The Cup.

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It’s just a cup.

It’s not even a fancy cup, it has ‘made in korea’ stamped on the bottom. Recently my grandmother has been downsizing the items in her house and when I go over (which I should do more often but my life consists of work, work and a side order of work at the moment) I find she has piled a bunch of items on the bed in her back bedroom for myself and my mother and aunties and cousins to pore over like a garage sale. I collected a variety of mugs from the back bedroom – mugs are always in short order in my house because small children are butterfingers. Each mug reminds me of my grandparents home but I’m particularly protective of this one which no one else uses because it’s kind of unassuming.

It reminds me of my auntie for reasons I can’t put my finger on. I suppose I must have hidden memories of her using this mug – none of which I can recollect with any sort of clarity. But it reminds me of her so when I drink my tea out of it in the morning I am saturated in memories of her, my auntie, as she was when I was a child, long straight dark hair that I coveted, and her quietness.

My other auntie was 15 years older than me and I felt like she was a sister, other members of the family babied me but she called me out on my bullshit, didn’t let me win at monopoly simply because I was little and spent an entire summer eating ice blocks and trying to complete Mario Bros on my NES entertainment system. She was a friend, a confidant, a playmate.

My auntie with the mug was more elusive, quiet and calm. She would take me in the early summer mornings down to the pool where she would do laps and teach me to swim like a frog. She sat me on her lap and showed me how to form the letters of my name. When I told her my dreams she would ask questions as though they were important and not just a child’s nightmares. I see her in the garden watering the gerberas. I see her in the kitchen washing dishes. I see her turning up to the house like a celebration, for our missing piece had returned home.

And I love this cup.

Purple Flowers.

It’s been just over a year since I began this blog. The day I actually broke went unmarked in any calendar because I’m not sure exactly what date I would go from. Breaking happened slowly, me fraying at the edges for two years before I tore apart all at once.

And I have gotten so much better. I get up and go to work, assisting other people. I come home and I work quietly, editing for photographers and carefully correcting colours and clearing newborn skin. I take my children to school and their appointments. I lie beside my small children at night and read them bedtime stories. I go with my lover to lunch and he eats the rest of my salad when I can’t finish it. Together we take the children to the beach where my daughter collects and entire basket of shells and we have to convince her to ‘leave some for other people’. I buy myself bedside tables from Ikea and he convinces me to sit on the trolley on the way back to the car and runs with the trolley until I’m breathless with laughter and fear we will crash into a column. I pay bills. I do my hair. I’m blissfully normal.

I sleep.

And this is not something I take for granted anymore. Some nights when I don’t have an early shift I sleep for 9 hours. This time last year 5.5 was normal. This time last year I woke to darkness every day and watched the rising of the sun and tried to breathe and survive. Now days I still sometimes wake before the sun and I watch it rise in my car with a cup of tea in a travel mug as I inch along with the other commuters.

I try to dream.

And my dreams are of fairy lights and lace. My dreams are of plaster dust and lavender. The crown of a newborn head, tiny crescent fingernails. My dreams are of wrinkles and white hairs. I throw the tablecloth of my life out before me and smooth it flat, I am careful to choose what I lay upon it. I watch the wheel of life turn and feel no sadness at it’s passing.

I wake one morning and reach for my camera. My four daughters and I escape the house like puppies set loose and we enter the outside which is different with a camera. Inside the lens everything fits into a box. We find some purple flowers in the grass by the side of a road and we stop to shoot in them. Inside the lens it doesn’t matter that cars are driving past and construction is happening beside us. It doesn’t matter that this spot is actually an overgrowth of weeds. The mosquitos are invisible in the shot. Inside the lens it only matters that there are purple flowers on the ground springing from the grass like hope and that is all I show you. Life is different, so easily distracted by the noise of everything you barely notice the purple flowers. I had driven that road every day but I didn’t see them until I went looking for magic.

