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That in-between feeling

Have you ever had that in-between feeling? Like in high school when the PE teacher had a stroke of genius and implemented a semester of water polo.

 

There we all bobbed, treading water with similar competence to the way a baby feeds itself. I was as at home in the water as a fish in the sky. Not a flying fish. Just a regular Spanish mackerel.

 

I rotated my legs valiantly in eggbeater kick, my nose inches above the mocking stink of chlorine, waiting, bobbing, hoping nobody would throw the ball my way. The shouts of my classmates echoed off the Fairholme swimming-pool walls.

 

I lifted my eyes to a beam of sunlight stabbing in through the top louvre on the western side and thought how I would always remember this moment in time; treading water, waiting.

 

That is how the past two months have felt to me, since returning from South America.

 

As I sat on my Brisbane-bound plane I realised I shouldn’t be on it. That I should have stayed over there and done all the things I wanted to do.

 

(Including but not limited to sleeping in the jungle with only a can of deodorant and a lighter to make a flame torch against jaguar attack, volunteering at a hostel for a few months and using my savings for nothing but surf lessons and coconuts, and above all becoming fluent in that curly language they call Spanish.)

 

To clarify that statement, the reason I returned early was for Christmas with my family; to meet our cousins’ two new babies and eat prawns around the pool with the extended family, which we haven’t done in years. And I am happy I’ll be here for that. It puts a huge grin across my freckled face actually.

 

But there is something nagging at me. I feel like Red Riding Hood – who has left the path when she shouldn’t have.

 

They say the difference between entrepreneurs and us normal people is tunnel vision. Entrepreneurs have the ability to look directly and unwaveringly at their goal.

 

The problem with my goals is there are thousands of them, all swinging their buoyant red-poppy heads in the breeze, all begging for immediate attention.

 

It is no easy task to distil my focus.

 

I am learning though, as the years creep merrily by, that we have other senses. Mostly these get ignored.

 

It takes discipline of perspective to listen to these extra senses. It is something you have to consciously work at. Most of the time you are giving yourself advice and signals, which you ignore.

 

If I have a conflict in my life, big or small, my body is aware of it before my brain consciously is. I will wake with a knot in my stomach. I will feel wound up like a coil, ready to act with instinct in a burst of action.

 

This is not a good thing! Success in this situation relies on the brain catching up and considering the action I am about to take.

 

This is knowing yourself. This is what self-discovery is all about.

 

Once I fired off a reply email. It was following a rather unfounded complaint to the local paper I was working at, in my undertrained and overworked position as senior journalist. I was still a green sapling in the journo world, but like most papers in regional areas, the young ones have to step up to a role often beyond their experience.

 

We had no editor, and the former senior journalist had just moved to a bigger newspaper….so I was it.

 

This is a great thing for training and character building, but it often means you are learning by trial and error.

 

The next morning I woke with a knot in my stomach. Lying there, looking up at the white ceiling of my Dalby house, I let my thoughts filter idly in and out of my brain like the tide.

 

Why was I feeling like this?

 

Aaaaah. The email. It was only the next day I realised I had taken the wrong tone in it. Thanks hindsight…..right on time as usual.

 

From this I learned. Never write back to an email involving conflict/drama straight away. Go and make a coffee. Write a draft. Mull it over.

 

What is sent cannot be retracted.

 

I think the key to life is to never stop learning. That is how the world goes backwards; when people start to think they know it all. That is how we close our minds.

 

Back to the other senses though…..that is one of the main things I want to get out of 2015. Learning to listen to my inner voice properly. Learning to say no to things I don’t need or want in my life, and to keep my own focus when there are a million beckoning hands on the sidelines.

 

My problem is I can enjoy most situations, so I am easily led to distraction.

 

If you have ever felt this also, you may enjoy this poem by one of my all-time FAVOURITE poets, Mary Oliver. Read it. Get shivers. Listen to yourself.

 

 

The Journey- Mary Oliver

 

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

 

The thing is we haven’t been taught how to do this. Schools should teach quiet time of reflection. Halfway through the 90 minute Maths-B double lesson all the students should be asked to lie on the floor, close their eyes, and reflect on how they are feeling in life, what they want to get out of the week, and whether they are doing enough to keep their bodies and minds in harmony.

 

Instead we have to learn it the hard way: through teenage angst, overloading our poor adolescent shoulders with the worries of the world, and listening to advice from all angles from people who don’t necessarily know what you need.

 

We need a form of unlearning. Of quieting the outer world. Turning off the TV and sitting for a moment on the front lawn. Digging your fingernails into the grass and thinking about your name and your place in the scheme of things.

 

“the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,”

 

Oh Mary. So wise.

 

My in-between feeling is still there, but it is a necessary one. It’s stopped getting me down, I’ve realised I am supposed to be treading water at the moment. It reminds me not to just sit and get mouldy. It reminds me I’ve got places to be.

 

Thanks inner voice. I get it now.

The journey.

The journey.

A Day of the Semi-Employed Person

I left my blinds open and woke with the sun, lorikeets screeching out their bitchy hierarchy in the gums above my head.

 

I could hear my housemate clanging in the kitchen in that way that early risers do, figuring morning is for waking, and you can sleep when you’re dead.

 

It felt good to rise as nature intended, though it required going to bed at gramps-o’clock.

 

I was splitting my day between matters of personal happiness and annoying, obligatory jobs begging attention before Christmas, so I ate a good breaky of eggs and caffeine. I wouldn’t be back til late afternoon.

 

Last week the fantastic news that I’d received the green light for my Colombia job arrived without fuss in my inbox.

 

“Hi Lisa,

 

You have been accepted to the English Teaching Fellowship to work in Cartagena de Indias.

 

Best,

 

Angela.”

 

Its brevity was great, though a little shocking. I looked up from the couch on my ordinary Tuesday night and let my little heart soar.

 

Then I googled Cartagena.

 

“The jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, with a charming colonial, old city.”

Heck yes. My kite surfing dreams would at last come into fruition.

800px-Cartagena,_Colombia_(5043733874)

Absentmindedly I thought about what to pack for a year in paradise. All I could think of was bikinis and my favourite pen.

 

I hoped I could track down somewhere safe to live, that didn’t cost too much. I wanted to spend most of my monthly stipend on Spanish lessons, attending theatres and scuba diving.

Ready for one bad Aussie surfer to hit its shores.

Ready for one bad Aussie surfer to hit its shores.

 

I would be teaching English to the poorer people of the nation (all ages), and would be well out of my depth for the first couple of months at least.

 

That week I bounced around. Someone could have pelted me with eggs as I rode to work and I wouldn’t have minded. I had a secret and it was a good one.

 

I knew I’d be in for a pretty tough year, but I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it.

 

For now, reality beckoned.

 

I packed my laptop, an apple and some water and pedaled off to my psychologist appointment. I looked harder than normal at our fabulous Aussie trees. I wouldn’t be seeing them for a while.

 

I’d decided to deal with some stuff that had been getting me down. As a naturally happy person I woke up one day realising I had lost some of that somewhere along the way.

 

It was time to delve into that mental back drawer that most of us spend our lives ignoring.

 

I had been recommended to an amazing, professional woman who spoke the language of the heart, through the tongue of the brain.

 

Sharp as a tack, passionate and sensibly analytical she was just the kind of person I needed to shine my reflection back at me.

 

I cannot recommend seeing a psychologist highly enough if there is something troubling you. I think we should see them as frequently as dentists to be honest. Probably more.

 

It was an hour’s appointment and I left with that satisfied feeling you get when you fish a grape out from under the refrigerator. Dealing with something that had been out of sight, out of mind, and would just have festered.

 

Mental health: The most important kind.

Mental health: The most important kind.

I had a letter to write to someone important in my life, so called into an op-shop to buy the cute vintage writing paper such an occasion demanded.

