Hi and thanks for stopping by. My name is Inara Hawley and this is a personal space where I will be sharing thoughts and reflections about what interests me, what inspires me, what’s happening in my life and what makes my heart sing.
So why have I started this blog now? In the last few years I’ve done a lot of writing ~ family history and memoir projects which have been all-consuming, and now that they’re finished, I miss it. So, in my desire to keep writing I felt this was a good place to start.
Now while I have a million thoughts and ideas running around in my brain each day I am a bottom-line kind of person, so it will be most interesting to see how well I can organise those thoughts and create words which constitute my bottom lines. I am looking forward to the challenge.
In a nutshell I will be keeping it simple and straightforward ~ I won’t be spending time wrestling anything to the ground. In my years of journaling I experienced many a profound moment, moved through fears and came to a place where I relinquished the need to be attached to the past ~ I much prefer to appreciate what I’ve learned and focus on feeling good in the present.
I wear my Positive Pollyanna Hat most of the time, I live in gratitude and try to find joy in every moment, and I believe there’s a positive lesson in everything … and every word I write will come from my heart. If my way of living and learning resonates with you ~ please stay awhile and in-joy.
Many of us have been the brunt of sarcasm from ‘supposedly’ quick-witted people who think they are very clever and funny. But are they funny?
What is sarcasm exactly?
Some might say sarcasm is just a bit of fun. But is it really? There’s wit, there’s playful teasing, and then there’s sarcasm – the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Wit is funny, playful teasing is a friendly joke, but sarcasm is plain mean, especially when it’s directed towards you. It feels cruel and hurtful. Remember the old saying, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Enough said, right!
Then why, and where does it come from?
So why are people sarcastic towards others? Why be so insensitive?
If you use sarcasm, you might think about why you use it. Is it a way of protecting yourself? Are you masking feelings of inadequacy? Does it make you feel superior? Are you seeking attention? Or is it plain lack of empathy? Having considered those questions, do you still think you’re clever and funny? If not, then ask yourself, what are you really trying to say?
What’s your response?
When sarcasm is directed towards me, it stings, and as much as I would like to respond, in that moment I am usually so dumfounded that I say nothing. Which means I always walk away with the energy of it still attached.
But the other day, I did the opposite. Without thinking, I responded instantly. Clearly and firmly, I blurted out exactly how I felt. I said, ‘I find that offensive’, and then immediately dismissed further comments with the words, ‘and I’ll leave it there’. If you were to ask me what the sarcastic remark was, I honestly can’t remember because my response was akin to a swift axe – it cut the energy so precisely, that the conversation immediately changed, and the sarcasm became meaningless. The timing was so perfect I could almost hear cheering from above.
There’s lots of advice out there about how to deal with sarcasm, but having experienced my spontaneous response, my advice is to dismiss the remark by saying honestly how you feel in the moment. If it doesn’t feel nice, say it. If you don’t accept it, say it. If you don’t like it, say it. If it’s not true, say it. If you think it’s mean, say it. Be honest. There’s a lot of power in owning how you feel.
Because the comment directed towards me was both untrue and unkind, I felt offended, and that’s what I said. We went on to spend another hour chatting happily together in mixed company, though interestingly, later the topic of sarcasm came up – clearly it was festering in the background. Everyone agreed it came from a sharp mind, but that it was also downright mean and not fun to be on the receiving end.
The bottom line
So the truth is, people do know what they are doing.
Words have an energy – use them kindly. If you’re the brunt of sarcasm, use them to cut the negative energy. And if you like to use sarcasm and direct it towards another individual, stop it! It’s a bad habit. It says much more about you than the person you are directing it towards. You’re being a smartarse, and no one likes a smartarse.
There was no extraordinary hero medal for Private Edward Leonard Burley, nor was there a welcome home banner. He was wounded at Amiens on 8 August 1918 and died two days later, and while we do not have his post war thoughts and feelings, we know that he was a compassionate young man who joined the war for definite reasons. He believed it was his duty to protect the Empire. He enlisted early in the war and his patriotism never wavered. He remained committed to the cause throughout his war service. This biography is based on the letters he sent to his sister, Fanny Isabelle Keft, and on his war record.
