Archive for June, 2013

In Sunshine and Shadows – counting your blessings…

June 29, 2013

The sun supports all life on the planet, it helps everything grow and keeps us alive. But too close to the sun, too much time in its glare will dry you out, sap your strength and even kill you. So you need the shade, the shadows to hide in, to be in, to save you from the relentlessness of the sun: somewhere to hide when its brilliance is too much for you, but don’t tarry too long or the darkness will seep into your soul and you will feel the shadows stalking you. Sunshine and shadows, both dangerous, both needed in your life to maintain balance – be careful to spend the right amount of time in each place.

But when it comes to counting up your life, to weighing and measuring your successes and failures then be careful where you stand when you assess your path through life.

shadows

Our life is a mix of wonder and amazement and good times, times when all we touch turns to gold, when we can do no wrong. Then there are the days (the weeks and years!) when nothing goes right, all we do turns to dust in our hands, crumbles and breaks and we do not know what to do to fix things, to make them work again.

It is the mark of a reflective thoughtful person that they step out from their life from time to time to assess their progress, to examine how far they have come, to examine what has worked and why, and what hasn’t and why! To go on, to keep your life moving forward in the right way (for you), the best way to happiness and fulfilment you must be careful where you stand when you weigh and measure: when you call yourself to account.

 

Stand in the sunshine and all you will see is success, all the good and right things you have done. Will this enable you to make an objective judgement about what needs to change, what needs to be better? Too much sunshine blinds you, stops you from seeing clearly – only facilitates mirages, which dissemble and mislead. Too much sunshine makes you like the Sun God, remote, larger than life and too full of your own brightness and right to rule the sky.

sunshine

 

Stand in the shadows and all you will see is failure, misery: a life barely worth living. This is the most dangerous place to be. It leads to self pity, to depression to helplessness: a state of perpetual victimhood where you feel the fates are always and invariably stacked against you. Here you hide in the shadows, frightened to let the sun shine on you because you feel worthless, tucked away in the netherworld where the light never goes, where other such creatures linger. Here the tail can wag the dog: a successful career blighted by the last appointment, a redundancy. A lifetime with someone else blighted by the last fight, the final words. Step into the sunshine and you can see these aspects of life as they really are – moments of light and dark, but mostly light.

shadows2

 

Be careful how you count your life. Life is not meant to be a series of perfect moments, correct choices, where we never make a mistake and always win. Life is made up of light and dark, of sunshine and shade. You need both to live, you need both to be a real person, one who laughs and cries, who loses and win, who loves and loses.

sunshine2

Give thanks for what’s been good about your life and don’t dwell too long on what was crappy. Live your life to the full, know your worth and strengths, don’t let your weaknesses or failures define you or overwhelm you. Count your blessings in a balanced objective way. Don’t count up to lead to arrogance and hubris: don’t count down leading to self pity and bitterness. Neither way is right. Know your worth and be happy with your life – glorious failures, small victories and if you’ve loved or been loved make sure you count that because love is what counts the most. Always, every time. (Photos from Private Collection)

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Dear Google, et al – Please stop behaving as if it’s the middle ages…

June 22, 2013

A few messages for the feudal over-lords of cyber-space on just why they’re really starting to do my head in… acting liking lords of the land, doing what they want, when they want and bugger the poor peasants- US.

mask

Dear Google

Just a short note to say I’m really not happy. Why do you keep changing things? I like my Gmail in-box just AS IT WAS. You’ve already changed it in the last few months and I’d like it better BEFORE then. Now it is horrid with your poxy arbitrary divisions. Now I have no idea how many messages I have at a glance and have to go into my mail too many times a day. It is highly distracting. Why do you think this is better? What sampling of the market have you done? Who is your reference group – not me, that’s for sure. Or do you think you know better?

This smacks of bloke decision making:

‘Oi, Bruce I think this will be much better.’

‘Yeh, Kevin I reckon so too. Let’s do it.’

‘Shall we ask anyone else?’

‘What for, Kevin, what for, mate?’

I tell you what, when you finally ditch my iGoogle home-page in November I might very well look elsewhere for my internet connectivity. Leave me be, I was happy here.

