Starting Again


Hey you,

I know it doesn’t seem that long ago, since your last round of chemo/radiotherapy/surgery. You wonder if you have it in you to go another bout. You wonder if you can recover from this loss, and whether this divorce will destroy what is left of your heart. It’s one thing to sit up, crawl and stand as a baby, and quite another to start again as an adult. Way back then, a topple was a mere blip on your radar, and no matter how many times you fell, it only served to engage your stamina and your sheer strength of will.

Bankruptcy, marriage and relationship breakdowns, insecure housing, ill health and troubles aplenty, have brought you to this place, upon your knees. You have nothing left to lose, but also, nothing left to fear. The ghouls have descended then scurried, taking what was yours, and not leaving much at all. Peace of mind has gone, as is the feeling of being secure in this world. They have pillaged the treasure chest, their hands grabbing up rubies and emeralds, diamonds and gold. You have the dirt beneath your feet and on your knees, that is all.

You can’t abide thoughts of the road ahead, and how long and hard it shall be, before you are back where you once were. I have to tell you, you won’t ever be back there; you will be propelled somewhere better. We can never go back; we weren’t designed to. I remember when my spine was broken, and I foolishly believed that I would only have to work hard at rehab for a season. There would be a solitary surgery, to fuse all of the broken pieces, and then I would go on with my life, as though it had never happened. I don’t think I could have taken the knowledge that I would have to work hard on my body, year in and out, forever. That I would have many surgeries, and have to learn how to sit, stand and walk many times over. I don’t know if I could have tolerated the understanding that I would slide back to the beginning. What is the point of trying? What is the point of beginning, whether it be rehab, exercise, a new relationship or a business proposal, if there is a risk that you will put in all that effort, only to lose it all; to begin again. Perhaps, the point isn’t found in the finale, but in the effort. What you prove to yourself about your strength of character, and what you prove to others. What you find out about yourself, and the relationships you cultivate. Perhaps, these are all diamond days. Perhaps, when you are kneeling in the dirt, watching in despair as the ghouls make away with your treasure, you will find comfort in the fact that you are left, somehow alive, though bloodied. They can’t take you away. They can’t control your thoughts, nor your will. That is the greatest treasure of all.

So, let us begin again, knowing that the archer shall propel us forward, farther than we have been before. It is time to start anew. Let us begin…

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What it Takes to go to Court…


My dear friend lives in the city, and she and her husband work hard to build a future for their family. Sadly, sexual abuse featured in their lives as young people, and whilst the scars have healed over, they can occasionally be picked open by recent events. My friend sought the services of a professional, for a sensitive matter. She trusted that what transpired in that room, would stay in that room. Little did she know, that the professional man would bank on that happening. She divulged her fears and innermost feelings, and he preyed upon her in insidious fashion. The sexual abuse happened within five minutes, leaving her confused and stunned. She hurriedly left, stumbling out of the practice, then ringing her fiancee. Within a week, news of this professional man’s crimes hit the media. My friend went to the police, and reported what had transpired at her appointment. She went back and made a statement, the event opening up old wounds, and a fear of whether she could trust anyone in a professional capacity, again.

In the interim, she married and had a baby boy. The week after his birth, she was asked by the Department of Public Prosecution’s to come to their offices for an appointment to run over her statement. She explained that this was impossible, as she had just given birth, and so she was granted a Skype interview. She was nervous in the lead-up, and anxious on the day. I went over to look after her baby whilst she talked in another room. They said that she would likely need to come to court within the next couple of weeks, and she prepared herself as best she could.

The matter kept being pushed back, the accused deciding to plead Not Guilty to all charges. There were over thirty charges, and scores of women and girls had given statements to the police. Finally, it was scheduled. Two days off work for her husband, and two days spent in a courthouse in her last days of maternity leave. These were days she wanted to spend with her baby, and instead they were spent in the company of the accused’s barrister, who was aggressive. Day one, she left after eight hours, without having been on the stand. Day two, she was up, and left exhausted. It took weeks for her to regain her energy, and I was worried that she may go into a post-natal depression. She just hoped that by standing up, he would get as long a sentence as the law allowed.

I was with her months’ later, when she received a text from the DPP, saying that the charges of him molesting her had been dropped. She was devastated, and wondered what she could have done or said that would have made a difference. I assured her that there was nothing that could have been done differently. Even though she was assured that he had been found guilty on other charges, it would have meant the world if they had said that he was guilty of this charge too. It would have meant the world to the little girl within her soul. Validation means everything, though is hard to come by. I took her for a cuppa, and bought her flowers.

