Think/Writing

When I am not actually writing, I am think-writing.  Do you do that?
Entire sentences or small phrases get worked and reworked in my mind. Like a boiled sweet tumbled over and over in your mouth, savoured until all the sweetness has dissolved into a sharp, final shard. Then; gone.

Sometimes I remember what I wanted to write about, but most often it is an ephemeral mist by the time I pause long enough to retrieve it.

I’ve just been so occupied lately that there has been very little time for ‘me’ stuff, like blogging. The moments I have of solitude, have been away from my keyboard, or without pen and paper. So all the writing has just happened up there, in my own mental ‘cloud’… if only it was a true backup disk! I miss writing here so much! Hello again, people!

I thought I would do a little catch up piece today, in the vein of the wonderful Pip Lincolne’s Taking Stock posts. This is how things are right now. How are they for you? Feel free to copy and paste and add your own list to the comments. I’d love to know what’s going on in your world, too!

Making: Every minute count. That often means my days start at 5.30am to feed horse and walk dog before all the other commitments.

Morning sky. The gift of early rising.

Cooking: big family meals mostly. Our current favourite is my Chicken and Leek Pie. I’m also making the occasional batch of cookies. Just recently my friend Flo gave me a recipe for oat choc chip cookies and they are SO DELICIOUS and EASY! Reckon they’d be good with cranberries too. Sing out if you want the recipe.

Drinking: Gin and Tonics made with lemons and limes from our own trees. Gin-and-tonic-time is a bit of a favourite time to get to at the end of each very busy week!

Reading: Nothing, not even newspapers!

Wanting: A large docile Clydie-cross all for me… and a country property to bring him home to. Ha! Dreams are free.

Meantime, here is my girl’s beautiful horse, Rosie. It’s a close second.

Looking: closely at the detail of nature. Right now I’m into raindrops on roses… well, raindrops on anything. So beautiful.

Playing: Dixie Chicks “Cowboy, Take Me Away”

Deciding: what is the best kind of education for a divergent child?

Wishing: I had more time in each day so that I could really actually get to the bottom of my to-do list, even just once!

Enjoying: the company of our giant doofus doggie, Wookiee.  Have I introduced you to this very cool dude yet?  Meet Wookiee the 8 month old Labradoodle, favourite member of the household by unanimous vote.

Wookiee Cox, beloved labradoodle.

Waiting: for it to be acceptable to put my Christmas Carols on repeat

Liking: being a zookeeper

Wondering: if Nik Kershaw has any current music… (off to google)

Loving: the smell of chaff

Pondering: the sense of this crazy-busy urban lifestyle we lead

Considering: whether we should investigate that…

Watching: nothing. Too busy.

Hoping: The weather stays horse/dog friendly for the entire summer holidays

Marvelling: at how much I can do these days. Like; I do something, then I can do another thing(!) and then I can keep going and do another and another. It’s amazing!

Needing: a remote thoroughbred feeding/checking/smooching system

Smelling: like a farm most days

Wearing: gumboots and old jeans with the occasional foray into teaching attire

Following: the weather forecast like a country girl

Noticing: how often I crave the wide open spaces and solitude

Knowing: the run from here to Christmas is going to be mayhem

Thinking: that we are so lucky to have such a great local high school to send Bee to next year

Feeling: emotional a lot lately, guess it is that time of year again when my thoughts are drawn to all the people I love who aren’t here anymore

Admiring: my girl and her tenacity during her first one day event recently

The girls during their first Cross Country

Sorting: my “Rachie Drawers”… those generic holding places where things go and disappear. I’ve lost my engagement ring and I need to find it!

Buying: hmmmm. A horse float and a new horse have removed our buying power for anything else at present, but oh it is soooo good to finally have a float!  And lovely to have the beautiful Rosie in our family.

Getting: worried about what the above will do for Christmas buying

Disliking: our dog’s penchant for courier packages. I think he thinks they are chew toys delivered conveniently just for him; something new every time!

Opening: my mind to new possibilities as the New Year approaches

Giggling: at all the hilarious things our Zed says and does, he’s very funny… most of the time!

Feeling: worried about whether my mothering is going to benefit my kids or hinder them, they’re getting older and so much more independent. My mothering is struggling to keep pace with their rates of inner growth! I hope I can find a way to be a less anxious mama.

