(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Girlhood as a Social Construct

That sounds scholarly, doesn't it? But these are just notes really. In The Wisdom Circle, a discussion group I participate in, we're currently answering questions posed by Brooke Medicine Eagle in her book Buffalo Woman Comes Singing. It's been a marvellous exercise so far, bringing up all sorts of recollections and realisations for each of us.

As this blog is a compilation of pieces in preparation for a memoir, rather than the final version of the memoir itself, I thought it could be useful to include this particular raw material. Here are my personal answers to the questions about the first stage of life: girlhood. (I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s.)


Girlhood. ----- Begin with your earliest memories and consider the messages you received from women in your family.


How were you expected to behave:

To be polite. To speak nicely.

To sit with my ankles crossed.

When a teen, to wear stockings and white gloves when out in public.

That it was important to be pretty. In my family it was also OK for girls to be intelligent and talented, and I was praised for that. It was considered a blessing which would make up for not being pretty.

It was important to get married. As I was not pretty and therefore might not marry, it was lucky I had a brain and would be able to support myself with a career.

In my family, it was considered an advantage for housewives-and-mothers to be intelligent too, even though they didn’t have to work. The term ‘houseproud’ was not a compliment, but denoted a woman who had no interests beyond housework and therefore was somewhat despised or pitied.

Working-class boys were not suitable as husbands. Neither were any young men with low-paying jobs and poor prospects.

I was supposed to want babies.

Did you receive the same messages from  Mother – Father – Aunts – Grandmother – ?

Pretty much – but my father hoped I would be a free spirit and have many lovers before marriage, whereas the rest of the family still thought virginity a requirement for a bride.

Teachers – ?

Not overtly, but it was taken for granted.

Girls of your own age?

Preteen, they were as innocently rebellious as me. As they got older, they adopted the conventional views.

How did you feel about these messages?

I thought my mother’s life looked unutterably boring, and I didn’t want that.

Were there things you wanted to do that you were not allowed to do because – "Girls don't do things like that?" – list some.


I didn't like the fact that certain games and sports were for boys only. I didn’t particularly want to play them anyway, but I resented not having the choice.

I also didn't like the fact that there were things I was supposed to DO by virtue of being a girl, such as cook and sew, neither of which had any appeal for me.

Were there things about being a girl that you loved? – list some.

I liked my sleeping doll, Julie, and I still have her.

I liked watching my Mum get dressed up for parties, with beautiful clothes, perfumes and jewels and I looked forward to growing up like that. But I didn't like the party dresses I had as a child, because they restricted me and I had to keep them clean.

It appeared that boys were obliged to be rough and tough, and to settle some things by fighting. I was glad girls didn't have to.

How do you feel about these now?

I mostly wear trousers. I still like perfume and jewels, and enjoy getting dressed up for parties. 

I still wouldn't want to have to be physically rough and tough, as something expected and required of me. I don't think I'd be very good at it, and anyway I think there are better ways to solve problems. Besides, I'm a physical coward.

Were there hopes & dreams you had as a girl that you have put
aside growing older?


Only being a ballet dancer, which it turned out I was no good at because I was uncoordinated and had no ear for music or sense of rhythm. I have fulfilled all my other dreams. My parents and grandparents were feminists before we even had the word, so I was encouraged to believe I could follow my dreams.

(Only the dream of being a poet was considered too impractical; I was told it would have to be a hobby, not a job. This was nothing to do with gender, however – and I must admit they had a point!)

When did you feel you became a woman instead of a girl?

When I married my first husband at the age of 22. (Even though I graduated university and had a responsible job before that.) This realisation surprises me. I think it was something to do with having one's own home, one's own domain that one was in charge of.

What would you tell a little girl of your own now about being female?

There are many ways to express that. Find the one that suits you. Follow your joy; that's your clue and your guidance. 

