America

So it’s 4am and I’ve just slept for another 12 hours. I’ve been back in Perth, Australia for four days now. I’ve probably been asleep for about 80% of it. And that’s not an exaggeration either. I don’t remember a time when I’ve slept so much. Crossing so many time zones really takes it out of you. Not to mention the unexpected physical and emotional stresses of America in the past 5 weeks.

Going back a little, I was in Thailand trying to get things started with work. I was getting really frustrated at how slowly things were moving and was starting to get a little miserable there. Especially when the burning season kicked in. Funny how we take for granted things like breathing in nice, clean air. So anyways, the last thing I had posted was about going to Chiang Dao and making several revelations about my life. It was a good break to help me recalibrate but I quickly realised that I needed a proper time out. Away from the craziness. The sensory overload which I’m not used to. The pressures of trying to make it on my own. And life doesn’t wait for you to catch up. Nope. It’s up to you to look out for yourself and find your own pace. And that’s exactly what happened. In a roundabout way.

It was nice to be out in the country with minimal distraction and communication. But when I got back, things got real. When I first got to Thailand, I found out my sister had breast cancer. I had contemplated going over to see her but wasn’t sure if I could manage it after only just getting to Chiang Mai. So a few months on she was having a double mastectomy. When I got back from Chiang Dao, I opened up a bunch of startling emails, saying that she was having complications and was bleeding a lot. It was probably lucky I saw all the emails at once before I could panic too much because she ended up pulling through okay. My family decided to go over to America to see her, and as terrified as I was to deal with this kind of thing so soon after Mike dying, I decided to go too.

I wasn’t sure what state she would be in or if I could handle it. So many memories came flooding back of Mike’s extended time in hospital after he had an adverse reaction to a simple surgery. Crap. Okay. I’m only just now seeing how I’ve been put in the very same situation years later. There was so much other stuff going on that I missed the obvious. So basically when Mike was in hospital, I had a bit of a meltdown and realised how stressful everything had been and how I couldn’t keep doing everything on my own anymore. (I’m skimming over it for the sake of my story, but there’s a more detailed version in my earliest post). I can now see after I’ve taken a step back that the same lesson has repeated itself, just in a roundabout way. I can see how confusing this must all sound. I’ve been in such a brain fog, on pain meds, catching a cold and just being a bit of a zombie for the past week or so. I’m a bit of a jumbled mess. But if anything, the reason why I write my blog is to try and show the real stuff that goes on underneath the surface. Not the glossy version. So I’m sure you can bear with me for a while :)

Anyway, getting back to it… I wasn’t sure how I would react to seeing my sister after surgery. But when I got there I was pretty shocked to see it was as if nothing had happened. She was already back working from home and everything looked relatively normal. But from what I’ve learnt in my time, looks can be deceiving. No one knows the chaos that goes on inside but you. No matter how well you try and explain it. Apparently people used to think I had it together while I was looking after Mike. I didn’t mean to put on a façade or anything, I was just strong because I had no other option. I had a husband to look after, bills to pay, a business to run. All of that. I just kept going because I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t know there was any other help. And in the end, I was judged for it. Because people backed off thinking we had it sorted, when in reality, you don’t have the time to ask for help. You’re that burnt out that it’s more about survival mode. You don’t think about how it looks to other people because you simply don’t have the resources to do so. Your energy reserves are all used up.

And here is something I will say to anyone who knows someone going through a rough time that doesn’t know how to help. This bit is important. Most people offer help and wait for the offer to be taken up. Sounds perfectly reasonable, yes? More often than not, they don’t want to be pushy or intrude as it’s usually a delicate matter. The reality of it is that most people who are struggling don’t have time to ask for help. They just push on. The best thing to do is just show up. It’s that simple. Show up and do whatever you can to help. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need when asked. Sometimes we’re just struggling and trying to get by. But I know the thing I always appreciated most was just having someone be there without you having to ask. And you can argue that we’re not mind readers, and that is precisely why I’m bringing this up. Because until you go through it for yourself, it’s a very simple yet hard concept to understand. Anyway, I digress, yet again…

