#ProjectPositive, September 17th. Good Vibes.

Good vibes is having hundreds of fairies in the room, trying to break the world record!
Good vibes is having hundreds of fairies in the room, trying to break the world record!

Good vibes can be found in the most extraordinary places, and in the most unexpected ones. You have to be on the lookout for these wondrous moments. The morning after the fall, I was wheeled along to the Catscan machine, and screamed in pain as I was lifted by six people into it. Exhausted, I was laying on my trolley in the reception area, waiting to be taken back, when an older lady came up to me. She smiled and stroked my cheek. “You have beautiful skin, darling,” she said. When I looked in the mirror held up to my face later that day, I only saw a severely bruised face, cut lip, cracked head, and dry, matted blood throughout my hair. The lady had good vibes, and saw me, beyond all the detritus. That’s what these folks do, they spread their good vibes around, like warmed butter. They cut through pain, sorrow, and horrendous times. It’s a gift. They flit in and flit out, much like a hummingbird, searching for nectar.

 

Last Valentine's Day, my beautiful friend invited my daughter and I for dinner.
Last Valentine’s Day, my beautiful friend invited my daughter and I for dinner.

 

Each hospital trip, they have found me. I will never forget coming out of my coma at thirteen, being taken back to my ward after weeks in ICU. The kids who had witnessed the doctors trying to resuscitate me, had decorated the walls with artwork. We sometimes feel impotent when tragedy strikes a person. We may not have the money to send large floral displays or gifts. We feel like we may be intruding. I can assure you, it’s the little things that mean so much. The card received in the letterbox. The meal cooked with love whilst I have been recuperating. The kind messages on Facebook. The reassurance that you have people in your life who love you and shall be there.

A wall of good vibes at Yoko Ono's exhibition, MCA.
A wall of good vibes at Yoko Ono’s exhibition, MCA.

I try to get over feeling self-conscious when a stranger obviously requires good vibes. Whether it be a smile, a compliment or assistance with directions, it can make such a difference in someone’s day. I have read of occasions where it has saved lives. Sure, I come across the odd sourpuss who looks me up and down and refuses to smile. That’s okay. Who knows what is going on in their life, nor the ripple effect my greeting may have on them throughout the day? Some of the best results happen behind the scenes. Good vibes are everywhere. In the art installation in the park, in the flower stubbornly growing in a crack in the pavement. Everywhere, man!

My friend, sending good vibes to a Gorilla.
My friend, sending good vibes to a gorilla.

 

A brave pirate with my feisty daughter. More good vibes!
A brave pirate with my feisty daughter. More good vibes!
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#ProjectPositive, September 16th. Happiest, part one.

My daughter's self-portrait.
My daughter’s self-portrait.

 What makes me happiest?

Seeing the joy on my daughter’s face as she completes an art work, and the beaming smile when I put them in frames to display in our home.

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Hanging out with artists, like the late Harold ‘Kangaroo’ Thornton. I met him at the NSW Art Gallery when I was seventeen, and a friendship formed. I love artists! Unencumbered artists.

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Nature. Isn’t she astounding?

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Creative people, like Pretty Picnics, a friend of mine, who creates ‘happenings,” such as this Picnic in the Park.

Pretty Picnics.
Pretty Picnics.

#ProjectPositive,September 15th. The Biggest Thing I’ve Overcome.

The biggest thing I have overcome is…

I don’t have a personal favourite. Each time I overcame trauma, it was humbling,  surprising and wondrous!

Child abuse. Being told that you are a slut, being labelled as stupid and being hyper-vigilant. A pleasant occasion, with cordial conversation and laughter makes such a child tense up. You sadly know it is a harbinger, ringing in screaming and fighting. As a result, I grew up extremely aware of my surroundings. I can tell you who is standing in the next paddock after a quick sweep of an area. Sensitive to noise and environments. There were times I wanted to die. Times when I felt I would never recover, nor feel whole. I went back to each place of trauma, wrote about them, took pictures. I was in fact saying that I was here, and I survived. Throughout this period, I learnt  a lot about myself and why I respond the way I do to situations. Don’t like loud knocking at your door, nor talking on the phone? There is a reason for that and its  a perfectly normal response when given your history. Need time alone to process and unwind after a social function? Again, perfectly reasonable. When I started to understand why I am the way I am, with my little “things,” I began to heal.

