There Are No Accidents

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There are no accidents. Knowing what I know now, I believe that to be a true statement, for when we live with awareness, we will always find the connection, the reason or the lesson.

Twenty one years ago I had a car accident, one which changed my life forever. It was the biggest learning curve of my life, and today I am all the wiser for it. The years of dealing with a severe injury was where my greatest lessons lived ~ in the pain, the panic, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the despair, and in the will to keep going. And the instant it happened I knew ~ when the car stopped spinning, and I was able to get out, I looked at the wreck and said aloud, “What do I have to learn from this?” And learn I did … for year and years.

My body fell apart a few weeks later ~ one night I awoke and couldn’t breathe. The twisted metal of the car seat should have been a clue. It was so badly damaged it could not be repaired, and for a very long time it seemed my body may not be able to be repaired either. I was in constant pain, I couldn’t get a proper breath, I could barely walk, I couldn’t use my arms … I couldn’t do anything ~ I was trapped. Everything which represented who I was … was gone. Instead, every fibre of my being was focused on surviving the next second … and the next … and the next. It was so intense, if a bomb had gone off next to me I wouldn’t have noticed. I was no longer the nurturing mother, the supportive wife, the doer, the giver, the loyal friend, the keeper of my house, the achiever, the university student, or the partner in our family business. Except for my will to survive I was stripped bare.

About ten years after the accident I started writing a book, the purpose of which was to help others going through a similar experience. In the early years an acquaintance, one of those good people who throw you a lifeline when you need it most, lent me exactly such a book written by a man who had survived a serious car accident. At the time his words were a godsend ~ someone out there actually understood what I was going through. An injury such as mine, with massive soft tissue damage, long term inflammation, and no broken bones or outward signs of injury, is hard to deal with. I would imagine it is very similar to depression, asthma or rheumatoid arthritis … invisible to those around you, but always the silent companion walking beside you. It never complains out loud, only you know it’s there. And because there are no bandages, the support you so desperately need is not there. Not because no one cares, but because no one notices or understands. Only the closest ones know, and while they do their best, even they cannot share your journey.

Today I am too far removed from the events to ever finish the book. I have no desire to call myself a survivor, nor do I wish to revisit those desperate times of panic, struggle and uncertainty. I define myself by what I’ve learned, not by the struggle. I worked through each step with purpose and determination, and have no desire to step back into yesterday’s emotions. When I look back at my journals they are harrowing ~ my despair and isolation was overpowering, but so was my hope, my strength and my courage. If I had not been such a positive person I might have given up, but I didn’t. I was determined to get better. I have always believed that I could heal myself, both on a physical and spiritual level, and I was prepared to explore anything and everything to get there. I saw doctors, specialists, spiritual healers and every kind of alternative therapist you could imagine. For the first three years I had physical therapy every day except Sunday. It was my safety net. But ultimately, it was when my head space changed that the journey changed.

One day I stopped fighting. In a moment of utter desperation I heard myself scream, “Die now or get better!”. I had challenged the Universe and fully expected to be struck down, but it didn’t happen, and that’s when I surrendered. I let go of resistance and instantly changed the vibration. I stopped focusing on the pain and the struggle.

The next few years were a mind-blowing time. I left no stone unturned in my quest to open my mind and my heart, and connect to the healing energy within. I meditated myself into oblivion. I created affirmations, recorded them for my meditations, worked on releasing cell trauma, imagined a better quality of life where I could move and breath freely and easily, aligned myself with ease and flow, and saw myself as ‘new’. I also discovered deep tissue laser therapy, and that was like a magic key. It broke down the scar tissue, and allowed a courageous therapist, one who had the guts to do what was needed no matter how painful, to put everything back in its place. Slowly I started to improve. And in the years that followed I finished my university degree, taught in a classroom, was able to get back into our business, and bit by bit create a garden. I was holding it together, and I was getting better.

It took fifteen years to get to a place where my body felt reasonably stable ~ where I had more good days than bad, where I could get a decent night’s sleep, and where I felt well enough to plan for something in the knowledge that I would be able to fulfil it. I still have to pace myself, but now I am able to do many of the things I once took for granted … simple things which fill me with immense appreciation and gratitude.

