Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's not just about bike lanes ...

I came across this article (It's not just about bike lanes ...) purely by coincidence while still shaking from a low speed bike accident on one of Sydney's busiest roads.

As an older female (52) adult I belong to the allegedly 'missing' group of cyclists too scared to use the roads. I live four kilometres from where I work. It takes me longer to drive or bus than it does to cycle, which is the case for most trips of fewer than 10km in the city. I like riding my bike. It saves me money, saves the planet, I don't have to go to the gym and I feel better when I get to work ... no, scrub that last bit. Since moving from Melbourne to Sydney I find by the end of my bike commute my heart is racing and I am a sweaty mess. No, I am not unfit. That's the effect of the adrenaline produced by dealing with unpredictable drivers and oblivious pedestrians during that short ride.

On the way to work this morning a woman in a massive 4WD drove through a stop sign on a back lane cycle 'route'. Luckily I saw her. When she saw me she looked at me as if I was being nice to her by stopping and kept driving!

This evening's incident was far worse. I was stopped at lights at a major intersection on Parramatta Rd. I was stopped on the line between the left turn lane and the next lane. There was a green arrow to turn left. A car sped into the left lane, obviously decided I was in his way and blew his horn at me. I turned to see how much room he had - enough had he proceeded slowly - and as I shifted my weight he sped past me. I got a fright and lost my balance, falling in front of the car next to me and hitting my head on his bumper and the ground. Thank god for helmets and that the light was still red. The impatient driver was nowhere to be seen. The driver in the car next to me put on his handbrake but didn't get out of the car.

Thank you to the two lovely blokes who came out of the pub on the corner, picked up my bike and helped me to the footpath, suffering from a broken light, a maimed helmet, a bruised bottom and a severely shaken self-confidence. It's nice to know that some people still notice what happens around them.

I am a mother, a partner, a doctor, a daughter, a sister, a friend ... a human being. This debate is not about cars versus cyclists or who owns or pays for the road. This argument is about how any of us would feel if we killed or maimed another human being because we were too impatient, too disrespectful, too oblivious, too distracted, too irritated to notice they were our mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, wife, neighbour or friend.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's been a while

It's been a while since I visited here and a lot has happened in that time. I have moved house and unleashed my inner suburban girl. I can ride my bike to work ... on a sunny day when it's not too hot or cold and ... well, you get the idea. I have a housemate who is fun to spend time with and easy to get on with. I have had two beautiful holidays to sunny places with real ocean. I have finally found a yoga school I like. My degree is coming to an end and both my children are doing well at uni. Yes, life is good. So I have started therapy!

Yikes! Sounds like the whole Woody Allen, New York thing has finally caught up with me. But suffice to say it's a very interesting, if rather expensive process, the details of which I am not going to bore you with.

What is more interesting are the links I am discovering between mind and body through yoga. They say it's normal to become more spiritually focussed as you get older, probably in an attempt to make sense of it all. But I suspect it has more to do with the fact our culture is so disconnected from any greater consciousness, we simply get exhausted as we age and need to reconnect to what we really are: universal energy.

Sure there are people in our society who "practice" religion. And while not wishing to cast aspersions on the many religious people who do real and valuable good in the world, the greatest task of most organised religion these days seems to be building barriers between people and fostering fear, rather than searching for universal consciousness and spiritual harmony.

I think this is primarily because we have lost sight of the god within, in the pursuit of the god without, the god we expect to give us the answers. If we are made in god's image then it is no quantum leap to see that we are god-like or part of that 'god' energy that 'created' this world in the first place. The answers come from within but we must be quiet to hear them. Quiet is not something we do all that well. Have you noticed how few people even listen to the world these days? I even find myself plugging into the iPod to cut out the swirl of sounds that are the soundtrack of the city.

But perhaps ironically we are on the right track. Perhaps by cutting ourselves off we are better able to reconnect. The other day I was able to meditate on the train to work by cutting out the noise with music. By the time I reached my desk I was calmer and happier and better able to connect with the people around me. This weekend, I went for a bike ride in the country. No headphones, just the sound of bellbirds and the wind and the crunch of gravel under the wheels. Yes, life is good.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes.

I love this photo. I love its ambiguity. It is timeless and genderless . It tells you things that may not be true.
What do you see? What is being looked at? Really?
Do you ever doubt your reality? If I am right, does that make you wrong? Can we both 'know' different 'facts' about the same thing?
How can we both be so convinced we are 'right' when we stand on opposite sides of the room?
Why don't you also see that what I tell you is the 'truth'.
If only you could see that I am right, we wouldn't be having this argument. How can you think that when clearly it is something different? If I know black is black, how can you think it is white? Why can't you just see sense?

We can only see the world from our own perspective. We filter what we see through the sieve of our culture, our upbringing, our beliefs and what we saw on TV last night. It is the filters that confuse us, not our eyes.

It is other people who make us see evil were there is no threat; who blind us to the evils they perpetrate and the hate they peddle; who create moral panic when there is just human existence in all its messy glory. They are threatened by mess, by ambiguity. What are they really afraid of? Themselves.

I love the ambiguity in this photo even though I know exactly its who, what, where, where and why. Suspending your reality opens your eyes to the possibilities. Embrace the mess.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One good thing...

I read an opinion column over the weekend in which the writer expounded the benefits of a 'gratitude' list. That's a list in which you note all the things you have to be grateful for each day. It could be the smallest thing. For example, today I am grateful the course participants liked my presentation even though I messed up; I am grateful my daffodils and roses are still alive, etc. The idea is that the more you focus on the positive, the less room there is for the negative. Easy!

