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Grieve Writing Competition Entry 1

As many of you already know, in March of this year, my long term relationship ended, and with it my time living on the Gold Coast.

For two years I had been caring for my fiancé, who suffered a debilitating back injury at work in January 2017. I thought the past 24 months had been hard, dealing with a constant barrage of financial, health and home-related stress, but nothing compared to how hard it was to walk away from a nine-year relationship and start a new life 800 kilometers away. Within the space of two weeks, my life on the Gold Coast was over, and I was headed to Yeppoon, a hour’s drive from Rockhampton on the Central Coast of Queensland.

In the past three months I have experienced the strongest grief I have ever felt; for my relationship, for my beloved beach-side home in Coolangatta, for the life I left behind. This grief has been fraught with confusion; did I give up too early? Should I have stuck it out for longer? There have been a lot of confusing feelings, a lot around my self worth, and I’ve certainly doubted whether I made the right choice.

During this massive life upheaval, I used writing to process my grief. I wrote two flash fiction short stories: Home Is Where The Heart Breaks, in which I reflect on suddenly  having to leave my beloved home on the Gold Coast, and Hypothetical Child, about the impact that my decision not to have children has had on my life. The Hunter Writer’s Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales, holds an annual writing competition called the Grieve Writing Project, that publishes an anthology of flash fiction and poetry on the theme of grief. In April I submitted both stories to the project.

It has been a huge challenge to leave my old life behind and start anew out in the world on my own. I have experienced a period of anxiety and depression more severe than anything I experienced over the past two years caring for my partner. I have felt completely separate from my former self, disconnected from my passion for writing. I have been very reluctant to accept my new reality, and embrace my new surroundings here on the Central Coast. With the help of mental health professionals I have worked through a lot in these past months, and I have finally reached a point where I feel I can allow myself to accept my new reality, and be vulnerable enough to feel happiness and joy again as I move forward. As part of this healing process, I have decided to share these stories now. I hope that by sharing my experiences, it helps those who are going through the same experiences. If any of my friends ever feel like they need, I’m always open if you’d like to talk, whether for advice or just to listen.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Breaks

I never thought I could love living somewhere as much as I have loved living on the Gold Coast. For the past year and a half I have walked on the beach every day, taking my troubles to the ocean. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sand and seawater between my toes, I forgot about my problems for an hour. This place has nurtured me through what has easily been the most challenging period of my life.

We moved from Broadbeach to Coolangatta six months ago in the hope things would get better. Our unhappiness followed us; we had become more like housemates than lovers. We weren’t living in the space together, merely existing alongside one another. It was painful and depressing, yet I still loved the unit itself- the balcony off the back, the little yard, the tree-lined park just over the fence where locals played football and walked their dogs. I walked from Coolangatta to Snapper Rocks every afternoon, and watched the surfers ride the waves at sunset. Amidst my misery, I felt so lucky to call this place home.

And then I just left; I could not bear the misery a moment longer. I returned only to pack and move out, and by then I had already been erased from the home Richard and I shared. The week I was gone he took the pictures of us down; he couldn’t stand to keep looking at them after we split. It was ‘too painful, he said. I find myself feeling similar about the Gold Coast in general now; a place I was once so proud to live, I can barely stand to look at a picture of, because it is a reminder of something so treasured being taken from me too soon.

Separating from Richard, I didn’t anticipate everything else I would have to separate from as well. The family, the friends, the home. I don’t know what makes me feel sadder- leaving Richard or leaving this place.

It feels unfair that Richard gets to stay here, and I resent him somewhat for it. This lifestyle is wasted on him- he doesn’t appreciate living by the ocean the way I do. I have friends and a community here, yet the situation dictates that I’m the one that has to leave.

There is still so much I want to do on the Gold Coast, so many places to explore. The seaside bike path from Bilinga to Tugun, the sunflowers in Kingscliffe and the mountainous Byron Bay Hinterland. I always thought I’d have more time to prepare myself to leave, but my time here has run out. I need to let go of the way I thought things would be, but I’m just not ready yet.  I don’t understand why, but the journey of life is moving me on. It’s time to go now, and I have to say goodbye.

Cooly 4

 

Blog

Caregiver Burnout: How To Recognise The Signs & Avoid Disaster

A very interesting article about a very important topic.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety that I realised just how much I was carrying all on my own. I was burnt out.

