives in the country in hard times.  Dad had strength. Throughout his life he pushed and pitted himself  to take on physical challenges. When he was younger he ran, embraced athletics, played hockey and cycled including on a bike with no brakes, on road trips, blatant energy and symbolism at play.

There was always bushwalking and mountain climbing. A constant his entire life, until he could no longer. Walking trips loosened a tight valve. There was satisfaction in organising the preliminaries for a trip away. The planning, the equipment to be placed in order, the careful calculated packing. He had a history seeped in scouting and being with a bushwalking group…being with men. It was all girls at home.

But Dad did take us camping and bushwalking too. We camped on the High Plains one time and we saw the brumbies, the wild horses, sniffing the air at us from a careful distance. Dad didn’t approve of the brumbies being there, it was not their natural habitat but he had a grudging respect for them. For their wildness and their strength and disdain of ownership.

I understood that brumby wariness and being out of place. But that glaring admiration and that begrudging respect was not extended to me but the feeling of disapproval was certainly present. Always.

He was a cerebral man, immersed in the sciences. Science could solve everything, or most things. Physics and chemistry were applied to household and outdoor tasks. The law of physics was applied to many major tasks. Things needed to be moved. Problems needed to be solved. Chemical formulae was applied both inside and outside the house.  He took great pride in maintaining his home. Later he maintained us when we lived elsewhere. Dad was always fixing things. Fixing us. Words weren’t delivered then but the sense of responsibility, duty and care needed to be translated from the doing. Dad fixed things and people regardless. He always knew best.

At the end in a morphine haze he was seeing horses. Blue horses, he said, emerging from the overly cheery beachside painting on the hospital wall. We replaced the painting with a photograph from the High Plains. It was a picture we had come to realise that was strategically viewed from his bedroom at home. It was in his line of sight. Dad needed the High Plains.

He struggled. He didn’t want to go or to let go. Control had been at the essence of his being. Control was equated with strength. What was the particular and elusive formula for that equation? Music helped with the release. Music that evoked scenes elsewhere, snow falling, greener places, captured by symphonic pieces. Strong male voices, Gregorian chants, tenors and choirs.

At the end, slowed breathing, no pain, drifting but trying to release. The image of a felled horse came to mind. Such a strong creature, spent and unable to rise. Trying to lift a heavy head. We did as Dad asked. The notice said that he had ‘gone home’. And now we need to go to the High Plains to make sure that he has…

 

Baci

I have become addicted to Baci. I know that Baci means kisses in Italian and according to the Urban Dictionary “Baci” is “an excellent word for seeming intellectual and urban cool” !There is also apparently another connotation – sexual… to this urban cool use of Baci but I am afraid that has no relevance to my addiction.

I love Baci because it is dark, rich, nutty chocolate. But I have become addicted not only to the taste of it but also to the little aphorisms, however trite they may be, that are located in the shiny silver wrappers that encase these sweets.

Who doesn’t have a sneaky peak at the weekly horoscope in the papers? Take it or leave it. Well that feeling is similar to reading these little gems inside the wrappers. The two key themes featured are love and friendship.  I read the ones on love which have past partnership relevance, such as; Love looks not with the eye , but with the mind and In love, silence is worth more than speech, but it is the ‘insights’ on friendship that have the most meaning for me now.  And it is my understanding and experience that friendship and love can be easily interlinked. Love and kisses for friends.

Further along the track in life there is time to take stock of the accumulation, the depth, wealth and the loss of friendships. When traditional love such as romantic love is in short supply then the love for and of friends is of even greater importance. Loss of family or when family love with all its warts and challenges is gone or simply not there that’s when the aphorisms kick in.

So for a sampling of the wrapper philosophy, the ones that resonate with me are ones such as friends will forgive each other’s small defects, and friends are those that contain the reason to be loved and a friend knows all about you, yet still likes you. You can pick and choose the chocolates and the wrappers but choosing and keeping good friends is so precious.

There are also some timely reminders about reciprocal friendship and being a ‘good’ friend.  Friends can come and go. Some friendships are enduring, forged and cared for over time. Some friendships are for particular times. Some friendships we let go, outlived or have simply faded. There are always fair weather friends too. Just friends. Then there is the grief of losing really good friends which is immense and so painful.

In times of virtual connection and chatting on line or by text, connections have changed. Keeping in touch is easy – by text, but there is still nothing better than real face to face chatting with a good friend. Nurturing, caring and sharing. Laughing.  I will endeavour not to text to say ‘ chat later’. Reminders from the wrappers;  A sick body needs a doctor, a soul in pain needs a friend. And look at a true friend , it is as if you are looking in a mirror. So maybe they are a bit corny and probably sound better in their original Italian and something may be lost in translation but I keep eating Baci and I feel compelled to read these pithy little pieces. We can rationalise anything.

So love and Baci to my friends.