Two days of unpaid leave for her husband. The expense of meals and petrol, not to mention the emotional toll. Hours spent giving statements, in interviews and on the stand. Time away from her baby. This couple asked me why would anybody go to all this trouble, if the event hadn’t happened? What on earth would they have gained? The law is a tricky business, with sleight of hand and confusing verdicts. This creature is going to jail, for quite a while, nonetheless. I am so very proud of this friend, for standing up and telling of her encounter. It took everything she had, and then some. Somehow, within the telling, it has freed this little girl, regardless. You fought the good fight, and your courage caused other’s to stand up and go to the police too. Your clarion call was heard, sweetheart. Those who have found their voice, shall never be silenced again.

For those that have been Betrayed


I see you, even though you feel invisible. You are trying desperately to hide, even whilst yearning to be found. I sense the psychic wounds; the blood-letting you have endured. You are surrounded by pretty photos of pretty times by pretty lakes. There were pretty hotels in pretty, faraway lands. You have retreated from Instagram and Facebook, feeling you have nothing to contribute by way of pretty stories… Not anymore.

You had hoped that none of this was real. It can’t be real, for that would be intolerable; unthinkable. Your heart is pierced with wire, barbed and cruel, another searing pain striking whenever you think of him, and what transpired.

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Pain that sees you crawl into a ball in the shower, undone by wracking sobs which seem unworldly. What to do with the pictures, strewn about your home? The albums filled with memories? Hell, you even learnt the art of scrapbooking, so the stories were inked on pretty paper, in an orderly fashion. Each chapter had it’s own album, as great stories should.

I can see your collarbone, your flesh receded, along with your appetite. When did you last eat? I can see you haven’t slept, your eyes hollowed and red.

Next we have anger. Why didn’t you see it coming, you rage at yourself? Why did I believe their lies? Why did I think it was possible to retrieve our life together? It was concealed from you, dear heart. They only reveal what they want you to know. Lying is a game for one, and you weren’t privy to the rules. Anger extends to the partner. How could they take your family and carelessly shatter all that you had? They aren’t there to deal with the aftermath.

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I see you trying to adapt to being a single parent, and a single person. I see you having to navigate the legal system, locate counselling, and deal with financial matters. I know it feels overwhelming. The evenings are lonely, but then, so are the mornings. There shall be many firsts. The first time you attend a dinner, where you are the only one solo amongst your friends. The first walk, the first Christmas, the first mothers day…

There will be immense sadness and there will be grief. You wonder if the whole of your relationship was a lie. How much of it was ever real? Hindsight is a cruel teacher. It is only through it’s looking glass that we are able to see the complete picture. How can they love you like you need and like you deserve, if they don’t know themselves? If they came to you as an incomplete person, the union had to break. You aren’t responsible for filling up the mental and emotional needs of a partner who is punctured. It isn’t your job.

Your job is to tend to your own wounds. To discover the simple pleasures of a bubble bath or a solitary stroll. The kids are at sleepovers and you are alone. Now is the time to discover how decadent it feels to prepare a nourishing meal for one. You can curl up with a novel, or Netflix, unimpeded. You can play whatever music you desire. You are free now. Free from betrayal, and from the years of subterfuge. No more deceit, and no more wondering. You are worth far more. Now it is time to heal.

Go gently into your new world, and lean on your inner circle of friends. Slowly, you will begin sleeping through again. You will start eating more and cry a little less. You are going to show this world what a single woman can do. Right now, if all you did today was  go through the cycle of bewilderment, denial, anger, hurt and sadness on a continual loop, you did okay. You are still here, and have much to build on.

Remember the young woman who lived before this relationship? Open that photo album. Find her, retrieve her and offer her revivification. She has been there all this time. What does she want? What did she sacrifice or put on hold? Take all her dreams out of mothballs, and bring them to life.

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Learning from Toddlers


Hopping onto a full carriage at Central station, I was cursing myself for arriving in peak hour. Tired and hungry, I stood next to an equally exhausted lady, who grimaced by way of a greeting. People left at the next few stops, and a mother with a stroller boarded. That is when everything changed. I hadn’t noticed the mother and little boy before, seated in the middle section. The little boy stood as I found a place to sit, and wandered over to the stroller, greeting the little girl with  unadulterated joy, as though they were old friends. After he introduced himself, the little girl’s mum was offered a seat by a building worker. He actually insisted. The little girl was let out of her stroller and the kids sat snuggled together. I watched as their rapport was built, sharing toys and French fries.

