Gifts from my Tribe

So much is happening it’s hard to find time to write here at the moment. Life is wonderful. Everything is taking off. My mind is so clear and so full of ideas and connections. I’m having to be careful around overwork – being driven and destroying my new found health is a particular vulnerability of mine. So I’m matching my work week to Rose’s as much as I can. Working when she works, coming to bed when she does, getting up with her in the mornings. Not only is it helping to get us both back more in sync with each other, it’s forcing me to take much more time off than I would otherwise. This is making me very, very efficient when I do work, and thrillingly happy to be having time for fun, family, rest, reflection, and pour some of this energy back into my family, friends, home and garden. I’m so well at the moment, and so happy.

Two really wonderful highlights of the past weeks have been gifts. I was taken to see Cirque Du Soliel’s Totem as a Christmas gift by my best friend. It was stunning. What an experience! And the most perfect rejoiner to my visual artist lecturers who have imbibed the modern visual arts obsession with ambiguity – in their words, giving space for the audience to come to their own conclusions about a work and bring their own perspective to it. In the words of media tropes: “real art makes no sense”. This is a major point of difference between my own art and the kind that gets my lecturers excited, I am intending the clearly communicate meaning. I want my art to make sense to my audience. It’s challenging at times to love a kind of art that’s not wildly embraced where you study art. Totem was beautiful, clear, emotive, moving. Great art can be very clear indeed. It doesn’t have to be, but it certainly can be. That feels wonderful.

The other wonderful gift was a shed. Combined birthday and engagement present, this is absolutely wonderful. Just look at it!

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We haven’t even really started to fill it yet, but already it feels like I’m living in a new house, there’s so much more space indoors. My two bedroom unit fits myself, my partner Rose, our three cats, our medium sized dog, our combined book and DVD libraries (which are considerable), all the paraphernalia for my face painting business (which has henna kits, glitter tattoo kits etc), all the belongings of each of my networks: the DI, the HVNSA, and Homeless Care SA, the library of books related to each of those networks that I loan out, and my art studio, and all our baby items including a fairly significant collection of baby clothes, baby carriers and wraps, a fantastic huge pram and bassinet, a change table (also really appreciated gifts!) etc etc etc. It’s rather a lot.

With this extra shed I have room to start breaking down the mess, compiling what isn’t needed in the house itself, sorting camping supplies, packing away tools, all sorts. I’m thrilled. I’m tackling the house but by bit and it’s wonderful. The kitchen functions. The floors are easy to clean with our new vacuum cleaner (another fantastic gift for my birthday). The lounge has heating and cooling. There’s a whole shelf of board games for our game nights. It’s the most wonderful home.

This is the tribe I’ve been talking about. I’ve been so lucky with such support. There are friends who listen and give me great advice on bad days, people who send me money so I can pay for fuel or plane trips to conferences, friends who pass on items they don’t need anymore like their beautiful pram, people who share their ideas and experiences, share my passion for the networks, include me in training, help me find the people I need to get my projects off the ground… This is much bigger than just me, now.

I gave my recovery story talk to the Tafe students again this week. It was wonderful. I told them about being so alone in the world that when my car broke down there was not a single soul to call for help and no money for the RAA or a taxi. I abandoned my car and walked home, sick and in terrible pain, alone in the dark and very afraid. And look at me now. I have a tribe. They are generous, loving, caring people, and we look out for each other. I’ve been there for them, some in little ways and some in big. I’ve looked past bad first impressions or things I thought were weird about them and they’ve treated me with the same grace. Some relationships are closer than others, some are easy and some more complicated. Together, we are so strong.

I could disappear, into work. Into study, busyness, into important things, important meetings, important people, the doing. And my heart would wither and my health would fade. There must be being also. There must be time to sit and laugh, or cry, or reflect. I’m not good at using health wisely, I’m very out of practice. I’ve so rarely had any! But I’m determined not to just work, not to miss out on my life, miss out on my people.

I found out the other day that a friend is in Intensive Care with kidney failure. I can’t visit, I haven’t heard anything back from her family. I don’t know if she is going to pull through. She’s in my thoughts every hour. She’s the most amazing person, her story is incredible, so much wisdom, so much patience and compassion. She’s very dear to me. I’ve always wanted to ghost write with her, to tell her story to a wider audience. I hope, deeply hope, that I one day get the chance. I miss her already.

This is my life, and I don’t want to miss any of it. It’s extraordinary.

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