Girl up Tree!

I had a most unusual experience yesterday. We travelled into Sydney to meet with an old friend. My daughter completed her lessons on the train, and we experienced a lovely two-hour journey in. Autumn had summoned temperate weather and a dreary sky, as we lunched with our friend. When it was time to go pick up her daughter’s from school, we went in her car. Within five minutes, I had spotted all the characters she had described. I am just under five feet tall, and one lady was just as vertically challenged. Two balloon-type structures were groaning under her top, and I was afraid she was going to fall over as she waddled past, she was so top-heavy. Her lips were inflated with fillers. I felt sad. She was a beautiful girl who had sought “corrective” work in her twenties. There were women in floaty kaftans and strappy stilettos, designer bags slung over their shoulders. They looked me up and down as they sauntered past. My daughter embraced her friends, and then decided to climb a sturdy tree. She went up to the first branch, and called out to me. “Hi mum!” I noticed many of the mums were watching, but thought nothing of it.

She has climbed much bigger trees.
She has climbed much bigger trees.

All of a sudden, I heard shrieking. I wondered what the hell was happening. Four women were surrounding the base of the tree, pleading with my daughter to come down. She shrugged and alighted, which produced more hysteria. She was in a teeny little tree, strong and secure. There could have been insects! Oh no! One of the said mothers was about to say something about the child caught in the very dangerous activity of being in a tree when my daughter skipped over. ‘Yep, she’s mine,’ I would have stated proudly if she had asked. This woman, was one of those mothers. You know, the ones who know everything that is happening, haven’t a hair out-of-place and are beautifully groomed. Hell, she even had a Tupperware container filled with fruit for an afternoon snack, which we were offered.

This mother was about to inform me about the unfolding dramas in another mum’s life (someone I had never met), when the mum in question came up. I had been warned that if we were caught by this woman, we wouldn’t have a hope of getting out of the playground. She started on her story without asking my name or introducing herself. Her dreadful ex, her awful life… I must admit I felt slightly irritated and fought the urge to say “I’m fine thanks, lovely that you took an interest.” As she stood there, I noted the hand-wringing, the adrenaline pumping, the desperation in her eyes. People don’t crumble in a day. I was looking at the remnants of twenty years and a decaying marriage. “I hope I get this job. We are $60,000 in debt and I haven’t been able to pay the mortgage for months.” My heart softened. My friend is taking her for coffee in the coming week. I gently squeezed the woman’s hands. “I will be thinking of you; I know you can rebuild your life.” My friend said that whilst it’s a public school, its in an area filled with aspirational couples. This woman lived in an adjoining house, and wouldn’t give my friend the time of day before. You only hung out with those who appeared to be doing as well as you. Renting an apartment, or living in a semi-detached house, would socially ruin you if word got out. “So much happens behind the scenes,” my friend said. It always does. She is the one they come to, confide in, when it all falls apart.

I imagine the exhaustion that would inevitably come with trying to keep up the façade. Not knowing if people in your circle were being real. I felt desperately sorry for that mum who needed to offload. I felt compassion for the have-it-altogether mum too. I know she hasn’t. Its time to tear down the pretence hidden behind fillers, makeup, clothing, labels, cars and credit cards. Its time to see each other. I wont stop my daughter climbing trees. I am afraid of heights, but she isn’t. I am glad she isn’t. She has never fallen. I want her to climb as many trees as she can fit into her lifetime. I want to see my child with scabs on her knees, dirt on her hands, having a wild old-time. I don’t want to see her at the end of the day with ribbons still in place, the starch doing its job keeping her pristine. I want her to live. I would rather enjoy going back and seeing these women choose life as well.

Writing 101. Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page.

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I have been recovering from pneumonia, and have missed quite a few days of the writing challenge. I tuned in today to be asked the question, what are you scared of? I was asked to address one of my worst fears. I don’t have a terror of dying, nor of public speaking. Snakes and spiders don’t scare me. Its heights. That is my Everest. I don’t have the gossamer wings I’ve always craved. I don’t even have invisible wings. In preschool, a group of children dared me to swing upside down (on my coaxing), from the monkey bars with no hands. This occurred back in the good old days of metal cubes soldered together over a pad of cement. None of that springy material as ground-cover. Sure enough, I soared head-first  to the cement, and went splat. Concussion and a nose ripped open, requiring stitches. I decided heights weren’t for me.

