21 today! Now what?

Happy New Year! It is finally 2021…thank fuck for that!

All through Damion’s cancer fight, Friends, family, and colleagues  etc.  told me to look after myself, but no one  could explain to me what that meant. I mean, I fed and watered myself, had a roof over my head, and kept up with my bills easily (thanks to my evidently COVID-proof job). I had heating/cooling, electricity, clean and hot water , and access to good medical and mental health care.  That is more than a lot of others.  What else can I ask for?

Perplexed, I asked my funky, and terribly clever GP. She reckons that what I am missing, is a focus on me, Nope, still confused. See above.

That is, a need to take time regularly  to do whatever it is that makes me happy and helps me to relax, just because. Ah, Okay. Since its doctor’s orders.

For the record, in hindsight, I probably could have worked this out for myself. I just needed, (or wanted), someone to grant me permission.   

I am not really a resolution-maker, usually because by the end of the first week, my solemn vow to stop swearing/go to bed early every night/replace chocolate with sultanas, has gone out the window. And who needs that guilt?   This year though, I might make an exception. I will replace the chocolate with grapes instead.

Actually, I was thinking,  as this year I find myself in possession of oodles of time I never had before, I might indeed be selfish, sorry, try and focus on me. Further, I might not feel guilty about it!

So what does this mean for me? Well, first I must decide what makes me happy and/or relaxed. Let us see…

  • Being creative, I.E.  blogging is cathartic, and fun for me, it is where I find my ‘flow.’ Plus, sharing my work with others, and knowing it is being read, (and occasionally enjoyed) is very uplifting.
  • Going out to live shows, concerts etc., or anything that involves food, with people who I know enjoy my company (and who’s company I enjoy), , rather than those who  think they are  doing me a favour, or doing a grand act of charity by “getting me out of the house,” (yes, I can tell, its why I keep saying no to you). 

NOTE: I have a hearing aid, so loud venues/restaurants make it virtually impossible for us to communicate, which makes me feel anxious and stupid. This could be why I have said no to your invitation, but it is probably not.  

  •  Doing nothing and being by myself. I deal with big changes/ emotional turmoil better  if I am left to my own devices. It is the only time I feel free to  switch off or react in the way I need to without be feeling the need to explain or apologize. 
  •  .   Exercising. A friend recently told me that exercise is a great way to regulate my mood and de-stress. She is so right. Also, I get a kick out of challenging my limits.
  • Davie and Auntie Nina time. Speaking of a workout, when was the last time you hung out with a toddler? My Auntiedom is probably my favourite thing about me . It is almost impossible to have a bad time around my Nephew David. If not for the fact that he finds me hilarious (he is obviously a genius), then because hours and hours of keeping him entertained, and playing imaginary games with him,(often with my South Park figurines), is a great distraction from my troubles. I mainly credit him with getting me through losing Damion.

AUNTIE BRAG: At not quite two, Dave has worked out that he cannot lead me around by the finger like he can everyone else. So, when he wants me to go with him, he brings me Cecily, (my walking frame), Says where he wants to go (i.e., toys or playdough), and drags me by the frame instead. Yep, genius!

But I digress.

Okay, keeping in mind the list above, and acknowledging its not exhaustive, here is how I plan to focus on m this yeare:

  1. I have neglected my creativity of late. Time to get back to regular musings. I also really love podcasts, perhaps I might give on a go.
  2. There is some life-changing surgery on the cards, which I am quite excited about. When I am ready, I  will let you know all about it. No, I am not having a boob job. Perhaps next year LOL.

3.I have acquired a nemesis who I would quite like to eradicate. Sadly, I am not clever enough  to kill Cancer myself , so I need to  raise funds to give to people who hopefully can. Time to take on an abseil down a 160 metre skyscraper again I think.

4. I would also like to do a zip line, perhaps off our newest bridge in the Swan River? just because I have never done one and, it seems like fun. While I am there, perhaps another  afternoon of Jetboating would be nice.

5. I should also keep up with my weekly gym and pilates sessions, no matter how I am feeling on the day. I have noticed biceps lately. Welcome to the gun show!!

6.I had a facial and relaxation  massage for my birthday, which was so relaxing, I almost fell asleep. Miraculously I was  able to switch off in the presence of another. Amazing, as not being a touchy-feely person, I usually hate being massaged. I Would not mind doing that again, and again, and again, and…you get the idea. For medical reasons, of course.

