Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Break 2013

I just heard on the radio about a group in London called Sunday Assembly. They have formed a non-denominational, deconsecrated church, meeting each month for singing songs, listening to readings and a guest speaker, and quiet reflection/meditation. Their tenets are: Help Often, Live Better, Wonder More. They meet to provide the kind of rituals and community and benefits of being part of a church, without the religion. I’ve often thought this is something I’d like to be involved in. We could start one in Sydney. Or, if we don’t agree with all the requirements of a branch (giving 10% of donations to Head Office) we could start our own version and call it something else. More information here.

If Sunday Assemblies are established in Australia, perhaps they can qualify for the DGR (deductible gift recipient) status, then merge with Primary Ethics, and the teaching of ethics classes in NSW primary schools will be financially supported. I know it has been reported in the press that the classes are at risk. I find that hard to believe considering how much work has been done on so little money. The volunteers are many. The two people who work in the office are overwhelmed, dealing with internal processes, after having established the whole system,  and thinking about external issues as well. They must be exhausted. The issue now is sustainability. We need to employ more people to run the organisation. For me, the matter of providing ethics classes to primary school students is one of discrimination. It isn’t OK to say any group of students is to be given no instruction during a portion of the school day. This is the policy that applies to students in non-scripture.  If you want to help, click here.

Meanwhile, I’m looking through Jesus for the Non-Religious, by John Shelby Spong., learning about how Easter is based on Jewish celebrations. (I know there are pagan basises too.) Very interesting.

Also, I’m trying to stay out of hospital. I spent Christmas eve and morning in hospital and I don’t want to be in there for Easter Sunday. My blood counts are OK. The problem is I have an insect bite on my leg, and it has come up in a big, nasty looking sore. I need to keep an eye on it. If it gets worse I need to go to hospital. Antihistamines are doing nothing for it. I haven’t been bitten by mosquitoes or anything since I was diagnosed (they don’t want my blood), and I didn’t see what bit me - it could have been a white tailed spider. I just woke up the other day with the bite. So, I’m looking for a medical centre that is open over the holidays so I can start on antibiotics.

It looks like my hair going to skip being salt and pepper and just be salt. I’m letting you know so you won’t be shocked when you see me with white hair.

I’m hoping for a relaxing long weekend, just pottering about at home, and hope you are enjoying the break too.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Raising Girls - a review

Reading the reviews for Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls, I thought his only contribution to the issue was the suggestion of raising an “Aunty Army’. I’ve just read the book myself, and found those reviews to be unfair. I thought he was quite late to the cause, and wondered what contribution he could add. (Sue  Palmer published her book Toxic Childhood in 2006. In 2011 the UK government published a report after an independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, including recommendations.) As it is, he adds something worthwhile.

Biddulph take the reader through the needs of each of five stages of development.

He recommends avoiding:
* educational products and services for babies
* products and services made and marketed to girls (ie, gendered toys and clothes)
* performance or competition for the under - fours
* tvs in bedrooms, or tvs being on all the time
* girls’ magazines (I’d say the exceptions are New Moon Girls and Indigo4girls)
* diets and fat-shaming
* reliance on pills (medicating every headache)
* saying ‘I need a drink’
* giving alcohol to children
* allowing your children an unsupervised online presence
* rewarding exhibitionism online
* tiredness - get children to bed on time (teenagers need 9.25 hours of sleep a night).

He emphasises the importance of role modelling, open communication, offering a wide range of activities, and simply being together. I like that he calls on the current experts in related fields to support his arguments, and that he presents his case in the context of feminist history.

These aren’t new ideas, but here’s why the book is worthwhile. It is likely to reach a new audience who haven’t thought about all these things before. It is written by man, so men are likely to read it. It is written by a psychologist who has a respected public profile so it should reach a wide audience. And the format is simple and easy to read, so it will be read by people who don‘t read denser or more academic works. Win.

