Thursday, 9 April 2015

The End Of The Road

So, earlier this year I outed my deepest and most personal "secret" in a blog called Defining Moments. It was about the fact that I had survived a horrific car crash that took the life of my friend Dawn and left my then-boyfriend Steve in a coma for a while.

For those of you who have read the story, there are a few questions that haven't yet been answered. Hopefully this blog will serve up the final words on that night and fill you in on the missing pieces that I haven't yet shared.

I'll start with the verdict.

The accident happened on 8 December 1989. It was a Friday night and as you already know, we had a head-on collision with a truck. There were four of us involved. My friend Dawn who died at the scene, my boyfriend Steve (who was driving) who suffered head injuries and was in a coma for a couple of months, and then there was the driver of the truck, and me.

As neither Dawn nor Steve could testify, and because there was a question as to whether Steve or the truck driver was potentially at fault, I was the only witness.

From memory, the inquest happened around April 1990, about 5 months after the crash.

I had already walked away from my relationship with Steve, had come out the other side of a nervous breakdown and was surviving as best I could. My dad and my friend Carol came with me to the courthouse.

As you can imagine, Steve's family would have been desperately troubled over this verdict as it could potentially throw their son under the spotlight and as far as they knew, maybe he was at fault. And what would that mean?

I was no longer in contact with them and you can read all about why in my blog Broken But Not Forever. Suffice to say, I wasn't exactly over the moon when I saw his dad and one of his uncles sitting outside the courtroom when I got there.

In fact, I wish the ground could have swallowed me up because it became another chance for his family to use me as a scapegoat and take a stab at me with their projected pain.

As I sat waiting to be called, Steve's dad came over to me.

"Why did you say you were travelling at 40 miles an hour?"

He had been given a copy of my statement (that had been taken a couple of days after the crash), and he was far from pleased with what I had said. Even though it was the truth.

I honestly don't remember what I said in response but I do remember feeling mentally bashed (once again), and totally appalled at his lack of respect, lack of compassion and basic lack of human spirit as he venomously spat his thinly-veiled accusation at me.

Like it was my fault his son was in a coma and that my friend was dead?

I don't think I need to tell you, his spiteful words didn't exactly help me feel better about an already stressful situation.

Thankfully it wasn't long before our case was up and I was called to the witness stand. Declaring my oath to tell the truth and nothing but, the judge proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions which I answered as authentically as I could remember.

The verdict was given almost instantly: Accident.

That's right. Neither Steve nor the truck driver were held accountable. The verdict was that the accident was exactly that: an accident.



As for Steve's health? I don't know the answer to that. I have never heard from him since. Bar one phone call a week after I left him there has been no contact. I heard that he suffers from epilepsy and walks with a slight limp, but that's hearsay and not something I can verify.

I did write him a letter about 4 years ago. I found an address for someone with the same name as him at an address that was in the vicinity of where we lived at the time. I never got a reply. But when you think about it, it took me 22 years to write that letter, so it could take 22 years for him to respond. If it even ever reached him. Which I guess I'll never know.



The final question that I may have left unanswered is about whether I've ever actually been in love since I walked away from my first love. I wrote in Life Sentence that I hadn't ever loved a man as wholly and completely as I loved Steve, and that's at least partially true.

However, just for the record, and to clear up any misunderstanding (especially for my exes…!), I should make it clear that yes, of course I have been in love since then. The point I was making is that I had come to realise that part of me had stayed locked in that situation. Until I saw it more clearly, which is why I wrote about it.

It's not that I've never loved anyone since then, but I had a definite sense that some part of me had been holding myself accountable for walking away, and I hadn't recognised it until last year when it was the 25th anniversary of the crash.

My writing about the Life Sentence wasn't so much to say that I have been a stone cold ice queen for 25 years, it was merely that I had come to a new level of understanding of who I am in relationships and that maybe, part of me had been holding back because the first time I'd fallen in love it all ended terribly. And that maybe a part of me had held on to that because I was scared to love at that deep level incase I ended up feeling as hurt as I had back then.

So, in order to set the record straight, I should acknowledge that I have been in love many times.

There was the sensitive musician who I had a 2-year relationship with when I was 21. I definitely loved him because I was distraught when he called it off. Then there was the DJ who stole my heart and who I reconnected with 15 years after our first fling. Still love him. And of course, my longest relationship – 9 years with the kooky creative who was a brilliant athlete and all-round funny guy. That was a love that had its own recipe and came to a natural end.

They're the ones I call my most important loves, but to be honest, I fall in love on some level all the time.

So my Life Sentence wasn't about never having loved since then, it was about having baggage that I hadn't fully let go of. Which as far as I can see, means not fully allowing myself to love in the way I did when I was 16 when life seemed so bright and full of promise.

Lucky for me, that baggage has been put down and I am now in a far more available position than I can ever remember.

Maybe this is where all of us arrive at some point? I don't know. But what I do know is that I feel different. More free and ready to dive in to new things without holding on to the unconscious belief that I still owe my ex for leaving him.

So there it is. The conclusion to my 25 years of unconscious "suffering".

Having been through such an awful experience as being involved in a fatal car accident it's worth saying that I believe the worst things that happen are truly our greatest gifts.

