The morning sunlight filters through my bedroom blinds and burns through my eye lids. That and a mild throbbing sensation in my head the only remnants of last nights ugly cry induced migraine. Ugh. I put the pillow over my head and briefly wish I hadn’t woken up, now or perhaps ever. As I struggle to get out of bed, nausea envelops me and I am momentarily still while my body decides weather or not it’s going to expel the contents of my stomach.
Yesterday was hard, we had a car accident. I hesitate to call it a trauma because we weren’t injured and the car is repairable, but the fact that nobody was killed is possibly a miracle but it took a toll somewhere inside us.
I wasn’t driving. Well, I guess I kind of was, we were, technically. I saw it but I didn’t, it’s hard to explain – some memories here are belonging to her, some my own, there were so many gaps which she filled in later, but I can’t claim them or do her emotions justice with my words.
I only saw the truck when it was in front of our car, like it was right there, it was going to hit us, then I saw a blur of trees, a white car, a blur of other cars, then more trees. Then suddenly we were stopped, there was a gum tree, the car was on an angle up against it, we were okay.
Maybe I was in a daze, watching intermittent images pass through that familiar dissociative tunnel. I saw her shaking fingers trying to call our husband, then I saw a truck pass us slowly, it was in the lane we’d been in, then I saw a frazzled looking man with a bright yellow top and a ruddy face that matched his hair, he was coming towards us quickly.
I heard him say something, probably asking her if she was okay, she was trying to explain what happened but she was crying very hard, he thought he could get the car free of the tree and I briefly noticed his white truck parked on the side of the highway about 30m in front of my car, but it wasn’t a tow truck to get our car, it was different.
Then I saw us hand him our keys and he dislodged the silver sedan we had borrowed from our father out of the poor gum tree. I know he’d asked if we were sure we were going to be ok because I vaguely remember her saying we were fine and thank you but he could go because our husband was on his way.
I saw him get back in his truck and drive on and thought it vaguely odd that he did a U turn at the next farm gate, shouldn’t he be going the same direction? He must have passed on the other side of the road already and turned around to check on us. That was kind, nobody else stopped. I saw as we waved ‘thank you’ as he passed by. I saw things in bits and pieces but I was emotionally numb, I couldn’t feel her anguish, I couldn’t understand why she felt it.
I remember feeling guilty though, as her body, our body was heaving with violent sobs and she begged me, begged anyone to please come out, to let her escape this moment or at least help her stop crying, stop her making a fool out of herself as she always did.
She told us over and over she wasn’t strong enough to cope, she wanted to run onto the road in front of the next car and fix the Devine mistake that had apparently spared her, spared us. But I felt paralysed, I couldn’t move or speak or do anything to take her emotional pain away, I couldn’t last time either.
Someone, probably Suzi gently explained she needed to stay there right now, she had to preserve her memory for the police report we needed to file and if we involved ourselves or took over she might forget or get confused then the driver of the truck that had kept going after causing the accident couldn’t be caught. She told her to inhale slowly and spell B.R.E.A.T.H.E in her head and again as she exhaled, over and over until her sobs slowed.
I don’t know how Suzi stays calm in situations that are out of our control like this, she always seems to know what to do where as I can only seem to shut down and watch like a pathetic bystander. I just kept repeating ‘I’m sorry’ over and over, but I don’t know if she heard me.
I heard her tell our husband her story later, between shaking breath and heaving sobs, I heard as she spoke of driving along the straight stretch of two lane highway, how she saw a truck approaching in the opposite lane with a yellow “wide load” flag on its front bumper.
She spoke of noticing it “wasn’t that wide” and “well within its lane” then as she got closer it suddenly wasn’t in its lane, but it wasn’t because it was wide, it was because perhaps the driver wasn’t paying attention for just a moment and drifted over, taking our entire lane.
That was the moment I had seen the truck I guess, one big bull bar coming right at us, almost like it was aiming for us intentionally.
She had swerved hard to the left to try and avoid hitting it and we found ourselves heading for trees at 100km per hour, she must have panicked and swerved violently back again but of course (understandably) over corrected, someone insiders screamed “No!! We’re in Dads car!”
Then suddenly I saw there was a white car, like the truck it was right there, right in front of us, the drivers life must have flashed before their eyes; it had been behind the truck.
