Fear on a Healing Journey

fear is like a snarling beast
beating at my door
let me in, it growls
goosebumps pop out
up my spine
stomach clenched
in a tight ball
no breath

But actually there is no beast. And I can move away from fear when I drop into awareness long enough of this moment. Right here and now. Awareness of my body, and of the deep breath I take low into my belly. Fear struggles to take root where there is slow breathing. That’s just how we’re wired. Deep, slow breathing usually means safety.

Healing journeys don’t always feel safe. Sometimes they’re the most frightening roller coaster ride you’ll ever take. Up and down, round and round, waiting to be spat out at the end. What condition will I be in then? Will I have all my limbs? Will there be parts of me missing? Stop with the future-tripping, come back to now.

no, you can’t come in
yes, I know you’re there
your stale breath is in the air
I know I used to let you rampage
around my home
me cowered in the corner
in the dark
afraid
feeling powerless
to do anything

It’s not like that anymore. That neural pathway I let you rule is growing over, like a well-worn path to a deserted rubbish dump. It’s not in use anymore. That’s no longer my game. I’ve chosen a new pathway. Yes of course I know you’re not leaving for good. And yes, I know you will visit. But no, I will never give you back the reins to my life.

You will never get to call the shots again.

Authentic Partnership: ten years and counting

What started out as romance 10 years ago has turned into an ever-evolving journey of authentic partnership.

Harlan and his travelling companion Paro!

It was Labour weekend 2007 that Harlan made the bold move to come over to the Sunshine Coast, Australia, to visit me. We’d met two weeks before I was booked to fly to Brisbane and go and work my way up the East Coast for an indefinite amount of time. We’d clicked, but my Inner Mean Girl was worried that he might be wasting his time flying over two months after I’d left when we didn’t really know each other.

We kept in touch via letters as I spent time working in backpackers in Noosa and Rainbow Beach, and the closer we got to Labour weekend the more excited I was! Harlan hired a Wicked Campervan from Brisbane and I met him in Noosa to share three days together. There was lots of swimming, exploring, talking, lounging and passion. A day or two in I asked him if he wanted to come to Australia and go travelling with me. He thought about it over a shower and decided “Yes!”.

Taking off in our newly acquired camper-van (Maxine)

He flew home and gave notice on his job, and a few weeks later I flew back to NZ to find a job and start saving for our trip. In May 2008 we arrived in Brisbane together to begin our three-year long working adventure in Australia.

In these ten years there’s been so much adventuring, learning, loving, laughing, planning, deepening, and fun! There’s also been disagreements, fights, emotional stretching, some days where we both want to walk away in different directions, frustration, and a lot of extra tricky navigation because of my healing journey.

But through that all, we’ve kept communicating.

We’ve maintained communication, even if sometimes it’s one pushing for it and the other pulling back. Even if it takes a few days to open up. There’s been raw, open honesty, and the strong desire for connection. When it’s been deeply, frighteningly tough, we’ve come back to that base of communication and also injecting a little humour and lightness, even if it takes tears, space and frustration in between.

You see two years after we met we attended a couples’ workshop (with Harville Hendrix) in Melbourne to provide us with some specific communication tools. We also read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and then last year went to another couple’s workshop in New Zealand called Emotionally Focussed Therapy. We didn’t go as a last resort. We didn’t go seeking these tools because our relationship was broken and needed fixing. With my mum being a psychologist and all, I learned that: communication tools are important before you hit emergency mode at the bottom of the cliff (in any relationship).

The thing is, we weren’t given the handbook for how to navigate authentic partnership with another whom we share our life with.

We weren’t handed out the tools when we left school and told “here you go – use these to navigate your relationship and they’ll really help you through the times when everything isn’t ‘easy’ and in the ‘flow’. So these decisions were made because we knew we needed this and also sometimes needed a mediator to help us through trickier topics.

For my own journey I’ve gifted myself with regular counselling in the last couple of years. By default, of course, it has filtered out into my partnership with Harlan. The more I have developed my self-awareness and self-honesty, the more I am able to own my stuff, and the more I can show up in this relationship without a whole bunch of unnecessary heavy baggage and make Harlan pay for crimes he didn’t commit.

During this journey I have also realised that I need to be able to give myself what I need instead of expecting those things from Harlan. Sometimes when I’ve been lonely and desperate for company it’s been because there is a hole of emptiness inside of me that I need to fill. But until I realised that, I was liable of lashing out and demanding more time with him and pushing him away. Or if I’ve been looking for acknowledgement, it’s because I haven’t yet acknowledged myself in the way that I desire. I can only fully and truly receive from Harlan what I already give to myself.

I’d love to say, that with these tools, learnings and insights it’s become easy and breezy – but I would be talking nonsense.

