The Poet

The first time I fell in love, it was in the library. I was in Year 7 and he was in Year 12 (oh the scandal!) so hanging out around everyone else always drew unwanted attention. None of the narks and gossips went to the library at lunch time, so that is where we could meet without scrutiny. I liked to think that the librarian understood our impossible situation and had a soft spot for young love. It seemed all very Romeo and Juliet to me, star crossed lovers, forbidden by family to be together.  His skin was golden brown and his eyes flecked with gray and gold. But it wasn’t his skin or his eyes that made me fall so hard. It was the poetry. That day, he asked me to hold out my hand and close my eyes. He placed two things in my palm. A folded piece of paper, and a tiny heart carved from chalk with the point of a compass. The heart, he told me, had taken all of a double maths period. The poem he’d written last night, lying in bed, thinking of me.

I was moved.  My heart was his. He wrote poetry for me!

 

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A few years later, when time and circumstance had brought that ill-fated tryst to a close, I heard that poem on the radio. It was song lyrics, from a song written long before I ever met him. His declaration of love was a pilfered fake. That moment of perfect romance; plastered on the walls of my gallery of treasured memories, frayed and curled on the edges before dropping to the floor.  A new fissure cracked across the surface of my idealistic heart. It would underscore my opinion of men, along with all the other little and big betrayals. All the while, the books I had read, the movies I had watched, built my romantic hopes until there was no man that could reach them. And eventually, there I was at 23, divorced and bitter. My young husband had gotten our friend pregnant, he had left to live with her and raise their family.  It took a few years, but finally, I saw a counsellor.

“Why do you punish every man you meet for the behaviour of another person?” she asked.  It gave me pause. I realised that I couldn’t go on like that. Dropping all my disappointments at the feet of any man, as if he were solely responsible for the failings of all men.  My man-hating ways had to find some balance. I had to look at people as people, not with the prejudice I had toward their gender. Or be forever alone. At that time, being alone seemed like a fate worse than death.

I spent years looking for a person to spend my life with. Years for learning a great deal about the nature of men and of myself. About how being a ‘victim’ of relationship breakdown is a choice. Bitterness is counterproductive. When things go wrong, we are always equally responsible for how it will play out, no matter how preposterous that might seem. And that I am the only person who can be accountable for my own happiness. I grew up. Poetry isn’t always literary genius, sometimes, poetry is a two word text in the middle of the day: ‘Love you’.

Romance takes many forms, if you care to notice it. A cup of tea when you’re not expecting it. A shared glance about something over the heads of the kids. Or something like this…

 

'Enjoy the day my honey. Love you!'
‘Enjoy the day my honey. Love you!’

Today I have wrestled from our schedule a little bit of ‘me’ time. Time to write, to drink coffee and muse. It’s been a busy school holidays and the kids are off doing fun activities, both on the same day in a little bit of heavenly orchestration. I have loads of jobs to do, but I don’t mind a whit… because I can do them uninterrupted and listening to my own music! I can dance like a ninny around the house and tap out my words into the ether. The hubster knew how much I was looking forward to my day of solitude; he gets it. So when I got back to my quiet kitchen from dropping off the kids, I found his words scrawled across the splash back in the kitchen. They are not borrowed words, they are straight from the heart words, genuine words. Words to make my heart warm.

I am the luckiest of girls to have a guy like that in my life. He is a whiteboard-marker-wielding poet, even if I didn’t know it. 😉

Margot le Page -What If?

watercolour splodge with the words 'What if this is as good as it gets?" in white text

This Meet My Peeps guest post is written by a friend I met in my patient group. Margot Le Page is a wonderful writer and a gutsy person.  She asks a question each of us comes to at some point in our chronic illness journey.  And answers it in a powerful way.  I think you’ll agree that Margot’s perspective is worth sharing. Thanks Margot for sharing your story here.   -Rach

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I don’t remember when I first heard this question. It’s not original.  However, I do remember asking myself.

The first time was a couple of months after a 9 hour massive back surgery to correct and stabilise my spine which was basically collapsing. I had scoliosis and ‘rotting ‘discs. I was 47.

I had led an exciting and complicated life to this point. From Oxide Street, Broken Hill to Rodeo Drive Beverly Hills, 2 marriages, 2 beautiful children. I was confident, extrovert and capable.

But, I had always been a bit sick. Nothing too major. Adenoids, allergies, appendix, basal cell carcinoma, pretty much the full a-z, all the way to ’zoans (ie protozoans my gut!) But seriously, nothing really hit me hard and I always recovered, following my Mother’s belief that we were a family of self-healers.  She should know after all, surviving an aerial gliding accident, 36 and pregnant, resulting in massively traumatic injuries including a leg amputation and the awful loss of the little girl, Helene Julia, she was carrying.

I had been given the ‘bad news about my back when I was 17. I was training to be a paediatric nurse with access to great doctors and highly respected specialists who told me it (my spinal curvature) was going to get worse and I would eventually end up in a wheelchair. I heard them but certainly did not actually believe them.  Well, not on the surface anyway. Denial can be a nice safe place sometimes.

Maybe, just maybe somewhere deep inside my head I knew those boffins were right and I proceeded to live my life in a hurry, keen to get away from that place. I sought care and treatment away from conventional medicine and explored a myriad of alternative treatments. You name it, I’ve tried it. Acupuncture, absent healing, aromatherapy, cranio-sacral therapy, osteopathy, a Russian Mystic, numerology, past-life, sacred oils, Indian Brahma Kumari meditation. (I’m sure there’s another a-z here too!)  I studied Reiki and nutrition, Pilates and yoga.  And spent a lot, I mean a lot, of money along the way.
Needless to say, those know-it-all doctors I had seen many years before were sadly, pretty right.  I came back to Australia from the US to seek conventional medical wisdom in a country where I trusted the system and had family and friends to support me.

So, there I was. Single, adult kids doing their thing, a long way from Los Angeles and my ‘other’ life, in a reconstructed body I couldn’t yet drive, barely surviving on social security, fighting a bitter divorce, needing opioids, wearing an awful shoulder to hip brace, using a walking stick…… pretty bloody depressing actually.  I cried and cried for lots of things.

And then somehow, with no tears left and a couple of truly wonderful friends helping me, my head not really together, I asked myself the Big Question. “What if this is as good as it’s going to get? Can I actually, really live like this? Maybe forever?”  The answer came… not immediately. But then I surprised myself with a resounding. “Of course I can!”. My thinking changed. I recalibrated. I thought of all the things I could do, not what I couldn’t. I didn’t feel so bad after all. I could get on a tram 600m from my front door when my drugs kicked in, and with one stop would get me to a bank, post office and supermarket. It might take all day, but, I could manage. I began to notice little things again. Cracks in the footpath where tiny daisies pushed their way through, sunlight playing through my blinds, sounds of birds and crickets….. I was all right.

11 years later I’m asking myself that question again.
5 further back surgeries, broken rods, pulmonary embolisms, dural tears, spinal fluid leaks, a craniotomy, I even had my gall bladder out in there somewhere too and my finger stitched!
I now have 13 vertebrae fused (great posture), increasing numbness and weakness in my right leg and a new diagnosis, Dysautonomia. Great?  Not.  Terrible? No.

My dear Mother, now aged 85, only 27 years older than me, currently not in great shape, has taught me so much. So, if, if, I live to her age, can I go for another 27 years like this, like I am now?
Of course I can.  Not ideal, but….. (big breath)

There will be more challenges ahead, I know that. I will no doubt ask myself the question again, probably more than once.
With less I have become more.
I am a good mother, a good partner a good friend.
I don’t mind me.
I am fortunate.