 

Dear iTunes

I am so tired of all your up-dates. Why do you think they are so necessary? Once there was a version I liked – about 10 versions ago but can I go back? Never. Why don’t you let me choose – you know show me the new options but if I don’t like them then I can revert to the old version I recognise and can use effectively. The music doesn’t sound any better just because you’ve changed some sort of configuration that makes sense out there in boffin land but not here in real time. Leave it alone, just let me be. No more up-dates, no more notifications, you just stress me out.

venice-mega-mask-resized

Dear Word-Press

I love my blog – indeed this is what I am doing now. But you want to change things too. Why? I now have a dashboard I don’t like and don’t know why you’ve changed it and can’t change it back. You’re not that easy to make changes to at the best of times and while I accept this is probably down to my lack of real computer skills I thought that was the point of you… I, and countless other useless non-nerds could set ourselves up, make a nice page and write away to our hearts content. But I’ve never got my page quite right and you’ve never got the answers I need in a way I understand. Your FAQ page does zip for me and to get an answer from anyone out there in the black-hole of help-desks is nigh on impossible. Please leave me be to blog and read my stats in a non-changing, non-threatening piece of cyber-space.

twitter header

Dear Twitter

Why have you suspended my second account? It makes absolutely no sense. There is no threat to world peace, I’m not buying followers or aggressively following, I’m not tweeting offensively or libellously, or breaking any of your endless rules. I’m just poodling along with the odd tweet about living your life nicely and well – hunting the Zen Zone. Is that it – I wasn’t doing anything, I was just trying to be nice?? Please read above re Word-press and your FAQs and getting help too. What help???

Winged Victory

Dear Face-Book

Just stop. Be still. Stop thinking that the only way to make money or progress is to change things all the time. All this asking about what’s on my mind and sending through things about lifestyle and diets is getting on my wick. Stop suggesting I like a page and stop trying to sell me things. Not to mention all this privacy setting stuff that never stays the same for more than five minutes. Leave my Timeline ALONE. I love so many things about you but, as with the others, stop rearranging and re-organising everything. Why are you doing it? Is it just to show us you’re clever or is it because you don’t have enough to do, because running FB isn’t a real job??? Remember stop telling the people what they need – you don’t always know what’s best – not even Steve Jobs did.

Yours faithfully

An increasingly unhappy cyber-space-peasant who has no real choice but to dwell in your domains but that doesn’t mean you can or should take such advantage of me! (Images courtesy Google Images and Personal Collection)

Have the Funeral You Want – Say Goodbye as you Want

June 19, 2013

In life we are in death – you know that and recently death has come uncomfortably close again. I am struck by my recent travels in the shadow of death that we do not prepare well enough for it. Death is one of the great events of our life; like birth it is one of the elemental threads that holds all life together. We are born – we die. We have little say in the manner of our birth and it seems to me we have little to say in the manner of our death – disease, accident: mostly unplanned and usually unwanted.

But it seems to me we should have more say in the manner of our farewell. I touched on this in a previous blog about Endings being as Important as Beginnings. Recent experience has brought this home to me. Do NOT leave vague instructions about how you need to be seen off. Do NOT leave it to others.

In the wake of a sudden death your family and friends will not be sure what to do. A vast array of emotions will be within them – sadness, anger, regret, fear, betrayal, loss. It is very difficult to make sensible decisions at this time. Will you be able to honour the departed in an appropriate way, will you be true to them, their wishes? All death, no matter how expected – an aged person, someone in the final stages of a terminal disease – leave those behind in a state of shock and grief. Lessen their burden by planning your funeral with them. It may be macabre but I think it will help if your dying wishes about your farewell are discussed and understood before you shuffle off your mortal coil.

As well as a clear and explicit Will I suggest you ensure there is a clear and explicit funeral plan, and have the finances in place for it too. God knows there are enough companies out there willing to sell you insurance for such an event.

 

Here are some of the things you need to consider and make instructions about

  1. The casket – type and cost
  2. Burned or buried – who will carry your casket if buried? What will happen to your ashes after? If you want your ashes spread somewhere special by particular people make sure that is clear. Please make sure they do not sit in a drawer for nearly 25 years waiting to be freed!!
  3. Flowers – what type, how many and what configurations (allowing for seasonal variations)
  4. The formal notice for the newspapers – what do you want said about you to formally inform the world you have gone?
  5. Type of service – your religious affiliations may over-take here but if not into God you need to think hard about this
  6. Where – again religious belief will take this concern out of the equation but see what is possible. If we can get married in the garden or by the beach why can’t we be seen off there too?
  7. Songs/music – even in God’s sight you will be asked to choose. Think really hard about this – songs or pieces of music that represent you, parts of your life and will have an impact on your ‘audience’ are where you should be thinking.
  8. The after service celebration – you must have this. It gives people a chance to talk, to share their feelings and experiences of the departed and to give their personal condolences to the most bereaved. This can be as minimalistic as you want or as elaborate – be detailed here too and have it paid for, or accounted for in the Will.
  9. Elements of the service
    1. Who would you like to speak – including who will preside – your minister, a celebrant, a family member or trusted friend?
    2. Poems or extracts from texts you would like read  – nominate the reader too. There will be nothing worse than listening to The Love-song of J Alfred Prufrock being murdered by a rubbish reading
    3. What aspects of your life do you want spoken about and high-lighted – this is important as you don’t want some cliché ridden precise of your life delivered by someone who barely knows you. But don’t make yourself into something you weren’t – a bit of well placed honesty and modesty is important here – some humour, a bit of light in the shadow?
    4. The order of events
    5. Something particular to you – a montage of your life playing on a screen somewhere, a key scene from a TV show or movie that epitomises you, some favourite pieces of music played by someone you know and love, an object that represents you sitting on your coffin??