Snacking: ooooh. Snacks… that sounds good. I wonder what I can find in the cupboard?

Coveting: good camp chairs. Ours are all torn and overtaxed from our large-arse situation.  Pony Club camp is just around the corner!

Wishing: the Christmas rush was over

Helping: Riding for the Disabled with their cookie-icing fundraiser was fun!

Apologising: less than before. I like that I am learning NOT to apologise so ceaselessly for everything. It’s exhausting feeling responsible for myself, let alone for others.

Hearing: a lawn mower, children playing at the kindy next door, cars whooshing by, the wind in the eaves, the rustle of leaves, the birds singing with Spring happiness as if this season will never end. Yet, it will and I am grateful for that. A big part of me is craving winter hibernation right now!  I am happy for warmth and nice weather, truly.  Just keen for a bit of a break in general…

 

Here’s the list. Your turn!
Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Deciding:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving:
Pondering:
Considering:
Watching:
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Feeling:
Admiring:
Sorting:
Buying:
Getting:
Bookmarking:
Disliking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:
Snacking:
Coveting:
Wishing:
Helping:
Hearing:

You can close your eyes…

She looks so relaxed, on the first day of her island holiday. Gently swinging in the hammock, a mug of chai tea cradled in her hands; those eyes are tired, though. She looks outward to the ocean.

It is glassy today, clear as air to look into. If she were out there wading in the shallows she would see fish, lazily cruising in the warm edges of the reef. On the horizon, a solitary white rimmed island marks the separation between water and sky. She saw a whale breach out there earlier this morning. The sum of all these things, warm air, calm seas, chai tea. It is all in stark contrast to her inner world.

She tries to let it all go, all the daily pressure of normal life. All the past. All the words unsaid and things undone. Lists unchecked.  It is hard to relax, and it should be simple. It is hard to carve out time where she can be nothing but herself. But she has, it is here; now, for the next hour or so. She sips on her chai, letting the cinnamon and spices swirl into her senses. The flavours of calm.

She’s not sure if she wants to spend time with herself after all.

Where is she, anyway? Losing herself has happened gradually. Task by task, caring for others. Loving others is a sacrificial pursuit, for women everywhere. Loving them with all she has is a habit of obligation and a daily choice. She didn’t know the cost of it when she signed up, but she knows now. Yet she would have paid anything to have this, have them. This life. And when the fabric of her wears thin and tears into the unwritten contract -of motherhood, of marriage- with hard words, she feels the failure. Sharp. So mean. She never really intends it for them. The words are really for herself. She sighs over it, swinging back and forth in that hammock. She is tired of turning herself inside out to examine it all.

So she walks through all of life in this body; this middle aged vessel of experiences, faded dreams and old philosophies, the mother-wife shell. The girl she also is; so shrouded now, by her roles and responsibilities. She has survived all the things. Her world is secure and her love is strong. Her family are happy. She thinks these thoughts like a mantra of protection. They have made together exactly the life she hoped for, the one she yearned for all those years ago, wishing into her teacups for a family of her own.

Her eyes close and she lets her head sink back against the woven hammock.

There is a woman here on the island, travelling alone. Her husband died three years ago, and since then, she has retraced the steps of all the travels they did together. She watches this woman in the restaurant, alone in her grief at her table for one. She wonders if there will be release when she has completed her solitary itinerary. She wonders if the goodbyes and the remembering are helpful. She wonders if she could be so brave. Life, on her own again. It makes her shiver in the tropical heat. No.

She thinks about her little family, out on the glassy ocean, casting handlines into the water in the hope of bringing home fish. She tries to imagine the joy and horror as they reel in slippery living creatures. It is the first time her children have been fishing. They are having much-yearned-for quality time with their daddy and she is struck by a sudden pang of… what is that? Jealousy?  He’s been so busy lately. He is a great Dad. She chose him for them and that thought makes her feel proud satisfaction. She did that. A gift for their future selves and developing psyches. It was a good choice. She’d choose him all over again, she knows it.

