Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

“It's okay Mum, I'll only shoot him in the chest.” (This compensation was for my benefit. The alternative in this post-apocalyptic-themed game is head decapitation and excess blood and gore)

As I sit to write, my 15 yr old son, let's call him Son #2, is playing a 'shoot-em up' game on his PS 3. My 17 year old (Son #1) is playing an RPG (role playing game online) and listening to hip hop on his ipod, while my 12 year old (Son #3) is downloading tracks to his mp3.

It's school holidays and this is pretty much the scene each day, unless I step into the role of social co-ordinator/entertainment officer and orchestrate some activity. All three boys seem to have lost the ability to imagine or create their own entertainment. In the influx of multi media and the development of technology at break-neck speed, there seems to be no need for my boys to engage or create or imagine.

How times have changed.

I remember … lying on my back, cushioned by the soft grass which is allowed to grow long down the back of the garden.

Our backyard, as was the case in many Australian suburbs in the seventies, was long and wide and full of promise. At any one time, it could hold a cricket game, parties galore, a marathon game of hide and seek, meandering choko vines, goodness knows how many blue tongue lizards, snakes and spiders, a practice high jump for young pre-Olympians, a colony of fairies, fragrant wild freesias and wonderful hidden copses and corners to scuttle into when you wanted to escape your sisters (or parents!).

I remember … hours flitting past like minutes as I watched the clouds form, shift and re-form into all sorts of images before my eyes. I became quite the cloud connoisseur. Occasionally, a sister or friend would lie on the grass with me, but it could become quite tiresome when the intruder claimed there was a rabbit when clearly it was a Chinese umbrella. (“Can't you see the handle? It's right THERE.”)

There was something about the cushiony-coolness of thick green grass with the tickly feel of a garden spider or ant investigating your toes, combined with the wide, blue, Summer sky that transformed you from a regular suburban girl into … I don't know what … something else. Something transcendent. Can I say, spiritual?

I especially loved it when, if I positioned myself a certain way, I couldn't see any human creation. If I lay at a certain angle and let the tall poplars block the telegraph poles and lines, then I could imagine that people don't exist. It was just me and the clouds.

And the fairies.

In those sun-soaked afternoons, fairies were very active. Now, let me preface this with a couple of crucial facts. Firstly, I am not a frilly girly-girl. I rarely wear make-up, don't shave my legs and prefer Vin Diesel movies to Meg Ryan. (No, not just to look at Vin Diesel!) As a 10 year old, I played with dolls, but was not overly prissy, dressing them over and over or trying to match outfits. I was not obsessed with fairies and other frilly things. I just took it as a given that they lived in my backyard. It was like a David Attenborough nature fact. Our backyard was the ideal fairy habitat. The overgrown bushes for hiding from curious human girls, the freesias - suitable for both hats or skirts, as well as drinking nectar, poplars overhead protecting from birds and sandstone slabs for fairy dust (more on that in a later post).

Secondly, I have always been convinced that there is a world beyond the natural. As an adult I know it to be true, but even as a child, I was open … no … expectant of the supernatural.

As I made daisy chains (oops, that does sound rather girly, actually!) or dug highways for ants to traverse the grasslands, I was certain that fairies were just out of my eye-shot. Flitting around my peripheral, I fancied that they were observing my activities like anthropologists, giggling at my enormous size and clumsy footsteps. I did expect though, that they would enjoy my singing – and possibly even join in – although at pitches that couldn't be heard by the human ear of course.

This seemingly insignificant childhood pastime helped to forge in me a strong imagination and a desire to embrace the unknown. While not always safe or wise, I certainly had many adventures in life when I put into practise the heart felt desire to seek … something more. I'm hesitant to say, 'the supernatural' because it has come to mean so many different things in different contexts. Really, it just means beyond what is natural – more than natural. That's what I longed for then. That's what I embrace now.

I wonder what my boys will seek? Will their hearts break through the images and sounds of a techno-era to embrace connections beyond themselves? Can I help? Or does it have to come from within them?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Juliette, Quite Contrary

I am one of four daughters. I am 'Number Three' as my father used to refer to me. He found it easier to number us than go mentally sifting through the four names to chance upon the correct one.

Although I do know my sisters' names and can recall them at will, for the purposes of this blog they shall be known as 'Spanish Sister', 'Beach Sister' and “Snow Sister'. Spanish Sis is three years older than me and Beach Sis is 18 months older than me. As you can see my mum had essentially 'three under three' which I don't think was a whole lot of fun for her. Snow Sis came along when I was 6 years old and rudely usurped my position as the baby of the family. I could be unkind and dub her 'Spoiled Sister' because that's what it seemed like at the time. In reality, being born such a significant time after the other three daughters meant that Mum & Dad were in a different period of their lives as she was growing up.

Spanish Sis, Beach Sis & I were children and teenagers during the 'tough' years. Mortgage repayments, constant 'do-it-yourself' renovations on the house, camping holidays because hotels were too expensive, mum working shiftwork and struggling to sleep during the day, all our clothes being homemade and general tightness in the budget. By the time Snow Sis was a teen, the rest of us had nearly left home. Mum & Dad were both executives for a major company doing work they enjoyed for a great wage. Holidays were more upmarket and life was easier.

Also, they were more relaxed in their parenting. They had raised three teenage girls, back to back and were enjoying the ease of just raising one (and a much better behaved one than the last teenage daughter … ). To this day, Snow Sis has a great relationship with our mum, a relaxed companionship as well as the usual mother/daughter connection.

