Category: Firearms

Riding on elephants and other shit I haven’t done

Shot a gun ✔ I did my firearms safety training in January, and shot my first pest roo in a string bikini Be afraid. Very afraid.

Gone on a blind date ✔ Oh, the horror.

Skipped school ✔

Watched someone give birth ✔✔ My eldest and youngest nephews, now 14 and 9 respectively. It was an absolute honour.

Watched someone die ✔✔✔✔ I think I’ve got this one covered.

Visited Canada ✔ It was lovely. I spent most of it inebriated, writing by a fire, and sledding with huskies.

Visited Hawaii ✔ Does the airport count?

Visited Europe

Visited Las Vegas ⊗ I couldn’t think of anywhere worse.

Visited Asia  India is in my future!

Visited Africa ⊗ I’ve long had visions of dancing on a beach in Zanzibar in a string bikini drinking sangria. Seriously. Except I don’t drink – make the requisite sangria an iced tea, thanks.

Visited Egypt

Seen the Grand Canyon in person 

Flown in a helicopter 

Served on a jury 

(as a point of reference, my mother has done all three ^^)

Cried yourself to sleep ✔✔✔✔✔✔✔

Recently coloured with pencils ✔ I didn’t colour as a child – I read and wrote. Taking the time to colour within the lines is fun, yet meditative gives me fucking anxiety. Not joking.

Sang karaoke ✔ 
With gusto. With my native lungs, I was in tune. Not so much after my transplant.

Paid for a meal with coins only ✔

Made prank phone calls ✔ Hey, I was young …

Been honoured with fireworks ✔ Yes! I was born on New Year’s Eve, so for my 21st I had a huge party because I’d survived twenty-one years with CF. My folks organised the crew who do the Brisbane city fireworks to stop at our place (we were living on the Brissie River) around 9.30pm. They left a whole lot for my Dad and our neighbour to detonate at midnight, and being absolutely hammered, they nearly blew themselves up (that alone was worth seeing – two old blokes jumping around like frogs was fucking hilarious). It was epic and I found out afterwards that people saw them all across the city.

Laughed so much you cried ✔✔✔✔

Caught a snowflake on your tongue ✔

Had children  I found out when I was 16 that I couldn’t have children (severe endometriosis, cystic fibrosis and eventual vulva cancer), so I’ve never had a big ‘oh, fuck I can’t have babies’ moment. It’s just something that’s never been on the table, which doesn’t mean I’ve never been sad about it. My ovaries explode like an atom bomb, and I melt when nursing a baby. Just quietly, I would have been a fucking rad mum. Exhausted, but rad.

Executed successful skinny-dipping *and* nudie runs ✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔✔ Yep. I’ve got those covered, too. In fact, I very nearly got arrested with my bestie’s husband doing a nudie run on a beach.

Abseiled down a building  Would LOVE to. Heights and speed are my thing.

Been camping in a tent ✔

Driven a motorcycle ✔ ⊗ Does being on the back of one count?

Been bungee-jumping  I went sky diving instead. I’ll jump out of a plane, but won’t tie a cord to my legs and then jump. Nup. Not a chance in HELL.

Gone to a drive-in MOVIE ✔ The last time was to see ‘Herbie Goes Bananas’. I would have been around four and remember a human sized banana dancing out the front as we drove in. I was wearing my pyjamas, too.

Done something that could have killed you ✔ Let me count the ways … drugs, for one. I am still genuinely shocked that I am not dead.

Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life  No regrets, just lessons.

Rode an elephant  I don’t know if I could because I love elephants SO hard.

Rode a camel 

Eaten just biscuits, cake or ice cream for dinner ✔ Is this some sort of trick question?

Been on TV ✔ Quite a lot as a kid with the whole CF thing.

Been in a newspaper ✔ Again, quite a lot as a kid and as an adult with CF, transplant, my poetry, and now my deathie work.

Stolen any traffic signs  I suddenly feel cheated. And now I can’t afford to get a conviction because I work for the government.

Been in a car crash ✔✔
 Both were minor, but here’s the kicker – the second was with an unmarked police car the day I found out I had to have a transplant. Top day that was …

Stayed in hospital ✔✔✔✔ WHERE DO I EVEN START WITH THIS.

Donated blood  I can’t because of all the mad medication I’m on for transplant. I so wish I could.

Had to pay a fine in the past 12 months ✔ Fuck you, Brisbane Shitty Council. Better signage would go a long way.

Gotten a piercing ✔ My nose when I was 19, not long after I got my first tattoo.
 Hey, I was in Byron Bay.

Gotten a Tattoo ✔ ✔ I’ve never felt regretsy about either of them.

Ever driven an automatic car ✔ Yep, but I’m a manual maven. Real chicks drive sticks, or something.

Ever owned your dream car ✔

Been Married 

Been divorced  I feel as though I have …
 See also.

Fell in love ✔ Oh my giddy aunt. Madly, passionately and all consuming love? Oh, yes.

Fell out of love ✔ It was awful, for both of us. The guilt was almost insurmountable.

Paid for a stranger’s meal ⊗ I can’t believe I’ve never done this #2016goals

Driven over 100kph ✔ If there’s anyone who has access to a track, I can bring a ’71 E-Type to the table. And yes, it’s a V12.

Worked in a pub ⊗ I’m guessing drinking one out of whiskey and being *asked to leave* doesn’t count?

Been scuba diving  I’m claustrophobic. But I’ve snorkeled in Vanuatu and I loved it because I could, you know, GET UP FOR AIR. Scuba diving would terrify me.

