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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bending the elements to suit ourselves

Yesterday Coran and I went to see a film entitled The Last Airbender. We had been waiting to see this film for quite some time, having heard about it through the grapevine, via friends in the United States. It was an interesting concept that to me at least warrants further discussion.

The film is based on the first season of an animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and was adpated into a film by M Night Shyamalan, who produced The Sixth Sense and The Village, among others. The Last Airbender is the first of a planned trilogy, and is influenced by Asian Art, (so-called) mythology - for I strongly believe that myths are often rooted in fact, however far back in pre-history they go, and the martial arts, with strong cinematic effects.

The film is baseda around the theory that the Planet that we inhabit, is governed by a complex interweaving of four basic elements - earth, air, fire and water, which must remain in perfect balance. The balance is maintained by The Avatar, who has the ability to bend or manipulate all four of these elements, while ordinary mortals (at least some) can bend just one - the element of the tribe that they were born into. The Last Avatar, who was born into the air element, hence the title of the film, disappeared 100 years ago.

The film begins with a young female water bender named Katara, and her older brother, a warrior named Sokka, who live with with the Southern Water Tribe. One day they are out hunting for seals, when Katara detects a movement under the ice. Proceeding to unfreeze the iceberg, she releases a young boy named Aang, and his flying bison Appa, whom it transpires have been trapped for over 100 years. You can probably guess the identity of Aang.

This attracts the attention of Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation who was exiled by his father until he can find the Avatar, whom the fire nation regard as a threat to their dominance. The rest of the film, without wishing to cut a long story short, details Aang's attempts to restore balance, escape from Zuko's clutches and master the other elements.

Like I say, it was an interesting concept, but one which for me at least was ruined by the American accents. However, as Coran pointed out, in order for people to understand these concepts, they must be couched in a language and a style that people can understand. To me to least (and while I realise this may sound like a generalisation), American is the least evolved spiritually of all nations on Earth, so the film had to shown in a way that would appeal to them, no matter how irritating it was to others, and I found it very much so. The language seemed to be almost child's talk, very basic in the amount of words used and the way they were expressed. I have observed from my own experiences, on both real life and television, that many Americans talk very much like.

Personally I would have liked to have seen much more emphasis on the qualities of the four different elements, which were barely touched upon at all. All that was said was the idea that water is connected to the emotions. This is true, but when you come to think of it there is much more to water than just this - water mirrors the state of not just the Planet but also our own bodies, with three quarters of both being ocmposed of this element.

I felt that this film has strong Atlantean overtones, many of which were echoed in my own work, Genesis of Man (I would urge you to read this book if you ae interested to know more). Atlantis had not four, but seven Royal families representing the four main elements, plus three others - love, spirit and evolution (change), elements which are less well known and less easily defined. In the film each of the elements had a northern and southern kingdom, with their own Royal families who were responsible for maintaining balance and order, just as in Atlantis.

I cannot help wondering if the film harkens back to what took place there, with the Fire element reigning supreme and wishing to be in control. Of course no one can ever be in control, for balance must always be maintained, just as we must express 'moderation in all things'. The balance is delicate but it must be maintained and that I suppose is the danger that we face now all over again.

Maybe that is also a message from nature, for there has certainly been an increase in natural disasters in recent years - the Boxing Day Tsunami (water), various volcanos (fire), earthquakes (earth), and sand storms in the Middle East (air). Earlier this year we saw major disruption to air traffic caused by the Icelandic volcano, which shows us how at least two of these elements are interconnecte. With the rise in volcanic and seismic activity, should the ice caps begin to melt, we will see how all four are connected in a much more dramatic way that could affect us all.

The message for me then of this film is that what we do does very much affect the planet on which we live, and we must learn to respect and work with mother nature as our ancestors once did, and not manipulate for our own sake, simply because we can, as the fire tribe does in the film. For if we persist in this way, the earth will no longer support, nourish and sustain us and that delicate balance will be gone forever, leaving us with no means to support and nourish ourselves. The choice is ours to make.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Moments are all we have

The reaction from friends to the decision I made regarding my job has I am pleased to say been overwhelmingly positive, with most I am saddened to say stating that although they understand and respect my decision, it is not something they would do themselves. This has left me wondering why? I mean why do so many people have this idea that they are not entitled to enjoy their work, and that it is as one of them said, "all about the money", when it is clear to me that it is not about this at all. We have to be happy with what we do or otherwise, as I know from bitter experience, we just wither away inside, each day giving a little more of ourselves away until in the end, there is nothing left. Nothing left with which to perform our so called duties, nothing left for our families and our loved ones, and most importantly of all, nothing left of ourselves. This to me is what life is truly about - the freedom and the ability to express ourselves for who we are really are - this is our God given right, not just outside of work, but every moment that we spend living inside our bodies on this Planet. It is over all too quickly, as I have seen all too often in my job, and we have to make the most of every moment we have, for the moments are all that we have.