I would say the same to a boy about being male.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Living My Nightmare



I called Aunty Ev my second Mum. She understood that we had been through trauma. She didn't dwell on it, but gave us positive feedback and support. She was like a cross between a mother, a sister and a pal to me. I could talk to her about clothes and boys, books and movies, moral values and politics, and the way our stepmother had treated us.

She didn’t say about that last – as the girls at school had, the only time I tried to tell them – ‘You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?’ She accepted my word, listened with understanding, and took my side.

She had opinions and firm values, and expressed them. They didn't always agree with mine, but she wasn't attached to being right. She could allow for different points of view without surrendering her principles. She didn’t tell me how to be, but she did give me advice if I asked. She presented me with options. I found it amazing.

It wasn't surprising that my school friends didn't believe me. My experiences with the Wicked Stepmother were bizarre.

Dad married her not so much on the rebound as to get away from a small place where everyone knew that my mother had fallen in love with someone else, and almost certainly knew that she had good reason after many years of serial infidelities on my father's part.

It was the old, 'But they didn't mean anything!' – to which I now wonder, ‘Then why do it?’ But he is not here any more to answer that.

Many years later, Mum said to me, 'If only he hadn't always felt obliged to confess!' Back in those days it wasn't widely understood that confession (followed by some form of forgiveness, absolution or self-punishment) is a way of giving oneself permission to sin again.

It was different when she finally turned the tables and it did mean something. (Not one for light affairs, it had to mean a lot or she would never have done it, even with all the excuses she had.) Ironically, Dad gave her an ultimatum: give up the other man, or it's divorce. Like her daughter decades in the future (facing a husband who said, in effect, 'Do as I want or it's over') she threw his ultimatum back in his teeth.

Her lover's history was much the same: a wife who embarrassed him with her notorious affairs for many years while he tried to keep things together for the sake of the children, and then – by the time his children were grown up and married themselves – falling in love with Mum and finally straying in his turn.

Then, for the divorce laws of the time, these two had to be the guilty parties, caught in the act. It was a big scandal, written up in Truth, the local gutter press of the day. Then there was a quick divorce. (Well, two divorces.)

After which – Mum told me many years later, when she confided the whole saga – Dad said privately to her, and her lover's ex-wife said separately to him, 'Don't rush to get married. You can do better.'

'I don't know what they thought we went through all that for, if not to marry each other!' she said.

My Dad demanded custody of my brother and me during school term, and my mother didn't fight it. Whatever his faults as a husband (and really there weren't that many, except for the big one) he had always been a great, and adored, father.

Visiting his family interstate to break the news of the impending divorce, he met a rich widow. She was holidaying with her daughter, who was eighteen months older than me. They got chatting on a train journey, and spent time together at their destination. (I found out the details later from the girl who became my stepsister.)

When he returned home to Tasmania, they followed, putting up in a hotel for appearances' sake. My father and the widow arranged outings that included her daughter, Merrie, and me. They expressed the hope that we would become great friends. And in fact, innocent of any agenda (Australian teenagers were a lot more naive in the fifties) we did get on well.

He then proceeded to introduce Merrie's mother to all his friends. The cover story was that she and her daughter were on holiday, and Merrie and Rosemary had chummed up. His friends weren't fooled. Polite for his sake (he was well-loved) and with initial goodwill, they didn't really take to this woman. One who had regular business in the hotel where she stayed remarked years later that he used to see her waiting for Dad in the foyer, 'like a big Black Widow spider'.

Also, she seemed to expect that Dad's old friends would side with him against Mum instead of still counting her as a friend and being 'civilised' about the whole thing. She held it against them forever after. Well, perhaps she had heard a one-sided view of events. Come to think of it, he very likely didn't confide in his intended that he had been a serial philanderer! However, her adversarial attitude didn't endear her to anyone.

