Options are my Opiates

Recently I saw an article about writing or being a writer contributing to being bi-polar and it is no accident so many WordPress articles cover topics on the whole range of mental anguish.   For a writer, any scene from The Shining is enough to turn you away from a keyboard faster than a surfer from the water after seeing Jaws.  There is an alternative.

Mental anguish manifests itself in so many ways for so many people and for so long.   In fact Sherlock Holmes put it simply “The pain of the mind is far greater than the pain of the body.”  Having spent some time in hospitals and under the knife long before reading the World’s most famous detective (and by the way, the world’s most published individual), mental pain was always greater than physical pain.  Writers block also seems to send people close to the edge as much as anything.

Stayatworkfatherofthree is NOT a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker and lacks empathy for the most part, with all the sympathy of a tiger.  Nevertheless, my life has always been about “giving while living” long before learning who Chuck Feeney was.  Having been born with Poland’s Syndrome and often being the only Asian face in class and more often than not the shortest in the school, no obstacle has hindered as much as mental anguish.  I found a solution along the way and am sure you will too.

When I left Hong Kong, many of my friends were holding down high paying jobs and taking anti-depressants on a daily basis and so proud happy pills could help them achieve more than those not without this open secret weapon.  Most of the entire generation above us is on mood altering medication.  And now everywhere I look people are suffering in increasing numbers.  It is perhaps the biggest issue since starvation in the 80s.  Perhaps when there is a Live Aid concert dedicated to all the people who committed suicide, public awareness with turn a better way.

Each of our three children shares a class with children suffering from mental anguish in some form.  We first noticed at our Bangkok school most families lived in high-rise condo apartments with limited contact with nature.  Accordingly, we built a sand pit on our balcony, sacrificing any hopes for a naughty hot tub and filled the remaining space with as many plants and trees we could fit.  Our not-so-quick-fix to give them an instant nature fix without having to go downstairs.

In addition, most of the school Fathers worked in the oil and mining industries, thus not at home much.  These were kids with aggression issues.  But this was even more rife when we got to the Australian suburbs.  Honestly, probably not since the First World War have so many Australian children done most of their growing up without a Father.  The mining industry has a lot to answer for and society is already paying the price on so many levels.

Looking to prevent and reverse the damage done to most people, the cause in most cases has been a lack of options.  Not a lack of choices.  In fact most people, including myself, can be positively paralyzed by some of the choices we have to make.  There is a subtle and less than semantic difference.  Choice is almost certainly something you have do, a decision you have to make.  Options are by their very nature, are optional decisions.  Voluntary in most cases and not essential.  Sophie’s Choice.  Stock Options.  Get it?

You do not choose to be a victim.  You do not choose to be sad, bored or worse.  But things are infinitely unhappy if there is no other option in sight, regardless of how many choices you are faced with.  Many people today feel trapped with no perceived options.  They fail to make good decisions and get further imprisoned.  It might be their finances and work, it might be their family.  Some options might require sacrifices that are too great or unavailable.  Most will hear there is always another way to skin a banana (let’s give cats a break).  But seeing that other way is the issue.  They feel they have no other option.

The paradox is people are also told you can do whatever you want, you are free, you have so much potential, you have so many opportunities, although in their minds, none of that is visible without a hard vision of something tangible.   Then add to that mix, the paralysis of choice.  Choosing what to further study, choosing to re-locate, choosing to talk about it is even terrifying.  Much less choosing what to focus on as your life’s work.  The Phantom of the Opera’s lament, the prison of my mind! rings so loud.

More happily, when I was a teenager, Sherlock Holmes put one way to solve a problem is to use a process of elimination.  That is, once you have eliminated everything that is not possible, whatever remains, however ridiculous or improbable, must indeed be the solution.

My first wife could never identify her dream job.  She had never been able to and as a result was traveled the World ticking off her bucket list, until I met her.  Then after five years together, I handed her a fairly complete list of every type of occupation possible to most school-leavers.  After 90 minutes she had systematically crossed out each occupation that did not interest her.  What remained after a further 15 minutes was a circle around ‘locksmith’.   Ironic as it was the only skill I did not possess as a detective, although no surprise given we had only two weeks previous forked out at weekend night call out fee for a locksmith to help us after both forgetting our keys.

My current wife had no hesitation yesterday as we were walking over a hill to the next bay, to challenge this concept.  Again married to someone who cannot articulate nor identify their dream work, I unconsciously rolled out the above-mentioned old chestnut from Watson’s favorite muse.  Boy did it get thrown back in my face.   A fair Thai to English translation would be “You always have a lofty answer to everyone, although never take simple down to earth action yourself like a normal person.”

