Writer of poetry and memoir.
Author / Illustrator of 'That Question'
You can stand at his grave In your cloud of delusion Embellishing his life A Sanitized version Omit the inconvenient truth
The girl who doesn't talk
The first time it happened, I was very young. I had just started grade one and I had arrived late to school that morning and found myself standing in the corridor outside the activity room - a teacher either side of me. The junior school assembly had begun and I was meant to be in there, singing ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with the rest of my class. But I was here, my feet glued to the grey linoleum floor, staring straight ahead like a startled rabbit. The teachers were asking me how I had arrived at school and the more they probed, the more I shut down. I was literally frozen with fear, my words were trapped beneath a painful lump in my throat. ‘You must have got here somehow’, one of the teachers said, ‘did you fly here?’ Suddenly I felt her hand on me, turning my stiff little body. Peering around at my back she said, ‘I can't see any wings. Can you see any wings Miss ‘so and so?’ ‘Nope no wings’, replied the other teacher, glancing at my back. I can’t recall what happened after that nor do I recall why I was late that day. What I do remember clearly is the sensation of being completely incapacitated in that moment. I was experiencing a condition called selective mutism (SM) - an acute anxiety response that paralyses the vocal cords, occurring in select situations (typically at school).
Here I stand on thirsty earth And gaze beyond the wire Preparing for a better place Beyond the blazing fire A place of greener pastures
Mingling as a sociophobe
On Friday night I attended my daughter’s high school formal. I had been feeling restless and distracted in the days leading up to it. But once there I discovered that these feelings were experienced by others and that they were completely normal. I also realised that my nervousness wasn’t simply due to my usual social anxiety. My fragile emotional state was also the result of processing feelings of letting go. My baby girl was reaching a major milestone. Things were (are) changing. She is almost eighteen. My baby is navigating her way through a transition, preparing to leave her school days behind and enter the world of adulthood and independence. Meanwhile, I am navigating my way through a very reflective period. I am confronted with the sadness that accompanies loss and endings. We are both standing on the threshold of new beginnings and the uncertainty that surrounds that. Our lives are changing. And adapting to change is something I have always found a challenge.
In the outside world (aside from family) I have always found it easier to talk to strangers over those who are familiar to me. For example, I can be waiting at the bus stop and find myself ‘chatting’ briefly to a stranger with little discomfort. Perhaps that is partly because I am aware that the interaction will be interrupted by the bus’s imminent arrival. I have in the past, much to my horror, found myself seated next to the ‘chatty’ person on the bus following our conversation outside. This is not meant to happen. This is not part of the deal. Our interaction is meant to end upon boarding. Do Not tell me that this person expects me to continue the conversation. Anyway, nowadays I am much more vigilant and prepared for this. There are two approaches to be employed. 1. Board the bus and quickly locate a single seat in a congested area of the bus (reducing the likelihood of the ‘chatty person’ locating a seat near me). 2. Insisting the ‘chatty person’ boards the bus first. Then following him/her on. This buys you some time to watch them take their seat and choose yours accordingly – (away from theirs). This can be awkward when they select a seat with ample room for you nearby, making you feel obligated to take your seat there.
I don't just love animals, I'm a little obsessed with them. I have always been compelled to approach them, touch them, ‘talk to them’. I just want to be with them. Constantly. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being amongst animals. Whenever the local fair comes to town my grown up daughters leave me in the petting zoo while they go and look around the stalls or on rides. There is something very special about having an interaction with another being (from a different species to my own). It really makes my heart sing to have just a moment where I feel a connection to an animal through touch or eye contact or just being close to them. It is a thrill to be able to sit with an animal who feels comfortable with you. In that moment I feel as though we are communicating. We are in agreement that we are friends, we are both safe here with each other. It is a real honour to experience this for me. It gives me a feeling of acceptance, acknowledgement, without expectations. I am just being accepted for being me. There is nothing more rewarding to me than earning the trust of an animal.
I recently attended my daughter’s parent-teacher evening at school. I hadn’t felt too bothered about it. I had pictured myself sitting there with her teacher for a short time, then leaving, satisfied that all was well. I didn’t have any major concerns about my daughter’s progress. It was more a case of fulfilling my duty as a parent by showing up. Meetings of any kind tend to make me nervous, but I assumed that I would be able to handle this one on one scenario okay.
All the world's a stage
My daughter climbed in bed with me the other morning. So nice to know my seventeen year old still feels comfortable doing that. I started chatting and became quite animated about something and she said. ‘Are you sure you have selective mutism (SM)?’, jokingly.