I went to sleep sometime after 1am. Nightmares are still very extra for me, which means that no matter how tired I may be, my brain will resist the call to sleep. ‘Danger Will Robinson!’. It doesn’t help that I’m a night owl by nature. It’s quiet and familiar and I am way more afraid of things that boldly come at you in the daylight. For lots of reasons, getting to sleep takes some work.
My nightmares feel so real. It’s rare that I know I am dreaming. The themes revolve around loss and failure but any anxiety provoking scenario will do. Lurching through multiple traumas most nights is exhausting. I’ve spoken about waking from nightmares and having to reorient myself, not only to where I am but to WHEN I am. That reorientation takes effort. It’s not as simple as opening my eyes. It’s more like talking myself back onto the ledge, from the vice-like, sticky fingered grip of the abyss. And the best I will be able to do is cling, shaking, teetering on the edge of the ledge as I begin another day.
A couple of years ago I started a new medication that ‘took the edge off’ my nightmares. There was a threshold I would hit, dependant on the amount of other stressors in my life, where the medication wouldn’t work anymore. Post Covid, I seemed to be above that threshold all the time. And since I take multiple medications for other conditions I didn’t see the point of continuing to take one that no longer worked.
Last night, my brain levelled up, and found a new way to torture me. Our brains are fascinating. In one of last night’s nightmares- was it the main feature? Probably – I was flicking through a folder, with documents in it. I came across a birth certificate, where I was listed as the mother, for a child that I didn’t recognise as mine. I scanned the page, over and over. I could feel the page in between my fingers, the edge of it sharp against my palm as I gripped it tightly, fighting to make sense of what I was reading.
Was there another baby? Did I have another baby? What happened to the baby? Why couldn’t I remember? What happened to the baby? Where was the baby? Why wasn’t the baby with me? Why couldn’t I remember? What had he done to my baby?
As someone who has lost whole swathes of her life to trauma related memory loss it is plausible to me something horrendous had happened and I had blocked it out. But it’s not like I was thinking logically. It was all panicked confusion and ice cold terror.
Eventually my distress was enough to catapult me into consciousness. Where I grounded myself with the warm body of my little dog. My mind and heart still racing I went through a checklist of reality.
There wasn’t another baby. I’ve ‘only’ had one child stolen forever from me. And although she was and will always be my baby, she was fourteen when she died. And that’s the Catch 22 you see. When I am flung from a nightmare into consciousness my reality is still a nightmare. It always will be. Which is exhausting.
I do all the things, to take care of myself. All of the things I have learned to do over all of the years. I focus on the good in my life and my gratitude for it all. I immerse myself in the bigger picture and live to honour my Daughter in the best ways I can. There are many good people who love me, and who I love. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. But some days are hard.
Today was hard for me. I hope yours was easier.
Safe onward travel x
I’m not really mad at God, basically because I don’t believe. I am just really, really angry at the moment. Behind that anger is grief, sadness, helplessness, hopelessness. I know that. My own anger doesn’t scare me. It’s an emotion, like any other. And, most of the time, anger is very motivating for me. So, not necessarily a negative.
This time I am just blindingly angry. I have cried many hot, furious tears that have burned and blistered their way down my face. So much of what I am angry about falls into the ‘accept the things you cannot change’ category, and there’s no motivation or inspiration out of that. No new motivation or inspiration. I’m still out there changing the things I can. But it doesn’t feel enough and I don’t know how it ever could be really. And to be honest, I AM SO FUCKING SICK AND TIRED OF HAVING TO ACCEPT the things I cannot change. Seriously over it. Especially when so many of them are unacceptable. Absolutely.
I am privileged to live in a place in the world that has been one of the most unaffected by Covid. I don’t underestimate that. And yet, Covid has slammed me. It’s the suspense of it. The not having control of it. The ‘SURPRISE! GLOBAL PANDEMIC’, uncertainty, insecurity, suspense of it. I hate surprises. Since roughly March – around the beginning of our Covid experience- last year the symptoms of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have been off the charts. My nightmares now are as bad as they were just after Daughter Number One died. The usual themes of loss and grief and powerlessness. Without exaggeration, as bad as they have ever been, My sleep varies in levels of shittiness all the time but is consistently the shittiest now. Getting to sleep. Staying asleep. The horrific nightmares really don’t help that.
As I am writing all this I am thinking of all the people who have been directly affected by Covid in the worst ways. I really don’t ever forget how lucky I have been. And I am grateful. Even though everything is not all about me, this is my place to write down how I feel. I guess if you think I am being too much of a selfish cow then you’ll stop reading?
You know what else isn’t all about me? A young friend who died of cancer last year, having fought it a couple of times before. He wasn’t a very close friend but a friend nevertheless. Genuinely one of THE MOST LOVELY and decent and kind people I have ever met in my life. Just a really GOOD person, you know? Someone whose mere existence makes the world a brighter place. Except he doesn’t now. Exist. Except in our hearts and memories. And that’s another thing I AM SO ANGRY about. IT’S SO UNFAIR. An exceptional human being, a young person with a young family, who every day was offering a helping hand to anyone who needed it. Who was clever and funny and brave. Who believed in the greater good and put those beliefs into action. When I think of all the arseholes still out there walking around IT MAKES ME FURIOUS!
At his funeral service the religious person officiating said he had tried to have conversations with this exceptional human being regarding their beliefs and that the exceptional human being had ‘refused to be drawn’ but that his family could have hope that he would be entering the gates of heaven, despite being noncommittal. I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist.