So what did I learn and what did I change? I learned to look after myself first ~ to pay attention to my body. I learned to ask for help, and I let go of being the eternal fixer-upper. I examined my beliefs, and let go of fear and perfection. I learned to trust on the highest level. I learned to validate what someone is going through ~ to honour their strength and courage. I also created a peaceful place within, one which I can go to anytime. I learned to find the joy and live in the moment, and I connected to the infinite source of love.

It’s in the dark night of the soul that we reach out to touch what we need to move into the oneness of the light, and that’s exactly what I did. And if we are brave enough to be truly honest with ourselves, the steps we take forward will be sure-footed, and we will find the right path. This is a poem I wrote about a year after the accident, when one day, my mother said to me, “Insi, you are very brave”. And I thought, yes I am. It’s simple but expresses exactly how I felt at the time.

I Am Very Brave

I am very brave
For I want to save
My body, my mind
Not leave it behind
To see a new day
With the pain gone away
Is where I will be
Just wait and see

I am very brave
I don’t hide in a cave
I go forth and try
With my head held high
I won’t give in
For me that’s a sin
My body can make it
It’s just hard to take it

I am very brave
Even when I rant and rave
Then I yell and scream
Till I run out of steam
I feel lonely and sad
Sometimes it’s so bad
My body hurts so much
That I just lose touch

I am very brave
For I choose to behave
Like I can cope
And I don’t mope
It’s been so hard
From my life I’ve been barred
I hate being trapped
But it’s like its been mapped

I am very brave
I’m in touch with a wave
That helps me to flow
And cope with the blow
I’ve learned many things
It’s like I’ve grown wings
Sometimes I feel I could fly
Right up to the sky

I am very brave
For now I don’t crave
To have what is past
I feel safe at last
I’ve let go of the fear
That made things unclear
I now dance with the ‘All’
And I know I won’t fall

I am very brave
For I know what to save
Often I wondered
And sometimes I blundered
But with the love of those dear
My path is now clear
This moment’s the one
To feel joy and fun

I am very brave
For now I behave
How I really feel
And it’s no big deal
To myself I am true
For me, and for you
I know I can do it
I will get through it

Inara Hawley © 2014

 

The Garden in My Heart

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There are some experiences in life which are so connected to a specific time and place that they stay alive forever. One such experience for me was gardening. I was never much of a gardener in my younger days, nor do I do a great deal of gardening today. These days I am more of a ‘plant and let it be’ than a ‘plant and nurture’ type of gardener, but there is one garden that is and will always be embedded in my heart.

For most of my married life I’ve lived on acres ~ lots of trees, paddocks, and animals. And that has suited me just fine. There is nothing I like better than being surrounded by tall leafy trees and grassy hills. So apart from indoor pot plants, I never had the desire to plant a thing. That is, until we bought a rugged 30 acre hillside nestled on the western edge of the Blue Mountains.

First Post - The Garden in My Heart

Hubby putting in the first marker for the house

It was a magnificent spot ~ the highest point in a vast valley, reported to be the second largest sunken valley in the world. With escarpment views, a hillside of majestic pines, and a resident mob of kangaroos, it was high, rocky, wild and windy, and stunningly beautiful.

House - Garden in My Heart

Our house when the gardens were completed

Entrance - Garden in My Heart

Our entrance ~ we named the property ‘Karawatha’, the Aboriginal word for ‘Place of Pines’

After, the house was built and the outbuildings were finished, it was time to tackle our sloping gravelly hillside… and our valley had just the man to do it! He was a feisty little Irishman, and a very talented landscaper. He walked around the house, up and down the slopes, and without any discussion said, “Leave it to me”. And so I did. A thousand, yes a thousand, railway sleepers later we had a 50 metre retaining wall with a 3 tiered garden and steps up through the centre, plus ten other retained garden areas, and walkways. It was fantastic!