My Mum was a pretty woman and a good conversationalist, with nice manners. She had humour and sweetness. People were fond of her too. She and Dad had been a popular couple. The Wicked Stepmother (not yet in that role) was probably slightly older than him, stout of stomach, with a finely wrinkled face, and she reeked of heavy perfume. As far as one could gather, she didn't even seem to share Dad's values or political leanings. Everyone thought he was marrying her for her money, and I still think so.

But that was only part of the story. He couldn't stand the loss of face at his wife having left him for another man. And, to be fair, despite all the infidelities he did actually love my mother. She was truly the love of his life. Only I believe he was one of those men who had women separated into sexy bad girls to have a good time with, and the good girls to marry and have kids with. At any rate, he couldn't bear to stay in a small town on a small island, where everyone knew what had happened and where he could not avoid seeing Mum with her new husband – where, in fact, they would have continued to move in the same circles because the town wasn't big enough for it to be otherwise. He resigned his job and prepared to leave.

Though it wasn't what Mum had expected, and she didn't warm to her replacement at their one meeting, she put a good face on it.

'We'll have you for the holidays,' she said.

My brother knew nothing of all this, except that Mum and Dad had separated. When Dad went interstate to tell his mother and siblings, he took my brother with him and, as it was the long school holidays, left him with a sister and her family on a farm, 'to get to know his cousins'.

Eventually Merrie and her mother went back home. Dad followed with me, making a detour to the farm to leave me there with my brother for a week or so. That bit was good; we had fun with our cousins. Then he arranged for us to take a train to our new home.

He asked me not to tell my brother about our mother's remarriage. He would explain it later, he said. What he did explain, when he picked us up after our train journey, was that he himself had just got married. It was a shock to me, and devastating for my 11-year-old brother, who had had no idea and got the whole lot landed on him at once.

We had grown up in a temperate climate, in a hilly, tree-lined town on an island with mountains, lakes, rushing rivers, forests, and of course the sea. We arrived to a flat inland region of low scrub and one large, sluggish river. It was a place of harsh, dry heat. The countryside was so parched that many irrigation channels had been made to water the grapes and oranges which were the major crops and livelihood. There was not a hill in sight, let alone a mountain. Except along the river bank, trees were also in short supply.

We had been part of a neighbourhood and community where we and our family had a place, where our parents’ adult friends treated us warmly, and we went to school with their children. We had an extended family of my mother’s relatives whom we saw often. In our new home we didn't even have my father’s relatives, whom we at least knew of. During our childhood my Dad’s brothers and sisters and of course his mother, my Grandma, kept in touch with Dad and Mum often via letters and photos. Some cousins, and some aunts and uncles, we met in person when they visited us in Tasmania. Grandma visited a number of times. But they all lived in and around Melbourne, in the south of the State of Victoria. Stepmother had a home and thriving business (a general store) in a very different kind of place, a tiny village outside the town of Mildura in the north of the State.

My stepmother's way of life and house rules were different from what we were used to. Things were much more formal in some ways. But it was the country, not the suburbs, and life was in other ways more rough and ready than we were used to. We didn't have the practical self-reliance of country kids.

We were presented with a 19-year-old step-brother who clearly resented both us and our father. He was barely polite at the dinner table and not at all anywhere else. He mostly ignored my brother and me as if beneath contempt. He had left school and was working in the family business, which had been his father’s. His mother was keeping it going until he could step in and take over. (It occurs to me now, so very belatedly, that this was admirable on her part, and quite something for a woman unexpectedly widowed to take on.)

Merrie and I were glad to see each other. We had some whispered discussions about the surprising fact of our parents' marriage, working out with hindsight that it must have been planned soon after they first met. We didn't at that stage realise the Stepmother had an agenda too. She wasn't likely to find a new husband in a community where she was well-known and not much liked.

