The girl in the bath

I watched her relaxing amongst the warmth of translucent bath water, tanned legs and elfin feet angled upwards to rest gracefully on the white lip of the bath. Nestled in her nightly routine, small glistening beads of sweat formed over her forehead, and her pale face glowed. The sun kissed skin of her body languished beneath the depth of water and her closed eyelids, flickered ever so slightly. Her closed butterfly like eyelids made it easy to thoroughly and watchfully examine the map of her face; a dusting of faded freckles covered her cheeks and nose, laughter lines alongside her mouth and softly etched lines neighbouring her eyes hint to her having lived a spirited life. She opens her eyes and gracefully removes herself from the bath, wrapping herself in a white bath sheet, proceeds to towel herself dry and with the caress of her hand, she uses a round makeup pad to remove the final traces of sweat, and the day’s worries from her mask and face. She slides into her bed releasing herself from mundanity, into the world of dreams.

A late Saturday night party in the distance and the stifling warmth of the summer night keep her tossing in her usually comfortable cocoon of bed. There are moments where she wakes and I contemplate if she is alert to my presence. Once morning gently rises through her eastern window, she arouses from sleep. Motionless I continue watching. The morning noise of dogs barking, amongst the summer cicada symphony is layered with the warbled chorus of sulphur crested cockatoos, noisy black koels, colourful rosellas, kookaburras and lorikeets. In the distance the din and whirr of traffic and noisy leaf blowers escalates. An early morning shower of rain exemplifies the ethereality of majestic trees that fringe her room-the huge Blackbutt, Turpentine trees and a single gnarly Red gum tree rise above her nook in suburbia. It is her haven and home to herself and a vast colourful array of birdlife who are delighting in the freshness of moisture and the new day.

Time and its void had slipped between and beyond us.  As she opens her almond coloured brown eyes to face the day, I smile. Her smile I notice embodies and is a reflection of my own. She swings her legs to the floor, rises with morning tiredness and pads her feet across the yellow tongue and groove pine floor. Carefully, I slip out of her way. You might think I am her lover, admirer or a voyeur. I do love her, admire her and at times, I come, listen and watch.

The darkened shadows and stillness of night is when I usually decide to emerge. I observe the routines of the woman who is a personification of myself. She is alive, candid and her life has been lived. She has made mistakes and errors in her life yet has also loved ferociously and for the same reason lost much; she is a warrior mother and yearns to be loved passionately as the dreams that besiege her. Her facial lines platform a loss of youth and her subtle ageing narrates the wounds of her soul.  She has recounted thousands of stories in her life and unlike me, she chats endlessly, excitedly interjecting, and altering the direction of many conversations. Her smile warms my imperturbable soul. Recollections of a unique visit together, where we shared French champagne, stood side by side on wide steps of majestic buildings, and posed for photos captured on 35mm film that were rush developed at a two-hour photo laboratory, and now buried in boxes on dusty bookshelves, suffuse my essence. Chances long ago allowed us the shortened pleasures in an English summer.  Watching Wimbledon is the quintessence of English summer spectator sport, it is when England is lush and green, strawberries and cream are delectably devoured, and the scent of lavender wafts into the air as you wander with delight around the numerous outside grass courts. When I whiff lavender in the space of time between us, I feel tears drop into the air. However, they are never my tears, as I cease to cry.

One day, I suspected she would seek to find me. That day happened in 2003 when she wrote a letter seeking information and the whereabouts of her birth mother.

Pregnant with my first child, my sister boarded a plane and travelled to London to meet me. Twelve months of penned sisterhood in our thirty-something years of our own lives was how our relationship began. Biologically we were sisters but had grown up in different families on opposite sides of the world. I had grown up with our parents in London and she with her adoptive family in Sydney.

You see the universe decided our life together, was never meant to be. It would always only be lived through thoughts, imaginings and longings. Sometimes wants, wishes and desires do not align with what we hope to determine. The universal network of providence, allowed serendipitous moments in time and a short-lived reunification with my sister, however, for a second time destiny determined that we eternally be kept apart. Cancer was the ruin of our newly kindled relationship as sisters. I am a mother but no longer exist. I was a wife and no longer am. My earthly roles of, mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend, and niece were extinguished by my inability to beat the insidiousness that invaded my blood. The bone marrow transplant I endured although successful was not lifesaving. My body decided it had battled enough and could no longer combat infection. With the ventilator fatally disconnected, my life ended, relationships ceased, hopes vanished and dreams became merely mortal.