7. Now, obviously I have been fishing, but it occurred to me last night that I have never caught a fish I can eat. This is absurd, given how much I love fish and seafood. As a tween, I used to fish off the jetty of my Uncle’s beach house  with my cousin quite a lot. But We only ever caught blowfish and the occasional (accidental) crab. Let us add catching an edible fish to the list for good measure. It would be good to see if I can still fish. .

8. Finally, (and possibly most importantly), this year I will only spend time with those who treat me well, and as an equal. I was not put on this earth to make others feel good about themselves. Especially when it comes at the expense of how I feel myself! 

Anything you think I should add?

XOXO 

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So that was Christmas

Everyone has said it, 2020 sucked, but for me it went way beyond that, as it was the year  that stole Damion.

It has been more than four months since he died. I have stopped expecting him to walk through the door, saving interesting anecdotes from my day to share with him over dinner, and delaying important decisions so we can make them together. But golly, I still really miss him. 

What I would not give for just one more of his bear hugs!

If I am honest, there were times when I quite liked the idea of living alone. If only to ensure that I was not going to trip over something that Damion had left out. Or, so that I could watch something (just once),  without canned laughter. How trivial that all seems now.

Having said that, there still fleeting seconds where I feel so angry at Damion for no longer being here so that I can pick up after him.  I guess this grief thing is complicated.  

Thankfully, December was not as hard as I was expecting it to be, given it was the first without my partner in crime. Not only was it Christmas, quite a big deal in our circle, but mine, and Damion’s birthdays too. On Damion’s birthday I received almost as many messages as I had for my own. Many, from his friends and family, checking in to acknowledge the day, and making sure I was ok. In the evening we had a cake in his honour.

His absence was keenly felt throughout the month, but I got through, thanks to my close group of family and friends who made sure I was supported, distracted, well fed,  and very, very spoilt.  

Funnily enough, I think Damion might have been hanging around for the festivities…Typical.

One afternoon while showing me the Christmas tree for the umpteenth time, my nephew David, almost two) brought a framed photo to me  from a nearby shelf. This was not unusual, he often brings me photos  featuring  himself, or one of the dogs. What was odd, was that he was not in this one at all. He handed it to me, pointed to the subject and said, “Damion.”  It was the only time I have ever heard David use Damion’s name, and yes, I was a bit moist about the eyes.

There was such a strong mutual connection between them both. I was glad to see it still existed.

Then on Boxing Day. While having lunch with Damion’s parents, his mum presented me with a belated birthday gift, which she said was in fact from him.

The gift contained two scarves; we she had made herself. Apparently, Damion had seen them (although they were intended for someone else) and asked her to put them aside for him to give me for my birthday.  He never got the chance, but his mum made sure I got them anyway. Again there was a certain optical dampness.

For a while now, I have had the words ‘Carpe Diem’ (Latin for seize the day),  displayed in my living room. This is now officially my philosophy, and my motto.

So that was Christmas, and Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any tears. 

XOXO

PS, I got my lifelong wish of a pet pig, (of sorts) for Christmas. WOO HOO!

If you would like to see the scarves that Damion‘s mum made for me. Pop onto the inner musings Facebook page, or my Instagram @ninamariebutler

Goodbye Damion, thank you for the memories

On Friday 24th of June 2016 I did a very ill-advised thing, I let a bloke who I only knew online, come to my house and take me out on a date, (dinner and a movie, Independence Day, in case you were wondering. SPOILER ALERT: I survived.

