Isolation, Community Pantry and Anzac Day


What a whirlwind this week has been! You can actually be busier than ever, stuck at home. Projects that were lying dormant, have been completed.

I had a dream about starting a community pantry, and by chance, the next day, my lovely friend, Lisa, mentioned that she wanted to as well! We put the call out for a suitable pantry-holder, and a friend dropped in a locker. Not only was it weatherproof, but cool enough for us to put some Easter eggs inside! Lisa printed and laminated signs for the outside, and we managed to fill it. We decided to put it at the back of the bus stop, outside our local park. Within a day, things were taken, and it filled my heart when I saw a teenager and his little sister shyly approach the locker. “Are you sure it’s okay to take stuff?” the little girl asked. They took a few items, and closed the door, and I saw them walk to a house near the park. As items are taken, more appear. If it provides a meal for a family, or saves people from having to go to the supermarket for one or two items, we are pleased. We sanitise it at least once a day. Times are tough for so many people. Many have never needed to rely on Centrelink, nor charities before, and it takes time to wrap your head around it. One of the bravest things one can do, is ask for help. Everything is cyclical; you are the giver in one instance, and you must accept help in turn.

 

There was a rap at my door last weekend, and I was surprised, as nobody comes to visit at the moment! Standing on my porch, was my friend, Donna. She runs Butterflies Florist, and was holding a bouquet of flowers. It reminded me of how birds call out to each other when they can’t be seen. They are letting each other know that they are okay. At dawn, they call out to assure their compatriots that they made it through the night. This felt like a call from friends I hadn’t been able to see since this began.

 

Another dear friend (knowing my love of hummingbirds), dropped off a piece of art at my front door.

 

Yesterday was Anzac Day, and for the first time, we weren’t able to attend a communal dawn service, and see friends afterward. I felt for all the veterans and their families, for whom the day was usually set aside to connect with each other. They must feel bereft. My daughter and I held a dawn service in our driveway, and it was haunting; the Last Post playing from my television, as we stood in silence. Daybreak was smeared with honey and saffron hues, and kookaburras started laughing. A friend mentioned that she was going to her volunteer shift at Lifeline, anticipating a busy evening. Calls have escalated since all this began, which is no great suprise. As I walked around the neighbourhood, I saw wreaths woven from rosemary, tied together with red ribbons; poppies decorating front yards. One lady had a basket of rosemary out, asking passers-by to take a sprig for remembrance.

 

I am apprehensive about the gradual return to school, and as it turns out, so are quite a few teachers and principals. The following was a post from a friend of mine at the coalface, posted with her permission:

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 2.39.48 pm

On a positive note, I have trained my little dog to fetch the paper and pamphlets. She hasn’t quite grasped letting it go though, demanding that I chase her! On every walk, I find that I am noticing beauty as never before. It’s as though with the absence of distractions, we’re able to appreciate beauty more readily. I hope that this remains when we come out of hibernation.

Trust


I thought I was a fairly optimistic person, considering all the trauma that has bounded into my life at one time or another. I thought I was pretty calm in the face of disaster. I never stopped to wonder why I had to start taking medication for anxiety, and why I had been waking up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations, unable to get back to sleep. I had come to expect catastrophe, and my body was vigilant for it’s approach. These last few weeks have been a lesson in trust. Doing all that I humanly can, and then letting go.

I was told that my home was up for sale a while back, and was frankly, devastated. I love my little home, and the street on which I reside. I respected the decision, and cleaned and prepared the house for Open Homes, hoping that an investor may purchase the property and let us stay. The anxiety was so bad, that I just had to release the outcome, or be consumed by the unknown. The amount of times I envisioned packing boxes, paying thousands toward another move… I could see myself spending hours changing my address online and unpacking somewhere new…Today I was told that we are able to sign a lease for another year! I can’t tell you what a relief it is, and the joy I felt when telling my daughter.

We can come to expect life to cheat us; to not be kind in it’s approach. I was grumpy the other day, when a bus I needed to catch arrived early, and I still had some way to walk to the bus stop. “Great!” I seethed. To my complete surprise, the driver noticed me and opened the doors, patiently waiting until I could get on board. “I didn’t want you to have to wait for another hour,” he smiled after I had thanked him. This kindness gave me a lightness of spirit, and I had further meaningful interactions with the teller at the bank, an elderly lady and a shop keeper.