This absolutely INCENSED me! As I said, I wasn’t lucky enough to call the exceptional human a close friend and we’d never spoken of religion. We spoke about his partner and the home they were making together and his overwhelming pride in his little toddler. We swapped memes. Did each other the odd favour. I don’t know what religious convictions he held or didn’t hold.
But here’s what I do know. Hypothetically speaking, if there is a heaven, this exceptional human spent his days walking the walk. I don’t expect he was a perfect person, there’s no fun in that. But a genuinely decent person who lived his life with joy and appreciation and in active fellowship with the rest of us. IF there is a heaven then, by God (ha!), this person should be guaranteed entry. Not because he spouted the company line – which he may have done, I don’t know – but because he lived his life in a way that represents what all that stuff is actually meant to mean!
IF there is a heaven then his family shouldn’t have to hope anything! IF there’s a heaven it should be rolling out the red carpet and escorting him to the VIP lounge, ffs!
I was watching an episode of House the other day. House was talking about the lack of dignity in death. I think that’s right. There are certainly more dignified ways to die than others but, yes, I agree, the dignity is in how you choose to live.
In the last almost twelve months of Covid, like many others, I haven’t been able to travel to people I love. Some people I love have gone through/are going through extremely difficult times and I can’t go and be with them. Or hug them. I can’t get to them – another trigger. And again, my privilege acknowledged. I haven’t missed any weddings or funerals or births. I’ve gotten off easily, I know! The irony of me whinging about the effect ON ME of not being able to get to people I love to support them in THEIR time of need is not lost to me. This is an extremely self centred post. I’m not perfect either.
Another dearest heart, beautiful human – another exceptional being I am proud to call my friend – is dying as we speak. A kindred spirit, someone I felt a strong connection to the first time we met. Again, a bright, witty, giving human. Again it’s cancer, although they have lived a longer life than my younger friend. And I know, I know, we are all dying, day by day. I know that. But, yeah, there are more dignified ways to go and cancer is just not one of them. And my friend, who has lived a colourful and inspirational life, looked me in the eyes and said “It’s not fair!”. And they are right, it’s not fair. It is the opposite of fair. The furtherest away from fair it’s possible to get, if you ask me. And that makes me angry too. REALLY FUCKING ANGRY.
And sad and helpless and hopeless. I am still doing all the things. All the things I have learned, over all the years and all the traumas and all the fucking accepting of things I cannot fucking change. I’m still focusing my energy on things bigger than me – although this pity party post probably suggests otherwise. I’m still DOING. ALL. THE. THINGS. Putting my energy into things and people that matter to me. Taking photos. Taking medication. Writing here. Blaring songs on repeat. Like ‘The Middle’ by Jimmy Eat World.
I’m just angry. I’m just sad. I’m just tired. And my Daughter Number One’s birthday is in less than two weeks. Which probably isn’t helping. We will celebrate having known her at all and the time we had with her. But she still won’t be here anymore. It still won’t be fair. And I will still be angry. Because she deserved better. She deserved more. A lot of us do. But we play the hands we are dealt the best that we can. And we keep going, because it’s all we can do. And we choose love, because in the end the love is what we leave behind.
Safe onward travel x
This morning I woke up to a video that had been posted in the private facebook group I set up, for people who love/d my Daughter Number One, to share memories of her. It’s been seventeen and a half years since Daughter Number One was murdered and it’s so incredibly touching to me that I still get posts like this! Today’s post was a video of a performance Sam did at six and a half, with her dance school. In the entire video she jumps out of the screen! I can almost touch her! One of my longest serving and dearest friends wrote:
And that’s it, in a nutshell. It’s who my Daughter was, and how she lived her life.
People are still finding me here and reading those posts and I appreciate that more than I can say. Especially because I haven’t been writing very regularly. So, whoever you are, however you found me and wherever you are from; thank you for stopping by!
This year has been crazy for all of us and Daughter Number Two being a teenager combined with my stuff I do with PFLAG take up a lot of my time and energy. In good and positive ways! The rest of it goes on living. Putting one foot in front of the other to get to the other side. I’ve spoken before about the fact I used to be a Christmas freak, with an extensive and valuable Christmas ornament collection. Like birthdays, and any other special event really, things are different now. Forever harder. I bought a rainbow Christmas tree and matching baubles. Only a tiny thing, maybe 50cms tall, if that? But it’s laying on it’s side in the loungeroom and the baubles are still packed beside it. It used to be a huge night, decorating the tree. My birthday is in early December so usually to coincide with that we would decorate the tree. All the decorations. All the memories that came with them. Now, like everything else, I do the best I can with what I have. And I’ll get to the tree before the day itself – better late than never, right?
A few posts back I wrote about reconnecting with someone I had known about thirty five years ago. We reconnected to find we had both found our way to the other side of the country and currently live a stone’s throw from each other! Life is so weird! Anyway, I received an invitation from him to his Christmas event. Although we have written to each other, just after Daughter Number One’s murder for a couple of years, and in more recent times, we hadn’t actually seen each other since our private Catholic school days thirty five years ago. There were a lot of people at the event, which I don’t do well at all, but I got to meet his lovely husband and I watched him move around his home, playing host. And he was so different but still so very much the same. Despite exceeding my level of comfort by a good measure I was so glad I had gone, glad he had thought to ask me, and happy to see where he is now!
Lots of us have our holiday plans up in the air or completely changed, thanks to Covid 19. I am lucky to live in one of the most controlled places on earth and I don’t, for one moment, under appreciate how lucky we are. There are loved ones I can’t go and see this year. So many people I don’t get to hug. But I can’t dwell on the hard bits too much. We just have to do the best we can with what we have. The best we can for all of us collectively, not individually. I’ve always been a big picture girl but that doesn’t mean restrictions don’t hurt. It is what it is though, right? Stay safe. Think about others. Play your part.
