The Very Valid ‘Not Coping’ Style of Coping

teapot portrait

Image by Lauren O’Neill. You can view her work here: www.laurenipsum.ie/projects

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”  ~ Anne Lamott

 

Hi. Lovelies.

Gee. It’s been one of those weeks.

So, I was sitting in my lounge room yesterday morning, crying. Not blogging.

Crying because I was in agony. Crying because all I wanted to do was pee and when I did it felt like I was pissing razorblades. Crying because everything hurt. Because I was herxing from the antibiotics for my urinary tract and assorted other infections, and these same antibiotics were playing havoc with my Lyme bacterial load. Because of constipation from the pain meds. Because my stomach was so grossly bloated that none of my clothes fit. Because I’d been vomiting from pressure on my stomach from my wildly overgrown fibroids. Because I’d begun to be attacked by Gorn, after two years Gorn-free and hadn’t slept all night.

Crying because of constantly leaking urine like one of those dodgy teapots that always dribble from the spout when you pour.

Crying because it was only three more days until surgery, and instead of dreading it, now it couldn’t come soon enough.

Everything was hard. I was exhausted. Broken. Pain-wracked.

Miserable.

I’d wanted to blog but my brain was empty. I’d thought to maybe do a little work, but I could scarcely sit upright. All my plans were out the window. It was all just mess.

“I’m not coping,” I sobbed to the empty room. “Not coping!”

“NOT COPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed that one.

After which I cried some more.

As I calmed down from heaving sobs to simple snivelling, I realised something quite profound.

It wasn’t true.

I AM coping. Not very well, and certainly not with any great elegance or panache. It’s fair to say that I am just limping along right now – held together with duct tape, spit, snot, drugs, meditation, cobwebs and sighs.

Is that coping? Well, I’m still alive. I’m making it through the day. I’m hanging on. When I thought I was at the end of my rope, after a while I saw that the rope was longer.

So I stopped snivelling, wiped my face and laughed at myself. Kind laughing, mind you. The sort where I patted myself on the back comfortingly, seeing myself as an overtired and distressed child. I was flooded with compassion for myself. It’s a completely shit space I’m in, and it’s totally okay if my style of coping is a not-coping style right now.

I want to let you know that it’s okay for you too – if you sometimes find yourself in a not-coping/coping kind of a space. Life is messy and hard and unpredictable. Sometimes we ride the crest of the wave, high on life. Sometimes we are deep beneath the suck and pull of a massive tsunami.

I’m not alone, I reminded myself. I prayed to my loved ones who’ve crossed over to look out for me, and I called on all of my Guides and Angels and God to look after me and my husband and all of our family and friends. (That’s you too, of course!)

Then I went and made myself a cup of tea.

 

Later that same morning, my kind friends Bek and Lizzie popped round for an hour. They brought pre-birthday treats and balloons, and we had a sharing of troubles and laughter.

The balloons themselves had a special message for me. Yesterday would have been my beloved Nana’s 101st birthday. Not only that, each year when I was little, Pa would give me a special balloon as one of my presents. A marbled one of pinks and blues and whites, in an era where most balloons were just one colour. Nana would always have sticky bun, as well as cupcakes with pink icing for me.

My friend Lizzie brought me some of those same balloons Pa used to give me. Bek brought me cupcakes and sticky bun. Coincidence much?

cool party candles

Check out how cool those candles are. The flame is the same colour as the candle!

“If you can’t laugh when things go bad–laugh and put on a little carnival–then you’re either dead or wishing you were.”
~ Stephen King

balloons and cake

Yeah, I know. Those balloons look like weird inflatable boobs. Did I mention it’s been one of those weeks?

I was in pain and my body felt like it had been hit by a truck the entire duration of their visit. But my soul was happy. My heart was full. And after they left I lay down and slept for a few blissful hours, feeling my grandparents watching over me.

If not-coping coping is the best you can do, then that’s enough. And remember, you’re never alone. Reach out to your loved ones, to the Angels, to your friends and family.