It reinforced that the world isn’t in fact out to get me. I have been abused and seen the perpetrator walk after a ridiculous sojourn to jail. I have been robbed and taken advantage of. I have been discarded and ostracised. Haven’t we all? I used to say that there are more good people on this earth than bad, and I believed it. We seem to build up an irritation, as though we are preparing a pearl inside our shell. All that we end up doing is keeping the world out, and shutting ourselves in.

I was talking to a friend who had suffered abominable abuse as a boy, and recent events in his life have served to affect him negatively. I told him that a year ago, when I had to leave all that I was and the titles I had aligned my identity with, I thought that the bad guys may never come to justice. “You know what kept me sane?” I asked my friend. “Cardinal Pell being found guilty and put in jail.”  Heck, watching all of the bad people coming to justice. It will happen to them all. They will be punished, one way or another. I have lived long enough to see it occur, and know that more shall follow.

I will open my heart once again, to both life and it’s people, trusting that a driver shall wait for me, the teller shall be pleasant and that good people do get rewarded for being a good tenant or a good person. I have to trust this life, as it is all I have. The bad guys will fall, given enough time. I have seen it happen. I once again believe that life isn’t trying to bring me to my knees; it is trying to help me up.

It’s time to get out my dusty Gratitude journal, and at day’s end, list all that I am thankful for. The list is massive.

 

Live Through This


There is a marvellous website, called Live Through This where survivors talk about their lives post-suicide attempt. It is heartfelt, often joyous and resplendent with hope. I think of what my life was way back when, and how it is now. It is light years from there… I am light years from there. If you had told that young woman what she would still have to endure, including the loss of a relationship she thought would last forever, she may well have not believed you. Furthermore, she may have told you that she couldn’t imagine bearing a skerrick of that pain. Endure she did, and overcome she has. She didn’t do it alone. At a very low ebb, a friend came to her door with a pronouncement of concern and trailing the thoughts and love of many mutual friends. She held in her hands a box,  wrapped in a red bow. Therein lay the tools needed to rebuild her life, both materially and emotionally. There has been much grieving and loss throughout the world in the past month, losing exceptional people to suicide. A movement grew on Twitter, using the hashtag, #livethroughthis.

 

I thought of my people coming to my aid. I had feared the unravelling of my wings may never happen; that I would suffocate in my tight cocoon. I feared I may never be freed to see what life could be and who I could become. Just when I thought the world might cease to exist for me, I became a butterfly. My fervent hope and dearest wish is that we all continue to live through this, spurred on by acts of kindness, both big and small. A smile at the right time may save the life of a stranger. It is never too late to start again, and we are never too old. We need to keep communication open and searingly honest with one another. Now is not the time for pretend nor gliding through life as though we are taking part in a masquerade ball. You can’t be human and not have wounds. Perhaps we need to share them with one another; not in the hope of a quick fix, but because the very act of sharing releases the pressure. Whatever it takes to keep you alive. You all deserve to see what life could be, how the colour can change from sepia to a rainbow after heavy rain.

 

The Physiotherapist


I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on physiotherapy in the twenty-plus years since my fall. I have done weights with physiotherapists, been placed on stretching racks, been in body braces, calipers, body casts, had my muscles shocked, been in hydrotherapy pools, and so much more. I still have the initial regime on paper, that I was instructed to do ten times a day, on top of swimming, hydro and physio sessions. It went on for years. To be honest, I was now full of hubris, believing I knew all there was to know, and could do the required moves in my sleep.

When my doctor set up a health plan for their physiotherapy department, I procrastinated. I was too busy for such indulgence, and besides, I knew everything there was to know! In spite of myself, I made a booking. My, how I laughed at the new patient form I was required to fill out, with minimal space in which to answer how many operations I have had, and what my injuries were. I had to resort to miniscule writing, to make it all fit.

The physiotherapy department really knew their stuff, massaging and kneading and coaxing trapped nerves to yield with subtle movements. They explained how the various muscle groups had compensated for my injuries, and what the plan was. Of course, they asked how on earth a teen had managed to obtain such injuries in the first place, and I told them in a matter-of-fact manner about the abduction and attempted murder. There was shocked silence, until I broke the ice, and then we all laughed as I regaled them with tales of the characters I met throughout the months I was in the rotor bed. It is a hell of a tale to lay on a stranger!

