Little wins

I want to celebrate two little wins I had on my birthday – I was able to do up my bra by myself and I was able to eat my lunch with two hands and a knife and fork.

Mentioning the things related directly to my 75th birthday seemed important but there was another related one. In the midst of a big win, Alan took me to dinner and a show the evening before… a first in 20 years. I had no hand in the planning it was all a wonderful surprise! and The little win there was that I was able to clap with both hands together, it hurt a bit but it happened. It must be years since I was able to do that. Thank you Alan.

That felt so good.

Why? you might ask. I had a Dupuytren’s fascietctomy on 20th November and the healing process has been terribly slow. Two weeks in I had what they in the medical profession called a ‘flare up’. My hand was hot and dark red/purple and terribly swollen. The whole hand almost including the wrist.

The wonderful physiotherapist at Coffs Hospital took matters in hand (!) and told me what to do. I do what she tells me and now 4 months later had those little wins. I had never fully appreciated the role of the physio before. Joe used to call them physio terrorists. Without her encouragement and expertise those little wins might not have happened.

I have gone through the gamut that I am sure everyone subjected to surgery has endured, feeling scarred and mutilated, depressed at the prospect of being forever somehow disabled. All that. And then I have reminded myself when the clouds cleared a little that I was hardly able to use the left hand anyway, the Dupuytrens had so crippled the fingers.

There are other wins of course, I am typing, it was hard not to be able to do that with two hands, been cooking most of the time and finally got back into the garden. That was a funny one. It was as if without two hands I could do nothing so I didn’t. Now the weeds are rampant and it is doubly hard to tidy things up. Especially as it has been raining off and on for a couple of weeks.

The small details point up the big picture and I am grateful.

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Picking at scabs

This is the first of a series of posts triggered by picking at the scabs of memories.

They – various family members and undiscriminating friends – seem to think that my memories will be of interest so I will record some of them in no particular order.

This one comes from the Transkei – as it was in those days. I will be using the place names as they were spelt in the memories. That in itself might be interesting.

My father worked for the Witwatersrand Miners’ Pension and Provident Funds. He used to get long leave and took us all away on holidays that involved missing school. This particular memory is set before I went to school. I was probably about  5 and my sister would have been 2 and a half … give or take. We were at Coffee Bay. We always stayed at the Coffee Bay Hotel owned by Edwin and Audrey Roberts. Not that I knew any of that then.

We were all on the beach scratching for shells. My mother and some other women all engaged in this fascinating pursuit. We were looking for riceys – tiny shells that resembled large grains of rice, pagodas – mostly brown and shaped like tiny pagodas and darlings – tiny baby toes white and fragile. The women’s sticks slowly scraped through the shell detritus, the sand and small stones. They languidly placed the shells into one of three or four bags…

I remember looking up and seeing a dark figure against the light approaching us. He wore an old khaki hat and leather jacket and carried a shoulder pack – ex army. He also carried fishing rods with reels and wore on his hips a leather contraption with a cup in front to rest the end of the rod while waiting for a bite. He was tanned dark and had hairy legs with old tackies on his feet. My sister and I recognised him at once and flew into his embrace, a jolly tangle of fishing rods and smelly body and bait.

When we reached the seated ladies one of them said quite loudly, “Oh my goodness that is Mr Murray. I thought it was a native coming at us!”

She was one of the staff at the Provident Fund.

He laughed loudly.

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Hands off is good

It would seem that hands off is good.  No more whispers no more sense of being the bad girl… seems that it wasn’t me me at all.  So I am glad that I didn’t ask for the feedback or anything else from the person I thought was concerned.  Another lesson learned.  Advanced in years and experience as I am it is clear that there is always something more to be discovered.  This time, contrary to my usual style, a little gentle digging around the edges brought a different perspective to light.

In my life I have too often assumed that things were not going as they should because of a failing in myself – such hubris.  Why should someone else’s behaviour not be causing the ripples? Am I that important in the greater scheme of things?  Thankfully not.  And that is a relief!

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Affirmation

Been thinking a lot about affirmation. Can one operate well without it? Do we need to look for it all the time? Is that a sign of pathetic neediness? How is one supposed to know that you are going in the right direction? Can one subtly find affirmation in signals from the ambient universe?

I remember my dad in his later dementia being extremely excited because the pension fund of which he had been chief administrator sent him a letter telling him that he had been such a wonderful loyal servant that they were going to increase his pension. A form letter sent to every remaining beneficiary member of the fund. To him it was justification of all his years of hard work sometimes creative, always kind and completely reliable. I didn’t disabuse him and so he died feeling that his employers had at last recognised his contribution.

Nothing wrong with a bit of stroking I reckon and the opposite is unbearably destructive of trust.  I must say, recently under pressure of the start of the new semester and all that means for my role,  I have made a few mistakes that have caused a colleague annoyance and she has not said anything to me but lots to others and I have had no direct feedback – so far from being stroked publicly I have been severely criticised privately and in the absence of any information am unable to provide either redress or change!  Whispers in corridors must be the worst and most toxic source of workplace distress.  Too much sleep time not being used appropriately is hard to overcome.

So you out there, remember to provide affirmation for jobs well done and information about jobs not well done.

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One small step

Yesterday I got an email from the Faculty of Education to say that their approval of my PhD proposal was onits way to the Office of Research and Higher Degrees.  So the first small step towards the degree has been taken.  Woopee.  I know that many more small and bigger stes will need to happen and some of them very soon but I am excited that the journey has begun.  17 years have passed since I got the Masters and this has been a project cherished since then, transformed, tansmuted, transmogrified, translated… from a study of stories South African and Australian Indigenous to a study of how writers translate their thoughts into words and how they can be assessed on those thoughts and words.

We shall see what Vygotsky, Pinker and all the new thinkers and theorists have to say and what my data reveals as well.  I will probably put links to some of the stuff into this blog – yes wha about posting the proposal… I will work on it and see how to do it.  Want to link this blog to mu university ePortfolio – but is very hard to use software by Mahara.  Anyway we are all embracing our digital present and future at USQ and so anything is possible in cloud (cuckoo)land.  I didn’t say that!

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