I’m thinking of you, and sending love,

Nicole <3 xx

 

 

The Coral Bird

“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist.”
~ Guy de Maupassant

 

When I was growing up my mother’s parents, Ceddie and Marga, owned a boat (first a yacht and later a motor cruiser) and they would often take us out into Moreton Bay with them where we would while away endless summers and school holidays.

One of my favourite activities was beach combing with my grandmother, Marga. She had a vast collection of coral and shells in glass cabinets back at her home on the Brisbane River, and an eagle’s eye for finding new treasures.

I remember walking a narrow isthmus of sand one day, between Bird and Goat Island. To my delight I found a small piece of bleached coral that for all the world resembled a tiny bird. I picked it up, cleaned off the grains of sand at the edge of the water, and hurried to show my grandmother.

Yes, she said, enthusiastically. She could see the bird too. What a good find it was! I loved her so much in that moment that I spontaneously gave my coral bird to her.

Back at the boat, as we were preparing dinner she showed my coral bird to my grandfather, and he then took out a giant book of Australian birds so that we could work out what kind of bird it might be.

A pied oyster catcher, I decided. Turned to coral by a terrible, mean witch.

NicoleMarga

Me and my beautiful grandmother, Margaret Nurcombe, known to all as Marga.

My grandparents have both passed away now, and last year Mum packed up their home. A few of the boxes made their way to me at my little farm down at Possum Creek, and in one of those boxes was Marga’s shell and coral collection.

Imagine my surprise to find my little coral bird, tucked up amidst my grandmother’s treasures.

coral bird

It evoked such a tenderness in me, to hold that small bird again, and to think back on the many happy times I shared with my grandparents, learning about nature, quiet time and the importance of imagination.

I realise now what defining influences they have been in my life, and I am filled with love and gratitude that they were able to pass such values to me through their own way of living.

I’d forgotten that this small piece of coral was what created my fascination with pied oyster catchers, a bird I often see on the beaches of northern New South Wales.

Isn’t life the most wonderful unfolding story!

Pied Oyster Catcher - Image by Geoff Taylor for abc.net.au

Pied Oyster Catcher – Image by Geoff Taylor for abc.net.au

Waiting for Matooluff

Image from apps4kids

Image from apps4kids

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

It’s about this time of year that I start waiting for Matooluff.

When I was just a tiny little girl, maybe three or four, my baby sister and I stayed overnight at my grandparents’ house while Mum and Dad went out to a Christmas Party. Pa promised that while they were gone we would have a party of our own.

NicoleFluffyJacket

Before dinner Pa invited Nana, my sister and I into the TV room, a modest room at the front of their house. It was Pa’s lair – set up with his desk, a television and two chairs, and a wooden cabinet built into the wall that housed a radio, a record player and Pa’s bar where he made the Happy Hour drinks for he and Nana each night.

Pa made my sister and I pink lemonades in stylish glasses with little paper umbrellas poked into glace cherries on the rim. It was incredibly glamorous. There were also snacks – cheezels in a little crystal dish, and some cheese and biscuits in a wooden bowl. Nana and Pa drank scotch and ice with soda water from Pa’s special soda-making bottle.

Image from Kate Beavis

Image from Kate Beavis

Then Pa placed a record on the turntable for us, and I was mesmerised by a song about Matooluff bringing twelve days worth of incredible gifts for Christmas. Lords leaping, maids milking, swans swimming and partridges in pear trees.

The whole tune played out in my head in fantastical images.

When the song finished I asked Pa, “Who’s Matooluff?”

Pa thought for a minute, and then he said, “Santa’s most magical elf, of course.”

I heard the same song on the radio yesterday, and I was transported back to that time in my life where I’d wait in bed each night, hoping for Matooluff to turn up.

I’m still waiting, and I’m sure he’s out there somewhere. 🙂

Here’s the song, from the very album…

 

Reminders from my Younger Self

NicoleandBunny

“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” 
~ Neil Gaiman, M is for Magic

 

One of the most disorienting things about chronic illness and long bouts of treatment is that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Living in this half-alive place for so long you can begin to forget bits of who you are, and what was once important to you.

