Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some thoughts on forgiveness and the deliciousness of unforgiveness

My take on forgiveness has been very strongly affected by my understanding of what happened to my mother. She was verbally, physically, and sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood. The man was a monster. She left home at 18 and had little to do with him for 30 years. Then in 2005, when he was dying alone, she chose to become caretaker for him, and invited him into her home to live.

He had never so much as admitted to much less apologised for his behaviour. Although he was too frail to be physically abusive, he continued to be verbally abusive to her while living in her home. He lived there for less than a year before being moved into a care facility. It was during/immediately after this time that my mum got cancer, of which she died 3 years later in June 2008.

It makes sense to me that my mum invited her terrifying childhood monster to live in her home and then got cancer. These things are connected in my mind.

Why did she do it?  Her Christianity told her that he was destined for hell, that it was her duty to forgive him and love him and she believed that indeed her love in the face of his monstrosity might be the only thing that could reach him and help him change and thus avoid Hell. I know this because she told me herself.

I loved my mother to bits, and am profoundly grateful for her. Please read my eulogy for her here if you want to read more about that. And I think that the take on forgiveness illustrated by this story is completely and utterly fucked up.

However, I grew up in the same religious community in which my mother grew up, and I used to believe similarly. That's why I say now that I find unforgiveness utterly delicious. If someone's behaviour and beliefs towards me are very unkind, then I don't have to be in relationship with them. I can gently more-or-less cull them from my life, making room for people whose behaviours and beliefs towards me are gracious, kind, loving, and empowering. I don't have to take any responsibility for the monsters. I'm quite happy for them to live their lives out being in community with other people, hopefully people who don't experience them as monstrous.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not a dog

Yesterday, while climbing Flinders Peak in the You Yangs at the end of a 33 kilometre run, I saw a family hanging out on a grassy picnic area next to the trail. The mum was repeatedly and angrily instructing her ~6 year old son, Fynn, that he was not a dog, while the dad occasionally angrily chimed in "Listen to your mother". Actually, it went more like this (Remember it's all in an angry strident tone. The 6 year old never verbally said anything. He also never once looked at his mum or anyone else, in fact he studiously avoided doing so):
Come over here Fynn! Come here right now. Look at me. Look at me. You're not a dog, you hear me? You don't lap water from a bowl like a dog. You drink from a bottle like a person. Look at me. Look at me. You're not a dog, Fynn. You drink properly like a person. etc. etc.
Part of me wanted to be super useful to this mum by going into my speech pathologist mode. I realised that this probably wouldn't work, and she probably wouldn't find it useful, and also I was very very sore after 32 kilometres and decided to let it go. But it did get me thinking. Possible smart ass responses from Fynn:
  • Yep, and you're not a bitch.
  • Well, actually genetically I'm like 97% identical with a dog.
  • [Panting loudly like a dog]
Possible slightly more useful responses from Fynn
  • Why do you want me to look at you?
  • Why do you feel upset that I lapped water from a bowl like a dog?
  • I wish you'd love me and feel comfortable around me even when I'm silly and slightly out of control.
I actually thought about becoming a dog myself, and crawling over to the family with a big happy dog grin on my face saying "ruf ruf ruf!".  One wonders what would have happened if the dad in the family had teamed up with his son to do just that?

I wish I could have this much perspective at similar times when I'm speaking angrily and stridently to my own children about things that are probably of similar ultimate significance. In fact, I'm going to to make a note of it, and next time I notice myself speaking angrily to my children, I'm going to say to them "You're not a dog, _______ (fill in name here)". Then I'm going to crack up laughing, with happy dog panting in between.  Maybe I'll use this more generally for when I speak angrily.  If you notice me doing this, you'll know now what it's about.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

