Monday, 20 July 2015

DOG INTERRUPTED...



Many of us are all too familiar with medications such as Xanax, Prozac, Valium and Ativan - anyone who has suffered with, or known someone, with depression, anxiety or PTSD will recognise them.  Those little magic pills that boost serotonin levels and balance the stress hormone to help people better manage their mental disorders, or mental disease.  Such an ugly term, mental disease.  But it is exactly that - a "dis-ease" of the mind.  The causes are often undiagnosed;  the outcome, however, remains constant, and it's not shy in crossing the species.

Domestic animals are now being diagnosed on a frighteningly regular basis with ailments that were previously reserved for their human counterparts.  And as animals do not have cognitive thought, it stands to reason that these ailments are originating in our subconscious, or instinctual, minds.

Think about it.  Animals that are forced to interact with humans are no longer living the lives which they are hard-wired to survive.  Think about zoos, circuses, amusement parks.  Think about the degrading tricks and repetitive daily routines they are forced to endure, against their natural instincts.  They are kept on farms, in stables and laboratories, live in cages, pens and crates.  Even the ones that are cosseted in our homes spend much of their time confined indoors when every scrap of their DNA they possess is screaming at them to be out in a field or a forest. 

And so, they go nuts.

Some reported incidents are the likes of chickens on industrial farms who peck each other to death;  the killer whale that drowned his trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2010;  the polar bear who spent his life swimming in robotic laps in a small pool from which there was no escape, until his death in 2013. 

However, it is the domesticated animal that we are more familiar with, and with today's society of such expensive housing, more and more of them are being confined to live in apartments or flats, with no outdoor space, and often left alone for hours on end each day whilst their owners work.  Parrots tear out their feathers, cats lick themselves repeatedly until their fur reduced to raw skin, abused dogs cower in terror at the sight of a human hand.

It is this fact that I have become more aware of first hand, as I recently adopted a beautiful Cairn terrier.  I do not know her full story;  the fosterer tells me she was found thrown down a drain, and she took her in when she was about six months old.  Now the ideal period for socialising a dog is regarded as being very early on in its life - approximately 4 to 8 weeks of age.  If this period of a dog's existence is filled only with terror and pain, it may leave irrevocable scar tissue behind - and not necessarily physical, but mental. 

So what has my experience been thus far?  Prone to nervous urination (which I was aware of at the time of taking her on) proved to be fact.  If you looked at her, she peed.  Not a full bladder, just a little wee which shouted very clearly, "I am afraid of you!"  Petrified of doorways for some reason - would not pass me if I was near the door, which made me wonder had she ever been kicked out of one?  Had to be lifted in and out of the front door, and although we have now progressed to her exiting it just fine - she's mad to go on her daily walks and knows now that the open door means a car drive and a long run - re-entering it upon our return is another story. 

When I first started throwing the ball for my other dog, Kandi the rescue would scuttle away, tail down.  Any sudden movement of the arms meant danger to her, and she would run.  Cower.  Had she been hit?  Kicked?  I don't know.

Now?  After two months of regular walks and ball throwing, Kandi now jumps up at me to get on with it, throw the damn ball, woman!  Slowly, very slowly, she is emerging as a beautiful, brave little girl but the scars are there to see and I fear they always will be.  She is different to Keela.  Keela is shy, submissive, but not afraid.  Keela has trust, she is the friendliest little girl ever.  Kandi, however, is like a baby if she's tired or hasn't slept enough, her fears re-emerge.  She can be flighty, and mistrustful of even me at times, although I am happy to report that this is lessening every day.  The urination has stopped.  At feeding time, I have to make sure she is in a safe spot to eat, because any sudden movements from me and she is heading for the garden - where she disappears into the bushes.  I have learnt to leave her, and she comes out now of her own accord, she's too nosy to stay gone too long, and the temptation of a cuddle on my cosy bed is too hard for her to resist.

She also chases her tail, and although this was funny to begin with, I have coaxed her into not doing it - it is a sure sign of OCD.  The trick with a damaged dog, as with a damaged human, is to know when to advance, and know when to retreat.  It's a delicate dance of love, predictable routine, and safety.  These are paramount to the recovery of any wounded mammal, be it dog or human.  Broken trust, it seems, covets a broad range of species.

Service dogs in armed forces suffer with PTSD.  The smell of blood, or loud noises, can result in exhibiting jumpiness, anxiety, loss of appetite, and poor sleep.  And at the end of the day, the damage is usually done by us humans.  What lovely things, us people. 

Just as with human brains, animal brains have their levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and you better know what you're dealing with before you take on an animal, let alone an abused one.  It has no voice.  YOU are its voice, its protector, its leader.  I'm not sure on the facts, but I think it takes 7 years to become a medical doctor and 9 years to become a vet.  Why?  Because animals can't tell you what's wrong, or what they're feeling.  It's up to you as a vet or an owner, to learn to read the body language and signals your pet is giving you every minute of every day. 

Exercise your pet - allow it to smell the grass, mix with other animals, roll in the mud, chase a ball.  All these things serve to build a happy and safe environment where your pet will learn to thrive.  It's part of your family - treat it as you would a child.  There is no difference.  My dogs are my children, seeing as my own has grown and flown.  I love them with all my heart.  In my darkest moments, they have been right there next to me.  I lost my best friend last year, and she has now been replaced by Kandi.  Who is afraid of people, but not of animals.  Now I wonder why that is? 