 

On my way out I spotted a sex shop. I hadn’t been into one since college days, when we would leave notes on the cork ‘meeting board’ up the back saying “looking for open-minded orgy companions, call me” and signed off with out friend’s number. Haha!

 

“Morning,” said the young male behind the counter a little too brightly.

 

I was somewhat ambushed.

 

He sprung up like an erection.

 

“Can I help you with something?”

 

“Um, I was just walking past and thought I’d look,” I replied.

 

Ha. Bet he hears that one a lot.

 

I walked towards the nearest shelf, which of course was a beautifully arranged display of vibrators. One had bunny ears on the business head, obviously designed by somebody not in possession of a vagina.

 

“They’re great,” said the vagina-less man.

Naughty-Bunny-Vibrator-7-function-vibrating-rabbit-egg-female-sex-vibrator-clitoris-stimulator

“What size are you looking for?”

“We’ve got a great range of realistic ones,” he said, sweeping an arm in the direction of the well-endowed shelf.

 

“Or these little ones are great for travelling, and super quiet,” he continued, putting a buzzing one into my hand.

 

It was all a little amusing; I relished impromptu experiences like this.

 

Things became a little awkward when he started a paragraph-like (though very informative) description of the benefits of clitoral versus penetration options.

 

I didn’t want to interrupt him, but the buzzing in my hand was becoming a little strange to hold, and I didn’t know how to turn it off.

 

The button would have to be on the erm…dry end I reasoned, as he chatted away. Close but no cigar.

 

When he’d stopped talking I handed the small instrument back, and he shut it off like a pro. He would make some girl very happy one day, with or without battery-operated help!

 

“Well, thank you,” I said sincerely.

“You really know your stuff. I might pop back on the weekend.”

 

When I’d left I thought of a hundred great puns I could have used. Dammit!

 

“Great G-spot you’ve got here, it’s got a real buzz about it.”

“Been open long or short?”

“I’ll just go out the same way I came in.”

 

I made my way to my favourite Mooloolaba Café, Envy. I’d done a trial here a while ago and the atmosphere was so relaxed it felt like you were hanging out at a friend’s place.

 

Sometimes it was hard to identify the actual staff, as they floated by with the urgency of a Bolivian storekeeper.

 

Like most places on the coast it was overpriced, but I paid my $5.50 for a mug of flat white made on almond milk (YUM) and pulled up a pew.

 

Don't trust people without a little addiction in their lives.

Don’t trust people without a little addiction in their lives.

I wrote a six-page letter. Pausing to laugh, cry and sometimes look up to catch the approving glance of an elderly person who thought the art of pen to paper had long been killed-off by our generation.

 

It was $5.50 well spent; good tunes kept rolling, the coffee was excellent and no annoyingly bright waitresses bugged you like on the esplanade.

 

I had forgotten the pleasure of writing a letter rather than an email. The slow pace of penmanship forces you to think about each sentence properly before you blurt it (something I am direly missing in conversation.) It was a great cure for my ever-present foot-in-mouth disease.

 

I popped it in the post box across the road, like sending off an old friend on the train, and went to finish my Christmas shopping. As usual I bought one for them and one for me…..the only way to get through the drollness of Christmas shopping.

 

As I paid with cash I shouldn’t be spending a warning rumble of thunder sounded.

 

I peered up into a menacing sky, got on my bike and prepared to race nature. The sky darkened with a smirk as I waited for the lights to change.

 

I could feel the air changing in that way it does when it is about to absolutely piss down.

 

Oh boy.

 

I had gift-wrapped presents dangling from my handlebars and my laptop in my backpack. It was on.

 

Green light, I gunned it across Venning St, the sky rumbling smugly overhead. I must look like a tiny ant running home.

 

As I sped past Ocean View Av the drops started coming. What Forest Gump would call “Big ol’ fat rain.”

 

Much needed droplets beat down.

Much needed droplets beat down.

No!! I pumped my stumpy legs faster, feeling the burn. This is what Lance Armstrong must have felt on those ferocious hills during the Tour de France.

 

Oh, that’s right, he had drugs helping him. Lucky bugger.

 

More drops, my sunglasses ran rivers.

 

I thought about sheltering under someone’s garage but it looked like the kind of rain that would set in for a good hour.

 

I was only a few blocks from home, and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. I kicked my steel steed into racing gear, and put my head down as though on the velodrome.

 

Racing speed on my bike was similar to that attained by a nanna on a slight downhill slope. As I passed the beckoning shelter of the local fish and chip shop, I knew I’d made a rookie error.

 

One street from home and the heavens opened.

 

I could imagine them up there (whoever they were) yelling, “Get her! Drown the little ant! It wore a yellow shirt today, how silly of it!”

 

I arrived home transparent and delighted with the adrenalin of it all. One present to re-wrap.

 

Nature: 1 Lisa: 0

Nature: 1
Lisa: 0

The rain kept coming down, soothing and beautiful, soaking into the thirsty coastline.

 

I put on Double J in the background and prepped dinner while the thunder belted its way across the sky.

 

Is there anything as good as a stormy day when you’re not at work!

Sarah and Her Babies

Don't Mum! I like my face dirty.

Don’t Mum! I like my face dirty.

You who loves them fierce-red through your veins
I love all the more for refusing –
to let motherhood define you
– to let it constrictingly bind you.

Instead you pin it
Strong brass, clotted with a hundred clammy prints –
from babana-bread-hands, squashed sandwiches, spilt yoghurt –
To the gilded arc of triumph that you are

And wear it as part of you. Of Sarah.

For you never can decide
What you mean to others

But to me you mean strength
and depth and reality.
A refreshing fuck-off reality
So rare is sears like welding flash
At once raw and immeasurable

Sometimes we talk practicality
And you perch Zan on my hip, to fold clothes
Sometimes you make my eyes water
As you lay bare your tenacious soul

Refusing to quit, lie down, sit pretty
Bleeding the ochre from mediocre
And blazing it across your warrior cheeks

Today, surrounded by women
Remember you will always have grace and strength.
Because that is you.
And will always be.

I watch your boys playing against a bright Cecil sky,
I watch Ben lift up his daughter
And I am so glad you are bringing another life in to share our world.

God Bless You Frank…Whoever You Were

The problem with being vague is that amusing events, weird people and small scenes of disaster tend to magnetise towards your general portion of the universe.

….as though drawn by your aptitude for not having much aptitude for things.

If a weirdo gets on a train or bus, they will inevitably sit down beside me and begin telling me their story. Tangent by confusing tangent.

If I have a simple task to complete and someone else is waiting on the other end, it will invariably go wrong.

Life is a battle!
Here is a story from the front line, for your amusement.

God Bless You Frank… Whoever You Were.
Brisbane, 2009

I had been working at my new job as a carer for people with mental illness. There was a sign on the lunchroom door that said “Out of my head, back later.”

The job was a fountain of bemusing scenarios as it was, but this particular day the event happened before I had actually started for the day.

I arrived at work to find my shift had been changed and I was now three hours early. Sigh.

My fuel light had been on for a couple of days and I had no dollars. Driving back to Paddington and risking an empty tank on my return to work wasn’t an option, so I set off on foot through Red Hill to kill the time.

For weeks now I’d admired the old, Roman Catholic church that stood on the hill. An austere mass of red bricks, it loomed in solid splendour above us mere mortals, just as the Catholics would have liked.

They were fond of stark reminders that enjoying sex, coveting your neighbours Merc or eating pizza on the Sabbath would send you directly to hell….without passing go, and probably after PAYING $200.

The regal Red Hill church in happier times.

The regal Red Hill church in happier times.

I loved old buildings like churches, and this one was grand enough to be a cathedral (by Aussie standards anyway).

I decided to sneak up to the bell tower for a pigeon’s gander across our fine city of Brisbane.

As I approached I noticed there was a mass on. On a Monday! Give it a rest Catholics.

This should fill an hour, I thought, and stepped inside to take a seat in the back row. Perhaps they would hand out wine.

