Simply Red


I love surprises of the pleasant kind! A dear friend texted me to ask if I wanted to go see Simply Red at the State Theatre. She had free tickets given to her by her DJ sister. Her sister lives in London, and had arranged it from there! Now my friend had a very bad car accident a few years ago, and had many injuries, including a broken back. She is in constant pain. My reaction to this lovely offer was the same as hers had been. We both thought of the practicalities of getting in there, and whether we would be able to stay awake until the set finished at 11pm. We worried about our pain levels escalating, and how we would feel the next day. We checked in with each other the day of the concert, and we resolved to go. To hell with the consequences! Now came a comedy of errors. We found parking under a popular city landmark, and I alighted the car with my trusty walking stick. My friend went to retrieve hers, only to find that the only aid she had was a hefty three-legger with a folding seat!

  
We went to the lift, only to find that we couldn’t go through the shopping centre. We saw security manning the business foyer, and we both burst into peals of laughter upon discovering that the escalators weren’t working and were cordoned off. We had no choice but to walk up the steep stairs alongside. We asked how on earth we could get out, and the security guy said that he would push a button to make the lift go up. Outside, we were completely discombobulated. We are city gals, and know our way around, but our pain-addled, weary minds couldn’t get it together. We punched ‘State Theatre’ into our smart phones. Well, the bloody things took us in the wrong direction, a fact that only dawned on us after a block or so! We put the phones away and relied on our wits. After a  stiff drink, we arrived!

  

 By the time we got to the theatre, we were late, and Simply Red were on. We were guided to the VIP area, which happened to be in the lowest section of the grand old theatre (which didn’t have a lift). We laughed some more as we negotiated our way down many steep stairs. I am sure Mick Hucknall looked straight at us as we hobbled along to our seats. Our tricky bladders were up to their usual mischief and we had to find a loo at differing times. I had forgotten just how pure and emotive Mick Hucknall’s voice was, and man, the band were in fine form. We moved in our seats, performing our unique interpretation of dance. We squeezed each others hands, thrilled that we had gotten here and were doing this. It was a celebration of having survived, for her and I. It was an act of defiance of the pain we will have forever. We were sneering in the face of exhaustion and depression. We were simply two women out on the town, listening to the sublime Simply Red.

I noted my friend’s jaw tightening toward the end, and I asked if she was ready to go. She nodded, knowing that I knew all-too-well, and she didn’t need to conceal her discomfort. We quietly left, walking through Pitt St Mall and to the carpark. We once again had to walk up to security, in order to operate the lift. We then had to negotiate our way around the cords and machines that the cleaners were using. We chatted all the way home, mostly about who we had been before our spines were broken, and then about our wonderful kids. We talked of the joy of sleeping for four hours straight, and what a rarity it was. It was a gift of grace, being in the company of a soul sister, one for whom no words are necessary. We laughed at the same time upon seeing more stairs and barriers. We knew when each other had reached our threshold. We grumbled about uneven paths and sticky-out objects blocking our way. Mick Hucknall, if you happened to look in our direction as we were leaving early, I can assure you that we had an extraordinary time in your company. Your music was the perfect accompaniment to a night of revelry for two ladies with damaged spines. We left on a sweet note, to your dulcet voice caressing our ears.

Raphaela’s Work on Siren Empire


Here are some links to some of my recent work on Siren Empire, in case you missed it!

I have an article on being your own best friend.

Managing Social Media.

My love of Gnomes.

The joy of gathering old friends together at a Wine Bar.

Discover why I was thrilled that our new home had a mass of bark chips (mulch), covering the garden beds!

 

Beyond Blue


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I attended  a fundraiser for Beyond Blue last week. Two women spoke, both with differing pathways into depression. The first speaker had been an ambitious executive, which had seen her reach the top echelon of her company. It meant constant travel, 18 hour days and a huge amount of stress. She had jetted interstate a few weeks after having her baby by caesarean and that was but one instance of her punishing schedule. She knew it was time to revaluate her life when she began to weep in her car on the way to work; when, late at night, she thought of ending her life. She is now uncovering who she is and reconnecting with those she loves. So many people in the audience related to her experience.

