Sunday, October 27, 2013

Taking Care

Taking care isn't easy, is it? Of yourself, I mean, taking care of yourself isn't easy. There are a million different demands - real ones like 'Muuuuuum, I needs my breakfast.' or perceived societal ones 'Be smart, fit and fabulously sociable at all times' and then all the basic demands of daily life, you all know what I'm talking about. And Anxiety,my constant, tireless task master, just makes the job seem impossible.  

So where does the taking care of yourself start? This week. I've had quite a few people tell me that I need to take care of myself, so I am taking their advice.

I've accepted help from friends.

I've been to a counsellor who shared a superb piece of advice: to walk every day and while you walk, to fully engage your five senses - can you see ants on the path, birds in the trees? What can you smell? What does the air feel like on your skin, the earth under your feet? What sounds reach your ears? What can you taste in the air?  This technique brings you out of your mind and into your body and lifts your spirit. It gives rest to your thinking brain.

I had a massage with hot stones - this had the same effect.

I went to see the movie 'About Time' with my wonderful luthier. I am a huge fan of Richard Curtis's writing and films and this gorgeous, insightful story did not let me down. In fact, it could've been written just for me, so perfect was its message for my life, right at this moment.

Pay attention, breathe it all in, see, smell, hear, touch and taste it and love every second of it, of this life we have, of this precious time we are given. Use your five senses to be in this moment. This one. Not that one tomorrow, or that shit one yesterday, or the dreamed up one that has never happened and possibly never will. 

This one.

This one where I am lying on the deck with Kevin, barefoot in the sunshine, listening to the kids squabble on the trampoline. 

I am working hard to quit my taskmaster and taking care of myself seems to do the trick.

I am here and I am enough. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I don't even know what to say about the last two weeks whether to laugh, cry or spontaneously combust in a smokey puff of anxiety.

Our Sach has been in the hospital, two hospitals actually and it has been scary and hard for all of us. There has been a barrage of tests - CT scans, cystograms, a cystoscopy and ultrasounds. He has had so many nuclear medicine scans, I think he might glow in the dark. He's had a barrage of medication - morphine endone, ketamine, medazalam, kephalexin, not to mention the anaesthetic drugs for surgery. Diagnoses have ranged from appendicitis, to a mass in the liver,, hydronephroses and now we are sitting with a dodgy kidney and abnormal ureters until the next tests. The kid knows more about canulas and catheters and worst of all, his nemesis, the dreaded medical tape, than is right for a boy of 8.

So incredibly grateful that excellent free medical help is here for us when we need it. 

And thank goodness he faced it all with confidence, spirit, intelligence and humour (and sometimes, inexplicably, with a Scottish accent). He could verbalise fears and demand that every nurse and doctor stop right there and explain exactly what they were going to do before they did it. He screamed when he was scared or in pain, he didn't swallow it up or pretend it wasn't happening. He made demands and tried to control what little of what was happening to him could be controlled. He took no shit.  And I am so grateful, (not for the screaming, I could totally do without the screaming) but for his honesty and spirit and confidence.

I am grateful that, even though this is not over for him, with more tests and a final plan to be established, this can probably be managed. I am grateful that he went through it surrounded by loving family: his mother or father sleeping at his side in hospital every night; his brother and sister playing with him in the children's ward play room, catheter bag in tow; his big cousin playing endless games of that great card game - 'Oh Shit' taught to him by the lovely teacher on the ward and his Gran, aunts and uncle all there to love and support him.

I am so grateful for his gorgeous school friends who came to visit, sent gifts and messages to 'get well soon'. For the friends who cooked us food, visited and made sure we arrived home to a clean house and a care package. That is love! 

I am especially grateful to Ronald McDonald House, who provided us with safe comfort and respite at such a stress-soaked time. Thanks to them we could rest, we could keep our family together for Sophie's birthday which we celebrated with cake in an isolation room in the children's ward. She declared it a 'shit day' but at least it was unforgettable.

We may not all support the McDonalds menus for kids but the service they provide through Ronald McDonald houses, to families like us, who have to travel for the medical treatment of their children, can not be underestimated. It can not.  Nor can the generosity of the companies or volunteers who come in and cook meals for parents in the houses, or those that donate toys and food and other comforts to these parents at their most stressed and most vulnerable. 

If you can help a Ronald McDonald house, in any way, I urge you to. They are doing good. 

I am grateful my son was not the boy with chronic skin conditions that had been in hospital for months, who had no visitors for the whole time we were there. Grateful not to be the mother of the twins with developmental problems so bad that they are violent and can't live together. They have to take turns being at home and in care.

Grateful that he is out of hospital.
Grateful that there is hope that there will be a plan and an end.

Exhausted and still anxious as hell. 
But so lucky. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Something Beautiful

Sometimes you need to see something beautiful. 

'Illumination' is an exhibition of the work of Tasmanian landscape painter, Philip Wolfhagan currently showing at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in a Hobart. 

Philip's work not only illuminates but transports to the wild, Tasmanian sky, scrub and sea. His 'scapes evoke the sense that our island exists right at the edge of civilisation and our rugged Wild only just tolerates White Man's intrusion. Being in Tasmania's unforgiving Nature makes you feel that prehistory for this island was not that long ago. 

I walked into this exhibition and did not want to leave. It applied itself like a balm to my grief wounds, the soothing familiarity, the light, air and earth of this wild island was all there, like family and home.

A short film plays of Philip Wolfhagan and his work and I am seduced by the life of the artist. Walking into his studio, pulling out a huge canvas, mixing his earthy hues with beeswax, taking the pallet knife to it and letting the blues, whites, greys and blacks reveal the torrid Tasmanian sky or the turgid sea all to an orchestral soundtrack that fills his lightwashed workspace. 

Sometimes we all need to see something beautiful. Beauty to lift the spirit, to illuminate, to resonate, it is essential.