As a single mother of one I have become accustomed to battling it out.
Day in and day out.
The daily grind, as one would call it, of getting a child ready for school, packing lunch boxes, encouraging learning, being positive, being patient and of course providing that sense of unconditional love.
Well I’m resigning!
Officially opening it up to anyone who is willing. I am offering a 15 year old up for free.
We have been through a lot, emotionally and mentally. Yes we have survived and continue to survive the unimaginable. I acknowledge that.
However, can I resign? As a parent.
Of course not. I do wish I could for a few hours, days or even a week.
I get every child is unique and a special individual, but I never predicted mine would be going through a phase of thinking she is dying all the time.
Literally she thinks she is dying.
We’ve gone from a simple pain in her lower back, to she’s leaking spinal fluid from her nose, today however, her uterus is falling out or she’s pregnant.
Imagine that, receiving a phone call while she is with her dad (for a week every 10-13 weeks) saying, Dr. Google says I am pregnant.
I mean WTF (pardon the profanity!) but really???
I am a biology teacher after all. She knows the birds and bees story. Probably more than she should. This ‘epiphany’ of hers led to quite a frank and open discussion about how ones becomes pregnant. Followed by a text to her dad saying, ‘your daughter thinks she pregnant, please discuss this with her.’ After all she was there. Let him do some parenting!
Let’s skip a few weeks ahead, this is after endless blood pressure checks in the middle of the night, many inspected red spots on her body and of course who can forget the pain in her neck, back, leg etc.
To say I am exhausted is really simplifying it all!
In the past week we have seen two seperate GP’s. The first one said it’s your anxiety and stress. Talk to your psych. She listened and acknowledged she was okay. For an hour.
Don’t worry she was dying again later that evening!
Many e-mails during school hours, a trip to the nurse and tears in my office as now her abdomen was sore. Again we head off to GP number 2. This one I ask to do a full physical exam. Which he does. No sign of any discomfort or symptoms which would warrant an MRI or brain scan. I do have to bear the eyes of the GP which really were a ‘are you for real mum, your daughter is fine look’. I felt like yelling, I know she’s fine but she won’t listen to me!
Bloods ordered and an ultra sound booked all to try and appease the very concerned teen.
Blood normal and scan yet to be done.
However since then we have played a vigorous game of waterpolo, attended classes and of course asked for a sleep over mid week with a friend.
Can she really be dying?
Today, the psych visit. Enlightening but also so obvious. A small $335 to pay to be told you are chalk and cheese. She, being the teen will interpret any advice or strategies form me in a negative way. I am mum after all. She is very much her dad.
Maybe that’s why her dad and I didn’t work and would never work as a pair. Hmmm???
Tonight, she’s home in high spirits. The mention of study and discipline brings on the uterus is falling out! Literally I mean she is tearing up and she’s on…, yes you guessed it…. Dr. google!
I breathe, I say to myself remember what the psych said, ‘you just have to listen’.
Well what if I am flabbergasted at what is coming out her mouth, what if there is a simple answer? Get off the bloody internet! Your periods due.
Just listen……. I keep saying to myself…
I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Her uterus actually falls out? I mean at least we would then have an answer!
I don’t know about all of you but this parenting gig is hard. Its meant to get easier they said. Well that’s a load of rubbish!
All I know is we face another night of sleepless unnecessary wake ups to check blood pressure or inspect a red spot!
Today was a funny day. I met a lot of lovely people and had many great conversations.
It’s the ones that are not planned which are the most valuable.
I had one of those unexpected conversations, today, that really put a smile on my face.
I was sitting in the shed; imagine a beautiful green garden outlook, high wooden tables and a fully stocked bar, kind of shed.
A memorial happening in the chapel and all was quiet. A small breeze and a beautiful day.
Suddenly a car drives in and inside is a lady, who was driving, and an elderly gentleman. They wind down the window and the lady says, “we are here to see Josephine”, I think wow they are a little late and I had better get the elderly man to the chapel for the service.
He is not very mobile so I send her round again and meet him at the ramp. The lady, obviously a carer, said she would be back to collect him later.
So, off she goes.
We walk slowly up the ramp and all the while he says this is a beautiful place, so different to what he saw yesterday. I didn’t clue into what he was saying at first!!!
We get to the chapel and I am handing him over to the funeral ladies when he says, “my wife is on the second level”. At that moment I realised… he was meant to have been dropped at the old age home next door! Oh man! This poor dear!
So I say to him, I think you are meant to be next door. He says, “I thought this was different”. We all smiled and I thought, okay where to from here.
So I say I can drive you, as he and I start shuffling back down the ramp. He says, “how far is it? I should have worn my running shoes”. All while ‘shuffling’ along.
What a great conversation we had as we walked along the road to the old age home entrance gates.
