Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Every morning multitudes of people wake up and reach for their phone to check their facebook newsfeeds. On their specially crafted reel of favourites, they’ll scroll through and maybe like or share content with other users. Instead of going to websites, perhaps even newspapers now, people open facebook for connection to society and the world.

It’s the portal to end all portals; one that sucks us in and keeps us there. There are quizzes and tests to take on facebook that predict everything from which movie star you look like, to the year you are going to die. It’s both infotainment and a humongous time waster.

I took one of the tests once – the one about which celebrity you look like. I got the ‘grumpy cat’ – a facebook famous identity. Yes, it’s a real cat who looks grumpy and has more than 8,000,000 followers.

Are we stupid to devote so much time to an artificial and I would say influential learning environment? As of the third quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users. While the grumpy cat mightn’t have much to teach us, the news, lifestyle and new age sites might. Just about everyone – artists, authors, the Dalai Lama – is on facebook.

I remember when I first started out on facebook. I liked Oxfam and the RSPCA, spiritual sites and the New York Post. As newspapers realised the news distribution had entered a new era, they too began to build their facebook platforms but the twist for them is they don’t control the advertising dollars. Facebook does.

And it is attempting to control our memories now too. Aside from the greeting facebook gives you when you logon in the morning, it is now providing you with ‘anniversary’ posts for you to share – so you and your friends can reminisce.

What’s next? Hopefully it won’t attempt political influence though I’m sure there are subtle signs there if you looked.

I would really ‘like’ to take a break from facebook for a week. It would take real discipline, as I’m one of those people who reach for their phone and newsfeed each morning upon waking. Someone once likened that to reaching for a glass of whiskey. They might be right.

It’s Saturday; a beautiful and gentle sunny day. Right now I’m overlooking poplar trees swaying in the breeze, a graceful liquid amber and a gnarled (and most likely dead) ghost gum. All things of beauty, even the twisted, dry branches of the gum, still standing despite a lightening bolt hit and a termite infestation.

Like the breeze that feathers my bare arms and cheeks, I’m feeling easy as I also overlook the golf course next door to our home. It’s dotted with the bright colours of the golfers who, literally, play rain, hail or shine.

Today is a good day – a busy day and a relaxing day.

I’ve decided I like good days. They’re the ones with just the right combination of activity, sometimes even action, and that sit back and survey the world, let it pass you by feeling. They are definitely days for positive thinking, for creativity and for enjoying the company of those lovable human beings you were lucky enough to meet in the past, on another good day.

That’s not to say that every day is good. It isn’t; can’t be. You need the dark to appreciate the light; the grey to appreciate the rainbow.

And that’s ok with me. I’ll take it all because that’s what it means to live. What I hope never comes my way is the despair or the bitterness I just can’t shake. I choose to have as many good days as I can, in the here and now and to create memories for me and those closest to me. There is everything right with generosity and little with selfishness.

My word for today is gratitude.

I’m back from holidays to a rainy, overcast summer’s day. Everywhere is green and teeming with life; one minute the sun is struggling through clouds, the next, slight sprinkles remind me of the vagaries of the weather. My herb garden has strawberries in it, and lots of mint. For once the basil is looking like it will ‘get off the ground’ and the oregano has sprouted flowers. Everything is growing, reminding me that things rarely stay the same.

We arrived back a day early from our beachside holidays, mainly to avoid facing high winds and heavy rain while we decamped. A monsoonal trough off the south east coast of Australia meant that we had few fine days, so instead we went exploring, walking and taking in the sights and sounds of the area. Coming back a day early meant I was around for the phone call that informed me a very old friend had passed away on Sunday night. I should have known the number when the phone rang. He used to joke that he had 666 in it, the number, of course, of the devil.

My friend had been diagnosed with cancer a little over two months ago. Inoperable, he didn’t fight but rather chose to ease himself into his passing with dignity and grace. I can’t imagine the courage it must take to do this. Of course, I have spent the last 24 hours recalling almost 15 years of close friendship and meaningful times. I remember his determination to be different from others, to take on society with irreverence and make us all think. He was a ‘bridesmaid’ at my wedding, arguing that as a close mate of mine he had the right to stand beside me on my wedding day. Touche Charles, I gave into your request and you stood there in a tuxedo that perfectly matched that of my bridesmaid’s dresses.

In my 20’s and 30’s, he was a prominent part of my life. He introduced me to my husband and as a result I have settled in a town I barely glanced at as I used to travel through, for 25 years. Three sons followed and he is godfather to my second.

We met as journalists in a newsroom and together we pursued the stories of substance. Good news’ values, the old ways, meant we were breaking stories long before our metropolitan counterparts. We believed in getting the real story others would want hidden. My friend always had a lot to say and he began a column called ‘Mindscape’. It encouraged people to go within for meaning, to explore the deep realms of spirituality and to trust themselves to step off a conventional track and find the ‘more’ in life. He was considered quite radical in a regional country town that boasted the finest Merino wool in Australia and is variously known as Australia’s ‘FIrst Inland City’.

Through many afternoons and into the evenings, we yarned about all sorts of things. He was a writer like me and together we explored our ambitions to write novels. His partner told me yesterday he had almost finished another edit of his first book. He had remarked to her only weeks ago that it was finally ready for publishing. I hope this work is published. I read an early draft years ago and was riveted to it, as you get when a good book finds its way to you.

In the early hours of this morning, I lay awake remembering my friend. I was both perplexed and saddened that yet another friend had gone too early in the past six months, people I expected to be around for the rest of my life. I wondered about the lessons and I decided this: Life is a beautiful gift that can be taken away prematurely. Every moment is to be savoured and lived as best we can, with joy and gratitude, peace and compassion. The other thought that was uppermost is the value of friendships; that friends help make the meaning in life. They are there for the discoveries, the victories and the losses. If you’re lucky they are there on a good deal of your exploration journey.

Friendship should never be taken for granted because a good friend is irreplaceable.

RIP Charles. Fondly and gratefully remembered.