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.

International Women’s Day


It was the eve of International Women’s Day, and I was ploughing through a long list of chores. I caught the headline news, and dropped the pen I was holding. The healthcare centre I had been visiting with my foot was featured in a story about a doctor arrested for sexual abuse and assault. He was subsequently charged. Nausea overtook me, horrified that I had taken my child to this practice, a place where evil had quietly resided. We always went into the room together, and I was quietly relieved that it wasn’t our doctor; it couldn’t be. His manner had been a little strange… He had looked at us intently and for too long. There was an air of arrogance about him, but nothing that screamed danger. I had it confirmed that it was indeed the doctor we had been seeing, and I ran to the bathroom to throw up. All the horror of the past came hurtling back. I bid my daughter goodnight, and bundled myself into my room, armed with gin and a bottle of tonic. It took  four glasses until I was adequately settled.

I didn’t know what to do with the anger, confusion and terror I was feeling. I had felt less afraid in the past few years, more confident and assured that both my daughter and I were safe. I had tried so hard to keep her safe, always aware of where she was and with whom; scanning her social media daily. Now I found that she had been in the room of a predator, when accompanying me to appointments.

I had a few women contact me, sharing that they had been abused by this creature. In all cases, they froze when he insisted on thorough examinations; it had felt wrong, and yet they didn’t quite know why. Surely a doctor insisting on you undressing can’t be amiss? I knew exactly what they had gone through; where their minds had wandered to. They had disassociated , a device of the brain to protect us from threat. It were as though they weren’t there, and this couldn’t be happening. Numbness had been conscripted, and it was only later that the full horror of the betrayal hit them. They talked of the pain they felt, by having taken their children to this particular doctor. They had trusted him. The world felt a bit less safe as a result.

I am going to escort one lady to the police station to give a statement. It has now been 24 hours since the news hit, and I still can’t eat. I keep replaying the consults I had with this man over the last month, replaying everything he said and how he had looked. There was nothing to give him away; nothing you could put your finger on. My instincts felt he was rather peculiar, but nothing overt. Thank God I had seen him about my foot, and only my foot.

I am furious that he was able to go from practice to practice. Who knows how long it had been going on, and if the authorities knew? More victims have come forward since his arrest, and I applaud all these brave patients. On International Women’s Day, my heart is with all those whom he hurt. My thoughts are with all those whom he deceived and re-traumatized. My thoughts are with all the parents who thought their children were safe in his care. It isn’t the celebration of International Women’s Day that I had hoped for, but as I reflect on the women I know and love, and the girls I have had the privilege of seeing grow throughout the years, I am humbled. The old guard is dying, and an egalitarian spirit is not only being summoned, but demanding to come forth. The sexism, abuse and horror of the past shall not be tolerated. It never should have been.

 

 

 

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.

 

Newsies


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I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the preview of Newsies, a movie filmed on Broadway during a live performance. The sublime music and spectacular dancing entranced both my daughter and I, dropping us gently into New York circa 1899, and the beginning of an uprising. The whole audience cheered for the street-smart newsboys, and sneered when the villainous mogul slithered onto stage. It is heartwarming, especially knowing it is based on real events and real lads. It opened up a discussion with my daughter about trade unions, and how essential they have been in bringing workers decent conditions. I highly recommend taking the kids to see the movie this Sunday.

Here is an article from the illustrious Elissa Blake on Newsies.

Newsies is being screened for one day only, on Sunday 19th February at Event Cinemas. Book here.

 

 

Grant Hackett


I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be  quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.

When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.

Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.

After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.

For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.

The Rooms I have Lived in…


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I have existed in many rooms throughout my life, and have lived comfortably in others. I had ballerina wallpaper in one, and the dancers had no faces. No eyes with which to see out of, nor mouths to scream with. There have been many hospital beds, and places in ICU. I have been in several rotor beds, which turn you and help you to get used to being upright again. I have shared rooms with three others and had my possessions rifled through. Throughout the night, I got used to sleeping with one eye open. At fifteen, when I feared my life was coming to an end, I had a solitary room down the end of a dark corridor, a bare globe offering a garish, dull light. It was freezing cold, and I had an essential oil ceramic pot near my bed to disguise the putrid smell of mould. There was the room in a refuge, a large space filled with bunks. The kids would voice their fears as to where they would go once they reached the maximum time allowed at this temporary facility.