Though I was an atheist, I was interested in the concept of religion, and it wasn’t often I got to see it in action.

While I waited for my morning coffee to kick in I was pleasantly lulled by the monotone drone of the priest, swathed in folds of white that dropped from his shoulders like iced waterfalls.

I gazed skyward, remembering with discomfort how hard the benches had been in Sunday school, and how rigidly Inow sat.

After a while I began to actually pay attention to the sermon. (This can take some time with the roundabout preaching style of the snow-clad).

“He was a man of many communities,” the priest was saying, “giving not only his time to his family, but also to those in the many clubs he was involved with over the years.”

So Jesus was a clubs man! I knew it. I could almost picture him kicking back at the bar of Jerusalem’s local bowls club with a jar of the good stuff, after a tough day on the green with his 12 mates.

I looked up at the Jesus upon his lofty heights on the internal arcs.

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“Today we come together not to mourn the loss of Frank, but to celebrate the life that he led…..” the priest went on.

The lightbulb inside my brain also went on. Finally.

I was in the middle of a funeral.

I looked with fresh eyes at the assembled congregation, noting I was one of approximately eight people under the age of 100.

Shit. They probably think I’m a secret mistress here to argue the will.

I became acutely aware of everything in my surroundings, and tried to ignore the feeling that I stood out like an extra finger on a Simpson. One of the congregation breathed heavily and the priest looked sympathetically in her direction.

Shit! Shit!

I nodded solemnly at the milestones of Frank’s life (which were remarkable and humbling to hear by the way) and considered the most low-key exit I could make.

A woman dressed in a lavender two-piece dress suit turned her head slowly to look at me.

I nodded subtly to her in a way I’d seen jockeys do at country races when other jockeys trotted past them in the warm up ring.
This was arguably not the appropriate response.

I had to get out before the procession and mingling occurred or someone would inevitably ask me, tears pooling in their earnest eyes, “And how did you know Frank?”

And I would be forced to think of an innocent way I could have chanced upon the friendship of this man in his 70s (gathering by the demographic of mourners), so as not to answer with honest disrespect, “Oh no, I don’t know Frank, I work up the road but I don’t have enough fuel to get back to my house so I thought I’d kill time here. Not kill, pass. No, shit, not pass…..um…look an eagle.”

There was a brief pause in the proceedings and I took this moment to dust off my acting skills.

Looking directly out the large door to my right I pretended I was being hailed by a fellow mourner.

Perhaps one of the aged who couldn’t lift their walker up the stairs unassisted. A friend of Frank’s who I’d met while I was over at Frank’s place….cleaning his fish tank. As I did. Each Wednesday. Yes, yes he was a lovely man, madam.

Calmly I nodded and made the motion for them to stay there, that I would come out to them.

From his position at the parapet only the priest could see the empty stairs I was signalling at.

“We would like to thank those of you who have travelled to celebrate Frank’s life amongst family and friends on this day,” he continued.

Bless you father for your silence.

I took my leave, wishing Frank well in the next sphere, and hurrying off down the road, taking several metres to extricate myself from the far-flung shadow of the great building.

“I see you child,” said the God I didn’t believe in, “I know what you have done.”

Ironically, though the remainder of my day included explaining to a lovely man with dementia that his debit card was linked to his own money, and not a scheme by us carers to replace his hard earned cash with a small plastic card, that was the most surreal part of my day.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I entered the ‘normality’ of my workplace, all the while thinking Frank seemed like the kind of guy who would’ve got a chuckle out of my story.

There’s Gotta Be More To Life

I recall many summers, gazing out my classroom window, stuck to the little brown chair with sweat, watching magpies pull grubs from their safe places on the lawn.

You lose grub.

You lose grub.

It was so hot the air seemed to buzz, a languid drawl against my 12-year-old ear drums. I tried to focus through the audio-haze on my teacher’s voice.

“Who can tell me why the Aborigines didn’t want the new settlers to build houses in Australia?”

Ha. What a can of worms that one was.

The clearest thought I remember, however – because it has never truly gone away – is: “There’s got to be more to life than this.”

Even at that young age I was not wholly satisfied with the options being served before me.

That thought roars loud as as a Harley through the channels of my brain. I think of it as I brush my teeth, run on the road, check my emails, dive deep under water, wash the dishes.

We get up, live our lives for a day and then sleep, only to do it all over again.

When we are young we have wild and wonderful variations of this, but ultimately for most people, it is too difficult to maintain a life against the grain. All that swimming upstream is exhausting. And we eventually succumb to a doldrum existence.

This is not the case for everybody. And finding those sorts of people is the inspiration that can change your own life. Through inspiring you to change it yourself.

Today I finally watched the second Australian Story (ABC – excellent program) on Aussie Tara Winkler. Do yourself a favour and view the link.

This woman, aged just 22 at the time, pulled 14 kids from an abusive and corrupt orphanage and set up a better one for them. She then realised orphanages weren’t the answer and embarked on an over-abitious project to turn her efforts into an NGO instead, that places kids with families and puts on programs from karate to schooling.

And she pulled it off.

She didn’t just complete a token ‘kid rescue’ to save 14 children and stop there. She looked at the systemic failings of childcare in the country and tackled the problem with vision.

As I watched her story I cried and laughed at several points. I have always had a big heart and in recent years grown increasingly frustrated by not knowing what to do with my pent up will to help, desire to use my brain, do work I love and find something ‘more to life than this.’

Over the last year I’ve felt a pull towards the NGO sector. I love journalism, but I want my years on this spinning ball of rock to mean something at the end of it all. For me journalism is fulfilling, vitally important for a fair and open society and hard, brain stimulating work.

But there is a part of me that hasn’t been allowed to stretch its legs.

As I sat at my computer in Mooloolaba, on one of the Sunshine Coast’s lifeless, overcast days, I was struck like a gong by a long-overdue realisation of what I wanted to do with my life. Mostly epiphanies sneak up on you and hit you full in the face to announce their presence.

Tara’s story made me proud of a stranger, meditate on the beauty of romance in whatever form it comes, remember that we all have strength and should blaze ahead with our plans regardless of the doubters, who will never risk or achieve anything grand.

I took a photo of my puffy, red face to use as motivation in years to come if my mission got tough.

When love for humanity leaks out your eyes.

lisa cry2

I made a list of the skills I possessed at that exact point in time.

1) Good at talking to people and engaging them to share their story with me.
2) Resourceful. Can enter most places with or without consent of security. Possibility to apply this in professional/legal capacity.
3) Good with kids.
4) Horses trust me.
5) Fast, efficient writer.
6) Good creative writer.
7) Good at having ideas. Not so good on follow through. Working on it.
8) Handy with a camera and video camera.
9) Excellent at finding hidden corners of cities.
10) Good networker. Good at deciphering jargon. Good at rewriting jargon to normal speak.
11) Good at cheering people up. Highly empathetic.
12) Good at climbing.

It was a mixed bag. I felt with these as my specialties I could live a fulfilling life, without crusting over.

Spurned on by a desire to make up for lost time, I applied for two positions with NGOs. One in Cambodia, one in Colombia.

I felt this life clarity was a little late, but better late than never.

The miserable day looked down on me miserably. So much for my planned swim today.

While I was thinking of all the exciting options that lay before me, and the mountain of work it would take to get to where I wanted to be, I was aware of one thing.

I would have to look at this not as some phase, but as a way of life. A way of looking at life. If I had a bambino in Colombia while helping set up a domestic violence education program it would be no big deal. My kid would grow up speaking Spanish and English and we’d swim in the water together and watch whales play during their breeding season.

If I didn’t achieve the lofty journalism heights I had planned by 30 I would just have to relax and accept that life works out, partially through your actions as the liver and partially through circumstances out of your control.

I felt I had gained something and let go of something all in one morning. It was mentally refreshing and spiritually uplifting. It reminded me life was good.

I felt like I’d just taken the mental component of who I was through the car wash, to emerge a little better, and ready to wear another ten thousand bugs to the windscreen.