What bothered me about this concept is that some US self-help guru has trademarked the idea! Now call me vain, but I have evidence I came up with this idea some years ago, as 'One good thing...' i.e. at the end of each day you think of at least one good thing that has happened and that is what you will remember. B Has been using the concept for years to fight depression on the premise that if you say you feel well when someone asks, you will feel well.

Positive thinking should be free. It is free here. The Doctor is In and says, try it here for free. Don't waste money on the book. Spend it on someone who needs it to feel even better! Then just smile at the checkout operator and say, "I'm really well, thanks." Keep practicing, go to sleep remembering one good thing, and gradually the world will be a happier place.

Friday, October 24, 2008

They're Orange!

Soon I will be surrounded by roses. The little buds on my balcony are morphing into old-fashioned single apricot roses with a lemon throat and a soft, spicy scent. Further along is a yellow bud. It's hard to tell if it's a sport or a separate bush.

I miss my garden, especially my roses. People talk about leaving home, but it's leaving thge gardens that I remember. The last was one I was able to come back to, to revisit and celebrate six years of growth on my old familiars. Leaving it a second time was even harder.

It's a bit like that with a child. You plant the seed, nurture it, tend its needs, admire its flowering, stress over infestations and withered branches, fertilise it fondly with what you hope will be the right ingredients, then - a small twist - your child leaves you to continue her growth in other gardens.

Hopefully, her roots are deep and strong enough to withstand bad weather without your care. With luck, the fertiliser you used will have long-term benefits. And note to all future gardeners:please tend to her with care and respect. 

When you do get to revisit your child you find yourself in awe of the growth that can occur in a foreign soil, the confident branching and graceful strength that has been acquired without much apparent tending by outside forces. You can simply delight in her shade. For shade is what she gives you, and should do. Our job is not to over-shadow our children but to plant them out in the world and refertilise ourselves from their newer and bigger adventures, content in the knowledge you have gardened well and deserve your rest.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

- Kahlil Gibran

Monday, October 6, 2008

Not four eyes! Amblyopia, stupid!

I have been wearing glasses since I was three. The only advantage in that is that, at three, I didn't have to choose the frames. In fact, in 1960-something there wasn't much choice. There were mini-cat's eye replicas of grown up glasses in various shades of pink or blue for girls, and shrunken Clark Kent goggles in black or tortoiseshell for boys. Mine were not enhanced by the piece of brown paper gummed over my 'good' eye.

How I hated that patch. I hated glasses. I hated the pictures on  paddle pop sticks I had to move back and forth in front of my eyes in a vain attempt to go cross-eyed. I hated the cheery orthoptist and her lions that never went in their cages. I hated the eye doctor with his refraction contraption that ever threatened to trip me up on the 'better' or 'worse' questions and leave me sightless for the next year, and I still do. I hated his stinging, blinding eye drops. But most of all, I hated being called 'four eyes' or 'goggle eyes'!  And I still never remember to take off my glasses before opening the oven, and we're talking the best part of 50 years now.

In retrospect, I have the patch, the glasses, the paddle pop stick, the lions and all the other paraphernalia to thank for being able to see as well as I now can. I have no binocular vision, but my 'bad' eye is not blind. I have the bullies at school to thank for still not being able to catch a ball, and I thank Dorothy Parker for the fact I squinted my way glasses-less through so many teenage parties I still don't know what it means to 'make eyes' at someone, because I could never see that level of detail.

But to this day, the hardest part of wearing glasses remains choosing the frames. Today there is nothing but choice and recently I stumbled upon an innovative use for my iPhone: taking photos of all the choices so you can email friends and family for an opinion. So now I have four possible choices, and four different opinions! Whah! 

The Fashionista was quite specific. Of these, she said, "They're cool, and that colour looks really great on you, but I don't know how I feel about the sliced-out-side line things ... it's perhaps a bit graphic/spacey, it seems to say 'I think I'm a 'cool' 49-year old', which you are, but you don't need glasses like this to say it, perhaps. That said, these would be my second pick."
I did ask.

Happy Birthday, J! Six years on ...

Oct 2014: This is my friend, J. She turned 96 the other day. I called her up at the aged care facility she now lives in. I was scared of what I might find. It was more than six months since our last contact. Six months is a long time at 96. I had been 'busy'. Perhaps she had died and no one had told me? Perhaps her dementia was worse and she wouldn't know who I was?

Thankfully, neither of my worst fears were realised and for a little while we chatted like the old mates we are. But after a while, the same questions were asked again and again and the same stories were repeated, and it was apparent the dementia had not gone away.

I felt, and still feel, sad for my friend and our friendship. Sad that she is in such a place after such a full and active life. But today, I came across this, written six years ago, and it reminded me why I called, why I need to call more often and why I will keep calling my friend until I get the final call that tells me she has gone ...


Oct 2008 ... This is my friend, J. She turned 90 the other day.

We can all only hope to be as active in mind and body as Joy at 90. But J's greatest gift is not her longevity, it's her ability to connect and stay connected with people. One of the other guests at the party was 91. She and J had been mates since they started Guides aged 11.
J got her first computer only a year or two ago and she's already a dab hand with email, but her main tools are the telephone, the letter and a brilliant memory for people and their special events.
She's never been rich. She comes from the 'make-do' generation who lived through the Depression and the war. She's a natural recycler. She manages to keep things to re-use and always remember not only where she put them, but that she did keep them so she does reuse. But every handmade card on handmade, recycled paper is a precious gift of something  most of us have little of today: time.
J's real wealth comes from the time she gives to other people: her large, multi-generation extended family, friends in every state and every decade and the host of community organisations she supports. What she gives, gives back. It's something that thousands of friends on Facebook can never give you.
Happy birthday, J. Many happy returns.