I would rather walk…


She is the type of woman who sweeps over you from the feet up, criticising everything from your shoes to your handbag. She makes your daughter uncomfortable with her relentless grilling, and you feel exhausted by her relentless whining. You are never asked about yourself; how you are and what is happening in your world. You aren’t asked because it doesn’t matter to her. On a gorgeous morning, there you are, minding your business at the bus stop, when she comes along, insisting on sitting near you the whole journey. By the end, you have lost all your energy, and feel discombobulated. Its probably not a good portent, when you spot a person and inwardly groan.

The other day, I was waiting for a bus home after seeing my doctor. My spine was excruciating; lifting my arm had encouraged metal shards in my spinal canal  to give a sensation like being stabbed between my shoulder blades. It had taken five different medications to get a few hours sleep the night before. I just wanted to sit in silence, and get home.

Suddenly, she appeared, like a vulture. She immediately noticed that I had cut my hair. “What happened to you!” she demanded, pointing at my head. “I felt like a change,” I replied sharply. “Why would you do that? Why?” she hollered. And in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 the critique was coming. Bugger this! In desperation, I hopped on a bus that would take me several blocks from my place, rather than right outside my home. It was worth the extra walk, to get away from her. I am starting to understand that I have rights too. A right to peace of mind, quiet, and to be respected. I dont have to be polite and sit there and take such nonsense. All my energy has to be shared with my daughter and I will be damned if I will allow the likes of her to syphon it away with dribble. Not anymore. The look on her face when I suddenly hopped away and onto the bus was priceless.

When you wake up from a fitful sleep, you tend to have around half of the vigour needed to get through a busy day. If you subject yourself to miserable people, the tank gets drained further. Dont do it! Move or walk away from anyone who pulls this toxic stunt!

 

Be Vulnerable


I learnt an important lesson this past week. Life had become extraordinarily busy; happily due to wondrous events, and I was delighted to share photos and details with my friends. I was less enthusiastic to share information about my foot. How I would be curled up in a ball due to the pain, both before and after surgery. I wouldn’t let my daughter see the wound, nor anyone else. It was a large crater. It was all well and good to pronounce that I was in the city, going about business, and share pictures of places and smiles and happiness. I found it hard to articulate how my foot felt at the end of the day, and the challenge of getting bandages off which were fused to the wound. How every step was excruciating.

On Sunday, I took a picture of the site, to see how it was healing. Despite all internal objections, I shared the pic. A friend and her husband have a podiatry practice, and she made contact. They organized for me to go to the local high-risk foot clinic, and an appointment was made for that very day! Everything from my circulation to neuropathy was tested. The podiatrist made me a cushioned insole to place in my shoe, did some work on my foot, dressed it appropriately and gave me supplies to ensure it healed well. With glucose intolerance and a nerve deficit, I was at greater risk for infections, etc.

I went from a stoic woman who felt she had to do everything alone, to allowing a group of people to help me, and it was humbling. It was hard to share the photo of my foot, as it felt I was making myself vulnerable. I felt silly; people didn’t want nor need to see a gruesome image! However, friends assume you are doing well, when all they see are happy snaps. By allowing them to see another side to my life, I was able to receive the help  I desperately needed. A big lesson was learned! Being vulnerable is a risky business, but so is stubbornly trying to do it all on your own. There are wonderful people in this world, willing to help. All you need do is ask.

March into Yellow for Endometriosis Month


I visited a friend on the other side of Sydney recently,after receiving a message. She had been suffering excruciating pelvic pains, and tests had revealed that she has extensive endometriosis. I made a massage blend to provide comfort to her abdomen and lower back, and grabbed my folder filled with reams of information- gathered from a decade of research-to give to her. Her story is sadly common amongst endometriosis sufferers. She started her periods early, and from the start, they were excruciating. She was misdiagnosed as having IBS, and the resulting diet and medication did nothing to alleviate her symptoms. To make matters worse, she had extensive adhesions, as a result of a burst appendix at eleven. A laparascopy had been ordered, and though they found a mass of endometriosis, they failed to tackle it. As a busy mum, it had now gotten to the point where her quality of life was massively impacted, and something had to be done. She has endured twenty years of seeing doctors, being prescribed the pill to alleviate the cramps, been misdiagnosed, having nothing show up on ultrasounds, and then diagnosed without treatment. She is facing huge costs in order for a gynacologist who doesnt specifically specialize in endometriosis to have “a go” at operating.