The Garden in My Heart

Part of the garden when it was fully grown

The Garden in My Heart

The view from the front verandah

When it was all finally finished and filled with lovely rich soil, it was my turn, and for the first time in my life, I had a garden. It was definitely my time, and for the next ten years I planted, tended and nurtured every plant as if it were an extension of me. I fell in love with it. On summer evenings, my favourite thing to do was water the garden late at night to the chorus of cicadas. And in the mornings, I walked the pathways with my cup of tea, pulled a few weeds, looked at the amazing view, and with immense gratitude, felt one with the Universe. It was a wonderful garden ~ an absolute paradise.

Hubby and I both really loved it, and it was in fact what kept us sane. At the time we had a busy real estate office ~ the only one in the valley, and it was hectic. But when we got home and locked that gate behind us, we were free! We had our animals at our feet, the kangaroos grazing in our front paddock, the rabbits hopping about, the mountain birds visiting our birdfeeders, the wedge-tailed eagles soaring through the sky, and of course, the garden and the view. When we sat on our front verandah with a glass of red soaking up the magic, all was right with the world. I can still see it and feel it. We were so high up, we felt like we owned the valley. It was wonderful.

Cabin - The Garden in My Heart

One of the two cabins we built on the property

But the day came when we decided to move on. We had sold our real estate office to a lovely local couple, and built 2 luxury accommodation cabins on the property. While that was a great business decision, at the time, what we really wanted was to downsize. I was more than happy to hand over a fully furnished house and two cabins. As it was a walk in-walk out sale we left everything, including our beds, but the garden was another matter. It held my heart.

The day we moved I was left on my own waiting for a truck to arrive, and that’s when I said goodbye to my garden. It was a heartrending moment ~ really difficult, until suddenly I knew what to do. I would leave my garden with some words of love. I found the perfect piece of wood in the shed, and with a marking pen, on its smooth surface I wrote the following:

‘Inara’s Garden 1993 ~ 2004 With Love’

I knew it wouldn’t last beyond a month or so in the weather, but as I placed it amongst the diosmas, I felt it was exactly the right thing to do. It was a symbolic gesture that embodied everything I felt about a garden which had brought me so much pleasure. I have visited since, and while the hundreds of trees we planted now majestically reach for the sky, the garden is not what it was. But it doesn’t matter, because in my heart, it will always be as beautiful as I left it, and that will always be mine.

Inara Hawley © 2014

Caring Matters

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The sense of community in a small town can be delightful. Our town in particular is one full of happy vibes and kindness. But while kindness is a wonderful thing and should never be underrated, caring matters even more.

Caring Matters Recently there was a competition in our small town, which involved a bit of creative thought and expertise. Hubby and I were given entry forms, but as I popped them under my arm I thought no more of it. However, after a few days I realised we had to make the effort. After all, we live in a small town, and if we want to be part of the community, we can’t ignore it.

So we put our thinking caps on and surprisingly, hubby came up with a very creative idea, and being the good wife that I am, I executed it just as creatively on his behalf. When it was finished I was pleased. It was a pretty good effort, and I thought it had a good chance of winning.

On the day, however, a lady with a very average entry won it. A little later when everyone was having their tea and cake, one of the staff members quietly sidled over to hubby and said, “Yours was the best you know, but we all thought she needed a lift”. And so she did, as hubby watched her leave with a basket of goodies and a great big smile.

Yes, kindness matters, but caring matters even more, especially in a small town, for without it there would be no sense of community. I love living in a small town. 

Inara Hawley © 2014

A Pleasing Pattern

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Are you a people-pleaser? Fortunately, I’m not, and haven’t been since my teenage years. I have pretty much done what I wanted to do, and I have never had a problem saying ‘no’ either if I didn’t feel right about doing something.

Having said all that, there was a ‘pleasing pattern’ which came to the surface quite unexpectedly ~ one that I thought was long gone. It really surprised me, and had it not been for a very direct statement I may have missed it, which would have been even more surprising given how brutally honest I am with myself.

At the time I was at university ~ a confident and successful 40 something business woman who had stepped away from what she did very well to follow a new passion. But given my miserable school history both in primary and high school, stepping into the academic world after 25 years was not only a momentous step, it was a huge challenge.

