The Show is Over

All good things must come to an end. Or so they say.

After three years of commitment, five years of my teenage life, I am bringing this blog to a close. Unfortunately, Life has become a little too busy for me to continue devoting time to it and there’s no way around it.A Life in Words

You may have gleaned a sense of this from the (rather lengthy) introduction in my first post for the year 1988 (click here if you missed it) – I was uncomfortable (not merely with the year itself, but) with the perceived time and effort it would take for me to continue transcribing and since 2016 has begun with a host of new opportunities for me, I have to make some sacrifices.

While it’s a bittersweet decision, I have to admit that I’d had a sense – a gut feeling – as we entered this year (and the correlative blog year, 1988) that it was ‘time’ …that I’d achieved what I was originally, subconsciously driven to do.

Initially it began as a kind of  ‘grief reaction’ following my mother’s death in 2012. Ruminating upon Life and how short it is, how unfair it is, but how it basically affects us all, all human beings in the same way, I wanted to open up and let it all out because I didn’t care anymore; I couldn’t see the point in living life ‘closed’. I wanted to acknowledge our interconnectedness: to highlight the fact that we are fundamentally The Same. We are all connected, despite the separateness of our physical bodies. A Life in WordsWe all think, love, like, dislike, suffer and enjoy the same, and further, these very experiences and attitudes change, all the time. We all say, think and feel things about people and experiences we encounter through the course of our lives, but because “Nothing is Permanent” (thank you Yoga for really teaching me this) our words, thoughts and feelings can, will and do change from moment to moment …and most certainly do over longer time spans (it’s called maturity). How many of us for example as children told our parents we “hated” them when we didn’t get what we were wanting? I remember doing it and genuinely feeling it, but the intense emotion passed – in whatever time frame – and Peace and Love were restored.

Bravely – or stupidly (as I said in my opening post About Me) I decided to challenge one of the fundamental human fears: being completely open and honest… in the face of certain judgement by others. I felt compelled to share my thoughts, feelings and actions, uncensored, in the hope that people might identify, might realise that in the End, none of it matters …because it’s repetitive, and changeable, even forgettable, but most of all, shared. We are each but one speck in the scheme of things: why should we take life so seriously?

Enjoying the ‘journey’, the writing, and yes, even the embarrassment (this in particular defines my aim!) this blog became a new habit (born of the old, yet still current & functioning one from which it sprang) but one that has revealed so much to me, about me: my reactions to the valuable lessons I faced during my adolescence, which were ultimately formative to the adult version of me. (And oh, how I have changed. Thank. God.) And this is what I came to realise was the ultimate, underlying driver of the process:

You see (and if you have been an avid follower, you may recall me having mentioned this previously) I had for a large portion of my adulthood, idolised my high school years – and in particular my senior high school years – as the best in my life. I now believe that I was driven – the purpose of this ‘process’ was –  to release this notion by re-experiencing and sharing it with others. Simply re-reading and mulling over each diary was never going to be powerful enough: I had to prepare it, analyse it and send it out into the ether for some real freedom.

A Life in WordsI kind of only realised and articulated how this catharsis played out for me in a post late November/early December 1987, when I was commenting upon a particular statement I’d made in a diary entry in that week. Here’s the excerpt:

“Well, less than a month left of this horrible revolting worst-year-of-my-life year. [This is so interesting, because unbeknownst to me, the coming year (1988) was to prove quite difficult for me as well (nothing as traumatic as the bus accident though of course) and for many, many years to follow, I despised it more than 1987. In fact, pretty much up until I began this blog, I actually considered 1987 (coupled with ’86) the best year(s) of my life. Much of this I think related to my burgeoning social and love lives, as well as the freedom of responsibility of childhood/school-life entwined with the imminent privileges of adulthood. Thankfully this very blogging process has released me from that limiting belief: whilst I’m re-living my past in detail, I’m also an observer and this has perfectly unlocked whatever deep, powerful connection I had to these times in my life (for which I am still grateful nonetheless, for the lessons they have individually and collectively presented to me). It’s truly liberating.]”

