Jack (Floyd) and the Beanstalk (Chicken)

On my birthday earlier this year, I somehow felt compelled to remember and then write about one of my all-time favourite pets – Tesse. I hope you don’t mind me sharing that piece with you. A bit left of centre to medicine I know, but let’s just say – pets are great for health!

Jack (Floyd) and the Beanstalk (Chicken)

I was somewhere between the age of 12 and 18 years old, because that’s when I was a paperboy, although I’m pretty sure I was on the younger side of that range. So I was out riding my bike one day, scooting around the backstreets of East Bentleigh (that’s how you say it as a local, not Bentleigh East, that’s how you say it coming off realestate.com or anything else as an outsider), when I got to Juliana Street and noticed something in the front yard of one of the houses. It was white, but it was spitting rain and I couldn’t make it out completely. Not to mention the edges of my monkey cap and Stackhat and everything else in between meant that I didn’t see much at all at 5:30am in a Melbourne winter. I thought – Chihuahua (which mind you I never would have spelled correctly without Google). As me, my milk crate full of papers and bike which I’d plucked off the side of the road as one of my (brother’s) best hard rubbish finds, worn out shock absorbers and all, edged closer – I understood – it had feathers. IT HAD FEATHERS, MAN. What a find… a stray chicken! Every suburban kid’s dream find (surely).

My heart was now beating fast. I could feel the adrenaline running through my parka (there you go, I thought that was parker – thanks again Google!). Wait, my parka – I needed to take it off to grab the bird. Hey wait again – where would I put the bird. How do I ride a bike with my chicken (I was thinking ahead here, not doubting the fact that I’d outsmart it in the dark before sunrise). The papers had to go. I ditched them in a bush in that front yard. They were however rather strategically placed, hidden there between the agapanthus (at this point, I’m reminding myself how poor my spelling actually is!) and daisy bush to return to later. Sorry to all those folk who got a bit of an extra soggy read that morning, this was truly a case of a course in miracles.

So I cornered that chicken, she battled, but my will was too strong. She went into a dead end near the hose, house and front wooden fence and after a cluck cluck here and a cluck cluck there – things were resolved. The ride home was fine. Chicken in milk crate, parka over milk crate, hoodie, flannel shirt, T shirt, singlet, freezing skin despite – all on board. I got home, I remember mum coming to the back door as I opened the gate. Her face was a mix of “What the?”/”Great find and get back to work you crazy kid”. That image remains with the collage of images etched on my mind. Somewhere permanent. It must have been important. Of course it was… leaving to deliver papers, returning home with an awesome chicken!

Tesse was a good chicken. I named her Tesse because I just felt it such a country name, like if she could, she’d yodel or boot scoot or play the guitar. And every time she clucked, that’s just what Tesse seemed to be doing, for me at least. She was a good chicken. We’d let her out in the backyard, and if we forgot to put her back in her house, she’d sit so neatly and patiently at the step of the backdoor. Not a word. I’d sit with Tesse for hours sometimes. Her on my lap, scratching just under her eye, practising my skills in hypnosis. “Now you shall cluck like a chicken”, well of course I will. We were good friends.

Tesse was a great layer. An egg a day. And so it was rather a shame when she cracked her first egg and started to eat it. From then on, she got the taste for her produce and would lay and crack. Who would have thought she was such a cannibal. But heck, her eggs tasted good, so I never blamed her. After 7 years (from what I remember), she died. Perhaps of high cholesterol from all the eggs she ate! We put her to rest in an ice-cream container along the back fence, under the apple tree, adding her grave to the fallen pets before her – rabbits, ducks and birds which made up our pet cemetery. We hammered in a cross, said a prayer, and ushered her into peace.

On my 41st birthday, this is to you Tesse. For above all, my life has been but a collection of relationships, and ours, I remember still. You were such a dear childhood friend.

Of course I went back for the papers… they were soggy, I got complaints. Heck, it was worth it though!

Is There a Magic Energy Pill, Doc?

Is There a Magic Energy Pill Doc?

Not too long ago I was asked by a nurse, “I’m feeling tired all the time Floyd, is there a pill I can take that’ll help me?” I pondered this.

