Karen: Lost in the Fog

Welcome back to the Meet my Peeps Guest Series.

I am so delighted to bring you this post from Karen. IT Professional,  fellow horse lover and chronic illness sufferer, Karen has a hard row to hoe.  She is dealing with all the challenges Dysautonomia throws her way, largely, on her own.  She does however have the wonderful company of her beautiful animal companions. Three very special horses, Meko, Oscar and Bazil, and two personable pups, Kitty and Milly.

Karen is a deeply practical person with a passion for animals and the outdoors.  She lives in beautiful Tasmania. Whenever she can she spends time making the most of her stunning surroundings and the company of her faithful companions; cooking for friends when able and enjoying being part of a close knit community.

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A picture of horses in the dim foggy light of early morning.

I’ve reached the point in my journey of chronic illness where suddenly all of the denial is falling away. As night ends the dawn appears and the reality of my situation arrives quietly, like an early morning winter fog. It’s a cold…desolate…an eerie place to be.

My Specialist, who has gone over and above in his efforts to help, has said there isn’t much more to try. And I have tried to keep those thoughts of reality away, hoping my current trial treatments will be enough to help me to climb out of this latest setback. And always, the hope that perhaps, there will be a magic pill that will suddenly get me back on track to better health.

Lost amongst that fog, I cannot see where my journey will take me and what the future holds for me. Feeling cold and somewhat numb, I realise I need to pull myself together, to prepare myself for when that fog eventually clears. The key words here are ‘Me’ and ‘I’. Not ‘The Specialist’ not ‘The Medication’ not ‘My Friends’. I cannot find them through this fog. So I look down at what I can see….my hands, my arms, my legs, my feet and I realise that they are all I have to help.

All the things that I either can no longer do, or which cause great expense or payback, come to mind. I think of my dreams of being healthy and active again, living life to the fullest. I think of watching it all pass by me, the whole impossibility of the situation, and a few random tears begin to fall. I’m so glad that shrouded by this fog, nobody can see me like this.

And as the fog begins to dissolve, I see clearly what matters to me the most. My beautiful animal companions who worry over me, who are there for me, the ones that offer me a hug when there are some tears or when I just need one. I can give them a better life if my health improves. Walks along the beach, rides along those bush trails, drives to mysterious destinations yet to be discovered. New experiences. This is what I have to work towards and hope for when the sun re-appears.

I muse a little more. I make some plans. I make a decision in the depths of that fog. This is my tipping point. This is where I need to take control of my own health and not expect others to fix it. It’s a wake up call. I promise myself that I will do what I can to climb out of this valley I’m in. I think about how the introspection within the fog has allowed me to centre my thoughts on me. To block the distractions out and decide on a new direction.

As that fog makes way for the bright sunlight and the brilliant day that lies ahead of me. I know I must take advantage of this day to put my plans into action. To reach my goals in life. To climb out of that valley myself.  I know that next time, I will recognise that fog as something beautiful. Knowing that I am in charge of my life and that I got through it before, into the light of a sunny day.

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Meko and I Swimming_In_Swan_Lake
Karen and the magnificent Meko in Swan Lake

 

Picture of a beautiful bay horse face (belongs to Bazil, who belongs to Karen)
The Beautiful Bazil

Pipe Dreams

Last night I had a strange dream.  You know those dreams that are so vivid you can smell them?  And when you wake up you are sure you’ve really been there?
I dreamt that I had found an abandoned animal.  It wasn’t the prettiest of creatures but my love for it was instant and fierce.  The coat and markings were all mussied up and it’s frame was uneven and lopey.  It was hungry, so I made it some food.  Hot porridge.  I was worried about how small our yard was, because I already knew without question that I was going to give that animal a home.  Our postage stamp lawn is too small for a gangly, moth-eaten creature that needs lots of room to move.  But I rationalised it would take a while to feed it enough food for it to have energy for moving, so it would be okay, for now.  And I made it a nesty place to rest.  I made a mental note to talk to the hubster about building a shelter. And kept offering the porridge.  That beautiful creature rested its heavy head in my arms and looked at me with its big liquid caramel eyes.  I knew that it would be okay.  I knew I had enough love, I was going to protect him, rescue him.

And then I woke up.
My daughter came into my room and I said,
“Guess what I dreamt about last night?”  Her eyebrows lifted.  “I dreamt I found a horse and brought it home”.  Her smile stretched across her morning face.  She hugged herself tight.  
“Ohhhh, Mum.  I wish you would”
“He was piebald” I said.
“I would still love him” she said.
“He was very skinny” I said.
“I would feed him” she said.  Girl after my own heart.

Do you have dreams that you know can’t come true? I do.  I’ve long since said goodbye to my career dreams.  My dreams about how I want to look and how I want my home to look. I’ve given up on dancing. Being an artist. Accepted that I won’t be who I envisaged I’d be. I’m okay with all of that. But I still really wish we could move to the country.  It’s a painful dream because I know it can’t come true.  I have visions of a warm house, all on one level.  With views out to the countryside from the kitchen.  Fruit trees and veggie gardens and a paddock or two.  A stable.  A kennel.  And all that green, as far as the eye can see.

source: www.flash-screen.com

I am stuck here; I need to stay in the catchment for our main hospital.  I don’t have private health insurance, so I need to be near where the public system can help me best.  I have lots of appointments to go to and travelling distance is hard for me, so the closer, the better.  Then there’s schools, and the commute. No, I’m lucky to live so central.  But when I look out my window, the only grass I can see is on the Mountain over the way.  Our own grass ends so close to the house I can’t even see it.  I yearn for fields of green.  I want a view that steps out all the way to the horizon.  I want to see my hubster, deep in concentration in his workshop, building something. Happy. I want to see Zed running around  and laughing with his dog, the dog we don’t have. And Bee, galloping across the paddock on the horse she sees every night when she closes her eyes for sleep.

