Monday, September 27, 2010


Thursday is usually my Blog Day; the day when I seem to feel most inspired to write a new post. However last Thursday came and went without so much as a Cameo appearance by my Muse. I sat and stared at a blank page. I even wrote a paragraph or two, which I promptly deleted. I just didn’t seem to have anything to say.

However, Saturday was that ‘One Day in September’ which is so special to all fans of Aussie Rules Football - the day when the Grand Final was played. It was to be a battle between Collingwood and St Kilda – neither of which team is of any great importance in our household as Pete is a fan of Carlton and I’m really not all interested in football. Still, Pete was definitely cheering for St Kilda because, he told me, no one likes Collingwood. In fact, he went on to say, apart from the actual Collingwood supporters themselves, everyone else HATES the team.

I asked him why and he immediately began to tell me how they are such ‘dirty’ players, so cocky and arrogant, and, apparently, totally without any redeeming qualities at all. And I found myself remembering another life in which I lived in a household of Essendon fans. At least once during each football season there would be a match between Essendon and Carlton and the menfolk would be glued to the TV. I would hear them yelling at the Umpire every time a decision went Carlton’s way. Each time there was any bodily contact which resulted in an Essendon player ending up on the ground, I would hear them expounding their opinions of the ‘dirty’ tactics employed by Carlton. And, if Essendon lost the match, it was always because the Umpire had favoured Carlton and not because Carlton had actually been the better team on the day.

Nowadays it is all the other way around. When Essendon and Carlton play against each other it is Essendon who are the dirty players and who get all the breaks from the Umpire.

And it suddenly occurred to me that it is all about where you happen to be standing. Are you over with the Blues (Carlton) or are you standing with the Bombers (Essendon) fans?

It follows on from there to ask if Collingwood really are a team deserving of the hatred of the masses, or if this is just another statement coloured by a particular perspective?

Most of our beliefs and philosophies in life are taught to us by our predecessors. Pete’s father was a strong Carlton supporter and Pete grew up believing that the Blue’s were THE team. In the same way, my son, Aaron, grew up believing that Essendon were the only decent team in the AFL. It would be very hard for either of them to change their allegiance to another team. And, if during a match, Pete saw a Carlton player smack one of the opposing team players in the mouth, it would be easier for him to believe that the Carlton player was unduly provoked, rather than to believe he had actually employed ‘dirty’ tactics.

Of course this phenomenon is not confined to Australian Rules Football, or even to sport in general. It is something that spans almost every aspect of our lives. We see things as we have been conditioned to see them.

Oh, for those who don’t know already, the Grand Final was a draw. That means it will be replayed next Saturday and Collingwood can get to feel the love, and the hate, all over again.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happily Ever After


And they lived happily ever after!

Isn’t that the way the fairy tales usually end? Cinderella – Sleeping Beauty – Snow White – they all had to overcome some major obstacles in their lives. Wicked step mothers, ugly step sisters – enslavement, banishment, attempted murder, even drug induced comas that lasted for one hundred years. Yet, at the end of it all, the beautiful princesses got to ride off into the sunset with their handsome princes, to a magical place where they lived out the rest of their lives in absolute bliss.

Of course, as adults, we don’t believe in fairy tales. Yet we still love those feel good movies and novels where, despite a million-and-fifty reasons as to why the relationship in question could never work out, they still end up together. We still heave a sigh of relief when they rush into each other’s arms for that final, long, passionate kiss before the credits start to roll.

Deep down, I suppose we all realize that the fairy tale princesses and the characters in the movies and the novels are all very one-dimensional. Their lives consist of a plot in which they are faced with a challenge. Once this challenge is overcome, they are rewarded by receiving the object of their desires.

It’s hard to discover that real life doesn’t work that way. On numerous occasions I have been the shoulder-to-cry on for friends who were in the midst of some great drama in their lives. I’ve heard them wail
‘All I want is to be happy. Is that too much to ask? I just want to be happy!’

But sometimes it seems to me that we tend to think of ‘happiness’ as a destination. It’s that kingdom where the princesses are living out their joyous existences with their handsome princes. They had to go through quite a bit to get there, but, once they did, they could stay forever.

The sad truth is that happiness is more about choice. It’s true that it’s easier to feel ‘happy’ when circumstances are favourable. But the people to be envied the most are the ones who manage to be happy in the face of all adversity. They are the ones who realize that their lives may never be magically transformed into something wonderful; that they might never get to escape the ugly, imprisoning, dangerous things in their world. And yet they still manage to find contentment, and cause for celebration, in the simple, everyday routines of living – because they make a choice to do so.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Say It


When I’m not Blogging, I’m a cleaner. One of my main jobs is a large public housing complex in the city and I work there four-days-a-week, Monday through Thursday.