As I transcend to visit my sister, I sense she is aware of my energy; her fleeting memories of our moments together, are what draw me near. I am infinite and non-existent yet I am present at least in thoughts. The affection she exudes as she contemplates, a once shared conversation, our visit to the majestic Brighton Palace, lunch in a quirky English pub in the historic Laines or our last extended and celebratory family dinner together permeates and radiates over me. It is this albeit, that aids my soul to live on. I visit when she least expects. I grace those that I loved. I am the aroma that lingers in a memory and the sensation of a presence when the hair on your arms stands on end. You rationalise that I do not exist but I am within your heart and mind, I am the energy that helps you live. I am not palpable; my soul subsists despite my body succumbing to leukaemia. I left to this world a son who now is in high school. I visit to watch him too.  He was nine months old, when my worn out body yielded to the obliteration of cancer. I do not want my dying to define his life. He does not remember me but I am his semblance, witness to his hopes and dreams. As the unknown, the intangible and unmatter, you cannot visualise me, however, your sixth sense and your gut expresses to you that I am possible and here.

My curtailed life was unexpected; the woman in the bath, my sister, chose to seek something, she felt missing. Her connection to something else, greater than her adopted family, triggered her quest to find other family members that she knew somehow, somewhere existed. The little girl within that woman long ago, trusted a feeling in her soul, she in some unique unfathomable manner sensed other family, and perhaps a sister somewhere and vowed one day she would find them. Thankfully her wilfulness, courage and tenacity, time wise, was fortuitous and life gratifying.

Life in all its glory- fate, destiny or the determination of events, allowed a window of opportunity for us to meet. The woman in the bath opened Pandora’s Box, with voluminous good things resulting but also many a far-reaching emotional consequence erupted. She is the survivor, not me and the thoughts, feelings and vibes in the depths of her soul are her illumination. Her energy is contagious. She is the one who makes you feel at ease, the one you want in your corner. Her days are lived and she breathes and I am glad that she sought to find me. I am Hannah’s spirit, I hover in time amongst the great mythical goddesses of the Milky Way.

As she sleeps, I view photographs, that line the cream hand worn walls; the assorted images of children smile happily, the nieces and nephew, I never encountered and yearned to know. I reflect that her eldest daughter is an altered and modern image of myself, my doppelganger. The two dimensional images depict my lost family, screening eerie family resemblances and inherited connections of both blue and almond brown eyes, fair skin and mousey brown hair. The rhythm of ballerina feet in my sister and her daughters and the mannerisms they exhibit in their daily feats is hauntingly beautiful. Surreal. The essence of my manifested self is encapsulated in amongst the fragrance of white lilies and lavender that scent the front garden.

Sisters carry whether they know it or not an uncanny, timeless, unique and universal bond that transcends hemispheres, time and life. She, that woman in the bath is part my bones, part my soul and my attachment to earthly life. She understands what I unwittingly, cruelly, under duress and infortune suffered. That priceless memories of anticipated motherhood were never to be lived. She is the magic of my vanished life. My sister, our mother’s first daughter, was the first granddaughter, the tragedy being no one ever knew of her existence. Both sets of our grandparents went to their graves oblivious, just as all the related ancestral family are naïve to her existence.  The determination she afforded in finding me, transpired in the most exceptional of reunions for my family. She found a sliver, a spell of time, a sliding door into our English world and those of us, who had longed to meet her, were blessed by that moment of serendipity.  As orange and pink hued sunsets magnificently cast beauty over the western mountain range and days fade away, I hope she appreciates and recognises that what she rightly senses in her soul is worth trusting.

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Windows of compassion

We all view life through our own windows. As humans we develop and utilise so many frames of perception-whether they are; physical and sensory, emotional and mental, cultural, religious or atheist, each observation and perhaps judgement we make through what ever window or combination, flavours who we are or how we project ourself.

Physically, in my space of my current convalescence, I notice that my actual high rise apartment windows aren’t very clean. I’m not a fastidiously house proud person but I like tidy, ordered and comfortable with a touch of eclectic style. I can see through the glass, can cope with fingerprints, the smears and dusty grey concrete dust that clings to the glass, however, it doesn’t cloud my overall view of what is just. As I survey Sydney from my balcony I see an expansive, vast panorama and I am coming to terms with that my choice of physical view at home mimics who I truly am in life in a social, emotional and psychological sense.

The older I become the more internally incensed I am by the arrogance of entitlement, blind ignorance and what I increasingly witness daily as a pathological lack of respect and empathy for the notions of equality, equity, humanity and compassion by people in power or those who desire to be. We are in an age of pathetic leadership, it’s frightening to observe the shenanigans and life caricatures of the collectively ambitious people observed in the places of power, namely in our representatives or elected leaders.