So I went in trying to have an open mind and trying not to freak out from my own experiences and expect the worst. My thoughts for coming on this trip was first and foremost to just show up and be there for my sister. Even if I was nervous about it. I figured she would be fine and whilst spending some time with her, also get a bit of distance from my current situation and hopefully gain some clarity. It only took a couple hours for another disaster to hit though. I feel like it was a bit of an omen for the rest of the trip…

My dad took a fall in the rain the first night we were there. He ended up cracking a rib. Me and my niece saw it firsthand and the way he slipped and bounced headfirst into a parked car then rolled off like a ragdoll… Needless to say it shook us up pretty bad. He couldn’t breathe and I literally thought he was dying, the noises he was making and how severe it all seemed. That experience alone completely messed me up. It brought up a lot of deep emotions I hadn’t felt since Mike was dying in my arms.

Fast forward a bit and there’s 8 of us staying in a small apartment. My sister recovering from surgery. My dad not being able to move much from his injury. And the carer part of me kicked in because I was familiar with how to safely aid someone with mobility issues, and then probably the anxious part of me too as I remembered how difficult it was to learn all this the hard way without being taught. It probably sounds like common sense but surprisingly it isn’t natural for most people. And well… I don’t know what all your families are like but as much as we love them, being in such close proximity in such a confined space… Well, let’s say it’s an interesting experience ;) Meanwhile, I’m freaking out because I’ve lived alone for years and am not used to all these extra bodies around me. I treasure my quiet time and use it to ground myself from the craziness that is my life these days. (Good crazy and bad, mostly good). The weather was so cold so I couldn’t go out into nature and do my thing and didn’t have my own space to meditate or process, so I just kinda got swept up in it all.

Without going into too much detail, things continued to get more and more intense. There was a brief stint where I went to Texas. It was on my bucket list to see the grave of Dimebag Darrell from Pantera and so I was happy I got to at least do that. It was sad in itself though because my husband and I had met with Dime standing in between us at the airport. It just felt like another end to an era. But I felt like Mike was with me that day and I was lucky enough that no one else was around. I was pretty content to have my moment, lying in the dirt beside his grave with fond memories of both Dime and Mike.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. The three weeks went by crazy fast. It was really hectic. I think there was a common theme going around at this time where myself and others I spoke to were going through some major life stuff. Where all of a sudden we were confronted with everything over the past ten years as it hit us smack bang in the face and we were left questioning our choices and reevaluating… well… everything. Family patterns were being investigated. Things we didn’t have a chance to deal with in the past were now presenting themselves forth to give us another chance. To give us that opportunity to resolve it in a different way. That was more conducive to our true selves. So when it came time to leave, I could feel I was just starting to scratch the surface. But I sensed I had more work to do. And so I extended my stay for two weeks. To not only just deal with what was in front of me, but to take the chance to improve it. To perhaps get some closure. To spend more time with my sister now that things had started to settle down. And to just be there.

In retrospect, I probably should have regretted my choice to stay but I don’t. I ended up travelling across America to see my friends and to feel like I had actually been there instead of just holed up in a country town and going back with a bad impression of the place.

If I had left, I would have been travelling on what would have been Mike and I’s 4th anniversary. Sometimes even when I feel like I have done a lot of healing and in a pretty good place, when it comes to anniversaries, it’s like I temporarily take 5 million steps back. After the stresses of the whole trip, this was one of those times. The night before, I slept in foetal position and was just in major fight or flight mode. This meant that my shoulders were super hunched up and I woke up in major pain and something had locked up overnight. So somehow this travelled to my lower back. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fly but I felt like I should be okay. Perhaps I should have taken into consideration how hard it can be to travel alone though. Lugging around all your stuff like a pack horse can tend to put a strain on the body. So basically I arrived and threw my back out the next day. I couldn’t even move at one stage. I was in a lot of pain just moving my foot forward an inch. I didn’t have time to see a doctor before my next flight though so I kinda just had to go with it. I was starting to feel the effects of constantly being on my own. Pain seems to bring about some emotional truths at the same time. I felt like I was reaching that breaking point that I mentioned, before I went off on several tangents, when Mike was in hospital and I realised how alone I was. I was so far from home but I felt even more miserable that going back to Perth didn’t feel like home either. And I was so confused about Thailand. I just felt completely ungrounded and just like I was floating around. And all these months of not knowing what the hell I’m doing but just doing it anyway… Being so far out of my comfort zone which I used to live so deeply in… Not wanting to stray into the unfamiliar… But straying further and further away from everything I once knew…