Live life like my Sam. Bring laughter and happiness to those around you while having a blast at the same time! It won’t always be easy, sometimes it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. But it will be what the people you love remember. And it will be what they hang onto when things are tough. It will be what you hang onto as well. Because the presents will get opened, the day will pass. The dates on our calendars will change. Covid will become more managed. Life will go on. But the love we generate will be what stays.
Health and happiness to you and yours! Safe onward travel x
You can box it in
Bury it in the ground
You can close it off and turn it away
Try to keep it down, six feet in the ground
But love don’t die
Love Don’t Die – The Fray
Wear it Purple Day was on Friday the 28th August. It’s a day to celebrate diversity and most particularly young people who are part of the LGBTIQA+ community. Wearing purple and holding events to be very vocal and visible about the fact that there is love and acceptance out there. That even if you feel alone right now there’s a whole community of family you just haven’t met yet.
I started the day helping Daughter Number Two get ready for the events she had helped organise for her school and made her pose for photos before she left.
That evening, with a friend apiece in tow, we headed off to join the Youth Pride Network’s Pot Luck get together. YPN are on facebook and are an exceptional bunch of young people doing amazing things! Seriously, their knowledge and commitment is beyond impressive and I am always in awestruck admiration of it. Their pot luck event was held at Perth City Farm, a venue I had never been to before and it didn’t disappoint. I had been stressing all day about what to make to take for the pot luck dinner; budget and time being restrictions. But I remembered I had fettuccine and pesto in the pantry and threw that together. During the course of the evening I watched people loading their plates with generous amounts of my simple dish and it made me feel warm and fuzzy! Food is definitely one of my love languages! Some genius with a patience level I don’t possess had made rainbow jellies! Sooooo pretty!
After the YPN event we had tickets to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Girls School Cinema – a venue I have had the pleasure of previously! It is, as it says on the box, an old girls school that transforms into a seasonal cinema. It is fabulously spooky and rich in history and, whatever movie you are there to see, it those facts definitely add to the atmosphere. Daughter Number Two’s friend had never seen Rocky Horror before and it was, as always, a kick to introduce him to some history and culture and listen to him muse about the impact this film must have had on release. Without a doubt we celebrated Wear it Purple Day in style! I was exhausted but happy as we arrived home.
I’ve been stumbling through 2020, as I established in my last post. Since I last wrote we have moved house. It’s a good move and I love the new place but still, moving is stressful and change can be hard. In the photo from my last post you can see the little trouble maker we adopted just before Covid 19 changed the world forever. His name is Zorro and I adore him! He is happiest when he is snuggled up with me and sleeping and I am happy to oblige him in that endeavour as often as possible. He is an emotional support/ therapy dog without credentials. Just stroking him, playing with his ears or holding his little paws and playing with his toe beans (which he indulges me in all the time!) or listening to his soft snoring, calms me and grounds me.
When we arrived home very early Saturday morning Zorro was his usual beyond excited self to see us and did his happy dance and gave us lots of kisses. When I was ready I let him outside to go to the bathroom. I took some things upstairs and came down to let him inside for bed. Except he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the backyard at all! I realised the side gate was open and he was gone. Daughter Number Two and I started looking for him in the park next door but after 15 – 20 minutes of nothing I called in My Love and his daughter to help. By this time I was beyond hysterical. Zorro is only a small boy and it was a windy and rainy night. I had assumed he had just taken the opportunity for a romp in the park but when I couldn’t see him or hear him in the park or the surrounding streets I began to get really worried.
After TWO HOURS of searching and thanks only to My Love driving further than either of us thought he could ever had been we found the little bugger! He was trotting down an island in the middle of a main road; cold, scared but miraculously unharmed, over a kilometre from home.
On the other hand, I had died a thousand deaths and probably aged ten years. As PTSD has wired my brain to do, every memory involving loss and guilt that I have stored away was matched to the feelings I experienced in those two hours. For those of you playing along, you’ll know there’s a few such memories. “This is the same as that! This is the correct response!” Even once he was safely home and none the worse for his adventure my mind still raced along with my heart.
One particular memory stood out. It happened when my beautiful first born Daughter was four. It was a weekend morning, about six months into my relationship with her murderer. I was in bed with him when Sam walked into the room. We said our good mornings and I remarked that we needed milk. In jest I said “Do you mind popping down to the shops to get some Sammie?” and the the small talk moved on. Sam left the room and I got up to make her breakfast.
Except I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in the house. She wasn’t in the yard. Like a bolt of lightning it hit me that she may well have just gone to get the milk! To the local supermarket, several blocks and busy roads away. My heart in my mouth, I was paralysed by terror. Her murderer leapt to action and shot off to look for her. Do you know how fucked up it feels to write that sentence? To have that memory? And he found her, safe and sound, on her little trike, with her little bag, almost at the shops and cool as a cucumber! Like her mother, Sam was always a ‘Why not?’ kind of girl.
I, at the time, naturally beat myself up for my offhand comment and, even midst my relief that she was fine, whipped myself with thoughts of what could have happened to her, as mother’s often do.
Now, with this memory on repeat in my head and all jumbled up- the memory of the rush of relief as her murderer brought her safely home, my guilt for being a bad mother, anger and breath taking grief that ten years later the man who ‘saved’ her on that occasion would take her life, guilt for being a bad mother – I do not have the words to begin to tell you how seriously this memory fucked me over.