The lady I had been standing with smiled knowingly, when she heard the mothers describing how hard new parenthood had been, and how they had been certain they were screwing it all up. Parents of older kids chimed in, and told their own stories. We confessed all the things we vowed to never do with our kids, which we all did. We talked of our own battles and what we had learned through the years. I laughingly relayed that I had vowed to never feed my toddler chips, and stories were told about all the silly rules we had administered, pre-children. Banana sandwiches are great, but then so is the occasional bucket of chips. Pretty soon, the whole carriage was chatting, introducing ourselves to one another. The toddler’s energy and ease of friendship had contaminated us all. They alternatively sung Wiggle songs, played with toys and ate chips.

An hour passed, and it was time for the toddlers to say goodbye, and they hugged one another. I thought of the ease in which the little boy had gone up to greet the little girl. It had brought out the best in all the weary travellers. It taught us to get our noses out of our phones, and actually smile at one another. Even if you are only going to be with a group of people for one solitary hour of your life, make it count.

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Pain and Anxiety


When I first read about Jo Cameron-the ease in which she moves through the world- I envied her. Imagine not being woken by niggling fears surfacing at 2am? What a joy to not suffer anxiety, nor terrors, from real or imagined foes! As for aches and pains, imagine not suffering with any? How liberated would you feel?

 

Jo Cameron was interviewed in the New York Times recently. The potential for her genes to be studied, so that pain and anxiety in everyday patients may be diluted, is a tantalising prospect. It may result in the ability to demand that a certain gene calms the hell down!

 

Along with the obvious advantages to living as Jo Cameron does, there are also disadvantages. I have told my daughter to be aware of that feeling in the pit of her stomach, that relays whether a situation or person is giving off good vibes, or not. Are they making her feel anxious? It is a sense that over-rides all logic, and hence doesn’t involve the brain, as much as the gut. I have told her to always honour that feeling, and have promised that I shall too. Imagine if we didn’t have any warning of danger? No rapid heartbeat, sweating, nor adrenaline in overdrive? There can be good stressors, which pivot us beyond what we believed were the limits of what we can endure. Studying, exams, public speaking. Anxiety can be used as a helpful resource, and not a hindrance in these cases.

When I went into labour, I thought they were mild contractions, involving my lower back. Compared to endometriosis pain, it was a walk in the park! The back pain grew worse, which saw me agree to finally go to hospital. It turned out that I was in full labour! If I hadn’t had the back pain, I would never have known. Every segment of my spine is damaged. There are bony spurs growing on my neck, all the way down. My spinal canal is narrowing, leaving little room for the nerves. I am sometimes out of my mind with the pain, and as a seasoned pain-sufferer, I often welcome it. It gets so bad that my brain packs an overnight bag, and we escape the minutiae of everyday life. I laugh more heartily, dream more vividly, and write more eloquently than I would have done.  I appreciate the spider senses in my solar plexus going into overdrive if confronted with danger. The same goes with my hand retracted from a steaming cup, before being scolded.

It would be lovely to have the ability to adjust the settings on anxiety and pain, without turning them off completely. Perhaps, Jo Cameron holds the answers we have been seeking.

Naked Bike Ride Sydney, Parrots and Friends


As a result of a recent slip and fall, I have had to take more pain medication for my spine.   Come Friday, I was hunched over my toilet, continually throwing up (this medication can interfere with the nausea centre of the brain). As a result, I missed seeing my daughter sing at her Highschool’s talent quest. It was the end to a stellar week, which saw us being notified that our darling little home was being sold. We are hoping with all our hearts that an investor buys it, and we are able to stay. Saturday was spent eating dry toast and apple to settle my stomach, and resting in bed. That evening, my girl and I watched a very silly movie, and laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

We had arranged to meet friends on Sunday in the city, and there was no way that I was going to cancel. We all did IVF together, ending up with daughters. We hadn’t seen each other for the longest time, life getting in the way. It were as though no time had passed, as we hugged and caught up. IVF had taken a lot out of us, but it had also given us an inner resilience. Boy, have we needed it!

Strolling along, we came across a very sweet man, who was walking his three dogs and his Eclectus parrot. The girls were invited to hold him, much to their delight!

This gorgeous boy is named Apollo, and you can follow him and his family on Instagram.

