SIZE MATTERS: THE BENEFITS OF BEING SMALL

Our Milky Way

Our Milky Way

A real dark night sky is a tonic for the soul. That’s why in the weeks following a diagnosis that I was growing cancerous tumours, feeling overwhelmed with it all, like an Indiana Jones-sized rolling rock of grief and fear was heading my way,  I stepped outside onto the front porch. Luckily, the sky was clear and when I looked up I heard the Milky Way calling out to me for falling into. I was bewitched by the white splashes along it’s twining body. I felt into the space within these mind-blowing cosmic stains, appearing so because they indicate numbers of stars so dense I cannot fathom the universe except in the most basic of ways. I wanted nothing more than to dive on in and  swim far enough through the sparkling infinity, so that I would be sure to reach the farthest place, the point of pregnant expansion from which I would retract like a catapult in reverse straight back to the core – the spot where I stood. I would fly back to the womb of my own rebirth. For a blessed moment, I confronted my own mortality and was not afraid to do so. I stood in a black hole filled with peace. Loved, loving. Happy. I felt for a fraction of a moment the freedom of understanding my own insignificance. And then it was gone.

Living is hard. Really hard.  I do want to mention here that I am not claiming hardships that compare with the lives of those born into poverty. Those who are more likely to experience physical suffering, discrimination, disenfranchisement, injustice and displacement. That’s hard living. Then there’s the rest of us, more or less enjoying lands of milk and honey those in poverty dream about. The poverty stricken must think us delirious with happiness. Yet we find a Milky Way of reasons not to be. Our ‘hard’ living is generally a result of a lack of appreciation for the things and opportunities we do have and an unfortunate craving for what we don’t. We can’t handle the excess all around as it wreaks havoc within us anymore than those in poverty can manifest what they need from without to sustain them within. What is within us is mirrored by what is outside.  A perfect imbalance. It’s all hard, but different.

Sitting in our ‘first world’ lives we believe our lives to be BIG. The dramas and dreams which emanate from our egos are so large and loud. There is logic in that. The will to live is pretty much hardwired – all things are driven by the blueprint for survival, growth and reproduction. But with the expectation – or at the very least, hope – of great things from our experience of life comes wave upon wave of dissatisfaction and disappointment as we judge at  every moment every detail of our progression in the cause of survival, growth and reproduction. Those whose suffering is starvation, sickness and early death – every day, without reprieve, do they have the luxury of thoughts other than those concerned with survival?  When I learned of my sickness, my tumultuous thought processes screamed to a halt. The myriad of  inner voices grew quiet – desire, envy and dissatisfaction stopped lending their unhelpful demands and judgements and I heard my still, small voice.  It spoke to me of the basics. What did I need to survive? It helped me make decisions about my treatment, it helped me speak to my children, mother, brothers, friends. It helped me look at what dying might be like. I discovered that I love myself and I love living – especially when death threatens – but also that it’s ok when my time is up. That moment on my front porch has led me through dark times.

And so I share that moment with you because it was possibly one of the best moments of my life – like falling in love and seeing my babies for the first time. Because it reminded me that what I think doesn’t really matter but is everything and all I have. It also reminds me that even in my darkest times, my life is privileged. To have such a positive vision of my difficult experience is something I feel very fortunate to have. I have stopped and thought for about 30 seconds for beautiful experiences of this world that I treasure. I realise I could fill a universe with them.

Swimming among innumerable stars to the ends of the universe and back showed me the blessing of being small. Infinitesimally small. Insignificant and hidden. It was a moment of true freedom.

Emojis for the Modern Mother

An emoji paints 1000 words

An emoji paints 1000 words

If there was an emoji for ‘feeling slightly suicidal’ which could indicate in all of it’s tiny wonder a tongue in the cheek just to lessen the blow, I would use it. A lot. Do I want to reveal how, on a beautiful blue sky day (the first in about 3 weeks), a blank page of staying at home-ness, sharing holiday fun with 3 of my boy children, I am feeling the ever present prickle of little tears behind my caffeine enhanced lids? Yes, I do want to reveal.

