THIS WOMAN’S WORK.

Content warning: Violence against women, Domestic Violence, sexual assault, violence against children, suicide.

This is not your regular Mother’s Day post. It’s not even MY regular Mother’s Day post, although it starts about the same. Earlier this week I was at an appointment and the doctor asked how many children I had and I answered her and I cried. Then I had coffee with a friend and there was a Mother’s Day promotion on a card in the middle of the table so I turned it around to face the window. So I couldn’t see it. So it couldn’t see me. Yesterday, on the phone, a stranger told me to ‘Have a happy Mother’s Day’ and I hung up my phone and blinked away hot tears.

It’s a SHIT time of year for me. Mother’s Day is about three weeks out from the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. Fifteen years this year. And the day before that will be three years since her father killed himself. And the day before that will mark twenty years since a beloved friend killed himself – the fun never ends at this time of year.

Then the news broke of Australia’s worst mass shooting in decades; a murder suicide with four of the dead being children. There’s been a screaming inside my head and a dagger in my heart ever since I heard.

For the innocent lives lost and the friends and family they have left behind. The first responders and all who will be touched by this in a professional capacity going forward. To their wider community, in all the various communities they were a part of. My heart just bleeds and bleeds. The devastation and destruction and just incredible wastefulness. Happy fucking Mother’s Day.

I’ve had a post half written in my head for weeks now. The more usual, for me, Mother’s Day one. The one where I acknowledge the Mothers who are without their children and the children who no longer have their Mothers. Where I remember the Step Mother’s and the foster Mothers and all the women that step up in that capacity without deserved recognition. But in thinking about it I’ve realised it’s SO MUCH MORE than that. Because if you are a woman, whether you have had children or not you can be DAMN SURE you’ve been mothering someone! In fact, it’s not just women but girls too. If you are female the chances are you mother someone in your life; partners, siblings, friends, colleagues, parents etc. It’s what we are trained to do. It’s what is expected from us.

To mother, the verb, means “look after (someone) kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.” And we do. We do. I know my Daughter stayed silent about the sexual abuse she suffered because she thought she was protecting those she loved. She literally died doing so. It’s why I can’t shut up. It’s why I won’t. Until I literally die.

We use the word ‘mother’ to denote things of import – Mother Nature, mother load, mother ship – but where, exactly, do we pay more than lip service to the significance of mothers? To the significance of women? Unicorn slippers and breakfast in bed tomorrow just really don’t cut it for me!

Let’s get some perspective on this, shall we? Counting Dead Women Australia count every known death due to violence against women in Australia. As of yesterday the tally sits at 23, so far, this year. Which means we are currently SMASHING our national average of one dead woman per week in this country due to violence against women. And this tally doesn’t even include children lost to domestic violence.

Please keep in mind that I live in The Lucky Country. A first world country. A ‘civilised’ nation. And yet I also live in a country where my sanitary products are taxed under a goods and services tax – literally taxing me for being a woman! – even though condoms are exempt. I live in a country that will pay me less than a man for doing the same job. I live in a country where abortion laws vary from state to state and abortion is technically illegal in two.

Elisabeth Moss, who stars in and produces The Handmaid’s Tale gave an interview recently in which she said hates hearing that someone won’t watch the show because it is ‘too scary’. That she struggles with the idea of that because “This is happening in your real life.” There is no question that The Handmaid’s Tale is confronting viewing. There is graphic violence against women and sexual assault. Yes, it is scary. But what is even more petrifying? Is when you watch it and realise that we are not so far removed from that possible reality. So, please, be scared, be uncomfortable, Watch it anyway and then be OUTRAGED.

Tomorrow and all the other days after that, let your outrage inspire you to action. Speak your truth, shout it loud, share it widely. Support your local woman’s refuge or collective or your next door neighbour who’s struggling a bit. Read, learn, question. And take care of your own damn self.

Angelhands is currently organising a Guinness World Record attempt for the Largest Gathering of Angels. Angelhands provides support to people affected by violent crime. This event will be their major fundraising initiative for 2018 and is being held on Wednesday 27th June 2018. This is PTSD Awareness Day and June is PTSD Awareness Month in the USA. All details regarding this event can be found by clicking through to the Angelhands website here or to the Facebook event here.

