A Shopping Day

Image from caseybrian.com

Image from caseybrian.com

“I had a dream about you. You wanted to go shopping for shoes, and I suggested we go to the bowling alley. Where else can you go to rent such stylish shoes and have a FREE game of bowling thrown in?
”
~ Jarod Kintz

 

I did something marvellous yesterday. I went shopping!

That may not sound very exciting to you, but let me explain. For the past decade I’ve lived mostly in my pyjamas, or at-home clothes. My husband drives me everywhere. Thank you, congestive heart failure and lyme disease for turning me into a fashion tragic. Shopping with Ben is never fun, it’s a chore that must be done efficiently and include hardware, electronics and possibly tractor parts or farm supplies.

Yesterday Ben dropped me at a big shopping mall in Brisbane, where I met my sister. She had already scoped out the shops online, and in two hours we managed to buy me the makings of a new wardrobe. Simone is a marvel, with a natural eye for colour and line. She gets the whole ‘style’ thing in a way that shall always remain beyond me.

We selected according to my colour fan (I’m a Light Spring), tried on, adjusted sizes and then bought. A dress, tunic tops, camisoles in jewel colours, some tailored pants, a light trenchcoat with a hood that makes me feel a little like a fairy tale character. It was fun, and easy, and not a socket, sprog or item of hardware in sight.

At lunch we met our mother for yum cha, and discussed empaths and sociopaths over dumplings, tea and custard tarts. Then we headed for the makeup counter, tried on some lovely new lippy, bought some, hugged and parted ways.

In four hours I got more shopping pleasure than I have had in years. And now I won’t have to wear pyjamas when I run my next retreat in a few weeks time. Hurrah!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

What happened to the Sisterhood?

Image from www.demotix.com

Image from www.demotix.com

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dressed, well-groomed, and unaggressive.”  ~ Marya Mannes

I briefly thought about titling this post ‘Sisters, don’t be Bitches!’…

It is somewhat surprising to me – as a child of the eighties, growing up with the work of the suffragettes and feminists behind me, and my future status as an equal citizen in the world presumed – that now in 2013 I am writing, not about men, but to other women.

Sisters!  Wake up!

Feminism and the Women’s Movement was about giving us choices. We can vote or choose to become an elected representative of government ourselves. We have access to education and we can choose a path of study.  We can choose to marry. We can choose to have children or not.  We can choose to go to work or stay at home with a family. Or we can do both. We can choose to be a florist, a pole-dancer, a bio-physicist. We can choose high heels or sensible flats. Cosmetic surgery or au naturale. That’s the whole point. We get to choose.

Duh, I hear you say.  I know that, Nicole.

Well, that’s good.  But there’s another part to this equation. We get to choose but the flipside of this is that feminism won’t work if we then judge each other’s choices.

We need to stick together here. There’s no right or wrong, only choices. We need to support each other, and our right to make choices, to be individuals, and to forge our own paths.

A woman is not a better woman because she stays home with her children. She is not a better woman because she works. She is not worse for having no children, or for having six. She is not lesser for being a bad cook, a poor housekeeper, or ambitious in the workplace. She is not more because she has a trim figure, sex appeal or fashion sense. A woman is just who she is – an individual making choices.

The media is full of judgments and statements about women, and what a ‘good’ woman, an ‘ideal’ woman, a ‘healthy’ woman, a ‘sexy’ woman should be like. That’s a dangerous thing to buy into. When we start saying this is ‘good’ and this is ‘bad’ we erode each other, and we undo all the work that was done to enable us to have these choices in the first place.

Stepford Wives image from www.blogs.tribune.com.pk

Stepford Wives image from www.blogs.tribune.com.pk

The truth is that women still do the lion’s share of child-raising, housework, care-giving and looking after elderly parents. On top of careers. On top of personal interests, relationships and friendship maintenance.

We all take different paths and there are many more paths available to us now, but one thing needn’t change. Traditionally, women have supported each other. Grandmothers, elders, aunties, mothers, sisters, friends – they’ve come together to help each other with child raising, families, relationships, nursing the sick, cooking, creating, connecting and grieving. They have shared their wisdom and skills with one another, and enabled those with particular interests or skills to shine, while holding up those who are walking a difficult path. That is one of the magnificent things about being female – this long tradition of support, emotional connection and caring.

It costs nothing to give encouragement or kindness. Respecting each other and our individual choices makes the journey easier and more satisfying for all of us. And it sets an important example for future generations.

We’re living in extraordinary times. And so much of what we enjoy and take for granted has come about from the efforts of strong and determined women who wanted more for themselves, their sisters, their friends and their children.

Our society is made beautiful through this amazing tapestry of diversity. And that diversity is created from the right to choose.

Choice is important to all of us. It’s a basic human right.

Men make choices all the time and are not greatly judged or examined by their peers for their actions.

So why should women treat each other so differently?

