The Grammar of my Fears

Note: the lyrics in this post are a collection of lines from three sources.  I have combined them in my own order.  The original writers of all the songs are Emily Saliers (of the Indigo Girls), Rob Hyman, Eric Bazilian (of the Hooters) and John Denver.

I drove across some of the most beautiful countryside in the North Island today. Listening to the music of my young years.  The Hooters and The Indigo Girls might be odd CD-stack neighbours, but they harmonized with John Denver to give me a soundtrack that melted the miles into memories of my past.  I love them all fiercely and sang loud, alone in the closeted interior of the car. Green fields and cows whizzed by my windows as I lost myself in lyrics I had forgotten that I remember.  Holding the notes for just that bit longer than the song called for; holding on to the ephemeral essence of earlier times.

Where do the children go?  Between the bright night and darkest days?
If I had a song that I could sing for you,
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

And if you break down, I will remind you, Ooh of what you were yesterday
Oh mercy, what I won’t give.  To have the things that mean the most,
not mean the things I miss…

All you zombies, show your faces… I know you’re out there
All you people in the streets… I see you

as the bombshells of my daily fears explode,
I try to trace them to my youth

I squeeze the sky out but there’s not a star appears;
begin my studies with this paper and this pencil

and I’m working through the grammar of my fears…

My road trip today was to visit the hubster’s dad.  He and his wife are over eighty, and in the cruel nature of old age, have been weathering one health crisis after another. This time, it was John’s turn to be rushed to hospital.  The nature of his emergency sent him south, so he and my mother-in-law are in different hospitals, hours away from one another, and hours away from us. I make mental notes to myself to move nearer to my children if I make it to my eighties. We’re so far from them. It makes it hard to be the moral support they need, let alone the physical help. So today, I was visiting John.  He’s the sole carer of Mary, who has Parkinson’s Disease. Between them, they have been in hospital more than out of hospital over the last year, and it has been a very hard road. My heart goes out to them, so far from one another. Like teenagers, they get told off for hogging the hospital phones. He wants to know how her dinner was last night. She wants to know if his feet are warm. She wakes up alone and panics, wondering where she is and why.  He wakes up alone and knows there is a long rehabilitation road ahead if he is to bring her home again. Mid conversation with me, he sucks in a quick intake of air, trying to hold back the tears. His eyes lock onto mine while he tries to wrestle control over his emotions. The tears come anyway. It’s not kind, old age. Life is always too short, even when you’ve been alive a long time.

It makes me thoughtful. The whole way home I am ruminating over that line from an old song.  About the things that mean the most, not being the things I miss. I think about how much I have learned in all these years of being alive. And how so many of those things are unproductive, unhelpful, unkind to me. I am unlearning all the things that have kept me from happiness. All the insecurities and fear of failure, all the horrors that because things have happened before they will again. I think about all these fears that have shackled me. And about how I am breaking free of them.  I’m examining the context and syntax of every one. And scratching my pencil through ingrained thoughts that I have taken for truths. Thoughts that don’t stand up to scrutiny.  Every thought that stops me from enjoying my health and freedom. How ridiculous they seem, laid out in front of me. Relics of my childhood, ready for an edit.  I don’t know a better way to live my best life than to do this.  Working through the grammar of my fears.

Maybe you have fears like this too?

When I was really sick, I promised myself that I would not take health for granted if I ever got better. I promised myself I would live a life not bound by my fears. I would seek opportunities and take them.  I would find the areas that filled me with insecurity, and tackle them. Look for experiences that fill me with joy and collect them. So that is what I have been doing. Last Sunday, I did a lingerie shoot.   Out on a windy grassy, knoll, in full view of the public utilising the walking track that skirted the location; I took off my clothes and posed for photos in my smalls. It was liberating! I think if I can do that, I can do almost anything!

PIcture from my lingerie shoot of my legs and the statement "I am unlearning all the thoughts that have kept me from happiness. One faulty line at a time" Rachel F Cox

I’m going to leave you with a verse from a beautiful song. Think about those young years… who you were… who you want to be. Maybe there’s some editing to your interior monologue that you want to do, too.

…when we last talked we were lying on our backs,
looking up at the sky through the ceiling
I used to lie like that alone out on the driveway
trying to read the Greek upon the stars, the alphabet of feeling
Oh I knew back then, it was a calling that said: if joy then pain.
The sound of the voice these years later
still the same.
-Emily Saliers

Out of the Woods?

