Falling, Heights and Pemberton


I have always had a fear of heights. I would have nightmares about those I loved being thrown off balconies as a child, and wake up crying. I refused to walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a school excursion, as well as the footbridge at Darling Harbour. I have never liked open escalators and glass lifts either. Staying on the ground was the only choice I allowed myself. It was a cruel irony then, that when I was abducted at fifteen, I was made to climb a staircase and set on a balcony. It is a cruel irony that I was thrown off said balcony. I had many surgeries to put my body back together. My fear of heights is still with me (understandably), though I can tackle staircases and some footbridges now.

Fast-forward a decade, and I now have an adventurous daughter. She is unafraid of anything, and has a love of climbing. I have had to put my own fears aside to applaud as she ascends to the sky, doing stunts along the way. I have had to reassure tourists throughout Sydney that she is fine, and knows what she is doing. She is happiest sitting in the canopy of a tree. I have had to remain silent on many occasions, resisting the urge to let out an audible gasp or holler out to “be careful.” This kid knows what she is doing; she always has. The most challenging time was still to come…

She was asked to accompany her friend to Western Australia for a holiday. The family was going to visit the Quokkas on Rottnest Island, snorkel and climb a trio of trees in Pemberton, the tallest at 75 metres. Here is an apt description of these beauties. Apparently, only one in three tourists make it to the top. My daughter was determined, and started training immediately. I was filled with trepidation, and had to resist the urge to say no. In my heart, I knew she could do it, and that it would provide an important life lesson. The more goals a kid can kick and the more challenges they accomplish, the better. It provides a great foundation for their lives. Afterall, if you can do something hard, it proves you can do anything! I wasn’t going to let my fears stand in her way.

Imagine my delight when she Face-timed me from the top! The look of absolute joy on her and her friend’s faces said it all. They can do hard things. I must say, allowing her to climb an apex has been one of my hardest parenting moments. To encourage, rather than daub her skin with my phobia has been challenging. I am so proud of both these girls!

I was struck by two recent incidents when writing this piece:

#1 A fellow serving us at an inner-city coffee shop watched as my daughter performed a back-bend and other tricks. He told me that he had been a trapeze artist for the past 19 years, travelling the world with his wife, until a shoulder injury rendered the demise of his career. He urged me to put her in a school where she can learn more, and said she would never be a day without work when older if she pursued her love of climbing, such as is the demand for these skills.

#2 An older man watched as she joyfully climbed a tree near Sydney Harbour. He glared at me, and remarked that I was “a reckless parent.” My heart sank. The friend I was with urged me to not pay any mind to this stranger, but I still hurt. He had no idea that I suffer anxiety so severe that it rendered me house-bound before I had her. He had no idea that I had fallen from a height, and have had to work hard to applaud my child as she ascends. My grandmother was a very nervous person. She would holler to “be careful! Don’t fall!” as we climbed down her concrete back steps. Sure enough, we would be so alarmed at her hollering that we would indeed fall. It takes everything you have to not do it.

When I saw the look of pride and joy on my girl’s face, I knew it had been the absolute right thing to celebrate with her, rather than douse her enthusiasm in my own fears. As I said to her at the time, “you did this amazing thing; can you see that you will do anything you set your mind to?”

Faking Bravery


I have been unprepared most of my life, if I am honest. I was ill-prepared to have a baby, start my own business, take the chances I have, and accept certain positions career-wise. I am familar with abject terror. Two things have helped me, or rather, two people. The first asked me to define when I thought I would be ready to commit to my dreams. What would have to be in place? There is never a perfect time to start IVF to try and have a baby, nor move toward a dream. There will always be doubts in both yourself and what you are aiming for. Just begin!

The second bit of advice I was gifted was a gem. If you are anxious, and feel as though your nerves will get the best of you, pretend you are Cate Blanchett! This reasonated with me, because I adore this actress. She has poise, style and confidence. She interviews easily and makes eye contact. I imagined I was Cate Blanchett whilst giving speeches, in job interviews, and throughout social occasions with strangers. How would Cate be? What would she say and do?  Fake it ’til you make it works! It may be George Clooney or Wonder Woman in your case.

So there you have it. Life doesn’t need to be perfect in order to chip away at your goals. There will never be a supreme moment to begin, so you may as well start now, right here with what you have today. Summon up the qualities you admire in Cate Blanchett or another wondrous soul, and wow this world!

I became a model


I was asked to model at a Pink Lipstick function to benefit the excellent Mater Dei School. The clothes were exquisite, from a darling little shop called Sarita’s, A Collective Emporium. I immediately said “yes!” I then freaked out for about five minutes. The usual suspects of intruding thoughts rapped on my head. “Oi you! How very dare you think you can be a model! You are a short old boiler with a limp and cane! Sure, you eat your veggies (we know you are a vegetarian, duh), but you also drink wine, eat chocolate and have a penchant for salt and vinegar chips! How very dare you!”  I told the usual suspects to bugger off. I was doing it.

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Salt and vinegar chips

My daughter cheered at the rehearsal, enthralled and proud of her mum. If I want to set a good example for her, I have to live it, and not let silly thoughts dampen my life. The day came, and I went to the function centre with a fellow model.

My take on a selfie
My take on a selfie
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Sharon’s Photography

The Green Room was filled with women of all shapes and ages. They all looked glorious. They were all celebrated. I felt myself tearing up when they walked onto the stage to rapturous applause. I was on three times. I tripped over at first, then got confused and instead of scooting around to the back of the stage, I ended up in the kitchen! Flustered, I eventually found my way. I had my own fan club in the audience, and was met with hollers of “go Raphie!” I didn’t know where to look, so did the model thing of gazing into the distance intently.

It was nerve-wracking, and a great deal of fun combined. I had to get over myself; celebrate who I am and the gorgeous hats, vests and cardigans I had been clothed in. It’s as easy and as hard as that. Nobody was commenting that I had a cheek, being on the stage. The critics weren’t shouting ‘how very dare she!’ So what if they were? It shouldn’t affect me, nor alter my world in the slightest. If I want my daughter to walk with her shoulders back and head raised, I need to lead the way. Even if it means leaving a trail of chips.

#ProjectPositive, September 9th. Confidence.


Confidence isn’t what occurs after a haircut, manicure, purchasing new clothes. Those things are transitory and chewed up within a day of receipt. It cant be bought, and doesn’t depend on weight, nor a makeover. To have any lasting value, it must stem from within. If you don’t have it, that’s okay. A clean slate can easily have beautifully-scripted writing imbued on its surface. Make a list of all you value about yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is. Look at the positive qualities you radiate each day and all the great things you do, rather than the stuff-ups. When I see a confident person, I am mesmerized. It’s in the way they walk, the projection of their voice, the way they look you in the eyes. You can tell this person feels at ease within themselves and thus you relax too. They have a way of being. Every day, think about how valued you are, and the wondrous ripples you send out to us all. You are valued and treasured and this world would just not be the same without you. You can have complete confidence in that!
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