Walked on burning coals  I have no desire to have skin grafts on my feet. I’ve already had them taken from my inner thigh when I had my cuntostomy, so NO.

Eaten snails  Clearly, I haven’t lived.

Swam with dolphins ⊗ ⊗ ⊗  ACHTUNG and fuck to the NO. It’s called animal cruelty, unless they swim up to you in the wild. Go and watch Blackfish.

Swam with sharks  See above.

Lived on your own ✔ Yes. It’s called HEAVEN.

Performed on a stage ✔ I used to. All. The. Fucking. Time. I miss it. I mourn it.

Where in the world are you, Carmen Sandiego?

Life. It gets in the way. That’s why I haven’t blogged for three months because there’s been a lot going on. For the last month or so, I’ve been down with the lurgy (the flu), but after two courses of antibiotics, probiotics, lots of vitamins, good food and rest, I’m on my way to being back to full steam ahead with my year.

Exciting stuff is happening. I’ve been asked to be on the organising committee for next years Spiritual Care Australia conference which will be on the Gold Coast. As a pastoral carer who identifies as ‘spiritual’ but doesn’t belong to a specific faith group, I was so heartened to be invited. I am yet to make it to a meeting because I’ve been unwell, but I’ll make up for it in the months to come.

I cut my hair off last week. It’d been falling out at a rate of knots (ha), and having had it cut shorter, I seem to have stopped shedding. Just like that. It feels strange to be so short (yeah, I know it’s still long, but it was ridiculously long). I’m feeling … fresher. Yeah, that’s it. Fresher. Younger too, which is interesting considering I’m forty this year. I took this this photo after I rolled out of bed for my hairdresser. I know I’m looking a little grey.

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So, here is what’s been happening with me …

Making: Crocheting my first blanket. There will be crying Nicolas Cage style, fist pumping and gallons of tea. My maternal grandmother who taught me how to crochet when I was a little girl would be chuffed.

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Cooking: Chicken soup and green smoothies.

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Drinking: Tea. Endless cups of tea. And kefir. I cannot get enough kefir with a generous dash of honey and cinnamon.

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Wanting: A cabin in the woods/hinterland.

Looking: At cabin porn (there’s a theme emerging, yes?). Clouds at sunset, too.

Dreaming: About toasting marshmallows on the burn pile at the farm.

Playing: Diabetic Wheel of Fortune.

Deciding: What the fuck to have for dinner.

Craving: Sweet milky tea, liquorice and normal blood glucose levels (which are incompatible with liquorice)

Wishing: I was living in northern NSW. I feel between worlds. Or like I need a bridging visa or something.

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Pissed: That I caught the flu and it’s still affecting me a month later … Get the fucking fluvax, people.

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Enjoying: My growing collection of minerals. Or crystals, if you want to call them that.

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Waiting: On more words to come. I know they’re there.

Liking: The unfurling of cooler climes. It was a long, hot summer.

Wondering: If I will ever get this novel finished … #yesiwill

Loving: My new balcony chairs. They are epically comfy.

Considering: Spinning wool, falconry and starting my own religion. The latter would be far more lucrative.

Reading: ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Lars Mytting, ‘Gathering Moss’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer; ‘Konmari’ by Maree Kondo; ‘A Ted Hughes Bestiary’ and ‘Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine’ by Doctors Strehlow and Hertzka.

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Buying: Nothing. I’m Konmari-ing the fuck out of my life. If it doesn’t bring me joy, it goes to charity.

Watching: I just watched ‘Dear Zachary’ and it made me want to cry forever and ever. It’s the most powerful film I’ve seen for some time and will leave you reeling (and needing therapy).

Hoping: That my friends Andrew* and Chief get donor lungs soon. They both have CF and  have had way too many false alarms which is cruel, disheartening and emotionally exhausting. IT’S A GOER FOR CHIEF ON THE SIXTH CALL UP! He’s doing *incredibly* well 🙂

Pondering: How amazing life is being clean. I never thought I could feel this happy. Seriously – have I EVER felt this way? Halcyon days 🙂

Marvelling: At how music makes me feel ALL THE THINGS.

Cringing: That my Jeep needs a new gearbox. Oh, the horror.

Needing: A capsule wardrobe.

Puzzled: That I don’t ever drink coffee in winter.

Questioning: Why so many crap writers get published. I guess mediocrity is on trend.

Smelling: Not much. Since having the flu, my sinuses have been blocked, but today my olfactory senses happily returned and oh! The smell of toast, freshly laundered sheets and chai simmering on the hob – glorious.

Following: My gut. And Marie Kondo. She’s rad.

Wearing: Mecca lip balm. I cannot get enough on my mouth.

Noticing: That I really need to clean my windows.

Knowing: My purpose.

Thinking: I have SO much to do.

Seeing: An overabundance of cranes across the city. All very phallic.

Believing: In fairies and the little people we can’t always see.

Admiring: Anyone who lives with a poo bag.

Believing: In karma. Because I have to.

Sorting: Through my possessions and giving a lot of stuff away. Liberating much?

Getting: Organised to launch a big community project that I can’t tell you about. It is super exciting and slightly terrifying knowing that a friend and I are putting ourselves on the line for what we feel is for the greater good.

Gathering: Resources and support for said project.

Cultivating: Kindness, candida (sexy, right? Thanks antibiotics!), and garden ideas.

Bookmarking: Where do I start? Psychedelics in dying, extreme knitting, cob houses and the small house movement, India, birds of prey & falconry, granny squares, aromatherapy, epigenetics.

