Friday, 29 July 2011

Manual for a Mechanised Man - Book 1, Entry 2 - Self Worth and Identity

I don't know how to describe myself. And I have even less ability to describe who I am, intrinsically. Trying to do so, at this stage of my life, I suspect is essentially a futile task and so I will turn my mind to other matters about which I have more to say.

Up until the last few years, I was in the closet, so to speak, when it came to many aspects of my disability. At first, this may sound like an odd description given that, as I use an electric wheelchair and, physically, it is obvious that I have some type of affliction, I nevertheless have gone to great lengths to hide or excuse or otherwise explain away those aspects of my disability that I could keep hidden or divert attention away from.

To understand why I have done this, and in some respects continue to do this even now, requires that you appreciate that I have always seen myself as living in two separate worlds or realities simultaneously, but ‘fitting into’ neither.

On one hand, like Pinocchio wishing to be ‘a real boy’, I have spent my entire life trying to live as ‘normal’ as possible. This is not a bad thing and I don't regret this, I wouldn't change it, but invariably tensions arise inside myself when there is a conflict between what my mind wants me to do as a ‘normal’ person and what my body as a ‘disabled person’ is limited to doing, which, obviously is far less than what an able-bodied person can physically do. On the other hand, I know I am significantly disabled but, as most who know me well could witness, I have always felt extremely uncomfortable around other people with significant disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs. One doesn't have to be a genius to realise that I find it confronting to be in the presence of ‘others of my kind’.

I guess a lot of this aversion goes back to the many stays in hospital that I had as a child and the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness I would experience especially when I was having painful surgical procedures. I would look at other children around me who were perhaps in a worse state physically than I was and I would tell myself that I would escape back to my home, my family and friends and my ‘normal’ life eventually and that I would never end up in the condition that I saw some of those children in. It should also be noted that in the late 1970s and early 1980s childrens' hospitals, at least in Sydney, were very dark, drab, foreboding and ominous places. They were not the child-friendly places that many are today in Australia.

Early on, I think I was able to get through a lot of these traumatic experiences by differentiating myself from what I saw around me. I would keep telling myself that I wasn't like the other children. I never thought I was better than them, I remember seeing some children cope far better in this situation than I did, but I would continue to tell myself that it wasn't that I had a disability, my problem was just that I couldn't get around too well; a subtle, but important, distinction at the time.

And so, right back as far as I can remember, I knew I wasn't able-bodied but I didn't feel as though I was ‘handicapped’, as they called it then, insofar as it didn't separate me from the rest of my peer group. Right from the earliest days, I had ‘normal’ friends, I went to ‘normal’ schools and I liked to do ‘normal’ things other boys my age liked, even though I would sometimes need to do them in slightly different ways.

As I got older, and into my teenage years, I began to feel very much like I was a tourist in both worlds but a citizen of none. By that stage I could no longer deny my disability because I began to realise that although I could continue to ignore it, or work around it, or minimise its impact, other people couldn't or wouldn’t do that sometimes - but it was always me who felt the sting of this.

Little by little, I noticed that people would stare at me. Often times, people I encountered would assume I was mentally defective before I had even spoken to them. I found that a great deal of the world around me was off-limits, counters and racks in shops were too high to reach unassisted and many of the buildings were inaccessible - even in my own school. Sometimes, kids who didn't even know me would call me names and then run upstairs if I tried to confront them to taunt me more.

All of this, and numerous other examples I could cite if I wished, solidified in my mind that the more I could hide my disability, the better my life would be. The futility of this should already be apparent, but it didn't stop me trying; and part of me continues to do this even now, more than 25 years on.

Around the same time, aged 10 or so, I began to realise that people weren't sure how to react if I showed emotion and became upset or angry about being the way I am. As an adult, I understand why; but I couldn't when I was younger. I understand now how difficult it must have been to try to console me at these times because there wasn't anything anyone could do to change matters for me. Yet, I was too young to really appreciate or understand that as I do now.

Nevertheless I think that that around 12 or 13, I genuinely was able to make peace with the fact that I couldn't run or play sport and things like that. I would get upset, for example, during mandatory physical education classes when the teachers would ignore the fact that I was there. I was known to be disruptive in these classes and I developed my acid tongue during this period but my indignation arose not so much because I was unable to physically take part in these lessons but because I felt offended that these teachers never attempted to offer me an alternative activity or involve me in the lesson, perhaps in an organisational capacity (for example, timekeeping). I grew to resent being ignored.

On the whole, however, I never shed many tears beyond about age 13 over activities I was prevented, by my own body, from participating in. Yet, there was a growing awareness within me that the world was not designed for people such as me.

I also began to sense a growing pressure to contain my feelings, to not lash out when teased or become upset if overlooked. There seems to be a stereotype of ‘the super-cripple’ a term which I abhor as the ‘C-word’ was often a term of derision hurled at me on the schoolyard - I liken it to the ‘N-word’ when used to insult people with darked skin colour. The ‘C-word’ has such a powerful effect on me that even now, if used innocently enough in conversation, I will give a warning that I simply cannot tolerate its use, and if repeated I will have nothing further to do the speaker evermore, no matter who they are. In a sense, I guess it is my bottom line, it is that point where words become weapons and it is a boundary that I cannot ignore if violated.

Anyway, this term is something I have seen used by other disabled people to describe this same phenomenon. I am not the first person to notice it or attempt to describe it. There is societal pressure to stoically accept one's disability, because I guess that makes life easier for those who interact with disabled people.

Whilst stoically bearing all manner of burdens with good cheer and unflinching optimism, the ‘super-C’ should then go and conquer all manner of obstacles whilst serving as an ‘inspiration’ to all non-disabled people who cross their path. One might even get to be interviewed by Ray Martin! Or at least that is how it is supposed to be.

I think, personally, this stereotype comes from the same mindset as the ‘super-Mum’ stereotype where younger mothers are supposed to be all things to all people; working full-time, staying fit, remaining socially active as well as spending time with the kids and the rest of the family, keeping a full study load, growing award winning roses, baking prize-winning scones and being well-turned-out 24 hours a day, and a nymphomaniac.

I don't see the ‘super-C’ ideal as inherently bad, in fact it is far more desirable than the idea that all people in wheelchairs are a waste of space and should be hidden away from the world, to hopefully die at an early age so as to not bring too much shame to their families (as was the prevailing view as recently as about 100 years ago or even less). The trap is, I think, in believing that you will one day achieve that ideal. It is a race without end - like the term ‘success’ is - and it goes on indefinitely because whilst ever you try to achieve this goal it will always remain out of reach, as there is always more that the seeker can do, there are always things yet to achieve.