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.48.21 am

I’ve been listening to my daughter’s Christmas CD in the car this summer.  I like it when the kids like music that I like too.  It doesn’t always happen! My son is into The Scat Man, and although the sentiments are lovely (think bad rap: I wanna be a human being/ not a human doing/ I couldn’t keep that pace up if I tried/  But if part of your solution/ isn’t ending the pollution/ then I don’t wanna hear your story told…) the relentless scatting and boppy beats drive me crazy.  So, given the alternative, my favourite track on Bee’s CD is a song called Out of the Woods.  It’s here:

Taylor Swift: Out of the Woods
(this was filmed right here in New Zealand, I like that)

I love this track so much.  It makes me think of the things that are going on in our micro world at the moment.  My early fantastic flurry of a response to steroids, my more recent dip back into some of my less fabulous symptoms.  It’s a rollercoaster hope ride. We’ll see the immunologist again tomorrow.  In 24 hours I will know if he thinks my response is a good indicator for a next step. And I’m rolling down the track, thinking “are we out of the woods yet?  Are we in the clear?”

It’s a catchy set of lyrics, I like the repetitive mantra.  But what makes the song really something is that beautiful line somewhere in the middle.  The writer and her partner are in the hospital, after a frightening experience, they’ve been in the metaphorical woods, when:
“the monsters turned out to be just trees…
and when the sun came up
you were looking at me”

I like that because it makes me think about my man. The road has been treacherous and difficult.  There are scary things around every corner. But when the sun comes up, he’ll still be looking at me.  🙂
Thanks BobbyD.  I’m glad to be navigating these woods with you.


Hold Tight

This song means a lot to me.

I’m posting it here tonight dedicated to all the people out there who are struggling with difficult diagnoses.

Don’t let anybody tell you
which way the story goes
‘cos I’ve been asking round,
don’t think anybody knows…

Sometimes, you feel like giving up.  Don’t give up, just hold tight.  You never know what is around the corner, what research, what treatment possibilities, what moments that will make it all worthwhile.  Just hold tight.

My Childhood in 5 tracks.

I’ve been thinking about what a gift music is.  I am not musical (it’s a tragic genetic mistake), but oh, I love music!  I can trace my memories by the music that I was listening to.  We were discouraged from listening to most secular music. I remember my delight when my Dad bought me a walkman with a built in radio when I was 11.  It was my covert ticket to the American Top Forty.  I had some tapes I was allowed to play (Amy Grant, Michael W.Smith, and Silverwind) but I wasn’t supposed to listen to the radio station. We only had one local radio station, so I would lie in my bed after lights out, looking out through the flyscreened louvre windows into the dark night.  Really FEELING the music on Kalang FM, you know? It was music of every genre which is maybe why I have such eclectic taste in music now.

I thought I would take myself on a tour of five most memorable tracks from my early years.  Want to come along?

I grew up in one of those happy clappy churches.  We took our sleeping bags to the night services and I’d fall asleep stretched out under the pews. I remember the sound of my Mum singing Scripture in Song choruses as she moved about the house.  We had a record player with lots of gospel records.  Like George Beverley Shea and Pat Boone.  My favourite was a singer called Evie.  I thought she was the prettiest thing ever, sitting in a field of daisies.  She sang lots of uplifting country gospel songs.  Listening to her music again, I can see where my early country music love came from.  Here she is singing “I’m only four feet eleven but I’m goin’ to heaven”.  All blonde pageboy seventies cuteness.

My big sister loved ABBA.  I think she had a poster on the wall and I ruined it by vomiting on it from the top bunk one night.  It wasn’t on purpose, honest!  I still love ABBA, in the way you admire the things that you know ‘belong’ to your older siblings. When I was teaching I used ‘Mamma Mia’ as my packup-time-cue every afternoon.  The boys always loved to sing “Yeah, I’ve been broken hearted/ blue since the day we FARTED”  Bahaha.  Some things never get old.

When I was seven or eight, I remember my singing with my sister after lights-out, the theme song for Greatest American Hero and ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ by Human League. This was an early influencer of my Sindy doll game plot lines.  I was convinced that the best pathway to love was for the girl to be a waitress in a cocktail bar.  Hello eighties synth pop.  Maybe this is why Mum and Dad wanted to have a say over what I was listening to.

