Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So Then, The Light Went On.

More than once, I've got myself onto a balanced and nutritious eating plan. I can't count the times I've started a new fitness routine. And what about the many times I've started to study something new and interesting? Another language perhaps? All gone down the tubes after only a short time. Why? What was wrong with me? Oh yes, the interest was, and is, still there, so what is lacking? Discipline? Sort of. Commitment? In a way. Then, today, I got to thinking about something I did nine and a half years ago, and I KNEW.

In 2001, I was sharing a house in Tasmania with my son, but for some time I'd been the target (I refuse to be a victim) of a stalker. This character is a member of some sort of cult, although I never did find out for certain what it was, but it meant that he had plenty of help in keeping me under surveillance. Nothing could be proved, because he used others, even kids, to keep an eye on me. And I couldn't discuss it with anyone, because, the reason stalkers get away with the things they do, is that no-one believes the person being stalked, until the stalker does something drastic. You complain, and you are told you are imagining things.
Tasmania is our smallest State and it's hard to get away from a determined stalker. So I took action and decided to move InterState.

Although I knew that this man has connections in Queensland, this State is a whole lot bigger than Tassie, and was my only option anyway, because I had a friend there who offered me her spare room until I found a place of my own. My son did not want to leave Tasmania, so I was on my own in this. I had no money, so took out a personal loan to cover travel and get me the basics to start a new life. This meant cutting costs were I could, so I decided to leave all the furniture, including kitchen stuff, for my son to use. I left Tasmania on June 20th 2001, the day after my son's 40th birthday. I joked that I'd stayed long enough to help him celebrate his mid-life crisis, but it broke my heart to leave, because I didn't know when I'd see him again.

So, at the age of 67, I landed in Queensland with only three suitcases and a knitting machine, knowing only one person, and not sure I could adjust to the hot Queensland climate. But the day after I arrived, there was an ad in the paper for a house to rent, which was within my means, and I applied for it. I was approved, and signed the lease. Then I went looking for some second hand furniture. I didn't even have a teaspoon, so I needed a few bits of cutlery, things to cook with, something to sleep on, something to sit on, a wardrobe and some bed linen.

So after only six days in Queensland, I was in my own place, and for the first time in my life, living alone. The first six months were a nightmare. I had to watch every cent, I missed my son, and my only friend in Queensland was mad at me for moving out so quickly. I suspect she anticipated having company for a while and was disappointed.

Then I joined the local branch of Toastmasters International and started to get to know more people. Being with Toastmasters gave me more confidence and I learnt to love Public Speaking, giving speeches and enjoying doing the research for them.

Over the last nine and a half years, I've built my life here in Queensland, and have all the basic necessities I need, except for a car. I have only a Government pension, so cash is still tight. There's been times when I wondered what the hell I was doing here. Times when I wanted to go back to Tassie. Times when I wanted to see my son so badly that I wondered if I could swim Bass Strait. Times when I was hurting so much, that I didn't want to go on.

But there were also funny things happening which only came from setting up home from scratch, when you have been used to opening a kitchen drawer and finding what you want. Like when I wanted to open a can..... and discovered I didn't have a can opener! And when I cut my finger and there were no Band Aids! EVERYONE has a can opener. EVERYONE has Band Aids in the cupboard. These are everyday things that are JUST THERE. Well, not if you are setting up house with a few thousand things on your mind, getting used to a new State, knowing absolutely no-one, and each new noise is scary.

I'm settled in Queensland. I succeeded in making a huge life change at a late stage in life, and I did it alone. And there is only one reason it succeeded.

I burnt my boats. When I got the Personal Loan to move from Tasmania, I borrowed only $2000, enough for a one way air ticket, enough to pay the Bond and two weeks rent on a house, and a bit left to buy basic furniture to get me started. I deliberately made sure there was no money left to get me back to Tassie. I had to stay, and I had to succeed in making a life for myself in Queensland. I left myself no choice..........and that's what's been missing from my other attempts to do other things. I didn't apply this technique to my efforts to get fit, lose weight, learn a language etc, etc, so while I had an option, I had an *out*.

