Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Every woman (and man) is an island

When John Donne, the English poet, penned his Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions in 1624 he wrote for an audience in an era far removed from the one we live in today.

He’d never have imagined that the earth would be re-aligned -  new countries would spring up and old countries would be renamed. The idea of community has been around since time immemorial, ever since birds of a feather have flocked together. 

We have continents and countries that are interconnected and separated by race, religion and nationalist rhetoric. The human race is big on belonging and ownership – the source of nearly all conflict. There’s nothing new about the unification of humanity. Saints, clerics, scholars, rich and poor men understand inter-dependence but what if it’s all too much?

John Donne was an unashamed romantic. He believed in the brotherhood of man, building the world a home and furnishing it with love…growing apple trees and honey bees and snow white coloured doves…get the picture? He would have probably taught the world to sing too!

Blue Bayou
A harmonious world might exist in another galaxy but it’s definitely not Planet Earth! This clod, known as our world, is in dire straits. Hell we can’t even get along in cyberspace let alone in a parking space. Globalisation has made us acutely aware of the challenges we face in re-thinking some of our common values.

The information highway enables us with a username and log-in but disables us from human connections. We have facetime, email time, skype time, phone and text time. There’s very few avenues left for us to escape from our fellow man unless we’re prepared to brave the Antarctic or the Gobi. Communication today is shallow. 

Parents phone their children and ask what they’ve had for lunch. Children phone their parents whilst shopping for shoes trying to squeeze even more cash out of them. We complain and fret simply because there’s a ready ear that we can pour vitriol into. Perhaps women are among the worst offenders since we just love sharing and dissecting the myriad details of our lives. Men, especially the ones with a holier-than-thou attitude, will feel slightly superior until we do some eavesdropping, and find that bitchiness is not just a female perogative.

My idyll
Let phones, emails and males go unanswered and ignored . Our souls seek peace. Men and peace rarely go together.I've yet to meet one who's in touch with his feminine side fails but never out of touch with his contacts who also thinks he’s a babe magnet! 

His toys or weapons – oh yes they have a sharp side -  iphone, ipod, fuel injection and eyeing the softer sex can be causes for concern. He can stalk, provoke, beguile, dupe, disconnect and economise the truth with any or all of those aids. A man’s world is a hallowed domain that he doesn’t care to share and…. he’s welcome to it!

Traditionally women have been the care-givers so they seek out objects on which they can shower their love and affection. That’s why women love purchases and associations. Shoes, clothes, cosmetics, careers and relationships devour their time and wardrobe space.

The men in their life were sometimes acquired like works of art. They are displayed (or just splayed) on the sofa. Sometimes they move from the sofa to the fridge for a snack and a root beer. Nearly always they’re falling asleep sitting down…in front of cable TV. 

Crowded House!
Motherhood is not as attractive an option – too much like hard work….and who wants to work that hard….after a hard day’s work? How can you possibly take care of someone else’s needs if you’ve neglected your own?

Women have gone full circle and claimed Planet Venus for their own. On Venus they find many of their own kind who’ve tried to share their lives with one man or several and it just hasn’t worked out. They haven’t found their equal and looking for him is proving tiresome.

Modern woman (and man) have found sanctuary in their interests. For some, an evening spent on decoupage, stencilling, cross stitch, painting, jewellery making, flower arranging, glass blowing or moulding clay is wholly satisfying. The more energetic find inspiration from toning their bodies at Zumba, sultry, Latin dancing, kick boxing, cycling and circuit training. The intellectual woman (and man) spends time with books – a mind journey will never leave you wanting for physical company – “get out of my face, my nose is staying in this book or glued to my e-reader!” Single-minded woman is a rambunctious story weaver – she’s a blogger, a poet, playwright, novelist and raconteur. She doesn’t need inane company to feel alive.

I don't need rescuing!
She creates Hobby Island and devotes herself to it. Her island is not a lonely place but she is alone. In the vast ocean that is life she stumbles across many islands and she takes pleasure in them all.  Each is not without its dangers though….the danger of discovery.

There’s nothing worse than finding yourself on an island that’s inhabited. Guess who could be coming to dinner? Some ship wrecked dead beat who’ll bore the pants off you with a  repartee of swashbuckling tall stories After all, his imagination has been running wild amongst the flora and fauna on the island and you're the eye candy! The best thing you can do is jump into your boat and hoist up the sails. He’s about to pillage and plunder.