And I did it brilliantly because I loved it ~ straight A’s and distinctions. And with each result I’d phone my mother, and with great pride tell her about my latest achievement, until one day she said, “You know I’m very proud of you, but I hope you’re not trying to please me. Do it for yourself” And suddenly it struck me, I did want to please her! I’d slipped back into an old childhood pattern ~ I was the good little girl performing perfectly because it made my mother happy.

A Pleasing Pattern - Pleasing OthersWhat an amazing realisation! I couldn’t believe it was still there! Over the years Mum and I had spoken openly about why she steered me in the direction she did when I was growing up. As far as her children were concerned, her hopes were high. She wanted the very best, which for her was a cultured upbringing. And being as tuned in to her hopes and dreams as I was, I fulfilled them to the best of my ability. I played piano beautifully and danced ballet, even better. And while there is always an element of pressure in having to practice daily and rush off to lessons I didn’t question it, for me it just was. My sibling’s response however was quite different. My brother flatly refused to have anything to do with the piano and couldn’t understand why Mum kept dragging us into the city to see Swan Lake and Giselle, or sit through Madam Butterfly and Faust! And by the time my sister came along, well, times had changed, and freedom was in the air ~ she happily did whatever she wanted!

Education was also very important to my mother. The war had completely destroyed her hopes for higher education so when I decided to apply for university, I was yet again fulfilling her dreams. It would seem the stage was set, and there was no way I was going to escape revisiting the past. It was almost as if the Universe had conspired for it to be dealt with, and deal with it we did ~ instantaneously!

I have never been one for over-analysing. I don’t see the point. For me, it’s a waste of time. Once I see it, it’s fixed and I move on. And that’s what we did, my mother and I. I can’t thank her enough for recognising the pattern, for in that moment we were both released. She was not prepared to repeat the past, and I was finally free to be truly true to myself. The pleasing pattern’s power was at last gone.

Inara Hawley © 2014

Getting Educated

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We all know that education is important, however, getting educated is not always about academic results. School was not a happy time for me. Coming from a non-English speaking background my primary years were for the most part confusing and lonely. My one good year, the final one, did nothing to magically change how I felt about school, and after years of practising and performing all I wanted was the freedom to have fun. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the strict authoritarian system which awaited me in high school.

Now education can, and should, be fun and enjoyable, especially for school children. I know this for a fact. However, the ‘chalk and talk’ method of teaching we were subjected to in high school was mindlessly and hopelessly boring. To be honest, I can’t remember one challenging, interesting or satisfying moment ~ not one! The focus was only on results. And so I developed a healthy disregard for the system and everyone in it, and instead of applying myself, I chose the path of least resistance ~ I decided not to participate and did the bare minimum.

In my second year of high school, I really dug in. While I never got into any trouble ~ I was quiet and obedient ~ I didn’t put in an ounce of effort. My mother was called in to discuss my ‘lack of interest’, and while it was a mystery to all concerned because I refused to discuss it, a conclusion was reached. Due to my recent IQ test results ~ obviously I must have thought that was fun because I came through with flying colours ~ I would not have to repeat the grade. As I was a year younger than everyone else, it might not have been such a bad idea if encouragement and support may have been forthcoming, but as it was, I blundered on!

Needless to say after five long years, it was a relief to leave. My final results fell far short of shining ~ I failed. But I wasn’t the least bit worried. I had complete confidence in myself ~ I knew I’d be fine. My mother, while she would have loved to see me go on to university, also knew I’d be fine. She didn’t ask me what I wanted, but she didn’t berate me either. Instead, having watched me apply myself diligently in both piano and ballet over the years, and knowing my abilities as only a mother could, she pointed me in exactly the right direction ~ a short technical course which suited my skill with numbers and bookkeeping perfectly. And I breezed through it! It was easy. I was organised, had a good head for figures, and it wasn’t too many years before I was working in trusted administrative positions … and after I was married, I happily managed the family businesses.

