Reflection June 2014

Hmm, as I write this, I have no idea of its title or direction. My only feeling is an absolute need to write.
As anyone who has followed my blog will know, I have battled my personal demons for many years. Sometimes I am the winner, sometimes depression has the upper hand. I find that I constantly have to consider my checks and balances and constantly have to tell myself that what I am feeling may or may not be real.

For the most part, I am going very well. I have a much lesser reliance on anti-depressants and generally am content. And after many years of wallowing, I am pleased to say that life is mostly happy!

So what brings this frame of mind? This week I have been challenged multiple times by work. Interestingly I have support, significant support for my opinions and mind-set but that has not stopped the 2AM churning of the mind, the wakefulness when all I really crave is sleep, the mindfulness when all I really crave is peace.
I have a great deal of respect for my manager, L, and have discussed the reasons for my feelings with her and she agrees with the way I feel. I understand that I should find comfort from this; instead for the most part I cannot find peace. I wake up in the morning and my face is sore; clenched teeth from thinking, the cause.
I have always called the feelings that I am experiencing now my princess genes; that is the part of me that experiences an over whelming feeling of self-righteousness, a strong sense of indignation that I am right and there is no other perspective. This ‘gene’ has gotten me into trouble for many, many years. It does not matter what evidence is presented to me, my mind has been set…

I understand that this is destructive and that just a small compromise or consideration that there is another perspective would make a huge difference to me but I can’t bring myself to accept that reality. Until I do, I guess I will continue to have a sore face. 🙂

On June 30th I will be five years since my breast cancer diagnosis. At that stage, I guess I will be considered cured. That is an interesting feeling for me. I have, since diagnosis defined myself, at least in part, as a breast cancer survivor. It is interesting as in my heart I do not consider myself defined by breast cancer, but in my head, I can’t define myself without it.

Having said that, depression defines me much more strongly than cancer ever has. Though I am comfortable to speak about cancer and my feelings about it, I rarely speak about depression. I believe that is because when I announced to the world that I had cancer, people came from far and wide to wrap their arms around me, support me, love me and make sure I had what I needed. When I announce that I have depression, I am considered brave, foolish (or both). I am considered somehow to have control. With cancer, there was no consideration that I had control over my illness or its course. But with depression, I hear people saying, “Get over it,” “Be thankful,” “Take control.” I can only say it’s not as easy as that.

I often feel judged because of depression. I consider that it seen as a weakness. Sometimes I wonder whether I am my own harshest critic and the judgement is not there at all. I understand that my desire for perfection significantly colours my acceptance of my weaknesses and that probably depression should be given a much smaller partition in my life than it actually occupies.

I now have a number of routines in place that help me to minimise the impact of depression. Each day, the first is a walk with Crash (woof) who is sitting by me now saying, “C’mon mum! Our walk is more important than what you are doing.” I think he is probably right!

Friendships

In the air on the way from Brisbane to Hobart. G and I are going to spend a few days in Hobart to catch up with his father and to revisit his old stomping ground. G flies back to Canberra on Sunday and I am spending an additional 10 days in Tasmania catching up with friends. I love catching up with my Tasmanian friends. There is something both comfortable and comforting about spending time in the company of people who have known you for many years. A couple of my friends have been friends since the mid 1960’s. It is always very special to spend time in the company of someone with 50 years of shared memories. That is not to say in any way that I don’t value my newer friendships. In fact over the years spent in Queensland, it is the newer friendships that have had the time invested in them. I am always humbled by our old friends who welcome us with open arms and go out of their way to make us feel like we never left.
We are a minority in having moved away from Tasmania. Our friendship group, but for us, is pretty much intact and continuing to enjoy life in Tas. It is not only our friends that keep dragging us back to Tasmania. Tasmania has some of the most beautiful places that I have seen anywhere in the world, its food and wine are second to none and the pace of life is a step back to something way more sensible than what I have lived for a number of years.
When I come back to Tasmania now, I feel as though I belong. That last sentence just appeared and yes it’s true, I do feel as though I belong. I always felt as I grew up in Tasmania that I didn’t belong. I had quite different and distinct friendship groups and often felt as though I sat on the periphery of all of them. I never quite felt as though I was accepted. I am not sure why I thought that these people had stayed in my life as long as they had. Looking back, they had plenty of opportunities to escape. I did not hold any of their deepest secrets, they had as much dirt on me as I had on them. We actually hung around together because we wanted to. But I could never see that.
The groups that I hung out with were diverse. My school friends and I were good kids; we gave our parents limited grief, no grey hairs and having to bail us out was never really going to be necessary. We did well at school, studied hard and achieved success. We looked out for one another; we were never cool. At school I was very tall. I was 5’7” at age 11 which made me easily the tallest person around in primary school. When I moved to high school I found my niche by being sporty. I didn’t grow to too much taller than my 11 year old self (maybe 5’8 ½”). Even in early adulthood I thought I was tall and gawky. I aspired to petite but that was never going to be! Certainly no one ever messed with me and looking back, my school years were charmed. I guess even then I was looking at what I didn’t have. I had dark short curly hair and thought that the only definition of beautiful was long blonde hair (and petite). I didn’t have boyfriends; I believed that no one would ever love me.
Apart from my feet (which are size 41), I actually like what I see when I now look in the mirror. My feet? I will never like my feet and often feel like I should just wear the boxes and throw away the shoes. C’mon, give me a break. I’ve come a long way towards accepting awesome. I don’t need awesome feet to be content! Having said that, I bought the most awesome pair of shoes ever to be donned by these size 41 feet yesterday. (I’ll attach a photo). So maybe my relationship with my feet is improving 
I feel I’ve digressed, let’s get back to the subject of belonging. I had another group of friends at Coles Bay, the location of our holiday house as I grew up. We would hang out on the beach, hold nightly camp fires and drink. I tried really hard, in the company of these friends, to take up smoking. I have probably smoked a packet of cigarettes in my life time but I am sure I never drew any smoke into my lungs. I thought it was revolting but thought that if I smoked I would definitely belong.
In Launceston, after school, I still kept in touch with all of my school friends (and still do) but I branched out into a new group. We were all studying. We all got our degrees from the then Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. The disconnect that I felt with this group is more difficult for me to fathom than any other. We shared dreams and ambitions, we worked hard; we partied hard. It was at this time that I met my husband, G. We started out just as friends, this growing into something more over time. The first few years for us were tumultuous with us each questioning our relationship on many levels. I always felt that my friends did not approve of our relationship (and given the angst it caused me, I would not be surprised if that were true). Having said that, when we did finally agree that we belonged together, I never let go of the feeling of not belonging. I always wondered whether I was living up to the expectations of the group or perhaps whether the choices I was making were acceptable to the group of people who were my friends.
We left Tasmania in 1992 and spent 3 ½ years in the Middle-East. Going to a country where no one had any expectations about who G and A were and what we would be like was liberating. I felt a high level of self-acceptance and belonging. It’s quite interesting really, given that everyone goes to a place like Saudi Arabia for their own reasons. I don’t think that any of the people there would have been saying, “I’ve come to Saudi Arabia. I really felt as though I belonged at home but I came here anyway.” We made lots of friends during that time, some with whom we have kept in touch. I value those friendships highly and I actually never wondered whether I belonged there.
In Brisbane, my network is small, tiny even, but it is strong. I count my close friends on one hand, would do anything for them and know that I can go to them if I need to. My nephew, M, who I feel particularly close to, told me recently that he has three friends. He is happy with those three friends. He trusts them, likes them and he doesn’t need any more. I met one of them and was impressed with the way they were together. He has had previous friends who had the potential to derail his life along with their own. I admire his astute summation (at the ripe old age of 24) of what is required, relationship wise, in order to be content.
Why is it that we spend our lives questioning what we are doing instead of just enjoying the moment? I guess that if I had the answer to that question, I’d have the key to accepting contentment as a way of life.
Tasmania; bring it on! Looking forward to a great visit!

Disposability

Disposability – is that even a word? I marvel at the recent evolution of the English language. I think that what I marvel at most is that there actually, but for recent technological advances, were plenty of words before. I remember when the computer department at work started talking functionality. Now, perhaps I am missing something, but function without any ‘ality’ can be used perfectly in place of functionality on every occasion. Is there a computer geek somewhere in the world who introduces himself, “Good morning I am Xxxx Xxxx, I coined the term functionality.”

Anyway I digress and I am fast realising that this blog is evolving (not evolutionising, which, incidentally, spell check does not like) into journeys of the mind. I am not saying that I won’t bring the thought processes back to the initial reason for the blog, but the focus is shifting away from the thought processes and on to simply living, as is my current and future focus. I reread all of my blog this morning because I was contemplating deleting it. I went so far as to discuss deleting it with two of my friends. One said that she had wondered whether I would regret starting on this. That was a tick next to the delete box. The other friend, L2, gave me such encouragement that I decided on the re-read path before deleting. The blog remains. Like many aspects of life, sweeping it under the carpet potentially allows it to fester and festery (another new word or so spell check says. I guess spellcheck would prefer festering, I prefer festery) thoughts are destructive thoughts!

Now, 270 words into this post, I will get back to disposability. Today I am back into reclaiming my house. Yes, it’s taking a bit for me to reclaim and I realised that my issue with disposability is the crux of the difficulty. I was brought up by careful, respectful parents who had a very good grasp of the value of a dollar and of the value of ‘things’ in general. As my children grew, I was often mortified by the lack of care that they showed for the things that I would imagine they should treasure. Now, I have found multiple cameras during the clean-up, some I have no recollection of ever being brought into this house, (but of course, not the one that I have previously mentioned as the cause of a level of angst!).

About 10 years ago I led a group of twenty eight 13 and 14 year old boys to New Zealand to play sport. At the time I bought a very expensive digital camera so that the families left behind could share our adventure when the boys returned. It was beautiful camera, 4.5 megapixels and every possible feature at the time. I think I paid around $2000.00 for it. About 4 years later the batteries stopped holding charge and I steeled myself as I walked into the camera shop to buy a replacement battery (I knew they would cost around $130.00 each). So I walked up to the young man at the counter, produced my camera and asked about batteries.

He started to scratch his head and look in catalogues. He came back and said that he thought that, given some time, he could probably find a vendor and that the price would be around $150.00 each for these batteries. He looked genuinely baffled and picked up a small camera that was around $200.00 and said something like this, “This camera here is 6 mega-pixels and has far more features than the one you are holding. Why would you want to buy new batteries for that one?” At the time, I took this on board and did not replace the batteries.

However, the little girl in me that had been brought up to value, treasure and respect things put that 4.5 mega-pixel camera into the top of my cupboard. I found it again yesterday whilst tidying and I still can’t throw it away. Now I believe that some things (and I mean values, not cameras) are really worth holding on to. I will work on the camera. As my mind races forward, I am wondering whether the lost camera that I really do value can be placed into the category of being ‘cleared out’ before its time in order to save me future angst. I think not, but I momentarily enjoyed the thought!

By the way, I love the comments that people leave that let me know that this is being read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on disoposability!