That whole year I spent trapped in my own mind, fighting for a way out. Looking for a door.

I was the door.

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Surprise Me.

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For me, this was a week like any other. I took my children to school, I ran errands, I went to the dentist, I edited photos, I had brunch with my partner, I laughed with my daughters, we discussed a crush my son has.

But this week it just felt like a torrent of horror and grief descended on our state. Amusement park rides killed people, a bus driver was set alight, a woman found dead, two people were shot in the suburb next to me. It felt like the end of the world and I mean that in no small way. It felt like Armageddon coming. It felt like the beginning of the end.

And I had no words.

No words.

I couldn’t express my individual grief about these situations because nothing I could say could fix anything and the problem was bigger than me.

We discussed the US election that truly fills me with fear and not just because someone I am frightened of might win but because the support lent to that individual scares me too.

I don’t know what kind of world I’m leaving for my children.

Sometimes I regret having children for that reason. When I was a teenager – before I was a mother – my family seemed too large to be damaged. I felt like as a child I was more fragile and therefore the worst that could befall someone would surely befall me first. But as soon as a child of my own womb was placed in my arms I realised fear for someone else. For all the times I could not protect them. We talk about sleepless nights and endless questions and even broken hearts but the worst thing about being a parent is realising your own powerlessness in the face of the world. Knowing the only thing standing between them and the cruelties of this place, is you. And you are found wanting. The dangers seem insurmountable, and your own fragility – which seemed a blessing as a child – is now a flaw. From the moment a child is born they are on a journey growing away from you. If your do your job well they will be ready to fly long before you are ready to let them go. My eldest is 18. I’m now not sure I will ever be ready. Is any parent?

That powerlessness is sometimes the reason I lose my breath and think, “Why did I do this?”

The answer, of course, is hope. Disturbingly tenacious, hope outlives us all. We have children even when we are surrounded by cruelties because we hope. I remember one time when I was about 16 my grandfather saying he thought my generation would be the one to fix the world, now that is a hope I pass on to my own offspring. I think every generation must carry that, the silent prayer that whatever we didn’t fix our children may be the ones to do it. It’s an unfair burden and I’m sorry.

I posted on Facebook the other day that cruelties fail to shock me anymore. I’m no longer surprised by intolerance or bigotry. What continually moves me to tears is kindness. The first responders at Dreamworld. The taxi driver who ran towards a burning bus while others ran away to rescue those inside. The people that listen to your story and offer you a gentle word. Always in times like this I have to remind myself that while the world is frightening – people are good too. That I cannot protect my children from cruelties but I can shape them into the kind of people that do surprise me. Our grief always sits side by side with our hope. We have to tip the scales ourselves.

32.

The other day we were sitting at the table and because it was my birthday someone mentioned getting older and I said I liked 32. That I could have stayed 32 forever. And you said, “But that was before me!”

But it wasn’t.

I reconnected with you halfway through 32, we saw in 33 as a couple. Whenever I think of 32 I think of you. I think of the way you blew into my life, unexpected – and I bloomed. You took years off my face because love is a kind of elixir for life. I shone. Sparkled. And people noticed because all my friends would comment on the way I had come out of myself. You could send me a simple text that said, “Hey kitten” (something I thought I would have hated had anyone else said it, you were an exercise in exceptions) and my day was made. I became fascinated by photographs of us together because it felt like I had never seen my real face before. I barely recognised me.

None of this is to say it was simple or easy, because it wasn’t. At first there was so much vulnerability in loving someone. And I fell in love with you so quickly and so hard. I didn’t really mean to but once I started I realised I wasn’t going to miss this for the world. Eyes open. That’s how I fell in love with you. Your attention to detail felt indulgent. Of course I made a study of you too. Hours spent tracing the lines beside your eyes that fanned out like gentle sun rays. I loved them because they spoke of how much joy you could find in life that you smiled so much. I loved them because I felt unbelievably blessed to be lying there beside the man who was once the boy who I had spilled dreams to, almost two decades before. Oh yes, I felt vulnerable in the beginning. When I realised I was falling in love with you I cried to you on the phone. I cried to my daughter in the kitchen. But then I threw all my chips in because I had a sense that this could be the greatest adventure I was ever going to go on and I didn’t want to miss it.