Being told I was stupid. I lost so much time at school in primary and high school, due to being drugged or being  in hospital. I was told I was stupid and wouldn’t amount to anything in Year Seven. When you are told often enough, you tend to start believing it. They were wrong. A kid who isn’t clever couldn’t have survived the years that followed. I left school at fourteen, when I was put in the clinic, and was extremely nervous when I was signed up to Distance Education by my surgeon when I was fifteen years of age. I was in my rotor bed when the first pack of lessons arrived. To my astonishment, not only did I enjoy it, but I was also good at it. The teachers were encouraging, and I knew I had been lied to about my intelligence and ability to learn. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to find out. Don’t believe them when they label you, please don’t absorb it!

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Eating disorders. I had no control over anything in my life. I couldn’t make sense of schoolwork, as I had lost so much time. Where to find a modicum of control? I would alternate between bulimia and anorexia. I thought if there was little left of me, I could disappear. It was harsh and brutal. Walking for hours with an empty belly. Swallowing vomiting tinctures designed for victims of poisoning. Being happy when getting my stomach pumped as I would lose a kilo or two. It was savage and hard. Learning to love and appreciate this body took years. It was hard to look at food in a normal manner again. This is why I don’t hop on scales now, and make myself eat regularly.

Endometriosis. This one brought me to my knees. After having survived such darkness, I wanted a baby with all my heart. It was the carrot I clung  to. Since age eleven, the pelvic pain had been agonizing. A proper diagnosis got left behind in the pressing need to stay alive. I was only officially diagnosed in my twenties. Hospitalized regularly, I was always placed in the maternity ward, a cruel and unusual way to be treated. The years of drug treatments and surgeries were tough. IVF was beyond hard. I went to ground, shutting off completely. That it eventually worked, was astounding to me. I had wanted more children, and nearly lost my life in the attempt. I grieved for quite some time, before finding peace.

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Surviving it all! I am still amazed by the dawn of each new day. Amazed that I am here to see it. To have survived is extraordinary. I have my medical notes, and at times, the prognosis was grim. Here I am, an intelligent woman in her thirties, who smiles more than she frowns. Who plans for the future, and has left the pain behind. There was no magic secret I uncovered. It had to do with giving myself a break, understanding myself on a deep level, and kindness. With self-love and kindness, the healing begins. You define who you are, not them. xxx

 

 

#ProjectPositive. September 14th. My Best Physical Feature.

My best physical feature would funnily enough, be my backbone. I was young and invincible when it was shattered. Man it hurt! I learnt I have more backbone than I gave myself credit for. Laying on the ground that night, I was still thinking of ways to get away from him. Violent men are cowards, and he ended up running away, after dragging me across the ground and hearing some of my bone’s snap. I learnt I would need a huge operation, and I remarked that  I simply wouldn’t allow it. The surgeon looked at me incredulously. I was pumped full of morphine which I believe gave me more bravado. Having to lay still for months terrified me. I couldn’t wait to run. Run from this nightmare. It was too risky to move me, so I had to stay in my rotor bed during the surgery. They could flip me over with safety inside this wondrous vessel. It strangely arrived the morning of my fall, and hadn’t even been unpacked. The staff had to watch an instructional video before I was placed on it. I wasn’t  a Catholic, but the one who was with me before and after surgery was dear old Father Spencer. He had a soporific voice which soothed me. I wish I had recorded his voice for posterity. I had a dear Scottish lady, named Veronica in the bed next to me. After a few months of catheterization, she hollered with great excitement, in her thick Scottish brogue, to the men in the next room along, “the lassie took a piss by herself!”

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By seventeen, my spine was so caved in that I couldn’t breathe properly, nor digest food. I needed more surgery to save my life. They went through the front, somebody holding my heart in their hand. They carved up my ribs to “prop” up the scaffolding. Flipped over, they installed the hardware. Body casts followed, as did a big recovery once I was out of ICU.

 

My caved-in spine, before the life-saving surgery.
My caved-in spine, before the life-saving surgery.

Falling over and breaking my back (again), in three places five years ago, that blew. My little girl and I performed a clumsy dance throughout my recovery. I gave her “koala bear cuddles,” her weight distributed evenly, thus saving me pain. She was a champion. This back  has been bludgeoned, collapsed in on itself and had all manner of egoists and healers in there, doing their thing. It is a short spine, inflexible (stubborn), like its owner. You should see me try and do yoga! Its adorable! I pray my knees never go, as I use them and my hips to move and get down (and up). My daughter loves my spine, and is intrigued by its scars, which we have named. Harry is named after an eccentric artist I knew, and he winds his way from my stomach to the centre of my spine. Louie is the scar where they did work on my lung. Marilyn is the scar on my hip bone, and the wide scar along my back is Raphie. Defiant Raphie. My backbone has been reinforced, so woe betide any villain who approaches! Woe betide indeed!

