grief

She came to me last night and asked me to take her shopping. I drove her home and she put on her shiny cream heels, her glamorous fawn coat, her dark red lipstick. She was so young and strong, beautiful and content. I took her to the David Jones, and she lingered over some hand-carved ornaments. She noticed their beauty and she ran a finger over the part where polished wood met an interesting natural edge. She wandered around the coats and jackets, feeling the weights of the fabrics, the luxurious piles, so soft! And then I was all alone, holding her bags and her things.

She is gone.

It’s not like I think of her every moment of the day. And some days I don’t at all. But sometimes I wake up and have another cry. And then I get on with it again.

Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication and Boulding’s integrative function of power

Boulding named an integrative function of power that operates across the three faces of power: threat, exchange and love. This integrative function acts to bind, to inspire loyalty and to create community. The integrative function acts through a number of structures. These structures include:

  • trust, communication, courtesy and
  • pride, guilt, shame,

Boulding recognised that neither power with the face of love nor the integrative structure was necessarily positive but did not clearly distinguish between the structures. The practice of nonviolent communication (nvc) as described by Rosenberg can be used to  distinguish these integrative structures in the space between requests and demands. Continue reading “Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication and Boulding’s integrative function of power”

My (most recent) nvc fail

So, Dave picked me up last night after a nonviolent communication (nvc) workshop and I was very excited about all that I had experienced. I bubbled away about it while groping in my backpack for my new phone. Ah – someone’s tried to call me, not sure about the number; I’ll call back just in case it’s one of my sisters.

The phone rang and a familiar voice answered… Well hello, finally. Do you know how many times I’ve rung you over the past three weeks! I’ve left five messages! And I ring all your mobiles and just get that bloody ding-dong. Continue reading “My (most recent) nvc fail”

Full self expression – be careful what you ask for

Last week I was all love and unicorns about setting intentions and how they can unexpectedly manifest themselves. Yesterday, I had that experience when I was looking at potential homes with my partner and full self expression arrived unannounced.

During the week, Dave had painstakingly made a detailed list of ten houses that appeared to fit our exacting criteria, including one that was open on Saturday. So on Saturday morning we ventured out together to do some sticky beaking. The first few houses that we drove past looked pretty good, were located in pleasant streets, and close to transport. We then went to the open house. This house was quite a drive away. I became concerned about the distance from public transport. When we arrived, the house appeared tidy but not particularly inviting. It was placed at the bottom of a valley and surrounded by other homes that looked directly down onto it. The inside was tidy but not at all nice – the carpets did not match, and the bathroom was old and daggy. I did not like that the back deck had not been certified by Council. However, I could see that Dave was becoming very enthusiastic about this beautiful deck and about the awesome solar set up.

As we left I was preparing a ‘diplomatic’ speech in my mind. It went something like, “Oh well, that place was nice, the deck was good and solar is what we need, we will keep it on the list.” But something very different came out of my mouth in a most emphatic tone…

Well, that’s a ‘no!’

For a moment I felt I had been invaded by an alien. And I experienced some confusion. And then Dave and I had a little squabble. And then I offered him genuine appreciation for all his work on making the list. And he graciously accepted. And then we were able to move closer to a shared understanding of what we want in our new home. So it ended very nicely, and he is right now sitting beside me, engrossed in making a new list of houses to look at in a week or two.

And I am now wondering just what life would be like if I said what was on my mind directly instead of beating around the bush, dissembling, distracting and outright lying… Can I be that brave? Can I trust myself to be able to create something new and beautiful in the chaos and discomfort that can arise in the wake of honesty?

I think I might.

Jo Spark

You took me under your wing a bit at boarding school. Took me out to stay with your Mum at Gatton on weekends and we played tennis at the university, reassembled Nolan’s Trial jigsaw puzzle and tried for hours and hours to ride your Mum’s Penny Farthings. Laughs! And remember your stepdad teaching us to change a tyre by putting your car up on blocks and taking the wheels off? The first, second, third, fourth (and last) tyre I ever ‘changed!’ Ah.

At uni you introduced me to Akiko. So that the two of us odd balls could keep ourselves occupied while you studied. It was a perfect match. You were a very good and kind girl, Jo. A sensible girl. But I do have a vague memory involving Teacher’s Whiskey… and another time you came with me on a Straddie camping trip. And befriended a couple of 15 year old boys – nice boys who sat on the cliffs with us one evening and apologised for their dad’s pervy nocs and asked you whether girls liked boys who didn’t drink. You said something kind and wise for sure.

