It’s enough to singe the nose hair. Or at least relieve my nasal spray of it’s duties.
Is it alcohol? My wine definitely doesn’t smell like that. Thank goodness, the old glass of patience.
Astringent might be how one would describe it. The AK47 of germ terminator’s, might be another good description.
I’m talking about the pink, squirty liquid, in a bottle attached to the entrance wall of every hospital ward. In the Children’s Hospital, it was attached to the end of every bed.
It never got my hand, always the floor, my shirt, my arm. And a little bit in my hand. The nurses seemed to be able to do it correctly, heaven knows they had enough practice. Wash hands in the sink, dry hands with paper towel, squirt hands with pink stuff and rub rub rub for a very long time. For Every. Single. Patient. Sometimes twice for the one patient. Must have good hand muscles, those nurses. I bet they’re good at opening jam jars.
I wasn’t worried that I’d squirted the rest of my environment with the thin pink liquid. Sometimes I even did it on purpose. Like the time someone let their sibling into our pod, coughing and sneezing all over the place. I would have liked to shower him in the stuff.
That pink liquid most reminds me of the day I can pinpoint as my rock-bottom.
On Day 1,300,400 (or so it seemed), a truly delightful thing called the Noro Virus came to visit our entire ward, pushing each patient down in a hurl of vomit and diarrhea like some sort of macabre Mexican wave. Miss Molly and I were isolated in a room with another Noro family, simmering, behind closed doors. In that room I became Oh Oh OCD, squirting pink stuff everywhere – all over Molly’s pram, all over the sheets before I lay her on them to change her nappy, all over my hands every single second I spent in that room, all over the tray of food the trolley dolly left at our door, the spoon, the edge of the bowl, the napkin before I wiped her face. Not a speck left un-pink stuffed. I was like a Ghostbuster with it.
I did her hands constantly too, every now and then wondering if it was ok to smother a baby’s pristine skin with something that could kill a virus so evil it shut the whole ward off from the rest of the hospital. Who cares. All my efforts to stick to the vaccination schedule with military precision, only breastfeed my baby, make all her pureed wholesome food from scratch, knowing every little thing that went into her body, hadn’t stopped her from contracting Pneumococcal disease and nearly dying. So bugger you, natural schmatural. It’s heavy duty drugs and cleaning products henceforth.
It was here, in this Isolation room, that I could not go on – and if I couldn’t go on, who was going to carry my precious little girl on in her battle for life?
I was mad, upon reflection.
My true madness was yet to come though.
I thought I knew scared – having the thing you love most raced onto an operating table, and having to say “goodbye” to a body so tiny she could have lain across the operating table rather than along it. Yet this paled in comparison to what was coming when I re-entered life.
No, I didn’t know scared, til we left the safe confines of those hospital walls. I missed that constant stinging smell of the pink squirty at the back of my nasal passage and in my head cavity. It had come to mean safety to me. No, I didn’t know scared when we were enveloped by the layers of medical knowledge and the humane instinct of nurses. There was no true scared, when surrounded by the life saving abilities of doctors who would come round two or three abreast, twice a day, to check if my little Molly was being invaded by deadly bacteria, yet again.
When we left, that just left me.
It was then I knew scared.
This creative writing excercise was on how delving into the memory of smell can invigorate into your writing. What smell brings out deep emotions in you? A childhood frangipani tree? The smell of apple muffins wafting into the backyard?
As I cross London’s Tower Bridge on a crisp, Autumn English morning, the sun belts it’s rays through the pretty bridge turrets and they appear adorned by jewels. It strikes down shards of brilliance through the bars and ropes hanging onto the banner below carrying cars, two-storey red busses, and more like me, wandering. Then it splinters life-giving glory onto the gluttonous, murky Thames.
Sometimes pacing, sometimes ambling through East London on my way to work, the icy edge on a brilliant blue sky beckons a northern hemisphere winter to come and enfold us. My breath in feels clean. The cold sun gives luminescence to this city’s heavy, gruesome history; to the grime laid down in gutters in the 1600’s; to the modern-day evil present in a city too rammed.