The day after Zorro ran away I stayed in bed, only getting up to make meals and eat with Daughter Number Two. I mostly slept. Today is the day after that and still I am a mess. My entire body is so sore and stiff. My head hurts and my chest feels like what I imagine it feels like to be kicked there by a horse. Every muscle, every joint, feels as if it is on fire. I cancelled plans I had yesterday and have tried to take today quietly but it will still be some time, probably, before I feel ok again. I don’t need to exaggerate how debilitating this is. If you know, then you know and if you don’t- lucky you! – it is probably beyond comprehension how quickly and thoroughly your own brain can you hobble you. Last week I was shopping in Coles with My Love and a song that had played at Sam’s funeral started playing. I burst into tears and couldn’t move for a while. In the middle of Coles. My Love just held me and only remarked once that it was a very long song! I just suffered a migraine from that experience but it was still enough to knock me out for the rest of that evening.
Because we moved there have been things to sort and unpack. So many memories. It makes it heavy going. Today I was reading through some letters from someone I loved dearly. I realised we are 18 months off thirty years since we met. Son Number Two, with whom I was pregnant when my friend died, will be twenty two years old tomorrow. Life goes on. On the back of one of his letters my friend wrote “Yes I’m still alive! Ha!” and I know that he is, in my heart and my memory. So is Sam, in the hearts and memories of so many. Love doesn’t die. It is what remains. It can still hurt like a bitch though!
Safe onward travel x
CW: Violence, child death, trauma, grief.
It’s surely a billionty years since I last wrote and a whole new world we are living in. I think of all the things I should be doing. Could be doing. My house should be immaculate with all the cupboards sorted. I could be reading all the books. Making and creating. Getting fitter and healthier. Baking!
But actually I am just getting through one day to the next. The Coronavirus situation is so hugely out of my control. I know, it’s out of everyone’s control. I am frustrated beyond belief with my reaction to it. Every day I vow to do better. Be better. Still I feel stuck in a holding pattern.
It’s just so triggering you see. The powerlessness. The lack of control. The anxiety and uncertainty. The massive demarcation of before and after coupled with the ever excruciating feeling of being in limbo.
It brings back all the feelings I had around Sam’s murder. The night she was killed I waited and waited for her to get home. Not knowing. Not understanding. Then, when I was told she was gone there was a two week wait for the autopsy to be performed, so any plans for a service had to wait. Then after my brilliant and beautiful Daughter was cremated – more than she had been in the burning wreck of the car that was used to kill her – we had to wait ten months for the inquest.
The pathologist who conducted the autopsy had retired before completing a good number of post mortem reports. Until it was completed the inquest could not be held. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
The family law proceedings Sam’s murderer’s mother brought against me couldn’t be finalised until after the inquest. Until they were finalised I was legally bound to stay in the area that held so many memories for me. Memories that destroyed me on a daily basis. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
All of these feelings and memories triggered by what is happening now, to the point of paralysis almost. I cannot kick my brain into gear. My mental functioning is operating on a very basic level because my entire body is on high alert in response to imminent danger. Fighting that is exhausting! I try. I do try. Coupled with insomnia and nightmares of a level that sort of impresses me when I disassociate enough to contemplate them. That constant panicky feeling of not being able to physically go to people who are dear to me.
I’m writing this for those of you who are struggling. For whatever reason. I write it for those of you who are grieving; for lost loved ones, lost incomes, lost feelings of safety. I write it because the beautiful Lori wrote a facebook post shortly after this began that resonated with me so deeply that I remembered I wasn’t alone in this grey in-between world. As always I am also writing for myself. So that I can empty out my head a bit and drag these things into the light. Speak their name so they lose their power. Somewhat.
I count my blessings. I am geographically blessed. I am able to spend time with two of my children while being comforted that Son Number One’s daily routine has not changed much and, something that has caused me past sadness, is protecting him now. I have only had friend’s of friends contract Coronavirus so far. What a privilege that is, really. I have a roof over my head and food to eat. Clean water and power.
Life goes on. For those of us still breathing it goes on. Whether we want it to or not. So I fight, really hard. to hang on to the love. Because that’s what remains after life has gone. When everything else feels too slippery to get a grip on the love is still there. I put one foot in front of the other. I get up and do the best that I can. I try.
Just before Coronavirus took hold of the world I had a message from a friend I hadn’t had contact with for almost seventeen years. He’d sent me something by mail and had it returned to him. He’d contacted a mutual friend who had a phone number for me, that remains my phone number still, and sent me a message to ask for my current address. When the package from him arrived it contained not only a gloriously hand written letter but a book that I had given him to read shortly after Sam was murdered. It is a book called The Tao of Pooh. He also included copies of a couple of letters I had written to him during the same period. In the intervening years he had moved, literally, from one end of the country to another. All the while my little book travelled with him, cared for respectfully until he returned it safely to me. One of the best parts was the discovery that he now lives only suburbs away from me! So very far from where we both began! I was touched beyond measure by this unexpected and overwhelming gift of kindness. Also awed by ripples in the pond of life we make that travel so much further than we can ever truly comprehend.
I was awake in the early hours of the morning- naturally- the other night when a message flashed up from the son of one of my best friends of over thirty years. He was writing to share his excitement at the news he was to become a father! It was so lovely to talk to him and hear his happiness! Life goes on. Love goes on.
There are things I am unable to do at the moment but there are always things to be learned. I hope we can hang on to the things we’re learning from this. While almost every artist, writer, musician and creative human I know is setting up Patreon accounts and asking for donations via PayPal, the rest of us are clinging on to books and music and movies to try to retain our sanity. The Arts have had their funding stripped and been deprioritised by our current government and the Coronavirus financial assistance currently in place does not cover them. The Arts go to the very core of what it is to be human and my hope is that, out of this, we can raise our voices to make our representatives acknowledge that.
