In the Telegraph, on October 2nd, there was an article which caught my attention, ‘Why kids crave more time with parents.’ Multiple after-school activities have left kids craving more free time with their parents to enjoy spontaneous pleasures. In a direct quote, “Ikea’s Time to Live research discovered nearly half of kids aged six to 16 are busy with three or more after-school activities and two-thirds pine for more free family time. In the past month, 43 percent of teens and parents did not manage any spontaneous time, despite 66 percent of teens and 73 percent of parents believing the most enjoyable times have been unplanned.” Life gets crazy, particularly at this time of year when activities and commitments ramp up. However, is there something amiss with palpable relief that the classes stop during the festive season? The game was cancelled due to inclement weather? We can now play board games at home? Doing things we love sustains us, and in fact, we feel liberated as a result. Over-commitment kills spontaneity and that’s sad. My daughter and I need that as much as we relish the assurance of structure. Getting the balance right is the key and takes some doing! What are your guides for activities? Do you have rest days in between?
Oh crap! It’s almost the start of November, and November leads into… Freaking out! I can feel my heart racing. I need to flesh out the three books I want to complete in 2014. I need to do a lot before school breaks up for the year. The days and weeks are rushing by. You know when you are paralysed with panic, can’t think straight and don’t end up accomplishing much? Yeah that. I refuse to go into December feeling ill-prepared, bad-tempered and exhausted. Instead of sitting in my office, accomplishing little, I took up my camera. This is what I captured.
How extraordinary to have appreciated so much glory within five minutes! Makes you wonder why we don’t all stop and marvel at what and whom is in our world much more than we do. You know what, the end of the year skulks up on us, and its okay. We can carry projects and dreams into the new year. All we need do now is breathe, and capture some images to appreciate on the way.
What a week it was! I did the presentation for new investigator’s. Suffered from the palpable relief of having done so, not to mention the memories that were stirred. The day before, I went into the laundry to do some washing. I peered up at the branches (yes, we have branches in our laundry), over the bird’s homes on the wooden bench, and counted five little birds. One was missing, Rosie the budgie. I turned around, and saw her on the ground, in the corner. Her eyes were closed. It was a shock. You never really believe that a beloved pet will die, even one’s of advanced age. Her partner, Cuddles, tweeted for her, longed for her. All the birds ended up in the office with me that day, needing to be close. It was a loss as real as any I have known. Final and unexpected. The day before the presentation. I couldn’t cry. Friday, I spent the day inside, and the tears came. Relief that the speech had been done and grief that my little bird had flown away.
Saturday, we had our school fete, a distraction of which I was grateful. Something else to concentrate on. It was a full day, a steamy hot event with lots to do. I was on baskets. I have always loved basket stalls, and my purchase of kind is the stuff of legend. A dear fellow at a school was appalled two years ago, seeing me lugging a mammoth box home around the corner, so he insisted on carrying them for me. There is something about the act of clustering similar trinkets together and wrapping them, finishing with a flourish of bows and curls. I have to say, after dealing with hundreds of them, I am a bit over it now.
The past two days, I have been unable to breathe properly. I know it has been the case for many. Too much smoke and not enough oxygen. Worries for loved ones caught in high-risk areas, worry for the volunteers. An unexpected turn of events this past week. Little bird’s hearts suddenly ceasing, bushfires breaking out. Extreme heat and danger. The remarkable thing is that we get through it. We continue to breathe. The tightness in our chests ease, the rains come, donations stream in. We witness astonishing acts of tenderness. We rebuild. We are all living in hope that the winds don’t live up to what is anticipated tomorrow. If the rain comes and is hard and long, we shall collectively breathe much easier.