The girl she is, takes a big deep breath and sighs it out into the warm air. She is okay. No crises to avert this afternoon. A small smile contracts her cheeks upward, crinkling the skin by her eyes. So fortunate to be here, this day, in this way, in this place. She aligns her girl and woman selves and blows across her warm tea. Seriously, she thinks. The best way to relax is to stop thinking altogether. She reaches for her headphones and scrolls through until an old favourite fills her consciousness. Yes. You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor. Her empty tea cup now nestles in the sand. She drifts out of her messy mind on a tide of chilled harmonies.

She is the picture of relaxation, that woman on the hammock. Eyes closed, headphones on. The late afternoon quiet, deep upon her. Slowly, the tide creeps up the sand and the day sighs to a close. She muses softly about all of her sisters-in-arms, shouldering big burdens and costly contracts of love.

the sun is slowly sinking down
and the moon is slowly rising
so this old world might still be spinning round
and I still love you.
So close your eyes
you can close your eyes, it’s alright
I don’t know no love songs
and I can’t sing the blues, anymore
but I can sing this song
and you can sing this song
when I’m gone

Post Script
James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It was the soundtrack for my holiday week; for me it is the song of parent to a child, or an adult to themselves. I love it so much.  Have you heard these two singing together before? Happy sigh…

Malo

Three years ago, our family went on holiday to this very Pacific Island. It was a very different time. I was so sick back then, and full of trepidation that we would have a medical emergency while I was away. I remember how it took weeks of agonising effort to pack and how the things we brought with us included a box of medical supplies and equipment. I remember waking each morning into the humid air and swallowing down my medications, hoping I could cope with the day ahead. In the context of how ill I was, Tonga was very kind to me last time. But this time, my simple ease of being throws our last experience into stark contrast. I am amazed at how different I am.

I’ve been in remission now for two years. I’m stronger, fitter and have more stamina. Last trip, I managed some floating in the ocean. This trip, I’ve kayaked and snorkeled and swum and throroughly enjoyed everything the island has to offer. I was struck last time by the similarity of this place to my childhood home in Papua New Guinea. And last time, it was a kind of catharsis for me, being here. I had time to reflect on my childhood memories and say goodbye to that place in my mind I had never truly left. This time, it is a tangible physical remembrance and a positive one. Cruising over brilliant coral reefs, to the slow shushing of snorkelled air, takes me back to happy holidays in Madang and the Duke of York Islands. Scooping green coconut jelly from the shell for breakfast. So many strong memory cues. I feel peaceful and alive, rested and immensely grateful.

I hope the contrast between sick and well, will always strike me. I hope I will always feel this grateful for the gift of wellness. It is a beautiful thing to walk through the world without the weight of all that. Freedom. Yet I am perplexed by the necessary cost of wellness and ‘freedom’. They are not actually free at all, we pay in busy-ness, responsibility and pace. We lose the time to think, write, create. I haven’t blogged in so long and I’ve missed it keenly. Here, on a tropical island with no daily tasks to complete, no punishing schedules, no animals to care for and none of the usual husband/ kids/ homestay student demands it is easy to think I just need to change the way I do things at home.

But how?

None of the things that need doing are outsource-able. No one else will magically do them. I know, feeling rested as I am, I will put my shoulder into things when I get home. There will be a honeymoon period of almost enjoying all the motherly-housewifely tasks. I will be grateful for my own home again, eager to cook my family fresh New Zealand produce. Keen to drive my own car and be independent. Happy to get the laundry all tickety-boo. Maybe the answer is in micro-breaks. I’ll make a conscious effort to get out of the house and catch up with friends. Go alone somewhere for a morning just to write. Take a book to the top of the mountain with the dog. Start yoga.

But most importantly, I am going to begin planning the next holiday. Somewhere different next time. Somewhere it will take us a long time to save for, but that will create amazing memories. Travelling is a gift to the soul and a chance to breathe and get perspective. It pulls us all back together and we play cards again, minds cut loose from the relentless pull of social media. I need to prioritise travel more in our family budget. All of us are so relaxed. As I write, my hubster is swinging in the hammock, my kids are reading books; he on his tummy, idly circling his feet in the air, she, twirling her hair meditatively, small piece after piece. Their skin is nut brown, the dark circles gone from their previously pale faces. It makes me sublimely happy.

