Thursday, September 27, 2007


Something absolutely unheard of is currently happening in my home. It's quiet ... and I'm the only one awake. The only thing to hear is the gentle breeze caressing the palms outside my window and the tap tap tapping of the keyboard as a right this. There are few moments in my life these days when there is really nothing urgent requiring my immediate attention. Yeah - my magazine is still unfinished and about to miss yet another deadline, but in this moment, I don't have to worry too much about it.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind week. Dylan has been ill (thus the reason that he is asleep in the middle of the day!) all week, not enough to be really sick, but enough to be clingy, low on energy and just not himself ... but not sick enough to need to stay home and miss out on playing with his friends! It's a fine line. Tuesday I got a call to arms to assist with organising the Brisbane contribution to the Janie Nottingham's rally at Parliament House tomorrow. I hate using the phone, and the idea of ringing and speaking to politicians, either elected or would-bes wasn't my cup of tea ... so I got the grand job of doing the press release for Queensland. At least I was putting my writing to good use. It also helped to solidify more things about birth in my mind and my understanding of it. Hopefully over the weekend I will be able to bring them all together into an article.

Right now - I have to go and attend to an email program that doesn't want to play ball ... grrr ... as I'm due to leave for the airport in quarter of an hour to pick up a friend from Cairns. Well the moment was enjoyed ... if even it was just a moment!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fiction Friday

This Week’s Theme: Pick an unusual phobia and explain why a character has it.

Outside the heavy wooden door she stopped dead in her tracks. The banshee energy that had propelled her from her small unit, to this building suddenly dissipated. Her heart beat picked up its pace, and slight film of clamly sweat seeped across her body, both clothed and bare to the air. Matching the breakneck speed of her heartbeat, her breathing became short, shallow and chaotic. With steady determination she took a deep breathe in, holding it for a count of five and controlled, slowly, releasing it in a long sigh. Again she breathed like this and felt the oxygenated blood reach her brain, the tingling in her extremeties abating.

It was the first time that she had left her home in 12 days. If she left it another day, she knew that she simply would not leave. Would they find her weeks later dead from starvation in her own home, too afraid to leave its safe and controllable walls.

She placed a sweaty palm on the cool door. The wood was calm. It didn't ask difficult questions, it didn't offer a silly smirk in return when you offered a simple and truthful reply. The door inanimate, unable to think and without judgement or criticism didn't ask for a definition of Triskaidekaphobia. But it hadn't been that way all her life. For the majority of her life, she had been a vivacious and courageous woman, she worked, she had passionate love affairs and thought of settling down, buying a house and having babies. She had not always been gripped with this morbid, crippling fear ... it had been slow to creep up on her after her Grandmother's death three years ago. It had been a slow but steady decent into a hell she had never known existed.

Looking at the sign on the door, she was glad to see that it simpy said 'Triskaidekaphobia' - no attempt at either humour, light heartedness, or political correctness. It was just the bare bones of facts and she was grateful. There was no mention of it being a 'support group meeting', a 'twelve steps program' or a 'information evening'. If the truth be known, she wasn't actually sure what kind of a group it was. The listing on the internet had stated it was for liked minded Triskaidekaphobic people. When she'd rung for the address and details she was relieved to discover the meeting has been moved up a day from its normally scheduled date.

With her breathing under control and with a moment's reckless abandon she pushed open the door. She was late and already there were a number of people sat in a circle in the dimly lit room. With amazing mental agility she quickly counted the number of people present, it was second nature and happened automatically .... 8, 9, 10, 11 ... 12. A moment later, with sickening awareness, she realised that she was the 13th person in the room. 'Dont' pass out, breathe, breathe, breathe,' she ordered herself. Her hands shook violently and her legs threatened to fold beneath her. 'Breathe, breathe, breathe,' she muttered. 'Be like Mark Twain - its OK, they just wont have food for you!'

"Good evening," welcomed a woman, with a soft gentle face and severely drawn back hair. "Hi," she squeaked pathetically, her vocal cords so tight with nervous tension she sounded more like a chipmunk than herself. 'Thanks for having me along.'

"Please take a chair," offered the soft faced woman, dragging a chair into the circle.

Avoiding looking at any of the other people already sitting and now looking decidedly uncomfortable with the fact that the number of people in the room had just increased, she quickly crossed the room. She knew if she gave it another thought she would scuttle out of the room, never again to regain her nerve to venture out to face her fear with others.

"We've already begun our introductions. My name is Jacqui and I'm the facilitator. I am a trained therapist, but that is not my role here. My role here is to provide a safe space to enable you to explore your experiences and be witnessed by others who share a common experience. To introduce ourselves we share our first name, how long we have been a Triskaidekaphobic and what you believe began your journey on this path. This helps us to get to know each other and to see that our experiences are all unique, we all share fundamental similarities."

She nodded to let Jacqui know she understood the rules of the space. Across the space of the next half hour she learnt Martha had been been afraid of the number 13 since she had a car accident five years ago. Martha had originally been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and then OCD, finally as being Agoraphobic - but it wasn't open spaces she was worried about. It was the possibility that she may come into contact with something associated with the number 13. She'd been on medication for depression, which exacerbated her symptoms. Martha had been coming along to these meetings now for a year. She called herself a recovering Triskaidekaphobic

Bob's fear of the number thirteen sprang from superstitious nonsenses that had been hammered into him as a small boy by a relgiously zealous and superstitious mother. The tales had morphed into an irrational fear for him in adolescent, spurned on by litres of testosterone and low self confidence. He admits he could well have become fearful of black cars, ladders or any of the other gobbledeegook his mother had churned out - but there was something about the power of the number 13 - something he still didn't understand. He was now 22 and somehow she felt that Bob wasn't his real name. He didn't look like a Bob! He also didn't call himself a recovering Triskaidekaphobic. She wondered if he was a support group junkie like in Fight Club?

All too quickly for her, it was her turn to share.

"My name is Lily," she introduced in a quiet and restrained voice. "I've been a Triskaidekaphobic for exactly two weeks .... before that I had not idea that I was mentally ill or that my condition was more than just an over blown superstition. I didn't even know it had a clinical name. A phobia! I realised something was not right when my fear of 13 stood between me and what I wanted to do. I read on the internet that something is only considered a mental illness when it impacts negatively on the person or their family. My friends and family have laughed at me for the last few months whenever my fear of 13 comes up. They are not in my body to hear the blood thumping in my ears, to feel my entire body tremble like I'm hooked up to low level electricity. I'm fucking terrified and no one takes me seriously. That was until a fortnight ago."

Twelve days ago, on the 3rd anniversary of her Grandmother's death it all fell to pieces and she couldn't bare the thought of another travesity of fate and locked herself in the house. It was Friday the 13th when her Grandmother had passed away. Her death hit her hard. They were close, she had been more a mother to Lily than her actual mother was. To make it worse, she had suffered the fatal stroke infront of Lily during their weekly afternoon soiree of Arctic Fire tea and beestings. Her face had twitched a little, the colour draining all of a sudden from it. She said she felt a little ill and then fell off her chair. Even with concerted CPR until the ambulence arrived, Granny had passed to the other side, to explore all the notions and theories that she'd had in this life.

