Driving Again After 4 Years

muppets driving

It’s been about 4 years since I lost my legs. As a friend reminded me, I was always losing my keys, so it was not surprising that I lost my legs eventually Driving was much harder than I imagined, mainly because of the hand controls. They are difficult to describe but I don’t have a picture, so I will try.

  • It is an automatic car
  • You steer only with your left hand, using a knob on the steering wheel
  • You use your right hand for accelerating, braking, blinkers, lights etc.
  • There is a bar below the steering wheel that sticks out to the right of the steering wheel
  • You press the bar forward to brake
  • Other controls are on the bar including a switch/trigger for accelerating, blinker buttons etc

Everything is so different. It is like learning to drive all over again as you have to consciously think of every little action you take. But just as it eventually became automatic when I first learned to drive, I’m sure this new way of driving will too.

For my fellow psychology students, this is an example of Piaget’s accommodation in action, hopefully leading to automaticity

10 Life Lessons +1 for My Children

life lessons My 45 years on this earth has taught me a lot of life lessons. And while I know it’s hard to put an old head on young shoulders, my impending death has prompted me to share ten things I’ve learned (plus one because I cannot count). Here are my 10 life lessons + 1.

1 Take charge of your own life. While you don’t always control the situations you find yourself in, you do control your reaction to them. Don’t react out of habit and don’t react in unhelpful ways. Rather, choose to act or react in ways that are helpful. Furthermore, you have often contributed to the situations you find yourself in and while it is not helpful to lay blame, by taking note of your own contributions you know what to do to change the situation.

2 Be yourself and be proud of it. You are unique and you are wonderful. Never think that you are less worthy than anyone else around you, but never think that you are better than others either. It is your uniqueness and the uniqueness of others that makes the world wonderful.

3 Respect and be considerate of others. Before you decide how you will act in any situation, think about how your actions could affect other people. Choose to act in ways that are respectful and considerate of others.

4 Respect and be considerate of yourself. Tell people what you want and what you need without fear of disapproval. Yet, do so in a respectful and considerate way. While it may be nice to have others’ approval, your needs are more important.

5 Work hard and persevere. If you want something you must work at it and you must be willing to work at it for an extended period of time. There is no substitute for your own hard work. No one can do it for you. And, there will be struggles and setbacks along the way. If you really want it, stick at it.

6 Follow the rules yet break them. Whether it’s mum telling you what to do, or society, groups need rules or there would be chaos. At the same time, people who were admired throughout history have stood up against unjust and hypocritical rules. So, in general, I encourage you to follow the rules. Yet, stand up and break them when needed.

7 Be open-minded enough to seek the truth. We all have beliefs about situations, topics, and the world in general. Yet, some beliefs are more valid than others. Be open to challenging and changing your beliefs based on logic and evidence.

8 Be tolerant and intolerant. Today many people talk about the importance of tolerance, and I agree with them partially. Be tolerant of other people’s views and preferences. Yet be intolerant of things that are just plain wrong, such as domestic violence and bullying. Judge people by the way they act, not by superficial characteristics such as skin colour, gender or sexuality.

9 Deal with failure. You will not always achieve the things that you set out to. Nor will you always succeed at being the virtuous person you wish to be. Forgive yourself, get up and try again. At the same time, recognise that this is also true for others – so be willing to forgive them as well.

10 Look after your body, otherwise, you’ll end up like me. Eat well and exercise regularly. As Tim Minchin pointed out, philosophical people like me who laughed at physical education graduates with their mini witches’ hats, are wrong. PE teachers are right.

Life Lessons +1

Laugh and have fun. There are many important things in life, yet important does not mean the same thing as serious. Learn to laugh and have fun, in good times and in bad. Of course, there will be times when you are sad, but there is so much in life to be grateful for. I’m sad that I won’t get to see you finish growing up or have children of your own. Yet, I’m also grateful that I had the privilege of knowing and guiding you for the time we had. As for the time we have left, why cry when you can laugh.

Narrowing life lessons down to a short list has been challenging. There are many life lessons that you will learn for yourself along the way. However, I hope that my list of life lessons will give you a good head start, and something to look back on at different stages throughout your life. Good luck and best wishes.

What Matters

Meaning of life image

Over the last 6 months in hospital, I have had a lot of time to think about what really matters in life. It is an age-old question and here is my answer.

First and foremost are the relationships in your life. Without them, life is meaningless.