I was asked to go to one of the largest police stations in Sydney, and give a presentation last week. A friend of mine was running an investigator’s course, and wanted to give her students new perspective on what it is like on the other side. I looked through the Charter of Victims Rights-devised in 1996, and made notes. Times have changed. There was nothing like this around when I was going through the court system. I didn’t quite know where to start with writing my presentation, so I asked for wisdom and clarity. I wanted to give the investigator’s a clear picture of what goes on in a survivor’s home (I can’t bring myself to use the term ‘victim’), their minds and hearts. What it feels like to be blown apart. I felt a massive responsibility toward other survivor’s. I was after all, speaking for them. The presentation wrote itself. I spoke of what it felt like as a child when the police came to my home, the things they did and said that made an impact. I spoke about the committal hearing when I was sixteen. I spoke of every encounter I had with the police, and how I had noticed the changes, including being given a card with cohesive information regarding support services and also, the name and contact details of an individual I could call whenever I felt threatened. I made no bones about the bad parts of my history, whilst also praising the good. The sergeant who found me the night I fell. Cupping my hand and keeping my awake whilst the paramedics worked. He shall always be in my heart.
It is a surreal experience to go into the carpark of a large station. The heat and darkness permeate every part of your psyche. I got in the lift with my friend, and two burly detectives. They were built like tanks. Long hallways, and dark rooms. Gritty. My friend went to get changed into her uniform and I waited. I had some Rescue Remedy Pastilles to calm me. The nerves came upon me at the last moment. I had been remarkably chilled before. I gripped my speech, as I entered a room filled with investigators. They listened respectfully to what I said, and I felt validated. I had been waiting a long time for this. Afterward, I was given a bunch of flowers, and a kiss! At the afternoon tea, the officers were served doughnuts by their credit union. Yes, they do eat doughnuts! We talked about our kids, about school fetes, about life. Suddenly, I was a contemporary, about the same age as them, and on a level playing field. I was no longer a victim. I was someone who had managed to survive. Some of them suggested that a presentation such as this be done during every investigator’s course. Wouldn’t that be marvellous? They weren’t seeing a “customer,” as the force now terms those who have endured the unendurable. They saw a person, a mother, wife, friend. It was a privilege to see inside my friend’s work, to view the system from the other side.
I had to talk about many terrible things from my past, and remained strong. This freaked me out. Like many with PTSD, I don’t react to stressful events whilst they are happening. It was when I was taking my daughter grocery shopping later in the evening that my bottom lip trembled and I fought the urge to cry. So many memories. I felt emotional for the child I had been. I felt emotional that finally I had been heard. Maybe these experiences would help ensure my child grows up in a different society. I was awake all night, shaking, feeling sick, remembering. They don’t call it the horrors for nothing. The next day, I stayed in bed and slept. Was it worth it? You bet.
It is a wondrous act, the art of rebuilding. Fractured and pulverised, like the component’s of stars. I was told there was a probability that I would never eat nor drink by myself again. That the nasogastric tube may be in place for the rest of my life. I was fifteen. I wish I had pictures of myself at that time to share with you. It was in the era before digital cameras, and nobody cared enough to keep a photographic journal of my recovery. I have snapped the relevant images within my mind. I found the white tracksuit pants I was wearing on that bitter winter’s night scrunched up in my wardrobe. They were torn, and despite having been washed, had stains from where blood and urine smattered. They were hidden in the back of my wardrobe, a shameful piece of my past. I retrieved them, and held them close. When I got dressed that winter’s night, I had no idea that I would be fighting for my life within a short while. I still have the gold bangle I was wearing. My wrist was fractured in the fall, though I barely noticed. It’s bent out of shape, having adapted to my twisted wrist. It has many scratches, from where bark chips stabbed it. I still have the Hartshill rectangle, which had been wired into my back in the first surgery, and my body cast, of which I was in for several months. I painted it. These horrid relics provide some comfort. In the absence of photos, which detail what I looked like after the fall (my face was bruised and cut, and I looked nothing like myself), these relic’s are evidence that it happened. That I survived. They are capsules confirming that it was as bad as I remember, and that I was stronger than that which tried to destroy me. I wish I had pictures of myself pre-surgery and post. Of the first time I walked again. Of myself in the body brace I wore for two years. I have my relics, and I am thankful for that.