My endometriosis journey began at age eleven, when my periods started. They were excruciating and a gynacologist put me on the pill, which did nothing to help. The disease didn’t show up in ultrasounds, and it was suggested that I had a phobia regarding my periods, and was ‘hysterical!’ For at least two weeks every month, I was in agony, and often had to go to hospital for pain relief. I was desperate for somebody to understand, and tell me what on earth was happening. I felt very alone. Endometriosis was suggested when I was twenty, and I was given a shot of a drug made with progesterone. I was told that it was one of my only options to preserve my fertility. The next year was hell. I bled profusely, my stomach swelled and I had continual pelvic pain and migraines.

Twelve years ago, I sought the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon about my lower back pain. My spine had been severely damaged at fifteen, and I had quite a few operations on my back to keep me walking. After I explained that the back pain became unbearable the week before my period, and started to ease the week after, it was suggested that I may have endometriosis. I was referred to a gynacologist, and he booked me in for a laparoscopy. During the lap, the disease was found throughout my pelvis, in balls the size of oranges. This doctor burnt off the disease. When I went back to him for the post-op consult, I was doubled over in pain. He told me that I was fixed, and disregarded my concerns about my fertility and ongoing pain. He wrote a script for the pill and sent me on my way. I collapsed a month later, and sought out an endometriosis specialist. When he operated, he found scores of blood-filled cysts and extensive disease underneath the scarring (the aftermath of some of the disease being burnt off). He had to perform a radical excision of the endometriosis, to seperate it from my uterosacral ligaments and ureter, amongst many places.

Straight afterward, I decided to start IVF, as it was the optimal time, whilst I had a clear pelvis. Once again, I faced ignorance regarding endometriosis, and was put on drugs that encouraged it to grow at lightning speed. I had to be carried into emergency and was put in the maternity ward for two weeks, whilst they treated me. I was told that these particular drugs were like pouring fuel onto the disease and striking a match. I changed clinics, and with a different drug protocol, I flourished. Despite only getting one follicle, I fell pregnant and my daughter was born. I was so used to being in a great deal of pain, that I had no idea that I was in the late stages of labor when I finally went to hospital! Apparently, that is quite common with women suffering endometriosis.

When my daughter was a few months old, the disease came back with a vengeance, and I had extensive surgery. When she was three, I had another operation, and nearly lost my life. I was taken back to theatre after I bled out, and had life-saving surgery. As a result of the trauma, I went into early menopause. It has been an arduous, lonely journey, and I would hope that pelvic pain in girls is now taken seriously. Endometriosis should be suspected if a girl complains of severe period pain. Go straight to a gynacologist who specializes in endometriosis. The difference in outcomes can be astounding. My friend is saving to have the surgery to give her back her life. Even with being in a private health fund, the out-of-pocket costs can be in the thousands. I stored my daughter’s cord-blood when she was born, such was my terror that she may be diagnosed with the disease one day. It gives me peace of mind that her cord-blood may one day prove useful in the event of an endometriosis diagnosis. For further information, go to the Endometriosis Association of Australia Facebook Page. March is Endometriosis Awareness month, and it’s colour is yellow. Let’s paint the town this sunny hue, living in hope that our little girls never have to suffer in the manner their mothers and grandmothers did.

Surrender


Surrender is  tough, particularly if you are a control freak! I had been having trouble with pain in the sole of my foot, but was mindful of money over the Christmas period. My doctor is excellent, but charges over the Medicare Rebate. I needed new scripts, and thought about asking about my foot, though decided against it. It would have meant a short consult would be billed as a long one, and I was on a budget! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I was billed the higher fee anyway on my way out. When it got to the point where I couldn’t walk without agony, and my spine was affected, I sought help from a GP who bulk-billed. X-rays and Ultrasounds led me to a surgeon. I was given a gift, by meeting this remarkable human. He scheduled my surgery,and then the consult was spent with him regaling me with stories from his remarkable life. He had come to Australia to study medicine, and he talked of how he felt stuck between worlds when he went back to his native country. He talked about when he first started his practice, and was invited to a property for dinner with his family. There was a sign out the front, saying ‘Animal Kingdom’. It certainly was! When his kids went into the living room, they were delighted to see a kangaroo sitting on the sofa, watching TV!