A bug's life.

A bug’s life.

I returned to my Spanish study, frequently pausing the CD to decipher the curly and confusing language that the tutor demanded from me.

The horizon looked challenging, but it looked really good too.

Coastie Bra – How To Get Noticed On The Job Circuit

I’m A Coastie Now Bra

I moved to the coast with about three times as much gear as I’d lugged through South America for the past five months.

That is to say, not a whole lot.

Luckily coasties aren’t too fond of clothes, probably they were already starting to regard me as a native. The more skin, the more native.

I sat above Mooloolaba’s main beach and surveyed my new home. I liked to think I looked like a seasoned water woman scanning for rips. Probably I looked more like an unemployed 20-something eating her homemade sandwich.

Pedal power.

Pedal power.

Wind took up my hair to dance, sun bit deliciously into my back and with each white crash of wave I felt the pull to leave Australia growing a little weaker.

What a place.

I’d hoped to knock off work earlier to work on my tan and put my head beneath that famous blue water. No wonder travellers came here and never left.

And when I say work I mean unpaid trial. I’d been a coastie bra for four days now. I hated being idle.

After stressing about work on day one, I peppered the Mooloolaba esplanade with my resumes. On day two I’d been lined up for four trials.

Anything over two hours I requested pay for. Café trials meant making plenty of coffees under the boss’s watchful gaze…which meant I scored two free coffees per trial. I spent the day buzzing.

Unfortunately for me I’d just spent the past two hours working (unpaid) at a place that’d never heard of me. Ha! Let me explain.

These types of occurrences were commonplace in my life.

My phone had rung the night before.

“Hi, Lisa, it’s so-and-so from the something-mumbled Café Mooloolaba, just wondering if you could come in for a trial at 9 tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, certainly,” I said, scrawling ‘9am Café Mooloolaba’ on my growing list.

Shit yeah! Beachfront workplace.

The sun had a bite even at 8:30am. I stood high on my bike as I glided down Mary Street. If a car pulled out I’d have gravel for a face, but how good that wind felt, blowing my worries away.

My short legs pedalled me valiantly past dawdling holiday makers in too-bright prints. At the sound of a bell they seemed startled. A bike on a commonly used bike path!

I changed into hospo blacks, chained my bike and headed to my future workplace.

“Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m here for a trial this morning.”

“Oh, I didn’t know anything about that,” said the sprightly manager.

“My boss must have forgotten to mention it.”

I made coffees, learnt the till and took orders on the iPad. I was killing it, and we discussed the roster at the end of the shift.

I hadn’t been climbing or waitressing in months and my weak fingers rebelled every time I made them carry three stacked plates.

But it felt so good to be working after three idle days I would have almost paid the café to let me do the trial.

“Well thanks for coming in, you did well today and we’ll have a look at the new roster this week,” said my future boss.

I headed off, coffee in my belly and success on the horizon.

I sat on the beach to delete job rejection emails from Seek, which had the habit of collecting there each day for me. Like unwanted children.

Home sweet temporary home.

Home sweet temporary home.

Four missed calls from a coast number. Obviously someone had been gobsmackingly impressed with my resume.

A voice on the other end answered then handed me to her manager whose first words were “are you all right?”

“Yes….shouldn’t I be? This is Lisa…”

“What happened this morning? You were supposed to come in for a trial at 9am,” answered the owner.

Aaaaaah. Yesterday’s phone call. The trial at Café Mooloolaba was actually a trial at Envy Café, Mooloolaba.

We rescheduled for the morning and I walked back into Café Mooloolaba to explain I had just worked two hours for them without them contacting or meeting me ever before.

The barista who’d showed me the ropes looked at me with pity, the manager laughed and wrote my number on a docket.

Well that’s one way to get noticed at a place you want to work….rock up and work for them whether they ask you to or not. Fingers crossed….

That arvo I had lunch with my Nanna – collected in a real car for the occasion – what a treat. She was wearing a patch on her chest to help against memory loss. Oh science!

She told me life was no good when you got older unless you stayed cheeky.

“Each time one of the nurses puts it on I’m a bit cheeky with him,” Nan said with a twinkle.

“Raymond,” I tell him, “you get lower are lower each time!”

That arvo I pedalled off to my second trial, a German place on the esplanade where the owner made me taste Underburg, a German apertif that had the kick of cognac and the aftertaste of cloves. It was made on herbs. Not bad.

I managed to smash two expensive looking wine glasses.

“Ooooh, I’d hide those,” said the cherub-faced kitchen boy, clearly delighted there was a bit of a scandal on.

I stuffed them under a milk carton in the bin and got back to the coffee machine.

“I’ll just take the rubbish out,” he called to the chef, giving me a co-conspirator wink.

Thanks mate!

The place was dead. I studied the menu (food is overpriced on the coast!), wiped the same non-existent puddle of milk and watched the clock.

“How do you feel about not wearing your nose ring?” the owner asked.

“Our customers are quite conservative here.”

Obviously I hope I get the other job…. You know, that one that didn’t know they were auditioning me.

“Ok,” she said at 4pm.

“We’ll be in touch.”

It was too cold to swim so I lay on the beach and read Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country.

I lolled raucously to myself like all lovers of literature do.

Read it and you too can lol on the beach.

Read it and you too can lol on the beach.

He was a cracking travel writer – this book on his misadventures through our sunny country. In one chapter he is walking through bushland in the middle of Sydney when he hears two dogs, barking threateningly.

He writes:

“They were coming toward me at some speed. Now the barking said, “We are going to have you, boy. You are dead meat.”…Note the absence of exclamation marks. Their barks were no longer tinged with lust and frenzy. They were statements of cold intent. “We know where you are,” they said. “You cannot make it to the edge of the woods. We will be with you shortly. Somebody call forensic.””

Oh Bill. I imagined him trotting in terror through our fine bushland.

Suddenly sand sprayed across my face as three little boys tackled each other.

They were nippers from the Mooloolaba Surf Lifesaving Club, which sat proudly over my shoulder.

Nippers at Mooloolaba

They ran back to their larger flock of nippers, clad in hot pink rashies. They looked like the good molecules on those indigestion adds.

Stoopid little nippers. One was standing on the 3m wall below the surf club, looking down at the sand.

“Ashton’s gonna jump,” yelled the nippiest of the nippers.

Ashton ran to the edge, reconsidered and backed up.

“Do it Ashton,” yelled his fellow good molecules.

Like all good young Australian boys he bowed almost immediately to peer pressure and leapt.

Luckily Ashton broke the fall with his face.

He dusted the sand off like a little trooper and was sweet.

I watched them doing their nipper activities. Line up, like a bright pink intestine, clasp their mini ironman boards and run into the waves. Paddle, run back up the beach, drop the boards and race each other to the finish.

The intestine of nippers.

The intestine of nippers.

An exuberant freckled lad took the lead but lost a few second swivelling his head back to enjoy the struggle of his fellow nips. Come on freckles, commit bro. Ashton smoked him.

I pedalled home up my hated hill, the mountain bike trying its best. A man on a road bike overtook me.

“Bit easier on this one,” he turned around to grin. Sitting pretty above his tooth-floss wheels.

Musings on Mental Health Week

“Clop, clop, clop,” barked the shoes, just below the white coat tails, which swung just above the white floor, which lay just below the white walls… who looked down flat noses at everything.

He had the feeling his eyes were too brown to be in this room, the white as suffocating as smoke, like the kind that crackled from the gumtrees every summer.

He grew painfully aware of his body, the way he was sitting, the way his eyes darted everywhere while his brain hissed at them to stop. This whole place made him nervous. He wanted to sneak back to the vending machine and get another Snickers.

The door swung open, deftly, just the right amount, and the doctor-type stepped in.

She was quite camouflaged in her gumtree-smoke coat, hidden against the judging, gumtree-smoke walls.