One of the fellows has a partner, and this week, I asked what they had done for Valentine’s Day. I was expecting the usual; that he had ordered red roses and chocolates and that they had gone out for dinner. Instead, he replied that after work, he had met his partner in the city, and they had purchased crates of fruit and water. They had then handed out bags to 200 homeless gathered near Central Station. “We don’t need gifts,” he explained. Apparently, they did this every birthday as well. “We don’t spend money on useless stuff, we buy things that will really help someone else.”  I said in reply, “that my friend, is real love.”  Not only have he and his colleague gifted me with their knowledge regarding my spinal column and neck, but he also revealed  what real romantic love can be in this world. Sacrifice, kindness, humility. I could picture this gentle man and his equally lovely girlfriend smiling as they handed out water on a blisteringly hot evening in Sydney. We talked of the lack of affordable housing in our city, and wondered aloud how greed has been allowed to become master and major consideration in all things. If he were to run for office, I would be his campaign manager. Imagine if everyone repurposed a fraction of their wants and put those resources toward others. Miracles could happen, just as surely as muscle groups yield to a physiotherapists’ masterful hands. I left buoyed with the thought that hundreds of people in this city felt loved on Valentine’s Day because of this dynamic duo.

After more than twenty years, I still have a thing or two to learn from physiotherapists. I rediscovered the difference they can make as to how I manage my pain. I have also rediscovered the gold one uncovers when you have nowhere to go and nothing to do but be in the moment.

Dolly


My heart broke when I saw the tribute (featured below),on the Akubra Hats Facebook page to Dolly. Dolly was a  girl whom had featured in their Christmas ads in years past…

This is not an easy post to write. We were shocked and distressed to hear of the passing of “Dolly” – the young girl many of you will recognise from our past Christmas adverts. This beautiful photo was taken 8 years ago.

Dolly chose to end her life last week due to bullying. She was not even 15 years old.

To think that anyone could feel so overwhelmed and that this was their only option is unfathomable. Bullying of any type is unacceptable. It is up to us to stand up when we see any kind of bullying behaviour. Dolly could be anyone’s daughter, sister, friend. We need to make sure that anyone in crisis knows there is always someone to talk to. Be a friend, check up on your mates.

Our hearts go out to her family and friends.

“Dolly” Amy Jayne Everett 1.5.2003-3.1.2018

#stopbullyingnow #doitfordolly #justbekind

Edit: We would like to remind everyone that this is not the place to speculate, question, lay blame or call for repercussions. Please keep your comments respectful. We will delete any comments that are not fitting for this page and post. Right now is the time to pull together and show support for Dolly’s family.

If you need someone to talk to:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78

beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

I can only hope that 2018 shall see a kinder society take shape, a world where Dolly and every other kid on the planet feels valued, respected and has kindness bestowed on them, rather than cruelty. I have tried to teach my daughter to listen to what her peers say. Do they make cutting jibes about others, putting it under the heading, ‘just joking?’ Do they want to get their own way without compromise, and display anger and silence when it doesn’t go their way? Do they exclude? All can be red flags of trouble to come within that friendship. I have tried to teach my daughter to be kind but firm in return. If somebody treats you in such a way, and is hot and cold toward you, walk away. Your emotional health is not worth the friendship, and it is certainly not worth your precious life. Dolly’s beautiful family  are grieving deeply, and even through their despair, they have reached out via social media. They want this bullying to stop. They want to educate. They want kindness to take the place of cruelty. In Dolly’s name, may it be so.

I am Sorry…


People tend to find it hard to know what to say when confronted by another’s suffering, particularly if they don’t know the person well. They may inquire as to how many children they have, and when the answer is “three; two here and one in spirit,” they don’t know how to respond. It is the same when encountering grief, serious illness, infertility or a survivor of abuse. It is tempting to apply a verbal salve to the savage wound, usually in the form of platitudes such as “chin up,” “you can try again,” “it will get better with time…” These words hold no healing, and are rather like acid being poured onto a vulnerable soul.

img_2821

I went to a Bravehearts luncheon the other day, and afterward, one of the women divulged the abuse she had suffered as a child. Those gathered listened respectfully, and afterward, I went up to her, hugged her, and whispered, “I am so sorry that you endured such things; so sorry that you suffered so.” I did this because  kind folk had said this to me. Others wanted to know how far I had fallen when I was pushed off that ledge as a teen; they wanted to know the details to satisfy their curiosity. I treasure those who cradled me, and whispered how sorry they were. It is the ultimate recognition of trauma. You aren’t attempting to fix the situation with glib words, nor paper over what a brave person has divulged. You have acknowledged their pain and the unfairness of what has transpired. “I am so very sorry…” That is all that is needed.

