a snippet of sadness

“I hate getting up early, especially now. There’s nothing to get up for.”

Well fuck me Linda, you sad sack of shit. 

(Today, I agree)

I overheard this lady at the local dog park. It’s on a beautiful inlet in the heart of Sydney’s Northern Beaches where there’s a median house price of a cool $2.2 million. No doubt, she resides in one of them. Currently, so do I (yet I’m no closer to affording one of them than I am likely to go to Mars, although the latter seems much more appealing). 

It struck me as quite a depressing thing to say to someone you’ve just met at a dog park. I feel sorry for her, but I also feel like punching her in the face, and delivering her by hand into Yemen, Syria or Afghanistan just to see the reality dawn on her face. 

At the time, I just let the words float around my head and today they returned to me with a weight that I’ve felt before but never welcome back. I feel like drowning in the sheets of my bed and never being found again. Disappearing into the Himalayas only to resurface a few years later with a shaved head and orange robes to see who actually came to my funeral. Who said all of the things they wish they’d said to me in person before I died. 

I hate funerals.

Not because the person is dead. That often happened days if not weeks before the funeral and the grieving simply goes on. Funerals are for the living. I hate them because people stand up and pour their hearts out to a person that can’t hear them. They sweat, tremble and cry as they recall beautiful memories, lament time wasted and speak into the void. Call it closure, but I call it regret. I don’t believe in leaving words unsaid. 

I prefaced this by adding the median house prices around the area. Not because I give a shit, but because I was alluding to the fact that surely, this person is in the top 1 or 2% of the entire global population. Privilege embodied. Yet, all suffering is relative. The pitfalls of mental (or other) ill-health don’t discriminate. Maybe she had a pet die, or a loved one, or she found out she had cancer. Or maybe, she just felt the collective pain we all feel at the moment. When we turn on the news and see faces of small, sweet, innocent children sentenced to perilous lives in conflict ridden areas, or people clinging to the side of planes trying to escape their own country. Maybe she woke up and broke her TV off its hinges and flung it across the room and took to it with a baseball bat, cursing it for the images she wished she hadn’t seen. Maybe she’d feel better if she donated all of her disposable cash to charities. Maybe she already does. Who knows. 

But today, all judgement aside, I understood. 

It’s not all days that you wake up with the willingness to proceed in this so often torturous existence. It’s a wonder we do really. Somehow, most days, we manage not to flee and take physical and emotional shelter from the impending responsibilities or obligations that a new day demands. Most days, we find the smile of a stranger, or a kind gesture from a friend carry us through whatever our inner turmoil digs up for us. Maybe we watch the sunrise, or set and feel accomplished.  Sometimes that is enough. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we fail spectacularly. We feel the visceral anguish of lost love. We fear our looming mortality. We feel. 

But there is also a time for perseverance. For committing oneself to a higher value thinking, then doing, then being. Despite it all, there is more than you to get up for. To be the stranger that offers the smile, or the friend that offers the kind gesture. 

And please, for the sake of you and those who mean most, don’t be that person gulping in breaths of air between your tears of regret at a funeral. Acknowledge that looming mortality as the most urgent of reminders to relish every moment, and to love others so fervently that you couldn’t have hoped to love them any more than you did. 

Have the courage to not leave words unsaid, deeds undone.

From isolation, with love

“All my friends left me when I got sick.”

These words have been echoing in my head recently. For privacy purposes, let us call this person T.

T was a client who attended a mental health recovery camp where I was doing outdoor education. He is a tall greek guy with kind hazel eyes, a bulbous belly and lots of dark hair all over his body. His toenails were long and he promised me he would get his mum to trim them when he got home. I joked that he shouldn’t dare put her through that and we giggled about it. He was nearly 40. He slept in, but when I asked for his help, he’d be there. T got sick a few years ago. I don’t know the full story, but he had a nervous breakdown and hasn’t fully recovered or become a functioning (whatever that means) member of society again since. Unlike some who do function in society, he is kind, helpful, considerate, humble and selfless. Things are just a bit more difficult for him.

His dad lets him work in the family business. By the sound of things, his family is his only support network. He’s luckier than others in that respect. But, he is lonely. Sorely lonely. My heart aches for him. I remember him looking at me with childlike innocence, telling me how much he loved coming to the camp to feel connected but how he knew it was only temporary. It’s hard to enjoy the sweet moments when you’re already grieving over them.

Over the week he only participated in one or two of the activities, but I knew he wasn’t there for them. Some of these clients have come to this camp over ten times. They’ve done the activities over and over. They’re there for the people – the connection. For the teary eyed conversations they’ve been needing. The understanding that can only come from those who had been, or are in a similar situation. They come for the guidance of a nurse or counsellor outside white walls or the emergency room. It is a powerful chance for people suffering mental health issues to dictate to health professionals on how best to address them, rather than the other way around. While it is a beautiful, transformative, healing, happy high point… it follows by a crash landing in the pit of contrast that is real life. Human connection can be incredibly difficult, especially for someone who is mentally ill.


With an open, honest heart and gentle treading, some people will unravel themselves to you within a week. Sometimes within a day. Surrendering to ones own emotional vulnerability encourages others to do the same. Now is the time to put that vulnerability into practice; if not with your best interests at heart, then with someone else’s.


