Reaching Out


I have spent a great deal of my life alone, dealing with stuff. I have been alone in court rooms, making police statements; before surgery and after. I have been alone in hospitals and clinics and in my room at home. Of course, being a writer is a solitary profession, and as a homeschooling mother, I have to organize social occasions and outings. There is something comforting about relying on yourself to give what both you and your child need, and yet it is frightening too! Big decisions are made by me. No back-up, just me. No pressure!

There is a low-grade depression which can bring forth ferocious social anxiety at times, making me wary of reaching out. I hadn’t seen a friend for many months, and had missed her greatly. I rebelled against my fear of being dismissed and walked into her work the other day. I was greeted with a big hug, not only from her, but also others I knew. It felt like a home-coming, and I realized how silly my fears were. I had felt as though I was stuck between worlds. One as a mum who travels widely in order for her daughter to see friends and attend classes, and then as a woman who feared she had lost connection to the community in her dear little town.

I see now that I can be both… I can hold onto both. I was afraid that I would be forgotten, left behind. Feeling brave, I texted other friends, and organized catch-ups. I have a list of treasured people I want to catch up with! The brain can tell us porkies as a way of protecting us, but one of the biggest fibs is that to retreat shall protect us. It won’t, we will just feel alone. I have been alone too much in my life, and it is time to reach out. Time to yourself can be reflective, a way of filling your cup. Socializing can too. It is about getting the balance right. Who do you need to make contact with?

Vivid, Wirrimbirra and how to talk with kids about terrorism.


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!

Waratah

We also went to Wirrimbirra Sanctuary, where we met the following characters.

There is evil, but there is also light and beauty.

 

I went back…


A friend had just moved to a place which holds many memories for me. I hadn’t been back to this town for many, many years. I had lived close by at one time, and produced art, selling to shops on the main strip. I would be up all night, painting and writing poetry to take in my trolley the next day. After I had visited my lovely people, I would go to a little florist shop, who would sell me the last bunches of flowers at the end of the day. The florist insisted on only taking a few dollars. My home would be filled with the aroma of roses and lilies for the next week, then the ritual would be repeated. Listening to the buskers in the outside mall, sipping coffee and eating organic fruit… Such lovely memories.

The memories which overshadowed the above were dark indeed. I was raped in this town at fourteen years of age, on a blistering summer’s day, by the river. I had to board a bus back to the clinic with the creature responsible… Years went by-years of difficult recovery-and there I was, selling my art in this town. I was having my coffee, listening to the buskers in the mall, when I saw him. He had already seen me, gazing at me through his sunglasses. I could feel his eyes, as reflective as oil-slicked puddles, reaching out to me. My chair tipped over as I instinctively ran. I was fourteen all over again. I locked myself in the ladies toilet, crouching down as he banged on the door. He wanted to talk. I sure as hell didn’t. I remained there until I heard my name called by the friend I had been with. The coward slunk away. I never went to this town again, after uncovering he was living nearby. It wasn’t the last I heard from him, though it was the most traumatic occasion.

I ended up having to leave Sydney for a time, a decision the police supported. My life went on a different trajectory; you could call it being rail-roaded. It felt peculiar to be back in the same mall the other day. Nothing had changed! The gum trees were still present, as were the buskers. The little florist shop was open, as was the book shop I used to frequent. I took deep breaths, the memories (of which I hadn’t told my friend), flooding my brain. I felt the pressure building. We stopped and had lunch, and as I sat outside with my friend, her husband and our kids, I had an epiphany. If I saw him today, I wouldn’t run. I would face him, challenge him, and he would be the one to bolt. I am not locking myself away anymore. With that, I once again became the young artist who sold her paintings to shops, and filled her house with flowers each Saturday. I came back for her. All the things he had commanded I couldn’t have-an adult  life, a child, my legs, my sanity- were on proud display. I walked back to the car, holding my daughter’s hand.

PTSD-Understanding Yourself


This article by Pete Walker astounded me with the breadth of knowledge and detail entailed. I could identify with it, thinking no wonder I am tired! Recovery is a full-time job in itself, and by that I mean recovering who you were before the events, and who you were set to become. It is confronting (albeit healing), to uncover why you do the things you do, and respond the way you do. Your beautiful, brilliant mind conjured up all sorts of ways to cope!

Manchester


My daughter has been my companion to many concerts. Some operatic, some classical, some pop and some rock. The squeals of joy echo through my home when I inform her that we have tickets to a visiting performer. She carefully selects what she is going to wear, and we make plans to have dinner somewhere nice beforehand. Watching her dance and gaze at the performer in awe is all the reward I need. We went to Sport for Jove’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, shortly after I heard the dreadful, unfathomable news about the terrorist attack at Manchester Stadium. I looked around at all the young people laughing and delighting in the performance, and was struck cold by the thought that it could have been us. It could have been us at any performance we had attended. Afterward, my daughter chatted excitedly about the play, and how much she had enjoyed it, and we stopped at a shopping centre in the heart of Sydney for lunch. A policeman with an Irish brogue came up to us, and started chatting. It felt as though three humans were connecting, trying to make sense of the evil which had just occurred. He smiled at my daughter, and I knew that he was thanking his stars that it hadn’t been a Sydney concert. It could have been.

