Posts tagged ‘hope’

MAY YOUR GUIDING LIGHT BE STRONG.

Earlier this week a friend was taking me to an appointment and we were on the freeway. The traffic ground to almost a standstill and we were barely crawling along. I googled traffic conditions and the website said that there had been an accident resulting in partial closure of the freeway with no information about injuries as yet. The post was several hours old and I immediately thought that there must have been a fatality. As we crawled past no less than three lots of cars, who seemed to have run into each other in the barely moving traffic jam and were exchanging details, I was transported to another freeway and a rock faced wall. My hands sifting through sandy dirt at the edge of the road and finding a melted section of a car badge. Another freeway almost fifteen years ago.

In the present day my heart rate and breathing escalated and I started to cry. My phone vibrated with a message from a friend asking how I was going and I told her. Fifteen minutes later – maybe? It could have been quicker, everything was moving very slowly – another message from my friend. “No fatality. It’s a diesel spill xx”

Just over seven years ago I posted this post titled “With a little help from my friends”. This week, again, always, I have had much cause to be thankful for the beautiful people who surround my children and me. There has been so much going on, many layers of things. Those people who walk beside us make this life a gentler trip.

So this shoutout goes to ones who are there. The ones who get us. The ones who love us. The ones who pick up the slack and give us a boost. Who take us to concerts and give us safe places to land. Who know what to say and when to say it and when to say nothing at all. The ones who don’t give up or turn their backs. With all our love and thanks to you, because we seriously couldn’t do this without you! Which is really something I can’t say enough.

Safe onward travel x

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FEBRUARY MADE ME SHIVER.

To the Students of Stoneman Douglas High School,

There are not words to convey how sorry I am for what has happened to you all. On a day most associated with love, in a place that should be associated with growth the magnitude of the horror you have experienced and continue to experience is almost incomprehensible.

I don’t pretend to know what you are going through but my heart bleeds as I imagine you going from funeral to funeral, from hospital bed to hospital bed. Even just going from day to day, as you navigate this, your new normal.

This Sunday, my eldest Daughter would have been turning 29. She would have been, but she was murdered aged 14. I don’t pretend to know what you are going through so I will speak to what I do know.

I know that all these years later, my Daughter’s friends still say her name.

You will move on from this. You won’t have a choice. Time rolls on regardless. I hope you can hold on to your outrage but not let it rob you of all that is beautiful in life. None of you have chosen this but you will get to have some choice about what you carry with you into your futures. Or how you carry it into your futures. Honouring your friends and your teachers but also, importantly, honouring yourselves. Take it one step at a time.

I hope that you can ask for help if you need it. I know that you will not forget. More than anything else, I hope that you see the change you are fighting so hard for.

Safe onward travel x

AND THEY CAN NEVER TEAR US APART.

For my True x

What goes up must come down. I’m definitely in a slump at the moment but also highly strung – isn’t the English language funny? I’m both of those things and also feel on edge which sounds like I’m being torn in three different directions and actually that’s fairly accurate, if not an understatement.

As wonderful as having my children together is, it is proportionally devastating to have that change again. It is hard.

When they are together it is as if they have never been apart. Sometimes they squabble and I have to remind myself that it is normal sibling behaviour, even as the anxiety rises in me because as soon as the clock starts time is running out. ‘Play nicely guys because this is all the time we have’.

But now is always all the time we have so I try not to focus on the hard stuff to come or the hard stuff that’s been. Instead I marvel at how alike they are, how in sync they are. How much they love each other.

We talked together about Daughter Number One. It made Son Number One too sad so we had to finish the conversation when he wasn’t there. It made Son Number Two sad as well so he phoned his best friend. It made Daughter Number Two sad but she said through her tears that she would rather know all she can about her sister even if it made her sad and together we read some of the things Daughter Number One’s friends had written about her after she had died. We talked about her hopes and dreams and Daughter Number Two’s understanding of her Big Sister gained poignant dimensions; that her Big Sister was a girl not much older than she is now herself, who had hopes and dreams. Followed swiftly by the cutting realisation that Daughter Number One never got to live out her dreams, or her life.

Talking about her Big Sister and sharing our memories is the only way that Daughter Number Two will know her but they are so very alike it is uncanny. Both with similar talents and passions. Both with huge open hearts.

When our time with Daughter Number Two was coming to an end this time – just for now, just until next time – we travelled the country and beat our previous record with four states in twenty four hours. Definitely taking the scenic route! Although we didn’t have time to see everything and everyone we wanted to see we did have time to connect with some very special people who are dear to us. A constant theme here is the wealth of love and support we have to draw on and how strong our family of the heart is. They are there to lift us up, to love us and our lives are so much the richer for it.