It took me a while to answer the door though. I was busy spying on him from the front window, lest he have an axe. I still remember the first time I saw Damion. There he was in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and his beloved black bomber jacket, clutching three bright pink gerberas in a purple box, and sporting a huge smile. I remember thinking he had such a happy and friendly face. And that was it, we were a “we.” Within six months, we had moved in together and I have never been happier. On the 27th of August 2020, Damion died unexpectedly in the apartment we shared. Now, I feel like a part of me is missing. Today, we farewelled Damion in a service that was uniquely him. I gave a eulogy, a tough gig, as it turns out. I was nervous, because I wanted it to be a perfect tribute, and very emotional, but desperately wanted to Do this for Damion., So, I got a little muddled and may have missed a bit,(I can’t read a print out, so I had to do it from memory), but essentially this is what I said: Since Damion died, I have received several messages from people I have never met, wanting to tell me how he has touched their lives, and how glad they are for having known him. While the messages themselves were unexpected, what they said, came as no surprise. The man had a heart as big as Phar Lap. He lived to help others, and he did so willingly, even when doing so left him over extended. Damion would gladly give you the T-Shirt off his back if he thought you needed it. Although, you may not be too keen to wear it, due to his fondness for T-shirts emblazoned with some rather dubious slogans. A favourite simply said, “I’m not a gynaecologist, but I’ll have a look.” He wore this classy article often. On one occasion, to a posh restaurant. But that was Damion. He marched to the beat of his own drum, and he made no apologies for it. It is one of the things I most admire about him, and something I strive to adopt myself. There certainly was no one else like Damion. Since Damion’s death, I have often been told how happy I made him, and that our relationship changed his life for the better. He did the same for me. Damion’s love was unwavering and unconditional, Something I had never experienced before, and he always made sure I knew I was loved. He was also fiercely loyal. Wherever I was, and whatever I was doing, I always felt safe and supported just because he was there. This is an amazing feeling! As some of you may know, Damion was a movie buff. But did you know his secret ambition was to be an actor? . He would watch favourite movies over and over again, speaking the lines along with the characters. One of the few movies he had not seen though, was a favourite of mine, ‘Fools Rush In.’ In it, (to prevent her leaving him forever), Matthew perry says to Salma Hayek, “You’re everything I never knew I always wanted.” This is how I feel about Damion. We only had four and a bit years together, but they were action-packed, and the happiest of my life. He took me to my first ever AFL game. Unfortunately, though, Damion was a keen Eagles supporter, (I am a Dockers girl), and I was never able to bring him over from the dark side. My favourite memory of Damion, is from our recent trip to his hometown of Port Hedland. He took great delight in showing me around and sharing stories from his 28 years there. On the night we went to watch his footy team, ‘The South Hedland Swannies’ play, he was like a kid in a candy shop, chatting to everyone, (he is the only person I know who talks more than me), and somehow he worked his way into the team’s halftime huddle. The apartment we shared is so quiet and still now. • I miss how he always tried to make me laugh, and when he succeeded, told me he should have been a comedian • I miss his adorable reaction of surprise and pride whenever he got a question correct while watching quiz show the chase. • I miss the kisses and cuddles, (he gave the best hugs), and the way he always had to hold my hand while watching TV. Even though he almost always woke me up when he took it. • But most of all, I miss him.

I love you Damion. Thank you for the memories. XOXO

Ponderings of Port Hedland

In the more than four years I have known Damion, I have heard many a story extoling the virtues of his beloved hometown, Port Hedland.

To Damion, the town is the Pilbara’s answer to Las Vegas, or any other exciting entertainment hotspot. But to everyone else it seems, it’s a bit of a dive. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard “what the fuck are you going there for?” I might be able to get half an airfare to go back.

For those of you who don’t know, Port Hedland, named after Peter Hedland, the first European to reach the harbour,   is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, about 1634kilometres north of Perth, (or so Google tells me).

It’s a mining town, so everywhere you look, there is something to do with the mining industry, and it’s all HUGE. We saw a train carrying iron Ore from the mine to the port and it was about 3 kilometres long. Imagine getting stuck at a railway crossing with that!

Not surprisingly, Port Hedland has a reputation for being pretty rough. Perhaps because its hone to The Pier Hotel, otherwise known as ‘The World’s roughest pub.’ Why? Good question.  Because with a grand total of 86 (including 6 barmaids), it holds the record for the largest number of stabbings in a pub on one night. Aussie Aussie Aussie.

For the record: I went there for a drink (albeit on a Friday afternoon), and it didn’t seem particularly stabby to me. Perhaps it was just the wrong season, like with the turtles.

Personally, I’d also like to nominate the town as the home of the ‘World’s best hot chips!’ These sublime morsels of golden deliciousness, even came with a bolognaise- style dipping sauce. So good!

We did all the touristy things in town like Dalgetty house Museum, situated in the former residence of Dalgetty & Company’s Manager, and a cruise on the harbour, following  a visit to The Seafarer’s Centre.

