Gaining Perspective

9 09 2012

I’ve been feeling fragmented lately.  Things just don’t seem to fit together well anymore.  2012 has been a year of change and reassessment of priorities and relationships.  Grief does that.  It brings a new perspective on life.  It also makes time pass slowly – days seem like weeks, hours seem like days, and minutes seem like hours.  Grief forces you to live in the ‘now’ because the past is painful and doesn’t exist anymore, and it is all too apparent that the future may never come.  I’ve been reflecting on my life. Less than a year ago, Beth died suddenly, aged 64.  I’m faithfully putting money into my superannuation scheme so that when I finally retire at 65, I’ll have enough money to eke out a living and do some things that I’d LIKE to do instead of what I HAVE to do.

I’ve got twenty years of my working life ahead of me.  I started to think…  Do I want to be spending  my life this way?  Is this really what I want to do?  Could I really do this kind of work for another twenty years?  Can I really tolerate ‘cublicle land’ for that long?  Do I want to spend two hours a day commuting through traffic?  Could I be doing something else?  What do I want to do?  What if I don’t make it to 65 either?  Would I be content that I’d spent all this time doing something I don’t really care about?  

Sure, I’ll be able to take a trip when I retire but why am I working so hard now for something that might never happen?   Urgghhh.

When those BIG questions in life start rolling around inside, they gather momentum and before you know it, everything is being questioned.  Nothing remains safe – every rock will be looked under, every cobweb blown out in the quest to rearrange, restructure, revitalise.

I needed a new perspective.  I felt like I was looking too closely at things and needed a bigger picture.  About a month ago, just before midday on a Friday I heard a helicopter zoom over my city office and knew instantly that a flight in a chopper was something I needed to do.  I don’t like flying and have been trying to work through the reasons why, so that I can take trips without being totally anxious.  I decided a helicopter flight would help me gain some perspective on life, conquer my fears or just scare some sense into me!!!  I booked for us to go for a Saturday morning flight over the city to the coast and back.  

It was fantastic.  I’ve lived in this city for over 30 years and could pick out roads, parks, sporting fields, buildings.  It was all so familiar but looked so different. It was just what I needed.  Sweeping views of the Swan River, the city foreshore, the port and coastline.  I loved being high above it all looking down and caught in a perspex bubble.  It was a perfect day and I didn’t know it then, but it started the ball rolling.  I flew without issue and realised I needed to make some big changes.  Life would be different from now on.  Life would be for living, for enjoying.  Now and in the future.

Perth city | Langley Park Foreshore | heading east


Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

4 08 2012

Growth – even in a hole in the granite.

This week’s challenge is to portray Growth – a part of life.  This plant makes the most of what is available – a one inch hole left in the granite which it found by a miracle.  It shelters in the cleft of the rock; not complaining that it doesn’t have enough, not lamenting that it doesn’t get much chance, not wondering how long it will be there.  Just growing.  Basking in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth and collecting rain as it falls. Growing. Surviving. Flourishing.  Maybe I need to get back to basics too.




A new name – A new identity

27 06 2012

I’ve changed my name.  After nearly twelve years together, I decided to adopt my partner’s family name and it feels really, really good.  In Western Australia, we are not able to marry or celebrate a ‘civil partnership’ or ‘registered relationship’ so changing my name is a visible sign of our commitment as well as the love and rings we share.

I’m quite surprised actually because I’ve never had any inclination to change my name but I’ve never really liked it either.  I have always been called “Louise” even though it is my middle name.  It has been awkward and annoying to continually explain that it’s not that I don’t like my first name, I’ve just never been called by it.  People insist I tell them what my “real” name is.  So, my “real” first name is now Louise and I’ve taken my partner’s family name.

Despite not really liking my original full name, I have been quite possessive and fought to protect it.   Some time ago I worked for a company which changed its corporate logo and lettering format so everything appeared in lower case.  everything.   It became the standard format for all stationery including business cards and name badges.  Apart from the fact that I think proper nouns should have a capital letter, it irritated me to think that they could ‘brand’ my name to match theirs.  (I now work at a company that uses all capitals – hahaha!!)

2012 has been a tumultuous year.  We’ve muddled through a year of grief with the family after the sudden loss of Beth last year.  It affects all we do.  Six months later, we still have ‘crying’ days which is only natural as we miss her presence every day and it is only really starting to sink in.  During the time we’ve spent with the family, they have drawn me in and brought me close which has been beautiful.  Beth was always the one to ease me into the circle, to create opportunities for me to be included.  When she died, I wondered where I’d be without her and where I’d stand when the very close family drew in even closer.  As it turns out, I was right in the middle there with them.