Rest peacefully Cynda, Katrina, Taye, Rylan, Arye and Kadyn.

To all of you for whom tomorrow brings sadness, go gently.

Safe onward travel everyone 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

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. 

This morning I woke up from a nightmare in which I was getting my children ready for some imminent apocalyptic event. I don’t remember what it was, I just remember speaking to my kids and trying to prepare them, in a detailed way, including instructions on what to do if separated from me, or from each other. They were smaller, younger, more vulnerable versions of themselves, just to add to the ambiance. I was talking to them in a very matter of fact way while in my head I was screaming because I knew it wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough and the very bad thing was coming and I couldn’t keep them safe. 


Yesterday I woke up from a dream that left me so disoriented that it literally took me a full sixty seconds, without exaggeration, to work out – first – where I was, but then, when I was. In that order, which is weird. Yesterday disappeared into a bit of a hole that I was unable to crawl my way out of. The level of exhaustion is hard to describe. I read somewhere that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feel so tired all the time because you are basically on high alert constantly. After nightmares all night (I will wake up several times during the night and even if I go back to sleep all I remember are nightmares) I slump into some days. My head pounds, I have chest pains and my limbs all feel like they are made of concrete. My whole body aches with heaviness. Everything, every. little. thing. requires such effort that, even if I can be bothered, a small task can take up most of the day. There are days I can’t even pretend to be a functional human being. 

I guess this is my annual Mother’s Day whinge. Feel free to stop reading. I don’t claim any exclusivity. Everyone has hard days and Mother’s Day is hard for lots of people, for many reasons. Childless mothers, motherless children, women who mother other people’s children, children and mothers who are separated by whatever circumstance. I don’t pretend my list is comprehensive. You all know who you are. 

For some, it will be their first Mother’s Day and for some it will be their first Mother’s Day since. For some, it will be both and that’s just the way it is. What I know is that as soon as Easter was over, literally the day after, shops were full of Mother’s Day merchandise. Mugs and slippers and photo frames everywhere you turn. Brochures in the letter box and advertisements on television and Mother’s Day espisodes of television shows. Choking up my newsfeed in every direction. A constant assault that is impossible to escape. And for me this year the added bonus of a later Mother’s Day bringing it even closer to the anniversary of my Daughter’s death. Two and a half weeks to go. Bonus. 

Would I have been a grandmother by now? I cried on the packed train today, silently, after scrolling past a mother guessing her daughter was pregnant on a facebook post. Bit, fat, hot tears that dropped singly from my lashes and felt like lava carving their way down my face. 

After tomorrow there will be marked down slippers, mugs and photo frames and that is nowhere near as fun as marked down Easter chocolate, nowhere near as fun at all. But the days, even the hard ones, pass. Just a bit slower. 

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Tonight I am baby sitting three rascals of the four legged kind. Two very special babies and the big brother of the little girl Son Number Two and I have staying with us; precious souls all of them and I am glad to be here. 
A friend asked me to edit her manuscript recently. I cannot possibly put into words what it meant to me to be trusted with that task, but it meant so much. It worked for me on a number of levels. 
I have friends I can text random things to and they will meet me where I am. I recently went to see a performance of live theatre. It was an incredibly moving adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank hosted by the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts. I’ve had lunch in the quiet, leafy grounds of a University and laughed at my Daughter Number Two and my Sons. I have felt the relief of cool nights after just warm enough days. Videos of small boys and big dogs that melt my heart. And, you know, marked down Easter chocolate. 

The best of times and the worst of times. 
For the rest of my life; the best of times and the worst of times. 
Safe onward travel x 

DO YOU NEED ANYBODY?

As I said in my last post, I am not going to be the one who tells you it’s going to be easy. Because it won’t. Sometimes it will be a night so hot that your clothes stick to your skin and the heat presses down on you like a weight. Sometimes you will be looking for that funny picture you saved on your phone for a friend and you’ll come across a photo of a boy, peacefully asleep in his bed on Christmas night and it will hurt so much to see it that you literally cannot breathe. Sometimes the pain will be so overwhelming you will cry yourself to sleep, the tears burning like acid down your cheeks.