Here I learnt an amazing fact: You know those enormous ships that come into port to collect the exports? At low tide, these gigantic ships can have as little as 25cm clearance from the sea floor when exiting the port. Mind blown! I can’t get Cecily (my walking frame)  out of anywhere without getting  snagged, even when there’s nothing near me within a 50metre radius, but these people can get 1000s of tonnes of  ship out to sea in those conditions seamlessly? Respect!  

The salt tour was a highlight, I had no idea Port Hedland produced salt (industrial not cooking), and now I’m an expert on the process. This salt comes from the see by the way, it’s not mined.

It’s gorgeous driving through the Rio Tinto salt processing plant seeing all the birdlife (mostly pelicans) over the salt pools waiting for the perfect opportunity to swoop down and snag a fish for their dinner. There are lots of fish varieties to choose from too, Mullet, Kingfish and Brim to name but a few.  Plus, like everything else in the region, they’re huge. Such a shame that only a very select few (which didn’t include us), are allowed to fish there. I REALLY want to go fishing now!

We hired a car, and so I had the opportunity to see not only Port, but South Hedland, through Damion’s eyes. The ‘Damion tour’ featured all his former haunts, where he worked, rested and played (or should I say, played up? As well as Pretty Pool, a popular fishing spot,   and Cemetery Beach, so called due to its close proximity to the Pioneer Cemetery. And of course any photo opportunity involving a decommissioned piece of mining equipment we could find. This tour gave me an insight to Damion I’ve never had before. It also explains many of his quirks.  

The highlight of the Damion tour was definitely going to my first ever country footy game though, this one between the South Hedland Swans (The Swannies) and the Dampier Falcons. Being at a country footy game was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, it’s like a giant party, especially for us, as the Swannies won.  Turns out Damion is quite popular. I think I met the whole town that night.

Overall, Port Hedland really surprised me, the people are friendly, helpful and accept everyone as they are. In other country towns I’ve been to I felt really uncomfortable, and the locals seemed uncomfortable to have me there. There wasn’t even really staring, not even from kids, which is a novelty. It’s a relief if I’m honest. Damion had said he wanted to “show me off” to his mates, and I wasn’t sure how that would go.

It was of course fine, but in the end, Damion’s pure joy at being back in the hood was infectious, so it didn’t really matter.

Don’t listen to the peanut gallery, experience Port Hedland for yourself!

XOXO

Hair today, gone tomorrowgg

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMMORROW

I was born with lots of hair. But after having my head shaved for surgery at six-months-old, a patch on the top just never grew back. As I grew, so did the bald patch and soon, it was accompanied by other smaller patches.

For the record: No, the same is not true for THE REST OF ME, I still have to wax my moustache.  

I was never confident enough to have my bald patches    on full display because so many self-entitled ignorant dickheads (mostly adults), felt the need to comment on them. .  Especially as they grew bigger, hiding them was quite a mission, and for the most part, they were never really covered. 

I longed for lustrous hair that I could style like all the other girls I knew, even just being able to wear my hair down was impossible. So occasionally I would pop a hairpiece in and live my dream.

This turned out to be worse, because nine times out of ten someone who had seen me without it (and who again, should have had more sense), would eagerly point it out. Embarrassment is not the word!

Once, upon entering an  event, a particularly nasty person (think Regina George from Mean Girls, ugly), called across the room “Neen, is that fake hair?” which caused a number of guests to turn their heads. And another time I had someone pull my hair to try and remove what they thought was a  switch I had in, because I was brave enough to tell them to mind their own business, when they asked about it.

NEWSFLASH: it doesn’t matter what it is, OR WHO YOUR TARGET MIGHT BE. Just because you’re curious, doesn’t mean you have the right to know/ask, no matter who you are. Doing so (especially when you’ve already been rebuffed), is arrogant, ignorant and just FUCKING RUDE. Stop it, now!

          When I entered adulthood I started looking into improving my seriously unsatisfactory locks, although I did it in secret for fear of the peanut gallery. There wasn’t much that could be done, unless I was willing to undergo various procedures, which seemed to me to have been designed by Dr Frankenstein. I wasn’t, and I ended up with what could best be described as a permanent toupee, it’s the only thing I have in common with Donald Trump…I hope.

For the record: The piece is made of real human hair. 

It is not fake, thank you very much!