He was born in Italy, lived in Egypt for two years and moved to Australia, ‘Paradise’ as he called it, in 1952. He loves, Europe but he said Australia is the place to be. He has never left Australia since he moved, instead he has explored the country. He told me Italy is beautiful but not to go there now.
His wife loves reading books and he had a bag full of them to deliver. He visits often with her and sits for hours.
We got to the gate and I pushed the buzzer. Of course no answer. He’s peering over and says ‘let’s jump it’ well what a smile that brought to our faces. So fragile, elderly but full of charisma!
I of course had left my phone so couldn’t ring reception, he says, “I have mine” and proceeds to hunt through his bag. However, he had left his phone at home as he was rushed this morning when getting ready to be picked up to visit his wife.
Eventually the gates began to open and he started to move forward. He then turned to me and said, “Thank you, maybe we can walk again sometime”.
Then off he went.
What a moment. Only a short time but such a lovely part of my day.
I have had a smile on my face all day, and had a few laughs, at how it all happened but I suppose that’s the beauty of those unexpected moments.
Have you ever had that knotted ball of fishing wire you just look at and cannot even imagine where to start to begin untangling it?
Have you ever had a knot in a necklace which doesn’t seem to ever want to come out despite how much you work on it? String? thread? knitting?
So many things! So many knots!
This is what I think someone who is suffering from a mental illness feels. Their mind is a ball of knots. No start, no end and certainly not an easy fix.
Mental health is such a hot topic at the moment. It has been, and will continue to be.
However, it is now at the forefront of our minds more, now than ever.
What a year!
Watching those you love and those you know, try and unravel their own ‘knots’ is harder than you might think.
The moments of confusion, complete misunderstanding… it’s hurtful, actually heartbreaking.
The moments of distrust which have stemmed from a knot, not from the love, the memories or the special moments but from a seed planted by the mind. A misinterpretation which one did not understand.
A knot forms and it grows.
The moments of paranoia, where you think everyone is watching, everyone is thinking something less or more of you than they actually are.
The moments of just loss and confusion???
Those moments speak the truth of mental illness.
Where you watch someone, so lost, so confused start to let the knots take over.
You can say and do all you can. You can try bring back the good time’s, the great time’s and even some of the hard times. You can recount all the important moments, the funny moments and the moments you overcame the challenges… it may not be enough. Remember, it’s all in knots!
But… if the knots are tied to tight there may be no way out. We cannot see it, we cannot feel it. Only they can. We try all we can to ease the knots, untangle them or even show a way to ease them off.
We cannot untangle the knots of someone else. No matter how hard we try.
If we do see some small window of success ….. we can hope it’s enough, a small amount of give can unravel any knot.
Once a knot is unravelled, or has begun to be unravelled, it will be kinked, it may even become knotted again, but, as it was when we first started we have to start slow. One small knot at a time.
Just remember with mental illness those knots may just be so tight we can try and try and try and try again, and to us personally we may feel we are getting somewhere. But for the person suffering we may be doing nothing but adding to the confusion.
They hide it well. That’s the hardest part!
The kinks of an unravelled knot remain. They are the reminders of what you/we/I have survived. What you/we/I have managed to separate and untangle from the mix.
Putting my own knotted wire aside to help unravel my own child’s and others is a challenge. How does one set aside the knots we have ourselves to try and help others?
I pause here and imagine the airline safety videos – put your oxygen mask on before you attend to your child or others.
Is this realistic?
I am the cause of half her knots, I know it, she knows it and many others know it. Parenting is bloody hard! You never know what’s right or wrong. You’re pushing to hard, you’re not pushing enough.. you are not disciplining enough, or it is to much!
Who knows! In this day and age you cannot even smack a child without repercussions!
I was smacked and boy did I know when I was wrong. I am so much better off now because of it.
However as you crawl into bed, despite trying to help others, including those most dear to you, unravel those knots, you realise yours are still there. Still a twisted mess, a knotted unrealistic mess and at some point dismissing it, is in some way pushing it to one side. This won’t suffice, and you may find yourself, just like those you loved and lost.
One day I/we/ you will have to begin to unravel your own knots. If you don’t, it can lead to unhappiness, loss and immeasurable suffering for those around you.
Take it slow, ask for help. Stop. Breathe, and start again.
Eventually the knots do come out. Whether it be on your own or with help. Who cares!
I can say this, and write this but I have yet to start to unravel my own knots. I can tell you I am one twisted mess and it’s going to take time.
However, over a few months, I believe I have managed to work on one of my knots. That knot for me, while not completely unravelled is titled ‘acceptance’. There are some things in life, no matter how hard, no matter how deeply they affect you, no matter how much you feel alone and left behind… you can unravel. It just takes time, support from others and patience. It’s not quite unravelled and I still get into a knotted mess, but there are those that when I walk in the room or arrive help me feel like; ‘you can do this’ one second at a time.
The kinks you say… they are just reminders of what you overcame.
Think about it….