Someone speaking to my ten year old Daughter Number Two this week called Son Number Two her ‘half brother’. It was a remark meant to belittle and diminish the bond between them. Instead, it only served to belittle and diminish the speaker, and really, who even thought that was possible?

How pathetic that an adult would try to lessen for my Daughter a relationship she holds so dear. Technically speaking Daughter Number One and Daughter Number Two are ‘half sibling’s as well. Her Big Sister that she will never get to meet. She will never get to sing a duet with her Big Sister or go on adventures with her, as she does with her Brothers. She won’t ever feel her Big Sister’s arms around her, giving her one of the hugs she was renowned for. Daughter Number Two will never see for herself the ways that she and her sister are similar and the ways that they differ. So, hasn’t she lost enough, my ten year old girl? Why would anyone want to try to take any more away from her? Why do some people have to try to tear others down to build themselves up?

And I think of all the people we are privileged to have in our lives, my Daughters, my Sons and me. I think of our family of the heart who stand with us so that we know we are never alone. I feel the fierce love that surrounds us; from one end of the country to the other, across the world, through the years and, as we head towards the fifteenth anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder, even beyond death. People who show up for us, consistently, when we need them. People who love us, even when we can’t love ourselves. People who speak my Daughter Number One’s name and remember her always. And then, I can feel pity for the person who can only define family in such limited, simplistic terms as shared genetic material. Compassion I will have to work on.

Although I feel in a bit of a slump I lean into the love that surrounds me. All the laughter and good times my children and I have shared are still with me and with them also. Even those I am apart from are always in my heart.

Safe onward travel x

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT.

A few weeks ago Son Number Two came home from a movie night with The Boys. He said “Mum, there’s a movie we have to see!”. He went on to explain that he had seen the shorts for a film called’Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He said “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh”.

As I’ve said before, Daughter Number One loved Winnie the Pooh and her room was full of Winnie stuff. After her murder my Sons and I decorated her coffin with Winnie the Pooh stickers, messages of love, glitter and their tiny handprints. So, “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh” – Of course we did.

Off we went, on my birthday at the beginning of the month. It was a very good movie. Terribly British in a charming way; it had themes of the futility of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mistakes we make as parents, forgiveness, family of the heart and how we carry on. It is the back story of bow Winnie the Pooh came to be. I didn’t have any knowledge of Winnie the Pooh author A.A.Milne outside of Winnie himself and it was incredibly moving and interesting to watch this film. I cried, oh, how I cried. And I unreservedly recommend you watch ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ too. I also recommend doing your own research around A.A.Milne and reading some of his other works.

Well guys, it’s been a year! Christmas is almost upon us and then another year. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. My plan is to spend my time and energy on the people I love, who love me. That’s all I’m sure about. As always I am tremendously grateful for those who travel with me.

Wishing you and yours health and happiness! Safe onward travel x

DREAMS THAT YOU DARE TO DREAM. 

Not much stuck from my childhood. Actually, that’s not quite true; LOTS of it stuck but there’s not much I choose to hold onto. This week though one thing has resonated.
As I child I was taught that if you feel like saying something you should ask yourself three things – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? This ridiculous, non binding, divisive, resource wasting postal plebiscite has exceeded the fearful expectations of those who opposed it and the climate is ugly out there. It is being used as a platform for sinister untruths and as a license to spew hate. On a daily basis, on a deep level, people are being attacked for who they love.

Of course, this is nothing new. The LGBTI+ community has never been immune to persecution. It is the openness of the hatred at the moment that appals me. That we are being compelled to choose a side and that an actual campaign is being waged to validate bigotry. More resources wasted to generate and perpetuate hate.

I am a Sagittatarian, it’s kind of mandatory for me to be blunt and I value honesty highly. But I come back to those three questions; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? The thing about opinions is that everyone has one and I’m not going to argue that you aren’t entitled to yours, even if it opposes mine. What I am sure about though, is the neither of us should take our opinions and use them as the basis of acts that damage other people.

If you do feel you have something to say then be thoughtful around how you express yourself. Check your facts. Make sure they are, in fact, facts. Decide if you really need to say anything. Will you actually be contributing? If so, express yourself respectfully. There’s a school of thought that asserts that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. I don’t agree with that. Lots of the things I speak about here aren’t nice but I feel like I have something to contribute by not staying silent. I hope I am respectful. I try to be.
Daughter Number One’s best friend was gay. Well, to the best of my knowledge he still is! She loved him dearly. She had been to several Mardi Gras parades in Sydney before she died at 14. Son Number Two, my tall, nineteen year old, straight son, also has friends who fall outside of heterosexual norms. So do I. Dearly loved friends, some I have had for decades, some who have walked with me through the darkest of nights. Even Daughter Number Two has a best friend who shows signs of growing up to walk the road less travelled. He’s young, so who knows? My point is that whoever her friend grows up to be my Daughter will not judge him on who he loves. Because she loves him. Just as he is.

