Monday, August 16, 2010

The Successfulness of Resiliency

It's not fast food when the guy in front can't get his eft-pos card to work and you wait and wait and wait and wait for the three people behind the counter all speaking differently accented versions of English to come up with a solution.

Me: "I'll just pay for it. How much does it come to?" I have the story all worked out you see. He's a part-time Dad, earnest, struggling to pay the bills, treating his kids to McDonalds on a Friday night. I'm a part-time Mum, slack as, treating my kids and now his kids to McDonalds on a Friday night.

It takes about 8 minutes to work through all this and in the end his card is accepted and so is mine. Upstairs in the play area I see him sitting with two clean-cut boys and an older woman. Nana. Where was she when the bill needed paying?

He:"Finish up boys and then we'll go downstairs and you can empty your bladders." What? one of his kids yelled back at him. "We'll go downstairs to empty your bladders." He actually said it, out loud, twice.

I mentally revoked my offer of kindness - this chap was clearly a Class A tool. What is it with language? At a training night earlier in the week I'd heard about the value of resiliency, and just yesterday read about measuring the successfulness of a project.

Where's the harm you ask? We all know what the speakers and writers mean.

Am I wrong to want to hold on to the rules? Is my inableness to look furtherer than the words being spoken creating interferenceness with my comprehendibility of the communicative message being conveyered at me?

Or am I a lone bastion, along with my good friend V, of proper bloody English?

Or am I simply getting old?

The thing with resilience as Seth Godin points out in his book The Dip is understanding the difference between the positive qualities of perseverance and resilience, and their negative aspects of inflexibility, dogmatism, and worst of all, failure to give up when giving up is the right thing to do. We don't berate a battered wife for giving up on her marriage, or frown on an investor who cuts their losses before the fatal haemorrhaging kicks in. How do we teach ourselves and our children to discern the difference between wisely digging deep and stupidly digging in?

Beating cancer is a juggle. Knowing that stress in some of its forms is unhelpful to my immune system I have to choose, and it is a choice, which of life's frustrations to allow in. My mother chooses to care about what she wears to the coffee shop, 'I can't go in this old thing'. C chooses to care about things being tidy. P doesn't care at all about being late for school but certainly doesn't have low ponytails anymore - 'only high ones now Mum'.

I don't care about many of the things that burden others. What people think of me counts for almost naught, I'm certainly not concerned with the fashion of my clothing, and I know that my car is not an outward expression of my inner worth. I don't care about your sexual preferences, your bank balance or what school you went to. But I do care about things, that in a bid to live, I'm learning to let go of: muddy thinking, awful spelling and incorrect use of my mother tongue.

I'm learning to be patient - that can't happen soon enough, and trying to find new ways every day to be less of a know-it-all. I'm hoping to show successfulness in this area and I'm sure the resiliency I have drawn on during my treatment will stead me in good stand for this.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

What to think

It's a crazy old world when little old me just doesn't know what to think anymore. Thinking, and being certain are two things I excel at - go on, ask me anything! But this past week has been discombobulating and disconcerting. I've become one of those mental folk who pace up and down the footpath outside their houses staring wildly and gesticulating at the children going past on their way to school. Nothing makes sense:

After weeks of trying on clothes at Christchurch's loveliest shops I ventured into the black hole of the $2 recycled clothing warehouse in Ferrymead. It stinks, the clothes are musty and third hand. They are also $2. I tried on 9 items, they fit me, I look hot, I got $2 change from my twenty bucks. I don't think you can even park in town for less than $20. Saba, Helen Cherry and DKNY were just three of the high fashion brands I rescued from that cold dark dungeon. Please don't go there. I like to think it's my secret.

I was trying to email J in the States using his facebook site, and accidentally stumbled upon a chap with a similar name whose bio said: "Know I'm not a stud but don't consider myself to be too bad looking." Que? His photo was up for all 400 million facebook users to see and form their own judgements. While I'm no fan of Sharia law I felt like draping myself in an old black sheet for my next profile photo - when will this obsession with how we all look end?

The Pope (and this is hardly surprising) has declared that the ordination of women is as offensive to God and the Catholic Church as paedophilia. You need me to explain what I'm certain I think about this?

T & P are studying Tikanga Maori at school and had trips to the museum to learn about the history of settlement in New Zealand and the old tribal way of life. P reported that she now knows that "Maori are people" and T's trip was summarised by the following piece of news:

Museum teacher: The Maori at this time were very clever. They kept coming up with new and ingenious ways of killing each other. They were clever at other things too, but the ways they killed each other were amazing.