When England declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, Australia was also at war. ‘Cultural and emotional’ ties to the motherland were strong. History was being made and ‘the land was full of visions of glory’. Patriotic fervour was widespread and Australia was ready to defend King and country.
Anti-German sentiment surfaced quickly and motivated men to enlist, as did casualties, public opinion, and that the army paid well, but most of the early volunteers were enticed by a ‘sense of adventure’. Then there were the men who enlisted ‘to do their duty’. Edward Leonard Burley was one of those men. He was ‘sorry to leave’ his family ‘yet glad’ that there was a ‘chance of striking a blow against German tyranny’.
Len, as he was known, enlisted on 29 December 1915 at Kempsey, New South Wales, aged 25 years. He was a cheerful and optimistic fellow. A railway storeman, who had a good writing hand and loved the theatre, he had no burning ambition other than to do what he thought was right. Amongst his final possessions were two bibles. Growing up in the strict doctrine of the Methodist religion was very much part of his sense of duty. The youngest of seven children, Len was single, but a man of family. His mother had long since died, and while close to all his siblings, he was closest to his sister Fanny Isabelle, known as Iss. To her he wrote, ‘It was twice as hard to leave you Iss as any of the others because we were mates from childhood.’
Len’s early training was spent at Casula, New South Wales and then at Broadmeadows, Victoria amidst patriotic community support before the conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917 divided the nation so violently with ‘high levels’ of public hostility. ‘We had a great march through the town with bands playing, crowds cheering, flags waving and so forth.’ But Len was eager. In his first letter to Iss he indicated his desire to get on with it, ‘they told us we could get away in 6 weeks by joining the infantry so I threw up the artillery, but I can transfer again if I want to.’ He didn’t, and chose the front line of defence instead.
While waiting for his overseas transfer, Len indulged in a favourite pleasure, the theatre. There he saw a display honouring the death of Nurse Cavell with the inscription: ‘This will be avenged’. Public opinion was strong, as was Len’s and he intended to ‘stick it out’. On 4 May 1916, he was finally on his way on the HMAT Port Lincoln A17 from Melbourne as part of the 60th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement. With a patriotic heart, before he left, he wrote to Iss with a message for her husband, ‘Tell Charley not to think of enlisting while so many able bodied single men fill up the city streets, hotels and billiard rooms. You see them here playing billiards with wounded returned soldiers. They must have no hearts at all.’
By December 1915, the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign was over. In July 1916 the Allies launched a large-scale offensive ‘astride’ the Somme River at the Western Front. After two ‘miserable’ months of training in Egypt, and then to England and France where Len had a few days leave, he marched out to the Somme on 30 September 1916 with the 57th Battalion of the 5th Division. The unit war diaries give a detailed account of life at The Front – foot inspections, the mud, the cold, digging trenches, strengthening wire, bombardment, artillery barrage, gassing, dangerous night patrols in No Man’s Land, aircraft activity, the death and the wounded. Len wrote that he was ‘getting quite used to it’ and felt that he had ‘found a settled place at last with C Company of the 57th Battalion’.
The following month he was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital with a leg wound – ‘a small affair’ he wrote light-heartedly. Soon after, he was back in hospital with the mumps. During that time, and the following month, he wrote a war diary. It reads almost the same as the official unit war diaries – a record of his daily routine carrying grenades, laying cables, digging trenches, and foot baths. He says that the ‘mud-slinging’ is hard and his ‘hands have suffered’, and that ‘three shells fell quite close killing 29 and wounding 4’, after which he says, ‘ditto, ditto’ for every day of the last week. In comparison, his letters home talk about the weather, the family, his dream of owning land, and his appreciation of the parcels and mail he received. These he ‘valued most highly’, not only from his family but from the ‘patriotic workers knitting socks and raising money’. It kept his spirits high. Always positive, he told Iss that they ‘are very fortunate though as far as casualties are concerned. The 57th is always termed the lucky Battalion of the Brigade.’
The 57th Battalion went on to defend the second Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917. In September, Len had his last leave – ten ‘glorious days’ in England. He enjoyed the historic castles, the lovely parks and the ‘grand’ weather. He even had time to see a ‘few decent plays’. ‘Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t’, he wrote. And then it was back to defend the Ypres sector in Belgium, attacking the German stronghold at Polygon Wood.