The second speaker is a dear friend of mine. She was gravely ill, and in hospital constantly as a young mum. Isolated from her peers, and desperate to get better, she fell into depression. I think we all would have, given her experience. She gathered the right team around her to assist her recovery, and through sheer grit, she climbed out of the darkness. The thought of leaving her family was too much to bear. She had something to hold on for.

The talk reaffirmed that depression can strike in a myriad of ways. It can be caused by unbearable pressure or illness, grief and loss. We can have a life which seems marvellous, and still be depressed. We need to look out for each other, and provide a sprinkling of hope. Whether that be pulling up a friend by asking what the hell they are doing, running around like a whirlwind. What are they attempting to escape? It could be checking in with loved ones to enquire how they are doing.

We are as malleable as clay, and as fragile as the glass on our phones and other gadgets. We are strong beyond measure, like intricate iron lacework on old terraces. We are complicated. Depression doesn’t need to have a reason. It just is. A horrible blight on an otherwise healthy rose. I wish I had the answers. I guess we can help ourselves by regularly checking in with our lives, and banishing (as much as we can), that which causes stress and angst. We can check in with our friends, even if only to send a message of love and appreciation. We need to know we aren’t alone.

A Whirlwind Week


On Sunday, we watched a short film that Rev. Bill Crews is putting into a festival. It centred around the homeless residing in two parks near Central Station. How it must feel to be out in the elements in heatwaves and bitter cold… Many in society have a tenuous grip on their security, and it would take but retrenchment or ill health to plummet them into the homeless community. Perhaps that is why many look away. Fear will do that. A lady talked about her daughter’s high school, how they went to one of the parks, armed with sleeping bags. The kids asked questions and listened to the people table their stories. The people became human beings with back-stories, rather than ‘the homeless.’ What a wonderful thing to do!

In the evening, I took my daughter to Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant in the city. My daughter proudly ate a lettuce leaf, and some sunflower seeds, and then devoured a bowl of ice cream! She has promised me that she will try new food every day, and I am holding her to it! It would be great to expand her repertoire from beyond Vegemite, apples and Lavash crackers! Okay, she does eat more than that, though barely. Kids can become fixed with their eating habits. I have found that when I leave it up to my daughter to uncover the joy of a new food, it ends much more happily than if I had forced her to try it!

On Monday, I was waiting for the bus with my daughter, to go to drama class. The lady I befriended at the bus stop a few weeks ago pulled over and offered us a lift. Bless her, she went out of her way to take us to the train station. My daughter was impressed with her Hello Kitty seat covers and the delicious air conditioning.  It beat waiting in the blazing sun! Australia is having a very hot week! How wonderful it is when strangers become friends.

We were at a show yesterday, and I was seated next to a stranger. She was an older lady, and she asked whether my daughter was having a  day off school. I explained how she is home schooled, and that it has been great for her dyslexia, to be able to take her time. She told me about her grandson, and how he is dyslexic. Sadly, he has no confidence in his abilities, and left school early. I was able to give her some details about the Exodus Tutorial Centre-among other resources -whom may be able to help. Her eyes lit up, and I knew it was not by accident that we were seated together. She lives not far from me either! Life is a strange and wonderful thing!

It has been a whirlwind week, and it is only Wednesday! More activities have been heaped onto my plate, and at the moment, I am eager for them. I haven’t started the medication for my nerve pain as yet. I have been warned by my doctor and those on it, that whilst it is effective, it will certainly cause drowsiness. I am making hay whilst the sun shines! It is going to be factored in within the next few weeks, making home time necessary. Life is cyclical, isn’t it? I am in the season of crazy-busy, and within a month, I will be in the cycle of repose whilst I get used to this new medicine. Nothing lasts forever; not the whirlwind, nor the sleepiness. Its a matter of adapting to your situation.

 

 

 

 

Negotiations


I am amazed and delighted that my last post, Who Am I, resonated with so many of you! I try my best to negotiate each day as a free spirit, unencumbered by my body, whilst at the same time, factoring in the need for rests and a regime. I am sure that those of you with physical challenges can relate to the following scenarios. Our local movie house has a ramp, from the ground level to the 2nd level. One has to stop at the first floor to get tickets and snacks. There is a lift, but it operates with a key which is often hidden under detritus in the office. Trying to negotiate the long walk with tickets, drink, popcorn and a walking stick is arduous. I don’t want to hold up my friends by waiting until the lift is available. I don’t want special treatment, or to draw attention to myself.