I tried throughout my adult life to exceed my physical capacities or limitations where possible, but I got stuck on the treadmill and I became a slave to my own ego and vanity because I was not able to accept, or even recognise or at least intuit, that my body was slowing down in its fourth decade. In my mind, I only had one piece of the puzzle left before I could allow myself to accept that I had made something of my life. I had my own ideas of what a normal life was, but the more I reached for it the further I pushed it away.

I had been too caught up in the same fallacy that in earlier times I would have chided others for placing at my feet. All around me I kept looking at other people and trying to compare my life to theirs. The more I did this the more I seemed to buy into the bullshit that I used to resent so much when I was growing up when people kept trying to pigeonhole me according to their own preconceptions.

I can't explore this thought any more at this stage because there is significant interplay between it and concepts around masculinity and sexuality in the disabled context which I will discuss in the next two entries, but the point I am trying to make at this stage is that central to my own self-image was the idea that I could only have a worthwhile and, therefore, happy life if it was built upon what I called the four pillars - independent living, successful career, healthy social life and a stable and mutually satisfying relationship with a woman I knew loved me.

More or less, I felt that I had done enough to solidify the first three of these pillars but the fourth one was always elusive. Always just out of reach.

And so I was never satisfied with where I was in life and I was always off chasing rainbows. Although in no way seeking to try to put the blame elsewhere, I guess I bought into the Hollywood ideal of what romance should be. I always thought that the right speech at the right time could melt any girl's heart, but life just doesn't work that way as I found out. Often.

The error I made was offloading the responsibility for being happy and feeling of value onto someone else and letting their decisions and choices influence not only my present state of happiness and well-being but also whether or not I was even worthwhile as a person, or indeed had any value at all.

And when it came to questions of validity, in a personal sense, my world was completely redefined when I learnt at age 30 that my neuromuscular condition was almost certainly caused by a genetic mutation and not, as I had always believed, a result of damage caused in utero by a virus or other illness my mother suffered whilst pregnant. We, as a family, were surprised by this news. A non-genetic cause had always been our understanding, based on sound medical opinion, up until about 6 years ago.

For me it was far easier to believe that I had been attacked by some virulent strain of bacteria or something than the thought that the very essence of my being, my DNA, was corrupted, however slight or contained this anomaly may have been. This was a momentous shift in my worldview. I still struggle at times to come to grips with the idea that the very map that built me was error-riddled. I hope that this arose spontaneously and will die with me, making these entries unnecessary. Yet, unless and until I can obtain a definitive diagnosis I will be unable to know with confidence that this condition won't occur again in future generations of my family.

I guess the older I get the less harshly I am judging myself. Like everyone else, I came into the world with nothing and did the best I could with what I had. If I could do my life over again but could carry one message or one idea back with me for a second incarnation it would be this, I suppose: I shouldn't make my happiness or self worth contingent upon someone else falling in love with me; no one else should be given either the responsibility or the power to raise or determine my value as a man. The more I hoped or wished for a woman to find within me something deserving of love, the more eroded any such qualities became, if they existed.

Somewhere along the line, I seemed to lose my authenticity and instead became somewhat of a chameleon trying to be whatever it was that I thought the object of my affection at the time was looking for. If you do it enough, you can lose your connection to your real self. When that happens, you've sold your soul for an unrealised dream.

It all makes sense now, I see it clearly. I'm sure people probably tried to tell me this, those who had some idea about how I saw myself. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to extract yourself from the many mental treadmills we put ourselves on. They use up a lot of energy, but you never seem to get anywhere.

The one thing that I felt I could rely on was my intellect. It has always been my one oasis in an otherwise barren desert. In an ocean of inferiority complexes, that was my one sure, safe port. I am obviously nowhere near as smart as I sometimes thought I was; I simply have a good memory and a knack for writing. I am no intellectual giant, but I am not a mental midget either.

I have three university degrees, all in law, and I take some pride in the fact that I qualified as a lawyer. I have worn this as a badge, a signal to outsiders that despite my physical deficiencies my intelligence has not been stunted. I also wore the fact that I lived independently, and could care for myself, as something of a shield against those who, without even knowing me, were sure I must need an army of carers or lived in an institution.

Now that I no longer have my independence or am gainfully employed, my defensive arsenal is now severely depleted. I really struggle with defining myself in this new paradigm. I keep coming up empty because my dependence on others means I have lost many of the trappings of adulthood.

Although I am finally starting to know myself in a way I have never been able to before – and this has brought me a previously unknown peace of mind – my present circumstances have created entirely new questions and reanimated some very old ones which I thought I had killed off in childhood.

I am no longer solely responsible for my own activities. More correctly, I no longer am the sole determinant of what I can and cannot do. I can't seem to get used to this, it is as if my personhood is rejecting this new reality similar to the way a body can reject a transplanted organ.

All sorts of borders and boundaries have become opaque. I think of Sigmund Freud's quote often that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. What Freud meant was that not everything, always, has a hidden meaning; in Freud's case, he believed most forms of human behaviour arose out of, and because of, deep, underlying and subconscious sexual desires. However, he recognised that occasionally, sometimes things are as they seem. Sometimes a person merely smokes a cigar because they enjoy smoking it, and not because it represents some sort of phallic symbol or primal urge.

In my own case, I am wrestling with properly categorising various statements made to me from time to time and I know I often over-analyse their meaning. For example, if a family member suggests I rug-up before going outside into the cold winter air, or that I remember to go to bed at a reasonable hour because I have to be up early for whatever reason, I invariably find it difficult to interpret these messages and deduce whether or not they have any hidden meaning.

Are these suggestions merely good natured comments that people who care about each other make for no reason other than care for the health and welfare of the person concerned? Is it something everybody says to one another to show they care, and I am only noticing it now because I've become oversensitive? Or is it more troublesome than that?

Are these comments a threat to my individuality? Is there reason to be concerned even if the intent behind them is innocent and genuine? Am I in danger of succumbing more and more to benevolent paternalism, even if this happens as an unforeseen by-product of ordinary familial care and concern? How do I ensure that I maintain my identity as a mature adult whilst at the same time surrendering more and more of my independence as my physical strength slowly dissipates? How best can brothers and sisters and parents and offspring coexist as adults and equals without inadvertently reverting to the traditional roles of earlier years?

