Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing Challenge - Forever Changed

My friend Alicia, over at Forever Changed, posed a writing challenge for her readers. It was to write about something that forever changed us. You can read a full description of the challenge here.

This was my entry.

The year I turned 15 was the first year I spent alone with my parents. The youngest of four children, I’d always had siblings at home with me until that year. We lived on a relatively isolated farm – no other houses were visible from ours, though there was a neighbour within walking distance just over the hill.

My parents were educated people, numbered among the few in our small community. My mother was matron of the local hospital while my father had a degree in theology and was a part time minister – our small farming community didn’t have the resources to pay a full time minister.

We were raised with the expectation that when we left school we would leave home and attend university in either Sydney or Brisbane. There was an unstated awareness that we were different to most others in our community. We were the only family in our school community who had big city newspapers delivered, who borrowed books from the library of a bigger town an hour away, one of the few who travelled to that same town each Saturday for piano lessons and had our own set of Encylopedia Brittanica on our bookshelves.

My parents helped people within our community and valued them regardless of their life stories and circumstances. And yet....And yet there was a certain knowledge of superiority within our family. We were more intelligent and therefore different. We were able to help because of our superiority. We were not to look down on others because they did not share our intellectual ability and reasoning, but we were not to be like them either.

My parents’ life was not easy. The dreams of their youth were not being fulfilled. Money was always tighter than tight. Yes, we had music lessons and city newspapers, but we also had a huge debt on a farm that made a loss each and every year, so there were no new clothes or paid for haircuts. My mother has very low self-esteem (not that we realised that back then), and we suspect there is some underlying, undiagnosed, psychological condition. Whatever the label of this problem, she was hell to live with. Her moods were unpredictable and vicious. Her raving, ranting, and physical flailing was something I decided I could not endure for a further two years on my own. I had coped when I had a sibling at home to share the burden. Another sibling meant another target for her vitriol, someone else for me to talk to, or share a silent understanding with. Someone else who knew the violent reality of our home life, which was so different to that of the family at church on Sunday morning. The reality we kept hidden from even our closest friends.

At 16 (and two weeks) I left home without finishing my schooling, turning my back on the path to university education that had surely awaited me. Counselling from teachers and social workers did not dissuade me. In fact, when I revealed some of the reality of our home life, they encouraged me to leave, as did my siblings who understood as no-one else could.

The biggest hurdle I had to overcome in making this decision was how I thought I would be perceived by everyone I met from there on in. I knew I would not automatically be assumed ‘bright’. I would be considered one of those not capable of further education. I would not have the same value in others’ minds. Or in my own.

And that has held true. Many, many people have dismissed me as not being worthy of spending time with. People just like the person I would have become had I continued on the education path and achieved the education my grades indicated I was capable of. People who judge, as I would have, on what degree and at which university it was achieved. People who don’t have any other means of discriminating a thinker from a drone. People whose perceptions are closed by their own education, a narrow definition of intelligence and a false sense of what a rich life encompasses.

I have been blessed to have many people in my life who are not restricted in this way. Some of them drive earth moving equipment and trucks, some are builders, photographers, hospital clerks and retail workers. Others are teachers, university lecturers, doctors, psychologists and lawyers who have a less arrogant view than the one I was headed toward.

I am glad I left home before I achieved my education potential. For it changed me. It changed how I viewed myself; my role in the world, my importance in the world, my relationships with other people. It changed how I viewed other people; no longer do I equate education with intelligence. No longer do I assume those in lowly jobs don’t have a considered view on the world. No longer do I assume those with PhDs do have a considered view on the world. I would not have given the man I married a second look had I still been judging on education. He gained a university degree many years after we were married, but he had his intelligence and his ability to analyse and synthesise information long before we met. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on him because of educational snobbery.

I still plan on gaining a university degree because I think education is a marvellous thing. I know it won’t change my level of importance, or worth. I hope it will afford me greater job satisfaction and a higher rate of pay, but they are different matters all together.

Not finishing school forever changed me and the course of my life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Only one child left

My Zinnie looked like this a few weeks ago when she graduated high school.

