Outgoings of this last tremendous tide…

Sunday Monday Blog 37 – May 22 2022

“What beautiful earrings!” my Hairdresser complimented me. This happens to me quite a lot now. Since my friend Lencie died earlier this year, her many many pretty things were divided up among her family and friends. So we are carrying her around, each and every day. Earrings, necklaces, rings, scarves, mugs. She did have exquisite taste.

Sometimes I think that all the wisdom of life is contained in E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End, which tackles money, death, friendship and class (among other things). When people compliment me on Lencie’s jewellery, I keep thinking about that scene after the main character Margaret Schlegel loses a friend from cancer. She is pictured at a metaphorical beach, where a “wave had strewn at her feet fragments torn from the unknown.” I think of these objet d’arts of Lencie mysterious fragments of that transition – she was here and then, she is not here.

I’ve never been much of a collector of things, I worship de-cluttering. It always amuses me that I lumbered into a museum career three decades ago by accident, because I had computer skills (that was the 1980s, man). Objects really aren’t my thing, but their stories are interesting. I know some of the story of Lencie so her pretty things are interesting to me. I like that I can take her out and about and that others can admire her taste.

P.S. Sunday was canceled in a flurry of feeling ill and getting Covid tests. Yet again I convinced myself I had the dreaded lurgy, and I certainly did feel awful – but it is not The Covid. Anyhow, I didn’t surface all Sunday, or even for much of today, so the Sunday blog has become a Monday blog, and it’s still Sunday in America somewhere…

Artist Dates

Sunday Blog 36 – May 15 2022

a weekly expedition to explore something that enchants or interests you

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, in a 2015 blog https://juliacameronlive.com/2015/02/24/the-magic-of-artist-dates/

About seven years ago I got serious about that classic book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and began my Morning Pages (three pages of hand-writing -stream-of-consciousness/ blurting/ dumping and certainly no editing.)

I started to work through the exercises she sets each week to uncover any artist wounds you may have seen over the years (here’s looking at you, art/ signing/ English teacher…) although fairly early on I began to wane in my zeal. I think I still have the letter I wrote to the tutor I had in the 90s who told me my play sagged in the middle. (That’s week One’s exercise, where you write to someone who crushed your artist spirit, so it’s an indication of how soon I flagged.)

The Artist Date is a great concept – a weekly date with just you and your creativity. You can’t take anyone with you, because then your creativity is having to play gooseberry instead of feeling centre-stage where it belongs, for at least one hour per week. You don’t have to do anything very high art either – just something that enchants or interests you, as Julia says in the quote above.

Today was a treat – the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exhibition where you get to see details of this incredible fresco close up in replica form. There is an app (of course) where you can scan a code and listen to a description of each panel while you marvel at the craft.

Interestingly even though it is an exhibition of replicas there was an echo of the bustle and crowd of the Sistine Chapel as we all milled around the images and kept on having the tap the QR code for the next bit of audio (and it always took longer for us Gen Xers and Boomers while the Millenials tapped and listened.

But I digress. This is just to say, taking your Artist out each week is a wonderful habit to get into. Thanks and big love to Julia Cameron.

10 May 2002

There is a trigger warning for this post which references sexual assault. Please take care when reading.

“One day this date won’t mean anything. You won’t even remember it.” So said a friend of mine about the date that changed me forever. 10th May 2002. At the time I was dubious, and twenty years later I know for sure this is not true.

On 10 May 2002, a man broke into my house – well he came through the back sliding door which I had forgotten to lock – and sexually assaulted me. My daughter was just 3 and was there but was unharmed during the attack.

I used to call this a Slash in the Canvas because it was just so unlike everything else in my life. This Slash in the Canvas has taught me so much over two decades. How trauma lives in the body, and the body can help us heal. What the difference is between what I experienced – a single incident trauma – and complex trauma with significant adverse childhood experiences. I have learned over two decades that to have so few hiccups in life is a privilege marker. And that my family of origin did very well in how they insulated me from life’s harsher lessons. I understood trauma from the inside and this revealed to me many blind spots I didn’t know I had, and I think it has made me a better person.