Then the morning will come (even though the mourning is still there) and you will pick yourself up, slowly, and dust yourself off, slowly, and keep on living. If you are lucky, like me, you will have the most gorgeous friends beside you. The ones who hold you close in their hearts and give you a safe place to rest. If you are that lucky then you will count your blessings even while your heart aches. Because what else can you do?

My Young Friend was going to bed the other night and said, as he often does, ‘Love you Kate!’. I responded in kind and he asked ‘Getting sick of hearing it?’ And I said ‘No’ and asked him back ‘Getting sick of saying it?’ And he smiled and said ‘Never going to happen!’.

Which is what I’m counting on x

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HERE I STAND.

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I have an app on my phone called ‘Timehop’. It sorts through your social media activity over the years and shows you what you were up to on this date a year ago or three years ago or seven years ago. I find it fascinating! Lately however, it’s offerings have just served to make me a little sad. Today was different. Today it was like getting a message from myself! And from this very blog!

Today Timehop informed me that three years ago I posted this poem:

let it go

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love

~ e. e. cummings ~

Thanks me! I needed that. It’s such a great poem! Say it out loud! The timing was perfect as I spent today sorting and packing. Letting go, letting go. I had a lovely phone conversation with one of my beautiful friends and managed to be quite productive. There are things I will carry with me and things that I will leave behind but each ending is a new beginning. And love is what remains.

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For the one who showed me what true love really looks like; Frankie, you and Deano will always hold a special place in my heart x

Safe onward travel x

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No One Remembers Your Name.

My new room mate, who is German, continues to use the toilet without closing the door or flushing. Doors appear to be a thing for her, as she ran to get a nurse after thinking I’d locked the door of the room, and her out. Ah, no. The Roommate seems completely obsessed by meals, although perhaps it is the routine she is trying to grasp. Who knows? There is lots of repetitive questioning. And she stands and watches me. It is not comforting.

You can’t have your telephone charger although whether you are meant to hang yourself with it or chuck it into water to electrocute yourself I’m not sure. Both would be physically impossible. I’ve checked the positioning of powerpoints in relation to water sources. Yes, I’m that hard up for entertainment. I’ve not had access to my charger to check the hanging thing but never the less believe it unlikely to be successful due to cord length and weight bearing properties. Sometimes it’s plastic cutlery but then sometimes it’s metal, much to everyone’s excitement.

There is a guy who I think is Russian. He keeps having heated mobile phone conversations in a Slavic sounding language. This afternoon I walked past his room to witness accompanying finger pointing. It was very dramatic.

Tonight I came out to the common areas to see an older lady, petite, sitting with her husband who had come to visit her. Her feet in his lap, eating an Easter egg he’d brought for her.

Still better to have loved and lost, ladies and gentlemen. Always.

Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now.

So far today one woman has attacked another, a code black was called and then fifteen minutes later staff advised over the intercom to ‘stand down’, the alarms have gone off three times (and the day isn’t done yet) and as I write a staff member, male, has stopped outside my door and asked a female staff member to come with him as ‘there’s a female arcing up and I need a female with me’. Cue more shouting and screaming.

‘Do you feel safe?’ they keep asking. Ah, no. I may be crazy but I’m not stupid. Most of the people here have been here before. They know each other. There is a camaraderie that I don’t want to develop. There is a competitiveness about medications and war stories and I watch in bemusement. My roommate, who arrived on the same day as I, is being discharged. This is very good for her and very bad for me. She was the least threatening person here and I am apprehensive about who will take her bed.

There is an unlocked area and a locked area. When people have violent outbursts they are moved to the locked area. Then moved back to the unlocked area. Excellent. There is communal dining, which is noisy and painful and my nurse tonight is lovely but very touchy feely and DO I LOOK LIKE I WANT TO BE TOUCHED? But I say nothing.

I wonder at the state of my life. This whole situation was brought about by the evil machinations of another, which continue unabated. You know, I wouldn’t have believed it possible but here we are. On the plus side; I’m still losing weight.