Take the time, enjoy the moments of sadness, reflection and happiness. Because when all is said and done, that all we have.
For those of you who know me there has not been a year where I haven’t spent many a weekend or a holiday travelling.
This may be with school groups/students or even personally.
What a year it has been. Not only has losing someone changed all that but add in COVID, and the ‘normalcy’ turned to shit.
I promise to not refer to COVID again! We all hear way too much these days and it has been all consuming for way to long.
Instead I am going to take you on a journey, the first this year. One of healing, time out, adventure and really, to put it bluntly, a necessary one.
It was time to take a break. To try and relax and take some time to ‘take stock’, ‘reflect’, ‘laugh’ and be somewhat normal.
Here we go!
The borders were due to open and we had a week free. So before the outback was booked up by all the travellers we planned our escape.
Day one – Saturday saw us take just a short trip to the Sunshine Coast where we began our weeks journey at Chateau Haines. The food was fresh, the beds amazing and the company even better (it was with my parents). What a way to start 💐
Day two – Sunday.
The driving started! We were up before the sun had risen. An eskie and picnic packed by my fabulous mother! Coffees made and a roadie croissant breakfast. The aim was to get to Blackwater. Approximately 8 hours away. Easy I said!!
It was great, along the way my co-pilot kept me going with trivia, reading the news, readers digest articles and more!
We passed the big orange and all sorts! There really are some ‘big things’ in the Australian outback!
The big orange, the big banana, the big elephant, the big spanner.. and more. However, I digress.. (what a word!)
We did make a slight detour to visit a friends old stomping ground. We even managed to take a photo outside the house she grew up in! That was a ‘tick’ on the achievement list!
Blackwater….. I’m not sure what to say but …. it is a small town. Not a lot was happening and the Japanese gardens they advertise were great to see through the fence. With not a lot open and the coal trains km’s long passing by we settled into our accomodation.
We did visit the second largest show of flags in the world – when compared to the flags in New York. Each flag represented the nationality of the miners/workers. That is pretty interesting! Brings to the forefront of the mind how multi cultural we are!
Dinner….. to be honest this set the trip up… red rooster was the only real option! I mean it could only get better! With time to relax and read, the TV on, I settled into my sofa bed and slept like a log! Nothing was open! Including the motels bar and restaurant.
Stomp, stomp, stomp!!! It’s 5;30 am, I believe and the shift workers were up and walking down the steps which backed onto our little ‘donga’. They were up and laughing, their work trucks beeping as they reverse!! Okay it’s time to rise!
I do not remember what breakfast was that day!! We packed up the gear and the car and we set off… Longreach here we come!
Actually now I do! We stopped in Emerald at a great cafe called Vybe. We only drove past the hospital three times trying to find it. I did comment on the fact if we went past the hospital again they might get suspicious! However, breakfast was delicious and the bucket of coffee even better!
There is a lot to see in Emerald. With our time limits though we narrowed it down to two things. Two amazing things.
First the walk through the mosaic tiles showing the past, present and future of the times! This was brilliant. Reading the plaques and ‘walking the story’.
Of course, the second thing we wanted to see was the largest Van Gogh sunflower painting on an easel in the world. I mean why wouldn’t you!! It was pretty cool!
So, goodbye Emerald, here we come Longreach. With a full belly and some sights under our belts we continued on our way to Longreach.
The next stop was Rubyvale and Sapphire. The place to fossick for the real thing! We topped up our coffees at a local shop and experienced the budget cuts it seems in the building of the public toilets!
Back on the road! With a short stop in Jericho, which backs onto Jordan creek. How biblical!
They may not have had any stores open but they were taking care of the open air drive in theatre, old style!
Okay Longreach here we come!! The destination and one of the main reasons we set off to experience the outback!!!
Longreach is amazing!! We managed to sneak into the luminescent light show at the Qantas museum! This was brilliant! Not to be missed! I cannot show you any photos nor describe how brilliant it was! You will have to go and see this for yourselves!
Longreach has so much to offer! The Stockmans hall of fame, the Qantas Founders museum and just what is around town. The town centre is a hustle and bustle of life. The Merino bakery a place to visit. Casey’s has great coffee to kickstart the day! So much to see including amazing sunrises and sunsets!
Oh and they have a courtesy bus to the birdcage hotel. The local pub which provides decent pub meals and a great atmosphere!
Longreach was an amazing place to visit. So much history, so much to read! Along with my new akubra we set off to Winton!
Winton – a place with so much history! It is known for the one place in the world where a dinosaur stampede has been recorded. In fossil form!
Banjos, our wonderful, amazing and most certainly memorable accomodation had a lot to offer. The one ply toilet paper, the brown towels, which disguised the stains, and the brilliant maroon shower curtain which stuck to you if you tried to turn around in the shower!
Eeeeiiikkkkk that was a surprise and one I hope not to relive! The darn shower curtain!