Light exuded from Apollo’s dad; he was one of those people of whom you leave lighter and much happier.

We had Italian ice-cream for brunch, then indulged in a gorgeous Earl Grey and rose donut, baked fresh. A long walk was in order afterward, and we found an eatery, where I ordered a zucchini flower and plate of Brussels sprouts, pan-fried in balsamic vinegar. Surprisingly, my friends asked that the surplus be put in a container for me to take home,  and were more than a little reluctant to finish them off!

The girls paddled in the harbour, and as we reclined at a nearby park, we were surprised to have the Naked Bike Ride, Sydney, stream past! A helpful fellow at the front, announced to the gawkers that they were indeed nude riders, as if we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves! I admired their chutzpah, and the whimsy of it all. Such a random event to come across! It certainly made everyone smile!

At the end of the day, I was tired and sore, but no more than I would have been had I stayed home. In fact, I would have been worse off. I wouldn’t have seen my lifelong friends, watched my daughter have fun, met a very kind man with his canine and bird family, eaten glorious food and seen the naked bike ride. I wouldn’t have been embraced by my glorious city. I love that I can go into the city depleted, and come back retrieved.

Scoliosis


When I was in Primary school, the Government funded a scoliosis screening program, to pick up worrying curvatures early in a child’s life. At the time, I passed the screening with flying colours. Then, I broke my back. A few years later, after numerous surgeries, I was informed that my hip graft had failed, and I had scoliosis to such an extent that my heart, lungs and stomach were being crushed. Without major surgery, I would die. I was seventeen when I went into hospital to have this surgery. I had previously spent two years in a body brace, which unfortunately couldn’t save my spine, as the problem stemmed from the grafts failing. They at first opened my chest, somebody holding my heart whilst ribs were removed for grafting and put in via the front. Then I was turned over, and they operated on my spine, installing Harrington rods, screwed into place. I was later put in a fibreglass body cast.

 

 

My scoliosis was rectified enough to save my life, but the rods had to be taken out at twenty, and later fractures in my spine have seen the scoliosis worsen. I live with a monumental amount of pain now.

I worry when I see kids slouching, quite often unable to sit up straight with shoulders back. I am also concerned with the weight young people carry in their backpacks to and from school. It is as though they are carrying bricks around! It is essential that scoliosis is discovered early, before long-term damage is done, and requires surgery. It affects future pregnancies, the work you can do, and your general wellbeing.

My friend’s daughters were diagnosed early, and whilst they require bracing for a few years, they shouldn’t need any treatment beyond that. My friend has set up a petition, to urge our government to bring back screening within our schools. If we can prevent even one child from enduring hell later on, it is worth it.

You can sign the petition here.

 

Hope


How do we survive what life throws at us? It is miraculous, indeed, that a broken heart keeps beating. Hope is found in the friend who has retreated- missing from all social media-and  whom reappears after their dark night of the soul. It is the dawn we thought we may not see, and waking after major surgery that we were warned may kill us. It is the rescinding and rebuttal of bottles of booze and cigarettes after being warned of the inevitability of an early grave. It is continuing in the face of grief, and the exercise we partake in, despite wanting to stay in bed. It is a mindset that urges us to keep going, and keep alive, despite a downward turn in fortunes. Hope has no need for evidence, it is timeless and often without basis in facts. It stands alone, without anything to cling to, as ephemeral as a cloud, and as mighty as a gladiator. I have strolled through areas of Australian bush, which had been decimated by fire. Hope is found in the green shoots and new foliage on charred trees and scrub. You only need a small area which is undamaged to cultivate new life, it turns out. img_1550

You can have it all, and then lose it all. Enjoy today whilst it is here. The one thing that you cannot lose is yourself, a fine purpose-built instrument ripe for remodelling. Soaring above the decimation and loss is a feeling of hope; that you have it in you to rebuild. The hour is not too late, nor are you too old. We are somehow driven to grow in mud and rise from the ashes, again and again. Hold onto hope, no matter what circumstance you’re in.

Stay…


Last week, Sydney lost a talented chef to suicide.  Bronzed and seemingly healthy, his smile could light up our city. There was much commentary after the news hit social media, but what pierced through the rhetoric was the notion that when alone, he’d fallen into a worm hole, and hadn’t the resources to stave off the impulse his depression looped into. These holes seem to have no end, and can be hard to extricate oneself from.