Point-taken and why I am writing this morning.  How does one make choices when there are no options?   Well options have been my opiates for a long time.  Making choices are much easier once you have ample options (and the all elusive plan most life coaches, mentors, counsellors and millionaires remind us ad nauseam).

What the World does not need is another self-help book.  What we need is a Guinness Record number of people becoming who they were born to be, doing what they were destined to do and have what they deserve for their efforts.

Please leave a comment if you think my family and I can help.

 

 

 

 

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WHEN THE BOOK COMES OUT

A funny thing happened last night.  You know when you hit a wall, procrastination sets in or you get to the top of the mountain and don’t know what do up there.   When you have talked the talk.  Then the only thing to do is to walk the walk.

When both your sons come home from school with a tale of woe and feel down with the teachers or another student has hit them and you wonder when will the World ever stop fighting.  So we go for a long walk on the beach we live on and talk as we go about how Daddy solves conflicts and pick up some interesting granite and quartz stones, gems if you like.

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We discuss everything from my own school experience with violence and why violence is illegal in most places.  Stayatworkfatherofthree being careful not to point out that while violence is banned in most schools yet rife among adults in the same country as the school.  We eventually settle on a large log of drift wood and Bravo starts hammering it with a pointed piece of granite and makes good headway in gradually cutting it in half.  In the process I show Alpha how cavemen would have once wedged a smaller sharper stone into a split stick to fashion a tomahawk.   The boys calm down, not because Dad is doing something with them.  They are using their hands and their heads are following.

We agree on walking away from violence at school and finding a teacher at all costs if it happens to either of them again.  We always do.  Until the next time it happens.  All ends well and we head home across the road so they can shower before dinner.

Later I take a sunset stroll down to where Sandpiper is berthed and she looks great and serene sitting in the dark water as the night chill comes on.   Further around the point I head into the supermarket and bump into another Father at the school and we get talking about kids.  We talk about the energy they have, we talk about slapping and we talk about kids in crisis.  For the next five minutes I let this younger Father knows the best way to calm a child is to pick them up and hug them while moving to another location so they can see a view of mountain or sea or sky to change the focus of their eyes.  Especially if they have been  inside or too long with eyes closely focused on reading, TV or toys.  Just simply allowing their eyes to re-focus a further distance seems to do the trick.

As we part he says the damnedest thing.  Thanks mate, when’s the book coming out  No question mark required because it is a cheeky rhetorical Australian question to put me in my place among friends.   I cannot stop laughing and wondering why no one has ever said that to me before.   In fact, never having hear it in the 20 years I grew up in Australia, how this gem escaped me.   Moreover, why the hell haven’t I in all these years produced a book.  (The Shining is one reason now I have a wife and kids and becoming an alcoholic like Hemmingway is another.)

Lost in self examination, I leant against the rail at the ferry terminal and watched the water lap against the small granite boulders.   Long before this blog started, I had produced small books at school and even at University.  Then in the throes of my lost years in Hong Kong’s nightlife, my weekly funpack emails were enjoyed by everyone except one uncle who did not have enough bandwidth to download the photo laden program for each weekend.  My magazine articles were published for months every couple of years and it you put them all together with reports we sent to clients every day, they would amount to several books.

Remembering I had our marina key in my pocket, a quick beeline was made to the little resort room open to marina residents and the little library of pre-loved books left by sailors of all description.   Settling for a very short history of the world and now armed with more than 300 pages to fend off random conversations with strangers, headed for dinner.   Reading no more than 40 pages during a tomato gazacho followed by BBQ tofu with avocado and quinoa, the restaurant filled and this was not the ambience to required.  I was done shortly after the table to my right asked for no sauce with their steak and only mustard on the side.  Because not 60 seconds later the table to my left requested the same no sauce, mustard only on the side.  Could they hear each other?  Was subliminal messaging at work.  The bane of the detective.  Not being able to switch off.

Exit Stage Right.  A quick coffee on the way home at Scallywags, the pirate cafe with bodiced waitresses and 30’s music.  The uncomfortable white wrought iron table and chair had the best light for reading.   Served by people who remember your name and piping hot cappuccino, was just reabsorbed in the human migration from Alaska to South America when the owner Pete comes to shake my hand.  “Love the way your are using this space” he says referring to possible the least used table, yet the only one beside the little fountain.  Or was it because I was the only solo diner not looking at a phone?

Respect for books.  They change the tone.  Perhaps the World need a few more, if you can believe there aren’t already.  There, I said this was funny, not hilarious.  But it certainly reminded me to finish reading and writing the ones I have already started.

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.  You were so right Mr. Lennon.

