Monday, November 24, 2014

My love will abide

I never knew until I had you that love is inexhaustible, a renewable energy that expands to fill the spaces in you if you let it. I never knew until I had you how filled I could be, from time to time, how light my heart could be, from time to time, how the small spark of love in me could be fanned into flames with just the lightest breeze.

It is late evening, warm and close. Zenita is asleep on the bed I built today. She tried it out and said it was so comfortable she had to sleep on it tonight.

Little pools of sweat gather on her face. Her Lions pajamas are too hot for this weather and she does not have summer nightwear yet.

Her lip trembles in her sleep. Some small trouble in her dream. I wish only to take away the smallest of trouble and give her a life without care. At least, to not become a source of it.

I am terrible at this. The daily chore of parenthood is something I am unfit for. But I do try. Sometimes I wonder whether it will count with her when we are older. Zenella already seems not to love anybody but herself but she is a teen and impenetrable. I feel guilty that I am wishing Zenita will not leave behind her sweetness. I do not love Zenella any less for it.

How could I? I have loved her for every moment of her life. I have loved her passionately, overwhelmingly, more than I have loved anyone else, more than I could love anyone else. Whatever she is, I have helped to make her. Whatever is broken, I helped to break.

I wonder whether I can say I have done my best. I do not think I can, if only because I do not know what my best could be and I know I so often fail to reach it in every other thing I do. But I do not think she can feel I do not love her.

***

I forgive everyone else in my life who tries. I have love for everyone who falls short because we are only what we are. It is only me who I cannot find forgiveness for. It is only me I cannot love at all.

I have known hatred. I have known bitterness. None of it made me feel the smallest bit of comfort. And those I hated, those who inspired bitterness, I feel I can still wish them well. It is only me I cast into a void, to spin wordlessly in an emptiness that nothing fills but my love, my abiding love, for the beautiful people I have helped to make.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Moving day

"When you take your TV unit, could you get your removals men to bring mine upstairs?"
"Oh I don't think Dad would like that."

Well, how about Dad pays me for the fucking holes you punched in the wall, for the dirt you left everywhere, for the window screen we had to take out to get into the room your kid locked us out of when he broke the door handle and you lied and said your dad knew about screens and would fix it but he hasn't and I will have to pay someone to do it, for the rent you never paid your share of, for cleaning up the mess you've left behind, for the boxes I bought so you could pack your stuff, for my crockery that I gave you because you don't have any, for the chairs that I bought to go with your table and I let you have because I don't need thirteen chairs and I'm too kind to make you have to buy your own and just keep some in the garage, the food I paid for that you took with you, the phone charger your removalists broke because you were too lazy to take it out of the wall and they didn't see it or, oh I don't know, the removalists I paid to put the stuff in my house in the first place?
Oh right, he doesn't think you even owe me two minutes of your removalists' time because you lied to him about who I am. You told him I am someone I am not instead of telling him I am the man who cared for you through your screaming fits, through your rage, through your laziness, your abuse of my children, your unwillingness to find work.

 /rant. Man Utd are still shit. I am going to eat cheese and crackers and fuck you, that's all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Draining the pool

Oh no, you groan, is Zen about to blat on about the monetary system again?

No, you're okay, I'm going to discuss how my swimming pool works instead.

Here it is. I have a pump, right? It sucks water out of the pool, runs it through a filter and then puts it back in the pool. While it's on, it does this continually, so that other things being equal, the level of water in the pool stays the same.

But other things are not equal. It's hella hot here, so a fair amount of water evaporates over time. So from time to time, I have to run water in through a hose to top up the pool.

Simple, right? Even Joe Hockey could get that, right?

Right. So someone tell him that this is precisely how money works. You put money into the economy; you take it back out. If you run it at equilibrium, you lose money to your current account deficit, which means less money. Slightly more complicated, people also save. It's as though they dip a bucket in and take the water away. Sometimes they tip it back in by investing (which is a form of spending, of course), but sometimes they keep it in the bucket.

Now, water's a problem here in Queensland. We have limits on how much water there is in our ecoystem. It's probably hard for people in England or other relatively mild and wet climates to understand that you can run short of water. I mean, you guys have shitloads of it.