There are many medical causes of “fatigue”.  Yet, often times no medical cause is found.  The conclusions I discuss below are relevant to that scenario.  If you’re excessively tired, then it may well be worthwhile seeing your Doctor to check if there’s something medical at play, or whether it’s a symptom of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.  However, if nothing comes up, then consider these contributions to boost your energy.

 

The first thing I’m going to say is that most of these things are to do with your mind.  A well geared mind does increase energy – that’s my finding.  So these are a few tips to increase your mental energy, which generally flows on to increased physical energy.

 

  1. Let go of being defensive. This can be tough.  Being defensive comes naturally as a response at times.  But, it can really eat people up during the day.  Being defensive at work, on the road, with family.  Man, that’s tiring.  Observe what people say or do, and see if you can look beyond being defensive to look at the facts, and simply choose an appropriate response, without the emotional storm of “defensiveness” coming into play.  Move on.  Change if you have to.  Or, assert your case (which is different to an emotional backlash).  Don’t let your heart rate get too fast, or teeth start to clench.  Relax, judge things on their merits and keep moving.

 

  1. Treat people around you as your equal. There is a rise of tribalism out there. I’ve read about it, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it.  The question is – who is your tribe?  Your family, your sports team? Your state, your country, your religion, your ethnicity, rich people, poor people, well dressed people, humbly dressed people?  When you look at people around you – on the street, on a bus, have fun with the notion of tribe, for sure.  But don’t take it too seriously.  If you can walk around during your day and see yourself in the eyes of another, on the bus, at that café, and it brings a smile to your face, which you share – a genuine moment – that exchange will in itself increase your energy, as your very being reminds you that that’s true – your real tribe is humanity and to go further – life itself.  That’s reality.  Promoting equality then, although at first an idea that may sound requiring of effort, is natural for your soul, and the practice of it – finding similarities in everyone around you, and seeing yourself in the eyes of another – will not only make your day degrees more enjoyable, it WILL increase your energy.  Likely, if we all do this, it will raise the collective energy level of our society.

 

  1. Perhaps a more obvious thing to say.  If you have a purpose, you’ll generally have more energy.  Connect with the things which you’re doing in the present, be it your job or family or any other pursuit.  That true connection and alignment with your having and being, will give you a drive you wouldn’t exist otherwise.  Think about what’s important to you and spend your time doing that thing.  Find purpose.

 

  1. Realise your fears and work to minimise them. A long time ago I read Napolean Hill’s famous book (or at least listened to the audiobook) – Think, and Grow Rich.  The title’s a bit harsh or greedy sounding, but the basic lesson is valid.  Your ultimate success or fate, hinges on your ability to carry through your belief and will.  Along the way, the book implores the reader to recognise their own fears, face them, and resolve to minimise them.  These fears are:
    • The fear of death
    • The fear of ill health
    • The fear of criticism
    • The fear of poverty
    • Fear of old age
    • Fear of loss of love

Now it’s rather tough for me to comment on all of them, even the importance of them.  But I think one thing is true.  Fear does sap energy.  Fear and worry.  Worry leading to procrastination and mental baggage of all sorts, reflecting indecision in the minds of people.  If you can keep deciding things during your day to “clear your head”, rather than leave things on a to do pile, and indeed, avoid basing your decisions on any particular fear – you’ll have more energy at the end of the day – for sure.

So there you have it.  I hope I haven’t sounded condescending or flippant.  And again, if you’re unduly tired, it may well be worthwhile seeing your doctor, to be sure.  However, the fact remains there – often your state of mind either increases your energy level, or robs it.  May this little article help your personal energy level rise!

The River’s Mouth – No Strings Attached

No strings attached

I’m no good at meditation.  Every time someone has ever told me to focus on my breathing, I feel like I’m about to suffocate.  But, I very much value stillness and corresponding silence.  Here’s why.

As I’ve experienced life so far, it would appear that most of what’s happened to me has been conditional.  If I do this, that happens, if I’m “good” this happens, if I’m “bad” this happens.  And therefore, I’m “valid” provided I do these things.  That I’m deemed a success by a social mirror.  However, what would happen if I lost everything? What would happen if I became homeless, went “mad”.  Am I as “valid”?  And this seems to be the conundrum – that my view and acceptance of myself is conditional on my external ‘success’ as the world would have it.  I think social media and perhaps the media in general has a role to play, to bolster this.  I walk on eggshells every day.