His eyes settled on her face; ambitious, in control and markedly attractive. He might have thought of asking her for a coffee if he didn’t feel like a shell.

He pictured her response as she turned to shut the door.

“I am sorry Mr Humphries, but it is my policy not to date shells. Solely humans. You’ll understand I’m sure.”

“Clomp, clomp,” snapped the shoes. Back to reality.

“Good morning Mr McKewan, thank you for coming in,” said the doctor-type.

“I’ve had a look through your files and I’m afraid we have diagnosed you with confounding sadness.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Don’t be – that is one of the things you’re going to have to learn to let go off – saying sorry.”

“Yes…it’s just…I don’t really have anything to feel sad about.”

“It is called confounding sadness Mr McKewan. The nurse will show you out.”

——————————————————————————————————–

Almost every time I connect with media I see something disappointing. A story about humanity letting itself down (teacher sexually assaults student; racial attack on train; charity worker embezzles thousands), or a crass headline by a newspaper that lets down humanity (Monster Chef and The She-Male)…but last week I felt proud from Monday right through to Sunday.

The coverage of Mental Health Week, the online links to information and help, and even the ABC’s list of 20 songs (as nominated by their audience) to get you through a tough time, has been REFRESHING and EXCELLENT.

Despite the grit and doom of our world, sometimes great things can happen.

Last week lots of people were brave and told their stories on national radio or television.

It gives me courage as I go about small tasks that seem huge, like searching for overseas jobs, deciding what clothes to throw out and what to keep, sticking to the path I’ve chosen while people line my periphery and shout their bad advice.

It makes me feel like there are other people finding life difficult sometimes, and their perseverance inspires me.

This week was a shitty one for me. And you know how I got through it? I had a shower so hot my skin nearly bubbled and then I put in headphones and played The Mountain Goat’s ‘This Year’ so loud my ears tried to pack up and left the building.

“I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me,” yelled the lead singer down my ear canal and straight into the section of my brain where I store my strength.

It bolstered me. It reminded me shitty situations are just that – a slice in time. Things will improve.

I guess I fall into the ‘confounding sadness’ category. My life is good; I have a loving partner, have just returned from a fantastic trip and have a bit of money saved in the bank.

So why have I felt so down lately? It can be a million things, but the trick is being able to step back far enough to dissect these, figure out the problem, and deal with it.

If you can’t do that on your own (and that’s most people) you should go and talk to someone trained to see the bigger picture for you.

Stigma be dead! You can now get a referral from your GP to a psychologist and Medicare will hook you up with six free visits.

You may even find that saying a problem out loud will shrink it like nothing else has. I decided to look into a good psychologist in my new town. I was actually looking forward to getting someone else’s perspective on the things blackening out my skyline.

I trawled through the ABC’s Mental Health Week website and felt connected to strangers all over the world. How great it must have been last week for people down in dark places to feel others were going through that by their side.

I was highly surprised to read the stats on http://www.mindframe-media about mental health. A snippet:

• In each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness.
• About 4% of people will experience a major depressive episode in a 12-month period, with 5% of women and 3% of men affected.
• Approximately 14 % of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period.

It also states mental illness is most prevalent in 18-24 year olds. This should come as no great surprise. It’s a time in your life you are expected to believe everything is possible, while at the same time enormous pressure is heaped upon your just-developed shoulders.

The point of today’s post is this:

Threats to our mental wellbeing come in all guises. Just because someone is living a good life, with all they can ask for, doesn’t mean the Black Dog won’t come looking for them.

Peel your eyelids back and have a good look at yourself and people you know, because sometimes all that’s needed is one hand to reach through that blackness and let you know there is an opening at the other end.

When somebody is diagnosed with cancer we rally behind them, it is talked about freely. When someone gets hit by a car, breaks an arm, contracts pneumonia we know what to do. We get them medical help, we follow their progress, and we help them get better.

So what about our mental health?

The conversation on mental health has improved drastically in this country, but as westerners I feel we still find it difficult to speak about. Some countries mourn loudly and unreservedly at funerals. We westerners weep politely, constrained by invisible social norms.

Mental health is to me almost more important than my physical health. For being unhappy eats at your soul, affects your relationships and steals your confidence and thus identity.

I am going to share three instances which have made me stop and think of the importance of checking with our friends, family and self whether we are all ok, need to talk to someone or simply need acknowledgement that we are not ok.

Sometimes when we most need help we can’t ask for it…. Instead we sit quietly and wait for someone to notice.

1)
When I was 18 I caught a train from Rosewood (nothing happening kinda town near the Lockyer Valley, Queensland) to Brisbane (sunny Queensland’s capital, in Australia) to visit friends on my uni holidays. I had to change at Ipswich, at night. I hadn’t panned on that (Ipswich can be dodgy).

I stepped onto the platform and looked around. A bird gave a languid shriek, the kind you’d hear from something in trouble that was beyond caring whether it lived or died.

I put a jumper on though it was hot. I felt safer with it, like sleeping beneath a sheet at night.

I sat on the platform to wait the 15 minutes for my connection, not thrilled at being there at night.

Pretty soon I heard an angry voice, making its muffled way ever closer. Great, I thought. I read the paper enough not to want to be there. I pulled out the pocketknife I’d been eating my green apple with and tucked it, open, into the band of my jeans. Just in case, I thought.

A man and woman came down the stairs. He on her heels. She walking ahead, but on a mental string that wouldn’t let her stray too far from his torrent of abusive words.

I felt anger bubbling up inside me. Nobody should be spoken to like that, but sometimes people don’t have the strength to leave. I thought carefully about the situation, there were two people in danger here and I didn’t want my unchecked anger to get her into trouble.

The bird called out again to underscore the misery of the whole yellow-lit platform.

“You can be a pretty stupid cunt can’t you?,” he said to her back, following antagonisingly on her heels.

They came down the stairs, she looked around 30, her hair bounced as she stepped, her shadow followed her sadly.

I thought about putting my pocketknife through his eye and telling him not to speak to a lady like that.

Sigh. Why wasn’t I six foot and strong?

Then I thought about the place she was in, to let somebody speak to her like that. Probably she was a confident woman once, who didn’t hang her head and put up with scumbags. Her sense of confidence must be so eroded that she felt she needed him. I knew nothing about this woman and yet I felt her pain so keenly it was strange.

Empathy is a quality often missing in cruel people. How else could you treat somebody like that?

They walked down the platform towards my bench. Nine minutes until the train. The man looked up, spotting me.

“You gotta lighter?,” he yelled in my direction. His words falling like little stones on my erect nerves.

“Yeah,” I answered, crossing the space between us, acutely aware of the knife poking gently into my belly and the fact I was 165cm tall.

I held out my lighter, my hand with its body attached – reflected like Esher’s sphere self-portrait on its chrome surface.

He took it like a taker would. No thanks. No pause. His nails were short. I tried to look into his eyes to see what kind of a man this was, but he looked over at her instead.

I wished he wouldn’t.

“You wait a long time for a train here,” I said, to break the murderous silence folding in thick layers around us like honey dripped from a great height.

“Look what she’s fucking wearing,” he said, not taking his eyes off her.

She said nothing. Her hair moved slowly in the wind. Moths flung themselves with dull pings into the tube light above our heads. Her shadow hung back with trepidation, kinked on the concrete by a pole’s interjection.

“Are you finished with my lighter?,” I asked as he blew a cloud of smoke out through his nose.

It moved slowly like her hair. Wanting to go somewhere but stuck in that train station with him.

“I like what you’re wearing,” I said to the lady.
“That skirt looks good on you I reckon.”

He came over to me, looked in my eyes. I could see what kind of man he was now. Not much control on his own life so he had to control someone else’s. Mean, but perhaps not once, not always.

I looked back at him, not caring that much if he hit me now, as long as someone had said something nice to her today. Who knows when the next time might be.

He stood there for seconds, which slunk past slow as cats through gravy. He gave me the lighter and turned slowly to walk to the pole, leaning there like the purveyor of misery he was. I could hear my heart in my ears.

