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.

IMG_1276.JPG

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.”

img_8657

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.”

img_8692

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.

img_8696

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.

Showing Up.

Turns out learning to live is a lot like physical therapy after a body trauma. At first it’s really hard and – to be completely honest – not exactly fun. Then you get a bit stronger and a bit more use to stuff and now I’m in this odd place where I think, “What is this feeling?” And I realise I’m LOOKING FORWARD to something. I can’t recall the last time I looked forward to something.

It’s a two steps forward, one step back dance for a long time. Really, in the beginning I was just logging time on this planet. There didn’t seem much point to anything. In the beginning the only thing I enjoyed was work. Nice little parcelled out editing jobs because it was something I could achieve. I could look back at the end of the day and think – I did 600 photos today. I could scroll through them and feel like I changed something in the world. Small, insignificant, but something. Work, in the beginning, saved me. On days I worked my mood chart was better. It gave me a sense of purpose. Still, every time a job rolls in I think, “I love this.”

Then it was tiny outings. Maybe I made it into the shops to buy milk. Maybe I managed to walk into the school to grab the kids instead of waiting in the car.

I drove 400ks round trip.

I had tea with a friend.

To begin with those things I MADE myself do. This person is expecting you. So I took my sense of duty and I exploited it.

One time last year? I decided to live because my friend asked me to model for her. Literally decided I didn’t want to let my friend down so I had better live. I exploited the shit out of myself to make myself turn up to life.

It is awkward for me to talk about that. About feeling so bad that I weighed up the pros and cons of being alive. But I try to be honest here. I try to come to you with my vulnerability because I know too well that we hide the ugly parts of ourselves. Every time I bare my skin to you and show you my scars I’m being brave – because it’s easier to hide. I know…. Oh, I know….

But THIS week.

This week I showed the fuck up. This week I wrote myself a list of 10 things and decided I was going to be alive. If my brain could teach me how to hide then surely I could rewire it to be happy. To be present. And now I sit here thinking, what is this feeling? And I realise it’s looking forward to things. And that is being alive.

I’m alive.

img_8634

Dawn.

The Facebook memories feature is one of my favourite things. It delights me to see where I was on that day years ago. Oh look, here I was worrying because my newborn wasn’t letting me put her down completely oblivious to the fact that five years later I would practically have to bribe her for a cuddle she was so full of vibrant energy and couldn’t stay still.

Now my Facebook memories is silent because this time last year I deactivated and took a month long break to experience my existential crisis. I had just pulled through some of the worst days of my life mingled with the best days. The fact was, the best thing in my life had opened the door to the worst thing in my life and I was struggling with reconciling those. I kept thinking, what was the point to life? Not in a totally depressed way – although that question can be completely depressing – but in a ‘is there an actual point to all this’ way. Is life literally just a series of moments until you die and there is no big pay off? In those moments I truly understood why people turned to religion because the thought that the universe is a random, chaotic place is – frankly – terrifying.

The good things were brilliant and fantastic. The bad things just HURT. I kept thinking that my whole life had basically been a lie. Because I had believed that good things happened to good people. That life was supposed to be fair. And at 33 I had been rudely awakened that life isn’t fair. That good people can have awful things happen to them for no reason. That people were sometimes hateful. That if life were a scale occasionally it tipped in favour of the cons. It just seemed so stupid. Who would want to willingly go through life expecting pain as par for the course? I read philosophy searching for answers and it depressed me. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with my life and did it even matter if I did anything at all? We are all just tiny invisible blips on an insignificant planet circling a sun in a vast universe. How could any of us feel that we mattered?

I wasn’t suicidal exactly. I just wasn’t sure it mattered whether or not I was alive.

Then I had this major epiphany that if it didn’t matter whether or not I was alive or not then I may as well live. What else was I going to do? It was less of a conviction (Yes! Choose life!) and more of a shrug towards life (Why not?).

Now is the part where you’re probably expecting me to say, “And then a remarkable thing happened and life became great!” except this isn’t a click bait article and that is exactly what DIDN’T happen. Instead life got even tougher. It felt like I was moving from crisis to crisis, putting out fires and playing catch up instead of getting ahead. Every small victory was hard won and on its heels came three times the trouble. I felt like standing under the stars and screaming at the sky, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”

The universe will constantly give you the same lesson until you’ve learnt what it’s teaching you. Trouble kept finding me because I refused to submit to its schooling. I was trying so hard to steer my own course – to be in control – the universe meanwhile working the currents that pulled me in a different direction. How many times did I need to be dashed against the rocks before I learnt to LET GO and float on the tide?

I hadn’t been having an existential crisis. I didn’t believe nothing mattered. I was despairing that perhaps EVERYTHING mattered. Despair can look a lot like apathy to the untrained eye.

Every morning for the last three months I have woken 2 hours before dawn. I sit outside in the dark under a nest of quilts and I watch the sky. The night shifts imperceptibly to morning, beginning with a lifting of the black to grey on the horizon. In the beginning the sun rises so slowly that you don’t even realise it’s happening. Forms rise from the shadows. And then – all at once – you blink and where there was a grey band there is now golden and pink light stretching out like fingertips across the sky. A sudden shift from monochromatic to colour.

I know how the sun rises. I know to watch for the little changes. A tiny hand slipping into my own. A warm cup of tea. Sunlight on my bare arms. A shutter click. A lover’s caress. The smell of rain and old books. It will steal over my sky like a thief, lightening the night.

Dawn will come.

image