Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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To those of you who are following Life’s Little Mercies: Thank you all so much for following my blog. I’m full of gratitude to you for reading and all your responses.

I wish you and yours a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

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Advent Days 23 and 24: A good sense of humour….

… and an easy laugh.

The non-blogging can be explained, I swear. I have spent the last two days paying with my sanity and composure for being in denial in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Toys R Us is NOT a place for timid souls in the week leading up to Christmas, as I discovered recently– too recently for me to have forgotten the high-pitch cacophony of, “this Daddy! Mommy! I want this I want this I want THIIIIIIS!!!”.

But I have a reasonable sense of humour, so I managed to float through the place in a kind of slightly bewildered haze with a beatific smile frozen on my face. The bewilderment came from the sheer number of choices… But! I really must express my profound dissatisfaction with all this cotton-woolly over-cautiousness. Where are all the chemistry sets of old, with real chemicals and things that can go bang if you mixed it up right? Or the little paper-wrapped pellets filled with sand and gunpowder that went SNAP! when you threw them on the ground?

Everything is so tame these days.

I also managed to elbow my way through each aisle, then keep my spirits up in the Very Long Queue To Freedom Beyond the Cashiers, because I am easily amused. I have never before seen a bunch of parents so frazzled and wild-eyed.

I should say that I’m grateful I didn’t have my own screaming brat to deal with, but I was a lot more grateful that I could witness this pre-Christmas phenomenon from the outside with an easily-tickled sense of humour.

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Advent Day 22: Lego and princess tents

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Up until recently, I didn’t really know how to play with small humans. They’re quite a mystery to me, having been quite a serious, thoughtful, worried small human myself, prone to spending hours reading, building a sandcastle complete with moat and dams to protect it against the encroachment of the sea, concentrating on slowly forming very tall drip-sandcastles, or playing Lego in a blanket fort.

So, I did not become the child-friendly variety of adult.

Until recently…. when my aunt set up a pink princess tent for my very small, still-portable goddaughter. The little ankle-biter started putting all her fat-Lego pieces into the fort, so I went and sat inside and started making random things. That’s when the small human crawled inside, emitted a screech and a giggle…. And we ended up sitting there in amicable silence for the longest time– I clipping pieces together to make things, she pulling them apart with a satisfying “click”.

I even ended up having a wonderfully calming and entertaining time. She finally likes me a little more.

Yup, I’m grateful for princess tents and Lego.

[Mind you, if my “biological clock” (pffft, please; I question its existence) ever starts ticking, I won’t just press the snooze button… I’ll throw it out the window onto the pavement downstairs.]

Advent Day 21: I’m grateful for curiosity.

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The last time I made a list of things I wanted to study at university or learn at a good school of some kind, this is how it looked (in no particular order and following no particular logic nor, in the case of economics, sense of aptitude whatsoever):

  • Creative writing (poetry and creative nonfiction)
  • Disaster preparedness and recovery
  • Crisis management
  • Epidemiology and viruses
  • Economics
  • Languages (modern and Latin)
  • International relations
  • Patisserie
  • Jewellery-making
  • Music
  • Food studies/Nutrition

Even then, I felt that a few somethings were missing from the list.

I also want to learn classical European sword-fighting (not just that prissy, skittish rapier fencing in a tailored Darth Vadar suit, real full-on Lord of the Rings go-full-tilt-and-fight-an-Orc type metal-clashing sword-fighting), aikido, archery, Krav…. and be excellent at meditation, too. Oh and shooting! I’ve never held a gun before… I’d rather like to see how good I am on a shooting range, and learn how to reload a magazine of a pistol. Just because.

I love new things; they just fire up my brain like little synapse sparklers. I’m just as happy curled up on a couch for weeks with a stack of books, though.

Ah, thank you dear creator of the universe, if you exist, for bestowing me with terminal, pathological curiosity. (Let’s assume you didn’t accidentally drop the whole bottle on me on the production line). Mind you, it must be guarded against jadedness and depression and what society expects from a “grownup”. I’m grateful for curiosity!

Advent Day 20: Four things for which to be grateful.

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Swimming pools. When it’s scorchingly hot and sunny, and humid as a jungle.

Teletubbies. I am a young godmother to a small human, whose mother seems to have some kind of misplaced optimism in my child-minding (non-)skills. I don’t know what to do with a crying baby except to find the Sesame Street baby-equivalent on YouTube and desperately plonk it in front of it, gasping, “here! Here! Look! Teletubbies! You like Teletubbies, right??!!”.