Out there somewhere you may find what you’re looking for but only if you don’t settle for second best. Swaying palms, cool breezes, shimmering seas, bucketfuls of sunshine and white, hot sands – if it’s too good to be true then you’re probably right -  even paradise can be tainted.

Free spirits
Try island hopping before you decide to settle. You are as alluring as the most bountiful island on earth. Don’t be hasty and part with all of your ripeness. There’ll be invaders who’ll want to claim a piece of you. Your time, your space is precious and your shores are to die for. The crested waves know it and impatiently rush to taste the sweetness.

A woman’s heart is an island; a refuge and comfort for herself. Sometimes she’ll share herself and sometimes she’ll erect fences. If she allows you to spend a night under a canopy of tropical stars, watching the sun dip into the horizon, kindly accept. When dawn comes she will busy herself and you may find yourself rebuffed.

Floating my boat
A man and woman are opposites by nature but there is a place for them to meet in harmony. It takes a lot of trying and failing before you get it right. No one should ever feel stranded as gadgets help us keep in touch or you can opt for the old-fashioned method of communication – a message in a bottle.

Enjoy your space and if you ever want to experience the tranquility of an island home then put up a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. Enlightenment never seeks a companion and neither should you…unless his name is solitude and he knows when to zip it!

Woman (and man) is an island. Home is everywhere and nowhere. Don’t tie her down. Let her spirit dance in the sand and swim to the darkest depths. There’s poetry in her heart but she needs a bolt hole to bring forth her creativity so let her (and him) be.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Great American dreams-ers and do-ers

In the run up to the US elections there’s hard campaigning amongst the candidates. The President incumbent is hoping to secure his second term and I for one hope he succeeds.

Mitt Romney has his merits but he is a man far removed from the people. His father, George Romney, was a well known business man and they lived in an affluent neighbourhood. Mitt Romney did not excel academically but money and privilege opened up many windows and doors of opportunity.

Romney is a Mormon. If you’ve ever had your Sunday mornings disturbed by the quietly spoken, doe-eyed, well dressed brigade of latter day saints then you’ll know that there’s nothing more ungodly than having your intelligence insulted by those who state the obvious…. “do you know that God loves you?”!!!

The Great Pretender
Romney’s father was the proverbial fat cat. I’m sure Mitt and his siblings did not want for much, including a successful role model. Being the poor little rich boy, Mitt was a bit of prankster and some of these have included dressing up as a police officer!!? Academic achievement wasn’t high on his list of priorities though he made good and obtained a law degree – impersonating an officer must have provided some inspiration.

As he was one for propagating the Mormon faith and converting the natives where do you think he chose to go……the jungles of Dijoubti, the intrepid Kalahari, the wilds of Borneo, pungent Punjab, mellow Mongolia…..actually the young Romney plumped for France! I guess there are souls to save in the developed world too!! Perhaps the comforts of strolling down the Champs-Elysees, cruising along  the Seine and sampling the viticulture of Bordeaux were reason enough.

However, Mitt has known hardship we’re told. He and his wife Ann, in the early days of their marriage lived in a basement flat. Really...a basement flat would seem luxurious to the newly married couples who have to share their parents’ home as they can't afford rent or mortgage.

Romney might have achieved the all American dream but, trust me, he had help. He had a hand and leg up and, no doubt, a silver spoon attached to it. A great example of how a rich man can get even richer if he plays his cards right. Can wealth be a disadvantage? Yes - if you're trying to pass yourself off as a servant of the people. 

Intelligent inspiration
Barack Obama is a man of the people, the people’s and poor person’s President. Until he became President he didn’t rub shoulders with any influential people. 

He was a small town boy of mixed race who had a burning vision planted in him. There was no role model for the young Barack as his parents had divorced when he was two. He only met his father briefly when he was ten years old. The abiding male presence in his life was his maternal grandfather. Behind every powerful man are two powerful women and, in Obama’s case, it happened to be his mother and grandmother. These women, though they lived in challenging times, were no wallflowers.

They were women who persevered. Ann Dunham, mother of Barack, married twice and divorced twice. Both marriages were inter-racial during a time when participants in such unions were ostracised. In his memoir: “ Dreams of my Father” Barack recalls how she encouraged him to develop a relationship with Barack Sr. by seeking out his Kenyan roots.Ann Dunham was the spark that gave birth to a soul on fire. Somehow she had the wisdom and uncommon sense to know that her son had a grand destiny.