It wasn’t always easy. But your conviction never wavered, your love was a constant. It wasn’t always easy because life isn’t always easy but loving you was the easiest thing in the world.

Why 32? Because 32 was the year I went on the bravest, most important journey of my life. 32 was when I stopped being who I thought everyone wanted me to be and decided to find out who I WAS. 32 was when you slipped your hand into mine and said, “Let’s do this.” 32 was when I stopped letting life happen to me and I chose you with a deliberateness that was breathtaking. I remember lying there and I thought, “Just look at him, one look and you will know.” And I raised my eyes to yours and you held my gaze, a question answered.

Yes.

32.

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Grateful.

He’s so patient with me. I feel guilty because I can only imagine it’s like buying a car you think is solid and then it turns out to have problems you can’t fix. So every time I can’t do something and he says it’s okay, smooths my hair, kisses my forehead, I feel like…”I’m sorry I did this to you.”

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In some ways that was why I needed to plan a weekend away, although it was midweek. Because I thought, if I’m close to the ocean I can retreat if I need to but it still looks like I’m getting out, doing things. Because it’s been a really really long year. And I did it, you know? We walked along the beach and I built a sand turtle and a sand flower and he made a sand heart until the tide came in and tried to soak us both. And we went to lunch and we went to dinner, even though at dinner the only table was near the door and in the middle of the room so I had to keep reminding myself that people weren’t looking at me and no one cared. “It’s like the gym,” I said to myself, “Everyone worries people are watching them but no one is because they’re all just there to work out.” So I made MYSELF look at other diners so I could see they were too busy with their company and their food and no one cared about the small woman by the door.

Such tiny steps that I don’t even feel like I’m moving until I look back and think, “You’re miles away from where you were months ago when you couldn’t make it to the kitchen. You have come so far.”

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I think I just keep waiting for it to be easy. But I think maybe…maybe it will never be easy. Maybe I will always have to pay a price to leave the house. Maybe everyone does. Because one thing I have learnt in the last six months is we are all a little damaged. Most weeks someone writes me to say, “I feel that. What you wrote? I feel that too.” And I never would have known. Sometimes it feels like everyone has it together and you’re the only one losing your shit. So maybe we all have something we just struggle with and push through. People are such amazing creatures. We can be so nasty and so cruel and then sometimes…divinity. Bravery. Compassion. Fierceness.

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One day when I am better I am going to write letters to everyone who helped me. And he will get the first one. And I will send them out, written in my own hand, thank you, thank you, thank you. For your patience, for your support, for your empathy. Thank you. I am grateful for you.

That time my daughter needed an exorcism.

Do we even like being parents anymore? I’m joking, obviously but I go through memes and photos and posts every day taking about a) how hard this gig is and b) how we all need to self medicate to survive parenthood.

And the funny part is, almost all the things complained about are the parts of parenting I secretly don’t mind so much. Like the fact my five year old will come and ask me something and use a word that isn’t correct or say a sentence that doesn’t make sense, and when I say I don’t understand she will repeat the EXACT SAME WORD just slower or louder like she is speaking to someone of incredibly low intelligence.
“What day is tomorrow?”
“Friday.”
“No. What DAY is tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. The day after today. WHAT DAY is it?”
“Dude. It’s Friday. I don’t know what answer you want.”
“The day after today.”
“Tomorrow?”
“Yes. What DAY is that?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. WHAT…DAY…IS…IT?”
“….you need to go play.”