Disliking: Where my neighbourhood is heading. Think big corporates moving in, mass gentrification and hideous high-rises that hopefully no one will want to buy. I foresee a glut.

Coveting: A spell that makes me write 10,000 words a day, knowing full well that no such thing exists. The only way is ass glue and a warm teapot within reach.

Opening: Bottles of kefir like they’re going out of fashion.

Giggling: At finding feathers at the most serendipitous of times. My mantra of ‘look up, look down’ has been serving me well.

Feeling: Ready to replant my garden with the help of Mum’s green thumbs.

Snacking: I wish it was medicinal liquorice, but it’s raw veggies with cottage cheese. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Helping: Shit stir the big developers who are trying to ruin my community and create change by lobbying, petitioning, opposing etc.

Hearing: Fleet Foxes and the noble chatter of crows.

Trying: To spend more time offline and in nature.

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(image from https://nostalgichobo.wordpress.com)

Thanks to Pip at Meet Me at Mikes for such a cool list 🙂

*Sadly Andy died a few months after I wrote this. He will be eternally missed.

Why I’m NOT sorry

Today, my friend – the other Carly, Carly Findlay – wrote a shut up amazing piece about apologising and how she no longer wants to apologise for what is beyond her control. Shortly after reading Carly’s piece, I saw the photo Annie Leibovitz took of Amy Schumer in all of her near-naked and non-apologetic glory. I wrote the following on my chasing away salt water page:

I am loving this photograph of Amy Schumer by Annie Leibovitz for the 2016 Pirelli calendar. Beautiful and real, replete with her natural curves and belly. Amy writes on her Twitter account – ‘Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you.’ No Amy, THANK YOU. 

As a woman with Cystic Fibrosis, I’ve always had a belly (even at 38kg) that I’ve been embarrassed about. Why? The way women who have won the ‘genetic lottery’ are portrayed in the media are partly accountable. Compare the 2016 Pirelli calendar to the 2015 one of highly fetishised shots of ‘supermodels’, and there’s another answer.

I stopped reading ‘beauty and fashion’ magazines many years ago for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there was no substance in the writing, and I felt that the articles were trying to dumb me down even though they carried the token ‘be empowered!’ bylines. They made me feel as though I wasn’t in charge of my life because everything from my personality to my body, my diet and the colour of my skin had to be curated to please others.

The images in these magazines come a close second. They are photoshopped and airbrushed to within a pixel of their life, which is not telling you anything new. Over the last year, I’ve been celebrating my body more and more because it is strong, capable and really fucking incredible. This body with it’s bi-afran belly and beauty marks (scars) has been through dozens of surgeries and survived. It took me a long time to accept – let alone be proud of – my scars, and while these surgeries have shaped me, they do not define me. My body is unique, beautiful, capable and tenacious and that’s something I celebrate every day.

Like Carly, it got me thinking that I’ve been apologising all my life for things that are beyond my control. A prime example is when I would have massive coughing fits for the twenty-one years before my transplant. I would be in a constant state of apology – always to the person next to me (especially if it was a boy) even when they would tell me I had nothing to be sorry about.

But what was I actually sorry for? For not being able to stop the brutal evolution of my dis-ease? For not being able to stop my lungs drowning in mucous where the only way I could get any relief from the crushing pain was to hack up green and brown slugs, or red if I had had a bleed?

I’ve been in bed with lovers and have apologised for my belly and my scars. The thing is – I know they don’t care because orgasms are more powerful than any mark on my body. My scars are a testament to my survival. I started calling them ‘beauty marks’ long ago, but I know that they’re just scars and most humans have them – just maybe not as many as I do. Men are told ‘chicks dig scars’, but I’ve never heard anyone say ‘men dig scars’. These indentations on my body represent my survivorship and they tell me – and others – that I am a warrior.

But sometimes there are apologies you have to make. I’ve done a lot of apologising over the last couple of years because I needed to say sorry to my family for lying to them about my addiction issues.

I was brought up with a fairly strict hand, replete with a really solid set of manners, and maybe that’s why I’m such a passionate apologist. I apologise a lot to men for no good reason, and as a society we’re conditioned to say ‘I’m sorry’ when someone dies. How about ‘that really fucking sucks – what can I do to help?’ Because you can always help.

I was talking to someone on the weekend about Facebook and how my personal presence on there is very small compared to what it used to be. Instead of having 800 ‘friends’, I now have about 80, and a lot of them are for my deathie work. The reason I deactivated my profile and had a ten month Facebook hiatus after I did my vipassana was because I had essentially turned into many of my Facebook ‘friends’ own private therapist.

I love helping people – it’s my passion and purpose – but when people would message me to help solve their problems, I would do the very best I could until I became overwhelmed and needed time out. Yes, I feel guilty when people work out who I am on social media (I use a pseudonym) and send friend requests which I decline, but I can’t be everything for everyone. I won’t say sorry – I’ll just say ‘no thanks’.

I spend time with my family and friends and I hold a sacred and sometimes all-consuming space for my patients and clients. I have learned to let go and learning that was not an easy lesson. By establishing boundaries, I’m happier and feel more secure than I ever have both personally and professionally, and while I have this blog, there are many facets of my life that remain private – things people will never know.

