Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Page 2 of 29

A Quiet Courage

There's a quiet courage in all of us 

Resident though not easily found

One that most didn't know existed

That quiet courage bides it's time

Waits until that last but one moment

Then softly says I was always here.

Vulnerability is the Endless Way Back

Twitter is like someone  sitting next to you while you write. And as soon as you look up, she winks at you. Then you go back to writing again. Until you stop and she winks at you again.  Until you put down the pen or stylus and return the look.  For you realise that she has been waiting for you. And when you do, you have to stop yourself from staring. For something new has appeared.

As happened to me when I looked up after Twitter winked at me. That Twitter eye catcher was Trust, and the Only Fruitful Response to Betrayal in Intimate Relationships Maria Popova’s review of Martha Nussbaum’s book, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (public library).

I can only rely upon the book excerpts in the blog. And similarly to the blog, my experience was eerily similar.  Except I’m now staring aghast at this new thing I’ve learned.

Yes I was betrayed. My trust was utterly vapourised. And me being me, I told myself it was my own fault for being so vulnerable. And not being watchful enough.

Yet vulnerability as that blog above states is the way back. For me, the other ways didn’t work.  If there are better ways, I’d be happy to  learn.

I falsely thought I had forgiven the betrayals.  No I had simply coloured over the incidents. And yet I remember many things clearly, for instance, the pattern and colour of my baby high chair.  Until four years later when the perpetrator recalled them. Then my life was a video replay of the content that I won’t divulge here. When challenged, the perpetrator denied them completely. I was still focussed on the act rather than being angry at the person who did it as Nussbaum states.

That betrayal still constantly denied,  found me and made its home in me. Have you ever had anger turn in on itself and feed itself? Still my response was repression, ignoring the video replay in my mind and the taunts in my ears the best I could. Nussbaum refers to my feelings as a status injury, which made me an ex-husband well before I separated!

Then three years later, she admitted the betrayal was true! I still recall the date, the time of day, the light that afternoon, the trees in the driveway, where the car was, where she was standing, where I was standing and how I reacted. I chose suppression. I said nothing and walked away. I had to.

But this time the anger was different. It wanted truth over revenge. It took me eight or nine months. Until I confronted her. She denied it again. This and every other time I had focussed on the first incident. That night, for the first time, I described the exact details of the second incident including the danger I experienced. There was no response. For all defences had collapsed.

This time, no answer was an admission of truth. She knew it too. Afterwards, I would joke to myself that like the spies say, “Everybody talks”, that is everyone tells the truth eventually. Yet the truth can also be told by omission. For what had been excluded had finally formed the real picture.

After the admission, came the explanation. I shook my head and walked away from that too.  It was a contradiction of present words versus previous actions! I can laugh at its inanity now. Then I was too sad. When I was angry afterwards, I had nothing to feed now I had found out the truth. And being angry just made me tired and sad. I suppose I had met the truth at last.

That was the way out. And in time I left.

But the problem with grief is that it is so easy to keep it at a distance. I was simply afraid that if I didn’t it would overwhelm me and crush me. Then I would have to admit I was vulnerable.

Which it did. It took another relationship for that. And this is where Maria Popova’s  blog devastates me. For one cannot ignore grief. I had read about grief in Kluber-Ross On Death and Dying, but I never really had it happen to me.

Grief? It’s the wave taller than you that flips you and lifts you then throws you down to the sea floor until you become sand.

It leaves you with nothing. But I knew that. I just didn’t want to experience it!

From nothing, all I could do was renew. I think what I was doing was Kintsugi reassembling broken pottery with gold!

That was the way back. I did what I needed to renew and review. From that nothing, I studied, I wrote, I walked, I listened to music, I had people appear and help me, I made friends and I started a charity. Every day I looked for joy. And nearly all the time, I found it although I was still unexpectedly surprised!

I consider myself lucky that I could get through. Not all of us can. It is better to admit vulnerability and ask for help. I have done, I still do, although I find it challenging. The road is not ending anytime soon.  And as I have found there are switchbacks and recurrences.

So often, one forgets those times and are then unprepared for its recurrence. And still unprepared to recall the resilience that saved.  Besides I don’t like fairy tale endings. Living happily ever after almost certainly is death by boredom!

Now that I’m out of the fairy tale, there is learning ahead. I learnt and am still learning to trust myself. I learnt and am still learning to accept my vulnerabilities. Then I learnt and am still learning to forgive myself.  It sounds so trite and easy but it’s ruddy well not!  I have not always succeeded either and there are relapses. That’s what the self-help books don’t tell you. The road is endless.