As soon as I got it I started making up for lost time, wearing it out as much as I could. Eventually I grew weary of my long locks and had it chopped into a bob. I was loving myself sick! Until my then boyfriend gave me a compliment saying “Wow, you look great, makes me realise how bad you looked before.” If only he’d stopped mid-sentence…

I have now been wearing the piece  for more than 15 years, and until now only those who I knew I could trust not to treat me like a specimen knew.

Of course, now that I’ve written about it, there will be people saying to themselves “oh yes, I knew all along.” I say, “Good for you, would you like a medal? 

Last year I gave a guest lecture on blogging at Curtin University. I was asked if there was anything I would never blog about, I said my toupee, and can you blame me? Mind you, I said it in front of an audience of roughly 40 people. How ironic.

I guess that is not the case anymore.

Just a reminder people, manners and social etiquette are for everyone, even when you’re talking to me!

XOXO

Making peace with tough

With all the spare time that comes from isolation, I have finally gotten around to updating my blog site. In the process, I came across this again. It was first published in Issue 600 of The Big Issue Australia, published in November 2019. It is, to date my favourite thing thing I’ve ever written. I think this edition is out of print now, so I  thought i’d share the piece, in case you missed it, and you had a few minutes to kill.

Enjoy!

XOXO

 

Looking as I do, it is regularly assumed that when it comes to my intellectual capacity, ‘the lights are on, but no one is at home’.

My obvious physical disability means that I get far too much praise for completing the most mundane of tasks and overall, often a virtual tick-a-tape parade is thrown in my honour, simply because I have managed to leave my apartment.

Whilst this can be rather vexing, I am usually able to let such remarks and insinuations slide. I am all too aware of the low expectation that society has of me and my kind.

However, I do take Umbrage with being lumbered with adjectives such as brave and courageous, for nothing more than going about my daily life. For the record, but for occasionally requiring me to eat my own cooking, there is really nothing in my life that is in any way perilous at all.

Recently, I took part in a team building exercise with my work colleagues. The activity involved a set of questions for me, to determine how I see myself, and a set of questions for them, to determine how I come across to others.

I assumed that I portrayed an air of eccentricity and haphazardness, because with the myriad of disabilities in which I possess, I am prone to doing things in a rather unorthodox manner. Further, in my head, being in possession of these disabilities is all that people notice when interacting with me.

In fact, the results indicated that my colleagues, almost without exception, see me as being reliable, capable, trustworthy and tough. Naturally, I became fixated on those last five letters, T O U G H.

As an adjective, the word tough means to be able to endure pain or hardship. It is the words bravery and courageousness in disguise. Being disabled, it just comes with the territory. For the first time, I felt disappointment in being vindicated.

It was not until reviewing these results with the coordinator that I was able to entertain the notion that this word, as it was applied to me here, may not relate to my disability at all. Rather being tough might just be part of my DNA.

My maternal Grandmother, whom I know as Nonna and after whom I am named, was born early in the twentieth century in a small and rural town in Sicily called Francavilla.

As was often the custom then, Nonna did not receive much of a conventional education. Rather, she was kept at home to learn the skills necessary to assist her mother in caring for the family, and to prepare her for the future role as a wife and mother, which she was expected to become. She married young, and soon became a mother to four children.

Before learning that she would soon be adding another child to her brood, her husband, my Grandfather or Nonno, immigrated to Western Australia in order to find work and establish a home for the family there.

For the seven years that followed, Nonna became both Mother and Father to her now five children. She ran the home and worked the land, communicating sporadically with Nonno via letters in the post.

In 1959, Nonna and her children, together with her Mother-In-Law, no mean feat in itself, journeyed by boat from Sicily to Australia, in conditions I imagine to be similar to Jack’s in the Hollywood blockbuster, Titanic, (minus the icebergs and the death).

In addition to the discomfort endured throughout the entire month-long voyage, everyone in her party was struck down with seasickness, and it was she whom was charged with the responsibility of caring for them.

In my eyes, Nonna was always in control, especially when there were things to be done. This was a woman not to be messed with, well able to take on tasks beyond her assumed capabilities, mainly because she ignored the Peanut Gallery and just got on with it.

Once, when she was somewhere in her eighties, she carried a full-sized refrigerator to her front verge, just because it needed to be done, NOW!

I am legally blind and hearing impaired, and, I walk with the aid of a walking frame. I cannot disguise my disabilities, nor do I try to do so. I also do not feel the need to exclude myself from ‘normal’ life.