ICU at seventeen.
ICU at seventeen

 

#ProjectPositive, September 13th. You can always count on me.

You can always count on me for…

Love. That indefatigable quality. I will tell you that I love you and I have to warn, I am a hugger! I am a listener, and believe me, I hear everything that you say, including that which is unspoken.

Being Raphie in my blog. All of the Raphie-ness I possess comes tumbling out in this blog. I often find that the words get stuck in my mouth to explain how I am feeling, or what is happening in my life. Somehow it seems diminished when spoken. Here, I am unutterably me!

Irreverence, bringing  levity to situations. A bit of cheekiness never hurt anyone!  P1070754 P1070780179049_498910568173_2624961_n

My daughter has inherited this cheekiness. She put a box of fire-engine red hair dye up to my head, and stepped away to visualize how it may look. “Don’t do it mum! You would look like a hot mess!” she hollered, much to the amusement of other shoppers.

Commitment. Not in the scary sense of the word. You can count on me to keep my word. I will go to great lengths to see a commitment through. There are times when I have to back out of something, and believe me, nothing grieves me more.

The unexpected. I lead a jam-packed, life. I want to witness, taste and experience it all, and my daughter has inherited this tendency. Nothing like near-death experiences to emphasise that time is not to be wasted! We look at each other sometimes, and wonder how the calendar got so full! There have been four events, back-to-back in the one day. We have slowed down somewhat, and plan home days too. She and I are interested in art, museums, music, theatre, nature and the pure joy of being alive. I can recommend embracing  spontaneity. Some of our best days have happened like this. We caught the double-decker bus, The Sydney Explorer, on  a whim, and spent hours riding through Sydney and Bondi. It was one of the best days ever!

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Understanding. I think there needs to be more of it. Sometimes we just can’t do all that we want, and that includes attending every event, and seeing all the dear ones we would like to. We need to be understanding. I would rather someone tell me that they are snowed under, than to try and battle through and exhaust themselves.

This list also belongs to many of the people in my life, bless them! No wonder we get along!

 

 

#ProjectPositive, September 12th. I feel good about myself today.

photo (15)I feel good about myself today because…

Something just hit me. Do we need a reason? Do I feel good about myself because I lost 20 pounds, or because I am having a good hair day? Those things are transitory, and the thrill is lost within a short space of time. Does my feeling good about myself come down to such detritus, and if so, why? There has to be more; a solid foundation for self-esteem to flourish. I feel good about myself today because a friend (a very devoted friend), called out that she loved me from her car. I called back my adoration, and it left me with a smile. I walked two little girls into school, and enjoyed hearing their banter and giggles. I feel good about myself today because I actually remembered to feed myself breakfast, and felt I was worth the effort of preparing  a juice. I feel good about myself because I cleared the calendar and have a day in the office to get paperwork completed so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I always feel good about myself when I look to the future and make preparations. There is nothing like laying your head on your pillow at night, knowing you have taken steps to prepare the road ahead. I have life insurance so my child is provided for, I have  a budget for next week. I have my social plans on the calendar. These things make me feel good. I feel good that I caught myself this morning. I was watching the morning news when the Oscar Pistorius verdict flashed onto the screen. Not guilty… My breath caught in my chest, and a tightness gripped my lungs. Tears sprang in my eyes. I was overwhelmed with emotion, for Reeva’s family. I caught sight of the hurt and angry women’s right’s advocates gathered outside the courthouse. Some of these women had endured horrors of their own. One glimpse into their faces was all it took. “I got you,” I assured myself. I listened to Sia, and sat for a while, gathered my thoughts and concentrated on my breathing. I feel good about myself because I know what my triggers are. I know how to soothe the pain that bubbles up, and I know how to temper it. I refuse to turn away and be uninformed because of it, so I have had to devise tools to cope. The reasons I feel good about myself today have nothing to do with appearance. In fact, I am wearing mismatched socks (the only ones I could find), a men’s jacket found in an op-shop and old boots. The reason I feel good about myself is that I am hearing what I need, and providing it. Love, security, peace of mind, comfort.