Also worth remembering is the blatantly obvious fact that our social security safety net was not actually enough to live on. When the realisation came that thousands would lose their employment, you know, regular good people who weren’t deliberately disabled, uneducated, single parents or just too lazy to find a job, the payments were raised so that people might actually have a chance to survive economically. Who knew that this would have the added benefit of stimulating our economy? Astounding!
We should also remember that the heroes we recognise now are ALWAYS heroes, just usually behind the scenes. The doctors, nurses, all hospital workers, the teachers and child care educators, the checkout chicks and shelf stackers and trolley boys. All of the people who have suddenly become ‘essential workers’, who are literally putting their own lives on the line to help the rest of us. Maybe they are too scared of losing their income – some of them aren’t making the choice to be heroes, they just want to keep paying their rent but they are still risking their lives, either way. Women and young people, statistically speaking, feature highly in the numbers of ‘everyday heroes’ we are relying on so heavily at the moment. Maybe we should remember to pay them what they are actually worth?
While our government has had to take a break from attempting to legislate vulnerable members of the community into second class citizens, those same sections of the community are part of that essential workforce who aren’t stopping to ask whether you approve of their sexuality or acknowledge their gender before they save your life. It’s ironic but true, people who have faced adversity themselves are usually the first ones to put their hands up to help others. The beautiful spirit who is Johnny Valkyrie being a shining example of that and putting out some great resources on facebook!
The Australia that I hope we can become is the one in the posts made by some of the almost one million members of the facebook page ‘Bin Isolation Outing’, it’s there in the posts on various ‘Kindness Pandemic’ Facebook pages and it’s there in the people who are painting rainbows on footpaths and putting teddy bears in windows. Sometimes the worst brings out the best in us. Mateship and solidarity. A fair go.
We are AMAZING when we work together!
Be gentle with yourselves and others. Safe onward travel x
The most encouraging things I have seen on TV this week have been the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale and a reality TV show about a company of funeral directors called ‘The Casketeers’ on Netflix. Inspiration truly can be found anywhere if you are looking hard enough.
Yesterday Sydney held it’s protest against the religious exemptions legislation. The rhetoric around the proposed legislation is couched in positive terminology with the word ‘freedom’ being thrown about willy-nilly. But there isn’t anything positive in this proposal, and there’s certainly nothing progressive. Oppressing others because you hold the opinion that your own belief system must be superior to that of anyone who doesn’t share it isn’t freedom. It is the very definition of discrimination.
And didn’t we do this already? Like, for real? Didn’t we only just endure a resource squandering, hate mongering campaign aimed at further marginalizing vulnerable sections of our society? Yep, pretty sure that was us. It’s also probably why certain sections of the community are behind the proposed religious exemptions legislation. They didn’t get the outcome they wanted and, God forbid (pun intended) they shouldn’t get everything they want, when they want it! When I visualise the religious right and their arguments in my head they look like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; spoilt and selfish, stamping their feet and demanding MORE! NOW!
My own personal belief is that most bigotry is based on fear. Fear of difference, otherness. It’s a belief that allows me, ironically, some compassion. Because of that I try to temper my extreme frustration with some rationalisation. I’ve already referenced the Marriage Equality campaign. All of the state sanctioned hate and the fear that was generated. And Marriage Equality WON. But did anyone else actually lose anything? Have we had scores of hetrosexual people flocking to get divorced because their marriage is now meaningless? Has the fabric of our society unravelled into anarchy? I know I probably sound as if I am being sarcastic but I’m not. I’m just trying to make the point that EXTENDING BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS TO EVERYBODY BENEFITS US ALL. So, as a nation, as a society, we didn’t lose anything extending human rights to all in terms of marriage equality. What did we lose by the campaign against marriage equality itself? International respect, millions of dollars, human decency, sleep, security, safety, vulnerable LGBTIQA+ young people and members of society (there are anecdotal reports of people suiciding during the campaign. I don’t have any official data but when it feels like your whole nation is against you and is saying you are unworthy, and you can actually see multiple advertisments every night on television telling you so and your own Government is the one dragging it’s feet on giving you basic human rights then it’s not a long bow to draw, is it?). I’m sure I could add to this list but it just makes me sad.
If you are an extremely religious person with strongly held views that anything other than hetrosexuality goes against your own personal belief system then I’m going to assume no one has forced you to attend any gay weddings (maybe some slight sarcasm at the end there). For the rest of us, we have been able to celebrate some very cool expressions of love and commitment. I don’t have any concrete data for you (you guys can look it up as easily as I can, I believe in you!) but the pink dollar is a REAL THING and even my maths isn’t bad enough to believe there hasn’t been any positive economic flow on from the revenue generated by fabulous gay weddings! Which probably means even the most homophobic amongst us has benefitted indirectly.
Surely we have better things to do? As a nation, we have bigger issues. Bigger problems to solve. But these smoke and mirror games that distract us from the bigger picture are built to divide and conquer us. I’m asking you not to let them. Which doesn’t mean doing nothing and saying nothing. If you are religious and you don’t feel government sanctioned bigotry and discrimination are accurate depictions of your faith then please stand up to be counted. There are many religious leaders and people of faith activitely working to represent their faith in love.
If you belong to a group who knows what discrimination feels like; if you are a woman or a person of colour or differently abled, stand up to be counted. If you have ever been homeless or unemployed or lived in poverty, stand up to be counted. because once you start eroding human rights and LEGISLATING FOR THE RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE, THE EROSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AFFECTS US ALL. Can anyone say ‘Gilead’? And if you haven’t read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale then bring to mind the Nazi Regime and you’ll understand my reference. It’s a very slippery slope.