Of even more importance, I am still in search of an identity reflective of my present circumstances yet encapsulating the better parts of the person I was prior to my ‘fall’. This is not the first time I have needed to reinvent myself, but do I have one more avatar left?

When I was three or four years old, I had extensive surgery to my hips and spent many months in plaster from about the knee to be armpits. I awoke from surgery as a different person, quite literally. I am told I was more or less the same in terms of personality as I had been prior to surgery but I went by a new name, Eddie. I refused to acknowledge my real, birth name and steadfastly stuck to my new identity. This was more than merely a childish game, I appeared to genuinely believe I was this person – Eddie.

I persisted with this new identity right up until the plaster was removed – indeed, I still own children's books which were inscribed ‘to Eddie’ because I would not have accepted them unless they were given to me under this second guise. I am told that once the plaster was removed and placed in the refuse bin, I bid farewell to the plaster with a wave and announced that I, my real name, was back.

This was obviously a case of dissociation brought on because of a traumatic event as a way to compartmentalise and then discard memories of a period where I was in significant pain and severely restricted by plaster.  Although this has never been repeated, I do retain the ability to disengage myself from a situation should I wish it.

Last year I spent six or seven days with my neck in traction and I remember nothing of it other than the first hour or so. I can think of several other occasions where I have been able to function as if on autopilot, but then retain no memory of doing so afterwards. I should clarify that in all cases I have done this in response to physical pain only.

The fact that I am able to control my mind in this way allows me to think that I have the resources to get through tough situations. I am inclined to think that everyone is so equipped; one just has to know how to turn the volume down on the outside world.

Perhaps my story is unfolding according to some great, unseen plan. I doubt it, but maybe there is a reason for why things are as they are. It is not inconceivable that everyone's challenge in life is to interpret their nature to themselves (to borrow an idea from Sir William Deane). I hope that by sharing thoughts about my own personage, this may help someone who is beginning to think along the same lines as I have.

My warning, though, is against believing others necessarily see life in the same way you do. The risk you run is that after you’ve thought out, compiled and codified your own personal rules of the game – life –  with your own convoluted and rigid logic, you may find yourself alone on the oval because what you've created is either incomprehensible (because no one's a mind reader) or otherwise too troublesome to bother with.

Put another way, it has been my experience that people are more willing to accept you if you are honest about yourself and your capacities. Once you start to hide things about yourself or refuse to acknowledge your own personal realities, whatever they are, you are on a slippery slope and it takes increasingly more effort and mental energy to keep up the charade but eventually it will all start to crumble.

In the end, you don't need to perpetually recite your litany of failures and failings; I am not advocating self-flagellation or public confessions. I am simply suggesting that it has been my experience that if you can retain or rediscover your own authenticity, you are well on your way to… wherever it is that you want to be.

Manual for a Mechanised Man - Book 1, Entry 1 - Self-Image

Everything flows from, is influenced by, or is otherwise affected by your self-image, that is, who and what you perceive yourself to be. The way you feel about yourself determines most of the choices you make in life and, indeed, determines many of the outcomes of these choices as well.

Self-image, to my way of thinking, is not simply one overarching concept but rather an amalgam of at least three distinct areas of expression.

- Self worth and identity;
- Gender; and
- Sexuality.

These may shift, change and/or evolve and morph over time but I sincerely believe that, as with anybody and not just the disabled, the core beliefs formed in childhood and adolescence will shape not just your formative years and early adulthood but will influence you throughout your life.

It is almost impossible early on in life to grasp the full magnitude and extent to which an adult is enslaved and locked inside the prison of their own making, the prison built in childhood from the messages conveyed by society at large, peer groups and self interpretations, feelings and beliefs about one's value, place and role in the world.

Only now, in the last year or so, have I been able to look back on my life so far and begin to notice and appreciate the things I did well whilst also contemplating where I went wrong, and why.

To illustrate, I remember - I must have been in primary school - my teacher was demonstrating on the blackboard during a maths lesson the importance of angles and correct measurement. On the extreme left of the board he drew a circle, representative of the Earth. On the extreme right of the board he drew a second circle, representative of the Moon. He then drew a straight line connecting both circles to demonstrate the path a rocket may take to the Moon (obviously, he did not take into consideration the Earth or Moon's rotation or gravity, as this was merely a simple demonstration designed to illustrate one single point). He then drew a second line starting from ‘the Earth’ on the extreme left of the board but this time he deviated a couple of degrees from the straight path drawn first. The more he drew this straight line, and the closer it got to the right side of the blackboard, the more this second line moved away from the first line and the further it became from its target, ‘the Moon’. The lesson was, of course, that a small deviation - a small angle away from a target - grows greater with distance.

Similarly, and hindsight is always 20/20, I know that some of the more negative beliefs that I formed early in my life have magnified and grown over the years and, not unlike Skynet's realisation in the Terminator movies, I see now that it would have been better to have dealt with them early on, or at least made then more malleable and less rigid in their infancy because, ultimately, they entrenched themselves deeply within my mind. Whilst not fully and overtly taking over and controlling my behaviour, these beliefs have influenced me from the shadows, sometimes playing me like the unseen hands of a puppet master controlling a marionette.

What I am referring to are pretty easy traps to fall into, but perhaps I believe that because it is somewhat consolatory. I also think that any person, able-bodied or not, can fall prey to the type of thinking I will soon describe. Perhaps it manifests more in the disabled, but I really have no way of knowing that for sure.

You would be correct if you detect in my words a hint of regret. Perhaps akin to the regret of a gambler who has just lost money on a foolish bet. But at the same time, identifying these pitfalls enables me to perhaps derive a more accurate assessment of my life to date. I am compelled to do this, and although it is trite to say that one's past determines their future, it is nevertheless true to some extent. I have to make sense, and take inventory, of my life so far. In order to move forward, I need to articulate where I have been and the route I took.

As you read this, and if you are in a similar position to mine, some of what I am saying may make some sense to you or at least you may feel that it touches upon areas that you may be struggling with. I took my bearings from the world around me, like most people do. But in the area of my disability, and more particularly as my disability - for want of a better term - interfaces with people, places and things, I lacked somebody who could truly understand and appreciate the full extent through which my disability defines my character, even when I was sure that it didn't. I am not talking about love, care and empathy; my family gave me that in spades. I am not even referring to experiencing life in a wheelchair, because generally speaking paraplegics have greater mobility than I but I retain full sensation and movement throughout my body. Quadriplegics, even incomplete ones who retain some movement of their arms, generally have less mobility than I do but they often look more ‘normal’ than I, and, if they retain movement in their arms, are generally physically stronger than I am. So there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to understanding, subjectively, a disabled person's reality unless there is a commonality in the features, or symptoms, as they manifest. The rarity of my condition has always felt isolating.