But really?

In an ideal world we would all feel equally “validated”.  And, in sitting still, in silence, perhaps attuned to nature, we might get a glimpse of this.  Scary at first, peaceful if attained.  And that peace is a feeling that comes from something unconditional. After all, you sit there, in the present, doing nothing – yet feeling “valid”, that is – unconditionally loved.  Waves don’t care whether you’ve been good or bad, cool or uncool.  They simple keep splashing.

I think that life being conditional, though practical at times I admit and accept, does put lots of pressure on many of us.  We walk around feeling stressed in groups without that drink, we feel stressed at work.  Why?  Because we know that we’re being judged.  And basically – we hold that fear of the consequence of “stuffing up”.  I must say, if we put less conditions on each other, if we were all just that little bit less judgemental in effect, I wonder if that would help decrease a collective anxiety and indeed, increase a collective sense of unconditional love.  Far fetched – perhaps.  Yet able to be practised in little ways – for sure.

Now I’ll throw a curve ball out here and say that there is a famous school of psychology – logotherapy, pioneered by Dr Viktor Frankl.  The basis of this theory is that we all feel a sense of anxiety and or depression if we fail to capture an individual “goal” to our life, and by corollary that our internal tension, if channelled to a worthy meaningful goal, ultimately leads to our happiness.  I think this does hold true for many people who find a cause to motivate them.  Yet still, if that all falls apart for some reason, and indeed if you never pursue something “grand” – that’s fine, if you ask me.  I believe that each one of us should be free to sense that peace and calmness which comes from sitting still in silence as we reconnect with the truth that we are in fact all valid and unconditionally loved for simply existing and being a part of life.

Driven by Soul – what is that?

Happy New Year everyone!
This year, I thought it may be worthwhile starting by simply explaining our logo – in part because after some reflection (yes my mid-life crisis) – I think I understand it myself!

As many people would know, I’m a father of 5 children and it is said that children teach you more about yourself than you teach them. I’ve found this to be true. And so, whilst trying to teach them along the way, I stumbled across something. Spirituality.

Basically – we all “think”, that is, we all have thoughts. Thoughts come to us all the time –
automatically. So, the question is – how are they then different from breathing and digesting food? That’s to say – are they really under our control? In fact, the more difficult thing to do is to stop thinking. To have pauses between thoughts. And basically then – who is that “you” behind your thoughts. That’s who/what I found to be the best description of a person’s “soul” or spirit. The more conscious presence which has an awareness of the fact that our thoughts are just another thing. An impulse of the brain. Yet, we’re able to look from behind that impulse to question it and realise that those sophisticated thoughts are again, much like breathing – subconscious and not all chosen. Our thoughts are programmed, habitual and affected by all manner of prior conditioning and therefore don’t always lead us to the best conclusions in the present.

Hold on, don’t switch off and call me a crackpot just yet!

Going on from that – our thoughts are rather obsessed with a sense of ego – “my life”, “my car”, “my job”. I am this, I am that. This isn’t something to feel “guilty” about. That’s not the point. We’re all basically built like this (me included) and much of our life is then driven by our ego – that precious sense of self which wants to carve space out in a big world through thoughts and material possessions. Trying incessantly to define “my life”. Yet, there is an inherent goal of “disconnection” in how our ego operates to achieve this. One way or another, thoughts about “my” life/”my” anything leads us to stand apart – separated from the world around us, and always wanting more.

Our egos are very fragile, worried about what others may think of us. Worried about how to protect and defend what is “me and mine”. For example – complaining itself can be a purely ego driven activity. What we’re basically saying is “that person or thing is wrong and I am right”. Essentially in complaining we prop up our ego. But again, the ego is fragile. It’s scared by nature, easily threatened, fearful of insignificance, oblivion and ultimately fearful of death. All sorts of modern day vultures pray on this, our fragile egos – selling us things we just plainly don’t need, yet we buy…in a futile mission to satisfy our ego. But it can never be – satisfied that is.

