10 December. We have a lot of shit. A lot. I am so very grateful the apartment is finally empty. And that the cleaners were late because I had a quiet contemplative moment remembering and being thankful for a perfect three years. Although I simply cannot grasp it’s been three years. How did that happen?
I am humbled, and often surprised to be honest, by who is reading me. And very grateful that my musings, and often my rants strike a chord with some of you in some way. Mostly because whether it’s crap about cancer, relationships, teenagers, children, moving home, moving country, surviving in a new one etc etc, most of you it seems can relate in some way to my venting. Even if it’s not always particularly attractive. And sometimes a tad uncomfortable. And maybe sometimes a little too much. So for you, and for me I’ll continue. But mostly because I have to finish my 365 gratefuls. Which brings me to my next point. It seems some and I have to admit mostly men (sorry) and in fairness those new to me, can’t understand why some of my posts are numbered. And some not. Oy vey. Ok … so, the numbered posts started at one and are currently at one hundred and forty six and are stored under category grateful posts 365. This was the starting point of all of this. For 365 days (aka one year)I need to formalise via this blog one thing I am grateful for. To help me focus on what I have, not what I don’t have. To acknowledge in the down days how much I have to be grateful for, the unexpected, the mundane, the expected. Gratitude is everything. This led to some questions from you about what where and how I am today, so the musings, sharings and ventings started, categorised mostly under stuff, but some also under why, which is where you’ll find this one. The three categories are on the right hand side of the home page (why, stuff, grateful posts 365) but you can also highlight any of the blue tags to see blogs on a particular subject, be it love, friends, wine, breast cancer whatever, whatever. Hope this makes a little sense. I have to say I know this is weird for some of you, confronting for others, helpful to others. But those who get it, who get me and the need for this, I thank you. Because it really is helping me.
B had me in stitches this morning with stories as only he can tell them about how bullet proof as he puts it South Africans are. Well, actually what was hilarious is how un bullet proof he has become being here. There is a sadness about how desensitised we become to poverty, crime, corruption and mayhem when we live with it every day. But today it was a funny story. B was on a technical recce in Parow in Cape Town, when approaching the team on the street was a gentlemen weaving, shouting and wielding a box cutter. If they supported the ANC, he would cut them he threatened maniacally. B found himself backing away quite rapidly, I mean he said, the guy was manic, and dangerous, he could have lashed out at any one of them. The rest of them just stood there and shooed him off. B was in hysterics as he recounted the look of incredulity on all their faces when looking at him, saying, where you going?? As if he was the odd one for backing off, not them for not. I mean imagine if someone came weaving up to one of us here in Noosa with a dangerous object, threatening to cut anyone who supported the Labour Party or LNP or whomever … Actually, it’s an impossible stretch.
I read a fabulous blog today that brought so much stuff flooding back, stuff in my need to plough ahead in my life I avoid thinking about. Not deny ever happened but simply avoid. I’m sure by now I’ve mentioned often my recently acknowledged life strategy to you, that of avoidance?? The blog, her current journey with cancer and emotions associated are so familiar to me. So real. Yet so far away. But today they were right here. I now acknowledge how much time I’ve lost. Or gained. I lived, I was there, I was so very there, but also somewhere else. There was so much I hadn’t signed up for or hadn’t realised I’d signed up for. So much that I lost and gained, that I had to redefine myself in inordinate ways. Redefine probably isn’t the right word, but rediscover. Actually probably not rediscover either, but discover. Discover me. But before I could even take a breath from my last treatment, we relocated to another country. To no-one and nothing. I had to start again without even knowing who I was anymore. I’m starting to understand why I adopted avoidance as a strategy. It was just less painful. It’s four years now to the day (we arrived in Australia on 16 May 2008) and I’m still faltering. Still discovering. But I’ve decided, I’m no longer avoiding. But I’m also not ploughing ahead. I’m just on pause. And actually, that’s ok.
Today’s the day it happened. Today’s the day my baby grew up. Tonight was the first time Jem spent her evening in her room, rather than lying on the other couch in the lounge with me. Or watching tv in the tv room while cuddling Jayde. Tonight she was in her room with the door closed. For the first time. With peals of laughter and much chatting going on. Without us. With boys and girls from her grade. I had to agree to her downloading Skype because all her friends have and because she’s never nagged me for anything. She’s graciously accepted my no’s to facebook and a mobile phone. But mostly because I’m ok with it. Skype that is, as long as my rules of whom and when are followed. But as much as I like to think it’s all on my terms, the fact is she spent the evening in her room. For the first time ever. With the door closed. I did pop in from time to time, as you do. But mostly, I just let her be.
Is it just me? Is it just me who lashes out when they mean to do the opposite. Who pushes away when they want to be held? Who gets angry when they are really just sad? B has stayed behind in South Africa for a month. I said I was okay with it, because I am. But I’m also not. I hate him not being here. I joke that I never signed up to be a single mom, and it is a joke. Sort of. I am better at everything when he is here. I am okay with it because I now know I can cope with most things I may have to encounter. I am okay with it, because we need me to be. And I will make the most of it, as will he. And I will find the moments to remind me of how blessed I am, how blessed we are, and it will be okay. But just for tonight I’ll blame extended jet lag, late nights, sunday night blues, not speaking to B for a while for my sadness, and for me being tired of having to be okay.