In there, somewhere, I don’t know where exactly, I learnt to forgive the betrayer, the betrayal and free myself. And leave them to deal with it.

In truth as Nussbaum writes, all of this runs closely together. For I had chosen all this. I was therefore responsible for the negative consequences. I know better why I chose it and I’m the wiser (not yet wise) for it.

I’m also responsible for the positive consequences which is, once you get through the worst, you know what you can get through, then you look back and discover life has given you a bonus. That was last week’s truth.

Now I’m left with today’s truth. Betrayal, misusing trust and taking advantage of the vulnerable is too difficult a life to bear isn’t it? Yet such behaviours are an admission of vulnerability from the perpetrators too.

For them, the road hasn’t yet begun. For me it has yet to finish.

 

A Folded Butterfly

Her train passes by
Two hands I barely see
Long fingers flit and fly
Paper folds one two three.

Before the moment is lost
I breathe and recall carefully
Her quick movements deft and free
My paper folds one two three.

We both took a paper hatchling
And moulded a folded sculpture
Her mystery now revealed to me
She sent forth a butterfly!

Your Breath

Watching you stumble from one breath to another, I'm trying to breathe for you. I want to Inhale the oxygen, and pass it through my lungs into yours. And from there into that heart that I love so much. And take your breath and exhale it all for you. But I cannot. All I can do and it seems of no use at all is hold your hand. And wait and hope. We always wanted you to grow to a fullness that would exceed ours. But right now I don't know if that will happen. And my fear is that you'll catch my doubt. A doubt enough for youto quietly slip out that door with perhaps barely a nod to us as you leave.

As for your mother, she doesn't know. And that's what she cannot handle. A little uncertainty perhaps which can be overlooked or postponed. But not the uncertainty that is now resident. She worries that it will take over and we will be living moment to moment. She can't say that to me as it would betoo great a worry. She won't say that to you. Or even afterwards. No matterhow things turn out.

You're not as tough as you thought you were. This illness is your companionnow and ours too. I could advise you:  if you can do something, don't worryand if you can't do something, then do nothing and don't worry.  I can't 
take my own advice. I simply don't know how it will turn out. And I can't 
tell anyone, least of all you.

So I should make myself comfortable I suppose. I try not to look at the numbers and zig zags on the machine. Me being me, automatically I try and analyse them to determine a trend. The numbers seem unchanging like a clock that keeps time but never tells it. I grab a spare pillow, wedge it against myplastic hospital grade chair and find a position of least discomfort. 
Unlike yourself.

Tubes run into you and out. For a moment, I hope that it's all unreal, thatjust for fun, they've attached them to your skin only. I'm really waiting for someone to rush in and say it's all been a joke. And you'd wake and 
laugh with me too, until we thought of how to tell your mother. But she 
might see the fun in it too.

There's no change in the numbers or the fuzzy lines on any of the machines.
The door opens. Men and women rush in. Your eyes flickers open. I'm raised to my feet and quickly shoved outside. A joke? No a sarcastic cosmic one. Ishout out in my head, that was a random thought, I was idly thinking, 
I didn't mean it. Much as a child, I fear the horrible thought made true.

I wait for news and fear the over calm manner of those who deliver it.

Drenching Human Sheep

“All rise!” The Court Clerk brayed in a tone of bored authority. The words echoed and then died against the wooden paneling.

There was a pause. The door to the left opened. A short bobbing woman entered robed and wigged even though convention didn’t demand it anymore.  The pause followed her and held its breath.

There was a scraping and shuffling as lawyers, defendants, witnesses and audience rose. And bowed their heads. The judge sat down, her head hovering over the bench above. She feathered her hand at the crowd. With a more respectful scraping and shuffling now, all resumed our seats.

“Even to its practitioners, there are things about anaesthesia that remain a mystery – such as – where exactly it fits in the spectrum of consciousness.”

Thirty seconds in and he was already uncomfortable. He started to shake his head slowly from side to side. His hands were no where to be seen. Like children of a past generation, he was seen and not heard. Short, shorter than the judge by a half head, he bowed his head over the stand in boredom. All that could be seen was a brown shiny bald patch circled by a patch of hair. In another life, he would be bowed over a pew at prayer, held to a vow of silence.

“A state of general anaesthetia is not rendered not by a single drug but by a lights-out cocktail.”

“We don’t care for such pseudo-academic twaddle,” the anaesthetist growled.

“We put people under, hold them under and then bring them back. It’s a simple occupation really. You’re making it far too complicated.”

Unbidden, unusual and unhelpful even if he was being tasked with giving expert testimony. Which in fact he wasn’t. Especially considering this was a coronial inquest.