 

You won’t please everyone you leave behind by being clear, you may offend them but if you were offensive in life, why not in death? Remember too, those left behind are free to farewell you as they wish too. Once the formalities of the funeral are over, once you have been formally seen off they can toast you as they wish, in their own way.

Thus, my father had three services. His quiet, minimalist funeral in an utterly neutral almost sterile environment; then two personal and unique little services. One at his beloved ‘farm’ in the place where his vines had been, on the banks of the Huon River on dusk, with his two children and one grandchild, toasted with Moet and party-pies, a suitable representation of the man: the former plumber with his refined tastes in clothing, culture and Tasmaniana as he enjoyed his second life as a librarian. Above us, as we shared memories of boating and fishing, a sea eagle soared. Was he there as the light faded on the river, completing one final fly past?

I said goodbye again with my ex-step mother, estranged for many years, but devastated at my father’s passing. She played John Denver as we stood on her deck on another beach and sipped Prosecco, shedding quiet tears, thanking him for bringing this odd assortment of people together – my sad step mother, my completely considerate step sister, her lovely husband, my gorgeous eldest daughter and myself: people who would not have known each other except for my father. Good comes from odd and strange circumstances and odd and difficult people. The light faded on the water and we wished him well on his way. (Images from personal collection)

 

6 Songs for Endings – of all sorts

June 15, 2013

As I step away from various parts of my life I turn to the reliability of rock n roll to see me through. There is always a song for every occasion and so for this occasion – end of work, end of life, and the end of this part of life, listen on.

 

Gone, Gone, Gone – Robert Plant and Alison Krause. Perhaps the most appropriate of the it’s over songs for my current moment. Wonderfully simple lyrics, excellently catchy and up-beat. Gone, gone, gone, really gone… cause you done me wrong.

plant & krause

 

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – my version is the Graham Bonnet version from the 70s, but other versions will do, and of course the original Bob Dylan version is always worth a listen. The wailing guitar, the bounce, the cheerfulness in the relationship being over – you must leave now, take what you need… strike another match, go start a new

graham bonnet

 

I’m Free, The Who from their rock opera, Tommy. It’s the bit where Tommy breaks free from his darkness discovering he is the pinball wizard. Roger Daltry really yells “I’m Free” as an anthemic scream and it certainly takes you along with him. Punch your fist in the air and see how good it makes you feel. I’m free, I’m free, and freedom tastes of reality.

 tommy

 

School’s Out, Alice Cooper. Yes, I know this is an anti Vietnam War song, but it still is the epitome of breaking free songs, shaking free from the oppression of all that being at school represents. Try this on for lyrics– School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, school’s been blown to pieces. Oh, yes, I remember being on the school bus the last day of high school and shouting this at the top of my voice with my school-mates and then again at the end of uni and now at the end of work. It’s a rather appropriate song for all students and teachers as school-life ends forever. School’s out with fever, school’s out completely.

alice cooper

 

Heaven (must be there), The Eurogliders. This was my escape from Queenstown song in 1984. Another boppy up beat tune about being free from the place and mess you’re in. Ooh I want to find a better place, Ooh, I’m tired of living in the sand… Heaven must be there, it’s just got to be there.

eurogliders

 

The Carnival Is Over, The Seekers. An oldie but an absolute gem of a goodbye song. If you want something sad, something to make you cry as you leave or say goodbye to someone this is the song. It is beautifully sad, utterly poignant. You cannot go past Judith Durham’s voice – though the carnival is over, I will love you ‘til I die. Try listening to that at a funeral and not crying.

the seekers

Which songs are for you? What song would you choose for your particular ending? Something sad and wistful, or something defiant and warrior-like, ushering the next phase of your life with emphasis on the positive aspects of endings and moving on? (Images from Google Images)