Other symptoms include a condition called pica, which involves a compulsion to mouth or eat inedible things.  Kandi has that.  She chews and eats everything she finds, despite having sufficient bones and treats on a daily basis.  Yesterday I found a wicker drawer shredded;  toilet rolls have been snuck out of the bathroom; she ate a sponge; she demolishes any ball she finds;  she steals things which is quite funny, and something the fosterer had told me about before I took her on.  She takes my socks outside and hides them in the grass.  She has a particular penchant for the tops of spray cans, nice hard plastic ones that she can chew.  Today she chewed the zip on a jacket I'd left within reaching distance.  Thankfully she has not yet attempted to chew the legs of my table, but I keep a close eye on her just in case.

Kandi has learnt to trust, albeit bit by bit.  She knows me.  She knows my family.  She is respected, loved, exercised and fed.  The discipline is another matter - you can't reprimand a damaged dog like you would a normal, naughty one.  Raised voices or, heaven forbid, a raised hand, is an absolute no-no.  They regress immediately, and all your hard work can be undone in an instant - and so a gentle hand and a loving environment with a few buckets of patience is vital to a rescued dog's ability to socialise itself.  And it takes Time.  Patience.  Devotion.  Consistency.  Truth. 

Keela is a gentle little thing, but sometimes she gives out a snap to warn Kandi that she's not in the mood.  Kandi takes not a blind bit of notice, turns her bum to Keela, and peers at her over her shoulder - the whites of her eyes showing her mischief.  After our daily walks have finished for the day, the evening routine begins.  After dinner, Kandi goes upstairs and tears about the place for a good twenty minutes - you can hear her paws like thunder on the wooden floors.  Then she comes down and taunts Keela.  Followed swiftly by a good ten-minute grand prix around my garden, her back legs trying to overtake her front ones.  She makes me laugh, and raises my serotonin levels to a natural high.  Then she collapses on the couch with  Keela and me, curls up, and snuffles in contentment.  Such bliss.  Such joy she brings, until finally the three of us traipse upstairs to bed.  In fact, Kandi so knows the routine by now that when I turn off the TV she's first up the stairs.

I have to mention her fosterer here, a lady by the name of Shauna who spends her life and devotes all of her time to caring for, and rescuing, as many animals as she can.  She has been doing it for ten years, and she's only 26.  When I spoke with her, she had seven dogs. If she heads out for a night, her friends all tease her because she can't get home to her babies quick enough. 

Since Kandi, I have been following her on FB.  She's taken in kittens which she had to bottle-feed every few hours, right through the night.  She has just taken in a little terrier heavily pregnant with pup - she sat up with her, and after giving birth to the first pup, Shauna realised she was in trouble.  Cue a taxi, a trip to the vet, and a C-section to deliver the other little babies, and now starts the long journey of caring for, and later, weaning, these little ones before seeking out suitable homes for them all.

I paid her a compliment;  I told her that despite us all saying "aww", none of us are doing what she is, and that she is to be commended for her dedication.  And her answer?  "It's simple - I just love them."  Ain't that the truth. 

To all the animal welfare workers out there, all over the world, I salute you.  We all salute you.  It says a lot about the people you are, the kindness and empathy you share, and the devotion and dedication you give to all the animals. 

I can't take on loads of animals.  But I've taken one.  And my intention is to make sure she has the best life she could ever wish for.  People tell me she's a lucky dog to have found me.  I think I'm the lucky one.  She reminds me why being kind is so very important, and affordable to anyone. 

All you need is love, right?  And more animals.  Because we learn far more from them than we do each other.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

I DO IT MY WAY......





Do you know what I abhor more than animal abusers?  Bullies.  Or should I say amateur bullies.  The ones that make threats to expose juicy secrets about you because you don't agree with them about some vile and unsubstantiated accusation they've made about another person.  You see, I've been in the business of people for a very long time;  I can read most of them like a book.  Some try and change their sleeves to make themselves look pretty, but open a few pages and you'll fast learn that you should never, ever judge a book by its cover.  Very often you will end up sorely disappointed in the contents.  They smile, but cross them?  Oh dearie me.  You're out.  Doubt them?  Oh dearie me.  Call them out on stuff? You're threatened. 

This person made contact with me tonight in any way she had possible.  When I blocked one avenue, she used another.  Again, who has the time or effort to do this?  Or even the remotest of interest.  Only the mentally bewildered.  She has made disgusting comments about my daughter's relationship with her grandparents such as "... hoping to get a mention in the Will, are you?".  Such a lovely lass she is.  She has threatened to expose my 'sordid' past in a feeble attempt to fling some long-dried mud at me;  dried mud doesn't stick, by the way.

As I am sure you are not as experienced a writer or speller, I have decided to save you the trouble and write it myself.  I shall expose myself, people, for the terrible, awful human being that I am.  For my dark and distant past endeavours. All because I will not take at face value the accusations she is laying at another's door.   

Here goes.

When I was 17 I met my first boyfriend.  We dated for seven years.  During this time, I had the most amazing experiences with him, from travelling all over South Africa, to learning to master motorcycles, fishing, hunting, camping and a whole pile of other adventures too numerous to mention.  We did not drink, and we did not go to pubs or clubs.  Instead we spent every single weekend away in nature, away from the madding crowd.  We also smoked grass.  A lot.  For seven years, I was not a drinker, but a smoker.  I smoked before I rode my motorbike.  I smoked round camp fires whilst playing guitar.  I smoked before making love.  I smoked in school once, too, just to see could I get away with it.  I also planted marijuana seeds outside the Principal's office in school, and watched the gardener water them with care every day.  I still have no problem with marijuana, even though it has been more than two decades since I gave it all up for cleaner living.  Scientists are now finding medicinal benefits for pain relief and yes, even cures for cancer, from this terrible, awful, natural drug. 