She pulled the wheel back the other way over correcting once again, but this time she couldn’t get control back and we went off the road through the grass and skidded into a tree.
It could have been so much worse.
The truck had just kept going and the cars behind had just kept going too. More cars passed by, dozens of them along the busy highway, even a police car went by as we sat there shocked. But nobody stopped.
We sat there, the front side of the car wedged in the hill of tree bark and bracken and ugly cried, our heart rate alarm went off on our iWatch around then breaking the shock momentarily, 40 beats per minute, oddly too low, not too high.
I struggled to understand why she was so upset, why I felt so frozen. On one hand I could grasp that it could be a frightening situation, but empathy isn’t my strong suit. We weren’t hurt, we hadn’t hurt or killed anyone else, the car was repairable.
Maybe it was partly because it felt like such a metaphor for our life, nobody had ever seemed to notice when we were struggling, people never seemed to realise when we needed help, they all just watched on oblivious as we crumbled.
She finally got her sweaty fingers compliant enough to dial the right numbers in the right order and reached our husband who comforted her through the sobs, told her to phone the police and said he would be there as soon as possible.
She called the police to ask what to do, the officer who had answered sounded so young, she was embarrassed because she was still ugly crying, struggling to form a coherent sentence, he spoke kindly but she knew he must think that she was such a cry baby, so pathetic and stupid.
He offered to send a car to take a statement but she’d declined, too humiliated by the seemingly unstoppable and unnecessary flow of tears. He told her to come into the station and make a report within 24 hours, that maybe they’d be able to catch the truck driver that had run us off the road or maybe a witness would come forward with a statement or dashcam footage.
She hung up, distraught with the situation, disappointed in society and torn between all the feelings that had overwhelmed her; she could have died and yet in the end so much of the reason she was crying was because she didn’t.
She’d had her perfect out and she didn’t take it, instead she’d broken her fathers car and in her shame, another piece of her heart.
She wrote on Twitter with shaking fingers, desperately trying to distract herself or vent I guess, torn up that several people had witnessed the accident and yet nobody had stopped.
A good 10-15-20 minutes later, I really don’t know how long it was, it felt like a lifetime to her, but then again, time is never linear for us, through our misty glasses and blurred teary eyes she noticed a fluro yellow shirt coming towards the car, someone had finally pulled over.
I couldn’t tell you what flowers I had on my wedding day, nor what food was at the reception or a single vow we made – I only know my father walked me down the isle because I had to ask my mother if he had or not once years ago after someone had asked and I suddenly had the painful realisation that I didn’t know. And while she confirmed that he had, all memories of that day are purely visual and confined to still images of photographs in my album, so I suppose I hold memories of the photos not the actual event, no sounds, no smells, no feelings, no movies in my mind.
I don’t remember much about growing up in general, try as I might I don’t remember my step siblings visiting in school holidays I couldn’t tell you how to get around my high school.
Yet for some unknown reason, I was gifted happy memories the other day stretching back to around 5yrs old and I could now take you on a detailed virtual tour of my childhood friend Jess’s house as it was in 1991. I can smell the Daphne bush in her front garden, you know, the one next to the shrub with the sour tasting pomegranates.
I could show you the wooden laughing Buddha statue that lived in the little entry way by the brown front door, to the right is the formal lounge room, we aren’t supposed to go in there but we like to sneak in anyway, the leather couch smells nice and there’s a great hiding place behind it next to the fancy looking hand painted ceramic table/vase looking thing, I have to be careful not to break it because it’s very special and I’m clumsy.
On the left side is the dining room with the cupboard that has the good board games, Hungry Hippos, Guess Who and my favourite, Mouse Trap! There’s a sliding door at the other end of the table leading to the galley kitchen with its yellow and white splash back tiles and the yellow 70s counter tops, there’s a window overlooking their next door neighbours backyard, two kids live there that we play with sometimes, they like cartoons like Batman.
There’s a big opening on the left side and you can see into the family room where the TV is and straight ahead is the freezer with icy poles then the wooden door with glass panels leading to the steps down into the backyard, go down there and you’ll be greeted by her Dalmatian dog, he’s very big and spotty like the dogs in the 101 Dalmatian book, he has a red collar and a huge wooden kennel that is fun to climb on and hide inside, their old hills hoist clothes line is great to hang off and spin around on but be careful you don’t land in dog poo if you fall off!
