I’ve realised that the more honest and open we are, especially with the raw parts of ourselves that we normally hide, the more we all realise we are not alone. That we’re all flawed and fighting battles and none of us really know what we’re doing and that is okay. Deep down we’re all the same. We just have to keep on growing. And so I find myself sharing my own journey again. My joy and my struggles.
Life is always more lucid when we’re moving. My sweet-hearted Niece was getting married in Wollongong so we decided it was time to pack up our little car and hit the road again.
We went to Byron Bay the first day and saw the morning markets, heard the street music, tasted ice creams on the beach and felt three pairs of tangled legs on clean hotel bedsheets. Alba was wide-eyed and soaking in the world. I was skipping like I was 5 years old again, excited to be exploring a new town. After dinner we were walking through the streets when I heard a voice that took my breath away. As I watched this musician sing I felt myself falling in love, as I often do with total strangers. Just before I had to leave I caught his eye and our connection hung in the air.
The next night we stopped by a beach. The moon was full above the ocean and the sunset hung like a painting in the sky. We filled an inflatable mattress in our car to sleep on. Alba and I giggled in our funny, cosy home and we listened to the sound of the sea crash on the shore all night. In the morning we watched the sun rising over the Earth from our bed and we were all so happy.
When we arrived in Wollongong my Father was there, he had come to Australia earlier for his son’s funeral. I hadn’t seen him in seven years and I was beside myself with excitement. He was filming the wedding and when I saw him my heart leapt in my chest. Sometimes me and my brother had wondered if he was even real or just some crazy character in a film, but here he was in the flesh. “It’s Dad!” I told my Mum excitedly, but I didn’t interrupt him. Even my Mum couldn’t help smiling in his presence.
Then a magical thing happened. Alba picked up some flowers petals the flower girls had thrown and wandered over to my Dad. She looked up at him with her big blue eyes and held out the handful of petals. He stopped filming and saw his granddaughter for the first time, his eyes brimming over with kindness and warmth, shining with tears.
“Thank you so much Alba” he said gently as he took the petals. Normally Alba is very shy with strangers, but somehow she chose my Father from the crowd and looked at him lovingly as if she had always known him.
Then of course he saw me and my heart leapt again. His hug swallowed me whole and I was safe. That night we sat by the dancing fire and he held my hand and told me stories, pausing in between sentences to tell me he loved me. I felt like curling up in his lap and closing my eyes. Drifting in the warm, slow river of his words and letting his stories come to life in my mind. “I can’t tell you just how proud I am of you,” he told me sincerely, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
We only had a few special days with him and then he had to return to England. He left me with a old suitcase full of memories. Hundreds of clippings from newspapers and magazines that had featured him, poems he’d written, letters from my Mother when they’d first met, photographs of his adventures, films he’d written and directed, awards for all kinds of things and momentos from my childhood. Our last hug lasted forever but ended too soon.
I shot a campaign for a clothing label in Sydney and then it was time for the long drive back home. Home now was with my Auntie Megan and her three girls, with our ambling veggie garden and our roaming chickens. Alba played happily with the girls outside all day long. I fed all of us from the plants we grew in our yard and the food I bought from the markets. Every Tuesday we’d get six loaves of organic sourdough from a local bakery and I’d slice into the fresh bread right away. Such joy in little things. Sometimes we’d have a fire and talk late into the night, kids snuggled up in our laps.
Then we found ourselves on the other side of the country, driving up the west coast in M’s Father’s car. I stood at a cliff and let the beauty of the red land and blue sea consume me. Thinking as I often do, that I could never appreciate this enough. We stayed by a cove where dolphins visited every day. I stood knee deep in the crystal waters with Alba on my hip and called out to dolphins in my thoughts. Soon a Mama dolphin and a baby dolphin swam up to meet us, as though they had heard my call. The moment was magic and I knew then I would never forget it.