I have lost count of all the operations I have had; all I know is that there wasn’t room on the hospital form to list them all! This foot surgery wasn’t the worst of them, that’s for sure. Mind you, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated what an essential job one’s feet play until now. The stuff we take for granted is mind-blowing. We hold on so tight in our lives, to people, places and circumstances, as though through willpower alone, we can control the outcomes. I have always loved the feeling of release, when I am put under. I can feel myself slipping away from consciousness, and yet it is a relief rather than something to fear. I can let go for a little bit, and let the theatre staff (with their eclectic taste in music), take over.

Before the anaesthetist came, my surgeon showed me a collection of photographs he had shot throughout the years on his Iphone. He had taken up photography after his wife had died, and the images made me well up. There were pictures of zebras, waratahs and spiders and it were as if seeing them for the first time, from another level. He remarked that people fail to stop and see what is in front of them; the beauty and terror. He is right. So much of our life is spent trying to avoid big feelings, and ignoring beauty. Maybe I can learn to stop a little more. Maybe I can learn to release and surrender, without having an anaesthetic. Perhaps each second of the day doesn’t have to be accounted for. I want to see waratahs and zebras from a different light too. If a busy surgeon can find time to stop and surrender, surely I can.

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Come as you are, See me as I am


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My daughter’s Godfather is Reverend Bill Crews, an icon in Sydney, admired for The Exodus Foundation and The Bill Crews Charitable Trust. At the end of a service at the Uniting Church in Ashfield, we all hold hands, forming a circle. In part, he says the following “come, come as you are… This is not the door of hopelessness. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what sex you are, who you are or what you’ve done.” We all feel it. A bunch of eccentrics, poets, misfits and empaths, we feel that we can indeed come as we are. The ego is a silly thing, misguided and sometimes seeing to it that we neglect opportunities. Neglected, because at that particular time, we don’t feel 100%…Our house is a mess, we lack the funds to put on a fancy spread for dinner, we need a haircut or we feel we need to present better before having people over… I didn’t think I had allowed my ego to misguide me, but I certainly had! I have planned dinners in my head, and am waiting for the perfect opportunity. I have planned to have people over, then neglected to actually invite them! I look back and in all honesty,  perfect gatherings were unscripted. I have drunk cheap wine out of jam jars, and had a drizzle of olive oil on bread with friends by candlelight, vying for space amongst magazines and cushions. Those nights were sublime and unforgettable.

I have a problem with my right foot (where nerve damage has occurred from my spinal injuries), and am having surgery next week. In spite of this, each day I have showered, done my hair and put fresh clothes on. I have cleaned my home, and put everything in its place. Last weekend, the pain got the best of me, and I had heavy-duty painkillers and put myself to bed, where I stayed. Sunday, I was surrounded by empty bottles of water, clothes and medicines strewn all over the floor, the Sunday papers covering the bed. I was still in my pajamas, and looked a sight with unbrushed hair and teeth. Of course, this was the day that a friend I haven’t seen in ages came for an impromptu visit. She didn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos; rather she got herself a chair and sat by my bedside. I didn’t feel self-conscious; she had come as she was, and so had I! It actually felt good, to visually demonstrate the chaos that was happening within. I felt authentic, un-judged and valued. She not only tread through the detritus when my mask fell, she also gifted me this magnificent umbrella!

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Apparently, it had spoken to her at the shops, and she knew she had to buy it for me! We avoided niceties, delving into the deepest parts of our lives and the society in which we live. My friend gifted me a reminder to stop the avoidance of extending invitations to people because my life/house isn’t perfect that day/week. No life, house or veneer ever is, and those whom love you don’t give a flying fig about any of that. They will step over the clothes strewn on the floor to reach you. Come as you are.