A name for the rest of the journey

So it seemed only fitting that I change my name to reflect who I am and how I feel.  Names really do hold so much of our identity.   I feel like I can let go of a lot of things now, a lot of stuff from the past that belongs with that me.  I won’t forget or banish them, but they’re just not me anymore.  This is a new threshold, a new name for the rest of my journey, and I like it.

Even in Beth’s passing she has helped me to feel included in the family and proud to stand with them so I’m glad to make that official.  I know Beth would be proud that another has joined her clan and I’m glad I’ve finally taken the plunge (even though the paperwork is a nightmare!!).  We saw Dad on the weekend and he’d prepared a sign for ‘The Newest Member’ which was stuck on a six pack of beer.  I was so glad to see him although he did say:   “Now you’re one of us, you’ll have to drink beer you know“.

Oh dear, if only I’d known…  🙂


Dear Beth, I miss you.

5 04 2012

Dear Beth,
you’ve been gone for 16 weeks. 16 weeks today.
I don’t care what the date was, I’ll always know it was a Thursday. I was there when the phone rang at 5.30am, wrenching us from sleep with an instant knowing that something was wrong. No one rings at that hour. Blinking my eyes quickly I saw my beloved standing in the doorway, her face horrified, clutching her chest in disbelief, yelling at Dad. I sat up, my heart was pounding and tried to make my ears work properly. This isn’t real, I can’t be hearing right, it’s a dream, I’m having a nightmare, a night terror. I tried again to wake up, shook my head, blinked, slapped my own face. She sat on the edge of the bed pale and stunned. Dad’s words repeated through the speaker-phone, his voice reduced to a small, husky choke. You were gone.

Just like that.

We farewelled you the next Thursday in an overcrowded chapel. I keep hoping I’ll wake one Thursday and it will be different. It’s crazy-making. My mind knows you died but my heart still holds you alive. Sometimes my heart and mind argue and I’m caught in the middle.

My mind knows you’re gone. I was there when they carried your body away. We all huddled together and I said a prayer. As your body left your house I asked you to stay in our hearts. And you did. My heart still holds you alive, tricking me, replaying your voice, your laugh, causing me to take a second hopeful look at ladies lunching in town before it sinks again. Oh, that’s right…

Some days I go along fine, I talk to you and think of you or point out lovely things to you when I’m window shopping. My throat doesn’t hurt, my heart isn’t heavy and I can miss you with pure thankfulness and love, grateful for you being part of my life.
But not today.

Today is one of those days.
They come regularly, privately, suddenly.
I miss you deeply. I long to hear from you. My throat hurts and my stomach tightens. Parts of me feel like they physically peel back as tears well up from nowhere. They’re not from nowhere though. They’re from deep within, in a sacred heart space where we shared warmth and joy and love together, laughter, a knowing look, an understanding, a great respect. Now you’re gone that space echoes without you. Why do the tears start? I don’t know, they just come on at random times, as uninvited and impossible to stop as a sneeze.

I didn’t realise how much I loved you. I feel foolish now that I didn’t show you enough. I hope you recognised what I couldn’t see. Next week I’ll go to that new fabric shop I passed near the bakery and I’ll show you around. There are some really nice table runners in there I know you’ll like… Maybe I’ll buy some handkerchiefs. x x x

Your life is a sacred journey

21 03 2012

Stirk Park: Kalamunda, Western Australia.

Your life is a sacred journey.  And it is about change, growth, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous risks, and embracing challenges at every step along the way…

You are on the path, exactly where you are meant to be right now…

And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, beauty, wisdom, power, dignity and love…

I hope you like the quote above as much as I do.  It is from:
Caroline Joy Adams – Author, Public Speaker and Writing Coach

I realised I was gay when…

20 03 2012

… I was seven years old and rode the bus home.
I looked out the window as the trees flew past and wondered if I would have to have a husband in order to have children. I didn’t particularly want either but thought that it must be possible because some of the kids at school only had a mum. I decided there and then that I wasn’t going to have a man around. I thought a wife would be much better. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ was at that time (and I clearly didn’t know where babies came from either), but I did know that I wasn’t looking for a future husband.
… I was ten and was shocked to find I couldn’t be ‘anything’ I wanted to be.

