Tuesday, April 23

I thought I was the only one. {Meet my friend}

found here

A lot of unexpectedly good things come about from a health collapse. Trust me. You start to think some unexpected things, change in some unexpected ways, and find that you are drawn to sick people – which you never expected. When you meet a sickie, it’s like meeting a fellow Melbournian in Germany. In that sea of people you find a person who keeps saying, ‘Me too! I know exactly what you’re talking about.’

This particular friendship which I’m going to tell you about began in the kitchen at the flat I was living in during my university days. I was exhausted after a gruelling day of trying-soooo-hard to attend uni and really needing to be in bed. She was visiting someone at the flat, and so we ended up both needing to go to the kitchen for some reason. Now, when you are sick, you really don’t want to meet new people at night in the kitchen. It’s just something you absolutely dread because it will take up so much energy and because you don’t have any, you will go into energy-debt. I’m not sure quite how, but we began to talk, and it come out that neither of us were well. In fact, we were both sick with the same illness, and shared a whole host of common experiences from our ill health. We actually had a most enlivening chat that night. That was the beginning, and now we have a precious understanding of each other’s health, but we have found we have far more than that in common. 

My friend is the kind of person you want to know. She’s a book-reading, tea-drinking, dog-loving, cake-baking, laughing kind of person. You don’t meet her and think, “goodness, she is a tired and sick-of-life person”, which wouldn’t really be surprising after being severely sick for well over a decade. She’s loving, empathetic, generous and hilarious when she could so easily be bitter and depressed. 

I told her that I sometimes struggle with feeling jealous of all the people around me who didn’t get sick; who got to continue with their goals and dreams.

 She fully understood my feelings, but related to me that she didn’t even get to finish secondary school! We laugh and laugh about this, this tragedy. Being unable to finish school could so easily be a touchy and emotional topic for someone with crushed dreams. Despite being bright, talented, and losing the ability to put her life plan into action, she is completely fine with it. Her formal education ended, but she kept on bettering herself.  And now she can giggle about it! And here I am, cut that I didn’t get to finish university. I silently remind myself to get a bit of that perspective, that courageous ability to make lemonade out of lemons.

I love her for having taken this journey to contentment. I know it’s been a journey, because she’s told me about the years where she wasn’t here yet. I don’t think you can ever get sick and immediately go, “Ok, no worries. I’m totally cool with this.” Grieving is the natural process, but it can either continue on and on and produce bitterness, or plant the seeds to a new way of life and contentment. I’ve seen it grow a new life in some people, and the life that I see is fresh, wise, and inspiring. Why do we think that there’s only one way to live, really live?

I have often thought, “I don’t think I could bear to be sick if I had to move back home and hadn’t met Ben.” Or I think, “If I was still as sick as I was when we first got married, I couldn’t keep on keeping going.” But my friend is older than I am, less well than I am, living at home, unable to work...and she’s happy with her life. You can understand why I’m glad to have met her.

She wrote to me, “God has been able to teach me things I never would have been able to hear if I was off living the life I planned, and I am so grateful for that.” 

She says that she focuses on the good, and then the not-so-good becomes less. 

I get to hang out with this person who has learnt about love, empathy, life, and most of all trust. I see how her life has had great value. And when I see that, I start to see more clearly that all the emphasis on life milestones and success are not the whole story. Secondary school followed by degree, followed by vocation followed by family – that’s not the only way to live a worthwhile life. At all. Every set of life experiences and gifts adds a value to the world and fills a role. She’s knows how to care for people, a skill that we need more of in this world. And if her life had gone the way she’d planned, she wouldn’t have been so well equipped to care.

This quote I found here {and it was first written here}. I like the emphasis on living & giving right where you are, rather than pining after the life you had planned. My friend has definitely taught me a lot about that.

“Avoid Comparison-  You are enough.  End of story.  That girl over there… you don’t want her life.  Because you don’t have the grace for it.  You have the grace for yours.  You don’t have her kids, her job, her talents, her hubby, and her network FOR A REASON.  Because you are needed right where you are at.. by Your kids, Your job, Your hubby and YOUR network!  Do what you can, with what you have… right where you are at!  And be grateful..  Always be grateful.  What you are taking for granted, someone else is praying for.”


Tuesday, April 16

waking up and getting out of the house


I had one of those days where lifting the cup to my mouth was hard work. Where the question was shall I wipe down the filthy bench, or get in the washing so it doesn’t get wet for the 3rd time? Forget about flute practice, that heavy piece of silver can stay sparkling on its peg.

Instead I took a trip down memory lane, as you often do when you have hours of you + silence. When you are occupied, you don’t have to do very much of this thinking thing. In a very odd way, it was good to have such a physically low day {though, can we just keep it at one?} because it reminded me of how I used to feel and what I have forgotten. The very things that I want to always remember, and never take for granted, I forget. Memories fade in time, especially if you don’t recall them often. I didn’t think they could, but they do.