So now there's been an awakening! Am I strong enough to fully commit to a project? Time will tell. They do say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Only An Opinion

I'd be at loggerheads with fans of cricket or football if I said I can't stand either of these activities! But that's how it is, and it puts people's back up. Why do we allow other people's opinions to have such an impact on us? Differences of opinion can start wars and often generates a lot of violence.

When my husband died, my daughter's words to me were "That should be you down that hole, not him."
I was stunned. Completely shattered. I hadn't known she hated me that much. I thought our differences were just the usual mother / daughter thing which happens in many families.
Coping with the grieving process, plus constantly thinking about Julie's verbal attack on me, very nearly destroyed me. I was obsessed with it; couldn't leave it alone, because I couldn't find any answers.

Then suddenly the light went on. What my daughter said was her opinion ----- and nothing more. Taking that thought further, as an adult (she was 30) she had every right to have her opinion. But I did NOT have to agree with, or accept her view. The only way to deal with the situation was to stop resisting. She wasn't going to change her attitude, so I had to change mine, not for her, but for me. Allow her to have her opinion. Give it back to her as a gift, and move on.

We all operate on two levels, intellectual and emotional, and when these two start a fight, we can expect trouble, not knowing which way to turn.
I reacted to Julie's attack from an EMOTIONAL standpoint. I was hurt, shocked, but also confused. The confusion was because on an INTELLECTUAL level, I knew it was unfair and unjustified. The battle was on. Logic and reason were telling me I had nothing to reproach myself for, but this was clashing with the hurt and despair, and the need to put things right, when in reality, it couldn't be done.

As a child, I was always scribbling on bits of paper. I have a natural ability for sketching, but fashion sketches are the limit of my ability. I often wonder if this talent was given to me to make up for my lack of interest in all things domestic!
But I was considered an oddity, because in the north of England in the late 1940's an early 50's, a young woman's interests were supposed to centre in and around the home. The Fashion Industry was, and sometimes still is, regarded as something airy fairy, unnecessary, and not to be taken seriously.
Because I was always sketching or had my nose in fashion mags, I was labelled a *flibbertigibbet*, which the dictionary defines as *a frivolous and restless person*.

The general opinion was that I was "getting above my station", and among the working class of Northern England, this was practically a hanging offence. Who was I to think I could be a fashion designer? Wasn't my Dad a tram driver? Wasn't my Mother a factory worker? Tut, tut. Disgraceful!

In those days we bowed to the opinions of our elders and betters, and at the age of 15 I was sent to work in a cotton spinning mill.

But the urge to create designs wouldn't go away and when I married, I decided to do an evening course at the College Of Art. All hell broke loose. Instead of wasting my time scribbling, why didn't I study something sensible------like cooking? I hated cooking. Still do.

My husband had his opinion too. This was the age of the Hippie. These people wore funny clothes ( jeans and caftans were the rage), and they indulged in free love, and goodness knows what else. He was convinced that the College was infested with them! Besides, didn't people at Art schools run around naked? It never occurred to him that the design class was more concerned with putting clothes ON people rather than taking them off. Just as well he never saw Michelangelo's Statue of David, standing in all it's glory at the top of the stairs. He really would have freaked out!

This shows how a totally unfounded opinion can have far reaching effects.

We do need to be allowed to have our opinions, it's what makes us all different and interesting, and mostly, we hold opinions because that's what we really believe and live by. But a person may deliberately CULTIVATE a bad opinion of another, and the reason for that is fear. Fear of being out shone, of seeing the other person as *the opposition*. A rival or competitor.

My daughter needed to drag me down in order to make herself feel more superior. I didn't know it at the time, but she saw me as a rival, and believed she couldn't compete. People run another person down in order to make themselves feel more secure, and since everyone has their own special qualities, it's very sad.

Negative and obstructive opinions stopped me from following what I really wanted to do in life, from exploiting a God given ability. Instead, I was made to feel different and *in the wrong* when I just wanted acceptance.