 

Parades and Time


I am behind on finishing my next book, behind on finishing scheduled articles and behind on my blog. I was anxious about all this, until I remembered that everything has a season. Term 4 has been jam-packed with activities, all of them joyous, though time-consuming. I wake at 5am, and get into the day. The Lyrica I take twice daily (as well as other meds for pain), see me crawl into bed by 8pm most nights. By the time the homeschooling activities are done, there is just enough time for dinner and preparing for the next day. My daughter is a bundle of energy, and when I put it to her that if we worked hard this term, we may be able to finish a little earlier, she readily agreed! Another two weeks, and we shall be done. We will have time to explore, to see friends and rest. Oh, and I shall have time to write regularly!

There have been trips to the theatre, parks and beaches. We went to Sculptures by the Sea, which was fantastic.

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We took part in a parade, my daughter as a Scottish warrior, resplendant with a sword, and I as some sort of wench! We had a ball, and as I watched my daughter and her friends brandish their swords, I felt pride.

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We made scores of felt angels and lavender balm for a home school market, have been to numerous workshops and traveled far and wide. The days have been busy, though good. Summer is almost here, and it is time for a break. My daughter will still be learning as she plays and writes scripts with her friends, summons up new songs to sing and performs science experiments at home. Every life has a season, and now is the time of writing.

When it gets overwhelming…


I had been feeling better in myself than I had in a long time. Even though I was still in immense pain, I felt able to cope. I was exercising daily in order to maintain my bones, and was eating food which nourished me and provided energy. Then, a trial started. It only took one look at the young woman’s radiant smile, and my heart shattered. It was all over the media, and as I learnt of the case, I thought surely the man involved would be punished. The events ended with her being locked on his balcony, and tragically falling to her death.

Of a night, I dreamed of this young woman. She appeared holding a falcon. Sometimes, I woke up crying. I know how it feels to be held against your will. I know how it feels to be outside on a balcony. I know how it feels to free-fall through the sky to earth, and I know what it feels to hit the ground and the terror beforehand. My life was spared by a series of fortunate events. It feels as though I have a duty to live for all the wounded angels who have soared through the air and haven’t survived. To go to new places, talk to new people, embrace life and try new things. Complacency won’t cut it.

The verdict came through as a newsflash, when my daughter and I were watching Ghostbusters on her IPad. The television was on mute, but I studied the screen and saw ‘Not Guilty’ flashed across the bottom. My daughter was holding my hand in case I got scared by the movie. I was terrified, though not for the reasons she thought. As I held her soft warm hand, I silently apologized to her. I apologized that we haven’t come as far as I had hoped. Each guilty verdict that is read helps to heal some of the pain of the past. It is an acknowledgement that it should never have happened, it was wrong and the justice system gives a damn. I recall watching my perpetrator shake his lawyer’s hand and smirk as he walked by at my committal hearing. I watched her perpetrator on television look up to the heavens and sigh, (as if heaven had anything to do with his release).

My mind in overdrive, and my heart heavy, I felt my adrenaline ramping up. I couldn’t sit still. I had an overwhelming urge to go shopping for my daughter. She needed new shorts, immediately! I couldn’t banish creatures such as this from the world, but damn it, I could get her shorts. I had that power! Off we went, my mind in a trance. Snatching up clothes, I smiled as I realized she also needed new sandals. She keeps growing, and will soon surpass her very short mum. As she smiled at me, my heart felt heavy. I want to keep her safe forever. I hope that I am laying the groundwork in these years for her to become a confident, assertive young woman. I walked dazedly past friends, unable to stop and chat. I had no energy, even whilst my body was soaked in adrenaline, coursing through every atom. There was loneliness in being unable to articulate how I felt. I know what this young woman’s family would have thought as they left the trial. I bought a bottle of red wine, and a text came through. It was my daughter’s singing teacher, asking if we were coming to class. I had forgotten all about it. I sat and messaged back, apologizing. She was lovely, and sent a smiley face, bless her.

I am so sorry justice wasn’t served. I am so sorry your family are suffering. I am so sorry you didn’t survive and go on to have the life meant for you. I am so sorry men like him are out in the world, on the prowl. I am sorry that narcissists exist. My daughter held a little fashion parade when we got home. “I love them, mummy,”she smiled. “That’s good darling,” I replied. I drank my wine and had no sleep whatsoever. PTSD seems to be a clumsy dance, propelling you forward, then back. I looked at my slumbering daughter, vowing to make the next eight years count. Vowing to build her up so she will have the power to judge a scoundrel when she encounters one.