A friend posted a warning last night that a van had been spotted next to our local park, with a fellow lingering long enough to cause suspicion. I almost despaired. Should we now add concerts to the long list of things we need to be wary of? Are backpacks set to become suspicious, not just when left alone on public transport, but also when securely strapped to someone’s back? Parents could be rendered nervous wrecks, incapable of venturing out with their offspring, let alone allowing them to venture out by themselves. I must admit, my immediate desire was to bustle my daughter home, where she is safe. However, this is no way to live. Once upon a time, I was a hermit, a bad man stalking me. I barely left my room in three years as a teen. I remember feeling angry that my life had been reduced to an isolation cell, whilst he was roaming free.

I eventually stepped out by myself, and what a revelation it was! I determined never to close the door and put myself into solitary confinement again. I won’t do that to my daughter either. Did you know that amongst all the horror, several homeless men (who were sleeping rough near the arena), ran to help? They comforted children, stemmed blood loss and helped get people to safety. What I will say to my child, is always look for the helpers… There is always helpers. We will still attend concerts, but sadly our innocence has gone.

The Good Girl Stripped Bare


I have just finished The Good Girl Stripped Bare (ABC Books), by Tracey Spicer, and have a cacophony of emotions coarsing through me. There is utter outrage at what Tracey endured -including being sacked via email from her job as news anchor after having a baby- and sadness, frustration, incredulity and a deep gratitude that Tracey Spicer has helped pave a smoother road for the young girls of today. She is also hysterically funny and brutally honest, a delightful combination! This is a book that shall stay with me; the wisdom contained therein shall be passed to my daughter, like a baton in a relay. I think many women will be able to identify with the various scenarios Tracey describes, a reality that saddens me. I find it ironic that I read this wondrous tome in the same week that broadcaster John Laws relayed that he insists that women who work for him must wear skirts and bare legs. The age of the dinosaur is fast becoming defunct, thank goodness, going by the commentary on social media over his remarks. Run, don’t walk, to grab a copy of this book.

My Daughter


My daughter made me this gorgeous cake for Mothers Day. I was banned from going into the kitchen the evening before, though I could hear the clanging and smell the delicious baking aroma streaming through the house. She picked roses for me, and brought me breakfast in bed. I am so very fortunate to have her in my life. Some parts of my life featured  dystopian imagery, though with her arrival, she somehow managed to paint over the garish landscape and procure a new palette. She never complains when I have to rest my back after a day of activities, and understand when I am in too much pain to do anything other than lay down. For all the pain that this life has procured, it gave me her, and for that I am eternally grateful. We spend 24 hours a day together, and yet I never tire of her company. Her humour is irreverent and we laugh, a lot! She is ten years of age, and has more common sense than I possess. I can’t wait to share the next ten years with her, along with all her young friends, who are set to take on this world. They will shake it up like it’s a snow globe in their hands, and what a glorious picture they shall create!

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!

 

Fair go, Fairfax! 


Fairfax’s decision to cull a quarter of its workforce is unjust, both for the journalists trying to eke out a living, but also in regards to quality control.

The typo happened on the first day of a week-long strike.

What becomes of the artists, actors, musicians, small theatre companies and writers, whom the newspaper’s championed? Australian media would be reduced to salacious copy. We would have more advertisements and endorsements than we have ever seen before, and less quality writing. Andrew Stafford explains it well in his blog piece. To support the workers whose livelihoods are under threat, please shoot an email to the powers that be at Fairfax to express your displeasure.

Rental Crisis


I recently helped a friend move from her lovely townhouse, a task that broke my heart. You see, this single mum and her little girl adored the space in which they lived, and this wasn’t their choice. Despite working hard, this mum simply couldnt afford to keep paying the ambitious rent on the property. To put this into perspective, I am fortunate to rent a spacious four bedroom house with a large front yard and beautiful backyard. It costs the same price as my friend’s small townhouse in the same area. The real estate has had people through the property, and nobody is willing to pay such rent, so the landowner has offered to reduce it. Too late for my friend and her child, who have had to move in with another family, whom they didn’t know prior.

I was privy to the exhaustion, the tears and frustration that came with this move, and it hurt my very soul. Everybody deserves a home; a sanctuary with privacy for their family. Particularly a houseproud single mum and her little girl. This is why I have signed this petition. I am fortunate to have a lovely house, and decent real estate and landowner. Repairs are swiftly taken out, and the rent is reasonable. Many of my friends dont share this experience, and are left wondering whether they will be living in the same place every six months. It is particularly stressful when you have children, who thrive on a sense of stability. Five million Australians rent, and deserve a better deal.

I have always wanted to own my own home, and came close a few times. Infertility treatments and spinal surgeries (and the monumental recoveries), saw to it that the deposit was spent elsewhere. I know many home schooling families who have sacrificed owning a home in order to school their kids. Some are University Professors and others are medical professionals. All deserve to have a decent standard of living. It is time for the government to act to have the rights displayed in the petition rolled out across the board.