Losing people we love and being forced to get up and dust ourselves off when all we want to do is crumble and fall is one of life's most humbling yet empowering opportunities. And I'm glad I went through all of it. Because now I get to look back on past events and see how far I've come.

I can look through the window of the past and notice how strong those painful moments have made me. They provided me with a choice to grow and become a better person. And they have certainly made me more compassionate.

I hope you've enjoyed travelling that road with me as I relived the pain and unearthed those memories that, until writing this blog, had been stored in my cells, waiting to be set free.

Because now, I'm well and truly back on the road and loving every minute.

And I hope you are too.

Choose love xx

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Save Me!

This morning I happened upon a video by Robert Ohotto – a US based astrologer who sits alongside the likes of Michael Beckwith and Carolyn Myss (two top spiritual authors/speakers).

Robert talked about how he looks at astrology as a symbolic representation of what's going on within us.

I've always leaned towards astrology as a tool to help me figure myself (and other people) out or to get some more information about what's going on in the world, so what he said resonated with me.

But whether you see astrology as science or BS, is neither here nor there, because regardless of where you find your prompts, what Robert said this morning has got me thinking.

Today is a full moon eclipse, which, from what I can gather is called a Blood Moon. This means that the Earth is moving in front of the moon creating a shadow that will eventually cause the moon to appear red (due to refracted light coupled with particles from the Earth… but enough of the science, it's not my strong point…)

Blah blah on a bit longer and what Robert said lit a lightbulb for me. He said, this particular full moon eclipse is in Libra which represents our relationships, specifically our shadow side in relationships (i.e the shit bits that we consistently cock up and can't figure out why).

And heck, I dunno about you but I have a ream of f*cked up shit that I do in relationships that scans from not speaking my mind in the moment and saving it till I'm truly pissed off – when I lose my shit and attack my partner's character as opposed to their behaviour, through to simply being awkward around guys I like when all I want to do is skip up to them, give them a smile and tell them how amazing I think they are.

As Robert Ohotto pointed out, each of us has themes that come up time and again that are not necessarily a problem unless they're in this shadow realm (the bits that don't make sense, even to us). He suggested thinking about our patterns and then choosing to do something completely opposite.

What he was talking about is based on our archetypes (Carolyn Myss is the queen of archetypes so if you want to know more, read her book Sacred Contracts).

To make it easy, I'll give you an example; I'll tell you what mine are. Firstly, I'm a rescuer. I want to save people from themselves. That's why I became a bodywork therapist and ran a healing practice for a few years. And it's why I'm moving into the space of becoming a Life Coach. I have an inner need to help people. Helping is the "shiny" side of that characteristic, but the shadow is wanting to save people who neither need to be saved nor want to be.

And trust me, I do both. If I see a man looking forlorn or better still, if I date a guy with those cute-as-hell puppy dog eyes that scream "Save me", you can bet I'll be scooping them into my healing hands and giving them the time of their lives so that they can feel whole and complete again.

Just like me.

Umm, yeah, maybe not so much, right?

Psychologists will argue about where and how these archetypes are formed, and I'm not going to go into it because 1) It's not my area of expertise and 2) You can look that up separately. However, there is most certainly a link between the role we saw for ourselves as children, and any "wounded child" behaviours that have stuck around into adulthood. But without going into where mine came from, I'll simply move on to stage 2…

Which is: flipping the shadow behaviour into something more useful.

For me, now that I can identify that I fly into rescue mode, Robert Ohotto suggests I flip that shadow trait on its head and, after first recognising that "I am enough", choose who I want to be instead of falling straight into that old shadow pattern. Just like the way the moon flips from moving into shadow, becoming a full blood moon and then perambulating through the reverse shadow until it's full again.

When I looked at my need to "save men" I reframed it to mean asking for help from men.

Gulp

You might laugh, but when I wrote that down this morning I actually let out an involuntary gasp! Yup, no lie, I gasped in SHOCK at the very thought that I might ask a man/men to help ME.

[Collapse into pseudo-faint]

Tells you something, doesn't it.

So. Asking for help from men it shall be. [Breaks into cold sweat…]

The fact I had such a strong reaction to this is certainly testament that it is a valuable lesson for me. And never one to turn away from a challenge (particularly one that I've set for myself), I shall endeavour to move into this space – pronto.

In fact, I have two perfect opportunities to do this very thing today.

1) I'm going on a first date this arvo with someone who knows very little/nothing about me, and 2) I've recently made friends with a guy who, until I watched Robert's video this morning, I didn't realise had (at least partially) been on my "rescue radar". So I think I'm gonna ask him to help me with this.

If you feel like playing with the energies of the moon, or if you just like to stretch yourself and work on becoming a better version of you, I invite you to consider what your relationship shadow(s) might be?

And if you feel like you need to rescue anyone, then try me! I'll be the one in the corner looking forlorn and helpless, and trying not to save all those poor, puppy dog-eyed males from making the terrible mistake of trying to help me.

Or will I?

Let me know how you go!

h x


And PS, if you're still waiting for me to answer some of the Qs from my previous blogs about the car accident – stay tuned. I'll be writing the conclusion this Easter weekend. h xx

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Voice Within

If you've been following my last three blogs Defining Moments, Life Sentence and Broken, But Not Forever you'll be up to speed on the fact that I survived a horrific car accident when I was 18. My friend D died at the scene and my then-boyfriend suffered head injuries and was in a coma for a number of weeks.