2016 will be my own year of no apologies because I’ve done the hard yards and have owned my shit. I hope this post doesn’t sound intentionally angry, but I won’t say sorry if you think it does. I’ve only ever been able to be aggressive assertive with doctors who have lots of letters after their names because I’m terrible – really terrible – at confrontation. I am, however, very assertive when it counts, like when I’m sick and I need to self-advocate. I’ve advised several mums who have children with CF to ‘get their bitch on’ because sometimes, that’s the only thing that works. Here is my anti-apologist pictorial*:

I will not apologise for not being afraid of my own shadow or loving rock and roll.

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I will not apologise for my pale skin or wearing a bikini with an imperfect body or the tattoo I have loved since I was 19. Or the vein mapping on the left side of my chest thanks to numerous DVT’s/clots.

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I will not apologise for loving minerals. Or rocks, or crystals if you want to call them that. They give me strength, make me feel grounded and bring me back into my body.

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I will not apologise for my bruises you CAN touch.

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I will not apologise for enjoying using firearms in a controlled environment. And besides, if you need any organs, I’m a crack shot.

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I will not apologise for NOT wearing makeup/face paint, or showing my vulnerability on the shittiest of days.

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I will not apologise for demolishing a ginger bread house come Christmas time.

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I will not apologise for only being able to draw rainbows and saying ‘fuck’ a lot. 

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I will not apologise for eating phallic themed desserts. Or any dessert, for that matter. Ok, ESPECIALLY phallic desserts.

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I will not apologise for being a bit of a hippie and banging on my Tibetan singing bowl. I love ritual and ceremony.

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I will not apologise for asking questions and seeking answers.

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I will not apologise for taking bathroom selfies in hospital clothes after I’ve spent time in isolation.

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I will not apologise for loving flowers. Any flowers. 

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I will not apologise for twirling. It’s my thing and sometimes it’s how I get through the day.

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I will not apologise for hugging the shit out of my best friends at every opportunity. Or hugging anyone I like or love. I will not apologise for public displays of affection. If I really like you, I’ll hold your hand and kiss you wherever and whenever the hell I want, and I’ll never be sorry for telling you how I feel. If I tell you that I like you, then I *really* do, and that’s called being very fucking vulnerable. I won’t apologise for that, either.

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I will not apologise for having a medical history that may scare you. It does not define me or my future, and if you can’t deal with stories about me at my ‘worst’, then you will never know me at my best.

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I will not apologise for being a secular chaplain who is spiritual and does not belong to a church. I belong to myself and the people I serve.

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I will not apologise for taking feet selfies, because they are my most redeeming feature.

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I will not apologise for writing every chance I get.

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I will not apologise for knowing my worth.

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I will not apologise for loving my nephews so much that sometimes it scares me.

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I will not apologise for my rad transplant scar and the free breast lift I got from Medicare (and my new vagina). They might be scars (I call them beauty marks), but they’ve made me into a FUCKING WARRIOR. So yeah, fuck ‘sorry’.

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*not an exhaustive list.

Primitive

Gun empty, shot with intent,

I hoof hit/wheel roll/foot fall

dropping girasol like unfolding lies

then wait with convivial pause.

In the morning, a thump over the cattle grate;

the scene of an arrival; a foal on the run, mourning mothers milk.

 

In the night-time

we’re running moonshine over state lines,

black boot mafia

crossing chain link fences ’til

we’re making diamonds outta prayers.

Mouth raging pink with sainfoin,

dog soldiers lean on mud-brown huts – sharply muscled,

diesel in their veins and peach faced fuzz.

With the fleeting glare of a fox, I cut my teeth on the mountains

of my girlhood, for some pernicious reward that never came,

but through ravens call, hearken this …

ancestral voices dampen the well,

carrying my body boat in their fallacious swell.

Your tears collect in the hollow of my spine

so I stay stilled ’til they are dried.

 

A film of your despair visible only by the rush of midnight

and only one minute at that.

Thrown from your skin,

bones akimbo to the wind.

Death an internship,

slicing away at dreams and blanketed forces of thought.

A stretch of joy and a garrotte of light;

action put to the sword after a night of liberty.

Beauty is perilous, from cradle to casket (you should know this by now)

Unfold your eyes to the timbre of salute.

Peel open your mouth to speak a salacious moot of sin;

unknotting your limbs from unfeeling,

digging your fingers into the loam,

‘cos your daddy said, ‘there’s honey in that soil, milk in them stones.’

 

Seeking out the ground with eyes I put to sleep so many years ago,

I kneel and pat away at moistening roly-poly roots –

the pads of my fingers dewy and yielding

stamped with flecks of broken china

from seventeen nights of rain.

In the morning, we roll through doorjambs.

You walk behind me; I am your windbreaker.

How many accidents until we collide?

For there is a necklace of deep regret that won’t come loose –

la douleur exquise –

there is nothing ordinary about this.

Eating from the hands of the land,

summer steals in, tearing winter away.

The blood-red of birth, the placenta of earth

that cannot be washed away.

Monday blues

After not feeling too well throughout the week, I had a magical day on Friday. It was my bestie Bec’s birthday, where her husband whipped up some amazing coffee and birthday morning tea treats for us very lucky ladies. There were happy children, friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time (I even met one of their children for the first time) and everyone was just really happy to be there. People are generally happier when they’re surrounded by Bec 🙂 I’m always happier when I’m around Bec.

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I stayed until the afternoon, then went to meet my Mum for a post-outback emergency pedicure. I’m always happier when I’m with my Mum, too. We make each other laugh and I missed her when I was away. I was also slated to George-sit Friday night, because his owner had a funeral and subsequent wake to attend of a very close friend.