So, as much as I still believe in my founding reasons for this blog – being open and sharing, being Real – I know that its deeper purpose has been served. Apart from physical circumstances dictating, it truly is time.

It has been an adventure, a learning, a healing (and an embarrassment!) and I thank all my followers/readers for your interest and support. My especial thanks and gratitude go to the characters in my life: not merely for graciously accepting or tolerating being mentioned/included my posts but mostly for the integral parts you have played in my development of self, my life experiences and lessons.A Life in Words None of us is who we are today without the association of every other person and experience in our lives.

Namaste.

Life is a Creek

A Life in Words

Life is  a Creek. There are countless analogies out there but one of my clients mentioned it last week and it really stuck with me.

You see, I’ve had a pretty interesting few months. For someone who likes to think she “gets it”, who has perfect faith in her spiritual/philosophical belief system, I’ve had one hell of a big Awakening.

It started with a physical ailment; some serious back pain. It’s not like I’ve never had ‘serious back pain’ before: this was different. This didn’t actually involve the disc bulges or neural pinches I’ve typically experienced in the past. No, this was just plain old muscular seizure. My physio was a bit puzzled. My yoga teacher wasn’t.

I was aware enough to recognise it was due to Stress. Work stress. I’d taken on a fourth job… for a variety of reasons, but in all honesty, money was the ‘deep’ motivation. I thought this opportunity might also lead me in a new direction, widen my scope for ‘Success’ because it involved one of my passions.

Suffice to say, I was wrong. I’d had what I thought were rose-coloured glasses on. I’d ‘pushed’ myself under the belief that I was being pro-active, but I came to realise, I was actually being driven by a deep-seated ‘desperation’. As always happens, the awakening came in a series of realisations.

Firstly, on the physical level, I realised the culprit muscles seizing in my back were only doing what they were ‘taught’: in the Past, the physical treatment for my injuries/pain required me to be in a specific postural position for relief, release & recovery. Five or so years of this particular ‘rehab’ position had trained certain muscles to respond (that is, created a new pattern or ‘habit’) to any Stress, by immediately contracting to ‘protect’ that area that I had led myself to believe was inherently weak.

I knew what I had to do; from my philosophical/spiritual point of view (to which neuroscience is now alluding also, incidentally) it was simply Common Sense. My Yoga teacher didn’t really have to tell me. I knew it. And my Physio agreed. I had to Stop. Rest. Meditate. As much as possible. So relaxation/healing meditations were added to my daily routine.

When the root of my Stress was elicited by my acupuncturist (he didn’t actually have to dig it out of me – it seemed to be a case of just being ‘the right time’ for the words to spill out of my mouth) he gave me some more focus for my meditations and breathing that addressed my physical as well as emotional pain. And I practiced.

I had also been reading a book recommended to me by my yoga teacher (even better; she had presented it to me in a pile of books and I had been the one to choose it from the stack… another perfect example of “cosmic timing”) It had taken me awhile to get through because I simply had so much other stuff to attend to, but I had caught glimpses of clarity as I worked my way through it.

The kicker came towards the end of the book.

Dammit, I know this stuff. I’ve read heaps of ‘new age’ literature and it all makes perfect sense to me. How could I not have seen this and more importantly lived it until now?

The author – himself a yogi – wrote of his own ‘Illumination’ and his three simple words struck a huge chord with me.

“I don’t know.”

What? This:

My whole life has been plagued by these words, with respect to ‘Purpose’. What Am I Here For?A Life in Words

I have struggled with this forever. It’s the deepest source of my Depression.

Describing the weight that lifted from him when he spoke those words out loud to no one in particular, and moreover, the revelation that it didn’t matter – none of it mattered – Blew. Me. Away. Forget the light bulb, I had a hundred floodlights in my face.

