1 SHIT HAPPENS – START SHOVELLING! 2 SCRIBE: The scribe is a middle aged, overweight, chain smoking procrastinator who’d rather sit and watch mould grow, rather than do an honest day’s work. Unfortunately the universe and the bank manager are again conspiring to force her to confront the joys of gainful employment and once again becoming a productive member of society. HERMES: A refugee from “the other side” who took up temporary residence in the largely unoccupied space between the ears of the Scribe, unaware he would be trapped; doomed to co-exist for his now finite years with a very mere mortal. Although in reality a mere messenger in his former divine existence, he is often somewhat self deluded in his role as “God’s key adviser”; constantly offering useless and unsolicited advice to his now limited audience – the Scribe. TOGETHER, THEY CO-EXIST WITH VARYING DEGREES OF HARMONY, DEPENDING ON THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF THE LATEST WORDS OF WISDOM; ALWAYS OFFERED (BECAUSE HERMES CAN’T KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT), BUT RARELY FOLLOWED (AS THE SCRIBE RARELY TAKES ANY NOTICE OF ADVICE “I’D RATHER MAKE MY OWN FUCKING MISTAKES”). The following rambling dialogue is a new attempt for the two to find resolution; living in such close proximity they are exploring different avenues of obtaining a more harmonious coexistence, given they often approach issues or challenges from opposite perspectives. 3 1st October, 2010 SMOKING HERMES: I’m fucking sick of living in this toxic waste dump. Now I’m fucking mortal I’d actually like to make the most of my few remaining years; not only are you deliberately depriving me of years of life, you’re going to make us spend them in a fucking hospital, watching as they take off or out parts you’ve deliberately poisoned. I always suspected humans were fucking thick; but this is really beyond belief. SCRIBE: Yes I know. For once I actually agree with you; I’ve been trying to give up unsuccessfully for the last 35 years, but every time I just give in. Once I even gave up for 18 months, but just one cigarette and I was hooked again. I know I’m an addict, and maybe I use that as an excuse, but it’s like saying good-bye to my best friend. Through all the years, all the stress, all the highs and lows of life, who’s been there with me to keep me company at two o’clock in the morning? My ever faithful, trusty friend – a cigarette. HERMES: Trusty friend, my arse (or actually our arse, since we’re sharing). Every single one you shove in our mouth is taking minutes off our life. So you want to destroy your life, that’s fine; what about me? I want to fucking live and enjoy my few remaining years of life. SCRIBE: I know you’re right, but I didn’t ask you to move into my head. This is my body, and I can do with it what I like; if you don’t like it just piss off and go somewhere else. HERMES: Don’t you think I haven’t tried. If I’d only known that I’d end up here in perpetuity, I’d never have been part of that ridiculous scheme. Only to be fair, if I hadn’t I may have already ceased to exist; so I can’t complain too much. And let’s face it we do get on a lot of the time, smoking is the only really big issue. OK, weight, sloth and unfitness rare 4 their heads occasionally, but the evil weed is killing us fastest. Isn’t there something we can do about it? SCRIBE: Because I hate having people tell me what to do and how to live my life, I’m inclined to just tell you to fuck off as usual; but the thing is I know you’re right, and I’d really like to find a solution. How do I go about finding a new “friend” to replace my old one? What do I do when my head is spinning in the middle of the night and I’ve no one to share my hopes and fears? HERMES: I know this may sound ridiculous, but now I’m around, you can always talk to me. SCRIBE: For all I know you’re just a figment of my imagination, and I’m really just talking to myself. HERMES: So what! Unless you haven’t noticed, your coffin nails don’t actually talk back anyway. Why not just give it a try, and see how it goes. SCRIBE: I’ve tried everything else I suppose so we have nothing to lose. I’ll just have a think about it while I finish this packet, and see how I feel then; but I’m not giving any guarantees, so don’t start dumping on me again if I cave in. It’s easy for you to sit there giving advice, but it is me that controls this body and has to deal with the cravings; it’s me that has to pay the fucking bills, and I’m starting a new job next week that scares my shitless. I always like to think a time will come in my life when everything will “settle down”, and it will be “the right time to give up”; but after nearly 40 years I can’t see that happening. Life is just such a fucking roller coaster that every time you go up, you know inevitably it has to come down. Strangely I crave my “friend” during both; it seems to help keep me focused and balanced, knowing whatever happens, nicotine and caffeine will help me through. 5 HERMES: I hadn’t wanted to bring up the caffeine, but now you mention it; do you think that might contribute to your head spinning at 2am? Could it also be yet another trigger to light up? SCRIBE: OK, smart arse, so you’re right again. It’s just they go so well together; the caffeine truly enhances the experience; and a cigarette never tastes as good as when it is washed down with a coffee. Doing without both would be like cutting off my life support system. HERMES: Maybe we can try a compromise. Since it is caffeine that enhances the nicotine, would drinking decaf make any difference? SCRIBE: I’ve tried it before and I don’t think it made a lot of difference, but if I do agree to try giving up again, I’ll give it another go. I don’t want to lose my legs or my life, and unless I do something about it I’m increasing my chances of both every day. For now though, the sun is shining and my garden needs weeding, so I’ll think about it while I work, and I’ll let you know how I’m getting on tomorrow if you leave me in peace for the rest of the day. 2nd October, 2010 SCRIBE: OK, so I didn’t succeed. I needed a few more cigarettes to think properly; but at least I got the front yard weeded. You’ve got to give me points for something. HERMES: Alright, I won’t nag, and the yard does look better. It’s just if you really do want to give up, I think we should somehow try and work out a plan together. SCRIBE: Don’t you think I haven’t tried just about every “plan” under the sun? I’ve spent just about as much on patches and nicotine gum as I have on cigarettes. As for hypnosis, the 6 whole time I say in the chair all I did was think how long it would take me until I could have a cigarette; lighting up before reaching my car which was parked just outside. HERMES: Why don’t we start from the beginning? When did you start and why? SCRIBE: Presuming you’re not counting the coconut fibres in newspaper that was so “in” at 5; I was 15 when I smoked my first cigarette. It was the first time I’d been allowed out at night to go to the pictures with a family friend a couple of years older. We went AWOL and sat in front of the local police station to light up. I felt like a real rebel for the first time in my life. I was such an anally retentive conformer in so many ways (and probably still am); this was my way of breaking out. HERMES: How long before you were hooked? SCRIBE: Let’s just say if I believed in reincarnation I’d think smoking was what I’d come back to do. I was hooked immediately; and when anyone I went out with tried to get me to stop; it just made me more determined. HERMES: You said you once gave up for 18 months; why did you cave in? SCRIBE: I was on my honeymoon. It’s been a long hard day travelling, and we were sitting with a group of locals who were all smoking. One man offered me a cigarette, and my brand new husband said “NO” I didn’t smoke. Well what self-respecting young bride would go along with that? Needless to say I’m still paying for my stupidity. HERMES: It’s a bit hard to blame him now you’ve been divorced 10 years. SCRIBE: I’m not really blaming him; I’ve always known it was me sticking them in my mouth. HERMES: Any other times you thought you’d succeeded in giving them up? 7 SCRIBE: Apart from that the longest I went was for 6 weeks about 5 years ago. I really thought I’d had it beat. HERMES: What happened? SCRIBE: Well I was driving down the highway really feeling on top of the world; like I’d just climbed Mt. Everest; no nicotine for 6 weeks. Then the thought went through my mind “If I got run over by a bus tomorrow I’d die happy, knowing I’d achieved an almost lifelong ambition”. HERMES: That sounds promising? SCRIBE: Unfortunately the train of thought continued. Well if I was going to be run over by a bus tomorrow, what would I want to be doing on my last day on the planet? Then I thought if I was going to die anyway, why worry about my future health, I may as well enjoy my last few hours. Needless to say I was back on again. HERMES: Well from my point of view I accept that rebellion was a fairly typical way of getting started, which you did on two occasions; but you don’t seem to have anything left to rebel against so that doesn’t seem to be the motivation to continue. SCRIBE: No, the main reason now is I enjoy having a few cigarettes with my coffee. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could be an occasional smoker, but as soon as I have one I want to finish the packet; just like a packet of chocolate biscuits, a bag of lollies, or a packet of chips. I don’t seem to have a control mechanism to stop at one. HERMES: I can’t help but say I’ve noticed that tendency. Given the size of us I suspect everyone else has too. 8 SCRIBE: No need to be facetious, but as usual you are right again. I’ve had just as much of an uphill battle with weight since I left the cradle. I was yo-yo dieting long before I started smoking. Then of course when I do succeed with giving up smoking for a few days or weeks, I eat my body weight in carbohydrates daily to compensate; and grab another packet of cigarettes when I feel so ill and bloated I can hardly move. HERMES: Look I know you didn’t ask me to be here, and I’m happy to accept you just the way you are if you’ve given up trying. All I want to know is if you accept yourself the way you are? Or do you want to change? SCRIBE: I’d like to think I’m happy with the life I have now. As usual there are a few challenges ahead, but I’m as settled now as I have been probably anytime in my life. Now rather than feeling a rebel when I light up or overeat, I feel like a weak failure. I feel I’m allowing myself to be controlled by food and smokes. Ridiculous isn’t it at my age that I can’t say no to a lolly or a cigarette? HERMES: AS you say I don’t control the parts of the brain and body that have to deal with the consequences of withdrawal, but it seems to me you’d like to regain that feeling of having climbed Mt. Everest again; that feeling of conquering your demons, emerging in full control of your life again. SCRIBE: Silly isn’t it, that in a battle of wills between me and a cigarette, the cigarette always wins. HERMES: Think about it another way. It’s now the beginning of October; what would you like your life to be like in six months time? SCRIBE: Firstly I’d like to be reunited with my back teeth. We parted company six months ago; and with luck the implants will be complete on the 29th March. 9 HERMES: Well that gives a really good time frame to work with. What sort of look do you want to match your new teeth? SCRIBE: I’d like to be trim, taut and terrific; or fit, fun and fabulous. Admittedly when you’re as long in the tooth as I am, that’s probably a little overoptimistic. HERMES: Let’s be honest here; we both know you’re not trying to compete with Elle McPherson, but you can still be the best you can be at 53. SCRIBE: Hey, that’s not a bad motto. “THE BEST I CAN BE AT 53”. I like it. As it stands today I don’t know what I’ll be doing in six months time. Because I started the dental treatment 1,500 kilometres away I’ve still got 10 weeks of appointments up in Townsville, I don’t want to look for full time permanent work until it’s complete. I don’t even know if I’ll continue nursing. As you know Hermes the last five years have been a hard slog, and during my 12 month graduate year I often left work feeling like I was a candidate for post traumatic stress disorder. It’s fine when you have everything under control, or when shit happens you have support; but when you’re up to your neck in it and find yourself alone it’s fucking scary. HERMES: Keeping that in mind I suggest we hold off the smoking ban for a few days until you see how the new job works out? On second though 2 weeks; why not make the new deadline your birthday on the 15th. Then you can really put the “BEST I CAN BE AT 53” into practice. We’ll let you celebrate your birthday in peace, and from Saturday the 16th October you’re on the way to the new you; or should I say “US”; since we’re working this together. 10 SCRIBE: I suspect the experts normally suggest tackling these issues separately, but for me I think they’re all interrelated and I need to try working on the all together, so I’ll set some targets for 1st April 2011. . No nicotine or caffeine . Weight 65 kilos (within healthy BMI) . Able to pass the RAAF reserve physical HERMES: I suspect the RAAF physical may be beyond our powers of endurance, but it’s certainly worth aiming for. I’ll even make another suggestion. If we succeed; and we’re both in this together, we’ll try and shout ourselves a treat holiday in April before we start looking for another job. Something physical, to make the most of your new fitness level. SCRIBE: Well I know the real Everest is beyond my skill or inclination; but maybe Kilimanjaro? I’ve always like the idea of doing something like that, but I’ve always been too lazy and unfit. HERMES: That sounds good to me, but if you want to take the other option and lie on a beach in Bali I won’t complain. Who knows maybe you’ll ride a bike up into the hills and find a guru and a soul mate. SCRIBE: Dream on! It might work if you’re young and beautiful like Julia Roberts, but in the real world I know if I want to turn my life around I have to take the stay at home and do it yourself option; and you’ll have to play the role of internal guru Hermes; you do it so well. As for “soul mate”, I think I gave up on that idea a long time ago; when I traded the husband for a couple of dogs. How could any mere human compete with such non-judgemental adoration? 11 If I’m going to be the best I can be at 53; it’s entirely for me (or at least us Hermes). I’m not looking for a guru or a man. I’m looking for me; the one currently buried beneath the barrels of toxic blubber. HERMES: Now we’ve sorted that out, let’s take the dogs for a walk before it rains. I wouldn’t mind clearing the head a bit. We’ve come a long way to-day and I suspect you’re going to be kept progressively busy for awhile, so we’ll meet again here when you need to let off steam. SCRIBE: Sounds good. I’ll try and take my pen and paper with me wherever I go, and in due course instead of reaching for a smoke or a chocolate – I’ll reach for my diary. Don’t know if it’ll work but I’d like to see my grandkids grow up, so it’s worth a shot. 3rd October, 2010 SCRIBE: That was quite a marathon yesterday Hermes and I can’t see me doing that on a regular basis. HERMES: I don’t think you’ll have the time or inclination; but if you get into the habit of a quick message as often as possible I’m hoping it’ll become semi-automatic when the big challenges come up. Instead of reaching for a smoke; you reach for the diary. SCRIBE: That’s OK then. Nothing much happened today. Sun came out for a little while; it’s such a treat after so much bad weather. Got my uniform ready, walked the dogs and am off for coffee with a friend. Catch you next time. HERMES: Good luck with work tomorrow, hope it all goes well. 4th October, 2010 12 SCRIBE: Well Hermes, it’s lunch time of my first day as a casual employee and I’m still waiting around for a phone call. Maybe I’ll have to wait a month. Even though I’ve stuck close to the phone, the one call I had went straight to message bank and cut off before I could get to it; presumably though they’d ring my mobile if it was the hospital. HERMES: It’s going to be a bit challenging trying to start a fitness regime if you’re stuck to the phone all the time. You won’t be able to do that forever 7 days a week. SCRIBE: Yes, it’s not a particularly viable option in the long run. I don’t have my orientation until the 20th so I’ll probably just go with the flow until then. If I haven’t had any shifts by then I’ll go and make enquiries. HERMES: Why not try and work out a daily program as if you’re not working; then just let it go if you get a call? SCRIBE: Don’t see much alternative Hermes; if I want to get fit I need an exercise regime marginally more strenuous than sitting watching a phone. I’ve also picked up my diet food for the week. If I’m paying good money to be on a diet I should try and follow it properly. In future I’ll try eating everything on the sheet and on the exercise front I’ll at least aim to walk the dogs twice a day; even if a short one. When I’m up to it I’ll give the pool a go. HERMES: We’ll have this program up and running in no time Scribe. 5th October, 2010 SCRIBE: Well Hermes, howzat for a start? Thought I’d get in early for a trial no nicotine run. Impressive wasn’t it? HERMES: Absolutely; even 10 days before the deadline. How did you do it? 13 SCRIBE: Well I can’t say I’ve done it yet. All I can say is I haven’t had any to-day. Yet! Thought I’d just stay in bed until I got a phone call to say I had to work. By lunchtime I’d had enough. It’s just one place I never smoke and I think I’d be fine if I never got out of bed again. It just feels like it’s defeating the purpose. HERMES: So what happened next? SCRIBE: The only other place I can’t really smoke is in the pool; so I went down and broke the ice. Don’t know how long it will last, but at least I’m in. HERMES: I’m really impressed by the achievement Scribe. No smokes and exercise; there will definitely be a brand new you in 6 months if you keep this up. 6th October SCRIBE: Did it again Hermes. Two nicotine free days and I’m up to 60 laps in the pool; admittedly it’s only a 25 metre pool so it’s only 1.5 kilometres, but it’s still more than I was doing last week./ HERMES: Very impressive Scribe, maybe you’ll have this beat within days? SCRIBE: I’d like to think so Hermes but from past experience I know it’s not that simple. To start with apart from the lady at the front desk at the pool I’ve virtually had no outside contact. I’m not yet working, and I’ve avoided the phone, computer and conversation generally HERMES: So you think these are all triggers and if you talk to other people you’ll give in? SCRIBE: Well more like I’ll give in, and then go talk to other people. I’ll just use other people as an excuse to give in. 14 HERMES: You’ve done really well so far so if you can hang on another day or so it might be worth it. 7th October, 2010 SCRIBE: I could tell from the start today would be harder than the first 2 days. They say the actual nicotine is out of your system in 3 days, but I don’t think that make much difference to the cravings. HERMES: Why are you feeling so different today Scribe? SCRIBE: Hard to say Hermes; it’s just I know lying in bed all I wanted to do when I got up was go and get some smokes. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it doesn’t change the way I feel. HERMES: Have you any strategies to deal with it? SCRIBE: Well I’ve just had breakfast and I’m off to the pool again. I don’t know if it will get rid of the cravings, but at least when I’m swimming I can’t smoke. HERMES: You really have done so well Scribe, it’d be a shame if you did cave in now; but our agreement was for 16th October, so if you go give way, we’ll just consider it a practice run. 8th October, 2010 SCRIBE: It’s been another cold, wet and miserable day Hermes. A day when I should’ve turned the phone off and stayed in bed. HERMES: Doesn’t sound too promising; what happened? 