Bad News, Strength, Kindness and Saying Yes


Two years ago, I met a lovely lady from England. Her voice redolent with a gentle lilt, her energy soft and assuring. We talked briefly, and then I didn’t see her again. Last school holidays, she organized a picnic, sending out an open invitation. I took my daughter, and we had the best time! We determined to not leave it two years until the next meet-up.

I became ill last week, and couldn’t lift my head from my pillow. My persistent cough caused excruciating back pain. In the middle of the sickness, I found out an old friend had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. This lady had cheered me on through IVF, held my newborn in her arms, and had been by my side throughout the last fifteen years. She and her husband squeezed the marrow out of life; out every day, travelling around Australia and the world. Taking an interest in everything and everyone they encountered. Still reeling from the shock of the news, there was a knock on the front door. There stood the English lady, a meal in hand. She had found out my address, and made me a vegetarian meal to boost my system. Her kindness and timing were perfect. As I ate a bowl of her stew and dumplings infused with sprigs of thyme and spices, I could feel nutrition flooding every cell in my body. I could feel the kindness behind her gift. I have a mild case of pneumonia, an occupational hazard with my spinal injuries, and the way my spine curves. I need to get better so I can go see my old friend; so I can also prepare wholesome meals  for those that need them.

Today is the anniversary of my fall. There is no guide-book as to how one is meant to feel, nor commemorate the occasion. Anger, sorrow, lamentation, joy and utter gratitude feature heavily. Every year is different. I have gone back to the building, I have gone on long walks or to the movies. Last year, my daughter and I attended the Helpmann Awards. This year, I am weakened by my lungs, coughing and feeling a little woozy. I feel better than yesterday though. In the months I spent in hospital, I assured myself that each day would be an improvement on what came before, and it was. Today is an improvement on yesterday. I got dressed, and am taking my daughter to an appointment in the city. I shall probably get us dinner, and order a cheeky Cab Sav. The night of my fall, I hadn’t eaten for days, and craved fluid. I was frozen, laying on the ground, my blood splayed around me. I craved food, fluid, and warmth. Today, I had all three. Tonight, as I slip into my bed, I will give thanks that I am here. I will give thanks for old friends that extract the marrow out of life and English friends who make me the vegetarian equivalent of chicken soup for my soul. Life is a strange and precious gift.

 

An Angel left a parcel


I was watching a show the other evening, as there was a segment I was interested in. It was uplifting and joyful. Afterward, the show revealed what was coming next. I recoiled as though I had been punched in the stomach.  I knew I’d have to  watch it after the commercials. The damage had been done, and the memories had burst forth. I knew I had to see it through. 

As a fourteen year old, I was in the esteemed clinic mentioned in the segment. I had no definitive diagnosis, other than that I wanted to live, and kept tenaciously holding on. For a year, this clinic became my home. A man twice my age (and a heroin dealer to boot), prayed on me. Nobody stopped him; nobody cared. I saw many things that were unjust, corrupt and plain evil in this place. My part in this story ended when I was thrown off a building. For the next decade, I campaigned to ensure that such horror never recurred. I tried to ensure it never could.

A few years ago, several young women came forth to tell of the horrific sexual and emotional abuse they sustained at the hands of their therapist. These young women were a part of the eating disorders unit. They were threatened with not being able to see their families in some instances, and some were highly drugged. The place they had come to heal (and for which they had paid a fortune), had let them down. Tragically, one young woman took her life afterward. Sworn police statements obtained by the network detailed a series of complaints about the doctor from clinic staff. This was years before the full horror was uncovered. The clinic did nothing. He has been released from jail after serving two years, and will be free to practice as a doctor in five years. 

After what happened to me, I was assured that children would never be put in with adults again. I was assured that a Patients Charter of Rights was now in place and that such things would never be allowed to happen again. I watched the segment, feeling ill when I saw the clinic appear on screen. I also felt numb; hollow. This should never have happened, particularly as they were warned years prior as to this doctor’s behavior. I had nowhere to put the feelings that came up by the next morning, and life commanded that I participate. 