Me? I walked away with a ripped earlobe and some torn ligaments.

"We saw the car," said the police when they came to my house a few days later to interview me. "It was a total wreck," they said. "I don't know how anyone managed to survive that crash."

Damn straight. The roof had to be cut off the car and the front end was basically squashed under a truck. It was a mangled wreck to say the least so I'm not surprised the cops were amazed at how I survived.

But I know exactly how that happened.

About a month before the accident I was temping as a receptionist for a construction company. I had been working as a temp since the age of 16. After leaving school in year 10 I had skipped college and gone straight into the workplace. I wanted to be a temp and had managed to manifest that dream despite having nothing but a couple of O-levels (certificates of achievement in English and maths) and a bucket full of confidence.

My confidence wasn't just teenage arrogance. I'd harboured a very cool "secret" since the age of about 3 when I realised that I could "smell" whether someone was trustworthy or not. That secret evolved into a deep knowing. I somehow always knew what was the right path to follow, or if someone was being deceitful or dishonest.

Now, obviously at the age of 3 I wasn't able to articulate what I have just explained to you, but I do know that from as young as I can remember, I had a very strong sense of knowing what was "right" and what was "wrong". It didn't necessarily mean I never did anything "wrong", because wrong means all kinds of different things to different people depending on the circumstance and their own version of what's "good" and "bad". But I definitely had an inner compass that sensed whether I should do X, Y or Z.

"Go and sit on so-and-so's lap" my parents might say.

Not on your nelly, I would think to myself.

"Eat your beetroot" said the dinner lady.

But I'll be sick. 

"Eat it," she insisted.

So I ate it and promptly vomited bright purple spew all over the classroom.

Those are two very general examples but what I'm trying to point out here is that even as a very young child – when you're expected to listen to and believe what teachers, aunts, uncles and parents tell you – I had an inner barometer that would sometimes tell me a very different story, and lucky for me, I knew when to listen to that voice instead.

I became such good friends with that voice (which is most often actually a feeling), that when I got to the age of 18 and heard it even louder than ever before, I knew I had to sit up and listen.

And thank God I did.

"Hannah, be careful."

This was the voice I heard every time I got into my car during the month that led up to the accident.

True. Every single time I got behind the wheel of my bright yellow Ford Fiesta, (my first car), a voice, as clear as day would "appear" over my right shoulder and tell me to be careful.

Huh?

At first, despite it being a very loud voice (one that I knew no-one else would be able to hear), I was surprised. Because despite being highly intuitive, most of my intuition arrived in the form of a feeling. Yes, there would be a thought attached but it was more of a sensation followed by some inner dialogue where as this was like a real person standing over my shoulder and speaking VERY LOUDLY.

I couldn't ignore it.

I'm not sure if I remember telling one of my friends or if I've since made that up, but I think I told a girlfriend because even as someone who relied on their intuition all the time, it was a bit weird. The memory I have is that I told a friend, "Hey, I keep getting this voice telling me to be careful every time I get into my car, so I'm just telling you incase anything happens and you'll know I wasn't going mad."

Whether I really did tell her or not, I'm not 100% sure.

But I am 100% sure that the voice existed. Because on the night of the accident I heard it again.

Only this time, I wasn't the one driving.

On the way to pick up D, I was sitting in the front passenger seat of my boyfriend's car. I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. This was 1989 and wearing a seatbelt had (I think) only fairly recently been made compulsory. Sometimes I would wear it, sometimes not. And there were definitely no seat belts in the back seat of the car. Or if there were, there were no laws saying you should wear them.

So, driving to D's house I did not have my seatbelt on. I didn't even think about it. I often didn't wear it.

When we pulled up at D's house, I jumped out and let her into the backseat. We were in a 2-door car so she had to climb past the front seat to get in the back.

As soon as I sat back down I heard the voice saying "Put your seatbelt on."

I didn't think about it. I didn't question it. And I didn't hesitate. I simply put my seatbelt on.

Clunk. Click.



You know the rest of the story so I won't go through it all again. But suffice to say, had I not paid heed to that voice and fastened my seatbelt, I think it's reasonable to assume that I would not be here today.

At the very least (or most), I would probably be a vegetable.

There's no way of knowing of course, but going by the wreckage that cost my friend her life and left my boyfriend with severe injuries, I can take a fair punt in the assumption that I would have been flung out of my seat, hit the dashboard and been thrown around in such a way that would have most likely resulted in my being severely physically damaged. There were no airbags in those days so the only thing between me and the windscreen was the dashboard.

My friend D was in the backseat (with no seatbelt) and was flung past me straight into the windscreen. She hit me on the way past which twisted my seat round to the left and caused me to feel as though I'd been hit by a baseball bat on the right side of my head.

Truly horrible.

If I hadn't been strapped in, (thanks to the voice that told me to do so, I was), the collision – not only of our car and the truck – but of D and I, would probably have been a lot worse for me.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I'd be dead.

It sounds dramatic to say all this, and maybe it is because there's no way of knowing what would have happened. And there's no need to even go there except that it's healing for me. But the reason I'm writing this is not to shock or to retread the past, it's to show how important listening to our instinct is.

Had I not learned to listen to my inner voice, to my gut, to my inner barometer, I may not have listened to that voice that night. And had I been someone with less trust in myself and the Universe, I may have heard the voice but hesitated, or questioned it, or not paid attention, thinking it was just me being silly.

