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  • Dougie

Life, Dougie. But not as we know it ...

Spike and I had lunch with our friend Natalie last week. The three of us had worked together, maybe eight or ten years ago, in the same office in Sydney. But now we work in different places in Canberra -- where we met -- although Natalie lives in rural NSW. Spike and I live in Canberra’s deep-south suburbia (as you know) far far beyond the land that time forgot. We’re a bit like Ant Man and Captain Marvel – stuck somewhere in the 1980s. Except Spike and I live in a giant bungalow with a cat that barely tolerates me while Ant Man and Captain Marvel live with the Avengers and do battle with Thanos.

But that’s not really what I came here to talk about.

It’s been a couple of years since Nat, Spike and I caught up although, as you might expect, we’ve watched parts of the parades of one another’s lives thanks to the constantly recycled updates on various social media platforms that most of us share and vicariously almost-participate in the lives of others: birthdays, Christmases, holidays (overseas and otherwise), new jobs, new houses, gardens, long drives, bracing southern uplands' winter mornings, balmy summer evenings.

Those sorts of things. Almost all of us do it. In fact, it’s now so passé it’s become the new normal for grey-haired old Scottish guys like me. So very, very 2009.

Not that I’m complaining, per se, about social media. It’s like this: for all that the transnational giants of the Interweb – Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify and all the rest -- may indeed be the Spawn of Satan and globalising, centralising, homogenising, harbingers of the doom that is modern monopoly Capitalism, I cannot tell a lie. I am complicit in the wrecking of humanity. I like to see my friends’ (old and new) social media updates. I order books from The Book Depository. I have several Spotify playlists. I tweet and re-tweet cat pictures and opposition to the politics of division, misogyny and hate personified by Voldemort living in the White House. So shoot me.

But that isn’t what I came to talk about either.

It was this that made me take up my pen again and write.

Nat and I were picking our ways through large bowls of ‘not-chicken’ laksa and Spike was mulling over her ‘not-beef’ Massaman curry in an almost-deserted vegan restaurant in Canberra’s Dickson in the desolate period not long after New Year’s Day when Nat said, “I was enjoying reading your adventures about becoming a participant in the NDIS.”

There was a distinct pause before Natalie continued – more in sorrow than in anger – “But it’s been a while since I read anything new.”

A while.

Checking (as one does) I see that – in fact – it has been over nine months. And I’m still not a participant in the NDIS.

Nine months for pity’s sake.

Since before time began, Natalie and every other mother on the planet has conceived, gestated and given birth to the world’s next generations in less time than it’s taken me to get my act together, make an appointment to see my GP (to confirm I am, indeed, the C5/6 quadriplegic I claim to be) then send back my medical evidence form to the nice people at the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Nine months ago FFS. What have you been up to man?

Although that’s not what Natalie said. She’s much too supportive and empathetic a human being for that. But I could tell from the way Natalie stabbed with her chopsticks a piece of ‘not-chicken’ in her really rather mediocre ‘not-chicken’ laksa in that almost-deserted Dickson diner that I was in trouble.

It was a bit like being back in school on a Monday morning without that weekend assignment ready to hand in. You just know that “the dog ate my homework, miss” simply will not cut it with the teacher (and not only because everyone knows you’ve never had a dog).

So you clutch at any straw. And among the ‘not-adequate’ ‘not-answers’ I did ‘not-give’ to Natalie as we finished off our ‘not-chicken’ laksas there were these thoughts:

  • But … I was busy driving up and down the Hume Highway like the proverbial blue-arsed fly to deliver NDIS support coordination services in Sydney.

  • And … I was writing the 65-page submission from the ACT Government’s disability advisory group to the ACT parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the NDIS in Canberra.

  • And … I had food poisoning. Twice.

  • And … I finished my Honours Degree at The Australian National University which meant I had to write a 20,000-word thesis on the secularisation of post-apocalyptic fiction after an 1826 novel written by Mary Shelley (about which – I will concede -- most people probably care a lot less than me).

  • And … I got a new job as the CEO of a non-government organisation providing NDIS support coordination, plan management and self-directed support services to over 200 people with disability living in Canberra.

  • And … a giant kangaroo threw itself at my car which meant it was off the road for four months. (The car, I mean. The kangaroo was stone-cold dead, unfortunately.)

And yadda, yadda, yadda Dougie. Tell it to the hand.

The dog ate your homework.

But here’s the thing -- it's one of the conundrums of my life. A bit like that thing John Lennon said about life being what happens while you’re making other plans.

In my day job, my so-called professional life, I’m quite good at getting things done. They’re usually on time and under budget. I’ve almost always contributed imaginatively, creatively, and effectively – and frequently led -- teams of enthusiastic people who achieve good outcomes, often breaking new ground, setting up new ways of doing things; producing results that other people often told us people with disability couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to achieve.

In my personal life? Not so crash-hot to be honest. Exhibit one? I moved to Canberra six years ago to help launch the NDIS yet I’m still not one of the more than 200,000 participants who’ve joined the Scheme. Exhibit Two? It takes me nine months to return an NDIS evidence of medical condition form.

That’s a bit odd, don't you think?. Maybe even a paradox.

So this is for you Natalie. The form has been posted. The journey has been re-commenced and I shall keep writing about it.

The ‘not-dog’ has not eaten my ‘not-homework’.

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