Monika Schott PhD

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A life of 'oh wells' is greater than a life of 'what ifs'.

That kid

Mopping my floors is a time consuming, mundane job when most of what we walk on in our home is polished wooden boards. No one’s home on this particular mopping day and so it’s just me and my damp mop, one of those Enjo-Sabco types that when wiping over the floors requires more muscle means the cloth pad of the mop is drying out and needs water. This requires either sliding the mop pad off and rinsing it under a tap or pouring water onto it from a cup that moves with me from table to bench top. It’s even dull writing about it, but stick with me.

Mopping around the heater vent in the front entry, I chuckle out loud. The spike of autumn shoots through the flyscreen door and I glance into the street for anyone walking by that might catch me laughing at nothing. People are always walking past our home, more so during the Corona lockdown.

It was a few days earlier that I first glimpsed a round container full of white, thick goo on the floor by this heater vent I just mopped around. At first, I wondered whether I’d put my sour dough starter there, only to quickly realise that my starter was growing in a jar and not in a plastic container. I laugh again, remembering the container, and keep mopping. That kid, always inventing or exploring something science and engineering. I kept meaning to ask him what he was doing with the container but he’d been flitting between work and online Uni classes and I couldn’t catch him long enough to ask. I didn’t dare open the lid, didn’t want to discover anything disgusting growing or brewing with the heat. I laugh out loud again, this time so hard that I had to stop mopping. That kid.

The same morning of finding the container by the heater vent, I was in the sunroom on the phone to friend when I heard music. I followed it into the lounge room where my son’s phone lay on the floor, beside a blanket. It was his alarm sounding to wake him for work. I thought it odd as he always takes his phone with him into his bedroom. He must’ve fallen asleep on the couch and dropped the phone and blanket on the floor as he got up to go to bed. I took his phone into him and asked him why it was in the lounge room. He didn’t know. Making breakfast 20 minutes later, I asked him whether he’d fallen asleep on the couch. He replied again that he didn’t know. I smiled, thinking he was probably still half asleep. He’d been working long hours over the past week.

Later in the evening after finishing work, my son walked through the backdoor.

‘Hey sweet, how was work?’

‘Good,’ he says, smirking. ‘I don’t know what happened last night, but I think I was sleep walking.’

I laugh and stop clearing the kitchen bench from the onion skins. ‘Why, what makes you say that?’

‘I don’t know,’ he says, sounding unsure. ‘I don’t know how my phone got onto the lounge room floor but I think I remember getting up after going to bed, to watch TV.’

‘You used to sleep walk when you were little, but you haven’t done that in years.’

‘Yeah, I sort of remember that,’ he says.

‘I used to lock the doors at night because I would find you in some strange places and I was worried you’d one day walk out of the house.’

‘That’s a bit dangerous, deadlocking the doors when we’re sleeping. What if we had a fire, and couldn’t get out quick enough.’

‘I know, but I was more worried about you sleep walking into the street and being hit by a car. One time I found you in the dining room,’ I laugh. ‘Do you remember that?’

‘Yeah, I was asleep on the floor.’

‘Asleep under the bloody chair, exactly where the dogs lay when we have dinner!’

‘I remember,’ he chuckles.

‘You must’ve been four or five at the time. Honestly. Sometimes I’d wake for no obvious reason to see you standing in the hallway, trying to work out where you were. I’m not sure what would wake me but one time, I woke to hear you call me and I found you standing in the dark in the laundry, not doing anything. Just standing there, calling me.’

‘I know I did it, but I don’t remember doing it.’

‘You sleep walked for a few years, maybe from when you were about three until about eight years old I think. And then it just stopped. Until the other night!’

After two days of looking at this science experiment container on the floor, I’m in the kitchen making a pot of tea. As the kettle heats the water, I draw open the curtain in the lounge room and notice the container in the front entry had disappeared. That kid, he must’ve done something with his experiment after I went to bed last night.

My son wakes soon after and almost prances into the kitchen. ‘I know what that container was.’

I look at him, thinking yes, great, the experiment’s finished. I know that.

‘It was the houmous.’

‘What?’ I begin smiling.

‘It was the houmous. I went looking for some in the fridge last night, for a snack, and couldn’t find it. Then I walked past the container near the heater vent and thought, that must be the houmous.’

I laugh out loud. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I think when I was sleep walking the other night, I must’ve eaten some houmous and then went to put it away in the fridge but for some reason, thought putting it near the heater vent was putting it in the fridge.’

We both break into raucous laughter.