But the voices we hear are not silly. We all have an inner voice. You might hear it as a voice, or you might just feel things, or maybe you see stuff? I get all three, but feelings are the most common sensation for me.

Truly, I am certain that all the guidance we need is within us. Right in the palm of our hands and the centre of our chest. In our hearts. All you have to do is learn to trust those feelings. To listen to what your body and your heart is telling you.

I'm lucky in the sense that when I get a feeling that something isn't right, or that I should take that road instead, or not get on that bus, or fasten my seatbelt, that I listen. I trust my heart. I always have. And lucky for me, I have proof that those inner messages are for real. That they are there to serve us and keep us safe.

Because if it wasn't for that voice that told me to put my seatbelt on that night of December 8, 1989 there's a very high chance I wouldn't be writing this blog and you wouldn't be reading it.

So learn to trust your inner voice.

It might just save your life x


Friday, 30 January 2015

Broken, But Not Forever…

The human spirit is incredibly powerful.

But the ways in which we behave can test that spirit beyond belief.

If you've read my last blog Life Sentence, you'll know that when I was 18 I was in car accident that left my best friend dead, and my boyfriend in a coma. And you'll have read that I made a choice to break up with my boyfriend because his family had made it very clear that they didn't want me around while he was still so fragile.

But a friend asked me this week; "Why would anyone ostracise the girlfriend of their son when they would have known she (me) was obviously grieving?"

Well, there's a whole bunch of reasons why, and I'm about to tell you what they could have been.

Now, obviously I don't have access to another person's mind, so what I'm about to tell you is simply speculation. I've had a long time to think about all the why's and what for's of the accident and I have spent a lot of time doing just that. So when it comes to understanding what his parents were going through, even though there's no way I could possibly know for sure, the one thing that makes me feel authorised to share what I'm about to say is that I have no bad feelings towards them whatsoever.

Literally none.

But of course, that wasn't always the case…

As I drove away from S's house after breaking up with him, I cried a river. But like I said in my last blog, I also felt relieved. Somehow I had just set us both free. Well, maybe not him in the immediate sense because he would now probably go through a grieving period of not having a girlfriend, but looking at it through a big picture lens, his family would now be able to parent him in the way they saw best.

When I got home that night I stumbled through the door into the hallway of my parents' house and immediately broke down. Remember, I had already been signed off work for having a nervous breakdown and I was still a complete and utter mess. My parents were distraught at how upset I was. I told them I just had broken up with S because his parents were treating me so badly and I couldn't take it anymore.

Prior to the accident it wouldn't have been very often that even my parents would have seen me cry, so having them witness me in floods of tears must have twisted their hearts like a knife.

They knew how much I was hurting from losing my friend and from essentially losing my boyfriend. And even though we never talked about the accident (my family don't necessarily speak their love, they show it in other ways), they could see how broken I was.

It was too much.

As the three of us (my mum, my dad and I) stood in the hallway, with me still sobbing uncontrollably, my dad picked up the phone and called S's parents. The poor man was torn apart seeing me so heartbroken and he very lovingly tried to relay his thoughts over the phone. I remember him telling them that every night he saw me coming home and bursting into tears. That whatever it was they were saying or doing to me was not on. He wasn't yelling or shouting, but he was firmly telling them that he wasn't happy with the way they had been treating me.

Thank you Dad.

I don't know what was said on the other end of the line and I don't recall much more than what I've just told you, but the phone conversation ended and I felt loved and supported by my parents. My dad had just said what I wasn't able to say and I was glad that he had been able to articulate some of my pain to them.

I hated them.

But that's still telling my side of the story, and it's not explaining why they would have been so "mean" to me.

It took me a long time, but once I had processed most of my own grief and had managed to move from victim to warrior, I began to imagine what it must have been like from their perspective.

I considered: what must it feel like to be the parent of an 19-year-old son who was driving a car with two passengers, one of whom is no longer alive?

That's pretty full on, I thought.

That would be terrifying, I thought.

Especially when you consider Maybe your son was the cause of that accident? Maybe he did something that caused those two vehicles to wind up in a head on collision? And maybe he will be charged with manslaughter or whatever legal term there is for causing the death of another person because you misjudged a situation while in control of a car?

Hmm, things started to look a little different…

The more I thought about it, the more their situation became "clear" to me. I use inverted commas here because like I said, this is still only my version of how it could have been for them.

But the fact is: they have a son in a coma. The fact is that a passenger of his vehicle is dead. The fact is they are legally not allowed to contact the parents of D until the inquest, which at this point hasn't had a date set. The fact is, they are not even allowed to attend Ds funeral.

They didn't know D or her parents, but put yourself in their place: I imagine they would have wanted to show their respects. I imagine they were terrified that their son might be charged with the death of my friend. And I can only imagine how utterly distressing all of that must have been, especially when they are having to visit their son – who's in a coma – and that they have no way of knowing whether he'll ever come good again.



When I started to look at it like that, it became somewhat easier to understand where they might have been coming from when (once S had come out of his coma) they told me they didn't want their son to know what had happened. And that I was under no circumstances to mention the accident to him.

