I had been given very little hope of ever having a child with IVF (after three attempts). Despondent, I went for a walk in a local park. I was standing under a tree, brushing away my tears, when an empty bird’s nest fell at my feet. I took it as an omen, and cradled the precious gift. I still have it- behind glass in my cabinet-eleven years later.Just the other day, I was walking with my daughter, and the nest pictured above landed at my feet! I marvelled at the time and effort that went into building it; a perfect home and refuge. Of course, it came home with me, and my little bird was just as enchanted as I, coming close to inspect the handiwork. Nests and eggshells from newborn chicks are items I tend to find regularly. What are yours?
Oh Sydney, I have fallen in love with you anew! You have a way of enticing like a siren’s call. I love the egaliterian spirit, witnessed a few day’s ago at Circular Quay when a businessman and local character playfully teased each other. I love the Vietnamese family who run a takeaway at the station, where my daughter buys her strawberry donut each week. They put it in a bag as soon as they see her approach.
Hopping on a ferry will take you to numerous islands around the Harbor, and a day spent walking around the city will see you stumble upon magnificent gardens and street art. You will see lovers and love in all its forms on the streets of Sydney. Today, a rally is taking place for marriage equality, in preparation for the upcoming plebiscite, a staggering and demeaning waste of over a hundred million dollars. It is ultimately a human rights issue, and the community is demanding equal rights, as well they should. The turnout is astounding. It is time, Australia. Love, that is what it comes down to. That is what makes a family.
The world lost a treasure a short while ago, named Dawn the Diamond. She would frequent the seats scattered about town, chain-smoking and handing out gifts to children. Impeccably dressed, her favourite colours were purple and red. Wearing green felt hats and scarlet-red coats in winter, she had a style that can only come from being a free spirit. Dawn would buy the homeless and battlers a cup of tea and sandwich from her favourite cafe, and after time spent with Auntie Dawn, their burdens seemed lighter. Her place was open to anyone and everyone, though of a day she could be found at her favourite pub before gathering admirers on the bus stop seats. She loved my daughter, and they were entranced with each other upon meeting. Throughout the years, we shared many a bus journey, Dawn retrieving some errant goodie from her bulging bag for my little girl.
Our trips aren’t the same anymore, for Dawn became ill and passed suddenly. Winter can be cruel to the elderly, and in her last week, she wanted to get the message out to please don’t smoke, as it makes the bitter season that much worse if you were to fall ill. I went to her funeral, Delta Dawn playing as she entered. The church was packed, everyone in colourful attire as requested. I keep looking for her on buses. I keep hearing her laughter in my mind. Rainbows bring such joy, though when they disappear, the oblique clouds seem to be more apparent. Keep shining, Dawn the Diamond. You made unadulterated love and joy appear easy to both create and come by.
If you had told me as a teen that I would live to the grand age of which I find myself, I would have laughed. I would not have believed you for a moment. I had been clinically dead, in coma’s, had repeated seizures without regaining consciousness, had my spine shattered, and much more besides. I wanted to die more than I wanted to live most of the time. Those moments when I experienced pure joy were often found in nature, and boy, those times sustained me. I can recall without struggle the moments a bird would land on me from out of nowhere. I recollect the dragonflies and butterflies encircling me near streams. In those moments, I realized that I in fact wanted very much to live… Really live, and not just exist.
As a young adult I faced infertility, health worries, safety concerns, and poverty. I have had my heart broken, been deceived and financially ripped off. I have been humiliated, retraumatized, and faced great pain. When the first wave hits, you don’t know how on earth you are going to survive it. It all seems too much, especially when placed upon an already rocky foundation. Trauma on top of trauma.
I have learnt what helps by learning what doesn’t. Here is my advice for getting through tough times.
- Do nothing. That’s right, just breathe. When you receive frightful news or it feels as though your world is breaking apart, just be. Your adrenals will be pumping hard, as will your heart. Your stomach will be churning and your brain will reach for fast responses to the crisis. You may even think of reaching for something to quiet the discomfort. Don’t do anything whilst you are processing the crisis. Breathe deeply, run a bath. Cry, scream or confide in a loved one. The situation isnt going anywhere, so just stop for a moment.
- Write it down. Get yourself a notepad and describe what is happening. Pour it all out, and then make a bullet list. List the steps you need to take for resolution. What would help you in your grieving? Time away from everything that is familiar? A support group and counselling? A tribute to the person you mourn? How about financial worries? Maybe write a list of all the businesses you need to contact to explain your situation and organize payment plans. You could apply to AirTasker to accept jobs to bring in extra cash.