I ponder whether any of these “leaders” look out their windows and notice the reality of the world they are meant to lead. Leadership is in my view always from behind and within, it is grassroots, from in the ranks and humble. Leading Is about showing empathy and compassion and helping attain goals by first of all by reflecting and considering all points of view. Many will disagree with me but it is integrity that comes to mind as I lay here recovering from injury. I have had days to think and ruminate and integrity colours every decision I have made in my life. As a seven year old I stood and resolutely faced my father, who was physically and psychologically abusive. I stood firm with the words, “don’t hurt my my mum” as his violent hand stopped short of slapping me sideways. That moment in time is deeply rooted in my psyche and memory, it was the seed of my need for justice and it was just one of many moments when I would witness the pathetic side of maleness, that was my father.

Ego, misguided personal ambitions that beget power and the manipulative twisted casting or shrugging of blame are factors that irk me. Experiences of dealing personally with many life changing and challenging moments has permitted me a first hand authority or “shoe walk” on a host of a-z experiences of human life. This female, or warrior woman has a few battle scars, a vault full of stories, and all are Netflix worthy. However, compared to so many females in our world I am blessed, fortunate and free.

I used to be politically and career motivated, desperately wanting to be a change maker. Now I just want to share my skills in who I am as a teacher, who I am as a human and who I am in my soul. I have always valued my humanity, or what I can give, far more than what I know or my resume attests. Humility is a gift and i try hard to have it shine in my actions as teacher, parent and human. I hope my greatest skill as a teacher is manifested in the passing on of windows of compassion.

I’ve evolved into a middle aged woman, who is not afraid to say she is feminist and I am more than fed up with the rampant white male sexism and ageism of our current society.

This week has given me time to be reflective. It has been a week where I experienced claustrophobia for half an hour whilst inside the MRI machine, but eyes closed deep breathing and mantras calmed the physical reactions. If you know me well, you well know I also have a fear of heights. Never will I jump out of a plane, bungee jump or abseil. So I understand that fear is something that debilitates. Being able to look through the windows of our lives, noticing, feeling and envisioning everything we experience is a lifelong exercise. I appreciate that everyone’s windows and views are different and you can only see what you visibly can. It is the the walking in another’s shoes, the focus of our eyes, the using of all senses and emotions that helps develops wisdom. The intangible will always be foreign if you only keep your view blinkered and narrow.

Day by day this year, my move and my chaotic and transformational life experiences have made me realise that my primary role in my job and daily life is to empower others to be the best version of themselves they can be. All this rambling is simply me asking everyone to stand in their own integrity and practice some compassion in your dealings with humanity.

One very long week

It’s been one whole entire very long agonising week since I came back from Perth. 7 days ago I awoke with a pins and needle like numbing in my front thigh, extreme radiating pain from my left lumbar spine and the feels of an imaginary thirty centimetre knife injury in my quadriceps area.

Having spent five days in Perth accompanying two students at a schools conference, the room I had slept in housed a single bed and a desk and barely would have scraped in one star if the NRMA had decided to rate boarding school dormitories. The paper thin wall meant the rhythmic snoring of the teacher in the room to my left had kept me awake on and off for every, single, one, of the four nights I was “at work”. The last two days of the conference I could not sit on a chair and the humble ice pack I made was a saving lifeline amongst my rapidly depleting supply of over the counter painkillers.

The start of my back problems began on a Tuesday in class a month ago. A simple lean over a seated students laptop screen, where I pointed to the requirements of a question, caused me to be stuck in a downward pointing salute to a John Travolta Saturday Night Fever pose. With hesitance, I tried to move my spine back to a state of no pain, and looking back, yes, I should have filled the work cover notification injury form in that afternoon. Instead I went to a staff meeting, popped two panadols and soldiered on. Returning to work on the Wednesday after a painful drive from home, tears erupted once in my staffroom. I left and went home, and headed straight to the physiotherapist seeking relief. A day later I attended my doctor to follow up, obtain a necessary medical certificate and stayed home and rested. Two weeks at work of careful standing, limiting my movement, sensible choice of shoes, physiotherapy and exercises all followed to land me, exactly where I am now, flat on my back, in pain and on the receiving end of absolute silence from my workplace.

If you have ever seriously hurt your back you may be grimacing with muscle memory, if you haven’t, you will be rolling your eyes. I get your scepticism, that was me before I succumbed to pain worse than you imagine. Unfortunately, I’ve had a workcover insurance claim before. A mild traumatic brain injury in 2015, sustained in China. It was serious, a fluke of an accident and my case was open for fifteen months. I know the perils of having to prove injury and that the effects of brain, neck and spine injuries although not visible they are extremely real in pain and debilitating. I have dealt with the ignorant judgement of others and the system of seeking approval for every single required appointment. I have endured the arrogance of an independent assessor- a doctor trying to assess that I was at best conning the system, only to discover that I had more serious injuries than first diagnosed.