Yet behind that ego lays something deeper – something that knows that the actual truth is that
there is no “my” life. There is only – life. There is no “my land or property” – there is only the earth, beyond which lays an incomprehensible and amazing space called the universe. And in all of that, in life – we actually stand completely connected, as one. With plants, animals, rivers, mountains, stars and one another (the next time someone calls you a “star” – remember – you literally are J!). If that thing which connects us all, which is much deeper than the ego, can be tapped into, then we can carry about our functions in this world in a much more harmonious and peaceful way, surrendering to life for its unfathomable divine beauty, eternal nature and therefore function without fear. In this sense, we are at our best and most creative when we are, in the present moment – “Driven by Soul”.

Now it would seem to be a contradictory thing, on first inspection to name something “Atticus Health” and yet dispel the value of “I”, the value of self. After all, what about treating everyone as “individuals” and that quote by Atticus Finch on the back of our business cards

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view”

Doesn’t that rely on caring about “I”.

Yes it does. However, the point is –Atticus strive to treat everyone with utmost respect and attention because we value every single life. For every single life, in being part of “life”, is precious, significant and worthy. And, if it means that we need to treat you as an individual, to fully empathise, to allow us to help you as best we can (which is true) – then that’s what we’ll do. Driven by an unconditional love of “life” – Driven by Soul.

Ok – it’s cool to say I’m a new age crackpot NOW.  Kum ba yah!


Acknowledgement: Thanks to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle for some of the inspiration for this article. Also, sincere apologies to anyone who draws any religious inferences or takes religious objection to all or any part of this article. Definitely not at all my intention. Yet it just didn’t feel right to avoid writing it for the sake of political correctness! So please do forgive me. The only intention is to explain, humbly, my thoughts on a matter that’s lead me to find a sense of increased peace in my personal life, and hopefully by sharing, may help increase the amount of collective unconditional love and peace in this world. And, of course, to explain – Driven by Soul!

Pet Stories

I recently met a fellow GP at a dinner.  I hadn’t seen him for a long time and so he asked me – “Hey Floyd, how you doing?”.  And my response – “Yeh not bad, just trying to get through my mid life and not become an arsehole”.

A bit harsh?  Maybe but true.

When I was a kid I did some dumb things.

I passed out and got dragged home in the back of a divvy van, to sleep it off in the bathtub.  Etc.  You know the drill.  Not perfect.

Then I reached midlife – mortgage, kids, career, responsibility, politics… status?  I gotta fend for myself in the madhouse man.  It’s a dog eat dog world.  Right?  Maybe.

Pet Stories:

Story 1 –

Last year we made an ambitious trip to Noosa.  My wife had a wedding which she was in the bridal party.  We all decided to drive.  We left Melbourne on Wednesday, headed for the wedding at Noosa on Friday, to get back to Melbourne by the Sunday, ready for work/ school on the Monday… right?  I know – a bit full on.  But all was going well.  We made the wedding, stopped off to see my bro in Brissie, had great Chinese food in Goondiwindi on Saturday night… brushed our teeth even on the main street, hopped in the Kia Carnival and started to drive.

There were lots of things to see crossing the road, including little fur-ball mice, which amazed me.  And of course, kangaroos,  as you’d expect.  I got pretty good and looking out for them, yet keeping going.  At about 6:30am, somewhat just after dawn there were a group of roos.  I slowed down, they watched, and then a crazy one with seemingly a death wish jumped straight onto the road and bang (a small bang mind you) – I hit it.  And the kids knew it.  They looked back, to see it limping away and they said “dad, go back, we need to take it to the vet”.  I said, “I can’t, hopefully the car’s ok and we’ve gotta keep going.  It’ll be too hurt to live”.  And of course, in the throes of receiving my moral critique I didn’t see the temperature rising on the dash gauge.  Not until smoke started to pour out of the bonnet .  Yep, the radiator was cactus and I quickly pulled over.  We were in a “no network” zone.  Fortunately the GPS worked, so I quickly took a screenshot of that to capture our location.  I called triple 000 and thanks to the very helpful police officer, organised a tow truck and we finally made our way to Jerilderie, NSW.  Fortunately, with some of our left over Chinese food.   The car – eventually a write off.  The kids in the tow truck, me with the copper.  The kids, almost in tears, explained to the tow truck driver how we’d very sadly hit the roo.  Stuart, the driver, said, “roos, I hit about 5 a week.  Glad I got a big grill in front, so I can just keep driving”.  After they told me the story, I said, “yeah, the next time we drive, we’ve gotta have a big bull bar”, and the kids said – “but dad, that’ll hurt the kangaroos even more”.  Hmm.