 

I had nightmares for ten years about being thrown off a balcony… Then it happened. Even as I was in the experience of being set down on a ledge, I couldn’t quite believe it. It was an out-of-body experience. My nightmare was a reality. When I fell, time and space seemed to disappear and it took forever to hit the ground. I knew it was going to hurt and may well be fatal. Was the nightmare a precursor to this fated event? It seemed too coincidental. It was cruel to be spirited out of the world-siphoned away from your body- by an act that happened to be your worst fear. I survived, and of course, my fear of heights grew. Twice I have fallen and twice have been broken by the experience.

 

My fear was so great that I couldn’t venture past  ground level at the Queen Victoria Building, nor of most places. Anywhere that had an open centre and  a railing or balcony, well, I couldn’t do it. I am markedly better now. It has taken a long time. There are some places and experiences I will never allow myself to encounter, and I don’t need to. I have nothing to prove. Walking up a staircase after having been jostled up one, going up an escalator, and walking anywhere near a balcony is triumph enough. I am a nervous flyer. My child squeezes my hand, and bless her, talks me through it. Its the take-off and landing which scares me. When we ascend and are in the clouds, I relax. There is nothing to fear up here. I am embraced by clouds, and can relax, the fine opaque film reassuring me. I am above it all now. Concerns, terrors and nightmares.

 

I have a daughter who adores climbing. I watch her at gymnastics, climbing up the rope, all the way to the ceiling. I attended  a playgroup party at a softplay centre when she was three. I heard a little voice call out “look at me!” I looked up to see my child waving. She had crawled through three levels, found a gaping hole in the mesh, and had pulled herself through it. She was now standing on top, with nothing around her. “Stay still! Mummy is coming!” I called, in my best sing-song voice. My heart thudded as I made my way through the hellish levels of toddler fun. She thought it was hilarious, and I needed a stiff drink. Somehow we survived the experience. Its amazing what you can do when adrenaline kicks in. I have gotten used to seeing her climb at every opportunity. I may not have wings, but will do everything in my power to ensure whatever I have ever been through holds no tool that could clip hers.

Fear of Anger.

1396700_661739503859898_417416647_nI have learnt an important lesson, regarding the power of my mind. It excels at terrifying me, leading me to envisage catastrophic explosions. A teacher had invited my daughter and myself along to a festival, to take part in a parade. We would be walking with the Scottish group. I used to do Scottish dancing, and my husband and I both have Scottish heritage (our clans were mortal enemies). This teacher is incredibly passionate and creative. I gasped when I saw her classroom. Every available space-including the ceiling,was taken up with art. Colour and shape, movement and whimsy. Recently, floor space had been taken over by costumes.

She had borrowed quite a few from celebrated dancers, and the kilts were valued in the thousands. I went for a fitting for my wench outfit weeks ago, at the same time my daughter was fitted for her dancer outfit. I lovingly put my dress up and got on with life. Several nights ago, I sat bolt upright with a horrible thought. Where was my daughter’s outfit? Where the bloody hell did I put it? Mine was staring at me, but I couldn’t for the life of me recall where hers was. Oh my God! Catastrophe! My daughter wouldn’t be able to march. Everyone would be bitterly disappointed in me, and the worst part? They would be angry. I was awake throughout the night, worried that I would incur wrath the next morning. I couldn’t find my daughter’s outfit anywhere. I went into school after having turned out every bag I own, every wardrobe and drawer. My friend greeted me and reminded me that the kid’s outfits were ready to be picked up. You mean to say, I didn’t take it home with me? I could have kissed her! All that panic, for nothing. I am a confident and capable adult, but when I am faced with confrontation, and possibly anger, I become a child. I was never allowed to be angry, and if I disappointed anyone as a little girl, their rage didn’t bear thinking about. It’s exhausting trying to make everyone happy, tiptoeing around danger, afraid of letting anyone down. I still have work to do. There are parts of my psyche that need to be gathered and strengthened. I learnt that the adult needs to reassure this kid, and find solutions. She retreated. The threat of anger was just too much. Healing is like an onion, and you peel back one layer, to be presented with many more. It was a wonderful parade.