The second scenario is when you have your day planned. It may be a day in the city. I have a regime drawn up, stating what time I will be at particular places and when I expect to leave. My body holds me to the promise of pain relief and rest at particular times. If I am held up, there is hell to pay. It is a different way of being; engaging with the world, whilst having limitations. A fine juggling act.

I panic if I am home later than I anticipated. I know there will be hell to pay. It may be no sleep that night, or vomiting because I had to take extra pain relief and the side effect is nausea. The danger with the pain relief is that I am agreeable to most things, and the pain is discounted. I am floating! I sure come down to earth with a thud when it wears off!

I still hold to the theory that I am not my pain, nor my body. Do you suddenly become a car because you are driving one? It is just that my vehicle is a little rusty, and has to be treated tenderly. Perhaps I will wait for the lift at the movies, to make life easier on myself.

Who am I?


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I carry a small girl on my shoulders. She grips on, her little hands threaded through each other, resembling a heart around my neck. She assumes that I have the strength to carry her. I hope that I do. I have been many things throughout this life. Misunderstood. A wild thing, a hermit, an eccentric. A school mum, a student, a broken girl. I have been a patient, a victim of violence, a train wreck and a phoenix. I have been a scorpion, a lamb and a lion. Reinvention has been borne of necessity.

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My hand brushes the right side of my torso. It is concave, the result of where they took two floating ribs to graft into my spine. The scars read like a surrealist map. This is where they directed her. This is where it led. This is where they operated, and this is what was said. Nobody tells you that anger can be directed into useful avenues. I am not okay with having been broken. I am not okay with not being able to fall asleep. I am not okay with living with chronic nerve pain and having shards of bone and metal piercing into my spinal canal. I am not cool with a lot of things. So unnecessary and nonsensical. The other day, I was sitting on a bench without back support. I tried to hold my frame up, I really did. Panic set in when I realized that I had to move immediately and lay down on the grass. My spine can’t support my weight when seated at a bench! The pain was out of this world when I attempted to. Here are some more labels, healed, a forgiver, getting on with things…


The pain is like rocket fuel, cajoling me to write. I want to help pave a tranquil path for my daughter and her contemporaries. It makes me strive and makes me determined. It is okay to be pissed off. I came to this earth without scars. I have had to design a life that is manageable and joyful, in spite of them. To devise experiences that go much deeper than the levels of scar tissue and adhesions. To have experiences that shoot through them like a laser and reach deep into my soul.

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I have been given a golden key, which only those with wrung-out psyches obtain. It is a marvellous compensation for having lived a dark dream. I am more than all the labels noted above. I have come to believe that labels are meant for containers, not people. I am a woman doing her best. I am a person wanting more for her daughter. I want her to know her worth. I want her to seek validation not from other people, but rather from herself. To trust her own impressions and honour her instincts. We are worth more than a few token labels, you and I. It is a lazy means to describe the intricacies of a person. We all carry a little person on our shoulders, and the way their hands lace around our necks, resembles a beautiful heart.

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Tim Minchin, Fund for Healing and the Royal Commission


-Trigger Warning

In Australia, a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is taking place. Dates have been set aside for hearings specifically regarding the church authorities in Ballarat. Cardinal Pell (who was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996-2001), was due to give evidence from the 29th February to 2nd March. He has stated that he is unfit to travel from Rome to answer his critics and face the victims of child sexual abuse (those who survived). Under Pell’s leadership, The Melbourne Response was born. Some victims were offered compensation with a clause recognizing that the church had no liability. It has been heard at the hearings that Pell tried to bribe a victim of abuse in order to prevent the abuse being made public. In 2013, Pell admitted in a Parliamentary inquiry that his church had covered up abuse for fear of scandal; that his predecessor had destroyed records and moved paedophile priests from parish to parish. -Source Wikipedia

A fund has been set up, to give the victims of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to travel to Rome and confront him. It is a big part of their healing. The master wordsmith, Tim Minchin, has put out the extraordinary song below.