So, why not make THIS the teachable moment? With rallies continuing across the country throughout August, why not celebrate inclusiveness and diversity! Celebrate our freedom to assemble and impact the democratic process! Speak out for human rights and freedom from discrimination! I know, for some of us, the thought of attending a rally or a protest seems daunting. It seems radical. I guess I’d rather be radical proactively than retrospectively. It makes more sense to stop this legislation before it starts than to try to get rid of it once it has been made law. Because we all have something to lose here, whether we know it yet or not.
Netflix Australia is currently screening a series called The Casketeers. It is about a family of funeral directors, who run Tipene Funerals and it is brilliant. It is an example of the very best that we can offer each other as human beings and the subject of death is handled in such a profoundly life affirming way that you cannot help but be uplifted by it. Find this series and watch it when you need to restore your faith in people and our ability to treat each other with love, dignity and respect. Find this series when you want to focus on what is important in your life and what kind of world you want your children to live in. Watch it. Love it. Live it.
Safe onward travel x
Home sweet home, there’s no place like it! This isn’t going to be the post where I talk about how many different things ‘home’ can mean, in so many ways, to different people. It’s just going to be the post where I am grateful for being in my own home and what that means to me.
I’ve been away. Daughter Number Two and I have been travelling, across the country but also across time. Journeying over land and sea; through hearts and minds as well, even if just our own. On the second day after arriving on the other side of the country I took a walk down memory lane via Google.
It is a walk I take regularly, if not often. Usually not garnering me more than a taste; a glimpse into lives I am no longer part of. Lives of those who still hold fast to a place in my heart. I’ll let that sound how it sounds. A cursory search is enough, usually, to let me let go again. They look good. They are still living. Until they aren’t. And this time one of them wasn’t, and not even twenty years old. I looked at my screen and felt the push and pull of denial and acceptance, imagination and reality, then and now. Like a slingshot, giving me vertigo.
On the opposite side of the country I have a storage shed that I pay for by the week. Over the years it has cost me thousands of dollars, probably more in total than it would have to actually move it all across the country, if I had ever had that much money at the one time. It is full of things I cannot let go of. Although I have become a fan of travelling light over the years there are certain things I will not part with. Books, momentos, photos… SO MANY PHOTOS. I have always loved photography. In the BEFORE. In the NOW. Back before digital cameras and online albums, when photos were printed hard copies we had to wait for but could hold in our hands and we had as many blurred, shitty photos as we did decent ones because film has no mercy and we couldn’t just press delete. Consequently I have a lot of photos. Boxes of them. Thousands of them. And I will never, NEVER be sorry for that or stop paying the shed fees.
So it happened that I had literally hundreds of photos of the young person lost, with their family. Photos I had always thought I would find a way to pass on to them. And I kept them in my shed. Kept them safe. Which meant that a good portion of my time on the other side of the country was spent sorting and packing the photos, before making sure they found their way home.
I feel very deeply the need to witness, to document in words and pictures, to preserve these memories, stories, histories. For my children and children I have loved as my own. Whether estranged by circumstance or stolen by death, pieces of those we love remain and it seems to me to be such a precious honour to have; to be able to pass on something tangible. Or equally important in my eyes, to leave behind something tangible for loved ones. Like crumbs that they can use to either find their way home to whomever they have lost, or if they are wandering, to find their way home to themselves.
There was beauty in the innocence of the images and in the memories of the moments. There was beauty in the fact I had saved all those photos for all those years. There was beauty in having the time to find the photos in my shed and get them to where they needed to be, and being on the side of the country that enabled me to do so. And maybe that’s a thing. Maybe being in the right place at the right time doesn’t always mean being in the right place or right time FOR YOU. Because it certainly wasn’t comfortable or easy for me. To be honest, on top of everything else it was too much to bear. It’s only now, when I am home, that I can see the beauty through my tears. But I never doubted it was right.
There’s a part of me that wistfully wishes sometimes that Daughter Number One had the opportunity to leave more of a digital footprint. She was just on the cusp of this internet age, with dial up and MSN Messenger with the little blob men who spun around as you signed in. I have treasured print outs of some of her Messenger conversations, that her friends were generous enough to share with me. And I have many photos I took over her excrutiatingly short lifetime. Some professional photos plus school photos, and a few candids taken by friends. But never enough, because how could there ever be enough when they are all I have? So I think about the what if’s. What if she had Facebook or Instagram? Imagine! But she didn’t and she won’t. And then I think about how utterly relentless the media were when Daughter Number One died and how much that would have been magnified by the cannabalistic caricature that passes for journalism these days. Even if you want to, you can’t go back.
When I visit my shed it is like being an archeologist sifting through layers of my lifetime. It is emotionally extremely heavy going. But I try to bring as many treasures home with me as I can. This time around I was lucky enough to bring home DVD footage of Daughter Number One. On the night we got home I sat on my bed and watched. As I watched her Sister walked in. Daughter Number Two sat and watched with me and for the first time in her living memory listened to her Sister’s voice and heard her laughter.
