Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Thursday, 6 August 2020
This is a letter I wrote a while ago to a then recently bereaved friend. I came across it whilst cleaning up my computer. I've changed names and places to make it less identifiable, but thought I'd share it with you. People often don't know what to say to people who have experienced the death of a loved one. I hope this might help you to feel more comfortable. About death and about talking to people about death and dying.
A card seems so inadequate a gesture when someone as precious as George has died. I can't pretend to know what you're feeling other than being familiar with the terrible sense of loss when someone who has been a great love and such a huge part of our lives is gone. I can't pretend my situation in having to cope with Bill's death is anything like what you are going through now, but I do know the loss. I experienced it in steps as first separation, then divorce, then some rebuilding of relationship, then long illness, then death.
I had already learned to live without him in many ways, so perhaps it is 'easier' for me to adapt to the loss, but still I miss having Bill to talk to. Especially about the kids. It's hard. But this is not about me. It's about you. And I am sorry you have to bear this loss.
While I was thinking about George, and about Steve who died a week or so earlier, and about Bill who has been gone now so many years, I wondered if they might find each other 'up there'... I like to imagine them getting together as they might have in Cairns years ago, to share a good stout and some rollicking sailing yarns. I like to think that energy they all had, and their love of the sea and of boats and sailing would make that possible. Reckon there'd be some one-upmanship going on too with those stories...moreso as the keg gets lower. Or perhaps it will never run dry. Weren't they all great blokes and weren't we lucky to be part of those adventures. I treasure my memories and I'm sure you do too.
Mark was talking about the rain yesterday. What he said made me cry but I want to share it with you because we don't think about this stuff enough. When we die we go back to being the elements from which we were made - carbon and water. Slowly or quickly, all the same it happens. And the water ends up eventually in the sky and the creeks, puddles, rivers, lakes and seas. And the rain. When it rains it is all of our ancestors and loved ones falling to nourish the earth. It freshens us and brings us life. I cried. And I said, "My tears, they are the rain too. They are everyone who is gone too." And I thanked him for giving me this revelation. I'll never see rain the same again. The circle of life is much tighter, much closer than I'd thought before. I feel so privileged to have this understanding. I am more thankful now for my cup of tea...my hot shower...the ocean...and my tears.
Dear Angela, I hope this letter will be something to comfort and to treasure. Words are hard to write because we don't want to say 'the wrong thing'. I didn't get many words come my way when Bill passed away. I can understand. It was a difficult situation because we were divorced. There was trouble in the family. Everything was done in a rush and for me it always felt like there was unfinished business. Over time I've come to accept things being as they are...as they were.
But it has left me wanting to say more than one can in a card. More than a few words in a card and it starts to look messy. The greeting in the card is brief. It is full of love but is also kind of a 'formality' in a way. I wanted to send a card. But I wanted more to have visited and had a cuppa with you and George before it was too late to do that. And I wanted to let you know that I love and appreciate you more than a few words in a card can show.
I have a few photos I want to find and pop in here for you too. I don't know if you have copies of them or not...but if not then I hope you'll enjoy them.
Forgive me for typing this letter. Ideally it would be hand-written but I find I make so many errors with hand-writing these days. Especially if it is something important to me. Strange. So here it is.
Typed with love.
Tuesday, 7 May 2019
The moon evokes such emotion in me, yet it is a ball of rock spinning in space. Essentially without meaning, without emotion. But it pulls at the water in my being as it pulls also the tides up and down the beaches and river and estuaries worldwide. It pulls at the water in the cells of my body. So small effect, such impressive effect as it brings a king tide and floats the boats high on their moorings. The moon.
The moon photographs so well. Bright disc shining in the black of night. Digital cameras capable of capturing craters and taking my breath away with the clarity. My ham-fisted clumsiness repaired by the magic of technology. How does it work so well? No tripod in site. Just bi-pod me. Holding the camera, sometimes steadying it on top of a railing or my car and click. There it is for me to contain for as long as I wish to hold it on flash-drive, computer, SD card, phone. This thing that has so much control over me, that gravity bends to its will. I contain its image and wonder at it. I see the moon in the sky, on the screen, in my hand.