Searching for a good Om…

Before I moved back to the inner city, one of the best things I enjoyed in my previous location was the weekly yoga class. Classes were held in a garden studio. Our insightful teacher knew what to do with women of a certain age and how to work with the pull of gravity, body and soul. There was comfort and even pleasure in being stretched and refreshed. Minds were taken elsewhere especially with the aid of comfy blankets, lavender eye pillows and some gentle omming. It was so relaxing that inevitably one or other of us would slip into a bit of a snore, snuffle slumber. Some quiet smothered  giggles ensued and relief that it wasn’t me. Well not always.

So with the move, the search for a replacement yoga class began.

First I ventured into a studio on the main road. This was my first foray into yoga (Iyengar) where props featured. My understanding is that yoga is good for destressing and not meant to be distressing. My sighting of the various blocks, ropes and bindings made me a little nervous. The first task of striking a supposedly relaxing pose tied together in what felt like a body seatbelt contraption just made me feel and look like a sweaty macrame knot. But I persevered and moved through stretches but when the yoga teacher asked us to fetch the folding chairs my stress levels started to rise when I realised the chairs were not for sitting on but we were to weave our way, semi acrobatically through them! I eyed off the narrow space thinking how was my computer spread derrière going to gracefully and lithely move through what seemed to be a not very sturdy prop. Was this a test? Something to do with mind over matter? By this stage as I wrangled and shoved my body through the space praying that I wouldn’t get stuck all thoughts of achieving a relaxed state of being, had totally disappeared. I didn’t return to that class but opted to try another at the studio presented as being for deep relaxation. Props featured again. After being coaxed into a position that made me feel like an inverted frog the instructor indicated that we would reach greater depths of relaxation if we were to put a block strategically between our shoulders, breathe deeply and hold the pose. It was a long hold.

After the bruises had subsided from that session I went in search of a good physiotherapist.

So I headed off to another studio in a different direction. The class and ambience looked promising enough. A sylph like teacher sat next to an Asiatic drum and gonged us into the session. It was obviously a very popular class judging by the numbers in the class. It also meant having to be very aware of not flinging out an arm or a leg too far, as body space was at a premium. Space was so crucial that being packed into that room I quickly developed an awareness of what you would call the ‘great unwashed’  possibly comprised of many students who had obviously cycled in many cases at speed or hopefully had plans to shower at the end of the day. I couldn’t keep up with the moves especially in such a confined stuffy space. But the mainly young things, who I came to think of being as Gumby people, green and bendy like the cartoon character, moved as a flexible mass. I was glad to be gonged out.

In search of a smaller venue and an aesthetically  calming setting, I stumbled upon a class not far away and held in a room where light filtered through stained glass windows. The setting was promising and the class was small…intimate. So intimate that after the first session where there was at least one other person it just became the teacher, “Hannah” and myself every week. I had signed up for a term and I was hopeful that there would be others attending, even on a casual basis. If some other people had attended it would have given substance and greater meaning to Hannah’s one and only script of yoga moves which by the third session I also knew off by heart. Hannah’s references to ‘and now everyone’ and we will all… made  me feel constantly disconcerted and left me scanning the room while downward dogging to check on the crowd that Hannah seemed to think she was leading. I felt very obligated to attend Hannah’s classes, being the one and only, so when I needed to head overseas for a spot of work I asked my son if he could fill in for me. I was worried about the crowd.

My son attended one session and contacted me soon after to check on that physiotherapist ‘s details.

Hannah had actually gone off script while he attended her class,  but she quickly reverted to type or to the script, may be due to a drop in confidence, which resulted in my son dropping too or left hanging in a half descent from the diversionary handstand unable to disentangle  easily without a disc issue, while Hannah continued with “and now we will all…”. Neither of us returned to Hannah’s classes.

Then there was the brief attendance at another class. Again, a beautiful serene setting. An important criteria in my search. But it was not to be. The class was good but a bit hard on the knees. However when the teacher brought out her musical instrument, an Indian shruti box which looks like a type of musical bellows ( and sounds like flattened bagpipes) and then handed out the printed words for us to sing our praises to Lord Shiva ( I haven’t  even mouthed the words to the Lord’s Prayer for a long time) that I decided that the search was still on.

Finding ‘yoga nirvana’ was becoming even more challenging, but it is all about the journey, is it not? We go to yoga for many reasons but one reason at least is to try with gentle stretches and movement to reach a state of relaxation and even other worldliness. Other worldliness does not mean using a yoga class as a form of group therapy. That’s therapy for a yoga teacher, for her, not us. It is one thing to practice compassion and empathy but reaching a state of relaxation when being regaled with stories fuelled by anger resulting from her divorce is a bit challenging.  I only lasted two sessions in that class.

So for my final attempt at finding a class I responded to a flyer at the cafe which featured a woman in a ‘tree’ pose with a paper bag over head advertising as ‘Sad’ yoga. By this stage paper bag over head yoga resonated with me. And it did.  Moves were designed to uplift our sense of well being (no bag on head). These were great classes and I attended regularly and I was even the proud recipient of a medal for my constant and regular attendance. Then as it is the way of the world these days and in so many areas of our lives,  our teacher informed us that she was going ‘virtual’ and our face to face classes had come to an end. Sad.

The search goes on. Ommmm.