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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Will Stand Up.

About 15 months ago I saw a photo of me that shook me a bit. I’ve been all shapes and sizes but I had never looked at a photo of me and truly hated it. I had looked at photos and thought it was a rotten photo but I had never before looked at a photo of myself and thought, “I look bad.”

It probably isn’t a photo you would expect, in fact I posted it because after years of being a photographer I learnt that no matter how much you hate the way you look, your family does not. They don’t care. They don’t see what you see.

Your partner sees your smile in your eyes.
They remember the time you laughed so hard that for ages after one of you would just have to start giggling and it would set the other off. (Sassafras)
They remember the touch of your fingertips on their skin.
Whispered I love you’s.

Your kids don’t see your imperfections. They remember soothed brows when they were hot with fever.
The time you went out to dinner and wore the red dress that made them think you were the most beautiful woman in the world.
They remember school concerts where you clapped the loudest, bedtime stories and birthday cakes.

No one ever sees what you see. I know that. So as a photographer I posted the picture. But as a woman who is human and flawed and a tiny bit vain – I hated it. I felt ashamed of me. And I stopped taking pictures.

I still photographed my sleeping daughter curled into me like a comma but I cut my face from the frame. I shot the book I was reading, the trees near me, my children, the surf, my partner…but not me. Sometimes parts of me made cameos, my feet in the sand, my hand holding a cup of tea, a shoulder, a wisp of hair. But I avoided the camera as much as I could because it was a mirror I was not ready to look into.

I do not write this to garner compliments. I didn’t need reassurance of my value. I didn’t feel worthless. I was still a good person, I was still kind, I was still funny (sometimes) and I was still clever. I was good at my job and I was a mother who was doing her very best and every day woke up trying to do better. I was a good person. I did not feel worthless simply because I did not feel attractive. I read articles frequently that advised that we need to love the body we are in and I felt that that was bullshit. Was it not possible that I could NOT love the body I was in and still be okay? Couldn’t I just look at myself with a critical and unbiased eye and find it lacking but still accept that I was a perfectly good person? So what if I was not pretty or beautiful or sexy? I’m still a worthy human being.

Here is what I know. I may never weigh more than I do right now. I find it so difficult to gain weight. My thighs – no matter how skinny – will always have a few rogue dimples of cellulite. My hips will always bear the stretch marks that crawled across them when I was pregnant with my first daughter. My stomach will never be entirely flat, that loose skin grew too many children and stretched like an old hair tie. It’s not coming back. My breasts will probably never fill out more than a B cup again. My hair will always be unruly and when brushed it will always go frizzy. My eyes are going to have smile lines, I can’t help it – I laugh too much.

BUT…this body? It grew children. It fed them. It carried babies that live in my home and ones that live only in my heart. It has kissed and loved and survived. It has hatched chickens and cooked meals and kneaded dough. It has delivered baby animals and picked flowers and planted herbs. It has walked beaches and forests. It has spun yarn and sewn clothes and worked stitches. It’s bled and cried and laughed and healed. It’s pressed the shutter of a camera thousands of times. It’s read and written. It has made magic.

It is not perfect. It is flawed beyond comprehension, really. It’s what I have. It works. Granted, sometimes it works like the vacuum you have held together with duct tape, but it works. Every morning when I stand in front of the mirror and I stare into my own eyes and tell myself, “You can do this. You’ve got this”, it rallies. I push it. I ask more from it than it deserves. And it rallies. It stands up.

I’m ready now. I am ready to look into that mirror and see what stares back at me. I will not look away. Not because I’m expecting beauty. But because I am expecting strength.

It’s time.

“Can stand up, will stand up…every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?” – BTVS “Chosen”.

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I Would Never.

I would never.

When I was little I did something naughty which I’ve long forgotten and my mother smacked me. I remember saying to her, “When I’m a mum I will never smack my kids.”

I have smacked my kids. Not often and not anymore but yes, I have smacked them. Now days this is a bit taboo. But when I was a kid, it was part of growing up. Maybe we know better now, but most of us survived unscathed so I guess it’s a bit of a wash what happened 30 years ago. I’m not going to debate the merits of smacking or not smacking: that’s a different post. What I want to talk about is ‘I will never’. I want to talk about the line in the sand we draw all the time on different topics and different days. I want to talk about the times you draw the line and at some point your find yourself standing at it and thinking…”I gotta move this.”