I mean for me it’s just a bed. However, it will be a fun memory. Good old Banjos!! It’s for sale everyone, just in case you wanted a slice of dirt and dust in outback Queensland.
It was time to explore the town and the sights. This included the Winton club, where the first Qantas meeting occurred. Next to this is Arnos wall. A wall made up of all sorts of ‘stuff’ collected from the dump and inserted into the wall. Not only are there those amazing places but there is also the musical fence. A place where you can pick up a stick or a tube or even a metal pole and create sound on the pieces of metal, tubing and more that have been placed in all the right places.
So while in Winton one cannot miss the dinosaur stampede! We booked a 3/4 day tour with Vicki from red dirt tours and boy what a day!
She was exceptional and took us on a day to remember. Off track with morning tea on a ‘jump up’ and lunch outside the stampede. We learnt so much from her and she was so amazing to travel with!
Here are a few photos to help!
The main area… the stampede!! So here goes! The history behind it is amazing! So many people were involved, it lay undisturbed for so long after it’s discovery! It is quite a place to visit!
Winton was amazing. As the QLD borders had opened we did not get a chance to get in to see the Age of the dinosaurs which is a place which has the bones of dinosaurs, workshops and more! Next time!
Leaving Winton we headed off to Tambo. On the way we stopped at Ilfracombe and also Barcaldine, where the tree of knowledge is.
Again so much history, so much has happened in our own back yard! Who would have thought!
Tambo. We arrived. What a tiny but spectacularly tidy and beautiful town. The people so friendly, bar the lady at reception, the pub with such a nice atmosphere and more.
Sitting outside facing the pool, the birds buzzing around, the sun setting and the breeze picking up, one could not enjoy the downtime. We even popped into Tambo teddies. A ‘must’ visit for those passing through.
From Tambo we headed off to St. George. Our next stop. We passed through Mitchell and much more. The landscape, the tall grasses yellow and green, the mulgas and of course the kangaroos and cows!
St.George has a lot to offer and with more time we would have explored. However, we did the most important thing. A wine tasting and of course this was accompanied with a ploughmans platter. The cool breeze and a Merlot from the winery’s grapes could not have been a better way to enjoy the cool crisp breeze.
So the journey and outback adventure was coming to an end. We had seen to much and been so many places. So much history in our own back yards.
It was time to not necessarily relax, as the alarm was always set for 7am, but there was time to read, time to talk, time to learn and more.
So off we set, homeward bound. A long day ahead and a slight detour!
The painted silos something I had seen along the way. So while on the toilet I googled the nearest one to Yeralbon, a place we were passing through.
What a sight and what a story!
To sum it all up.. as words and photos just do not do it justice, taking the time to, ‘take the time’ was just what the soul needed. The brain and the heart often rule our lives. More often than not one wins over the other.
This time we trumped them both and just got in the car and drove!
The outback is amazing, the landscape soothing.
If you get the chance, fill up the car, pack an eskie and just start driving. Who knows where you will end up and what you may see!
Although, it is great for the heart and good for the soul!
I did wonder, often over the past few years. Many hurdles, so many curve balls, I managed to dodge so many or take them on and recover.
I did not expect this one. Suicide, a word we all fear saying, I must admit I am still hesitant as if I say it, it becomes more real. What’s real you say?
The fact that one minute your life was perfect (well had been) and the next it’s not. It’s gone, in an instant. One phone call changed it all.
The police at my door the night before, our last conversation where you were so lost, so confused.
Where to from here?
The days are long, the nights even more so. It seems the nights have become even more sleepless as the mind wonders. I only had you for a short time but we had memories from a long time, so I wonder how the minds of those who had you for even longer are managing.
I am sure they are not.
The tears come at the most random of times. It could be at the bakery where we had a joke about the long jam cream donuts, the songs you sang to in the car, the random places we visited or even the small sayings or just waking and sitting at window and having three coffees before 8am!
Trauma results in so much….. unease, confusion, disconnection, solitude, drive, guilt – as though you could have changed it and you question over and over how.
You can read books on how to manage the loss of someone by suicide but to be honest only some of the points are valid.
Each journey it’s own. Each journey takes its own path, its own time.
I see, so far on my journey, the fear of reconnecting. The fear of moving further from my home than 50km. The fear of laughter, the fear of being with the family I love and know love me beyond words. I fear having touched them by suicide and more has made me even more of a ‘curse’ than before. Not that I am a curse but when so many curve balls hit you sometimes you wonder.
It’s hard enough realising you’re on your own again, your child on her own again. Our lives keep moving forward even if we wish they wouldn’t.
It’s a choice really, keep plodding or give up.
I wrote a blog about choice over a year ago, I also wrote one about time healing all wounds.
I so wish he had read the one about time healing all wounds.
The holiday of dreams, the laughter, the intimacy, the future and for once it was real it was perfect and then it was gone.