I also spent a week-end in jail - oh my God, call the cops.  My dumb-ass boyfriend dumped some grass under the car seat when we were pulled over by cops in South Africa, and because it was not found "on his person", but in the vehicle in which both of us were travelling, we both got arrested and I was plonked into a cell for the weekend.  I was twenty years old. I was wearing - and I'll never forget - a white pencil skirt, white heels, and a pastel pink top, as I was on my way home from work when it happened. It was a most pleasant and eye-opening experience, and probably the reason I've never seen the inside of a jail since.  The toilet was in the cell.  There was no toilet paper.  Cops offered to warm me up if I was cold. On the Monday morning I was released and cleared of all charges.  I went straight back to work and told the HR Manager what had happened, and giving him the opportunity to relieve me of my post.  He appreciated my honesty and I was promoted a year later. I have no record.  Feel free to check.  My boyfriend took the fall - it was, after all, his dope.  That's some pretty dried up mud right there, seeing as I'm heading for 50 this year.  Amazing how this person has threatened me with something that happened thirty years ago.  Talk about not letting things go!

After we ended our relationship when I was 24, I partied.  Hard.  I was young, free and single.  I played pool, dated, kissed a lot of frogs, lived in a great flat with a lifelong friend, had my own car, paid my own bills, held down very good jobs. 

I could no longer blame my past, my choices, my bad decisions, or my parents, for my life.  I took responsibility, and I GREW UP.  At 28 I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter, and it was time to settle down because she was, is, and always will be the best thing that ever came into my life.  So I married, became a mother, and a wife.  Both my husband and I remained faithful until the very end.  I've never been a bed-hopper.  I wasn't in my first relationship, and that was the one that set the path for relationships to come.

I want to intercept here to clarify another accusation this wonderful girl threw at me tonight :  she said I had sex in front of my baby girl.  It beggars belief.

I was staying with my sister at the time as my house was under construction.  My husband and I were not yet married, and we had been out on a date - and we got drunk.  Very drunk.  We got back to hers, and he was to sleep on the couch, but my sister and her friend Liz had both fallen asleep on the settees in the sitting room.  So he and I lay fully clothed, inebriated, on her double bed with my daughter asleep at the end of the bed in her cot.  Let me repeat this bit.  Fully clothed.  On top of a double bed.  With my daughter not three feet away from me.

My husband is one of the straightest, morally-correct, goody-two-shoes you'll ever meet.  To challenge his integrity is at your peril. Now unless I had sex by myself, this person is saying that we fornicated with my baby girl in the room.  With the door open. So not only is she trying to slander me, she is slandering my ex-husband.  I won't tell you his opinion of said person, but we're sure to have a good cackle about this when we next speak. 

We moved home to Ireland.  We bought a house, worked very hard, took no benefits or hand-outs, didn't live off other people's taxes, and made our own way in the world.  This included hard studying, discipline, late nights, tightening of belts, and bags under my eyes.  In 2006 my husband and I called it a day, and we went our separate ways but we remain close.  When you learn to be honest in your life, it includes knowing when the time has come to let things go - it was not in either of our best interests to continue our marriage, and so, like grown-ups do, we sat down, talked about it, and made the difficult decision to start new phases in our lives.

What else.  Oh yes:

  1. I stole bubblegum from a corner store when I was ten. 
  2. I perved my brother's Playboy magazines that I found under his bed as a teenager.  I also found a condom.
  3. I bunked school.  A lot.  I think at last count my record was being absent for 97 days in one year - I didn't like school. 
  4. I saw a real penis for the first time when I was nine - a neighbour (the same age as us) showed both myself and another boy who lived next door.  Neither of us touched it.
  5. I set fire to my parent's kitchen when I was 18 by putting on oil to make chips and forgetting about it.  I then went away for the weekend and left my sister to clean up my mess.  Thanks, B, by the way - and sorry.
  6. I drenched a neighbour's carpeted bathroom when the shower hose got the better of me.  I never told them. 
  7. I saw my neighbour naked as he ran from the bathroom to his bedroom - I was ten.  I think he was 11.
  8. When I was 15, I used to steal my father's car out the drive when he was asleep, and drive it around my town.  I once hit a bird, and parked the car back without cleaning it.  I heard my mother say to my father she didn't recall hitting anything.
  9. I ran away from home a few times.  Just to see if I could.  I could.  And I got whipped for it after and locked in my bedroom.

And finally, because of this very same person and her dramatic ability to create chaos, I pulled away from my entire family for nigh on eleven years.  I didn't speak or visit my parents, or associate with any member of my family.  Their modus-operandi is to gather troops and strengthen their version of the truth.  Whilst it's lonely without family, boy, it sure is peaceful. They're trying it again now, but lessons have been learnt by the past, and no one is biting this time.  No one.  Now, they stand alone.

On the one hand, thankfully I am reunited with my parents.  On the other hand, I now have to contend with certain vitriolic and venomous blood-relatives again.  Who continuously text, harass, and mail in a vain and unsuccessful attempt to cause problems.  It's the calling of small minds, I guess, I shouldn't judge.

So now.  There you have it.  I can't recall anything else I did, but if I did, I am sure to receive a text soon reminding me of it, and I shall be sure to share it with all of you. 

The best way to disarm a bully is to call them on it.  I have nothing to hide.  My life now is open, clean, and most importantly of all, so vastly different to the rebellious teenager and young adult I once was.  Isn't that what it's all about?  Changing?  Growing?  Developing?  IMPROVING?

I have raised an amazing daughter who is now an amazing mother, who has given me an amazing grandchild.  And I have grown into a human being I am proud to face in the mirror each morning.  But I am sick to the stomach of some things;  my skin crawls and my head aches. 
 