She followed on her mental string. She never looked at me, perhaps that would have been co-conspiracy.

I walked back to my bench and put headphones in with no music. I felt my heart losing little drops of blood for her. I decided then and there to one day to volunteer in domestic violence shelters.

Nothing happened for four minutes, long minutes. I caught my train and left them on that yellow-lit platform. Her with her nice thing said, that was hopefully strong enough to break through the misery and remind her there is better.

Mental health is not just depression or anxiety, it is self-esteem and identity too. And it has serious consequences.

2)

After several lectures staring at the professor and wondering if she was for real, I realised Speech Pathology was not for me, or certainly not at that point in my life.

I packed my bags and took a semester off uni, deferring my course until I figured out what the hell I wanted to do with my life.

This is six months of my life, I thought to myself. I will never get this back.

The prospect of working in a café or bar bored me, so I began to trawl for jobs that might have an actual impact on my character.

“Carer – facilitated mental healthcare: experience favourable, must be able to work unsupervised.”

Bingo. I got the job, seemingly based solely on my common sense, as I had not a wisp of experience in that field.

My first two weeks were under the calm guidance of fellow carer Kelly, who rocked a fantastic short hairdo, shorter than I’d ever dared to cut my hair, and who was fazed by nothing.

There were around 40 residents with varying mental health issues from dissociative disorder to chronic schizophrenia and anger management issues. It was a real mixed bag, and my eyes were being opened wide to a world I knew little about.

Like nannying young children, I believe if you have empathy and common sense you can contribute positively to the lives of those in your care, so I was unfazed by my lack of training (though I am glad people doing this for a career receive some!).

The job description can be largely summed up as this: Arrive at work, strip all beds and wash sheets, complete a billion cycles of washing machine, dryer, and clothesline, remake beds, listen to strange stories from Peter (“I’ve hidden people on the highway to NSW you now, all up and down that road”), prepare lunch for 40 people and serve this and midday medicines in the dining hall, break up arguments at the tea and biscuit cart, do more slave-like hours of washing linen, add two cups of disinfectant wash to shitty or urine-soiled bed-sheets and wash twice, spend time in the garden with the Alzheimer’s patients, placate some of the patients suffering schizophrenic episodes, switch the TV to the afternoon movie, hide in the laundry and read a quick chapter of your book so you don’t get swallowed up by it all entirely.

On day two we arrived at work to find a foul stench.

“Oh great,” said Kelly, “Looks like we’re playing ‘find the poo’ this morning.”

And that we did. Unfortunately I was the ‘winner’.

Our patients had varying degrees of different mental illnesses. One man was not mentally ill, but his family couldn’t afford care-accommodation anywhere else.

“I was fast as a cheater when I was playing footy,” he told me.
“I’d flick the light switch at the door and be in bed before the room went dark.”

He had had two heart bypasses, and though his legs had slowed his mind remained sharp as a tack. I always discussed the latest book I was reading with him, and the current state of the Liberal Party.

Every day Ray, whose mental capacity had been estimated as that of a 9 year old, would come by and want to help me with the laundry. This wasn’t allowed, so of course I let him. He would laugh like a delighted kid when I’d let him hit the dryer button and watch the sheets spin.

One day I hid in the dryer and popped out when he came in. He laughed so much I changed his pad.

Sometimes he would run laughing down the hall and fetch a battered, blue bear from his bed. Then we’d both sit and laugh as it did tireless somersaults in there with the piles of linen. Him laughing at the bear, me laughing in joy at his joy.

On my break I would read the patients’ files to understand their conditions better and get more clues on how best to interact with them. It was often a tricky balance of authority, understanding and compassion played out in those dingy hallways.

I was about 20 years old and it was a great life lesson. It put all ‘problems’ into perspective and taught me you can achieve great things when nobody is watching and you’ve the only one who’s got your back.

One of my favourite patients was abandoned at three years of age on the steps of a hospital. He had severe autism and another form of retardation, and three was an age it could begin to show (I did learn something in that Speech Pathology degree!). Evidently too much trouble for his parents.

I began to know each one of them.

The shrunken, toothless and sweet-as-pie kleptomaniac who would grudgingly relinquish her spoils from the night’s wanderings when I searched her cupboard each morning; beautiful old Merv who had some of the most violent and abusive episodes but the most caring personality; rebellious Christine who insisted on striding through the hallways ringing a bell to summon everyone to lunch, while belting out “ring my beeeeeee-el, ring my bell,” at the top of her lungs, and silent Dawn who once caught fire and asked calmly for help from her wheelchair.

As I cut my countless laps through those underfunded hallways I developed a huge respect for people who learn to live with their mental illness, and for those who dedicate their lives to helping and caring for them.

It’s tough. Sometimes it’s thankless. Sometimes you feel as mentally unstable as your patients.

Our patients could no longer live without fulltime care, due to either mental or physical conditions, and it was a draining but rewarding job to help them.

Often times I felt beaten down at the end of a day. Surrounded by a forlorn kind of hopelessness. Nothing much changed in that brick place.

Other times I felt completely uplifted, finding joy in the smallest things: when patients would help me collect the fallen pegs from the lawn or tell me I was beautiful and should marry a prince, or when Ray could tell I was sad and give me a hug, his chubby hands hitting me firmly on the back in comfort. Breaking the rules, but saving my day.

A lady I will never forget, who suffered very bad hallucinations from her schizophrenia, once came to find me. She was highly agitated, eyes flying left-to-right in frenzied panic.

She led me to her room, too scared to enter it.

“They’re in there, they’re in there in the shadows,” she said growing more distressed and pacing.

The situation was escalating quickly, other patients were getting stressed out and anxiety was building in those claustrophobic little tunnels they called hallways. I began to feel like I was in the burrows of Watership Down.

I was not a nurse, I couldn’t administer sedatives or the like. I had no real training for a situation like this, and in my fourth week on the job I was on by myself until our one-hour shift overlap at 5pm.

“Sshh,” I said soothingly, rubbing her shoulder, “there’s nobody in there, I’ll go in and make sure for you.”

Nothing I did or said could convince her otherwise. She began to hyperventilate. Some of the more fragile patients became deeply distressed, listening from the hallway.

“Come on,” I said, taking her hand, “I know what to do.”
“You stand here in the doorway and watch to make sure they’re all gone.”

I grabbed the spray deodorant from her duchess and stepped into the shadowed corner of the room.

“When we spray this it means you have to leave,” I said to the empty wall.
“Julie doesn’t want you in her room anymore. Thank you. Ok, bye.”

“You need to go and find our own room to live in now. This is Julie’s.”

Her eyes were two bruised plums in her skull. She came in slowly, looking all around, gradually calming down.

“I hate it when they just come in here. It’s not their room,” she said, indignant.

“They’re gone now, it’s ok. They know now,” I said, looking into her haunted eyes.

I will remember that day forever. The thought created by her own mind that caused so much distress. Acknowledging and dealing with a mental illness is in my opinion one of the bravest things a person can do.

We cannot always cure mental illnesses, but we can treat, manage and show understanding for them. It is the least we can do in today’s society, where people have enough pressures without the ignorance of others.

3)
This is a memory that still sometimes brings tears to my eyes, but more regularly remind me that everybody is locked in their own story, and we never know exactly what they are going through. So be kind to strangers, you just never know.

While we were at uni one of our friends took his own life. It rippled through our college community, through his family and friends, through everybody who had ever known him.

Some felt angry, some felt guilty, some felt cheated, all were devastated.

I share this story now in hope that you’ll watch for the signs in family and friends, and realise that mental health is not something to be spoken of in hushed tones, but something to be spoken of in the same way that going to the doctor for a checkup is not a taboo topic.

If you are going through a hard time, if you are sinking below an impenetrable mess of thoughts, talk to someone. If you aren’t ready to take that step, tell someone you think you might need to. Reach out.