With the collapse of Russia in October 1917 the expected German offensive came in late March 1918. The 57th Battalion was part of the counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux in April. On the 1st May Len wrote, ‘We have been having rather exciting times lately but everything in the garden is lovely with me’. Then came the Allied offensive at Amiens on 8 August 1918.The Battle of Amiens cost Australia 6,000 casualties. Len was one of them. Of the 417,000 Australian men who enlisted 330,000 served overseas with casualties of 60,000. As Jobson states, ‘what is clear, is the significant per capita commitment in human resources…made by Australia when compared to the other allies’.
Private Hopgood’s witness statement dated 10 August 1918 gives an account of when Len was wounded in action.
‘Burley was my mate, a S/B. in XI pl. His No. began with 19 and he came from Sydney. Near Villers-Bretonneux on August 8th we went over the top and Burley was wounded whilst bandaging up the wounds of some men who had fallen. He was shot through the groin by m.g. fire and fell. I heard him say, ‘I’ve got one’. He then got up and managed to walk back as far as the trench. I was not more than a yard from him when he was hit. Later I heard he died of his wounds at the CCS. My mate was a grand fellow and was much missed by all who knew him.’
From October 1916 to August 1918 Len spent 22 months overseas, 12½ months in the field, 7½ months out of the field training and resting, and 2 months sick with 18 days’ leave. He entered the war a private and died a private and was wounded while on stretcher-bearer duty helping another soldier. He remained committed and patriotic throughout. The last letter Len wrote to his sister, Iss, was never opened. It arrived after he died.
Edward Leonard Burley believed in the cause and died for it. He received the three standard WW1 campaign medals, affectionately known as, ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ – the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, respectively. He is buried at the Vignacourt British Cemetery.
‘Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files’, Australian Red Cross Society, 1914-1918, 1DRL/0428, AWM.
57th Infantry Battalion Unit Diary, AWM4 23/74/27.
Australian War Memorial, P08668.001, Edward Leonard Burley, Photograph Collection.
First World War Embarkation Rolls, AWM8.
Obern, Gwennyth, Memorial Plaque, 2015. Personal Collection.
Service Record, B2455 National Archives of Australia
Strachan, Jenni, Gravestone Edward Leonard Burley, Vignacourt British Cemetery, 2014. Personal collection.
The first time I fainted I was a teenager. Sunstroke was the culprit, but my lack of good sense was the reason. I sat far too long on a sun-drenched beach, frying in the heat.
I had travelled by train that day with my younger brother and his mates, who took off the minute we arrived. That was fine by me as we had agreed to meet at three o’clock, close to where I was spending the day, for the journey back home.
I was so grown up, all by myself on an uncrowded beach, preening and posing in my new bikini on my new beach towel with waves crashing in the background and seagulls screeching overhead. It wasn’t about swimming for me that day, it was about sunbathing. I had no hat, no umbrella, and no water, but what did that matter. I was in a world of make believe.
Two hours later, the midday sun was blazing and I was thirsty. A milkshake! Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted – a cold, cold milkshake. The shop, however, was at the other end of the beach. I squinted down the endless stretch of sand. Could I make it?
I started full of gumption, but with each step, my flimsy sandals sank deeper into the hot white sand. It was harder than I thought, but determined, I valiantly plodded on, and on, and on.
At last… shade. The little shop was crowded, and I had to wait. When it was my turn, overcome by thirst I blurted out, TWO milkshakes please. As the seconds ticked by my throat began to constrict. It was so dry I couldn’t swallow. Then there they were – two glistening, ice-cold, silver tumblers, looming large as they moved across the counter towards me. Oh, how I was looking forward to those milkshakes. My hand was so close. But as I leaned forward, ready to reach out, my ears began to buzz. My head filled the room, my legs wobbled, and before I could speak, blackness enveloped me and I hit the floor.
Then a blurred memory of sitting on a chair with my head between my knees and being helped through a door behind the counter, into another room. It was the owner’s lounge room. They lay me down on their couch, and before they were gone, I was asleep. Two hours later, with a thumping head, I stumbled out. With words of concern echoing in my ears, panic set in. Where was my brother? How would he know where I was? What if he’d left without me? I had to get back to my little pile of belongings on the beach.