So, this time round, I didn’t want to pursue my injury as a Workcover claim. I was told at my workplace that I had to, yet the silence from my workplace and the insurance agency has sent a message that I will interpret to mean. They. Don’t. Get. It. Yes, it’s school holidays and there are a million reasons why my affliction has not been important to anyone but me. However every inflated doctor fee I am paying as it’s “workcover” will need reimbursing, I will have to endure continue proving that my back pain means I cannot sit, only stand and lie, and that my leg paralysis and increasing nerve affected numbness and loss of leg strength is a scary thought. Soon, later today I hope to have the confirmed results for my pain, yet until my next appointment is approved, and finally get a claim number- I just have to wait.

You might think I should just take myself to hospital- I would if only I had a claim number. All I can imagine is that Catholic Insurance, is obviously very busy.

Ch-ch-changes

img_0689With apologies to Mr Bowie who I fortunately, heard and sang along with at my first ever stadium sized concert back in my final year of high school, on a steamy perfect summer afternoon in Sydney. It was 1983, the Serious Moonlight tour, and packed shoulder to shoulder I was close enough to visibly admire perfection in the god like strutting Bowie. Thirty five years later that concert is still a favourite, a true standout in relation to a multitude of concerts that over a lifetime I have attended. Perhaps being my first experience of singing along with a musical icon the memory is elevated in my vault of great times, beyond all others, the aura of that evening is still palpable. I had always desired to see the iconic Bowie again but sadly for all in the world the incredible Mr Bowie is floating somewhere in his own universe

As much as this piece of writing could be a written tribute on how much I love David Bowie, it is not. Changes or my capacity to face the strange, is the melody I have playing in my head. Just having made a huge city change to work and home in 2018, the well meaning people whom I dearly love keep telling me that change has been needed and that it is good for me. In their minds, or more precisely my perception of their words – they, think, I’ve been stuck. My mother in her ignorance of who I am, imagines and believes that as I had lived in my home, which was a constant for 24 years, somehow my staying put physically, translated into that I was not able to cope with change. I love my mum, but she headed off on a finding herself pilgrimage via Byron Bay when I was 19 and forty years later, is still running from herself and continuously moving house. As much as struggle has been thrust into my life, often through the actions of others, I seem to have some golden halo that has been somewhat a saving grace in helping me navigate a less than straight forward life.

Change is the only thing that is constant in our lives. Everyday and every year of my life I have faced change- contrary to my mother telling me that I am afraid of change- I need to proclaim very strongly and loudly, I definitely am not. My relationship with my mother is complicated to say the least and today I sit professing to myself that her circus is for her to deal with. The monkeys on my own back need shaking off and again I will cope admirably and with the determination and fortitude to climb my own mountains I do always revel in the view. Having travelled alone, raised children alone, and nervously stepped outside my comfort zone every single day of my life, I have realised that I am in fact good at change. Anxiety has been a constant companion in my life and I have worked incredibly hard to manage its sometimes debilitating hold. How I managed to is attributed to having a constant, a base. My home has been a cosy cocoon of familiarity that allowed me to successfully navigate so much change seamlessly. Nature, sunsets, the mountains and the beach are for me grounding sources and living without these has made my days a little tough.

Truth is I have faced a life of continuous change, most often without a partner and someone to bounce decisions off. I hope you can hear me roar as life for me is about to change again. This time the melody is to the tune of- I have no idea where I will be living or where I will be working and even and the prospect of standing on the abyss of change is liberating. The best things are those we cannot ever imagine and to quote Bowie- I’ve turned myself to face me and yes time has changed me.

Crossroads

I wish I was standing on a corner, perhaps in Winslow Arizona, or locally I had hoped to explore the avenues and beaches of beautiful Huskisson but my body has other plans. Instead I’m standing gingerly on the concrete platform of Lewisham station on an hours adventure to pick up my new glasses in the city of sunny Sydney on rugby league Grand Final day. Not that I follow football but the number of supporters I see in Roosters jerseys prompts me to think that home team grand final day support is starting early. It’s Sunday and I’ve just fuelled myself with a well earned coffee in my battered keep cup. I’m caffeine loading and layering upon prednisone, Mobic and some other codeine medication that is working hard to numb pain in my usually reliable body. I have iced my leg and back and fisiocream has been lathered into my left side like it is moisturiser, invading all my pores. To look at me my aura is calm, or so the yogi who served me coffee said- the drugs obviously agree with me. The cocktail of prescription medications are necessary to cope with the ails of a profused disc in my back and a femoral nerve compression.