I'm guessing they didn't want me to influence their son's thoughts about what had happened. And I'm guessing that at that point, I was the biggest threat to that situation. What if I told him something that he then repeated that would incriminate him? Having me around must have felt quite dangerous to them. They wanted to protect their son (what parent wouldn't?), and if I were to say something to him that might make him remember the accident, or believe that he was responsible for the death of D, then there was a chance that by the time the date was set for the inquest, their son might be charged with manslaughter.

I don't think you need me to point anything out here, right?

So, all that aside, yes, they were pretty mean to me, and at the time I thought they were horrible for doing what they did and was glad I never had to see them again. I wasn't glad I would never get to see S again, but I had made that choice and it felt right.

But today, 25 years later, I have nothing but compassion for those people. I have completely turned around any venomous thoughts I had for them, and can see that all they were doing was protecting their son the best way they knew how.

Granted, it wasn't particularly sophisticated or compassionate (towards me), but I think it's fair to say they were in an extremely stressful situation. And when any of us are under stress, particularly as immense as this would have been, we tend to make "interesting" decisions.

When your entire world has just turned upside down and the outcome is at best unclear, and at worst could be called your greatest nightmare (your son, who comes out of a coma gets locked up for causing death by driving), well, it's a lot easier to accept that being less-than-kind to your son's girlfriend isn't necessarily top of your priority list.

Really, I get it.

I mean, I don't know the real story here. So like I keep saying, this is pure speculation on my part. But it kinda adds up doesn't it? Whether the details of what I've surmised about what they were thinking are true, and even if they had always hated me and just wanted me out of the picture (which is another possibility), I can totally see that what they were doing came from a love for their son. And I'm confident that in the cold light of day, once their own grief and stress about the situation had diminished, that they would never choose to be unkind to me.

They were simply human beings dealing with an horrendously difficult situation.

And I am totally OK with that.

Because I make mistakes too.

And, I don't know how I would have responded under their circumstance.

Of course, there is still so much more to this story. Like, what happened at the inquest? What was the outcome? Did S get charged? Was it his fault?

I'm ready to tell the whole story and I will do that. But for now, I just wanted to get clear on the fact that I hold no hard feelings toward S or his family. And that's why I can comfortably write this blog.

I have nothing to hide.

Forgiveness has provided me with an incredible freedom to tell this story. A story that is etched deep into my cells. And a story that I hope will help other people see that even when life seems hard, unfair or downright f*cked, that if you find the right lens, it's always possible to see some light. That underneath even the darkest, most traumatic experiences of our lives, there is always a star shining a beam of love.

And if you keep searching, I promise you, you'll find it.

Choose love x

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Life Sentence

So, having exposed in my last blog: Defining Moments that I survived a car crash 25 years ago, I'm slowly becoming ready to reveal some more about that time…

Like I said, the incident that occurred (the death of my friend and the head injuries suffered by my boyfriend), branched out and touched many people's lives. At D's funeral, the church was packed to the brim.

She was 18. Too young to die.

A part of me died that day too, but a bigger part of me began to grow and has continued to grow ever since. One of the lesser-discussed aspects of accidental death (or any death) is the outward ripple effect that causes the people left behind to act in "strange" ways. I say strange in inverted commas because when it comes to stress and trauma, I don't believe there's any such thing as normal.

And I'd know…

The person I am today is not who I was 25 years ago. I'm sure you can all relate. Thoughts, actions and behaviours at the age of 18 are guaranteed to evolve by the time you're 43. But our essence often remains the same. At my core I would describe myself as having a childlike spirit and being hyper-capable. I'm an eternal optimist. I see life as a playground and it takes a lot to throw me off course, but when I do "lose it", I lose it big time.

Doing things by halves has never been my style. I'm not one of those "I'll just have one square of chocolate, thanks" kind of people. I smash the whole bar, no matter how big. Same goes for life. Whatever I choose to do, I put everything into it. Exercise, work, friendships… It's all the same to me.

I live my life at 100% all the time. That's not to say I do a lot of stuff. I don't. I'm essentially an introvert who likes to do one thing a day max, but whatever that thing is, I do it wholly and completely to the best of my ability. And that includes being in love.

Or at least, it did, once upon a time.

Which is what this blog is about. My first love. Who I walked out on after we'd been in a terrible car accident.

Here's my story…

S and I had been dating since I was 16, so by the time the accident happened we'd been together almost 2 years. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd only dated guys for 2 weeks at the most before I met someone who I fell in love with. He was a great guy and we got along like cheese and crackers.

As with first loves, you share an incredibly strong bond. You're both learning; neither one has baggage yet, and love flows freely and easily. I loved S in the way any teenager loves their first: wholly and completely. He was my world. We did everything together. Life was great.

After the accident, S was in a coma for a number of weeks. You can imagine how distressing that was, adding to the fact that my best friend was no longer alive, it was a difficult time for me. I felt like the only one who knew what had happened (later, during the inquest, I was the only witness). I felt like a lone survivor – who had walked away from a horrific scene with barely a scratch. (There's actually a reason I managed to remain unscathed but I'll save that for another blog. It's a long story…)

While S was in hospital I visited him religiously. I'd drive to the hospital before work, back again at lunch time and then, after zipping home for something to eat, I'd be back until visiting time was over. I loved him and wanted to be there with him.