Village People - wikipedia

They all said it – parents, teachers, brochures. What do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything you want to be!! Yay!
After seeing my tadpoles turn into frogs and caterpillars turn into butterflies I was honestly quite shocked to find out that girls couldn’t become boys if they wanted to. So much for being ‘anything’. It was a crashing let down as I liked all the boys’ games and toys and didn’t really understand girls and their obsession with brushing each others’ hair, doing cartwheels, admiring horses or dressing up Barbie dolls. I’d never owned a Barbie in my life, I hated horses, I didn’t wear dresses and I sure as hell wasn’t playing netball. My parents even bought me a G.I. Joe doll (ahem, action figure!) to try to tempt me. I didn’t really know what ‘gay’ was then either, but I did know the Village People were homosexuals because the lady next door told me that one day while she was making a caramel slice. I didn’t know what ‘homosexual’ meant until I consulted my dictionary later that night, and even then it didn’t particularly make sense. From the tone of her voice I got the distinct feeling that it was something people only whispered about, like it was a bad thing, or naughty or shameful or embarrassing and definitely secret.
… I was 12 and fell in love with the leading lady
Jennifer Beals.  Oh my goodness.  My heart still skips a beat.
I went to the movies one Saturday afternoon with a girl from school.  It was our first year in high school and was a big deal to be allowed to catch the bus into town, go to the only McDonalds in Western Australia and then see a movie, all without our parents. I had a Big Mac and got a Coke and some Fantales for the movie.  I fell slap-bang-madly-in-love with the boiler-suited Jennifer Beals within the hour.  She was so sexy my head was reeling and confused and deliriously excited. I saw the whole movie but my mind chattered and argued throughout:
Whaddya mean you think she’s gorgeous? It’s a woman.
Excuse me!  She is a SHE, not an IT, and SHE is beautiful… I could kiss her.
OMG – but this is a  w-o-m-a-n!!!  Are you crazy??
No, I’m not. It is what becoming a teenager is all about, falling in crazy love.
Yes, but with b-o-y-s!!  Girls think BOYS are kissable
Boys? Ha, who’d want to do THAT?
Well, what girl do you know who has a GIRLFRIEND???
Oh… Maybe I am crazy… OMG I AM CRAZY… THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME!! What am I going to do??
Wait, she’s on screen again, whoa….. Ouch, my heart actually hurts.
I left the movie theatre with wide eyes and a passionate heart and tried hard not to even speak about the Movie in case people could see love on my face. This was my biggest (and loneliest) secret. The theme song even now, evokes painful pangs for the lonely and scared kid in me who wrestled with this everyday for years.
I was 13 and cheated on Jennifer Beals by falling in love with a Supermarket Checkout chick.
Her badge featured a Dymo label of the name “DORA” and she was always cheerful and chatty. I blushed and became mute whenever I saw her, it was very embarrassing. I dropped things, tripped over and stuttered. I knew by now that something was very wrong with me. No other girls had turned into boys and most had a boyfriend that they actually liked and touched. I had boyfriends but they were boys who were friends and liked talking about football or cricket or riding motorbikes. No one EVER talked about liking other girls, not like THAT anyway. There were hushed conversations about “Lesbians” but again, it was something to detest. I’d read the weekend paper and see a small advert in the Personal Column every week that read “Gay or unsure? Call for help“. I memorised the phone number and lost countless coins calling from public phone boxes and then hanging up once it was answered. There was no internet, no website, no teen outreach centres.
I really did think something was wrong with me. I knew no other person who struggled or mentioned an attraction to the same sex. I had to lie to others and myself. I had to hide my real self and try really hard to rid myself of this weirdness. It persisted though and I hated myself for being so strange. I just wanted to be ‘normal’ and have a ‘normal’ life.
…I was 14 and was in the Army Cadets and got ‘tough’

Boot Polish - wikipedia

I smoked. I swore. I got tough and wore my Army gear as much as I could. It meant I didn’t have to try and navigate my way through lip gloss, eye shadow, nail polish or Jazz Ballet like the real girls were doing. I went orienteering out in the rain and mud, went on hikes and camped, polished my boots and brass, cooked over open fires and crisped up my uniform with starch. There was NO fraternising on parade or on camp. It was GREAT. I did get a crush on a cadet Leader which signalled to the boys that I was not interested in them and signalled to everyone that I obviously was NOT gay at all, even though my increasingly short hair cut and swagger might have indicated otherwise.
I was 15 and tried REALLY hard NOT to be gay.
Boyfriend – sure!! Hey, I’ll get a boyfriend then another then another. See, there’s nothing wrong with me! I’m doing just fine over here being a girl that has BOYfriends. Lots of them. But who is that girl that walks past me every day on my way to Science class? I don’t know her name but she has such a great smile, and those eyes… Dammit!! Oh there’s a boy – you’ll do.
… I was 16 and lined up the ‘impossible’ guy
I met him one night while I was in the city. I’d joined a social ballroom dancing class because obviously ballroom dancing was about GIRL meets BOY. Dancing with boys all night meant I spent my time talking, gazing, touching and being close to them, not the girls (see entry above). I spotted him across the floor and decided he was THE catch. I was exhausted from trying to make myself ignore my attraction to women so I decided to do a deal with myself. I told myself this was my last ditch effort at a man. He was 31. If I couldn’t go out with him, then I was obviously destined to go out with a woman.