15 SCRIBE: It’s a bit strange talking to you as a separate person sometimes Hermes, because let’s face it you’re with me all the time, and know as well as I do what happened. HERMES: For the purpose of this exercise Scribe, I think you should just try working on the assumption I know nothing; you’re using me as your outside support person as it were. Ultimately think of me as someone to talk to at 2 am instead of a cigarette. SCRIBE: I know it sounds good in theory Hermes, but sometimes I guess I still look for outside support from someone whose been there and understands the problem They only one I know though that still smokes, basically just keeps telling me I can be fit and healthy and still smoke. HERMES: You and I both know healthy and smoking just don’t go together. You’ve been on the wards long enough to see the consequences. SCRIBE: You can say that again Hermes. I’ve seen enough people with cardiac, kidney problems or missing legs who were or are still smoking you simply can’t overlook the connection; that’s without looking at the cancer patients. Then I justify my stupidity by considering the number of patients with these conditions who never smoke, and I’ve smoked so long it’s too late to make a difference. HERMES: Again we both know there are big holes in both those arguments. Yes, even if you give up now you may still be at risk; but every smoke you inhale increases the risk. So let’s go over what happened? SCRIBE: Well the weather was so miserable I was having trouble getting ready to go to the pool. While I was waiting the hospital rant to say they have a form for me to sign so I can start work on Monday if required; she just had to check something and get back to me. Of 16 course, while I was waiting the first thing I did was dart across the road for a packet of smokes. HERMES: Well look on the bright side Scribe. You managed three whole days without a smoke, or even nicotine patch. That has to be considered some sort of achievement? SCRIBE: Yes, not even any patches this time; I tried cold turkey instead. It was only on the third day I really felt challenged, but still managed to get through it. I feel so weak and useless giving in at the first sign of stress; like I can’t manage without my crutches. It no doubt makes no sense to a non smoker, so I thought I’d contact my smoking friend to get some sympathy or encouragement; instead I got the “you can still smoke and be healthy” routine. It wasn’t her fault, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to hear. HERMES: What were you expecting or wanting? SCRIBE: I think I wanted someone to say “just because you gave in this time, doesn’t mean you have to give up trying”. I wanted someone to believe in me, believe I could do it, and it was worth trying again. HERMES: For what it’s worth Scribe, I think you can do it. You just have to want it badly enough and be really committed to the outcome. Just look at the dedication and commitment of those commonwealth games athletes. Most have virtually sacrificed their entire youth in pursuit of excellence; and the ones we see competing in Delhi are only a small fraction of the thousands or millions of others around the globe who’ve spent years training, and yet never achieve that level of success. Winning needs commitment. You just need to keep reaffirming how committed you are to this challenge. SCRIBE: In a perverse way, the comments by my smoking friend helped me focus on that a little. On one thing we both agree; we both love to smoke. At this stage she’s not even 17 prepared to consider giving up, deluding herself that she is still fit and healthy even though she smokes. I accept she’s fitter than me, but in the “healthy” stakes she’s lying to herself, and wanting me to validate her own addiction. It’s almost as if she’d prefer me to keep smoking, as it supports her own bad choices; it’s probably also the only thing we have left in common. HERMES: Maybe a friend who wants you to keep smoking, isn’t in your own best interests at the moment? SCRIBE: I’ve been working along the same lines myself Hermes. Over the years I’ve some across lots of other smokers who tried to support or encourage attempts to stop. Most of us want to stop, and when we see others trying and succeeding it gives us hope that if they can, so can we. HERMES: A true friend Scribe wants what’s best for you, not for them. Although, I do have to declare my self-interest here Scribe. In this case what is best for you is also best for me. Perhaps we’re just lucky that on this occasion we ultimately want the same result. SCRIBE: Tomorrow is another day Hermes; we’ll see how we go then. 10th October, 2010 SCRIBE: It’s another day, and I have almost enough supplies to see me through another day. What I can’t decide is whether to get more supplies for tomorrow. HERMES: I don’t know if it helps, but we did agree that next Saturday was to be the last day, so you could still aim for that. SCRIBE: It’s comforting to use that as a delaying action, but it would be nice to think I was off when I started my new job next week. Yet yesterday I caved in when I just had a phone 18 call. Maybe I could just try not smoking at work? At the moment I just don’t know how my will power is travelling. At night I fell really determined, yet the first thing I do of a morning is look for my first cigarette. I can’t even change my routine and take the dogs for a walk as it’s so cold, wet and miserable. 10th October, 2010 SCRIBE: With a date like today I thought it might be an auspicious occasion for change in my life, saying goodbye to my old friend at last. Sadly it didn’t quite pan out as expected. Instead of saying goodbye to cigarettes I had to say goodbye to one of my dogs. Three days in a row while I was at home she managed to burrow under the fence and escape. Even putting in a new fence last year did little to slow her down. Once I start work I won’t be able to continue going out to rescue her, and it’s only a matter of time before she gets run over. It’s strange, as if she knows change is coming, because she hadn’t done it for months. Anyway my daughter has reclaimed her, and we’ll just have to wait and see how long it’ll be before she learns to escape from there. She’s such a beautifully natured dog I really miss her, but hate the thought of her being run over here. HERMES: I imagine saying goodbye to a friend of 7 years is never going to be easy. Saying goodbye to 2 old friends in one day is probably expecting too much of yourself. SCRIBE: I know so even though I started the day well, it didn’t really help. I went to the movies to se Eat, Pray, Love hoping to find something in the movie I didn’t see in the book. Although a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours, it was so different from my own travel experiences it just seemed too much like a fairy story to me. I’ve spent most of my adult life travelling or moving around without making any of those long term connections to friends, gurus or soul mates. My travels were mostly more a series 19 of solo experiences, occasionally shared in passing with people I’d never met before, or saw again. In the early days I tried keeping in contact with some for awhile, but life intervened. HERMES: The book was very successful, so it must have something that resonated with a lot of people. Why do you think that is? SCRIBE: For the life of me I can’t be sure. Maybe so many people feel like they’re settling for second best in life, and like to think if they took off for 12 months they’d find perfection too. Maybe I’m just too old and cynical to believe in happily ever after; or my experiences have given me a different perspective. HERMES: What sort of experiences are we talking about here; any in particular that may have set a pattern? SCRIBE: Africa was probably the turning point. Until thin I had done a little travelling and occasionally kept in contact with people I’d met along the way. When I thought I was leaving my old life behind and took off for Africa I vowed and declared I’d never be an accountant again. After nearly six months with about 20 other people on the back of a truck, seeing each other 24 hours a day it seemed like some of the friendships and shared experiences would ensure we maintained contact for the rest of our lives. Some of us even started off together at a boarding house in London. But it was amazing how quickly our community of interest dissipated once we re-entered real life. Because I needed the money I was back doing accounting work within weeks, and almost instantly those I’d had so much in common with had all gone our separate ways. Most I never saw or had contact with again. It’s only now after nearly 30 years some of us have made contact, and hope to catch up next month. 20 HERMES: That should be interesting to reminisce over past experiences; I might get to hear a bit more about the younger you, before I entered your life. SCRIBE: Yes, I’m looking forward to it, and am curious to see whether we still have anything in common after so long, to maintain a future connection. Again my past experience indicates it’s unlikely. When I returned home after that trip and working in London, I found I no longer fitted into the place I’d previously occupied at home. I no longer had anything in common with former work mates, and little more with friends I’d left behind. HERMES: Maybe if you’d gone back and worked at the same place you could have rekindled those connections. SCRIBE: That’s one of the interesting aspects of returning to work in Townsville for my graduate year. Many old school friends still around, some of them working at the hospital; but the same thing happened. Generally we’d run out of things to talk about in less time than it took for a coffee to go cold. HERMES: Did you ever think you might just be an anti-social hermit who can’t be bothered making the effort to maintain friendships? SCRIBE: Often, yet I’m not convinced that’s entirely correct (although I do accept my occasionally antisocial tendencies). Looking on the bright side I have actually reconnected with two old friends from my late teenaged years, one of whom lives in Toowoomba. To be honest I put off making contact because our lifestyles are now so different I could just envisage yet another waste of time trying to draw out conversation over a cup of coffee. Strangely though, in spite of our differences these friendships still work. HERMES: Have you been able to work out why these work and others you were now working with didn’t? 21 SCRIBE: I’m think it has more to do with shared life experiences. Even though we may not have stayed in contact and the interests that brought us together no longer exist, we can still relate about family and personal issues we’re either confronting or have been through at some stage over the last 20 or 30 years. HERMES: Do you think the success of Eat, Pray, Love has more to do with the friendships along the way, or the “spiritual journey of the soul” element? SCRIBE: I’m not certain about that Hermes; although it’s presented as this “finding myself” journey; what makes it interesting is her interactions with others along the way, because that’s something that seems to be lacking in a lot of other people’s lives as well. The two friends I’ve reconnected with have basically stayed in the same place for the last 25 years, and are both surrounded by a large circle of family or acquaintances, yet everyone is so busy now they have little time to keep or maintain true close friendships. It seems many people nowadays rely more on social networking sights to maintain an illusion of having lots of “friends”; yet on the rare occasions they actually catch up they have nothing in common. Just emailing jokes to others, isn’t really maintaining true friendships. HERMES: So scribe where does that leave you at the end of the day? SCRIBE: No further advanced on the quit smoking campaign, and although I’ve parted company with my furry friend, it’s probably helped me appreciate that I do still have a couple of ‘true’ human friends even if I don’t see a lot of them; and perhaps shared life experiences is the cement that keeps friendships alive rather than proximity or interests. You don’t even have to go through the experiences together or at the same time, it’s just you have some understanding of what your friends have been through. HERMES: Maybe they can support or encourage on the non-smoking front? 22 SCRIBE: Fortunately for both of them, neither ever smoked so don’t have any concept how anyone else could be so stupid. HERMES: So when it comes to smoking it’s just you and me against the nicotine then Scribe. SCRIBE: Certainly is; and it’s not just about smoking either. The next six months are my personal spiritual journey to find out who I am, where I’m going, and what I want from the rest of my life. While the Italy, India and Bali option sound far more exciting and enticing; mine is more a solitary one staying in the one place. How fucking boring is that? HERMES: Boring or not Scribe, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next six months. SCRIBE: In some ways it’s both daunting and exciting. For the first time since I originally left home nearly 30 years ago, I don’t really have to take into account where my family live. They all have their own lives and are likely to be mobile for some years so relocating to be closer to them is no longer realistic. I feel for the first time in my life, at 52 I no longer have to consider anyone else. That’s really liberating; but scary at the same time. I love living in Toowoomba and I enjoyed my time in Townsville, but do I want to stay in either for life now the chains have been released? I’m happy to stay where I am at the moment because nowhere else “grabs” me; but will that be the same in 6 months? Similarly with work; until my 10 weeks of dental treatment in Townsville are complete, looking for permanent work isn’t really an option. Will it be nursing or something else? If it’s nursing I’d like to do more study; but unless I decide on a particular area of nursing that isn’t worth considering. HERMES: So many uncertainties; and yet isn’t that what life’s all about? No-one knows for certain what’s going to happen tomorrow, so you just have to make the most of today? 23 SCRIBE: The only think I have much control over for the next 6 months is what I put in my mouth. As at today the cigarettes are still winning. 11th October, 2010 SCRIBE: Another day, another packet of smokes. Still no call from work, so another reprieve or another opportunity to stress over what it’ll be like going back to work. HERMES: Well look on it as a reprieve Scribe. Who’d want to go out in this weather? It’s blowing a gale, the heavens have opened, the temperatures dropped and the mist looks like it’s settled in for the day. SCRIBE: It’s amazing. Six weeks home in Toowoomba and hardly a clear day. I normally love rain, particularly after years of drought, but even for me we’re getting a bit too much of a good thing. HERMES: Look on it as another opportunity to sit at home and write to me. This rain looks like it’s here to stay for awhile longer. SCRIBE: Yes, it was just so nice to stay curled up in bed this morning listening to the rain on the roof. It gave me some more time to think about next year. I was also think about the Italy, India, Bali option; not that that is what I want to do, just if I’m sort of doing all the hard yards on self improvement at home for the next 6 months, it’d be nice to have some sort of treat or incentive at the end of it. I know I should probably be looking for permanent work, but then it’s at least 12 months before I get holidays and my time is more limited. HERMES: Sounds like you want to take off again for awhile? Any particular places in mind? I might even have a few suggestions. They’re so many places I wouldn’t mind going exploring; in fact I’d be happy to go anywhere, anytime. 24 SCRIBE: I’ve got lots of possibilities at the moment. I just started with the thought of a 2 week, 4 star walking tour through France and Italy that’s being advertised on a singles website. I’ve never really taken a tour like that, but it would be nice to stay in luxury hotels and go to good restaurants with other people every night. HERMES: I certainly wouldn’t complain about a bit of luxury and travel; certainly worth making the short list. Anything else on the wish list? SCRIBE: That’s the trouble. Once I think travel so many options come up. There’s also the walking tour of Mt. Kilimanjaro, walking the Compostella through France and Spain; even selling the house, buying a Winnebago and travelling around Australia. Not to mention another 6 month overland through Africa again, but taking a different route this time. HERMES: You’re really starting to branch out now. If you’re talking six months how would you afford it? SCRIBE: That’s the downside. I’d have to sell my house to do it, and I don’t know if I want to go there again. It is just so hard to re-establish yourself somewhere with ever dwindling capital with which to do it. HERMES: I don’t want to lead you astray here, just remember I’m happy to go anywhere, anytime; but I don’t have to worry about earning an income and paying the bills; that’s you province. I would certainly encourage some sort of reward for all your hard work though. SCRIBE: It’s yet another area of uncertainty to let lie in the back of my subconscious. A short holiday and I get to keep my base, stability and security. A longer holiday means selling up and starting all over somewhere else. I’ve sort of done that so often before I just don’t know whether I’m just too old to want to start from scratch again. 25 HERMES: I don’t really think it’s a matter of being too old; it’s a matter of whether you really want to do it or not? SCRIBE: The only real downside to doing the round Australia or long trip is that I’m sort of sick of travelling on my own. I had a few trips with the dogs in the campervan, but in reality I never liked going too far off the beaten track on my own. From past experience of Africa I also know even if there were any other ‘wrinklies’ like me on board, once we got to the end of the trip I’d never see anyone again. Going with someone you know and can share the memories with later, tends to keep the trip alive for longer; and I haven’t done that for a long time. The reality is most times I’ve never had anyone to travel with, and I’ve never let that hold me back. If there’s something I’d really like to do or someplace I really want to see I know I’d be off. It’s just I don’t have that degree of commitment yet. HERMES: There’s a lot to sort out and think about over the next few months; it’d be nice to have a crystal ball and see how it all turns out. SCRIBE: At the moment the possibilities seem endless yet I’m sure they’ll start narrowing as the months progress. Perhaps the primary question is whether I can create a fulfilling life for myself here in Toowoomba. I love my home, and love living here, but I’d also like to work towards a job I’m committed to, and interest I can pursue outside work. In the past I’ve been too busy studying or running around after kids outside work to socialize. Can I create a life here worth staying for? HERMES: We’ve got just under six months to find out. 12th October, 2010 26 SCRIBE: Finally managed to extract the index and get moving in spite of the weather. The internet is now working on my lap top, Telstra is coming to fix my phone that has been playing up for 12 months, and the painters turned up ready to start tomorrow. HERMES: It certainly sounds like you’ve had a productive day. I thought you were going to cancel the painting though. SCRIBE: That was the plan. I was going to use the money I set aside for painting to go on a holiday, but when the painters turned up I thought I’d just go for it. HERMES: So the holiday idea is out the window now” I’d spent a lot of hours fantasizing already. SCRIBE: At this stage it’s in abeyance. Thinking about it overnight I realized if I want to settle in here properly I have to make more of an effort myself; so I’ll try going back to choir; there’s an interesting looking bushwalking group that meets tomorrow night, and I can take French lessons here next year. I don’t know how any of these will go with casual shift work, but there’s only one way to find out. HERMES: You have been busy, and in your case “selling up and taking off in search of a new life” isn’t likely to be the answer. You’ve been there and done that before, and came home even more unsettled than ever by the sound of it. SCRIBE: I haven’t regretted any of my moves in the past, but I’ve learnt you don’t leave a place because you’re bored or you don’t like it. You only leave when there is something else you want to do more somewhere else. If you run away with problems, you always take them with you; problems need to be resolved first. 27 HERMES: It doesn’t really sound like you actually have too many problems to run away from; just a lot of uncertainty around your future, which is common to a lot of people. No one can guarantee what tomorrow will bring. SCRIBE: Sometimes it’s just so hard to maintain motivation and momentum when you have no idea what’s ahead; and I know that is a challenge I’m going to have to confront on a daily basis. I’ve just checked and April Fool’s day is on a Friday next year. That means I’m down to 24 weeks on Friday to get my life together so I can be in the best condition and frame of mind I can be to take on the next phase of my life. It’s almost tragic at 53 to have not defined idea of where I want to be, or what I want to be doing this time next year. HERMES: By the sound of it the more you worry or consider options and possibilities the more confused and unsettled you become. It’s just an outsider’s point of view, but perhaps if you just forget about next year, and just operate one day at a time you’d be better off. Get back to the old FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS! mentality. If you can just focus on health and fitness now; you’ll be better placed for whatever lies ahead. SCRIBE: I’m doing my best Hermes, and days like today help reinforce it. When I just get on with things that need to be done now, everything just seems to fall into place; and on that note I’ve just remembered an insurance claim I need to fill in so it’s back to work. It just seems easier to maintain momentum when you have a specific goal in mind to work towards; but at the moment I’ll just have to let go of that option. 13th October, 2010 SCRIBE: No sooner do I get back on track Hermes, I find another detour. I bet the bullet yesterday afternoon and took the dog for a walk in the cold, misty damp weather. It reminded me of one of the reasons I feel in love with Toowoomba in the first place, the lush green grass 28 and magnificent old trees clouded in mist makes me think of Europe. Tho have such a wonderful dog off lead area within walking distance of home is a real joy. I’m then on such a high I went looking for a distraction I’ve been on my own for 10 years, and for the last couple I’ve started considering finding another partner, so I signed up to an internet dating site. Every six months I get hooked for a couple of days, pay for more stamps, but never take it any further. A couple of months ago for the first time I actually met someone after contacting through the website. Even though he seemed a very nice man and we had a lot in common it was quickly apparent my lifestyle wouldn’t suit him any more than his would suit me. It did help sort out what I want from life, and a key component is travel; whether around Australia with a tent or overseas with a back pack. Anyway until last night it was all put on hold again while I concentrate on getting my own house in order. I don’t want my choices of work or geographic location to be influenced by any man I should happen to meet. I’ve made so many compromises for others over the last 30 years; I don’t want to fall into the same trap again. HERMES: So I gather you ‘fell off the wagon’ again last night. What happened? Find any interesting possibilities? SCRIBE: That’s the thing Hermes, there are so many people out there also looking for companionship or meaningful relationships that I’m sure it would be worth taking the risk if I knew what I really wanted in a partner. Other than somebody who likes to travel, I just really don’t know. HERMES: We’re back to the same dilemma then; yet another diversion shrouded with uncertainty. In summary you don’t really know where you want to live, what you want to do, 29 or who (if anybody) you want to share your life with. Yet again the more you look for options and answers, the more disoriented you become. I think we both know where this is heading don’t we? SCRIBE: I know, I know. Another waste of money on more stamps I’m better off not touching for 6 months. I want to get the life I want, before I go looking for someone who fits into it; not adapt my life to fit in with someone else primarily because I can’t work out what I want myself. HERMES: At least the reality checks are probably kicking in more quickly now Scribe if that means anything. You could have dragged this out for days, weeks or months; instead you seem to have nipped it in the bud fairly quickly. SCRIBE: Yes that’s something. It’s very easy to waste a lot of time on futile fantasies that are going nowhere. I need to focus on what I can do to change my life today, not what some unknown stranger could do tomorrow. 