Everyone keeps telling me it’s time to get out, come here, visit here, dinner out, take a walk….. I know all of these would do my mind good.
However, it’s the fear, it’s the fear of the trauma that keeps you in that safe ‘vault’ that safe space.
How can one be happy, or laugh or even feel like you’re moving forward when to be honest you’re not ready.
The sweat beads form, your heartbeats so much faster but no one understands. You were never anxious before but you are now. You used to look forward to adventure and time away, new experiences, watching the students/children thrive and now organising a weekend makes you feel ill.
It’s normal some say, it’s abnormal others say. Who’s to know, unless you have been in these shoes.
All I know is it’s confusing, it’s hard, it’s emotionally and mentally exhausting. I have to trust that as I wrote before, but in so much a different context, time heals all wounds. I have been given gifts from this loss I could never imagine. People who have become such amazing parts of both my daughter and my own lives. Experiences, work, learning and more.
One has to try…. I mean try…… to take the time it takes to heal a wound when affected by losing the person you loved, finally to suicide.
What was once perfect was obviously not.
To question where you yourself went wrong will get you nowhere. I still do, every waking moment but one day maybe I won’t. Until then…
Emotions are a funny things. They can creep up on you ever so slightly and then completely take over in a matter of seconds.
It can be when you hear a song, when someone says something or even when you’re sitting alone reflecting on a simple moment in time.
I have found myself spending some time reflecting on what has been and what is to come. With the start of 2019 well and truly upon us I find myself looking at the upcoming year with fresh eyes.
It has been a while since I started a year with laughter, great company, trips to the beach and even some time to myself.
However, there have been moments when I have had open and honest conversations with people or those random ones where someone has said, out loud, ‘wow you’ve been married twice and you’re what, 34?’.
It’s happened, yes it has. I have digested that, but I don’t think I have fully accepted that what has happened in my life thus far has really happened…..
Growing up with parents who have been married for 45 years this year. High school sweethearts and the true ‘Cinderella story’ I always imagined that would be me.
I feel a deep sense of regret, sometimes on a daily basis that I failed myself.
I have to stop my brain from running away with itself and remember why I have already been married twice at the age of 34.
It was not that I gave up, it was not that it was to hard. It was to save me. To allow me and my daughter the best opportunities. The ability to grow and be the best we could be.
I was young when I first got engaged. The ripe old age of 18. Yes, you read right, 18. I remember being ‘lustfully’ in love. Those amazing university days when life seemed so easy. I did call it off and realised I was to young, we were to young. However, a few weeks after this I found out I was pregnant. I remember speaking to my daughters father and my words were; ‘I have never and will never contemplate not having this child. You can be in or not. If not that’s okay I know I have the family and the support to go it alone’. We had been together 3 years and engaged for a time so we both new we had something. We decided to get married, be the family we knew we could be, or thought we could be to bring up our child. Together.
4 years on this seemed something we both could not manage. We realised that our lives had not even started at the age of 18/19 and we had a young baby. He was not sure where he wanted to be and and what he wanted to do and I at the time was self motivated and driven. It was like we were holding each other back. For us both and for our child unfortunately for us we knew being apart would be better. So that’s what we did. A lot of water, dirty and full of silt has travelled under that bridge since! However, I must admit my daughter loves her dad, and me, and she is growing up to be one hell of a young lady so we have to be doing something right!
The second marriage was a whirlwind literally forgotten in time at this point. It started with a simple question in what was known as ‘Friday’s’, a night club on the Sunshine Coast and it turned into an eventful 6 year relationship.
It was in this 6 years I learnt that I can be broken, everyone can. It’s how we get up that counts. There were good times, even great times. I learnt to be a step mum to a 12 year old boy. I had to manage the smelly room, the stares and two kids who knew they were not related but had to learn to live one another. With a FIFO husband on all sorts of rosters it was hard work. I always feared the words, ‘you’re not my mum’ and that made parenting hard and unequal at times.
It was in this 6 years I overcame mountains. Went through a long court ordeal and realised that anger and sadness are hard to bear when bringing up a family. It can consume you, unfortunately in my case it did. Not me however, my husband. It’s hard to live with someone angry and constantly negative. It takes effort and constant positivity. However, this can wear anyone down. You can only carry a family for so long before you lose yourself in it.
I began to lose me. I began to think I was losing my own child. Someone as magnificent as her. Head strong, stubborn and with so much love to offer all those around her. The end began when she began to withdraw, so had I. We felt we were not allowed to be happy or positive. The constant demands, expectations and failures. Even though we never failed, it felt like we did no matter what we did or how hard we tried!
I never understood how mentally and emotionally someone could trap you. I never thought that would be me and it dawned on me one eventful evening that that’s exactly what had happened to me. I had been caged and controlled and I was not coping. Even my daughter new! Before I did. How amazing are our young people!