We don't. When it rains, it often does it in the wrong places, or all at once over a weekend, or not enough and not often enough.

Not so long ago we had a prolonged drought that severely stressed our water system. We were wondering whether our reservoirs might actually run dry. They were down to levels so low we were close to functionally being without water. These are the perils of living in a conurbation of nearly three million people in an area that has consistent water for less than a million.

Luckily -- or very unluckily depending on whether you live in our rivers' floodplains -- we had heavy rain, which caused horrific flooding but refilled our reservoirs and some relatively wet years. But we are again facing woe because the upcoming figures to be an extremely hot but horribly dry summer -- we live in a place that seems more rain in summer than winter -- I know, it's all upside down, right? And we could soon enough see that dry summer turning again into another drought -- they tend to be cyclical here, and our ever increasing population might again find itself wondering whether it will go thirsty.

Even more luckily, money is not in fact a precious resource. Our government doesn't even need to turn on a tap to fill the swimming pool. It can do it by magic, by simply crediting bank accounts and...

Oh wait, you don't get this, do you? You have been misled by idiots into thinking money is something. You think that when your bank account has $1000 in it, there's some $1000 somewhere that is yours. The bank has like money and shit in a vault, or gold or something, to the value of your thousand bucks. Or, like, because you've heard some nonsense about fractional reserve banking, there's a hundred bucks somewhere that's yours, or a small lump of gold, or something.

No, sorry, there is just an entry in a computer file. No tangible thing whatsoever. If someone could sneak in, change the figure to $2000 without anyone knowing, you would in fact have $2000 and nothing else in this world would have changed. No one would have lost a thousand bucks. No gold would be destroyed.

This is, in fact, how our government spends money. Every fortnight, Centrelink credits my bank account with money. It simply instructs Westpac to do it. It does not send the money from its money pile. It does not count out gold coins to cover it.

Now do this for an experiment. Get out your calculator. Press the 8 key until you are tired of it. You wrote a lot of 8s, right? But there are just as many 8s still left. You in no way exhausted the supply of 8s. You can get more just by pushing the key.

Got it?

Now, let me tell you, in case you are not aware, the single most pressing problem in every Western economy: there is not enough spending. What does not enough spending mean? It means no one is putting enough water into the pool. What can governments do about that?

Well, across the Western world, we're told, the best thing to do is for governments to spend less, and our clownish friends on the soft left tell us that the best thing is for governments not to spend less but to pump out more water in taxes.

Wrong. We do not have enough water. The best thing is for the government to pump more in. Spend more. Not tax more. That's insane. Spend more. The single best thing the G20 could agree tomorrow is that they should all run a six-month tax holiday beginning on Monday.

We would enjoy a boom the like of which we have never known, and all those people whose talents and skills are being wasted, all those young people whose potential is being wasted, all the women who wish they could return to work but are discouraged by the sluggish demand for jobs, all of us who want work but cannot get it, would have it.

Now ask, if Dr Zen, who is a not particularly smart bear, can figure this out, why can't the very smart bears who advise our politicians? And perhaps we will have to answer, they can but they don't want to. And when we ask why...

Well, now, this is the question.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest post: Hmm let it go

I've never done this before but there's a first time for everything and sometimes you enjoy the first time, right? This is from my queen of perspective, Boston. You'll quickly realise why I value her point of view.

Hmm. Let it go?

Do we or don’t we? It depends. If a loved one dies you have no choice. If a friendship or relationship ends it’s hard.
Who is to blame when a relationship goes south? Who is to blame when a friendship goes wrong? Should we be looking at ourselves rather than the people we have issues with?
In my experience some friendships nurture and some wither. It’s nature. Why do they whither? Because there is a lack of reciprocity. It is seasonal. That’s all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

November 4

Today would have been my mum's 69th birthday.

Earlier today, I had an email from S, my sister. She was telling me about her daughter's birthday, earlier this week. She said something funny happened and she reached for the phone to call Mum.

It is like that. It happened so suddenly we are shell shocked. We do not quite believe it. We do not want it to be true. Sometimes life is just a procession of things you do not want to be true that are true.