14th October, 2010 SCRIBE: I’ve found yet another diversion Hermes; but this time more external. In my dim, dark distant past I was married to a politician; and he remains my children’s father. Since he defied his colleagues and accepted a position they didn’t want him to take, there was always a chance of payback. Well yesterday it started. HERMES: I’ve never been overly interested in politics myself. What was the problem? SCRIBE: Well the day personified my 30 year abhorrence of political parties; even though I remained involved for a long time. If party membership just meant focusing on the issues of the day, it wouldn’t be a problem; it’s the ‘Machiavellian bastardry’ within the parties that are so destructive. 30 I was probably about 13 or 14 when I first attended a political rally; and active party member at 15 and on the State executive of one of the youth organisations at 18 and on the Central council of the senior party. I was heading for a career in politics; but by the time I was 21 I was so disgusted and disillusioned by internal party machinations I’d lost interest. I then spent 2 years as the token youth member involved with a group of independent business and community leaders trying to regain control of the local council from one of the political parties. Needless to say at the eleventh hour, after a lot of time, sweat and tears the conservative parties, contrary to pre-existing agreement, fielded their own teams and split the vote. 30 years on the council remains controlled by political parties. In the old independent council days a group of people with a complete range of political backgrounds all just worked together to try and get the best outcome for the city. Once the political parties get involved those elected end up having to give first allegiance to the “party”; and decisions end up being made by non elected representative in the “party” interest not the community that pays their wages. HERMES: What’s this all have to do with yesterday? SCRIBE: Anytime you have to go through this crap, you end up reliving all the other times in your life you’ve been through it. It just reaffirmed my hatred for the parties. It just really concerns me that the taxpayers pay their elected representatives to actually represent their electorates and the national interest. Instead the parties which are always bubbling cauldrons of discontent and factional warfare spend their time controlling, manipulating, undermining and trying to destroy each other; the most brutally savage attacks always coming from within your own party. Revenge and destruction their primary goal. 31 Now we finally have a government that actually represents virtually the full spectrum of political vies, and every party member could have a voice. Normally the overwhelming majority are just voiceless bums on seats, completely disregarded by the leadership of the day. Anyway for the first time in 30 years I’m excited by the potential in this new political paradigm. But can it work? As usual the opposition is up to its usual tricks of trying to subvert and undermine the government. My ex, by accepting the position of deputy speaker without their approval has become the latest target of payback and revenge from his opposition colleagues. The fact they’d already signed a written agreement to provide a deputy speaker, and nominated one of their other colleagues for the position was beside the point. For what it’s worth he’s always really enjoyed being in the Speaker’s chair, would probably be able to recite the rules backwards in his sleep, and has been bored out of his brain for the last 6 years on the back bench. Given it may well be his last term he wanted to actually have the opportunity of doing a job he loves, in likely to do well, and make some contribution to the parliament. HERMES: So how has that affected you? SCRIBE: Generally speaking it hasn’t. I’m pleased he’s finally got a job he loves and am confident he has the capacity to do it well. Where it concerns me is when I get a 6 am phone call from my son saying be prepared the “payback” is on the way. The professionally mudslingers in the party ranks had dragged out a lot of old crap and groundless bullshit to try and destroy Peter and his career. One of the matters concerned ancient travel claims when my son was at school (He’s now married with his second child on the way). The claims were put in and paid by the relevant department after verbal advice 32 confirming they were in order. A subsequent interpretation of the often vague and uncertain guidelines found they weren’t and in accordance with standard practice in such instances were repaid. When the media start ringing my son for comments about such stories I get really pissed off. Why should kids become targets because of their parent’s political involvement? If as the mud slingers claimed they were going to do a full “Colston”, than nothing would be sacred. All of a sudden, the potentially damaging exposure through something like face book becomes a reality. Harmless photos of my daughter celebrating a little overenthusiastically with friends or my son in fancy dress as a gangster (not to mention the jelly wrestling) could easily be accessed, misused and abused. It’s so easy to misrepresent facts, figures and photos. When the expenses are doubled because of an office refurbishment following redistribution; or a high claim for taxis instead of commonwealth cars (a carryover from the time they were going to abolish com car, and were encouraged to use private taxis), it’s easy to isolate and point the finger. I’m not trying to claim he’s a saint, just no different from anyone else down there; except he’s become the principal target of the principal mud slingers. Fortunately it seems to have died down fairly quickly on this occasion, but it’s the principal that still gets to me. This new government of consensus has a lot of challenges ahead; there are so many really important issues that need to be addressed from climate change to the impact of the still volatile global economy. Instead of looking at the national interest and trying to be supportive or constructive; they best the opposition can do is try to undermine and destroy; whether an individual or a government. 33 HERMES: You’ve certainly been on your high horse there. It’s obviously just as well you have chosen to stay away from politics; it doesn’t seem to be a particularly healthy environment. SCRIBE: Sadly it’s not. I don’t actually regret a moment of it, but it’s an awful lifestyle for families; and apart from the odd one who spends his life on the golf course or watching TV, the members all work really long hours and are on call virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; and somebody has to do it. It’s just such a shame so much time and effort is squandered on factional warfare and internal machinations while the interests of the country and the electorates are overlooked. 15th October, 2010 SCRIBE: It’s my birthday and I’m off to lunch with my daughter and her partner, and I’ve a couple of friends coming over for dinner. Today’s not the day for diets or politics. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. HERMES: Many happy returns Scribe, and I hope you have a lovely day. 16th October, 2010 SCRIBE: It was a nice birthday Hermes, and I know today was supposed to be my new deadline, but I’ve still got a few left. HERMES: I’m not going to make any comment so I’ll leave it up to you. I know you’ve got a couple of things on this week, so I won’t put any pressure on. 17th October, 2010 SCRIBE: I have a confession to make Hermes. Since it was my birthday on Friday and it was the 10th anniversary of the day I filed for divorce, I thought I might indulge with the on-line 34 dating website. They’d sent through the profile of a man with a boat and I thought the universe may have been rewarding me for a 10 year drought. HERMES: So what was he like, and did you get in contact? SCRIBE: Complete fizzer as no reply, which is not unusual and I’m as relieved as disappointed. Relieved I wasn’t contacted by some Nigerian scammer out to get a quick buck, or a psychopath looking for crab bait. Disappointed that there probably isn’t the perfect match out there, just waiting for me to appear. HERMES: Well just put it down to experience. I know you don’t get on the site very often so I imagine it’s put you off it again for awhile. SCRIBE: That’s the upside; but deep down I think nearly all of us would like someone to share life’s journey, even if we are content with ourselves and our lot in life. At the moment though it really is just another distraction. I have 24 weeks left of ME, ME, ME, time to sort myself out. It’s a rare opportunity I don’t want to squander. When I divert my attention to dating, holidays or political dramas I lose sight of my diet, exercise and reformation plans. HERMES: I am pleased you’re starting to pull it all together relatively quickly. I hope you’re not going to be writing the same stuff in 24 weeks time though. It’s one thing to realize how easy it is to lose focus; it’s quite another to do something about it. SCRIBE: I’m hoping Hermes this diary will be of help along the way with that. I started typing up from the beginning yesterday, just to keep my hand in, and I was already surprised how potentially repetitive I was becoming after only two weeks. It sort of spurred me on a little I think. I don’t want to just keep writing a daily litany of failure. 35 HERMES: You could try concentrating on the little successes you have each day, rather than just the failures. Over a period of time those small steps forward may end up getting you where you want to be. SCRIBE: At least I learned from the “boat man”, I really wouldn’t mind trying to learn how to sail, so I’ve added that to my list of potential holidays for next year. It’d be a bit of a waste finding a man with a boat if I was constantly sea sick as I was when a child. HERMES: Well that’s something you learnt from the experience. Maybe we could extend the concept of recording successes to include what you’ve learned, things you’ve done, and what you have to be grateful for; try focusing on the good things that happen in your life. SCRIBE: That’s easy today Hermes. After 7 weeks of rain, cold and wind, it is finally a magnificent day here. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and we’ve already had our walk to the park. Everything looks so clean and green. I’ve even cleaned out the chook pen. HERMES: That’s a promising start. Anything else to be grateful for? SCRIBE: To get to my goal weight I have 15 kilos to lose; 18 months ago I had 30. I’ve at least reached half way, and I know I can lose 15 kilos because I’ve already done it. I’ve left the track again over the last few days, so tomorrow it’s time to get back on. HERMES: 15 kilos in 24 weeks is certainly achievable as long as you can stick to it. Every week you break out is just going to put you a couple of weeks behind. SCRIBE: I can see I’m going to have to get these ‘indulgence’ weekend breakouts under control. In November I’ve got the reunion in Brisbane, December it’s Christmas, and January a new grandson to visit. I’ll somehow have to learn to manage ‘breaking out’ in moderation. Up until now I think that word was missing from my vocabulary. Over indulging one 36 weekend a month doesn’t see too bad, but when I put into perspective it takes the rest of the month to get back to where I started, I realize it’s not so harmless. HERMES: Today’s Sunday Scribe, so how about making some plans for the week. SCRIBE: It’s a bit hard at the moment Hermes. The painters are back tomorrow, I’ve the RAAF assessment Tuesday and hospital orientation Wednesday; and I still haven’t had a call from work. Everything is a bit disorganised at the moment. HERMES: Is that a subtle hint pertaining to the evil weed? SCRIBE: I know they’re just excuses. None of them are really major issues likely to stress me out, just all combined they’re a bit unsettling. I’ve still got a few left and can ration them out for the day; whether I cave in again in the morning I just don’t know. When I type this up next week I’d like to think I can look back with a sense of achievement; but only time will tell. It’s such a nice day though I might just go and was the car; that’ll keep me out of mischief for a bit. 18th October, 2010 SCRIBE: Sorry Hermes, as soon as I heard the painters knock on the front door this morning I was off across the road for cigarettes. I felt so determined last night, and had the patches all ready to go. HERMES: What can I say? I know you’ve had this battle on a regular basis for the last 30 years. Just don’t go giving up on giving up just yet. SCRIBE: No, I’m not yet ready to give up hope. I’m sure I can do it, just don’t yet know when; the next 2 days really don’t look promising though, and I’m not comfortable with setting another deadline date just yet. 37 HERMES: We’ll just play it by ear for a couple of days and review the situation on Thursday. In the meantime anything else happen today? SCRIBE: I was mostly just moving gear around for the painters and trying to keep out of harm’s way when I heard a couple of emergency vehicle sirens going past, and then stopped. I thought it might be another vehicle accident on the corner, so went out to have a look. By that stage the full range of emergency services was there and it was just on the other side of the intersection, and all the neighbours were out to see what was happening. It’s awful when accidents happen and you don’t know what to do. Should you go and see if you can be of help; or is it just morbid curiosity. The fact the ambulance was already there made me think I should just go back inside, yet the other part of me thought what if there are several injured and an extra pair of hands could be of use. Not that I’d know what to do, the paramedics seem to be far better than nurses or most doctors I’ve seen at accident scenes. Anyway I decided to go up just to make sure, and the ambos were getting ready to transfer the one patient to the back of their vehicle. I hadn’t seen the accident but neighbours say the young man concerned appeared to deliberately throw himself in front of the oncoming vehicle. HERMES: Must have been an awful shock for the driver. Do you know if he was badly hurt? SCRIBE: Hard to tell Hermes, but it was a small car and unlikely to have been travelling too fast as it just went through the intersection. You’d think if he was really serious, there are a lot of big trucks travelling through only a couple of blocks away. Not that the car couldn’t have killed him, it just didn’t look that bad, and I didn’t hear the siren when the ambulance left (although not always a good sign). 38 HERMES: I haven’t quite mastered the intricacies of being human Scribe, but I do find it a bit strange that so many people actually seem to want to kill themselves. SCRIBE: I am all human Hermes, and I still have the same problem. Now there have been times when I’ve gone to bed at night on top of the world thinking if I didn’t wake up in the morning I’d know I died happy. The flip side has been the rare nights when I thought my life sucked so much if I didn’t wake up in the morning, at least I wouldn’t have to face whatever shit was happening in my life at the time. I’d like to think this is a long way from actually wanting to do anything to facilitate that result; or actually trying. HERMES: What sort of problems would people have where they think there are no alternatives? SCRIBE: That’s the thing Hermes, I just don’t know. I could imagine if I had a terminal illness and was inconstant pain I could consider it (in fact I had a friend in that situation, who succeeded and I think we all admired his courage, and just would have preferred that a more humane option was available). I know I’d also struggle with having or losing a terminally ill child, and I couldn’t be certain how I’d react unless I was in that situation. HERMES: But from what I see and hear most are not in those categories. Many appear young and successful and you’d expect have everything to live for. SCRIBE: That’s just it Hermes, many of them are completely unexpected. Clearly many will have a history of depression or other mental health issue, and will be monitored and medicated. Others will strike out of the blue. The results of one enquiry I saw years ago indicated there were no really defined target groups. Suicide was no respecter of gender, education, employment, geography, age or relationship status – it could strike anywhere, anytime; although some groups may show higher than average. 39 One article I read years ago had the single largest percentage were female anaesthetists between the age of 30 and 35. It might not have been correct, could have changed, or been such a small target group the results were easily skewed. All I know is it’s not confined to poorly educated young males with drug or mental health problems which have been a common misconception. HERMES: It’s hard to comprehend how anyone is so desperate they can’t find some alternative or at least seek help. SCRIBE: I know Hermes. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe I just find it easy to be a quitter if the going gets tough. Twelve months before I left for Afric I booked the trip and resigned from work. I was subsequently offered a promotion to stay and on that basis cancelled the trip and bought a unit. Until my divorce it was the worst year of my life. I’d had a broken engagement, and virtually every day for 12 months I hated having to get out of bed and go tho work; yet felt trapped as if I had to stay. HERMES: So how did you manage to get out of that pattern? SCRIBE: With hindsight it was easy. I just resigned and went travelling; but at the time I’d worked at the one place of 8 years and felt I sort of “owed” my employer, and it was the “responsible” thing to stay. The thing is having done it once, whenever I’ve since been in an awful situation I’ve spent my time trying to find a way out. My philosophy over the years has become “SHIT HAPPENS – START SHOVELLING” HERMES: What was it that made you resign from that first job? Were there any triggers? SCRIBE: I can’t say for certain. I think we all go through bad days, weeks of months at work at times; and generally we can work through them. What I do remember clearly was waking 40 up one morning and thinking “I’d rather be dead than do this for the rest of my life”. I suspect it was soon after I resigned and I’ve tried to never let things get that bad again. HERMES: But there have been other bad times? SCRIBE: We all have bad times Hermes; that goes with the human condition. Whether we have relationship breakdowns, unemployment, financial struggles or we or our families or friends are struck down with illness or death. Shit happens to all of us; it’s just some get more shit than others and some are just faster shovelers. HERMES: Do you think everyone can learn to shovel? SCRIBE: Like most things Hermes, I just don’t know the answer to that. I’ve had a number of friends who have been treated for depression over the years. Some of them have been in jobs they’ve hated for 30 years, but they remain in the same place. Although I am completely dumbfounded by this, I can’t be certain if I hadn’t resigned 30 years ago whether I’d be in the same boat now. It does seem that the longer you stay in one place, the harder it is to leave. It’s not easy to walk away from everything you’ve worked hard for; in my case I chose “life” over safety, security and responsibility. What I’m also uncertain about is that if my friends walked away from their jobs they hate, would the depression go away, or would they take it with them. At least at the moment on medication they continue to work a few days a week and are basically high functioning. Another friend suffered depression and burn out at work 10 years ago and was given a redundancy package. He’s never functioned effectively in the work force since and would probably be considered fairly low functioning with activities of daily life. He continues on his medications and gets by one day at a time with little room for joy or hope in his life. 41 HERMES: Clearly there is no simple solution that fits everyone. Leaving work may have been suitable for you, but others don’t always react the same. SCRIBE: It’s worked the other way for me to Hermes. I had a bad couple of year financially a few years ago where I couldn’t find work couldn’t even get a job interview and was feeling pretty desperate. That’s when I started nursing. Even though it didn’t help my financial position in the short term, at least I had something to aim for. HERMES: It obviously paid off because you found work and finished your qualifications. SCRIBE: I guess with hindsight I should be proud of that achievement; at my age it wasn’t easy balancing work, family and study; but to be honest some of the others with young families had a much harder time of it. HERMES: But you studies when your kids were young? SCRIBE: Which is why I was so empathetic with the nursing students with young families; often single mothers trying to work as well. I don’t know if I could have done it. HERMES: What drives them (or you for that matter) to keep going? SCRIBE: That’s the shit shovelling bit Hermes. The precursor to my shit shovelling motto was “if you want to smell the roses; you have to shovel a lot of shit”. I was trying to establish a large rose garden around my church in Uralla at the time and spent a lot of months shovelling soil, mulch and manure. It was fairly obvious that if I wanted my garden to flourish, it was going to take a lot of work. HERMES: Did it work in the end? Did you get to enjoy the roses blooming? SCRIBE: At first instance it did Hermes. I was really impressed with my efforts and watched my roses bloom. It didn’t take long to realize though if I wanted them to keep flourishing I 42 had to keep weeding and shovelling just as hard every year. That’s when priorities kicked in. Either the roses got fed; or myself and my daughter. There just wasn’t enough time or energy to do both. It was a big yare, and although I tried to maintain some control, I have to admit I accepted it was just too much for me to maintain. HERMES: Given it’s hard to live on roses alone, unless you made it a business, it doesn’t appear as if you had much choice. SCRIBE: It was rather depressing watching all that had work go to rack and ruin, but I was too occupied with my studies and digging myself out of my black hole to really let it get me down too much. Whenever you have choices to make, there is always some sort of trade-off, or something to let go. I’ll have to drop in on the new owners on my way to Dubbo next year to see if they’ve had any more luck with the garden. HERMES: By the sound of it though you may well have left them with the foundations to start with. Sometimes you can’t just shovel everything on your own, and if they continued the job, they may well be enjoying smelling all the roses you planted. SCRIBE: Let’s hope so Hermes; it’s always nice to think that when you move on the place is in a better condition than when you arrived. It certainly applied in Uralla. Even though I often looked at the things I hadn’t finished, when I look back to my starting point I actually achieved a lot. HERMES: It seems to be coming back to the being thankful or grateful for what was done, rather than being critical of what wasn’t. SCRIBE: Now Hermes, it’s off to the fat factory to see what damage I’ve done over the last few days. 43 Continued... SCRIBE: I’m so annoyed with myself Scribe; instead of going down a kilo I’ve gone up; and it’s all self-inflicted! On the way home I realized I’d spent more time and energy writing about getting fit and healthy instead of doing anything about it. When in Townsville ran a local writers group. In the twelve months I’ve known her so much has gone into the group, yet she virtually never writes herself. I’ve always thought “talking about writing was a bit of a waste of time; you are better off just doing it”. Now I find I’m doing a different version of the same thing. This journal was meant to help monitor the fitness regime; not be an end in itself. I’ve just finished one writing project, and don’t want to start another one until next year. I haven’t even figured out what I want to write about. The journal was also to help maintain some writing discipline which is easy to lose and hard to regain. HERMES: So I’ve become yet another diversion to lead you astray; instead of support and encouragement in achieving your goals? SCRIBE: Not you particularly Hermes; my monologues are always longer than yours anyway. I’d still like to think this is a good idea, and intend to try keeping it up. I just need to spend more time exercising and less time writing about it. This is a means to an end, not an end it itself. HERMES: I’m pleased we’ve sorted that one out Scribe, and I look forward to catching up when you can fit me in. SCRIBE: I’d still like to maintain some daily discipline; but probably just a little less talk, and a little more action. 44 19th October, 2010 SCRIBE: After 6 hours of testing and sitting around waiting at the RAAF reserve, I’m happy to report I’m eligible for entry to the defence forces, even a pilot or sub-mariner. What I actually wanted to know though was whether there were any nursing vacancies at Amberley, and if so what specialties were required. At the end of the session I was given the name and contact details of the person to ring at Amberley. Information that could have been given to me over the phone 6 weeks ago, when I first rang. After taking 6 weeks and 6 hours to get a phone number my enthusiasm for the military has died a natural death. HERMES: At least you now know you are eligible should you change your mind. SCRIBE: After to-day I’m confident that is as far as my military career is likely to go. I think it probably does rule out moving away from home to get more specialist nursing training, and further study. It would have fitted in Townsville, but not in Toowoomba; and there’s nothing that grabs me enough to want to relocate. HERMES: It sounds like you’re narrowing your options quite a bit. Do you really want to rule out further study? SCRIBE: Anaesthetics really interested me and I would have been happy to study further. That option is not available here, and nothing else has sparked my enthusiasm. Maybe if I ever actually start working again it’ll be different; until then more study is off the agenda. HERMES: So that’s one of this week’s hurdles over; you just have tomorrow’s hospital orientation. Are you looking forward to it? 45 SCRIBE: I don’t know if I am or not; a bit like the RAAF in a way; just wait and see how it goes. See if it gets the enthusiasm going; or turns me off completely. Today certainly put paid to the military. HERMES: At least it’ll be interesting to see tomorrow’s outcome. So it is then back on track on Thursday? SCRIBE: That’s the aim Hermes; Ever since the 15th September when I found Q Health was still paying me, and consequently I owed them a lot of money, everything has really gone on hold. The priority became finding work as soon as possible instead of get fit first and then looks for work. HERMES: Perhaps it’s time to get back to what you were doing before that rude shock? SCRIBE: That’s probably the best I can do. I’ll try getting back to swimming and exercise. If work can’t contact me so be it. I can’t spend my life sitting around waiting for phone calls. I might even try getting back to piano practice and singing. That all went out the window at the thought of work. HERMES: Thursday’s a big day to look forward to then. 20th October, 2010 SCRIBE: Just a short note today Hermes; it’s nearly time for bed. Finally had the orientation at the Toowoomba Base; I still don’t know how the first shift will go but I’m feeling much more comfortable about it. HERMES: Pleased to hear it went well, and hopefully it’s a good sign for when you do start work. 21st October, 2010 46 SCRIBE: So much for exercise classes and the pool Hermes; just didn’t have the motivation. HERMES: I thought you were feeling pretty good about things last night. SCRIBE: I was feeling OK; or at least less stressed about starting work. I was left with the feeling that in a smaller hospital there’ll be more support. I might be wrong, but that was the impression I had. HERMES: So what happened to take the gloss off things today? SCRIBE: Not so much taking the loss off, but another reality check. I was hoping that either Tuesday or Wednesday I’d be finally overcome with the feeling “this is really what I want to do with the next phase of my life”. Sadly that feeling didn’t materialize. HERMES: So no road to Damascus revelations at all. Were there any things there that interested you? SCRIBE: Unfortunately Hermes, my reaction at the defence base was “what the fuck am I doing here?” then spending 6 hours and getting a $40. Parking fine to boot just sort of confirmed it; for me it was a waste of time and money. I felt more comfortable at the hospital and could see myself there to pay the bills, but did I have a passionate commitment? NO! They briefly covered all sorts of different nursing jobs and none of them really stood out as “this is the one for me”! HERMES: So overall you’re just feeling a bit deflated. Have you ever considered that at your age, and having done quite a few different things you just won’t bet the same buzz as when you were young? SCRIBE: I haven’t ruled out that possibility or probability because in all honesty I’ve rarely had that feeling of excitement about my work. Let’s face it, accounting and law aren’t 47 necessarily the most riveting professions and I ended up in them more by accident than design. It’s not like I ever had a burning ambition to do either; they were both more means to an end to earn a living. HERMES: What about nursing? SCRIBE: To be honest Scribe, that was really much the same; except I thought it would be more interesting than sitting doing paper work all day, confined to an office 9 to 5. I needed an income to support my kids and myself and try and establish a meditation and healing centre. To complete my studies and get work I needed to sell the church I was hoping to operate as a business. Overall I have found nursing much more interesting, but I have to confess it doesn’t take too many night shifts before you remember the advantages of 9 to 5. I just can’t decide whether I’m ready to give it up and go back to office work. The other thing I’m learning to accept as part of the aging process is lack of ambition. When younger I guess I was quite ambitious, keen to get ahead and build a nest egg for the future. All that seems to have gone by the board. HERMES: Maybe that isn’t a bad thing? Perhaps you’re learning to, or wanting to enjoy your daily life more. SCRIBE: I think I got a greater degree of satisfaction from working and accumulating in the past. Work now just seems a necessary evil to pay the bills. I’m sure if I won lotto I’d be quite content to never work again. 22nd October, 2010 SCRIBE: what can I say Hermes. I’m smoking more than ever, and since I started bingeing for my birthday, I haven’t really stopped. In fact all my good intentions started going out the 48 window the day I found I owed Q Health money. Since then I haven’t lost weight, been exercising, done any piano practice or singing, or anything else. HERMES: Since I’ve basically been with you all the time, I can’t say I haven’t noticed. You seem to have lost that optimistic spring in your step that was so obvious a few months ago. SCRIBE: That’s what really hit home this morning Hermes. When I took time out to write I really felt like “ME” for the first time in years. Given my track record I appreciate I’ll probably never sell a thing in my life, and I was writing both in Townsville and Toowoomba, so it wasn’t location. The thing is Hermes, I just love writing. I’m no cones suer of words or sentence construction, so I’ll never make a literary writer. I just like committing my thoughts to paper. I thought once I got over my 20 year anti-war writing obsession I’d probably want to give up; but I haven’t. HERMES: Is there anything in particular you want to write about now? Any stories you want to tell? SCRIBE: No Hermes. I have no idea which way I want to head with writing; all I know is I love the ME I become when I do write. In a way nursing is a bit like uni, accounting and law. I know I can do them; ultimately I get paid to work and meet my bills and commitments are met. Underneath though I feel a bit like an alien in a strange land or as if I’m playing a role that was cast for someone else. I just don’t feel comfortable within my own skin. Even though writing can be very hard some days; very isolating and financially draining I fell alive. The diet was easier to follow, walking every day automatic, and I loved working to my own timetable, not someone else’s. 49 HERMES: From where I’, sitting you seem like you’ve come a long way this week. You seem to have ruled out the RAAF reserve, and are obviously having second thoughts about nursing. If writing is what you want to do why not just go for it? SCRIBE: In the last 10 years Hermes, I’ve sold out 3 homes to write; and each time it was so much harder to re-establish myself. When I finally bought here I made a vow to myself I’d do anything to keep it, and up until a few months ago that’s what I’ve done. HERMES: So that’s the dilemma. To keep writing you may have to sell the house, and you’re not sure whether you are that committed? SCRIBE: Exactly Hermes. I love my home and don’t want to lose it; yet it isn’t a life in itself; and the working life I need to keep it isn’t one I want. Living on the mortgage is only a temporary arrangement, and with the renovations and repairs that is blowing out very quickly. HERMES: What are you pulled the plug on doing more; then you’d be able to write awhile longer? SCRIBE: If I do chose to go on wiring full time I’ll probably have to sell the house, and it’s better to have it looking as good as possible in case that is my ultimate choice. HERMES: So you’re really down to 2 choices. A home you love, with a job you don’t want or a job you love with no home. We could always buy that Winnebago and go travelling. SCRIBE: Yes, I know I haven’t ruled it out. It’s just I’ve done that before with the camper van and found I got sick of travelling around on my own. When you’re tired or sick you also dream of having a base where you can relax in a warm bath, and sleep in your own bed. 50 HERMES: Obviously there are compromises you have to make along the road; whichever one you chose. SCRIBE: In the past I was so committed to the “I don’t like dropping bombs on small children” them it was relatively easy to make the necessary sacrifice. If I’m just writing for the sake of it I don’t know if I can summon up the same dedication. HERMES: You won’t really know that unless you give it a try. You’ve still got five months before things start looking desperate; why not see what you can come up with? SCRIBE: That’s the challenge Hermes. Over the years I’ve started dozens of manuscripts or done outlines for stories, but I’ve either lost them or they just don’t appeal enough to persevere. HERMES: What about trying an entirely new story; or what about the collaborations you were considering for next year with the friends you were talking about? SCRIBE: I’d still like to pursue the collaborations next year but they are more about having a bit of fun and on-line socializing with other people who like to write. If I want to write full time I need to get focused again on my own project. HERMES: Well you’ve always got this diary; and I thought you wanted a break before starting a big project? SCRIBE: The diary is really just for self motivation and to keep up the daily writing discipline. I think I need something else though to get my teeth stuck into. Something light; and written in a different style. I’m looking for something I’d find enjoyable to write; without taking anything too seriously. 51 I’d also want to revisit any options for working from home next year. It’d be nice to find something I can do from home and earn enough to pay some bills while still having time to write. That way I could still write and keep my home. HERMES: Sounds to me like you have a lot of thinking to do over the weekend; and looking at the state of the house a lot of re-organisation to do if you’re going to be ready for the painters again next week. SCRIBE: Yes, you mightn’t hear from me Hermes for a couple of days if I can get myself organised enough to start; so don’t be surprised if we miss a few days. 23rd October, 2010 SCRIBE: What a big day yesterday turned out to be Hermes. I talked to my Naturopath sister on the phone and raised the prospect of trying the energy balancing next year. After that I had a dentist appointment so went and had a shower. When I went to get dressed I actually chose to wear a skirt for the first time in years. This mightn’t seem such a big deal to most people; but for me it was as if it was a huge internal energy shift. In my meditation healing centre days when I only wore bright colours, I always chose the clothes I wore for the day in the morning. The colour chosen represented what I was feeling, or what I felt I needed in my life that day. I’m still not 100% certain there is anything in this stuff but accept we are all energy fields; and that everything dead or alive around us also has its own field or energy signature. It just seems to make sense that every field will vibrate at a different intensity; and like magnetic fields there is attraction and repulsion. Some vibrational affinity doesn’t automatically presume something is good for us; and yet thing we are repulsed by we could be attracted to if coming from a different perspective. It 52 kind of makes sense in my head, but whether it can help me or others I don’t really know for certain; and the only way now of finding out more is actually doing it. The thing is by the end of the day I was becoming more and more excited by the possibilities. I was finally getting the “buzz” I was looking for when considering my future direction. I did also warn my sister that this could well be the beginning of another “manic” phase which is consistent with bipolar disorder; the sort of stage where I’m brimming with confidence and feel like I can take on the world; something I’ve been through with monotonous regularity during my life. When things don’t work out as planned it’s normally followed by the beaten and depressed frame of mind which I’ve no doubt would have been eased by medication. It’s just for me the highs and lows have always been manageable and I’ve just accepted it as either part of the human condition generally; or a result of my particular gene pool in particular. So then the question becomes is “the buzz” indicative of fragile mental health; or am I finally heading towards the right track. At this stage I’d prefer to think the later, but you Hermes will have to help monitor the situation. HERMES: I don’t actually have any experience in mental health Scribe, and having an uninvited guest occupying half your brain probably isn’t the best for balance. Apart from that Scribe, if we could overlook your unhealthy obsession with nicotine and junk food I can’t really see any major problems. SCRIBE: In the past everyone seemed to presume being “fat” was probably genetic. What seems to have come out in recent years is not a genetic predisposition towards “fat” per se; but a genetic predisposition towards liking fat and sugary foods. I think I got a double dose of those genes; and with addiction to a drug like nicotine, all these little receptors in the brain 53 are constantly calling “give me more, give me more”. I still want to find a way of beating both of these things. Using the magnetic field scenario; they are like giant electro magnets that have pulled me completely into their sphere and don’t want to let go. Alternatively the lush green vegetables growing in my veggie patch are more inclined to repulse me when it comes to eating them. HERMES: The challenge I take it is to try and change your perspective so the things that attract, repulse and vice versa. It’s an interesting possibility, and I’m certainly up to it if you are. SCRIBE: With that in mind I’m going to cancel the diet food for a few weeks. Maybe I’m being self destructive, but I just want “real” food again instead of packaged, processed stuff. It’s one thing to go that way when I’m really bus and don’t have time to think about or prepare food; but I can’t really justify that at the moment. I also need to establish an eating pattern that is sustainable for me in the long run rather than going overboard every time I come into contact with real food. “Moderation” needs to become my new key word. Just try and punch me on my side of the brain if I go into feeding frenzy mode Hermes; it’s really not pleasant. HERMES: If that worked Scribe your brain would be black and blue every time you lit a cigarette. It’s amazing how easily you ignore my voice of reason and moderation when you chose. SCRIBE: I’ll try to listen more attentively in future Hermes. 27th October, 2010 54 SCRIBE: Sorry I missed a few days Hermes; it’s been a bit busier lately. Firstly, I had lunch with a friend and her family on Sunday. It was nice to catch up with her kids that I saw a bit of when they were young; now they are young adults. It’s always fascinating seeing how the same gene pool and essentially same upbringing can produce such different results. They are all lovely kids, but so completely different in looks, personality and interests. It would be fascinating to see them all again in 10 or 20 years time and see how they all end up. They’re all working or studying and just setting out in life with a fairly clear sense of direction; Whether that direction changes or is fulfilled will be interesting to monitor. As for Monday and Tuesday; well I’ve broken the ice, working on a medical ward Monday and surgical ward yesterday. I was really surprised how relatively calm I was heading back to work after 6 months and going into areas I wasn’t familiar with. Although I was slow as it is always challenging finding your way around a new ward, I had nowhere near the apprehension I expected. The other staff were all helpful and supportive and so far no-one treated me like a complete cretin. The first day I was almost quite keen on the idea of being back and started visualizing working in emergency doing further study next year. How quickly that changed though. By the time I was getting ready for the second shift the “I really don’t want to be working for someone else part of the brain” had kicked in. You didn’t have anything to do with that by any chance Hermes? HERMES: No, can’t say I did; or at least not intentionally anyway. I am pleased though you’ve broken the ice and are at least getting out and about a bit more. You do seem to hibernate a bit when’ you’re writing, and probably need a bit more human contact. 55 SCRIBE: I almost forgot. I went to choir on Saturday afternoon, followed by 2 hours of Latin dancing with a dozen ladies from the choir whose ages basically ranged from 40’s to 70’s. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and laughed all the way through. HERMES: Now that certainly sounds like something you should do more of. SCRIBE: I really had to force myself to go in the first place, but it was worth it in the end. HERMES: Are you going back again next week? SCRIBE: At this stage I can’t plan anything in advance because I don’t know whether I’ll be working or not. In the long run I can say no to shifts I don’t want, but to start with I feel it should just be yes to everything. I’m already struggling with the concept of being at someone else’s beck and call for the rest of my working life. There is something just so liberating about setting your own working timetable that you’ll never get working for someone else. HERMES: It seems one of the inevitable consequences of the human condition. To pay the bills you need to work; working for someone else you are more likely to have a guaranteed income, but less independence; to get that independence invites financial uncertainty. SCRIBE: It’s all just thrown into the melting pot for future decisions Hermes. I’ve 5 months left before I want to commit to anything long term so I’ll continue to go with the flow for the time being. 28th October, 2010 SCRIBE: Managed to get through another shift yesterday Hermes. Have to say though I wasn’t looking forward to it even if the first two shifts had gone better than expected. I have to admit they’ve been very kind to me so far so I can’t complain; and once I get there I’m fine; the main problem is getting ready to go. 56 HERMES: I obviously can’t speak for you, but at least you seem a bit more organised and self disciplined when you are working. I would have thought there was some advantage in that. SCRIBE: Right as always Hermes. So far I’ve just done late shifts and there are advantages getting into a routine, and by working at night I’ve managed to avoid my main blow out eating time. As long as I can make sure I take food and resist getting takeaways on the way home I’ll be fine. All I need though is a shift from hell and I’ll be back to a fast food join; and once I start it’s a very hard habit to break. It’s hard enough getting to sleep in the first place; almost impossible if I’ve OD’ed on junk. HERMES: Obviously the longer you can resist that temptation the better then. At the moment the diet seems to be going OK if nothing else. SCRIBE: I haven’t really lost anything since I’ve gone off the diet food, but at least I’m holding my own and haven’t yet given way to junk, and working has been a help there at this stage. It’s funny Hermes, but I can’t resist playing with my tarot and angel cards and like to pick one of each to start the day. This morning the cards I pulled were work and freedom. My first thought was that at least working again I’d get a sense of financial freedom; then the subconscious kicked in and I remembered “albeit mach frie”; probably misspelt, but it is the working above the entry to Auschwitz. Even you Hermes are probably aware that work didn’t bring freedom in Auschwitz; it was just an illusion. I can’t help but wonder if I am in the grip on an illusion as well; and the home I’m working to save is in reality more of a prison keeping me working. 57 HERMES: It’s an interesting thought, and not without merit. From my perspective humans seem to be owned by their possessions, rather than the other way round. The more possession they have, the harder they struggle to keep them. I’m probably not a very good companion on this one Scribe; until now I’ve been a rather free spirit and simply can’t really comprehend this human need to acquire and possess. Maybe if I stick with you long enough I’ll get the hang of it, but from my perspective all I can see is if you live long enough you’ll probably end up spending your life in an eight by ten room, followed shortly thereafter by a six by two box. Spending a life in pursuit of money and possessions you can’t take with you just doesn’t resonate with me; nor does staying in one place for the whole of your life when there are just so many places on this extraordinary planet to explore. SCRIBE: I know I’m starting to miss serious travelling again; it seems so long since I was on the road as it were for any length of time. I’ve had a couple of quick trips away in the last few years, but that isn’t the same. Serious travelling means selling up, donning the back pack and buying a one way ticket to parts unknown. Although that is the way to have plenty of exciting adventures, the downsides are never having a place to call home; and travelling can be really hard work. The most memorable parts of any travel are the disasters; those cold, wet miserable times when everything that can go wrong does; and you sit down crying “what the fuck am I doing here?” why can’t I be a normal person with a comfortable home and a steady job, and normal friends to have a coffee with occasionally rather than the constant stream of fellow travellers you know you’ll never see again. HERMES: As it’s time to walk the dogs and get ready for work I think that’s another issue to let sit in the subconscious Scribe. At present you’re really quite grounded you your lack of teeth and the challenges that has created, so you won’t be going anyway until after the dental treatment is completed. April 1st next year is such a good day to start a new job, open a 58 business or hit the road. All are real possibilities, but trying to force the issue isn’t going to help. Just let all the ideas float around the subconscious until the time is right. One path will ultimately open up; and it could be the one you least expect; and there are no “wrong” choices as such. Whichever path you take will provide new experiences and opportunities, will have good points and bad, and all ultimately lead to that six by two box there is simply no escaping. I’ll be coming along for the ride, and together we’ll just make the most of whatever presents itself. Now it’s back to the dogs. 29th October, 2010 SCRIBE: No call to work today fortunately. Ended up reading most of the night, then rudely awakened by the painters, but so pleased to have them back it didn’t really matter. HERMES: You must be feeling a little tired then, after your first week back at work. SCRIBE: Starting any new job is always a bit physically, mentally and emotionally draining; but it’s a relief to have done it, and an even bigger relief they were quite gentle on me for the first week. HERMES: So it should be easier going back next week? SCRIBE: I’ve no doubt there will be plenty of hairy days ahead; but at this stage I think I have ruled out a “career” in nursing as such; career meaning pursing further study to specialize, working full time and trying to crawl my way up the food chain. HERMES: Any particular reasons you don’t want to go in that direction? SCRIBE: I haven’t completely ruled out the option, but to go that way I need to be fully committed, and at this point I don’t see any areas of nursing that do that. I’ve also managed to 59 finish reading three autobiographies this week. The first two by comedians whose work I enjoy; Dawn French and Stephen Fry. By coincidence we were all born in 1957, and we’ve all had issues with food and or nicotine, and basically share the human condition. Apart from that there wasn’t a lot in either for me; they have extraordinary talent, have worked hard and lived extraordinary lives. The one that really inspired me was written by a 16 year old girl named Jessica Watson who sailed around the world. Although we obviously have nothing whatsoever in common, I found her determination a real inspiration from the moment I first heard about her. To read about her journey from the time the dream commenced as an 11 year old girl just made it so much more compelling. I don’t want to understate her sailing achievement but that looked almost easy, compared to the time, effort and dedication required to actually get to the starting line. The single minded focus she developed during those years no doubt set the foundations for her to be able to achieve her dream; she had to struggle every inch of the way to earn the respect and support of the enormous back up team she needed behind her along the way. I’ve never had any passionate desire to sail around the world, or climb mountains; and in a way I envy those who do. So my first reaction was I’ve never had a dream that big, so I can’t generate that sort of commitment. On reflection though what Jessica Watson showed me was it didn’t matter what the “dream” was, if you were completely committed it was worth pursuing. Getting fit at 53 in comparison seems monumentally irrelevant; but since getting fit is something that has eluded me for 53 years, and is a dream I’ve basically ignored for so long, I think she’s helped inspire me to continue. HERMES: Any autobiography that helps inspire you to do your best has to be worth reading. SCRIBE: I used to love reading biographies for that reason; but often felt more deflated by political ore celebrity type stories that basically gave a chronological series of events or 60 performances; but the stories of triumph over adversity of people like Gandhi and Mandela, or Jessica’s help to make me believe anything is possible. HERMES: It sound like until now you haven’t been reading many for awhile. SCRIBE: Yes, I probably gave up some time ago. Partly I wanted to concentrate on writing, rather than reading; and perhaps my own feeble attempts at chasing my own dream”; and re- evaluate how determined I was in pursuit of that. I know it sounds rather silly and pathetic Hermes, but the “big dream” wasn’t so much to be a writer, but to see my children and grandchildren grow up in a world at peace with itself. Writing was merely the most obvious tool available to try and raise public awareness. I’m not actually that interested in writing for its own sake. HERMES: Well striving for Peace isn’t such a bad dream to have Scribe; but it’s not really something any individual is ever likely to achieve. There’s no start and finish live to gauge success or failure. Surely it’s just something you as one of over six billion individuals play your own part in. SCRIBE: It’s just Hermes my feeble contributions have been so ineffectual, that at first instance I felt such a failure compared to someone like Jessica. On her first trial she ran into a ship within 12 hours and crawled back into harbour with a badly damaged boat; a bruised and battered ego and much public ridicule and condemnation. In spite of that she just became more determined. When I looked at my writing time I realized I’ve spent nearly 20 years producing three measly unsaleable manuscripts. The obvious first response is what a failure; and what a waste of a life. It was like I’d set off from shore three times; been hit by a tanker and sank without notice. 61 HERMES: I think you need to reassess that perception. It sounds to me like the completion of the manuscripts was the achievement; the fact they sank when you finished is not something within your control. Twenty years spent trying to make the world a better place for your grand kids can’t just be dismissed as a waste of time. Twice your manuscripts sank and you persevered to write a third. It doesn’t sound like giving up to me. SCRIBE: Putting it in that light helps me feel less of a complete waste of space Hermes, but the thing is I have finally given up. I realize whatever happens in future is completely out of my control; there is simply nothing I or anyone else can do to stall or stop what lies ahead. HERMES: You’re obviously still concerned about the future your children will inherit; so what is the reason behind it. SCRIBE: I’m the first to admit Hermes I’m no great student of history, but even with my limited knowledge it seems we’re on the cusp of change; the omnipotent global power of the United States is in transition, about to be challenged by the Chinese. I might be just displaying my ignorance Hermes, but from where I’m sitting empires just don’t hand over the baton of regionally or global supremacy without conflict. Ultimately transitions occur through conflict. Whether one or other of the super powers implode within; or explode out there seems to be an historical inevitability of major conflict; and with the ridiculous acquisition of ever newer and better atomic weapons arsenals held by both, it is a recipe for potential disaster. My small mind just can’t embrace the possibility of transition without conflict. HERMES: Maybe you are underestimating the abilities of those with economic and political power to negotiate diplomatic solutions. Surely nobody wants a war? 62 SCRIBE: That’s what they always say Hermes; but the reality is a lot of global financial empires have actually been created by war. Many succeed in effectively either backing both sides, or just making a hell of a lot of money out of one side or the other. War is often very good for big business; and they’re the ones with the political clout. Politically it is even worse, and it is my political background which underscores my reason for concern. I had 30 years involved with political parties and they scare the shit out of me. HERMES: In what way? SCRIBE: Political parties are nothing more or less than personality cults. They are not there for the good of the country or the people; they are there to push the personal agendas of the competing power brokers of the day. The decisions made by those factions are taken for reasons of self interest only. Whether a position is taken to simply differentiate one faction from another within a party, or to differentiate between opposing parties is irrelevant; if it happens to be in the national interest it is completely by accident. HERMES: But the parties are made up of a lot of individuals; surly they all have some say in this? SCRIBE: That’s one of the myths that suck in fools like me Hermes; many of the bums on seats at party conferences are there because they want to make a difference and feel by getting involved that’s what they are doing. In reality though there is rarely any link between the rand and file party members and the decisions made by selected few ambitious and determined enough to take their place in the corridors of power. The real tragedy occurs within those corridors. The new arrivals down there; whether motivated by personal ambition or a desire to make a difference, actually believe now they are in a position to have a say. After six months only the fools have yet to realize they are to 63 keep their heads down, mouth shut and do as they’re told. Freedom of thought or speech is expected to be handed in the minute they cross the party room threshold. The scariest part is that by the time they are in positions of power they have lost the ability to think or speak for themselves. Like any cult they have been conditioned for years to do, say and act exactly how they are told by the latest factional powerbroker of the day. HERMES: Surely Scribe if it came to something as serious as dropping bombs on people they’d think about it more seriously; making informed decisions on the basis of facts. They can’t all act like zombies all the time. SCRIBE: Don’t kid yourself Hermes; they’re like a fleet of robots down there. They just all blindly follow orders. Our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq confirmed it. John Howard just happened to be in the US on 9/11 and basically just reiterated the old “all the way with LBJ” type line. He committed Australia to follow the US to hell and back if necessary without reference or discussion with anyone back home. We were committed on day one by a Prime Minister without discussion, knowledge or facts. So in spite of the fact the US was looking for an excuse for the Iraq invasion before 9/11 and there was no Al Qaeda presence there was no political debate. At least the US was able to strong arm the UN when it came to Afghanistan so there was some degree of international support; even if it was coerced. But how bombing innocent women and children of Afghanistan was going to eliminate a relative handful of mostly Saudi terrorists who had infiltrated the Taliban was ridiculous. All they’ve done is destroy a country and create more legitimate reasons for hatred and revenge against the west. The purpose of the exercise was supposedly to get Osama Bin Laden. What a joke. They were no more interested in Osama than they were Saddam Hussein; they just wanted their troops guarding oil and gas fields to prevent the Chinese getting control. Now Iran is in their 64 sights primarily because of that Chinese influence. Yes so no-one wants Iran to go nuclear; but we’re supposed to be safe with Israel, Pakistan, India, China and the US etc., having the bombs? The US is the only one that has ever used them; they have by far the most, and are in the process of losing their position of global supremacy. Personally I’m more concerned at the current risk posed by the Americans, than the future risk posed by Iran or South Korea. HERMES: You’re back on your old hobby horse again Scribe; so much for letting it all go and moving onto something else. SCRIBE: Well 20 years is a long time to hold an obsession Hermes; or more realistically 40 years; that’s when I first got involved in politics. Its funny my first real interest was kicked off at school learning about the United Nations. At that stage I’d been well and truly immersed in the evils of communism and the real and present danger of “One World Government” controlled by the UN. It took 10 years for me to become completely disillusioned by the political parties; and another 5 of anti UN sentiment before I actually started doing some more detailed research; ultimately becoming a devoted convert. Not that I’m blind to the shortcomings or failures of the UN; it’s just I see it is the only chance we have for peace in a volatile world. Sadly though as we see in Iraq, the super powers continue to do what they like regardless; and countries like us follow like blind fools. HERMES: So what are you going to do about it? SCRIBE: That’s the thing Hermes; a 30 year political involvement, followed by 10 years to produce 3 manuscripts – I’m burnt out. A bit like the end of the peace rallies preceding Iraq. I had six weeks walking down the highway towards Canberra and attending peace rallies. I knew when I first left my front door it was a complete waste of time and effort because there was no way our Prime Minister would change his mind; but personally I felt so much better 65 for having done it anyway. To do everything within your limited power was so much better than sitting at home, angry, frustrated and wanting to kick in the TV. It’s that old better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all philosophy. HERMES: So what you’re saying is that you’re basically content with having tried your best over the last 30 or 40 years, but now you’ve given up? SCRIBE: Maybe it is just time to hand the baton on to the younger generation. I thought I’d just sort of rearrange my priorities; instead of trying to change the world; I’d be better off changing myself. If I want the world to be a better place, I’m better off just concentrating on my own little space within it; the only part over which I have some control. It’s a bit hypocritical of me throwing rocks at little politicians being controlled by big politicians, or little countries being controlled by big countries, when I can’t even control what I put in my mouth. I’ve let myself be controlled by nicotine and or junk ford all of my life. That is just so pathetic. HERMES: So you’re giving up on saving the world, and concentrating on saving yourself first? SCRIBE: It kind of sounds really selfish and self centred when you look at it like that Hermes, but when you go on a plane and the flight attendants give the spiel on oxygen masks, if required parents are to put theirs on first, before putting on the children’s. I’d like to think there is something in that principle. To be of use to others, you have to function effectively yourself first. HERMES: so after you get your own house in order you’re off to save the world again? SCRIBE: That’s what I don’t know Hermes. After the last 40 years I’ve learnt that trying to save the world is in fact a futile waste of time, energy and life; the world will inevitably go on 66 as it has for billions of years without me wasting another moment of my time. I can sit at home feeding the chooks, growing vegetable and turning up for work without having to lose a minutes sleep concerning myself with something that may never happen. The trouble is there is a degree of emptiness in that sort of life. It’s a life without beliefs, and dreams and passion. It’s not a Jessica Watson life; it’s embracing mediocrity. HERMES: So, do you want to learn to sail and head off around the world? SCRIBE: No Admittedly I wouldn’t mind learning to sail and cruise around a few tropical islands, but just out of interest. The nature of inspiration is not that we all end up wanting to sail around the world, it’s that we all do the best we can to achieve our own goals however large or small they are. In the overall scheme of things, me getting fit means nothing; but in the small space I inhabit it’s something I want to focus on for the time being. Individuals like Jessica Watson help restore my faith in humanity, and make me realize how much an individual with dreams, dedication and courage can do. 30th October, 2010 SCRIBE: All in all another good week for information gathering if nothing else. A friend dropped in for lunch so didn’t bother going to choir; probably wouldn’t have anyway. It’s strange how many things you can enjoy when you get there, but not quite enough to make the effort to go on a regular basis. Yet again the jury is still out on whether or not to continue. HERMES: Maybe you were still tired after going back to work? And living in chaos in the house while the painters are still around seems a bit energy depleting in itself. SCRIBE: That might account for it. I was all hot to trot when I first got home hoping my teeth would be finished by Xmas. I was going to take an extra couple of months off to try my 67 hand at writing some music to go with the last manuscript; so trying to immerse myself in music and singing was a big priority. HERMES: You don’t seem to be doing any of that lately so obviously something must have happened? SCRIBE: Well three things sort of happened at the same time. First I found my teeth won’t be finished until March, and in the process of trying to determine if I could survive financially until then I discovered Q Health was still paying me and accordingly I’d accumulated a large unexpected debt that would need repaying. The obvious answer was to go straight back to work. HERMES: So the minute you decide to go back to work, I take it all the music plans went out the window. SCRIBE: Well it just made sense. I no longer have the time and energy to indulge in such luxuries when I have an income to earn. It’s not as if I know how to write a musical. I wrote one song by accident that was supposed to go on the web-site of the first book. It was so long and mournful it never saw the light of day. HERMES: So what’s with wanting to write now? You seem more into words that music. Actually I couldn’t really help notice you seem to be rather tone deaf, and basically devoid of any musical ability. SCRIBE: I was rather hoping you hadn’t detected that little flaw in the master plan. Like writing Hermes; I’ve never seen that lack of ability as a complete impediment, more a challenge to be worked around. Also similar to writing; it wasn’t intended as an end in itself. Again by using Beelzebub Inc manuscript it was to look at another way of trying to push the anti-war theme. 