As luck would have it, amongst the waiting crowd when I fainted was one of my brother’s mates. So, I was not abandoned after all. My brother knew where I was and he was waiting. Being the eldest, I didn’t want to lose him at the beach or have to answer for him getting home without me.
So, together, we headed home. One responsible brother and one grateful, limping big sister. But the lesson was learned – the sun and I were no longer friends.
The drawing on the table was nearly finished. Propping it up against a vase, Dorothy stood back and tilted her head. It looked right. She closed her eyes and visualised the original in her mind—yes, it was perfect. Just like the vision.
It was a vision…. wasn’t it? Surely, a shimmering infant ‘being’ sitting on a purple chair with a crown and wings, draped in a blue silk cloth and flowers at his feet, was a vision and not an illusion.
The morning of the apparition was a day like any other. Dorothy had woken early, grateful for the extra time, and with her morning cuppa watched the sunrise from her little balcony. It was peaceful and calm. The perfect start to yet another busy day.
She lay back in the chair and closed her eyes to the warmth of the sun. Her chest rose as she took a deep breath, then she slowly exhaled with a deep sigh. The past weeks had not been easy—clearing out the old house and sorting through her mother’s things. Dorothy was not one for sentimentality, but her mother was. Stashed in a cupboard Dorothy found a stack of old drawings and stories… her teenage drawing and stories. So long ago, she thought, so very long ago, and so much make believe and nonsense in those scribblings. Another reading them would have seen the beginning of dreams and hopes, but all forgotten now. Those days were long gone. Dorothy hadn’t written a story or done a drawing for over forty years—tick tock, tick tock—no time for frivolities, no time for young dreams. Those imaginings were all locked away. What use were they to her now. She barely gave them a glance as put them in the trash pile.
In the late afternoon of the last day, Dorothy dragged all the rubbish outside to the old bin and lit a match. The flames rose higher and higher as she threw drawing after drawing, and story after story into the fire. It was time to get back to her life, and the very next day she left; the tangible evidence of her imagination obliterated in wafts of smoke and burnt bits of paper floating in the breeze. The only thing she kept were her coloured pencils. She stashed them in a box with some of her mother’s things—a box small enough to fit into a cupboard, somewhere on a high shelf where it would no doubt be forgotten.
That was then and this is now, she thought, as she sat there that morning. She took another deep breath, and as she slowly opened her eyes, there it was—as bright and large as a vision could be, shimmering in the morning light. Dorothy blinked twice. It was still there. Mesmerised, she watched as the child being on the ornate purple chair beckoned to her. He appeared to be inviting her. Her eyes widened. ‘Come, come,’ he seemed to say, ‘Come into my world’.
So powerful was the image before her that she could almost hear him: ‘Step into my imagination, come hear my stories, come… come.’ Dorothy had no idea how long it lasted, but just as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. Heart pounding, she shook her head. She realised she’d been holding her breath. What was it? The realities of Dorothy’s life did not include visions or illusions, but as the days passed, the image stayed with her. And so did the invitation. But what did it mean?
Finally, Dorothy knew what she had to do. She took the coloured pencils down from the shelf and began to draw. As her pencils flew across the page, she stepped back into a world she had quite forgotten. A world where she could stretch time and connect to her heart. As she drew and coloured, shafts of bouncing colour turned into beams of joy.
When the picture was finished, she knew exactly what it meant and what had beckoned her. She picked up her pen and began to write.
Our first family car was a sleek-looking import—an American Hudson. Photographs of this new wonder depict our family standing proudly in front. Everyone except me—an unsmiling eleven-year-old. It was a fancy two-tone number, but I hated it. It is the only car in which I have ever felt unrelentingly and horribly car sick. Given Dad loved it so much, it’s surprising we didn’t have it for very long, but I was immensely pleased to see it gone.
Before its arrival, our mode of transport was either by bus, train, or Dad’s motorbike. Mum’s early memories were sitting on the back and holding on tight, frozen in her best dress and heels while flying into the city to go to the movies. My memories, and they are some of my absolute best, were riding in the huge side car. Mum would line it with soft blankets, and my brother and I sat deep within its bowels, often eating fish and chips while the outside world whizzed by unseen. We felt cosy, warm, and very safe, especially late at night as we zoomed along with lights flashing past and the wind whistling above. It was always exciting, but also, just a little bit magical for it was not every day we got to ride in the sidecar. We never popped our heads out—it was much more fun staying hidden inside our secret little cubby on wheels.