“Yes, they’re all a secret society, even when I put them on the stand as expert witnesses,” thought the cross examining lawyer in exasperation. But he set aside those thoughts as well as the academic treatise he was reading.  Unlike his interlocutor, the lawyer was grey of hair and of skin too, tall and spare with an economy of movement that belied his age. Only the twisted folds of skin under his chin marked him as ten years later than he looked.

“What about accidental awareness?” his soft voice filled the courtroom.
The anaesthetist stirred. His face peered over the edge of the witness box, red cheeks, centred by the pasty nose of the heavy drinker or worse topped by two monstrous eyebrows.

“It happens,” he said impatiently. “But you make it far more serious than the situation warrants. We monitor the patient closely. We take the action required. Like I said, yesterday,” he drawled with emphasis,”we’re not surgeons. More like farmers,” his tight mouth fluttering at his joke,”drenching sheep. It’s really straightforward, nothing to worry about.”

His voice now which was a dull monotone, more suited to calling out blood pressure, respiration, pulse and blood gases now was a bellow.

“Yes I can see why now. How all those nurses and junior doctors complained. Yes I can see too why he kept being exonerated, without even a reprimand, all those complaints dismissed as mere professional differences rather than personal ones. Sheep dip indeed.”

The anaesthetist didn’t react to the lawyer’s unspoken thoughts. Had they been spoken, his clever counsel would have interjected anyway and dismissed them as irrelevant. But clearly too, he hadn’t been fully briefed.

“What if there’s a incident?”, the cross examination continued.

“We’ve procedures in place. Should it happen,” he said gruffly.

“Thank you for your testimony,” the lawyer concluded. The anaesthetist shrugged, relaxed and almost smiled as he stretched back in his chair waiting for the judge to discharge him.

The silence at first inviting and expectant, continued. For the lawyer was still standing.

The lawyer paused and continued,”Your testimony regarding the science of anaesthetisia.”

Then he intoned, “Now I want to walk you through the incident at hand, the incident that happened on the 28th December, the night of the emergency.”

“What?” He growled. The eyebrows fluttered in time with his silent mouth as he sought his lawyer. But she crossed her legs and folded her arms. And avoided his eye.

“I answered that fully and frankly in my statement tendered to the court.”

“Yes he is his own lawyer! And his counsel knows it!! He’s had enough experience too!” the cross examiner nearly laughed to himself. But his task now required complete absence of all expression: the perfect listener!

“Indeed that is perfectly true,” the lawyer countered. “But the court wishes to hear your story in your own words for the record.”

“It’s all in my statement. There’s nothing to tell. I anaesthetised a patient that died during the subsequent surgery.” Another lost look at the defence lawyer.

“You knew she was dying.”

“No. Her vital signs were all falling. BP dropping, pulse down,breathing shallow, blunt trauma and she had lost a lot of blood.”

“That’s correct and that’s in accordance with the medical records tendered. However, according to Accident and Emergency, she had been stabilised, prepped and ready for surgery.”

“No, not from where I stand.” Came the reply.

“She had deteriorated before you administered the first part of the anaesthetic,” the lawyer continued.

“Yes.”
Then the lawyer stood and unwound himself to his full height.

“Why didn’t you call it? Why didn’t you at that stage abort the operation?”

“Why did you administer the second part of the anaesthetic?”

“I put it to you that without authorisation you carried out an act of involuntary euthanasia on a dying patient.”

“Just like drenching human sheep,” came the reply.

Blue Sky Mine : The Wittenoom Tragedy

Every time I hear Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil,  about the Wittenoom mining tragedy, I’m taken back in time.

By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Five_Years" title="User:Five Years">Five Years</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Own work</span>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12650545">Link</a>

Asbestos Warning Sign

To 23 May 1988, to probably the saddest TV interview I have ever seen.

The interview featured on the ABC Four Corners episode called Blue Death.

Blue Death was about the Wittenoom tragedy in Western Australia which was built around a blue asbestos mine (hence the Midnight Oil song title).

Unfortunately, miners were exposed to asbestos and started becoming sick and dying.

Sadly, as this interview illustrated, they weren’t the only ones.

I can see her now. In a hospital bed being interviewed. Her thoughts are on the lingering death of her husband.

And in tears she says, “No-one should die like this.” Sadly that was her fate too.

Out of 20,000 workers and residents, over 2000 have died (See http://www.asbestosdiseases.org.au/the-wittenoom-tragedy.html).

Despite the authorities being aware of the dangers, they didn’t have the power to shut down the mine. Nor did the owners (CSR through its subsidiary Midalco)  itself comply (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSR_Limited#Wittenoom_controversy ).