Lily's boyfriend had been a tower of strength. He moved in with her and it was the steadiness she needed in her life. Thirteen months later, to the day, on the 13 October she'd come home early from her job in a call centre and found him in bed with her best friend. The affair had been going on almost as long as their relationship. Distraught, she had immediately booked off three weeks holiday and escaped overseas. Thinking nothing of it, immersed so thoroughly in her own misery, she didn't notice they had booked her into room 13 on the 13th floor. A hotel that did not stand on superstitious tradition. On the 13th night there, her room was burgled. Gone were her passport, her travels cheques, all her clothes, jewellery - even her sanitary pads. In a dirty street worn set of clothes she presented at the Australian embassy to wait for confirmation of her citizenship status. It was there that a courteous diplomatic staffer pointed out to her the strange coincidence of the 13s. The staffer, a sensible blonde girl in her early 20's stated "It's a good thing that you're not superstitious"

'"I had plenty of time to contemplate the concidences while I was stuck in the Australian consulate waiting for a new passport. There was no one to ring home who cared where I was, or who could help me. The staff at the consulate were lovely but I became known at 'Unlucky 13' and I returned home wearing that caul. I became hyper vigilant to the opportunity of the number 13 rearing its ugly head and biting me on the arse. Not that there really was terribly much else to take. I quit my job at the call centre, the incoming phone number began with a 13 and the panick attacks I had walking into work, completely disabled me. I couldn't function. "

"I took the opportunity to invest time and effort into my painting. My Granny's estate had left me enough money to live comfortably for a few years while I got myself sorted out - but I was blocked. The canvasses remained blank, the new and old paints unopened. I became obessed. I could only ever have 12 of anything on a shelf in the cupboard and I stopped catching the bus incase someone got on or off and there were 13 of us on the bus. I was continually worried that 13 would happen. I had no ability to control the world around me and ensure there was never 13 of anything that I was part of ... so I stayed home. There I could control it all - the sky could not fall in, the world end if I was there because 13 raised its ugly head. Twelve days ago I pledged to never again leave the house but also pledged I'd get myself help.

"The rational part of my brain tells me to snap out of it, reads up on the beauty and spiritual dimensions of the number and how the patriachy has bastardised both the number 13 and Friday - meant to be a sacred and auspicious day dedicated to Venus, the number 13 bringing an extra special dimension to it. I've read up on the natural occurence of 13, the number of lunar cycles in a calendar year, the number of periods a woman will have in a year .. but it always ends up coming back down to the obliteration of the Knights Templar, Apollo 13 and the 13 sitting at the Last Supper.

"I knew yesterday that if I didn't get out today I might never leave the house again. And here I am, Triskaidekaphobic and ready to reclaim my life again."

Bob beside her had been whispering something to Martha as she concluded her sharing time. Lily shot him a contemptuous look for his rudeness and then was overcome by the odour of gas.

"Do you smell gas?" she asked Bob quietly, wondering if that was what he had been muttering about under his breath to Martha while she was speaking.

So enraptured by her story, being completely present and supportive for Lily as a newcomer, no one had noticed until now the stink of leaking gas.

"I think it would be a good idea for us all to all go out onto the pavement, and have the gas investigated" Jacqui suggested, but it was the last idea that she had as the roof came crashing in with a thunderous explosion.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Birthing blessings for Kylie

Any day, or night soon, my beautiful and courageous friend Kylie will bring her baby into this world. This is the birthing painting, which was my belated blessingway gift. Kylie has been creating a birthing muriel with birthing affirmations that her friends and family gifted to at her blessingway. Kylie's daugher Alyssa has told her that the painting 'look like you Mummy' ... so I'm obviously not going to classify myself as an abstract artist!! May the ancient birthing vibes, support and wisdom follow you Kylie on this your most primal journey, the birthing of your baby xxxx

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Morning Pages: dousing the Wicked Witch

When I read about something, that glowingly and gushingly proports to be wonderful and life changing, I'm often a little reticient to believe it. I like to try before I buy - or in these terms, try before I buy in. I was like that with acupuncture. Had read lots, heard others give amazing testimonials to its healing abilities, but I am forever part cycnic and part inquistive, a strange but compelling mix. After having acupuncture (it was the Japanese kind which does not involve needles - for those cringing at the thought) I was sold. I could feel the heat travelling slowly but most assuredly down the backs of my legs during the treatment, and the next day, I most definitely could feel that my pelvis had opened (we were trying to bring on labour!)

When Julia Cameron introduced 'The Morning Pages' in the Basic Tools chaper in The Artists Way I was a little reserved as to how they could have such a great impact on opening up creative blocks and helping rediscover your creativity. I thought about the years of journalling I'd done, and though they were a great means for sorting through they miasma in my mind, they were never really life changing ...just a life chronical.

What are the morning pages? Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of long hand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness ... They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.
Page 11-12 The Artists Way

I have for most of my life fought with the internal dialogue that goes on incessantly in my mind. Conversations, debates and arguments with others and myself; problem solving; draft creation for articles and stories - you name it. It's hard, nigh impossible, to turn it off. Thankfully after some counselling in 2003, and some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy the negative tape stopped playing - the one that subliminally, like 24 hour sleep teaching went 'I do not deserve to be loved', 'I am not good enough' - you get the gist! But nevertheless the monologue, and sometimes dialogue never shuts up and over time I've just got used to it. It loudest when I'm alone - especially when I'm out walking. I've decided that its Gemini sun, gemini rising.

The first thing I noticed last week when I began doing my Morning Pages was the internal voice stopped. It wasn't saying negative things, nor positive ... it was blissfully silent. How come? Anything that had been tying up my mind space each morning, was put down on paper. I came to realise within a few days, that journalling at night gave me the opportunity to put it down, record it, and reflect ... dreaming at night gave me a chance to process it, and finally the morning pages were like the blow off ... blown away on the tide of a breathe like dandelion seeds ... ahhhh. With the static gone, the wafts of original and creative thought dont have to be sucked into the stagnet electricity like dust particulars.

The voices were back this morning - loud, angry and clashing, swinging from wildy destructive to pathetically ambivalent. They were so loud and intense, I walked straight past the huge funeral directors without noticing it (and it takes up a whole block!) I went walking before I had a chance to do my pages this morning. Its walk, a little Fly Lady, make everyone breakfast and then the pages. So there was plenty of time for my over active mind to bend, stretch, minimise, maximise, personalise and then step back from the conversation I had with my mother on the phone last night. There was plenty of downloading necessary this morning ... the pages like a nondiscriminating sponge just sucked it all up - and left me with a clear mind. With a clear mind I've had a chance to really process, look inside, see parallels, paradoxes and repeated patterns and begin to make sense. I now have a starting point for healing ... and I hope over the weeks an avenue for healing will appear.

Also, since beginning my Morning Pages my dreams have become more vivid and fluid. I'm also remembering more of them, and in stream of consciousness style able to record them down in my morning pages ... which are mutilfunctional ... and can already understand why the morning pages become an essential part of people's life. I'm seeing patterns emerging death/endings and birth/beginnings - though I'm curious about that connatations of rhubarb in dreams?

There have been other suprising, unexpected and generally welcomed developments. I've been forced to create a morning routine so I can fit everything into a morning and still be able to leave the house at 9:00am with a freshly baked cake/slice if necessary. This has meant getting back into FlyLady which is a housekeeping routine, that allows you to honour and love yourself by honouring and loving your home - yes very Virgo! It practical though - the 2007 motto is "progress not perfection" and I can be good at that. It also means that my partner has his toast and coffee prepared for him,waiting on the table when he gets out the shower (and tell me he's not a lucky man!) and most excitedly, I get a morning walk (something that I made a pledge to do after returning from our holidays - to mediatate and walk - the morning pages being a form of mediation that really suits me!)