My best friend Nikki had a tape she got back in Australia at the end of 1984.  It had the Axel Foley theme song on it, and this hugely evocative song (for me), Together in Electric Dreams.  
 I remember her lime green chenille bedspread, lying on our tummies and organising her collection of erasers.  They had sniffy flavours like grape and tutti frutti.  We would split our time between rollerskating, swimming, Sindy dolls, sucking on frozen green cordial and listening to her cassette tapes.  Ah, good times.  It was at her place, in a makeshift hut we erected, that I read the book ‘Where Did I Come From?’.  It was a disturbing book all about the birds and the bees and I will never be able to look a rotund cartoon man in the eye ever again! Those years being Nikki’s best friend were some of my favourite from my whole life.  
I miss you Nikki.

We went on an epic trip as a family at the end of 1986, winding our way up the Big Sur in a station wagon.  Dad had a thing for what we called trucker music.  My bro and I still sing Roger Whittaker’s ‘I’ve gotta leave ol’ Durham Town’ for a laugh.  ‘Trailer for Rent’ reminds me of these times too.  I saw Yosemite National Park from the drop down back seat in the boot of the car.   And then I was a high school girl.  Already six foot tall and going to my first school social under the Year 7 block.  Wrapping my arms around Michael Francis for my first ever slow dance.  I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight by the Cutting Crew. I was all hormones and idealism. I was 12 and he was 18, but I couldn’t understand why that caused such a fuss. I was to learn. But that is another story for another time.  😉

And then, boarding school.  Sinead O’Connor, Tracey Chapman, 1927.  RAGE on the common room TV.  I had my own stereo tape player with a speed dub function.  I was living the high life!  And there was ‘serious’ young love. Shaun Welsh played me Richard Marx, LOUD, from someone else’s boom box in the Bell Tower. Right Here Waiting for You. It was a grand romantic gesture. Breaking my adolescent heart with the torment of his own.  And then there was Roxette, It Must Have Been Love.  I shared a dorm with fans of Guns n’Roses, Metallica, Jon Bon Jovi and Janis Ian.  I watched the movie ‘Beaches’. I discovered Bette Midler. Barbra Streisand. These years were the years of heartache and homesickness.  I remember the smell of the boarding house, the flat ham sandwiches and pink afternoon tea cake, bruised apples and gingham table cloths.  Licorice, my secret horse.  Anthony Rees playing the piano and nights in the common room, hanging out. Semeka Walshe’s beautiful shoes with covered leather buttons.  Knox city, public transport, rat dissections and learning to smoke.  Alice, Tracey, Julia, our Fijian princesses.  Being a disappointment to my brother, but knowing he loved me just the same. Aw. Big years.

I never hear the music of these early years without being instantly transported.  It’s strange, the way music can do that.  Time warp you right back to where you were, the sights, sounds, smells.  They all seem attached to the music for me.  This year for my birthday, I am asking the hubster for a ‘mixed tape’ CD.  Forty tracks for forty years.
Here is the playlist:

ABBA -One of UsThe Carpenters -The(7)

What songs were the soundtrack of your young years?  Got some old favourites?  I’ve been listening to mine on youtube today.  It’s taken me back. If you’ve got a minute, why not go there and type some of your old favourites in?  It’s as good as a time travel holiday.

What will you be typing in to the search box?  Where will you go to today?  I’d love to know what your favourite songs are…


Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 9.47.30 amYou can fall foul of the law, fall to the enemy, buy a TV that has fallen off the back of the truck, fall head over heels, fall pregnant. Statistics can fall, you can fall over yourself to get to something you want and in some countries, Fall is a season. At one of my schools I was dubbed ‘Falling Tree’ because of the way I would faint, straight over. Tim-ber!  Some silly boy started it and it stuck for a while, until he moved on to finding someone else’s problems funnier than mine.

That reminds me of a song I used to love. Catch me, I’m falling.  A much nicer boy once put this song on a mix tape for me.  I love Real Life (the band).  And OMD. Ah, those were the days! A little bit of synthie-pop-magic from 1983.  Of course, actually in 1983, I didn’t know who these boys were, it took nine more years before I discovered them.  Back in 1983 I had heard of Abba and Human League and Joan Jett.

Catch me
I’m falling down again.
I know it’s a dream
But just the same.
There’s a face before
My eyes are closed
But I can recognise
The danger there.
Slumber comes and darkness falls

And shadows dance across my walls

Today, I’m falling under.  I know I will surface again, but today is a day for letting myself sink.
My head feels like a separate entity from my body doing a nodding dog on my shoulders.  It is heavy, it hurts. My eyes feel like they are attached to the suck end of the vacuum hose. I woke this way and it hasn’t let me be. This time of day is usually my respite time.  My quiet time.  My rest and prepare for the afternoon, time. But none of those things are happening while my eyeballs thrum away at the inside space of my head.  I’m just here, getting on with today, one throb at a time.  Looking out on the white skies of winter in short instalments between shut eyes.  My screen brightness is turned down to low. The light hurts today.  I type by touch and hope there won’t be too much to edit later.