It’s infuriating. It makes me want to stab myself to death with a spoon. But it’s absolutely hilarious and that’s what I love about parenting.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on this whirly-gig for almost two decades now. But all those things that drive you insane today? Funny as shit in 5-10 years time. Trust me. One day your house will be clean, your car won’t have smashed milk arrowroot on the carpet, your kids will hold conversations that actually make sense and you will MISS this insanity.

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Let me tell you a story. It’s one of my favourites. To set the scene my eldest daughter is 7 years old. You wouldn’t know it to look at her now but she had this incredible temper when she was little. In fact, most people unless they experienced one of her infrequent but volatile rages wouldn’t have believed me then. This particular day it is summer and I am getting the kids to school. My Nanna took us because I didn’t drive back then and I was about 25 weeks pregnant with my first son and fourth child. Nanna was waiting in the car with E who was 3 and going to go swimming with her auntie that day. I am walking a 7 year old J and 6 year old B into their catholic school. Everything is fine.

I think I need to stop here and explain that I carry large with boys. Like, I’m big. With girls I have a teeny compact rockmelon under my dress, with boys…let’s just say that I was once stopped at 15 weeks pregnant with R and asked how much longer I had. (I may have growled at them).

Anyway, I’m waddling along and I mention to B that it is water play at her class today. She had swimmers and a towel and her class was going to play with sprinklers and buckets of water and have a grand old time. J says, “Why does she get water play and I don’t?”
I explain that her class is having a water play day, I don’t know, I don’t make the rules. She immediately launched into how unfair this was. B getting water play and E getting to go swimming.
“I can take you swimming at Nanna’s after school,” I say.
Not good enough. J is saying that is also unfair because then her sisters have done two water things and she has only done one. Her friends wave hello. She glares at them. She is beginning to melt down. She starts screaming she doesn’t want to go to school.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL! I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

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I kiss B goodbye and push her towards her classroom and away from her sisters wrath. People are staring. The bell rings and it’s assembly day so kids begin to move towards the hall. Throngs of children and me clutching my demon child’s hand while she struggles to free herself all the while screaming at the top of her lungs, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

At the doorway to the hall the Principal comes up to us and tries to talk J into coming inside and – I shit you not – she HISSES at him. Then screams in his face those same words. He retreats. I don’t blame him.

At this point basically every head in the school is turned towards my daughter wailing. People whisper to B who is sitting placidly with her class. Privately she looks pleased because she will forever be known as the ‘good sister’ and also because she will have mad street cred for living with such a crazy person and surviving.

I realise I cannot take her in. This temper tantrum will run it’s own course but she absolutely cannot go to school today. So I turn to J and I say, “Okay. We are going home.”

But I do it in that mum way. You know the way. Like, your voice is totally calm but the kid knows shit just got real. And J looks at me and knows this so she starts screaming, “No! I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

She’s hysterical. I half drag her towards the exit. She’s screaming the whole way, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL! LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

But I can’t back down because I made a call and kids smell weakness.

She is digging her heels in and I’m so big and pregnant, you guys. But it becomes clear the only way I’m getting her back to the car is if I carry her. So I heft up this 7 year old on my belly while she is kicking and screaming and yelling, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

I am headed towards this little path behind the church and there are colourful flower beds. I see the parish priest walking a visitor around them, both marvelling at the roses while I am heading towards them with a kid that looks like she needs an exorcism. Just before we get to the priest and companion, J does this wild whole body buck that because of my centre of gravity being off due to massive belly sends both of us sprawling on the concrete, my shoe breaks, my skirt rides up and I skin a knee. I burst into tears.

Here we are. Both of us crying, me bleeding, one shoe and the priest looking on in horror. J sniffles and looks at me and says, “Please mummy. I don’t want to hurt you…..but I will.”

The priest recoils and retreats to the safety of his rose bushes.

Five minutes later I am hobbling back to the car, broken shoe in hand, both J and I crying and Nanna jumps out and says, “What happened?!”

Where to begin?

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Now, as far as shitty parenting days go, that was right up there. It was so far up there. It’s one of my top 5 Shitty Parenting Moments.