In isolation, I have this enormous surplus of time. Fuck I’m grateful for it. Time for personal rest and revel. I sign up for a free online course on the science of well-being (highly recommend). I take comfort in neuroplasticity and make more effort to create conscious actions toward enhancing my wellbeing, eventually entrenching them into habit. I get to check in with the people I love and spend time with family that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I feel their warmth in the form of overloaded affection, honest conversations and Mum shoving her love language of food down my throat. 

I’ve moved to a quiet coastal town with the man I love. We’re not working. We wake when we please, drink coffee in dressing gowns and spend the days however we choose. A taste of retired life. We explore the coastline with the pup in tow. It’s bliss. We have uncomfortable conversations, the ones that highlight all our differences. Strangely, they’re my favourite conversations to have. And hey, we’ve got the time. He teaches me things. I don’t always like the things I learn. Vice versa. Then I learn that that’s okay and that it doesn’t mean our relationship is doomed. He shows me the space in between black and white. He helps me on my path of growth, even if it’s just correcting me on weird mannerisms I didn’t know I had. He is patient and understanding of my bouts of anxiety. With his gentle coaxing of my dubious heart, I’m learning that it’s okay to sometimes take refuge in another. At a time like this, I’m more grateful than ever for him and all his dad jokes.

I savour the connection I have with my friends. I don’t have many, but those I do have, I cherish. Even a two hour online catch up with a friend sister, who I’ve known since I was 4 years old. She’s honest, kind and supportive. Not to mention hilarious. She’s the kind of person you’d drop everything for if they needed you and you know they’d do the same in return.

I love taking time to reflect and be grateful for my life.

My thoughts sober and I think about T and his lack of friends. At times I really resonate with his loneliness. I think of the friends that have abandoned me in times of need or that have been lost in the throws of life. The hurt part of me hates them for it and begs for reasons. But it’s just life. It’s painful. I don’t understand their actions, but I forgive them.

Sometimes closure never comes, so you have to surrender to the unknown.

Alongside all this love I’m experiencing in a bizarre time, there is this terrible agony. I worry about people who don’t have this kind of support or love in their lives. People who are elderly, homeless, live alone or are mentally struggling. The ones who don’t reach out. How can I/we help them? I sign up for volunteering positions. It’s not enough. It remains a thought to be revisited. For us all to revisit, I hope.


For people like T, who are already isolated and alone in everyday, pre-covid life, this really could be a taste of hell.

With him in mind, find a way to show kindness to the people around you. Go out of your way for a chat and probe people to see how they are coping. Remember that while you’re feeling lonely, there are people out there that are a whole lot more emotionally isolated than you are. Maybe you can lessen that loneliness together.

From isolation, with love.

the saplings of forgiveness

I restlessly throw my body around in bed while candles flicker and frogs croak. Camomile and honey trickle down my throat. Lavender floats around me in a cloud. It feels like even the frogs have more conviction than I do. I can barely muster a squeak. 

There is an aching in my soul that I’m unsure of how to soothe. A hurt that this time, I do not know how to mend. I’m good at this, I think. I can step back and assess myself, criticize the reason for my emotions and analyse my motives. Stab and slice away at my ego, threatening it to stir and face me. 

Most of the time, I can strategize a way out. A way up. Not this time. I’m snowed under with a weight it feels I cannot bear. In this place, it feels like there are no hands to help me. I’m not sure I’ll reach for any either. 

I remind myself; my needs are met. In fact, they are beyond met in many ways. Mostly, I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want. A true luxury that I try not to undervalue. How dare I feel anxious or depressed?!

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is something that I often draw back to. It resonates with me that a human has a myriad of elements to keep in fine balance before one can feel self-fulfilling (which ironically coalesces, or more accurately, actually depends on the intimate support network around the individual). 

Tonight the acknowledgement of these base needs being met are not serving to comfort me. 

  • Insert reality check: they are NOT a given and should be ALWAYS appreciated as a comfort – perspective is key.
  • Insert secondary reality check: the vicious ‘how dare you’ mindset is reinforced – stay wary of negative self-talk masquerading as the helpful critic.

I am deeply grateful to have loved and been loved by some special souls in my life. In the occasional absence of this loving presence, I am sometimes unexpectedly cast into a chasm of emotion with myself playing damsel and hero simultaneously. Usually I’m not shy of this confrontation of self, but this seemingly unending emotional fragility has me trading faces.

I fumble around with this uncomfortability, trying to understand it in any way I can. Feel it wash through my body and take root in the centre of my torso. Find consciousness in my breath and attempt to loosen the knots in my chest. 

Thus far, uncomfortability has been my most brutal, but honest teacher. Oh, and maybe heartbreak. At this point I’d label them interchangeably. I’m not sure I’ll ever revel in uncomfortability but my appreciation for what is unveiled in its wake is constantly multiplying.

In the midst of this inner turmoil, a gentle voice enters and begs for both time and space for forgiveness. The harsh critic is silenced. I’ve visited this place before. In it is a garden. A sacred garden with a plethora of possibilities. Here, the seeds are most difficult to sow. Upon discovery, the landscape is barren and the soil unrelenting. Weeds entrenched and overgrown. Colours mute. With diligence and mindful care, slowly the soil softens. Richness re-enters to allow small, hopeful sprouts. With further tending, these saplings will flower, but their flowers are stubborn and slow to bloom. They demand boundless amounts of conscientious tenderness. However, once given their fill and in full spectrum light; this garden and its flowers provide the deepest healing.

Tend relentlessly to your garden.