The funeral was just like him, an eclectic mix of a lot of different things. People from all social groups were there, the nerds, the jocks, past teachers, his partner, his parents, his brother, his individual friends and his larger group of friends.

We all stood, spilling out the doors, such were our numbers, and looked at the white coffin. A life gone too soon.

The lump in my throat went up and down. The North Queensland air was hot. I stood there wishing I had been there for him, wishing I hadn’t moved away.

I had never met his family before, but that day told his Mum through tears how much we had all loved him.

When I flew back home I wrote them a letter, about what their son and brother had meant to all his friends. How his mischief brightened our time up north, how his inquisitive mind was never satiated.

A year later for his anniversary we all gathered for a ceremony in his hometown. I went up a few days early with one of his closer friends and we stayed for a night with his family.

Saying goodbye to a friend.

Saying goodbye to a friend.

I slept in his old room. I will always remember that ceiling, the feeling of those four walls around me, wondering how he must have felt looking up at this very view.

Some of us knew he was unhappy. Mostly we didn’t know the extent of it, only the very inner circle did, and even then you never know what someone is really thinking.

Afterwards we grappled with this overwhelming concept. And tried to heal our hearts.

Lying in that bedroom that night I finally understood the importance of reaching out to people. Nobody can say what it’s like until they have been there. Down in that dark place.

As depression sufferers often say when interviewed, or writing about their experiences, it is not sadness that takes over in the end, it is a life-crushing apathy. You just don’t care anymore.

An excellent blog I’ve discovered by a woman who suffers from depression is this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

In the link above, Depression Part Two, she writes:

“The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief. I had always wanted to not give a fuck about anything. I viewed feelings as a weakness — annoying obstacles on my quest for total power over myself. And I finally didn’t have to feel them anymore.

But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck. Cognitively, you might know that different things are happening to you, but they don’t feel very different.”

I think it’s important to remember though people may want to help themselves, sometimes they can’t.

depression-quote_zps4ad13361

All we can do is be there for them, and keep an eye on our friends. I strongly recommend reading that post if you want to understand more about depression from someone who lives with it.

And remember when the sads hit you that you are not alone in feeling this way, and that things can change.

Just put one foot in front of the other and keep walking until you see your horizon. Foot by godamned foot.

Oh, and play this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii6kJaGiRaI

That’s it from me today beautiful people. And thank you to all last week who took the time to share their stories or engage in someone else’s to bring dialogue to Mental Health Week.

Someone, somewhere in the world probably sat up late at night… scrolling through your story and realising they’re not the only one who feels like that. And sometimes that’s all a person needs.

Therapy Costs Money, Jogging Costs The Shoes

DAUGHTER WATER: Golden idea to raise awareness for workplace pay sexism.

DAUGHTER WATER: Golden idea to raise awareness for workplace pay sexism.

After a full day in town paying Australian rather than Colombian prices for things, and spending almost seven straight hours with my mother, after five months of not, I was ready for a wine or ten.

Parents have a knack for asking annoying questions like “what are your long-term plans?” right around the time you are tossing and turning over your long-term plans.

Mum and I had had a nice day, but I was at my threshold. We got home, dumped the shopping, and I dragged my sneakers out of storage. There was only one way to deal with my stupid Irish temper bubbling just below the surface before it got out of the bag.

The shoes felt like tiny slippers of cloud after months of hiking boots. I basically skipped down the road….for the first hundred metres at least.

It wasn’t long before I was puffing like a steamer and the shoes felt like cement clogs. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Plod. Plod. Plod.

My legs began to loosen and the evening air began to drive away my worries. This was it, addictive as smoking (but not as good for you, if you ask Winfield, Marlborough or Lucky Strike).

Helidon’s valley air filtered through my blood and my spirits were at last persuaded upwards. C’mon endorphins you sexy sons of bitches!!

The moon trailed me like a vanilla grin on a string; running at my pace.

I rounded the corner into the slight uphill and pumped my little legs. Bloody hell.

Ryan’s (who runs up tabletop twice in a row for fun) voice echoed in my head, “don’t whinge and don’t be a quitter.”

I’m not sure about the grammatical structuring of that last sentence.

As I passed the paddocks I tried my animal sounds to make sure I still had it. These things are important in case you ever have to survive in the wild. And by wild I mean local farming community with domestic animals.

I mooed deeply at a small herd of cattle. The wily, white bull –sensing the threat I may impregnate his cows- moved to stand between his harem and me.

Down in the flood-break paddock, which had been filled to overflowing that fateful day in 2011, I spotted two horses gossiping.

I neighed sharply and the bay mare’s head shot up, a classic characteristic of a gossiper. The white mare continued chewing, unphased – a classic characteristic of the long suffering friend of a gossiper.

I beat my merry way across Kapernick’s Bridge. Three baby water hens were striking out on their own. They swam nervously, their heads tugging them across the glassed creek.

I remembered the wrath of that creek in the summer floods of 2010/11. This very bridge had been torn in two, a huge expanse of concrete, metal and bitumen simply gone. The locals came down and stared in disbelief.

People swept mud out of the top storeys of houses. My Dad found a photograph of a lady on Kapernick’s Bridge and handed it in at the local shop, lest it be the only remaining souvenir of a life washed away.

In the cleanup week they found a body in the rubble piled on the remaining portion of bridge. I stopped as I thought of that, my breathing loud in the still air.

Later a little boy from the city 20 minutes’ drive up the Great Diving Range was found washed right down into the valley.

A small community mourned.

I climbed the rail and sat with my feet dangling, looking into the water. We’d jumped off here once as kids, hitting the bottom softly. I thought about doing it now to cool off. I remembered how much heavier I was and decided against it.

The drawl of an engine slowing turned my head.

White ute, two bales of hay in the tray. Tray hay.

A cute farmer type looked out the window, bemused.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“Yeah I’m good, just went for a run….it’s been a while. Needed a rest.”

“OK,” he chuckled.

“Don’t jump.”

I looked down on the house perched on the creek bank. People had been choppered from that roof in the floods.

I decided to suck it up and keep running. Past the fruit and veg honesty stand.

Lettuce: red, iceberg, $2 or 3 for $5.

At Hartz Rd I made a U-bolt.

I laughed at the memory of Dad’s stunt on that road. Our youngest sister had joined him on his regular morning walk. I could picture him striding out; piece of polypipe in hand to hit vicious dogs, should they appear; navy stubbies and work-shirt on; boot protectors over his socks, no burrs getting in there.

They separated for some reason. Maybe lil siswa jogged ahead, or more likely still, sat down for a while.

They had been talking about snakes and heart attacks.

Lil siswa looked up and saw her father lying on the dirt track, body twitching. She covered the ground between them at a sprint, blonde hair flying, gravel skidding.

Dad with roaring laughter stood. She was not impressed.

……..

I jogged back across the bridge, past all the animals who eyed me suspiciously; now aware I was neither cow nor horse. Up the little hill like the train who could. Past the spot we’d wait as kids for the bus, breath as steam in the air, cold knees knocking.

As I hit our street I made myself work hard to compensate for the short distance of the run. 60% capacity, wheeze wheeze, 70% capacity, past the barking dog, 80% capacity, glance at the orange tree I used to raid as I ran for the school bus- shoes and socks in hand.

Hold that speed. Don’t be a quitter. Across the electric grid and home, doubled over like an athlete, feeling like anything but.

I stretched on the lawn under the stars. Sammy, the white yard wolf (a breed closely linked to the suburban Labrador) came over to check out the scene.

Pinned in a calf stretch I was hapless as he coated my face in dog breath. I breathed jogger breath in his direction to even the scales.

Toby the cat came over too, having heard that a human had run without anything chasing it.

I didn’t even touch the hot tap when I showered. Just like Townsville days again. On the ABC news a moustachioed hombre from the Gold Coast was being interviewed about the truce reached between surfers and the council.