But now we laugh about it. So I guess it’s also one of my top 5 Most Hilarious Parenting Moments.

What I’m trying to say is the real shitty stuff is the stuff you will never laugh about. Sickness, broken hearts, those heart stopping moments when you think ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’. You’ve probably all had one of those. The day to day with kids is hard work, I’m not devaluing that, but it’s fleeting, man. It really is. But it’s so fucking good as well. The hard stuff is part of the tapestry of your parenting journey. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

So, yes. Drink your wine, eat the chocolate, sneak the good ice cream. But try to think, “Will I laugh about this one day?” “Will I miss this when she is walking out the door on a date at 18?” For me the answer is almost always, yes.

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The Hardest Thing about Parenthood.

I’ll tell you the hardest thing about being a parent. Or actually, what for me has been the hardest thing about being a mother. The invisibility.

There are dozens of ‘hard things’ and the hard stuff happens immediately. It begins right there when you see those two pink lines on the little white wand you just peed on and realise that you can say goodbye to soft cheese for the next 8 months (I know friends, it was a struggle for me too). You feel tired, emotional, your skin stretches and warps over your abdomen and you watch as stretch marks bloom across you. I remember one night going to sleep with perfect breasts and I woke the next morning to step in the shower and caught sight of my chest in the mirror and thought I had those strange marks from sleeping all over my breasts until I realised they were stretch marks that literally appeared overnight like magic. Across my thighs they were deep, painful looking scarlet scars as though I had been whipped. I looked down once when I could still see my calves and was fascinated by the fact I had a lone red tendril of stretch mark on my calf, far from my stomach that was the cause of all this. And that’s before we hit hyperemesis, SPD that literally crippled me (although I was fortunate enough to suffer no major lasting effects), gestational diabetes.

Then labour. The pain that comes with opening a portal to life, the panting, the pushing, the sweat, the blood.

Swollen breasts filled with milk. Cracked nipples. Post partum bleeding. Sleepless nights. The perfume of baby powder and newborn and underneath it all the faint sour smell of baby vomit on your shirt you didn’t notice until you were in the shops grabbing bread because – goddamn it, do we ALWAYS need bread in this house? Where does it go?

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The teething, the worry of SIDS, the baby check ups and doctors appointments, the growth charts and milestones: check, check, check…

Baby proofing and blending of foods and patience until you think you might explode from buried frustration. Endless on loop soundtracks of the Wiggles, or Thomas, or Strawberry Shortcake and barbie shoes that never seem to exist after the first five minutes of leaving their box.

Clothes and washing and which school is right? Are they happy? Are other kids mean? Is MY kid mean? Homework and more doctors visits and fever in the night that leaves you sleeping on the floor by the bed sponging a scalding forehead with a tepid cloth and praying the panadol kicks in soon.

Head lice and parent/teacher interviews and costumes and parties. Christmas presents and birthdays and school discos and is my child happy? Is he happy? And oh, my heart is breaking. And vomit buckets being emptied.

Football games and netball games and swimming lessons.

A thousand sandwiches.

Which high school? Should I let her wear make up? Is she too young? And teens with boyfriends and parties and leaving you and leaving you and leaving you. And you have to balance your protection with your need to see if she can fly. Will you fly? And heartbreaks and colds and doctors visits and the orthodontist and talent quests where she sang like an angel.

Bearing witness. Day in day out. Endless. A hundred things. A thousand memories and you are their keeper.

The hardest thing is the invisibility. Of knowing there is not a single time they will remember all of those thankless things you did because you loved them until they are the keeper of memories for their own children.

But writing them out just now, they didn’t feel like that much of a hardship after all.

Choosing.

Sometimes current events completely confound me because I can’t believe that in 2016 we even have to argue for some of this shit. Example, yesterday I was listening to radio and some guy was saying, “We have to be very CAREFUL with marriage equality because we are changing the face of what marriage really is.” And I can’t believe we even are having this conversation because it seems so simple to alter a few words in whatever legislation exists that may say ‘man and woman’ to ‘two people’.