Speaking of reading, I read an extraordinary book in the first few days here that had me quite consumed. It’s a novel by a first time author, Gabriel Talent, about a girl growing up in Mendocino with a mentally unstable survivalist for a father. Harrowing and hard going, the writing is however, breathtaking. I found myself pausing frequently to marvel at his facility for description, more like poetry in parts than prose. I wouldn’t recommend it as a relaxing read, but it is stunning in it’s style and expression. ‘My Absolute Darling’ if you are like your fiction gripping, disturbing and even temporarily soul destroying….

Now I am reading W.Somerset Maugham’s ‘South Sea Stories’. He is also a king of description, although more sparse and understated. I love that he is describing the Pacific I love, but from many generations ago. Fascinating. Here is his description of the ocean, the very same that twinkles just beyond my fale doors.

“The Pacific is inconstant and uncertain like the soul of man. Sometimes it is grey like the English Channel off Beachy Head, with a heavy swell. And sometimes it is rough, capped with white crests and boisterous. It is not so often that it is calm and blue. Then, indeed, the blue is arrogant.

The sun shines fiercely from and unclouded sky. The trade winds get into your blood and you are filled with an impatience of the unknown. You forget your vanished youth, with it’s memories, cruel and sweet, in a restless intolerable desire for life.

But there are days also when the Pacific is like a lake. The sea is flat and shining. The flying fish, a gleam of shadow on the brightness of a mirror, make little fountains of sparkling drops when they dip. There are fleecy clouds on the horizon, and at sunset they take on strange shapes so that it is impossible not to believe that you see a range of lofty mountains. “

I love Maugham’s observations of the changing moods of the Pacific. Each day here is so different. Today we are overcast and the ocean is grey on grey, rippled by a warm breeze and gently lapping on the shore. The palm fronds are swaying gently and the wildlife mostly quiet, indolent in the heat and waiting for the cool of evening. I am about to get up and make myself a chai tea. I will take it down to the beach and blow the steam across the rim and over the horizon. Exhale, inhale.

Malo.

Beautiful, beautiful girl.

Two and a half years ago, my girl’s dearest dream came true when she rounded the corner of the stables at her riding school and met a very special pony. A pony of her own.  She couldn’t speak for half an hour; lost in a thrall of wonder and joy. It was the beginning of such a beautiful friendship. This is her on that day, the picture was later used for the cover of the Horse and Pony ‘Ponies’ mag.

We’ve just had the vet out to see our beautiful girl. Her leg has been swollen and not responsive to ice, poulticing and wrapping. She looked at it, grimaced a little and got the ultrasound machine. After looking at the ligaments from every angle, she started her next sentence with
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news…”.
I swallowed, hard. She talked about how the type of injury was the sort of thing they usually see in high performance sport horses, that it is often career-ending. Our mare had injured her check ligament in the paddock (probably reliving her heydays with all her galpals).  The vet showed me on the screen the big hole in her ligament.

Then it was time for a thorough check up. And more bad news; her melanomas have spread into her face and through her gastointestinal tract. She is not a young filly, our girl. This year she’ll be 25 years old.  The treatment for her leg injury means six months of penning, treatment and rehab. There is no treatment for the spread of the melanomas.  She won’t be flying around like the fiery showjumper she is, anymore.

We are faced with having to weigh up that beautiful pony’s future.  To make the hardest decision of all. How do you know if euthanasia is even right? How do you explain that sometimes, that is the kindest path, to a kid who loves this pony with all of her being?  I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way. I’m talking to her about how responsibility means making tough decisions sometimes; about not letting her beautiful pony suffer longer, about letting her go with the dignity she deserves, while she is in a happy place, surrounded by love. And in between I’m fighting back the helpless sadness of this mothering task and wondering how on earth we will say goodbye.

I want to shield my daughter from the sorrow of it all, but my arms can’t hold it back. This pain we feel is as much a part of living as the air we breathe. It’s as much a part of loving, as the happy times. So often I’ve had to say to my kids: the cost of great love is the grief we must shoulder when we lose our loved ones.  When the sadness of loss overwhelms us: it is proof of the depth of our love, of how lucky we have been.

Lyndsay-pony (elsewhere on this blog referred to as Lulu) will always be a special part of our family. The gifts she brought us when we were lucky enough to become hers will be treasured forever. There is no forgetting a beautiful girl like that.  She hasn’t just made my daughter’s pony dreams come true, but mine too. I don’t know how we are going to say goodbye when the time is right, but we will. We will find a way that is respectful and kind and beautiful.  I hope that the rainbow bridge really is there. I hope we’ll cross over one day and find her there, waiting to wuffle into our palms again and push her beautiful big head up against us.  I know my Bee will want to twist her fingers through her mane again and whisper secret pony murmurs into her grey ears.