I survived by a series of miracles, and as I run around like a mad thing of a day, I always give thanks. I vow to live for these voiceless angels as well.

Pressure


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I have been suffering the worst anxiety of my adult life; well, since I had IVF at least. The kind that makes you wake in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking. The ferocity of which makes you heave and feel as if you can’t catch your breath. I am entirely responsible for my child’s education; that alone is a lot of responsibility. I am trying to look after an adult with a mental illness that is unpredictable. I am trying to keep a household going, pay bills, and keep a grin on my face. I am preparing to see specialists and have necessary medical tests; attempting to scrape together the money to do so. Society regularly tells mothers that we are responsible for our health; that if a parent goes under, everything falls apart. I have been trying, I really have, to not go under. To ensure that my daughter is happy and secure. To not fail in my sworn mission to make everything okay with everyone I love. Oh, also to complete a book this year. 

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This year has pummeled me, the marks of which I acknowledge  in the rare moments  I have to sit and reflect. I knew the anxiety was turning into a monster by the following: 

I had two panic attacks in as many days.  I couldn’t work a door handle to exit a building, and the other when a lavatory door got stuck. I went straight into full panic, and passers-by had to calm me.

Feeling disengaged from life. Having  a list of things to do, but not having any idea as to how to do them. 

A pounding head all day, every day, and a terror of everything that once provided comfort. Social outings and social media, phones and emails procured extreme anxiety. 

Forgetting to eat, to sleep, to stop moving and sit quietly.

I called Lifeline, and tearfully relayed the events which had transpired to heighten my symptoms. The counselor was marvelous, and said they weren’t at all surprised that I was finding the going tough. When everything is all up to you, it can be anxiety-producing! I made contact with a counselor, whom I am going to see for a while, and I also saw my local GP. I am going to start medication, until I have a handle on the anxiety. It is not something I can do by myself, and goodness knows, I have tried. My brain feels as though it has forgotten how to relax and is ticking away 24/7. I am sure many can relate. Chronic pain is exhausting. Being a carer is exhausting. Having high expectations of yourself is exhausting. 

It took a lot for me to admit that I couldn’t cope; that I was in trouble. Relaxation and walks, chamomile tea and lavender oil are lovely adjuncts but weren’t offering a complete solution to such extreme anxiety. Spring is now here, and help is at hand. It is a matter of resetting a brain that has spun out of control. It is a matter of calming it down and soothing the tempest. I will still be responsible for an awful lot in life; that isn’t going to change. However, I will have the foundation required to cope with it all. One short woman alone.

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I saw the doctor and she agreed that I needed some help. I have started on a mild dose of medication and my mind already feels clearer. If you are suffering, please know that you aren’t alone.

Wise and compassionate words


My friend wrote an articulate and heartfelt response to the following:


‘You know what? No! Just no! I’m sick of this sentimental BS being shared around FB and people thinking it’s true. I have been through, and had many friends go through, serious life changes. I have had friends battling ongoing or chronic health problems and are just too physically weak to even handle the thought of a coffee (yes even with close friends). I’ve had friends that use every ounce of energy they have just to get through their day as they have serious challenges with their partner and/or kids (probably worse than you’re imagining cause they’re doing their best to try and keep it a secret too). I’ve had friends battling mental health issues where getting out of bed and getting dressed is a huge accomplishment for the day (again the stigma attached to that one only makes them want to hide it and if you haven’t been there then you just won’t get it so don’t even start to preach at them how they need to think positive etc). 
So screw this sentiment! If your friend doesn’t have time for you for 6 months, suck it up, cause the pain/hell they are going thru that they don’t even have the time/energy for their friends, is more than you’re going through by not seeing them. Rather than adding a guilt trip to their situation just msg them some encouragement and remind them you love them and are there if and when they need. Don’t take it personal, it isn’t about you and making it about you just makes it worse. 
So once again, just to make sure you really get this – no! Just no! This is crap.’