A lot of things have become easier though: when we find ourselves in our downward dance we are both able to identify it earlier and move ourselves back to connection; I am getting better at timing my ‘truth-telling’; Harlan finds open communication easier; we both own our parts more easily. And even though in that sweet romantic honey-moon phase in the early days there was less of the challenging and more of the fun, ten years into the journey our connection is so much deeper, fuller and richer.

I think a lot of us would like to think that love is the main ingredient for a strong relationship. But I’m of the belief that authentic partnership requires more than just love – otherwise we could end up partnering with many different people throughout life, right? It requires respect, openness, trust, and truth – not just with each other but also with ourselves. I believe it also requires patience, compassion, gentleness, and the knowing that we can’t change another.

Through the many, many dark days that I experienced on my recent healing journey, Harlan has been my rock, my dearest friend and often the only one I could share my painful space with! He has known when to use lightness and humour, and when to say nothing and just hold my hand or give me a hug. He has made me 100s of teas and allowed his t-shirt to dampen with my tears of despair.

I am so deeply grateful for Harlan!

In this space we have learned together – me how to more often ask for what it was that I needed (rather than expecting him to intuit it), and him that he didn’t need to fix me or offer solutions; me to be aware of taking my pain out on him, and him not to take my outbursts as personally.

And then sometimes we both get it really wrong, because we’re human. We’re all only human. And we’re all doing the best we can in each moment. Remember that! You are doing the best you can in this moment!

Hitting pause to take stock of your relationships (past or present), provides insight into what it is that you’ve learned and gained on this journey together. This insight is a powerful thing, because it brings awareness to things you can celebrate and also aspects that may need more exploring.

Are you willing to take stock of your relationships and what insights they’ve allowed you? Go on, I dare you xx

 

Into the light

deep down inside me there’s a yearning
a stirring – something pulling me
I hear Mother Earth calling to me
out of the valley and up the hill
the light calls me higher to seek out
the last glimpses of Father Sun
as our part of the Earth turns slowly away
for renewal
for a time to start again
fresh
awakened in the morning dew drops

I watch the sky sing her praises
pinks, golden, blues, greys
honouring the light that every
single cell
in my body craves, needs
relies on
yours too

I am a sun-worshipper
in another life I must have been a lizard
chasing the sunspots
hibernating in winter

we desire the light to warm us
and illuminate the world
in the light I see things I never knew were there
they come into clarity and I feel a peace
fall over me like the morning mist
soft, gentle, refreshing

I am renewed
I am held

Her Shadow – Soul Writing

I wrote Her Shadow on the 29th of January 2014, and it is heartening for me to read back over it now and realise how much has changed for me in mind, body and spirit, especially the decrease in pain with a fistula.

Her shadow moved silently across the ground.

Disappearing behind tree limbs and reappearing in dappled light. She didn’t know where she was going, except that she wanted to go. To keep moving. To get away. Her shadow was perfect, a perfect silhouette of a perfect body, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt so far from perfect as she stopped to give the pain a break. The incessant pain that burned her up with anger and sadness, a pain that was so unpredictable she never quite knew how to react. She thought she had figured out how to let go, let go of being so attached to this searing, raping pain, but yet some days it faced her full on. It looked her in the eye and said ‘you haven’t sussed it, look what I still do to you’.

Its thick heavy form broke down her resolve and she cried. She cried for what she had lost, she cried for not knowing when this beast would give her a break, and she cried in anticipation of the days, minutes and hours that this pain would steal from her.

She moved on, the shadow limping slightly now and her shoulders hunched to protect her heart.

It felt like someone had ripped it out and put it on a full cycle in the washing machine with rocks. Now it was bruised and battered and ached with every heart beat. She kept walking. If only she could walk all day, imagine how far that would take her. Surely, she thought, eventually she could outrun this pain, leave it for dust and start anew.

You’ve already fucked up enough in my life,” she yelled at the pain and the trees around her, the leaves quivering slightly. Still her shadow was silent, observing, simply being.Fuck off,” she yelled again. This time louder, her throat hurting with the force, causing her to cough and then swallow. Her shadow crumpled and disappeared beneath her sobs that were absorbed by the dry ground. She felt like eating the earth so close to her face, feeling that crackle and crunch in between her teeth, giving her all the more reason to hate and to want to rip and scream at this beast. Her sobs turned to rage and she punched the earth with her fists until they hurt and her knuckles were scratched and bleeding.

Her shadow looked like a spider, flailing, caught in its own web and helpless.