Until then, sweet girl, we will just miss you with deep gratitude.  Thank you for making our lives so much better.  I’m so sorry we can’t fix you and I wish with all my heart that you could stay with us.  Be free, Sweetness. Go run into the bright sunshine and let the wind fly your hair.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl.

 

 

Kel’s Angels

Today is the anniversary of Kellie‘s death. All over the world, the people she impacted in life will be feeling a deeper ache today. 365 more days around the sun on this blue and green planet, in our little sector of the universe. For many of us she is our Supernova. A brief, brilliant miracle. A solar biker chick, burning trails in the galaxy.  Spinning on a dime and firing up the skies as she blazes past.

I think of lyrics from a song that has always helped my own mother-grief, Bright Star by the Indigo Girls. This song has always spoken to me and for me. Today I’m dedicating it to Kellie’s girl, Ash.  For me, it is the song from a daughter to a mother she has lost. I’m sure Ash has her own grief music closer to her generation!  I just wanted to share this one from my heart to hers.

Fare thee well my bright star
It was a brief brilliant miracle dive
That which I looked up to and I clung to for dear life
Had to burn itself up just to make itself alive

And I caught you then in your moment of glory
Your last dramatic scene against a night sky stage
With a moment so clear that it’s as if you’re still before me
My once in a lifetime star of an age

So fare thee well my bright star
Last night the tongues of fire circled me around
And this strange season of pain will come to pass
When the healing hands of autumn cool me down

-Indigo Girls ‘Bright Star’

Today I received an email from Kellie’s husband Mark.  He wrote to share the latest news of the Scholarship Fund they created in Kellie’s name. I love the idea of a legacy like that. Her passions, her generosity.  Here is what he wrote:

Hi All –
With today being the 19th of July, I thought it would be meaningful to celebrate our memory of Kellie today with an update on the scholarship.

Nicola was our first recipient who went on to achieve remarkable success in her final year with a GPA of 6.66, two publications, and several readings. Beyond this she was continuing to submit to larger journals. She shared how this would not have been possible without receiving the award. In short, the outcome for our 2016 recipient exceeded all expectations.

Luc, Ash, Ann, Charlotte and I attended the presentation event late last year at QUT where the 2017 recipient was announced. We have another very worthy recipient in James (picture attached). I am particularly pleased to understand James specialises in writing Sci-Fi. As part of his address, it was good and unexpected for Luc and Ash to hear Glen talk about Kellie’s passion and engagement in class.

As I think about Kellie’s legacy, the part that resonates (as I write this note) is how she never gave up exploring and sharing her passion for life with those around her.

Mark

The ‘Ann and Charlotte’ Mark speaks of are his new wife and new baby. The family is doing really well according to my sources, in case you were wondering like I did! Babies are magical joy bringers. Big love to the van Meurs. And big love to you Kel. Your angels are here doing their thing; your angel gift to those writers enables them to do theirs.

We miss you. X

Surgery

Yippee Ki Yi Ay.
I’m on my way.
Back in the saddle again…

…not exactly. This time I’m back in the stirrups again. This will be my seventh downstairs-region-surgery and I feel like I’m becoming an expert at donning the theatre garb. I’d prefer to be donning the actual-theatre-garb. Reckon the other patients in here would too. We’re lined up in recliner chairs, hairnets and compression knee highs on, politely smiling at the surgeon and anaesthetists who call on us, trying not to think about the fact that very soon, our hoohas will be seen by those very same people.

I don’t like it.

I have set my jaw in resolute forebearance. My exterior is calm and quiet. Only my blood pressure gives anyone any clue that it upsets me to be back here again.  The nurse hums and hahs and goes off to let them know. She’s worried about stroke risk. I’m not, I know it is just a reasonable physiological response to gynae surgery. If you think about it, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I have to suspend my mind, somehow, and not think about the fact that there will be knives in my lady bits, while I am unconscious! Of course my blood pressure is high, that is an alarming thing!!!!