The source of my deepest struggle instantly dried up.

I always knew I was the master of my life: heck, I have read enough to know that. But to strike at the heart of one of your most dominant Concerns is totally liberating.

I can fully practice what I have learnt now. In one fell swoop, my Fear of the Future has gone.

So now I’m focusing on being a Leaf.

As my client put it, if Life is a creek and we are all fallen leaves being freely carried by its running waters, we are bound to be washed up against debris, pooled & eddied. Most of us get stuck: trying to fight, resist or control. What leaf ever moved a rock or fallen tree trunk out of its path? These struggles and challenges are an absolute and unavoidable part of Life. I’m ready to let go of resistance, to let the waters carry me where I’m meant to go.

I am finally ready to really Trust.

I have found renewed Faith. And god, it feels amazing!

Surviving Mother’s Day

This time last year was a completely different story.

I went for a surf with some girlfriends early but it was cold & quite heavily overcast. And I was wearing a brand new steamer (full length wetsuit) for the first time.

I could barely move in the thing. Turns out adolescent boys’ steamers ARE a different cut to women’s (that’s what you get for trying to save some dollars). So catching waves was difficult, which put me in a bad place. And that’s where it went awry.

There were a few hot tears…. then actual sobs. Yep, I was bawling in the ocean. I told the friend nearest to me, “I can’t do this” and left. Somehow I must’ve calmed down enough to get to my car, pack up and leave without anyone seeing (or commenting) on my state, but at home I lost it again, having a shower in the very place where Mum had had the fall that put her in hospital for the very last time. I kept seeing her laying in that contorted position, helpless, painful & pitiful on the shower floor.

I put on jeans, a purple woollen skivvy with light woollen vest over the top and my ugh shoes and I lay on the couch. I don’t know what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop crying. At some stage, a charity collector came to the door and I was entirely unashamed with my swollen eyes & tearstained face to turn him away. He didn’t seem offended in the slightest.

Another girlfriend came by to check on me, trying to convince me to get out of the house but I wanted to wallow. I needed to.A Life in Words

They say the ‘first’ of everything is the hardest. I have to agree. In fact, apart from the first 24-48 hours after her death, nothing compared to that day, in terms of grief. Not my birthday, not even her birthday, nor Christmas or the anniversary of her death. Mother’s Day 2013 was my most intense experience of grief.

Today does not compare.

It’s warmer, it’s sunny and I had a better time in the surf. I can thank her – or the Universe (or whatever) – for these circumstances, but the important thing is really that I have found Peace, myself. I still miss her and it really doesn’t take much for my eyes to well up (hey, it’s happening now…) but my heart is not aching because I know she’s with me. She always will be, now that she’s free of the ‘meat suit’ the rest of us are trapped in. This is Comforting. And Comfort naturally allays Grief.

I love you, Judi. But we both know you know that.x

One Year: 30 December 2013

I don’t write poetry. But my love for, and feelings about, my mother are obviously so strong that I’ve been inspired twice this year (2013). The following marks the one year anniversary of her passing. I have come to realise that no amount of Time will change the way I feel, and in that respect, anniversaries have little meaning.

365 daysmum at home
You’ve been in every one
The good and the bad,
The high and the low.
You live in me

52 weeks
My heart’s still broken
Boundless,
Unconditional Love
I’ll never know againA Life in Words

12 months
Splits and rifts
Irrevocable change
And yet none.

1 year
My silent support
My rock
My world
A part of me died with you on this day, 2012.

The Anniversary of the Fall

A Life in Words
Mum enjoying a spot of sun in my courtyard, just 4 days before her fall

I know it was “meant to be”. And I couldn’t’ve prevented it because Mum was stubborn. It had happened before – a few times at home according to my sister – so was bound to happen again.