I learned how hard it is to get real change – to move from the (politically popular) virtue signalling of White Ribbons to real change. Things like funding independent advocacy services, implementing therapeutic justice approaches and adequately and supporting a diverse workforce including peer supporters. I learned that Inquiries and Recommendations will not magically be implemented, even though we survivors turned up, spoke the truth even though our voices shook, were heard kindly by panel members. Even though I personally dedicated many hours to volunteering on a committee responsible for implementation, almost nothing was done from that Inquiry I was involved in.

This morning I awoke around the time it had happened, about 3-4am. In the quiet and peacefulness of the early morning I spoke about it to darling husband who at the time lived across the road. Twenty years ago he was only a date, not a husband. He couldn’t remember me calling him that terrible morning, telling him what happened. He couldn’t remember coming over straight away, and when the police arrived, being taken off for questioning.

I thought about it several times during the day. “At this time I would still have been in the police station.” “At this time I would just be getting to SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Centre) to do the forensic.” “At this time I would finally be getting to my parent’s house to see my beautiful little girl.”

I haven’t had an event to mark the ceremony for a while, but I always remember this date. Always.

Many years ago, I read this wonderful paragraph from Nancy Venable Raine’s book  After Silence, Rape and My Journey Back which articulates why I still want to mark this date. I uncovered it well looking through old blogs, and I wanted to share it again today:

I began to write about the seventh anniversary of my rape and the six that came before it, and when I wasn’t sure how to end what I was writing, something happened.   Flowers arrived from the flower shop at the foot of the hill; “Happy 7th.  You are not alone.  Love always, Kate”…

The flowers Kate sent that day had power.  For the first time in seven years I had the sense of connection and community.  I was celebrating my anniversary in the only way I knew how, and Kate was there.  This anniversary, unlike all the others, was shared.  I suddenly knew how to finish what I was writing – with an image of women, marching, openly and together, celebrating their anniversaries, speaking their names, carrying flowers.”

Nancy Venable Raine, Rape and My Journey Back

Keeping silent does not move us forward.  We need to talk about this stuff, together, and celebrate our survival, preferably with flowers. Maybe it’s time to build on #MeToo and #LetHerSpeak and include #LetHerCelebrate…

Happy two decade survivorversary to me.

If you need to reach out for help or to talk to someone, there are plenty of links on here and here and here

Love Note to Quairading

Sunday Blog 35 – May 8 2022

It’s not that often that a group of women who meet at a Retreat follow through with meeting up again. You know how it goes (especially if you are a Retreat fanatic like I am) – you meet awesome women, exchange numbers or emails and promise to meet again.

This time it was different. We had two women attend the Retreat from Quairading, a town two hours’ drive East of Perth in the Wheatbelt. It’s on Ballardong Noongar Boodja, the land of the Ballardong peoples.

The women talked up Quairading suggested we re-convene there a couple of months after the Retreat, and this weekend about half the Retreat attendees, six of us in all – did just that.

We met at The Makers Keep 6383 which is a treasure trove store of original art, gifts, wares with a workshop space out the back. Our hosts had put together arrival packs (see photo) which typify both the warm welcome and why I love Australia. There was a two-pack fabric face mask and RAT because COVID had come to town, a Quairading map, sweet notebook and a fly net that goes over your hat. Flies are not usually bad in May but they were a bit friendly and the fly net definitely came in handy.

We stayed at the Quairading Hotel which is what it is, an ageing beauty with warm, welcoming hosts who could not have been more hospitable. It’s a 1908 building with the gorgeous verandahs and wonderful high ceilings you get in old pubs. We had a floor to ourselves, we all had our own ensuite in our own rooms with a History of Quairading book on the bedside table. Maybe the carpet tiles aren’t so awesome but the spaces were so clean and very comfortable. Soft towels. Nice smelling soaps. A space to retreat back into and do a bit of yoga, knock out a blog etc.

And the catering – the Quairading Hotel and local catering company Flavour Town Catering had catered for us with delicious food and generous (I mean generous) helpings of everything. It was all so tasty – especially the pea and ham soup with the special Toapin Rise Farm Rosemary Salt.

Morning coffee was from the Foodworks supermarket next door. I felt somewhat dubious about what the coffee might be like, but it massive shout out to Kymbo and Wicked – their Foodworks has coffee as good as any you’d get in Fremantle’s cafe strip.

I took my coffee next door to the Makers Keep 6383 and sat out the back working on the novel. I had set myself the target of editing three scenes. The conversations drifted in and out from the shop every now and then as I edited. I am someone who doesn’t mind some background noise when working.