Generally I think we draw the line when we see the world in black and white. When you explore the issue further you realise there is a whole spectrum of grey you never knew existed and when you’re standing in the middle of that grey area it’s hard to see your line anymore.

There is a lot of places this comes into effect – abortion, welfare, asylum seekers, homelessness, the death penalty, even murder.

One area that this is a current issue in Australia is the cashless welfare card. The brainchild of someone who has never been on welfare and I doubt runs in circles that has a lot of welfare recipients, the cashless welfare card is basically a debit card that allows the purchase of life’s necessities but doesn’t allow purchases of certain items (gambling, alcohol, cigarettes). In theory that looks okay, I suppose. You can withdraw a very limited sum in cash out of it, so almost every purchase would be tracked to a degree. The flaws in it mean that you cannot buy from markets, home businesses that don’t offer Visa, online shops in many instances, gumtree, buy/swap/sell pages, some people have even reported issues paying their phone bill. And a lot of supporters are like, “Tough shit. Get a job. I pay taxes and so should you.”

Oh. But where is your line in the sand?

I work in the disability sector. My clients are often bed bound with complications from their conditions. As a support worker I frequently have to go to the store for them for bread, milk, medication. Under the contract I have with my workplace I am not allowed to take a debit card to the store. I may take cash only. I return with change and a receipt. If my clients receive a cashless welfare card I can no longer do this shopping for them leaving both my client and myself with some tough choices. If I arrive on shift and my client has run out of a staple item do I breach contract and take the card? Or do they hope they have a friend or family member ready to drop everything and come collect the items they require? They can’t go themselves.

Is that the line? Bed bound disability recipients?

What if my client CAN physically get to their chair but is in pain that day? What if it’s raining? What if they have $20 to last 6 days and they CAN go themselves but the taxi they would have to take would mean that when they got to the shops they no longer had the money to buy the item they needed?

What about my client who needed new wheels for his chair and ordered online? He can’t do that anymore.

Okay, should we draw the line at disability pension? Did we move it already?

What about the long term unemployed? Should we just throw them on the cashless welfare card? I have a friend who has a chronic illness. She is in extreme pain most days but can’t actually get on a disability pension because her lifelong chronic illness was put in the temporary category. Actually, it’s been two years now since her assessment so I should really check if she is cured yet as Centrelink said she would be. I’ve read of people with terminal cancer that have been unable to receive a disability pension.

What about the person that is unemployed and shares a house (because there is no way you could afford to solo rent on Newstart) – how are they paying board? Private rental? Fuggetaboutit. What about those unemployed because of mental illness? That’s not their fault.

Okay. Line in the sand.

Should we target those with known issues? Drug addicts? Alcoholics?

Let’s forget about the root of the issue for a second. Let’s forget that often those issues stem from the aforementioned mental illness issue. Let’s not fund programs for rehabilitation. If we give them the cashless welfare card won’t they just straighten out their act?

Maybe. Or maybe they’ll turn to crime to fund it. Maybe they’ll buy something they CAN buy, like nappies and sell them on a buy/swap/sell page and say they got the wrong size. Maybe they have a myriad of ways around not having to use the card.

Where is your line? Is it still black and white on all welfare recipients? Can you see the greys?

Life is like this a lot.

I would never.

I would never.

I would never have an abortion. Until I was told my 16 week pregnancy was incompatible with life. Until I was told he would not survive. Until I couldn’t be reassured he wasn’t in pain having his brain completely exposed in utero.

“Oh, we didn’t mean you. That’s different.”

So I am afforded compassion in that instance but if I already had a bunch of kids and my contraceptive failed and I’m already working two jobs and I need to keep them because look at how welfare recipients are treated and I get so damn sick when pregnant that my eldest daughter has to bring me my toothbrush and a cup to spit into in my bed – no compassion?

“I guess if you were really sick I understand. It’s just those people that use it as contraception, I can’t stand.”

I would never. I would never.

“I didn’t mean you. I meant career dole bludgers.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those people that come to Australia and don’t want to conform to our laws.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those other people that I have never met. Not you. Not your story.”

Lines in the sand.

I would never.

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Dreaming.

Do you know what I miss about being a child? That feeling that the possibilities were limitless. I never recall a time as a child where I thought there was anything I couldn’t put my mind to and achieve.