Fighting was not helping, the tangling ever tighter, so the shadow went still. Maybe she could stay there forever. If she stayed curled up this way no one would find where she was. One day they would find her beautiful bones, bleached and creamy white from the sun. Perfect bones, perfect form, and they’d say how perfect she was. What a beautiful girl she must have been, and they would wonder what had happened.

By the time the bones were found, people would have forgotten. Forgotten the story of the invisible beast who chased her down. ‘Maybe I could ignore it’ she thought, coming more to her senses as the sun burned her neck.

The shadow came to life, back to its perfect form and moved silently through the trees, sometimes visible, sometimes not. She couldn’t ignore it, that would never work, she needed something else…a prayer to bare it, to look the pain in the eye and say ‘Bring it on. I can do this. You won’t win, because I’m not the losing type. You’re a coward anyway! You leave one day, build me up with hope and then come back, stamping your feet so that we all know you’re here. But you don’t own your movements. You’re flaky. Leave me alone.’

She started running, faster and faster, her knees scratched by thorny vines along the path, but she didn’t care. Her shadow ran faster, lithely, still beautiful, faster and faster to keep up with her and suddenly with a leap and a dive they both disappeared.

Her shadow was far away now.

A shapeless blob breathing beneath her, sifting over the pebbles. She watched it for a long time, blowing bubbles into her eyes to see clearly, wondering how long she could stay down here for. Her lungs burned. She liked it. She liked punishing her own body with pain that she could control, it made her feel powerful and distracted her from her ugly thoughts. Her lungs ached and her blood screamed for oxygen. Her shadow pushed her away from where it lay motionless on the pebbles, rainbows sparkling off it like a diamond. The blob stretched out its arms and pushed her fiercely. She burst the surface of the water, gulping air and breathing hard.

The air was still and clear and she felt beautiful. Her body felt free and able in this crystal water. She breathed in the sweet smell of river. Her shadow moved gently now, swimming slowly upstream, along the bottom of the river pool, a halo around its head.

Her shadow knew it would always win.

It knew how to trust and persevere, despite this body that felt tied and chained to this pain. Her shadow looked perfect and moved freely, detached and observant, living more in the world of spirit.

Maybe she could be more like her shadow. Maybe if she saw her shadow more and enjoyed its freedom and quiet, she could see more of the beauty and less of the pain. Maybe this was her trick. She looked down at her shadow dancing and shimmering beneath her and slowly dropped her legs to meet it. They re-connected, toe to toe, and something shifted. She watched her shadow change shape and grow smaller, a blob with two beautiful long arms. She wanted her shadow. She wanted to watch it move and change and race across the earth, always peaceful, observant and silent.

Always perfect.

Hope – Four Years Ago

This time four years ago I was discharged from Whangarei Hospital to come ‘home’ to celebrate a friend’s 30th who had driven up from Auckland.

After one of my biggest tummy flare’s, due to the most heavy pressure that I put myself under, I developed a peri-anal abscess. My flare had finally been controlled with oral antibiotics and my fissures healed with fresh aloe vera leaves. A few days later though, I became aware of this intense pain in my bottom area. When I stood up, the throbbing was so concentrated I had to lie back down. I had no idea what it was. I began waking up in the middle of the night to take painkillers. Eventually on one particularly bad night nothing helped. At 1am an ambulance came to pick me up.

A tiny hope flickered, that these months of unwellness might be coming to an end…that I could get on with things…

I hated having to give in and go, but the pain was so unbearable I hoped they could take it away. An hour or so later the doctor on call confirmed a peri-anal abscess and I began IV antibiotics. I spent the next day in Kaitaia Hospital (an hour from home), wondering what all this meant. At the time I didn’t have a smart phone, which is probably a good thing, so I wasn’t trawling the internet for all the possible outcomes. That night I was driven to Whangarei Hospital (2 hours away) in an ambulance, with a large strapping teenage boy who had just had his foot run over by a truck. His pain was palpable. I watched the stars rushing past, branches reaching up to meet them, feeling my aloneness expand and grow.

Long story short I got prodded and poked and examined by young male doctors for 6 days in hospital, still while on IV antibiotics, dragging a stand around with me to the bathroom and back. I was so keen not to risk a surgery near my sphincter muscle that I led myself to believe it was starting to feel slightly better. I still couldn’t stand for longer than a few minutes, but I told myself the antibiotics would take it all away. And I’m not sure if I convinced the doctors and surgeons, or if they really had hope it would go away too.

That small hope gave me an out…

My dad drove me back home. While I had been away Harlan had moved some of our stuff out to a friend’s beachfront cottage, where we stayed for 3 weeks while I recovered. A few friends were already there for the birthday weekend and I had a station set up in the lounge on my massage table. That way I could socialise without moving or having gravity work too hard on my bottom.