Unfortunately, not all disabled people have the same opportunity to exist in regular society as I do. So, even though it is 2019, my presence in places such as pubs and nightclubs for example is often a novelty to some. Given this, my fondness for extreme sports such as abseiling and skydiving, which is no more death-defying because I am disabled, can seem rather more noteworthy than it should be

It is purely my stubbornness and inability to embrace the word ‘can’t,’ that gives me the motivation to get on with life as it presents itself to me.

This, I have inherited from my Nonna.

Nonna died on 12 August 2019 at age 96. She was well beyond Herculean exhibitions like lifting whitegoods by then, but if presented with the opportunity, she still gave everything a red hot go. God help all those who tried to stop her.

As an adjective, tough also means to demonstrate a strict and uncompromising approach.

Perhaps I am tough After all. Thanks, Nonna.

 

 

Life in a pandemic: same, but different

I, (like pretty much every other blogger in the world), had intended to write a piece about isolation and the Covid – 19 pandemic. However, everyone is doing it, and frankly I do not find writing about the minutiae of my life interesting. For me, isolation is the same, but different, and in the wise words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”.

Yes, after weeks of not having left the house, going to the chemist to get my flu needle was like going to Venice for Carnivale`, And finding not one, not two, but three packets of pasta on the shelf at Woolworth’s, was like winning the lotto. But, for the most part it is pretty much same old, same old.

I mean, I am still working, I am just doing it from home. I’m still having a weekly Pilates session and complaining about it, (the moves are still challenging over zoom), and I’m still having regular appointments with my psychologist, (I highly recommend this, there’s always something to talk about during isolation, even if you

do not think there is).

Trips to the supermarket are not all that different either, although there is Less toilet paper.

People are still shocked that I dare to leave my apartment, and the ‘giving me a wide birth’ thing is not new to me either. It is just that now, it is not my disability they are afraid of catching.

Isolation is boring, awkward, and bloody inconvenient, but other than that, it really has not been worth mentioning.

Until now…

I hate getting up early, (I.E before 8am), I mean I really, really loathe it! Yet for the longest time, I had been itching to attend the dawn service on Anzac Day. Since I met Damion almost four years ago, we have attended the service in King’sPark every year.

Now look, Dad’s a Vietnam Vet, and both my Grandfathers fought in World War Two, In fact, I am told that if circumstances had been slightly different, they may even have been fighting against each other, (that would have been awkward). I think Grandma was somehow involved in the war effort too.

But war history is not my bag. I have never really had any particular interest in any of those stories, and very little information has ever been offered to me about them, which is also fine. So I am not quite sure why I wanted to get up before dawn and commemorate the lives of these people I didn’t actually know or have any real connection with. Was it just the promise of a gunfire breakfast afterward? Or wasit only good old-fashioned bandwagon-jumping?

Whatever it was, the 2020 Anzac Day dawn service was cancelled, so I was off the hook. Until I heard about ‘Light up the Dawn,’ an initiative encouraging us all to commemorate the Anzacs at home, by standing on our driveway at dawn with a light.

We do not have a driveway, but at 5.45am on Saturday 25 April 2020, there I was on the balcony in my brand-new English Rose flannel pyjamas, with a candle, waiting to watch the sun come up.

Perhaps due to the lockdown, it was unusually quiet in the CBD. Without the usual hubbub of sirens, trains and the occasional helicopter all I could hear was the gentle pitter-pat of the falling rain, there was little wind and it was still dark. I settled into my squashy armchair. The TV was on inside, but I couldn’t make out what was going on, As the dawn rose, the familiar strains of The Last Post floated through the fly screen door, and then there was silence, (the rain had also stopped). It was beautiful. I cannot remember the last time I was so relaxed.

The sky began to lighten, from an inky black to a lovely shade of periwinkle blue, and two birds

seemed to be chatting to each other from opposite ends of the block, perhaps they were social distancing. DISCLAIMER: I have no idea what periwinkle looks like, sorry. Was just reading Harry Potter again, saw it, and wanted to use it in a sentence.

Anyway, the more the sunlight spread, the more I saw. The building opposite me with the scaffolding on top, which forms a perfect capital A, the neighbourhood stirring, and the cobwebs above my head. This was not so beautiful.

Not sure if I was honouring anyone, I was too busy accidently being mindful, the meditative practice of being truly present in order to relax and calm the mind. Oops!