That’s probably a credit to the tribe of amazing adults who raised me, my quiet, quirky, hardworking father. My stubborn, humorous, doting grandfather. And the women in my life who I appreciate more and more as I get older. Our family had an over abundance of females, the scales tipped heavily to the second X chromosome. And these women were strong, fierce, funny, clever, creative, talented beyond measure (so much so that I didn’t even realise they were skilled until I went out into the world and discovered these talents were not possessed by everyone). Patient, empathetic women. When we get together in the same room the vibrance created by these women is uplifting. And that’s not to say they have not had heartbreak, disappointment or trials. Because they did. Their strengths show in how they weathered these. Sometimes waiting so patiently, gathering strength in the darkness and then stepping back out into the light and weaving their magic – living – despite those challenges.

So, you see, growing up I believed there was not a single thing I could dream of that wouldn’t be delivered to me should I put my mind to it and decide to do it. I’m not sure at what point I stopped believing this. That I decided to settle for the attainable instead of shooting for what I really wanted. That I became so scared of failure that it seemed safer to try for things I didn’t have to work very hard to get. I think a lot of us do that as we get older. Stop dreaming and start thinking about attainable goals. Which is fine, it’s good in some ways to be realistic. But in other ways it sucks. See, I think dreaming big is like a lot of things – if you don’t use it, you lose it. So when my therapist says, “What do you really want to do?” I come up blank. Literally can’t think of a thing. I can tell her things I can do, or things I plan to do to get from here (point A) to there (point B), but none of those things set my soul on fire. None of them make me excited. None of them make me dream.

And as I get older it’s harder too. I tend to do the math in my head and think, “If I did X I would be Y by the time I finish.” And you know what I read the other day? Someone said the same thing, I can’t remember what it was about but let’s say medicine. They said, “If I studied medicine now I’ll be 43 by the time I finish.” And the other person said, “And how old will you be by then if you don’t study medicine?” And that was an epiphany for me. Because you will be 37 or 43 or 57 anyway. You may as well spend that time doing something you love.

So long story short, I’m going to start dreaming again and see where that takes me. And if I practice really hard perhaps I’ll find something that sets my soul on fire. Perhaps I’ll stop limiting myself with can’t or shouldn’t or sensible, attainable goals and see where I fly off to.

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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.

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A Gift from my Mother.

When I was in high school my great uncle passed away. I didn’t go to the funeral but I went to the gathering at his home afterwards where my cousins and family had come together to celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

My great uncle was the husband of my Nanna’s sister who had died of breast cancer when I was 7. They had 4 children and one of them had daughters who were two years older than me and two years younger than me. Growing up, I had no siblings or first cousins until I was 8, so my second cousins were the closest in my age and my playmates. My family is very close knit so when my cousins lost their grandparents I felt their pain quite keenly. I couldn’t imagine the loss of my own grandparents, in fact even now with them in their 70s and 80s I feel like I’m not ready to do life without them. I’m 35. I’m still not ready. So I couldn’t even fathom that at 7 years old. I’m very aware of how blessed I am. I am thankful every day.

Coming home from my great uncles funeral my friends came over. Way more of them than usual actually and we were all going to walk over to another friend’s house and hang over there. My mother made sausages for everyone, the kind you wrap in a piece of bread and slather with sauce. She was in the kitchen. I was wearing this god awful dress reminiscent of 60s furniture and I felt like I was doing okay, I was a bit subdued but otherwise I felt okay. I don’t know why I remember what I was wearing. Memories are funny things. So I wander into the kitchen and I talk to mum a second about my friends and my plans and they’re all chatting in the lounge room and it just hit me.

He was gone. That life was done. His children and his grandchildren were without him. My grandparents had lost their friend. And I began to cry. Just my eyes filling with tears at first, but soon they became big raw sobs of grief. My mother took me in her arms. And I think I remember this so much because my family is close knit but we are not touchy. Emotions are usually kept pretty in check. I can only remember seeing my mother cry once in my life and I’m sure there have been many tears she has shed in private.

So I’m crying and my mother is holding me and I begin to apologise. I say, “I’m sorry. I know I didn’t know him that well…”
And my mother says, and I will never forget, “That doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know someone well for them to touch your life.”

And I’ve never forgotten that. That day when my mother gave me this gift. That while the sausages fried in a pan and my friends in the next room laughed and talked, my mother gave me one of the most valuable pieces of life advice I ever received.

That we all matter.

That sometimes the most fleeting of contact can change someone’s life.

That our grief does not have to be measured for value against how well we knew someone.

That empathy is one of our most important gifts to the world.

Never lose it.

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The Goat.