Additonally I've been more intuned with Dylan and seeking out fun and varied things for him to do - we're escaping the house at every opporunity, and tomorrow we'll finally get to a toddler dancing class after wanting to go for more than 18 months. Being more connected with myself and my creativity, makes me want to be more connected with him ... and to encourage all of his talents.

Lastly - I've been able to cook dinner without a cookbook! This might sound a bit strange. I can't cook dinner unless EVERYTHING needed is either in the cupboard or the fridge, and I very rarely digress from the recipe. I'm not the type that has to have the cup measure of flour exact, but I'm not terribly original in the kitchen (most people I know, know me for the food I create - so this seems a little of a paradox!) I can't, from scratch, make up my own dishes. Tonight however - I discovered that upon tweaking the recipe I wanted to cook, that we were missing some key ingredients - I didn't throw my hands up in the air and pass the cheffing reins to my partner like I would have done in the past. I instead I thought creatively about another recipe and came up with chicken and green vegies in oyster sauce. I had to use the green vegies before tomorrow when we get our new box of vegies. So the combination of getting mystery boxes of vegies every week and feeling free to experiment is having payoffs in the kitchen also! The best thing though (other than its tasted yummy!) it was done in less than 20 minutes. The creative blocks are slowly melting away.

I imagine the creative blocks like the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz ... they are just waiting for me to find the inspiration (rather than desperation) to pick up a pail of water and toss if over them. And you know what - I'm grabbing the bucket now!
PS: Interestingly enough - Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 'Wizard of Oz' shares the same 9th December birthday with my mother!

Tuckered Out

After a huge day of playing with his mates Dexter and Hugo, which included dancing with Tara the Tiger, playing explorers in 6 foot high grass, digging in the sand pit and devouring more strawberries than one could poke a stick at ... Dylan and his borrowed C3P0 fell asleep on the way home ... and are still asleep as I type! I wonder if C3P0 translates sleep jibberish?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Childbirth, Thomas Mann and The Black Swan

... Our sex behaves differently about it, it takes pain more patiently, we are long suffering, born for pain, so to speak. Because, above all, we know the natural and healthy pain, the God-ordained and sacred pain of children, which is something absoluately peculiar to women, something men are spared, or denied .... When I bought you into the world, Anna, it was very bad. From the first pain it lasted thirty-six hours, and Tummler ran around the apartment the whole time with his head in his hands, but despite everything it was a festival of life, and I wasn't screaming, it was screaming, it was a sacred ecstasy of pain.

From Thomas Mann's 1954 short story The Black Swan.

In honour of birthing women

This morning Dylan and I were painting ... and inevitably my painting scribbles became birthing women. About half an hour ago my friend sent me a message to let me know that her body is warming up for birthing ... though not in labour. I must have been feeling the vibe. Pics poor quality due to the fact we only have a camera on our phone ..

The Tyranny of Time

I wrote this a few weeks ago when I was struggling with my place in the world and being time poor - your comments about time Dali inspired me to put it up here ....

'Time is on my side,
yes it is'
Rolling Stones - 1965

The irony of it is, at the moment I don’t feel as though time is on my side. I feel, what has been recently coined ‘time poor’ (but not necessarily money rich, which is the flip side of the phrase). What I want to do, experience and achieve in life, far outstrips the actual physical hours available in a day, and therefore I feel personally impoverished, despite lots of love, joy and achievements of other kinds surrounding me. My time poverty doesn’t come from trying to juggle a paid job and family responsibilities. It comes from being a fulltime stay at home Mum and voluntary worker who has no family support to fall back on. It comes about also, because I don’t use the precious little ‘me time’ I have efficiently or effectively to make me happy. I often fritter it away, subsumed by the internet and other modern distractions, in a trance like state, simply being in the space, rather than using the space. Yesterday at the Ipswich Workshop Museum once of the placards had scribed on it ‘the tyranny of distance’, but for the majority of us in the 21st century the real tyranny is time.

As we get older, we all comment that time seems to slip away far quicker than it did when we were young. As a child it seemed that a school year took an eternity and even the six week summer break seemed an forever (exacerbated by the fact that after four weeks my sister and I were hell bent on doing serious damage to each other, and Mum was counting down the days until school begun again!) This was in the days of the three term year. I vividly remember the worst time type of time distortion was when we stayed with my Nanna and Pa, and I would wait for my cousin to come and visit on a Sunday. I can still see myself, as a small child looking up at the clock and barometer in their tiny hallway … counting down the hours until 11am would arrive, and so would my cousin. The hours passed slowly, but it was a agonising snails pace that would bring 10:45 to 11:00am and her arrival.

When we desperately want time to slow down – when we are pushing ourselves to complete a task (school or university assignment, work report, or just making it to an appointment on time) time always seems to conspire against us. There never seems quite enough of it to help us out. However when we want it to speed up (when we’re waiting in a line at the bank, supermarket or petrol station) there seems to be such an excess of it, you wonder if you could bottle and store it for times of deficit. Our experience of time is never really constant or predictable, despite the metronomic changes to the digital clock face (I remember the alarm clock my parents had where the numbers were on small white tabs the actually flicked over each minute, so not only was the passage of time visible but audible as well)

Time can have an oppressive resolve that is difficult to fight or befriend. Anticipation warps and slows time, as does impatience, ambivalence and being pissed off. Think of waiting in the airport for a flight that is perpetually delayed and you are have been advised not to leave the departure lounge – how quickly do the hands on the clock move? Anything that generally makes us unhappy seems to slam the breaks on the passage of time. Nothing is more sinister though than the distortion of time that comes with the descending cloud of depression and black moods. Those who experience chronic pain have a similar relationship with time, as those with depression. In the few sunlight moments, time is fleeting as you try and hold it, to keep it from slipping away, striving to make it last just a few hours longer, then the eternal darkness of emotional, psychological or physical pain takes you in its embrace again and time becomes an endless void.

The subject of time was discussed on TripleJ’s Hack program last week. The focus was lost time, with people asked to call in with their experiences of having lots time. Some call backers spoke about their battles with drug addictions and depression, others regarding bad relationships. The later hit a note with me. I have struggled for many years now not to look at the years from Sept ’96 to Sept ’99 as ‘the lost years’. These were the years I spent with my not so nice ex partner in country NSW. In those three years I could have finished a uni degree (still only half completed) or travelled half way across the world or more (passport still unused in the bottom draw). It was hard to try and integrate those years into the fabric of my life as positive experiences not shadowed with regrets. In time I came to understand that I had a wealth of encounters and experiences in those years; amazing people, even more amazing places, a chance to run two business and motivate young people into creating better opportunities for themselves. I learnt more about myself in that time, than I had in the previous 26 years, developed skills and abilities that have stood me in good stead in the years since and taught me what love and respect really are, what I will and won’t stand for in life. This was a similar theme to those TripleJ callers, who admitted that although they were regretful for the time they had lost, they had learnt much as a consequence of their experience.