So, off I go. Pretending to be brave again and feeling like a scared kid.
(be gentle with me kind surgeon)

I look forward to being on the other side of it.
How do you cope with pre-op nerves?

 

UPDATE:  They were so lovely and gave me lots of nice medicines to make it all okay. I’m out and delightfully ‘lala-land-y’. Resting in bed for a bit now and no lifting for a good long time.  Shame I couldn’t get them to instruct that there should be no cooking, child ferrying,  washing or otherwise domestic delights for the next six months!  Ha.  Just thought I’d let you know that it all went really well, the surgeon found two more unhealed incisions to repair from the last surgery, so it is good that I agreed to get it done. Should be good as new now! 😉  Happy days. I’m off for a snooze.

 

Toe Dancing :: Secret of Life


Just now, I noticed that my toes were dancing.
I’m listening to my soul-minstrel, James Taylor.  He makes my toes jiggle. Which makes my heart giggle. It’s happiness, right there.   I’m just going to leave these lyrics and his song here for you. Maybe you need a bit of toe dancing on this fine Friday night, too.

The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
The secret of love
Is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid,
But don’t let that stand in your way.
‘Cause anyone knows
That love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while,
Might as well show some style.
Give us a smile.
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
Now the thing about time
Is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view,
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he
Could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space,
The smile upon your face,
Welcome to the human race.
Some kind of lovely ride.
I’ll be sliding down,
I’ll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
(Isn’t it a lovely ride?)
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.

Ora; to survive, escape

*Warning.  Trigger material, suicide, depression, anxiety.

black silhouette of girl in boat
“You’ll be the boat and I’ll be the sea. Won’t you come with me?” -Lisa Hannigan (lyrics and artwork from Lisa’s music video; Ora).

Here is a definition from the Maori Dictionary

1. (verb) to be alive, well, safe, cured, recovered, healthy, fit, healed.
2. (verb) to survive, escape.
3. (verb) to recover, revive.

In New Zealand, “Kia Ora” is our Te Reo Maori greeting. It is used to say hello, wish good luck, or acknowledge someone’s presence.  “Hauora” is the life breath of wellbeing. When we press noses, or ‘hongi’ we are sharing the Hau of one another. The concept of Ora is a beautiful one. I have been seeking Ora my whole life.  Desperately when I was physically ill, and again when I was mentally ill. Just now  it feels like every definition of this word fits my feeling of Ora.

Today I heard a song that made me shiver with recognition. It is called, simply, Ora.  It is composed and sung by Lisa Hannigan.  I don’t know if Lisa Hannigan has used this word the way we know it in NZ, but I liked the synergy. So today, I’m bringing the two together. You can listen to it below.

To me, this song is a siren song. It is an echo of the dangerous thoughts in my quiet mind that told me I should take my life, that it could be simple, that I owed it to my family.  I don’t think Lisa’s lyrics literally mean that, but they sounded like the false comfort of the thoughts I had.

“Bleach me to silver
Under the moon
Pulling the water round
And me to you

I’m going home”

Those type of thoughts only happened when I was not in my right mind.

I could easily have not recognised them for what they were.  They seemed so reasonable, so calm. So devastatingly logical. But my analytical mind would not let go of me.  It asked me questions;

Why would you fight for survival and then throw your whole life away?
(I wouldn’t).

How could you leave them, those treasures of your heart, your beautiful ones?
(I don’t want to, I just want to leave the pain, free them of me).

Do you want your babies to grieve their mother as you grieve yours, only flooded forever with the acid sting that it was your choice to die?  (NO!)

Can you wait a little longer, wait and see if this torment, too, shall pass?
(I don’t think so, but I will).

Why are you thinking these thoughts, Rachel? What has changed?
My meds!

I’ve written before about my CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), arising from Gynaecological surgeries and ongoing lady issues.  It’s been a blow, to have fought to get well and still have that millstone around my neck. I am going in for another surgery in three weeks time. I hate Gynae surgery. I hate Gynae pain. I hate taking medicines and having to go to the hospital so frequently for outpatient clinics. I know I am lucky to have the service available; I am so fortunate to have wonderful experts who can help me. I’m currently under the care of an excellent Gynaecological Surgeon, the Pain Team, a Health Psychologist, a Pelvic Physio and the Mental Health Unit. But oh I am weary of hospital crap.