 

Story 2 –

I grew up with crazy pets, and in keeping with what my wife would tell me in during any real “fight/ argument” “Floyd, you’ve always been trying to recreate your childhood in our house!”.  So – we have some crazy pets at home, I admit.  Presently a dog, a parrot, guinea pigs and now a “pet” ringtail possum who walks the house as if he pays the rates.  But anyway, about the parrot “Skittles”.  Now I wasn’t meant to buy a bird, because my wife was a bit anti caged birds.  So, of course, after years of depravation I cracked and took the kids to a pet shop one day.   We looked at all the options and came home with – you guessed it, a parrot, cage, bell, swing and anything else they wanted to up sell me.  My wife is a beautiful person and stayed with me none the less, realising I’m still a kid… who she loves and hates all at once!  (Nat – you do still love me despite the bird right???)  Anyway, as a compromise about the “cage”, we didn’t clip Skittle’s wings, instead we let her fly around the house, then into the backyard at times, and we’d be able to coax her back.  But one night, we all came home entering the front door, and within a flash Skittle’s flew out.  It was dark.  My kids pulled out every torch they could, and looked in every tree they could.  Their hearts were broken….almost.  And my response, after remembering the galah I’d bought from Vic Market all those years ago which flew away and never came back, “Skittles is gone guys, she’s probably been eaten by a cat, she doesn’t know how to look after herself/ himself” (you know the issue about never quite being sure with birds).  I tried to get my kids to “accept the real world”.  But they didn’t.  They hopped on their iPads and created posters – “Lost, Parrot – Skittles, $100 rearward”.   The next day they put those posters up everywhere around the neighbourhood.  I kinda felt sorry for them, but shut up, knowing that I’d been such a sad sack the night before.  I went to work.

I got a call that afternoon from my son, “Dad, someone saw Skittles at the corner of Edward Street.  And, someone else called and said that they were walking their dog and she sat on her shoulder for 10 minutes before flying into a big tree”.  They were on a wild orienteering trip around the streets, following all the clues they had gathered.  But nothing.

The next day, late afternoon, we got a call from an animal emergency centre a couple of suburbs away – Skittles was alive and safe (and quiet and scared)!  A family was playing in a park, she played with them, they caught her and handed her in.  Good souls.  I was flabbergasted.

 

Story 3 –

The other night there was a big storm – funny that in the middle of summer.  Reminds me of living in Queensland.  We had just put the kids to bed, and I was sitting upstairs when on the outside of the window – I saw 3 baby ring tail possums hanging on the window frame.  I had no idea how they got there, not many trees around.  But, I could only think that they fell off their mother’s back.  We woke the kids and brought them up to see.  Two of the possums crawled away, heading towards mum who was on the flat roof nearby.  The third one sat on the window frame, curled up like a field mouse – almost round. It didn’t really move.  Fear? Sickness? Just the runt?  The kids watched, I got a bit bored so turned away.  Then I heard a loud “Dad, there’s a cat!”.  I looked back.  It was true.  There it was – orange and white, all stealth and ready to pounce.  It was about to unfold.  Survival of the fittest, no David Attenborough, but 5 kids and 2 confused parents.  Right, I had to stop the bloodshed.  I couldn’t just watch this happen.  Sorry David.  So, I opened the window and tried to get through.  My sternum stopped me. My wife tried the same – her boobs stopped her.  I got out onto the balcony, climbed onto the roof and grabbed the possum.  That all sounds more heroic than it is – I’m a failure at coping with heights – it was a simple job really.  But effective.  The possum had been saved from Cringer/ Battle Cat (He-Man fans will appreciate).

