Monday, 24 December 2007

Two sonnets

Well, we're off to Smith's mother's house for a couple of days, so here's a vanity post before I go.

A healer's sorrow

The angel hoped her healing powers could
help bring forth life. She ran to make her way
to where Savannah and Calarus stood.
But in the womb, the babe had torn away
and floated, dying, in life-giving blood.
No dreams of freedom from its foetal world
to elfdom, strengthened there in Ramblers' wood;
'stead flown to Stormy, while its mother curled
in pain.
To heal, her burden needed to be purged
so Bri, with mystic knowledge, from her body forced
contractions, freeing her, to let the bleeding cease.
And Jean stood by, near helpless, as the child emerged,
tears muffling her blessing o'er the still blue corpse.
Now, in the vale of Unicorns, it lies in peace.

A mixed blessing

Although her needlecraft displayed her taste
in shade and colour, Jean was unaware
that her distracted musings formed a prayer
which likewise shone in every stitch she placed.
She'd ached with young Savannah's loss, embraced
as hers the pain she'd seen the elves must bear;
and notions of Mariah's seeming air
of solitude had shaped each line she traced.

So as she sent her threaded needle sweeping
through cloth, so were her hopes for them expressed;
and while the work portrayed a kitten sleeping
on marble tiles, dreams stirred its gentle rest,
for as she sewed, her tapestry was steeping
in longing - or perhaps, the gift was blessed.

Merry Christmas!

the angel Jean - Smith's little elf

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Opportunities and creating them

Hiya all!

In between writing these posts, I read Meg's reply to something I wrote. She comments that it's not as hard as you think to write ... and of course she's right. But then, writing isn't really a problem. For me, deciding what to write is. I'm still working through old material at the moment, stuff that I've been thinking about for months or even years, but have never written down. Maybe I'll run out of that in a few months, and then all I'll have to do is think some more.

But I do like to organise my thoughts a LOT before I write them. I always had that problem in English class, I couldn't write more than two pages in 40 minutes to save my life because I liked to spend five minutes thinking first and then take another minute every so often. (My teacher couldn't work it out, so she watched me during an exam once and told me I was doing that.)

Even the order I organise them into probably wouldn't be obvious to anyone else. I'm a sucker for narrative, and everything is a story. So it goes: 'This is why I thought of this issue, this is what I thought, and this is what I thought about next, and I do have an agenda (I always do) so here is my conclusion.' It probably backfires cos you won't see the conclusion until you read to the end :P

Well, here's the next story.

The Ultimate Victim
When I was starting to roleplay Jean, I had to think of a background for my imaginary character. I had to explain why she was alone, and besides she wasn't good at what she did, so I decided her family had simply made fun of her for her chosen profession. So she left, and here she was.

Well, I'm a sucker for narrative so I went around the net and read other people's stories. And one in particular (by someone I know) struck me.

Whatever bad things you can think of, they had happened to this character before you meet her. She was one of twins who had been orphaned. They were born vampires (imaginary, remember). Their foster parents were not only horrible, but sadistic and pedophiles and ... everything. They had killed her twin in some horrible ritual. And it goes on.

I can only imagine what a really good roleplayer would make of this character who had seen it all, but by the looks of things ... it was just going to produce a character who was the ultimate victim. I have to say I've seen a lot of the victim mentality on the internet, both in people's imaginary characters and in their conversation about their real lives, but this was the most over-the-top I've seen. And this was a few years ago, before I'd even heard of 'emo'.

Am I a victim?
Well. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with depression. One day in 2002 I was reading the New Scientist on the way home, and something had happened in India. When I got home, I just cried and cried. I couldn't eat. My dad asked me if I'd fought with Smith, and if I hadn't been crying so hard I would have laughed. (We never fight.) Whatever it was that had happened in India, it had really got me going. And it stayed like that for the next few months. I would watch the news and cry. I would also get bombarded with paranoid thoughts about my safety.

Of course, eventually I saw a psychiatrist. And he asked me if there had been any major trauma or stress in my life. Well, I thought long and hard. The worst I could come up with was that Smith's father had finally succumbed to a year-long illness, a few months before. We weren't close, but he had welcomed me into his family and I'm still sorry he didn't live to see us marry. And of course I had been deeply traumatised by the events of September 11 the year before. But it's not like I was there, or had a family member killed. I wasn't even in the same country, and now it was more than half a year later.