I’ve always put on a brave face. A protective shield of strength and independence to guide me through my tough times. But here, in this lounge, a little bit of that toughness was stripped away. I could hide so many of the confused painful emotions, but I felt bare and vulnerable and useless. I had to argue with that need inside myself to always be doing something. Preparing dinner, cleaning, helping. I had to try and let go, even just for a little while.

A week later I had to admit to myself that nothing was changing and my dad drove me back down to Whangarei Hospital. I was operated on overnight – the abscess drained. At 12am I emerged from my anesthesia haze begging for more morphine, and finally by the morning I could stop pressing the button for regular hits into my bloodstream. The pain eased, and with it came a trip back to the beach cottage that day. Erin, a district nurse, was booked to visit and attend to dressings.

This was the beginning of the end I told myself. With the abscess drained, I could fully heal and ‘get on with my life’. A little hope bloomed in my belly…

“Do you think I can book my flights for Australia in a few weeks?” I asked Erin about a week after the surgery. It felt like things were healing nicely and a lot of the pain had gone away. I had planned on heading back to the grain silos in South Australia to earn some summer cash.

“Just wait and see,” she replied, “wait for it to get better before you go and do that.”

Wise words. Hopeful words. Imagine if she had known the future.

Imagine if she had said: “No way don’t book those flights, you ain’t going nowhere. You’re going to think this is all healed, and then you’ll realise it’s created a fistula. You know, that condition you’ve read about, but tried to push out of your mind? You won’t be able to sit, standing will be tricky and walking won’t really be any fun for months…kind of almost years really…”

That’s where hope and optimism is a good thing. If someone had actually told me what was in store for me. All the pain and anguish, disappointment and raging emotions I’d have to experience, I would have given up. Right then and there. As we left the beach house and I could feel a bigger pain starting in my bottom again.

But no one did and so I kept hoping. I kept visualising and praying and doing whatever it took to give me moments of courage that this would pass quickly. That life would return to ‘normal’…

And now, here I am four years on, still with a fistula. It turns out I had to learn to get on with my life as it was, not how I wanted it to be. Not how I thought it should be. I had to learn to live it as it was. I had a new normal. An ever-changing normal. These last four years have been a rollercoaster ride of note. I’ve had such highs of goodness and hope, and I’ve had such deep dark lows that I’ve wished the lights would go out.

But through it all, somehow…hope.

I’ve used that sheer determination and strength that used to hide away that vulnerability, to navigate this journey. To keep going, one foot in front of the other. When courage collapses, I pick it back up and shake it around. Sometimes I yell at it and ask it to let me give up. But in the end I need it there to help me grow, journey and transform myself along this exploration of life and self. I want the courage, because what a path we’ve walked!

When I say I’ve had hope, I suppose it’s been more like my bedrock. I haven’t always felt like it’s there, but some part of me must…

Hope, stubbornness and determination have led me to a place of freedom. I may not have freedom to sit and travel the world and do those sorts of things right now. I used to pin a lot on those, but now I look elsewhere. There is now a deep flowing freedom in my soul that I never thought possible. Freedom from so many ties and expectations, criticisms and comparisons that kept a firm noose around my neck all those years. That noose sometimes choking me of the ability to breath in life and enjoy it as it was.

So here’s to hope.

And here’s to freedom. To letting go. Sometimes we go looking for freedom and find it in unexpected places. Other times we hope-letting-gohave a very clear and firm picture of it, only to learn that it looks totally different. It actually feels nothing like we imagined. It’s even bigger and better.

I know hope can bring disappointment. That I know more than anything. But I also know that hope brings with it the ability to carry on and navigate and move, even when you have no idea what’s in front of you.

Right now, in this moment, I honestly think that the most important thing is to hold onto hope, but to let go at the same time. Keep moving forward, but don’t limit yourself with rigid expectations and shoulds.

Let life unfold without you fighting it and constantly reimagining the life that is happening to you in this moment.

Navigating losses and gains

Tino is lying down beside me as I start my tapping/counselling session and I feel a pang of pain and loss. Oscar didn’t get to do this with me. I feel it in my chest and throat. I didn’t know what we’d talk about this session, but now I know where we can go…

navigating-losses-oscar

Oscar – our beautiful rescue who left too young…

I’ve had a fantastic session on the guilt and remorse of what I couldn’t give Oscar in his last few years. I’ve felt so much better about it since. But now this is a slightly different area that’s just popped up – it’s more on the loss.

Oscar and losses

The tears run down my cheeks and I whisper the words after Debra so that I can get through the rounds of tapping. The sadness, the wishing and what I can’t get back. ‘I wish I could have been who I am now back then for Oscar‘ – yes that’s so true. Realisation. I wasn’t though. The Kali then was doing her best to survive this rudderless journey. No plan and no surety of a destination. My main goal to stay sane and make it through the day.