Her late husband had been very well liked – had grown up there, taken over in his turn the family business started by his grandfather, and was admired as a local sportsman in his youth. She was the daughter of a wealthy grazier (Australian landed gentry) far south, and they fell in love when she arrived as a new teacher at the tiny local school. She was attractive when young (I saw the photos) and must have seemed a glamorous, even exotic stranger. He was handsome and well-to-do, and I gather quite a dynamic personality. Apparently it was a passionate, devoted match. But then he had a heart attack, or stroke or something (I’m hazy on the details) and died suddenly, much too young.

The fact that she was a snob probably wasn't enough to cause her to be disliked, as she was mingling with the local upper crust anyway; but I overheard gossip from people who had no idea that the schoolgirl within earshot was connected to her – she was considered vain and conceited by many. I expect there was resentment, too, that he had married a newcomer instead of one of the local girls. And then, after being widowed, she took to drink. I have some sympathy for that, but what it turned her into wasn't nice.

We, her new family, took a little while to realise that the heavy perfume was to cover up the smell of alcohol. She held it well most of the time, but when she was drunk by the end of the day she would become irrationally angry and make strange, unfair accusations. My brother and I would try to be polite, and as inoffensive as possible, while she subjected us to long tirades. She would impose penalties such as extra chores for things we had not actually done. There was no reasoning with her.

At first we tried to talk to our Dad. His response wounded us deeply: ‘I’ve had one broken marriage and I won't have you kids wrecking another!’

(Years later, my psychiatrist, hearing this, exclaimed, "Why didn’t he say to her, 'Leave my bloody kids alone!'?" [Yes, this experience was a huge factor in a full-scale nervous breakdown that happened when I was in my twenties. I’ll get to that.] I didn't have an answer then, but I have one now: my father was a weak man.)

She soon realised my father had not married her for love but was in truth still pining for my Mum. Her jealousy, taken out on my brother and me, was fierce. I've said that what drink turned her into wasn't nice – but in truth she wasn't very nice in the first place.

In some ways her behaviour was quite funny, even to us then, intimidated as we were (we wouldn’t have dared laugh openly). She had a way of playing favourites, being charming to most of the family alongside addressing foul remarks in a hideous tone of voice to whoever was out of favour at the time. I still remember one day when everyone was in her bad books, and she turned to her crabby old orange cat, saying in her sweetest voice, ‘Oh, you’re such a beautiful lad, Fritz!’ Funny as in pathetic, ridiculous, obvious and silly!

It wasn’t funny at all when my little brother, traumatised, started wetting the bed, and rather than receiving any understanding was treated as ‘naughty’, required to cart his heavy sheets to an outdoor laundry trough and wash them by hand in cold water, even in the middle of winter.

It wasn’t funny one night when she gave us a dinner with small pieces of broken glass in it. No, we didn't eat it; it wasn't ground too fine to detect, and we weren’t stupid. Neither did we complain. As I said, we were not stupid. We disposed of it quietly and went hungry. I expect we snuck into the kitchen later and got ourselves a piece of fresh fruit, hoping she wasn’t counting what was in the fruit bowl.

It wasn't funny when some of my best books went missing, and some days later my stepmother led me to where they lay under a hedge, damaged by rain and mud.

‘That naughty little boy!’ she said, oozing fake sympathy. I knew who had done it, and it wasn't my brother. He claimed, of course, to know nothing about it; I believed him, my father didn’t. There was some punishment, I forget what.

It was even less amusing when I accepted an invitation to spend a long weekend with my godmother in Melbourne, and came back to find that in my absence my athletic 19-year-old stepbrother had decided to inflict on my small, skinny 11-year-old brother some tortures he’d learned at his posh boarding school. Why? My brother had wet the bed again, or been accused of disobedience or ‘cheek’ or something. I forget; and in any case I think the ‘reason’ was an excuse. When I was there, I was able to stand up for him a bit despite being intimidated myself. I was a good talker and, combining that with a meek, placating manner, could often talk our way out of trouble, or at least mitigate the punishments.