Today I was having a really hard time. I have a problem with my right hip which flares up every now and then. I don’t have a label for the complaint, but that doesn’t make it hurt any the less. And it’s Thursday, which means I had five staircases, each consisting of three flights, to mop. 

Believe me, by the time I was finished I was really in pain. All I wanted to do was to lug that mop bucket back to the cleaner’s cupboard and head for home.

A young man came down the stairs carrying a couple of garbage bags. He was heading for the small yard housing the rubbish bins and I had to stand aside to let him past. 

Let me point out here that this housing complex caters to those in the lower income bracket. Many of the people there are unemployed and unemployable. There are some with mental health issues, substance abuse problems, and those who exhibit extremely anti social behaviours. I never make a habit of initiating conversation, or even eye contact, unless it is with a long term resident with whom I’ve established some kind of acquaintanceship. 

This young man was new to me. He was scruffy and unkept and I heard the clink of empty bottles in the bags he was carrying. So I kept my eyes on the ground.

‘Thank you for mopping my doorstep,’ he said as he went by.

I looked up in surprise, and he flashed me a smile.

‘It’s all part of my job’ I told him and he nodded.

‘Well that’s as may be,’ he responded. ‘But I really appreciate it.’

His words may not have eased the pain in my hip, but they certainly brightened my day. 

As a cleaner I am used to being taken for granted. I’m supposed to get in there and do my job with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. The only time a cleaner is usually noticed is when they get it wrong. 

But the young man at the housing complex noticed I had mopped his doorstep and he thought he should say thank you – so he did. And the next time someone does something for me – even if it is just part of their job, I will remember to say ‘thank you’, and to let them know that their efforts are appreciated. 
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Step at a Time


When my step-daughter, Allison, was small, it was quite a feat to get her to sit at the table long enough to eat a meal. She was always so full of energy – with the concentration span of a goldfish. But her father would sit there and patiently encourage her to eat just a little bit more – another four mouthfuls and then she could leave the table.

Allison would heave massive sighs and wiggle about on her chair, and she would load up her fork with the smallest possible amount of food – but eventually she would be able to proudly report 

‘I did it, Daddy! I ate four mouthfuls.’

Her Dad would tell her she was such a good girl and that she was doing so well. But then, while she was still beaming at his praise, he would add

‘Now just three more mouthfuls and you can go to play!’

Strangely enough Allison never seemed to wise up. She would sigh and wiggle, but she would keep spooning up the food. The three would become two, and the two would become one, and sometimes the one would even go on for three or four times more, just until the plate was completely clean.

At the time I used to wonder how on earth he managed to have so much patience with her. Every mealtime became a marathon event and it drove me nuts having to sit there and watch her go through the same routine each time. But, I had to admit it worked. 

Faced with a plate of food, even if it was only a very small serving, Allison seemed to feel overwhelmed. The thought of being forced to sit in that chair for an extended period of time was enough to kill off any appetite she may have had. But, when her father broke the process down into just a few more mouthfuls – it suddenly seemed a lot less daunting. She was still going to eat the same amount of food. She was still going to be sitting at the table for the same amount of time. But, because it was all presented to her in small steps, she felt able to work her way through it – one mouthful at a time. 

Now I am a cleaner. Being a bit past the first flush of youth, I often find the physical demands of my job can really take a toll. Sometimes, just the thought of five staircases to mop can be enough to drain the energy from my body. In the mornings, just stopping to think about all that I have to accomplish during the course of the day will make me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

But I’ve learned to break down my workload into ‘one-mouthful-at-a-time’. I keep telling myself that all I have to do is just keep plugging along and eventually it will all be done and I can go home. Each time I feel the energy levels dropping – each time I begin to feel a bit overwhelmed, I remind myself that there’s only one more bathroom to clean and a couple of floors to mop. Or I only have to finish vacuuming this area and dust all the blinds and I’m done. 

At the end of my working day, I often look back and think to myself ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad after all, was it? I still did the same amount of work. It took me just as long to do it. But, by breaking down the mountain into molehills I made it seem so much less daunting. 

Try it sometime. It really does work.

As a footnote, Allison is now a very successful Chef and she recently catered for a function at which the Governor of South Australia was a guest. She now makes a living from playing with food. LOL.
©Lyn Murphy2010