I have visited cheery Facebook pages with heaps of activities to fill the two weeks of Spring break. Lambs to visit, walks to be had, trams to ride. Been there, done that, my children are too old. Old hat Activity weary 9 year olds and a positively Done Too Many Times Activity wary 11 year old do not an easy holiday make. Family visits out of town and high times with the cuzzies would cut it, but most of our cousins live in the UK and the Kiwi family are all city bound and short on age appropriate players. Even the begged for soccer programme failed to deliver, the promised age specific training not getting off to the best start when the 11 year old found himself paired off with the 6 year olds. He was the only one of his age.

So I scoured a website of Holiday activities. Let’s just pick 3 activities my kids would enjoy.

Go Karting – (starts from) $65/day (10am-2pm)

Drama – (starts from $75/day (9am-3pm)

Survival Skills – $130/day (9am-3pm) 

That’s 3 days taken care of. For three children. That’s $810 plus food and drink, plus travel to venues up to an hour away, which means that basically my day would be taken out by the sheer traveling time. That’s not much change from $1000 for three days keeping the smalls happy. Three days. $1000. I know I’ve said it lots. Hence the emoji.

The other thing that this unpalatable exercise does is bring out the sense of failure. The red hot judgement with which I gaze upon myself. Where did I miss the career opportunity that would have led to my being able to sign the cheques without a second glance and make my children happy. Oh what I would give right now for that smug feeling of achievement, the joy I would get from the high fives my children would give me as they marched out of the house on the way to their own success in a world where telling your offspring to ‘learn to appreciate boredom – let your mind unwind’ is a communist conspiracy.

I blame myself. But it’s hard to live with the weight of the decisions that led to this. Let’s see if I can take solace in numbers. I have already spent a total of 11 and a half years planning, executing and financing holiday time for my five children and I  have a total of 5 and a quarter years of holiday time left before graduation from school is completed. Er, emoji, where are you?  At a time in my life when what I crave is a silent retreat and to finally succeed in earning a crust of self-esteem, this is giving me the shakes, the heeby-geebies and too much cortisol racing around my eco-system. It’s not a holiday programme I need, it’s a survival programme.

Right after this I am going to take a cushion and sit on my deck in the sunshine. I shall drink another coffee even though I’ve had my quota. I shall close my eyes and expose my winter skin to the glorious dangerous UV rays and rebel for a full ten minutes. I shall listen to the spring birds and feel the caprices of the spring wind. I shall do nothing and try not to let the prickles turn into tears, but if they do I shall lick their lovely saltiness from my cheeks (well maybe my lips, my tongue isn’t freakishly long) and let it go.

PS Snapshot for 5 minutes of the 16 and a quarter holiday years: One child is making sherbet, another just complemented me on my scones and is kicking a soccer ball  and the other is sitting in the sunshine stroking the cat. The tears may fall. 🙂

MY SUPER-SPARKLING NEW LIFE by A. Pirranha (warning: it’s x-rated!!)

A.Pirrahna preparing for a webinar

‘Day ##. Hi, my name is Andy! Welcome to my supertastic new life! Man, I’m super-stoked to be here – check me out! My pad in Bali is right on the ‘kn beach man! Well compared to where I come from – Kansas ain’t got no coastline man! So we jump on these crazy little mopeds and we’re there before you can say ‘There’s no place like home’ – cos who wants to be home when you can be anywhere else?! Continue reading

A SHOVEL FULL

Shovel with Daisies

Shovel with Daisies

There was once a woman, three wise men and a fool. They lived in a kingdom by the sea, under the sky and near the forest. But that doesn’t matter.

One day the woman woke up in her bed and couldn’t arise. Feeling afraid and a little strange, she placed her hand where her heart should be and couldn’t feel it beating. Now she was very afraid – and quite confused because she wondered how she was still alive. She could not stop crying!