Nor was it funny when my mother bought me a beautiful party dress after I turned 16, which I wore to a couple of parties on a school holiday visit home (Tasmania was of course our real home, in our minds and hearts) only to have it disappear after I took it back to that other home. Some time later, my stepsister spotted it on a stall of used clothing, at a fair to raise money for charity. (My stepsister was allowed to go to the fair, and on other outings; Cinderella and her little brother were of course not.) It was a very distinctive dress, easily recognised. But my stepsister was not brave enough to make an issue of it. She wasn't game to arouse her mother's anger either.

She was not an ‘ugly’ stepsister but an ally as much as she could be. She confided in me that soon after their father died, she and her brother (13 and 15 then) sat down and plotted as to how they could murder their mother and get away with it, as her treatment of them became ever more crazy and horrible. They couldn’t work out a foolproof murder, so they abandoned the idea. (I can tell this secret now, as all parties are long deceased.) So you see, it wasn't just my brother and me being upset and super-sensitive; our reaction was not exaggerated. I feel obliged to say this, even now, as our few attempts to talk about it at the time were not believed.

I don't remember us fantasising about murder; not as a serious possibility anyway. But we did dream of getting away. Because the divorce court had decide the custody arrangements, I didn't think that was possible. I was 15. It didn't occur to me that I might ask for the ruling to be reconsidered. And when I went home for holidays, I had such a good time with my mother and a stepfather who turned out to be sensible, kind and fun, that I put the horror of school terms behind me. I was living my nightmare most of the year, treading on eggshells, utterly unable to be spontaneous or authentic while under Stepmother's roof. Certainly not free! When I went home, I could be me again. I could have a life like a normal teenager. I revelled in it. In that normality, I wanted to forget the nightmare while I could. I never even mentioned what was going on.

My brother told me many years later that he mentioned it, as hard and often as he could. I asked Mum about that, and she explained that because I said nothing, and the stories seemed so preposterous, they thought he must be exaggerating because he was upset by the divorce. They could not believe my father would tolerate such things if they were true. (I am sure no-one else who knew him earlier could possibly have believed it either. But I witnessed him being mentally castrated, bit by bit, over the two years I was there.) By the time my mother and stepfather understood what had been happening, we had escaped. Meanwhile, the nightmare wasn't completely unrelieved.

My stepsister had finished secondary school and was sent to a ‘finishing school’ in Melbourne – a place where daughters of the wealthy went to learn domestic arts that would enable them to manage a household with servants – so I only saw her when she was briefly home for long weekends and holidays. Even so, because her holidays were not identical with ours (when we went to Tasmania) we had some time to cement our friendship. It was one alleviation of the situation, for me if not for my brother.

My brother and I both made friends at our respective new schools, so that helped a bit too. Our days were not entirely Dickensian. And my mother had insisted that my brother continue his music lessons, at her expense, so a teacher was found. That got him out of the house regularly, which must have been some relief.

The one thing my Dad did in my brother’s defence was to arrange for him to leave for Melbourne with me when I left to take up my University place. He told me long afterwards that he could see that, without me as a buffer, my brother wouldn’t have survived emotionally. This did not make me feel better towards my father; rather I blamed him more, that he had that much awareness yet did so little. However, I remain very thankful for his decision, as I believe it was indeed a matter of my brother's survival.

I still recall vividly my stepmother’s goodbye. My brother and I were waiting with our luggage for Dad to get the car. As soon as he was out of sight and earshot, she leaned down to my little brother, and right in his face said venomously, ‘Don’t you ever think you can come back here to see your father!’ Then she stood up, turned to me, and said in a voice dripping honey,’Rosemary dear, you’re welcome here any time.’

No, I didn't spit in her eye; still much too intimidated. If I remember rightly I made no response, and next minute Dad was there with the car. But I made a silent vow never to set foot in her house again.'Where my brother is not welcome,' I said in my mind, 'I will not go.' And I never did. I never had anything more to do with her, despite some letters from her at first, which I ignored. She soon gave up. My Dad said tentatively, once, that she was hurt I didn't answer her letters. I can't remember how I responded to that, but I'm sure I made my position very clear. He never broached the subject again.