68 The biggest problem about trying to raise awareness of a topic like this is the complete lack of interest. No-one is aware or interested in the potential problem; and I may well be just a paranoid freak worrying about something that may never happen. You just had to see what happened before Iraq. The majority of individuals across the globe were against the invasion, yet most only came out when it was too late to change the outcome. What make it worse was that although the majority of the populations in the invading countries were against the war, they all effectively ratified the decision by returning the same governments. Ultimately the majority were more influenced by scare campaigns on interest rates than dropping bombs on small children and devastating two countries in the name of oil. The mindless masses are so busy raising their kids and paying their bills to be the slightest bit interested in what’s happening on the other side of the globe; they’re so focused on surviving today, there is simply no time to waste on worrying about the sort of tomorrow which may never come. HERMES: Have you ever considered you might be just a little oversensitive on the issue? That there’s just no point in worrying about something that may never happen, and you are just better off joining the majority. SCRIBE: Often Hermes; particularly when under financial pressure. All thoughts of what’s happening outside my front door go out the window, and my pen and paper get relegated to dust collectors at the top of the book case. HERMES: So that’s what’s happened now with the music; under pressure it’s an indulgence you can’t afford? SCRIBE: That’s about the strength of it. HERMES: How come you’re keeping up with the diary then? 69 SCRIBE: After writing something most days for 15 years, the minute I started nursing studies I basically put it aside for 5 years. Finally taking a couple of months out of my life to write again was both liberating and fulfilling. I don’t want to give that up completely again. I need to write regularly to feel complete. HERMES: Is writing another sort of addiction to add to the nicotine and junk food? SCRIBE: Every likelihood Hermes. I know a lot of people write constantly without any hope or inclination towards publishing; no doubt people write for lots of different reasons but the one that resonated most with me was the view that writer’s write to make sense of the world in which they live. That I can really relate to. It reminds me of the pensieve in Harry Potter’s world of Hogwarts; sometimes the mind just continues to spin or fell overwhelmed by too many memories, thoughts and ideas. When you start putting the thoughts on paper it’s like releasing the valve on a pressure cooker. For me transferring the random thoughts to paper not only releases brain overload, it enables me to see problems more clearly and find resolution. It’s simply the best tool I’ve found to deal with insomnia and brain spin. This particular diary is also an experiment in seeing if it helps with self motivation towards my fitness goal. If my fitness hasn’t been improved in the next 5 months than it may well be a waste of time from that perspective. As the “what I’m going to do for the rest of my life” type scenario has also found its way in I’m addressing the two things at once. One way or another I have to decide which direction to head, and jotting down all the random thoughts as they occur, saves me from having to bottle them all up and remember them all. It’s like once they’re committed to paper, the brain is able to file them away for future reference if required; and on that note I’d better file away for today. 70 31st October, 2010 SCRIBE: As you can probably see from the last week Hermes, my writing productivity is virtually nonexistent when working, and on overload the days I’m not. HERMES: Hard not to appreciate the difference Scribe; I virtually never hear from you when work takes over. SCRIBE: That’s sort of the reality I’ve faced this week Hermes. When I walk into the hospital and become a productive member of society and am rewarded by being paid; I feel like I’m really more an impersonator who has just wasted a day of my life. Yet when I sit wasting my time scrawling rubbish with my trusty pen I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It just doesn’t make sense Hermes, but I’ve got to the stage where a day not writing seems like a day of my life wasted. At the moment I haven’t even really got anything to write about. I’m just talking to you or myself; whichever way you want to look at it. I don’t even care if the need to write is a self-indulgent addiction; unlike nicotine and junk food it’s not one I want to get rid of. It’s bizarre Hermes; when I first went north virtually 20 years of diaries and sundry writing went straight to the dump; so I’m writing in full awareness that everything I’m doing now is likely to gain its own rightful place in a landfill somewhere. Yet my twisted mind takes great satisfaction from this dump waste, and rebels at being a productive contributor in the work force; it’s already insisting that every day I spend there is a day of my life wasted when I could be learning something new or working something out for myself. Are you behind this Hermes? Trying to lead me astray? 71 HERMES: I’ve no hesitation in admitting my enthusiasm for going wandering, but on this occasion I haven’t tried to influence you. If you do take off it’s entirely your decision and I’m not taking responsibility. SCRIBE: No I think I can thank you Jessica for reigniting the wanderlust. Although when young I never dreamed of or planned to travel, after starting 35 years ago I’ve never really stopped. Some short, others long; some with family or friends, but mostly alone. When I sold the campervan I think I’d finally decided I was sick of being out there on my own; but when I see a 16 year old girt entirely alone for 7 months I realized what a wimp I’ve become. I learnt early in life if you want to do something or go somewhere you don’t waste time waiting around for someone else to go and hold your hand; you just do it. It’s been my philosophy ever since, so I don’t know why I put off going around Australia. Admittedly the campervan proved unsuitable on bad roads, and my old dog can’t jump in the land cruiser anymore; apart from which it isn’t really the most practical if I want to write. A small Winnebago would be the best for me. HERMES: So the round Australia trip is back on the drawing board Scribe? I don’t mind the sound of that. SCRIBE: It’s still fermenting Hermes; may progress or simply just go off, but I definitely haven’t ruled it out. HERMES: Well I have a lot to thank Jessica Watson for if it does come to fruition. SCRIBE: In all honesty I hadn’t even started her book when the thought started niggling its way out of the sub-conscious. It was probably as I was walking into the hospital thinking “what the fuck am I doing here?” again, when I realized what the option was. Keeping the house means nursing; and writing probably means letting the house go. 72 It’s not even as if I hate nursing. Once I’m there I like to think I’m at least as competent as other second year nurses, I try to work hard and do my job to the best of my ability. I usually get on well with most of the patients and staff; it’s just this overwhelming feeling this is not what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s the way it started when I was an accountant and a lawyer; both of which I fell into more by accident than design. It all sounds such a waste, but I’ve always worked through my studies and paid my own way. I’m no brilliant student, but managed to crawl through each degree mostly by the skin of my teeth sort of margin. It’s just I keep trying to find a place to fit in. I’d like to think I’ve mostly worked fairly hard, and gained a reasonable degree of proficiency. I’ve even had a wide range of interesting jobs I’ve really enjoyed on a day to day basis. It’s just I always carry that feeling that I don’t belong. HERMES: Are there any jobs you’ve had where you did get a sense of belonging? Or a felling you’ve been in the right place at the right time? SCRIBE: I never once regretted my time spent at home with the kids being a mother. If I had one childhood dream that was it; and although like everyone else I had my bad days, I’ve loved all the stages and challenges motherhood provides; including seeing my children gain their independence and being able to embrace the joys of being a grandmother. HERMES: At least Scribe you know that at some stage in your life you felt you were in the right place. SCRIBE: Actually Hermes, that’s not the only time, but I need to explore this motherhood thing first; because somehow the writing ties in with it. I started law externally when my son was six weeks old and finished my last exam the week before he started school. Along the way though I learnt that I didn’t want to waste any more of my children’s childhood than I 73 had to; and I wanted to see if I could work and earn an income from home; writing was one of the many avenues I explored and the one I kept coming back to. In my arrogance I figured if I had enough brains to succeed as an accountant or lawyer, the same should apply to writing if I worked hard and persevered. Well 20 years on I’m still going, and the only part of the plan that didn’t work was making money. Lack of imagination and literary ability were no doubt major factors in this; but with hindsight not necessarily the dominant one (which is I’m fucking boring). What seems to have just “gelled” for want of a better word is the correlation between writing and motherhood. One of the many and varied roles of a mother is to try and look ahead and work around the obstacles in the way of stumbling toddlers. It’s just what mother’s do; they have to try and look at least one step ahead of their offspring. Even my first book I published under the name “a mother”. In recent times I’ve sort of struggled a bit to work out why I was so obsessed with the anti- war thing for so long. I’m over 50, overweight and have nicotine exuding from every pore of my body; a cardiac arrest just waiting to happen. Yet I know if I dropped dead tomorrow I’d have no regrets; I’ve loved every minute of my life, and wouldn’t change a thing. So if China and the US started lobbing missiles at each other tomorrow, it would probably just save me a long and lingering death from emphysema or something. From my personal point of view future conflict is not really important. The interesting thing is Hermes; it never really was. HERMES: I think I need a bit of clarification here Scribe; you’ve been trying to write for 20 years on something that isn’t really important to you? 74 SCRIBE: We all have low moments in life Hermes; it’s part of being human; but overall from the time I can remember I’ve felt like I was hit in the butt with a rainbow the day I was born. I’ve just been so lucky with family, health, education, travel, interesting jobs; you name it the list goes on. From the moment my kids were born I felt like I’d achieved my biggest goal in life. Oncourse I wanted to be there to see them grow up; but after spending a bit of time in the children’s cancer wards with my new nephews, I truly appreciated how blessed I’d actually been. When you really started to see how many kids never had a chance at life at all; some born only for misery and suffering I sort of accepted that if I did get hit by a bus tomorrow I’d still be eternally grateful for the opportunities I’d received that were denied to so many others. Even if the bus turned out to be a nuclear bomb, from my perspective I would still consider I’d had a lucky life. HERMES: That’s further clarification of why the bombs never really mattered to you, but doesn’t explain the obsession. SCRIBE: They never mattered to me for my life; they mattered to me because of my children’s lives; my children and their children; my children and other children. I saw children dying for reasons beyond our control. Science, medicine, doctors and nurses were all helpless to give these kids a chance at life. No amount of human intervention could help these kids. Yet at the same time, every minute, or every day children are dying around the globe because of preventable causes such as starvation, unclean water and relatively minor diseases and conflict; conflict both within states and between states. HERMES: So where did you fit into all of this? 75 SCRIBE: I was a political mother Hermes; a political mother who’d watched the palpable daily growth of the power of personality cult politics. Logical, rational, and political decision making based on informed fact and reasoned discussion was non-existent. Maybe it has always been that way, but in my youth I was too politically naive to see it; it may explain why the business of spearing your neighbours or dropping bombs on their children has continued unabated since human life evolved. As a political animal I’d been conditioned to “smell the wind”; to look for issues presently fermenting or issues that could blow up in future. In looking for sources of potential conflict ahead, I spent a bit of time trying to understand the sources and causes of past wars. It didn’t take long until the underlying feelings of discomfit were rapidly overtaken by being shit scared. It just seemed like a neon light had exploded in my head it was so obvious. A US/China conflict was almost an historic inevitability, just waiting to ignite. HERMES: Rather dramatic conclusion Scribe. Did anyone take any notice or interest in your summation? SCRIBE: Obviously not; I’m just a raving lunatic! At least that was what I was starting to believe before I commenced studying for the Masters of International Law an ANU> One of the subjects I audited was Asian Pacific Security. Believe it or not I’d found a home. There were all these distinguished academic experts thinking and writing along the same lines; I didn’t feel anywhere near as paranoid or delusional. HERMES: Well if all the experts agree that message must be getting out there somehow if there is still a threat. SCRIBE: Firstly Hermes, I’m not that well read a scholar to confirm all experts in the field agree (because I tend to be more attracted to the ones I agree with); but I had three problems 76 with pursing the academic route. Firstly lack of application and ability were major impediments; secondly academics generally just write academic papers for other academics to read; but third and most importantly there seemed to be this rather quaint, naive belief in academic circles that politicians based their decisions on the basis of learned scholars and professional advisers who were specialists in their field. They seemed to have no comprehension that whilst politicians are perfectly capable of humouring the experts to believe they are taking on board their advice; decisions are effectively made primarily on the basis of their number crunchers and cult leaders with no fucking knowledge or idea about the issues. Will a decision win or lose me votes? Or improve my promotion prospects? Are the key determinants. While they consider “regime security” a key determining factor in decision making in authoritarian governments, they seem to have no concept that “personal and regime security” are just as significant in any democracy. HERMES: You sound very cynical or hostile towards the political process. Surely they can’t all be that bad? SCRIBE: It’s not unusual for the converts from being a true believer to become the most stridently opposed; just as my conversion towards the legitimacy of the UN is probably equally strident. I don’t want to be completely hostile though because that achieves nothing. I’m confident most politicians enter with the desire to change the world for the better; even if they are often diametrically opposed on how to go about it. They probably all started with a sense of values and beliefs and interest in policy direction. Those who arrive in Canberra for the first time with any sense of self, find it shredded by the end of the first term if they expect to be re-indorsed. It’s simply part of the cult conditioning. 77 Most really do work long hours, and it’s an awful lifestyle for anyone wanting to retain any sense of balance in their lives. This contributes to the effectiveness of the cult mentality. Disorient people enough, work them around the clock, so they wake of a morning often wondering what state they’re in; let alone what town (a up market version of water boarding). Debilitate them enough and they lose any ability or desire to think for themselves; they need to have someone to write their speeches and tell them what to do without question. And let’s just say the precision, attention to detail and choreography of an election campaign would do the Australian Ballet proud. What the public sees is a well orchestrated public performance simply designed to win more votes or seats than the other side; regardless of beliefs or national interest. HERMES: We seem to have come a long way from nicotine and junk food today Scribe. What’s happened? SCRIBE: I’m having one of those rare moments of enlightenment normally associated with the Damascus road. Given the last tirade it sounds like politician bashing is my hobby horse, but it’s not intended to be. There’s an old saying that people get the government they deserve, and following my complete disillusionment with the Australian, British and American voting public in the post Iraq invasion election, it gave credence to that theory. Complacency and apathy by the general public has contributed to the effectiveness of the Canberra cults. HERMES: do I detect another digression here Scribe; you seem to be having difficulty coming to the point. SCRIBE: My strongest suits Hermes are procrastination and digression; but I’ll try to get back on point. Now I’m out of the political world, and my children have grown up I don’t 78 have those same daily reminders to keep me motivated and focused. On top of that, I think I really started getting concerned about 15 years ago; thinking we could see conflict by 2010. Well that hasn’t eventuated, so if my timing is completely wrong, maybe my overall analysis is equally flawed. I’d really like to believe I’m wrong. HERMES: There sounds like you wanted to put a “but” at the end of that sentence Scribe? SCRIBE: Your powers of divination have prevailed again Hermes. Whichever way you look at it the US is the aging decrepit old top dog in the global playground whose supremacy is being threatened by the Chinese. From where I’m sitting unless China implodes it will emerge the next top dog; no matter how long it takes. No empire lasts forever, and the transition to the new is marked by volatility and violence. I’d like to think that in the 21st century humans had evolved sufficiently to negotiate smoother baton changes, but Afghanistan and Iraq put paid to that idea. Mass slaughter in pursuit of power and oil; causing nothing but devastation, destruction and death. And every day the unstable weakening US economy is borrowing more Chinese money to keep afloat. The big difference this time is the NUKES! I’ve never bought the idea they’re just deterrents; they didn’t spend that much money to develop them in World War 11 to not use them; and they aren’t just there for window dressing. If there back is to the wall there is to me no chance those nukes will be left in the bunkers. Even Golda Meir had hers strapped to her planes ready to go during her war with the neighbours. If Israel looked like falling, she was going to take all her neighbours with her. Could anyone believe the US wouldn’t do the same? HERMES: I thought the Americans were talking about getting rid of a lot of them Scribe? 79 SCRIBE: Hermes I could well be wrong, but it just sounded like pollie speak to say we want to get rid of our old outdated, probably potentially dangerous weapons and replace them with new more efficient and effectively targeted ones. HERMES: Maybe you are just getting too old and cynical Scribe, and even if the US and China did pick a fight it doesn’t necessarily mean Australia would be dragged in. SCRIBE: You certainly missed your Australian history Hermes; Australia never missed a brawl. It’s simply part of our proud Australian heritage; not to mention in any conflict of that nature every country would have to choose sides. That was one of the triggers to get me started with the writing Hermes. Way back in the 90’s the Australian Government gave the US consent to effectively put the “eyes” of their proposed Star Wars 11 on Australian soil. It just seemed so ludicrous; where would you lob the first missile Hermes? Not only did we commit from the beginning without consideration of consequences; we offered ourselves as first strike target! What made it worse was those involved in the so called decision making process had not interest whatsoever in the topic, so it was hardly surprising there was no public interest or discussion. HERMES: So in summary you still believe the potential risk is genuine; but your estimated timing sucks? SCRIBE: That about sums it up. It’s just whether or not I still want to persevere, perhaps using a different medium, having exhausted the literary one; or let it go is the question; and it’s not likely to be answered today. 