It’s time


Today is Election Day in Australia. A lot of us have been waiting for this day for a long time – three years to be precise, after the great disappointment of last time. I feel sure the result will be different this time, and finally, we’ll be rid of the worst, most corrupt government in our history. It’s a moment to savour – though I shouldn’t get ahead of the result.

With the Election Day finally, there’s no more campaigning, no more political advertising, rabid journalism, no more sham, pretence and dishonesty. Not for a little while, anyway. Truly, election campaigns are a thing from hell, dispiriting and overwhelming. I’m a political animal, but I switch channels when a political ad shows on TV or political news comes on. I can’t stomach the inanity and shallow, often biased commentary. Now we’re free of it.

Much in that nature, Scott Morrison was heard to say early in the campaign that Australia was the greatest country in the world. Lest he is exposed as a turncoat in tabloid headlines across the nation, the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, was heard to pronounce the same soon after.

These are motherhood statements. By ritual, I reckon most leaders and would-be leaders say much the same thing in countless countries across the world. It’s meaningless drivel, of course, but I guess it’s intended to confirm their bona fides as a leader and affirm their commitment.

Not every country can be the greatest. I don’t even know what the criteria for the ‘greatest’ is. It’s an empty sentiment made up of bluster and insincerity. I don’t even know if it matters much, but, in any case, surely what defines the best and greatest is a matter of subjectivity?

It’s my subjective analysis that Australia is not the greatest country in the world. It pains my partisan heart to admit that, though it’s pretty clear that any claims to such a position have gone downhill in the last 10 years.

There was a time when I might have proudly believed there was no better place on earth than the lucky country. Even now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems fair to claim that Australia of the late eighties and early nineties was not only a great place to be but a genuinely decent, egalitarian, progressive nation on top of it.

All that changed when Howard came into power in 1996. He was a small man in mind and body who seemed to resent the years his ambition had been thwarted. I don’t doubt that he was always innately conservative, but the years watching shinier, more articulate candidates get ahead of him had formed a view of the world that was crimped and narrow, and brewed a suspicion of anything original or daring or interesting. He set us back decades by discouraging progressive opinion and encouraging a bigoted, paternalistic perspective. He started the rot that has led us to the obnoxious, corrupt politics of the current government. It’s no wonder I hate John Howard, though I despise Morrison also and think him clearly the worst prime minister we’ve ever had.

Now that we’re on the cusp of electing a new government, there’s hope that everything will be different. Indeed, in key aspects, there’s strong evidence that long-overdue action will be taken concerning climate change, integrity, aged care, and so on. We await with bated breath.

I want to return to the concept of the ‘greatest’ nation for a moment. I know it’s a bit silly and spurious, but I also believe that, as a nation, as well as individuals, we should always strive to be better. A little ambition is no bad thing, and it’s been too long since we had some authentic national aspirations. The thing is, it doesn’t happen by accident. High minded speeches won’t do it. It takes action. And it takes belief – the belief that we can all share in and shoulder our portion of the quest.

That’s the challenge now. I hope we have that ambition as a government. We know what not to do – anything the government of the last ten years has done, which has made us petty and small-minded and reduced the stature of our nation in the global community. So, that’s the easy part, and there are obvious pathways towards becoming a healthier nation.

Despite all the positive policies and progressive initiatives, it seems to me we can never be anything like great until we mend our society. There are too many rifts and divisions, many of them actively fostered by a government that has favoured political advantage over the greater good.

We treat our poor, disadvantaged and elderly with disrespect and disgrace. Add to that the treatment of refugees and our first nations people. In many instances, they have been used as political pawns. I’m sad to say, it’s an attitude that has permeated sections of society.

We’re to blame for that. It takes authentic leadership to light the flame and show the true way forward. We haven’t had that for many years. It’s true in much of the world. The disenfranchised have been neglected and left to brood and rebel, exiled from the benefits of society.

It explains Trump, the rise of the extreme right and white supremacy, and it explains the anti-vaxxers.

In Victoria, in the last couple of years, we saw the value of a community that pulled together in service of the common good. We made hard sacrifices knowing what we did was for something bigger than our individual selves. In many ways, it was inspiring.