So overnight the second marriage was done. Not even a day after I felt I had been freed. Like one of those amazing hot air candles that they release in Thailand, I felt free.
A weight had been lifted and life just opened up. Not just small doors but huge panel doors!
I could breathe……
So at 34, yes I have been married twice. It’s hard to say and as I mentioned I have digested it but it doesn’t make it easy to explain or talk about.
I am not a failure but instead I have learnt many things. Overcome a lot and I hope that one day when my daughter is older I can explain this all to her.
I can show her she is strong and how to be strong. How she must search for what she needs and someone who compliments her. Someone who holds her high and is proud of her. Someone who asks how her day was and thinks a romantic evening is fish and chips on a rug at the beach.
We may have high expectations but it’s the small things that count the most.
Next time you hear someone has been married more than once, stop yourself before you judge. Hard I know but that’s me.
It may be hard but I am proud of who I am and what I have achieved. There is so much more ahead of me and I can’t wait! 2019 here we come!
Tattoos are something that used to be frowned upon and yet now seem to be something we see on almost everyone.
They vary from small pictures or words to full sleeves, or even whole body works of art.
I have a few.. each with their own story. I think over time that’s what they become. However, I always thought one particular type of tattoo carries with it a curse and I believe, for me anyway, that it is and was true.
My first one was in a way an act of rebellion. I was 18 and had been in Australia 5 years. Being the teenager I was and having been told I was never allowed to get one, what did I did as soon as I was able….. well get a tattoo of course!
At that stage of my life I dreamed of being a marine biologist. You know one of those fit young women who swims with the dolphins and plays with all the marine animals. Like we see at Sea World and on TV.
So away I went, I got a dolphin with a blue Maori pattern. As usual at the time, on the right pelvic bone, which would be seen when I wore my bikinis to the beach.
Back when wearing bikinis was what I did.
It hurt like hell and I managed to keep it hidden from my parents for a while. My mother was the first to spot it and from there well the rest was history.
When I was pregnant my dad used to laugh and comment on how the head of my dolphin was becoming the size of a whale. Note to all the women out there, think about if you’re going to have kids when you decide on where to get a tattoo as they don’t quite return to normal after being stretched beyond what feels like a few watermelons!
Needless to say my tattoo returned to somewhat normal and my parents forgave me.
Time for a bigger one I said.
A few years later and a painful 8 hours I had a side piece. A somewhat green, red and yellow cherry blossom. Something I pictured as white and pink but did not turn out that way.
A piece that I have fond memories of.
The next smaller one was of a persons name. Now I say this like that as I had always vowed NEVER to get a persons name tattooed onto me. I always thought it would ‘curse’ me and or the relationship in some way.
People used to laugh at me when I told them this but I stood my ground.
Well until January 2018. I had been married almost two years and with him for nearly six. We had talked about getting each other’s name on ourselves…….. ah, sweet, how romantic you might be thinking or even cringing and thinking how corny. Well it was always discussed and I managed to put it off for over a year.
However, January 2018 rolled around and we had bought the house, been married for almost two years as I said before so I though that it couldn’t possibly be cursed. Everything was going swimmingly. Or so I thought.
On it went, 1 hour and a small simple pattern on my left wrist.
By May 2018 we were separated, by July the house we bought only a year earlier was sold and I haven’t heard from him in months.
Cursed you say? Was it the tattoo? Who knows but I do stand by the notion that by putting his name on me I had in some way cursed myself. It was just a feeling.
It’s now January 2019 and I have started the process of having it lasered off.
This was day 2. It took about 15 minutes and hurt like hell. It’s literally like having your skin burnt off, slowly, and you cannot pull away!
This is three weeks later. Healing well but will take at least three more goes before it will be faded enough to be faded enough not to be seen or even tattooed over.
Itchy as hell and still a reminder but soon enough will be gone.
Round two and this time I thought it would hurt less. I was very wrong! This session hurt even more. She spent a lot longer on it and as she said later; “I really zapped it!” You sure did I thought.
Two days later and it was swelling up like a water ballon on a tap. It hurt, was itchy and burnt when I touched it. One more session to go I hope!
It’s healing, two weeks now since the last session.
I suppose after all this, and when it’s finally gone I am not sure it won’t be ‘completely gone’. There may still be marks and a tiny bit of scarring but at the end of the day it will be a constant reminder for me.
It’s weird to think that a week ago today I was finishing the final day of the Salkanty trek, ending up at the base camp of Machu Picchu……
Now I am sitting in my all to familiar little abode with the spring breeze floating through the house, the suns out and I feel liberated, free and totally self satisfied!!
The South American trip was two years in the making! It’s hard to believe now that it is over.
I am still in awe of what we did as a team! I mean who can say they have built three fully functioning toilets for a small kindergarten class that were using the small patch of dirt behind their classroom as their toilet??