Then you went to London and I moved up and down the East Coast. After a few years, you came back and visited me at Newcastle and I was embarrassed about my life of babies and welfare so it was awkward. But I remember first that you were calm and kind as always, and second that you were having the age old difficulty transitioning from a London to a Brisbane life.

When I heard you were so very ill I was so scared, I was paralysed. Cathie gave me your number. Dave made me call even though I didn’t know what to say. But you were perfect Jo. You were calm and kind, sitting with your feet in the bath, splashing your baby girl, breathless but with such love in your voice for your kids, your partner, your brother, your stepmother, your friends, your past, and hopeful for the future. I didn’t have to say anything but tell you I love you and wish you well. Jo, I hope you had at least one friend to share the crap with too. No, I know that you did.

After that conversation I prayed hard to all the gods I don’t believe in that I could give you a year of my life. A good strong vibrant healthy year. Not because I am a good person but because you deserved at least that. And though I hadn’t seen you for years, I could – and still do – trace the impact of your kindnesses, your infinite patience on my life in all directions.

A Christmas and a half later I got another call from Cathie – operation, complication, didn’t wake up, funeral. And such deep deep sorrow.

Jo, in your presence my words stopped jamming up then running together and tripping over themselves and coming out stupid, though when they did you still listened so carefully. In your presence, I was first able to slow down and just breathe.

Thank you Jo.

ritual

He always parks his car in the same spot
his work socks are monogamous and divided into left and right
there is a ‘his’ spot on the lounge.
It drives me nuts to be told how to make my own damn coffee
or the best way to get to the local shops
But I don’t miss frantically looking for my keys, wallet, and phone 🙂

the ritual insult at my house 6:30pm while waiting for dinner

For one of my day jobs I have been doing a little research on the ritual insult – and now I am hearing them everywhere. An example from tonight’s dinner table…

daughter 1: So at school last week we talked about the appendix and I put up my hand and said I don’t have one and then at school this week we talked about wisdom teeth and I put up my hand and said I don’t have any.

daughter 2: So I guess at school next week you’ll be talking about brains.

Its a ritual insult because you can only trade them if you are in the ‘in group.’ If someone else said this to d1, d2 would laugh – and then kick them in the shin.

Sometimes its a bit scary as a parent hearing this stuff. I go straight to thinking about depression and young people committing suicide and bullying and other dark stuff and then I wake up to them shouting in unison at each other shut up you’re ugly and I hate you! and laughing themselves silly. So I generally get up from the table, remove the silverware (just in case that eye does get lost*) and leave them to it.

*It really is all fun and games until someone loses an eye

a family history of eyes

A photographer once said to me For godssake don’t smile your eyes disappear. He meant well. I guess professional photographers mostly work for people anxious to look a certain way – with big doe eyes, or something.

But though his words were true (and have become more true over time) I didn’t care then and I don’t care now because when I look at my eyes I see something special and amazing, I see a beautiful story that started back and back past my mum past my old granny Vik and through her mum, Anna and then back and back through all the grannys who I never ever met, back to a particular one who was born to a peasant girl in Central Europe somewhere. To the one who gave me my particular eyes.

My story goes that this baby girl (I like to think of the baby as a girl) was fathered by some Mongolian hoardsman who may have ridden through with his mates and destroyed the village and murdered those who didn’t get out of the way and left the rest hungry and hurting and scared.

And so maybe my so-many-greats-ago-granny was going to be abandoned or killed at birth, but instead when she opened her eyes her mother looked into them and despite everything, there was that moment.

Mine is a story of women and girls. Of women of the earth and potatoes and of goose girls and girls who spent their summer days gathering good grass to keep the cow fat and happy through the winter. Of women who grew and soaked and beat the flax to make linen. Of women and little girls who whitewashed their cottage with lime to keep it in good condition year after year over generations. Of women who endured cold and hunger and cruelty, who bore many more children than would survive and who loved them anyway. Their stories aren’t written down with pen and ink, though I know some of them through my old granny Vik who still tells them today. However, they are written in my body, inscribed in my eyes.

It is that these stories I see when I look into my eyes. All those grannys. Some of them are stern and serious. But most of them smile and nod back at me, their eyes disappearing as they do so.

The ground I dig is far away from theirs, but I love it like they did. I love my chooks and the neighbour’s goat too. I like trees and birds and being outside in the fresh air and sunshine and starshine. I love my family, the ones living now and the ones long gone. And I will keep passing our precious smile around for as long as I am able.

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