1st November, 2010 80 SCRIBE: It’s probably just as well I’m back to work this afternoon Hermes; the overeating mechanism is still on the blink. I went shopping on Saturday filling the fridge with basically healthy, diet oriented food. It just doesn’t work when I eat it all in one go. HERMES: You’ve been doing so well lately, I thought at least in that area you were starting to see signs of progress. SCRIBE: I know. It’s really slow, but I was gradually getting off a few kilos. My worst time is sitting in front of TV at night, and if I’m working I can’t do that. Added to which I skipped off into fantasy land looking at Winnebago’s for sale. I figure if I do have to sell the house at least having a Winnebago would provide a roof over our heads. HERMES: So is selling up and hitting the road still on the agenda? SCRIBE: Everything seems possible at night, but when I wake in the morning I often seem to have the complete opposite view; so this morning it was worth doing whatever it takes to keep the house; and if we are to go venturing forth we do it on holidays in the 4 wheel drive. At the moment that seems a sensible option, and when I thought about it I never used the gas cooker or fridge in the campervan anyway; and I survived without and on board shower and toilet. I can’t imagine me being able to sit still long enough to stay in one place for days or weeks at a time, so the land cruiser is probably more suitable for us in many ways. HERMES: I’m happy to set out on a push bike to go exploring, but since I’m not the one that has to push the pedals and suffer the aching muscles I won’t push it; hitting the road in a four wheel drive sounds good to me. SCRIBE: Now that issue is back in abeyance I’m back on the diet today. My latest plan re cigarettes was waiting until the painters finish; everything is just in such chaos. Unfortunately 81 they’re not here again today and at the current rate they probably won’t be finished by Xmas; so I’ll just go with the flow at the moment. In the meantime only 3 more sleeps until we’re Brisbane bound. When there is just so much talking to be done, I don’t rate my chances of success then. HERMES: I’m looking forward to it too; nothing better than getting out and about. So have you resigned yourself to keep working at this stage? SCRIBE: I’ve decided to try hanging in there as long as possible, but I suspect on day I’ll just wake up and think “I’d rather be dead than go back”. Now it’s not of the serious want to be dead variety; just an overwhelming sense this is not what I want from my life. When I was younger it took years to sort of pluck up the courage to resign and move on. The older I’ve become the easier it has been to walk away, but the harder it gets to get back in the work force; so I’ll try and show restrain as long as possible. I don’t think I’m ready to live in a Winnebago for the rest of my life just yet; although that day may well come. It’s probably why I could never really imaging myself as a serious suicide contender; I always figured that no matter how bad things get there is always some way out. If I don’t like the life I’m presently living, it is up to me to change it. I’ve had more lucky breaks than most so I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else; and I suspect if I’d stayed at my first job I’d either be a lot more financially successful; or I would have ended up topping myself. There is just no way of knowing for certain which way I would have gone. The only thing I know is I have no regrets over the choices I’ve made. Actually now I think back, after years spent deliberating over my first resignation, everything else has been virtually spontaneous. I’ve simple woken up on day and thought I’m not prepared to do this anymore. It’s probably something to do with the first job. I probably knew 82 from the time I started it really wasn’t for me; but I didn’t’ want to be a quitter. It took 7 years to pluck up the guts to resign, and then I was talked out of it. I ended up staying for another 12 months, waking up every morning feeling I’d trapped myself, and knowing I’d rather be dead than spend my life there. I really felt I’d wasted a year of my life; but with hindsight it was probably the best decision I ever made. Since then I’ve realized that when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough and staying around is an exercise in futility. As I get older I have less time to waste in places I don’t want to be. Even if I end up waiting on tables, or washing bottles and selling my home; I’ll back the potential unknown future rather than the stable certain one, if it’s not where I want to be. I must have inherited some indigenous “walkabout” or gypsy genes; and I wouldn’t swap them for the world. 2nd November 2010 SCRIBE: Had another easy shift last night Hermes; this time on maternity. I know my luck will run out so I’ll try and not complain when it does. HERMES: Sounds like it is all going better than expected so far; maybe it won’t be too bad if you end up with more good than bad shifts. SCRIBE: I also ran into two former USQ students in the corridors. The hospital is just so much smaller it’s easier to run into a person you know which has its advantages. So far I’m also enjoying going to different wards every day. HERMES: Do you know where you’re working today? 83 SCRIBE: No idea; not knowing seemed a bit scary at first but now I’m getting the hang of it, I’m enjoying it. 3rd November, 2010 SCRIBE: Believe it or not I was on paediatrics last night Hermes, and I enjoyed it. Like maternity it was a place I never thought I’d want to work, but once there it was a lot better than expected. HERMES: So are you feeling better about staying nursing now Scribe? SCRIBE: Sadly not Hermes; in fact I’ve gone the other way. As I was walking into work last night I just accepted come what may it would probably be my last shift for some time. At thirteen I started work in the family business and took on the role of family carer. I feel like I’ve been working, studying and caring for others for 40 years. When I left Townsville I wanted 12 months off just to look after myself, write a book, paint some pictures and play some music. That all came to an end when I found I owed Q Health money and felt I had to go back to work to start repaying it. Now I realize perhaps my once in a lifetime opportunity to have time out for me is being squandered. It is probably not normal Hermes, but every day I go out to work I feel like I’m wasting a golden opportunity to do something I want with my life, even if I don’t really know what it is. HERMES: So what are you going to do about it? SCRIBE: I’ve got a long weekend in Brisbane Hermes, and I want to just think it over first, but if I still feel the same on Monday when I get back I’ll go in and see them and get my name taken off the casual pool. 84 HERMES: I imagine a lot of people would be inclined to think you a bit of a fool; throwing away your financial security like that? SCRIBE: More like a stark, raving idiot Hermes; but I’m rather conditioned to that. Putting my home on the line for a self indulgent whim again is something I never thought I’d do again; but when the cost of keeping my home is living a life I don’t want to live the choice seems clear. I haven’t given up hope though Hermes; maybe I can earn enough to survive working from home next year; or if confronted by the reality of selling up, working for someone else may start to look more attractive again. HERMES: It’s probably a good idea you have the weekend to mull it all over; or at least let the sub-conscious take over for a couple of days. SCRIBE: I suspect I’ll be kept so busy I won’t have time to think. It’s sort of like a karmic week-end. Catching up with family, my first boss and fellow employee, and the people I travelled with after leaving that first job. It’s just so weird how everything gelled. When the family booked to go to Robyn Williams, meeting up with all the others wasn’t even on the radar. Most of the travellers I haven’t seen for over 25 years and my old boss and friend for over 10. Everything just snowballed; so it’ll be interesting to see how it all develops. But time to start packing now Hermes. 8th November 2010 SCRIBE: Well Hermes I think that’s it for me leaving home for awhile. I’ve just arrived home felling completely exhausted and debilitate. HERMES: Sound like you had a really big weekend. I hope you enjoyed it. 85 SCRIBE: Yes to both; but I’m in no hurry to do it all again; I think I must be just getting too old. I am completely exhausted and feel like I could sleep for a week. Maybe I’m just not cut out for city life Hermes, but I find so many people in a confined space almost claustrophobic now. I couldn’t wait to get on the highway and head home; it was so nice to see the mist on the range and know I was nearly there. HERMES: So relocating to the city doesn’t sound like an option anytime soon? SCRIBE: No. I used to get that claustrophobic feeling in Sydney; as if everyone was encroaching on my personal space, but I thought I was over it. I certainly wasn’t as bad as I used to be, but I’m in no hurry to trade my plot in a relatively small country town. I didn’t have that same sense of encroachment in Townsville either. Admittedly it’s still only a fraction of the size of Brisbane, but two or three times the size of Toowoomba. HERMES: So did you make any decisions regarding your future while you were away Scribe? SCRIBE: I think Hermes it was more a case of confirming the decision I’d made last week. At the moment I just don’t have the energy to go back to work. I am just completely drained of motivation and I don’t know how long it will take to get back on track. Just the thought of putting on a uniform again is enough to make me want to curl up and cry. HERMES: Maybe if you take a week off you’ll feel on top of the world again? SCRIBE: It’d be nice to think so Hermes; but it just feels like the exhaustion runs bone deep and will take longer than that to overcome. Nursing feels like a burden I just don’t have the strength to carry at the moment; I need to refocus on getting my home and myself in order before I’m capable of worrying about anyone else. I just feel like ringing up and resigning now. 86 HERMES: It’s not for me to say, but maybe you are just really drained by the week-ends activities and if you take a week off you may feel differently. SCRIBE: It probably makes sense Hermes; I have a district orientation next week, so I’ll wait until I’ve done that before making a final decision. HERMES: How did all the reunions go on the weekend anyway? SCRIBE: The old African crowd had a wonderful day catching up on Thursday; I think we all talked non-stop for 15 hours and managed to catch up with one of the Canadians, the Dane and left a few messages for a couple of Kiwis. At one stage I thought since our lives had all moved on and we’re now all in different phases of our lives we’d lose interest and run out of conversation, but it wasn’t to be. Instead everyone seems hot to trot to organise an even bigger 30 year reunion. HERMES: It certainly sounds like it went well then; what about the reunion with old work colleagues? SCRIBE: Again Hermes it went well, and it was lovely to catch up; but without work in common a lot of the community of interest has sort of evaporated. I know it may be possible to recapture that, but because I’m probably heading in such a different direction again, that may be difficult. HERMES: And last but not least, your family. How did that go? SCRIBE: Went to see Robyn Williams on Friday night with them, then had a lovely day at South Bank yesterday together. Had a few good laughs at the show but a bit disappointed he seemed to be trying to channel Bill Connelly. Don’t get me wrong I actually like watching Billy Connelly, but it just didn’t seem quite like the Robyn Williams I expected. 87 Would have like to have spent more time with my sister, she is about to finish her first year of a naturopathy degree and looks the best she’s looked in years. She’s really taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. HERMES: Have you thought of going that way yourself? SCRIBE: In a way Hermes. In my meditation and healing centre days I started aroma therapy which dealt with a lot of the different essences and remedies, but I still remain more interested in energy fields; another different form of alternative medicine. It’s amazing how much “lighter” I feel when even writing about it; compared to nursing, which depletes me. Come what may Hermes that’s the direction I’m heading at the moment. I know I can’t do anything until the painters finish and I regain my home; but in the meantime I’ve got to find ways of getting my own energy levels back in balance; and it’s not just my imagination Hermes, I have a confession to make. HERMES: Anything interesting or exciting? SCRIBE: Not really, it’s just I couldn’t resist a visit to the tarot reader while I was at South Bank. I’ve always been an addict and now it looks like I’m dusting off my cars I thought I’d see what someone else had to say. HERMES: Did she tell you anything you didn’t already know? SCRIBE: No Hermes; as usual she basically just confirmed everything I’d already decided. I don’t really go to readers to find out the future; more to validate my own decisions; bit weak and cowardly I know but it was amazing. I’d just been on the phone to my sister in the morning saying I was having an energy overload to the head that was giving me vertigo; then I walk into the reader and she asks if I’ve got a headache because my energy field is bursting out all over. I thought it might be just a part of the transition as I move from left to right brain 88 dominance as it were. Her view was that I’d just been absorbing everyone’s energy around me. Either way she thought I should just go home and sleep for a week; and I couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the challenges I have ahead Hermes. It’s very easy if you’re working with other people’s energy field to sort of absorb a lot of either positive or negative energy and you need to find ways of earthing or deflecting it. HERMES: Sounds a bit complicate to me. SCRIBE: Not really. Just think what it is like trying to stay positive if you are around really depressed person all the time. It’s just not easy to avoid being dragged under. HERMES: Regardless of where the message has come from I hope you’re going to take the advice anyway. SCRIBE: That I am. 10th November 2010 SCRIBE: Honestly Hermes I’m just feeling so much better today; still a little fragile, but compared to the previous few days, on top of the world. HERMES: Great to hear it Scribe. You’ll be fighting fit again in no time. You obviously just need time out to recharge the batteries. SCRIBE: Yes the last couple of weeks I’ve gone from feeling completely depleted to energy overload and back. It’s just so nice to feel like I’ve finally made some decisions about my direction next year. Sitting in limbo not knowing where you’re going is always debilitating, but once the decision is made the energy levels pick up as the future starts coming into focus. 89 HERMES: I thought you weren’t going to make any final decisions until next year? You’re not jumping the gun a bit? SCRIBE: Every likelihood Hermes, but it seems in my life there is no such thing as “final” decision anyway. Every time I get to the stage I’m really content with my life or am in a particularly “happy” place, it’s as if the universe just pulls the rug out from underneath me; and I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and start again. HERMES: That sounds a bit pessimistic; maybe it’s a self fulfilling prophecy and you attract disasters because you are expecting them? SCRIBE: I’ve considered that possibility Hermes; and a lot of people tend to agree with it, but I don’t necessarily go along with it. When I look back to the fortunately many occasions I’ve felt almost like “life is perfect” the way it is, I’m sure the last thing I expected was to be hit by some sort of emotional or financial tsunami; I just can’t see how I basically invited them in. HERMES: Maybe you’re doing it subconsciously and you aren’t aware of doing it. I might be in a better position to keep on guard for that Scribe. SCIRBE: Anything is possible Hermes; but the thing is the older I get the less concerned I am about it. I’ve found that ultimately, regardless of the current calamity, I generally come out the other side better off for the experience. Whether you just get strengthened by tough times, or the tough times force you to look for a new alternative I don’t really know. It’s just I know the longer I resist change the harder it gets. When I just accept whatever is thrown at me and I go with the flow as it were, I feel a lot happier and more relaxed. HERMES: So the flow is taking you back to the alternative side of life at the moment? 90 SCRIBE: I certainly feel comfortable that is the direction I’m headed at the moment; so for the time being I’ll just continue to go with the flow and enjoy the journey; wherever it takes me. HERMES: I can’t argue with that Scribe. Let’s take the dog for a walk to celebrate. SCRIBE: Sounds like the way to go Hermes; I’m in. 11th November 2010 SCRIBE: Thank God the last week is over Hermes. So much has been happening and all my health and fitness attempts have gone out the window completely; it’s like I’ve been in a feeding frenzy and that hasn’t helped the health at all. HERMES: It’s just as well it’s over then and hopefully we can start getting back on track again. What are you planning to do about it? SCRIBE: I thought I could give up on the fat farm food because I’d developed sufficient self- control. So far that has proved completely wrong; but everything has been so hectic I want to give it another chance; at least until next week. Apart from that I need to start reclaiming my home again. The never ending painting drags on with them averaging about one day a week. As everything is in chaos and can’t be put back until it’s finished the house looks a bit like a war zone. HERMES: Is there anything you can do to improve it? Maybe just some work in the yard? SCRIBE: There isn’t a lot I can do as even the rooms they’ve mostly finished still have bits and pieces to do. I’ll just have to work around it though and at least try and clean a bit; the whole place is knee deep in dog hair again. After that I might try a little weeding the yard; 91 and the kids are coming to dinner so I may even have to cook a meal. Not a particularly exciting day, but I know I’ll feel better for it once it’s done. HERMES: Well have a good day and I’ll catch up with you tomorrow after it is done. 12th November 2010 SCRIBE: Starting the clean up certainly helped to get me moving again Hermes; I was up and out early getting about a dozen jobs done, including my resignation from work until next year. HERMES: I imagine that was a good job to have behind you? SCRIBE: Absolutely. I always hate resigning when someone has been good enough to employ me and pay my wages. I’m still going back on Tuesday for an orientation day. I was supposed to do it before I started work, but I can manage that at least. HERMES: so now you’ve got that behind you is it back to the fitness and exercise plan? SCRIBE: That’s the aim Hermes. I’m going to try for the swimming and give up smoking thing on Monday again. The 15/11/10 seems like a good day to try; and luckily the scales haven’t punished me for a week of overindulging. Admittedly I haven’t lost anything, but I haven’t gained either so that is far better than I deserve. HERMES: So what else is on the agenda today? SCRIBE: The aim is to try and tackle my office today so I can start getting some work done and bills paid. It’d be nice to have a least one room more useable. HERMES: from what I’ve seen Scribe I think it’ll take more than a day to get that cleaned out, but best of luck anyway. 92 13th November 2010 SCRIBE: You were right again Hermes; it’ll take more than a day to sort out the office, but what an impressive start. It looks so much bigger now most of the junk has gone and furniture rearranged. Now I just have to get rid of the junk cluttering the desks and give it a good clean. HERMES: Certainly a lot of progress seems to have been made down there this week. If you put your mind to it you could be finished today. SCRIBE: That was the plan Hermes but it’s so cold and overcast again I’m feeling like chilling out a bit. Maybe it’ll get done and maybe it won’t. There’s quite a lot on the agenda to get done next week so I might make it a lazy weekend. HERMES: So is Monday still to be the big give up day Scribe? SCRIBE: After quiet reflection Hermes I think it may be better to wait until Friday the 19th. That’s the 10th anniversary of my father’s death and seems an appropriate time to say goodbye. HERMES: do you think having a goal date in mind helps at all Scribed? SCRIBE: Realistically, probably not. The only time I was off for 18 months I just decided one lunch time I’d had enough and that was it. All my failed attempts since then have been based on setting a “target” day, so I’ll stick with that this time as well. If I don’t succeed I’ll go to the doctors the following week and get a script for Champix or whatever it is. HERMES: If you think it’ll help, why not do it this week? SCRIBE: I know it’s stupid and inconsistent Hermes, but I hate the thought of taking medications at any time; particularly ones that can mess with your brain. So it really is a last 93 resort option. Apart from that I’m going to have to find myself a doctor and at some point get a complete physical. I haven’t even had a smear test or mammogram for probably 20 years and with my family history of cancer I should have them regularly. Again it’s stupid but I want to try and get myself as fit as I can before I go. I’m a walking advertisement for diabetes and cardio-vascular disease and I want to do as much as I can to reduce those risks before I sort of get labelled for life. HERMES: So the fitness kick is as much for medical reasons as anything else? SCRIBE: Absolutely. I’ve been a lot luckier with my health than I deserve, given my track record; but if I have my chance of staying that way I need to make more of an effort. HERMES: Hopefully Scribe, after this week you’ll have nothing standing in your way. You’ll have finished work and with any luck most of your inside painting will be out of the way. After that it’ll be full steam ahead; quite exciting really. SCRIBE: I know. I’m starting to get back a sense of motivation and excitement that I mostly lost when I found I owed Q health money. That was two months ago now, and I still can’t believe they haven’t worked out what I owe. Now I’ve accepted the only thing to do is borrow more on the mortgage to pay them back I’m more resigned to my fate. As they say SHIT HAPPENS – START SHOVELLING! It’ll be nice to have it all behind me and with any luck the outside of the house will be done by Christmas and I’ll be ready to start working from home in the New Year. I may not even wait until my teeth are done; although it seems a bit strange opening for a month, than stopping for two when I go north. 