My day begins clear.
Summer sun here, though, is my nemesis.
It slams me with homesickness. Sitting by that Thames sludge on a suffocating day where the temperature has only reached 25 degrees but the blanket of sweat over the city is dense; is useless. That water gives off no relief. It is nothing like being cleansed by the fresh sting of salt and waves in my home place, my Warriewood beach. Still, sleepless nights drive the yearning to be home, deeper. How I miss sitting on my back patio, with my mum, white wine and a salad dinner. How I miss my friends, laughing lazily as our bones are warmed. How I miss the cool breeze straight from the Pacific Ocean, as I am stifled here in this cranky, crowded, over-heated place, which slows to a swampy, thick pace without a smile.
How opposite the sun.
This was an excercise my writers group did: to describe why you love the sun, and then why you hate the sun.
Why do you love, and hate, the sun?
You put your head on my chest: First your ear, then your squashy little cheek, then your perfect, faintly-haired crown nuzzles down with a sigh, above my heart. Your head and my chest become one, together, there is no difference between us anymore.
Just like when you were growing inside of me, only better. Better, because now I can touch you.
You need to know I’m there for you. You need protection because a noise scared you; you need comfort because you’re tired; you need to hear my heart underneath your body which constantly says: Love. You. Love. You. Love. You.
I need you too, my soft little miracle. It’s a need that should be called an urge, so strong is my desire to envelope you, consume you, smother you in my love and protect you fiercely and forever. “Eat you up!” as I often whisper in your embrace.
Then you place your little pudgy arm on my chest alongside of your head. Your fingers look like they’re squeezing out from underneath the pink mound of your hand. A fat hand – til I was blessed with a baby, I never would have thought there was such a thing. I press my finger into it’s velvety beanbag, full with the effort of my whole being that I’ve put into you – all the love, all the carefully chosen food, the age-old marvel of breastmilk, my upmost protection, the lessons of living, the settling into slumber, the softest of soft touch, the tears we’ve cried together, the cuddles and rocking in the dark hours of night, the song “Daisy” which I sang as “Henry” over and over, all the love… Definitely all the love. It’s all in that fat little hand, resting upon my chest.
I feel pulses of your love come out of your palm. It travels through my densest bones, across my muscles taught to rigidity from carrying you around; through lungs busy with important work – but nothing as important as you. I can only feel these tiny soft pulses if I am very, very still: but once I do, they come, and come, and grow, and swell, flowing through my body, over my heart, riding the flow of my blood, buzzing from my heart out to my arms up to my scalp and down to the balls of my feet on the ground. I can no longer ignore it; it is suddenly like electricity, pulsing my whole being with a love that at first I cannot believe. It is all consuming, defies my understanding, just a physically overwhelming pulsating inside me. It makes me grit my teeth, my muscles strengthen upon themselves so as not to crush you, but so great is my physical need to give my love a purpose, and outlet, that I just might.
I look back at your fat little hand, laying there on my chest, your eyes now closed, your heart listening to mine: Love. You. Love. you. Love. You. Love. You.
I never want it to end.
So I have decided I need to learn it.
Especially at the moment because I have four little ones who are behaving like someone else’s children. You know, that naughty toddler throwing himself on the floor screeching in the middle of the school tour? Or, the child with the I’d-never-let-my-child-speak-to-me-like-that mouth on her? You see what I mean – not my children, clearly, imposters.
Emergency meditation needed, toot sweet.
So, this week I’ve have given my new mission a start. I set my intention (Guru Google told me this would be a good idea): To learn and practice and feel the benefits of meditation, mindfulness or, let’s face it, just plain old numbness will do.
And here is how we have progressed.
Strategy number 1.