And that’s the thing. I’ve healed in so many different ways and seemingly so quickly. To me anyway. I’ve made mass amounts of progress and I have been the happiest I’ve ever been within myself. I don’t take that lightly. But at the same time, with happiness comes a fear. A fear it will be taken away. That I shouldn’t let my guard down and allow myself to enjoy my life, despite not knowing what could happen around the corner. That in being happy with the way my life is now and being more present in each moment, it takes me away from my past. And one guess as to what that past is. Or who, rather. Yep, Mike. There’s a slight panic in feeling like I’m further away from him now, or feeling how much I have changed from how we once were. All these changes, and being so far away in, let’s face it, a country that’s not for me at all (No offense, America). I think I finally just cracked it, and my body followed suit.

The thing about back pain is that no one can actually tell how excruciating it is. My friends wanted to show me around and do the tourist thing, and I would have liked it, but it wasn’t really what this trip was about. It was much deeper than that. And I was at that point where everything was caving in and I just needed to stop. Stop and just go with it. Rather than trying to fight it, accept the situation and readjust.

It really sucked how it happened because I was bouncing around between completely foreign places. Having to rely on people I knew, whether briefly or forever, but that I didn’t want to have to be so vulnerable with. I really felt what it must have been like for Mike to have no choice but to let people take care of him. I knew it was no mistake that I ended up in this position. Totally uncomfortable and not wanting to be a bother, but really having no other option. And as much as I hated it, I knew that I was pretty lucky to be with people who did take me in and look after me really well. (Thankyou <3). It also reaffirms what I was saying earlier about no one actually knowing what is going on in the inside. And I think for that very reason, it’s why no one knows what is right for you but you. Which is why it needs to be your call to voice your needs and do what you need to to look out for yourself. Whether or not that involves having the help of others.

It’s been a real reality check though. Because I can see how this situation has reoccurred because I was struggling so much in Thailand. Trying to set up two different businesses and beating myself up with how slowly it was coming together (after about a month). I think just having everything stop like that while I had to look after my physical health made me realise how alone I have been. And most of the time I can get by. My new experiences cancel it out most of the time. Because those moments are more precious and meaningful than a good majority of what I have ever before encountered. They make all the pain and struggle worth it. But sometimes we fall. We’re only human. We can’t always do it all. Being strong is such a valuable trait but it can also be our downfall if we’re not careful.

I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who are going through similar things at present. Who are leading a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. We’re all on our own journey at the moment, yet unified in this crazy path we are going down. It’s easy for us to freak out and have our doubts when we realise how hard it is, but at the same time, it’s hard because it’s the road less travelled. The things we get to see and do… That’s what makes it worth it. And I got to say, this year has been absolutely insane so far. I’ve gone through so many hardships and battled my demons and just have absolutely wanted to give up and not play anymore but somehow in my weakness, I have never felt stronger. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. And through each difficulty, I learn to trust myself that little bit more somehow. Even when I keep upping the game to the point where I wonder if I can manage. But somehow, I always do :)

 

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P.S. I did manage to do a few touristy things here and there.  I’ll add photos later when I can be bothered and when I’m completely out of my zombified fog of pain meds, sickness and ridiculous amounts of sleep!  And again, I’m not really one to proofread, what you see is what you get usually so sorry if it’s all come out in a jumbled mess..  Sort of ;)

 

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