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Since I’ve been back, things have been a little off-kilter. I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve battled mountains of pain. I returned to Brisbane happy, calm and relatively stress-free (even though I didn’t want to leave), but since my return, I’ve had some shocking and devastating news from a friend and by six o’clock Friday night, I was in the grasp of one of the nastiest migraines I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. A migraine which was made that much worse when I ended up with a stomach bug chaser …

In 2004, I had a surgery to stop me from aspirating (vomiting) into my lungs. Had I not had the surgery, I’d be dead from O.B. It was an amazing pick up from the Lung Transplant team. Also, It was a reasonably painful procedure (the surgeon said it would be painless. Next time I’ll ask them if they’ve had it done) called a Nissen fundoplication. Trust me – there’s nothing fun about it, especially when you need it done multiple times as a mate of mine has done, because the surgeons just can’t seem to get it right. Luckily for me, all I ended up with was a mild case of pneumonia, but the surgery to ‘switch off my reflux reflex’ (that’s how I explain it to non-medical people) worked well. And by well, I mean super well. As in ‘I CANNOT EVEN BRING UP ONE MIL OF SPEW’ well. I haven’t been able to throw up since, and while it’s possibly saved me a lot of money in cab clean-up fares over the years, when you’re desperately ill from either food poisoning (last year), or a stomach bug (last Friday night), all you want to do is SPEW. And spew I did. Well, a little. I’ll spare you the photo (yep, I photographed it to show my doctor), even though I’m damn proud of how much I managed to bring up. But here was the crux – because I was heaving so violently, the pain in my head just wouldn’t shift. I took all the pain killers I possibly could and was wiped out for two days from exhaustion. I seriously thought I was going to vomit my brains out. Or at least my eyes. By Saturday morning I was resembling George the Pug, who thankfully was taken from my care before I completely sissied out.

Yesterday, my entire trunk was aching from all the heaving I’d done Friday night/Saturday morning. I’m still sore today. I look … disgusting. I couldn’t move my body yesterday – or cough or laugh or sneeze – because of the resultant post-spew pain. My head is an oil slick and my skin looks sallow. Looking back, I really should have gone to hospital to get rehydrated on Saturday, but I like to handle these things of my own accord and in a controlled environment. If anything, I should have gone to hospital for more pain relief, but I’m fairly certain I would have felt worse, because, yep … that’s right … controlled environment etc.

I spent the day yesterday ‘liking’ LOVING all of my sisters photos of Paris on insta-spam and trying to absolve myself of not having showered for two days. Today I made it out of my place downstairs for a coffee, and it was glorious. Old jeans, a singlet with no bra, Birkenstocks and grease-ball hair where I was greeted by hugs and more coffee. I should go and have my left hand x-rayed, because it probably really is broken if it’s still ridiculously sore after two weeks post-fall.

I’ve been gentle on myself today, keeping in mind that it can always be worse, just like it is for my friend who shared their shocking story with me over the weekend (when I wasn’t wrapped around the toilet bowl), beseeching my return to the city and asking, why did I have to come back?’ Oh, that’s right – I DIDN’T. Every time I come back to the city, I feel a little more lost. It feels like a solid country drought since I’ve been away, and all I want to do is go back – which I am, but not soon enough. Things and people are uncomplicated where I go, though there are often harsh reminders when you’re working the land for a living.

Is it so wrong I just want to see some cows in mustering context again? I mean, really – just look at them. They’re smart and adorable. So un-humanlike. Better than a bowl of hard-won spew, even.

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Trapped, or The first and last time I’ll ever write about this

There are far more certainties in the world than death and taxes. There is bad coffee, love, storms in the summer, things you cannot have, and then there’s choosing the wrong people for ourselves. In 2008 – not long after I had fought so furiously for my life and survived an eight-hour surgery where I had my vagina and rectum cut away, skin grafted and was gifted an ileostomy (poo bag) and then went into a coma doctors weren’t sure I was going to come out of – I fell in love lust at first sight. It wasn’t a whirlwind – it was a cyclone. The connection this person and I moved through was something I hadn’t experienced since my first love, and like Lantana, I let it seed and strangle me. I had never had any reason to not be free with my love. I gave it away easily – I fell hard for people.

And so, I let someone in. But this person I ‘loved’ inflicted their sense of entitlement and narcissistic tendencies on me. I lived with what I thought were their ‘quirks’, but when it came down to it, I was being emotionally abused, alienated from the people I was closest to and within the vacuum, I lost myself.

Let’s call him Grug.

At first it was exciting and intensely romantic. It was all ‘wine and dine’ and spending wildly to impress me, although he never spent it on me. Instead, Grug would spend ridiculous sums of money on his P.O.S car that he always wanted to be faster and noisier with more horsepower. He would call and say, ‘I love you. I’m going to marry you’, ‘you’re so strong and amazing.’ Grug used a litany of superlatives and ridiculously clichéd euphemisms, but I was IN. He had me. Within the first week, he wanted to buy me a diamond ring, but at a later date, he told me I’d have to ‘earn it’. What the motherfuckity fuck? I should have run far, far away. How dare anyone tell me I have to ‘earn’ something? I was out of my head – literally – with the romance of it all and so cock whipped that after a couple of weeks, I found myself staying at his house for days on end, sleeping, not getting much writing done and basically starving myself to stay as ‘perfect’ as he would keep telling me I was. On our second date when I asked about his mother, he said (verbatim), ‘She’s petite like you, blonde hair like you, although it’s a bit shorter than what my step-father and I would like it to be.’