I had major depression with what was diagnosed as a biochemical cause. My body was saying 'Okay, you will be anxious and sad and paranoid, NOW.' Like a good girl, I took the medicine (my psychiatrist didn't think counselling was appropriate, because we couldn't find anything to talk about) and the overblown emotions went away. But I lost a few months of my life and failed a major project, and when I tried to rationalise it to myself ... I was embarrassed.

I was embarrassed because I've had a very good life. There simply was no justification for the sorrow I felt. I felt guilty because there are people who have suffered major trauma in their lives, and people who have to deal with it on an ongoing basis, and I felt they deserved treatment a lot more than I did. When it comes down to it, when I think about my life, I simply have to be thankful, and I didn't see why I wasn't just enjoying it.

Well, that was five years ago. For the past year I have again needed medical treatment, but for exhaustion rather than excessive emotion. And then, seven weeks ago I started an exercise program, and started feeling radically better. I truly feel like a normal person for the first time in years. And then I started to write my Christmas cards.

And my Christmas thought was - In my life, I have had every possible opportunity available to me. I have to be grateful and wish the same on others.

I was born to parents who loved each other and me. I had a little sister to love and to be an example for. My father cared enough about me to bring me up and teach me anything he could. My mother cared enough to stay home and take care of us until we were school age. (Not that I believe all parents should take these particular roles, these were just the ones they chose.)

I went to primary school and highschool and university. Most of the teachers encouraged me to learn everything I could. I even had a job waiting when I finished my last degree.

I have had the special opportunity to learn anything I ever wanted to learn, whenever I wanted it. You can't say that of many people. When I told my mum at 5 that I wanted to learn the violin, I got violin lessons. (Of course the next week when I told her I wanted to learn the flute, she said 'Err, I thought it was the violin.' I learnt the violin.) When my teachers found I was able to read, they gave me the opportunity to learn something else. I have had opportunities for learning that nobody else has had. And countless teachers and academics have given me second chances when I didn't perform my best.

I was born into a peaceful and safe society where people could respect each other. I was born in a city where nature areas are respected and preserved and enjoyed. I was born in a suburb where we had access to public services such as health care, libraries and fresh food, all nearby.

I have a husband who loves me, and if need be will take care of me when I'm down. Although I won't gloat too much about that. I know he's a rare species.

Okay, so I don't have a million dollars to my name. So what? Millions of people in the world cannot identify with any of the opportunities I've had. So many go without. Of course this is the true agenda of my post. Those of us who have chances truly have to think of those who have not.

That was my reasoning when I made my most important Christmas wish. May you all have the opportunities that have been available to me. But more importantly, may you all find it in you to create opportunities for others.

Everyone finds their own way to contribute. Smith and I both have jobs so we can afford to have more than one. But a few weeks ago, I followed a link to, and there I found a way that is free, and available to anyone who has internet access. That means you.

It's a vocabulary game. You guess which of four meanings belongs to a particular word, and if you get it right, they donate rice through the UN. Not hard, and they have different levels that automatically adjust depending how many you get right. For people like me who have a love of words, it's a lot of fun.

Anyone who reads this will have to try and forgive me for being such an agenda-driven girl. I love to tell stories but at the end I have a point and this is it. I guess that's part of why I started a blog. But as I saw on the internet somewhere, 'You read it, you can't un-read it now!'

Now go and play freerice. :P

the angel Jean

The origins of the angel Jean

Well, I've decided to tell two stories tonight, 'cos I probably won't post tomorrow. The second one's longer.

The first one is purely a vanity story.

--The origins of the angel Jean--

While I was just friends with my now dear husband Smith, he mentioned that he had recently been made a staff member at an online game. This game is a "multi-user dungeon" or MUD, a text-based roleplaying adventure game which could be accessed online via telnet.

Well, soon after we decided we were right for each other (which is another story for another time), he invited me to look at this game. The rest, as they say, is history, but hey, I feel like telling the story and I never really have.

Jean is not my real name. When he invited me to connect to the game, he checked to see if my real name was available as a username. It was. I duly connected to the game using my name, but he wasn't there when I did, so I started playing the game. I found it interesting, but involved, and eventually disconnected.

(Smith is not his real name either. It is his game username. I don't use real names online.)