Back inside there’s a hallway off the family room, the study on the left is painted blue with a wicker chair, next to that is the laundry then the toilet and the bathroom down the end is Jess’s brothers room, he likes toy guns and models of army planes and there’s some hanging on his roof. On the right is Jess’s parents room, we are not allowed in there either, they are getting a new extension to have an en-suite- how fancy! My Mum wishes she had one like it.
The next room down is Jess’s room, she has a really pretty purple room now and it’s always really tidy, purple is Jess’s favourite colour in the whole world, she has a new white bunk bed but there’s no bottom bed, she has shelves instead to put her toys on, she has SO MANY wishing trolls, they all have different coloured hair and there’s even ones dressed like doctors and other cool things! She likes music, she has a keyboard and it has a demo mode which plays fun songs we can dance to.
Jess also has a really big basket filled up with dress ups, there’s even high heel shoes and long necklaces to make us look really fancy. I want to have a new wishing troll, I gave mine hair cuts and they don’t look very good anymore.
I sit on the dirty white shag pile carpet in the hallway of my childhood home and glance up catching a sudden movement from the corner of my eye.
There’s a young girl looking at me intently, she has long blonde wavy hair, wise blue eyes and a quizzical expression on her face, we’ve never met before but she seems somehow familiar and I find myself drawn to her with an unexplainable intensity as though she’s somehow a part of me, a soulmate.
My body tingles in anticipation and I wonder who she is; is she a ghost or a spirit of someone I once knew in a past life or perhaps someone I may come to know in the future?
I question momentarily where she’s come and how she’s come to be here before standing up and reaching out to touch her. She stands also and holds her hand out to meet mine, I grin, she grins back but neither of us speak, we don’t have to, we can feel each other’s thoughts, each other’s emotions, there are no need for words.
We stand for a while, hand to hand, radiant energy flowing between us, both aware we should see only a reflection of ourselves here and yet today, instead we see only a reflection of each other.
With her on her side and I on mine, the mirror becomes our secret portal from one realm to another and we stay a moment in this shared understanding, knowing that what ever happens, we will always have each other.
I run my fingers across the photo album at the smiling faces of the children I know intellectually to be mine, those chubby cheeks and mischievous grins stare up at me from the pages and I can’t help but feel my heart break a little for never having known them through those formative years, for not being able to hold them in my arms when they cried, watch them blow out their birthday candles or share in their journeys as they grew from babies into young men.
I see those images now and I can’t let go of the fact that they were taken through someone else’s eyes, that those moments of laughter, successes and sadness’s were captured and shared by another who was hidden by my skin. Now I sit here and feel that loss for a moment, so heavy in my chest as I struggle to try and recognise something, anything from those pictures that can connect me to those moments, let me feel those memories but instead only a pang of jealousy passes through me for they were not mine to hold.
Years have gone by so very fast and once again time seems to have left me in its wake, stolen so many precious moments that I can never re-claim as my own, now this grief grips so strongly yet it is so incomprehensible and silent to those around us.
I wanted so badly to be their mother, yet I was too young, too naïve, too afraid and now I can never get that opportunity back again, they have grown up without me, perhaps in a way alongside me.
This sadness runs so deep because it is such a lonely one, cloaked by the convincing mask of a picturesque life, how do you begin to explain a loss that nobody knows you had, that nobody else can ever see?
They say not to wallow in your regrets, that you cannot change the past, only learn from it, that we only do the best we can at the time with the tools we have available to us and I know there’s truth in those statements, but I do so wish, that perhaps I could have lived my own life, not hidden away from it as I did, given myself a chance to be okay.
One day soon I may wake up with silver hair, the lines in my skin a well-worn roadmap of a life I never lived, and as I trace those wrinkles on my hands, maybe I will follow them all the way up to my heart and finally find those missing pieces, find those hidden memories and have a chance to hold those smiling faces and chubby cheeks once again in my mind, but this time feel them as my own.
So Mr 15 has decided that school is absolutely unequivocally not for him and that he is going to drop out and do an apprenticeship. This leaves different parts of us feeling conflicting things. Suzi is encouraging him to leave, she says she believes that school is a toxic environment for him ( there have been bullying issues and he struggles academically), she thinks he isn’t gaining anything from staying there and for his mental health and wellbeing this is a practical and ideal solution.