That’s what we can be. What it takes is a narrative we can all believe in and share, knowing that we are part of it. There are many policy levers that must be pulled if Albanese becomes PM later tonight, but over and around, that is healing the wounds of our community, tending to our national weal.

It’s a tall order, but I think it’s mighty helpful that we appear on the verge of electing a genuinely decent human being to the top job to replace a man who is nothing more than a contemptible turd. Example counts for much. Time will tell. It’s time.

The peril of mass man


I was reading some Jung over the weekend, specifically The Undiscovered Self, when I came across a passage that resonated strongly with me. It put me in mind of the anti-vaxxers out there who continue to protest, ever more pathetically, and threatening more violent action to get their message across. But then, I think it also applies to the tribes on social media, so adamant about their views and closed off to any variation to it.

This is the passage…

All mass movements, as one might expect, slip with the greatest ease down an inclined plane represented by large numbers. Where the many are, there is security; what the many believe must of course be true; what the many want must be worth striving for, and necessary, and therefore good. In the clamor of the many there lies the power to snatch wish- fulfillments by force; sweetest of all, however, is that gentle and painless slipping back into the kingdom of childhood, into the paradise of parental care, into happy-go-luckiness and irresponsibility. All the thinking and looking after are done from the top; to all questions there is an answer; and for all needs the necessary provision is made. The infantile dream state of the mass man is so unrealistic that he never thinks to ask who is paying for this paradise. The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political or social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased; and the more power it has, the weaker and more helpless the individual becomes.
Wherever social conditions of this type develop on a large scale the road to tyranny lies open and the freedom of the individual turns into spiritual and physical slavery. Since every tyranny is ipso facto immoral and ruthless, it has much more freedom in the choice of its methods than an institution which still takes account of the individual. Should such an institution come into conflict with the organized State, it is soon made aware of the very real disadvantage of its morality and therefore feels compelled to avail itself of the same methods as its opponent. In this way the evil spreads almost of necessity, even when direct infection might be avoided. The danger of infection is greater where decisive importance is attached to large numbers and statistical values, as is every- where the case in our Western world. The suffocating power of the masses is paraded before our eyes in one form or another every day in the newspapers, and the insignificance of the individual is rubbed into him so thoroughly that he loses all hope of making himself heard. The outworn ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité help him not at all, as he can direct this appeal only to his executioners, the spokesmen of the masses.

But then, rereading it, I’m sure that many anti-vaxxers would claim it’s just this that they’re protesting against in their misguided way. I think Jung captures very well why people flock to such beliefs in the first paragraph. But it’s true in general of human nature, I think.

It’s understandable, and if we’re aware of it, then the danger of it, the ‘evil’ as Jung calls it, is somewhat mitigated. We rarely have such awareness, however. It’s a condition of this delusion that we become blind to all else.

Jung goes on:

Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.

He goes on to say how unlikely and difficult that is, and gives some convincing reasons why. I accept that man is an imperfect being. We’re torn in different directions and have forces, both internal and external, constantly at play upon us. The fact that we need the comfort of the mass is one explanation of that.

In my view, we need only ask questions and maintain an open mind. Easy peasy! What is an open mind? Who’s to judge an independent faculty? Even critical though – much out of fashion these days – is subject to hidden bias, I would think.

As said, we’re imperfect. We have flaws. All I can suggest is that we attempt to rise above mass thought and reaction. And maybe read the book. Knowledge is a good thing, and the more we understand ourselves the healthier our society will be.

Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid – The Atlantic


It’s not just a phase.
— Read on www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/

Fascinating article, but sure to be controversial. Ironically perhaps, it, and the author, are now likely to be subject to the sort of rabid censure he describes. I find little in this to disagree with.

I had an old friend visit yesterday from interstate. We spent about three hours discussing politics and ethical dilemmas and the state of society. This has been typical of our discourse always, and it was nice to sit with someone I could have these discussions with.

A lot of what we spoke about alluded to behaviours and modes of thought that are discussed in this article, sometimes explicitly. He has a brother – a pleasant, intelligent man in my experience – who has become a fanatical anti-vaxxer who spouts ludicrous conspiracy theories and appears to have gone down too many rabbit holes. How did this happen?

Whatever the reason for it, he’s drunk the cool-aid propounded by that fringe group of ratbags. Even the most preposterous can seem reasonable when you believe enough. The thing is, as I told my mate, the cool-aid comes in different flavours.