Tensions were high among those of us still alive and well. D's parents were absolutely distraught and S's parents were doing everything they could to be there for their son. Which, when someone is in a coma isn't easy. How does anyone know what to do? None of us had ever been in that situation before. So, understandably it was a tough time for everyone involved.

Lots of incidents happened while S was in hospital and all of them had a huge impact on me. I learned a lot about life, sickness, health and healing, people's response to trauma, and mostly about who I was during that time.

Turns out I'm not the most conventional when it comes to coping.

Coping is a very personal thing. We all do it differently. Some people falter, some weep, some avoid, some deny or minimise. To list all the ways would take a whole blog. Me? I cope by coping. I become extremely practical, get things done, make sure everything is running smoothly, I observe and listen. And then, when I get behind closed doors I fall into a massive heap and sob uncontrollably. Or scream. Or both.

From the outside looking in, it can seem to anyone involved that nothing phases me. I'm one of those people who always seems to have my sh*t together. But that's because for most of my life I would cope impeccably in public and only indulge my vulnerability when I was alone. I'm sure some of my oldest friends have never seen me cry. (I've since changed and can openly cry these days…)

Like anything, that old coping mechanism has pros and cons. The down side is that sometimes it can appear (to people who don't know me) that I'm doing OK. Or that I am cold. How can she still be functioning? I never see her cry. She obviously doesn't care.

Unfortunately for me, that's how my boyfriend's parents perceived me.

On one occasion, S's mum actually tapped the metal railing on her son's hospital bed and venomously said to me "You're as hard as that, you are."

Hard as steel.

Maybe on the outside, but little did she know that inside I was dying.

Over time, S's health improved, and after a couple of months he emerged from his coma and was allowed home. And that's when the cracks really started to show. S was now in a healing phase, still very unsteady, and by his own admission had a "fuzzy head" but he was definitely on a path to recovery. Thank. God.

His parents had firmly told me that they didn't want S to know what had happened. That I was not to mention the accident. I didn't agree with their thinking, but being 18 and wanting to be loyal to their wishes, I conceded. We weren't even allowed to walk to the shops unaccompanied. I'm guessing that was incase I spoke of the accident… but who knows.

Either way, keeping their wish became the hardest thing I ever had to do.

As S continued to get better, he and I would spend time in his room chatting and hanging out. He was a shadow of his former self, and by no means the boy I had known prior to 8 December, but nonetheless, he was my boyfriend and I loved him.

On two occasions he asked me if I'd seen D. She's dead, I would think to myself. I'll never see her again. But I had his parents' wish to honour and so both times I said "No, I haven't seen her."

At least I didn't have to lie.

Thankfully and remarkably, S continued to improve, and his head injuries, obviously healing, enabled him to speak and think a little more clearly.

That's when the clanger came.

"My mum said you only visit me because you feel like you have to."

[silence]

Wow

I don't recall what my response to that was, but knowing me at the time I'm pretty certain I would have told him that I was definitely there because I wanted to be. Because that was the truth.

During this period (about 3 months after the accident), I had a nervous breakdown. One day while I was at work I had a sensation that was like being in a Hitchcock movie – the foreground panned out as the background closed in. I didn't know where I was. I burst into tears and had to be taken home.

I had finally "lost it".

No denying, I was a complete mess. From the outside I'd been "coping" but all the while I was dying inside. Knowing that my boyfriend's parents wanted me out of the picture hurt me to the core. I had nothing but love for their son, and they seemed to be doing everything to keep me away from him.

It killed me.

I was promptly signed off work for a week.

But, far from being able to rest and seek help, I had a contract with S's parents to keep. He wasn't to know anything was wrong. (I didn't even tell his parents about my breakdown. I felt they didn't trust me so what would they care how I was doing.) Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time, I was 18 and was doing the best I knew how with the resources I had back then.

So, as per usual, while being unable to work because I was a total mess, I would get into my work clothes and drive to see him, morning, noon and night so as to keep up the facade. In hindsight, I can see this wasn't the most useful move, but again, I was 18 and didn't know how else to deal with the situation.

As you can imagine, it wasn't long before even bigger cracks began to appear.

I no longer recall the timeframe between this happening and my walking away but I'm guessing it was a matter of weeks. Knowing that S's mum was feeding him negative information about me, when all the while I was keeping her wish, became more than I could handle.

I recognised that his family needed to heal in whatever way they saw best. Which definitely didn't include me.

So I made a choice. I walked away from the man I loved more than anything. From my first love whose bedside I had been at morning, noon and night. But who I could no longer be around because it was breaking up his family. They wanted shot of me.

I still remember the day I went round to his house and broke the news: that I was no longer able to be his girlfriend. I was broken but relieved. As I drove away, filled with tears and completely torn between doing what I felt was the "right" thing and what I wanted to do (which was stay), I decided I would live with my decision and get on with my own healing.

That task has taken 25 years.

On the recent anniversary of the car crash, I had a sense that something inside me was shifting. I meditated on it and became clear that my "abandoning" S was something I had paid a price for. On some level I realised that I had unconsciously made a pact with myself that I would serve a Life Sentence for that deed. I walked away because I thought it was the best thing for S and his healing journey (I still do believe that). But the consequence would be that I would not allow myself to fully love another man until I had served my time.

Unbeknown to me at the time, the sentence I imposed was 25 years.

But now I'm free. My karmic debt has been paid and I feel different. I know now that I am once again free to love whoever I choose. Wholly and deeply, just like the love I had for S all those years ago.