Yes he did spend hours on his mat alone, me in bed. And yes I could have had him in my bed with me, but my decisions weren’t sound and I didn’t know we only had him for another year. He was meant to stick around with us until I was 40, us watching him getting grey and old and slow. How could I know, I was only doing my best.

I feel the high emotions start to resolve and let go and now I can follow after Debra. She brings it around so that I get a clearer understanding while freeing myself of the trauma. We check in and I’m lighter inside…but now there’s more about other losses. Not just of Oscar and my time with him, his last days, but the losses I’ve experienced because of this fistula.

My blue jeans…

lost-blue-jeansDebra has a way with words and they ring true. I think of the jeans I always wore. My uniform was jeans. Now I can’t wear them because they hurt my bum. I love them. Always felt comfortable and attractive in them (when I wasn’t being hard on myself), and she explains how this is actually part of my identity. And part of any chronic condition is re-figuring out our identity. Not that it defines us, but life has to change and adapt and then you have to figure out this new identity.

It may all sound silly, and I felt silly even talking to Debra about it, but it’s how it feels. Little things go here and there. Compromises. Small deaths…big deaths. And we have to keep re-finding ourselves through it all.

Exploring losses and gains

After diving even deeper into the healing journey and my beliefs around deserving and ability to heal, I felt a lot calmer and ready to let go of a whole bunch of tied up emotion. My homework now is to write a list of losses through this fistula journey. Then gains. Then I need to look at some of the losses that have been recuperated, or changed for something even better suited to me now. And also look at some of the ‘losses’ and figure out ways to bring them back into my life in some way or form. Debra says I’ll be pleasantly surprised 🙂

So this is where I’m off to now. To journey this journey and find wholeness no matter what it is I feel like I’ve lost and found…

Navigating Relationships through Health Hiccups

Dear Harlan

Here we are, 8 years on, navigating relationships 🙂

kali-harlan-relationshipsThis time 8 years ago you and I were on a plane to Australia. We had adventure under our feet and the vast unknown ahead. We had no idea what it held in store for us, except that we were going to your Aunt Sue’s place on the Gold Coast. From there we would begin our search for a campervan and follow the season…head north with the winter to stay warm.

We had known each other for 9 months. We had been dating for 6 – you in Hamilton, me in Auckland. Meeting on the weekends in alternate locations. You’d accepted my offer about this mission while visiting me in Australia 7 months earlier. Did you want to join me on an exploration trip of Australia? Did you want to throw in your job of about 8 years? Apparently the answer was YES!

kali-water-spiritI wonder if you knew what you were getting yourself into back then. You fell head over heels in love with this girl. A stubborn, head-strong, opinionated girl whose free spirit could be alluring. Did you realise how head-strong? How critical she could be? NO! Otherwise you may have reconsidered your answer. Did you realise that together we would walk some of the most beautiful times, but also some of the hardest and harrowing? Most likely NOT.

harlan-anniversary-australiaDid I? NO! I didn’t even know if we could make it work at first, but I loved your handsome boyishness. Your deep and dimpling smile. Those blue eyes that sparkled and told me so much without you saying a word. I loved your desire for mischief and adventure. So travelling in a campervan together seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t sure though that we would be able to figure out our differences. Or should I say if I could figure them out. They didn’t bother you.

You see you are a very accepting person. Me, I have my moments. I’ve had a history of being very hard on myself, and as a result am very hard on those I love most. My expectations are sky high. Sometimes impossible to meet. I’ve had the tendency to create a vast and inviting space for Failure to step in and point out the unmet expectations. Usually with a whip…he’s not subtle that guy!

Relationships require work.

They are like anything in our lives. They need sustenance, nurture and nourishment. Regularly. Without it they wilt and sometimes wither away. My stubbornness is good for one thing. I’m a firm believer in communication and come hell or high water I’ve made sure its present. We attended an imago relationship weekend early on. It was all about dialogue – really hearing the other person and giving them the space to share their feelings without our own stories over the top.

Honestly, most of the time you play that game better than me. I think my opinion kicks in at the drop of a hat, and unless I’m reminded, I hear your words through my stories. You, on the other hand, often have the foresight to diffuse a situation by simply saying those magic wordsI hear you say… They’re like an instant cut to the gas of my vent. It helps me to realise what I actually want to say and then I don’t feel like I need to harp on. Thank you!

You know life happens and then suddenly you think Oh shit, that’s right, this relationship actually needs some servicing! Businesses need to be run. Bees need to be attended to. Chronic health issues cloud pictures. Homes need to be managed. And so it goes.