So I haven't been coping well with it. I feel like a prop that was holding me up has been knocked away. A couple of days ago my girlfriend walked out. I'm not going to get into the rights or wrongs of that. If she doesn't want to be with me, well, that's fine. I have supported her as best I can -- sometimes tried and failed to support her is nearer the truth -- through a mental illness that makes her difficult to cope with. I would so much like to talk to Mum about that, just to let her know what has happened and let her know I am all right with it. And I am all right with it. After all, this is a woman who did not express any sorrow that my mum had died and never once asked me how I was feeling about it.

It is going to be difficult. This is something that should have had a proper transition. We have a family that has broken up. It's not decent to just walk out on that. It's not really decent to walk out on a lease that you just signed but I pay the rent anyway so all I have lost there is the hope that she would find work and contribute at some point. I am more concerned that I am left with the mess she and her kids made, which we have both put off and put off until I suppose we move out. I will have to cope with that and with suddenly having to take care of things I didn't take care of before.

But it's no use talking about decency with someone who focused so much on herself that she did not know how to be decent. If she had, we would still be together. Of course, she will feel that I should have been nicer. I should have been, perhaps, but I have always worked in a transactional way. I find it hard to do things for nothing because I'm selfish like that. I wish sometimes I was different but I'm not. It's not as though I wasn't kind to her, don't get me wrong. It's just that people want what they want and sometimes you can give it to them and sometimes you can't. Sometimes you need them to give you what you want too.

I think she will be okay. When I have thought about splitting up with her, I have been concerned that she would not cope, that she might kill herself. I was scared of seeing her crying, how much that would hurt, that I had caused it. But in the end, I don't feel like I've caused anything. I am willing when I do wrong to accept that I have, and of course I know I did wrong here and there. I would feel discontent if I felt I had driven her out. But I didn't. We had an argument because she insisted on taking something the wrong way (which she couldn't help; her perception and reality are permanently a few degrees off from each other -- which is hard to deal with when she insists people's motivations, including mine, are bad when they are not) and she chose to leave. Well, she threatened to go, as she has done several times, and I yelled, right, go and don't come back. I would be sorry if I made someone sad enough not to want to be with me. I was very sorry I was not a better husband to Mrs Zen, although there too I was stuck with a woman who wanted to take without giving (and seriously, I was not asking for very much from her) and I can't handle that very well.

It didn't help that she didn't like two of my kids and let them know it. Zenella is a teenager and isn't very likeable if truth be told. She can be difficult and moody. But she is not evil, just hormonal and selfish, the way teens can be. I don't blame B for finding her hard to deal with and I don't really blame her for blaming me for not being able to manage Zenella very well. It's hard to share parenting with an ex. You end up in a downward spiral of competitive bad parenting, neither wanting to be the one the kid hates for being hard on them. And I'm not very good at being a dad in the first place. Is anyone? I mean, seriously, are any of us equipped for what the job takes? I am good at loving kids in an abstract way and not always so good at the practical love that you have to give. Should I be hated for that? Should I be punished by someone who themselves is terrible at giving love, terrible at thinking about anyone else? Maybe it is fair to judge me against some absolute, I don't know. But I tend to feel you must consider everything relative. I may not be good in every way but I have good in me. Or so I want to believe.

But she was also mean to Naughtyman, who did nothing wrong except be a small boy. Her elder son's flaws she would quickly forgive: she didn't mind that he's a bully, for instance, or that he would hit her younger boy. She minded that Naughtyman is loud and can be trying. But where she could see the sweetness in her son -- and he is also a sweet boy, don't get me wrong -- she refused to see it in Naughtyman. My gentle, loving boy. A boy who has no bad in him, just a desire to have what he wants. No different from her in that, yet she wanted me to see only her good (and she had lots of good, I'm not trying to paint her as some devil, not at all -- I didn't choose to be with her, or to stay with her, for no reason).

I am not bitter though. Just worn out. For months I have just not had the emotional energy to cope with a person who needed much more than I felt able to give without return. And my mum's dying has drained me emotionally.