Over half my friends are divorced – myself included – and they were all married to people of the opposite gender. Friends…I know exactly what that piece of paper is worth and it’s basically shit all. Partnerships happen in the heart before they ever happen in front of the nearest and dearest. I’m not going to stand here and pretend I know how to make a marriage work. I was married for 11 years and it didn’t work. But I have studied it’s demise, I have been the coroner to the death of my marriage and I can take you through the museum of it’s failures and tell you categorically what made it terminal in the first place. We just stopped choosing each other.

See, in the beginning of a relationship you choose that person all the time. Sometimes you choose them even when you know it’s probably not the smartest idea, like when you have to go to work early the next day but you stay up until 3am discussing the world because you just can’t get enough of them. You choose them every morning and you reaffirm that choice every night. And then for me, over time we just stopped doing that. I chose to go to bed instead of watching that movie with him. He chose to stay at work when I was miscarrying and asked him to come home. I chose to avoid lunch with him in favour of editing some photos. He chose to sit at his computer instead of having a conversation with me. Sometime over the last five years of our marriage instead of counting down how long until he came home, I began to count down how long until he went back. And I know he did the same.

Marriage – I think – is just waking up every morning and choosing that person. Again and again. Choosing them when they are laughing and making you feel good. Choosing them when they’re chewing too loud and you feel like you want to stab a fork in your ear to make it stop. Choosing them. And sometimes it’s not even the really good or the really bad you have to remember to choose them through. Because both those emotions are fraught with passion – even if it’s a bad passion. It’s the mundane. Someone flossing their teeth by your side for thirty years. Someone laying their head next to yours on the pillow every single night – for life, man. And you have to remember to choose them then too. And it’s hard work, this partnership thing. No one really knows if they’re going to make it. And you never ever will because a successful marriage only becomes one that lasted the distance when one of you dies and you’re still choosing each other that very morning.

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What is marriage? Hell, if I know. It’s been constantly redefined through out history. This is just the next page. I do know that no one is innately better at it simply because their partner’s gender is the opposite of theirs. That just seems absurd and I can’t really believe we are having this as a debate. I can’t imagine how furious I would be if I needed someone to hold a plebiscite to tell me if I get to choose my partner or not because my marriage might redefine theirs. If marriage is all about the choosing then gay people have been practising marriage for just as long as heterosexuals, just without the paper. And while I may feel the paper isn’t that important, I have the privilege of deciding that for me, simply because I’m a woman who happens to be in love with a man. It seems bizarre that because of that twist of fate I can go ahead and stand in front of my family and say I’m going to keep choosing him for the rest of my life and someone else’s choice goes unacknowledged.

Sometimes the world just really confuses me.

No ‘if only’.

Years ago I was both simultaneously very open and very closed. Actually that’s been almost a constant in my life. I’m a walking contradiction. I always liked that quote by Walt Whitman in Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

I was open because when I was a photographer I sold myself. I sold my work also, my skills and my style. But I also sold who I was as an artist. Frequently by the time a client came to me and booked in they knew my kids names, what pets I had, they had often read my old blog, they had a sense of who I was as a person. I believe it was why so many clients tried to add me on Facebook after a shoot. And most of the time I accepted that request. I was happy to have them connect with me. I was open about my life’s little bits a pieces. Funny things the kids had said or done. My fondness for Creamies – a biscuit I discovered (to my great dismay) had more calories in four of them then a large cheeseburger meal.That I slept in sweatpants in winter because while I desperately wanted to be one of those women who could do the school drop off in PJs I also feared my car would break down and I would be greeting the tow truck driver wearing pug pyjamas.