Right now I am doing my usual sitting outside on the daybed under my nest of quilts. I am drinking a whiskey. Well, I’ve mixed it with coke but it’s a strong whiskey because I poured the coke in first and then eyeballed it. I have a black cat to my right. And some rogue stuffing from one of the cushions because when I was babysitting my ex husband’s dog this last week it discovered a hole and pulled the stuffing out and danced in it like it was snowing.

I am writing so I won’t think. Here I am brutally honest, raw as I can be but there is this one thing I cannot write about so instead I am sitting here, drinking a strong whiskey with a cat under a nest of quilts and rogue stuffing and missing my mother who is not in the country.

I want to write because it is cathartic but I can’t write about this one thing so I will write about something else instead. I flick through my memories, sifting them through my fingers and hold them to light trying to find one to dive into. Kind of like that basin in Dumbledore’s office where he can dunk his head like a weird wizard baptism and immerse himself in a memory.

What shall I write about? Pain? Joy? Confusion? Heartache? Love?

Okay, I am going to tell you about my goat.

So, a few years back I learnt to spin, I’ve probably told you about this before. I explained how I like to know exactly how to do something. So I use to knit and crochet and then I wanted to learn to spin, which I did, and then I needed to learn how to process raw fleece and I did. And then I decided I want to ‘grow’ the fleece.

So I find some dude selling baby angora goats and I arrange to pick two up. I didn’t realise until I got these babies that they were literally babies. I was actually pretty devastated thinking about it. I brought them home in a crate and when I took them out I realised they still had little dried umbilical cords on. I judged them to be a few days old. My heart just bled thinking of them missing their mamas and the mamas missing their babies but I knew if I took them back he would just sell them to someone else and that most people would think me some kind of bleeding heart, too soft for the country. Which in some ways I am.

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So I decided I was going to be the best mama to these babies ever. They needed to be fed 6 times a day in the beginning and I warmed their bottles diligently and squatted over them, pressing the nipple of the bottle to their mouth. One of them would nurse immediately. The other refused. Even if I opened her mouth and closed it around the nipple she would not suckle. I dribbled as much as I could into her, rhythmically squeezing the nipple and allowing it to build up in her mouth before she would swallow instinctively…but she wouldn’t suckle. It would take me an hour to get a feed into her, milk clotting her fleece near her jaw and running down my arm and leg. I would have to change my clothes after and wash the sour milk smell from my skin. She wasn’t gaining weight like her sister though and she was so timid that when she saw anyone come to her she would hide in a corner and turn her face to the wall. She refused to make eye contact, her beautiful sweet green eyes staring to my side or behind me. I was distraught and worried she would die.

I went to the vets and asked advice. They said that some babies just won’t drink. I could keep doing what I was doing or wait until she got hungry enough to work it out. They warned me that she may not gain weight and would one day not wake up. I tried to wait. But after half a day I felt so bad for this baby, this shy little timid creature I gave up and lay her back on my lap; went back to steadily squeezing milk into her. She never learnt to suck. For 8 weeks I sat with her, day after day, the first feed of the morning at 5am, and got that bottle into her. However long it took. I kept this baby goat alive by sheer stubbornness and determination. You will not die. You will not die on my watch. I am going to show you how to live. By the time she weaned she was eating just fine, the tamest, most beautiful little goat you have ever seen who would run up to me in the yard and nuzzle my hand, snuffle at my face if I was sitting down.

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There are few times in my life that I refused to concede defeat. I’ll put up a good fight, man, but at the end of the day? I know when I’m pushing shit uphill. Only a few times in my whole life have I stood up and said, “This is happening. I am MAKING this happen.” Not letting that baby goat starve herself to death, that was one of those times. And I realised while I was writing this – I have never done that for myself. Anytime I’ve done that it’s been because someone else was at stake. Those times I saw that shit I was pushing uphill and thought, “Screw it. I’ll move the mountain, because this? THIS is moving, damn it.” But never for me. For me, I lie down and take it. But when there is shit to be moved – you want me to have your back. Because God fucking damnit…I will fight until I’m bloody for you.

Aren’t I worth as much as a goat? Can’t I fight for me? Get up. Move the goddamn mountain.

Also? I’m out of whiskey.

Save Yourself.

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Years ago someone told me a story about their best friend. In this story the best friend (from here on out known as The Woman) was madly in love with a guy.

Over time my memory of the story and what I pictured has merged so I’m going to tell it like I pictured it, it may not be exact and I am going to call it creative license or avoiding libel – take your pick.

Okay.