The most important relationship I have is with my two amazing children, Eric and Niamh. I was very lucky that they came down from Mackay to visit me last weekend. We had an awesome time! We went to the movies (they let me out of hospital), my daughter dyed my hair, and we shared many meals together. Yet, the most enjoyable times will when we were just chatting with each other.

I’m also fortunate to have such wonderful and supportive friends. I’ve known some of my friends for over 20 years. I also have friends that have only recently come into my life. I met some of my friends through my work (including some ex-students), some I have met because of my heart condition, and others have popped into my life from the weirdest locations. I am grateful for all of them.

The second thing that really matters in life is personal progress. I (like anyone) am capable of some truly remarkable things. Yet, I am always capable of more. Growing towards (and even stretching) my potential helps give meaning to my life.

The areas where I can grow include my knowledge, my personal habits, and my physical development. In fact, the areas where I can grow are virtually infinite. The point is that striving to become all that I can be is immensely rewarding.

Of course there are things you have to do, such as working to make a living. Yet, knowing what is really important to me is helping to reshape the way I spend my time. Perhaps it can help you too!

Women’s March 2017: Was It Was Needed?

Over the last day or so (Australian time) I have watched clips of the Women’s March in Washington as well as a number of people discussing it on TV.  And evidently, the phrase Women’s March is trending on social media.

My question is, Was it needed? People like Pauline Hanson say no. Here are my views on the Women’s March and similar such events.

I strongly believe in equality and always have. To me, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, what racial heritage you have or what sexual orientation you have etc. When I interact with people I don’t see colour, or gender or colourful rainbows stamped their on the forehead. I just see the person – be it a friend, a potential friend, a boss etc.

Relevant Tangent

Again, I was having a coffee (actually hot chocolate) with a new friend and she was talking about her friend who saw people the way I do. They referred to it as “colour blindness”.

What struck me was that she saw this sort of colour blindness as potentially dangerous. I found this intriguing, so I probed a little more.

She said it was easy for her friend who was a white middle-class male to view the world that way. However, the reality is that many people still don’t. She believed that as a white middle-class male it was possible for him to see the world as colourless, genderless etc., but as a woman with Fijian heritage, she noticed and suffered some of the inequalities that he was blind to. When you fail to notice something that is wrong, you don’t take any action to make things better. This is why “colour blindness” is dangerous.

I found this insightful because I am a white middle-class male who has always had a “colour-blind” view of the world. I don’t want to change this view because I think it is how everyone should be. Yet, it made me very conscious of the need to be aware of any inequalities around me and to do something about them.

Back To The Women’s March

Now, back to the Women’s March. Previously, I would have believed that such actions were unnecessary. Not that they were wrong – but more that they shouldn’t be needed in this day and age.

It is a sad reality that they are. Take the degrading comments made by Donald Trump. At the time I just thought he’s a sexist pig, and thought no more about it. But his comments are just an example of what some women put up with every day. The fact that someone like that could be elected President of the United States is a wake-up call to the challenge women face.

So, I proudly support the Women’s March in Washington and what it is trying to achieve. I also support similar actions from other minority groups. I hope your voice is heard by more and more people each day, and I dream of the day that such actions are not needed.

Swearing: Is It Okay And When?

Swearing image

I shared a post on Facebook today from Josh Blue Comedy that contained a swear word. It made me think about whether and when swearing is okay. (The fact that in hospital and feeling bored they also may have something to do with my mind wandering in such weird directions ).

Personally, swearing has never offended me. I’m not even one of those people to find some swearing okay, except for one or two particular words. No single swearword offends me.

Interestingly enough, I seldom swear myself. I know it offends some people. While I have no problem with swearing, I have no desire to offend others. When I was younger, I adjusted the language I used depending on the people I was with. These days I just don’t swear a lot. Maybe it is because I am older, or it just may be that I spent so much time teaching schoolchildren that I got out of the habit. I really don’t know – but I don’t miss it.

To me, swear words are just words. I don’t believe they are good or bad in themselves. However, as with any words, I think it is the way you use them that matters.

I would be offended by someone who called a friend a %^&#* idiot, whether %^&#* was substituted with the word stupid, or with a swear word. It’s not the swearing that is offensive but the intent behind the words.

In a similar vein, I would not be offended by someone who hit their thumb with a hammer and then rattled off a string of expletives. Nor would I be offended by someone who swore casually in a conversation with me.

Perhaps my view reflects my sometimes Spock–like reliance on cold logic and reason (see Why I Became A Humanist).

What do others think?

PS if you don’t find swearing offensive, the Facebook post really is funny