So there you have it. Sadly, some people never change, and their ugliness of heart eats them from the inside out. 

Did I miss anything out, J? 

Do let me know, won't you?  I would hate to leave you with a handful of dried dirt you might later try and scatter to the wind.

Monday, 29 June 2015

TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD.....


 
When I was ten years old, my school teacher asked me to remain after class to discuss my work.  He locked the door behind the other students when they left.  He asked me to come closer, until he managed to pull me up onto his knee.  He began to stroke my back, and I felt uncomfortable but I didn't move away.  He was my teacher.  An adult.  His hand moved lower until it rested on my knee, where his fingers patterned circles on my thigh in an upward motion.  My skirt raised.  His hand touched me in my private place, and I could feel the blood rush to my face.  All the while, he told me what a pretty girl I was, and so clever, and I was sure to be best in class.  When he had finished, he told me not to tell anyone;  that it was our little secret, and that he would make sure to give me an "A" on my next project.  He told me my family would be very angry with me if they found out, and they would be disgusted with me, perhaps stop loving me.  So it would be best not to say anything at all.  I left the room feeling frightened, confused, scared.  Violated.  But I didn't know that yet - I was only ten.  What had happened was too complicated for my child-mind to comprehend.

 
The above is a complete fabrication and an outright lie.  I repeat.  The above IS A COMPLETE FABRICATION AND AN OUTRIGHT LIE. 


It did NOT HAPPEN.  I made it up.  But, see, I KNOW it is a lie, and that's what separates a lie from a false memory.  A liar knows that what they are accusing someone of is not true.  But a false memory?  Well, that's a completely different matter altogether.  Someone experiencing possible false memories totally and utterly believe, without any doubt, that what they "remember", is truth.  And it can plague them for many years in their life, albeit no more real or true than my fabrication above. 

Memory is a fickle thing.  It cannot be trusted, and it manufactures facts to fill the gaps it no longer recalls.  Have you ever been utterly convinced that you had a blue coat as a youngster, totally, 100% sure - yet you've seen photographs at a later time only to discover the coat was, in fact, green?  But you were so sure!  Yes, you were - and your brain complied with your false memory and made that coat blue.  Even though it was green....  If not for photographic evidence, you'd go to your grave swearing blind that it was blue, and no one could disprove it unless they had witnessed the said coat, or seen photographs to prove otherwise.  Get me?

This is the case with many false allegations made against people of a far more serious nature.  Suddenly, thirty years later, you 'recall' an incident that your memory had long since repressed.  Perhaps it was of such an awful nature that it was the only thing your brain could do to protect you.  And if there are gaps in your memory bank, your brain will be more than happy to replace those gaps with false memories so that the story is complete.  And the more you replay this story in your mind, the more convinced you are that it is the absolute truth. 

Science has proven beyond doubt that memory cannot be trusted.  That the mind can create a truth that is a lie.  Christopher French of Goldsmiths University in London says there is still a lack of awareness of how unreliable human memory is.  "Although this is common knowledge within psychology and widely accepted in anybody who has studied this literature, it's not widely known in society.

"There are still people who believe that memory works like a video camera, as well as people who accept the Freudian notion of repression - that when something terrible happens the memory is shoved down into the subconscious but is recorded for prosperity in absolute truth.

"The evidence, however, of the accuracy of repressed memories," he adds, "is very thin on the ground, because the mind can conjure and replace gaps with manufactured illusions that become absolute truth to the person of those thoughts - irrespective of whether or not they are true."

Have you ever chatted to someone from your past and shared childhood memories?  I have had the privilege of regaining contact with childhood friends from my years in South Africa - and it's amazing how each of us remember something different about each other.  For example, my neighbour reminded me that I saw him run naked from the bathroom when I was visiting one time - I had completely forgotten this until he prompted me to remember. 

Another childhood friend commented on how I used to be such a fast runner, that I ran like the wind, that I beat him, and he wasn't slow.  I don't remember this, but he does.  When we spoke a little more, both of us laughed at the recollection of another neighbour - the same age as us - who showed us his "sausage" in the shed of his father.  We were kids.  I'd never seen a sausage before.  I thought it was the ugliest thing I ever saw.  The shower of said sausage, however, does not remember this happening at all.  Again, our memories cannot be trusted. 

Our memories are a collection of data filtered by an imperfect brain.  Our brains are not computers.  They are not purely logical.  They are emotional, fickle.  And highly dangerous if they reconstruct a memory that is damaging to another's reputation. 

I know a woman - she minded a young child whilst her mother was at work.  She drank copious amounts of alcohol and has many blackouts of nights she does not remember.  She often had to keep her daughters home from school to mind the little girl, because she was still drunk from the night before.  She even woke one morning to find herself asleep on the settee with her young daughter's boyfriend.  Another time, she crawled naked into the sitting room on her hands and knees whilst her younger daughter had a friend over from school.  Many men passed through her home. I guarantee you she would deny this, because she does not remember.  It doesn't mean it didn't happen.  And the face she has on is always one of indignation and innocence - keeping her own dark past buried.

When you are a parent and you expose your vulnerable children to an unstable and unbalanced childhood, it causes damage.  Cause and Effect.  And the effect is often a child who has difficulty making close relationships with others in their adulthood, who would suffer with self-esteem issues, anxiety, and in all likelihood, depression and bipolar tendencies. Psychosis is a natural progression from mental trauma, and neurosis is a given. Being a control-freak is also a by-product of a childhood that felt out of control.  Perhaps they were exposed to sexual experiences long before they were able to process what was happening.  And to the shocked juvenile mind, it can be repressed and be the root cause of issues in adulthood, without them realising this is the source. 