The first wise man was called. He came with his bag of important, shiny thingamejigs, and his quiet assistant who stumbled apologetically behind him. Behind the quiet assistant skipped the fool with a shovel over his shoulder, humming a pointless tune and smiling at the daisies.The first wise man stroked his long beard (all wise men have long beards) and muttered “hmmmm”.

He reached for his one of his shiny thingamejigs and proceeded to place it on the woman’s body, over where her heart should be. She looked at him. He did not meet her gaze but muttered “hmmmm” again.

He turned to his quiet assistant and said out very loud “Tell the woman she must stand on her head for twenty minutes at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk. This will cure her of what ails her.” The quiet assistant did as he was told. The wise man swept out of the room followed by the quiet assistant, stumbling. The woman watched them go and turned her face to the wall, crying silently. The fool tiptoed over to the woman and patted her on the head. He left a daisy on the pillow by the wall.

The woman did as she was told. She hurt her neck quite badly and gave herself a powerful headache.

The next morning the woman awoke and tried to arise out of bed. Again she found she could not do it. She put her hand over where her heart should be and still could feel no beat. Instead, she felt a small lump. It was quite hard. It didn’t move when she pressed it. Her tears flowed like a river over her hand, over the lump.

The second wise man was called. He arrived with his bag of powders and herbs, accompanied by his proud assistant and the smiling fool whose cartwheel crashed into the door jambe because he was carrying a shovel over his shoulder. The fool rubbed his leg and sat watching the sunbeam move across the floor.

The second wise man harrumphed a bit and stood with one hand underneath his chin and the other on his cocked hip. He took some powders and herbs out of his bag. Turning to the proud assistant he pontificated very loudly, “Tell her to take a teaspoon of the powders dissolved in the water taken from wilting the herbs over a low heat – once at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk.” The proud assistant pompously announced the woman’s treatment.

The second wise man and his proud assistant both swept out of the room. The woman turned her pale face back to the wall and clutched the sheets around her for warmth, sobbing with little control. The fool left his shovel by the door, tiptoed over to her and sat down on a little stool by the bed. He hummed a pointless tune very quietly and stroked her hair before leaving a fresh daisy on the pillow by the wall.

The woman did as she was told. She spent the next night vomiting and was overcome by violent chills.

On the next morning, she awoke late and couldn’t turn her face from the wall. With her hand, she felt for the lump where her heart should be and instead of a lump, there was now a hole. There was no pain, just a space where her heart should have been. She was all out of tears and had no breath left for sighing.

The third wise man with his bag of books and his mean assistant were called for – and the fool came behind them, hopping and spinning round occasionally, as he expertly balanced the shovel in his outstretched hand.

The third wise man muttered and frowned and scratched his head. He reached for his bag and took out a book. He opened it and pored at it with his long bony finger (all wise men have long, bony fingers) and growled a few expletives (in a wise way of course).

“Woman, you must say these words everyday for a week three times at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk. Furthermore, you must face the eastern window at the dawn, turn around on the spot at midday and face the western window at the dusk. You must summon great joy and determination as you recite these words and you must do all this with a blind faith that the outcome will be the one you need because these are the true and correct words to say. If any questions arise, you will forward them to me and I, or other wise men trained by me will answer them”.

The mean assistant went over to the woman and poked her with his finger. “Did you get that, woman?” he demanded to know. Still looking at the wall, she nodded slowly. “Right then” he said and strode out of the room following the third wise man.

The fool stayed with the woman all that week. She lay in bed facing the wall and he covered her pillow with fresh daisies every day. He stroked her hair and sang the pointless tune until she became familiar with it and started to rock gently to its rhythm. He sat beside her as she told him in a whisper that she could not perform the instructions of the third wise man because she could not even get out of bed, or summon the voice or the will to say the words in the way he had recommended. So he read the words to her and together they put together some questions, which they attached to a copy of the text and sent it to the third wise man. That done, they turned their attention to pulling the text apart until the world it created became no more than a collection of letters, randomly assembled so that they told of another world with new possibilities of interpretation. When they had done this once, they rearranged the letters again, and again – and again, each time creating a different world resplendant with new meaning.