If my words resonate with you, or you think you understand, or most importantly you want to understand, then I will do my best to convey to you what it is to be me, for whatever that is worth. I say this, not with false modesty, that if I have had some achievements in life they should not be too difficult to eclipse as I have needed quite a lot of help. But you shouldn't try to better me or anyone else, you will be far happier if you run your own race and set your own goals. That's what I tried to do, although at times I veered off course, got lost or ignored signposts signalling danger. And you will do this to, it is human nature.

Yet, to shift to a golfing analogy, perhaps my words may serve to point out some of the sand traps, lakes and other hazards whilst also providing some advice on how to stay on course and keep to the greens. For amongst my many failings, I have succeeded in some respects. I have succeeded perhaps almost as much as I haven't. Ultimately, as Sinatra or Elvis used to sing, I did it my way. Or at least I tried to.

Whatever your reality, enjoy the ride. Life is not worth living unless you make it fun.

Manual for a Mechanised Man

The intent of these posts is to write a number of journal entries to a hypothetical descendant born with the same unknown neuromuscular condition as I have.

Each entry will have its own particular theme and will be written as mini-chapters of a cyber-journal. Mini-chapters will be grouped together with others of similar, or related, themes. These groupings of mini-chapters will be called Books. Each Manual for a Mechanised Man entry will be clearly labelled and numbered.

The hypothetical descendant is assumed to be male not only to allow for alliteration in the title, but because the overwhelming majority of people with similar conditions are male. Also, I believe the subjective experience of being wheelchair-bound has a gender specific component to it.

Although I have called it a 'manual', it is more correctly a collection of ideas; a memoir of sorts. It is not an instructional guide, I am not that presumptuous nor do I have many 'answers'. I am just trying to tell my story in the hope that - family or not - someone, somewhere, sometime finds a portion of what I have to say useful. 

I anticipate that these entries will be time-consuming and likely somewhat emotionally draining. I do not expect that it will be possible to write more than one per week.

At this stage I have no idea of how many of these entries I will write but I do plan on interspersing these posts with other more general posts on my blog to change the pace and add some variety.

Finally, I am laying myself bare in these entries. I have chosen to reveal much of my inner-self. I respect whoever reads this material enough to truthfully describe, without editorially sanitising, my life and my thoughts. I trust that should you come to quick judgement about me, you will refrain from condemning me too readily. I haven't set out to convert or influence anyone to my world-view, indeed I am the first to admit that I have made many mistakes. I am simply trying to understand myself and my world a little better and if doing so in this way can help another on a similar path, I consider that I will have done something worthwhile. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

On Monarchy and Immaturity

As a species, we humans have made significant advances. However, there are many aspects of modern life where we remain less evolved than we ought to be; allowing millions to starve, the proliferation of needless wars and the rise and spread of predatory capitalism are three examples. Generally, though, at least in the West, living standards are improving and people are becoming more sophisticated than ever before.

Yet as I have watched the news, and observed the media lately in its various forms, I have been staggered by the sheer volume and breadth of the coverage that a certain recent ‘royal’ wedding has received and all the pomp and hoopla that has surrounded the main players, the event itself and its aftermath (the ‘royal’ tour to Canada for example).

Why do people care about this? I realise that we live in an age of hyper-celebrity but this is unparalleled. Given the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, and the explosion of social networking and entertainment media, these nuptials have surpassed Charles and Diana's wedding 30 years earlier. Isn’t this circus just a little silly?

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, most of us know that. The Governor-General is the representative of the monarch and performs a largely ceremonial function although she retains the power to exercise significant reserve powers under our Constitution (such as dismissing a government) whist serving, in a strict legal sense, as the nation's Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

I have no difficulty with, or objection to, our constitutional framework other than that we have a monarch as our titular Head of State. I strongly believe that Australia is overdue to become a republic.

I advocate a minimal change. I don't suggest we model our constitutional arrangements on the United States of America (as an example); all that's required is that the Australian Governor-General, and the Governors of each of the States, sever their ties to the British monarchy and therefore not act as a Vice Regal representative of a foreign power (yes, I realise that technically QE2 is the 'Queen of Australia' but that is a matter of semantics. She is no more Australian than Genghis Khan was!). I see no difficulty with retaining the titles ‘Governor-General’ or ‘Governor’ although we could call this new Head of State ‘President’ or some other title to differentiate it as a new office. I have no strong feelings either way.

The British monarchy, and any monarchy in a modern developed Western society, is an outdated relic from an earlier time, namely the feudal period of the Dark and Middle Ages. Why do people continue to cower down and fawn over these people? Why are they given so much unearned privilege? I find it really bizarre and quite immature.

I am sure William is quite a nice guy. His father is a little weird, but he seems harmless enough. His paternal grandmother is a little bit stuffy though, but she seems really into her job and it’s commendable that she is continuing to work full time well into her mid-80s. Wills' paternal grandfather though seems like a bit of an old wag and it sounds as if he was pretty wild in his day. I think I would have liked to have gone out on the razzle with him back in his heyday in the 1940s.

Nevertheless, I have never been able understand why our society has this crowd on such a pedestal? What exactly is it about them that puts them over and above the rest of us? Not only do I have this question as regards ‘royalty’, but also with ‘aristocracy’ more generally.

I understand that back in times-gone-by the landed gentry, as it was then, owned vast tracts of land and many of the villagers would work for ‘their lord’ on this land. These Dukes, Earls and the like (invariably male) would in turn pledge a portion of their revenue to the sovereign and provide him (usually) with troops in times of war called up from the among the peasants. I understand how and why this system developed but what I don't understand is why we are continuing in the modern era to tolerate the monarchy, and even strengthen it by showering so much adoration upon its principal actors?

The British ‘royal’ family is nothing more than a soap opera, the Bold and the Beautiful comes to mind. Charles is a lot like Ridge Forrester with a comb-over and Diana and Camilla was/is reminiscent of Brooke and Taylor respectively. Philip definitely has a bit of Eric Forrester's swagger and Elisabeth reminds me of the scheming Stephanie, the family matriarch. Of course, I don't watch this program myself you understand? My, er, um, neighbour always talks about it...

