Anniversaries and the Helpmann Awards

It was as much my daughter’s day as it was mine. A day of remembrance. To contemplate what was taken and what has in turn been bestowed. She has had her life altered as a result of that July 25th long ago. This term, I can’t commit to taking her to drama classes in the city, as I have to attend to this chronic pain once and for all, and have viable pain management strategies in place. She doesn’t complain when I can’t take her out, nor does she wonder why I fall silent on the way home after a long day. She comforts me when she sees the mask fall and views the agony in my face. I haven’t been able to do all that I want with my daughter as money has gone on maintaining my health. I can’t run like other mothers, nor skate or ride horses with her. Her life has been shaped in so many ways by what happened to me. I didn’t tell her the date’s relevance, yet she knew it was a big, important date.

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Being a ham, she had to strut into a bank through its turning doors, pretending to be a banker. To the mirth of the employees, she shouted, “this isn’t my jam!” and ran out. She then discovered this chess set, and was annoyed that a King was overtaking the others. She sought to rectify things.

We took pictures at Wildlife World. You can tell I wasn’t ready!

We spent the afternoon hanging out, having fun. I have learnt that it does no good to not acknowledge the memories, nor try to have an ordinary day on the anniversary. What I needed was to see beauty; to be pulled out of my own mind. It helped!

As we left home at noon, I was flooded by intense gratitude. All those years ago, I would have given anything for what I was able to do this particular morning. Wake in a comfy bed in a secure home, then shower and dress. Have a nutritious breakfast and a pitcher of water. To look forward to the day. All the things you take for granted… As dusk fell over the city, winter began to bite, and I felt the cells in my body grow anxious. Dusk was when the final torment began. We walked to the Lyric Theatre, and stood enjoying the celebrities walk the red carpet, my daughter eating a croissant. I lovingly brushed the pastry flakes from her hair, and tried to avoid embarrassing her by crying out of sheer and giddy joy.

The award show surpassed all expectation. It was thrilling to see Matilda receive thirteen awards. The Australian Theatre for Young People won an award for the sublime Sugarland. Supporting the Arts is incredibly important. It takes us out of the everyday, into a world of unequal splendor. It is no coincidence that musicals hit the height of their popularity during the Great Depression and wartime. We need to transcend the drudgery once in a while. We need the Arts to give us different perspectives and to provide commentary on the times  we live in. Griffin Theatre’s The Bleeding Tree won Best Play, and when accepting the award, it was hoped that the piece about domestic violence would be viewed in the future with a shaking of the head, and the utterance of “this is how it was back then.”

When Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Stephen Page was honoured the  JC Williamson Award, his speech left us spellbound. There were magical performances from musicians, musicals and dance companies. Water escaped my eyes and I gave thanks that I got to see this night of celebration, and as I slumbered that evening, July 26th rolled around without fan fair.  I also got to see the dawn. The evening reinforced that we must tell our stories, not only for our own sake, but for everyone’s. I look forward to somebody in the future stumbling across my work and saying ‘things were different back then! Thank goodness we live in better times.’  Times when perfect storms in a young person’s life are abated, before they are consumed by a wave. We are on our way. No more secrets, nor hiding of abuse.

If you have a painful anniversary coming up, I would advise you to acknowledge it. Write about it, or create art around it. Plan a special day with loved ones who get it. If that’s not possible, then go out by yourself. Eat and drink delicious things. View beautiful things. Talk to strangers. Whatever you do, don’t curl up alone with the memories. In my view, such a day has to be tempered by art; it’s potency diluted by loveliness.

July: Frost, Snow and Anniversaries in Australia

I knew it was coming, I knew. I knew in June, that the end of July was inevitable. Yet, it seemed so far away. To my horror, as I was pretending to be a domestic goddess, organizing my child’s schedule, I uncovered that the anniversary was taking place this week. The date that everything changed. The date that would determine whether I lived or died…Whether I would walk again; drink water again, eat food again, fall pregnant or have a difficult time. Whether I would be in agony every moment (wakeful or sleeping), for the rest of my life. Whether I could drive long distances, sit for over an hour, use catheters or not, have scores of operations, with more to come. Whether I would need to have two surgeries at seventeen to save my life, my heart held in someones hand, my chest opened up. Then to be flipped over, after having floating ribs sewn off, to replace my back bone. To save my life. This was the date that would determine all that and much more. Whether I would have the mettle to survive at all. To sustain in the face of nightmares and torment.

