How Controversial Should I Be?

“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” 
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was working with a client a few days ago, and the topic rolled around to suicide.

She had been suicidal once, at a truly difficult time in her life. With therapy and support her life has now moved beyond the worst of the pain and back to a place of balance. But there is no-one to talk with about what happened, she said, now that she no longer pays a therapist to listen. And she worries people will think she is still in that space if she tries to talk about it with friends or family.

‘I understand,’ I said to her.

‘How could you?’ she answered crossly. ‘Only people who’ve been there understand. I mean REALLY understand.’

‘I can feel into your body, and step inside you where you met that pain head-on. So yes, I can understand it from inside you – as a psychic,’ I said, ‘but I also understand. Me. I understand.’ I said those last words more slowly this time, weighting each one.

‘No way,’ she said. ‘You? I don’t believe it.’ She looked genuinely shocked.

‘It’s true.’ I looked her in the eye. ‘I have stood in that place twice, and both times it was unexpected. Each place was a different planet I hope never to go back to. Both times I found a solution that ultimately kept me here. And you’re right. No-one ever talks about this stuff.’

We were out of time, and this was about me now, not about her.

‘Maybe you could blog about it,’ she said to me as we finished up. ‘I would have found that useful, to have known someone like you could have had feelings like me. I mean, I was so f*cked up and broken and ashamed…’ She paused. ‘To have read that, to read that now, would still be helpful. So, could you?’

What do you think, dear Tribe? I’ve written about being psychic and being incontinent and all other manner of personal over-sharing. Should I break this taboo too?

I’ll be guided by you.

Much love, Nicole xx

Everyone has a story to tell…

In these days of emails, tweets and text messages we can spend our days constantly communicating, but not really sharing at that deeper level of connection.

One of my favourite forms of communication is a fairly old-fashioned one.  It involves conversation and cups of tea. Yesterday, my dear friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe, a poet and writer, came visiting with me as we sat in the kitchen of my neighbour, Gordon Greber, and heard some of his story.

Gordon is 85, nearing 86. He’s lived what he considers to be an ordinary life but as times change, what he has done and how he has lived is no longer ordinary. He has been a timber cutter, and cut sugar cane by hand and hauled it on his shoulder before the time of mechanical harvesters.  He’s been a fencer, a truck driver, a dairy man, a farmer.

As a young boy he left primary school when war broke out to work on a family banana farm, thus cutting dramatically short his formal education.

But Gordon, like many old bushies I have known, has a keen interest in the world around him.  Life has been his teacher. As we sit drinking strong tea and nibbling at the scones I have brought he gently unfolds his life before us.

There was plenty of hardship and cruelty in his childhood, followed by unending years of brutal physical labour in a range of jobs that took him far from where he was born, before he came full circle in 1954 and bought the farm he lives on today, not so far from his birthplace. That was the beginning of even more work, as he took a run-down and overgrown dairy farm and turned it into a home, and a productive enterprise.  He often worked several jobs, starting before sun-up and finishing well after sun-down in order to pay the bills. It took a huge toll on his health, but Gordon is uncomplaining. That was how life was back then, he said.  You had to work hard to get ahead. If you wanted a different life for your own family, that was just what you did.

I love watching Carly’s face as Gordon regales her with yarns about battles with brown snakes, friends killed in trucking accidents, crippling droughts and floods that tore families and farms apart. Gordon is so modest; his amazing stories told with humility and self- deprecation.

Carly’s drinking it in, and I see the writer in her storing it away.  Fodder for the mill. I know I will see echoes of this man’s life in her poetry, her novella, her fiction.

They part as firm friends, and I take one last photograph of them, Carly’s small hand pressed up against Gordon’s large one.  Both of them are battlers – with courage and grace by the bucketful. (More about Carly’s life-long journey with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant here) They have met life head on, and not given an inch. I wipe away a tear as they hug. Both cut from the same fabric, although they are not related and are generations apart.

Each of us has a story to tell, something to share, something to teach.  I hope that you can find some time to sit down with someone soon, and get to know each other a little better over a cuppa or a cold drink.  We are a tribe of storytellers – we need to hear them and share them.  It connects us.  It makes us whole. ♥