When my brother was a young man living in Melbourne, my father and stepmother came for a visit. They stayed with Merrie. (No chance of my brother or me offering HER any hospitality.) My stepmother had appointments to which, for some reason, neither my father nor Merrie was available to drive her. Dad asked my brother, as a great favour, if he would. He decided to do it, solely for my Dad. I was amazed and admiring. I wouldn’t have done it.

Later my stepsister said to me, as one puzzled and looking for clarification: ‘Mum said that when he drove her around that day, he was really strange – he didn't address one word to her the whole time!’

‘What did she bloody expect?’ I said (thinking: Have you forgotten???). ‘She should have gone down on her knees in gratitude that he took her at all! She wanted conversation as WELL?’

My stepsister took one startled look at my face, and wisely shut up.

Aftermath

I hated my stepmother implacably for decades – until finally, in my late forties, I noticed that the hatred was poisoning me, not her: I was beginning to experience physical symptoms which I could trace directly to that. By then I had met and worked with Ridge and Jenette, and experienced both The Forum and the Andronicus Foundation group. I had powerful techniques which enabled me to finally let go of the hatred and move on. But it was only when I did my Reiki Master training that my initiating Master, Ann, helped me see that my stepmother had been one of my greatest teachers and, on the soul level, had perhaps even incarnated with that purpose.

It was in large part thanks to my stepmother that I was eventually able to overcome the softness and timidity I had as a child, and become better able to stand up for myself.

It was thanks to her that I got very clear on who I was and am, and confirmed for myself the vital importance of both freedom and authenticity. Conversely, I learned how to read people and tread carefully when necessary.

I honed the gift of the gab which has got me out of some very sticky situations at times, including one potential rape.

And, in the end, after many years of hanging on to it, I learned how and why to let go of hatred.

It was thanks to her, too (though not to her alone) that at the age of 23 I went temporarily crazy and ended up in years of psychotherapy – which turned out to be one of the most positive things I ever did, and almost certainly the reason I am happily alive at the age of 77 instead of dead or incarcerated in my twenties or thirties.

You may ask: What place does all this have in a magical memoir? I see now that my experience in those nightmare years, particularly the time I wasn't there to protect my brother from our stepbrother, was the motivation behind a successful piece of magic I did in my sixties. A close relative, a divorced mother of a seven-year-old son, found a new partner and the three of them were very happy together until his ex-wife died suddenly and his children, who were in their late teens, came to live full-time with him instead of only at weekends as it had been.

They were, naturally, very upset by their mother's death. They resented my relative and her little boy, were rude and aggressive to her and started bullying her son physically. Their father refused to intervene. I was furious when I heard. They were seventeen and nineteen; he was seven.

'This isn't on,' I said to myself. The young mother had been urging her partner to set up his children in a house of their own close by, where he could visit them often but they wouldn't be disrupting his new family. Seemed like a good idea to me. I did a spell of banishing, to move them out into a separate house. It worked almost immediately – but the father went with them. That was the end of his relationship with my relative, which was very upsetting for her and her son.

A long time later, I asked her, 'Was it better that they all went, or would it have been better if they'd all stayed?' She thought about it a while, then said, 'It was much better that they all went than it would have been if they had all stayed'. Then I told her what I had done. She forgave me and still loves me. She found a more satisfactory partner in due course, and her son is now grown up and in a happy relationship of his own.

It was only in writing this part of my memoir that I realised – my experience with my 'steps' accounts for times in my life that I have been moved to assist young people in need, in various ways. It is surely what lay behind my fury at a young boy being tortured by much older people on the brink of adulthood, and my taking action in his behalf.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

My Deepest Fear



(Before I go on with my story, it’s necessary to back-track.)

My greatest fear through childhood and for much of my adult life was that I would not be free to be myself – my authenticity would be stolen from me, or forced into suppression. I can see two sources for this.