She wouldn’t ask for help. She wouldn’t wake her darling daughter, disrupt her sleep, just to go to the bathroom. That’s the kind of mother she was. Apart from being stubbornly ‘capable’ of finding her way to the toilet in the dark, under the influence of incredibly powerful painkillers and with numb feet thanks to the chemotherapy, she loved me way too much to break my much-needed slumber. You never wake up your babies (unless you absolutely have to).

It was a decent distance she had to travel between the bathroom and the couch she preferred as a bed. I’d realised as soon as she arrived that she would never make the flight of stairs to the bedrooms on a daily – or nightly – basis and also couldn’t get up from a mattress on the floor, so we made my generous three-seater her ‘station’. I slept on the mattress on the floor not 4 metres from her, for the sole purpose of being there for any help she needed during the night.

So all I heard was an almighty crash and a feeble wail. More like a pained, guttural exclamation. “Oh, oh, ohhhhhh”

“Mum? MUM?”

Panic & adrenaline flooded me in an instant, as I leapt up and I don’t even remember getting to the bathroom but I will never lose the mental image of her laying contorted in the shower recess.

She had almost made it to the toilet but lost her balance at the final moment, reaching out to her left for a wall, where there was none, and fell straight into the shower recess, over the ledge, smashing her head against the shower wall on the way down.

She lay in a contorted position, half foetal, sort of twitching in the struggle to get up and the moaning…. there were no words.

I can’t recall how I got her up, it wasn’t easy. I was trying to remain composed, but my panic momentarily exposed itself in the guise of a few whimpers and split-seconds of inaction driven by feelings of helplessness and overwhelm.

“Mum, oh mum”

She had soiled herself, naturally. She was after all trying to get to the bathroom for a reason.

Somehow, I did what had to be done. I don’t recall how, but I got her onto the toilet although she barely had the strength to sit up. She flopped forward, until I managed to get her to lean back against the toilet cistern. I cannot remember how I got her cleaned up and clothed in fresh garments but she recovered enough to answer my questions.

“Do you feel any pain?”

“No”

“Nowhere? How about your head?” There was an obvious egg by now.

“No”

This is what concerned, confused and later amazed me. She felt NO pain?

Getting her back to the couch wasn’t easy. I virtually had to carry her, although she must have regained an ounce of strength because I certainly didn’t get her there all on my own. Positioning her more upright, I fetched an icepack to put under her head, then set to work cleaning up the bathroom.

There was no return to slumber for me. Her breathing was laboured but I was more concerned about her head. That was, after all, exactly where some of her numerous tumours resided. I lay listening to her strange ‘snoring’ occasionally sitting up to look at her properly, for closer analysis. I was literally biding time until the clock struck a ‘decent’ hour at which I could ring my sister for advice. 6am. Mum was still sleeping while I spoke to Julia.

We decided it would be best to phone the Nurses Hotline.

There was no blood, she didn’t seem concussed (she knew where she was, who she was, who I was and what had happened) and again, amazingly, no pain. With the details of the (advanced) state of her cancer, and the fall, the nurse advised it might be best to try to get her to a hospital Outpatients. “Not a Medical Centre, but a hospital. Just to be on the safe side. The painkiller may be masking something that she’s not feeling so if you’re already at the hospital, they can act immediately.”

“I don’t think I can get her into the car, I barely got her back to the ‘bed’.”

Ambulance. So I dialled 000 and repeated the story, gave the same background information and answered roughly the same series of questions that the nurse had asked.

They arrived quietly. No siren needed. And in true Ambo form, they handled the situation beautifully, with calm, assured, professionalism and the perfect degree of humour. The story was related for the third time, and while they negotiated her into the ambulance, I collected some things I thought she might need, and was ready to follow them as they pulled away.A Life in Words

By the time we reached the Tweed Hospital, an ambo had administered oxygen to mum, making light of it. But this became the bigger issue. The young English doctor who finally examined mum was very nice but she was over waiting. She rolled her eyes at me when she thought he wasn’t looking. She had extra waits for tests to be run – XRays or CT scans I can’t recall which, but in the end, it was mum’s lungs he was concerned about: nothing to do with the actual fall.