And a month later I did…

Things certainly didn’t get any smoother or easier from that point on, in fact life got harder. I ‘came out’ to my parents at 16 and was relieved.  I am gay. There, I said it, finally.  They knew several gay men and women and were accepting of them so I know it would be okay. They’d always said I could tell them anything and this was something I could no longer keep to myself.

It wasn’t okay.

At midnight, I picked myself up off the loungeroom floor and left their house after a violent altercation. I was 16, walking through the dark, beaten and bruised.  I was alone at midnight with nowhere to go, no money, identification or possessions.

To say it was a turbulent time is an understatement. It’s interesting to look back now and realise how much of this I was processing as a child… I would hate to think a child I knew was trying to deal with this alone. Times have certainly changed since then and I shudder to think what issues children are now struggling with, carrying and processing on their own. Sometimes we don’t give credit for how deeply children think, what they know or the acute and powerful feelings they are aware of at such a young age. Take a moment to recognise those young people around you, they’re deeper than you realise.

The grey of uncertainty

6 03 2012

When I venture out of my office cubicle into the sunlight for a break, I often walk the city block which takes me past the District Court Building. It’s new and filled with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. I’m struck by the energy and vibe surrounding the place. It’s quite harsh and agitated, buzzing with life and raw emotion – anxiety, sorrow, anger, love, bitterness, revenge, disappointment, betrayal, triumph, arrogance, brokenness.  I can feel it as I walk past and through the crowd.

Camera and news crews often gather outside to catch a glimpse of a shielded person emerging from the glass doors. Men in tailored suits wearing starched collars and bands walk swiftly past those sitting on the pavement smoking. Families huddle close together, security guards watching closely in case any anger erupts. Large refrigerated trucks deliver new people each day to the underground holding cells while others enter the front door with lattes in hand.

I took this picture (below) on the courthouse steps some time ago and I’ve been waiting to see what it would tell me. It was only last week, as I was walking past it again, that I realised it’s built and furnished in black and white. A courthouse, a place of judgement that is clothed in black and white. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I wonder if it was designed on purpose to subliminally represent a place that contrasts life on a wide spectrum of right and wrong, captive and free, law and justice…?
I find so many things in life are much more grey these days. It is not as simple as black and white. Sometimes I long for decisions to be that easy, definite, sure. Nowadays I consider more factors, more points of view and possibilities.

Chaos calls to order

My childhood was spent in a chaotic home, the mood of the day and the hour often unpredictable. In my late teens I adopted a religious conviction which imposed rules in black and white. Every question had an answer. Every event had a reason, a purpose, a plan. It was comforting (because I had seen the light) and for the first time in my life things were predictable, answers were clear, decisions were easy and my ground was solid. I felt at peace. Certain and sure. It was a huge relief.

Inevitably, whatever we cling to with such a ferocious grip starts to crumble after a while unless we submit ourselves further.  For me it became harsh, unbending, cold and restrictive.  Answers became simplistic and naive, shallow and merciless.  I became repulsed by the very thing that attracted me and saw that the strong rules and black and white outlook was cruelly divisive – good and evil, heaven and hell, saved and lost, in and out, sinner and saint, us and them.

I left and am now a fringe dweller who roams on the edge of faith, still deeply moved by the beauty of creation and the ineffable divine presence that is somehow in the very air I breathe, yet I’m far from institutionalised religion.  In hindsight, I don’t regret the experience or that part of my journey. It was comforting for a time and gave me the certainty and clarity I needed to help stabilise my life.  I had a yardstick, a compass, a guide.  For a time.

Shades of Grey
But life is not that simple. Decisions are difficult if you dig a little deeper than the obvious. People are complex, relationships deep, motives often unknown, history hidden, stories untold.  Eventually I could no longer live such a black and white existence without having to knowingly destroy part of myself.  After leaving, I mourned the loss of a solid platform (and a lot of friends) in favour of feeling rudderless again.  Life is complex and now that I live within the spectrum of grey there is more mystery, more uncertainty and unknowing. I know much less than I used to know.  I have less answers and more mercy.

The challenge for me is to live with the uncertainty, the mystery and the confusion and be content with ‘not knowing’.  I’m aware too that even in saying that I might be setting up my own duality between ‘knowing’ and ‘unknowing’. It is tricky. The difficulty for me is not in being present with mystery and being patient as it slowly reveals itself;  it is holding myself back from trying to solve it and assign it a ‘reason‘ or explanation in order to label it, contain it and file it away.

Am I dwelling? over thinking? wallowing? navel gazing? To some, maybe. But I think I’ve felt another shift – one that let’s me say “I don’t know” more often. But this time I’m content with that answer.  I don’t need to know ‘why this or that happened’ or to find a reason.  But I might need to find another walking route for a while.

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