- Once your list has been finalized, I hope that like me, you feel a sense of empowerment. Now it is time to ask for help, whether that be from friends, charities or professionals. People don’t know what your needs are if you don’t articulate them. You give them a precious gift by allowing them to assist you.
- Be extra kind to yourself. You may want to run or sedate yourself with booze or pills. You may want to stop caring for yourself and partaking in all the rituals you usually do. Please don’t. Now is the time for reflection, to sit with your feelings and reach healthy conclusions. Your body is under enough duress without adding to the load. It is time to reach out, open up and if possible, go for walks. Many solutions have been reached in my life by long strolls.
- Get all that stress out in a creative way. Whether that be by writing a blog, or keeping a journal, painting or drawing. It all helps.
- Imagine your life in a year. What will it look like? One thing is for sure, you won’t be in the same place that you are now. Nothing in this world is stagnant. We keep moving forward, even if we can’t imagine that as possible. If you are horrified at the thought of your life remaining the same by this time next year, it is time to change that which brings you dread. Life and time have a way of changing things, and it is much better to reach conclusions and embark on new beginnings of your own volition.
- There have been times in my life when I couldnt imagine surviving the enormous crisis pounding down on me. I couldnt imagine wanting to. By doing the things listed above, I did survive, and have a beautiful life. I weep when I think how my life could have ended before it even began. How I would never have had the opportunity for emotional healing to take place, nor hold my daughter in my arms. I shudder when I think of not having survived to meet the splendid people in my life today, nor see this morning’s sunrise.
I can tell you this with assurety, if I could survive, then so can you. This season of winter won’t last forever, and spring will offer new life and along with it, growth.
A friend of ours was having a landmark birthday, and his fiancée organized to stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. After much saving, I booked a room as well. My friends stayed in one of the Giraffe Tree Houses, where they could feed Hummer the Giraffe, whilst we had a glorious cabin outside the uShaka Lodge. It was less expensive, as we had no animals overlooking our room. Some places had bears and lions outside! We left our bags at reception and were ushered into the lodge, where afternoon tea was served. An aquarium featuring sharks and other marine life ran along one of the walls, whilst the other overlooked the Colobus monkeys. As if all this wasnt enough, we were able to become acquainted with pythons and turtles, which the zoo keepers brought out.
The first tour of the private zoo demonstrated how loved all the animals are, with personal stories about each character we met. The beautiful Sun Bear had been rescued from Cambodia by the Free the Bears organization. Many of the animals were rescued from harm or had medical conditions that would see them perish in the wild. The majority of the money made from the Wildlife Lodge goes directly back into conservation. Once the tour was over, we were taken to our rooms, which were heated, our bags waiting for us.
We had a few hours to relax before we were called to dinner. My daughter was taken upstairs in the aquarium for an early meal and tour of the facilities with the other kids, whilst I had canape’s and champagne on the terrace leading to a dining cave. Once inside, we were delighted to be joined by hyenas on one side (behind glass), and lions on the other. It is up to the animals as to whether they come close during dinner. They arent coerced into doing anything. The four-course meal was splendid, and the champagne flowed!
We had a lovely sleep on the beautiful four-poster bed, but waking up to get to the cave for the 7am breakfast was pretty tortuous! Breakfast consisted of every health food imaginable, such as coconut yoghurt, chia puddings, muesli as well as hot food. At 8am, the second tour started, and we got to get up close with the gorgeous rhino.
After the tour had ended, my daughter and I were driven to our encounter with the meerkats. We sat on a rock, and the darling little creatures (all brothers), immediately scampered over for a closer look. We fed them, and they bounded from one lap to the other, their fur soft and warm. They were an absolute joy to watch and its a memory we will treasure forever.
Our stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge ended all too quickly, but it is a time our friends and I will always cherish.
My daughter and I and some dear friends went to Sydney Park last Saturday to pay homage to Kate Bush, whilst at the same time, denouncing domestic violence. I used to listen to Wuthering Heights as a young girl, living under the oppressive understanding that a violent and possessive man would be deciding when my life would end in the near future. I didn’t have to imagine him telling me that I was ‘going to lose the fight,’ nor have ‘bad dreams in the night.’ He told me routinely, and I indeed had bad dreams. I imagined coming back dressed in red, banging on the window, trying to get somebody (anybody), to hear me and welcome me in. Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned joining so many others, dressed in red, dancing to this song so many years later! It was a powerful remembrance of how far I have come, watching my little girl twirl by my side. St Peters has a special place in my heart. I was a young poet/artist when I lived there, selling my wares to the little shops up King St. I would take my little dog, Mitzi Winstopple to Sydney Park each evening, and dream of the future.