That's all. If you've read this post through, you have been my mum for a few minutes. Thank you for that. My mum would say something uplifting but I don't need anyone to do that because it only really meant anything from her. She would always end her letters by saying she sent me good vibes. I felt them and I know that even though she has gone, the vibes remain, and I will try to do better so that they are not wasted on me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bite my shiny rationalist ass

So Mikey says it's free dress day and he needs a gold coin. What's it for? I say. Just curious. Because they often do this at the school for charity. The chaplain, he says.

So here it is. Not only does the school have a religious dude who is there to take care of the kids' "spiritual wellbeing" but they have a schoolwide fundraising thing where you only get to go in mufti if you cough up to promote religion in the school.

I'm pretty tolerant of religionists, despite their general intolerance for things I hold dear, but this is disgusting. So I told Mikey, you wear your free dress, mate, but no way are we paying for the chaplain. Tell your teacher we say "no religion please".

It sucks that these people put our kids in the middle. For years, women would cut Lindy dead in the schoolyard because their kids had told them our kids were kept out of religion class. Yes, Americans, believe it, we have classes in our state schools in which children are given religious indoctrination. And you have to opt out, not in. Most parents, even if they're not believers, are too cowardly to say no, so Bill sits outside his class with the Muslim kid and all the others in his class are taught that Jesus loves them.

And yeah, in case you were wondering, Queensland is by far the most bigoted, backward and hateful place in Australia. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that it's the one most infused by the Christian spirit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On being a failure in poker and life

Failure is relative. That's the first thing. I mean, take any ten people at random, including me, and I'm the best poker player among them. The chances of your picking a better player are low enough that I can say that.

See, that's something I've learnt. How chance works. I am saying I failed, not that I learnt nothing.

But mostly I learnt how to fail.

I was aiming at being good enough to make a living. And if I was Romanian, I would have made it. And was close to making it but I lacked some elements that you need for success: not least, ruthlessness. And any aptitude for hard work, let's face it.

But it is like so much in life. I understand the game. I know what it takes. And I know every excuse I can use to avoid doing what it takes. In the end, I had to quit because I am not a gambler. I know that seems weird when we're talking about a gambling game but you can play poker without loving to gamble (I don't think you can be very good at it though: again, it's the ruthlessness -- not just with others but with yourself). I had good offers for staking and that could, should have been enough to see me through a bad patch in freelance work but I realised I could not risk my kids' wellbeing. A steady income, even if it was unglamorous gave me the ability to know I could provide.

So failure is relative. I failed as a baller but I succeeded as a dad. At least in that way.

But of course you think what if. What if my backer's offer of coaching had been a bit firmer and I'd have taken more of a chance? What if I had spent a hundred hours learning push/fold so that my game was strong enough to switch to games where the edge is all in push/fold and not so much the all-round game that's my strength now? What if I wasn't a pussy?

Well, what if I wasn't is meaningless. I am. That's the thing with failure. It's relative. If you're who you are, you can only do what you are capable of. I learnt this about other people long ago. I am deeply forgiving of others for being limited. Yet still I hate myself for it.

***

So am I too cowardly or too lazy to write a novel? I am hoping the answer is neither. Paul Valery went something like twenty years without writing. It happens. Other shit gets in the way. When a plant isn't watered, it doesn't grow. Right? But I hope I am a cactus. That I am tough in some way and will still flourish when given the chance. I know I must create the chance myself. I'm not a good schmoozer. I don't have connections or friends in useful places. That's not the fault of my friends. I certainly know people who would do anything they could for me. But they can't do anything for me.

I have not given up on me. I mean, we all have bad days, bad weeks, when we think we will amount to nothing (unless you've amounted to something). That doesn't mean we are nothing.

You know, pick ten people at random, including me, good chance I am the richest among them. I have not forgotten that I am fortunate. I am smart. I am a damned good writer. And I see what it is and that's something you can turn into money if the chance comes. It'll come. I mean, here's where I should say money doesn't matter to me. But I chose to be a poker player, where success and failure are measured in dollars and no excuses. So in some ways it matters. But only as the way we keep score, right?

This is how I will be successful: you take ten people, me among them, and I am the happiest.  It's not impossible. That's something else poker has taught me. The worst among us have a lucky day sometimes and if that day coincides with the Sunday Million... well...