10 Reason to not choose University of Melbourne to do a Master of Speech Pathology Degree (AKA 10 Forks)

1. Lecture slides/notes written by your overpriced professors with entire sections of Wikipedia articles cut and pasted in.
2. A professor miming eating the dead bodies during anatomy and physiology wet labs
3. Being treated like a child by professors who are significantly younger than you.
4. Being told to stop asking questions so the lecturer can get through their 90 slides in 60 minutes.
5. Corporate/Big-Money stomp-on-the-little-students attitudes vis-a-vis Cochlear.
6. Being treated like shit by hospital based clinical supervisors (who themselves are being treated like shit by hospital administration and policies)
7. Being cooped up for hundreds of hours of lectures in tiny, airless, windowless lecture rooms at 550 Swanston Street.
8. Having little to no say about your choice of thesis topic.
9. Having to re-do subjects you already did in much more depth with exceedingly high marks as an undergrad, despite providing mountains of evidence to that effect.
10. Observed, Structured, Clinical  Examinations (the hated OSCEs), for which the faculty utterly refuse to assist you in any way to prepare, despite the entire student body's ongoing desperate pleas for information/assistance.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Running a marathon for families with autism

 I'm super excited to announce that I'm in training for my first ever marathon.  I'll be running the Melbourne Marathon on October 13 2013, and I'm using the event to raise money for an amazing organization that financially helps parents of children with autism--Loving Autism.

I'm blogging about running and autism at my shiny new blog,  Check it out!

If you want to donate to my marathon fundraiser, you can click here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Conceptualized in a conversation with Ahona today: FSMparent. It's like a Godparent, only twice as awesome. A person who is to take an interest in the skeptical, wonder-filled raising of a child. Hurrah!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Water into wine

My friend Steve Bell has not given me permission to publish this perfect thing he wrote:

I don't know if you're a talker by nature. I'm not particularly. Sure, I can do it, but the truth is, I can do it better once I've had a drink or two. On this day, I'd had a few. Enough to settle the nerves, and not enough to say anything regrettable on such an important occasion: my youngest brother's only daughter's wedding, where I was most honoured to be the Master of Ceremonies for young Lilah, and her groom.

Her new husband, Andrew, is a good man. I'm most pleased for them both, though not a little worried about their security, as Andrew has left his trade to follow this emerging Rabbi, Jesus. Of course, Andrew and Lil invited them all. But the numbers were as expected, and no-one quite knows how the unthinkable happened: We were, quite literally, wringing the wineskins. Thankfully, I was one of the first to know, and I'd done my utmost to steer the guests' attentions to activities other than drinking. But soon enough, the inevitable was unavoidable: Andrew and Lil, still blissfully unaware, were soon to begin their ever-after ashamed: they were to fail at providing for their guests. All custom and tradition called for them to be shamed, ostracized, and held low as an example to ensure such poor hosting would not happen again, and I, as the Master of Ceremonies, was to announce this news.

What happened next happened out of my sight; not difficult to achieve in my 73rd year. But I've pieced together in the last few days what took place: Mary, the mother of the Rabbi, who was helping with kitchen duties, called her son quietly to the entryway, and together they discussed Andrew's predicament, the news of which was slowly spreading amongst those present. In the entry stood several wash-jars, now empty, and it was these that were quickly filled from the spring. To be honest, I'd hoped beyond hope that more wine would materialize from someone's home nearby, and when I was presented at the head table with a mug of water drawn directly from one of these jars, heads began to turn to see how I would approach what needed to be done.

Murmur descended to silence, and I drew that deep breath that one draws when one needs to think very deeply, very quickly. As slowly as I could manage, I turned to look for Jesus, for some hint or clue as to where he was going with this. I found him standing with crossed feet beside a pale Lil, his left arm around her shoulder, and his right holding a mug. With the tiniest of flourishes, Mary leaned over and filled the mug with wash-jar spring water.

He blinked slowly. The corner of his mouth crept up. He raised his own mug towards me with that across-the-room 'cheers' - took a gulp, and nodded to me to follow.

I understood the choice was mine. I drank. I stared into my cup. Raising my eyes, I started to scan the room of guests, regarding every pair of eyes. The choice was all of ours.

"This wine", I declared emphatically, "Is the best wine you will ever taste. Whether you can enjoy it now is for you to decide".

Slowly then, a true miracle took place. Almost all of the guests felt it, as we sat together enjoying that cool spring water. Together we chose humanity, we chose grace, and we put people before our traditions.