We unwrapped the thing to see that it had one blurry looking eye and one good eye.  Ok, it’s name was born “pirate”.  Pirate’s been eating pears, and more pears, and more pears.  His eye cleared up, but he’s still Pirate.  He’s a he – it’s easier to tell with possums.  But the question was – how would Frozbie, our rather large Australian Shepherd dog react?  After all, he’s basically a cattle dog – surely killing anything that looks like a mouse is in the breed/ job spec.  We tentatively watched Frozbie sniffing Pirate.  The jaws of life or death – nearby.  With a bit of training – some progress.  Again, the kids kept the faith throughout.

Now of course possums are nocturnal.  So Pirate basically sleeps all day, and comes out at night, raids the kitchen (mainly pears) and eats all our previously aesthetically pleasing indoor plants.  One funny thing – there’s a delicious pot plant near the piano and at night  you can distinctly tell what Pirate’s up to because there’s a “ghost” who plays the piano sometimes!

Anyway, so we just had to “trust” everything.  And so, we went out the other night and came back late.  What did we find – Pirate saturated in dog saliva.  Possum dreadlocks.  Yet, he still chooses to sit on the dog bed with Frozbie.  Snuggling.   Best buddies.  Again, I’m flabbergasted.

So, going back to my thoughts.  When I was a kid, I was optimistic, trusting, and put life and love before “practicality”.   Then I grew up, and life experience jaded me at times.  Repeatedly.  And, more worrying, I started to buy into the notion that life was about survival, underpinned by having enough money.  Money is important, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to be frivolous.  But when you’re a kid – you don’t live to survive and make enough money etc.  That’s not the point of your life.  You’re born too wise for that.  You really live man. You love. You laugh. You cry.  You believe in Santa.  You shed a tear for road-kill.  You play with your friends and family.  You draw, you paint.  You sing.  You imagine.  You believe in the good of mankind (dog kind, possum kind).  You’re there for the people around you. You wish up on a star, and so put up posters to find your lost pets, even when the odds are one in a million.  You don’t start wars for the sake of the economy.  You’re oblivious to status.  Admittedly…you also do some dumb things along the way, and sleep it off in the bathtub.

So, going back to my rather random comment to my GP colleague about becoming an arsehole as an adult.  I meant it.  Remember, each one of us was born cool.  We turn into “survival machines”, but we were born free and cool.  Don’t ever let go of that.  For Skittles sake!

 

Merry Christmas everybody and may your New Year be something truly special 😊

Rage Against The Machine

I read once that Clive Palmer used to spend up to 4 hours a day – just thinking.  Now I’m not saying that I agree or don’t agree with Clive Palmer, but rather that I can understand why it’s valuable to stop and think.

Many of my articles in the past talked about the speed of life, and how little we actually get a chance or even are accustomed to stopping and thinking.  Before I go further though, I must say, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t confess (as many of you would know anyway) that I’ve lived my life fast.  Indeed it was that pace of action and production which defined me.  Yet all along I still hung on somewhere to that scene in Jerry McGuire, where he gets fired, takes the goldfish and starts again – rekindling a focus on meaning and relationships.  Apologies to anyone who hasn’t watched the movie – I’d say you should.

I started reading the newspapers more – much of the same old same old.  Like a circus really.  And don’t you ever stop and say – “what a load of BS”.  Vote grabs, self interest, people selling me food that’s unhealthy and killing me, but tastes so good.  Dammit.  More alcohol to solve everything.  And that leads me to ask – what the hell is my purpose in that ring, under the tent?  Why bother.

As my eldest son says about many things when pressed, “I’m not sure”.  But, coming back to the roots of the matter – is it good to think?  Is it a weak thing?  Is it a dangerous thing?  And – if you’ve read this far – you’d be simply asking – is Floyd having a “mid-life crisis”. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that it feels good to move in a direction you’ve thought through, and mean to move in.  To know that path is one you’ve chosen and not been led to believe is you.  “Led to believe” – by who? by what?