And then… as if all of this wasn’t awesome enough, it was World Labyrinth Day this weekend. You may know that I love a labyrinth and the Anglican Church just so happens to have a Chartres Cathedral-style labyrinth beautifully rendered in brick. On Friday night it had been lit up with candles around its edge, and I’d missed it. The town’s resident Texan not only lit it all up again Saturday night for us, but she also put on a wine and cheese spread. I was just in heaven. Walked in to the centre, out again – it was just the best. Afterwards she shared stories of cutting the bricks to make the labyrinth. I went back at dawn for another go.

Quairading Labyrinth at night…

Taking weekend time for the Muse is important. Dressing for the Muse in loud pants is important.

Quairading, I will be back!

Finding clarity…

Sunday Blog 34 – 1 May 2022

It’s now been exactly a month since I left my job (see here for the Eerie Quiet blog update) and I am well into the swing of my new life. That new swing of literally never going back to work. And back sharing the housework with darling husband.

So I’ve been taking stock. April has seen me

  • Spend quite a bit of money on computers and tech support to get said computers working
  • Attend three work-related things I had committed to do pro bono (perhaps unwisely) when I was still working
  • Dip my toe in the consulting water
  • Get totally confused about which day is which (helped by all those lovely public holidays)
  • Emerge with my gray hairdo
  • Make myself a frame drum out of kangaroo skin (it’s a bit awesome if I do say so myself)
  • Attend three writing workshops
  • Try out a new local co-working space
  • Lodge a couple of grant applications in for my suburb
  • Re-do my writing deadlines, meet with a sensitivity editor and even work on the damn book
  • Write four Sunday blogs

So not bad, all in all. Another interesting activity has been literally dusting off the coaching certificate I did in 2014 and never really got to use. I’m thinking about coaching health and social care professionals who want to create systemic change and are feeling the pinch of how hard this work is. I’ve also gone back into the excellent Marie Forleo BSchool business school training because I am actually working for myself now. This time I have been able to progress through the first module because, well, I am in business now.

What I like about BSchool is that it forces you to implement, all the time. She always says “clarity comes through engagement”. It’s no good me coming up with business plans in my head. I need to reach out to people. So I have done my homework and have spoken to five very generous coaches about what they do. Each time I have gone into the conversation almost thinking I know what will be said, and each time I have been surprised, energised, and have become a little clearer. It is a very rich and generative thing to do.

I think it’s great advice for just about anything you want to do – clarity does come through engagement, not by just staying in your own head. So I’m reaching out, inching towards a new clarity…

Dial 1 for frustration…

Sunday Blog 33 – 24th April 2022

You know the deal – you ring, you choose the appropriate number for the service you are seeking, the hold music starts. It stops and for a second you are hopeful, but instead the automated voice advises you of all the many things you can do on their website which means you don’t need to stay on hold. You long to have the kind of problem where just a few clicks on a website would fix it but alas, it is not. You actually do need to speak to a human.

Having tried to tempt you with their online options, the hold music begins again. The next time the hold music stops there is no sense of optimism that there will be a human just yet, and sure enough you are reminded yet again, just in case you are particularly dense, that you can do a range of actions online. This is repeated many times. The phone line is your Zen Master to ensure you practice your deep breathing, disconnection from outcome and possibly even some judicious distraction to keep the frustration levels down.
Finally you are connected! It’s a miracle! Once you have answered the six identification questions and advised them that you are in agreement with the impossible and unread legalese of their Privacy Policy, you can finally talk.

They do their absolute best to help you, even put you on hold a few times and when you think the problem is now resolved, you hang up. Only it turns out it was actually a bit more complex than that, so you start again. Again with the Zen Master music and the regular reminders that you could, if only you weren’t so dense or complex, do what you needed to do online. Again you speak to a human. But it’s not the same human. You do your best to bring them up to speed but it takes quite a bit of coaxing and getting them to click on the system to see what is written about your last call (usually not quite enough for them to be able to discern what happened then and what needs to happen now) and on you go. Repeat six times over a ten day period and Voila! You finally have the result you wanted!

