Our headlines change…

Sunday Blog 60 – 6th November 2022

There is a trigger warning on this post as it talks about grief, sexual assault and trying to make a difference from the traumas that we experience. Please take care when reading or feel free to scroll on by.

I can only guess that it was around 10am in the morning on 10th May 2002-to be honest time was elastic that morning. I was in the unlovely concrete WA Police Headquarters and a weary female Constable and I were still hard at it getting my statement done. She had worked all night prior to my call coming in at I guess around 5am. As the only female on duty it was her job to be with me while I got my statement done. In my naiveté I thought it wouldn’t take too long. After all the horrifying home invasion and sexual assault probably hadn’t lasted longer than 15-20 minutes. How long could it take to commit that to paper? Hours and hours and hours, I discovered.

But at 10am on the 10th of May I had to say to that weary Constable that something good would come of this.

She looked at me and said “let’s just focus on the statement, shall we? And then you can save the world later on.” We both laughed. We had bonded by then and I have never forgotten her or her many kindnesses to me that night.

But she had a point. I still hadn’t done the forensic examination, and that too was many hours long ahead.

Fast forward to 2022. As a podcast fiend, and big fan of Maya Shanka’s A Slight Change of Plans podcast I was glued to the episode featuring Nora McInerny. She had also lost her father and had a miscarriage, all within six weeks. Nora was determined to make meaning from this clusterfuckery. She honoured her husband’s memory and worked through her grief by developing the peer support group called the Hot Young Widows.

Over time this consumed and depleted her, but quitting seemed unthinkable. Would that mean she was “over” her husband’s death, that his life hadn’t counted? There’s a moment in the second half of the podcast episode where she talks about the moment where she knew something had to give.

I had to stop the recording and capture it like a bug in amber for this week’s Sunday blog:

The headline of your story changes as life goes on. So there absolutely was a period of time in life where the most important thing that I could relay to somebody me was that my husband died. They needed to know that and it needed to be the first thing that they knew because that was the most important thing about me, to me in that moment. It’s a bullet point now. And that’s OK.

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/pushkin-early-listen-when-surviving-is-enough/id1561860622?i=1000584276298

I did listen to that weary Constable that morning and re-focused on doing the statement that morning. But I began writing the daily journal that helped me write my memoir Not My Story.

And I clearly remember in the weeks and months after 10th May, I too felt it was the most important thing for people to know that about me. That I had survived a home invasion and sexual assault. I even felt that if they got to know me without this “most important thing about me, to me in that moment” they may even feel that they had liked and trusted me on false pretences. That when they knew the horrid truth they would reject me. The impact of my early, uncontrolled disclosure was soon apparent to me. I learned that no-one would reject me when they knew the truth and that I needed to take care of the listener before blurting.

Nora McInerny’s description of our life’s headline changing over time really spoke to me. I imagined some of my life’s headlines, framed over seven year intervals.

  • Only Gen-Xer born into large Catholic family of Boomers
  • 7 year-old goes completely off school but sadistic nun says “nothing to see here”
  • 14 year-old goes to Europe. Mind blown.
  • Second keg saves 21st as party exceeds numbers expected
  • 28 year old Perth girl gets dumped in London, can’t stomach Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • 34 year old cheats medicalised birthing system by sneaking in a drug-free birthing pool delivery in a Perth hospital (I know, that’s way too long for a headline)

I was 36 when there was an actual headline after the sentencing of the man who broke into my home – it just said “Man rapes mother.” I think I might still have that clipping somewhere. I kind of hope that I don’t.

  • 49 year old self-publishes a memoir and has to keep her day job
  • 56 year old embarks on menopausal gap year

I mean, it’s kind of fun, isn’t it? Playing about with our headlines? But also, it’s absolutely true. It’s ok for us to have new headlines. Life goes on.

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