In preparation, I raided our fancy dress box and my daughter found a 50 cent gown that fitted her beautifully.
It was cathartic, and I felt cleansed. We wandered up King St to the Union Pub, where scores of other Cathy’s gathered. We bought felt hats for $10 at a bargain store, and I told my friend of my life in St Peters, and the sadness I felt at leaving. I came back not only to pay homage to Kate Bush, but to retrieve something I had left behind; myself.
The next day, I paid for my dance. I wept with the pain, but it was worth it. If there is a price to be paid, always make sure it’s worth it. Two days later, my spine is coming good. I can’t wait until next year!
I was blown away by this song, and the sentiment behind it. She speaks for many survivors. Welcome back, Kesha! The best is yet to come.
My daughter, her friend and myself were invited to SistaCare 2017, held at the Exodus Foundation. Rev. Bridget Perkins-Ocean organized the day, along with a bevy of helpers. Students and teachers from Ultimo Tafe did hair and makeup for the ladies in the church. It was a delight to see the women and girls see themselves through fresh eyes.
Dress for Success Sydney gifted the women from the Exodus Women’s Group new outfits, and boy, they looked gorgeous! Dress for Success is an amazing initiative, dressing and styling ladies who are looking to get into the workforce, or need outfits to attend weddings, funerals etc. The ladies then see themselves through fresh eyes, imagining all they are capable of. What was inherent and hidden, buried under trauma and life events, has been reclaimed. My girls were thrilled when asked to lead the fashion parade!
Reverend Bill Crews was there to greet everybody, and both the beauty school at Ultimo Tafe and Dress for Success gave a talk about their services. It was then time to eat, something my two models were very much looking forward to!
Two very brave and inspirational ladies then told us of their pasts, the details of which were gut-wrenching. To look at their radiant smiles, you would never know what they have endured. Women need to tell their stories to one another; to have a circle of mighty and courageous souls to depend on. I would like to thank everybody who made this event possible. To walk into the food hall and see it so lovingly decorated, was glorious. I was the first seated and it gave me such happiness to see the look on their faces as the guests entered. The tables were set for them, resplendent with china tea cups and flowers. The first step to having a woman recognize her value is to treat her as a precious, valuable person. Giving her back what was once taken. The Exodus Foundation, Dress for Success, volunteers from Ultimo Tafe and the speakers did just that.
Psychologist John Blythe has the following advice on how to talk to kids about the latest horrors. I was grateful to read it before I sat my daughter down to answer her pressing questions. My heart is with all who have suffered as a result of these atrocities.
There is evil in this world, the energy denser than tar, and yet there is goodness, shimmering and light as gossamer. There is also beauty, and thank goodness for that!
We had a little walk around Vivid last week. Sydney can get bitterly cold this time of year, and the food trucks supplied us with chilli bowls, hot chocolate and tea. Scores of volunteers of all ages cheerfully directed the crowds, and strangers chatted and greeted one another. I would suggest going on a week night, rather than the upcoming long weekend, as it is far less busy!
We also went to Wirrimbirra Sanctuary, where we met the following characters.
There is evil, but there is also light and beauty.
I recently flew down to Melbourne with a wonderful group of friends. People have raved about how beautiful Melbourne is, but it surpassed all expectation. From the moment we checked into our apartment on Flinders Lane, there was a sense of coming home. A lovely friend was minding my daughter, and I found myself abandoning the infamous mental list of things I must do.
Laneways were emblazoned with art, and a Romani musician delighted with his violin. Scented candles and essential oils beckoned you into little shops, and my mind was torn, as I decided on where to eat, and what to eat! There were so many choices! Within an hour of arriving, I had fallen hard for Melbourne. It’s architecture is stunning, and rather than dismantle its history, it seems to preserve it. It is easy to get around, and the public art is astounding! My soul wept with the beauty it was being fed. I stood in Bourke St Mall, silently remembering those who perished a few short months ago. There was almost a holy reverence at play amongst the crowds. We shopped and dined at Chin Chin, a funky bar/restaurant, which catered to our individual requirements with aplomb. We walked to South Bank, ate at cafe’s and pubs, and had an exquisite time. Melbourne is far cheaper than Sydney, that’s for sure! It felt as though it didn’t matter what your leanings, you could find your tribe here. I was sad when our three days came to an end, and it was time to fly home. Melbourne, you have captured my heart, and I can’t wait to come back with my daughter.