Wednesday, 30 January 2008

J = Joy

Joy is:
  • A sunny day or a good storm
  • A simple tomato sandwich
  • The first basil of the season
  • The smells and sounds of provencal lamb, aubergine and capsicums grilling on our new barbecue
  • The pop of a champagne cork
  • A glass of 2003 Kawarau Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
  • A drink with a good friend last night, watching the yachts playing on the harbour
  • A purring cat
  • Soaring music
  • Floating in warm water
  • A clean sheet of paper and a good pen
  • A new book
  • A job well done and procrastination shown the door
  • A happy client
  • Our painting from Quebec City
  • Business class
  • Arriving somewhere new
  • A clean house and freshly ironed clothes
  • Helping someone
  • A tui singing
  • Pohutakawa in flower
  • Agapanthas on our driveway today
  • A good workout, feeling virtuous
  • Sleeping in
  • Laughter
  • My sister (in fact and name)
  • My man
  • A list of things that make me smile

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I = Ironing

Why is it that ironing seems to be a uniquely female chore? Men cook, they clean, they care for children, they take out the rubbish, maintain the house and car etc. But few of the men I know will voluntarily do the ironing. Including my beloved.

When we were first married we divided up certain household duties. We shared the cooking, cleaning and shopping, but my husband organised and took the rubbish out and maintained our beaten up car, and I of course got the ironing. Oh joy.

Then we moved to Thailand. Found Gorn our maid. What a joy it was coming home from work every day to clean, ironed clothes hanging in my closet. Ah, bliss. But all good things come to an end, and after three years we returned home. I found the ironing much harder to tolerate after that. In fact I hated it. With a passion.

I noticed though that gradually I was doing more of the cooking, and decided that ironing should no longer be one of my duties. So I went on strike. My husband eventually noticed when he ran out of business shirts. His reaction was one of disbelief. “You’ve stopped ironing?” Yes! He adapted. Got by without ironing as much as possible, and managed to iron a business shirt every morning before work.

My sister-in-law was newly married. I discovered her doing the ironing. In fact, I witnessed her husband yelling at her annoyed that he didn’t have enough ironed shirts for a business trip. Like us, they were both working and equally busy. He did little else around the house unlike my husband). So I shared my philosophy. “Withdraw your services. Go on strike” I urged her. She did. He resents me to this day.

Gradually over the years our incomes improved, and once again we managed to find and afford cleaners who ironed. Happy years.

Then I decided to leave full-time employment and enter the uncertain world of the self-employed. Guilty about having downtime and less income in my first year, we dispensed with our cleaners. And for the first time in years, I began ironing.

But …

shhhhhhh …

I discovered that when I wasn’t tired or in a rush, doing the ironing was a wonderful time for contemplating life, for listening to music turned up really loud, and even for learning languages. My Spanish grew to an acceptable level thanks to time spent ironing. I hate to admit that these days I almost find it therapeutic. When I have time. Almost.

But if I ever get given an iron as a gift … it (or the gift giver) is going on Ebay.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

H = Hillary

I grew up on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. On a clear day, from our home within sight and sound of the Pacific Ocean, we could see Mt Cook - now also known as Aoraki, its Maori name – peeking through a gap in the mountain ranges from the Island’s west coast. It was always a thrill to see Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, capped with snow winter and summer. On the edge of the plains and the ocean it seemed an impossible idea that men (and women) would climb it.

We learned about Mt Cook at school. It was 12,349 ft high. These days children learn the height in metres, but I have no idea what it is. A few years ago the top fell off Mt Cook, so now it’s not even 12,349 ft high anymore. My knowledge is obsolete.

Even though I could see Aoraki Mt Cook almost daily until I left home at 17, I didn’t get up close until I was 19. After they retired, my parents spent a lot more time in the MacKenzie country, the area surrounding Mt Cook. My dad loved the wide open spaces, and in his little Lada four-wheel drive he explored river valleys and camped out fishing. Now that he’s gone, my mum doesn’t get up there any more. So, at Christmas, we decided to take her for a drive. It was a beautiful day, and when we were half-way – at Tekapo - we decided on impulse to head for Mt Cook.