The next day, which was the 6th day, they received a reply.

Woman,

‘It is good that you understand some of the text. The bits that you question you do not understand. I have rearranged the words for you so that they they actually say THIS instead.’ And the text had become a different and new arrangement of the previous version of the text, just as the woman and the fool had been able to accomplish themselves by rearranging the letters on the page. ‘But most importantly, you must understand that my version of the words is now the correct one. You must simply believe in these words. You must have faith and trust because they are the right words because I say they are the right words.

Sincerely

The third wise man

Ps are you reciting them as and when I prescribed?’

That night the fool hugged her in the silence of the twinkling stars, and in the drumming of the rain, and in the wail of the wind.

On the 7th day, the woman, who was now sitting up in bed warming herself in the sunshine and eating soup made by the fool, the woman with warmth in her cheeks, despite having a space where her heart should have been, the woman said to the fool “Do you believe the words can make us happy?”

“Good question” said the fool and told her a Yo Mumma joke. She laughed, despite its lack of political correctness.

The woman continued. “The words that the third wise man gave to me are sometimes too hard to understand.” She went on. “They confuse me and they make me feel afraid because I do not understand. Some of them I can’t believe because they tell of things of which I have no experience. Now he has confused me even further because he swore by the validity of the first version of the text he gave me. Now he has changed it but the message is still that I just have to trust and have faith in what the words tell me.”

“Ahurb’dy hurb’dy” chortled the fool.

The week came to the start of the next week and the third wise man and his mean assistant returned to receive thanks from the cured woman. The mean assistant approached ahead of his master. The fool stood in the doorway.

“Fool, you are in my way. Get out of it!” The mean assistant shoved him in the chest. The fool sprang back a large pace at his punch but returned back to the doorway with an alacrity that surprised both the wise man and his mean assistant. The mean assistant took out the fool’s leg from underneath him but the fool managed to execute a perfect backflip in the air and landed not one inch from where he had stood before. Enraged, the mean assistant fell upon the fool with blows, kicks and bites. The fool became a blur with the mean assistant so that you could not tell where one finished and the other ended. A cloud of dust engulfed the two men.

The third wise man and the woman cried out for the fool to spare the mean assistant. It was all happening so quickly, and the roars of the mean assistant suddenly turned to strange high pitched squeals. As the dust began to clear, it became apparent that the mean assistant was laughing and that he was laughing because the fool was tickling him in all the tickliest tickle spots that a human body possesses. Nobody seemed to notice that in place of the pieces of paper with the words written upon them were soft flakes floating down like pieces of ash from a blazing fire that crumbled into atoms when trod upon or brushed away.

“Stop! Stop it, stop! Please!” The mean assistant panted. The fool released the assistant and went to pour him a glass of water. The third wise man stepped forward to help the gasping assistant take the drink and ushered him away, chuckling also and patting his back.

The woman meanwhile was on her feet, out of bed holding her hand over where her heart should be. She turned her face to the fool, mouth agape with surprise, eyes shining with tears.

“There is no lump, there is no space, there’s a beat!” She said.

“There always was, you fool,” said the fool swinging his shovel to the floor and trying to heap great spadefuls of the soft grey ash, which crumbled to atoms as he tried to remove it. “You just didn’t believe it. You don’t need the special exercises, the herbs or the words. You just need to listen to your beating heart and keep shoveling, every day. Your shovel can be full of daisies or it can be full of dust, it’s up to you.”

The woman looked down into her hand as a  penny dropped into the centre of her palm. She turned to look at her pillow, which was covered in daisies . “Oh and go get a job….” She heard the fool say. She swung round with a big smile to thank the fool, but he was gone.

The door swung gently on its hinges and a shiny shovel leant against the frame, with the evening sun glinting on its bright, shiny surface, in a most bedazzling way.