Ann Dunham - she had a dream
She inspired Barack with academia -her own. Even as a single parent, she obtained a doctorate in Economic Anthropology and worked with poverty alleviation programmes involved in rolling out micro finance to poor villagers in Indonesia.  A powerful intellect made her the ultimate feminist -  strong willed and defiant - she didn’t need a man to lean on. She kept the faith in herself and her children.

She wasn’t just a dreamer but a doer. She carried on working amongst the poor and people say that she had more than an inkling that one or both of her children would do remarkable things. However, not even she could have predicted that her Barack was going to become America’s 44th President.

Barack Obama is the real deal and as Michelle, his wife, said recently: “he is the American Dream”. He has faced all of the challenges of ordinary and extra-ordinary people. He has empathy, transparency and fiery intelligence. His healthcare reforms, though unwelcome to his opponents, is based on the fundamental principles of life, liberty and happiness.

A family of do-ers
He’s not in it for the money but he’s in it to win it. He didn’t have to chase after fame and fortune; it came to him. It wasn’t an easy route but he wants to make the path to prosperity and progress easier for others.

He knows discrimination, despair, doubt as he’s lived it. He has more than a dream. It’s a vision of how great America can be. He’s a do-er so let him do it – please God -  in 2012.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Flying without wings

Whoever said you need legs to run or both arms to swim has been firmly proved wrong. If you’ve caught any of the Paralympic events you’ll know that you don’t need to be able bodied in the traditional sense to reach for greatness and, damn well, achieve it.

The heroism displayed by the Paralympians easily surpasses the glories earned by the fully limbed athletes who wowed us in field, track and aquatic events last month. I am awe-struck by the super-human strength on display and we’re not just talking physical here.

Only someone who understands disability through personal experience, either as a victor (over it) or by supporting someone who is physically or mentally challenged can appreciate the magnitude of their success. Disabled people are not helpless victims though they may appear to some as that. They have experienced tragedy and disaster worthy of a full ten on the Richter scale but they have overcome. They put people who slip too quickly into depression and despair, whenever they come up against an obstacle,  to shame.

The tears they shed as they hug their medals to them are the tears that they’ve surpressed a long time ago. Only in victory do they give full rein to their joy and pain.  It has cost them dear to get to where they are. Dark days of negativity filled with the harsh realities that requires them to zone out the naysayers and concentrate on their personal goals – of walking, running, rowing and cycling with one or two prosthetic limbs.

No one knew their gruelling schedule as they struggled to achieve their best in every training. No one knew how their spirits plummeted when well meaning medical professionals told them that they were limited and must accept living less than a full life. No one saw the pain etched on to their faces and hearts when they felt beaten down by the system. No one knew the injuries they sustained to their bodies and their pride. No one knows except those who are close to them.

No legs...no problem
In every life there are walls and barriers. When I’m feeling a little self-indulgent, I see them too. Walls have their purpose. It’s not to seal you in or cramp your style. They’re there for strengthening that iron will inside so that you can either climb over it or smash your way through. Some people will never get over their barriers but that’s because they’ve chosen not to get out of the way. You have to clear the path of your insecurities before you can plough headlong to victory.

Easy it is not and wrestling with our demons is a life long calling. Better fight than give in. This is one war where you should never surrender, even if you claim to be a pacifist. Declare war on your darkest thoughts; that satanic voice in your ear that hinders your progress. Listen to your higher self and drown pessimism in the well of enthusiasm. Don’t let anyone stop you. Power forward and reveal your greatness.

I believe I can fly
When you see a Paralympian win and his/her closest supporters issue a deafening cheer, it’s because they are the ones who know what it's taken to arrive at the gold, silver and bronze.They are the wind beneath the clipped wings of these fine men and women.

They’ll never be whole bodied but their spirits are soaring higher than most of us. Their dreams and goals are fresh and they’ve got courage that you and I would die for. Perhaps they’re a little bit closer to God and his angels. God loves a trier and no one can accuse a Paralympian of not giving their best.

If you need a little inspiration or are feeling sorry for yourself then switch onto the games. You’ll find that your problems become minuscule and insignificant so throw them away. Human beings are problem solving machines and no where can we see a better example of this than in these athletic power houses.

There's a new respect in the air. They've forced us to look beyond the wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs. Attitudes have changed and I know that we're moving in the right direction when leisure centres / gyms lay on more activities for the physically challenged. Life's good when we see the gap closing.

As I wrote in a previous post, the naysayers who bang on about how the Games have worsened the national debt crisis can go take a  long running jump into the sandpit. If creating heros out of broken bodies is making our budgets lean , I say, it's worth every penny!

No sweat!