There have been several times in the last six months that I have or almost have called Daughter Number Two her Sister’s name. I have covered as best I can but it has left me feeling so guilty. I never want Daughter Number Two to think I see her in any way, as anyone other than herself or would ever want her to be. Watching the video footage though, highlighted how similar in mannerisms and passions they are. These Sister’s who never got to meet or know each other. That it’s not just my grief or imagination. The likeness is startling. When I was relaying this to My Beautiful Friend she said “Kate. EVERY mother in the world calls their child by the name of their sibling at some stage. More often than not. Often they get Bill, Ben, Dick OHHH what’s your name?! Stop! That’s normal. Completely and utterly normal. And just because Daughter Number One isn’t earthside, doesn’t mean she is any less your daughter. So her name will forever be ingrained in your vocabulary.” She’s right, of course. I have clever friends. I will try to beat myself up a little less.
Earlier this week the long list for the Fremantle International Portrait Prize was announced. This year my goal was simply to enter. I love taking photos and portraits are my passion. Getting my shit together enough to enter = BIG FUCKING DEAL! I entered one image in each category; mobile phone and camera. When they released the long list my name was on it. My mobile phone image of Daughter Number Two has made it through to the next round of judging. Against photographers from around the world, many professionals, my image has been judged as being in the top 30% of over 1800 entries. Which is a pretty sweet homecoming gift in itself.
Safe onward travel x
The other night House Rules was on TV, just running in the background while I did other things. Before I knew it the program ended and the next one started and the first scenes of it involved a grandmother identifying the body of her teenaged grandson. As I reached for the remote the memory flashed through my head; “There’s nothing to identify.” I could see the officer, knelt before me, asking which dentist my Daughter Number One had attended. “There’s nothing to identify.” For the next twenty four hours that phrase pinged around my head. “There’s nothing to identify”. On the walk to school. “There’s nothing to identify.” In Coles, grocery shopping. “There’s nothing to identify.” Washing up at the sink. “There’s nothing to identify.” As the days go on it echoes less, and I write it here to diminish it’s power again. But it’s not a memory I can ever be free from. Burned into my brain like her love knot bracelet into my Daughter’s arm.
A friend’s daughter asked why I don’t drive. “I’ve never driven.” I said “I catch public transport. You get used to it.” And all that is true. But I didn’t mention that during any car ride I take, when anyone brakes sharply or swerves or merges into traffic or just does nothing but be on the road at the same time as the car I am in; that I see, time after time, the impact if the cars were to hit each other. In my mind’s eye, in less than a heartbeat, I see the crumpling of metal and the flailing of limbs and possessions in slow motion flying through the car. Time after time. I didn’t explain that I will never drive. That I could never be anything but a liability on the road, reacting to things before they might happen. Because sometimes they do.
Ironing Daughter Number Two’s shirt the other day for school I almost called out her Sister’s name. Almost. The sister she is uncannily like but never got to meet. They are both their own people but still, having Daughter Number Two at high school now and fast approaching the age and stage Daughter Number One was at when she died is more challenging than I had anticipated it being. Mostly because I hadn’t anticipated it. In the first week of Daughter Number Two starting high school I went to pick her up and as I approached the school a girl who looked vaguely like Daughter Number One walked out the school gate and my heart leapt in recognition before plummeting as reality kicked in. Just a moment, fleeting but breathtaking.
Through all of these things time marches on. Mother’s Day is on Sunday. The next week is Daughter Number Two’s birthday. The day after is Son Number One’s birthday and ten days after that will be the 16th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. And I iron uniforms and pack lunches and plan birthday celebrations but part of me is just so sad. So tired and so sad. I am always grateful for all of my children. I know how lucky I am. I have so many wonderful friends and people who love me. But this time of year is hard. It is heavy.
I was speaking to the Beautiful Friend, who was talking about her own Mother and her focus for this Mother’s Day; which was to celebrate all that she is and has because of her Mum. Because of Her.
Those words really resonated with me. Celebrate all that I am and have, because of Her. There are things that I wish with every fibre of my being were different and things that I wouldn’t change. But you can’t go back anyway and every step on my path has been one that has led me here. So, even if I am moving a bit slowly at the moment I’m still putting one foot in front of the other. Celebrating all that I am and have. Because of Her.
(Gustav Klimt, Mother and Child)
Safe onward travel x
It’s been a long time, since I last checked in. Months, according to the calendar. Light years if you ask me. So many things have happened and so much has changed. Recent events have been personally shattering and I’m trying to put my pieces back together again and refocus on changing the things I can.
On the 6th of April I attended the birthday celebration of one of the most magic kids I have had the extreme pleasure of knowing. The 6th isn’t his actual birthday, that’s a few days later, but it does happen to be his beautiful mother’s birthday. It’s also my youngest sister’s birthday, but I haven’t had any contact with her for well over a decade. Coincidentally, it’s also the birth date of this very blog, eleven years ago this year. So, I celebrated with the Magic Kid and my Beautiful Friend, and I thought once again that I should check in with you here. Accept the things you cannot change; change what you can; know the difference.
February 25th was the thirtieth anniversary of the day my Daughter Number One was born. We spent a quiet day, had some cake and then two days later Son Number Two and I attended Eminem’s final concert in Australia before he left the country to continue his tour. Our seats couldn’t really have been further from the stage in the gigantic stadium but we were at a great angle to see everything. We arrived early enough so that the crowds were overwhelming but not unmanageable, and I had the upcoming concert to focus on. We were lucky enough to get tickets cheaply, in a presale, and they counted as my birthday present as well as our Christmas present to each other. When Eminem came on for the encore and closed the night with the same song that closed Daughter Number One’s funeral I sobbed. And I looked at my Son and was glad to be there.