The above is full of compassion and empathy. I am still learning how to be assertive, and on occasion, have had the following happen. A text, asking when I may be free. If I am out each day, I will relay that in a couple of weeks my schedule shall be more open. I then receive more texts, which I don’t have the opportunity the read. This has been followed with emails and messages on Facebook. When I go in to see what I have to reply to, there are scores of messages, which I have neither the time nor energy to answer. I have offered by way of explanation, that my spine has deteriorated, I am in constant, merciless pain, and by the time I arrive home (after travelling up to four hours), all I can do is crawl into bed. I assure them that I shall be in touch in a week or so, and am looking forward to catching up. More messages ensue, (usually involving guilt trips, attempting to shame), at which point I am almost in tears. It is an energy drain at a time when you can’t afford to leak! I have racked my brain, trying to see when I have five minutes to make contact. It has inevitably seeped into precious rest time, or time when I had necessary things to do to keep my life running smoothly. I have found that it isn’t appreciated by these kinds of people. They demand another commitment before the present catch-up is over.

This happened to me regularly, and added to the load, when I was simply trying to get through the days. Every life has it’s seasons; a person’s days have delicious, empty space and then gets crammed with more activity and stress than one can handle. Kindness toward another is being accepting of it. I have long-standing friends whom I haven’t seen all year. When we do catch up, it is as though no time has passed. They don’t question my love for them, nor do I their’s. We both know that if we needed anything, we would move planets to support each other. My friend’s response to memes such as that above is filled with wisdom.

 

Flower Markets, Pie shops and Friendship


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Some time back, I went through a hellish week. I hadn’t endured such concentrated crap for quite a while. Unpleasant people from the past tried to sneak back into my atmosphere via social media, money that I was assured would be there to pay essential bills wasn’t, and I was devastated by other events beyond my control. “What on earth is this?” I shrieked, to nobody in particular. “I’m a good person!” The week before, I had been blissfully unaware of the universal dump that was about to be bestowed on me. I wasn’t at all prepared. The thing with trying times, is that they are often beyond our control, but not our capabilities, despite stretching us to our limits.

I knew that I was in strife when I couldn’t stop my arms from trembling, and my hands from shaking. I lost my appetite and three kilograms in a weekend. I was exhausted and longed to rest my thumping head. I was on the loo constantly, my digestive system unable to cope with the stress. My heart felt as though it was leaping out of my chest, and I felt numb; disassociated from what was occurring. All the above were symptomatic of the massive adrenaline rush I was enduring. I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, and so I retreated. I didn’t want to burden anybody, anyway. I longed to disappear. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation I was facing. I felt I had let my daughter down, even though events had been out of my control.

There was a little tap at my door. A friend had been working around the corner and had called in to see me. My eyes were rimmed red from crying and sleep deprivation. Upon seeing me, she held me close, then took me for a drive. We stopped at a pie shop off the beaten track, and I ordered a vegetable pie. They began to make our pies, and we were shown to a round table, the linen tablecloth and colored serviettes adding warmth to a chilly day. There were flowers on each table,nestled in bright vases, and we enjoyed the best pies of our lives. The pastry was flaky, and the filling had just the right amount of seasoning. Afterward, my friend took me to a flower market. We were allowed in the cool rooms, and admired the floral displays. My daughter was asked if she wanted to pick out some flowers to take home with her, and her little face lit up. The dear lady who was running the farm even let us look out the back to see where the gerberas were growing in massive irrigated sheds. Watching my daughter play with the little dog on the farm, I felt the oppression of the past week loosen. The lady at the flower market was gracious to this stranger, and I am sure she could sense that I was fragile on this day. As for my friend, well, she did more for me than she will ever know. She enabled me to escape my own mind, gifting me temporary reprieve.

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The next 24 hours, saw two other good friends call in, and I cried some more as I relayed the impossible situation I faced. What they gave me in terms of support, love and compassion outweighs anything I could calculate. They are indeed my sisters, and they effectively pulled me back from the abyss, and helped me seek ways to continue on. You can feel overwhelmed when a friend is facing a crisis, particularly when lacking funds, time or the health to physically assist.Let me assure you, that real friends understand all that. I equally treasure the cup of tea I was made, a friend opening her house to me, the phone call I received and the heartfelt messages I was gifted. Just knowing that you aren’t alone is enough to sustain you, and bring you clarity. Each and every kindness shall be recalled and valued always.


I still haven’t any resolutions to long-standing burdens, but at least I have a list of steps I can take, right here and now. I feel a little more empowered, and certainly stronger than I did throughout that horrific weekend. It all started with a country drive, a quaint pie shop and a flower market.