I'm not trying to tear these people down because they are wealthy and famous. I do believe that the world's fascination with the celebrity phenomenon has begun to get out of hand, but I am not criticising them because of their wealth and influence. My principal criticism is that, unlike most celebrities (of the Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen or Britney Spears variety) the British ‘royal’ family, and indeed the other ‘royal’ families of Europe, are influential not because of their own intrinsic qualities but rather because they have been born into power.

The average-garden-variety entertainment celebrity has (in the overwhelming majority of cases) actively worked to achieve their level of fame. They have put real effort into their career and they have been brought into the forefront of global consciousness, if I can call it that, as a direct result of their skills, talents and abilities (however limited they seem to us the viewing/listening public). One doesn't need to like or respect a particular celebrity or even recognise their talents (or lack thereof) to realise that their fame (or infamy) is the product of their own efforts. This is not the case with ‘royal’ families. Why are people twice or even three times William's age bowing and curtseying before him? Although he seems like a rather impressive young man, I simply don't understand why such deference is paid to him and the other members of his family?

Taking the case of William for the purposes of illustration, other than the genes swimming around in his body, what exactly is it about him that puts him on such a high pedestal? If we are excluding his ‘royal birthright’ then it can't be due to the identity of his parents. To my knowledge, he doesn't produce works of art, nor is he a movie or television star (again, excluding his ‘royal’ character). He doesn't perform life saving brain surgery on infants nor does his alleged charity work set him apart because he would not be patron (or otherwise engaged to the extent he is) of so many charities if it wasn't for his lineage. And his military career is unremarkable.

I'm not suggesting that we abolish all forms of social hierarchy. I'm not an anarchist. Every nation on earth, except perhaps some of the so-called ‘failed states’, have a government and representatives from amongst the citizens are chosen to serve in these governments. In many cases, these representatives are democratically elected, although in some communist states, for example, there are other means of selecting government officials (and it is beyond the scope of this opinion-piece to discuss this in any great depth). My point is that it is impractical to have a truly egalitarian society at this point in human development. We are not yet that highly evolved. But I think that societies, particularly Western societies, can do a lot better than selecting or entrenching members of a particular family as Head of State (with membership of that family serving as the sole selection criteria for office).

The present ‘royal’ family of the United Kingdom are not even of Anglo descent. They are German. Their name was changed to Mountbatten because of the anti-German sentiment in Britain following the First World War. They are also known by the surname Windsor and that name was chosen last century because of its connection with one of their palaces. They appear to have difficulty in settling on a surname because William and Harry have also gone by the surname ‘Wales’ whilst at Military College. And to make matters even more confusing, they belong to the House (dynasty) Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of Germany. I bet they are pleased that fell into disuse prior to the Second World War!

There is no easy way to say this but this family tends to, shall we say, ‘keep to themselves’ insofar as continuing on the family line is concerned. ‘Royalty’ tends to interbreed far more than most other sections of the community. By way of illustration, Philip-the-Greek (born Philip, Prince of Denmark and Greece, although in fact he is 7/8th German) is himself in the line of succession to the British throne in his own right, independent of his marriage to Betty. When you actually sit down and look at their family tree, as I have done, it is a little bit icky to see the extent of familial connection. If one forgot the family's European derivation, one could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at a hillbilly family tree from the Appalachian Mountains in America (think Deliverance, the 1972 film)

In earlier times, ‘royalty’ claimed a Divine Right to Rule. It was commonly believed that the Divine Right of Kings was ordained by God. That is, Kings ruled by the express will of God. They had God's sanction. In our increasingly secular society, the Divine Right of Kings loses its imprimatur. Why, then, do we continue to support the monarchy? They are flesh and blood like the rest of us - sorry David Icke, I don't believe they are shape shifting reptoids - but they are parasites. They continue to suck shamelessly on the public purse, whilst domiciled in Britain or ‘on tour’ with their travelling road-show.

As I said, Willy seems nice enough but he's no genius. He hasn't cured cancer. He hasn't brought peace to the Middle East and he hasn't won an Oscar or the Eurovision song contest. Neither have I, and that's my point. What's with all the bowing and scraping around him? He's just a man (to quote Rocky in Rocky 4).

Did you know it is still an act of treason in the UK to sleep with the wife of a sovereign? More particularly, it is treason “if a man do violate the King’s companion, or the King’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife of the King’s eldest son and heir”. That's ridiculous!

Notice that this act is considered treasonous irrespective of whether the ‘violation’ has occurred with consent. We are not talking of rape or sexual assault, which is abominable irrespective of who the victim is, we are talking about consensual sex. Should James Hewitt be worried? Notice also the sexist slant to this? Presumably, princes can go about getting all the nookie they like. And why not, they are princes!

Speaking of sexism, Betty-Boop is only in the job because she doesn't have a brother. I can think of no other public office that retains such sexist hiring practices (the Catholic Church is not a public institution, in Australia at least!).

When I was admitted as a solicitor in 2000 (and the practice continues), we were forced to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen at the admission ceremony. I kept my fingers crossed throughout, though; my own little act of rebellion. I was amused that we could choose to swear the oath (that is, before God) or affirm it (God-free).  So, invoking the name of the Supreme Lord and Master of the Universe (if he/she exists) is optional, but pledging loyalty to Old Liz is mandatory! Who dreams this stuff up?

It amazes me that there are still plenty of monarchists about in Australia, and many of them are not functionally brain-dead above the brain stem; although you could be forgiven for thinking so.

Again, republicanism does not require radical change. We don't even need a popularly elected President if this is a concern to those who worry about us becoming too "Americanised" (or should I have spelt that "AmericaniZed"?). There could be a body such as a Constitutional Committee made up of diverse segments of our society who could appoint (possibly after confirmation by Parliament - I'm amenable to any reasonable solution) an outstanding Australian, possessive of whatever qualities we as a nation deem appropriate and commensurate with the role, to be our Head of State and represent us on the world stage.

Monarchism is twisted paternalism, although I recognise there may be some societies in the world that may not yet be ready to throw off the yoke of hereditary rule. We in the developed world however are ready for such a change. Monarchy is simply organised, group immaturity. Australia may not have been ready to out-grow it at Federation in 1901, but are ready 110 years later.

Please remember this thought if it makes sense to you; each person is unique and we are all special. I sincerely believe that. Next time you see a person on the TV bow or curtsey to a ‘royal’, I humbly suggest that you think about how degrading that is. It is stupid, infantile and unnecessary. Instead when you see that, how about you give a hug to a loved-one or tell them that you appreciate them? It doesn’t matter what you do, just share a moment with someone near and dear to you.

Our loved ones are the people to be honoured, cherished and respected. They are the people to be revered and celebrated.