As a coincidence, one of the other staff members had the same first name as I do. (I think Smith had found that out earlier, and did some snooping around to make sure we weren't really the same person. :P)

Anyway, the next time I decided to connect, I decided that since it was make-believe, I could use whatever name I wanted. I chose Pearl. Yes, Pearl the elf bard was my first real character on the Dead of Night mud and I played her for quite a while.

Once Smith had seen my character, he also made a character, and we played together whenever we were on. But, he was on a lot more than I was, and as I said he was a staff member and knew a lot about the game. Pretty soon his character was 50 levels above where Pearl was. :P

I met his online friends and enjoyed the game for the most part. But I did have one bad experience as Pearl. Because Smith's non-staff character was so much higher than mine, and because he liked to give me things, I soon amassed some equipment that I never would have obtained myself. One day a respected player (who would soon become a staff member) looked at me and accused me of multiplay - that is, making multiple characters and passing equipment from one to the other - which is considered cheating in that game. I was mortified.

A few months in, Smith decided that he no longer enjoyed being a staff member, and quit. He would log in his other character every so often and chat with people, but he no longer played with Pearl as much.

I didn't mind. Our real life relationship was getting stronger (and continues to do so to this day) and we were spending plenty of time together. But I still liked to play as Pearl. She did have a tendency to get hit on, however, which I didn't enjoy. I should have expected that, I guess that's one thing that did reinforce my prejudice of the community as being nerds.

One day I decided I was sick of it. I wanted a new character with different abilities. All I had to choose was the name. I chose Jean. It was plain and nobody would know if I was male or female. And after the multiplay scare, I resolved not to accept any help from ... anyone. I would do this by myself.

And I did. I have to say that I picked one of the most difficult combinations on that MUD :P Not deliberately, just out of ignorance. It was 3 years before I got to level 21 where you can choose your own title, so for 3 years I was 'Jean the elf'.

By then, I guess my personality and Jean's character had really come through. I chose a healer class because it fitted in with who I was. I had even begun to roleplay a little, and of course Smith came back (soon after I started playing Jean, even) and everyone knew I was his. Staff on the mud are given 'god' status (basically meaning they have powers others do not), so I played his little priestess. I also wanted a little humour and conflict in my character, so Jean was a naive and gauche little girl who said things without thinking. Jean was never very good at her healer class anyway, so that helped form the character.

I was very flattered when Smith was allowed to write a room description of his own and he dedicated it to me. This is what he wrote:

Slight, solid stainless steel skylight shows streaming sunlight.
Bathed below, beautiful baskets contain copious cooled fresh fruits from
far fields. Deep, dark desk draws dedicated attention at an actual
angel. Architected as alabaster, an angel appreciates an apple. Less
lovely lifeless, lifelike loses real revelation reality releases. An
angel achingly associates real resonant remembrances etching elven
existence, Jean.

(Yes, I am addicted to apples. One a day. Don't tell me it's ironic I'm a doctor.)

So when it came time to choose my title, I was definitely going to go with Angel Jean. Of course, Smith was the one to point out to me that it really should be the "the angel Jean". So online I have been known for ... wow ... five years now as the angel Jean - Smith's little elf.

I subsequently became a staff member myself (another story, although I have to say I earned it). And when you have to deal with players who want character and game changes from you, and you have no reason to work on them other than a desire to make them happy and the game a better place, you will get a lot of flattery. But I was touched by how many would tell me afterwards that I had truly earned the title in their minds. And call it self-aggrandisement, but I wouldn't have used the title if I hadn't thought I would deserve it. Jean is helpful and kind with never a nasty word to say about anyone, always ready with a listening ear, tries very hard not to show any favouritism, and is Always sincere.

I have drifted away from the Dead of Night. Staffing is a chore, and Smith would rather I spent my life on something tangible. And you can't flatter me by calling me an angel any more, although I might be bemused. But I can't yet let go of the angel Jean, and I try to continue to live by her high standards.

Hmm, story two will be another post.

the angel Jean - Smith's little elf

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Apparently I needed a half-hour to think about my chosen topic for the day before I wrote about it. I say this because I decided on my topic while I was writing the last post, and then left it 'unfinished' and went away and procrastinated for the next half-hour. I checked webcomics when I knew there weren't updates, looked at all my Firefox tabs, closed the unnecessary ones, did a puzzle. Now I've thought, I can write.