Massive red flag, yes? No. I was naïve and thought it was sweet. Or perhaps it was the wine. I don’t usually drink and Grug said that he didn’t either, but it soon became apparent that he was using alcohol and, from what I could tell, drugs as a crutch to control his moods, and I was merely a commodity for him. It took me some time to realise that I was never in love with this person – I was totally tripped up by lust and in love with the idea of being in love and being wanted. Following my cancer surgery, I had been out on a couple of dates, but nothing had eventuated. I felt entirely unloveable. I truly believed that no one would ever want me, and even though I wasn’t ‘broken’, I thought that all men would see me this way, which is ironic, because it seems the men I typically choose chose need my help and counsel with their own issues.

I don’t hate him. I don’t hate anyone. I hate what he did to me. He changed me. Irrevocably, through his actions and dialogue, he changed the essence of who I am. Or who I was. I became an empty husk of a woman who was now certain that no one would – or could – ever love me, and I haven’t been in a long relationship since. There I said it. Fuck me into a new religion, I ACTUALLY SAID IT. As afore-mentioned, I was convinced that I was unloveable for many years, even though I know I flourish in healthy relationships. I’d had successful relationships before, but these relationships had died a natural death and there was little animosity – which is not to say I never caused harm or hurt. I hurt people I loved and still love today as my friends. And it hurts to hurt people. It is not within me to deliberately hurt people.

But this relationship – this person was different. I was spirited away from my family and my friends, and over the years I’ve taken myself back to that place and wondered where my head was at. I know that I was much like a trophy to show off on ‘special occasions’, but mostly, he just wanted me to himself and I naïvely gave it to him. Within four months, I was ground down, depressed, starving (where had my love of food gone?), fatigued and what bothered me most – lacking in compassion. This person showed little to no compassion to anyone and everyone. He had an almost physical aversion to overweight people and a self-fuelled paranoia about the police wanting to ‘get’ him. As my best friend said, he was also far too polite for his own good. He was completely unable to express any compassion or empathy for people less fortunate and this went against the grain of my very being. I could feel my own compassion being stripped away, day by day. I was paint and he was thinners.

More than once I came home to a hyperactive little boy, off his face on who knows what and listening to TOOL*. Another red flag. He only listened to metal – thrash and death metal, if you will which is fine, but that’s all he would listen to. I decided long ago that if a man can’t bring John Denver or Neil Young into his heart, there’s something wrong. He was angry – I just didn’t know it. Specifically, he was angry at his father for ‘not giving him enough’ i.e. – a race car, because he wanted to be a race care driver. Again – WHAT??

He would say implausible things, and the one that strikes me as being the most telling was that he would call me ‘perfect’. I’d giggle and tell him that no one was perfect. But everything seemed perfect, and then the inevitable happened – I got sick with a respiratory virus. It was no big deal – for me, that is. I had a PICC line in my arm (much like a central line, but in the arm or leg for IV access), and when he walked into my hospital room, where he had taken his sweet time to actually come and see me, everything changed. It was as though I had become less of a person and more of my dis-ease. He was repulsed.

I was in hospital on a reasonably toxic triumvirate of drugs, and one in particular – the anti-viral drug I was on – significantly yellowed my vision and rendered me literally speechless. It was as if I had had a stroke. I just could not get my words out, and I’d sit waiting for the words to arrive – and eventually they would – but they seemed to dissolve on my tongue. Before these side effects had kicked in, Grug and I were at post-coitus at his place, and he asked me whether I was going to become co-dependent on him. I was floored. Co-dependent how? I’ve always been fiercely independent and I said that I’d done everything by myself for nearly thirty-one years and that sure as hell wasn’t going to change. He drove me back to the hospital in silence. I went up to my room and was physically ill.

A few weeks later, we drove back from a disastrous weekend away when we saw some police on the shoulder of the highway. He proceeded to call them ‘pigs’. I have some dear friends who are cops, and I know that what they have to deal with is anything but nice. Attending suicides, fatal car crashes and delivering death messages is something only the incredibly brave can do, and so it was not ok for him to say these things. I asked him who he’d call if his home was invaded and he was assaulted, to which I received a comment along the lines of, ‘I know how to defend myself. I don’t need the fucking pigs’ (until someone breaks into your home. Oh, wait – he did karate).

Full well knowing the relationship was over, I said that if he said anything untoward about the police again, he could pull over and I would get out and walk home. We drove in silence all way back to his place where my car was, and I gave him back his keys and left. Yep – he’d given me his keys in the first week where I’d taken them with glee.

I’m writing about some emotionally tender subjects in my memoir right now, and it occurred to me long ago that there’s no expiry date for grief. It goes on. As does life. But it chips away at you – oft times insidiously – and you can never put yourself back together. All of a sudden you are in a million pieces and you cannot find the fucking glue. Sometimes you need to walk away – from your friends, your family, yourself – everything. So that’s what I did. I spent a lot of time alone, much to my friends concern. I escaped the city and went out bush to my ‘second’ family. I walked out to far away paddocks and screamed myself raw at the universe, threw rocks at the empty air and collapsed into the red dirt every day I was there. The only person who I could talk to about this heavy blanket of grief was my mother. She understood my sorrow and my anger. Others didn’t, and that’s ok.