A few months ago, I disappeared from Facebook and took steps to make my life simpler. I left online patient groups, I stopped seeing more than my immediate family and closest friends. I was hanging on by my fingernails, hating myself and my problems, gritting my teeth and pushing through. I kept telling myself we all go through lows. But then the thoughts began. Nasty, quiet, sinister little suggestions. They felt like truth.

I asked my pain doctor about my meds. He thought it was not likely that they were causing my shift in thinking. We pushed on. I was referred to a psychiatrist at the Mental Health Unit to see if she could find something to help. She suggested I increase one of my meds by a significant amount.  At higher doses it not only helps people with pain, but also with anxiety, a frequent visitor to my state of mind. She listed the side effects, which sounded almost exactly like the Dysautonomic nightmare years I have just escaped from.
Oh no no no no no! The voiceless protests clamoured inside my head.

I left her rooms, got in my car and stared at the world outside my window. I put my head against the steering wheel and sobbed. And then my analytical mind began to yell at me.
Rachel! Something is wrong!  You know it is!
Take charge, be your own advocate again. Sort this shit out!

I called my hubster and we had a bit of crisis meeting, right there on the phone. We agreed that I would call my pain doctor and wean myself off my meds, one at a time and see if the suicidal thoughts abated.  Inside my cells, I think I already knew which one.  I started with that. Within two weeks, I was calmer.  Within three, the thoughts had stopped. I was back in my right mind.  In pain again, but mentally sound.

I resolved to aim for a med-free regime. To see if walking every day might help to naturally boost my seratonin, might help me cope. The Pain Team agreed, under the proviso that we stay in contact if things became unmanageable.  And here I am.  This morning I woke up and took no pills. I went for a walk. I looked at the view. I hummed a happy tune. I came home and drank a coffee, found some sunshine and listened to music. I heard Lisa’s song. And I thought that I should talk about how sweet and sensible that siren song of my own seemed. I should warn people to be wary of dangerous thoughts. They might sound oh-so-kind but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

If your thinking EVER turns in the direction of suicide, or suicide plans.  PLEASE GET HELP. Your families and dear ones would NEVER recover from the loss of you by your own hand. It would never be okay, or better, or a relief.  It would never be a good solution.  Getting help is better. Listening to wise people is better. Trusting that this too, shall pass, is better.

If someone you love is acting differently, is struggling to find joy in life, get help for them. You can only help if they let you, but please try.

Some medications do bad things to people in weird ways, ways not intended by the manufacturer or understood by the doctors. Keep telling people. Try something different. Be aware of side effects.  Call for help!
* never cease taking a drug without medical advice

I am so glad I am here and get to love and write and hum and walk and dream and breathe and be!

X ~Rach

Her Hands

I’m preparing for a visit from my sister. She lives across the other side of the country and she and I are both finding that as we get older, we are softer to one another. More compassionate about the challenges we face, more cognisant of the similarities than all the differences. I find myself seeing my sister through our mother’s eyes. With a special kind of maternal love and tenderness; a kindness that evaded me in my younger years.  I think we recognise that without our mother, we are the only ones who can bring Mum’s loveliness back. By being her hands, her heart… for each other.

At the local grocer’s, I was looking at the fresh cut flowers, mentally relishing the names of all the flowers Mum loved. I saw the Alstromarias, the Roses (blush pink for the wedding dress she sewed my sister) and the Leukodendrons.  I could almost hear my mother’s voice, patiently showing me how to trim the stems, why we do; chatting as she arranged stems lovingly in a vase. She loved flowers.  I bought the pink roses, the pink and plum-toned Alstromarias she favoured in her garden (they last such a long time, she would say… a brilliant cut flower) and the green and deep burgundy Leukodendrons.  I bought them on behalf of my Mumma, a tribute of her love for my sister.

Earlier, at the hospital pharmacy, my eye was drawn to all the things that Trissy would love. I chose some sugar free jubes, smiling at the memory of how Mum used to squash jubes and marshmallows between thumb and forefinger before popping them into her mouth with a flourish. I chose some jelly beans, because Mum liked them too, she kept them in her handbag and would sneak a few in at an opportune moment. I chose some soap that smelled of Guava, a strong childhood memory portal, that scent.