Ironically, I have often tried to do it, but I somehow got distracted. Thank your social isolation.

On each exceedingly rare occasion that I have seen the sunrise, I have told myself I would start doing it every day. I never have, and it is unlikely I will keep the mindfulness up either. But at least I know it is possible.

XOXO

 

In Dog We Trust

I am the first born in my family, so there are literally a million photographs chronicling my evolution from infant to teenager scattered around the family home. 999,999 of them (give or take), feature our gorgeous standard poodle Candy, somewhere in the shot. She was my personal companion and security guard. always present and ever alert for a call to action. At least until my little brother arrived on the scene, then I had to share.

The year after Candy died, when I was 14, Napoleon came into my life.  Dad, Mum, my brother Geoffrey and I adopted him from a family who were moving overseas, as company for Hercules, a fearless toy poodle who had also recently joined the clan. Apparently, Napoleon was also a toy poodle, but where ‘Herc,’ as he came to be known was hypo, (he ran everywhere), compact, and elegant, Napoleon was solid, (some might say fat), bowlegged and chilled. With big bulging eyes.  He looked like a koala and bulldog hybrid, with the manner of a sloth who dabbled with marijuana. Needless to say, they were like chalk and cheese.

Now, while Candy and Herc were very much family dogs, from the second he crossed our threshold Napoleon only had eyes for me. He followed me everywhere, (even insisting on coming with me to the toilet or the shower). Wherever I was, you could bet your life that Napoleon was right at my heel. I am not a dog on the bed kind of girl either, but for Napoleon I made an exception. Not that I had a choice in the matter though.

I tried to do the teenager thing of portraying it as no big deal, perhaps even a nuisance. But secretly I loved the devotion. Seeing through the thin veneer of nonchalance, my mum would often say, “I hope one day you find someone as devoted to you as that dog.” Argh! How do mums always know?

Napoleon and I just seemed to have a connection.  At times I suspected he knew what I would do before I did, and similarly, I seemed to always know what was on his mind. It was as if we were made for each other. And perhaps we were.

As a physically disabled person, I find it difficult to get around at times, and when I do get some momentum going, I am still much slower than most. I do not do running, jumping, or throwing and catching. This means that I am a bore to many, especially those in the K9 community. It was never a problem for Napoleon though.

For the record, I am really skilled at sitting, laying down and staying still, so if you need any watching done, I am your girl

Disclaimer: I am legally blind, so there is a strong chance that what I think I am watching on your behalf, is actually in another direction.

Tip: When you’re giving me directions, use ‘left’ and ‘right’ etc. ‘Here’ and ‘there’ don’t help me, I can’t see where you are pointing!

But I digress…

Unlike most small dogs I have encountered, Napoleon was not at all yappy. That was my department. As we were often alone together I would  spend hours divulging all my anxieties, such as family expectations, school, my social life and as I got older, my genuine fear that as funny-looking as I am, I would never find someone who would want me. All my friends were coupling up and I was feeling a bit left out.

I knew Napoleon would understand. He was my emotional support animal, before I knew what an emotional support animal was. He was a free counsellor, who never judged and who was available around the clock, and he could always be relied upon to keep my confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, as lovely as he was, Napoleon did have his faults. That dog stank! When I said we were often alone together, that was usually because he had a habit of farting so offensively, he would clear a room. As I wasn’t legally blind then, I assume that in my case love must also have no sense of smell. Honestly, as my Grandma used to say, “two whiffs of that, and you’d be greedy.” For the record, my sense of smell is now very sensitive.

In 2007, Napoleon had to be put down. I was there with him when it happened, stroking his paw.  I had never seen anything like that before and cried so much that the vet offered to recommend a counsellor for me. I still find this a bit embarrassing. To be honest, up until that point I had rarely felt an emotion quite like it. I had no idea that it was possible to get so attached to anything. Let alone a dog. I still really miss Napoleon.

Now, there’s Mozart, another toy poodle, who’s frighteningly smart, and smells better, but who is the yappiest dog on the planet! Officially he belongs to me, but he likes mum better, and I only have a one bedroom place. So he lives with my parents.

Luckily I’ve got Damion, (an adult man, not a dog), someone as devoted to me as Napoleon was, and who I adore just as much (if not more). He’s wonderful, and he too loves me just as I am. Plus, he lets me go to the toilet on my own, which is nice.