It’s easy to mock and dismiss the absurd, but not all of it plays as extreme. And, as I reminded him, sometimes we can be prey to it ourselves.

It’s why you hear me repeat the notion: be yourself. As this article outlines, much of society and discourse has been utterly warped by the power and misuse of social media. My conjecture is that social media has taken people away from their true selves in the search for approval, the fear of rejection and, often-times, the desire to belong.

I’m careful that I’m not easily labelled. I’m not much concerned with what people think of me, approval, rejection or belonging. I’m always urging that every issue should be considered on its individual merits, and not checked against the prevailing orthodoxy. What do you think? Forget about the mob.

That’s rare these days. Social media is blamed here, with good reason, but I think our education system has contributed to this, as has much of our media, which is neither as independent as it once proudly proclaimed, nor nearly as capable and critical, as it should be.

We’re left with the individual. To rise above this and think independently requires an open mind and a critical faculty. Question, examine, compare.

How it happens


Speaking of overreactions, I think some of the commentary over what happened yesterday at the Oscar’s ceremony verges on the absurd. Admittedly, it was a shocking event – in terms of being totally unexpected – but it is hardly uncommon. What made this different is that two famous people were involved, and it happened on live TV.

Should the police have become involved? It falls within their ambit, but that would have been a mistake. Should Smith be banned because of this? Once more, I think not.

I read someone claiming that the sight of casual violence being normalised like that would have repercussions. To be honest, that horse bolted long ago. Both casual and formalised violence is on our TV screens every night. It’s part of the problem that violence, in general, has been co-opted for entertainment, and the more graphic, the better. Feel free to complain about that, but it started long ago. It doesn’t excuse what happened yesterday, but it puts it in perspective.

I may be a special case, but my first reaction on seeing the footage was a surprised amusement. I’m the cool type, and it’s rare that anything will get me het up. It was basically a bitch-slap, much like you’ll see outside a nightclub any Saturday night. Smith portrayed Ali once, and had he struck Rock with a closed fist, that would have been a different matter.

Smith has since apologised, which is appropriate. I’m surprised more people aren’t taking Chris Rock to task because of his insensitive joke.

I suspect that my view of this is primarily informed by my generation. I don’t know what it’s like for kids and young people these days, but I know there is a cultural thrust that wasn’t present when I was their age. I’m aware of it and largely sympathetic as someone older, but it’s not ingrained in me. I’m liberal by inclination. I weary of some of the didactic, tedious commentary, but I’m in broad agreement with much of it. Even so, it’s important to me that I think for myself without reference to a structured position. It’s my habit to reflect and reason things through, using my knowledge and experience. As for what I feel, I firmly believe there should be no filters on your heart.

Laying in bed last night, I was reminded of the times I’d been in a confrontation. There’s not been many since leaving school, and mostly nothing more than some fierce verballing and a bit of push and shove. It may be shocking to the casual reader here, but I never shied from these confrontations and felt quite invigorated by them. I felt like cleaning out the pipes, but times were different.

Back in the day, it was important how you did this. It shocks and shames me these days to hear of some of the violent episodes perpetrated in the pubs and streets. It was a matter of honour that you wouldn’t hit someone when they weren’t looking; indeed, you’d never king-hit someone from behind. And you’d definitely never glass anyone. It probably sounds stupid, but half the time, the confrontation would be ended with a wink and a yeah, alright. It wasn’t that serious.

Two minor altercations came to mind. In one, we were in a pub in South Melbourne, Cheeseboy and me and a girl. We were playing pool. A group came in and started making comments. I was happy to shrug it off, but Cheeseboy took offence. There ensued a verbal confrontation that threatened to become more.

In a very Australian way, I looked on with barely a word. I was supportive of Cheeseboy, but he had it under control and didn’t need me jumping in. In between, we continued to play pool. I was ready to back him up if it came to that, and the others knew it in my body language. In the end, it never went beyond the verbal. I may have said something towards the end. They went away.

I’m walking down Toorak road on a balmy Saturday night in the other incident. Beside me is a mate’s wife, who is about 60% deaf. My mate and other friends are following about 30 metres behind. We’re talking when suddenly there’s the sound of men yelling. They’re yelling at us, at my friend particularly, making all sorts of improper and inappropriate comments.