When it was time for the Hudson to depart, our next family car was a Ford Falcon Station Wagon, and oh, how we loved that car. We had the happiest of times going places in that vehicle, in the days when there were fewer cars on the road and it wasn’t against the law for three children to sleep in the back. Some years later, when my brother was a car-mad teenager with a licence, he and Dad put their heads together and decided it was time for a new car. Mum and I literally wept as our beloved station wagon backed out of the driveway heading to the car yard. If you have ever wanted to drape yourself emotionally over an object, you will know how we felt—saying goodbye to that car was a heart-wrenching moment.
Being the sensible girls we were, Mum and I envisaged they would come back with a sensible car—beige or white perhaps with four doors, but we were in for a shock. In drove a bright red, two-door Holden Monaro with a garish black stripe down the side. Dad and my brother were beaming, Mum and I were cringing. Neither of us ever felt happy or safe in that car. It was loud and obvious, and we disliked it immensely.
Looking back, the two boys in our family should have looked after that Monaro better given its worth in later years, but they did not. It eventually went the way of all cars over-revved by reckless young drivers—to a mechanic who could fix it. That was my last ‘family’ car. When I was twenty-one, I left for wider pastures while it still sat in the driveway.
Later, for Dad, came a practical Mazda hatchback, which he drove for many years till one day, it blew up. He was distraught as it was beyond repair, but the family was hugely relieved. By then, his driving had become so erratic we said a little prayer whenever he got behind the wheel. It was the perfect opportunity for him to retire from driving, but sadly for Dad, the end of an era.
Our family cars were an integral part of our lives, representing not only how our family evolved over the years, but the different aspirations of those who had a hand in purchasing them. They were either loved or loathed by various members of the family.
As for me? The worst ride was the Hudson, the happiest ride was the Ford Falcon Station Wagon, the most embarrassing ride was the Monaro, but by far, the best ride was in the magical sidecar of the motorbike.
The tired confusion on my face, and the strained smile on my mother’s tells a story. I know where I am, but I cannot remember it. Strangely enough, I can remember standing in the snow in Germany many months earlier dressed in a green, hooded, furry coat, but I cannot remember standing beside my mother and brother, in our winter clothes in the heat of late summer, in 1951 at Central Station in Sydney, after a hellish journey across the desert.
But I do know exactly how you were feeling Mum, because years later, you told me. You could barely hold yourself together, and yet, you did. With two babies, what else could you do?
Soon after we arrived at the Northam Refugee Camp in Western Australia, my grandparents who were already in Sydney, started the process of getting us over to New South Wales.
The first leg of our journey was by bus to Kalgoorlie, then across the desert by rail. When we boarded the train, families were separated—women and children at one end and men at the other, meeting only in the dining carriage for meals. There was no access to water and no provision for the needs of babies, especially for those like my brother, who was bottle-fed. Dad managed to get hot water to wash the bottles, but Mum was left with the dirty nappies. She washed them in the hand basin of the toilet late at night and held them out of the train window to dry. It worked well until one night there was a desert storm, and all the nappies were covered in red dust! Disheartened, she wept.
We arrived in Melbourne at 9 p.m. seven days later, but the ordeal did not end there. And I know just how you felt with what came next Mum. You and Dad were told that you had to change trains in Melbourne for Sydney, but no one bothered to tell you that the train for Sydney departed the following morning. You had no access to timetables nor were you given any information as to where you could find accommodation for the night. With no English, you had no idea how to ask.
You were not only isolated, given what happened next, you were also ignored.
You had nowhere to go, so all you could do was sit and wait. Fortunately, it was summer so being out at night was not overly cold. And that is exactly what you did. You sat on the station, with your babies, all night. It would have been clear to the station master that you needed help—a family who did not speak English, but true to the xenophobia at the time, without a glance or a word, he turned off all the lights, locked the doors to the station buildings and waiting rooms, and left.