So the woman is madly in love. She is young, 19 and stunningly beautiful. Tall with long dark hair and wide set blue eyes. The man she is in love with is a bit of a bad boy. When I imagine him back then I picture someone a little like one of the guys from The Outsiders, rough and slicked back hair and maybe he wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. They dated for a long time and she really wanted to marry him. But he didn’t seem like he was ever going to propose so she decided to call his bluff. She left him. Let’s take a second to applaud this woman for leaving someone who wasn’t giving her what she wanted or needed from life. This is very hard when you love someone.

Shortly after she found another man and he proposed and she accepted. Now here is the part that is sad. She thought the Outsider was going to stop her. In the weeks leading up to the wedding she expected he would roll up on his motorcycle and confess his love. She believed he would realise that he was letting this amazing, funny, beautiful woman just slip through his fingers and say, “I love you. Pick me.” Because that is what all women really want (and probably men too) – to be chosen. Day after day.

Right up to the wedding, as she was saying her vows she completely expected the Outsider to turn up, bust down the doors of the church and announce his objection. When the ceremony ended with no sign of him she couldn’t believe it. She was shocked and desperately heartbroken that he had let her go without a second thought.

This story has a happy ending because the woman was actually very happy with her husband, they had kids, travelled, lived life and loved each other until the very end. But that is not how it began and that is not the point. It could just as easily have gone the other way and she walk out of there miserable and stuck until one of them realised they needed a divorce.

So the point is, many people have spent too long waiting for something or someone to show up. Have spent days that spiralled out into weeks or months or years even waiting for their Outsider to come and change their life. I do it all the time, I make promises to myself that if this one thing happens then I will do this. I wait for other people to change their mind. I wait for someone else to tell me I’m valuable, wanted, loved, worth it. You cannot hinge your life on hope. Hope is a valuable ingredient in life, essential in fact, but it’s a lot like flour…unless you add in some eggs and milk and sugar, you ain’t never going to have a cake, baby. Stop looking for your Outsider to come save you.

Save yourself.

Dad.

I’m going to tell you a secret. It took me years to love my dad properly. I didn’t understand him really. He was never a mean dad, he joked with me, I have a picture of us on the beach, him giving me a piggy back so I know he played with me when I was small. But as a child I took those things for granted. But mum was my go to, alright. I knew mum bought all the birthday and Christmas presents and Dad was just as surprised as me to see what was inside, I knew mum cooked the dinner and washed the clothes.

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My dad, seemed this odd mystery to me. He disappeared in the morning before I was awake and came home and lay down on the couch where most nights he promptly fell asleep. He was always really into things I didn’t understand, like cycads and palms and occasionally I would be pressed into watering these which I really begrudged. He was always finding things he loved and bringing them home like rocks and cow skulls and broken birds that would chirp on top of the bathroom mirror light where it was warm while I brushed my teeth. He would sometimes say to me, “What do you think of this design? Do you think it would make a good chair?” And I would be bewildered by this because I didn’t know if he was planning to quit his job and become a chair maker. One time mum and I had to role play customers while he pretended to sell us smoke alarms. The falling asleep on the couch alarmed me. My friends and I creeping by him on the way to my room dodging the cup on its side on the floor where he had been practising his putting before he fell asleep. Sometimes he would have two TVs going in the same room – both on sport – and he would be asleep in front of them.

It took me years – I’m embarrassed to admit – before I realised he was sleeping because he was exhausted. My dad would get up early and go to work and often stop by the family farm on the way home to round up cattle or feed them or fix something. I never connected these absent hours to the sleeping on the couch. He worked and worked and he was tired. In my childhood innocence I didn’t connect this with the yellow pay packets that came home, with the clothes on my back, with the food on the table, with the tennis lessons or tae-kwon-do lessons or those Christmas presents he was just as surprised at as me when I opened them.

It took me years to think…oh. My dad went a great many years dreadfully under appreciated by me. When I sit with him now a part of me whispers “I see you, I see you, I see you.” because for years he was invisible to me. And I learnt that my dad is funny, he tells hilarious stories. He is quirky. He is kind to animals which I think shows great character in a man. He will fix something before he throws it away, or at least have the intention to. He loves my mother in a way that blows me away. Years ago on my wedding night my mother fell asleep and he came in and stroked her hair and said, “God, she is so beautiful.” And I thought how magical to have someone love you so fiercely even while you’re asleep that he blurts out his love and you never even know.

So there it is. My dad. Happy Father’s Day. I see you.

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.