I had been to a church service, and the people seemed friendly. It was mother’s day, and they had given each woman a lovely pair of earrings, which someone had made by hand. It warmed my heart. I was contacted by a lay preacher, and she invited me to a morning tea at a café with the ladies. I wanted to be connected, despite it being an evangelical church, with arms raised and eyes closed. Not a scene I was familiar with. Despite only being able to mumble, having my face bandaged, bruised and stitched, I decided to go. Hubby was going to drop me off, and mind our three year old daughter. The ladies gasped at my visage as I sat down, and smiled at this fragile creature. It was as though we were from two different planets. I was given a gift of a book written by one of their members, and said my thanks as I ordered a water. My back was turned to the fountain behind. A woman shrieked, “look at that little girl! Where on earth are her parents!” I turned slowly and saw my child completely saturated, in the fountain. “The water is dirty!” someone else chimed in. Hubby was trying to coax her out, to no avail. My free-spirited child was having the time of her life. In his flustered state, he finally handed over our dripping, shivering little girl to me, and hollered over his shoulder that he was going to duck into the shops to get her fresh clothes. He disappeared, and I shrouded my child in my coat as all chatter ceased. Awkwardness reigned, as did judgement. I felt exposed, not cut out for this particular group. I surveyed the perfect talons, the coiffed hair, the diamond rings and pressed outfits. It seemed like an age until hubby returned. It was the same week that he came back from an errand to the electrical store to buy a new speaker, and came back with a flat screen television and brackets, so our daughter could watch her shows from the comfort of her bed. He took it back on my insistence. As I slowly rose, I called out a meek farewell, and went off with my two ragamuffins. I drank wine that night, knowing I would not be courted by these ladies. I thanked the fountain, knowing that it had washed me clean. Clean of the misguided notion that I didn’t belong. Three years have passed. My scars have healed, and these two ragamuffins are by my side. These women are still having their coffee meetings. I was never invited to another.
I love how time allows us to revisit experiences that were cringe-worthy at the time. Those bloody-awful events which made us want to curl up in a ball when they happened. Three years ago, I had plastic surgery after removal of some tumours on my face. Long story short, I had been on high doses of hormones to try and reverse the premature menopause I found myself in. We wanted to try IVF, and give our daughter a sibling. Instead, I found myself with what I thought were warts. “Great, I really am a crone now,” I thought to myself. I thought they would be frozen off, but instead, I was sent to a skin specialist, and then found myself receiving plastic surgery. I was chattering in a deep and meaningful manner, under light sedation, completely off my trolley. Not helpful when one’s surgeon is attempting to do a flap repair and remove a tumour to one’s chin. “We will need to knock this girl out,” I heard. Then, they knocked me out. Over the next few days, I couldn’t speak, as I had stitches to my chin and forehead, two black eyes and a bandaged face.
I was waiting to see if these tumours were a nasty cancer, and also whether the HRT I had bombarded my system with had worked and I would be able to do IVF again. I would find out both sets of news at two different places on the same day. Feeling as though I had absolutely no control over my life, let alone the outcomes, I became desperate. Desperate to find my place. Desperate to feel connected. What happens next is why I view fountains with fondness.
Anniversaries are tough. We feel the despondency all over again. We feel incredulous that another year has passed, and we long to stop time. To stop the world. Time is propelling us forward, and it won’t slow down. We try to etch out a new way of being, without the ones who shaped us, loved us, and inspired us. How many times do we reach for them, play their messages back, expect to greet them at our door? How many times do we reach for our phone to call, to celebrate our joys and commiserate on losses? It all reaches a crescendo once a year on the anniversary. A dear friend lost her mum-a brilliant artist- a year ago this week. There are no words which can soothe this heart wound. Platitudes don’t cut it. Rather, I promised to light candle’s, and think of her mother. I didn’t meet this lady, yet I know so much about her. How she carried herself through life. I know she bore a beautiful daughter and was instrumental in her granddaughter’s life. I regret that I never got to know her personally, and yet I feel I do. My little family lit the candles, and we stopped. The chatter of everyday life was silenced and we were still. Our pets were still. The breeze was still. The flames carried a silent prayer through the ethers. They carried profound gratitude that through this woman, we have had our lives sweetened by her offspring. The world has custody of her art for all time. Sorrow became thankfulness that she walked among us, and we breathed the same air as this lady. The flames danced as my daughter bowed her head. They danced as we remained still. Unlike our candle’s her flame is inexhaustible, and shall never be extinguished. You lived, and you lived well. xxx
I have watched my husband struggle with a quiet dignity since his bipolar diagnosis several months ago, and I have observed a remarkable healing taking place. He rang his life insurance provider with a query in the interim, and mentioned his new diagnosis. As a result, they wont insure him until a year has passed. It was irritating to us both, of course, but more than that, it was troubling. He has to hang on for a year. If you had said that it was a possibility that he wouldn’t be around in a year, at the start of 2013, I would have sadly agreed. Today, I see a man coming back to life. He was brave for so long, from the age of twelve, when he was made to leave home by two damaged parents, and survive on his own. People break. People sometimes crack over the smaller things. The car breaking down, the rego being due, a friendship drifting. It takes one superfluous incident hauled on top of a pile of bigger issues to break a back. To break a mind. I had a woman come by, and try to coax me to leave him after his diagnosis. She gleefully reported that she knew the destructive things he had done when he went missing, as he had told her. She said he was grubby and appeared as a homeless man. She went on and on, denigrating his character, and all I know him to be. I ended my association with a heavy heart.