For some families there are changes to be made if they accept his advice. For me, I like to take things a little further. I think it is important to talk back to the culture we raise our kids in. To lobby, to write letters, to speak out against sexism and misogyny, to sign petitions, to join groups that are active for change, to challenge people’s beliefs and values. Don’t we want a society where people of any gender are free to be whoever they want to be, rather than try to fit into the narrow gendered stereotypes our culture presents?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Anxiety Dreams

I’m recovering at home after Round Three of chemo, and everything went smoothly. Transfusion. Lots of anti-nausea drugs. No temperature. Now I just need to stay out of hospital for the next week, and I’m good for a month or so before the transplant. Actually, I’ve been told to fatten up beforehand. That could be fun!

I had a quiet time in hospital. I was in a room with friendly older women and it was nice. Of course, being in hospital means lots of time and nothing to do. Doze and dream. I had a few anxiety dreams.

I had a dream about driving, and needing to stop but being unable to. The kids were in the back. It wasn’t far from my usual anxiety about driving on motorways.

I dreamt I was behind at university, and couldn’t complete my course in time. I’ve taken leave, so I‘m OK, but I recognised it as a haven’t-prepared-for-the exam dream. When I got home I also saw it as a clue to how many forms had accumulated for me to deal with. The paperwork of running a household and having kids at school.

I had a dream about being chased by fire, then overtaken.

It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to work out I’m processing dealing with my sickness.

And something happened on the ward. A fellow patient, in another room, was dying. I recognised her visitors from when we had shared a room. They were crying. People were making phone calls in the corridor. People were arriving at night and staying late. A nurse was whispering to another patient. When I would usually go to lounge, I didn’t, because I figured the visitors would need some space.  I had wondered how death was managed on the ward. I still don’t really know. All I know is there are still lots of patients who need care, no matter what else is going on.

I wasn’t impressed this week that Kim Kardashian tweeted about having a Vampire Facial, ie, having her own blood injected into her face. The woman should spend some time on the Haematology Ward. I’ve had enough needles and been around enough blood products to think anyone who would volunteer for these things is foolish. I’d like to take a break. I’ve had enough. There are days I look at my arms and could cry.

Anyway, once again I realise that my situation isn’t as bad as some others. My case is fairly simple and low risk. I don’t have the complications that others have. I am very lucky to live near a major hospital. If I keep going as I am I should be fine. 

The transplant is scheduled for 1 May 2013.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shave for a Cause

My partner is going to shave his head to raise money for The Leukaemia Foundation. Click here if you want to sponsor him.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Lets Talk About Death

No-one wants to talk to me about the possibility that the transplant could kill me.

If I mention it in conversation everyone deflects: you’ll be OK, don’t worry about that, you’re strong, you’re a fighter, but the truth is I could die this year due to the transplant. I know that the idea is confronting, and that people generally don’t deal with death very well in our culture, but the reality is whether I live or die has nothing to do with my character. It would simply be bad luck. A bit like getting leukaemia is bad luck.

And I have to think about it.

I find it interesting that I’m not panicking. I don’t suddenly want to write a novel, or fly off to Paris or write letters to my children. And I wonder why. The one person, a friend, who did have a conversation with me about it, said it is because I’ve lived an authentic life. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do, and don’t regret the way I’ve lived. That’s true. I do have a few regrets, but they are small. I regret not helping other people more in certain situations. I regret spending a few years hanging around with people who weren’t really good friends to me - it was a stage when we were young and the truth is that they none of us were taking care of ourselves, let alone each other, so I can’t take that personally. I haven’t spent my life in a job that I’ve hated. I’ve done pretty much whatever I’ve wanted. I’ve studied literature, acting, singing. I’ve done dancing, art, writing, songwriting. I’ve left jobs when I’ve felt stuck. I’ve spoken out publicly about issues that I care about.

If I die, I believe I’ll just cease to exist, and I’ll have nothing to worry about. I’m not scared about it. But it would be sad for my family.

As for the children, I just trust that I’ve done a good job with them so far (they regularly do things that make me proud of them), and, if I die, they’ll remember me, and they’ll trust the network of family and friends we have around us, and they’ll be fine. Although I would like more time with them, I’ve spent almost every night of their lives talking to them around the dinner table, and I think they know me well, they know  my views, and what I want for them. I’ll just have to stand on my past actions as an example of how I want them to live.

We’re all going to die. We all will be remembered according to how we lived. That‘s just the way it is. 

Thinking about death isn’t so scary afterall.