My father, who could always move mountains and get things done, must have felt useless and completely emasculated. He carried out a bench from the platform and moved it to the side of the building to afford some protection for the hours to come. Mum laid me down on the seat between her and Dad, and my brother, who luckily had a full bottle, fell asleep in her arms. And that is how we spent the night, with no food or water.
When the sun came up, exhausted, we boarded the train for Sydney. While we were not separated this time, Mum was in such a distressed state she had no memory of this last part of the journey. The experience had stripped her bare, emotionally, and physically.
As with all non-English speaking migrants, the introduction to our new life was proving to be very tough indeed. All we had left was the hope that what was to come, would be better.
The house was full of anticipation. Guests were arriving, beds were being made, and rooms were being spruced up by the owners.
‘Honey, where’s the brown pillow for this bedroom?’
‘What brown pillow?’
‘The one for the bed in here.’
It was the fourth bedroom. A neat and proud little room. Proud because it was the only themed room in the house. Three large paintings of red and green Japanese lettering representing peace, joy, and happiness adorned the cream walls. The curtains were a shimmering light brown with large gold rings that glided effortlessly across solid wood rods. The bedspread was a rich brown and cream floral-pattern, on which sat six pillows—two emerald green, two dark brown, and two deep ruby cushions with fancy stitching. All matching perfectly, in their perfect place.
But now, one of the big fluffy brown pillows was missing!
A search began—in the linen cupboards, under the bed, in the other bedrooms, behind the washing machine. It was nowhere to be found.
The question arose as to who was the last person to stay in the neat little room? Family members were contacted. The room, of course, wanted to look perfect and waited with bated breath for what was to come. Phone calls continued all afternoon. The owners had quite forgotten who had occupied the room last as they spoke, one by one, to all the family.
‘Did you take a dark brown pillow home?’
‘No, not me, but there were definitely four pillows—two green and two brown.’
They were all adamant. Everyone remembered the four pillows as they had all fluffed them up while sitting in bed, but no-one remembered taking a dark brown pillow home.
So, the bed was made up with only five pillows, but the room was not happy and nor were the owners. The guests came and went—they had stayed before, and there was much discussion about the missing pillow and what might have become of it. Conversations, in fact, continued as the months went by. Someone took the pillow, but no one was owning up. It was a conundrum. So much so, that every time a family member visited there was no peace—trust had been lost—who took the pillow?
Eventually, it became a story of some hilarity and anonymously-sent pillows started arriving in the mail with funny little notes… ‘the pillow returns’… ‘fluffy comes home’. Amusing at first, it became too much, even for the post office who rang with a plea.
‘What’s with all the pillows! They’re taking up too much space!’
Even the local newspaper wrote a humorous story, but in time, other more interesting stories took up the pages of the paper and everyone forgot about the missing pillow.
But not the neat little bedroom or the owners. For the truth be told, the neat little bedroom knew exactly who took the pillow—a secret it would keep forever.
I had the funniest conversation with my 94-year-old mother today. She loves paperwork of all kinds, and not only scrutinises all the grocery receipts my brother brings home, but keeps them!
I pay all her bills via the internet. She calls me her ‘secretary’, but she keeps a tight control on the paperwork. However, with her memory and eyesight, it’s getting harder and harder for her to find where the payment information lives on the different accounts.
We do our ‘business’, as she calls it, over the telephone, and while I do my best to steer her in the right direction, it’s not that easy for me to help her. I just have to be patient until she finds what she’s looking for, but today, it wasn’t so easy and we both cracked up.
It was hilarious, but somehow, amongst all the laughter we worked it out.
It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it, when we choose to handle our circumstances with the lightness of laughter.
These past few weeks have been the first time in almost two and half years that I’ve felt relaxed enough to take a moment to sit, read and enjoy it. No matter how often people tell you to take some time for yourself, meditate, or do something to take your mind off it, if you have an unwell partner or family member for an extended length of time, it’s almost impossible to shift the load. It’s like you are holding your breath.
I don’t like to call it a load but that’s what it is…
When it comes to caring for our loved ones we don’t consider it a burden, but it’s something extra to carry. It may manifest as stress, worry, concern, anxiety, fear or even sadness and grief.