I disagree with his choice from a ‘but what if <insert catastrophic thinking here> happens and you don’t have a year 12 certificate to fall back on’ perspective, if I am honest with myself I realise that as Suzi says, “school isn’t for everyone”, I also realise that his personality is much better suited to working in the trade than an academic career path and I am probably mostly just afraid he will end up feeling regretful like I do.
As much as I don’t want to be THAT mother who lives vicariously through their children by pushing them into a career they hate, I’ve always held high hopes that my kids would do well at school, at least well enough so that they can choose what they want to do not be forced into a job they hate because they lack education.
I guess the fear lives inside of me that they too will end up as a 35yr old suffering from an identity/career/midlife crisis because they dropped out, have no qualifications, are unable to access education due to having to work a job they don’t enjoy to support their family, wondering what their life could have looked like if they had just stayed in school long enough to realise they maybe had some potential after all.
But I digress… From a mental health perspective, we couldn’t have chosen a career at 18 anyway, we probably couldn’t choose one now even if we had an opportunity to go to University tomorrow and study anything because we still have such different wants in that regard.
I know I come across as selfish and unappreciative of having the family that I do – and maybe to some degree I am, but I am working on recognising that as a whole, we did the best we could at the time.
Suzi’s so damn zen and practical about these things that it annoys the crap out of me sometimes, especially when she’s right. But I suppose we’re just different people, she loves being a mother, she likes our job, she likes being out on the farm and is quite content with just living in the moment, I’m happy that she’s happy in that role but it irks me too because she lacks goals and dreams.
Others have goals that are (IMO) too out of reach or unappealing such wanting to study medicine, play team sports, live overseas and learn new languages.
I want to travel a bit and write, join a improv group and live alone but in a big city. I hate cooking, I hate obligations, I hate my job. I love learning new things and experiencing stuff, I want to be able to drink wine, go out dancing and recite poetry in darkened hideaway bars at three am.
As we’re younger than our husband and he’s a smoker, aside from the obvious suicide related mental health risks, from a physical health perspective we should theoretically live longer than him and thusly I have decided that I get to claim old age for ME bugger the others, and I can finally be who I want to be then – so maybe I will be that crazy old lady, with the funky grey and bright pink hair finally studying journalism at University, frequenting comedy clubs on the weekends and jetting off to exotic overseas destinations on a whim. A gal can only dream…
Do you live vicariously through your kids?
We are staying with the parents at the moment, Mum had her hip surgery last week and Dads Alzheimers is progressing rather rapidly at the moment so sadly he’s just not capable of looking after her anymore and really he relies heavily on her in general.
Mum is doing really well, she has minimal pain and seems to be healing well, the trouble is she’s on crutches and Dad has a really bad hand tremor and arthritis so carrying things from A to B is hard and Mum isn’t allowed to bend very far because of the surgery and Dad cant because he isn’t steady enough and he now gets extremely frustrated and has angry outbursts when he cant do things.
So they need me to help them with quite a few things and take them to and from places as Mum can’t drive for 6 weeks and Dad really shouldn’t drive anymore but due to a bearocratic oversight hasn’t had his licence officially pulled yet (this will be quietly discussed with his Dr before I take him to his next appointment) and so he still thinks its ok because he legally can – which is becoming tricky.
The goal is to get Mum as independent as possible as soon as possible while i can still be here as back up because I have to think about my own home and the 4 kids, pets, depressed husband I have temporarily abandoned and am also trying to figure out the logistics of closing down a business and job hunt simultaneously and did I mention the random trigger of unexpectedly having to deal with one of the sexual abuse perpetrators from my past? I might have several people living in my head but sadly we cant physically seperate and do different tasks simultaneously (God that would be handy right now!)
My parents are also… um…. sorry, I’m trying to think of a nice word for “hoarders”. That word isn’t really accurate as they certainly aren’t find your way through the stacks of newspapers and old bandaids style of hoarder, more of the kind Marie Kondo would help out, its just a LOT of STUFF and also a pile of canned goods that Doomsday Preppers would be impressed by.
Now lot’s of people have lots of stuff, and that is fine – if it makes them happy. However “The Junk” is a source of anxiety for my mother, it’s become too overwhelming and frankly now that they are getting older and having health problems, I deem it a safety hazard and it’s time for them to hire a skip and let me help them make some big decisions about what they actually need.