We have been through a lot together, that kid and me. In a few months he will be twenty one years old. The other night he went out with friends and was picked up on a motorbike, riding pillion. He knows me well enough to anticipate my abject terror; he didn’t know that would be the mode of transport beforehand. He reassured me as best he could, hugging me goodbye ; it was a short journey and he would message me when he arrived. Which he literally did, sending me a close up of his face, in the dark of night, as soon as he got off the bike. In the roughly fifteen minutes it took, between the time he left and getting his message, I had sent a message to my Beautiful Friend, who rang me. I had gone through Son Number Two’s outfit in my head, ordering clothing items in terms of the protection they offered his body. Leather jacket = ✔, jeans = could be worse, running shoes = ❌. Helmet = ✔✔✔✔. I reassured myself that I had my details in the emergency information on his phone and that the trip was only a short one. I sat with my terror and tried to get my breathing under control.
Son Number Two will be twenty one years old in a few months. He tells me where he is going and when. He lets me know when he will be back. If his plans change then he will tell me that too, because he knows I cannot tolerate surprises. He lets me track him on iPhone’s Find My Friend app, which means in theory I can see where he is all the time. I don’t abuse that privilege. I understand the trust and respect that concession is given in, so I return it. I appreciate it. And he hugs me while I sob and closes the door behind him, to go out and live his life on his terms. Which is how it should be.
At the end of January I was sitting in an airport, drinking a hot chocolate and looking at my wrist. On the inside of my wrist is a tattoo that matches one that adorns one of my dear friend’s and wrapped around it a Christmas present from another; a bangle inscribed ‘nevertheless, she persisted’. Another dear one was with Daughter Number Two and I, and the three of us were there to travel across the country to take Daughter Number Two back to where she lived. I was tired. So tired.
Last year I had cancer. It’s still surreal to say that. Last year I had cancer. In one of my ovaries. But I was lucky. Treatment was definitive, with a surgery, my second for the year. After the first operation, for ‘women’s issues’, where they discovered the cancer incidentally, my only real concern was my upcoming holiday time with Daughter Number Two, which necessitated being able to fly across the country twice and care for her, for the month she was with me. After being told the cancer I had was a good one to get, slow growing and unlikely to have spread, my only questions were about the timeline for the surgery, making it clear that if it was going to interfere with Daughter Number Two’s time with us, then it would need to wait. The doctor assured me she would do her best in terms of scheduling the surgery, but that I would need a six week post operative check up before I would be cleared to fly and, given the timeframe, there was no room for any complication of any sort. Ok, whatever, let’s just get it done and over with so I can go and get my girl. And it really was only when the Oncology nurses would speak to me in a certain tone that I would be reminded that it was actually cancer I was dealing with. Anyway, the doctor scheduled the surgery as soon as she was able. It all went smoothly and my post operative check happened just before I went to pick up Daughter Number Two, just after Christmas.
We’d spent four weeks packing as much love and laughter into every moment as we could, but here we were again, at the pointy bit, sitting in an airport, about to take her back. And we boarded the plane, and crossed the country and that was that. Except it wasn’t, because life can spin on a dime and change in a heartbeat and you can NEVER know what is around the next corner, good or bad. So after two weeks we boarded another flight for home and the three of us who were there on the forward journey were there to make the journey back. ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end’, right? So, I have fewer internal organs but Daughter Number Two is home fulltime now and it seems like a more than fair trade.
Which is how it came to be that Daughter Number Two and I were watching Ricky Gervais’ After Life on Netflix together. I had already watched it, but wanted to share it with her. Despite the uncomfortable nature of the subject matter but mostly because of it, the masterful story telling and nuanced, layered characters make After Life compelling viewing. Gervais’ characters are always so multidimensional. In a world where every day we are encouraged to consider everyone who isn’t exactly like us as ‘bad guys’ to our ‘good guys’, Gervais reminds us we all have the potential to be both. And that even when circumstances are outside of our control we still have choices, and we make them. By action or inaction, we make them.
My bedtime routine consists of scrolling through Twitter and falling asleep to paternity test clips, either Maury or Paternity Court, on YouTube. Judge all you like, but whatever gets me through the night is alright. After Life has created a huge buzz on Twitter, well, everywhere really but like I said, I drop in on Twitter most nights. There’s been lots of discussion about Gervais’ character, Tony’s, last scene with Julian. One of the things that has bothered me about discussion of that extraordinarily impactful scene is how the character of Julian is actually referred to by some viewers. The adjectives used. But his name is Julian. He and Tony discuss the fact that they are both grieving and Julian makes reference to the fact that Tony’s grief is more socially acceptable. And OH! How I felt that, down to my very soul. How quick people are to judge and assume, even when others are in the most horrifically heartbreaking of circumstances. When really, we all of us, are shades of grey. There’s been much made on the interwebs of Tony’s final gift to Julian too, and once again Gervais leads us all to the water but doesn’t try to convince us of how it tastes. If anything, for me, his muddying of the waters only increases it’s ability to reflect our own humanity back at us all. Truly powerful viewing that has people talking about grief and loss. Highly recommended.
Speaking of Humanity, since After Life is only six episodes long (thankfully a second season has been confirmed!), Daughter Number Two and I have moved on during the school holidays to Gervais’ Netflix stand up special Humanity and then, of course, to Derek. Two episodes in Daughter Number Two declared“Nothing better happen to my boy Derek! He’s just a sweet, little cinnamon roll!”. It was interesting watching Derek post After Life, seeing how concepts had evolved and grown but each production mentioned stands easily on it’s own merits. The writing is truly exqusite, not least for the many facets of each character that are revealed. In one conversation Daughter Number Two and I were having she referred to the writing being ‘Show, don’t Tell’ and reminded me that there’s always something to learn if you leave yourself open to lessons.
So, I’m still here. Still putting one foot in front of the other. Still learning. Still loving. And I wish the same for you.
Safe onward travel x