Especially in this period of social distancing, I desperately wish I still had a dog at home to cuddle though.

XOXO

That time where two of my biggest fears were realised at once…

I have always had a lingering fear of taking my hearing apparatus and shoes off before getting into bed. The fear stems from the fact that without my hearing aid and/or Cochlear Implant on, I am unable to hear if for any reason, I need to get up during the night. Even if I could hear though, I’d still need to spend time putting on my boots, as I can’t even stand up without them. So essentially, at some stage I’ll more than likely perish in a fire, what fun?!

When I moved out of home and was briefly living in my apartment by myself, this fear increased, and I took to wearing my Cochlear to bed.

I’m not sure why, (it’s just one of his many quirks for which I love him), but Damion is fond of setting random alarms that go off throughout the night. When he moved in with me, I was able to experience them too. There are only so many times in a night that I could stand hearing ‘Janie’s got a gun’ at random intervals before I wanted to borrow it, so I decided to take my cochlear off when I slept. On the condition that Damion woke me up should the need arise. This arrangement seemed to work very well.

Another fear I have is that of inferiority when it comes to being able to “care for” Damion as “a good girlfriend” should. What if there were an emergency?

Well, I’ll tell you…

It was 4am on Saturday 15 February and I was abruptly woken by the familiar strains of the song I love so much, which I only heard because for some reason I had forgotten to take my cochlear implant off. I waited for Damion to react, but it never stopped. I’ll be honest, I actually got up to berate Danion for waking me up, particularly miffed that as the airconditioner in the bedroom wasn’t working, he had chosen to sleep on the lounge. So, I had to put on my boots and go there, as he seemed to be ignoring my shouted requests of “turn the fucking thing off!” As I approached him through the semi-darkness , ranting all the while, he was still ignoring me. So, I turned all the lights on. “Take that buddy!” I thought to myself.

There he was, slumped on the couch. I knelt down beside him and tried to wake him up, shaking and slapping him with all my might. But he wouldn’t wake up. Ridiculously I had it in my head that he was playing a joke at my expense. Not at all like Damion by the way. I realised he was unresponsive (Duh), and shaking and crying hysterically, I called 000. Something I have never done before. After we had established he was in fact breathing, the operator wanted me to lift Damion onto the floor so I could keep his airways clear. I burst out laughing,, “he is twice my size and I can’t really see what I’m doing,” I told her. She gave up that idea, but kept telling me the ambulance was on the way and that I was doing a fantastic job. This pissed me off, no I wasn’t, I was behaving like a nutcase!

At last the intercome bell rang, the ambulance was here. I pressed the button to let the ambos into the building and up in the lift, but of course it didn’t work and they were stuck outside. 2 further failed attempts later, I grabbed my handbag (containing my keys), reassured Damion I would be back in a sec, and went to meet them. With siprising speed, I might add. Predictibly though, I brought an empty bag, didn’t I? and my usually very reliable memory failed to come up with a phone number to get a spare key. So, we had to go door knocking to find someone to let us upstairs, waking half the building in the process. Honestly, if I had seen this in a movie, I’d say it was over done.

Eventually they got to Damion, roused him slightly and got him into the ambulance, with me (still shaking and crying hysterically) waddling along behind in my Harry Potter pyjamas and my Doc Martens. Obviously I hadn’t brushed my hair either, so I must have looked a treat. The ambo assured me he’d seen worse though. Obviously I asked him how I looked, coz you know, priorities.

I should add here, that the two ambos were great and so patient with the comedy of errors happening around them. But their constant calm gave me the shits, didn’t they understand the seriousness of the situation? The most important person in the world was possibly dying!

He ended up in hospital for 12 days, three of which were in the Intensive Care Unit, but miraculously nowadays Damion is the healthiest I’ve seen him in months. Thank goodness!!

A lot of that day still makes no sense to me. Although I have replayed it in my mind several times. For example, why was I still wearing my cochlear device, and why was I so agro about being woken up? I’ve never reacted that way before, at least not with Damion. The guilt that comes from this especially, is hard to bare. As is the sliver of pride I feel for having dealt with it by myself.

It felt like an eternity, but all up the whole ordeal lasted for less than 30 minutes. Luckily, Damion has no memory of it at all.

XOXO

 

XOXO