Apart from spending a few years studying herbal medicine when I had a sick baby ~ a purpose which I was very passionate about at the time, I had no deep desire in furthering my education. Life was good, and I was very happy. But as always in this journey of ours, new paths present themselves. And when I became a school mother, that’s exactly what happened … a new passion was born. I wanted to teach. So in my early forties, I applied to university, and based purely on my determination and enthusiasm, for I didn’t have the required high school results, I was accepted.

Getting Educated

Graduation Day with my family

And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. I loved, loved, loved, being a university student. I used to stand in the middle of the campus and just drink it all in. The challenge, the effort, the satisfaction and the accomplishment were all thrilling to me. It was hard work, but every second was worth it. While I am, and always will be a product of the school of life, getting a degree was the biggest gift I have ever given myself because I followed a dream, believed in it and succeeded. But while getting educated is important ~ it gives us choices, and that’s a wonderful thing ~ success and happiness in life does not depend on academic results or higher education. It depends on love, passion, determination, belief and confidence, and the joyful enjoyment of the journey. That I know for sure.

And so, I write this blog post for two reasons, both of which are based on my personal experience. Firstly, to say, don’t pressure your children. Take the focus off results and performance. Ask them what they want and listen to what they have to say ~ you may be surprised. They have a lifetime to get educated, and when they are ready, they will do it. In fact, some life experience before they go off to higher education is a very good thing. They may even make a different choice while they are out there getting that life experience, and that’s OK too! Let them choose, and then, even though it may not be your choice, support it.

And secondly, be an example for your children. Show them that they can follow their dreams. My daughter watched me follow mine. She watched me succeed in my chosen work, and then succeed in following a passion. And I did it all for my personal pleasure, in my own time, when I was ready. And she is doing exactly the same.

Inara Hawley © 2014

The Magic of Christmas

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I don’t bake, I really don’t. But Christmas is coming and this year I have decided to do some baking. And as I haven’t done it for years, it requires some pre-Christmas testing. So this week I’ve whipped up a few treats in preparation for the oncoming food festivities.

Christmas CakeHubby, who would almost walk over hot coals for fruit cake is my tester, and he is loving every minute of it! He was brought up on homemade cakes, biscuits, and all manner of delectable preserves and desserts made by his mother. Sadly, he has had no such luck living with me! I have however, created my own special food traditions over the years, and Christmas is part of those special memories.

Being European, my family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, which during my childhood was always a magical night. Our Christmas tree with its pine needles touching the ceiling sparkled with tinsel, shiny baubles, and dangling bags of chocolate money. And our little house, readied for the evening’s celebration, was filled with the glorious sounds and smells of Christmas. For my brother and me, it was the most exciting night of the year for without fail, every Christmas Eve Santa knocked on our door. We were always beside ourselves with anticipation, bouncing from room to room and peeking through the windows. And just as darkness fell, there he was on our porch with an enormous bag of presents over his shoulder.

And such is the magic of Christmas, that as he jollied his way through the front door everyone’s eyes lit up. The adults welcomed him as if he was a long lost friend, and we children looked on with wide-eyed excitement. Then he would take a seat, declare what a wonderful night it was, and turn to us children. For the tradition was that before we received our presents, we performed for Santa. My brother recited the same poem each year, and I tinkled a tune on the piano. That done he reached into his bag and gave everyone a present, and then with a great flourish was on his way. It never occurred to us children to put two and two together when shortly after Santa left, a favourite uncle arrived!

Then it was time for food ~ our table was laden, and I mean truly laden, with gastronomic delights. No English Christmas dinner with pudding for us! We began with freshly baked Latvian pirags followed by homemade rollmops, devilled eggs, marinated cucumbers, sour cream, and smoked ham. Then came my mother’s European potato salad, her German ‘kommen morgen wieder’ ~ a delicious savoury pancake, and the yummiest sauerkraut with succulent crumbed pork chops you ever tasted. And for dessert, Mum’s special dried fruit compote served with homemade custard. All of it wonderful!