So I mentioned that I spent a few days with my best friend in March. She's my dearest friend in the world. But when people say that, they usually also mention 'closest' and say they can just call and talk about anything. So I have to face the fact that I'm not very good at 'close'.

Of course, Smith is my closest friend. He and I can talk about anything, any time we want to, and we do. But hey, there are only so many hours in the day, and he likes to do other things too, and so do I. (Right now he's playing Super Mario Galaxy, which is such a fun game, I like to join in too at times.) Anything that has to be said 'now' or 'before I forget' or 'about us' can be said. But most of my thoughts aren't that urgent or pertinent. We share a lot of those too, just not all.

Okay, so back to my best friend. Every so often, she'll call me, and we'll spend 45 minutes or maybe 2 hours talking about interesting stuff. We'll tell each other how our lives are going. Sometimes we'll go out and just walk for five hours, looking at things (museums, art galleries, the harbourside walks, suburbia) and talk about whatever comes up.

But we don't talk about everything. Much as I feel I'm an open person and I love to share, well, I love to listen and discuss things a lot more than I like to talk. (Although I do love to write.) And there are places we don't feel the need to go. We don't have to talk about "men", for example, because she's single and not looking (as far as I know), and I'm married and not looking. We don't feel the need to share our whole inner lives or private lives.

But there are also things I'd like to talk about, that I'm uncomfortable broaching. And one of them is our friendship. Does anyone else find that a difficult thing to talk about?

You obsess over your relationship with your SO (or husband/wife as the case may be). If you have to live with them, so you might as well get it right, and one good way (the best in my opinion) is to think and talk about it. With your family, you might mention things casually, or if you're close you might go as far as arguments and compliments and the occasional 'I love you Mum'. And with a not-so-good friend, if they do something that bothers you, you might tell them and ask them to stop, although it's mostly not that important and you leave it.

But with my best friend ... I dunno. 'Hey, let's talk about us' seems to imply that there's something wrong. She's never actively done anything that bothers me. But I would still find it difficult to start a conversation that was, well, to do with her (good or bad).

And last time I was with her in March, I tried it. We said ... basically nothing. The conversation lasted one sentence, and then we were both too uncomfortable or hesitant to continue.

And no, I didn't actually say anything bad about her, I didn't say anything about her at all. I simply said enough to let her know that I was thinking about a particular private issue that had to do with her, and mused upon a question. She answered some of it truthfully, and then said no more. And I was left wondering if, just by going there, I had hurt her.

What bothers me the most is that I simply don't know if I offended her. I thought about it on the 5-hour train ride home, and while I normally love train rides, that one was hell. I could also list other examples from that trip where I did something and I don't know whether it bothered her. I'm not a very good houseguest. But I don't know how to broach that one with her either.

I've been out with her since then. We had a good time, like we always do. She's even done something since then that tells me she's been thinking about the issue I brought up. And she told me about what she'd done. If there ever was an opening to talk about that issue with her, that would have been it. But it wasn't an opening, really, and I don't know if I'll ever talk with her about it.

Maybe I'll call her now.

Well, there you go ...

I knew I didn't have a good memory for events! Yesterday evening after Smith had read my blog, I asked him if it really was the first night we'd spent apart. We both thought about it for a little while, and then he remembered that I'd gone to spend a few days with my best friend in Wagga (out west) in March.

So now I'm embarrassed. Mostly because I forgot about that holiday for so long. I've even been missing her a lot these past few days, can you believe, and I still didn't remember that. It's not as though I didn't have a good time while I was there, and I even missed Smith almost as much as I did the other night. I guess that missing him wasn't my main memory of that holiday.

Well, the other night was a first of sorts, I guess. It was the first night I'd spent alone at home without Smith. It was going to bed alone that I dreaded the most, which is why I put it off so long and posted at past midnight. I don't know why, I've spent the best part of a lot of days at home alone in the past few months (Smith works, I'm off work), and I've even taken naps in bed. I do get lonely, I guess.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Of course, there is one thought I've been having all evening...

... this is the first night since we were married (just over a year ago) that I will spend without my Smith. Of course, my memory for events isn't that good but I've been thinking, and I'm pretty sure this is the first.
Which makes me sad, of course.