And if that isn't in keeping with my 2015 theme of miracles, I don't know what is.

Choose love x


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Defining Moments

Defining moments are a universal experience – we’ve all had them: the first day of school, the day you lose your virginity, graduation day, finding your first grey hair etc. Not all of those will apply to all of us, but you know what I mean.

There are certain events that occur in life that we remember. Vividly. Some of those events stay with us forever: usually, it’s the highly emotional ones. Because emotions make feelings stronger – they heighten your experience. A dull day becomes a technicolour memory whenever high levels of emotion are involved.

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotional side of things which is why I want to talk about my most vivid defining moment. It happened 25 years ago…

There we were, driving on a cold December night on our way to collect my friend D who would be coming out with us to the Angel pub for some pre-Christmas jolliment. We weren’t going to drive to the pub – drink driving wasn’t our style. No, we (S, my boyfriend, and I) were collecting D, heading back to my house 5 minutes away, and then my mum was going to drop us at the Angel and head out with my dad for their Friday night at a workman’s club.

Only things didn’t quite pan out that way.

S, D and I never made it back to my house that night. What happened instead was horrific and I’ll never forget it. Talk about defining moments. This is still my biggest and most vivid.

I still remember what D and I were talking about the split second before I looked out the windscreen and saw a truck heading towards us. “Watch out for that lorry,” I said.

And then everything went black.

The taste of that moment still haunts me, in the sense that I can still clearly recollect it. Whenever I hear two cars collide, no matter how big or small the ding, I get that taste, the metallic taste of blood and broken glass. For me, that sound is a multi-sensory experience: I taste the sound. That’s what heightened emotions can do to you.

I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that the criss-cross of sensory input occurs for many (if not all) of us when we experience a defining moment. And the more heightened the experience, the more the crossover occurs. For example, I’d bet that for most people their wedding day or the birth of their first child is one of those times. A time when everything is happening at once and, to put it bluntly, a time when you don’t know if you’re going for a shit or a haircut. Everything is crystal clear and a blur all at the same time.

So, that night, 8 December, 1989 is my most vivid. The crash occurred in a fractured moment, but that entire day is still so clear to me. Not to mention the ensuing months, although they have become somewhat foggier over time.

But why am telling you all this?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, other than having reached the 25-year mark and because I feel a sense of reaching a new moment. One that I can choose to define rather than have etched into my cells simply through happenstance.

A story such as this has many arms that branch out in a vast array of directions. But I’m not going to go into any more details just now.

However, I do feel a great urge to tell my story. Not just this one, but many of my life’s moments. And not because I love talking about myself but because it helps me understand who I am when I write things down. And I enjoy phrasing my feelings in a way that other people seem to relate to and benefit from.

When I started this blog I had no idea where it was going. I played around with a few ideas and my writing took a few twists and turns that I enjoyed observing as much as partaking in.

I tried writing about life coaching but I gotta tell you, that idea ran out of steam pretty quick. I can’t make it about anything other than the simple events of my life.

The experience of having my entire world pulled from under me at the age of 18 was by far the worst and the best thing that has ever happened to me. That defining night laid a foundation for the person I am today. It gave me an opportunity to know how strong I am. It gave me a platform on which I can lay every other experience and know that it will never come close to being in the accident and emergency ward, knowing my best friend is no longer alive and that my boyfriend is in a coma. My best friend D did not survive the crash and my first love was in a coma for a number of weeks.

That moment and the moments, days and months that followed, gave me the greatest gift I could ever ask for: knowing that life is a miracle.

If ever I need to look for an answer as to why something is happening or if I find myself wondering will this work out ok? All I have to do is remember that night 25 years ago when I was given a second chance at life. Because as soon as I recall the miracle that is my life, I know that whatever happens today doesn’t matter. Not in the sense that it is insignificant, but because life is life and ultimately I have no control over it. Just like I have no control over whether you like this blog or not: and that doesn’t matter either.

I write because I love to write. And I write about my personal experiences because that feels right to me. And easy. And fun.

Even when I’m writing about the most traumatic night of my life.

One day I will write about the details of that night and all the events that followed, because they are incredibly interesting and shine a light on human behaviour: the good, the warped and the ugly.

But for now, I just needed to give myself permission to do what I love: to write for the pure reason that it feels good.

I’m theming 2015 the year of miracles, which seems fitting to me. What theme will you give your year? What vibe will you choose?  Whatever it is, I invite you to make this year one that is filled with defining moments of your choice. Make this a year that really means something to you. Choose uplifting emotions and really focus on the good stuff. Bad stuff is OK – shit happens – and defining moments don't have to start out joyful, but it is possible to make every moment meaningful in a useful and worthy way. No matter how bad they seem at the time.

If you can, I really encourage you to spend some time considering how you’d most like to feel during 2015. I'm focusing on seeing miracles so I'm going to heighten those feelings and emotions even when nothing's happening. Maybe you can do the same with your theme?

Because, ultimately, we never know if this moment might be our last.


With love x


Sunday, 26 January 2014

Playing My Cards Right

Ever wondered what it is about someone that makes them attractive?

Having been single for over 4 years now, I've had a fair amount of time to ponder what attraction means to me. During my singledom I've met a variety of men: the gorgeous waiter with the brown eyes and trendy haircut, the 20-year old Swedish backpacker, the guy with the Aston Martin, and most recently, a professional soccer player.