Julie's negative opinion finally separated us and robbed us both of that special relationship that family members have. I have no idea where my daughter is, or my granddaughter, who is now 29 years old.

We do need other people's opinions, and as anyone who has been involved in brainstorming sessions will agree, other people's ideas can often change our own for the better. But not always.

I still think cricket is good for sending me to sleep, and that football is just a bunch of louts chasing a ball. But that's just my opinion!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tim's Legacy

Tim has left me, but he has taught me a lot in the 3 1/2 years he was with me.
He came to me when his previous family left the area and left him behind. I didn't want an animal because I have no income apart from a Government pension, but neither could I see this cat go hungry. So I called him Tim and we managed to get by with careful budgeting.

I suspect that at some time he'd been a feral cat, from some of his habits. He never slept in the same place twice, and feeding was a bit erratic at first, until I realized that he liked to eat *little and often*. But he was also a laid back character and never seemed to get cranky. Rather than lash out with the claws, if he didn't like what you were doing, he simply walked away. I saw him do this many times with young children who wouldn't leave him alone.

When Tim came to me, he'd never been inside a house, which led to some funny (for me) situations. The first time I used my hair drier in his presence, the poor thing freaked out. He had no idea what it was and was terrified. The only thing he didn't do was to climb the walls. He'd never seen a 3 bar electric heater either. But this time he was just curious. He walked around it, sat and stared at it from a distance, then got closer and closer, trying to get a scent of it. He soon decided it was harmless, and made the most of it.

But I started to look at everyday things in a different way. I don't take everyday things for granted anymore. I've dropped the "I have a right to....." attitude, and instead appreciate any small comforts I may have gathered.

Tim also taught me to look after my body and not take it for granted either. A healthy cat spends a lot of time caring for his body. Before settling down for a nap, he washes himself all over, and he does it carefully, gently, and lovingly. Every lick is a tiny massage and he pays attention to what he's doing, something most of us don't do. This performance can take so long that I used to wonder why he didn't get fed up and just go to sleep! But then when he woke up, he have to go through the same ritual again! He hadn't been anywhere, he wasn't dirty, but it made no difference. Same thing after eating. And a cat takes very good care of his back, again, not something we pay much attention to. Tim would get up, stretch with the front paws straight out and rear end in the air, then arch his back fully. Then he was ready to go.

In January, we had to move from our rented house because it was sold. That house was situated with plenty of space outdoors and no fences. It was a double block in width and depth. Tim was free to come and go as he pleased, wander along the street, sleep under my house or the neighbour's, and he was street wise and careful with traffic.
The new place is a duplex, still with garden front and back, but more private, with high fences at the back, which are no problem for a cat. I was pleased with the way Tim seemed to settle down, and he was indoors much more, but outside he never seemed comfortable.

We'd been here 6 weeks when he had his late feed and went out as usual. I haven't seen him since, and I was devastated. Four weeks have passed and I don't think he will return.

Tim hasn't been seen around the old place, and there were no signs that he'd been hit by a car. Cats have to be registered in Queensland, and he was wearing his bright red registration tag. So if Animal Control had picked him up, they would have contacted me. Tim has disappeared as if he never was.

But again, Tim has taught me something. I loved him dearly, and still do, but good food and plenty of love sometimes aren't enough. I believe he may have felt *caged* in his new surroundings. At the old place if he were outside, he had only to turn his head to see a long way in any direction, where this place is in a more suburban street. Tim needed the freedom of the wild in order to be himself, and to live the way he wanted to live.

So Tim has taught me to * love and let go*. He also showed me where I went wrong, years ago, when I tried to live as others wanted, no, demanded I live, and I was miserable. I wasn't *being me*. Where a dog will do anything to please you, a cat will never do anything he doesn't feel is right FOR HIM, and if you don't like it, too bad.

I'm sad Tim is no longer here, and I miss him so much, but I'm thankful for the time he spent with me, and lessons learnt.