Not some fool in a crown.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Slipping the Straitjacket

Slipping the straightjacket is my expression for disengaging myself from correlating happiness and emotional wellness with the judgements or opinions of others. In a sense, I am freer now than at any other point in my life. As ironic and counter intuitive as that sounds, especially since I've lost so much of my independence, psychologically I feel liberated and unconstrained in expressing myself.

I have nothing left to lose. I know this. I understand what it means. I see the implications of feeling this way.

Have you ever have a bad head cold and been heavily congested, your nose and ears blocked? Have you ever pinched your nose closed with your fingers and snorted, thereby unblocking your ears? At that moment as your ear canals become unblocked by air pressure, the sensation – at least with me anyway – often feels as through your head has burst through an unseen barrier, like a bubble bursting. I have felt somewhat similar, with respect to my life generally, as I have been writing on this blog. I have felt the pressure on me begin to dissipate as I have found a release. I have moved past a barrier of sorts; speaking metaphorically, I have burst through a blockage, a membrane, and now there's stillness. Freedom. I am unrestrained in a very real sense.

I am not trying to protect anything any more. I have no cause to be concerned about what an employer or co-workers may think of me. I know my family love me no matter what. I would hope that my friends care for and respect me, and I don't intend to do anything to diminish or invalidate that. But I am not trying to impress anyone anymore. I am not trying to find a girlfriend. I'm not trying to network or boost my reputation. I'm not trying to be something I'm not, and I will no longer allow others' perceptions of me affect the quality of my life. I am becoming more at ease with me. The mental self-flagellation is abating.

I feel released from worry about what people think of me and I no longer fear disappointing anybody. I am living what I regard as quite a benign sort of life these days. I am trying to be a good person - I think I have always tried to, although results have varied on occasion. I am choosing not to turn myself inside out because someone else can't accept me for who and what I am.

I used to really worry about what people thought of me. I used to worry that people sometimes thought I got special treatment because of my disability or that I played on it at times to get my own way. I am as flawed a human being as anyone else and at times I have traded on it, but it has always been my belief that I didn’t do it as often as some may have suspected or in the areas some may have assumed I did.

I think it is implied elsewhere in this blog, and most especially in the Revelation chapter, but it’s worth stating specifically that although I am writing in such a frank and candid manner, I am not revealing these thoughts because I am looking for sympathy, or pity, or that I’m looking for attention or seeking to give anyone a guilt trip. I acknowledge that it is entirely possible, based upon what I have shared so far, for such an interpretation to be made. However, that is not my intention.

The Revelation chapter sets out, I hope clearly, why I am writing this blog in the way that I am. Adding to what I have said in that section of my blog, I am trying to understand not only where I am in my life now, but also how I got here.

I have had an urge to write for a very long time; long before the events of the past few years. Yet, I don’t possess the creativity to write fiction or the desire to read it. I read non-fiction almost exclusively. In part, this blog derives from my desire to begin writing now; I have sat around (metaphorically as well as literally) for years waiting for the perfect idea for a novel to come into my consciousness but it never has.  

Then it occurred to me that, although not unique or special by any means, my life has been different. I look at the world a little differently I guess, and it is perhaps worthwhile to try to capture some of this information whilst I still can and whilst I still want to. Moreover, I feel I need to try a different method of dealing with my thoughts and strong emotions.

Throughout my life I have had two ways of handling stress, turmoil or sadness; (1) keeping it contained and compacted until it bursts out, seemingly from nowhere and often if I had been drinking, or (2) over-venting or excessively sharing. 

I would often swing between these methods, in a pendulous yet erratic fashion. I think in many ways I have been on a quest to not only understand myself better, but also to feel that those around me understand as well.

The thought occurred to me today that it is a measure of the quality of my friends and family that the comments I have received about my blog have been, without exception, positive, supportive and encouraging. No-one has queried my motives or suggested that I was fishing for compliments or seeking sympathy or consolation. I deeply appreciate that those who have read my blog seem to have understood what I am trying to do. And say.

I will soon begin to discuss a range of issues through the prism of my mind and from my perspective as a person who has used an electric wheelchair for the past 31 years. From time to time, people have asked me questions about what life is like in an electric wheelchair, and I’m going to start to writing about many of these issues in my Manual for a Mechanised Man series of posts.

The intent is to write a number of letters or journal entries to a hypothetical descendant born with the same unknown neuromuscular condition as I, each letter with a particular theme. The hypothetical descendant is assumed to be male not only to allow for alliteration in the title, but because the overwhelming majority of people with similar conditions are male. Also, I believe the subjective experience of being wheelchair-bound has a gender specific component to it. I will discuss this further in future posts.

The Manual for a Mechanised Man series will be a subgroup of posts within the main blog. Of course, my blog isn’t exclusively about my disability, or disability issues more generally, and I will continue to post randomly on other topics as the mood takes me.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

I'm loving the new tv adverts running for Shine Lawyers fronted by none other than cruisader-turned-minor celebrity Erin Brockovich (playing herself, this time. I assume Julia Roberts was either too busy, too expensive or both).

The steely gaze-to-camera work is a nice touch, Erin, although I have a couple of questions:

1.    Who straightens your hair? (Mine is rather unruly at present and could use the deft hands of a skilled haircare professional); and
2.    In what capacity do you 'work with' Shine Lawyers?

I'm a bit confused.

I though Erin B's story was noteworthy because she took on the big-boys and beat them at their own game, whilst all the while having no formal legal qualifications herself? Has she now gained some law quals? (legitimate ones, not honorary) Yay for later-in-life-learning if that's the case!

But if so, doesn't that take some of the shine (sorry, couldn't resist!) off her marketability as an 'underdog' or 'average Jo(sephine)'? If indeed she has picked up a few certificates in the US, that doesn't automatically entitle her to practice law in Queensland. There are some things I still remember from all that book learnin' I did ya know! 

I suspect - call me psychic - that she's been far too busy post-biopic to enrol in any mature-age study. And, who could blame her; she didn't need any back in the 90's so why mess with success now, right?

So what on earth is she doing at Shine Lawyers? In her own words she states [they are] 'a firm who shares my passion for taking on tough cases… I work with them and I trust them.'

It's a fair question, given that the tv spot really plays up the point that she's on the team. Has she relocated to Queensland, or does she tele-commute?

If I became a client, could I phone her up for some advice? (Non legal, of course, I wouldn't want to get anyone in trouble with the Law Society!) Could I ask her how I could get my hair arrow-straight, or have my own biopic made? (I'm pushing hard for Dave Grohl to play me, but I'd settle for Adrien Brody).