 

Pack-Man Prepares

Forward, choose left or right, right would be through the kitchen then another right down the hall, left and left again was the bathroom.  Pack-Man washed his hands again, this time with a new desire for full time employment.  In a government department no less, nine to five or more and scores of hoops to jump through.   No more random naked lunch time love making at home.   Possibly a tie and suit would be required.  Did he even have long pants that still fit in the waist?

 

Right out of the bathroom, right again to the hall, choose left or right, right this time would be past the laundry, not the kitchen and into the living room.  Forward, choose left door or right doors to playroom.  He nearly always chose the left as it was closer to his adjoining study.  The study without air-conditioning and only a slow winding ceiling fan.  He checked the curtains were closed as a passing truck revved its engine and adjusted the curtains anyway.  Without anymore thought he slipped off his boxer shorts and sat on the towel carefully adjusted on the mesh executive chair.

 

Was this going backwards or forwards?  Wasn’t he happy the civil service had been too full to take him back when he graduated decades ago, as the private sector had always paid more and taken him around the globe and back again.  Like every even numbered year since he started high school and beyond, it would be a year of positive monetary change normally involving a change of work.  Odd numbered years always involved high expenses, if not a near financial disaster.

 

Even numbered year or not, Pack-Man would be prepared.  The right look with the right luggage.  The baggage.  Why couldn’t life be as easily compartmentalized as computer cables?  School kids on bikes raced outside so there was to be no midday love-making.  The baby had skipped her nap and the boys would be home soon too.   Pack-Man got back into his boxers and slid a pair of khaki shorts over for good measure as he went outside pending their arrival before the rain started again.  There was always tonight after the children went to bed.

 

Tonight had already been scheduled to prepare his outgoing president’s report for the school PTA and that was already being delayed by the updating of his resume for the government job.   The one requiring no less than 1,500 words covering past experience and success.   What was it Robin had said?  ‘Success is difficult in the beginning, messy in the middle and glorious at the end’.  It did not have to be glorious.  In fact the less glorious the better.  Pack-Man just needed to be back on the grid.    This would be a final step in a two-year process, but one there would be no going back from.  There would be less freedom, more money, more women, less sex and new, restrictive routines.

 

It was close enough to Lunar New Year to remember Confucius had said ‘there is no freedom without responsibility.’  Even letting some responsibilities go like the PTA, there was still baggage.  The good thing about a desk job was going to be leaving baggage at home.  That would also mean leaving the blow jobs at home too.  Or would it?

 

There was still time to procrastinate.  That was the great thing about celebrating both Chinese and Thai New Years.  If Pack-Man screwed up January 2nd resolutions, which he rarely bothered making, he would put more effort into changes for the year whenever Lunar New Year was scheduled in the cusp of late January and February.  That normally allowed a four to five day mulling period to calibrate how he wanted the year to end up.  Failing that Thai New Year lasted a whole seven days in the middle of April and that is when plans could be pruned down to a beige-like level of activity.

 

This time was a little different.  Urgency was required.  There had a been a constant stream of potential buyers viewing the house Pack-Man’s family were renting.  Now a valuer from one of the potential buyers was coming in two days to inspect and make an estimate.  No bank would give the Pack-Man a loan without proof of at least one locally earned salary.    That’s the only reason he needed to get back on the grid and become a wage slave again.

 

Pack-Man had spent his whole life being mobile.  Ready to move at a moment’s notice.  A minimalist before it was a thing.  Holmes had taught him to keep his mind like a little attic with only the minimum of well kept tools necessary.  Not cluttered with furniture.  He had then at the tender age of eight, applied that to the bedroom in his parents’ home and continued in every apartment he rented, even the ones he bought.  Who needed a sofa when women went straight to bed once you got home?

 

To Be Continued.

Hijacked at almost 3 feet

Well the kids are home from school for a three day long weekend for Australia Day (January 26th) and it is raining too much to visit our boat in the marina.  Everyone was fed dinner early almost as soon as they got home from school or day care in Charlie’s case.

Stayatworkfatherofthree was in the new crib searching the Internet for a custom furniture maker in our area to make a simple round 8-seater banquet table with lazy Susan, when Charlie started her normal twilight whining and shouting, so I took her from my wife’s arms.   After a little cooing and color crayons, I realized my search was hijacked.   I had to engage, resistance was futile, as they say.

So with more crayons and an exercise book left over from Bravo’s 2017 school stationary quota, she was happy to lie on my desk just as Alpha did eight years ago in my first Bangkok office and Bravo did two years later when I was babysitting during work hours.   Loosely scanning the online newspapers and wondering when the rain would stop enough to decorate our boat with Aussie bunting and national flags, I was hijacked again.

The very woman who started, and succeeded, with Australia’s change campaign to have a postal vote on same sex marriage was suggesting, rightly, to have the concept of Australia Day changed to be more respectful of the original people of this land.  Same sex marriage candidates represent close to 11% of our population whereas the original population prior to European settlement represent 2.8% of the census.   