I befriended quite a few students who attended a now-notorious Catholic boy’s school in the 80’s and 90’s. They confided to me the abuse they were suffering. I saw these young boys age from eleven through to fifteen years. They grew taller, though somehow seemed to wither, their shoulders rounded and backs hunched. They ran away, wagged school and drank to blot out the pain. A few turned to drugs. Many eventually committed suicide. I would hold these crying boys in my arms, and assure them that one day, the truth would come out. “People will care what happened to you. Please, just hold on,” I would plead. It has taken a very long time and as I said, many boys aren’t here to take part in the Royal Commission. The survivors need to see Pell take the stand and look them in the eye. People have been putting money into the fund in droves. I pray that the surviving boys have lived to see it. People care, and it is now your time to be heard and validated. Royal Commissions are important to ensure such horror never has the opportunity to take place again.

Valentine’s Day


I minded a friend’s little girl the weekend just past. It had been a sad week leading up to it, as we had lost our budgie to old age. I was feeling a bit low, as was my daughter. The two girls set to making craft, and I was ushered out of the room. On Valentine’s Day, I was instructed to keep my eyes shut, whilst they led me outside…

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The girls had strewn rose petals into heart formations. The fan was to help calm me when my spinal pain is severe. My little girl had written me a note, and it said, ‘I know how hard you tried to have me so I am doing this very small thing for you.’ These two gave me the greatest gift I have ever had. The other little girl couldn’t wait to give her mum the things she had made either.
             We had a special dinner, baking whole orange cakes. The girls had fun decorating them, and eating the leftover cream cheese icing!    

  
Love comes to us in many forms. It appears as an animal, a song or a tree providing shade. It comes forth within a friend. The love I felt from these two precious girls on Sunday morning  was  enough to keep me soaring throughout 2016.  I had expected nothing for Valentine’s Day, and these two had given me everything.

Friends met on buses


I take buses to transport my daughter to her various activities. We have a bus stop outside our home, and it proves much easier than driving to the station. I have met many characters on public transport; from the chatty young lady going to her first job, through to an eighty year old on her way to  volunteer work. The other day, I got talking to a beautiful woman in her fifties. She disclosed that she was on her way to her job, four hours away on the Central Coast! She had met her partner, and moved to my area, but still had to travel for work. I was aghast. She had to stay on the Central Coast a few nights a week, and was keen to get local work. She was from the Philippine’s and had owned her own business, travelling the world. I admire people who come to a new country, leaving loved ones and careers. I can only imagine how it feels to start anew. She regaled me with stories of her travels, and her favourite places. I put the word out and many wonderful friends came up with suggestions as to where she could find work.

The next day, I chatted to a lady with a broad smile. She works in a local nursing home and is having treatment for breast cancer. Her hair is starting to come back, and she is delighted to find that it is silky and superior to the hair she had before chemo. She asked what she could use for her dry skin, and I suggested coconut oil. It’s cheap and effective! It was awe-inspiring to see this lady snatch back her life from cancer’s grip. She said it was an amazing feeling, to be able to work; to go out and feel like herself again. She gets weary easily, and is factoring in plenty of rest time too.

Catching the local bus is a way to find connection in your local community. The stories you hear and the people you meet… It’s humbling. Sometimes it is easier to disclose the contents of your heart to a stranger. Sometimes a stranger becomes a cherished friend. I am glad I am not limited to travelling in my own tin can; insular and disconnected. It is quite a feeling, to receive a hug from a fellow passenger at journey’s end.

Memories Of 1969


This lady has quite a story to tell about 1969 in Sydney! Check it out!

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1969 was a year of big changes for me. You might say it was my first venture into adulthood – I became an Aunty for the first time; I left school at not quite 15; moved from Penrith to live with my Aunty at Rozelle; and went job hunting on my first Monday in the big smoke (Sydney).

My first job interview was at McDowell’s department store. The personnel officer was Mrs O’Donnell, a lovely lady. I asked her if I could have a job in the “button department”, as my brothers girlfriend use to work there. She smiled and asked me my age and why I wanted to leave school so young. I replied with “My Mum left my Dad, I’m living with my Aunty…”. In fact, the poor lady got my life history and family woes in just a few minutes, you know those days when you really…

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