Friday, 10 August 2018

Jill of all trades

My daughter is studying to become a chiropractor so I try to impress on her an idea that doesn't seem to get a whole lot of air time in educational establishments: the idea that the patient or the patient's carer often know a lot about their own condition and should be valued as a partner in their treatment.

I mentioned my neurological disease a few months ago. The disease causes muscle imbalances, leading to foot deformity. In my case the foot deformity can lead to a pressure ulcer if my foot care and management is not up to scratch.

Earlier this year, as my orthotic and shoes were aging, my foot started to look as though it might ulcerate. The podiatrist pulled some ragged padding from the orthotic and then redesigned the new padding. I really didn't like her doing that as the old one had worked well for a long time.

My foot didn't improve as much as she hoped and so we embarked on a program of extra appointments for me and hand wringing from her. I had an idea of what might help but she was reluctant to do what I suggested and after a few months of this I was on the verge of an ulcer. 

By this time I knew I was going to get some new orthotics from a specialised orthotist so the podiatrist seemed to give up, just waiting for the new orthotics. The problem is, my foot needs protection until that time and wasn't really getting enough.

A few weeks along and I had developed an ulcer. I can't tell you the drama these ulcers cause. It's hard to heal them and if they become infected it can lead to weeks of antibiotics and constant medical monitoring. It becomes expensive and a little bit frightening.

The podiatrist wasn't happy with this turn of events and as a last ditch kind of measure she made up a little pad which she taped to my foot with instructions to remove it in a couple of days. Taking the padding off in a couple of days would achieve nothing so I took matters into my own hands and spent the next two weeks taping and retaping the increasingly grubby little pad to my foot.

It did the job and on next inspection my foot was not only all healed but looking better than it had in ages. The podiatrist was stunned and said I had done so well she didn't need to see me for a month. She gave me a new little felt pad which I have now been taping to my foot for three weeks.

In another week or two I'll have my new orthotics and I might be able to forget ulcers for a little bit but for now I'll keep doing my own stop gap orthotic making. It's too important to leave it in the hands of the professionals!

On another note, I have had to give back the lap top I have borrowed for the longest time which means I am mostly reading your blogs on my phone. I want you all to know that I am still reading even if commenting is hit & miss!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Forgiveness, Love & Faith

Going back a week or two, Nick posted about forgiveness and as we discussed it, I realised that his idea of forgiveness required an emotional component. An emotionally driven forgiveness (like when my daughter crashed our car and I couldn't be angry because she was so devastated) is easy to do and it probably feels more genuine than the forgiveness that comes through an act of will but the type of forgiveness we use when we have no connection to or empathy for a perpetrator is probably the one we have to use the most. Forgiving the impatient driver so I don't descend into road rage myself, forgiving the spouse we divorced so we can move on in peace, forgiving the doctor who missed a diagnosis, forgiving the loud mouthed family member who always presses my buttons, forgiving the grown child who doesn't call too often.....

These acts of forgiveness are the ones I need to make every day so that I can keep living (living as opposed to surviving) These are the acts of forgiveness that allow us to start each day or week new, happy and expectant instead of bitter, disappointed and resentful.
I started to think about this in the context of the Christian faith. Forgiveness is mandatory for Christians, we are to forgive the big things and the small ones and we are to do it completely, generously, not counting. If we were asked to do this from an emotional place we could never achieve it but the key is to forgive as a discipline. Forgiveness is making a decision not to continually nurse a grievance, not to raise it, not to let it slowly poison me. I can do these things even if I don't feel like it, I can do them just because it is good for me, not much different to exercise or eating salad, really.

Which leads me to other disciplines of Christianity: love and faith. It doesn't really matter what religion you follow or even if you follow one, love is a decision we make and stand by. The day to day work of raising a child or maintaining a long friendship or caring for a difficult person is not always something I  do because I feel like it. When I don't feel much like it I do it anyway because I decided to. The Christian imperative to love all as we love ourselves is the same principle but in a bigger arena. Love. As a discipline.

And then there is faith. Faith is what led Noah to build a great boat and fill it with animals, faith is what leads a person to leave their home and become a missionary or a minister or to feel exposed and vulnerable as they preach or give away money or maybe move house, change schools or leave a secure job. Faith is forgiving or loving when we don't want to. Faith is deciding that there is a God who wants the best for us and then living as though that is true, even and especially when we are unsure.

It's interesting that I have known all these things to be disciplines but I have never before thought of them all together. I wonder how many people lose their Christian faith because they don't feel it. I wonder how many struggle because they expect to feel more and how much blessing do Christian people miss out on because they don't have rigour to match their claimed beliefs.

There is a verse I learned as a child. It's no longer fashionable to sing these things but the wisdom of it is unchanged:

By the pathway of duty flows the river of God's grace.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018


Over at Going Gently, John raised the subject of funerals. The comments were so long and varied that I decided to do a post about funerals.

I find it hard to understand why funerals seem to be thought of as either sad or a "celebration of life". I think every funeral I have ever attended was both a celebration of the deceased and sad for the people attending. Just the fact we remember a person implies a celebration of them (unless I suppose we really didn't like them and then it probably becomes a celebration of them being gone).

 Smart, subdued clothing is what I choose to wear to a funeral. It just seems respectful. If there was a request for colour/ flowers/ summer dresses/Hawaiian shirts I would honour it. One way to support the remaining family is to honour their wishes.

Funerals are for the people who are left behind so when friends or acquaintances of mine say they don't want a funeral I get annoyed that they want to deny me the opportunity to follow a ritual I know and value, a way of feeling that I have said Goodbye properly.

Funerals might be for those left behind but when the wishes of the dead person are flouted quite intentionally it makes me throw up in my mouth just a bit. I know of two people who expressed wishes to be buried in a particular spot and were buried in other locations.

After my own death, I have instructed my children not to spend any more than necessary on things like cars and caskets. If they want to spend money remembering me they can spend it on a good meal or nice flowers or building toilets in refugee camps. I like the idea of burial. I like the idea of having a gravestone somewhere to mark my life but at $14K to $20K for a Sydney grave site, well cremation is a much more practical alternative and I'm good with that.

A cardboard coffin sounds reasonable to me but please no tacky decorations on it, no writing on it, no generic pictures of sandy beaches. A wicker basket or a shroud are also acceptable alternatives.

I would like a Christian service with traditional hymns but if I live an average life span, I'm afraid there may be no traditional hymns left. The venue for my funeral might need to be decided by my family. My own church is one choice but sometimes the chapel at the cemetery or the funeral parlour works well.

As I reflect on what I have written here I realise my non-negotiables: there must be opportunity for people to pay their respects, it should be a Christian service with some singing and I would like some flowers somewhere. My bodily disposal should be done as sustainably as possible and nobody should feel obliged to spend money they don't have. If the non-negotiable flowers have to be stolen from around the neighbourhood then the thief should try not to get caught. The finer points are not my business and will most likely depend on the circumstances at the time. If everyone feels they have closed a chapter and are able to move forward, my funeral will have served it's purpose.