IKEA’s small-things-I-never-knew-I-could-live-without section. Because Christmas and acquaintances.

Craft skills. Not drawing a regular pay check has its downsides! But it certainly prods out any artistic and creative craft skills….

Advent Day 15: Idealism and the audacity of hope.

So, The Newsroom ended. *lower lip trembles* And aaaaallll the retrospective commentaries tumbled out. Some people hated it, some people hated it even more, and some, like I, loved it so much it was like saying goodbye to a fantasy, alternative workplace with colleagues you’d go to jail for contempt trying to protect. Or whom you’d follow to a war story in Equatorial Kundu.

I think that the people who most vehemently disliked The Newsroom were those that… well, just didn’t get it. I know critique is an art, and I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and that that should be respected. Nonetheless, I think that panning it for its delusional idealism, its “preaching from a pulpit”, its sanctimony… takes away from the vicarious deliciousness of getting a “do-over”, or a do-better, or even the warm-and-fuzziness of empathising with that colleague, or that moment. Not to mention its crunchy moments and timing, snappy scripting (not always, but most of the time).

I loved almost every episode of The Newsroom right from the get-go. Mind you, I think I might have fit the perfect audience profile for it, given my professional background and personality… but I think the reason that I most “got it” was the in-between time in which I went to J-school.

My first year at university, the computer labs had dos-based dialup internet connections and text-based forums. My cohort still had to look up journals for our Psychology major via CD-Roms, and then physically locate them on shelves and photocopy pages and pages of text. We learnt from brilliant, sharp old-school journalists for whom their role as the Fourth Estate was not a debate but a job description, and who would have understood Mackenzie McHale’s “speechifying” that, “there was a time when journalism wasn’t a career– it was a calling.” We took ethics training and obligations as par for the course; there was a code of conduct. Of course there was: in a functioning democracy, power came with responsibility. I wrote essays on the what the rise of the internet would do to or for the “gatekeepers” of information, on what it would do to personal identity. I worshipped at the doors of broadsheet newspapers. By the time I finished my first studies, I was reading my news entirely on the web.

It was another lifetime, with many lifetimes that came after it, but our first degrees shape our first frameworks, the first filters through which we understand the working world. (Ok, if you’re a liberal arts student, the world itself). So to this day, like Sloan Sabbith, I don’t believe in the term “citizen journalism”, because, to me, “journalism” is an institution that involves checks and balanced coverage and accountability and culpability. It’s citizen-something, but it ain’t journalism.

Almost everything that I’ve done in my career up to this point has been driven first by passion and idealism (sometimes bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and outright delusional). So MacKenzie slapping down the novel Don Quixote in front of Jim Harper to bring home the point that there was someone who was ready to fight windmills to build something extraordinary and that he wanted them to be a part of it, was one of many heart-leaping moments for me. As was Will’s “America can be great again” speech, and, one of the many that really resonated within me:

“The Greater Fool is … a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool, someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool; we toss in the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.” (Sloan Sabbith). 

I’m grateful for the continuing existence of idealism and whatever fires up the audacity of hope. 🙂

Advent Day 16: Random acts of kindness II.

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 Australia says to Muslims: I’ll ride with you

This is beautiful because it started with just a few small gestures of kindness– two people’s ability to empathise and their choice to care about another human being who was a total stranger, and then to act on it. In case you’ve been living under a rock, while a gunman was in the midst of taking a whole Sydney cafe of people hostage in the name of his idea of religion, a young woman sitting on a train in Sydney noticed the girl next to her silently remove her hijab. She ran after her when they got off the train, telling her, “put it back on. I’ll walk with you.” The girl with the hijab, who was Muslim, started to cry and gave her a long hug, and then walked off alone.

Tessa, another young woman who read this person’s account, was moved by this, and simply offered over Twitter to ride her regular bus in the morning between the suburb of Coogee and Martin Place (where the incident was unfolding) with anyone who wore religious head-dress and who was frightened to go alone. Thus, the #illridewithyou hashtag was born.

These moments help me to remember that there exist people who choose to do good in the world when it is easier to simply seal oneself off from the world’s pain and just wallow in one’s own, to be self-serving rather than keep an eye out for opportunities to serve (or, at least help) others. They melt the cynical, hardened, embittered parts of my otherwise squishy, languid little heart. And they stir up the embers of the audacity of hope.

I’m grateful for random acts of kindness, for they start wildfires of compassion in a time where unspeakable evil would cloud our hearts with fear, bigotry and suspicion.