Relationships are the constant.

They make you grow. If you choose to of course. I want us to both grow together. I want our relationship to challenge me…gently. Us to challenge each other…gently. Like you, I have changed over the years and one of the up sides of coming home to myself through my health journey is that I have become more balanced (have I? ;)). I’m not as critical. I don’t live in fear of our differences. I realised that was my stuff, and the sooner I could start letting go of it the better.

When I feel more balanced the relationship flows more smoothly. When I am struggling with my own demons, navigating chronic pain or finding my way through health disappointments, debris is thrown into the river of our relationship. On so many levels.

Small things get bigger, big things are forgotten for a while and we go into cope mode.

I couldn’t have asked for a more compassionate, supportive person to walk this crazy healing journey with me. You are able to put aside the fact that many days I have been near on impossible to live with because of my pain, both physical and mental. You know when to hold me and when to leave me alone. Yes, you’ve used avoidance tactics at times, but who wouldn’t? I don’t know if I could have been as supportive if the roles were reversed. You are an outstanding example of a good man.

Today I sit here and reflect on that tongue of mine. We talked about it. It needed to happen. The judgments and criticisms I can throw at you. Sometimes they’re because I’m feeling critical of myself. Other times they’re because we haven’t checked in for a while and we need to air some things. And then sometimes it’s a mixture. Like today.

So today, 8 years on, I’m thinking of judgement. I realise it has no place in relationships. It’s not usually a very pretty emotion, and so I wonder if I can morph it into something more productive. What if I dig deeper and see where it’s coming from? Is it just my stuff, or is it related to stuff we need to navigate our way through together with the wonderful tool of communication?

kali-harlan-navigatingMaybe we could do with a little refresher. We could call on our experienced mediator to guide us through this part of our journey. We haven’t seen her for years. Maybe now is the time. Surely not many couples could still love each other so much after what we’ve been through. What I’ve been through. What you’ve been through. The focus has been on my health journey, but I think people often forget to ask you how you cope with it. You are just as much in it as I am, but in a different capacity. Your life has also been seriously altered as a result of this fistula.

I have so much support on so many levels. Do you have the support you need? I know we deal with things very differently. It’s one of our differences. And wisely you like to remind me that you’re not me, and I’m not you 🙂 But do you have the support you need? I know my full acceptance of you, as the incredible life partner you are, would go a long way. I will work on that. And maybe you can think about the support you might need from yourself or others.

And so together we grow…gently…

With love x

Please tell me…

Today, just hold me.

Gently take my head and rest it on your soft warm chest. Let me hear your heart beat and know that I’m home. Let me breathe in the smells of that comfort. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what to think. So please just tell me I’m OK. Tell me it’s all going to get there in the end. That I’m going to heal. That this too shall pass.

Can you remind me to just flow with this despair like a wave? Knowing it will roll in, surging, pounding and moving everything in its way. It will feel relentless, but it’s not forever. Soon enough it will pull back out, sucking and leaving the shore clear and refreshed. Please tell me that I can do this. Remind me of my mantra in these times: You can do this. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again.

Today there’s an emptiness inside me. Is it empty or just too full? Sometimes I find it hard to tell. I flow with the feelings, like that wave, but then suddenly there are patches of numbness. That’s when I want to stare into space for a very long time, pretending I’m somewhere else. Pretending I can go on holiday from it all, even if just for a day. Please hold me. Can you cradle my whole body and tell me that you’re there for me? That you will always guide me in the right direction, even if it doesn’t feel so at the time.

Remind me again that somehow I am whole and perfect in this moment even though I feel so far away from that right now.

Let me know that you are with me. Whisper my name quietly in my ear and tell me you love me. That you’ll always love me. And that you’ve always loved me. I know you’ll never leave me, but today. Today I need reassurance.

The Desperation to be ‘Fixed’!

The fuel of desperation

Desperation was my driving force, my momentum for the first 2 ½ years on this journey with a fistula. Every possibility, every magic pill, potion and lotion I would dive at it, desperation fuelling my direction, my hope. I searched, tirelessly for natural cures, balms, miracle stories on the internet and the next wonder worker in New Zealand, heck in the world.

It was exhausting. Desperation is an exhausting place to be in. Gentleness and desperation don’t live together too well, and so life was full on in an excruciatingly slow kind of way.

desperation-shores-insanityLife as I knew it had been turned upside down. Ideas had been crushed. Insanity often crept into my peripheral vision, lurking there, waiting for me to let down my guard. Sometimes I couldn’t help myself and I dived head first into the murky mess of it, flailing, sobbing, wishing for another world. Luckily I am a good swimmer and I would eventually get myself out of those currents and beach myself on the shore, exhausted, with nothing left to give.