The danger here, of course, is that repressed memories are not accurate.  But if the mind decides that something happened in their childhood, and it is a false memory (not a lie), then it becomes that person's absolute truth.  The mind will then generate the accompanying emotions to suit that memory, and you could end up making false allegations against someone who, in fact, had nothing to do with the situation whatsoever.  The longer it takes for the mind to offer up its recollections, the less reliable the information is. 
 

If you have no proof, if you have no medical evidence or records to substantiate any false allegations you may decide have surfaced in your memory, you have no right - I repeat - no right to vocalise these accusations to the detriment of another.  This is slander and defamation of character and is a punishable offence.


No therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist will state as absolute fact that which is told to them in session.  All they can do is state that the client is suffering with symptoms such as X, Y and Z and suggest treatment and medication accordingly.  No one knows better than a psychological professional that swearing under oath to the root cause of a client's neurosis is the fastest way to go out of business.  It's unethical.  Unprofessional.  Unreliable.

If such allegation ever got to court, the parent's past history, and the accuser's moral behaviour, will be brought under the microscope, all protective clothing will be removed by witnesses, family members, friends, so that the judge can make an educated decision based on all the facts presented to him. 

Whilst I empathise with anyone who is in pain and who has suffered the consequences of memory, false or otherwise, I cannot condone anyone who believes memory is gospel because it isn't.  How do I know?  Because it is my area of expertise, I have years of experience in clinical trials and consultations, I have studied, passed, and practiced in this field. 

And as for those that run their mouths off and gather troops and tell as many people as they can their own beliefs, well, more fool those that climb on the bandwagon with them. 

 
If I told you again my teacher abused me repeatedly throughout my childhood, does that make it true through repetition?  Would you believe me if I keep saying it?  Would you all gather round me and nail him to the cross? 


If you have any level of intelligence at all, no, you wouldn't.  There are three sides to every story - your side, my side, and the truth.  And sadly, with the flighty recalling ability of the mind, the truth is never black or white.  It is very much as grey as the brain itself.

And for the record - my teacher never laid a finger on me.  I'm just saying this to highlight a point.

Don't believe everything you hear. 

And sure as hell be careful what you say, because very soon you may find someone knocking on your door..... and Pandora's Box may well reveal a lot more than you bargained for. 

Forewarned is forearmed.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

ARISE, LAZARUS.....

 
 
Isaiah 26:19
 
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
 
 
OK.  I know this topic is going to be controversial.  I know it will upset some faith-bound religious believers.  I know some will see it as a form of blasphemy.  As usual, I'm going to write it anyway...
 
I watched a movie last night called World War Z, or something like that, with Brad Pitt.  Now, granted, it was not his finest hour;  in fact, I thought it was a poor performance altogether.  But - again - it did get me thinking.
 

The gist of the movie was of course a Zombie Apocolypse - healthy humans far outnumbered by a mass of flesh-eating undead.  And Brad's job was to find a way to outwit them.  Someone came up with the idea of infecting them with diseases, but of course you can't make the dead sick.  They're dead, for heaven's sake.  Yet returned to Earth as remnants of their former selves, the darkest possible version of who they once were.

 

Once,  not terribly long ago, it was in far-fetched cartoons that allowed men to talk into their watches;  that put space travellers onto far-flung planets;  in 1964, Isaac Asimov wrote that in 50 years we’d be living in a science fiction reality. Among his prophesies that have now arrived are instant coffee, driverless cars, and robots to vacuum our homes (I'm still trying to find one of those, to be honest).  And even these are miniscule to what has further become reality.


But Asimov wasn’t the only sci-fi visionary, and his predictions seem quaint against some of 2014’s actual advances, such as robotic arm transplants, cloned pets, and quantum teleportation.  We have self-driving cars now, or at least those that assist the spatially-challenged to park; we have E-books, paperless reading matter, and online news reports; lest we forget the phenomenon that is the internet, allowing you at this present moment, to read what's on my mind; we have video-chat, Skype, email, blue-tooth, wireless communication - all these were but a figment of someone's imagination, once upon a time.
 
 In Harry Potter it’s magic, but in the real world there is actually scientific progress being made toward genuine invisibility cloaks. Researches at Duke University, for example, have used what they call “metamaterials” to bend light waves around an object that measures 7.5 by 1 centimeter. And they aren’t the only ones making progress with “metamaterials,” either. So we might actually have “invisibility” cloaks in the near future.  Now that's one thing I could have a whole lot of fun with....

We have paperless billing; transactions that now take place by merely swiping a card; tablet computers were around in Star Trek (where they are called PADDs—look it up) pretty much from the beginning. But the most interesting prediction of these ubiquitous gadgets comes from 2001: A Space Odyssey, clearly showing the use of one. And this is from 1968, long before people even had any notion of “personal computing.”
 
So if all these fictitious and science-fiction oddities have now become part of our very routine lives, can we really not take into account the possibility of what "The Bible" tells us will become a reality?  It prophesises the dead becoming undead;  that they will rise again.  What it does not tell us, is in what form? 
 
To be honest, I can do without meeting any past-humans in the form they must surely now take, let alone wanting to take a chomp out of me and turn me into one of them.  In all movies referring to Zombies, the writers have one thing in common - noise attracts these undead.  And yet, what is one of the things all religions teach us?  To learn to become silent; to respect and favour the practice of quiet.  Wonder why that is....  And surely a Life can only be finally defined in Death?  Who'd want to live forever anyway?  I certainly don't want to come back again, not from this life anyway.  It has, at best, been disappointing.
 