I have rattled around a room with a wallpaper motif of guns. I had a soundproof space and I would look in the dresser mirror, and study my scars. I lived in a little room at eighteen, with a donated table. My bedside table was an upturned box I had painted. It was stifling hot and loud, the residents of the share house keeping a radio on the other side of the curtain separating their space from mine. The next room was in a series of old horse stables, made from stone and converted into bedsit’s. My landlord was called Moses, and so I found myself living in a stable, Moses collecting the rent by tapping on the window each Saturday morning! There have been rooms where sleep wasn’t had, and flashbacks were frequent. There have been rooms where I recuperated after surgery, crutches and wheelchairs, braces and walking sticks crowding the corners. My favourite of all the rooms I have known is my current one. Women being treated at Catherine Hamlin’s Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia knitted the blanket on my bed. A glass lamp I found on the side of the road offers light. The exercise equipment I use to keep my bones strong is strewn around, and crystals and books are gathered, along with makeup in all the colours of the rainbow. It is a well-ventilated and quiet retreat, and my favourite place to write. I can rest my spine whilst I do so. After so many dark, dank and depressing rooms, I finally have a space where I can rest, dream, recuperate. It is important to have a room of your own. Oh man, the places you have to trawl through before you get there!

Gnome Convention


On the 26th January, the Gnome Convention was held at Glenbrook Park. This annual event is put on by the Rotary Club of the lower Blue Mountains and we look forward to it all year!

 

 

It is whimsy at it’s best. We were entertained by the extraordinary bush poet, Greg North. If you haven’t experienced his act, you are missing out! Check him out here! img_0553

Brendan Kerin had us enthralled with not only his music, but stories. Did you know that the Didgeridoo’s actual name is Yidaki? It originated from the top half of Australia and was named the Didgeridoo later on as that is the sound it seemingly makes.

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We bought Gnome Hats, and had a grand time amongst the gnomes and fairies. It is my birthday today, and I bought this delightful Green Man incense burner (the smoke comes out of his head) for $15. We all need whimsy in our lives, and knowing that the money raised goes to charity is extra incentive to get your gnoming game on!

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Sizzling in Sydney


It’s almost time to get back into the craziness of Term 1 of Homeschooling. We have had many days at home, decluttering and organizing, reading and resting. One of my daughter’s friends came to stay for a few days, and my heart nearly flipped out of my chest when I heard them talk as we went for a walk. They chatted about how they were both their mum’s last chance. How we were both down to one follicle. They talked about being miracles. I am glad they both understand that they truly are! Sydney has been hit with many days of searing temperatures, and we have sought comfort in the southerly winds offered by the coastline.

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Performers at Luna Park
Performers at Luna Park

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There have been a few visits to Luna Park. I purchased an annual pass for my daughter a few months back, and it has proven it’s worth. She can enjoy the rides and then swim next door in Nth Sydney pool to cool off afterward. If I go once a month, it works out to $8 a visit. At the back of Luna Park, you can walk to Lavender Bay, and visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. On the way, you will uncover treasures such as these.

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We took some little fairies there to replace those that were pinched behind magical little doors. It seems they have gone again, but I will continue to replace them when I go there. It’s a bit like life; your gifts may be stolen or crushed, but you keep on getting up and giving it all that you have. You must.

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A friend was bitten by a bee at Luna Park the other day. I thought she was having a lend for a split second, as you don’t expect to find a bee by the water! She wanted me to pull out the stinger, but I thought I might make a hash of it, so we hurried to the First Aid room. The first aid lady was efficient and friendly, and as the stinger was taken out of her neck, I assured my friend that it was good luck to be stung and it meant she was incredibly sweet!

My daughter and I have met all kinds of characters on our city adventures. She complimented a fellow on his bright hand-painted shirt and it turned out he was an artist from the Southern Highlands. We waved at the lucky travellers on a cruise ship as our ferry went by, and met a lovely elderly man who comes down to Circular Quay most days to watch the boats and people. On Saturday, I dropped my daughter’s friend back into the city to meet her parents, and the girls noticed that a sky-writer had written TRUMP in large letters, spearing the blue film above us. This started a diatribe from the ten and eleven year old’s, unscripted and delighting everyone waiting to cross at the lights. Many were women on their way to march at Hyde Park. I am glad our young girls have a voice, and feel able to use it. I am glad that they can debate and know that their opinions shall be valued.

Our Home by the River
Our Home by the River

January has been a time of crushed ice, cold drinks, cold packs and swimmers. It has been a time of parades at Luna Park, park dates, pools and oceans. It has been a pilgrimage or two to the Secret Garden and dancing to buskers we meet. In Melbourne, it has been a time of mourning. Sydney stands with you in your grief over what occurred in the Bourke St Mall. I hope you can feel the solidarity. There but for grace and timing, go any of us day-trippers, who think nothing of walking along a boulevard or mall. Now more than ever, we have to hold onto one another. To donate to the appeal for victims of this travesty, click here.