This has left me wondering though, in my making this decision and sharing it with these people, am I giving them permission to do the same, and showing them that there is another way, that they do not have to live like this? I have noticed over the years that I seem to act as a catalyst for change, throwing these things up for others to look at, and it seems to me that this is the case here. I do hope so, but if I can help others as well as myself, I am fulfilling my purpose in more ways than one.

It seems that just as I let go and decide to put the call out to the universe to help me stay in this job, that help arrives, for this morning we have received a letter from the Inland Revenue confirming that we are to receive Tax Credits. Normally I would be loathe to put myself in the system as it were, but and I know for some it might be a big but (as opposed to butt, for the applicaton process was a bit of a pain in the a***), if I am to do a job such as this serving the community in return for low pay, then it seems only right that that same community helps to support me so that I can. The Tax Credit system is there to support people such as us, so why shouldn't I claim? They have also decided that we are owed money from laast year, which comes as a pleasant surprise, and at exactly the right time, for it will enable us to pay off the rent that we owe, which the park owners seem so relucant to claim. It will also enable us to get the house painted.

Of course this does not mean that I will rest on my laurels and make no effort to change my situation by looking for that second part time job during the week, but it does give me some breathing space to make sure that the job that I get is the right one, for I know better than anyone that anything other than that just will not work. Yes I am prepared to make certain compromises to stay at the nursing home, at the weekends if not during the week, but one compromise I am not prepared to make is settling for a second job that I do not enjoy. It has to be right and it has to make my heart sing in the same way that this one does. So, let the search commence !

Friday, 6 August 2010

A lesson learnt

I have learnt a really valuable lesson today and am glad despite the anguish, that I had the opportunity to find this out in a most difficult way. It was only difficult of course because I made it so, with my failure to listen to my own heart. While I am sure that I could have done the job that I went for this afternoon, and it would in many ways have been an excellent opportunity, it was not until I got in the car to come back home again that it really hit me just how much I love and do not want to leave the job that I have, at least not completely. I just cannot imagine never seeing those old people again and having the chance to interact with them and make such a difference to their lives.

I know the money and the hours are rubbish and that it flies in the face of all logic, but that's how I feel. So strongly in fact that when I got home I burst into tears. Yes one has to be practical, but what is life about, I mean really about? It is not about having material goods and putting on a front at work each day pretenting to be something that you are not simply to make a few extra pounds. Life is about forming relationships with others and finding out who you are, and we can only do that through interacting with others. I have had so many truly awful jobs over the years (where I nevertheless learnt a lot), where I felt that I was not being myself and that I had to wear a mask, but in my current job I have never felt that - I am more myself here in fact than I have ever been before. This is the job I have been waiting for all my life, so I have to find some other compromise that allows me to stay.

After I got home and spoke to Coran about the whole thing, I rang the agency and did my best to explain it all to them. I am not sure if they understood, but in the end it doesn't matter, for this is my life and my decision and I have to do what is right for me. I said to them that if the job was offered, would their client be open to the idea of a job share? That way I could continue my current job at the weekends, and work at this other one during the week, for two, maybe three days. They did not hold out much hope, but said that it may be a possibility and they could only ask - if and when an offer was made. There was no call by the time I left for work just after 4.30pm, and none while I was out, so I can only assume that they decided to offer it to someone else.

That is all fine by me, as I know that something else will turn up that does make this possible. Either one of the other housekeepers will leave, or another opportunity will open up elsewhere. This is quite possibily one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, but ultimately I knew that I had to be true to myself, as in the scheme of things that is all that really matters.

At the end of my days, when I pass over and have my life review, looking back on the things I have seen and accomplished, it is the relationships I have forged which will matter, and not how much money I made or how good I looked in my power suit. None of this is me, and it never will be. All of my life I thought I wanted a straightforward nine to five job which I can settle into and stay in for life, but I know now after today that is not where happiness lies - if I had taken that job I would have been bored as hell within six months and the search for yet another short term job would have started all over again.