Zombies are those troublesome dead walkers that just get in the way of a good night out - they either want to eat your brains or have a quick nibble on your nuts; they are usually slow creatures that are easy to outrun, but in high numbers and in confined spaces they can be fatal. Can you imagine a Zombie Hitler? So.  How DO you kill something that's already supposed to be dead?
 
First and foremost, when you shoot a gun try and aim for the head shot, because in too many films have I seen some rather dumb people just waste valuable ammo shooting the zombies shoulders and chest; one head shot seems to do it and if you can't shoot straight, it's best to go to a shooting range to practice your gun skills, because if you don't you will probably be that bad at shooting a gun, you will pop a cap in some poor bastard's arse who may not be a zombie - and that would be bad.  Thing is, gun ownership in Ireland is reserved for farmers or hunters.  Us common-folk aren't allowed to own a gun for self-preservation. So the Irish, other than the farmers, are pretty much fucked.  Ah well.
 
Sharpen those machetis up, so that when the time comes you can have yourselves a zombie decapitation spree in the local shopping mall whilst browsing the price of toothpaste - could be a bit of entertainment to brighten up a dull Saturday.  We could open up Zombie-Killing Centres, take our kids for a target-practising day out;  fun for all the family. Just think of the business opportunities!  Someone will surely benefit from an influx of their dead relatives.
 
Oh yes, and we cannot forget Brad's solution - to infect yourself with disease, as apparently Zombies have a penchant for healthy bodies.  But wait - aren't we doing that already?  We eat junk food, we drink too much, we partake in drugs, we consume food that is genetically-enhanced and constructed more from preservatives than protein.  So all in all, we should be pretty safe from our ancestors when the time comes for them to reclaim their place on Earth.  Shouldn't we...?

No-one knows what the future holds, but one thing remains true : that which the mind can conceive, it can achieve.  And there has been far too many ramblings about zombies for my liking...  They say only the good die young;  maybe so.  And maybe they shall exact their vengeance on us all before the sands of time finally run out.  I wonder will my beloved dog Betty remember me, and give me a pass?  Na.  Guess not. 
 
How can I be so flippant and make such ludicrous assumptions?  How can a seemingly intelligent brain come up with such drivel?  Well, it's not really just my mind dredging up this stuff.

After all, the Bible tells us so.  No?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

DOMINANT OR SUBMISSIVE?

 
I'd like to introduce you to the pending new addition to my family.  Meet Bindy, a beautiful but nervous, 8-month-old Cairn terrier who was found in a drain two months ago, discarded and abandoned by her previous owners.  Unloved.  Unwanted.
 
The animal society described her as needing a quiet, loving home, with plenty of TLC and patience, with a tendency to urinate if frightened, but stressed this would pass once she learnt to trust and feel safe again. 
 
My heart melted.  I made the call.  Floors can be washed if she pees. And Bindy arrives Sunday afternoon to join what I hope will be her forever home, and one which I will endeavour to make as happy, peaceful and loving as I possibly can. She also has a tendency to steal anything that she finds lying about, to take to her bed.  The fosterer told me, as we spoke, that Bindy had just passed her by with a teaspoon.  What a great incentive to up my housekeeping skills.
 
You see, my other dog is a submissive.  She is stunningly beautiful with a heart of gold, but quite pathetic when we walk the fields daily and she encounters any other dog.  She belly-crawls as soon as she sees them, rolls over onto her back, legs a-kimbo, and offers herself up as sacrifice.  Thankfully, I have a swift boot to guard her in the event of a pending attack, and a firm voice to pull her out of that mind-set, lest she be eaten in one gulp.  So in choosing a mate for her, I knew I could not go for a very dominant dog, because Keela would simply blend herself into obscurity.  This I cannot allow, as Keela's home is her haven and I will not have her frightened in her place of safety.  Hence Bindy's description seems like the right kind of dog for her - two submissives.
 
But of course this has got me thinking.  Why IS it that I have ended up with, or chosen, two dogs who have submissive natures?  My last dog who passed away a year ago was the same.  Good, kind, obedient, and no trouble at all.  Is it that I have a need to control?  Have I, without realising it, exploited dominant traits by choosing submissive dogs?  And if so, where did this need come from?
 
Are we hard-wired to become the people we are by the experiences we have known?  Of course.  It's what I've been banging on about all this time.  So I referred back to my trusty books of knowledge to uncover the symptoms of a submissive person, and why they feel the need to kowtow to a Dominant. Or vice versa, why do Dominants feel the need to dominate? 
 
Dominance is often driven by fear of being vulnerable, excluded, or rejected.  So in order to counter-act that, you try to control your environment so that you are not threatened by others.  Dominants hold their heads up high.  They will sit on the higher of two chairs offered.  They will expand their arms and claim their space, warning off any would-be challengers.  By doing so, they are giving off an energy that says do not mess with me, I'll take you down.  Once they have made their mark, and feel secure in their environment, they can then relax enough to be quite sociable and gracious.  But put them in the presence of another dominant personality?  They will falter.  Challenge them at your peril. They will display mistrust and suspicion, often slating others in a vain attempt to regain authority.  So the Dominant needs to rule every aspect of his environment, laying down the law, and lording it over others to puff himself up with a self-fulfilled importance.  Dominants are often bullies by nature.  They have to destroy you, be it verbally or emotionally, in order to feel superior. 
 