After Hubby’s mini stroke in March 2016 life changed. There were lots of wobbles and much monitoring and doctor care. With a strict regime in place we got on with it. But it was constant. There wasn’t a minute when I wasn’t on guard. And that takes a toll. While we hang in there, something always suffers. I may be a positive pixie, but my body didn’t get the message. My hair started falling out. So, stress ‘level one’ was silently in operation.
On the 1st May this year it became very dramatic. An ambulance transported Hubby to hospital again. This time he couldn’t move, and we had no idea why. It took three weeks and a myriad of tests to find out, but in the meantime, we were in no man’s land. I did what it took to get through it and even made the following video, but the truth was, I felt lost and very much alone. During the first week that Hubby was in the hospital, I didn’t see a single soul and I fell into a numb kind of shock. The month of May turned into an emotional blur. I had nothing to hang onto. While Hubby was learning to walk again, I put on a brave face for the world, but I was quietly falling to pieces. I couldn’t sleep, I lost more hair, and because I was exhausted, I got sick. Stress level ‘of the charts’ was now in control and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
But this blog post is not about advice…
There are no magic words of wisdom that can help one deal with a shock or how to carry a heavy emotional load. This blog post is about what I learned because of it. Of course, what I desperately wanted was comfort. I wanted someone to put their arms around me and tell me everything was going to be OK. I wanted to feel safe enough to talk about how I felt. Just like I did with my mother so many years ago in a similar situation.
My social media friends were wonderful. My appreciation and gratitude overflowed for the love and support I received. But it doesn’t compare to a real life hug and a shoulder to cry on.
Today I feel a lot better and I am grateful that Hubby is on the road to wellness. So why would I bother writing about it? I’m writing about it because I learned something really important. When we see someone going through difficult times, don’t be afraid to reach out with empathy.
But, here’s the thing about empathy…
Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to say. We get the distinct feeling that someone is not OK, but because they smile and hold it together, we respect their privacy and see only the outside. That’s where I was – holding it together in company. Doing the strong thing and not falling apart. Everyone I saw during that time, very kindly and full of compassion, said exactly what I usually say in the same situation. Things like…
‘How is he…. give him my best’
‘Take care… thinking of you’
‘Sending you good vibes’
‘Wishing you well’
Everything but, ‘Are you really alright?’ … with their arms wide open…
Now, having walked in the shoes of someone who feels totally adrift at sea, I understand it a lot better. I realise how important it is to see beyond the outside and ask someone if they are really alright. Never again will I make the mistake of not reaching out with open arms and asking the right question.
The truth is, it’s hard to ask for help…
And sometimes, it’s even harder to express exactly what we need. We all try to hold ourselves together, but no matter how strong we are, sometimes we shatter. Those are the times when an ear and comforting arms are exactly what we need.
For those who feel lost, don’t be afraid…
Trust someone enough to tell them. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
For those who see it, don’t be afraid…
Reach out with open arms. Let empathy lead you.
Seeing inside someone’s heart is the leap from compassion to true empathy.
My mother and my husband have a delightful relationship. He has a twinkle in his eye and so has she. When all is well with the world, they have a lot of fun together. Recently, however, hubby has been very ill and during that time, my mother who is now so frail she can barely walk, did her special thing – her ‘healing with the heart’ love thing, which reminded of a time 42 years ago.
Not long after we were married, hubby was admitted rather dramatically to hospital with a suspected heart attack. After four days in cardiac intensive care it was discovered he required gall bladder surgery, but the night he was admitted, I was lost and needed my mother.
She was at a formal Latvian ball. I found the telephone number of the venue caretaker, a family friend, rang and asked him to find my mother amongst the crowd, and he did. Within half an hour, in all her finery, she stepped out of a taxi and I was wrapped in the loving arms of the one person I knew I could trust.
That night I was terrified and asked her, ‘Mum, is he going to die?’ She held me close, and with complete certainty, promised me that he would not. And I believed her.
We talked about that moment today, and she said that she truly believed she could save him with the power of love. And that’s how she still feels today. She gives that same love in this very moment to me, to my husband and to all our family. It is a mother’s love.
She is an Angel in our midst. I am so grateful that at 94 her heart is still so giving and that I have the blessing of hearing her loving words every day.