It is time to call a halt to the wanderings of the mind, and to be happy with what I have - what I have is a job that I love, that makes a difference to the world in so many ways, that most could not begin to imagine. In this regard, I am truly blessed. It is what lie is all about - I am not there to clean and to do the washing up, important though that is, but to brighten the old peoples days and to make their twilight years and months as happy and comfortable as possible. What a joy and a privilige to be able to share those last precious moments of their lives, holding their hands and stroking their hair while they drift slowly off to the next phase in their evolution, wherever and whatever that may me.

I knew all along in my heart of hearts that this was where I belong, and I intend to stay put for quite a while yet.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The rest is up to her

When I got in from work tonight, Coran informed me that the local hospital had rung yet again, with regard to my sister, and that I should call them back. Once I had eaten and watched EastEnders I proceeded to do this, to be told that she had been to the Casualty Unit earlier that day complaining of abdominal pains, and not wanting to wait, had discharged herself. They could not then have been that bad.

Up until April, we had heard nothing from her in months, thanks largely to the fact that she had lost our telephone number. Given her illness and history, I have to confess that we were quite glad of this as it meant that we could get some peace. Yee of little hope!

At the beginning of April, a trainee telephone operator within The Police gave her our number once again, despite the fact that it ex directory, and she has been ringing more or less constantly ever since - a total of 117 times in the 3 months until I went to Iceland on 4th July. I think any reasonable person would agree that this is not reasonable at all, especially since many of these calls have been late at night, or in the early hours, and many more still have been abusive in the extreme.

Things came to a head while I was in Iceland, as she kept hassling poor Coran, ringing up to seven times each day asking to speak to me, when she knew full well I was overseas. When she rang at 2am this was for Coran the last straw. He telephoned the hospital back (she was at that time an inmate at the psychiatric ward) and informed the staff that if she rang again he would telephone the Police. An hour later she rang again, and so Coran did what he had to do.

The Police were very good, coming round to the house the following day and spending almost an hour with Coran, noting all the details. The end result was that they advised us to block her number, which very reluctantly we have now done - four numbers in fact, since she has both a mobile and landline and sometimes phones from her so-called boyfriends house, as well as the hospital. The only contact we have had with her since this time has been through her care team.

In time we hope to arrange a meeting between the three different parties explaining our actions and setting down some boundaries for the future. The plan is to use the carrot and the stick, giving her an incentive to change and to treat us with the respect that we deserve. We are not then shutting the door completely, but saying to her that if she wants us in her life then she has to work within our boundaries. If she is prepared to do that and shows that she is willing to change, then maybe just maybe, our relationship can be salvaged. The rest then is up to her.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Life carries no guarantees

For some time I have been receiving comments on this blog from an anonymous poster, which appear to me at this end in the form of a load of blank boxes which just do not make sense. Unfortunately then I have to reject these comments as they cannot be read. I am not sure what the problem is, whether the poster may be from overseas and be typing in a language that this blog does not recognise, but I post this in the hope that whoever it is reads these comments and understands the reason why his or her posts are not being allowed. If the problem can be solved, then I will be more than happy to post the aforementioned comments.

When Coran and I got home earlier today from shopping in Guildford we found a message on the answerphone from a job agency that I signed on with after my return from Iceland. When I telephoned them back they informed me that they have arranged an interview for me on Friday - the unthinkable then has happened and it seems that my departure from the job I have grown to love so much may come sooner than anticipated. Now that it is real, I am even less sure of how I feel. I understand on a practical level that there are compelling reasons why I should leave, not only financial but also in terms of stability. It would be much better for me to have one full time permanent job with regular hours than it is to have two part time jobs both of which offer irregular and less than social hours, yet at the same time I really do love what I do, as it offers meaning and makes a difference in so many ways, and this job which on the surface sounds so full of promise, will not offer the same level of fulfilment which is so important to me.

I have had many different jobs over the years, some good, some not so good, but up until now, the one thing they all had in common is that they did not really make all that much difference - at least not to me. Sure they made a difference to those that the company served, but not to humanity as a whole, and I really do need to feel that the work that I do does have meaning. This is very, very important to me, perhaps more important than money. Yet at the same time there is this dilemma, the knowledge that meaning does not pay the bills and does not secure my future. While it is true that Coran and I do manage, I want a bit more than that - I want and need to be able to travel and buy nice things, and to know that I can save for my future -the older I get the more important this gets.

I said the other day that I would place it in the hands of the universe and see what happened, and now that I have been offered this opportunity to go and see the company concerned, it seems that this may be the direction I am meant to go in. Why then do I resist? My friend Sarah Jane Grace's horoscopes for the month of August state that I have a desire for change coupled with a desire to cling to the familiar and that I need to figure out why I am reluctant to change. I suppose it is because I have had so much of it and am tired from the constant movement.