I came home that evening to find a parcel on my doorstep. There were flowers and a card, herbal tonics, essential oils and a tea flower, all nerve tonics. Restoratives, put together by my dear friend, Natasha, who happens to be a herbalist. She knew nothing of what I had watched the night before, nor how desperately I needed her parcel. I put the flowers in a vase, and prepared the maximum number of drops. I sprinkled the oils into my hands and breathed in the aromas. 

img_8597

How did she know that I needed a parcel at my door? Humbled by her kindness, I slept well that night. It is heartbreaking to know that others have suffered at the hands of this place. It should never have occurred. I think of all the correspondence I entered into, the statements I gave… It takes others to turn a blind eye for evil to triumph. Sometimes, memories can’t be vanquished, but the tempest can be soothed with tinctures, aromatherapy oils and the love of a dear and thoughtful friend.

img_8600

Wise and compassionate words


My friend wrote an articulate and heartfelt response to the following:


‘You know what? No! Just no! I’m sick of this sentimental BS being shared around FB and people thinking it’s true. I have been through, and had many friends go through, serious life changes. I have had friends battling ongoing or chronic health problems and are just too physically weak to even handle the thought of a coffee (yes even with close friends). I’ve had friends that use every ounce of energy they have just to get through their day as they have serious challenges with their partner and/or kids (probably worse than you’re imagining cause they’re doing their best to try and keep it a secret too). I’ve had friends battling mental health issues where getting out of bed and getting dressed is a huge accomplishment for the day (again the stigma attached to that one only makes them want to hide it and if you haven’t been there then you just won’t get it so don’t even start to preach at them how they need to think positive etc). 
So screw this sentiment! If your friend doesn’t have time for you for 6 months, suck it up, cause the pain/hell they are going thru that they don’t even have the time/energy for their friends, is more than you’re going through by not seeing them. Rather than adding a guilt trip to their situation just msg them some encouragement and remind them you love them and are there if and when they need. Don’t take it personal, it isn’t about you and making it about you just makes it worse. 
So once again, just to make sure you really get this – no! Just no! This is crap.’

The above is full of compassion and empathy. I am still learning how to be assertive, and on occasion, have had the following happen. A text, asking when I may be free. If I am out each day, I will relay that in a couple of weeks my schedule shall be more open. I then receive more texts, which I don’t have the opportunity the read. This has been followed with emails and messages on Facebook. When I go in to see what I have to reply to, there are scores of messages, which I have neither the time nor energy to answer. I have offered by way of explanation, that my spine has deteriorated, I am in constant, merciless pain, and by the time I arrive home (after travelling up to four hours), all I can do is crawl into bed. I assure them that I shall be in touch in a week or so, and am looking forward to catching up. More messages ensue, (usually involving guilt trips, attempting to shame), at which point I am almost in tears. It is an energy drain at a time when you can’t afford to leak! I have racked my brain, trying to see when I have five minutes to make contact. It has inevitably seeped into precious rest time, or time when I had necessary things to do to keep my life running smoothly. I have found that it isn’t appreciated by these kinds of people. They demand another commitment before the present catch-up is over.

This happened to me regularly, and added to the load, when I was simply trying to get through the days. Every life has it’s seasons; a person’s days have delicious, empty space and then gets crammed with more activity and stress than one can handle. Kindness toward another is being accepting of it. I have long-standing friends whom I haven’t seen all year. When we do catch up, it is as though no time has passed. They don’t question my love for them, nor do I their’s. We both know that if we needed anything, we would move planets to support each other. My friend’s response to memes such as that above is filled with wisdom.

 

Teddy Bear Olympics


We were invited to take part in a Teddy Bear Olympics this week. Our friend’s outdid themselves with the decorations! There were hundreds of soft toys acting as spectators, flags, hand-made medals and little trophies. Some of the categories were for the shiniest nose, best dance moves and discus! It was glorious to see the kids outside, being kids.

They cheered each other on, spending hours gallivanting around, having a lovely time. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and it brought together a wide range of ages. Let childhood last for as long as possible! I know there were many soft toys getting congratulatory hugs last night! Our Rosie certainly was!

img_0668 IMG_6722

Something happened on the way to the Olympics, which left my daughter and I with the feels. We were at a train station, and a two-year old had a meltdown over the vending machine. She wanted some treats, and she wanted them now! Her mother had no change, and the little girl tipped over the toddler edge, and couldn’t reign herself in. A group of young guys sat down next to us, and rather than roll their eyes at the screaming toddler and her poor mum, one of them went into his bag, and handed her one of the little koala bears he had been selling. The spell was broken, and the toddler smiled. The mother was eternally grateful. There were good feelings all-round. The power of a soft toy can’t be underestimated! Did you have a favourite when you were a child?