The Four Corners story was about the fate of miners and residents taking action against the company. The story stated that the company delayed legal action for as long as possible. In the hope that the litigants would not survive.

The most upsetting aspect to me was how the company stayed only focused on shareholder value only.

What worries me  is that this could happen again. And then I read and listened to this…Four degrees should be ok!

 

 

Everyone Failed Social Media : Except Mark Colvin

I knew Mark Colvin (and his kidney!) purely through Twitter! And sad at his loss.

I did read some of his interview transcripts: a gentle questioner able to get a better answer! But in the maelstrom that is Twitter, he came across as funny, intelligent, curious, never ever patronising, clever and subtle, a joy to read.

And his last tweet!!

I think every one failed social media except for Mark Colvin.

Learning Disagreement Skills

Go on, click the angry icon. Share the negative post or tweet.

Slip in and quickly criticise. Tell the other how they got it completely wrong.

They lack intelligence. Common sense. Logic.

Sit back and easily insult the unlike you.

They can’t even think. They’re Inhuman.  We should wipe them out.

Yes it’s so easy to disagree and oppose.  And easiest to offer no solution.

I thinking this as I read each tweet storm. And think even more as I click through each Facebook outbreak outrage.

I realise it is so familiar. For it was exactly the same as my experience.

For at quite close range and for quite a long time, I heard the same words for the same reason.

For to disagree, even silently through to mildly evoked white-hot anger.

Sometimes in despair, I joined in and fully embraced the proferred down spiral.

Until somebody asked, “So how did that work for you Andrew?”

I’d shake my head silent. I said no, it didn’t, it didn’t at all, it made things far worse.

“So what are you going to about it Andrew?”

(How can you make it better?).

There was the beginning of an answer.

I was learning disagreement skills.

Not the “let’s agree to disagree” cliche. That only suspended hostilities for now. And led to a ever widening DMZ!

Be silent Andrew.  Don’t interrupt the the other. Listen to the person behind the words.

Sit stock still Andrew. Don’t move and distract the other. Don’t insult them for not thinking like you.

For no-one thinks like you. Which is a wonderful thing! For everyone and you too.

Ask the question that goes beyond the question. Wait for the answer that reveals another’s truth. Not to you. To them.

Listen and bide your time, then you’ll find that it’s  the time. For the quiet and thoughtful ones to be heard.

Who speak without the intent of crushing free speech. Who speak and listen to encourage freedom of listening.

To enable those who accept truth without question (as you once did) to find their own. And others find theirs.

Otherwise it gets too dark when we all agree not to look for the light.

 

 

Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Exist

Freedom of speech belongs to the loud and aggressive.

Freedom of speech is their cacophony of voices shouting all at once.

Freedom of speech is their smothering words that silences all  other.

Freedom of speech is the preserve of  the crowd that excludes all but them.

Freedom of speech is not our freedom extended to the foreign other.

Freedom of speech is not  our freedom to accommodate a new point of view.

Freedom of speech belongs to  the true listening of the quiet and thoughtful, the ones crushed underfoot.

Suffering Is a Superpower

Bleed out drop by drop,
Breathe out gasp by gasp,
Lose time tick for tock,
And love beat by beat.

Each day darkens upon dark,
Each touch lessens its loss,
I watched my heart disappear,
Shrivelled and dried by fear.

Push me away, slap my face,
Shove me to the wall, that’s my place,
Punch my chest, kick my head,
I fend off the blow. And now I’m dead.

For you’ve found the impetus enough for you,
Though I’ve stopped you, you take your revenge,
I see it double inside you as i double up too,
For many are the offences I could avenge.

I could easily kindle that evil in me,
Take hold of your rage and reciprocate,
Your anger as mine, now pure and clear,
But surrendered to the void of fear.

I know and see that you’ve suffered,
I’ve been racked by your loss unsalved,
If I could, I would offer you comfort,
But I found the healer was killed by the cure.

And now with my heart spent,
I am poured out and empty,
All I have left are questions
To ask of you, one or two, if I may?

Will you let this dissolve you?
As you enjoy the hurt cast on others too,
Now, my question is better said:
Would total revenge be a comfort to you?

Or would it, a second one, if I may ask,
Be a false cure to a pain eternal,
An acid that melts a dying heart,
And bile that burns your mouth?

Perhaps I may suggest an answer,
Diffcult though it may yet be.
A hope perhaps still shrouded
But it may be happening to me.

Out beyond the passing pain,
Lies a desert now watered by rain,
And in it an oasis of comfort and healing,
Where you’ll rest and regain your healing.

And there you will rest and be restored,
There you’ll receive a power conferred,
There you’ll learn to love your suffering,
And that will be the superpower.

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