They’re in a minibus, stopped at the lights and leaning out of the window at us. My friend can’t make out what they’re saying and thinks it’s probably something fun. When I stalk off to confront them, she starts to follow until I tell her to stay behind. The men, louts in their early twenties and probably half-pissed are delighted at my approach. Watcha going to do, big fella? I hadn’t thought about that, but I was open to pulling them through the window and teaching them some manners.

The thing is, I didn’t think about any of this. It was automatic – much as it seems to have been with Will Smith yesterday. My body took over. I went to them, full of disdain and cold anger. I had no fear. No part of me had begun to question what I was doing. It felt right.

In the end, the lights changed, and the minibus moved off with the hoots of the men inside it. I turned and went back to my friend.

Nothing came of it, but something might have. Was it wrong? Part of me thinks you can’t let such behaviour go without acting – but then, I know a large part of that may well be my masculine ego. I think mostly I was shocked that people could be so disgusting towards an innocent and very kind woman who happened to be a good friend. My intrinsic reaction was rage. I couldn’t let it go unpunished. But this is me afterwards, trying to explain it. At the time, my body took over.

Perhaps it is wiser to turn the other cheek. It would have been wiser for Will Smith to do that. But sometimes, it just doesn’t sit right.

No excuses, no explanations, and that’s the point – right or wrong, sometimes things just happen, and you can’t know unless you’re there. That doesn’t excuse it. It’s just reality as we know it.

Celebrity slapping celebrity


A couple of hours ago Will Smith walked up on stage at the Oscars and slapped the host, Chris Rock, because of jokes Rock had made about Will Smith’s wife, Jada. In the scheme of things, not a momentous event, but as you can imagine, it’s set off a sea of commentary and bad takes. Very 2022.

I must confess, my first reaction on seeing it was respect for Will Smith for putting himself out there for his wife. It was not so much the action, which was crazy and impulsive, but the unashamed, unfiltered reaction of a man clearly deeply hurt and much in love. It was in no way measured, and it certainly paid no heed to public opinion. It was raw and natural.

I wouldn’t have done it. I might have thought about waiting until the afterparty, but the more sensible part of myself would expect that by then I’d have calmed down and taken a more reasonable approach – basically, collaring Chris Rock and telling him it’s not on.

Most of the reaction has been negative towards Smith, and I understand that. It’s not a good look slapping someone on live TV and certainly isn’t to be encouraged – though it’s very entertaining.

It seems to me though that much of the commentary is seen through a lens. As a civilised society, we filter out perspective through a common understanding, but what is lost in that is nuance and the raw visceral sense. I don’t condone Smith for what he did, but I understand it. It was primitive but, for me, in a world where everything is processed, emotion included, it was refreshing.

I’ll probably cop shit for this, but that’s okay. I don’t need you to agree with me.

Everyone has a take these days, and everyone shares it thanks to the ubiquity of social media – look, I’m doing it too! They’re packaged reactions, with outrage being a fave. It’s the nature of this discourse that it gravitate’s to the extremes. I hope I’m more reasoned.

I read one person state that they’d never felt entitled to strike another person, despite the many times it might have been justified. I found the term ‘entitled’ interesting. What does it mean? Entitled in what sense? As a responsible citizen, or as an individual? As a cypher, or a person? At what point would they feel entitled? Never?

I disagree. Ultimately, we should aspire to be ourselves truly, without the cultural jargon or baggage. There’s an individual in each of us. If we feel it honestly, and without bias, then we’re entitled.

I think there are occasions when a smack on the nose is probably quite a reasonable response. I like to think I’m cultured and civilised, but I’m no pacifist. Sometimes it’s necessary. What Will Smith did was way over the top and doesn’t meet the criteria of being reasonable. But then, it’s not my place to judge what he should feel in that moment. I can regret his action, but I won’t condemn the man. Nor will I join the pile-on.

I suspect Chris Rock takes a similar view.

2022 AFL season preview


The men’s AFL footy season starts tomorrow night, and I’ve been looking forward to it. So are others, and I’ve been reminded I’ve yet to post my annual pre-season preview. So, here goes.