It all makes me feel nostalgic, it’s like I can slip so easily into the eighties in my mind when the present day is too difficult.  I’m back there, somewhere around 1987 sneaking over to friends’ houses to watch secular movies, listening to my walkman under the bed.  Casey’s Kasem’s American Top 40.  Whitney Houston, Nik Kershaw, mixed tapes and much unrequited love (mostly for the lead singer of A-Ha).  I had Minnie Mouse on my wall and Rudi the sausage dog as my unwilling psychotherapist.  That dog had to listen to endless hours of my teen angst.  Poor sausage!

Nice to remember the old days.

Here is Real Life.


Grief Music

Talking is good.  I can talk! But writing gives better shape to my words.  Let’s them step out in ordered lines, marching to the beat of the same drum. Rhythm, cadence, innuendo, pace.  Often, my writing comes when my music is playing.

When it comes to music itself, I prefer to listen to others, rather than make my own. The music I make sounds better in written words.  You can trust me on that one.
Or ask my hubster about my ukulele concerts.


Music is solace, medicine and healing for the troubles in my heart.  I listen to escape, reminisce, to motivate myself or to find a way to let out some tears.  For me, both music and movies are effective cry-button-pushers.  Sometimes, you just need to have a good cry.

I heard a song, once, directly about grief for a lost mother.  I think it was called ‘Goodbye’s The Hardest Word’. It was playing on the car radio and it lasered right in on my softest spot.  I was overwhelmed. I pulled over and let the crying overcome me…
It was a few years after my Mum had died,  and it was Celine DionBut even the number of years that had passed and my personal music taste barriers didn’t stop the grief.  When it comes, it comes on strong.  We call them SUGs around here.  Sudden Upsurges of Grief.  Sometimes they don’t even require a song.  I’ll be busy getting about the business of my day and WHOOMPH.  SUG.  Sock it straight to the heart.

Mumma!  Where are you?!

I am all at once, a child again, lost in the crowd. Seized with terror.
Where’s my Mum?

She’s gone.

Her name was Faith.  She passed that name to me, and I to my girl.  I love that link between the three of us.  It’s forever.  It’s longer than life.  One day, someone will be researching a family history and there we’ll be.   Three steps down, faith on the family tree.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.54.23 am

She was beautiful.  Hard case.  Shy. Loving and controlling and supportive and wise.  And mine.  She got ovarian cancer and fought for seven years.  I became her friend in those seven years.  And a grown up.  And a mother myself.  We spent hours together, working on her memory books.  She read endless stories to my wee girl, far beyond the patience of a parent. She was a special Granny.  They were mates.

“We’s mates, ay?” she’d say to Bee in a funny voice, eyes twinkly over her glasses.  Bee loved her with ferocity.  She was two when Mum died.  Even now she still wakes sometimes, crying in the night, deep in the clasp of her own SUG.  She misses her Granny.
Zed never got to meet her.

I find myself sounding like my Mum, sometimes.  A turn of phrase, a sharp repast when I’m stretched thin. A quirky saying or a loving squeezy ‘mmmmph’.  I mother like her; on my good days. And somehow, I always know what she would say about any given thing.  Usually the opposite to what I would want to hear but almost always, truth.  I know if she was here, she’d be over, fluffing about and helping me.  I know she’d be bringing me articles about how I can get fixed and staging sneaky prayer fests. She’d be loving me the way only a mother can.



So, today, I want to post a little song on here.  It’s quite possibly my favourite ‘farewell’ song.  I love it very much.  The Indigo Girls have caught, by some musical magic and lyrical gift, the pain and beauty that co-exist in real human relationships.  The imperfect, perfect love between two people.

When someone you love dies, you don’t say farewell once.  You say it every day.
It takes a lifetime to comes to term with the idea that life ends.  Maybe we never ever do.  So here’s to Mum.  Faith.  Beautiful soul and beloved mumma.

And here’s to you; to your grief, for your love.
For all those lost to us that we love.
I hope this song brings you solace, medicine, and healing for the troubles in your heart.

Okay, so the hair might be a tad distracting.  Stop looking.  Close your eyes and listen to that voice.  Wow, just wow.