Sarah goes on to say that life carries no guarantees and I recognise deep down that this restlessness that I feel within is not going to go away. Cancerians are if nothing else resourceful, and whatever happens I know that there are no mistakes - only learning. The future may not be paved with gold, but this does not mean that it should be paved with caution either. Life is an adventure waiting to happen, and while I would and will (for one day I will have to leave if only when I retire), miss the residents a great deal when I do leave, the next job may be equally fulfilling but in a different way. I should embrace the changes and go with the flow a little more, which I admit is not always easy to do. The truth is that until I see that company and discuss the job in more detail I really do not know. I can only wait once and see.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A difficult choice to make

Since I got back from Iceland just over 2 weeks ago (it seems like forever) I have been trying to figure out what to do about my job - or to be more precise, whether it is time to move on. There has been a feeling of discontent brewing in the background for a while now, which when I think about it, began in May when the Care Home Manager rostered me to do some extra work without bothering to ask. It was a genuine mistake, and we have spoken about it since, but it still left me feeling very much taken for granted, and only served to highlight the cracks which have begun to appear of late.

This one seemingly small but nevertheless significant incident was for me merely a symptom of a much deeper unease. In the past few months there have a series of little things that have conspired to niggle away, which when put together seem a lot bigger - the fact that we haven't had a pay rise for one, when we all work so hard. This would not be so bad were it not for the fact that the Director who owns the home continually picks holes in the hard work that the four housekeepers do, finding fault and complaining about stupid things like a few specks of dust or some sellotape marks on the wall, things which most ordinary and sensible people would not worry about. He seems to think that this will affect his three star rating, but as my colleague pointed out to me last night, this rating stems purely from the quality of the staff that he employs. The discontent is such at the moment, especially among us housekeepers, that at least three of the four are looking for other jobs. I can safely say that he would have great difficulty finding anyone who is willing to work anywhere near as hard as we do, and put up with the flack that we get from him, for the money that is on offer.

It is not all about money of course, although it does play a part. There are other things as well. The fact that I am always told that they cannot justify paying me to work between 2 and 5pm when I dom split shifts of 8am to 2pm and 5 to 7pm, yet find the money to take on a Deputy Manager whom I will never see. The fact that trays of dirty plates are still being dumped on chairs with the assumption that the housekeeprs will deal with it when it has been mentioned time and time again at staff meetings that this looks bad for visitors. The fact that the housekeepers seem to be continually marginalised in so many things and rarely if ever consulted on matters that affect them - the decision to serve lunch later than usual at certain times, but expecting us to still finish at the same time. The thing that has annoyed me most of all however is the fact that we have been asked to undertake a distance learning course on health and safety which is a mandatory requirement for the job, in our own time, with no remumeration offered. Like I said, it seems like a series of little things of seemingly small signfificance, but them together and it becomes quite a big thing.

Despite my protestations of money not being everything, the fact is I am not being paid nearly enough for the work that I do. When I did my tax return for last year, after taking business losses into account, and despite the fact that I have 2 part time jobs, I earned a grand total of £7700. This is just not enough. It covers the basics but leaves nothing over for a rainy day, and leaves me without the ability to save for my retirement, something which at the age of 45, is increasingly on my mind. In the end it may be this more than anything that forces me to leave, even though in my heart of hearts, I do not wish to do this at all.

The reason I say this is because I have bonded so well with the residents and their families - their faces light up when I walk into the room, and I am able to talk to them in a way that somehow none of the other staff members can. Just the other night I was sitting in the lounge chatting on one of the men, who is in 80's and really quite frail. I asked him how he was and he looked into my eyes when he answered and took my hand. I have never seen him do that with any of the other staff. Then there was the experience with Lulu, who died just before Christmas, and allowed me to share in my dream state, the moment of her passing. This was an experience I shall never forget.

The job to me is so much more than a job - I am not there to clean and to wash up, but to spend time with the residents making their lives better, that to me is what it is really all about - making a difference in my own unique way. I am afraid that if I move to another job I will lose that connection, and so I have this dilemma - do I settle for second rate pay and conditions in return for a job that does make this difference, or I sell my soul for more money? What a difficult choice to make.

I guess a compromise for me would me to continue working here at the weekends and ditch the evening job, replacing this with another part time job two maybe three days a week. That seems a sensible compromise which could work quite well, but jobs like these are hard to find and what type of job would I want to do? It seems so overwhelming at the moment that I am doing the only thing I can do - placing it in the hands of the Universe to see what transpires.