Firstly, here’s my predicted ladder as at the end of the home and away season:

Melbourne
Brisbane Lions
Port Adelaide
Richmond
Western Bulldogs
Geelong
Essendon
Carlton

Swans
GWS
Fremantle
St Kilda
Collingwood
GCS
WCE
Adelaide
North Melbourne
Hawthorn

It can change an awful lot as the finals start and teams hit form and injuries cut. I will say that the Demons remain my favourite to go back-to-back premiership winners, as they must be.

I’m not going to say much about Melbourne otherwise. They hit a rich vein of form last year and I think the victory will galvanise them to a more consistent performance. They have a good list and confidence counts for a lot.

I have Brisbane coming second because I think they were stiff last year and they have a decent home ground advantage.

Port Adelaide are flat-track bullies. Unless they can overcome their yips, this is as good as it gets. Another strong home advantage and clean, front running form should see them high on the ladder. But I think they need another decent tall forward and to overcome their baggage if they want to go further.

It’s with some trepidation have Richmond coming fourth. They missed out altogether last year, but won the three premierships before that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them miss again but, though theyreaging, they still have the cattle.

I’ve got last year’s runners-up coming next. Despite finishing second, I never really rated Footscray that highly. They got on a streak in the finals, aided by a bit of luck, but had been a good ordinary side to that point. Great midfield, but too weak at either end otherwise I think.

Geelong. Another team I could see falling out of the eight. Very professional, but very old, too. Nup.

I’ve got my team next. They surprised last year and have some great young talent and a deep midfield. They could miss the eight also, but I also think they’re capable of topping the ladder. They’re an exciting, mercurial team on the cusp. Hard to eat come 2024.

Carlton. What can I say, except I despise them? Okay, other than that, they’ve got the talent, but they’ve underperformed for years. It gets in your DNA. I’ve got them in the right, but if they fail again no-one will be surprised.

Last year the Swans played finals, to the surprise of most. They’re a good young team with a stellar coach. They’ll go close again this year, but reckon they just miss out. This will be a consolidation year for them. They’ll be up next year (not dissimilar toEssendon).

I’ve got GWS missing out because they have the cutting-edge, though they did well last year. Freo are developing, have recruited well, and have a fine coach, but are not there yet.

St Kilda are one of those frustrating teams who show a bit, then fall in a hole. Haven’t the depth or class. Speaking of holes, Collingwood fell into a deep one last year and lost their long-term coach in the process. I think they’ll have their moments this year, but will be inconsistent. They’ve lost good players in trading fiasco, but have picked upon of the best recruits in the draft last year.

The Gold Coast Suns have the talent, it’s the belief they’ve lacked. I think they’ll have some exciting wins, but still some way off it. The Eagles are almost the opposite of the GCS in mentality, being regular finalists. Not this year. They’ve had a miserable off-season and are crippled by injury, and are getting old. They might get a few wins at home, but that’ll be it.

I like Adelaide. They’ve got good young players and play a good style. And I think Nicks is a good coach for them. Too young still though, too inconsistent, but can see them riding up the ladder next year perhaps.

Second last I have North Melbourne, last year’s wooden spooners. I think they’re promising but undeveloped yet. They’ve recruited we’ll, including potentially the best player in last year’s draft, and are coached we’ll in all the important fundamentals. Might cause a few upsets.

Then there’s Hawthorn, who I’ve marked down to win this year’s wooden spoon. One may accuse me of bias as I dislike Hawthorn also, and this is a big comedown for the team that dominated through the middle of the last decade.

The big story for them is that they won’t be coached by the man rated as the best coach of the modern era: Alastair Clarkson. They lose about 3-4 goals a game just with him departing. Even in their decline they regularly over-performed because of Clarkson. Not this time.

In his place the Hawthorn have appointed club champion Sam Mitchell. He’s touted as having one of the best footy rains going around, but he’s also an out and out cunt. I don’t care how smart he is, the modern football player doesn’t respond to cold, sociopathic personalities like him. I think he’ll be a dud.

The turmoil at the end of last year won’t have helped either, and an aging list.

That’s my say. Let’s see how much I get right.

Battles then and now


I don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine. Like most people, I’ve been immensely inspired by their spirit and resistance to the Russian invaders. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not gone as Putin expected. Coupled with the scale of sanctions arraigned against Russia, Putin finds himself in a big hole.