The intersection I am at in my life really is just one of many crossroads faced in these past few years. My body is telling me I need to slow down and cannot keep going the way I am. My spine usually supple, strong and flexible, has served me well. I used to swim, was long ago extremely fit, and these past few years yoga has become my exercise of choice. I’m hypermobile and my body has always stretched easily- limbo competitions used to be a breeze. At 52, my body has carried, mothered, protected and launched three amazing children into their own unique adult lives, my legs have held me strong whilst I guided hundreds of students into careers whilst carrying out my vocation. This year has been tough, emotionally and mentally and now the physical challenges are manifesting, yet I know it is all comes down to growth, renewed wisdom and making decisions that mean I need to look after primarily myself.

Reflecting on the why of my physical pain as I grip the yellow pole in the rattling city circle train, I surmise and look backwards on my history of challenging years, noticing a pervasive cycle. 1984 was a tough year, it was the year I left school and studied a Bachelor of Science, that I loathed. Completing that year at university was needed to keep the peace with my mother and I wasn’t living my life but another person’s expectation of me. I drifted into subsequent years, changing my course, establishing a career, married my childhood love, owner built a house and started a family. If I thought life was challenging early on in my young life I had no idea what would follow. 1994 was as a second time mum, in a new town hugely challenging and 2004 was a depressive and emotionally  exhausting marriage breakdown year of blur, thankfully I had two remarkable female friends who saw me through the darkness of those years and are still in my life still today.

The trilogies of 1974, 1994 and 2004 are novels in themselves. One day I hope to pen in true colour all the stories – that are amazing yet heartbreaking at times, all have made me stronger, thankful and compassionate. Trauma  and overcoming it have been a huge part of my life, yet I’m not a victim but a survivor. I often question why is it that my life is so full of challenge, yet I know the gold in my life shines so brightly. The gold at the other end of my challenge pendulum – is the love of three children who have given me so much joy. Being adopted meant having a family of my own was my first genetic link to what many take for granted- familial soul.

Sadly, I didn’t have a father who loved and cared for me as his own, I was an estranged daughter not of my father’s flesh and this early lack of familial belonging in my life has been repeated through predictable scenarios. The long ago husband that I so naively loved was not my protector but a wolf in sheeps clothing. I still hope that one day in the future I can rely on a man to be there for me but I am expert at standing on my own and facing life as a strong independent woman.

The crossroads I am facing, require a strong spine, although I have made no firm future plans I know I cannot keep living life in the manner that I am. My soul needs to be filled more than it is. Visualising a future life for myself through new lenses is essential, hopefully once I sort my spine health I will be travelling without too many forks, crossroads and the cycles of challenge will finally lessen.

August 24

( image removed)

What do you see when you look at this picture? A student, artworks, a trainee chef, a young woman? I see resilience and the face of Australia. The story of this young woman, is the story of determination and a desire for improvement. I know just a little of this young woman’s story. She is from Iran and I can only imagine how tough life is for her, learning in a language that is not her own and struggling to make sense of a curriculum in Year 11 that at times is enormously irrelevant. She likes Hospitality, Business Services and Art. She struggles in all subjects but can feel more achievement in subjects that allow expression in a form other than essays. My belief in this young woman and her future is why I do what I do each day. She is the face of a changing Australia- whether our youth are refugees or displaced or have diverse needs, teachers are the people who each day have enormous impacts in the life of our future Australia. On a day that many politicians exhibited ego and dysfunction I humbly reflect on my role and that of my colleagues. I am proud that so many of my colleagues are change catalysts in this world. My days in Western Sydney have demonstrated to me that small persistent supports, daily conversations and actions can lead to enormous gains in well being, continued learning and improved self belief. Scott Morrison PM hopefully you see the importance of multicultural Australia, as you proclaim, and set an example of leadership and stability at least until the next election.

The deepest sighs

Embrace the fear, dive into the unknown.

Find meaning and light in your life and unwrap the firecracker in your soul.

Discover the spark of physicality that is missing, lost in an abyss of a tucked up life.

Lift yourself out of the hole, let your hands grasp and scoop the crumbling earth of the ever caving in self imposed walls.

It is in your nature, flick the mud off, wash away the dirt and barriers.

Paint and photograph the world, design and write, create beauty and chances; smell the hint of change.

Everything is simple in your heart. Make the unbearable bearable but carefully listen intently to your deepest sighs.