Well I can and the 8 students who came with me can!
It’s amazing what hard work, being a team and basically pushing through the mental and physical barriers of being exhausted, adjusting to altitude and an overall lack of sleep can produce.
Arriving at the camp, day 2 of being in South America, our view snow capped mountains that stretched for days! Tents, our accomodation.
I was totally overwhelmed with where we were and what we were about to undertake. Would we finish our project in time? Would we all adjust to the altitude? Would anyone get sick? All these thoughts, racing through my head.
I laugh now as all it took was looking out at the view and we had to realise that we had already achieved so much! We had arrived! The rest was easy!
Waking each day at 6:30am, breakfast in the small hall built by a previous team using mud bricks called Adobes, we fuelled our bodies for the day ahead. The hike down to the school was always a quick and easy one! As downhill always is!
When we arrived it was straight to work. Mixing concrete, sifting sand, walking to get buckets of water…. the list goes on! We all became brick layers, sifters and concrete mixers. We watched the wall start to grow, the first line of bricks already down! We worked alongside a local ‘Mistro’ named Sisilo! He was so amazing and man did he work. He NEVER stopped!
Here in the first world we have no idea what hard work is! These guys do!
Nothing happens quickly in a third world!
Over 6 days our toilet block started to take shape! It was extraordinary! Each day we would pack up, dirty, exhausted and sweaty ready for our warm bucket showers.
These showers though, were at the top of the hill we walked down every morning. Now as I said downhill was easy! The uphill was crazy! We felt the altitude when we started the climb! It was only a 1.16km walk, straight up mind you, but it felt like a mountain! Your heart pumping faster than ever before, your breath stolen from you, your legs burning and the sounds of blood pumping in your ears! Altitude is an amazing thing! You can’t see it but you can feel it!
It took us 47minutes on day 1 and I am proud to say by the end of the 6 days we managed to get it done in under 26 minutes! Booya!!!
When given the chance we can do amazing things! From start to finish here is our progress!!
How amazing is that!!!
I have been asked a few times before why would you pay, or make students pay to go overseas to build a toilet. Why make them pay to work?
Well it’s easy! Look at what we achieved! In the first 6 days of this amazing 17 day adventure (see part 2 coming for the second half of the trip), we flew 33 hours, went on 5 planes, discovered the airports, came together as a team, shared stories, discovered the sights of Cuzsco, hiked up and down a hill each day, watched our project transform from one row to ten to over 20!
We watched the small local kids smile as they themselves saw their toilets transform! Our gift to them! This strange group of white ‘Gringos’ who has flown across the world to build something just for them!
We pay to help as without us they would still be going to the toilet at the back of their classroom, in the dirt and the dust.
We pay to show our over privileged children just how lucky they are!
We pay to give back to those less fortunate.
We pay to find ourselves and to build on what we have already!
We pay to build resilience, grit, patience and awareness!
We pay because the benefits far outweigh the costs!
(Stay tuned, this is only a snippet of what was a life changing, mind altering and liberating 17 days!)
It’s 10am and all you think about is when will you get a chance to have a wine, a vodka and coke or something stronger?
What about it’s after a long school day and you have only one glass of wine left….. is that enough…. no it’s not, you make the trip and vow only to get one bottle but you get two as you know it won’t be enough to numb the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness….
Coming home after a long day, a vodka and coke on ice. An hour later and number of drinks later the numbness sets in. The feeling of inhibition, of pure carelessness and what we think is calmness… but it’s a false calm. A false sense of peace.
This is what you wanted, to be able to feel it’s all okay. The fact you’ve been discarded, thrown away like a piece of gum after being chewed for 6 years and just thrown away… discarded. Stuck under the chapel pew only to be found years later and scraped off by no one who understood why it was placed there in the first place.
The numbness and the haze of the bottom of a bottle makes it okay. It makes your mind seem to accept that being considered trash is okay. It makes the evening pass in a blur. What was once cuddles as you made dinner or simple conversation about your day the norm….. now a blur…
Is it okay?
Who knows, we, as in me and my actual self will have this conversation tomorrow. Then we will decide whats acceptable and what’s not. Until then, the bottom of bottle brings me the numbness and the total illusion that it’s okay, that today will pass, as yesterday did.
You climb into bed alone, the ground spinning, the bed not as comforting as it was once.
You pull the dunar over and you send your leg over the other side, searching for the touch you are all to familiar with.
Then you remember, it’s gone, it’s no longer there, and who knows if it will ever will be there again.
But it’s okay, the numbness makes it seem all okay.
The haze of the bottom of the bottle numbs the feeling of being alone, of being wrong or right. Who knows at this time as the haze is making the whole thing something you can no longer understand!
It’s knowing that eventually the numbness has to fade and something has to give.
That something is you.
You have to realise that the bottom of a bottle only hides and masks what’s really eating away at you. It’s you that’s suffering. It’s you that has to find a way out.