Never mind whether they’re 6 or 60, it’s always about the penis. I so wish I could claim this comment, but it belongs to Lynn, my other sister. This in response to Kate updating my family on the saga of her teenage love life. Or to set the record straight, the fact that she didn’t want one. And us all trying to explain why boys behave the way they do. Why men do. Lynn’s bloody right. But what I loved about the comment was less the truth but the fact that it was shared at breakfast with ages ranging from 7 to 74. We truly do all have a relationship of honesty, raw honesty. I know this will shock some but the ensuing hilarity was just utterly fabulous. Especially at my mom using the opportunity to educate her granddaughters even further. I know this may be unusual, even a tad controversial, but nothing has ever been taboo in our family, the table is always a safe place to talk about anything. Open and honest, with clear appropriate explanations and clear consistent boundaries. And a lot of laughs. For me it demonstrates one of my core beliefs … it’s not what you say, but what you do that counts. Don’t be scared to use words, to speak your mind, to share what you’ve heard, to speak in front of your children, to teach them in an open honest appropriate way, to encourage them to share, to learn from others. As long as the words are used with respect, and not to denigrate. To share truth. And really, what could be truer?
Is it wonderful to be home? It’s wonderful to be with my family. But it feels more and more like a holiday than a trip home. If being with your parents is being home, then yes it is wonderful to be home, but what is home? Is it where you live? Is it where your heart is? Is it where your children are? Is it a feeling? Or is it just an idea? For me it’s all of these things. The first words when we arrived were, is it nice to be home? But as much as this is where I was born, where my parents are, where my brother and his family are and will always be a part of me, it’s not my home anymore. I have wonderful memories of my life here, of my childhood, of growing up, of making mistakes, of learning, of building myself and my career, of falling in love and starting and growing a family, of illness and wonder. All within the wonderful warm embrace of my loving family and caring friends. And that is all with me no matter where I am. But I am now so much a visitor here, four years is a very long time. I look for the familiar and find it and love it, because it makes me belong. But there is so much that is new, or rather that has just moved on, that I am not part of anymore. And that used to scare me but now it doesn’t. It just is. And that’s reassuring. That it doesn’t scare me anymore, I mean. I am always mindful of those I love who still live here, who would rather I said, yes this is still home. But I know that they would rather I embraced where I am and looked forward not backwards. I wrote before that I now know that we can be anywhere and this trip so far has confirmed that. This is so present, yet it feels like my past. And I don’t mean that I want to leave it behind because it is also still my present and always will be within me, but it’s not home. It’s a place I used to feel at home. But I don’t live here anymore.
I had the worst day yesterday. I saw my oncologist, my breast cancer surgeon, my radiologist, my gynaecologist. I had a mammogram, an ultrasound, a bone density check, blood tests, a gynaecological internal and then some, I was examined, prodded and pricked from head to toe. I sat for three hours amongst all the new and existing chemo patients at the Donald Gordon, filled with compassion and a desire to tell them all it would be alright, even though for some it wouldn’t be and what they should know, and then filled with nausea at the smells and the memories, the tears and the fear. I sat in virtually the very same chair that I remember B said he saw the realisation of what had happened and was going to happen finally dawn on me. As I waited for my first taste of adriamycin, aka the red devil, the penny dropped and I nearly ran for my life. I would have if he hadn’t put a steadying hand on me. I sat there yesterday, overwhelmed by it all. I saw all these people sitting with their support teams, but you can immediately see who is in treatment, just by their eyes. It is a lonely journey. I wish everyone who is on it the inner strength to see it through and the ability to see the love that is around them. I had the worst day, but also the best day, because I felt different. I felt like an observer.
Today I had eyelash extensions. I have tried a little botox and I have implants. Just so that you know I have no problem with any of them. In fact, I’m loving my lashes, and I love my implants, because else I wouldn’t have a breast. I wasn’t sure about the botox, mostly to get rid of my number eleven, because I was so adamant it should be very natural so no-one ever noticed. Although B hasn’t called me number eleven for a while, and Sandy who makes my morning coffee, hasn’t asked me why I’m frowning (even when I’m not). The thing that bothers me about it though, is how addictive I can see it all becomes. I can see I’m going to hate my own stubby, sparse, never grew back properly after chemo eyelashes, when these extensions fall off. Just like I’ll hate it when people start asking me why I’m so irritated when I’m not. I get that it makes you feel better, because you look better, so you feel more confident, are more confident, and how wonderful is that. But the thing that sparked this off, was not my lashes, but the form I had to fill in at the salon. When it got to date of birth, it said optional. When I queried, the therapist laughingly advised how many women don’t want to share their age. So, for me the thing is, how can we not celebrate our years and our wisdom and our experiences, our scars and our wrinkles, because they tell our stories. Why do we deny our age? Are we not then denying our lives? Denying what is? I love that we can make ourselves look better, and feel better, but my plea to all my friends is, just know when to stop. You are beautiful just as you are. And those who love you, will love you no matter how saggy, scarred and wrinkled you are. And those who won’t, never did.