As soon as I became a mother, and had the 24 hour care and responsibility of a baby, I did become truly regretful for having not used my time more wisely prior to becoming a Mum. The tyranny of time, became the tyranny of unaccomplished dreams and desires as I felt my timeline contract to hold just myself and my small baby, one hourly breastfeed at a time. I felt ripped off for having so frivolously wasted the time at my disposal in the years past. I thought about all the books that I that wished that I had already read, the movies I wanted to see, the countries and cities that still remained unexplored except through other’s stories and photos, the uninterrupted conversations that I might not have again for a decade or more, the degree I still did not have, the simple pleasures such as sleeping in or doing not a lot of anything that were now just luxuries of a bygone era for me. A certain amount of grief came with these enlightenments of time extravagances and wastages. It took a lot more than the pure and simple joy of the bundle in my arms, to integrate and feel OK about it – to be at peace with the knowledge that the time had passed, but there was plenty more ahead to explore, experience and enjoy. It created a passionate intensity in me to really seize the day, understand what my priorities and goals were so I would never be left standing by the wayside with a bag full of half fulfiled dreams.

I’m not totally at peace with this part of my time troubles, because they are so inextricably tied in with freedom – in reality time and freedom are inseparable. When you feel free time expands and hurries by speeding you along on its wings, however when you are imprisoned time shrinks down to claustrophobic proportions, leaving you feeling as though it is barely inching forward. The only answer I can come up bridging the time/freedom quandary, is to find a balance that allows me to indulge in some freedom, some me time and bring my experience of time into equilibrium again (if it ever actually was- after all, before being a Mum I was always complaining about having not enough time to sleep, so some things never change!)

Finding balance so time does not become a fearsome and pitiless dictator is a challenge for anyone who identifies as being ‘time poor’. My tools at the moment are walking, mediating and writing. These fulfil several important personal goals. Walking always unclutters my mind, relaxes my body and gives me a sense of freedom … and you can’t beat being in nature even if it is smote with suburban development and peak hour traffic. Meditating allows me to turn my mind off and tune into myself. Writing suspends time and gives me the opportunity to explore and document my life. Walking and writing have always been priorities, and I have always keenly felt their absence when I haven’t made space for them in my life. Meditating is new. I recently read an article by Patricia Fry on Meditation Walking for writers and understood that I have being doing this unknowing since adolescence. I’ve also indulged in this type of meditative, creative process during long distance highway driving (this was where my creative inspiration for running children’s programs came while I worked in NSW and my creative problem solving has always been based). A balance of mind, body and soul seem to be a good starting point to befriending time again.

My other aid is simply being in the moment, and letting both the past and the future dissolve. It’s almost impossible then to be held hostage by clock, it can only move forward one moment at a time as you experience it. There will still never be enough hours in a day to complete everything I need to, let alone all the projects and assorted asides that I want to, but I can only ever be in the here and now. There’s a lot of time to waste fixating on either the past or present, and when you’re already time poor, it seems like a tragic waste. Fighting the tyranny of time poverty is also about simplifying your life, or ‘down sizing’, deciding what the really important elements of your life are and making them priorities.

Time is on my side … almost!

Creative Clusters

Have just skipped to the back of the book to read about doing The Artist Way together. Page 207 says:

"In my experience we can benefit greatly from the support of others who share our dreams of living a fuller life. I suggest forming a weekly cluster and going through the exercises in the book together, sharing and comparing each answer. Often someone else's breakthrough insight can trigger one of our own."

I've also embedded into the title an online article from Julia about forming Creative Cluster (my burgeoning internet abilities!!)

Perhaps we could take it in turns to 'host' - though its probably not something we want to share with the whole of cyberspace on our blogs .. should 'the rest of the world' find its way to our small corner of that universe. I'm only new to this site, so not sure if there is a way of making certain parts of your blog open to just select friends. Perhaps we can share via email if that works better? At least its a beginning to nut out how we're going to go about supporting each other.

Lots of what is written about creative clusters/support rings true for me, due to the work that I've done in the last three and a bit years with HMA - sitting in circle supporting women to birth their babies at home ... which is really the ultimate expression of creativity.

Do you want to run weekly from Sunday to Sunday - or is there a better start/end day for you guys? And ... do we want to begin this Sunday (or whatever day we choose?)

I've been loving writing the three pages - though I've already discovered that my little A5 size exercise book really needs to be an A4 size one ... as just as I beginning to really roll, the pages are you.

I considered what you said today Dali about writing at night and reflected back to my own love affair with journalling ... its kind of like 'downloading' at the end of the day and clears the mind before bed. I can see both night journalling combined with morning pages as the ultimate - get to download before bed, process during the sleep and then clear it out in the morning. More motivation to get back into journalling again.

Oh and I have already booked in one of my artists dates ... I'm taking myself off to the Goddess Conference on the Gold Coast (something I've been toying with for months, but never made a firm committment) to explore the energy of Aphrodite ... which is quite timely given Venus being retrograde, and having explored some of that energy a few weeks ago in a women's circle here at my place. I know the artist date is only for two hours, but this is something I've been reluctant to indulge in ... and now I've got the courage to do it. I think this will be another aspect of my healing journey.

And ... I'm going to look into putting Dylan into daycare one day a week, that I can dedicate to myself, since he's been bugging me about wanting to go to school - he's obviously telling me he's ready to take the next great big leap! Go go go, after the Eclipse huh?

Conscious Parenting

Parenting is an intense and often unforgiving journey, especially when we choose to traverse a path less traveled. When we opt to do things differently we expose ourselves for unwarranted and definitely unwanted criticism. Last year Sixty Minutes aired a segment on ‘attachment parenting’ and in true ‘newstainment’ fashion, went for the sensationalised jugular. Those who saw it were truly appalled and outraged. I remember facilitating support group the morning after. There was a definite need for many women to purge and debrief as a consequence. The saddest thing for me about the whole sordid episode, was that the segment gave unsupportive friends, family and work colleagues, and indeed complete strangers in some cases, the perceived right to attack and condemn attachment parenters.

Over time I have resisted the label of ‘attachment parenting.’ It has felt confining rather than freeing, and I have come to resent the undercurrent of guilt that comes with it if you don’t follow every philosophy implicitly. Instead I have tended to identify with ‘conscious parenting’. For me conscious parenting has at its heart the philosophies of attachment parenting, but is flexible in the application of those philosphies so as to meet the needs of each individual family unit. When you parent consciously with your heart, your instincts and your children as your guide, you are liberated from the potentially damaging and limiting effects of dogma; you do what is right for you, your baby/children and your family.

When I was pregnant I read ‘The Continuum Concept’ and it turned the instinctive light bulb on in my head. Pregnancy had already become an epic journey from one set of beliefs into another, and Jean Liedloff’s seminal book was an important port of call on this journey. It seemed so common sense to want to hold your baby close, to breastfeed and to do so when the baby wanted it. I was however, challenged by the idea of having a baby in bed with us and of constantly carrying a baby around - such were my Western separatist beliefs on parenting at the time. I was willing to be open to the ideas though. I read and surfed the internet. I watched and I listened to the women at the HMA support group. My ideas began to change in regards to cosleeping and baby carrying. These experiences helped me to put the Continuum Concept into a format that I could relate to, something real, tangible and practical.

Dave and I decided before Dylan’s birth that we intended to baby carry, co-sleep, breastfeed, use cloth nappies and allow our baby to have a gentle and easy assimilation into life outside of the womb through a lotus birth and a baby moon. We knew that not all babies enjoyed co-sleeping (our midwife’s second son had been one of these) that there were exceptions to every rule. We also decided that we would follow our baby’s lead as to what he or she wanted, adjusting our parenting practices accordingly. We felt that trying to force our baby/child into an attachment parenting box and ‘making them fit it’ wasn’t that much different to forcing a baby/child into a mainstream parenting box. One size does not fit all!