So a big goal of mine was to sort out the two spare rooms, my mothers wardrobe and the kitchen and pantry which are all overflowing and everything inside is completely inaccessible – this isn’t helped by the fact that Dad forgets he has things and buys more of them and Mum cant find or get to things she already has amongst the junk and buys more also.
I have started with the food situation, I wanted to get the multiple large storage tubs which were filled with mostly canned goods, soup mixes etc out of the spare room and condense all food stuffs to strictly the kitchen and spares into the large cupboard in the adjoining laundry so they could actually see everything and access it easily.
This was a tougher feat than I expected, there was just SO MUCH of it. For example, over 50 cans of tuna. The response to my comments on this were “but we like tuna”. I explained that its fine to like tuna but these cans had been inaccessible to them for well over two years and had been slowly building in that room prior to that time, I threw away and entire wheelie bin full of canned goods that were several years past their expiry dates (going back to used by 2004!)
This is Mt Continental: (and then I found another couple of bags full after this pic was taken)
Now once again, it’s great that you like soup, it’s great that you want to have flavour options available, HOWEVER… nobody needs 47 packets of Italian Ministroni, I am pretty sure that the shop doesn’t even have that many on display on their shelves!
So I didn’t take a before photo of the laundry cupboard was just full of junk randomly stuffed in and hiding expired and exploded cans of baked beans (around 32 expired back in 2007).
They didn’t want to me to throw stuff out of course so I filled it up neatly and in used by date order, oldest to the front. This is a work in progress photo as I need to fit more things in here and will pop down to Ikea tomorrow for some suitable storage solutions.
(Mum has since said that she is willing to donate some of the canned good
Tackling the four wardrobes and a chest of drawers full of my mums clothes and shoes will probably be one of the hardest things, after moving all that food out of the “spare” room I managed to weave a path to the wardrobe in the back which had not been opened since roughly 2010.
I have at least managed to get mum to agree to donate those clothes, but only because they are 3 sizes too big for her! I am not even going to attempt to talk to her about her books, she could basically start her own thrift shop/ library at this point!
I should go to sleep, its 1am and I have a chest cold and a lot to do tomorrow.
Do you collect “junk” or are you more of a minimalist?
Do you have any tips for reducing the clutter? Let me know in the comments!
(From 27th March 2019)
I miss writing here, my soul aches for it’s powerful release and yet I can barely bring myself to stare at that blank page for more than a moment while the curser blinks on, mocking me.
It’s not that I have nothing to say, you all know me well enough by now to realise I could talk the hind leg off a donkey, but it feels like I’m being sidelined by an invisible force field as I try to gather enough courage to simply vomit out my relentless thoughts without somehow being hurt in the process.
The rejection I feel is apparently still too raw for me to handle writing, reading or socialising and I’m left to quietly stew in a mixture of tainted self betrayal that simmers on behind the scenes while I hide behind a convenient mask of ‘busyness’.
Life goes on around me in fits, starts and backwards circles as it always has. I fall seamlessly in and out of consciousness as weeks and months pass by then BAM!
Flashbacks hit again like stray bullets filled with molten shame and I find myself emotionally bleeding out on the floor.
There are different causes for it all of course, we each hold different keys to our unique Pandora’s box of shame but it always ultimately comes back to some undeniable un-live-withable knowledge that we are ultimately unacceptable.
But we’re not okay with living like that anymore, we want it to change, we want to fix it.
Stuffs been going on, never a dull moment around here, big stuff, small stuff, sad stuff, weird stuff. I know we wrote about some of it. It’s apparently April in a few days, but the year’s escaped me already. That familiar chill of winter has set in, days are shorter and fog clouds the hills as it does my mind yet still the earth keeps turning.
We dyed our blonde hair a dark red/black combination a while ago, we did it for those insiders that see themselves as brunette and have felt less than heard for a long time, perhaps a life time.
– this photo is of V just after leaving the hairdresser, she was so incredibly happy to finally see her own reflection in a mirror!
This secret vision quest for authenticity has taken us down a rocky, winding, less travelled road we honestly never saw coming. God there’s a whole lotta potholes in it too but at least I can finally believe we’re heading vaguely in the right direction.
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