When I was younger I used to listen to a few songs from a band named “Rage against the machine”.  Man, what a name for a band.  I think since then, as an adult – I’ve always been cautious about becoming part of that “machine”.  What is the machine, and am I unduly paranoid?

Everyone is pushed and pulled to be largely the same.  For convenience and profit.  And if we stick out – boy – that’s trouble.  At that point, you might just need the courage to be called an idiot, and not care.  A defining moment indeed.

Returning to thinking and mid-life crises.  I reckon I’m getting closer to figuring this out.  As a kid, as you know, you first try to fit in, then when you’re a young adult – you dream your dream and try think of your life, as an individual…splendid.  And then sometime after that it slips away and you think, “Hang on, am I just part of a machine after all? What’s the point of that?  What do I think again?”  And that leads some people to search for that “creative” thing inside of them.  What it really seems to be is a need for self expression, to find oneself, connect with that person, and express that thing to the world.

Why is this at all important?  On the 29th of August it was RU OK? day.  A great concept, a great cause, a great day.  But if that’s the day we ask RU OK?  What happens after that?  Is it a case of 364 other days of I DON’T CARE IF U R OK. I’m too busy following my Facebook newsfeed and trying to work my own S*&^% out.

How well do we know each other?  And, if we really don’t know each other that well – why?  How did it happen? What led you there?  What forces are at play?  I put to you a thought.  That everyone wants our attention – including everything and one on social media and the internet. Now, it’s a known fact that lots of that attention getting and gaining is aimed at selling us something.  If this is true – then we’re getting sucked into the machine.  Consumerism.  “More”ism.  We’re buying things, doing things, holidaying – as a consequence of our attention being hijacked.  We’re told we need these things to be “normal”.  Heck – “they” did it/have it – we should too!  But you’ve only got so much attention right?  So you’ve got less left over.  Less attention left over to think about and focus on what that person in front of you is really saying.  To care about their body language.  Less left over to really follow the nuances of a conversation and let it be that a humorous point strikes and you laugh together as old friends would.  Less left over that you get to a point of asking R U OK? and that that person whom you have asked the very question, feels inclined to think that you really care about, or have time for, the honest answer.  And you yourself know, that you don’t really have the time for a deep answer. That’s the truth.

I write this article as no saint.  I write this article as a victim of the machine.  In the vice, on the treadmill.  I write this article knowing fully well I rushed my kids to school and I struggle to concentrate at times on what people are talking to me about because I hear a “bing” in my pocket and have a reflex itch to react.

They say mental health is in a “crisis” and there’s even a question about a “royal commission”.  All worthwhile debating.  My little suggestion here is to look at how the “machine” tries to influence you and really steal your attention.  And where does that all lead?  Is your pre-occupation with your social network and internet (as well as the ads on every which way side bar you look) – the wanfandangle out there in the world, detracting from the very thing that may be most important – your attention on the person and conversation right in front of you.  Do you know the person you are talking to well? What if you asked them more questions.  What if you knew them that little bit more?  Because only then, when you ask them R U OK? will they think you care enough to tell you the truth. Any day of the week.

Combating or balancing escalating attention grabs and distractions – is that why mindfulness rose to popularity and has almost become a necessary practiced form of mental self preservation?  Maybe. Buy me a mindfulness book for Christmas please.  Without questioning all such things, are we at risk of becoming a bunch of self absorbed, distracted, superficial, highly strung, zombies – I’m sorry to burst any bubbles, but I’m gonna say “yes”.  Take solace – it’s not our fault here.  We have been led to believe that this is what we, and our children, have wanted and need. When, the truth is that we are all the victims and addicts of consumerism gone wild.

As for my midlife crisis – I’ve avoided buying any Lamborghinis, although I did buy new tyres for the Landcruiser – heck I love white writing on all terrain tyres!  That’ll do me 🙂  And, I’ve realised that a large part of me solving things resides in reconnecting or deepening my understanding of those people close by and in my presence, making sure I laugh wholly with them.  And, to not let the white noise of my phone – the digital world, come in the way of that.  That takes effort, yet represents my rather literal, rage against the machine.

I hope everyone gets a moment to enjoy the beautiful sunsets which November in Melbourne brings 🙂

Dr Floyd Gomes
Managing Director