My mother wanted me to be sweet, lady-like, well-mannered, always spotlessly clean. I must think before I spoke. If I laughed, it must not be heartily – that was ‘coarse’. It was a mystery to my mother how I could play outside and come back in dirty, or with scabby knees. She once told me that when she was a little girl, if she got the tiniest bit of dirt on her finger, she would be holding it up and crying for someone to clean it. This comparison was not meant to be in my favour!

‘Yeah, Mum,’ my 77-year-old self growls now ‘You had an Ayah [an Indian nursemaid, a servant] whose job was to run to wipe the dirt from your finger if you held it up and cried.’ However the differences were deeper than that. I didn't notice or mind getting dirty. I wanted to climb trees, and on to the roof of the trellis summerhouse in the back yard. I wanted to crawl in amongst the shrubs and berries to watch the insects going about their lives. I wanted to go for walks in the bush.

When she had ladies over for afternoon tea, she would be sending me little signals across the room to sit straighter, uncross my legs, keep my hands still…. I became very self-conscious.

I also became quite ‘split’. Sometimes I’d scramble with my book up into a comfortable nook in the black wattle tree above the garage, and pretend not to hear when Mum called me. At other times I became fearful, inept, awkward. That side won; I became more and more timid, gauche and withdrawn. Instead of climbing a tree with my book, I’d lie reading on my bed for hours.

‘Where is she?’I’d hear my parents say. ‘Is she in her room? Why doesn’t she get out into the good fresh air?’ (Well perhaps because, when I did, I wasn't supposed to get dirty or risk a scraped knee.)

The other thread, of course, was the suppression of my natural psychic tendencies. I never could completely suppress them. I would still get little hunches that would turn out to be right. I would have what seemed to be idle daydreams about something happening, and then it would. I had dreams which were prophetic; the flavour of them was quite different from ordinary dreams, and I remembered them clearly after waking. Somehow I rationalised all these things to myself as not being crazy. I also kept very, very quiet about them. For many years I was completely secretive about my inner life.

So the fear of losing my true self meant that I buried it deep. In effect, I did lose it, at least in all practical ways. I kept a stubborn, secret core which I never lost. I think it was my saving. But I lost conscious sight of it. I created, I now realise, a persona which served quite well. It could interact with people adequately, despite some shyness and anxiety. It could do my studies, pass my exams and so forth. (Being successful academically was not only allowed but very much approved of by my elders. And particularly for a girl like me. The family story about me was that I was not pretty but at least I was clever.) Later I could hold down a job, and even shine.

The two years from 15 to 17, living with my mad, sadistic stepmother and always walking on eggshells, had me retreat even further to the inner realms and display an even more opaque mask.

At least I wasn't ambivalent about her. She wasn't my beautiful mother whom I adored and wanted to please, at the same time as feeling that I would always be a failure in her eyes – yet knowing, resentfully, that my way of being was valid too. No, I could hate my stepmother without any ambivalence whatsoever.

They say our enemies are our greatest teachers. She reinforced my belief in myself and my views, because her example of how to be was so obviously flawed and her opinions so opprobrious. (Snobbish, racist, gossipy, devious, unkind … and that’s putting it mildly.) She was also an example of everything my mother had (however unwittingly) been teaching me – how to be a fake: gracious and charming in company, behaving with perfect decorum and social nous, and none of it genuine. Definitely not what I wanted to be!

What a breath of freedom, after two years, when my brother and I moved from there to my dear Aunty Ev in Pascoe Vale, a suburb of Melbourne. Her down-to-earth commonsense and warm heart redressed some of the harm that had been done.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Explaining Myself



(Editorial aside)

‘What drew you to things like Reiki and Tarot?’ I am asked.

I thought I would be answering this question later on, when I reach a place in my memoir where I become more fully myself. But then I realised that what I have in mind will be more the ‘how’ than the ‘why’.