I have been so sad about this postal plebiscite. The stories both from mainstream media and people I know are heartbreaking. I go to rallys when I can. I posted off my yes vote. I write about marriage equality here and I share things on facebook. But this issue has been going on for so long now in Australia that I am able to share facebook memories from three years ago that are still sadly relevant. And, in the face of the sea of hatred that is tsunami-ing over us, it doesn’t seem enough.
So tomorrow I am going to a PFLAG meeting. PFLAG stands for ‘Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’. When I rang up today to register my interest in attending tomorrow the lady on the phone asked me for my story. She asked where I heard about PFLAG. I’ve seen them march behind their banner in Mardi Gras. I’ve watched Debbie represent in Queer as Folk. I’ve heard them speak at rallys. What’s my story? “Do you have a gay child?” she asked. And I don’t. But I could. And that would be perfectly fine with me, because love is love.
I believe in love. With so much ugliness in this world I believe in love. I know and love many beautiful people and I believe they all should be allowed to make the choices they feel are right for themselves, in their own relationships. I don’t believe ‘different’ should equal ‘lesser under law’. So, I’ll go to the PFLAG meeting tomorrow and I’ll go to the marriage equality rally next week and I’ll keep writing here about things that matter.

This article here gives some insight into why straight allies are important and this link will point you in a practical direction if you have time and energy to share. PFLAG can be found here and there are many groups and events you can make contact with in your state.

Travel safe x

I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. 

In the last few weeks there has been the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and the sixteenth anniversary of September 11. There were many television programs commemorating the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I watched some of them. I heard her sons speak of the last conversation they had with their mother; a brief phone chat. Their regret that they had not spoken to their mother for longer. Those poor little boys. 

There were also lots of articles commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Tales of ordinary extraordinary people. Stories of brave survival and honourable death. Poignant conversations. Answering machine messages. We don’t generally have the luxury of knowing in advance when ‘last’ times come. The luxury of savouring each millisecond and commiting each moment to memory. We usually only recognise them when they are past. The last time we hear someone’s voice or see them smile or hold them in our arms. 

In between the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and September 11th this year Connie Johnson died. Boy, that chick knew how to live! And how to love! Connie was amazing. Her public memorial service was held in Melbourne today. If you are not familiar with Connie’s life and her work you can read up on her at loveyoursister.org  Please do! Or, you know, google. Look up Connie and what she was about. She left quite a legacy for everyone who loved her, especially her sons. But I bet they’d rather still have their Mum. 

Anniversaries, anniversaries, anniversaries. Whether it’s an hour or a day or twenty years they pack a punch. That’s loss I guess. That’s life. 

Even without working it out exactly I know that I have now lived longer without my Daughter Number One than I lived with her. I don’t need anniversaries to still feel the enormity of that loss. It is the way it is. This cartoon references mental illness but could just as easily relate to grief and loss for me. 

It’s not that I am unaffected now. Far from it. Just that it is what it is. I have lived longer without my Daughter than she lived her entire life. And however wrong that is, , however unbelievable, however fucking unfair, that’s the way it is. Knowing that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a night last week, as I turned the tv off and locked up the house, when I glanced at a photo of my Daughter and a sob burst from me with such force that it bent me double and I found myself on my knees, with tears streaming down my face saying over and over “Please come back! Please come back!”. But however much I plead and beg and cry she is never coming back. And the world keeps turning and the sun keeps rising. 

This year has been another one filled with loss, for me and people I hold dear. But not ours exclusively. Loss is the flip side of love. I try to focus, as best I can, on the love. It’s what there is left to hang on to. When all else is gone love is what remains. 

So I guess this is what I want to say today; love hard. Take the photo, make the phone call, send the message. Connect with the people you care about in any way available to to you! We have the technology! Get the most out of it! Send a video message or record a voice message. Do a video chat! Or go old school! Send a letter, write a card, post a care package. Let those you love know about it. You, your time and energy, are the most important gift you have to give. So invest in the people who matter to you, while you can. As much as you can for as long as you can. Savour it all. 

Safe onward travel x 

SEASONS OF LOVE. 

On Wednesday night I was sitting next to my tall, handsome, teenaged, caucasian, heterosexual son who was born and has lived all his life in Australia. I had met him after school and together we had gone to a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shootings.

Hearing what had happened in Orlando was completely devastating to me and the vigil was someplace I needed to be. The weather was so cold I actually picked up a $7 jacket from Kmart on the way there and my son was wearing his beanie and three layers. 

