thoughts from the front porch
I’ve just sat on my front porch for the morning – sun tinkling in through the roses, a nice cool breeze keeping the temperature just right. I had a bag full of wool by my side. A freshly made beetroot, carrot, orange and ginger juice in my glass. A sweet little dog for company. Glasses to help me see better. Indeed, I feel very very fortunate to have these things. Add to that – a safe community, public transport at my door, access to good health care and education, a healthy child, a hard working husband, and the right to vote in the upcoming federal election. Yep … things are very good.
Now – I know that I can whine along with the best of them. Here at block-a-day, you have heard me whine about moving away from my family and friends, living in Melbourne, having less money than we would like, putting up with teenage foibles in my university classes … and that’s only the stuff I don’t feel too embarrassed to confess to. Ask Julian and Abby and I’m sure they’d be able to provide you with way more fodder. I am so far from perfect … oh, so far.
But this morning, I had occasion to listen to the thoughts of a couple of other people and found myself a bit impatient with their “woe is me” attitudes. One was wringing her hands in sadness over the fact that her youngest child (with several older siblings) was now at school – and at home there were no more little hands to hold, no more kindergarten classes, no more long and lovely days at home … in fact, this has been a fairly constant theme for this person over the last few months. On the one hand, I hope I am a compassionate person and I am sure she is feeling genuine distress. These are her feelings and she has a right to them – there could be other factors at play to which I am not privy. On the other hand – she has several children – healthy, lovely, fortunate children. She has had many, many years of hand holding and kinder and lovely days at home with said children. And she is also blessed with the very realistic expectation that there will be many, many more wonderful years of parenting ahead of her.
Made me think of a dear family friend (and all those in a similar position) who after 15 years of “trying” has now, sadly, accepted she will have no children, no squidgy little hands to hold, no wonderful memories of days at home with wee ones, let alone the privilege of a lifetime of parenting. And in a moment of recognised selfishness, I even thought of myself. I would have dearly loved several children – can’t imagine anything better than a house bursting with children. But it wasn’t to be. Hmmm … I’d have been ecstatic with several – let alone an extra one or two – wee sweeties to spend years and years at home with, before moving on to the next stage of life. I just cannot understand why this person is so focussed on what she has “lost” when she already has so much.
The other person I encountered this morning had a little rant about the government’s proposed (now scuttled) changes to the superannuation system – chiefly – the taxing of lump sums of $1,000,000 or greater that are withdrawn from a person’s super fund once they have retired. The government’s rationale – they have several important/essential to the rights and dignity of our citizens/crucial to the wellbeing of our society reforms to fund – a National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski Education Reforms – and they figured that a bit of wealth redistribution at the top end was a fair way to achieve these.
I have worked with children and families with disabilities. We have a very close family friend with a profound physical and intellectual disability. I have seen first hand the poverty and frustration these people live with. The umpteen times they have had to GROVEL for assistance. The appallingly disrespectful and exclusive manner in which they are treated – not just by strangers in the street and sometimes their own families, but the organisations (such as UniCare and the Red Cross) who are supposed to be their fiercest advocates, the health departments upon who they may rely so heavily, the churches to which they belong. I live down the road from a state high school that cannot open it’s library on a daily basis because it has no funding for a librarian and relies on part time teachers volunteering extra hours.
And this person was fuming over the wealth of only 5% of Australia’s population being vulnerable to taxation. Hmmm … like most people when asked, I would love a bit more money. Take the heat off paying the school fees, the bills etc. But I am equally happy to have a bit less of the pie so that my family friend can eat fresh vegetables (instead of supermarket brand tinned food) and see the dentist at least once a year and that’s just a start. ‘Cause the pie is only so big. It’s not an all you can eat feast – every time we take more than our share, that’s a little less that someone else has to make do with. Should I ever find myself required to sign a withdrawal slip for $1,000,000 it will be my privilege to hand some over to the government first.
You only have to look at the photos on this blog – and the other hundreds – thousands! – of blogs like it to see that so many of us have so much. Sure – blogs usually only show the pretty bits and I am just as guilty at this as the next person – gotta preserve some dignity, if not for me, than for my family! But even when I add in the health concerns we have, the financial tightness we jostle every month, the loneliness I sometimes feel, the despair about whether I am being a good enough parent or wife that I sometimes experience, some of the dreams of my youth that have slipped through my fingers …
… I only have to remember that I’ve just spent the morning sitting on my sunny, pretty, peaceful front porch – my child is receiving a wonderful education, my husband is pursuing his ambition, I am completing a life changing degree. We have no life-debilitating conditions. There are no bombs falling. No government tanks rolling down our street. No rising sea levels wiping out our homes. No censorship on our internet, our newspapers, our televisions, our novels. No horrific state or society sanctioned violence against women and girl children. No breathtaking corruption that sees our government services stripped bare.
From a mental health perspective, I know that it’s not helpful for those who do struggle in our society to be regularly reminded of the above. We can only deal with what is in front of us and to say that all else pales into insignificance when compared to the horrors that are endured by other communities does indeed belittle the very real despair and anxiety many in our community feel. However, as a sufferer of debilitating anxiety myself, I think that every now and then we DO need to look around ourselves – as a valuable form of self-medicine – and recognise the amazing blessings we live with. Recognise them, embrace them, celebrate them … share them.
I think being fortunate enough to not only have several children but to live in a beautiful part of the world and send them off safe and healthy to a good school is an amazing blessing. I think having access to lump sums of more than a million dollars upon retirement is an extraordinary blessing. It may not perfect – I’m not perfect – but gee, I think we have it pretty good.
So that’s what I was thinking on the front porch.