Sand pumping was no longer clogging up the best breaks. The surfers had been consulted this time and were happy.

“I think we’re finally catching the same wave,” said the mo-bro with a grin.

The whole thing was deliciously Australian.

In other news our country’s gender pay gap has hit an all time high in 20 years.

Now at 18.2%, with women on the losing end, it is the highest since records collected in 1994. That’s the national pay gap of Australia on average. Men being paid 18.2% more than women for the same jobs. What a fucking embarrassment. How disgustingly Australian.

Thankfully, someone is doing something about it. A new website launched now allows employees to search their company and check whether they have completed a gender pay gap analysis. It is for companies with 500 or more employees, but it’s certainly a start.

Story here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/execs-push-to-close-gender-pay-gap/story-e6frg8zx-1227074398320?nk=f23cb6ca08729e7ab0198b849db664a8

And then I found the best Youtube video I’ve seen in a long time. To tackle the pay gap issue, 3000 CEOs who haven’t done the workplace analysis have been sent a bottle of Daughter Water.

View the video here. Tackle important issues with humour. Gold:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVI7uKfsrTE

Important to note, the battle for gender equality is not always set in underprivileged countries.

Scribble It, Before the Sun Sees

The sun came up and shouted about itself
Look how thick I seem on cotton
Look how I dance over brass
Look how I change you from dull green to bright green
With my lemon lick

That you might hold your head up –
Thanks to the beauty I bring
Not your own beauty of course,
Just a projection of my golden one

The kookaburras laughed with scorn
A ripened hatred of vanity
Look at our blue wing feathers
That we tell nobody of, they clicked

A frog green as panic came out
And sacrificed itself to a beak
Humans are lazy in the morning
But a frog will die for the same

I sat with fingers tapping
Bleeding my head of the words
How strange, this need that seizes
This burning for language to trickle

Then falling like flour to my pillow
Finger valves turned off
Sleep curls in the empty cavity
The words left behind in my skull

Five Bucks No Luck In Hawaii

On the second leg of my three day voyage home to Aus I flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii.

I hit the tarmac at 8.30pm, island time, and was due to leave again at 9.45am the next day.

Perfect, I thought. I would sniff out a cheap room somewhere, buy fish for dinner and have an early morning dip before heading back to the airport.

But my plans were thwarted. My money had not transferred back onto my Aussie card as promised by the lovely lady at ANZ.

And so I found myself with five US dollars in my pocket and around 12.5 hours to kill.

I stared in disbelief as the hibiscus shirted staffer spoke.

“There aren’t any showers in this airport, and we don’t have wifi,” he informed me.

“That’s ok, I enjoy counting tiles anyway.”

He didn’t laugh.

I sat on a chair and pondered, beautiful images of Hawaii’s beaches and waterfalls mocking me from the mounted flatscreens. I couldn’t even afford a taxi to get some dinner and return.

I was nodding off so went to find my roost for the night.

It was hot as Hades outside, muggy as a proper Cairns summer. The ‘waiting areas’ were open to the air, with numerous people camped out with bags. They were clearly passengers, but one guy had a sleeping mat and another guy had a dog, who were clearly not. It was a bit too suss to sleep there with my video camera and laptop I thought, so I made my way down to the enclosed baggage collection area.

Curled awkwardly across three chairs whose armrests wouldn’t go up, I stuffed clothing around them to lessen the dig on my stomach and legs.

To take my mind off the hunger I actually counted tiles.

I met two sisters who were also spending the night. Joy and Jem from Los Angeles. Cute as buttons. They had just returned from visiting family in South Korea, and the Honolulu airport was a rude shock after the plushness of Seoul’s.

They had loved South Korea.

“The people don’t really speak much English, but they were still all so helpful,,” Joy told me.

“They would go out of their way to help us. And the food was amazing.”

It had never been on my list, but now I considered it. It sounded very similar to my experiences in Japan.

We fell asleep haphazardly.

The music was good, until interrupted by frequent messages much louder than the music, and thus startling.

“Due to increased security baggage found unattended will be confiscated and destroyed,” boomed the excessive voice.

This seemed like an ambitious target in a deserted airport with no wifi, showers or manpower.

At the unspecific time of 1.23am we were awoken by an apologetic security officer.

“Sorry mam but we have to lock this building now. We open it again at 4am.”

“Can I go up one level?”

“Sure.”

“So that will be open?”

“No, we’re about to lock that too.”

“So I can’t go up a level then.”

“You can go to the curb. I’m sorry about that.”

Radical. Hopefully the good vibes of Hawaii will protect me from being robbed on the final leg home.

On the plus side it was much warmer outside and the concrete bench was fit for a queen. A really wide but impoverished queen.

There was a faint smell of cigarette butts rising from the garden beneath my head…similar to tucking a sprig of lavender beneath your pillow for a good night’s sleep. But not at all.

I stretched out, my hoodie as a pillow, and fell instantly asleep under the muggy sky.
This ain’t so bad I thought as I drifted off.

I dreamed of food. And swimming.

Someone began spitting on me. Even through my subconscious I’d been woken up by rain enough times to realise this wasn’t actually spit.

Godammit Hawaii, throw me a fricken bone here.

We relocated to smaller, harder benches fit for one and a half toddlers. Ugh.
After snatching a few disrupted hours (to the lovely sound of rain) I was woken by the roar of a metal beast. It was around 4am because staff were beginning to file into the baggage claim area.

An impossibly loud truck with ‘Dry Ice’ scrawled across its side blasted off down the road.

I was too tired to write so I took off my shirt in the bathroom and washed my armpits with the hand-soap, changed my underwear and splashed my face. No showers. Tsssss.

Hours crawled by like injured rats. I put two coats of nailpolish on both my fingers and toenails.

I dreamed of the first steak sandwish (pun intended) with beetroot and caramelised onion I would order when I went to visit my Dalby girls.

Finally, 6:45am. I ditched my big bag and set off to security through the stream of overweight American tourists being led by a guide in hibiscus print. They mostly wore sneakers, socks, and awkward length shorts (both men and women).

Then came the hordes of Asian tourists in much the same fashion but with better luggage.

A mountain of a woman got into an argument with a staffer, Jem and Joy woke up and we said goodbye, and everywhere repulsively touristic happenings kept happening.

This is the side of Hawaii I’d make sure to avoid if I ever made it beyond the airport.

Away from the chaos I ventured deeper into the folds of my airport prison to see what $5 could buy me in this fine land.

It was seven in the morning and Burger Kind had a line-up. Disgusting. I had three options:

1) Starbucks: Fruit cup for $4.45, (tragically the yoghurt and muesli cup was $5.20)
2) Burger King: A crois-wich (or some equally stupid name) for $4.50 which was a croissant with egg, cheese and some spammy looking meat.
3) The Asian place: Two bits of French toast (sweet) for $4.50 or a vegetarian omelette for $4.50.

I went with the omelette for maximum filling capacity, and it was actually quite good.
So many hours left. This is what it must feel like to be sentenced to death by cheese grater.

I looked to the TV to break my gloom.

An American suit called Hagel was speaking live from the Pentagon.

The US would be launching a longterm campaign against ISIS. Belgium, Denmark and ?Spain? had also jumped onboard, and the British Parliament had just voted to join their yankee chums too.

I wondered what news from Australia on that front. It had been pleasant being away while Abbott was in control, but now it seemed I was returning for the next bout of madness.

CNN was having a field day, for once having fresh fodder to fill their revolving crap cycle. I mean news. News cycle.

I hadn’t researched enough about Isis to have an opinion on it. All I knew was their decree for the forced genital mutilation of every female in one town. I hoped it hadn’t come to pass.

I sat with a rumbling stomach. I was $1.50 shy of an espresso coffee, and the sad realisation that Hawaiin Airlines would serve only one small meal on the whole flight sunk in.

I was going to eat a horse when I got to Brisbane……hopefully one of my sisters had one, because I had not one dime accessible.