Submissives, on the other hand, have little or no personality or sense of Self once they subject themselves to long-term contact with a Dominant.  The Dominant saps them of any self-value. They require direction, orders, and need to be told what they can and cannot do.  Their sense of worth has been eroded over time by the Dominant who has, by all accounts, taken ownership of them.  They are told what to wear, how to behave, and are quickly reprimanded by silence or disapproval if they dare, on occasion, voice their own opinions which do not agree with the Dominant.  They will be shot down, and silenced.  Punishment will be swift, and the submissive quickly learns that avoidance of the Dominant's reprisals is important for a quiet life.  There is a pecking order, and the Dominant will not tolerate defiance.  It is your duty to obey the Dominant.  Be warned.  God better have a seat ready for the Dominant, and it had better be right next to Him. 
 
In the animal kingdom, this is blatantly apparent.  Take Keela, my dog, for example.  She tries to make herself as small as possible when encountering fellow-members of her species.  She cowers down, rolls over, exposing her neck to show compliance.  In human form, the submissive would often sit in a hunched position, perhaps wrapping their arms around themselves, keeping their heads down, making little eye contact with the Dominant for fear of it being seen as a challenge.  Keela does not do submissive with humans.  She does submissive with her own kind.  As do we.
 
So back to my question - have I inadvertently chosen submissive dogs over the years because I have a need to control?  If so, have I felt out of control in other areas of my life that I now need to do this? I wouldn't like to think that of myself, but it's possible.  And if I have, what am I afraid of?  I'm not a bossy person.  I'm laid back, easy-going, but I have a ferocious ability to roar and flare up if I feel an underdog is being abused.  Underdog, or underhuman. 
 
It galls me to see another life form being intimidated, bullied, or harassed.  I am the defender of the defenceless.  I am Superwoman to the weak.  I am healer of the mentally lost.  But put me in a room full of women preening and competing and bitching?  I become a submissive, and I choose not to stick around too long.  My confidence wanes in the light of dominant personalities.  Strange, isn't it, really?  Or have I just been wired up wrong?
 
I have used my superpowers to rescue Bindy.  I have swooped in and saved her, and committed to making her life better.  Better than what?  The one she had?  Or the one I had?  It's an interesting question, and one I am kind of answering even as I write.
 
By pure deduction, can we stretch this a little further and ask ourselves, do we choose our partners in real life based on experiences of our past?  They say we seek out partners that reflect our parents, that which we know, that which we experienced.  My father is a Dominant, no doubt in my mind at all.  I hated it, I hate it, and I will always hate it.  Never allowed a voice, never having respect as an individual.  Being made to feel inferior, and without true value. And my ex-husband?  He was a submissive.  A follower. A good man, but pliable.  Safe. I chose him without thought, there were no calculations made when we hooked up.  But at a subconscious level, I must have made the analysis, seen that he was the polar opposite of my father, and as my father and I don't see eye-to-eye, decided that my choice was the right one for me.  Safe. 
 
I have not yet met a dominant man here.  In my own opinion, they don't exist.  Every man I have met, socially, professionally, and romantically, have been too submissive for me.  Too soft.  But I wonder now, with this revelation, whether or not at a subconscious level, I dismiss dominant men from the outset, based on my past? 
 
Perhaps the theorists are correct:  I am searching for a masculine man like my father, but with respect and one who is prepared to submit his heart.  And yet all I have come up with are submissives, period.  I had one friend who was Dominant, but he lost my friendship eventually because he had no respect.  It was his way or the highway.  I chose the highway.
 
Universe, if you're listening tonight - I am changing my order.  I want a dominant and strong manly man who has respect, and the ability to give great love.  There you go.  I'm waiting at the check-out for you.
 
So, Bindy, my little black angel, you are joining a psychologically challenging household, but I can promise you this - you may steal my spoons, you may pee on my floor - I have the mop at the ready. And you may be as gentle and nervous as you like.  You won't be reprimanded for that, because I have great compassion, and great love, waiting for you. 
 
We may, however, have to do something about your name...  :-)

Friday, 8 May 2015

MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL.....


I have a new friend;  she's called Nettie, short for Netflix.  And Nettie shows me amazing things and keeps me out of mischief for hours on end.

My last couch-induced coma was called Orphan Black, an amazing series about Clones... well-worth a watch, and kudos to the actress that took the various characters on board - she did a sterling job.  And whilst I was still wondering what it must be like to have identical people to you out there, living different lives with different people, an alter-ego if you will.... along came the next series.

Once Upon A Time.  Wow.  I am fascinated by and in awe of the writers of this show - they took, in summary, old fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, the list goes on... and spins a modern-day tale with red herrings, hooks, twists and turns so psychologically clever, I bow in defeat.  A story of two worlds, of how those same characters would fare in our own world today, without magic (at first), and how the personality traits transverse the portals between our many worlds, or our many facets. 

And, but of course, it got me thinking about what titles I would put on people that have crossed my life;  which characters they would take in that other world, how their behaviour mirrors some of these people the Brothers Grimm, so long, long ago, devised.  And perhaps the Brothers Grimm need to be added to our list of wise men, for they certainly knew far more about the human psyche than even they first realised. 

I like writing;  it releases a lot of stuff I don't want to carry around.  But I don't have a very vivid imagination, therefore I am better at analytical writing than fictional.  I can't visualise a character, or a magical forest, or fairies or elves.  I can't see it.  I'm too logical.  Even when I wrote a fictional novel, it was based on a couple I had known.... their character traits, their quirks.  I'm afraid my imagination is very much black and white, devoid of the colourful dyes required to bring it to life and make it three-dimensional.  I'm too bland to create something new;  but I can take something someone else has created, and admire the beauty and skill of it.  How they spin a tale of gold from straw. 

So now, back to the characters of Brothers Grimm.  Whilst I have met a lot of them, I have not had a physical relationship with all of them - that would make me a slut, and terribly tired.  I am neither.  But I have come into contact with them.  And so have you, if you take enough time to stop and think.