‘Are you nuts!’ I say. ‘How can the heater vent be the fridge!’

‘I don’t know. I was sleep walking.’

I can’t say whether he was laughing as hard as me that morning, as I couldn’t see through the tears I was laughing.

That kid.

Recent Comments
Monika Schott PhD
It's amazing how common sleepwalking is.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020 00:20
Stephen Evans
So charming.
Monday, 25 May 2020 15:00
678 Hits
4 Comments

Quiet strength

She sobs, walks in a wallowing of bowed head. Her pace is steady. Purposeful.

She forces him to walk in front of her, so he’s walking backwards while gripping her elbows, trying to stop her.

She lifts her head and screams at him. I can’t make out her scrambling shrieks, or his faint replies. But I’m ready, with phone in hand, to call the police. Who knows what he’s about to do to her.

She strides on, pushing against his force. Then suddenly drops to her knees. She screams at him to get away, to leave her alone. But he’s not listening, he’s on his own mission.

My finger swipes my phone on. I scrutinise his every move, watch him block her path. That’s a form of violence, surely. To use force to stop her from freely acting as she wants and needs. I’m about the call 000. She drops to her knees again, screams at him to leave her alone. Then sobs into her hands.

This is society in lockdown, families under considerable strain as people are forced together. They can’t separate or escape from any dire that might exist, building more frustration in the bind to unhappy homes. It’s well noted that when families spend more time together, family violence increases. Restricting our movements to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is causing violence in homes to be more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.

Family violence organisations are reporting a surge in demand for services, and governments have increased spending on crisis accommodation and for those experiencing family violence during lockdown. Some perpetrators are threatening to take their children outside and expose them to the virus, or themselves, so they can carry the virus into to the family.

While the spike in family violence is being reported, it is also to some degree, being endured silently.

Family violence is what I’m witnessing from my sunroom window before the sun has risen. It’s the kind of dawning day for this woman and man that few will know or hear about.

And it’s only one of many scenarios that isn’t being heard or fully understood. There are few who aren’t experiencing their own struggle right now. Many are grieving the loss of freedom, have no work and can’t pay their mortgages or rent or buy food. Millions have locked themselves up in extremes of paranoia, not daring to leave the confines of their homes for weeks. How difficult it may be for some to leave their homes when we're able to move freely once again.

Many can’t be with loved ones at their last breaths and at final farewells, can’t grieve together and instead, the pain festers in deep loss and heartache. Those battling mental and emotional demons daily, fighting to stay afloat, are battling harder than ever in a state of confusion and uncertainty. They’re trying to manage their imbalance in a much more complex environment. Even those locked up at home with time to focus on home and self, are battling and digging for an inner strength.

The yearning for social contact has its own level of audibility, exposing egos that are craving attention, more than they ever have. And in a world of polarity, these amplified voices are drowning out those battling silently. The ongoing joke in my extended family is to be prepared to be tackled to the ground for hugs when we can be together again.

Quiet strength is being drawn upon everywhere. In the many helping quietly and unassumingly in our communities, the organisations and people assisting the elderly and vulnerable. Many act without recognition or a need to make a noise, they pick up food and medications and deliver to those in lock down. Children deliver groceries to their elderly parents and have a cup of tea with them from back door steps or through windows in apartment blocks, parents school children at home while also working from the kitchen bench, and others work from phones and laptops to great effect in a nook in a back corner of the home, continuing to serve their community and society at large.

It’s apparent in my street outside and in the vast number of relationships that were fragile and held together by the thinnest of threads before COVID-19 struck, now pushed to limits in confined homes. The suffocation, frustration and heightened irritation, the growing resentment, and deep digging for that inner strength.

These hotpots of emotion stew away in cauldrons spiked in poison … and one of those hotpots is exploding outside my window. It’s 6.30am and I can only just make out the two solitary figures, the male towers over the small female frame. They’ve only walked the length of two residential houses. He hasn’t done anything to physically hurt her. He’s not been violent, but he is threatening, attempting to control her. She’s obviously fearful, is besieged on her knees, unable to move.

I’m careful to stay behind the curtain. If he’s a violent man, he could retaliate if he knows I’ve called the police.

He moves away, his hands in his head. She jumps up, but he’s on the ball. And then as I predicted, a punch is swung.

But it’s from her. She’s thrown a punch at him to move him from her path. He grabs her, tries to cradle her. She shakes free and screams at him to leave her alone. She darts past him, her backpack firm on her shoulder.

He tells her to get in the car so they can go home. She screams no. He runs ahead and tries to block her again. She sobs, screams. She’s going to swing at him again, I need to call the police.