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Can you believe that I have met my twin?! I stumbled upon this person’s blog a week ago. The anniversary of his being thrown from a height as a young person is in July. He is still affected by phone calls and door bells ringing. He said “I thought I was the only one!” He completed the quiz I put on my site to find out what your hippie name is. He got Flower, the same as me! The thrill of recognition-the regret and sorrow too- that somebody else understands what you felt that night. Somebody knows what it is like to hit the ground… I love this person, though I haven’t met them. What a privilege in the midst of a strange, disorderly life. Here’s to all survivors. It is a lonely path at times. I am glad not many in our circle can identify with this particular angst. I hold a pool of tears if you can.

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On the anniversary, I will hold my daughter, and partake in what was denied me, so many years ago. I will have a bath with aromatic oils, a broad-rimmed Italian glass in hand. In it shall be red wine, the hue of ground garnets. I will eat a hearty meal, slip into the covers of my bed in my warm room, and be thankful I am here. That bitter winter’s night, I was covered in dirt and blood, cast aside in a dark night of the soul and body. I was hungry, and in agony. I was thirsty and alone. I am still in agony, but the darkness has been bludgeoned by light. The loneliness by friendship. The thirst and hunger have been quenched and I am warm. The blood and dirt have been cleaned away, and what remains is a woman who is frightened no more. The worst has happened. It is done. I survived. More than that, I am flourishing.

The Body Cast and other Relic’s.

The bracelet I was wearing when I fell.
The bracelet I was wearing when I fell.
Hartshill Rectangle.
Hartshill Rectangle.

My Body cast.
My Body cast.
It is a wondrous act, the art of rebuilding. Fractured and pulverised, like the component’s of stars. I was told there was a probability that I would never eat nor drink by myself again. That the nasogastric tube may be in place for the rest of my life. I was fifteen. I wish I had pictures of myself at that time to share with you. It was in the era before digital cameras, and nobody cared enough to keep a photographic journal of my recovery. I have snapped the relevant images within my mind. I found the white tracksuit pants I was wearing on that bitter winter’s night scrunched up in my wardrobe. They were torn, and despite having been washed, had stains from where blood and urine smattered. They were hidden in the back of my wardrobe, a shameful piece of my past. I retrieved them, and held them close. When I got dressed that winter’s night, I had no idea that I would be fighting for my life within a short while. I still have the gold bangle I was wearing. My wrist was fractured in the fall, though I barely noticed. It’s bent out of shape, having adapted to my twisted wrist. It has many scratches, from where bark chips stabbed it. I still have the Hartshill rectangle, which had been wired into my back in the first surgery, and my body cast, of which I was in for several months. I painted it. These horrid relics provide some comfort. In the absence of photos, which detail what I looked like after the fall (my face was bruised and cut, and I looked nothing like myself), these relic’s are evidence that it happened. That I survived. They are capsules confirming that it was as bad as I remember, and that I was stronger than that which tried to destroy me. I wish I had pictures of myself pre-surgery and post. Of the first time I walked again. Of myself in the body brace I wore for two years. I have my relics, and I am thankful for that.

I Lit a Candle.

ImageAnniversaries are tough. We feel the despondency all over again. We feel incredulous that another year has passed, and we long to stop time. To stop the world. Time is propelling us forward, and it won’t slow down. We try to etch out a new way of being, without the ones who shaped us, loved us, and inspired us. How many times do we reach for them, play their messages back, expect to greet them at our door? How many times do we reach for our phone to call, to celebrate our joys and commiserate on losses? It all reaches a crescendo once a year on the anniversary. A dear friend lost her mum-a brilliant artist- a year ago this week. There are no words which can soothe this heart wound. Platitudes don’t cut it. Rather, I promised to light candle’s, and think of her mother. I didn’t meet this lady, yet I know so much about her. How she carried herself through life. I know she bore a beautiful daughter and was instrumental in her granddaughter’s life. I regret that I never got to know her personally, and yet I feel I do. My little family lit the candles, and we stopped. The chatter of everyday life was silenced and we were still. Our pets were still. The breeze was still. The flames carried a silent prayer through the ethers. They carried profound gratitude that through this woman, we have had our lives sweetened by her offspring. The world has custody of her art for all time. Sorrow became thankfulness that she walked among us, and we breathed the same air as this lady. The flames danced as my daughter bowed her head. They danced as we remained still. Unlike our candle’s her flame is inexhaustible, and shall never be extinguished. You lived, and you lived well. xxx