It’s hard to predict the actions of an autocrat like Putin. This whole venture has a whiff of irrationality about it, but perhaps it just seems that way because Ukraine has been a lot harder to conquer than expected. A quick victory and he would have been making demands of the world. Instead, he’s mired in a war going nowhere while his reputation and the Russian economy tanks.

Given the desperate situation he finds himself in, how will he respond – and where will this end? He’s already mentioned nuclear weapons. He’s now bombing maternity hospitals. Are biological weapons a possibility? No matter how inspiring the Ukrainian resistance has been, it’s very likely to get a whole lot uglier.

I would like to see peace talks brokered by the UN, just to prove they’re good for something. A man like Putin has to be given a way out of the mess he’s in. Men like him rely on their reputation; ‘face’ is important to them, both personally and politically. I would like to see him destroyed, but more realistically, a way out needs to be negotiated in which some pride is retained.

Longer-term, I suspect Putin will become more vulnerable domestically, particularly as the sanctions bite the people, and the oligarchs. He’s been shown as fallible.

I’ve been watching it unfold very keenly. As a student of WW2, I’ve found it fascinating as the conflict ranges across great battlefields of the last world war. Kharkov, as it was called in the history books I read (as opposed to the Ukrainian Kharkiv), was the site of huge encounters between German and Russian troops – as the Germans advanced (and won big), and as they retreated (fighting a handy rearguard action).

Just over the Russian border is Belgorod. Nearby is Kursk. Together they were the site of the greatest tank battle in history.

What may be significant is that once the Germans occupied Ukraine an effective resistance went underground, tying up German forces and inflicting damage. The partisans were fierce and brave back then – I would expect nothing different now if it comes to that.

Becoming civilised


This is a Facebook post from last Thursday:

I got my first proper haircut today since July. It feels like a milestone moment.

When I started treatment my hair went grey and either fell out or stopped growing. I aged 15 years overnight and was not a pretty sight. But then it started growing again a little after Christmas and coming out a darker colour and I had hopes of becoming presentable at least one day. As I said to the hairdresser, I’m not ready to pick up again (that’s months away, ladies), but I have hopes of being a candidate again. I feel almost civilised.

I don’t know if people understand – I need to speak about these things, and the whole journey, in fact. It feels like a dream sometimes I can’t quite grasp. Did this really happen to ME? It feels surreal to have come so close to death and to feel the crippling effects of it still. The whole thing has been a marvellous, unfolding mystery, with not a day passing that something more is revealed to me. It’s a curious, life-changing time of revelation – how can I keep that inside me? And yet, how do I tell of it if I can’t understand it myself?

Day at a time, a week, a month, that’s how it goes, until – later this year – I feel somewhere back to normal and I might have a sense of what all this means for me. Today, my hair cut, my vanity is appeased at least, and I can look forward to a time when I can engage properly with the world I’ve felt so separate to.

Where to? How?


Last night I lay in bed with my head hurting and my breathing laboured, unable to sleep. Eventually I got up. I took a pill with a glass of water. As I stood by the sink my eyes went to the digital device on the kitchen bench, on which rotated some of my favourite snaps. The picture was of Rigby, and I stood there looking at it until it changed to something else.

For about 10 minutes I sat in the recliner in the living room, just resting. It’s where I sit to read sometimes or have a cup of tea. Mostly, before, Rigby would sprawl on the floor in front of me. I looked at the place as if he was there still. Sometimes, he would come and rest his head in the space beside my leg, looking up at me. My hand went to him.

I was in a bad way. I’m utterly worn out, physically and emotionally. I’ve got little life outside of home because I’m not up to it. I’m back working and doing my best, but I’ve lost all faith in the people there, and rouse little interest in the work I’m doing. And, Rigby is gone.

I wouldn’t feel that so keenly if my life was happier. I always had him, at least, and now I don’t even have him.

It’s funny how you still expect him, if only momentarily. I get out of bed and I look to him, knowing that he will follow – but he’s not there. Struggling as I was to sleep last night, I might have reached out and found some comfort knowing he was there. I miss his companionship obviously, and his love for me, and the love he created in me.

This is not about him though. I miss him terribly, but he’s a symptom of my current state, not the cause of it.