He is my husband, and has been so for fourteen years. He has been with me throughout my early adulthood, and has sacrificed much. He was unwell, and is doing everything in his power to keep well. When he was in the depths of illness, he couldn’t see how sick he was. How could anyone have expected him too? He is still not drinking, and takes his meds by the clock. He has tremendous regret for the pain of the past six years. We talk about it sometimes, and how it was for me. Confused, alone, and often abandoned. I am aware that he falls into depression over what is past, beating himself up over behaviour he had no control of. I am in the unique position of being able to understand what it is like to feel as though you have had a personality transplant. On and off endometriosis and IVF drugs, being in and out of chemical menopause… Feeling angrier than you have ever felt, with a despicable depression you can’t begin to describe. Knowing its not you, even though it feels like it is coming from deep inside your brain and soul. To see the sunlight again and the truth of yourself reappearing… It is early days, and we have strived to get the balance of medications right. It has been hard and scary. I get scared when he is buoyant. Is he too happy? Is it real happiness? I get scared when he becomes frustrated. Will he be able to self-soothe and calm himself? I get scared when he is late home or goes for a walk. We are both re-learning our roles in this relationship. I can own my pain and give it voice. I need to, for there was a lot of it. He is taking responsibility for his health, and I am so very proud of him. My hormones have been imbalanced and that has at times made me feel wretched. His brain chemicals were unbalanced, and he is dealing with that. Nobody can judge him more harshly than he judges himself. I thank all the wondrous people who have provided mateship and support. It has meant so much. Understanding is a gift that you give not only to the person with a mental illness, but to their whole family.
Two of our four baby guinea pigs have been getting “inspired” by Spring fever, despite being three weeks old. We were advised that we wouldn’t have to worry about them reproducing until they were six weeks. Looking in at them trying to shag anything animate or otherwise, we started laughing. How ridiculous to have pets that are so very fertile, whilst we are infertile. To have to take these tiny little balls of fur to have their sex decided (you press their tummy and a willy pops out if a boy). We had to give the little boys away, and hope that the others weren’t already pregnant. Quite a ridiculous pet to have when one is infertile. To see the ease of pregnancy and new life… We had to laugh.
I have given up alcohol and am trying to limit caffeine in an attempt to curb my hot flushes, which are continuous, day and night. The GP wants to try me on a blood pressure medication to try and limit them, but I would have to lie down after taking the tablet twice a day, as I could get dizzy. I already have low blood pressure, so am in two minds about it. I went to the gym this morning, and had a celery and beetroot juice in the café, rather than coffee. Feeling smug after taking the healthy option, I got up, felt off-balance, and walked straight into the glass window, which I took as a door. Maybe I should have a glass of wine and an espresso chaser to wash down the blood pressure medicine? I love being given opportunities to laugh at the ridiculous and ponder delicious irony. Fortunately, life provides us all with many such opportunities!
A budgie called Cuddles who refuses any overture of affection, a front door with the key stuck in the lock… A canary named Setrena by my daughter,(huh?) A loo which only stops flushing after performing a fancy ritual. Despite our desperate need for control, there are so many things that are out of it. To appreciate the quirkiness and humour of life, is to celebrate it.
Jet black hair and olive skin, with eyes blue as the ocean and the cutest little dimple. I knew nothing of babies when I had you. I gathered they were like koala bears and slept eighteen hours a day (I know, right?!) You did nothing of the sort, preferring slumber lasting an hour a time, and no more than six in a twenty-four hour period. Yet, I felt more energized, having you in my world. Maybe it was the years of waiting and hoping that made this tolerable. My wide-awake child. The black tendrils of hair fell out, and were replaced by honey-blonde locks. You were always full of surprises. I will never forget shrieking in fright in our kitchen when I saw you, grinning at me. I had put you to bed, and you slumbered. It was time for mummy’s cuppa, and to see you standing there-after having climbed out of your crib-grinning at me, was priceless. You were a little over nine months of age. Always in a hurry. You held a family friend’s hand at three years of age as he was near to passing from this world. Your soft little hand in his aged, limpid hand. Unscripted and treasured. A gifted artist, your paintings make my heart soar. When I listen to you practice with your singing teacher, my whole being is uplifted. That voice which starts off nervously, then gathers strength. Sweet and lyrical as a little bird. I am so proud to be your mummy. There is nothing you need to do, say or be to earn this pride, this love. One day I will let this little bird fly and be independent. I cant wait to see who you become sweetheart.
Today, I learnt that a group of bad guys from my past were flourishing, and planned to open a business nearby. My first reaction was numbness. I couldn’t feel anything, nor did I want to. Nervous energy needed an outlet, and I cleaned my guinea pig’s hutches. I paced. I put on music. My daughter could feel the nervous energy and asked what was wrong. I couldn’t tell her. She is seven. It would require a long, convoluted explanation that I didn’t want to give to this precious child. These people almost successfully ensured that I didn’t get to grow up, and have her. I took her to school, and had coffee with a friend, a lovely distraction. I then became pissed off. How dare these people ever be allowed to be in a position of trust again. I want more for kids. I want more for my kid. I want them to live in a world where the bad guys get punished. I want her to live in a world where stuff like this doesn’t happen to kids at all. The truth will come out. It always does. I know that. I have been around long enough to see empires crumble, villains brought to justice and Royal Commissions uncover the reality of various groups. For now, I will treat myself well, go for a stroll in the sunshine and pick my daughter up from school. I can’t wait to play with her this afternoon and hear about her day. We are planning a trip to Nutcote, May Gibbs’ home. A place of Gumnut babies who get away from Banksia men.