Today she turns 18. Legally an adult, required to vote, free to choose to drink alcohol and be in licensed premises. I bought her 18 long stemmed roses. 12 red, 6 white, partly because we're hosting a cocktail party tomorrow night to celebrate her birthday which will be decorated in white, red and black. Partly because for 6 years her Dad's love has been sent from heaven rather than lived out here on earth.

It's amazing what great parenting strides can be made by getting through 10 minutes at a time, breathing, and stepping gently into the next moment.

My girl is ready to spread her wings and I am thrilled - however crazily that makes the butterflies in my stomach flutter and my heart constrict!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas morning birthday thought stream

6 times this day has greeted me without your presence
6 times the sorrow has refused to be absent
In the midst of making a joyful Christmas celebration for your children
It's hard to prepare or take time for grief
The pain has less sharpness now
But its reality defies forgetting you

Family and friends who seldom remembered when you were living
Have no need to remember so far into death
But my heart knows.
I know and weep silent early morning tears

Happy Christmas
Merry Birthday my love.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lack of grief empathy.

Since I'm quite sure I no longer have readers, I feel quite safe in saying that I am going to scream at the next person who tells me they feel life is hardly worth living now that their 90+ year old parent has died. Their 90+ year old parent who has been ill for some time.

A woman told me on the weekend that you don't become an adult until you are an orphan.

Well, I'm no orphan but I sure as hell feel like an adult.

All three women I know in this category have husbands, adult children, good incomes, lavish houses and a complete lack of sympathy from me. Though I do try and say the right things before I excuse myself from the conversation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Googling the past

I just took a google street view of where I grew up. It's kind of odd I hadn't thought of doing this before - I guess I didn't expect that google had sent a car to such an out of the way little place. But they had.

Now I haven't even visited that patch of the world for 17 years. Yet I have no problems closing my eyes and picturing the whole 11 mile journey along the road to town, where I went to school. I could probably close my eyes and picture the whole 26 mile journey the bus took along narrow dirt roads to get me to and from school, but that would take tooooooo long. (It took an hour and a half each way.)

There on my computer screen was the road I walked to the double bridges to catch the school bus. Of course it's half the width I remember it. There was the creek I'd swim in. The bend where the platypus lived. The hills I galloped my horse on. The bush I rode to, then nestled in, being soothed by nature. The memories flooded in. An echidna curled into a spikey ball, my horse smelling it, puzzled. My dog being run over as it traversed the road that intersected our farm. The hill I enjoyed the view of distant mountains from. The oppressive humid heat of summer. The dam that froze over in winter. The snakes killed on the walk home from school. Memories jostled for room at every swing of the google camera.

The house.My gut knotted at the sight and I hovered only momentarily, returning to panning across farming acres. I've always escaped the house, and the ugliness that had a life in there, by taking to the paddocks and the bushland. I'd actually forgotten I did that. It was an unexpected memory and not a welcome one. At first I was sorry I'd dragged it to the surface. A day or two has passed now, and I'm ok with it. I long ago accepted that my parents were not ideal, and also that having them as parents has made me compassionate to others in a way I would not otherwise be.

Still. I hope my children don't feel that if they google our house 30 years from now.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Not Pollyanna Day.

I know that happiness is a decision.

Today I want to decide on the side of unhappy.

I want to talk to someone who will listen to my gripes and petty grumbles. But there is no-one.

I feel totally misunderstood in my work environment. I am just not on the same wavelength and I'm sick of sucking it up. I have to accept it's me not them, but I don't want to be them. I wish I was sweet natured and let their little power plays and incompetencies just pass me by. But I am not and I'm sick of trying to be.

I want a weekend off. A night off even.


I think I'll drop Davey off to Youth Group and eat chocolate for dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's them not me.

You know what I hate?

I hate that whenever I mention things I did with my late husband they look at me as if I've used unsavoury language while talking about a politically incorrect topic. The politically incorrect topic being my life.

They can talk about things their husband did 10 years ago, 10 months ago, 10 weeks ago, 10 minutes ago. Apparently that's quite acceptable.

Me using the one option available to me is not.

Apparently I'm supposed to wipe all memory of my husband. I guess my children were immaculately conceived.

I've adjusted to being a widow. It's the world around me that has an issue with it.