Our first lesson in parenting consciously came at 36 hours. Dylan was crying and continued to cry. I was on the phone to Dylan’s Goddess mother, giving her our birth story. He didn’t want the breast and I was glad of that (my nipples were already bruised, blistered and grazed) Dave came and took him off me, to give me a chance to finish my story of Dylan’s birth – who knew when there would be another chance to share it so newly and vividly. Half an hour later I came out to a very quiet lounge room. Lying on the floor, happily kicking and flicking his arms around, was Dylan. He simply didn’t want to be held any more, he wanted his own space. This was a recurrent theme throughout his early months of babyhood. If we held him for too long, or if he was restrained in anyway for too long he would first get agitated, then cranky and then it was a torrent of unhappiness.

We were grateful for the early lesson. Had we been completely rigid in our beliefs about what was best, we may have spent weeks, or even months with our son in a sling, walking the halls with a screaming baby – just because we had been told that was best. My midwife agreed that it was counter intuitive for a small baby to want that. We’ve grown to understand, that Dylan is his own person. Even as a small baby he knew what was best for him. He was, and continues to be, the expert of his body, his emotions, his thoughts and his sovereignty. As parents its is not our job to force our ideals onto him, we are there to love, nurture, guide and support him on his journey.

Following Dylan’s needs as our guide, we decided to teach him baby sign language. It was an instinctive choice. We felt being able to communicate would be important to him. It has always seemed to me a terrible irony that toddlers are able to understand language long before they have the physical capacity to make themselves heard and understood. When we spoke to one friend about our desire to teach Dylan sign language she asked us, ‘How does it fit with the Continuum Concept?’ Both Dave and I were taken aback. We hadn’t seen the book as a blue print on exactly how to raise a child in a modern society, but a good basic philosophy from which to begin a thoughtful and respectful parenting journey. We thought it would work for our family and our situation, and that was all that really mattered.

Our punt paid off. We had a unique window into the important, the fascinating and the exciting aspects of the world according to our ‘Goobah’. It was a world full of hats, balloons, dogs and bikes .., buses, planes, biscuits and the list went on. Once Dylan could walk and sign, around his first birthday the terrible tantrums and general unhappiness he had been experiencing previously dis-appeared; he could get wherever he wanted under his own steam finally and he was able to communicate in a fairly coherent fashion. Isn’t this about what parenting is all about, to create a safe, supported and happy space for a child to be in?

The one size fits all approach to parenting, seems to be the standard official approach from our Government. While Mr Costello wants us to even out the negative population growth, he’s certainly not interested in the logistics of raising kind, compassionate, respectful, responsible and empathetic individuals. It’s very easy for our Treasurer to encourage Australian families to have ‘one for the country’, to tack on $4000 (which as homebirthers, brings us back to zero once we’ve paid our birthing bills!) as a baby bonus and then promise expansions in childcare without really ‘getting it’. He is apparently divorced from the turmoil in many families, when women are needed at home by their children, when childcare just doesn’t salve the wound of separation or financial distress. What happens if childcare, even with a caring and empathetic family daycare provider is not the right option for your child – that they want to be with you! I know full well that Dylan would not have coped, let alone thrived in any sort of childcare arrangement. He needs to be with me, his Mum, and while I wrestle with that at times, I know that won’t always be the case.

Over the years of working with children and teenagers, I’ve seen a definite trend towards a trade off of ‘rights and responsibilities.’ Both primary school and high school children will passionately vocalise their ‘rights’ to certain things, but fail to acknowledge, let alone accept, that with these rights come responsibilities. This applies to us as parents. While we all believe that we have the ‘right’ to children, the growing majority of parents no longer believe that the responsibility of raising their children is theirs. Instead they are handing over this responsibility to ‘professionals’ and for profit organisation. Perhaps this is a hangover effect of handing over the responsibility of birthing to a ‘professional’ rather than accepting the responsibility of birthing our babies ourselves?

If we want to raise children who are balanced in their relation-ships with rights and responsibilities we have to walk our talk – we have to show our children that we have accepted the responsbility to care and nuture them through their formative years, as part and parcel of exercising our rights to become parents. And this needs to be supported as a politic-al and social imperative by all levels of Govern-ment.'

The following articles are not an ex-haustive exploration of the issues confronting parents who wish to parent consciously, or a hard and fast ‘how to’. They are instead an interesting starting point to explore further. There are several articles that also explore the darker side of parenting; when a baby does not sleep, you are forced to parent in isolation or have a sick child.
Conscious parenting is not the easy road. It is often hard work, as it demands a redrawing of our personal boundaries. It also requires previously untested reserves of physical and emotional stamina. I believe though that the rewards in the long term far out weigh the perceived short term hardships. Yes! It is the road less traveled but I swear it ensures a constant challenge to be present, empathetic, imperfect and true to yourself. Who could argue that as a better role model for our children?

Published as the Editorial of Down to Births 2007 Winter edition
Photo: Peter and Sabriyya Kennedy (my little brother and goddess daughter) - taken by Karen van Harskamp (my soul sister). She also took the photo used on my profile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Homeborn Bub

Dylan Llewellyn James Harris
Born at home 10th June 2004
He was less than 12 hours old when this photo was taken

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sitting in Circle: Coming to terms with caesareans

Today was homebirth support group day. In one of my inevitable hand putting up sessions, I agreed to coordinate the Brisbane group at the beginning of the year, to take some of the work off our association's convenor. It's an honour to help organise such a gathering of women. We all sit on blankets and rugs in a park, in a circle, with a little ones being passed around, or finding their own way around the circle. The bigger kids are off on the play equipment - a little homebirthed posse. This is living, breathing community in action.

Those that come for the first time are often pleasently surprised ... after all, sitting in circle, sharing wisdom is what women do best.

At our meetings we share a birth story (today was had an amazing homebirth after previous caesearean story), then have discussions around a set topic, or a guest speaker. There was lots of discussion today about healing from a traumatic birth and why some births, even though the details may be almost exact, are considered by one woman to be 'bad' and another 'woman' good. It all has to do with how she feels about it. This was an enlightening moment for me, as a hardcore natural birth advocate, and homebirth mother of one, I've found it hard to support my sister through her births. Her first was an emergency caesarean as a result of fragmented care through the hospital system and my nephew was in intensive care for 12 days. My neice was born this year by an elective caesarean, two weeks early on the birthday of her paternal great grandma.

For me a caesarean would have been devastating, it was my ultimate worst fear when planning my homebirth. It took a long time for me to be able to get to a place and understanding that would allow me to be able to bridge the experience from 'perfect homebirth' to 'imperfect everythings fucked up royally caesarean' but I did it - with the very wise words of a friend Cara, who I was doing yoga with at the time.

Birth matters - even if we think that it doesn't. How we are born, impacts on our lives forever ... it's not just a 'one day event'. I was born by Caesarean after a botched induction, at 28 weeks gestation. This was 33 years ago and I'm still angry about it. I wasn't able to choose when I was ready to come into the world. I've spent most of my life struggling with being able to make decisions, trying to find my purpose and path in life ... I maintain it is all due to the fact my birth right, to choose and initiate my entry into the world was stolen - by a stupid man who wanted his Christmas holiday to be an uninterrupted affair. What does this tell the unborn baby - when we choose their date of entry into this world - that they are incompetant and unable to make decisions for themselves?

Yes - I feel like woman interrupted ... but Dylan's birth helped set me on a path to heal. And now the discusions today have given me much more food for thought, to continute this healing process. My neice is now a second generation Caesearean born baby and I can only hope that things will be different in this country when it is her time to birth.