I'm just curious, as all. I'm surprised to see somebody spruiking a law firm - a firm they work with - who isn't a qualified legal practitioner.

What's next? If someone tells me the man in the captain's uniform on the Flight Centre ads is not a fully qualified airline pilot, then I might just never trust anyone ever again!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Launch Day

Today I unvailed my blog. It's zero hour. The window on my weirdness is now wide open.

It's just what the internet needs, another blogging basketcase...

Thanks to anyone who drops by. Welcome.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Naked Birthday

I know it hurts, what you believe:
That everything is just as seems

The walls are cracked, the road is long
And I can't tell if their will is that strong

To force a change in the light to relieve you of strife
To force a change in the heart as it all comes crashing down

You never will see it,
You never will know,
You never will feel it,
But where did you go?


                                                     Naked Birthday
                                                     Switchblade Symphony


36 years, today. Fuck, am I really that old? I still laugh at fart jokes. I still giggle at the words poo and doodle, and I'm growing my hair again just as I did when I was 18. 

Am I really that old? Am I 4 years off 40? Or should I spell it - forty - so it doesn't look so... so... so OLD?

I realised today that my 18th birthday was now the mid point of my life thus far. Half of my life was as a minor, and half as an adult. 

Fittingly, today is the beginning of the 3rd epoch of my life's trilogy (0-17, 18-35 & 36-53). For now I won't think beyond 53, although I would dearly love to be around as long as I can. It's not worth thinking about at this stage though. At present, I shall think in terms of the trilogy.

For the first third of my life I dreamed, I wished and hoped. In the second third I did, I fought, I reached and I achieved. 

But in this middle phase I forgot who and what I was in the process. Effort demands payment, and my debt was deferred for a time. My body is making me pay for it now though; the debt has been called in. Yet I retain my memories and what I have done cannot be taken away from me. And so I am seeing that it wasn't all for nothing, I did purchase something for my efforts. I bought myself a life.

I am evolving and devolving; progressing and regressing. A causal loop has linked the end stages of the second epoch to the first. Once again, I am wondering why I am like I am, what my capacities are and trying to understand how best keep moving my life forward. There are still some things I want to do with my life, I'm not finished yet.

Three months ago I was dead inside, my mind a toxic wasteland, a nuclear graveyard, everything scorched and burnt, utterly desolate. Now, in many ways I have returned to feeling much like I did as a teenager; insecure, uncertain, somewhat angry but nevertheless thinking about the future and planning how to make my life better whilst making the most of my circumstances. For the first time in a while I am thinking like a person who wants to engage with the world, although it will be different this time.

This is a rebirth of some sort. I’m starting over, from scratch in some areas, because the way my disability has changed means some of my capabilities have not survived the transition into this third epoch of my existence. I’m learning how to calibrate myself after this reconfiguration. I’m awakening in an unfamiliar place. Today is not too dissimilar to July 16, 1993 when I entered adulthood or 16 July, 1975; the day of my birth.

…Another naked birthday.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Alt-Ctrl-Del

Can a person be reimagined? Rebooted? I see it happen a lot with Hollywood movies; someone takes an existing concept, or a character, or a story, or all three, and changes it, reconfigures it, re-models, re-shapes and updates it in line with contemporary culture. Sometimes this is done well, although most times it is not.

A remake, if done with care and skill, doesn't need to try to eclipse or overshadow the original or erase it out of existence, although retroactive continuity is commonplace. A quality reimagining should respect the first version as the archetype while endeavouring to carve out its own niche and acceptance as an alternative version more suited to changing times. It should draw upon and harness the essence and spirit of the first incarnation whilst taking the narrative in new and previously unimagined directions. Ideally, it should spring from a far larger amalgam of knowledge, experience and skill than existed at its progenitor's creation.

Can a person do this to themselves? Should I try it? Am I already doing it now?

I'm not talking about forgetting, or pretending or role-playing. I don't want to drink from the river Lethe (the River of Forgetfulness, in Greek mythology). I don't wish to convince myself that the past was illusory or did not exist but I wonder if it would be easier if my present reality was a little less hardwired into the main branch line of my time-continuum, if I could look back at the past with greater detachment almost as if it happened to my twin.

If I were able to reset myself, to do a fresh reboot, I could view and feel the tangible and intangible losses sustained in my present reality through somewhat anaesthetised eyes and heart. I could interpret what I experience during my more contemplative periods is merely an empathy for an identity that, whilst inextricably and intimately related to my-self, nevertheless is ultimately a separate, although closely intertwined, person.

Usually, empathy for another is, although powerful, an emotion that is of less intensity than inward, personally focused, sorrow, regret, anger or grief. Those stronger emotions would thereby be wrapped up in that first incarnation and, like changing characters midway through a computer game or changing horses mid-race, ideally I could dismiss those thoughts and feelings as being the property – baggage – of another person, not the me existing now.

We all live our lives through, in and from the six or eight inches between our ears. It is the true home of each of us. I think I might renovate mine.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Aesthetic Inconsistency

It would come as no great revelation to those who know me that I am somewhat stylishly-challenged. On occasion I have caught the odd episode of Project Runway on cable, but that is about the extent of my exposure to visual art and design concepts. No, that's not completely correct, now that I come to think of it, I did see the last 10 minutes of a program on the ABC which was made, I think, by the BBC which was on at around 4 AM one Sunday morning eight or nine years ago that was presented by an octogenarian nun who had the biggest set of buck teeth I have seen since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1989.

But, yes, you could say that when God was dispensing artistic talent pre-birth to the class of July 1975, I must have been down at the Pearly Gates pub, slamming down shots and ‘chasin’ hos’ with my homey Fiddy Cent, who was born a week prior to me. Word.

But I digress.

Now, I guess the elephant in the room is, why did I choose this particular background picture/wallpaper?

A reader may well ask, How am I to reconcile the clear incongruency, the dissonance, between the blog’s title and its wallpaper?

My response would likely be threefold. I'd begin with an admonishment for asking the question in such a wanky and pretentious manner before, secondly, attempting to ridicule the inquisitor for nitpicking, pointing out that this is my first attempt at blogging and I am on a rather steep learning curve. I'd conclude by explaining that after several hours of frenzied photo-shopping dozens of suitably vivid and infernal images, none of my creations would be good enough to hang on the back of a toilet door in a Soweto crack house (assuming, of course, that these places actually have toilet doors), let alone on my first attempt at web publishing (which I am trying very hard to make presentable!)