 

#ProjectPositive, September 11th. Lucky…

I am lucky, for I have this little angel. Photo by Jeni Nagy Photography

I’m lucky to have… Where to begin? So much is taken for granted. Its only when the gift’s rescind that we realize their worth. I am blessed to be walking. I have been in spinal wards, where the people are quadriplegics. I have been amazed at how they have regrouped and adapted. I know how lucky I am. I still have large chunks of bone lodged in my spinal canal. Another millimetre, and that would be it. I am lucky to not have brain damage from having continual seizures at thirteen. Neurologist’s came together at the Children’s Hospital, and predicted that if I came out of my coma (after having to be resuscitated), that I most certainly would have some degree of dysfunction. Enjoying clarity of mind  and not having excruciating headaches took a long while, and walking was certainly hard work. I had a great team around me, encouraging me, and being huge bossy pain’s in the arse! I am lucky, so very lucky. Having a baby has been humbling. I had three canned cycles in a row, and was offered minimal hope through the first facility. My goal was to get to egg pickup, and I changed clinics, determined to get to EPU. We had three frozen sperm and one follicle to work with. That follicle contained two healthy eggs, and both fertilized. Sadly, just before transfer, one perished. We were left with our one and only chance, and she took! I almost lost her at nineteen weeks. My water’s broke and labour started late at night. In the maternity ward, I was put into the cleaning room. Surrounded by mops and brooms, I was given Valium, though it did nothing to dull my anguish. By an inexplicable twist of fate, by morning  the rupture sealed, and the contractions stopped. She held on until 36 weeks, and she roared as she took her first breath. I know how lucky I am. It can’t be explained away, these acts of grace. For all that has been lost, much has been given. To be able to breathe, eat and drink, feel my heart beating in my chest, to have this child in my life, to walk, and to be free. I am the luckiest lady on earth.

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Photo by Jeni Nagy Photography

#ProjectPositive, September 10th. Friends and Family.

Friends and family say that I’m… I asked my daughter and one of the first words that came to mind was stubborn. She reminded me that in all situations, we look at each other, and state our motto, “the Angelou girls never give in, and never give up!” It has held me in good stead over the years, and I am sure stubbornness shall treat my daughter well too. I must say, that we are flexible, and despite having a fused spine, my spirit is capable of bending like a reed (at least one part of me is bendy!) Not only do I love listening to other’s viewpoints and beliefs, I am able to respect them. Stubbornness and flexibility, a good combo!  My friends and family are spectacular! Unconditional love springs forth from them all, and I know I am valued. Great people… Back to stubbornness; I implore you to never let go of what you know you are meant to do. I started writing my book when I was an adolescent. Making notes, getting the events clear in my mind. When I lay flat on the rotorbed for months, I questioned why I had survived. When I slept, I dreamt of holding a book. Writer, I had to become a writer! I sent the book away when I was pregnant with my daughter, and it was accepted. The dear fellow had a small publishing company, and his sister had actually been in the same clinic as detailed in the book. We worked on the book together, then I received a call. My publisher had died suddenly. Crestfallen, the manuscript was put away. I sent it again when my daughter was two, and it was picked up by an international publisher. Then, the financial crisis hit. The accounting department were reluctant to spend any money on publicising a new author. I posted it off again, then moved house. A year later, I woke at midnight, and felt compelled to look in the spam email box! I didn’t know why the hell I was doing so, until I spotted it. It was from the publisher I had last sent the synopsis to. It said that they had tried my home number and address and if I wanted to be published with them, to please call! The spam were just about to be discarded! As I said, stubbornness and never letting go of dreams has worked well for me.

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Eccentric. I can’t ignore this one! I dance to my own beat, a beat others can’t hear and I can only detect faintly. Still, it is there, and I must follow it. I talk to animals, and every night, when it is time to put my little birds to bed, I call out “birdie bedtime!” The budgies climb back into their house and onto their double swing and wait for me to close the door. The canaries and finches hop up to their perches and fluff up. I have my funny little ways. My friends can’t miss me down the street, as I am always colourful, even when I try to be demure.

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I would lay down my life not only for a friend or family member, but also a stranger. In fact, that has nearly happened a few times. I am  glad I did what I felt was right. So there you have it, stubborn, eccentric and willing to sacrifice everything. I make my daughter laugh, and am both irreverent and cheeky. After a long battle to reclaim my core, I like who I am.