Birth is not dangerous, it is as safe as life gets. What is dangerous is the way in which birth is over managed, measured and forced to comply. It is dangerous because women are no longer nurtured and supported by midwives they know and trust. It is dangerous because we have lost sight of the fact the birth is a social and spiritual rite of passage for women.

Tomorrow is National Caesarean Awareness Day in Australia. Please take a moment to pay hommage to all the women* and their families whose lives have been touched by a caesarean birth and the journeys that they are all on.

*In Australia the offical caesarean rate is twice that recommended by the WHO - 1 in 3 women in Queensland will have major abdominal surgery to end their pregnancy.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Short story treasure box: A few stolen moments


The television faded into obscurity and the screen glowed eerily for a brief moment in the dimly lit room. Melrose Place had lost its addictive appeal. She no longer cared who was screwing whom. Her mind was elsewhere tonight.She hoped fervently that the stereo was a better source of distraction as she closed the CD draw and pressed play. Music filled the spacious, sparsely furnished lounge room as she retreated to the sanctuary of her rubber wood rocking chair.

Rocking gently to and fro, she allowed the forceful Pearl Jam lyrics to fill her mind and clear away the mental cobwebs of an old Whitney Houston song. The same snippet had played relentlessly, like a damaged vinyl record in her mind, since seeing him earlier.

"A few stolen moments
Is all that we share"

She drew her legs protectively to her chest, and reflected that fourteen months was hardly a few moments - or was it?

There were the couple of tortured, frustrating hours as they strove to keep up appearances in a nightclub every so often; a mosquito bitten hour, together, on a deserted beach to celebrate the New Year – a day late. Ten meaningless minutes here and there at college, talking about nothing in particular; awkward half hour "catch up visits" in his kitchen, when she could not force herself to keep driving past his house. Combined it was barely enough time to fill one normal day in the life of legitimate lovers. For her, every stolen second in the past fourteen months had been worth it – legitimate or not.

"I must be crazy!" she exclaimed with pent up frustration, agitatedly pacing from the stereo, to the fridge, finally deciding to open the bottle of wine she had bought to share with him later on in the night.

She rifled through the utensils draw until her fingers found the bottle opener. With professional precision she inserted the worm into the cork, twisting downwards and then gently levering the cork from the bottle. She noted the combination of the golden chardonnay in the large blue wine glass after she poured the wine. Held up into the artificial fluorescent light of the kitchen, the glass chalice shone a vivid evergreen.

Green for jealously, she told herself, as she crossed back to the security of the rocking chair.

She deftly rotated the wineglass and sampled the heady bouquet, inhaling the intoxicating promise of fulfilment. The wine splashed up to caress the insides of the glass, peaking lower and lower, until it was again a mill pool in her hand. The calm before the storm.The old waves of guilt washed over her, relentless and unforgiving, eroding away her moral integrity. The mouthful of wine she had just swallowed turned to vinegar in her stomach.

The gnawing, destructively consuming feeling of being the other woman came back to haunt her. The pain of her guilty conscience was constant, like the inescapable desire that tied her to him - a noose around her neck both terrifying and thrilling.
"I am the other woman," she breathed, her voice resigned - weary. Her body and soul deflating at the admission.

Her mind was branded - conditioned by the impropriety of her actions and the asphyxiating secrecy of her emotions. There was no escaping the truth - she was the other woman. No amount of time or justification in hindsight would ever change the stark reality of the situation.

Luckily, both she and his partner were strangers to each other - both just footprints in his bedroom carpet. She had no wish to change the status quo. She was incognito ... she didn't exist and sometimes she wished that he too fell into that category.

Pointing the remote control at the stereo she skipped through the songs and sipped the chilled Chardonnay, her hand shaking slightly now, as the raw acoustic guitar riff tore through the room.

"Hearts and thoughts
They fade
Fade away"

But never entirely, she wanted to add to the lyrical observation.

He would habitually leave the realm of her reality, hidden behind the routines of daily life; thoughts, fantasies and yearnings temporarily forgotten, but never entirely forsaken. How she'd tried to break the hold and resist the magnetism, whenever he was absent from her social circle. All the time accepting the concerned advice of her friends, but denying herself the peace of mind offered to her in their well-meaning words.So stubborn and determined, in the face of the knowledge that she had set herself on a course of self-destruction.

She had let other men pass her by and allowed blossoming romances to wilt and die, all because she could never let go of him. If he was in the back of her mind during these times, he was unconsciously in the forefront of her heart. Commitment of any type was impossible with his spectre her constant companion.She recognised, where previously she had been blind, the destructive nature and dynamics of their relationship.

Laughing a tentative, nervous laugh, she asked herself if she could be so bold as to call it a relationship? Was that presumptuous? Liaison ..affair ... addiction.

Countless times over the fourteen months she had shed tears over him. On each occasion swearing vehemently it was the last time. That it was all over between them. Time after time, after time. But it never ended ... just subsided, obscured by time and other preoccupations, until a chance meeting refuelled the insatiable fire.

On a rain drenched August night, dripping wet on his nature strip, she had pleaded desperately for him to end it with her – to set her free.

"I can't," he rejected solemnly, his face hidden from hers, rain cascading down the back of his neck, chilling him through his light shirt.
"Well I can't do this" she threw back at him, cold, saturated and emotionally wrung out.
"I can't do it. Just tell me to go and you will never see me again."

Unconvincingly, he recited the words in a barely audible voice and retreated into his yard. As the rain fell in torrents over them, the ring mesh fence and the latch gate seemed to her as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall had once been. He turned his back, walked wearily across the sodden unkempt grass and up the stairs to the front door. Blindly, in a tortured voice, she called him back ... but he was gone ... for that August night at least and the tense months of avoiding each other that followed.

Could lust hold you so tight in its grasp that you could not free yourself? Could it endure? Was love the only force irresistible enough to draw you to those tempestuous, illicit arms? Or, was it the powerful enticement of wanting someone that you cannot have. The thrill of the danger and deceit .. the temptation and desire for the sweet taste of forbidden fruits.

Naked beside each other, quivering with passionate anticipation and fear, they fought and encouraged the unbridled lust .. tried to rationalise their motives and suppress the conscious rising of the blunt reality of their circumstances.

The mind was always stronger than the flesh. The angel of morality would win out over the corruption of the demon desire and she would find her clothes and keys in the early dawn light, avoiding looking into his eyes – afraid of the contained desire in them and the unfulfilled lust within her. Her heart breaking each time, with the futility of the attraction, as she quietly slipped out the door and into the back yard..

"We do have a conscience," she told herself quietly, reassuringly, rocking a while before realising that the music had finished and her wine glass was empty.
"What if though," whispering words that she never dared give life to "if she was out of the picture?"

Preoccupations that would normally drive you to the brink of insanity and all the way back again – but tonight .. tonight he had told her that he had driven past wanting to visit her many times and had broken protocol by asking if he could come visit when his shift finished.

She looked at her watch and her stomach lurched. It was almost midnight - the witching hour. She mused to herself that it was really 'the bitching hour' tonight.

She crossed the room to peer nervously down onto the sleeping suburban street, bathed in the mellow, muted light of an almost full moon. Her fingers fidgeted with the hem of the almost sheer curtains, while her heart beat a wild African rhythm and her stomach clenched tighter than a boxer's fist. Moving from the window, to the doorway, she waited nervously - her shoulder resting against the doorframe to support her trembling body.