At the same time I was very closed off. I didn’t often discuss my ‘feelings’. In fact I viewed feelings as a great weakness. Love was reserved for teenagers too young to know better and one’s children. I was very uncomfortable with affection. I would hug babies and toddlers and my family on special occasions. It was widely known amongst my friends that I was not a hugger. Some would even give me warning before they hugged me, “I’m going to hug you now, okay? I know you won’t like it but I’m going to do it anyway.” And they would put their arms around me and I would stand there stiff backed and perhaps grudgingly pat them on the shoulders. Hold my partner’s hand in public? Forget it. In fact he was similar so it would have been an uncomfortable experience for both of us. I didn’t say I loved people. I could say I loved cake or dogs or the smell of lavender. But I could not tell my cousin I loved her.

Open and closed off.

Now I’m basically the opposite. I’m very careful with what information I release and to whom. My circle of people is tight. My Facebook locked down. I shut down every business because I couldn’t run them effectively or in the same way and hide. I use to put up a snap of me with the goat chewing my hair and me with the worst forehead wrinkles as I screwed my face up and not care. Now, I will rarely show my face straight on if indeed I photograph myself at all. But I am more open. I hug people. I tell people I love them. I share more intimacies. I will kiss my partner openly in public.

When my partner and I started dating I knew if this ever was going to work I had to break down those walls. The first time he kissed me in the city, in public, I was so stunned. I don’t think I even had time to feel awkward about onlookers because I was so taken with him. And afterwards I thought, isn’t there enough hate and negativity in this world? Wouldn’t this whole place be better if more people were kissing and in love and just generally being good to each other instead of giving each other bitchy looks at worst and ignoring each other at best? Wouldn’t it be nicer if I could just hug my friend? Why do I reserve my affection but happily share my experience with a shitty driver on the highway? And the thing with him was – I didn’t want to hold any part of me back from him. I wanted to lay my life at his feet and see if he would claim it. I wanted to pour myself into his hands and see if he loved what he saw just as much as I loved what I saw when I looked at him. I wanted to be as real and honest with him as I could be.

And it was fucking terrifying, if I’m honest.

How vulnerable it was to unreservedly love another person. The capacity to be hurt was so great. But if it worked… And I kind of realised that was what I had been worried about for years. I held people at arms length because I didn’t want that weakness and vulnerability. I didn’t want to be hurt.

What sort of life was that? Letting no one in because I was scared of what? Being alone? I was already alone. Because I never let anyone in. Love required vulnerability. And I wanted this so much. I had to let go. Throw caution to the wind. Tell someone I loved them with no idea whether he loved me back or if it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t work. But at least I would never live with a ‘what if’. At least I wouldn’t be lying there in ten years time wondering if I might have had a chance at something incredible and soul changing if only…if only.

You would think it would take time to dismantle walls but they came down at once. I slid into a new me as though I’d never been any different. It deepened my relationships with everyone who mattered. My children. My family. My friends. My kid’s friends. Have I been hurt? Oh, yes. Oh my, yes. Without the walls everything just ran in. I felt like I was being bathed in emotions. You know I never use to cry? I actually couldn’t. I would sometimes think a good cry might be just the thing and nothing at all could induce one. Now barely a day goes by I don’t cry over something. I cry because of sad things and happy things and people being good and people being hurtful. There is this one film clip of when this guy got his leg caught between the train platform and the train in Perth and all the commuters worked together pushing the train to the side so he could free his leg and – oh my god – I cry like a baby every time I see it. The vulnerability of being open – it can sting.

There is another part of that Song of Myself by Walt Whitman that I like where he says, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Connection is a gift you buy. The price is vulnerability. And its value is immeasurable.

No ‘if only’.

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Girl in a Yellow Dress.

For years I had sat contentedly in the country thinking about nothing at all and absolutely everything.