Pirags

Latvian Pirags – delicious little buns filled with bacon and onion

Rollmops

Rollmops ~ pickled herring with dill cucumber

My parents’ house was ‘the’ Christmas house for many years. My mother was a wonderful cook and my father loved a party, so naturally everybody came. After I was married the mantel to create the merriment on Christmas Eve was passed to me, and for a number of years everyone came to our house. My mother brought her sauerkraut and potato salad, a trifle arrived with my brother’s family, and everyone else brought their good cheer. And not only did our Christmas Eves sparkle with tinsel, baubles, wonderful food and the same magical goodwill and love of childhood days, Santa always arrived as well!

      Santa Claus    Family Christmas

Our family is now spread far and wide, but as many of us as can still gather on Christmas Eve, which these days is once again held at my mother’s. And as I bake and taste, and bake some more, my reminiscing fills me with joyous memories. And as only childhood memories can, awakens within me once again the magic of Christmas and the happy anticipation of sharing it with my family.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Lunch in Paris

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I was just married and in Paris for the first time. It was Hubby’s favourite city, and he wanted very much to show me why he loved it, and so on the few days that we had there, we walked until we almost had holes in our shoes. But our time was short. This was our honeymoon and we had the rest of Europe to see, so on our last day we decided to do a late morning bus tour to see the parts of Paris that our feet had not yet discovered.

After about half an hour of winding through narrow streets we were negotiating the traffic in the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt when our tour guide said, “And on ze left we have one of ze top ten restaurants of ze vorld”.  Without a word, we looked at each other and in unison rose from our seats, pressed the stop button on the bus and got off! And in our jeans and joggers, we walked through the front door of the Lasserre.

The LaserreWith great aplomb we were ushered to our table. Not an eyebrow was raised as to our casual attire, especially given every table was occupied by very fashionable gentlemen in business suits. My eyes took in everything at once ~ huge windows with sumptuous drapes, high ornate ceiling, beautifully set tables, silver service on crisp white tablecloths, crystal glasses, and three levels of waiters in waistcoats and bow ties. It was elegance personified!

The menu was outstanding, and because we simply couldn’t help ourselves, we ordered the Pheasant Under Glass, and it was magnificent! Every course was brought to us for approval and then went back to the kitchen for plating. And between each course, sorbet cleansed our pallet to prepare us for the next delight, and the junior waiter brushed down the tablecloth and changed the cutlery. The service was outstanding, and we were basking in the ambience. It was pure indulgent pleasure, and of course we lingered over every course with enjoyment. We were making a memory, and loving every second of it.

When it came time to use the restroom, it was an experience in itself! I was escorted to and from the ladies. Yes, that’s right! A waiter walked me all the way to the ladies, waited and then walked me back. It was slightly disconcerting ~ my first thought was, I can do this on my own, but then I thought, hey, give in and go with the flow!

Now I haven’t mentioned the wine because we left the choices up to the Sommelier, who outdid himself ~ even the port was perfect. As we were raising the last glass of nectar to our lips, we noticed the room was getting a touch hazy ~ all the French gents were puffing on their after lunch cigars … well it was 1976! And then suddenly, the ceiling parted, and we were looking at the sky … and all the smoke dissipated! It was absolutely astonishing!

When it came time to pay the bill we confidently flashed the Diners Card, but amazingly, it was politely refused … “No sir, ve onlee accept ze cash or ze personal cheque”. Well we had no cash, but as luck would have it, I had my personal cheque book. What a relief that was! For a second there we thought we’d have to wash dishes! So with the same aplomb as we were seated, they accepted my cheque. It was such a class act given I was on holiday from another country. I was then given a long-stemmed rose and giddy with good food, good wine, and French gallantry, we floated back to the streets of Paris, and back to our hotel to pack for the next leg of our honeymoon.

In the years following we had the opportunity to visit a few more on the top ten list of best restaurants of the world, but our experience at the Lasserre was by far the most impressive. And thirty six years later, while we remember the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the amazing Louvre, our trip down the Seine, the spectacular Lido, the elegance of the Parisians and the fabulous street artists, it was our impromptu lunch at the Lasserre which remains the most memorable memory of Paris, a city we both fell in love with.

Inara Hawley © 2013