And so, I was left to take the action that any former lawyer would do in the same circumstances – I borrowed (plagiarised) from something I found using Google. In my own defence, my hand was forced because, as someone utterly devoid of even a scintilla of creativity, I was unable to make any text/background colour combinations work, other than black text on a white background or its inverse.

I did, for a while there, experiment with an awful yellow, orange and red swirly thing, which I attempted to draw myself. Unfortunately, parts of the black text were being lost in the orange and red swirley bits, and changing the font to white caused parts of it to get lost in the yellow bits. I eventually gave up, as I thought there was a fair chance that because that creation was so hard on the eye it easily could induce epileptic seizures.

The bleeding heart was selected as it was the first wallpaper with a white background that I found (from what seemed like hundreds) that didn't feature flowers, sunshine or puppy dogs. Believe me, it just didn't gel with this whole brooding, tortured writer thing that I've got going on.

That's not to say that there aren't any brooding, tortured writers who like flowers, sunshine or puppy dogs – I sure do, and I bet others do as well – but it just doesn’t seem to me to be the most masculine means of artistically revealing one's sensitive side.

To this end, I'm sure I'm not the only bloke to realise that nothing conveys Yeah, I’m really deep and into writing about my feelings and all that other chick stuff’ like a picture of a disembodied myocardium. Right?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What’s in a Name?

The Forest of Burning Dreams symbolises the place where I keep my aspirations, desires and hopes. I use this symbolism because of its vivid and evocative imagery; blazing, towering columns of fire, searing heat, the loud crackling of ferocious combustion and the creaks of structures giving way and collapsing into themselves whilst encased in an immolating, infernal cloud (think Bavaria’s Black Forest, relocated to the centre of Hell).

I first began using the term years ago, but I don’t claim to have originated it. I do, however, believe that it came to mind independent of having read of it or heard of it somewhere, but I don’t rule out subconsciously assimilating it from some obscure song I may have heard.

It’s obviously a variant of Boulevard of Broken Dreams (which is, of course, a reference to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and a Green Day song of the same name) and, so, coming up with it doesn’t exactly make me the next Neil Gaiman or Billie Joe Armstrong (or, indeed, Neil Armstrong for that matter. Come to think of it, at this stage I’d be chuffed if I were able to make one small step anywhere, least of all the moon!).

At any rate, I used it as a screen name or gaming alias starting from late in my industrial metal period, right on through my goth period, past my goth/metal period and all the way into my darkwave/ambient/symphonic/thrash/doom metal period. At that point I felt like a change and started listening to hillbilly bluegrass and began using the moniker Cletus Clearwater-Revival, but I’ll save that for a later entry… *grins*

And so in search of a title for my blog, and wanting something distinctive (no mean feat on the internet nowadays) I resurrected this old chestnut.

In terms of the meaning I attach to this title, and I suppose it is somewhat gratuitous, I acknowledge that, I see the Forest of Burning of Burning Dreams as having several levels of meaning. Back when I first used it, it was simply something I thought sounded a little edgy and dark but now see several dimensions to it. 

Obviously, burning dreams connotes depression, despair and aborted ambitions, which, of course, I have felt a little of as these past few years has seen me lose a great deal of things I value since my disability has worsened. I will likely touch on some of this in future posts, but, yes, that’s one aspect of the meaning behind the name.

Moving beyond that, however, I see two other layers of depth. Firstly, I often envisage my inner drive, my primary motivational source, as a firestorm or furnace. I guess when it comes down to it a lot of what it is that has driven me try to achieve some of my life’s goals has been fuelled by a type of constructive rage. It’s an anger to try to make thing better, I guess. The issue is trying to keep it at a healthy level, to keep it contained. I use a lot of analogies, and the one that comes to mind to illustrate this point is that of a person, outdoors, sleeping under the stars beside a fire. The fire can keep the person alive, by staving of hyperthermia and allowing the cooking of food, but, if an accelerant, say, petrol is thrown onto the flames, and the sleeping person is too close, they’ll be burnt alive. The fire represents something inside of myself, something I must respect but not lose.

Of even more significance, now, at this point in my life, a burning forest represents renewal and rebirth following disaster. I don’t profess any significant arboricultural knowledge but I understand that naturally occurring bushfires are a necessary element of ecological regeneration. They leave death and destruction in their wake, but after the flames, new life and a new cycle emerges. I hope for this as my life moves forward following the tremendous upheaval I’ve experienced since my disease worsened in 2009. Some dreams of mine have died as my circumstances have changed, there’s no escaping that, but I am replacing them with some new ones that are better suited to my life as it is now. The inferno simply clears the way. Or so I hope.

For me at least, the Forest of Burning of Burning Dreams is like most things in life; neither wholly positive nor wholly negative. I briefly pondered using another one of my multilayered aliases, A Smashed Crab – given (1) I’m a Cancerian [even though I think astrology’s a load of shit], (2) formerly drank too much on occasion and (3) am pretty unattractive – but I’m comfortable with my choice. It’s not like I’m naming a child or choosing a tattoo design…

Prologue

I am at a crossroads.

Behind me, I leave a life which I had slowly built; a life where although I knew my limitations, I could work within them.

Before me now lies uncertainty and increasing disability. The future has become cloudy.

The very fabric of my reality is transforming, and I see that my ability to influence the course of many of the interwoven strands of my life’s tapestry is diminishing. Entropy is increasing, just as the laws of the universe dictate.

My sense of self, my personal identity, has been the first and greatest casualty of this transition. It has not, and could not, survive without some degree of transfiguration.
I retain the essence of who I was, who I am, but the avatar is morphing. I am reconfiguring.

My journey is no more significant or special than any other person's passage through life, yet I consider that there are some aspects of my story, whilst not unique, may nevertheless be uncommon and of interest to some.

I am at an age where most people are having and raising children, and are passing on their knowledge and experience. That will not be part of my future, but I believe that some of what I have seen, thought and done in my life may be of some small value to those whose sojourn echoes some distant similarity to my own. Or else, I wish it to feel that I am leaving behind a remnant of myself, a whisper in time, a feint afterimage, a trace element if you like, of my time on this planet. Perhaps also I feel the need to exorcise some demons, to share my views on issues and to examine themes which I now realise have permeated my life and influenced many of my choices.

In a sense, I am endeavouring to map my existence. To accomplish this, I am throwing the doors of the asylum open. I no longer feel constrained as I once did. I have slipped the straightjacket.  

Welcome to the Forest of Burning Dreams.