We pretty much expected she would be kept in for observation at least one night. As long as she and I could catch our flight back to Cairns on the 22nd, it didn’t matter.

They found she had emboli (blood clots) on her lungs. Apparently this is a common occurrence with chemotherapy. I wasn’t sure what this meant. They were going to administer anticoagulant drugs to break up the emboli so there was still a chance we could get on our flight…after all, we had nine days?

It wasn’t to be. The emboli slowly disintegrated but it was the tumours that were wreaking the havoc ultimately. So when mum entered Tweed Hospital the morning of 13 December 2012, it would be her final place of residence; the locale of her final christmas and grandson’s 13th birthday. She departed just five days later.

 

Thai Red Lentil & Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:A Life in Words

1 tblspn coconut oil

1 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 heaped tblspns red curry paste

4 cups chicken or veggie stock

½ cup red lentils

1 potato, chopped

700 grams pumpkin, chopped

300gm coconut cream

Method:

Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, adding the onion, celery & carrot cooking until softened. Add the curry paste, stirring until fragrant then add the stock, potato, lentils and pumpkin. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut cream then blend thoroughly and serve.

 

Indian Spiced Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green/brown lentils

Spices: 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tspn grated ginger, 1 tspn grated turmeric, 1 heaped tspn curry powder

1 tblspn coconut oil or butter

6 asparagus spears, cut into approx 2cm lengths1383015_10152057730506833_351550818_n

½ capsicum, chopped

6 mushrooms, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

3-4 kale leaves, roughly chopped

juice of 1 lemon or lime

handful of rocket, roughly chopped

handful of baby spinach, roughly chopped

1 shallot, sliced

olive oil

Method:

Place lentils in a saucepan with 2-3 cups water, bring to the boil then simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes (or until soft, but not mushy). Drain, rinse & allow to cool.

Meanwhile, sauté garlic, ginger, turmeric & curry powder in coconut oil/butter for 1 minute over a medium heat then add the mushroom, capsicum, zucchini and asparagus. Cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the kale and a splash of the lime/lemon juice, until the kale has wilted

In a large salad bowl, place chopped rocket, spinach and shallots then add the cooled lentils. Add the spiced veggie mix, toss with a generous splash of olive oil and remaining juice and serve, seasoning with salt (Himalayan or Celtic Sea) & pepper if desired.

Notes:

Canned lentils may be used instead of fresh if you wish to save time. The lime juice is stronger and more tart than lemon so I’d recommend trying lemon if you have the choice.

 

Happy Birthday Mum

mummy koalaIt’s painful looking at this picture. It physically hurts. To think this beautiful little girl should have been turnings 69 years of age today, but she never made it. The big C, the very same disease that is taking so many other lives, ended hers just months after her 68th birthday. I’d never imagined, never dreamed that she would’ve left this world that early. She wasn’t a party girl, at all. She lived as cleanly as any other, with whatever health information is available out there to the Average Joe.
So what hurts is knowing that that little body ended up so inflamed that its immune system couldn’t win the fight. Granted, it wouldn’t’ve helped having an autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis). I suppose she was already “on the back foot”, so to speak.
It hurts but it’s also frightening. Just how toxic is this modern world? Mum was born in 1944. Where in the years between then and now did this happen? Cancer has always existed but it seems to me that its prevalence may have been kept in check because our environment (both internal and external) was never as toxic as it has become in the past century.

Mum had been a smoker. She hadn’t touched a cigarette for over ten years before she passed away, but the damage was well and truly done in the twenty-five years prior to that. Well before her death, she knew – we all knew – that “Smoking Kills” but I believe it is by far the most toxic, most inflammatory choice you can make. I recently heard a cardiologist, Dr Ross Walker, state that one cigarette triggers 3 trillion free radicals in your bloodstream. There’s no way I could begin to calculate the total of free radicals mum would have ‘triggered’ in her bloodstream – from smoking alone – during my life, let alone prior.