I feel my Mumma close to me today, as I get ready to see her other girl. My sister and I will chat all weekend about her, about life and love and motherhood and all-the-things.  I look at my hands, looking more and more like I remember hers. The same lines. The same textures and contours. I like that. Her hands, my hands.

Just for a while this weekend; the strength of longing of two girls for their Mum will be satiated by some time spent with someone who understands. Like no other person could.

In the presence of what remains. Each other; sisters, daughters.

Mum’s hands, Mum’s heart.

Speaking of Shoes

I was sure I was ascending the stairway to heaven. This was the address for Angels for Shoes (how apt! Cue the choir of angels) …the shoe shop for big-footed girls. As we pushed open the door, I took a hopeful, anticipatory breath. This place must surely be the solution to my foot problems…!?

I was 14 years old and on my way to boarding school from the tropical turmoil of Papua New Guinea. For two years, I had been wearing shoes too small for my feet. This meant a cycle of ingrown toenails which easily infected in the heat and dirt of a third world country. It was excruciating….  almost as bad as the embarrassment I felt about my shoes. Perspective, right? For teenagers, being able to wear what the others wear is disproportionately important. I’d been wearing my jelly shoes from the last time we’d gone on leave, two years prior. When the plastic had popped under pressure from my toes, we went to the Trade Store and found some men’s karate shoes that fit me. It wasn’t shoe heaven.

Mum had done some research and found that there was a store in Sydney for people with larger feet. It was the store I was about to enter. Angels. We knew that I would need casual shoes and something for chapel. The school uniform shop stocked T-bar boats, and men’s sneakers would suffice, so they weren’t on the shopping list until we got to Melbourne.  But I had in mind a cute little pair of ballet flats and some pointy toed, kitten heels.  Everyone was wearing those.

The store was packed into a tiny two rooms. There were massive shoes everywhere. Orthotic bunion friendly lace ups, garden gumboots, shiny patent high heels, mother-of-the-bride shoes in oyster, blush and pewter. I craned my neck for the door that would lead to the cool shoes. There wasn’t one. My breath rushed out in a disappointed sigh. “Oh.” I murmured. Mum rallied, brightly suggesting I try various things. She rifled through the sale racks and emerged triumphant with a thick heeled teal court shoe, the kind your grandmother might wear to the CWA annual general meeting. With a hat.
“-these are fun!” she said. I plonked down on the padded chair to try the ‘fun’ shoes on. We emerged an hour later, with three pairs of motherly shoes that fit my feet perfectly. A pair of black patent heels (“Classics!” the shoe lady had chortled), the ‘fun’ shoes that I would never wear and some square heeled pearl ivory wedding shoes.  I resolved that somewhere out there, someday, I would find some shoes that I love.

I’ve never lost the yen for a great long shoe. I love shoes.
And when I find shoes I love that fit me, I am a goner.

Fast forward thirty odd years. My twelve year old’s feet have just grown beyond the size range of most shoe stores. This week, she has her best friend’s Bat Mitzvah to attend, so finding her some appropriate footwear is our new mission. Sometimes, you can find flats that will fit a size 11 foot in places like K-mart or The Warehouse, but I think it is time for her to have a pair of leather shoes that feel good. So we’re off to the store that actually does house angels, a store that truly warrants it’s own angel choir. Willow Shoes. This Long-Foot-Nirvana stocks everything, from the podiatry friendly Frankie4 (orthotic shoes have come a LONG way) to funky hot pink leopard brogues. I am certain we can find my girl exactly what she needs. I have in mind these sweet little flats, but I’ll be letting her choose.


Willow are online and deliver around NZ and Australia, so if you are across the ditch, or not one of their NZ locations, check out their website. Gorgeous, gorgeous things! The variety always boggles my brain! So much choice. I recently wore their shoes for a shoot. Heaven indeed! So amazing to model in shoes that fit rather than squeezing into whatever stunt shoes are in the studio.  Nothing makes you feel more like an Ugly Stepsister than squishing your feet into a Cinderella slipper.  How amazing are these heels with the blue metallic heel. Swoon!  You can see the whole shoot here, but I’ll be talking more about that on the blog soon.

Thank you Willow, for giving me happy feet. And for being there for my baby girl in our quest for better footwear.

POST SCRIPT:
Mission accomplished!