Retiring is like dying. If you are very lucky, you have a few practice runs before you go. I’m transitioning out of my professional life. With every, good-bye, I reflect on what have I have learned.
I’m a seeker, a would-be philosopher. It’s a vagabond’s life, the gypsy of the soul seeking meaning. But there are always stand-out moments, a person, a situation, a life. Most importantly there is a lesson.
I’m reading, ‘Chasing the Scream,’ by Johann Hari. It explores addiction. It asks some thought-provoking questions and it reminds me of the commonality between living with mental health issues and living with addiction.
Addiction rarely visits alone. It brings friends to the party, friends that increase the sense of social isolation and foster anxiety, self-recrimination and depression. Anyone with a label suffers in our society. They are immediately set apart and seen as different. People react differently towards them as they rumble around in a system created by society which often dis-empowers them.
I believe that any illness is a bi-product of the society in which we live.
Everyone’s busy. Grim faced people stream past me on the street. Many are typing or scrolling on their phones. An old lady approaches, dressed up for an outing, a day in town. ‘Beautiful day isn’t it?’ her gravelly voice washes past me. She’s still walking having learned that no one has time to stop.
I think of the VCE students who walked through the school gate for the last time yesterday. The relief and uncertainty, a balm and a wound shoulder them. It’s now or never … exams, results, courses, dreams … I remember.
I’m reflecting. I’m evaluating my input into people’s lives. It’s what I do as a physiotherapist in a Community Health Centre. Life’s tough out there. I’ve changed my practices, as I do periodically in the search of excellence. The general health question is a mire, extract, untangle, add up …
People come to me for answers and hope. I’m blessed to have time to listen, time to ask. I’ve added a new question:
‘How’s your mental health?’
It’s a keeper. It a leveler. If you have the kindness and courage to touch their pain, it creates rapport and success. Seeds blew in the spring wind this morning, each also had a story.
Dreams, what are they? Are they part of our subconscious mind or fantasy? Do they serve a purpose? Or not?
I dream vividly and frequently. As a child, I terrified myself with recurring dreams of separation or failure. Some nights, I ran from one reality to another and another again. I’d wake exhausted happy the night had passed, hung over from fatigue.
I walk. It keeps me sane. Lately, dare I say it, I’ve tried mindfulness. It’s then when the words come. Poems, ideas, edits and of course I’m not carrying a pen.
in the shaded garden
on naked limbs
On the path something black wriggled, clearly alive, clearly lost. My mind searches for a name. Rummaging …
Year nine rewritten, another section of my novel awaits; year ten when grumbling discontent pecks at the ritualistic nature of my anorexic, adolescent existence. I read it over noting the schism between the words on the page and the words I’d like on the page.
I’d love the writing to convey the essence of my experience, clear, varied, unique and unforgettable. I remind myself of the beauty of the creative process. Sometimes it’s frustrating. On those days I sit here, looking out at the rainbows cast by a crystal hanging on the porch and trying to get the words to flow.
Have you ever tried to change? I’m talking big change, making a choice from hell, from a trapped existence:anorexia, alcohol or depression; the cages that ramp up insidiously until one morning you wake up wishing it would all go away? That moment when you’re really sick of living this way.
Change is dicey. It’s what we want someone else to do? If they changed this or that, we’d be happy. Really? Really, is that where it’s at? Change is hard because the only person who can change our situation is us. By the time a bad tape has been running for years, we’ve often separated ourselves from family, friends and lovers. Inside our glass bubble live intangible things like isolation, loneliness, fear and pain. Crap company.
It happened amidst the chaos, the email that piqued my curiosity. I read it. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. It was a dangerous link with the past. I closed it and decided to sleep on it.
The next morning, I looked up at he Paperbark trees glowing in the golden light of the morning sun. Picking up the phone, I reopened the email; the job offer beckoned. A warm glow spread through my body, maybe I should go back.
Today, I remember being a bride. Like many young brides, I’d planned the perfect day which of course included the perfect version of me. Life keeps changing, princess to bride to young mum, to superhero to middle age. The changes physical, emotional and mental can be confronting. At times we don’t recognise ourselves.