I need to find something to believe in. It’s hard. Physically, I’m not right. Work has failed me and the life I had before seems far distant. And Rigby, who could always make bad things better, is gone.

I’m doing things because I don’t know what else to do. And because I need to. I don’t want to fail. But what comes next? When? And why?

I need to find a way out of this mess but have to do it alone.

It’s mid-morning. I’m still in bed. I feel better than last night, but not great. I woke from an ugly sleep at about 9. I feel exhausted. I wish I knew more. For once, I feel incapable of navigating a way forward. What is right? What is wrong? I don’t think I can go on like this unless I have a sudden upturn in my health. But even then – what does it mean? There remain many unanswered questions.

Off road


For the last few months, an old photo has been coming up regularly in my feed. This is it, me, about 30 years ago, on a hunting trip up towards Broken Hill:

I’m young, fit, healthy, there’s even a hint of swagger in my posture. I had attitude, and more or less that’s who I’ve been throughout the years. Not as young maybe and, lately, not as healthy either – but they seemed incidental. Age is a state of mind. As for my health, that was very scary, but there came a time – perhaps too quickly – when I thought I’d make it out okay.

But now, it seems much less clear-cut. This picture comes up and I don’t know if it’s a taunt or a tease. My mind remains sharp, but my body is a broken thing for now, and my spirit is ailing.

I woke up this morning to the sun shining and could find nothing bright or interesting in it. I seem locked into this very unsatisfactory existence at the moment and don’t know how to make my way out of it. It dawned on me that life as we know it is generally one continuous flow. The seasons change, the years pass, the news on our screens updates, we shop, we eat, we socialise, we travel, we live. There are peaks to this and troughs, but it’s all of a piece, a seamless journey through time and experience, with nary a thought of it.

Except in my case, I got shunted off that road and into a solitary byway. Theoretically, I’ll join up with the mainstream again somewhere down the way, but I can’t seem to find myself there – or imagine such a time and place. Do I want to subscribe to that again?

I get flashes of it. I pretend. I’m back working part-time, though it’s not really working. Yesterday a friend visited and we had a day that in times before I’d have considered very nice – lunch, then an afternoon putting prints up around the house, and later a drink sitting in the sunshine, when another friend arrived.

This would have been an ideal day to me once upon a time. I enjoyed it as much as I could, but from early on felt handicapped by my physical state.

I tire easily. I have no strength or stamina. I feel like a lie down half the time. My hearing is shot and I have pain and messy inconvenience with my head. There’s a permanent stain of blood at the corner of my nostril my vanity has given up worrying about.

I enjoyed the concept of yesterday, but my head hurt and I was so weary I felt ineffective. This is always the case now, with overwhelming fatigue a bonus (I’ve cut down on painkillers hoping to control it).

Despite yesterday, I feel so alone. This is where I really miss Rigby. I thought so often yesterday, I wish Rigby was here, imagining him with my friends. I wake up and he’s gone still, just when I need him most.

He was a great and necessary comfort to me in the hard days post-surgery and through treatment. He’d always be around, and even if he just needed my attention, he was a distraction. When he felt me fraying he’d come close and put his chin on my leg peering up at me, or cross his paw over my arm. He was there to snuggle with and talk to. Even the routines were so familiar as to be warming.

I miss his eyes on me and his affection and his distinct personality, and I miss the affection I would give him.

I need him most now, but the fact that he’s gone only makes the need more keen.

Somehow, I have to break free of this barren existence I’m stuck in. Someone said that recovering from cancer was like suffering PTSD, and maybe that’s what I’m experiencing.

I feel pressured into the work I’m doing, uncertain if it’s a commitment I can keep given the ebbs and flow of my health. In the meantime, I’m just not ever feeling any better, and life is hard. As for most of this time, I feel outside of life and the general pattern of being. I watch from the sidelines as everyone else zooms by with their seamless life.

I hoped to do this when I was healthier, but I don’t know if I can afford to wait. I’m thinking about visiting and staying with friends in Mullumbimby or Noosa. I think I need a change of scenery. I feel stuck in place and haunted by memories I could do without. I need something to jump-start an idea of a new future. A refresh and reset. Not sure how effective it will be with me still feeling shithouse, but can I afford to wait?

I trust that the day will come when I feel okay, though I’m less confident of that now. Whatever, it can’t come soon enough.