I know a person who was close to succumbing, in January, 2019. There are as many pathways into anxiety and depression as there are people in the world. Hers wasn’t initially caused by a chemical imbalance, rather circumstances conspiring against her. It were as though her mind were a strudel, with layers of pastry piled on top of one other. The apple promised sweetness, and she held the layers of stress in her hands, waiting to reach the filling. All it took was another day of calamity- not of her making- to break her resolve. Heart beating wildly, hands shaking and a mind unable to see a way out, she reached for the phone. Once a playdate for her child had been arranged, and she was alone, her mind led her onto a dark stage. There was no audience, nor were there lights. There were no solutions here.

She had done all that she could to make life better, more secure, and she couldn’t see her way clear. All of a sudden, a beam of light hit the centre of her brain, insisting that she send a text. She asked what her friend was up to, and if she may join her. “Of course!” came the enthusiastic response. They drove to the beach, singing along to the radio. She made herself focus on all the beauty surrounding her. The Bird Of Paradise, alongside hibiscus, in reds and oranges,  dotting the landscape. She closed her eyes and felt the salt air caressing her skin. Her bottle of chilled water felt good as it hit her neck, the Cheezels they had bought, decorating her fingers like rings. She had gone against her wildest impulse, which was to not experience anything at all. It had frightened her, how her brain insisted that the stressors couldn’t be balanced against beauty.

They were gone for hours, away from home and everyday life. She was dropped back revived, just in time to make calls and forge a path through the thorny brackets of which she had been stuck. The next morning, she woke at dawn, and saw something similar to this.

Morning light and lorikeets greeted the new day, alongside the help needed to extricate herself from overwhelming concerns. Within a month, she had begun a new medication. It was a small dose, but enough to chase away the anxiety she had been battling alone, without armour. She could now see her way clear, and a path opened up in front of her. Happiness returned, and she started to engage with the world again. To her amazement, she had been missed. Depression in an active state is renowned for the crap it feeds us. Looking back, she shudders at what she would have missed, in just a couple of weeks. The mundane joy of a cool change after stifling heat, through to her child’s laughter.

She hadn’t the language in her distressed state to tell her friend what the matter was, nor what she needed, other than to be with someone. Perhaps that is all one needs to do; to reach out and say that you need company, even accompanying them as they go about their errands. Anything to not be in alone, battling a pocket of despair by yourself. A wormhole is a tunnel with two ends. Perhaps reaching out to those on the periphery is a way of ensuring we make it back to life. Look out for those self-isolating or who seem to be going through changes. Our psyche can be as fragile as a butterfly wing, and whilst it is tempting to cease all that has ever given us joy, it is imperative that we don’t. The lies our minds feed us tends to be done in secret and when alone.  You are too precious, and life has too much beauty left to unfurl. Let today mark the beginning of us all leaving our particular pockets of despair. If you survived today because you decided to go grocery shopping with a friend, rather than stay by yourself, then that is a miracle indeed. Whatever it takes to keep you alive, do it.

Grief and the Seasons


I spoke to a friend on the matter of grief, and she said something profound. She mentioned that those grieving would be best to give themselves a year before making huge changes. “They have to endure the four seasons…when you think about it, each season contains first’s. There are birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. The list of first experiences without their loved one is excruciating. Enduring those four seasons will take all the strength in them.”

 

Grief can be felt in a myriad of ways. There can be grief for what was left unsaid, and for what was spoken in haste. It can present as regret for what never was and for what had been. The relationship you wished you had, compared to the one you experienced. The pain of an empty chair at your dining table, or felt after reaching for the phone to call. It can present as it’s twin, anger. You may be so bloody angry at everything, not least what others concern themselves with. Don’t they know that an angel just died?

Grief is complex; one moment you may feel fine, and the next be in the foetal position on the floor. It is not a linear journey, rather it is a mass of swirly pathways. Grief is messy, it’s trajectory launching you into a future wherein you have to leave the fallen behind. You take only the memories, and the love, with you. I imagine butterflies, dragonflies and fireflies escorting the bereaved as they rest in a cave. The walls perhaps lined with glow worms as they sit and weep. It can be a lonely journey, and certainly a puzzling trip, for which nobody wants a ticket.

Piercing through the hymns, the eulogies, the visual displays and the flowers, is the love you hold in your heart and the promise of what might have been. It sears through the ICU monitors, silencing the alarms and machines. At the end of it all, we leave with only love; that which we gave and accepted in turn. If you can endure the first four seasons of bereavement,  hope and love wait on the other side.