When I say nothing at all I mean I never desired to leave. I assumed I would never travel further than a 300km radius from that location. I didn’t long for that. Not really. The thing was I moved like a unit of seven, myself and the six children. I didn’t want to be apart from them and anything I did I wished they came with me. When the house burnt down in 2010 we got a very large sum of money. Over twice what we owed in the mortgage because when I insured it the house was so old that the person on the other end insisted the cost of replacing the house would be a large amount and I grudgingly agreed to pay the extra. We paid the mortgage out and then funnelled the rest into our new mortgage and I suggested then perhaps we take the children to Europe. It was a ludicrous plan because who in their right mind would take six children to Europe? My then husband said he didn’t want to, but to tell him how much I needed and I was welcome to take the kids on my own. Which seemed even more ludicrous because who would take six children to a foreign country on their own? In hindsight I probably should have paid a friend or family member to come along and called his bluff but I was half relieved. Because I had no desire to leave. I just felt I should.

And when I say absolutely everything I mean I would become curious about something and go on this wild bender of research. One day I’m crocheting and the next I am buying a spinning wheel. Then it’s not good enough to buy ready to spin fibre – I need to learn to process the fleece myself. I research natural dyes and mordants and dye my handspun yarn with elderflowers I harvested from my yard. Then I research elderflowers and harvest them for herbal use. Then I research more herbs. Then I research silkworms. Then I’m buying Mulberry trees and before you know it I’m learning how to build a strawbale house with an honesty window and churning my own butter and learning about crop rotations. There was no end to my curiosity about how I could do things myself.

Truthfully, I hate buying things. I want to make everything with my own hands. I was browsing rugs today on anthropologie and kept thinking, “I could probably just hook one.” I’m infuriating. It’s why I struggle with furniture. I hate mass produced and I hate modern and I want everything to be old and sturdy and quirky or handmade. I have no idea what I will do when my couches die because the thought of heading in to Harvey Norman and buying a sofa makes my soul die a little.

Anyway, for years I just contentedly sat around pleased to be in the country and an aspiring self sufficiency buff. And I couldn’t sit STILL. I was bubbling with energy, I couldn’t just read a book. I read a book while I knitted, pausing between knit and purl to turn the page. I spun yarn while I watched TV. I edited images while I sat through a movie. Even when I was sitting I was in motion. Do you know, I once fell asleep while knitting and when I woke from my doze I was still working my stitches as though nothing ever happened.

When I became single I became restless. I wanted the anonymity of the city. I wanted to walk through the bustle of the crowds and be dwarfed by buildings. I wanted botanical gardens, a splash of green between the River and the streets. I wanted art galleries. I booked a hotel room and when I went to pack I was worried I would be bored. I packed about three books, some knitting and my spindle and probably a good 100gms of fibre. Something that might have taken me a week on a spindle to turn into yarn. It was yellow. I remember that. A bright sunny colour that reminded me of the song by E, ‘Yellow Dress’….a mellow bluesy tune where you can hear all the scrappings of his chair and adjustments before he starts to sing in his low soothing voice. (I’ll link it at the bottom of the post in case you want to hear the music that was my life at that point).

I packed all this for two nights. Of course it was a bit of a rendezvous also because I was going there for a date as well. And what happened was we went upstairs to his hotel room (because we had separate hotel rooms and indeed even separate hotels) and he lay beside me on this wide couch and I was still. Hours. Time just unwound before me and through the window I watched the shadows shorten and lengthen again. I listened to the people chattering in a low hum stories below us, cars driving. The whole world continued to race past and I lay still, my head on his chest, his hands in my hair. I spent long stretches of time committing different elements of his face into my mind, etching them there in case he might disappear like smoke. I made a study of him. But I was still. I was calm. I was at peace.

It was only then when I stopped that I realised I had been using all those ‘things’ to fill the gaps in myself of what wasn’t there. As though if I kept moving I wouldn’t notice. When I stopped filling up my life with motion I could allow the stillness of love.

That was what he gave to me. Stillness. He rounded my jagged edges, soothed the tears in me…….It took me a year and a half to finish spinning that yellow yarn.

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Yellow Dress is track number 4.