Then we went to Bali, where I had rented a twelve bedroom villa to live with creative friends from all over the world. For a while, it was truly and utterly blissful there. I found myself in a new loving family of young artists and every day was an adventure. One of the girls I’d invited was Kelsey, a fashion designer from New Zealand. Within a day it was like we had been best friends our entire lives. She was pure sunshine and together we giggled all day long.
Sometimes it is strange being with people who know me already from my blog, they know my most personal thoughts and have their own ideas of who I am. But I never am who they think I am. People expect someone serious and insightful, but in reality I am so silly and goofy. Constantly making bad jokes and being childish. I am just real, no more special than anyone else.
This time is all a haze now but as my mind wanders backwards I grasp at feelings and they fill me again. The painful memories feel the strongest, but each time I remember the pain is less, and eventually it is just a dull ache in the pit of my belly.
I was torn apart by heartbreak last November. The future that had built up around me, like a bridge built on dreams and love and hope, was destroyed. The ground was pulled from beneath my feet and I was hurtling through the unknown. It took a lot of heartache before I could realise I didn’t have to fall, I could fly and that what was torn down could be built up even better than before.
M and I ended. I was a broken girl, trying to hold myself together during the day to be a good parent and falling apart at night. I was so afraid of being a single Mama, of being lost, unloved and alone. The jealousy burned and I made myself suffer. One moment I felt everything and the next I was numb, living on auto pilot. Speaking my lines from the script just right.
Those nights were some of the hardest of my life. Over eight years we’d collected enough memories to keep me up all night reliving them. I had failed, I had lost, I was nothing.
I found solace in the arms and loving words of the girls around me. I hadn’t had many friends when I was in a relationship, we had unhealthily poured all of our energy into each other. Now I was learning how important it was to have their perspectives and support. I knew it was only the beginning of the lessons I would learn on my own.
After a while I stopped romanticising our past and began to see things clearly. We weren’t the same people we were in the beginning and our love had changed along with us. I stopped fighting the situation. I accepted it, and I even started to see how this was all for the better. It was something I had known would happen deep down before we had fallen apart.
It felt like a lifetime before he was back. I wore an invisible coat of armour. We flew home to Australia and continued to live together. I was wounded but I would always love him. He was my best friend and my family. For now we would be co parents.
Sometimes things were beautiful, sometimes we were even happier than we were before. We’d have moments with the three of us in bed playing monsters in hysterics. We’d still eat dinner with my family and laugh at each other’s terrible jokes. We’d share our immense pride in all of Alba’s accomplishments and reminisce about special times. But things weren’t always easy.
One day my Mother called me in tears. My little brother Zake had tried to kill himself. It wasn’t his first attempt. Of all my family, he is the one I hold dearest. He is the coolest, sweetest, most inspiring person I know and I couldn’t imagine a world without him.
I had plans to road trip with Kelsey but I knew I needed to cancel, that I needed to be with him. And so we flew to my hometown. When I arrived I pulled my brother into a big hug. Of nine siblings, he is my only full sibling. We share our smile and so much of our perspective. Sometimes when we were younger it felt like it was us two against the world.
The night he had tried to jump off a bridge he had unintentionally broken the nose of a policewoman trying to sedate him. My Brother has Aspergers, and being held down terrifies him. One day he stood in the hallway and told me: “If the court case goes badly, I am definitely going to kill myself.”
I scrambled desperately for the right words but all I could say was “I love you.”
“You can’t change my mind.” He replied and I recognised his stubbornness as my own. Please, please, please don’t die, my thoughts cried.
It was Alba that ended up doing him the most good. When they were together they both glowed with joy. When Zake left the house, Alba would cry for him at the door and he couldn’t bear to leave her. They were almost inseparable. One sleepy night she nuzzled into me, smiling, whispering “my Ake….” and I knew she loved him and that pure love was healing him.
A long time ago M told me he felt I had been a little bird and he had clipped my wings. Now I could feel them finally growing back. I was finding myself. I had gone from being two halves of a whole, to being a half and now I was learning to be whole again on my own. Things were going to be okay.
(Images by myself & Alba’s Papa)