A single set of headlights broke the still portrait of the scene below. In the doorway he could see her still silhouette, as he drove past slowly. The slim curvature of her body against the rigid right angles of the opening. She watched intently as the small car drove by three times, before parking beneath the two sentinel palms on the nature strip.

A dark haired man stepped from the car, the sound of the car door closing punctuating the silence. He strode confidently along the street and made his way to the house, counting in his head the ten steps that bought him to her and her to him.

The digital clock in the bedroom read 12:01am as he crossed the threshold and took her in his arms once again - a minute past the lovers' hour and another flirtation with fate.

Copyright Jodi Cleghorn 1999

Flowers or weeds?

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Cool Change

If there's one thing in my life that's missing
It's the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear waters
It's kind of a special feeling
When you're out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon
Like a lover
Time fora cool change...
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Now that my life
is so prearranged
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Cool Change - Little River Band

Is it me or is it conspiracy spurned on by Venus retrograde? The past few weeks, every time I visit my local Woolworths store they seem to be playing the soundtrack to my love life - like a lovelorn review. I thought it was coincidence (they simply had Savage Garden on speed rotation) or it was just that their music selection was stuck in bad 80's and 90's music.Tonight, however, it was set in concrete - it is a conspiracy and somehow someone extracted all the loves of my lives and songs associated with them, and sold them to my local Woolworths to torment me every time I go to shop. They must know even reining in an active and inquisitive three year old, can not hold back the tides of nostalgia.

Tonight's offering was 'Cool Change' from the Little River Band's First Under the Wire Album from 1979. No I wasn't falling in love in 1979 as a 6 year old, but in 1991 as I was completing high school I fell heavily in love with a guy who adored this song (he'd even sing along to it, as we trundled around Ballarat in his seen-better-days, dark green Urvan with bright orange stripes down the side) I'm sure that its been years since I actually indulged in a walk down memory lane with Duncan....

We met when I was working in a Christian Youth Cafe, just around the corner from where I lived in central Ballarat. The name of the cfe escapes me now. Walking past one day to the bus stop, I saw a sign advertising for volunteer cafe workers and I thought it sounded like a great idea. The idea of a a youth cafe was appealing - there was no where for teenagers to go. I was also 17 years old, had never worked in my life (other than the odd baby sitting job) and it seemed like a good way to get some hospitality skills before I finished school.

I guess I hadn't been working there long, perhaps a week or two after my training and the cafes official opening, when I sold Duncan our famous lasagne (I should point out at this moment that I have spent the rest of my life aspiring to be able to create lasagne like this - and I still haven't cracked it!) He was tall, incredibly handsome, older (which was a winner in my book!) and quite charming. He was back again when it was time for me to finish my shift and we got talking ... and I honestly dont think that we stopped talking. It was well into the early hours of the morning when we finally got off my front fence and I went inside to bed. We'd talked religion and philosophy mainly, and I was smitten - good looking and well read! And thus began an arduous and bittersweet friendship/unrequited love affair between the two of us, which spanned sitting last term at high school, final exams and then heading off out in the big wide adult world.

He was the first person to 'take me to church' - something I had to repeat three times to my Dad and sister before the believed that I wasn't having them on - as I was a devout critic of established religion. Going to a Catholic school meant mass at least four times a year and I loathed every second of it. It seemed inconceivable to either of them that I would willing get up early on a Sunday morning and go to Church. As it turned out, this became my Sunday morning ritual through the final term of high school. Yes, it definitely put a big dint in my social activities (not as many nights at Troopers with my best friend Michelle and other underage punters!) and my sleeping in patterns, but very quickly Duncan became the centre of my universe when I wasn't at school.

My bestfriend called Duncan 'basic' (which was pretty rich coming from her!) and didn't like the territory that he was coverting for himself in my life. He was basic in the sense of being uncomplicated - what you saw was what you got. Michelle spent hours annoyingly singing 'Love to have a beer with Duncan' at school, particularly as we walked down the corridors between classes, laughing at her own joke because Duncan didn't drink. He was legal to drink and he didn't, to Michelle that was an abomination.

My week from Thursday through to Sunday revolved around Duncan, his friends (who all came from the same Christian community) and a taste of life on the otherside of high school. More than anything I just wanted to be Duncan's girlfriend ... but as time got passed, it seemed less and less likely, rather than more so.

Oh yes - I'd forgotten to mention the age gap of six year. At times it didn't seem to matter that he was well and truly 'grown up' and I was just embarking on my life as an adult. He turned 24 a few weeks before my 18th birthday (which was spent with Mum in Cairns) As intellectual sparring partners, it didn't really seem to matter to me if he was older - I adored him and I didn't get why age had to be an issue. Prince once sang 'Why is age more than a number, when it comes to love?' While I was oblivious to this being an issue, it was at the heart of it for Duncan.

Duncan's 24th birthday ended up being memorable - because for the first time I excitedly believed that I had finally cracked him, and he'd give into us having more than just the platonic relationship we'd been uncomfortably wearing for weeks. We'd spent the afternoon first at a gym, playing around in the spa with two of his mates and a girl that Greg had picked up along the way. Afterwards, we got fish and chips and sat down by the rowing jettys by Lake Wendouree.

We ate, we drank some alcohol, then Greg and Sophie went down on the jetty to get horizontal. I was mortified (not because it was the first time I'd ever seen someone having sex in real life) but for the fact that Sophie was a passing acquaintance of my sister, and couldn't have been more than about 14 at the time. She was also very drunk! I remember Malcom getting into one of his dark moods, and disappearing in a huff leaving Duncan and I alone ... and we kissed. I think perhaps it was the small quoff that had loosened up his inhibitions ... but it was a passing thing.

The next day when I saw him it was more uncomfortable then usual - stilted conversation and finally a declaration from him, that what had happend the previous night should not have happened and it would not be happening again. Crushed ... pissed off too if my memory serves me correctly, I disappeared out the stained glass front door of his parent's place in a wash of tears.

This became a theme. I was certain he was attracted to me, the kiss had sealed it, but he fought it and I at that stage hadn't learnt my feminine wiles. The kiss was pretty soon forgotten, in terms of being able to see each other, chat and carry on until my final night of school. I had gone out with my cohort to drink at Troopers, as cohorts had done the year before and the year before that. It was a Thursday night and we were all dressed up. I had on a black long sleeved body suit (yes well it was the early 80's) with a press stud crutch and jeans. I'd borrowed the top from Michelle.

I had a drink, but wasn't really getting into the mood. One of the girls was really drunk, got up onto one of the pedastal benches to dance and broke it. I left and called Duncan who came and picked me up. We drove around talking and then went back to his place. His parents had become used to my presence there. His sister, a gorgeous blonde hairdresser always made me feel uncomfortable but his parents were always incredibly pleasent to me. It was dark, everyone was asleep and we snuck inside to his room, which would have originally been a formal loungeroom or dining room. The doors opened in like french doors and had wide, thick opaque glass insets.

We went in to talk - but things seemed to steam roll in the opposite direction to which Duncan had firmly stated they would stay. There was much kissing, whispering and giggling as I explained to him the intricacies of a body suit. We were down to our underwear, on top of the bed clothes (for once a balmy Ballarat evening) and locked in each others embrace when foot steps came down the hallway. There was the flash of a torch. His father hearing voices (and not knowing that I was there) had come to investigate the sounds coming from the other end of the house.