I have discovered that as life gets easier, I become unsatisfied with the things in my better life. My daily struggles are milder than they were, but still with me all the time – and so I focus on those milder struggles, and though they are lesser, they preoccupy me just as the greater ones did. That’s why the healthiest individual with no want for income or work can be miserable, because you can always find something to be unhappy about. That’s why someone whose life is easier than mine can  still find it incredibly hard. I am definitely not unhappy (infact, I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been) and I feel grateful most days for the progress I’ve made, but my gratefulness has become less sharp – my appreciation for small mercies is not as heartfelt as it first was. I don’t celebrate as I do the dishes anymore, or smile as I lift my hands to wash my hair, and drive the car. I don’t even remember as I wash my hair that I didn’t used to able to. I remember the migraines I had, but forget how far I’ve come with anxiety and stomach pain. It’s perfectly natural that I would be adjusting to my new dose of health, but I hope I will never forget the joy of walking to the letter box and feeling more than just a painful slump of body. I don’t want to forget, that’s the thing. I don’t want to be so preoccupied with today’s tired that I forget I’ve come from yesterday’s exhaustion.

Why would I want to forget the things which made taught me so much about people, and pain, and the fact that life is less about achievements and more about moments? Things got rather in focus when I was most sick, in a very sad, very hard sort of way. 


At the same time, I don’t want to remember too much. You’re supposed to enjoy your honeymoon, aren’t you? And fondly remember the first house you lived in with your spouse. But I was so glad to have a fresh start when we moved from that first house. It didn’t hold happy memories. I never feel good when I visualise the house – the lounge reminds me of couch, and crying, and the bedroom reminds me of hours in the darkness. As for the honeymoon, the only good part about it was that I was with Ben 24/7, and the rest was a kind of deterioration nightmare {just because you are on a honeymoon doesn’t mean it will be very honeyish or romantic}. 

It’s not about getting depressed or reliving the hardest days of my {short} life, but putting things back in perspective. What a cliché! But really, try being really not well for a long period of time, giving up some big dreams, being a bit of a social outcast; that’s when you realise how caught up you were in the extras without even realising how precious the fundamentals are. Like, waking up and getting out of the house. 

And because I’m supposed to wake up and get out of the house tomorrow, I will close here with the mental reminder that if I manage it, I will celebrate it.

Wednesday, April 3

city mouse + country mouse {small town reflections}

Ok, you can take me home now. Our stint in the country town is nearly finished, and as of Easter weekend I feel almost home sick, despite having had a truly good time. I miss the spaces and places and people I love. I miss the city like I never have before.


On day one, people at my husband’s new work knew his name before he’d told them it, and by day two, they knew that he had a fluffy dog and a wife because they had seen us out walking. On the streets people stopped to talk to each other, it was as though they were all acquainted. At the gym they wanted to know why I was in the town {because I was newer than new}, and I found many people already knew about ‘the radiography intern’. Our growing circle of friends from work, music and church all knew each other, we discovered. Some of them were even relations. We heard stories about friends, and we heard town gossip. The courier knew me well from visiting an embarrassing number of times {because, I couldn’t find what I wanted at the more slender selection of shops}. Once on the beach a lady walked up to us and she knew our names – a lady we had never met. It turned out she knew all about us from various people, and told us that she liked our wedding photos – we are presuming facebook played a role?! We frequently met people while we were walking at night, along the beach, or in the supermarket.  

I couldn’t figure out whether all this question asking and life-sussing was friendliness, or nosiness. I think there is a real mixture – from beautifully genuine, to lovers of details. I felt a strange combination of pleasure at the interest which was shown by people who ordinarily wouldn’t care, and a strangling of my freedom. Sometimes I wanted to walk down the street, known by none, as I used to. I love the anonymity of a bustling city, where each person is dancing along in their own world, decidedly uncurious, or content to just passively watch those around them. I don’t mind sitting on trains in silence; I’m happy with that, although I’ll chat if someone wants to. I just wanted to leave the house, do what I needed to do, and return – and not be told the next day where I had been spotted and what I had been doing {and wearing}. I didn’t want people to know who I was before I knew who they were. Perhaps it’s a concoction of my city love, introvertism {handcrafted word}, and lingering fatigue which makes me enjoy the unnoticed, one-in-the-crowd way of life. 

And yet, this lack of anonymity has been thoroughly enriching too - for Ben who works in a place where he is a person; valued, respected. Not just another intern, one of the flock who pass through on their way to full qualification. As for me, I was fast in contact with musicians who wanted to play with me; who would give me many opportunities because I wasn’t competing with 50 other flutists. On a purely aesthetic note, I soaked up the starry nights, the calves, the kangaroos on the road, and the unpopulated stretch of sand and sea and moon. 

I know that if you were a much loved town member, and of a social disposition, knowing the people you lived around would be deeply satisfying. Someone was telling me that people can be so rude in the city; but I think it all depends on your definition of rude. Independence may come across as lack of care, and yet friendliness can feel extremely nosey. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It’s what you know, and grow to love and cherish. And I unashamedly love Melbourne city, although I gladly take away many things from this adventure and learning experience.

block arcade

But now, I want to walk down the street and see more than jeans and jumpers, and I want to go to a quirky cafe at night, drink a well brewed pot of chai, wander through Block Arcade, and see a film. I also want to buy balls and balls of wool at Lincraft or Spotlight, and photocopy my music for less than 20c a page. I want to have more than one yoga class time available so that being sick on Wednesday night doesn’t mean a two week wait, and I want to pop into the health store for Loving Earth sugar free chocolate.

I also want to see the stars, hills, and paddocks stretching for miles. So I suppose I want the best of both worlds, but if I had to pick, it would easily be the city with its variety, anonymity, creativity and excitement.