I am less than a dot on the canvas of the earth. Yet the moon, it pulls me to it. It drags my eyes, smaller still, to its glow. It reminds me that there are mysteries. There will always be mysteries. For this I am glad. I have looked to the moon for answers to questions unspoken. I have sung songs to it in languages unwritten as I have walked in its gentle light. Maybe it is madness, haha. Who am I to say?
Cold, brisk winter nights here in Tasmania show me a harsher moon. Not a gentle light but a halogen beacon staring blankly from above. Morning will come, but it will be slow, it seems to say. Stay awhile; the night is so quiet in the winter. Keep me company a while. I am a night owl. I like the night. It is quiet. It is peaceful. Life is busy and bustling in the light of the sun, but the moon brings peace and solitude. Well, I'm rambling now. The moon sees me. Perhaps not, but I'm pretty sure the man in the moon does. I see his face smiling down at me. He sees me and I see him. And all is well with my world.
Friday, 4 January 2019
In a sense it started back at the start of 2018 when I decided that my brain and emotions were sufficiently frazzled by the trials and tribulations of my most recent years that they deserved some down time and I declared myself on holidays from responsibility for a year. Well, from work anyway, and responsibilities whenever and wherever it was possible to avoid them. Thus it was with some trepidation that I said "Yes" to helping out someone I had met only once to help sell their product at the Deloraine Craft Fair. It was so stressful to make a commitment to something in May, I think it was, and then to find out it was not to occur until November. It freaked me out a bit but I decided to try and ignore it for the ensuing six months until the event was imminent. I had kind of thought I'd make it a year of saying "Yes" to things that sounded like fun, but when it felt like commitment and responsibility it felt really scary.
I've had the opportunity to explore my emotions around making commitments this year. I wonder why other people seem to find it so easy and I don't. I wonder if it is because I feel that if I commit to something I have to see it through. I have been trained (or convinced myself ) to think it is a fault, a misdemeanor, perhaps even a crime, to change my mind about something. I have come to understand that it's entirely okay to commit to something and then, if circumstances change, to rethink. Perhaps it's better to look at commitments as plans. Plans are more easily adapted and changed as time and circumstance decrees. Perhaps commitments are folly. I'm sure there are those that would disagree with me, and others that would cheer hoorah, she's got it! Whenever I find myself with these conundrums I remind myself that I'm a work in progress and it's going to take my entire lifetime to work out what I actually think and believe about things myself rather than what I've been socialised to think and believe by my upbringing and the effects of media on my worldview.
I went on many adventures between May and November and throughout considered my agreement a commitment rather than a plan. Therefore, when the date came close and I got cold feet, I gave myself a firm talking to about the possible fun that might be had, the people that might be met, the necessity to venture out of one's comfort zone now and then and that I had indeed given my word
to someone I didn't know very well and that she likely have some trouble finding a replacement for me at short notice. So I had to go.
As it turned out, I had a lot of fun! I really enjoyed the setting up, the selling, the staying somewhere new and the meeting of the lady's 'market mates'. The atmosphere of the market was exciting; people out to enjoy themselves, lots of action, anticipation of being busy and the thrill of making a sale. I have worked in family businesses and my dad once said I could sell a donkey it's own hind leg. I guess I like selling people something that would be good for them or improve their day somehow.
The Rotary Club of Deloraine must be commended on the work they do behind the scenes to put together such a huge event for Tasmania and for their town. The exhibits were housed in several venues around the town and covered everything from working dog trials to glassblowing, theatre, fashion, music and gourmet delights for every taste. Sadly the weather was at times quite inclement, and I believe it probably affected the numbers attending, but parking was organised with studied efficiency and free buses ran between venues at roughly ten minute intervals. Power was provided, marquees set up, tables and chairs for visitors to sit and enjoy food and entertainment. The logistics of managing an event of that size attending to things like health and safety, finances, media and more must be mind-boggling. Yet it is done primarily by volunteer labour. Hats off to everyone concerned. It was pretty amazing.