Luckily my sister recently sent me some images from our childhood. Last night I looked through them to see if my younger self could shed any light on this life I am living now. I’m so glad I did!

Here I am on board my maternal grandfather’s yacht, as part of the flotilla that went out to meet the Queen’s yacht HMY Brittania as she sailed through Morteton Bay and then up the Brisbane River to Newstead House. I’m sitting on my dad’s lap with the binoculars, trying to get a better view. I need to know what’s going on. I have never wanted to miss out on ANYTHING! That’s my little sister in front with my beloved Nana (Dad’s mum), ready to wave her flag. I remember: I adore the ocean, boats and adventures. I love the act of charting a course and navigating, and the smell of salt air, well… that’s heaven for me.

ShipGreeting1 (2)

And here we are, my sister and I, playing dress-ups at Nana’s house. We spent so many happy hours dressing up in her box of old clothes, necklaces and jewels, funny hats and handbags. I always made up stories of who we were and what we were doing and then we would act them out all over the house. The stories were the thing, and the clothes were the vehicle to take us there in our imaginations.

Sisters2 (2)

Here’s me, wiping sauce off my face after a particularly satisfying meal. If Mum, Nana or Marga (my maternal grandmother) was in the kitchen, that was where I wanted to be. Cooking,eating and anything to do with food, including growing it – they are some of my fondest early memories. (We shall not speak of my baby brother whose biggest childhood crime was pulling the carrots I was so carefully nurturing out of their pot, eating their little orange bodies and then sticking the tops back into the dirt again!)

NicoleSauceFace

Whenever I sat on the swing-set in our backyard I would think about the books I was reading and I would escape into my imagination, inventing the most fanciful stories. I was especially fond of fairies, pirates, knights, Kings and Queens, dreadful enemies, trees that could talk and horses that could fly. Of course there were also lots of castles, witches and scary forests too. Sometimes I would gather the children of the neighbourhood together and we would act them out, or put on a performance for our parents. Swinging was very conducive to thinking. Many of my best ideas were hatched there.

NicoleSwingset (2)

As I was looking over these old pictures, remembering my essence – sailing, the ocean, food, magical stories, family, adventure – I came upon this precious photo of my three grandparents.

Here they are: Marga the Regal Queen who is also a Pirate Fancier, grand Mystic Visioner and Magical Charmer, Ceddie the handsome ship’s Captain and bold Commander who always gets his crew home safely, and my little Nana who was the closest thing to a living Fairy that I ever met.

Darling Pa had already passed when that picture was taken. Pa was a returned Soldier, a Global Explorer, an Artist and a Tour Guide. He opened up strange new lands to me.

MargaCedNana

How could I ever doubt who I am or what’s important to me? Every cell of my body has been singing this song since I was born.

I like to think of my beautiful grandparents on a luxury ship up in heaven, leaning over the side amid the clouds and whispering encouragements and rememberings that drift down from above and into my ear to be retold as stories.

I shall lie here in bed today and think of my Pirates and Fairies and invent more impossible adventures for them. How lovely!!!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

image from www.weheartit.com

image from www.weheartit.com

“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”~ Albert Ellis

 

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia today. It’s a day when so many families will get together with their Mothers, give heartfelt gifts of appreciation, share meals and practice love and gratitude. Love and gratitude is a beautiful thing. Togetherness and belonging is the foundation of so much that is good in our society.

No doubt there will be a flood of feel-good sentiment in our media, and on facebook and twitter. But this Mother’s Day I want to acknowledge a different reality.

Today’s also a hard day for many people. I want my post to stand for you.  I want you to have a space to put your feelings. I want you to know that you are heard.

This is a post for all of the children, some long grown, whose Mothers failed to love them, protect them and nurture them.  Not everyone had a happy shiny family.  Not everyone has the love and support of a wise and kind Mother, as a child or as an adult.

This is a post for all of the women who gave up their children, who lost them to accident or illness, who had them torn away by war or foul play or relationship breakdown. Today, some Mothers will know great pain, as their mothering goes wasted, as their arms stay empty of a child to hug.