‘They’ said “Acceptance is the biggest healer. If you can accept your fistula, accept life as it is, life is going to be a hell of a lot easier.

God I knew they were right. I knew if I could just accept my lot that struggle would reduce and I might find some peace in my monkey mind. But it’s easier said than done I’m afraid. I tried. You can’t accuse me of not trying. I tapped on it for days, for weeks. I mean even the basic tenant of tapping is to ‘deeply and completely love and accept myself (just how I am)’.

I don’t know what came first. A lessening of pain and struggle or the work of wonderful healers, an accumulation of tools in my toolbox and the amazing journey I began with my counsellor in Canada. Or maybe it was the perfect synergy. Does it really matter? Either way, under a year ago desperation’s fuel light came on. I didn’t realise. You know how when you’re on a mission to get somewhere in the car and it takes you ages to actually realise there’s an orange fuel tank glaring at you? That’s what happened to me. On some level I sensed a change, but it was subtle and unexpected. Plus, don’t we get used to the status quo so quickly?

On empty!

Desperation began to stutter and choke. I wondered what all the fuss was about and then one day I suddenly realised I felt a gentleness in the periphery. I would read something about an amazing cream and not start pulling my credit card out, ready to have it sent on the next courier. People would tell me about healers or links or books and I wouldn’t pounce on them for more.

It was a novel change. Unexpectedly, instead of feeling this desperation to be fixed, I felt a hunger for change and growth. The soul searching I did with Debra made we want to find more of the inner peace that was beginning to take form.

change-directionsMy relationship with myself grew to a whole new level. Of course I still wanted a healed bum. Of course I didn’t want to have to spend the rest of my life sitting on my haunches hurting my very patient knees. I didn’t want to have to wear a panty-liner every. single. day. of. my. life. But the majority of the time I had changed direction on my journey. I was seeking peace, I was catching moments, right here and now.

There were still the bad days. Days where I would find myself on the carpet (because that doesn’t require pressure on your bottom) rocking myself from side to side begging. Begging the angels, begging the Universe, begging Mother Earth to just get this over and done with already. How f%@#ing long was it going to go on for?

A gentleness

The great thing is, these times passed quicker and also more gently than before. I didn’t wallow in the feeling, desperately trying to feel positive, desperately looking for solutions. Instead it was easier for me to just be with my emotions. Watch them like a wave and know that they too would pass.

The reason I write all of this, if you’re still with me, is that I have a semi ‘ultimatum’. The surgeon has proposed a draining seton on the 30th of June if I don’t feel a heck of a lot better. You see, just before I went to see him, with the idea of taking myself and this seton to explore kshar sutras in India or Austria, I decided to try my body with Ayurveda. finding-gentlenessNot out of desperation but curiosity. And it’s actually really loving it so far. I’m only three weeks in, but hey who knows where it may take me.

So, 95% of the time I feel really calm about it all, I trust that my body will do exactly as it has to, and I will be very clear of what direction to take closer to the time. My body and I are pretty in sync these days, so our communication is great.

A sip of fuel…

However, I think this ultimatum must have put a cup of fuel in desperation’s tank, because I feel the odd lurch and cough from it at the moment. “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to heal before the 30th of June.” “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know if I want to go the seton/kshara sutra route yet.” “What else can I do to speed my healing even more right now?” “Who can I call on? What can I take?

Thank goodness these are very fleeting and far apart. I have time. I have choices. And deep down inside my inner wise woman knows the answer. So instead of falling into a desperate flailing mess trying to find those answers, I relax back into that gentleness and remind myself that I don’t need fixing. That I don’t need answers now. That what my mind body and spirit need most right now is calm. Peacefulness, gentleness and that deep deep love that every human craves.

On the outside

I watched her that day with a heaviness in my heart. A heaviness that still aches even though it was so long ago now. I wanted to whisper in her ear that she was perfect. That she was good enough. That she was enough, just as she was. But I couldn’t, she didn’t want to listen. She didn’t know how to listen to me back then. So instead I watched her. And as I watched, the tears slowly trickled down my cheeks, tickling my neck as they dried.

kali-bell-primary-school-gaansbaaiHer long wild hair was in a perfect blonde ponytail. Her light blue skirt and white collared shirt sat neatly on her small frame, and the white socks they had told her she needed came to just the right height above her ankle. And then the shoes. They weren’t her dream ones, because they couldn’t find them, but they were what was expected at school. Black with a little strap and buckle over the arch. She didn’t dare let her parents drop her at the school gate. Instead she walked from a few hundred metres away, already independent, somewhere deep inside she had already decided she didn’t really need anyone.

She had figured out how to walk tall and pretend that confidence flowed off her small shoulders.