So, how does that lead me to be sitting in a house across the road from the beautiful sandy beaches surrounding Victoria's Port Phillip Bay rather than being down in southern Tasmania where I usually reside? Well, i guess it was more of that saying "Yes" to things that sounded like fun. At a pub dinner for the market exhibitors I got chatting with a lovely man who was a single parent with a young daughter. He laughingly said if I came to work for him he would pay me better than I was getting and perhaps I might be willing to help with his daughter as a kind of au paire. We chatted for a couple of weeks after the craft fair and decided that it might just work for that to actually happen.
So, here I am, on yet another 'adventure'!
It's been so interesting to live in someone else's home, especially someone I barely knew beforehand. It's fun helping with the market business, bottling and labelling product. I find I particularly enjoy repetitive tasks like that. It is meditative, like knitting or crochet, for me. I don't have to think too much. I like that, and it's been a perfect adjunct to my year of taking it a bit easier on my old brain. Being around to help with his daughter has been interesting and fun too. Whilst it was a busy time with markets and school before Christmas holidays began for her, we have done things like putting up the Christmas tree, shopping for gifts, making playdough for all her classmates, jigsaw puzzles, learning to use a sewing machine (only a first lesson, with more to come), attending a fireworks display and Christmas concert, going to the cinema and much more. It has been fun...and that was the whole point...so I'm looking forward to more.
Life on the Mornington Peninsula is quite different from home in Tasmania. It is busy with holidaymakers, the traffic fairly constant from early morning going to workers until the 3am revellers finally make their way home. It seems a little bit crazy to someone who only sees traffic on infrequent trips to Hobart! Shopping! Oh my goodness! Every conceivable shop and service within a very short drive. So convenient. It's a very different way to live. I've become so used to not having access to major shopping that it is actually shocking to me to see how much of everything there is for sale in the shops! It reminds me that the overwhelm of stuff in our consumer society is very real. I wonder if the average person has developed some kind of immunity. I suppose it's just a way of being or a way of thinking that gives me a this point of view. Perhaps I worry too much. I do love the proximity of so many great op shops, which no doubt are a symptom of such healthy consumerism and the much larger population here. Am I still complicit if I buy second hand? Hmmm.
All too soon it will be time to return to Tasmania and prepare for the upcoming school year. Yes, it's back to work for me in 2019. My year off will come to an end on January 15th which was my last day of work last year, if I remember correctly. A whole year to learn how to have fun and enjoy myself again. Importantly that will come with me to work when I go back. Working with children demands enormous energy and if we don't take time to replenish and restore regularly, we can become truly drained of that joie de vivre. I knew it was still there, deep within, but I had become unable to access it. I am truly grateful for help from friends and family who allowed me to stay with them so that I could take this time to look after myself. I can't imagine how else it would have been possible to do this.
I wonder sometimes about what life holds in store for me next, but for now, I make a commitment (yes, a commitment) to give my all to work for the hours I must spend working. I also make a commitment to ensure that I make time...not as an afterthought, not just now and then but regularly...to have fun. For me, that means travel and reading for pleasure, long walks and long coffee dates with friends, time with family just being, Netflix (how did we ever get by without it says she who grew up with black and white tv), easy jigsaw puzzles, easy handcrafts, drawing, journaling and writing, trying something new. Simple pleasures. Simple fun.
I don't have a five year plan or a ten year plan. But I do wonder what might be possible in a year. Guess I'm about to find out!
Happy New Year to you. May it be filled with the things you want to do for yourself. Filled with fun. There will be other stuff for us all. Not fun stuff. Stuff that will stretch us and make us grow. But in between, sew seeds of fun and enjoyment. They will help you make it through.
I'd love to know what fun means for you. Let me know what you do to keep up the 'fun' element in your life. I might just get some inspiration for my 'trying something new'.
What will you be saying "Yes" to this year?
Friday, 9 November 2018
Yesterday afternoon on the beach I encountered a pair of Sooty Oyster Catchers. I managed to 'shoot' one of them but attempts to get them both in the frame close enough to create a worthwhile photo were fruitless. Still I enjoyed trying and I loved watching these delightful maritime avians pottering among the seaweed looking for snacks. So free are the birds.
|Sooty Oyster Catcher - not worrying|
|Sooty Oyster Catcher - still not worrying|
But life has tossed me other things to think about and I have created some pretty negative feelings in response to some of those. I need to give myself a mental overhaul to get unstuck. Do you ever find your thoughts going in circles around a subject? And then when you extricate yourself from that round-a-bout it finds another issue to do the same with. And another. At present my mind is a showground comprising the following round-a-bouts (how honest can I allow myself to be here? how vulnerable?):
- money - my supply is dwindling fast. I took a year off and well, money in a bank account only goes so far. Why haven't I won the Lotto yet? Hence,
- work - to do some supply teaching? (am I ready to go back to work yet?)