Back in 2008, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a legendary speech taking Australia’s decade old ‘National Sorry Day’ quantum leaps toward reconciliation and meaningful unison of all present citizens.  That day I sat at my top floor office computer looking out across Hong Kong harbor at a population also colonized by the same armies, with one eye looking at the online video of the speech.   His words brought tears of faith in humanity and my colleagues had rarely seen me blubbing at my desk.   Regardless, the mood was set and less than a month later I met Stayathomemotheroffour and my heart was still full of love for all and faith in all nations.

My Father for as long as I can remember had always told me the main difference between Europeans and indigenous in Australia was that the former marked out plots and said “this land belongs to me!”, whereas original inhabitants had a more scientifically accurate refrain of ” I belong to this land.”

So this evening, my daughter has unwittingly taken me on a path to sensibility and without any desire to celebrate our Nation’s date of taking custody of these shores from the original inhabitants, as was so much the custom in past centuries and how present borders have been drawn.  In fact she has taken me right back to my Hong Kong days where it was my devote practice to work in the office on public holidays so my Chinese colleagues could enjoy time with their families.

Those were the days I enjoyed empty streets and a quiet building without interruption or delay and my best ideas would arise.   Freedom to create new strategies and file away at my own pace.   I was single then and exploiting the path less travelled.   Reaping great financial rewards and thinking I was the only one.   That is until last month when we were back in Bangkok and one of our American neighbors mentioned most of his luck and riches have come from working when other people are enjoying a public holiday.  If any thing, my own reasoning has been largely that you can exclusively take any incoming sales enquiries.

More importantly though, it has always been more a lack of interest in resting or partying for the sake of it.   Two years ago I firmly told our founding Partner that Stayatworkfatherofthree does not need any government gazette to tell him when to take a rest from work.    He agreed wholeheartedly and admitted to doing the same.

While tomorrow most of Australia will wear anything with a flag or our Olympic colors and all the nation, even the 2.8%, will wish they were never born anywhere else and love this country as much as anyone.   Most of Australia will also be drinking, some to celebrate and some to forget and commiserate.

You can bet I will be at my desk and hopefully my daughter will be there and I can teach her nearly three year old psyche that we belong to the universe and this planet does not belong to any of us.   That is if her brothers can stop arguing about who owns which toy!

A New Page. A New Moon. A New Room

My own private Havana.  Well almost.   Once I install the stair gate on this home office door to keep Charlie from barging in every five minutes with a new toddler request.

 

As usual, the single bread-winner is has to work in the only room without air-conditioning, although it is the middle of Southern Hemisphere summer and the sea breeze is coming in strong.  At 25km/per hour precisely since 5am when it blew the garden shed door open and this novice sailor checked Willy Weather , a website most of my seaward friend have downloaded onto their phones.

 

It is seven nights since we first moved into this four-bedroom house, and I have since found it was originally built as an Anglican Church holiday camp, hence the A-frame ceiling and functional caterers kitchen layout.  Stayathomemotheroffour has been been up since 7am pruning all the dead branches and leaves from the garden and in a few hours I will be free from mowing large boring, water inefficient lawns belonging to other people.

 

Last Friday our new desk arrived and this the largest desk I have had since 1997.  Two meters by 1.5 meters and originally advertised as a wooden rectangle dining table with four tree-trunk like legs.   It was the display model and had a minor, although visible scratch on one edge of the table top.  At only AUD128 it was a steal.

 

During the same shopping trip we also purchased two bar stools for the counter in the kitchen, although the kids kept unnecessarily climbing on them and so they have been moved in to my own private Havana.   Alpha and Bravo now perch on them sensibly and are learning to use their new laptops and the frustrations of everyday internet use.  By sharing the same desk, this allows Stayatworkfatherofthree to assist with technical problems without having to leave my chair.   Also easy to monitor the content they are consuming.  At the end of the session, we can close the door and that is that.  A right regular home internet cafe!

 

Nothing says Hemmingway like typing under a ceiling fan with sea breeze, humid sun rays and a collage of densely packed foliage outside every window.  Accordingly, we have placed the two green retro tubing banana lounges on the western wall to encourage afternoon sun tans and separated both lounges with a small six-pack ice box to double as a side table for tonics.

 

Well this is only the first week at this new desk, new room.  We will have to see what becomes of it over the next four seasons.  With the new moon, we have only a few minor cleaning and mowing tasks to complete at our previous residence before we return the keys to the agent.  A new unencumbered start in our new home and Bravo is finally turning seven years old this weekend a day before the new school year starts.  A new page indeed.

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