Read the article by Phoenix Law and Associates here: http://bit.ly/2CRSQd8

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Keeping Up Creative Practices During Stressful Life Events

Marital separation. Death. Personal injury or illness. Loss of employment.

Some examples of the most stressful events you can experience in life. These periods demand our time and energy, emotional and mental, and creative endeavours can fall pretty low on the scale of priorities. But how important is it to continue doing these things during stressful times?

Let me tell you about the twelve months of my life. If job loss, relocation and personal injury make up some of the top stress factors, we’ve had them all this year. My fiance Greg has been off work since February with a back injury. In May, I left my job of four years to become a Travel Sales Consultant, a career I had been interested to explore for quite a few years. At the time we were living near Beenleigh, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. In August we decided to relocate to the Gold Coast, so that I could be closer to work and Greg to job opportunities when he returned to work.

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However, being a Travel Sales Consultant proved to be a very different job to what I had expected. While I loved talking about the different destinations with clients, it was first and foremost a sales role, and involved far more stress and pressure than I was prepared for. I was also struggling with the workload; I couldn’t get enough quotes out to generate the commission I needed to hit my targets, that were increasing every month. The end of my four month probationary period was nearing, and I was facing dismissal if I couldn’t meet my target in September. To save dismissal on my employment record, I handed in my resignation. I was shattered.

So suddenly I found myself in the less than desirable position of unemployment. Here we were, Greg slowly recovering from two major surgeries, and me, jobless. From working full-time, I was now spending normal working hours job searching, and there is only so much of that you can bear before you either run out of suitable jobs to apply for, or your brain turns to complete mush from the monotony.

Finding a job was my number one priority, and I felt guilty about spending any of my waking hours on my writing practice. The last time I was unemployed I felt I hadn’t prioritised job seeking enough at first, ignoring the seriousness of the situation until my savings were depleted, which had caused a lot of stress. I didn’t want to find myself in that position again.

I am so lucky to have a wonderful family who have offered much support during this difficult time. We are certainly not destitute, and never will be. I’m sure other people have faced similar situations without the fallback of supportive family, and for this I am indescribably grateful. Perhaps others who are not as fortunate as I simply do not have the luxury to put even a few minutes aside for their creative endeavours during hard times. Everyone’s situations are different; some difficult situations are temporary, some lifelong. But perhaps the level of priority a creative practice holds in one’s is not dictated by their life situation at all, but their perception of that situation.

Although job seeking has become a priority in my life, my passion for indulging in the written word has not dimmed. It was indifferent to my state of unemployment; it still commanded as much attention as before. Not only do I seek to do something stimulating in and around looking for a new job, but my creative practice has served greatly as a stress reliever. Not only now, but throughout my entire life. Reeling from bullies and debilitating learning difficulties, I took much strength in losing myself in writing and drawing after school. It was something I could do around everything I couldn’t. It was, and still is, an escape from the challenges I am facing on a daily basis. It is purely an indulgence of joy. When days are tougher than others, I can look forward to working on my novel-in-progress.

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From Monday to Friday, I get up in the morning at the same time. I shower, wash my face and have breakfast, with the same urgency as when I was working. Sometimes I have fifteen jobs to apply for, and it will take the best part of the day to get through them. Other days, I will only have a few to do, and the afternoon is mine to spend on my creative projects, whether it be actual writing or working on the business side of my authorship. Whatever time I finish job hunting, I adjust the starting time of my creative work, but it still holds an important place in my daily schedule. This extra time I have on my hands has also given me the chance to make a start on some sizabe tasks that have been on my long-time to-do list, that I struggled to find time for when working.

In my experience, it has been important for me to keep up my creative practice during this challenging period in my life. In a way, it has been less of a relieving past time than a necessity for my sanity. A source of fuel for my ability to stay positive and hopeful.

I acknowledge that everyone’s personal situation is different. I also believe that everyone creates their own stories about their lives. If you truly want to, you can still find time to dedicate to your creative practice, even if it is only a few minutes a day. And I assure you that holding your creative practice to the same level of importance as your obligations will bring a sense of normality to your life. It will bring you joy and rejuvination. Value this time, because it is just as important as your obligations. A creative practice may seem frivolous during serious periods in one’s life, but when you consider what these practices can do for your own wellbeing, you can see how it ca be just as important. And you must look after yourself first and foremost before you can give your energy to the world.

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