My sisters all have dark brown hair and brown eyes, taking after my father's colouring. I had light blonde hair and blue eyes, more like my mum. For as long as I can remember, my sisters referred to me as 'the adopted one'.

I guess there must initially have been a time when I was hurt or insulted by this verbal ostracising, but I simply don't remember feeling that way. My memories of being called 'adopted' revolve around looking at my sisters and hoping that it was true!

I liked the idea that I was different from the others. I have never desired to conform and have found myself frequently on the outer of social circles and work environments because I don't conform. I think it stems from two sources.

Firstly, I think conforming is boring (refer to Billy Connolly's concept of 'beige' people). I believe the cliche that 'variety is the spice of life'. I think that if we're born inherently different, why try to merge into mirror images of each other? It defies the natural law of creation.

Secondly, I've come to the conclusion that I'm naturally contrary. Now, I actually think that's good thing, although my family, friends and colleagues may differ. (I can hear their eyes rolling!) I always seem to go for the loophole in an argument or a twist on a theory. I rarely accept things at face value, needing to assess all the facts myself.

I understand it is quite frustrating for others when it comes to areas I know nothing about, like installing stereos. The conversation with my audio engineer husband might go something like this ...

Me: I want to listen to my ipod in the car
Him: You can't
Me: Why not?
Him: Because you don't have the right equipment
Me: Why not? I've got a stereo.
Him: It's not compatible
Me: Can't we just get the right cable (See, I know stuff!)
Him: The problem isn't just a cable. Your stereo is too old. It hasn't got a ***insert incoherent technical term here***.
Me: But I've seen other people with old stereos using their ipods
Him: There's specific wiring required
Me: What kind of wiring?
Him: (Sigh) Proceeds to give a 10 minute detailed description of the ins and outs of car stereo technology and their applications in the context of ipod compatibility
Me: (pause) … but I want to listen to my ipod in the car
Him: Arrgh....

I am an intelligent and quick minded person. But the downside (for all concerned) is that I tend to dominate and try to direct situations. As a student, I was frequently the first with answers in school or catechism classes, not allowing others to get a word in. I always have something to say at meetings (there's no such thing as a rhetorical question!), I notice exceptions to rules and demand explanations where others will accept what they're being told. (All those who know me are nodding out there in cyberspace … I can see you!)

My long suffering husband has taught me two little words that have been a huge hurdle, but very important for me.
“Juliette …. trust me.”
“Just trust me”
“But.. I …”
(Big intake of breath, prayer for capacity to cope with this monumental step)
“Ok” (exhale loudly)

It's scary for people like me. It's like walking out on thin ice. I need to know how things work, what's going to happen next, what's the goal, what's the timeframe, what's the big picture. I'm a very intelligent woman, but sometimes a very slow learner. I'm learning to trust. Trust others, trust God and allow myself to step forward without knowing what lies ahead!

In another post, I will expound the benefits of being contrary, because I believe too many of us are too compliant in things we should be making noise about, but for now let's leave it at the important lesson of relinquishing control. I can still be myself – a little left of centre – but be a willing part of the group, being a team player rather than only ever wanting to be a team leader.

It's a process. Bear with me.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome to the World

I am a 42 year old 'obese, middle-aged woman' (according to my GP recently, who added defensively, “Well that's how you'd be described in medical terms!”). I believe I'm still twelve years old. It's just that something's happened to the outside of my body. I still get a little shock when I pass a mirror and find I'm not a diminutive girl prancing around with blond plaits and a home-cut fringe. I feel I am completely that same person. Paradoxically, I know that I have managed to glean wisdom and blessing from my years on this planet. Somehow, there's a marriage of the two. I am still very naughty, but also thoughtful and compassionate. I am lazy and procrastinate, and yet work tirelessly at times for the sake of others. And I love to sing. Some things never change.

Women often hide their age (or at least try). Has no-one told them of the futility of anti-aging formulas? The stupidity of women on a gender-wide scale is embarrassing! Ladies, the $5 jar will not work as well as the $500 jar will not work. I have never been the least bit tempted to lie about my age. I am proud of it – even though I may not be proud of it's effects on my skin and shape! I would hate to go back to being twenty-one, or even thirty because it would negate all that I have achieved and experienced since then.

The notion of 'six degrees of separation' is a common one. It describes where every person is connected somehow and that connection can be traced by only six different links. I believe my life and your life are connected by only a strand or two of separation. As inhabitants of this planet, we have so many experiences in common. You will look at the experiences, the watershed moments, the choices in my life and consider, 'I did that', or perhaps (more likely), 'I could have done that, but then I thought twice and realised it was a stupid idea'.

We are connected. We are all born, we take our early tottering steps, we taste new things. We are thrust into school or similar mass-social situations. We experience spontaneous loss of bladder control at an inopportune time (is there such a thing as an opportune time?). We are left at home on our own for the first time, only to discover we don't know what to do with this delicious freedom. We discover the power and fragility of a school girl/boy crush. We defy authority. We fall in love … and the adventure continues.

At any point of my twists and turns you might have stood there, yourself. You might have turned to a different path, a different choice. But for a moment there, we were very, very close to one another.

I trust that my life journey (not over yet, thank you very much) will connect with yours. That it inspires an appreciation of the complexities of experiences that make up our lives. That it makes you consider all that is precious in your own life story. That it makes you laugh out loud and cause others to look at you sternly.

It is good to be human.