Then I hear her very clearly. ‘Leave me alone. I need a drink. I have to buy a drink.’

My heart sinks in sympathy with the man's slumping shoulders. He stands limp, watches her march towards the shop. She needs a drink. And he’s powerless to stop her.

He’s not giving up though. He dashes to his car parked a few houses down the street and drives alongside her. Their conversation becomes inaudible as they move away from my house, but his determination is resolute and he crawls beside her in his car up the street, towards the liquor shop.

A good mate of mine, in fact, he’s a beautiful man, he says that everything has no necessary reason and that nothing is contingent on anything. He says that when we understand that, we can see that the world is what it is, and we can transcend all the bullocks.

‘Seeing something simply in its being-thus—irreparable, but not for that reason necessary; thus, but not for that reason contingent—is love’ (The Coming Community, 2013, p. 105).

Some might call it unconditional love. Acceptance of the polarity of life, the whole spectrum of life: good, bad, joy and sadness. It’s all necessary.

I wonder what he would say about what was happening outside my window, about our isolation and being segregated. He has written a great about that too, people being segregated. Perhaps he’ll write about our isolating life now, in the months to come. I hope so. I’d love be able to ask him what he thinks but I’ve never met the guy, only know him through his words. His name is Giorgio Agamben, described as Italy’s leading philosopher and ‘one of the most delicate and probing writers’. He says a lot that make sense to me and sometimes I just smile in awe at what he reveals.

While I believe and accept that life is full of polarity, all is necessary for the balance of life, I do question why things happen the way they do. 

The thing is, we’re all here to learn the hard stuff, crack our shells to let our light shine brighter.

Hats off to all of us for the strength we must find to deal with our hard stuff. We all have it. But gold-lined top hats off to those steaming along in quiet strength, while making little noise.

 

Image: 'The fool', by Paul Klee, 1927

Copyright

© 'The fool' by Paul klee, 1927

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
"Acceptance of the polarity of life" -a phrase rich in meaning.
Monday, 25 May 2020 15:02
Monika Schott PhD
Rich in experience too.
Tuesday, 02 June 2020 10:50
335 Hits
2 Comments

‘chicks bloody well can surf’

I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Australian, coming-of-age movie made in 1981 about teenage life in the 70s on the coast — the beach, surf, sex and drugs. Not sure much has changed! It resonates with my teenage years and is one I watched many times over. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t like to watch a movie for a second time, let alone a third or fourth.

The movie had already begun but a beach scene hooked me immediately, no doubt because of my love of the beach and water. However, what struck me about the movie was its ending. It finished on the ideal high that many storytellers strive for, that thought provoking scene that's interpreted through book, song, movie, music or any other creative means. It’s that hook that catches you inside, pulls you to kind of do a double take.

The movie’s ending shows the two girls, Debbie and Sue, buying their own surfboard and carrying it together down to the beach where their ‘friends’ tell them that girls don’t surf. The scene is brilliantly set up to evoke the idea that the surf board is too heavy for one girl to carry, and requires two. Defiant, Debbie takes to the surf to catcalls and scoffs. The scene unfold with the two girls soon laughing as they swim out and surf the waves laying on their bellies. Their friends watch on in deriding disdain.

Until Debbie stands on the board, that is. Suddenly, Sue’s boyfriend is smiling as Debbie rides the waves as a professional, which actor Nell Schofield does so well as a former teen surfing champion. The friends with Sue’s boyfriend, both boys and girls, are gobsmacked and watch in awe. You can almost see the penny drop in the girls that the impossible of girls not being able to surf, is possible. What’s more, the boys see it too. It’s such an empowering scene, for the female and the male, set up so beautifully by director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine: Debbie in her skimpy yellow bikini showing the boys how it’s done, defying the unthinkable.

It encapsulates a spirited rebellion that rises and leads to freedom, a liberation of the stereotypical of men and women in the 1970s. Baby steps, of course.

Around the time I was watching the movie, I had just spoken to my cousin in Austria. The tremble in her voice was something I didn’t usually hear in her. She was exhausted and in bed early with a headache that night. The limitations and isolation imposed because of the corona virus were getting to her, symptomatic of what’s happening all over the world.

It highlighted to me, that we’re all in this together. The whole big, wide world.

We’ve become one. While vast lands may be separated by distance and water, we are one community facing a virus which threatens us. One united community. And together, we’re doing what we can to minimise its impact on us. We’re carrying our surfboard together, no matter how rich or poor or what colour our skin or religion we may follow. We’re sharing that load. Sure there are some that don’t. There are always going to be those that don’t, those that live on the fringes of any community, for numerous reasons. That seems to be human nature.