Sometimes the grief was too much and I thought I would stop breathing. I even hoped that I would. I considered suicide, but my brain yelled at me along the lines of something like this – ‘Why would you do something so selfish and stupid over such an insignificant example of a human being after everything you’ve been through? I don’t think so.’ And so did my Mum. She gave me some tough love and I needed it. It wasn’t so much as I wanted to die – I just wanted the pain to be gone. But I also wanted something that would never come to pass. I wanted  every trace of him gone. I wanted to wipe my memory of him. I would see something that reminded me of Grug and it would catapult me back to that place of grief where it feels like you’ve had the spine ripped out of your body. You’re on the floor and you wish there was a door you could open and tumble into.

This experience – not the person – nearly broke me. And I had people who wanted to break and destroy him. One of my fathers best friends who had met Grug over a lovely lunch up the coast wasn’t so sweet on him, so when we finally talked about it over some John Denver, I told him what had really happened. He asked if there was anything I had left behind that I needed, and I made the mistake of telling this man – a tough Ukrainian Vietnam veteran – that I had left some things behind at Grug’s place. His eyes glazed over – I remember exactly where we were standing – and he said with a blank stare, ‘I’ll go and get your stuff. What’s his address?’ I knew that if he saw Grug, he’d kill him and/or beat him into a vegetative state, and I love this great man far too much for him to go to prison over blood lust. The coffee maker I had taken to his house had been a gift to my parents from some very close friends in Italy, and he posted it to me which was great. Except that it was full of mould and old coffee so I had no choice but to throw it in the bin. I noticed that he sent it express post, but through his workplace so he didn’t have to pay the postage. Grug worked for a prominent radio station of which he was and perhaps still is, creative director. I don’t know anything about him because I do not care. I don’t pretend to not care – I just don’t.

For someone who had always loved with reckless abandon, I was in a situation that had paused my life. Limbo smacked me square  in the face and for years I couldn’t go back to that place of trust because he took that away which infuriated me, leaving me with a cleft as big as the Mediterranean. How dare he strip me of one of my best affirmations – to love freely. To feel and to love and be loved.  But I can do that now, I think. Just be gentle with me, and I’m yours.

Luckily, it didn’t take long for my charter of compassion to return. But he had torn me apart and I didn’t know how to put myself back together, so I spoke to a professional and they made a default diagnosis of a ‘sociopath with Narcissistic Personality Disorder‘. For the first time, I felt that the breakdown of my relationship wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a failure. There was a reason he treated me with such ‘love’ which so quickly turned to repulsion.

I read about NPD and wept wildly. Everything made sense. His supreme sense of entitlement, the Oedipus-like relationship with his mother, the skewed relationship with his father, the immature sibling rivalry he had with his younger brother, why his first marriage  had failed, his obsession about perfection and the most telling, the fact that he had no friends. I mean NONE. I was often berated by him for having ‘too many friends’, and he said to me once, ‘you have so many friends. I don’t understand why you have so many friends.’

Of course I have a lot of friends – it comes with the territory of having a terminal illness, and many of my deepest friendships I’ve been lucky enough to have since both primary and high school. He made me feel like an anomaly for having so many people in my life, and the devil on my shoulder would feed my paranoia. It would whisper to me, ‘you have him now – you don’t need anyone else’ and ‘so you’re staying in for the eighth day in a row. It’s nice. It’s cosy and this is what love is. You have all you need.’

And so … forgiveness. I’ll admit it took a while, but when it happened, I felt like a big, beautiful soufflé. So much lightness. I had risen above; I had survived. I had sown every negative emotion and thought into loose earth and it all just fell away. It took a lot of compassion, but I got to where I needed and wanted to be.

About a year later, and still in the throes of devastation and anger, I met a man. A real man. He was older than me and we just clicked. It went on for long enough for me to realise that I deserved a champion and I’ll forever be in his debt for treating me with such kindness. It was as though we wandered gently into each other, and that was what I needed. The lure of introversion and introspection was now my solid foundation, and we bonded over his spectacular collection of vinyls, books, film and some lust. We are now dear friends who don’t see each other enough.

I believe that forgiveness was key to my healing, as was compassion. Forgiveness is the only way to move on from something or someone that has left you an empty shell.  I felt compassion for Grug because nothing and no one would ever live up to his expectations, and he was never going to be happy, even if he believed he was.

And so my message is this – NEVER let anyone change the essence of you and your spirit. Know that you deserve beautiful people, experiences, joy, love and light in your life. Have honest friends who will look out for you vet people you bring into your life. Be selective about who you do and don’t invite into your life. It’s basic self-preservation. You have to be vigilant about people.

I’m blessed to have a few brutally honest friends who know how to say ‘I don’t think so – I’m going to smack you over the head/what the fuck are you thinking?’ if I so much as look at a person who is not deserving of my time, intention or passion. I could never read people, but have found a a few strategies to be trusting, but wary, so if you’re like me or even if you’re not – surround yourself with good people. Believe in the power of forgiveness and be liberal with your compassion for others who are not as emotionally or spiritually evolved as you.

And now for a song. There always has to be a song that comforts, that placates and gives hope. With compassion Grug, I give this to you.

*I mean, REALLY. I grew up on metal, but Tool?

Peace, love and firearms

I often say I’m like the son my father never had.  I love cars, and Dad has some beauties. I love driving my Jeep, and can’t imagine ever driving an automatic anything. I love speed – cars, boats, planes. And another thing … I. Love. Firearms. Always have and after today, I undoubtedly always will. Until today, the only gun I’d ever shot was a .22 in a string bikini (those photos are in a VAULT), when I shot a roo out on my friends cattle station in Barcaldine. I remember being in the pool with Jayde and Katrina when the call was put out that we had roos just outside the fence, so I pulled on my boots, grabbed the .22 next to the stereo which was blaring out (cue mood music) Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’. To make a long story short, I managed to get the roo on my second shot from arounf one hundred feet. I walked out into the paddock to ensure it was dead. There are humane ways to kill pests on the land – don’t get me started on shooting kangaroos because I will win the argument and I’ll wipe the floor with you. 