But just imagine if you could ring once, get to speak to a human, and then you could speak to or email the same human all the way through sorting out your issue. Continuity. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Almost everywhere you care to look, this kind of luxury – of being able to work with one person in a company – is not available. The reality is that having access to continuity works well for the customer, but not for the organisation. It’s just too hard to have staff available for people on demand.

But is it? Is it actually more time-consuming for organisations than it first appears? Could I have been managed in two calls with one staff member rather than ten calls with ten?

The frustrations of trying to get this issue sorted reminded me of the frustration I discovered as a victim of crime two decades ago. There is no continuity of legal representation when your case goes before a court. (I mean technically a Department of Prosecutions (DPP) Lawyer is representing the Queen – but they are your only chance of being heard in the incredibly disempowered victim role.) You get a File Manager who in my case never actually went to court. Each time the matter was heard in court, someone else had to grapple with the file, try to get on top of the issue. I would ask the File Manager who was it this time, ask if I could speak to them myself. They were always very kind but it was exhausting.

When I went to court just once during my victim of crime journey, I saw one very overworked, kind DPP lawyer in the court, doing case after case after case. People accused of crimes had one lawyer all the way through and there was a dizzying parade of them in and out, in and out of the court room while the DPP lawyer remained. I suddenly saw just how much easier it was to administrate his time from an organisational perspective – one lawyer, one court, scheduling done. But it was awful from a victim perspective.

And what about health? Personal care? Social care? For most of these type of organisations, continuity of staff is the exception, not the rule. My father’s final two weeks saw a parade of carers in the home – a different one every day. It was far from ideal.

Sigh. I don’t know what the answer is, but every where I look, it always seems that the organisation or system’s needs trump the individual’s needs…

Enneagram

Sunday Blog 32 – 17th April 2022 (Happy Easter!)

I still recall my mother coming home from a workshop (in itself an unusual occurrence) in the early 1980’s all alight with the new-found knowledge of the Enneagram. “Ennea” is the Greek word for nine, and the Enneagram is a model of the human psyche of nine interconnected personality types. Its origins are ancient and hazy, and it emerged in Western World the 1950s and 1970s. I really wanted to add in something about how the number 9 works – but I am not so good with numbers and all the sites I looked at made my head hurt. Suffice it to say that the magic of nine draws together this model and leave it at that.

At the workshop, my mother discovered she was a Nine or a Peacemaker (a good call for the mother of six) and she was pretty sure she was married to a One (Perfectionist). What she’d learned in the workshop gave her a key to the (ahem) frustrations of married life.

This week, while I was watching Brene Brown’s new Atlas of the Heart five part series on her most recent book, tucked away in episode three she asks her audience “Have you ever taken the Enneagram?” Then she goes on to say “For all the researchers watching … I don’t think it’s valid or reliable but I’ve learned more about myself there than I have with any of the five main personality tests.” In other words, researchers are undecided about it, but Brene is not. (Just in case you have never heard of Brene Brown, she is a grounded theory researcher with a gift for translating her research widely to all of us so we can live better lives now. Start with her 2010 TED Talk on shame and vulnerability and keep on going…)

I had to stop the Brene Brown video and write that down. Because, I have a great fondness for the Enneagram. Due to the accident of my mother attending a workshop in the early 1980’s I have always known about the Enneagram. As I grew into adulthood I knew myself to be a Seven (The Hedonistic Visionary in this image. What can I say? I like fun!) Exploring the Enneagram over the years has provided me with some footholds in the slippery complexity of relationships.

So – it has the Brene endorsement – and if you have never explored it, you might want to take the best online test – the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator Test. It costs $12 takes 40 minutes but it is time well spent to discover your Enneagram type and start exploring this rich and transformative model to know yourself and others.

Happy Easter!

P.S. I am not affiliated with Brene or the Riso-Hudson Test – I just rooly rooly think both are top quality!

Labyrinth not a maze…

Sunday Blog 31: 10th April 2022

My “Santa Rosa” Hand Labyrinth

I have found myself once again obsessed with labyrinths. It must be the extra time I’ve had this week to reflect on unusual topics in the wide expanse of my first week after leaving my job.

People often use the term maze and labyrinth interchangeably – but a maze is a puzzle with dead ends and is designed to trick you. A labyrinth on the other hand has no dead ends – it is a single path you move through in an orderly if circuitous way, in to the centre and back out again. Instead of getting lost, a labyrinth holds the promise of helping you find yourself on your way.