I ducked under the blankets as Duncan pretended to sleep, just as the torch cut a swath of light through the opaque glass insets in the door. If my heart had beating fast, it was racing now. With a whispering, though heaving voice Duncan told me to get dressed we had to leave before we got caught. Scrambling around in the dark searching for my jeans and body suit I was terrified that at any moment I would be caught, rabbit in headlights fashion by his father, in my underwear and clutching a body suit that was never meant to be donned in panicked circumstances.

Dressed we dashed out the front door, leaving a less than quiet farewell of mischevious giggles behind. Emerging on the other sides we broke into cathertic laughter as we climbed into the van (hoping that it would start). We kissed tenderly as he dropped me off and I was on a high. Definitely, this time, we'd be together. On my last day of school I was sporting a huge grin from ear to ear, Michelle was sporting dinosaur bumps and scratches from her evening's escapes.

It was Saturday morning before we talked again, and it was a chilly reception I got at the front door. Duncan suggested that we go for a drive, that we needed to talk. My heart and hopes sank, as I realised that we about to dance the same tune as last time. Unlike the night before, the van didn't start this time. It needed a new battery desperately, but Duncan's dole cheque wasn't reaching that far this fornight (or last fortnight for that matter!) Between us we maneouvered it out onto the road, facing down the hill, and off we went on one of those hair raising jump starts. The first try was unsuccessful, as was the second and we came to a coasting halt into a car park at the bottom of the hill.

Duncan flew out of the car, slammed the door, swore angrily and then punched a huge dint in his door. I was so shocked, it took a moment to register what had just happened. Adrenalin kicked in, as I saw the white rage on his face, and I too flew out the door, landing running on the footpath, and ran away, sobbing uncontrollably. In my mind, it seemed that I was the next target of his anger - since I was already in his bad books.

He must have rung later to apologise and promised me that he would never ever hit me. He simply couldn't. He blamed his boxing training on is inability to control his temper (he had told me weeks earlier about the brainwashing that was involved in his boxing training - training them to either be happy or angry, and how to flick effortless between the two!)
Other than the constant sexual undercurrent, the other thing I remember vividly about Duncan was that he was always late. It was embarrassing because we would rock up to Church on a Sunday morning, half way through the service. And the looks we got! I have a vivid memory of sitting at my piano playing, the top of it strewn with pungent jasmine flowers, my bedroom windows open to the street and passing the time, waiting for him to turn up. After a while I too began to run on Duncan time - which was always a minimum of 20 minutes behind the rest of the world. It took years to kick this terrible habit of always running late.

The time eventually came for me to fly to Cairns to have Christmas with my Mum. Duncan had decided to go north to, to Lismore to spend some time with friends there. We arranged that on the return trip, I would catch the bus as far as Lismore and then we'd drive back together to Ballarat. I was looking forward to the road trip, to the freedom of not being on a bus, and of course to spend time together. My hopes that our differences (whatever they were, because we never spoke about WHY we couldn't have a relationships, we'd just accidentally have moments and then Duncan would repeat the spiel about how it wouldn't happen again!) I guess it was my wish that some kind of an understanding would be forged on the trip home together.

The week before I was meant to leave, having organised my return ticket, Duncan rang to say that he had would be leaving in two days time and he wouldn't be able to give me a lift. I dont remember now if he actually came out and stated that he didn't think that it was a good idea for us to be together for all of that time, or that's what I deduced. This was the final straw.

I returned home to Ballarat a few days before I headed off to do volunteer work with Edmund Rice Camps. I was going away for five days to Shoreham, with 20 odd underpriveldged boys and about 30 leaders. It was the necessary distraction. At that camp I met Leon, who would become my second boyfriend and with whom I lost my virginity. I was grateful for Duncan having dropped off the radar ... the certainty of what I had with Leon was the balm I needed after Duncan.

It all came to a rather melodramatic end. In mid January (after I had refused to take Duncan's calls and had done everything possible to avoid him) I was hosting my first ever dinner party. Present were my good friend Regina, her boyfriend Eddie, Leon, myself and my Dad. I'd spent the day preparing chicken cacciatore from scratch and had prepared a chocolate pudding. We'd had some champagne and then some wine. Between mains and dessert there was a knock on the back door (we never used our front door).

The door was open so he let himself in the and before I knew it Duncan was in the kitchen, decked out in his grey tracksuit pants, Hawaii 50 t-shirt and tongs. The kitchen, lounge, dining area was tiny (we lived in a turn of the century miners cottage!) so there was no escaping. He muttered that he was sorry, he'd interrupted. Dad said no, invited him in. I pushed past him and screamed 'You can't be here!" and went to hide in our outside loo (which comes in handy for occassions like this)

Sometime later I came out, went back inside, went to my bedroom and continued to sob. Leon came in and said that he completely understood if I wanted to go back and be with Duncan, he could go home with Eddie and catch the train back to Warrnambool in the morning. I resolutely said no, told him that Duncan had had months to sort out what he wanted and it was too late now. At the time I thought it a pretty admirable quality on Leon's part to be so understanding and willing to step aside, what I really didn't understand was that it was a reasonably clear indication that Leon wasn't particularly committed to our fledgling relationship. But that's the joy of hindsight!
Amongst the tears and the angst, I made some chocolate sauce for the pudding, we got the Tia Maria out, ate dessert, played Trivial Pursuit and later on in the evening, feeling rather merry and more than a little rebellious I lost my virginity to Leon.

The next morning Dad told me that he and Duncan had had a long chat outside. I turned out that the age gap had been something that he had never been able to broach - he'd felt compelled to be honourable and act more like an older brother towards me, even though that's not what he truly felt. Yes - he was confiding this to my father! It came to pass that night, that he'd finally got it into his head that he was going to come around, plucked up the courage to put things right between us - he'd come around to ask me to g out with him ... he'd realised that he really did love me.

"Well he was too bloody late," I remember replying, feeling angry all over again. Angry that I had spent months waiting for him to come around, and when I had finally given up and moved on, he'd finally come around to it. That was the last time I saw Duncan face to face - him with the bunny in the head lights moment, as he was slapped in the face with the happy scene the confronted him the instant he stepped through the back door. It also turned out that he had been visiting Dad while I was away, and that was why he rather casually let himself in through the back door. I would see the green van driving up and down Sturt Street sometimes, and I'd look at the ground believing, like little kids do, that if I couldn't see him, he wouldn't see me. I would have mild panic attacks when I did see the van, worried about what I would say if I did indeed see him.

As I look back now, I find it telling that a young man, born in the sign of fire, would yearn for the promise in a song that stated 'I was born in the sign of water and its there that I feel best'. I can understand now why Duncan was so drawn to this song (though I did muse a few months later about all the sailing references that seemed to be coming into my life when I stood with my third boyfriend at his Nan's funeral, as they were playing Rod Stewart's 'Sailing) I can see his desperate need for change. He was stuck at home with his parents, with an unfinished plumbing apprenticeship (that he'd done with his father and only had another 6 months to do to complete it), no job, his boxing dreams were still unrealised, he had desires that he couldn't be at peace with and perhaps beliefs that really weren't filling his life with all that they promised.

I hope that Duncan did find his cool change, and found love, peace and happiness. And, I hope that I find that next time I set foot through the turnstiles at Woolworths, that they are not playing my tune. There is only so much romantic nostalgia one woman can handle.

Life is a journey, forever facing both forwards and backwards, but always firmly planted in the moment.