We sat together on the concrete steps and watched the crowd of hundreds gather. The sun went down and candles were lit. There were rainbows everywhere; on flags, on posters, on people. An Aboriginal elder named Kevin gave the Welcome to Country and while he was speaking, with tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice, he said that he stood with us all today, because he also had a child who had been murdered. And I thought ‘Me too, Kevin, me too’. 
We listened to a choir sing ‘Seasons of Love’ from the musical Rent. We listened to the other speakers who all spoke from the heart with messages of hope and love. There was also an Auslan interpreter who signed everything. 

One of the speakers spoke of the importance to the LGBTI community of having a safe place to go where you could just be yourself in security and acceptance and how the senseless carnage in Orlando was so much more horrific for the fact it occurred in one of these sanctuaries. I can’t profess to know what it is like to be vilified, harassed and abused because of my sexuality but as a woman who has lived through violence in my own home and who has felt my heart rate rise on hearing footsteps behind me when walking alone at night I have some empathy and understanding of the importance of safe places to be. I cannot know the struggle of the LGBTI community on a daily basis, despite my many beautiful friends who identify. That doesn’t prevent me from understanding loss, grief, fear or any other human condition. 

As we travelled home after the vigil on the train a pretty Aboriginal girl started speaking to us. I don’t know why she chose us to speak to, there were no outward indications of where we had just been. Just one of those serendipitous things I guess. “Hey, how about what happened in Orlando? So bad, hey? If I could tell them, I stand with them with pride! You know! Corroboree style – ’cause I’m Aboriginal, see?” And the doors opened and she got off the train. Same same. Love is love. 
In amongst the rhetoric flowing from Orlando has been the assertion that ‘making this about the Gay thing is missing the point’. To that I say ‘No’. Just no. There are many issues arising out of Orlando but that it was a Gay hate crime is undeniable. Most of us in Australia have been proud of our gun laws in the wake of this tragedy. That’s cool, we should be. But to sit in complacency really would be missing the point. In this country we, at a legislative level, discriminate against the LGBTI community. That is truth. That is fact. That is shameful. While ever we collectively do so we need to take our share of the responsibility for anyone who believes that members of this community are somehow ‘lesser’ citizens. And we have to take our share of the responsibility for the actions arising out of those beliefs, because we have laws that support them. After the Orlando shootings one of my friends who lives elsewhere made the link between the shootings and marriage equality. He spoke about “we in the civilised world” and my heart dropped with the realisation that the description did not include us. I felt a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach that came with the acknowledgement that we are part of the problem. We are part of the problem. 

As my son and I sat and listened the other night I pondered the places we have been together. On both occasions I have been honoured to speak at the invitation of Angelhands about my daughter’s death my teenaged son has come with me. Listening to other speakers quote statistics and discuss issues around violence against women. Physically flinching at times but not turning away. He didn’t sit with me when his friend’s grandmother died. When we went to her funeral he sat by his friend. He did not turn away then either. 
I started this post by making note of the fact my son is tall, handsome, teenaged, caucasian and heterosexual. He was born and has lived all his life in Australia. I mentioned all these things at the start because I realised when I looked across at him listening intently to the speakers, that despite the many hardships he continues to face in his life he has much to be thankful for. Just by virtue of the above facts. Along with that comes the ability to be part of the solution.

In the cold night air one of the speakers asked us to link hands and led a rousing chorus of ‘We Shall Overcome’ and my son sang along. When I told my son about the vigil for the victims in Orlando I did not have to ask him twice. Before we arrived at the vigil and continuing after we left my son was involved in a heated online debate about gun control.
As a mother I don’t take much credit for the impressive qualities of my children. In truth, a few months shy of eighteen, my son is more his own person every day. That being said his sister Sam had been to several Mardi Gras parades and peaceful demonstrations by the time she died aged fourteen. So I know without question, because the evidence is there, that it has always been important to me as a mother to share with my children the beauty of our commonalities even while celebrating our unique differences and to teach them the importance of standing up for what you believe is right. Even in the face of objection and derision. Especially in the face of objection and derision. The importance of speaking your truth. One of the wonderful and magical things as your children grow is the realisation they teach you just as much about life, if not more but maybe I have passed on some things of value. 

As proceedings at the vigil came to a close Kevin the Aboriginal elder took the microphone and said “I love you’s all!” and I thought ‘Me too Kevin, me too!’. My son and I stood up and he said “I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be persecuted just for being who you are” and as I nodded he continued with “but what an AMAZING community!” I couldn’t agree with him more! 
On Saturday the 25th June 2016 my son and I will be at a Rally for Marriage Equality in Perth, Western Australia. The Rally starts at 1pm and is being held in the Murray Street Mall in the Perth CBD. There is a page on facebook if you need more information. We hope to see you there! 
Be the change, beautiful people, be the change! 
And travel safe x 

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