The oldest known labyrinth in the Western World is in Knossos on the island of Crete in Greece. (Very disappointed I didn’t realise this when I was there in 2017…) There are many labyrinths dotted around the world – they’re having a come back and there are quite a few in Perth where I am.

The labyrinth in this post’s image is a finger labyrinth you can trace manually, which apparently has the same therapeutic benefits of walking a labyrinth.

As I once again contemplate working for myself rather than a salary, I feel like I am walking past the same terrain I was in 2014 when I thought very seriously about setting up my own business but took a job instead. Like I have been slowly perambulating a giant cosmic labyrinth in the last seven years and am going past the same spot, but this time I am on a path a little closer to the centre.

I mean, essentially I am using the website I set up then although I have changed it to my name in the years since and have re-thought what I might do. Seven years have opened up other options. So it’s the same terrain but not exactly. Thus the labyrinth is much like life.

While I have had grandiose notions of putting a labyrinth in my front garden, someone on the interwebs shared the bright idea of buying four large plastic-backed drop sheets, sewing them together and voila, you have a movable labyrinth. It certainly sounds a great deal cheaper than committing to building one out of stone.

Or, like I could get on with writing projects…

The eerie quiet of the end…

Sunday Blog 30: 3rd April 2022

I’m not quite sure what kind of reception at home I expected after leaving my workplace for the last time. A marching band? A heroine’s welcome? But as I’m guessing Barack Obama experienced from time to time, home is not always the place to relish and celebrate workplace accomplishments.

Not only was there an absence of a marching band, things the house-husband is stepping down from his role too. It’s time for me to pick up the mop and broom again, now that I am in at least a temporary state of leisure, and get back into the groove of contributing to maintaining the home as well as being out in the world.

What is that Zen saying?

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Zen saying…

Not that I would be able to consider work enlightenment. Often it is the opposite of enlightenment, the drowning of self in doing. So I will listen to Ram Dass, and I will experience this part (and all) of my life as an unfolding curriculum.

And just think now, of all the perfect housework excuses I will have when writing deadlines are looming…

The final countdown…

Sunday Blog 29 – 27th March 2022

Adapted from this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g7ARarFNnw

Perhaps you are kind enough to over-look the fact that last week there was no Sunday Blog. In truth I drafted it – but it didn’t feel quite like my story, so I didn’t hit send. Because staying out of others stories is usually the right call. Our James Clear (Mr Atomic Habits) always says – never miss twice. So here I am again this Sunday. But I’m not cheating, so it is Blog 29, not 30. We must have standards!

There are now just four days between me and the end of my tenure at the Health Consumers’ Council. My hair is not properly gray as just as I was poised to have the last dyed locks chopped off, my hairdresser has to isolate as one of her children is a close contact. (So selfish!)

It has been a very long three months and also a very short time (e.g. not long enough to actually have 100% gray hair) It also hasn’t been long enough for me to understand what I will leave behind and what I will take with me on the next part of my life. Can’t I just know for sure? I guess I could say I am emerging from the messy middle and the next stage is still, well unfolding, much like the Transitions book said it would. Bloody slow and inconvenient though.

I have been thinking about the Liz Gilbert explanation of the difference between a hobby, a job, a career and a vocation. I have definitely shed the career, but what of the vocation do I want to, or need to bring forward?

And then I read this blog about a mother of a daughter whose misdiagnosis prompted many unnecessary surgeries, lost years and family trauma. She decided she wouldn’t sue – not wanting the non-disclosure agreement that would mean any learning from this experience would be lost. This paragraph leapt out at me:

we never heard a word from those doctors again: not a call to apologize, not even a response to a question about medications during her hospital stay for the surgery. As time went on, I felt shocked that we could endure and be forced to process this experience while the doctors could go on as though nothing happened.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/medical-malpractice-doctor-misdiagnosis_n_6220e96ee4b0c3935752e1a2

She discusses the Hobson’s Choice of 1) seeking financial compensation which means the issue is brushed under the carpet, where learnings are potentially also brushed like so much dust and dirt or 2) choosing not to sue but instead to advocate for change.

And the fire in my belly is a bit of a clue that yeah, this health advocate nerd thing is a vocation, not a career. And it’s still unfolding.