During that time there's also been countless emails and "matches" from various online websites. Most of which seem to house men who either have the personality of driftwood or look like a serial killer.

When people ask why am I single, internally I laugh. Only someone who isn't on the current dating scene could ask such a question. "Oh, but you're attractive and fun and interesting," they say. "You'd have no trouble finding a man." And they're right. I don't have any problem finding men. Only thing is, the ones I come across make drinking a cup of peppermint tea feel like a chore and frankly, should never be allowed to create offspring.

We can thank Steve Jobs for making home computing what it is today, because if these guys weren't spending so much time updating their online profiles they might be out on the streets.

And that would be scary.

If you've read my previous blogs you'll know that in the past year I've actually only met one guy who I was genuinely interested in.

One.

That's 50% less than two.

I'm no maths genius but even I have worked out that the numbers aren't great.

Every book I've ever read on dating talks about how women (if they want to marry) should play by a certain set of rules which include remaining mysterious, never calling a man before he calls you and being so busy he can't get a date with you for at least two weeks. I've tried and tried to make head and tail of this advice but time and again I end up thinking F*ck this, if I've got to play games in order to get married, I'd rather be single.

Especially if the guys who want to marry are the ones on eHarmony. We're already using up 50% more than our planet's resources can cope with. Thank God these men exist otherwise we'd be in a heck of a lot more trouble.

Friends have told me I should heed the rules, that I give too much away too soon, that maybe I should play my cards a bit closer to my chest.

Well, here's the thing: I have never played my cards close to my chest. My chest is a casino table and my cards are well and truly splayed out in a fan shape with a sign that says "Pick a card, any card…" Anyone who's actually game to pick a card is in with a chance. I mean if someone is too scared to come close enough to see what's in my deck, then they sure as heck aren't going to make it past date #1 and have absolutely no chance of passing Go or collecting $200.

To all those dating rule books I say show me a man who has the balls to be open with me and I'll play any game he wants. But he must have a community chest full of interesting layers and a stack of chance cards that leave me wanting to know more.

Too many times I meet men who I can box up and categorise within the time it takes to drink a flat white, which leaves nothing for me to discover. You're financially secure? I couldn't give a f*ck… You own three houses and love your kids? Good on you, your medal for man of the year is in the mail… You have a great job and like watching sport? Lovely, well, I like kiwifruit and had a shower this morning.

B-o-r-i-n-g.

If playing the rules gets you a one-dimensional man then great, play away if that's what you want. But what I learned from the last guy I fell for is that multi-layers work for me. And regardless of how I'm supposed to "snag" a man, I believe some people are just meant to meet and get along; and for the record, the few men who interest me beyond a first date are far smarter than any rule book would give them credit for. I hope that any guy I click with has more depth than a paper cut and would therefore know they were being played.

But maybe (as friends tell me) that's why I'm single.

Well, I have one thing to say to that: Thank God.

Thank God for all the girls who play by the rules. Thank you for skimming some of the dead wood out of the dating game. A man who can be played by a woman who follows advice from a book that (shhh…) men can read too? No thanks.

A man who can operate from both male and female perspective and appreciates a woman with the courage and motivation to make her life her own? Yes please.

In summary: I'm at home on a Saturday night writing this blog because I choose to be. I had a date with the above mentioned soccer player booked for tonight (yes, really), but I cancelled and chose to have a date with myself instead. Mr Soccer Player is a nice guy: caring, keen, ambitious and tastier than a bar of Dairy Milk a week before my period. But I already knew who he was after the first date. Sure, there was more to learn but the layers weren't there.

And layers, it seems, are what I'm looking for.

I don't care if you're finically secure, have three houses and a boat, or won an award for being best striker in 2003. What intrigues me is knowing there is more to you than meets the eye. I want to come away from meeting a guy and not know who he is, yet know enough to understand that it could potentially take a lifetime to know him.

If I know everything about you in the first meeting then why would I bother seeing you again?

As for the rules, I'm making up my own and they go something like this:

1) Remain open to finding someone that interests me
2) Listen to my heart and only connect with men who I intuitively feel have something extra to offer
3) Be willing to spend time alone if my heart tells me my date is a no-go
4) Don't read anyone else's advice on dating; simply remain true myself

But what about meeting someone and getting married? Part of me is into that idea and part of me couldn't care less. I've never been a girl who dreamed of a white wedding and although I think it would be cool to share my life with someone, equally I have no desire to settle for a communion that isn't anything short of intriguing, inspiring and utterly fabulous.

My life is already those things so if anyone is going to be lucky enough to land the real estate on the other side of my bed, they will need to be bringing a whole lot more than an extra bag of laundry and a mortgage to the equation.

As for the law of attraction? I'm pretty sure my saying "no" to Mr Soccer and "yes" to an inspired evening watching Jobs the movie and writing this blog will get me a whole lot closer to meeting a true match than a thousand days spent on eHarmony or RSVP.

Yes, I know that Mr Right is unlikely to knock on my door, but when it's a given that a hundred Mr Wrongs are also lurking in the local bar, I think I'm making a good call by staying in every now and then and recharging my batteries with a good movie and some creative expression.

And speaking of batteries… I have some pressing business to attend to.

Goodnight.