Smith's paternal grandmother died on Saturday. She was buried today in Mudgee, which is a few hours out west of here. Of course his family on that side attended. I would have been there too, but I had a medical appointment in town that had been very hard to organise. :( As it was, the family - his mother, brother, my soon-to-be-sister-in-law (sister for short!) - booked a hotel room in Mudgee overnight, as plans were to discuss the will after the funeral. So he's not coming home tonight :( I wish I could have gone with him.

Smith's grandmother was 92. When I spoke to him about her a couple of nights ago, he had some memories of her ... mostly from when he was younger. But she has suffered from dementia, and for the past couple of years she has been in a nursing home close to where Smith's mother lives. She gradually but severely declined, and it has been a while since she recognised Smith's mother when she visits. Part of the tragedy is that her eldest son (Smith's father) did not outlive her, but was taken from us five years ago. The rest of it is her dementia, which meant that for the past couple of years she has had a very poor quality of life as she gradually stopped remembering, stopped speaking and finally seemed to stop being aware of people around her.

Well, when I think about all that, I'm all sad. But for various reasons, I'm not crying. I haven't seen any of her family cry about it, although I wasn't there today. When Smith and I talked about it, we thought that the funeral would probably be more of a remembrance than a huge mourning. Even though I have probably only met her once, I have to say that my feelings are mostly of relief that she is at peace ... dementia is a horrible illness. Those closer to her may disagree.

As I write this, I realise how easy it is to hijack your own blog. I came here wanting to write about Smith and me, because I've always wanted somewhere to say how happy I am with him. And to tell you all how badly I've done without him tonight. But the above is stuff I've been thinking about for several days, and I guess I've had more time to put it into words.

Well, before I finally go to bed like a good girl, I'll try and say some of it.

Today, my dad drove me to the appointment. I spent the half a day with him - we bought fruit and on a whim we both had haircuts. (Different ones). But I always knew that I'd have to spend the rest of the day alone, and take care of myself.

I got home in the early afternoon, with plans to eat lunch, wash my newly-cut hair, finish my Christmas cards, cook myself a dinner, and sleep early. What I have managed to do is to get stuck on Meg Kelso's blog (I swear! It's addictive!), eat biscuits with cream cheese dip, two pieces of chocolate, a pear, a slice of watermelon, two slices of toast and a slice of smoked salmon (not in that order), wash my hair, and forget to drink water. In fact, I'm just realising that the lack of water is giving me a headache and I won't be able to sleep just yet. Time for a drink and a headache tablet, back soon.

Forgot the tablet, back I go. :P

Okay, well, this is despite Smith calling three times today. He even rang to tell me to have dinner, I told him I'd make a sausage sandwich, there's plenty of food in the house. The man loves me, he wants to make sure I do what's good for me, when I can't do that he'll even cook pasta and sauce! I love him too but there are times I wonder how I deserve him. Ahh, well, all I can do is appreciate him to his fullest and try my hardest to be worthy.

Yes, I have an excuse - diagnosed depression. Don't worry, I don't have anywhere near as poor a self-esteem as the sentence above might make it sound, he's just so good. But I do suffer from low energy levels and poor motivation. And I'm actually amazingly better in the last month than I have been in the past. Anyway, all that, coupled with a tendency to procrastination/poor initiative, means that I tend to be unreliable about things that are designed to be good for me. Such as eating, keeping well-hydrated, sleeping, and achieving things that I really want to do.

I'm actually debating going and making food now. I might be able to cook and eat before the headache goes away so I can sleep. But I have a visitor tomorrow morning (he's available the one morning Smith's out of town, drat that) ... hmm.

Food wins.

If anyone ever reads this, you take care of yourself too! I'm off to do that.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

What do I feel like writing about?

Well, Meg Kelso's blog (also at blogspot) inspired me to start a blog of my own. I've been reading it obsessively since I discovered it on Tuesday, and I'm only five months in :P But it seems to be full of intelligent, articulate people discussing interesting topics. Here it is: it's currently titled Enjoying someone else.

I can't aspire to that level of discussion just yet. If I were just to start writing about myself, the blog would be pretty boring for at least a few months, mainly because I like to go into detail. So this is probably going to be just a place to write what I am thinking about. Which means that there will be a huge range of disparate topics.

Hope one of them appeals to you!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Christmas wishes to all

May you be blessed with health - physical, emotional and spiritual.

May you live in safety.

May you enjoy success, and learn from failure.

And may you relish opportunities when they come...

and create them for others.

Merry Christmas to all.