- work - I have a job ready to begin in February which is exciting but also daunting until I get my head around the details. It will be part-time so there will be room perhaps for...
- business - am I brave enough to launch into massage therapy again? I have only to secure insurance and I'm pretty much ready to go. But feeling fearful is getting in my way. Do I have the energy to give to this?
- work - could I work in retail for a while just to get some cash flow? Can I get a resume up and send it to some retailers (everything is online these days or I would have done this earlier). Currently my computer doesn't have Word so I haven't put my resume together. I could do this at the library. I have to return some books today. I could do this today.
- home - is currently with my mum. It is so kind of her to have me here. I look forward to one day having my own place again. But I have to be working to even entertain this idea. And I've needed to rest.
- health - I am stronger and more resilient than I was at the start of the year. I'm not sure yet if it's enough. I find it easier to manage my health when I am in one place. It requires my constant attention to create an environment for healing. I am too easily distracted from my goal of optimum health. I self-sabotage often, but I am on the right track generally. On, on with this one. It is the foundation for my life.
- relationships - with family, mostly great. One very sad separation from my son and this has continued for almost two years now. It is hard but I understand. I hope for re-connection in the future. My daughter is almost 28 and I love her dearly. I appreciate every time we are able to spend time together on the phone or when I can visit her on the mainland of Australia. Mum is amazing. I am 60 and back home with Mum. It's not what I expected from life. I've learned you don't get what you expect, but I'm also learning that there are things I have control over and mostly that is how I respond to life. I'm smiling more at this end of the year than I was at the beginning so that's a good thing. I am so grateful for the hugs, laughs and conversations I have with other family, both close and extended. I am lucky to have you all in my life.
- relationships - with friends, interesting. I don't have a great many close friends and many of those live distantly from me. I know a lot of people and embrace them as beautifully human and sharing this life journey bumping in and out of my life. I love it when I see them. If there's time for coffee and chat, great. I'd love to spend more evenings chatting around a campfire, outside. I have been single for a long time. Relationships with friends change when you don't have a partner any more. It's something I've noticed. Sometimes it's hard. But mostly it's given me a massive opportunity for personal growth. I'll be a better partner if there comes a time, simply because I have grown so much from being alone.
- men - feelings. fear. excitement. fear. fear of what exactly? change. commitment. loss. grief. I've spent a lot of years building walls and recently started dismantling them. It's scary as hell but there is more of life to live, and being inside a fortress might be safe...but how limiting. I like men. I like their company. They are good people. Most of them. Most of the time.
- vulnerability - there is a lot of talk about being vulnerable. As a woman I have to keep myself safe. it is not safe to be vulnerable. There is a clash here of sensibilities. One must be safe but to be safe one must not entertain risk. relationships. the nature of them is risk. risk being hurt. risk suffering loss and grief and that soul-sucking loneliness that follows. That feeling of not being good enough or of being knocked down again. I am the one that leaves. I have to learn to trust myself again. To know that what I have learned is that I can ask questions and risk the difficult times in order to grow in a new way and to stay. I am wiser. But I need to learn to trust that wisdom.
- shiny things - this is my metaphor for all the things on the periphery of life that grab my attention. They take my eyes off the prize (whatever that is) and split my energy into ever smaller fragments. My passion, if you like, is learning. I am interested in almost everything that shows up and like a bower bird, collect bits of paper, emails, addresses, phone numbers, course numbers, print-outs, ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas and other things and then feel constantly frustrated by an overwhelm that brings me to a standstill and I don't get to do any of them. I sometimes wonder if a bullet journal would help. Or is that just another shiny thing that I would use for three days and lose on my desk and feel guilty about (wasting time setting it up, spending money on it, etc)?