It takes time, it takes strength and it takes those around you to make it possible!
Seek out the help, tell those around you about the haze surrounds you.
If you don’t it’s all you will know and it’s not fair on you to let the bottom of a bottle win!
It’s been a while since I can say I felt peaceful or even calm.
Years in fact!
So what does the word ‘Peace’ actually mean. Well this is what I found. I particularly liked the second one as it feels like life has been like fighting a war!
“freedom from disturbance; tranquillity”
“a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended”
Today I took a moment. In this moment I looked at Miss C as she stood in the kitchen and her school friend who had stayed overnight, both with ear to ear smiles on their faces, the TV on in the background, the breeze coming through the door and both cats calmly asleep in the sun.
Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
I even felt relaxed!
Not a care in the world for just a moment!
It was wonderful! An emotion that I had forgotten the feeling of.
In the turmoil of what has been my life for the past 6 years I would say, it was hard to ever say I experienced peace or had a chance to be ‘calm’.
The past six years encompassed an emotionally abusive relationship which I removed myself from, only to return to the same man after hearing the words ‘I have changed’.
To the family and criminal court system to fight for the right for my child to have peace. With the days of affidavits and lawyers and and endless money steam out of the bank seeming like it would never end.
One would think we or more I had been through enough!
No it wasn’t to be, a few months later a marriage breakdown… PHEW!
There is so much talk about resilience and grit in the media these days. Talk about how to make our kids stronger, able to cope and adaptable. To better prepare them for what is in front of them.
The questions on; how do we make them more resilient? what can we cram in to an already to full curriculum to help them be more resilient? What can we do? what activities can we include? What speakers can we get in?
Personally, it’s not about what we show them, what we tell them or who speaks to them. Often they have heard it all before. They tune out or even, as I see hundreds of teens do each year, they say, ‘I know all this, why do we have to listen to this again?’
For me, I believe, to truly help our kids be resilient we have to be there to support them when they go through the adventure called life. The events they experience day to day, night after night, week after week are what shape them to be strong individuals.
“I am strong, I am resilient and I believe I have grit! All because of what I have both done and experienced throughout my life. I am strong because I have survived and have amazing parents and family to thank for always being there, and coming on my adventure even when they could have chosen not to.
I am who I am because of them and what life has thrown at me! I am who I am because I chose to get back up even after failing many times!
(Sorry dad, I made you grey earlier than you probably would have been and mum for the sleepless nights filled with worry)”
We have to let our children make choices, and fail safely. For example let them spend their money on the theme park rides and then let them wonder why they did after the ride ended 30 seconds later. Don’t give them more money rather say, you made your choice and now you can’t go on another ride. Make them see the other side.
If they fall, help them up and then get them back on the bike or the horse or even back up the tree. Showing them it’s okay, they can overcome their fears and in this they become strong.
To many times as a teacher we now have to defend ourselves and our positions to over caring and smothering parents who want to fix everything for their child. Who always believe it is never their child’s fault their shirt got stained, their shoes broke or the other guys started the fight.
Jumping the gun in front or your kids teaches them nothing but how to manipulate and ensure that even if they were in the wrong they can tell you in such a way you are immediately on the defensive. This does not teach them to be honest or own up to their own behaviours. Neither does it allow them to learn. This will not give them or yourself peace.
I have watched as parents come in seething hoping for justice or an apology only to be shown footage that quietens and sometimes embarrasses them. I have watched parents deflate as they hear the real story or even as their child bursts into tears and tells them they lied, they made it all up and in fact it was their fault.
Kids are kids and they learn through us as role models. We have to remember this when we lose our tempers, when we talk about other people or even how we act just around the house. They learn from us.
So back to peace, resilience and grit. While I realise the past few years have been turmoil and at times I have shriveled up into a ball and tried to hide from the world.
I have survived and am stronger than ever. My daughter, has had an emotional roller coaster ride and she to has survived.
She has in fact been strong for me right when I needed her to be. She has shown me how mature and hyper aware kids are of their surroundings. Do not be fooled by your child’s age, they see and hear everything! Now she is experiencing peace!
This strength and understanding she has learnt from life in all its awesomeness and ugliness will only benefit her in the future.
I always wanted to cover her up and hide her away from what was going on but at the end of the day doing this would only be worse for her. One day she may find herself dealing with the same things or even supporting a friend as they do. I know she will be strong enough and have the knowledge to hold their hand through it or ask for help if she ever needed it.
She has seen that life can be unfair and also rewarding all at once.
Now it’s time for peace, it’s time for us to re group. Re focus and spend time working on us. Working on her growing up to be an even more amazing woman than she already is. For me it is time to look in the mirror at the person looking back and build her back up.
It’s time to be strong, to draw on the strength and resilience I have acquired throughout life and move forward.
Remember to bring up strong individuals we have to be willing to let them go.