On arrival, we saw the new Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre which had been opened only days earlier. There was a statue of Sir Ed out front. I remember thinking that he would be in his 80s now, and that soon he wouldn’t be here anymore. New Zealand would go on without Sir Ed to keep us honest. It pained me and I was surprised at that, at the emotion I felt all of a sudden. Little did I know that we had just a few short weeks left to appreciate him.

I grew up in a country enormously proud of Sir Ed. Tiny New Zealand, tucked away on the edge of the world, had produced a man who had climbed the highest peak on the planet, thousands of miles away, before anyone else. It made us feel as if we had a place in the world. That we belonged. That we mattered.

Not that we focussed solely on Sir Ed’s accomplishments. In my experience, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing were always spoken of together, never individually, when it came to the Everest climb. Sir Ed would have never had it any other way. Likewise, he was as proud of the humanitarian work he did in Nepal as in his exploits at Everest, and later at the North and South Poles.

New Zealand was a better place with Sir Ed in it.

Let’s face it. The world was a better place with Sir Ed in it.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

G = Grief

Snap out of it.

It’s time you were over it.

It wasn’t a baby anyway.'

You can always have another one.

At least you …. (fill in the gap … weren’t very far along; can get pregnant; didn’t die; have your health; didn’t really want children anyway; have a good job; etc ...)

Grief is something that comes to everyone at some stage. So why is it that we are so terrible at dealing with the grief of our friends and family? Why is it that we don’t talk about grief? That we don’t understand that we need to listen? When we offer platitudes or solutions, we are often trying to help ourselves to feel more comfortable, rather than thinking about what the grieving person needs. So we end up not permitting them to feel the way they feel, trying to get them to cheer up, in effect, denying them their grief.

Sadly, over the years, I have been involved with hundreds of women who have lost babies, and almost invariably their grief is accentuated by the insensitive or simply ignorant behaviour of their friends, families, and colleagues.

I shared those experiences.

  • My best friend gave me a book to cheer me up in hospital. It was about a woman who had a miscarriage that destroyed her relationship!
  • My mother said that she could relate to my feeling of isolation, because she felt that way when she was in hospital waiting to have her baby and all the other women had already given birth! (ummmm, NOT the same Mum!)
  • Another friend, when emailed and told about my losses, emailed back and said “thanks for your email. We’re pregnant and attached is a photo of our scan!”
  • A friend tried to tell me that it would be “good for me” to see another friend’s brand new baby.
  • My sister-in-law said I should come and visit her, just days after getting out of hospital. And that while I was visiting I could babysit for her, as the Chinese believe that you’ll get pregnant if you hold a baby.
  • My mother-in-law asked what was wrong with me that it kept happening.
  • My brother-in-law reminded us that his wife had no problems getting pregnant.
  • A friend said that I’d never had anything (ie a baby), so I hadn’t lost anything.
  • I was asked if I needed psychiatric help, after only a few weeks and whilst still undergoing treatment and surgery, because I wasn’t “over it” yet.

The sad thing is that my experiences were very mild, compared to those of many women. I knew my friends and family cared, and my husband was amazing, our relationship strengthening and deepening through all this. I might have lost a future, but I would go on. And now I can actually laugh about the lack of tact of these people!

Even though my experiences of grief have been related to loss of a baby, I feel better able to deal with others’ grief now as well. I was able to help my mother through the loss of my father. I recognised the feelings, the different stages. It helped me through his dying and death too. I knew that as horrible as things might get, I could and would survive it.

Grief has been part of me, and made me who I am.

So maybe G is also for Gratitude.

Monday, 7 January 2008

F = Family

“Do they have a family?” is generally the first question my mother will ask about someone. She means, “do they have children?”

As if that makes them more interesting.

More worthy.