Sisters, I’m asking you – support each other and our right to choose.  Celebrate that diversity and the many options we can take in our lives. And if what another woman chooses is different from you, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s wonderful. We are not just women – we are people.  Individuals. No two the same.

Most of us wish for more support and connection in our lives. It starts by suspending judgement and extending kindness and respect, especially to other women. Imagine the world we can co-create founded on that energy!

Alice’s Lifelong Invisible Friend

Image from Meltys

Image from Meltys

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery The Little Prince

Alice is the oldest person to have ever sought out my services as a psychic.  She came to see me late last year, at age 98, driven to my house by her grand-daughter Donna.

After she was settled, and her family had gone off for a drive to give her some privacy, Alice gravely informed me that she needed some spiritual advice before she died. Could I work with someone who had already lived their life and was right at the end of their time here?

“Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “Let’s just do what I would ordinarily do in one of my sessions, and we’ll see what comes up.”

We sat at the table where I work, and I held Alice’s frail hands in mine, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and offered up a prayer for the Highest Good. Then I sat quietly for a moment

It is wonderful to work with the elderly, and anyone drawing close to the end of their time here on earth.  Their lives stretch out richly before them, and the connection to the spiritual world is always strong and immediate.

Immediately I got a name, ‘Agnes’, and sensed that she was one of Alice’s guides. It was the most powerful and immediate connection, as if Agnes was right here beside us.

When I opened my eyes and looked up at Alice, so that we could begin our session, her soft grey eyes held mine. There was a bright curiosity there.

I explained how I start my session, with the prayer and the connection, and that I then opened myself up to any first impressions.  I told her about Agnes, and how strong her presence was.

Then we sat for over an hour, as I shared information about Alice’s aura, and why she had chosen to come to this life.  We discussed love and family, and I was able to give her clarity about some of the incidents and relationships that she was still trying to come to terms with after nearly a century of life.

Finally, as the session was coming to an end, Alice became quite teary, and told me she had a terrible confession. I couldn’t imagine what it could be – Alice has led a good life, filled with caring for others, kindness and love.

“I have an imaginary friend,” she whispered through her tears. “She’s been my friend since I was little. I’m always talking to her, and sometimes at night in my room, after everyone else is asleep, she comes to visit me, and she sits on my bed.”

oh baby3clearlyvintage

I didn’t say anything, just reached across so I could hold her hand.

She laughed. “I must be a bit funny in the head,” she said. “And there’s one other thing… My whole life I have felt lonely on the inside, like something precious is missing. I have no right to feel like this.  My parents were very loving, and I had tremendous brothers. I had a happy marriage and my own two girls and their families have been very good to me. And I had plenty of friends, although, of course, they are all gone now.”

“And your sister,” I prompted. “You must have been very close to your sister.”

Alice looked at me strangely, and the energy between us suddenly became very uncomfortable. “I never had a sister,” she said crankily. “You’re very much mistaken.”

We moved back to safer ground, and I answered the last of her questions, and then her grand-daughter arrived back at my house and Alice and I said goodbye.

Alice’s grand-daughter knocked on my door last night, to let me know that the old lady had died peacefully in her sleep on the weekend. Donna had sat with her grandmother for the last few days of her life, and Alice had been conscious and lucid til the last.  Alice was insistent that Donna contact me after her death.

Donna had a large envelope with her, and she took out the contents to show me. In it were photocopies of some old documents. One was the death certificate of Alice’s mother.  It clearly showed that she had given birth to three sons and then after a gap of six years, two twin girls, Alice and Agnes.

My skin prickled with recognition. Agnes… The presence I had felt so strongly in the room with us that day.

There was also a death certificate for Agnes, who had died at age four from scarlet fever.  The family had lived in a small town in Outback Queensland. Donna had discovered that her great grandmother and Agnes were buried in a family plot in that small town.  She was now planning to go out there to find their graves.

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Alice had told Donna all about her session with me on the drive back to her nursing home, and Donna had then diligently visited the State Archives to see what she could learn of her family history.

She had found the information weeks before her grandmother passed away, and Donna told me it had given her grandmother much peace.

Alice’s family had never spoken of Agnes, and Alice had grown up believing that Agnes truly was imaginary. She had learned from a very early age not to speak of Agnes, but had maintained that love and connection with her twin sister for her whole life.

We both cried, and hugged, and as she left, Donna withdrew another small envelope from her bag. “This is for you, from Gran,” she said.

I opened it after she left. In a spidery hand, Alice had written me a short note. In part, it said Thank you for restoring the missing part of my heart.

Last night I lay in bed and thought of my own beautiful grandparents who have now all passed away, and some dear friends whose lives ended too early.  I felt the weight of all their love. And it made me smile to think of Alice and Agnes, together again, and catching up on a lifetime’s worth of being apart.

Love truly is a force powerful beyond all we can imagine.