Meditate first thing in the morning. I set my alarm – because that’s peaceful? – and am awake before the kids. So I lay there, as still as I can, in the darkness, in my nice, warm bed: Clear mind, clear mind, clear mind, blank space, I see nothing, I need to vacuum the floor, oops, I see nothing, I feel nothing, except a little bit of panic because writers group are coming here and I know there is a years-worth of pasta under the high chair. Oh, clear mind, clear the mind, blank space, feeling nothing, clear the mind, clear the floor, running out of time, what time is it?
Look at phone. All over.
Strategy number 2.
You can find moments to meditate whilst going about everyday life, I read. So I decide to cook dinner mindfully.
Chop, chop, chopping carrots, very orange, carrots. Chop, chip chop. With a blunt knife. Chopping beautiful carrots.
“MINE!” Hefty, two year-old limpet, pulling my skirt off. “LEASE. LEEEEASE!”
Now potatoes, peeling potatoes. Stroke, stroke, peel, peel, goodbye old skin, hello fresh flesh.
“MUM! HE HIT ME. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”
Peel, peel, peel.
“PUT MY SHOW ON – MUUUUUUUUUUM!”
Plop, plop, place lovely potatoes in boiling water. Or maybe throw vigorously. And maybe burn thyself.
Stop mindfulness to administer first aid.
Strategy number 3.
Meditate using a yoga DVD, at night, after the kidlets are in bed.
Sun salutations, up down, breathe. Up, down, breathe. Now this is a bit easier.
Twist, floaty music, twinkly voice lulling me off, twist the other way, breathe. Ahhh.
“Stupid computer, this Windows 8…” breathe, blocking out. Twist and breathe.
“Do you know where the internet security disk is? Those kids taking things… Stupid Windows 8…”
BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE.
Triangle pose with hands over ears. Breathing into the tight areas – TAP TAP TAP, “Do you know where the-“
Give up, drink wine.
In this week of meditation, I sent my daughter to school dressed for Whacky Wednesday on Tuesday, left my pram in a carpark, forgot an appointment, and wrote a chapter of my book that makes no sense at all – wouldn’t even be able to use it for Whacky Wednesday. Mindfulness = Forgetfulness.
So, perhaps not an entirely successful start. But I think I will continue to try.
Any tips for this mindless novice?
My new job was not a comfortable one.
I learnt that every minute a human was being sold into unspeakable brutality. Every minute that I sat at my clean, new desk, drinking my murky but hot coffee, with my body, completely intact. Every minute I slept in my enormous bed. Every minute I complained about a cold shower, a crumbling footpath or a rough taxi ride. Every single minute – Now, Now and Now – a child would enter hell whilst still alive.
It was hard, this job. I often found myself crying through a lot of it. But how was my pain, compared to a wrung out, 10 year old girl or boy, sold by their mother, to a man with a knife, a bludgeon and a sick, sick mind?
So I kept going.
This is an excerpt from the book I am toiling away on. It’s an uncomfortable topic.
Human trafficking came into my consciousness when I lived with my husband in Romania, many years ago.
Chugging along in the Bucharest traffic I noticed out the window very young females, with adult bra’s hanging off skinny frames, tiny skirts, and garish makeup – as if they’d been getting into their mother’s wardrobes. But I doubt there was a mother anywhere near those girls. I’d heard about this street.
I felt sick.
This small experience put the injustice of it all inside me – I remain shocked that a human being could force another human being into being a commodity. Prostitution is the biggest reason for trafficking humans.
I felt really upset.
Romania is not the worst place for it by a long shot. Anyone go on holiday in Thailand? That tops the list. Australia is not without blame: We are a ‘destination’ country for trafficked victims. That means there is a market for it, here, right on our doorstep.
How many children do we hear have ‘gone missing’ in our news?
I felt compelled to do something.
So my very tiny contribution, at this time, is to write about it in a novel. I’m trying my hardest to make that novel something people might want to read and come away informed that it is very real in this life. I would be amazed if they felt compelled to look into the issue more.
I feel like I want to do more in the future.
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy