Thursday, May 27, 2010

Constancy, consistency and the wisdom of youth

The neighbour has not moved out, or moved on. I've been summonsed to the Disputes Tribunal and seeing as it's only a quasi-judicial arena I can bone on about it without fear of such matters being sub-judice and off limits for public consumption. Except that it bores me. Prone to exaggeration and not one to ever let the truth interfere with a dramatic retelling of a perfectly mundane event, I shouldn't complain. But when the neighbour writes that for a year she has 'consistently and constantly' asked me to replace her plants I get a little bit cross. How many times would she have to have spoken to me to qualify for the c&c tag? More than once I'm picking.

Dr John Gottman became famous for his ability to spend 10 minutes listening to a couple talk and predict with amazing success (somewhere near 90%) whether they would still be married in a few years time. One of the death knells? Universality of judgemental criticism. 'You ALWAYS interrupt me. EVERY time I try to tell you how I feel you walk away. You NEVER hold me.' If any of these statements were true, the couples should get divorced. But of course, that's not how it works. In emotional situations we overstate, exaggerate, and sometimes tell lies that feel true but aren't. I frequently sign cards 'all my love' which isn't true. Nor is 'you are always in my thoughts'. Let's start a Truthful Communication in Card -Writing Club. "I thought of you today, for the first time in ages, and while you are not even in my top ten list of best friends, there was a time when we were close and I would like to stay at your bach next time I'm in Raglan so hopefully this card will do the trick."

T has missed something reasonably important from his science unit at school this week. The point. I have missed the point of parenting too in the subsequent fall out but I'm not sure I could behave any better the next time around:

T: We're doing a Science Fair at school Mum and X is my partner and we've decided what our project is. A wooden toaster.


You see, I wisely said nothing. Just waited.

T: We're going to get four bits of wood and make a toaster. The question we are asking is 'what would happen if there was no electricity?' And our answer is, 'we'd just have to eat raw food.'


You see. Can't speak. On kitchen floor exploding with laughter, tears rolling down face.

Somewhere the point of experimentation and figuring things out has been lost. Instead my boy, of whom I am enormously proud, has solved the problem by showing all the qualities that have been drummed into him from birth. Resilience, make the best of every situation, deal with what's in front of you without complaint. Eat your raw onions and be thankful. Plenty of people have NEVER had a raw onion for dinner and you don't hear them moaning about it do you?

Once he'd got over the meanness of me laughing at his idea he explained that their project was going to consist of the aforementioned wooden toaster with a wire running from the wood to the wall. This would illustrate to everyone what would happen if there was no electricity. Nothing. Nothing would happen. The bread would stay bread and there'd be no peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Just peanut butter on bread. Maybe he's on to something. Maybe not every problem needs a new fix. Maybe it's not even a problem.

P, on the other hand is preparing for school. She was very slowly doing an alphabet matching game today, finding the lower case and upper case letters and pairing them up. Jeepers, thought my mum who was on nana duty, what's taking her so long? "I'm doing it backwards Nana. Starting at Z." Go on, try it. Say the alphabet backwards. Can't do it can you? You have to go forwards before you can go backwards. Why is that? And what's the metaphorical takeout?

At her last kindy visit our family, except J who's in the States, will be there to celebrate her last day. My mum and dad, C and T, and Lesley who's been our Nanny for 8 years. I've asked P what happens and she's explained in great detail who sits where and the whole rigmarole. The best part she says happens near the end. "Then I get sunged to." How cool is that? When was the last time you were sunged to?

My wish for my family today is that they will be consistently and constantly loved all their lives, and for this to be true, not greeting card true, but truly true. And I wish that whenever they are without power both physically and metaphorically they have people who will sing with them while they peel their onions.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dying....but of what?

I've been thinking about dying a lot this week, but nothing to do with cancer. C has been away on a course in Australia. Four courses actually. One each day, 18 holes each. Say no more.

P has slept with me in his absence and three nights ago I woke up to find that she was lying sideways right across the bed with her head on my tummy. I looked down at her straggly hair, bubblegum cheeks and Jolie lips and thought I might just die, right then, of happiness. I'm not prone to emotional waves of such strength, other than righteous anger when some bastard steals my car park space, so I just lay there and tried happiness on for size. I am an extra large. An extra largely happy.

Earlier in the week I'd been worried that I might die of embarrassment. I, rightly or wrongly, threw my name into the hat for the Board of Trustees at the kids' school. I know I'm supposed to be taking on less, and focusing on breathing and sprouts but I thought I could let the universal consciousness decide my fate. If it's meant to be, I'll be elected. If I don't make it, that's a message. Always looking for a sign, me. Or so I thought. Once the election papers were distributed to voters with each candidate's statement attached I realised the enormity of my mistake. Thirteen very capable people are vying for seven spots. Holy shitcakes batman, not only might I not be elected, I might come last. And then I knew that cancer wouldn't kill me; shame, humiliation and embarrassment would get me first.
I've never been prone to embarrassment. Witness my potted history of talent quest entries:

1) Singing "oh I do like to be beside the seaside" and doing a wee dance at the same time at the Raglan camping ground. I suspect I won on the strength of my costume. My brother J had cut up the Sampler Biscuit box we'd got for Christmas, turned it inside out, coloured the dull grey cardboard oceanic blue with his Christmas crayons and made me a top hat.

2) While I'm loathe to mention beauty competitions in the same breath as talent quests, I entered the Junior Miss Raglan the same year. 32 girls paraded around in their bikinis and 10 were recalled for the final. Me and the other 21 who missed the cut couldn't believe that the chubby girl with ringlets won.

3) The following year I entered only the talent section and won hands-down with a barefoot ballet dance and a self-choreographed jazz number to the pop song of the year 'Fame'.
4) I've already told you about the disaster that was my high school talent quest entry. Long skirt, skivvy under a jumper singing (a flattering description of the sound) Tracy Chapman 'Baby can I hold you tonight?'
5) Another year my friend R and I made up a cute rap/dance/singing combo about Jesus. We both now have/had breast cancer. Go figure.
So you'd think that I'd be more than up for some embarrassment.
At law school we studied the issue of consent in sexual offending. A male radiographer had been telling women that he needed to examine their ovaries externally and internally so all the patients merrily said yes. Turns out he was a crazy perv. and the internal exam was something he'd just made up on a lonely Tuesday night and had nothing to do with their condition. Split decision in the appeal court - the sicko got off. "The women consented," the old wig-heads announced from on high. "I bet those law lords would have decided differently if he'd stuck his bloody prodder up their arses" some vulgar feminist in the class yelled out. And then people started staring at me. Turns out, I'd said it. So you'd think that looking pretty foolish in front of my peers wouldn't be a new sensation for me.
Why then the dismay and sense of dread? Am I getting proud in my old age? That can't be true. I still have to talk very sternly to myself to avoid repeats of going to the supermarket in my jammies and slippers.
I like to think it's just evidence of my recovery. It's normal to feel anxious about an election. I've just not felt normal for a while. I haven't trifled with smaller emotions because I've been busy with more pressing life and death issues. Perhaps it's a sign that my perspective is returning. Since I'm no longer concerned about dying, I can concern myself with less important matters like school elections.
Monday is results day. If I'm elected I might kick off the first meeting with a wee song and dance and a sparkly costume and if I come last how about I video the same routine and share it with you all. Proof that when they cut out the cancer they didn't take away my precious capacity to laugh at myself at the same time.