It’s so heartening to see and experience the world uniting though, the kindness that’s been extended by so many, and the genuine care and help for one another.

It’s humbling. It’s courteous and modest, sending us back to basics. While we’ve grown into a human race that is rich in materialism, we’ve been thrown back to basics where food, medicine and water are all that matter. And it’s happening to all of us.

We’ve been forced to return to our homes and families, our friends who are our families, whether in physicality, online or over the phone. We’re thinking about elderly people and looking after them. And for those that have them, we’re spending time with our children.

Sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with two of my sons last week, we wondered how some parents and children who don’t often spend time together may be coping with this new togetherness. The eternal optimist in me believes the intrinsic fibres between parent and child have no option but to reconnect, to strengthen relationships and homes. The problem will be, in the homes and relationships that are broken. 

It fills me with such warmth when I sit in my spring blossom and peacock chair in the sunroom at dawn and feel the quiet and peace outside, with the French doors open to my Chinese Elm and birds chirping good morning. Only an occasional car drives by compared with the many that normally stream past on their way to work. Dawn in peace is a grounding gift.

My sons had commented on the lack of traffic in our street too, as they tuned into the stillness outside. This calm that shrouds us, us as in the world where we humans have been forced to stop. Our busyness has subsided and work isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s as if the world is on pause for a chance to catch its breath. It’s been so wacky busy, it needed to catch its breath. Yet as each day passes, it pants more slowly and less so.  

Many are anxious about where we now find ourselves. I like to see it as being in another stage of life that’s in a constant state of flux. Life is full of those, cycles of change, of difficultly and ease, challenge and triumph, and joy and sadness. Change is one of the few reliable constants in life. The key with any flux, flow or ebb in life, is to ride it out for it will shift. Take the action necessary to make the change, to come through it and be patient to believe that things will improve. I see many who are patient and accepting of this.

Some panic in change and adversity. But that’s the polarity of life, of the spectrum of experience and people — positive and negative, pure and filth, disgust and captivating. Even that needs acceptance, of life’s adversity and polarity that is building now as a collective adversity, a world adversity.

In any polarity, change and adversity, life continues. It’s a short life that we have and making the most of it and any situation we’re faced with is all we can do. Love. Kiss. Confront. Forgive and move on. And laugh, don’t forget to laugh, even in times like we’re in now, and especially in times like we’re in now.

Babies are born, people die. Love blooms, relationships end. Some are still at work while many have lost their means to earn an income. People are stressed, some are panicked, others are unperturbed.

And yet in all that, has come one of the greatest revelations: that of kindness and compassion extended to those in need, and to those that aren’t earning an income. Such fortitude emblazons. They won’t be beaten.

It really sends my heart gooey when I think of the compassion around us right now. Yes, there are some desperate and hoarding and only thinking of themselves. But the giving out number them and in reality, compassion can only be extended to those in such panic for they’re in fear.

Fear can be so consuming and at the moment, it’s consuming millions. Eckhart Tolle describes fear as thoughts where people project themselves into some future moment.

If we try and pause with the world, sit in this quiet time to plant our feet on the ground and not get caught in the madness, we may become less fearful. Accept that this time now, is a pause in life. Plan for the future but it’s not possible to think too far ahead as these are new times unfolding in ways we’ve not experienced before. It's new for everyone. Deal with each day as it appears. Plan for the future but live in the day that exits. More easily said than done for some, I know. Compassion and patience is called for those struggling with fear and panic.

Compassion and patience is giving, as the driver coming out of his truck to share his toilet paper with the elderly lady weeping when she couldn’t buy toilet paper, and in the tray of mince and bread left on an elderly woman’s fence and toilet paper left on a door step. It’s in the man asking people that had congregated after playing soccer at the local sports oval to move on and disperse, and those people doing so. And in the phone calls and facetimes, messages on every app possible, of people checking in on friends, family and neighbours, on those alone and isolated. It’s in the support groups and services established to help people unable to go out and buy food or medicine or simply can’t move from their home for anything at all. Organisations are making extra funding available to help people who have lost their income. Even businesses and banks are showing compassion, providing extra services without cost and deferring mortgages for those who have lost work. Business partners are supporting one another, offering jobs to those working for partners who have lost theirs.

People are helping people. If you ever thought human kindness had left the planet, look around for it’s galloping in right now. Even my niece offered to help me. I giggled at first, then that gooey heart got going again. Such care. And love.