When I took my Dad out to a shooting range to gun school for his birthday on Monday, I was really out of practice and so was he. Dad or Rosco as we call him, has amazing stories about living in the outback back in the day and some of them involve firearms. I’ve injected most of his stories into my novel set in 1973 outback Queensland because it’s always good to go to the source, like my mate Gordon Greber.

This morning was sub-arctic. Even Rosco – tough as nails – was feeling the chill. We were in a group of nine and we started on the pistols (two different calibres – the second obviously more powerful than the first). We both thought we’d fall in love with the pistols, but more gun-a-licious fun was to come …

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^^ Friendly fire! I call this ‘you have awesome donor lungs and my friend needs a transplant – FREEZE!’

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^^ Dirty Rosco.

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^^ Smiling assassin … and yep – he’s still a crack shot.

We then moved onto the semi-automatics. We loaded the magazines ourselves, and away we went, moving to a higher calibre after ten shots. I was jubilant I’d brought my Mullum market gloves because it really was *that* cold.

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^^ Don’t fuck with me.

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BTW, I’m loving Rosco’s growing his hair. Why? Because he can. It’s very Wyatt Earp (I must get him some pomade …)

But it was the shotgun I had the most fun with when we were shooting at clay targets – one of which I actually smashed. It made me feel empowered and I jumped on my teacher, Lloyd and then the other whose name I can’t remember and he picked me up and twirled me around.

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We had five rounds of these ^^ There was just enough recoil through the shoulder and jaw to get the adrenaline swirling. The photo below shows Lloyd, myself and another instructor. Tough as nails blokes who I’d love to interview for my novel.

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We then moved on for the final activity – black powder pistol and rifle shooting. We had a tutorial where we listened to some incredible stories about the American Civil War and the firearms we were about to use. A tortuously sad period of history, but incredible all the same. The fictional outlaw Josey Wales carried seven of these on his person. One under his arm, two strapped to each ankle, two holstered to his side, one in the back of his trousers and one under his hat as he fired. On a horse. Now that’s multitasking.

We were shown how the powder is poured into five out of the six chambers, and then sealed with a paste made of olive oil and bees wax. It’s a process and a gentle one at that. An exercise in patience, if you will – meditative. These men are passionate about history and were more than happy to lend their ear for a chat about the variety of firearms we were shooting with. I fired an exceptionally powerful revolver – the sound and power shuddered through my chest and into to my spine, then down through my pelvis. For some reason it calmed me. Then I had five shots with a smaller calibre revolver, and as I discovered with the pistol shooting, wearing spectacles can be tricky to navigate. That’s my excuse for no bullseye, anyway …

Our team leader, Debbie was an über impressive lady and just gosh-darn-it lovely. She’s a crack shot with revolvers – that’s her weapon of choice. All the volunteers at the range were so hospitable and kind – they couldn’t do enough for you. When I was shooting the clay targets, I told Lloyd that I shake because of the anti-rejection medication I’m on (a lot of people think I’m nervous, but I’m far from it), so he gave me a couple of tips – about breathing, ironically – and I was set. Love your work, Lloyd.

If I was to describe in one word what it’s like when you’re handed a firearm of any kind, I would say ‘responsible.’ Guns kill people and people kill people – it’s a fact of life – and I’m grateful that the Howard government initiated the ‘buy back’ scheme after the Port Arthur massacre. It’s their greatest legacy by far.

Yes, holding and shooting firearms made me feel empowered and in control and a little bit tough, but you need to treat these weapons with the utmost respect. Yes, I want to get my gun licence – I have for many years. There are a couple of properties I go to where guns are used and I’d like to be a licensed and proficient shot. It’s a long process and so it should be, although it’s rarely registered gun owners who carry out acts of violence. 

Shooting as a sport never made sense to me, but after today it does. It takes immense strength to hold a firearm and hold it steady for extended periods of time. I’m going to be a little tender tomorrow … in need of massage. Prepared to take any most offers at this stage …

If shooting was a sport at the Transplant Games, I’d be gold medalling the fuck out of life.

For Dad, his favourite activity was the .22 pistol and the .308 calibre of the semi-automatic. But being a Clint Eastwood aficionado, his heart lies with the black powder revolvers of old west and Civil War. For me, it was the twelve gauge shottie with the clay targets and the .308 calibre of the semi-automatic. Or maybe I developed grandfatherly emotions for Lloyd 🙂 Rosco and I had a beautiful day of bullets, mateship, high-fives and vast blue skies.

Far from being pacifists, both Dad and I are both lovers, not fighters, so I implore you to not confuse people who have a penchant for firearms as being pre-disposed to hatred or violence. It’s like putting me into a box where, because I love cars, I’m a dickhead on the road.

So while I connect with certain ‘blokey’ stuff, I meditate, drink gallons of tea, make a mean chai, and enjoy gentler pursuits like crocheting, tending my little rooftop garden, playing my harp, swimming and reading. Most of all, I’m kind, loving, spiritually and self aware, compassionate, and have an endless supply of love to give.

Below is my favourite photo from today. Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you ♥

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There’s gunpowder under my fingernails, I can still taste the cordite on my tongue, and there’s SO much love in my heart ♥