94 HERMES: You’ll probably have to just wait and see whether it “feels” right in January. If you have your sign out for a month and don’t get a customer you might have to reconsider anyway. SCRIBE: I’ve thought if that, which is why I’m considering the January trial run. I don’t know though with school holidays etc; And so many people spending a lot of money over Xmas and getting ready for school whether it is worth the effort. HERMES: Only one way to find out Scribe is to just give it a go. You’ll have to organise a sign though; apart from getting the house and healing room ready. SCRIBE: Yes there’s lots to keep me busy, but until the painters are out from underfoot it’s a bit challenging. I guess if I’m meant to start in January it’ll all fall into place by then; otherwise I’ll just have to put it off. I must say thought Hermes I’m getting rather excited by the prospect. HERMES: I couldn’t agree with your more; it seems like a far more interesting option than popping out pills; even if not as financially rewarding. SCRIBE: Hopefully it’ll be easier to stay focused on the fitness regime with something to look forward to next year; rather than something I’m dreading. But today looks like it’s ear marked for a lazy one, so I’ll catch up with you tomorrow. 14th November 2010 SCRIBE: To dream or not to dream Hermes? That is today’s question. Now I don’t have to worry about work at the moment I have more time to think; which is good, but the downside could be I get time to think too much about things that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on. HERMES: I’m not sure I understand Scribe, so you’ll have to elaborate a bit more. 95 SCRIBE: I’m not entirely sure myself Hermes, but it sort of relates to deciding on a philosophy on how to live your life. I sort of work out there are three options:- 1. Jessica Watson style; where you have a big dream and you focus all your energy on that one goal. 2. Survival Mode; this is sort of disaster management. It really kicks in for example if you have really sick kids. The only way to really survive is one day at a time. You can’t afford to waste time thinking about tomorrow; all you can manage is getting through today. 3. The Middle Way; have some short, medium and long term goals, and generally work in that direction, without getting too bogged down on a day to day basis. HERMES: That seems like a reasonable summation Scribe, but where do you fit in? SCRIBE: That’s what I’m having a little challenge with Hermes. I don’t have the “big” Jessica Watson dream; me getting fit hardly falls into that category. Working and studying placed me more in the survival mode where I just had to put myself in the frame of mind where I forced myself to keep going one day at a time until I was finished; without looking too far ahead to plan what I’d do.’ HERMES: So now that part of your life is over for the time being, you’re looking at the middle way? SCRIBE; That’s what I’m trying to do Hermes, but I just can’t seem to get any grip on “where I would like to be in one year; let alone 5 years”. I’ve always liked to keep those sort of frame works in mind, but to be honest, they’ve never really worked for my anyway. 96 HERMES: Maybe having goals is a safety net so you feel you know what direction you’re heading; it gives you something to work towards, even if it doesn’t actually come to fruition as you’d expect. SCRIBE: You’ve got that right. Without goals I become rudderless and feel like I’m going around in circles, looking for an excuse to get of bed in the morning. HERMES: So you’re starting to feel that way now I take it? SCRIBE: Not entirely Hermes. I’m actually up early and keen to get on with my day, but I’m again starting to squander my limited energy trying to work out where I want to be in future, waiting for a sort of divine guidance to point me in the right direction. HERMES: I suspect we’ve had this sort of conversation before Scribe, so I think I know where this is heading. We both know that at this stage you’re better off just letting go of the future completely. Whether you look at is as Jessica Watson mode; focusing all you attention on ‘getting fit’, or survival mode just taking one day at a time is probably irrelevant. Just stick to your immediate plans and let the future unfold as it will. SCRIBE: I know, I know, I know. It’s probably part of the empty next process I’ve yet to master. When I was younger the primary goals were to get married and have a family. After that the goals were set on the basis of what was needed for my husband and kids. Then after divorce that was limited to what sort of future I wanted for my kids. Now they are independent I don’t have to worry about paying school fees or keeping a roof over their heads I’m a bit lost. I don’t even know if I want to keep a permanent roof over my head; or whether I’d prefer to live on the road in a Winnebago. All I know is that I love being exactly where I am at this point in my life. I don’t need a bigger house or new car; and I’ve no desperate need to hit the road. With the banks cooperation I’ve also probably got 12 97 months of working for myself before I have to finally choose whether keeping the house is worth going back to work for someone else. SCRIBE: As usual Scribe I think you’ve found your own answer in your own peculiar roundabout way. You love being where you are and doing what you’re doing so just count your blessings each day and make the most of it. Forget about tomorrow, it’ll take care of itself. SCRIBE: On that note Hermes I think I now have enough motivation to tackle the office again; and Friday is definitely my new deadline. My son is probably coming up in the next couple of days and is very excited about buying a new home so will have lots to talk about over a couple of smokes. 17th November 2010 SCRIBE: I’ve finally done it Hermes; hopefully had my last day at the hospital; but ironic that my potentially last day was in fact an orientation day, but it’s supposed to be done before you start work so needed to be out of the way in case I do go back. HERMES: So you’ve left that option open at the moment Scribe? SCRIBE: That I have Hermes. At the moment I really can’t imagine it happening; but I can’t guarantee how I’ll fell tomorrow, let alone next year. It’s not as if I hate the work; when I’m there I actually mostly enjoy it. It’s just I know it’s not where I want to be at this point in time; it just doesn’t feel right. HERMES: So how are you going to fill you days Scribe if you aren’t going out to work? SCRIBE: With any luck Hermes the painters will finally finish work inside the house this week so I’ve got a lot of organising to do. Not to mention getting back into exercise. At the 98 moment I just can’t wait to get back into it. There’s just so much left to do, and it would be nice to get as much as possible of it done before Xmas. Once I’m finished it’d be nice to think that I don’t have to touch anything for 10 years should I decide to stay here. HERMES: And the smoking Scribe? SCRIBE: Obviously with my son coming through on Monday that went out the window and the new Friday deadline was predicated on the painters being finished (they are both smokers too). Now it looks like they’ll still be here on Friday at least, so I’m not certain. I know I’m just using others as an excuse, but the whole idea of time out was to ‘de-stress’: I find anyone underfoot in the house quite stressful, particularly when I’m having to work around chaos. Friday though is the 10th anniversary of my dad’s death and the 35th of my grandmother’s. It just seems such an auspicious day for ‘letting go and moving on’. I’d still like it to be Friday, even if it isn’t first thing. HERMES: If it’s not Friday we can always look at going to get that prescription from a doctor next week Scribe. SCRIBE: You’re on Hermes. I just can’t quite visualize a life without a cigarette in my hand. When I thought about it Hermes it’s probably closer to 40 years than 35, since I started smoking. That’s just such a long time. HERMES: Maybe trying to visualize it could be a help Hermes. There must be some things about giving up you’ll look forward to? SCRIBE: The most obvious ones are of course improving my health and saving money. Those should be enough for anyone; but as yet haven’t been enough to get over the addiction so maybe I should look for the less obvious, such as smelling better. 99 Most of the time I don’t bother with perfume because you hardly notice it over the smell of nicotine; a smell I don’t notice myself until the occasions when I’ve quit for a few days; it is really strong and offensive, and I’d prefer not to smell like that all the time. But I think the major one Hermes, is really wanting a greater sense of control over my life. I basically can’t seem to control what I put into my own mouth. Whether it’s nicotine, caffeine, fat or sugar; they’re all substances that override common sense and my ability to say no. I want to be able to determine what I consume, not let inanimate substances control what goes into my body. It just doesn’t make sense that at present these substances are stronger than me. 18th November 2010 SCRIBE: What a blow out last night Hermes; chips, chocolate and ice-cream. I seemed to be doing really well when after dinner I got hit by the sudden irresistible urge to go across the road to the shop; like my whole body just crying out “I need chocolate”. HERMES: and apart from your Brisbane week blow out you’d been pretty good for so long. How did you feel afterwards? SCRIBE: On the upside Hermes; for a change I didn’t actually eat it all; which I suppose is a rare improvement. Even so I felt quite ill afterwards, because I know my body just can’t process fat and sugar like it did in the old days. HERMES: At least by getting sick it might be more of a deterrent next time, so look on the positive side. SCRIBE: If only it was so easy. I know fate, sugar and nicotine are all bad for my health yet traditionally it hasn’t stopped me. On the way back from the shop with my horde last night I was thinking of all the gurus chanting treat your body like a temple; treat it with reverence 100 and only take in healthy things. Instead I treat mine like the toxic waste dump it is, and only have myself to blame. HERMES: Is there any way you can change your mind set here Scribe; is there any reason why you consider your body as a garbage dump; a repository for all manner of trash? SCRIBE: To be honest Hermes it’s always been fat and unfit. When you add in age, gravity and the fact it’s been quite literally lived in by the offspring along the way, it’s just not a pretty sight. Flab, cellulite and stretch marks aren’t things you’d find on the average super model. HERMES: It’s just as well your ambitions never pointed you in that direction then. Is there anything good about it worth praising? SCRIBE: Yes Hermes. In spite of the hiding I’ve given it over 53 years it has served me far better than I deserve. It’s not only produced those offspring I’d never want to be without; it’s done so hardly missing a beat. I’ve never had a serious illness in my life and regardless of what I’ve put it through, up until now it’s just kept chugging along. Human bodies really are quite remarkable when you think about them. All those tiny little cells working 24/7 without a break; before giving up and being replaced. They are all really quite miraculous in their own way; even mine. HERMES: Somewhere in there may just be your answer Scribe if you have time to think about it. Just try focusing on what an incredible miracle the human body is; maybe you could try meditating on it at night as you go to bed. SCRIBE: It’s so long since I’ve really tried any serious meditation Hermes, but anything is worth a shot. Maybe I could try and visualize myself as one health, happy little cell travelling through my own body trying to find a home. 101 HERMES: Interesting thought Scribe; you can tell me all about it tomorrow. SCRIBE: You know Hermes there may just be something in this. I know conventional wisdom always says it’s what’s inside a body that counts, not the exterior; but in reality most of us tend to take each other at face value because we don’t have the time or energy to find out what’s inside; and when we talk about what’s inside its sort of like whether somebody is a caring, compassionate sort of human being. For the purpose of this exercise I think I need to focus on the inside of the actual physical body, looking at how the heart pumps, kidneys work and that sort of thing. They really are quite extraordinary; regardless of the packaging; even if I packed it in tomorrow I’d still say it’s done a remarkable job for going as well as it has for 53 years. I know it’s really looked after me, and I should really start looking after it. 20th November, 2010 SCRIBE: Failed again Hermes. A couple of days of pre-new austerity measures over indulging in junk food and I’ve spent the last couple of days paying for it. In the past I seemed to be able to get away with anything; now any sort of junk and I suffer next day. HERMES: It could be an advantage if you want to stay on the straight and narrow. SCRIBE: I’m hoping that’s the case, and I should have a better idea next week. The painters have promised they’ll be finished inside tomorrow; then the long drawn out task of finding a place for everything begins. I’ve still got the electricians to come through and a few other jobs, but at least the worst will be out of the way. 102 I’ve been finding it progressively difficult to get motivated when the house is in chaos and there’s people under foot, so I’ve sat around wasting time when there is so much still to be done. SCRIBE: I’ve spent most of the last couple of days reading a Paul Thoreau travel book, where he’s gone through Asia and back through Russia, reliving a journey of 30 years before. HERMES: It sounds interesting; did you enjoy it? SCRIBE: Well even though I love travelling, I’ve never been one to read travel books; I’d rather just form my own impressions of a place when I get there. So travel books are normally the last thing I’d go for. Having just reunited with my fellow travellers from 30 years ago, it was that angle that intrigued me. Someone in our group suggested we have our 30 year reunion in Kenya, and I wondered not only what the place would be like; but how it would be seeing it again with many of the same people. HERMES: so did you feel inspired after reading about Paul Thoreau’s journey? SCRIBE: Strangely no Hermes; almost the opposite. I could almost go and put my old back pack in mothballs; and putting my pens and paper with it. HERMES: Sounds as if it was quite depressing; anything in particular that put you off? SCRIBE: Probably the writing firstly. Most “real” writers have an inexhaustible knowledge of literature which I never had, and have no desire to possess. I can’t even remember the name of his book and I’ve just finished it. This is the story of my life. Although I read a lot I can never remember names, authors or details of stories. I’m completely hopeless. 103 Along the way he caught up with a number of fellow writers to compare notes and observations. Most I’d never heard of and wouldn’t have known what they wrote if I did. It probably highlighted my inadequacies on the literary front. HERMES: What about the travel side; did you enjoy that part of it. SCRIBE: Again yes and no Hermes. To start with I thought I’d be hooked and ready to hit the road again; but as I got into it I was reminded more and more of the difficulties and loneliness of solo travelling; even if my solo ventures were nowhere near as challenging or extensive. HERMES: so it just sounded like too much hard work? SCRIBE: Basically yes. Too much hard work; with too little to show for it. Some of the journey had changed because yesterdays wars have moved on to new locations, but I was left with an overwhelming sense of futility. So many countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Russia and India have changed so much in many ways, and yet you’re left with the feeling you still wouldn’t want to live there. What also came out was the Anti American sentiment regarding the Iraq invasion; yet a lot of people would still love to live in America even though they don’t like what America is doing. Perhaps it made me realize how lucky we actually are to live in Australia, and in spite of the global problems the US has helped to create, and their own internal problems; it’s probably still a better place to live than most of the planet. But then again one of the best parts of any journey is actually heading home; and I’ve got that sense of how lucky I am to live in this country without leaving home, so maybe that’s a good thing. HERMES: So the travel bug has been placated for awhile then? 104 SCRIBE: Well it didn’t inspire me to want to jump on the first plane to Africa. Presumably a lot of things have stayed essentially the same, even if modernisation has made token appearances; but with corruption endemic throughout most of the continent, no doubt the few that have got richer are doing very well, but for the vast majority there probably isn’t much improvement. It all just seems too depressing to think about at the moment. On top of that his trip through Cambodia ignited some memories for me; I found the incredible inhumanity towards their own people so overwhelming. It seemed like it was bad enough when you’re fighting external force; but when it’s your own people it seems so much worse. Then his Russian leg highlighted how much savagery really could be inflicted on your own. The tribal feuding in Afghanistan and Sunni/Shiite in Iraq seem to be just a continuation in another location. It’s like there is simply no way humanity will ever learn from its mistakes and worst excesses. HERMES: This really has depressed you. You’ll have to find a way out of it. SCRIBE: I know, and I could be cleaning the house or weeding the yard but again it’s cold, miserable and overcast. It’s too miserable to want to go outside; and too much of a mess inside to want to get started. Maybe there is something on TV – sadly I’ll never know as I don’t have reception when it is wet. 21st November 2010 SCRIBE: Just back from breakfast with a friend to find the painters finishing up inside Hermes. They’re coming back to put the furniture back in place tomorrow so I’ll soon finally have my own space back. 105 HERMES: It’ll be nice to start moving forward again Scribe; you seem to have been in a bit of a time warp over the last couple of weeks. SCRIBE: Yes, it’s been a bit of a downhill spiral and the final touch was Paul Thoreau. In the world of Harry Potter it was like a dementor attack; like I’d never be cheerful again. I’m sure it probably didn’t have that much of an impact on most people, but it just seemed to me that no matter how much had changed; how much it also stayed the same. With each form of advance a new series of problems just surfaced. HERMES: Taking on all the problems of the world isn’t likely to help you or anyone else; getting back to your own problems is probably more in order. SCRIBE: I know Hermes; in many ways it’s a defence mechanism. When I worry about the problems encountered by others it’s a perfect excuse to avoid facing my own issues and it’s so easy to justify. In the overall scheme of thing my issues are so monumentally irrelevant they seem so self indulgent. HERMES: But I thought you’d finally accepted there was no way you could change the world; the best you could do was make the most of your small space in it. SCRIBE: That’s the reality, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Anyway this afternoon is my escape from reality and it’s back to Hogwarts for a couple of hours. It’s wonderful to be able to escape to a fantasy land where ultimately good triumphs over evil. If only it worked that was in the real world; instead it seems like one evil is replace by another ever if there is a bit of a reprieve in between. Human just seem to have an inexhaustible talent for exploiting each other, even where they start off with the best of intentions. HERMES: surely it’s not as bad as that; there must be some good people out there. 106 SCRIBE: In reality there are probably a lot more good ones than bad; but it’s the bad you seem to remember most. It’s also the ones in powerful positions who ultimately end up exploiting or abusing that power even if that isn’t their intention in the beginning. The more powerful someone become, often the more paranoid and abusive in their relationships with others. It just seems such a vicious cycle, there is no way out of. Even when you remove the most obsessive power mongers you are left with a vacuum which leads to chaos and competition to fill the void. Iraq and Afghanistan being perfect examples which were foreseeable from the beginning. HERMES: But you and I both know there is nothing you can do about Iraq or Afghanistan. You don’t even have any say in what happens here; so you need to let go of those things you can’t change; and refocus on those you can; which as you know is only you. SCRIBE: Thanks for reminding me Hermes. Now it’s back to my afternoon fantasy world before I rejoin my real world again tomorrow.