The fragility of life has been waved before us. But flapping madly in front of that is the human spirit. It’s strong, alive and kicking, just as it was when Debbie and Sue surfed those waves at Bondi. We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a humanity emerging within humanity.

I’ll finish my rambling in the spirit of humanity loving to laugh, with Lulu taking the piss out of Corona

Recent Comments
Monika Schott PhD
Glad you enjoyed it, Chris. There's a positive in everything if we look hard enough. ?
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 11:05
Rosy Cole
'We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a hu... Read More
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 18:25
Monika Schott PhD
Hi Rosy. I'm sorry I didn't see your comment until now! Thanks for your reflective words. I agree totally. Humans are strong and w... Read More
Monday, 27 April 2020 00:14
582 Hits
4 Comments

The captivating soul

Tall or short, thin or round. Blue-eyed, brown-eyed, maybe even one of each for a touch of the unique. Blonde hair, brunette, curly or shaved head, egg-shell or olive complexion, toned or not, big or small, great and immensely tremendous.

No, there’s got to be more, much more than the pink-iced façade studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting.

Brash and brazen, shy and bashful … an observer, a chatterbox, a listener, a really good listener for sure. Now we’re getting somewhere. Accomplished in the art of listening is a necessity.

But more, there’s got to be more, something beyond the veneer of superficial.

A listener and conversationalist, the epitome of a good communicator who can express thoughts and ideas. And feelings. Justly and rationally, and with reason and a sense of justice and fairness. And with an ability to think on the philosophy of life and way up its nuances. Thoughtfully.

Someone that reads and can read to me and I to them. Head resting on lap, fingers twirling and swirling through hair. Sharing is caring after all.

Birds call, outside breezes through dreamy aqua sheers as a gentle confirmation.

Confident and self-assured, but positively not cocky. Not wanky or manky or any kind of minx ... no thanks, that’s just not for me.

One who is considerate and gentle, understanding of others and shows compassion for their needs. It comes with a kind, generous and selfless spirit, a giving without expectation. That’s true nobility, in the giving. Now we’re forming a picture.

The ability to be vulnerable too, with the capacity to manage that vulnerability as that shows full disclosure. Honesty. It’s an imperative that goes to the top. Honesty is the sexy. But so is the glint of cheeky grin and sharp wit, the super sexy.

The fun, there’s got to be fun and joy and laughter, and a sharing in that. Time at the beach, for walking, swimming and lazing. Kayaking and snorkelling, sailing and wind surfing, the adventure in trying the new, seeing the new through eyes of awe.

A crack of thunder, a hint of coming rain wafts through the window.

Travelling, discovering new places, exploring cultures and all that makes up our world environment, the extremes of heat and ice cold, and those damn elusive Northern Lights! Riding through snow in little visibility, or motor cycling winding mountain roads lined in green terraces of water and rice and humidity. The chance for real breath, savouring it all until it seeps in and becomes part of you, forms you as an ever evolving you.

Art and music, good food and drinks. Dancing, theatre, the chance for creativity to infuse any part of life and thinking you so desire, even in the simplest of things. Gardening and weeding, especially of the inherent and intrinsic. We all need it in our own way, as an appreciation of what is, and without the gluttony of the selfish.

And in the experiencing of all that together.

But, there’s more. There’s the sharing of the emotional that’s so vital. An emotional intellect. A sharing and understanding of the highs and lows, the distresses and successes. The bolstering and support. Mustn’t forget that, especially on those solo quests.

Rain washes in to define a picture more rounded.

And an appreciation and encouragement of independence. Independence to think and do, be the individual with an identity. And an independence to be found in the sharing as well. There’s such freedom in that, as the outstretched wings of the Pegasus. Wings unclipped.

It’s the kiss though, that’s the real cherry on top of the icing studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting. The kiss that can tell all, express a feeling that can’t be defined. And the embrace that can hold the weight of the world.

That’s the gold gilding the cherry in a picture that’s simple really, of a most captivating soul.

 

 

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Latest Comments

Stephen Evans The Problem
04 June 2020
I think the rare and precious revolutions of human thought happen this way - Buddha, Plato, Kant, Ei...
Rosy Cole The Problem
03 June 2020
Am somewhat bemused by how this can be validated or proven.
Monika Schott PhD Quiet strength
02 June 2020
Rich in experience too.
Stephen Evans Quiet strength
25 May 2020
"Acceptance of the polarity of life" -a phrase rich in meaning.
Stephen Evans That kid
25 May 2020
So charming.