And she bore me and my sister from that inflamed internal environment? What does that mean for us, our individual immune systems? Billions of humans brought into this world since the middle of the last century have potentially begun “on the back foot” as well, whether their parents smoked or not. Passive smoking aside, environmental toxins have increased dramatically – or so the pro-climate change scientists would purport and the internal environment has never before been so heavily bombarded by the chemicals in our heavily processed food, pharmaceuticals, miscellaneous drugs and alcohol; the contraindications of significantly less movement, more sitting and Stress.

If there’s one thing mum’s death has brought me, it’s an added depth of intensity to my passion for health. If there’s a present I could give to her today, it’s to promise to continue encouraging individuals to change their lives, potentially better their chances for longer lives, through better lifestyle choices.

 

Mediterranean Roast Vegetable Salad

Ingredients:A Life in Words

Roasting Veg (in amounts preferred by you!):

beetroot / pumpkin / zucchini / red onion / tomato / capsicum / eggplant

Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Baby Spinach or Rocket

Feta, crumbled or diced

Pine Nuts, toasted or not

Method:

Pre heat oven to 200ºC and chop veggies to preferred size. Coat lightly in olive oil* then bake for 30-40 minutes (depending upon how well you like your veg cooked) gently turning or ‘agitating’ them once or twice. In a screw top jar, make the dressing by adding vinegar & oil in a ratio of approximately 1:2.

To serve, toss veggies on a bed of spinach or rocket, add the feta and sprinkle over pine nuts. Add dressing and voila!

Notes:

Yes, this recipe’s directions are a LOT more blasé than others, because I constantly alter it. Even cooking temps and times differ substantially between recipes I have followed in the past: oven temperatures range from 190-220ºC and cooking times from a mere 20 minutes, to 45 minutes! It pays to check your veggies progress (but not so often that you are losing heat from the oven!) Experiment not just with the vegetable choices, but also the cheese & nuts. I’ve used Parmesan before, and chopped walnuts. You could also add minced garlic or honey to the dressing for tasty variations. Anyway you do it, make sure you choose a variety of coloured veggies and add some protein: cheese, nuts, ….imagine some tender lamb! Scrumptious.

* While I don’t like to cook with olive oil as a general rule (the heat destroys the goodness in it by altering its molecular structure) my usual choice – coconut oil – is a little at odds with these flavours. A better choice in this instance would be rice bran oil, since it better withstands heat, like coconut oil. Olive oil is of course AOK (& most suitable!) for the dressing.

GF Spinach & Pumpkin Loaf

Ingredients:A Life in Words

100ml milk (I used rice milk)

100gm baby spinach leaves

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 tspn bicarb soda

1 tspn mustard powder

dash Himalayan salt

2/3 cup grated pumpkin

2 eggs beaten

25ml (liquified) coconut oil

2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method:

Place the milk and spinach leaves in a saucepan, cover and place over a medium heat. You are aiming to wilt the spinach in the warm (but not boiled) milk, and the time this can take will vary from stovetop to stovetop, so keep checking (and stirring). Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, bicarb & mustard powders in a large bowl before adding the grated pumpkin and beaten eggs. Once the spinach has wilted sufficiently in the milk, add to the mixing bowl along with the coconut oil. Mix well before folding in the parmesan cheese. Pour into a greased lined loaf tin, sprinkling extra cheese over the top if you wish and bake for 20-25 minutes at 190ºC.

Notes:

Originally a muffin recipe, I had the idea of a quiche or frittata recipe in mind as well so this loaf ended up super-moist. I cut mine before it had cooled (I always do that – “instant gratification”) grabbed a knife and enjoyed the melting butter on it! Since it solidifies a little more as it cools, it’s not only less crumbly and easier to handle when slicing but may cope well with toppings such as (mashed) avocado…