When I reflect on the why, I realise that I am not a person who does things for reasons. (Not the most important things, and not rational reasons.) I never have been. Instead I operate by intuition and follow the guidance I receive.

I had thought the ‘why’ was apparent in what I have written. In a way, the how IS the why: for me indistinguishable, as the ‘why’ is so much a given. I was assuming – as one does – that my personal experiences must be common and widespread. Perhaps, after all, not everyone is conscious of guidance from birth, and trusts it?

It’s not a blind trust. I’m consciously aware of energy, and of different energies. I don't know that I could always describe it in words that would give anyone else an accurate impression, but I ‘get’ the particular flavour of any energy. They don't shout at me; it’s a background consciousness, like an extra sense.

We don't usually stop to think about how amazing it is to be able to see, touch, etc.; we just see and touch. And so I just apprehend energy, as a matter of course. It’s easy to know who and what to trust. Even during the growing-up years when I was ‘shut down' as I’ve described, I had this inner knowing. Sometimes, when I was younger, I ignored the inner voice – from wishful thinking, or from having been taught to be extremely polite – but it was still there.

Impossible to explain to others!

‘My dead friend came to be beside me while I was waiting for my train. He was happy and loving. He was in the shape of a small, square, tightly compressed brown box….’

And then there are the ones – most of the time – with no visuals at all.

(I admit, the small brown box was startling, and I have no idea what it signified; but the feeling of his distinctive energy was the same as it had been in life, and that’s how I knew.)

My personal guides, guardians and angels have their own energy signatures, which include the quality of being trustworthy. So I seldom question my guidance.

It can come in the form of sudden impulses. I don't always discover why it suddenly becomes imperative to use this street instead of that (the one I had planned to use). Sometimes it does become apparent – I bump into someone special just when I or they need to connect, or I come across a shop with an item I’ve been wanting. When it’s not apparent, I think it must be protective, to avoid some accident or mishap I was headed towards.

There are times when I double-check by kinesiology testing, or with a pendulum (usually when the guidance contradicts my wishful thinking). There are other times when it’s essential to act NOW, without hesitation. Luckily I can feel the difference.

I’ve described how various Tarot readers came into my life, and how a Major Arcana deck was given to me by Spirit. So I started playing with the cards. I think I also explained that a Tarot reader I knew did a reading for me in which she predicted that I myself would become highly psychic.

As for the Reiki, that too was a natural-seeming progression, from experiencing Reiki treatments to seeing an ad for Beth Gray’s classes and getting a huge, irrational conviction that this was for me.

When I was guided to do both these things professionally after we moved to Three Bridges, it felt daring but also right.

My personal development work with Landmark Education and my spiritual work with the Andronicus Foundation enhanced my intuitive faculties and my clarity in knowing what was right for me, but life had always been inherently magical even when I tried to suppress that aspect.

My passion is poetry and that has been my vocation since the age of seven. Katherine (the friend I met in the New Age shop at Elsternwick) once said to me, about me, 'Poetry is what you do. Reiki is what you are.' At the time I didn't get it, thinking she incorrectly devalued the poetry by comparison, but now I see what she was trying to convey. Psychic abilities and magic and other-worldly, other-dimensional realities have always been part of the fabric of my life, and of me.

Healing and metaphysical counselling have become secondary vocations. (I have certificates of Mastery in both, including a number of healing modalities in addition to the Reiki which I first learned.) I've always had an innate impetus to heal whatever I could; to ’save the world’ not in a preachy but an energetic / magical / healing kind of way (including of course practical / material / physical ways of looking after the environment). I’ve always experienced the planet as alive and sentient, as much as everything on it.

With such a background, I could almost say there was no ’why’ when I answered the call to learn both Reiki and Tarot – or that this background itself was the why. At the time they were the next things to do, and were quite emphatically put in my way, in a manner I instinctively trusted.

I guess I live my life taking leaps of faith.