This is a post for the women whose wombs could never bear fruit. The women who know the pain of infertility, of miscarriage and of stillbirth. The women, whom through circumstance, have not become Mothers. Or who are unacknowledged in their identify as a Mother because there is no surviving child for others to see.  The women who wonder, each Mother’s Day, how their life might have been different…

This is a post for the children who have lost their Mothers early, or who have never known them, and for those abandoned or deserted by their Mothers.

This image from www.favim.com

This image from www.favim.com

This is a post for all of you who loved your Mothers and Grandmothers, and who won’t have them at your table this year. Perhaps they are ill, or passed on. Perhaps distance separates you, or misunderstanding. Perhaps they are living in the shady halls of memory where they no longer recognise you, or the love you have for them, or they for you.

This is a post for the blended families, for the difficulties of mothering children who are not your own, and who may not accept you.  This is for those of you whose Father chose someone other than your Mother, and where you still feel the pain of the loss of that sense of family and of all you had held dear. This is a post for the children who became second best or didn’t rate at all, once the family structure shifted.

This is for the Mothers whose children will be in your ex-partner’s home, and with that side of the family today, while you sit at home alone. Perhaps for you a phone call.  But no hugs. No day of sharing. Not this year.

This is for the Mothers who are not accepted, loved or acknowledged by their Mother-In-Laws. For the families who know friction and tension, but who still make an effort to keep up relationships and appearances.

This is for all of the Grandmothers who don’t see their grandchildren because of relationship breakdowns or sheer distance and the life choices of their own children.

This post acknowledges all of the women so busy working, or looking after the children of other people, that they never had the time or the privilege to be the Mother they would have liked to have been for their own children.

This is for all the Mothers who made mistakes that they regret, who made bad choices, or who wish now that they had done things differently.

This is for the single Mothers, who long for support and company and someone to share the load, but who are doing the best they can.

This is for the Mothers who do not like their children, and the children who do not like their Mothers.

Life can be a strange, hard and sometimes cruel journey. Mothering and the love of a Mother is not a given and it is certainly not a right.

But we all need love, and at times we all need to be Mothered. This Mother’s Day, you can start by being kind to yourself. By recognising that we receive Mothering energy from many, and give it ourselves, although it may not be to our own children. By letting it be okay that today might be bittersweet, or downright difficult. Life is not a Disney Movie.

This Mother’s Day it’s okay to feel pain, to cry and to wish things could be different.

This Mother’s Day, above all else, I want you to know that I see you, I honour you, and I am sending you love. I’m thinking of you today.  Bless ♥ xoxo

Remembering Nana…

Nana, with my Dad

My beloved Nana passed away, quietly, gently, while I was far away from home. She took her last breath peacefully on the morning of November 16. 2012.  Slipping gracefully from her body, she flew off on her fairy wings (everyone who knew Joycie knew she had fairy wings!) to join all of our loved ones who have made the journey before her.

I didn’t learn of her passing until the next day.  But I woke on the 16th with such a feeling of heavy melancholy. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me – I just felt miserable – flat and soul weary.  Hug me, I told my husband. I’m so sad and I don’t know why.

Later that day I thought of Nana often. It was all the frangipani flowers here on Koh Samui. My grandparents spent a happy portion of their lives in Papua New Guinea, and long after they were home in Australia, Nana would always tell me that frangipani blossoms reminded her of those happy days in PNG.

At breakfast the next morning I received a text from my Dad. There were tears, but all day I felt close to my Nana as I walked around this island paradise.

I thought of her as I sipped pretty cocktails, I thought of her as I swam in the ocean, I thought of her as I napped on clean sheets under the fan.

She’d lived a full and wonderful life. She taught me more than I can say. And I like to think of her now, up in Heaven, or where ever it is we go as Souls once our time here on Earth is done. Nana will have on a stylish frock. She’ll be having tea with her Mum or Happy Hour drinks with Pa and their friends. She’ll be waving hello from her fluffy cloud, and I’ll be waving back at her, sand between my toes, a drink in my hand, and a smile on my face.

Life is magical. Nana showed me that! Bless ♥ xx