I was a parent helper on that trip and rued the missed opportunities. The boys in the car on the way in had no understanding of the timeline of history in terms of what else was happening in the world at the time New Zealand was settled and knew almost nothing about the land wars and the historical injustices that give rise to the tensions of today. I know that I shouldn't expect too much from such a short visit but when I asked the boys on the way home if they enjoyed the trip, one of them noted it was exactly the same trip, talk and museum teacher they'd had the year before. Now that's preparing our children for a constantly changing world. We talk about wanting our kids to appreciate cultural differences and the museum teacher takes them straight to a stereotype about killing and cannabilism. I'd like to have been able to share with my children a similar European history about Vikings and torture and slavery to provide some balance to the savage stories they were being spun as though exclusive to Maori. But my own knowledge of history is embarrassingly brief and the best I could come up with was some vague reference to Henry the 8th cutting off his wife's head because he thought she'd had sex with her brother...and well, you'll appreciate that 9 and 10 year olds don't need that sort of history either.

P wants to marry T and I've explained that she can't and will have to marry some other boy or girl. "Girls can't marry girls." Not in New Zealand, I explained, but they can be civilly unioned and have property rights just like everyone else except nuns and priests. "No they can't, X told me that boys kissing boys is gross." And so it's begun. The beginning of the prejudice and bigotry. My own voice of reason is drowned out by the loudest voice in her class of 5 year olds.

Coca-Cola has been taken to court in the United States for the blatantly false claims about its Vitamin-Water which can also be bought here in Christchurch. It's promoted as being a healthy drink. It actually has 33 gm of sugar in it and has about 1 cents worth of synthetic vitamins added. Coca-Cola's lawyers have argued that they are not breaching fair trading laws because no reasonable person would be misled by the advertising claims. No reasonable person, they stress, would actually believe that a drink called VitaminWater and advertised as being healthy was good for you! Everyone knows, they say, that advertisers make outrageous claims that aren't ever expected to be true. No VitaminWater drinker, says Coke, believes they are drinking water with vitamins even though the label insists they are. Consumers know that they are actually drinking sugar and food colouring.

If I sound tired and overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all, it's because I am. I want to escape to a tropical paradise, read books all day, swim with little coloured fish, and sip mock-alcoholic beverages with umbrellas poking out the top. Fortunately, that's what I'm going to do after 10 more sleeps. Imagine the updates when I get back:

1. It all makes sense! Coburn reveals a unified theory of everything.
2. Sell the lot! Coburn reveals a fresh approach to your summer wardrobe dilemmas.
3. Culture for children! Coburn unveils a new curriculum for teaching children about their place in the world. It involves cupboards and on the 'release' days, costumes. See my previous post about sack cloth fashion.
4. Religion for girls! Coburn shares a new approach to women's roles inside the church. It involves being outside. With placards.
5. What next! Coburn shares her plans for the next, most exciting 12 months of her life.

I'm certain I'll be thinking more clearly when I get back.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The needle and the damage done

I'm so pleased to have a nasty bruise to show for my afternoon's work. On Wednesday I rocked up to the hospital for my three-weekly dose of Herceptin. Usually a quick in and out, the fates intervened to teach me a lesson. Access to my port was denied despite the lovely nurse J trying three times to get the mosquito needle into the right place. Veins in my arm are like clothes that fit - hard to come by, and after two or three attempts and one collapsed vein later we opted for the best, most uncomfortable option. Sticking a needle into the big old M1 of my wrist was the only way Herceptin was going to get in, and get in it did. Jeepers, it stung. And throbbed. And stung. And throbbed. When the 45 minutes were up and the needle pulled out, there was a tiny little bruise. Stinkbum.

I had been hoping for a spectular patchwork quilt of colour that screamed 'Poor me. Behold my affliction.'

Earlier that day I'd been to have my hair dyed. "Let me know if it hurts," said the kind wee thing that was bleaching me with nuclear strength ammonia. "It can sting." That's the wonder of perspective. It did sting but I didn't feel any pain. The endorphin rush of knowing that within 60 minutes I'd no longer look like a mongrel dog masked any physical burning sensation. And yet, just a few hours later, despite now looking like a cross between Billy Idol and Ellen deGeneres, the tiniest sting was really, really, really, hurting.

Thankfully, the bruise got bigger and more purple and yellow and black and dark green as the week wore on. It now looks really painful. Which it isn't. Irony. Paradox. Go figure.

Being blonde is awesome. I am already having more awesome fun. Not being mistaken for my husband's twin sister is awesome as well.

The kids were initially surprised.

T: Mum, um, what did you do to your hair?

P: Mum, you are C-R-A-Z-Y.

When I first showed T my little bruise on Wednesday he was appropriately disinterested. This morning, as I waved the new 3D sci-fi horror version of it in front of his face, he responded as only 9 year olds can. 'Mum, that is awesome."