Her heart beat fast making her palms a little sweaty. The iron school gates were wide open and a mass of children, all shapes and sizes, were flowing inwards towards the dominating stone building. Finding their row and dumping school bags down to hold their place. An older girl told her which line she belonged to. She walked over, taking each step a little slower and more carefully and put her bag down. Was it the right bag? Would the kids laugh at her because it looked so new? She didn’t walk away from her bags like all the other kids, because she didn’t know anyone yet. She stood, awkwardly, waiting for the bell to ring. A group of three girls walked over to her and said hello. She greeted them and smiled back. She was so scared to say much in case they found out. In case they realised that she wasn’t at all like them. She was a fraud, and sooner or later if she opened her mouth for too long they’d find out.

How could I change her thoughts? How could I make her realise everyone there was different to everyone else. She didn’t need to be the same as the pretty girl Maryke with the long brown plait who had lots of friends. She didn’t need to know and do the same things as them to be friends, she could just be herself. And if they laughed at the things she did or said, that was OK too, she could never please everyone.

On that day, nearly 25 years ago I saw her make a decision. She didn’t know she had standing-on-the-outsidemade it, but as an invisible bystander I saw the very moment it happened. The instant something clicked and she told herself that she had to be the same as everyone else to fit in. Some girls were making fun of the story one of the smaller boys was telling. She could never show her difference. Being different was bad. I could see she knew she was different to all these kids and she didn’t like it. She wanted to blend in…not to be noticed, not to be different. For people to just see her as one of them.

She wasn’t one of them. And no matter how hard she tried she could never be one of them. Not because there was something wrong with her, quite the opposite. It was because she sparkled. She sparkled like nothing they had ever seen before. And even though she didn’t know about her sparkles, and even though you couldn’t always see them with the naked eye, they could sometimes feel them. I could see them of course, but I’m different.

She sparkled with the love she had for nature. She rejoiced in a newly hatched chick quietly cheaping from under the safety of its mum’s wing. I watched her spend countless hours helping baby chickens out of their shells when they were taking too long, carefully removing tiny specks of shell to give them enough room to do the rest themselves. When she kissed the caramel angora rabbit, Dusty, his soft fur would tickle her nose and make her giggle. I swore it made her kiss him even more.

She saw light like noone else. She saw magic everywhere. Glimpsing movement on a bright pink fuscia she knew a fairy had been there. Nestled safely in a hole in an old rotting poplar trunk, I had seen her leave gifts for the woodland folk, carefully stroking the soft moss they danced upon on the full moon nights. She judged a person on their heart and how deep their smile was, not on the colour of their skin or their language.

I watched her delight in the ice cold water that froze her tanned legs when she threw herself into the wild waves down at the beach. She shrieked with joy as the foaming bubbles skrinkled and popped around her, tickling her naked skin.

on-the-outside

Of course she never talked to anyone about any of these things. She had never heard them talk of such things, so to fit in and be ‘normal’ she didn’t dare either. She learned very quickly what were the right things to talk about and share and what weren’t if she wanted to be like everyone else. They talked a lot about the cartoons they watched, but she didn’t have a television. She couldn’t join in. She’d laugh with them though, pretending that she understood the story they were relaying.

Despite all this hiding, her sparkle still showed through. It was in her eyes when she was concentrating on something in the classroom she really enjoyed; they sparkled and a light shone brighter. You couldn’t see it but you could feel it. I saw people noticing sometimes, without knowing what they were noticing. When she laughed, really laughed, that’s when no amount of trying to blend in could hide that special sparkle. Her whole body joined in and her being vibrated in pleasure with those giggles. In those moments I laughed with her, and felt her joy cart wheeling up my spine.

Noone could ever pinpoint just what it was, but they sensed her difference, and as they sensed it more, the more she pretended it wasn’t there and the more she felt on the outside. The more she felt on the outside, the more she buried those sparkly bits that made her so beautiful, so unique, so different. And the more she put herself on the outside, because that’s where she believed she belonged.

I could see her pain and anxiety at being on the outside. Probably not many others could, but I saw how she wore her cloak of confidence. It was something she could drape over her when required, but there was no self esteem to back it up.

She didn’t realise that no one had actually put her on the outside. Noone had said you’re different from the rest of us, so you belong on the outside. She’d made that decision herself. On. That. Day. The decision that because of her life, because of her family, because of her thoughts, because of the way she was in the world, she couldn’t possibly fit in. No one would be interested in her story. And since she had decided that fitting in was the only form of success in the world, she was therefore a failure. No matter how hard she tried, no matter that from the outside it looked as though she ‘fitted in’, on the inside it never felt right. It never felt comfortable in her skin.