Take Pinocchio - we've all met him, haven't we?  The liar?  The one who can't help but spin himself into a web so intricate, that even he can't remember where the thread started.  Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.  You know the one - his nose grows.  Or perhaps nose is a euphemism for penis.  Perhaps he is the adulterer, the one who deceives his wife, his family, and thinks he is beyond reproach.  (I've just heard an incredibly stupid Pinocchio on the Niall Boylan radio show, he came on air to admit how many affairs he's had over the years of his marriage - and someone recognised his voice, and ultimately played the podcast to his wife.  This Pinocchio's growing nose has got him into an awful lot of bother).

I know of another Pinocchio who is having an affair with Snow White who has, perhaps, in the interim become Black Ice.  And we all know how dangerous it is to drive on roads with this.... you can't see it coming.  Before you know it, you're mangled on the barriers, leaving detritus and debris behind you in your wake.

I've met Prince Charming - but his alter-ego in this world left him wanting.  He was dapper, and kind, and handsome, but he was weak and unable to slay his earthly dragons.  He was no warrior, had no drive in him to fight,, choosing instead to become Little Boy Blue who now has to blow his own horn amongst the sheep where he now lives.  He lost something in chancing a journey through the portal to this world - he lost himself because he gave up. 

I loved the Huntsman once, for seven years - my first love.  Strong, masculine, nature's boy.  A real man. He is still the Huntsman, just old and weathered and jaded now, with less reason to hunt; his strength sapped since he cut his hair.  Now he is merely an ageing man with no family, living in a workshop with no trees or forests surrounding him.  What magical powers he once held over me;  that love I will never forget, it is my benchmark in this world.

I've met Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, and Stealthy.  No diamonds were found amongst their rubble, and they were forever cast into the abyss.

How about Rumpelstiltskin with his ego of gold, and where any favour bestowed by him comes at a price too high to pay?  The one who always has an agenda with his name clearly printed at the top?  The one who is always wheeling and dealing, trying to pull a fast one, thinking himself so clever?  And who, at the end of the day, will end up alone and peeing into his slippers.

Red, as in Riding Hood?  She turned out to be the wolf.  Her cloak kept her from turning, but there were times she chose to leave her cloak behind, and wreak havoc and destruction with absolutely no conscience or memory of doing so.  Her grandmother knew this, and tried to protect her from herself by giving her an enchanted red cloak, but evil, like water, has a way of finding another way out.

Sleeping Beauty was a lazy wench, feigning sleep to avoid pulling her weight, expecting everyone around her to sort her life out.  She currently has a mattress attached to her back as the world outside passes her by.

Cinderella?  In our world, she'd probably be a single mother bemoaning her lot in life, having wanted it to be oh-so-different and now despondent and depressed as she works in a laundry;  what a wicked world this is, for not providing her with the life she felt she was entitled to.  Get a job, you layabout.

Hansel and Gretel?  The children no-one wanted;  the wicked step-mother who used her wiles to persuade the father to lose them in the woods....  These are our adopted children who are forever condemned to a life of feeling unloved, left wondering what they had done wrong.  These are our restless and empty souls who never find the peace which they seek.

The Frog Prince - well, we've all kissed a few frogs in our time, and none of them turned out to be Princes.  They are still out there, spreading warts and all sorts amongst unsuspecting women.

Tom Thumb - the wannabe-boy who was too insignificant and small to make any kind of impact on the world.  The one who tries to convince himself that he is equal to his peers (which he is), but who can never quite accept that it's true, and so condemns himself to a life of feeling inadequate, not strong enough, big enough, worthy enough.  Condemned therefore to a life of searching for that one elusive element he thinks will make his life complete.  He is the "if only" man.  The problem with "if only", is that he never recognises when he finally gets there.  How can he?  He keeps moving the goalposts.

And of course, how can I forget : The Wicked Witch.  We have ALL met one of these, be it someone you work with, someone you live near, or someone - even - that you may be related to.  The one who is jealous of everyone, who claps her hands in glee when something bad befalls you, who relishes in your downfall, whilst smiling sweetly all the time.  Check her handbag.  You'll probably find a large mirror inside.  And she probably owns an orchard.

Enough examples given.  But it does give us pause for thought, doesn't it?  For those that believe in reincarnation, could it be that we were once a stronger, nicer, more successful version of ourselves in another world?  Are our disabilities and impediments in this world a penance for our actions in a world we no longer remember?  Just because we don't remember, doesn't mean it isn't there. 

Which brings me nicely to closing up with the philosophies of Buddhism - that we are filtered over and over again, paying penance and debts incurred in our previous lives, until such time as we have become the best version of ourselves that we can be.  An accumulation of talents, skills, kindness, honesty and love.  You've met those, too, haven't you?  Those wise old souls that you wish you could be more like.  Those people who seem to have knowledge beyond our realm, a depth and a soul so old you can almost touch it. Almost. 

Yes, I've met a lot of different souls along my journey.  Their bodies are only the shells in which they travel, and given time, they reveal themselves for who they really are.  If they show you who they are, believe them.  The Good, the Bad, and the very, very Ugly. 

I think the strongest character of all, is Pinocchio.  People are liars.  They deceive.  They promise things they do not mean, or have any intention of following up on.  They disguise themselves in any one of the above cloaks, never being true to who they actually are.  Or perhaps they are being true - perhaps they are the scurge, the ogres, the pong of our society.  I meet Pinocchios all the time. 

But every now and again, you find a diamond.

I think I shall remain Queen of Hearts, collecting them as I go, and losing them in the maze when they turn out to be duds.

Off with their heads.