- travel - I'd love to do more. I've been a bit of a gypsy this year and I love it! But I need...return to top of list.
- Look at the big picture - what could go right?
- Set a deadline - any action is better than no action.
- Start your day right - have a morning routine.
- Take action - paralysis robs us of living our lives.
- Accept that there are things beyond your control - centre and focus on what you can control.
- Ask for the time to think - use time productively.
- Don't get swallowed up by your fears - fears almost never come to life.
- Exercise your way to a clear head - go for a walk.
- Sleep - equals time to process information and work on solutions subconsciously.
- Make an effort to be present - if you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Be mindful but don't fill up your mind - deal with one thing at a time.
Monday, 22 October 2018
Thank God for our thinkers and our poets. Thank God for our writers. Writers create not just prose; they create more thinkers. This is the miracle, perhaps the miracle that drives us to record our thoughts. Our images, whether word pictures or snaps taken with our phones, share thoughts and ideas. Why, we might ask, does that picture exist? What does it mean to me? For me? Oh, lovers of words and of images, purveyors of truth, what richness and depth you add to life.
I went to Sydney. Before my daughter arrived, I fell in love with the State Library. Oh, the magic of that place had me in its spell as soon as I stepped through the great doors. Or perhaps it grabbed me sooner, wafting tentacles of delight sent forth into the Botanical Gardens to catch my heart and reel me in. A storm loomed large, lightning split the sky and booming thunder warned of its swift approach. The Library promised refuge. It was not hard to be tempted. What wonders I found inside. A mere hour before the galleries would close, the doormen cautioned me. That's fine I said, I can come back tomorrow if I want to. I lost myself many times over as I sauntered the roomy corridors and read a word here, a passage there. Gazing upon the gilt framed oils, I had to take some photos to share. Further on I listened to the narratives of Aboriginal elders and saw memorabilia from their lives; anchored in a great history, through a time of great loss and mourning, thriving in the modern world.
|This image taken from a booklet in the library 'Sydney Elders Continuing Aboriginal Stories'|
Later I wandered through to a second exhibition, one of diaries and poems and glass-plate photographs. As I read some notes written painstakingly by men in the trenches during wartime, it occurred to me that we just can't help ourselves. We have to make marks. We have to make our marks. Our mark. Leave a legacy. Share our story. Share our horror and our humour. Share our thoughts. We have to make images. We have to create. We do it for others but I wonder if in the end we really do it for ourselves because we have to. We just can't help it. The creative urge? The insistent need to prove that we have in fact existed? Invisibly connecting ourselves to others as we imagine our marks being read or our images observed and pored over - is that what drives us? Perhaps it is just for the doing. I don't know. But it became clear to me that day that through the ages there has been that drive to make marks.
It's easy to see that it's nothing new. Hieroglyphs in Egypt, scrolls in the Middle East and rock art here in Australia and in other parts of the world left by ancient people millennia ago are evidence that this urge is part of the human condition. We need to communicate. One with another. The hardest part of it all is to slow down enough to really look and listen.
I went to Sydney. I entertained some memories of times past. Mine and those of others. I saw new things and opened parts of my heart that hadn't seen daylight for a while. I'm glad I went to Sydney. It was just what I needed and I think it's left its mark on me.
Sunday, 14 October 2018
- The long-haul flights suck. Do what you can to be comfortable without infringing on other passengers' space.
- Carry medication for headaches, nausea and diarrhea as a minimum self-care package. Be wary of wipes as you might react to them. I did. Take your own.
- Pack light and buy what you need when you get there if you're staying more than a couple of days. I packed for cool to warm weather and it was hot. Hot. So I had a suitcase full of stuff and used very little of it. I lugged that case up enough stairs in London to know that I won't do it again.
- Learn the basics of the local language so that you can at least look like you're trying. Numbers, money, please and kiitos. It is polite to do so. Sorry Finland.
- Have some idea about setting up your phone to work where you are without it costing you the earth. I bumbled my way through this but think further research would be helpful. Thanks to friends who gave me a few tips before I left.
- Get to know a bit about local culture before you go. Surprises are nice, but it feels good to have some idea what's going on around you.