Instead, I feed my impoverished dreams with intentionless online property searches. I nurture my need for country with weekly treks out to Bee’s riding class.  Drinking in the views, the space, the smell of that air. Feeling bad that it is me and this stupid illness stopping us from having that life.  Wishing I didn’t have to be asleep and pipe-dreaming to nurture the hopes of my heart.

Where would you live if there were no limits? No barriers?  Nothing stopping you?

Horse Sense

Todays post is dedicated to Natalya.  A beautiful person, a stunning dressage rider, horsewoman and an excellent coach.  Once, one of the mothers at Saturday riding said that horses were stupid creatures.
“No,” said Natalya, “They’re actually incredibly sensitive” and I loved her even more.

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When I was about 14, life in Lae, where I grew up was getting a bit scary.  There were more and more violent attacks against women; the stories of rape and murder too close to home. That was part of the scenery in that beautiful place.  Violence, unrest.  Contrast, corruptions; trouble in paradise. There were riots and curfews, the township windows were all boarded up.  We had a security guard and a razor wire fence.  Expats were leaving in droves.  
Among them were our friends who had recently moved back to Melbourne. Their kids were all at the same school there.  The school also took co-ed boarders; a happy coincidence.  See, our older siblings were already through their schooling, but Brett and I weren’t.  I had plans.

It was decided that my brother and I would go to that school in Melbourne, as boarders.  It was 3448km away.  But I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. It’s not like Mum and Dad exactly planned for that.  Perhaps I had read altogether too many “In a Pickle at Mallory Towers” style books, but  I was convinced that boarding school would be smashing fun!  All pillow fights and jolly good lacrosse games.  I pictured myself resplendent in serge tunic, opening care packages from home and sharing out toffees. I would be the new girl everyone wanted to be friends with and my new uniform would make me look magically slender and effortlessly attractive.  All the boys would be nice.  And one of them would fall in love with me, pledge to marry me and we’d eventually move to a big house in the country. 

So I got my friend’s mum to send the prospectus to my folks. I had already tried and failed in my bid to go to another Australian boarding schools for girls.  What made this plan so perfect was that my brother could come too, Mum and Dad were sure to go for that! I possibly wheedled and nagged for a few solid months. I may even have filled in the forms and got their signatures under duress.  Cracking effort really.  I got my way. And away we went.

Melbourne was about as different to Papua New Guinea as you could get.  There was no security fence around the boarding house.  There was only one lock on the door.  No dead bolt, no security guard.  We were allowed to walk to the shops.  We caught trains and buses.  We went into Croydon for hot chips (and sneaky cigarettes).  There was an enormous amount of freedom.  At first I found that really hard, I felt insecure in the truest sense of the word.  My homesickness was a shock to me.  Mallory Towers was a crock. My new school was actually excellent, the other boarders and house mistresses were (mostly) lovely… but it just wasn’t what I had dreamed up in my Enid Blyton imaginations.

Down at the bottom of the school, beyond the sports field, there was a paddock.  It’s all built up and developed now, but back then, there it was. I would wander,  cold and displaced, down to the bottom field after school finished for the day.  The other girls would be whacking a ball around the tennis courts, or chatting, or doing homework, or watching RAGE.  I’d grab an apple and head down there, away from everyone. Toward solace. I had a secret friend down there.  A big bay horse with giant molten black eyes.  I called him Licorice.  Mostly for those delicious eyes. He’d see me coming and trot over to the fence, whinnying a greeting across the field.  He wanted my apple, but I felt like he wanted to see me.  To wuffle his warm whiskery breath into my palm and push against me with his heavy head.  I’d talk to him; all about it.  About all of the strangeness I was finding.  About my little lost self.  About missing my home.  About how I made a mistake pushing them to send me away. He’d listen and nudge me, knowing.  Sometimes, he’d rest his head over my shoulder.  I loved that horse.  He was only there for a few weeks.  Or maybe it was that I only needed him for a few weeks; I remember going to see him and he was gone.
And it was strangely, okay.  I’d found my way.

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I walk into the stable yard of my daughter’s riding school, and take in a big deep, satisfied breath.  Horses smell of warmth and hay, of dust and the sunshine. I am pushing myself this morning.  But it is worth it.  My girl has such a passion for horses, they are her everything. Her face is transformed, completely absorbed already; fingers wrapped in mane, face against warm neck.  We’ve just arrived and she is home, right there in the loose box, lost in the love of a horse that will never be hers.  My stomach lurches and I struggle to stand upright, I look for a spot to lean.  And I see him, the horse in the neighbouring pen.  He’s new to the riding school, there on trial.  He bends his beautiful head down toward my tummy, pushing gently against me. Hello, I croon.  You are new here They’re nice you know, they’ll look after you, Beautiful Boy.  He keeps wuffling against my tummy.  Blowing warm breath into my jumper. 

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He looks directly into my eyes.  I know, he thinks in my direction.  It hurts.  And there I am, back there with my Boarding School bay. I reach up and stroke the soft spot under his forelock.  Thank you, I think back.  The ‘knowing’ is the same gift I received in that paddock, twenty five years ago. But the pains are different, then and now.

Then, the pain of regret, the loneliness of a child-woman.
Now, the pain of illness, the knowing of a woman-child.
And here, this horse, this beautiful, clever horse.
Where did I put that apple?

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The first photo in this piece is by Be Couper.  The one above of me was taken by my daughter Bee last weekend.  I took the one of her; we’re with Trina.  She is not the horse I mention here, but is also totally divine.  Thank you Evie for letting us smooch with her and go all papparazzi.  The picture of Bee was taken by me.