Tag Archives: dying

The Countdown to 50…Yikes!

Tomorrow, which is currently approaching faster than a Japanese bullet train, I turn 50 and in so many ways am happy to chant “Fifty not out”, even though I’m not a cricket fan by any stretch of the imagination. After all, when we rewind six years ago before I found out they were were going to give me chemo to combat my rampaging auto-immune disease, I was in dire straits. I was potentially looking down the barrel of 12 months to live. That’s serious stuff for anyone. However, at the time, our kids were nine and seven. They were along way off independence and being able to fend for themselves.

So, I am absolutely exuberantly happy to still be here. I truly appreciate the frailty and transience of life and the need to grab onto it with both hands and carpe diem seize the day.

However, in addition to this gratitude, there is also disappointment. A disappointment which can feel like an arrow straight through my heart.

Of course, it’s only natural that reflecting on my 50 years really intensifies both the good and the bad. It brings out the stuff you don’t think about very often as well as the stuff you leave right at the back of your closet hoping there might just be an imaginary land out the back where it could disappear altogether never to return. Of course it doesn’t though, does it?!! Instead, it sends you a huge birthday card. One of those ones which play a song when you open it up which is too loud to ignore.

Of course, I’m not the only one you has had disappointments. Indeed, while mine have been pretty intense at the time, others have been through worse and even much worse.

Moreover, since I’m still here to tell my tale, I’m considerably lucky. Blessed. Whatever you call it. My glass is more than half full. It’s literally overflowing.

Yet, there is the tear. I’m not going to deny it’s there. Or, wipe it away so no one else can see it. Life is full of ups and downs and I don’t believe we should ever deny those times we’re face down in the mud unable to surface. It is what it is. However, acknowledging that, is very different from getting stuck there.

I haven’t got time now to take this any further at the moment. The clock’s just past midnight and so I’ve already passed from my 40s into my fifties and moved on.

Now, it’s time to get to bed because some wise owl thought it would be fantabulous to welcome in the new day by watching the sunrise with the family. We’re heading off to Pearl Beach about 6.00am when I’m usually snoring and dreaming away.

However, I’ll leave you with this great hit from the Uncanny X-Men:

Stay tuned for more reflections.

Meanwhile, you might want to share how you felt about and experienced your most recent milestone birthday in the comments below.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

Master & Apprentice…Friday Fictioneers.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming the local Coroner, Jack, it’s how to die with dignity. Funny how we all die, yet nobody talks about it.  We keep both eyes fixed on the here and now, and completely deny the hereafter. That’s including the religious folk. When the bell tolled, many of them were also caught out in their holy underwear with the dodgy elastic. What’s the world coming to? Didn’t their mothers ever warn them to wear their good underwear just in case? Apparently not. Never fear. I always come prepared with a range of spares.”

….

99 words

I was struggling to think of something for this scene. However, it did look like somebody ha been called away suddenly. Being Friday Fictioneers, this thought led to the subject of death. How could it not?

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. Photo Copyright –Douglas M. MacIlroy

Best wishes,

Rowena

Conspiracy Theory…Friday Fictioneers.

The time was coming, when Mavis would leave this world in much the same way she arrived… with nothing.

However, Mavis had her own ideas. If the Chinese Emperors could take their terracotta armies and the Egyptians had their slaves, Mavis was going to be buried in her lounge room in her own Empire.

“Mother, we’re going for a drive,” her daughters chimed in unison. Although they were middle-aged, Mavis always knew there was trouble whenever they palled up. There was no way they were taking her to a nursing home. She’d die first.

Then, she saw the cake. “Happy Birthday, Gran!”

……

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

M – Edvard Munch- Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

My profuse apologies to Michelangelo, Monet, Matisse and Miro, who I’ve had to overlook. Today, I’ll be writing to Norwegian expressionist, Edvard Munch accompanied by sensational violinist, Lindsay Stirling’s thrilling violin rendition of The Phantom of the Opera. 

However, Edvard Munch’s The Scream has resonated with me for so long and in such an intimate way, that I could only write to him. For he was there holding me close, when I was stuck inside my constricting  inner labyrinth.

To be honest, these storms began as a child, increased during the swirling vortex of pubescence, but blew their banks in my 20s when the pressure inside my head, reached a final climax. Not due to mental illness. Rather, I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and the storm was trying to get out.

Strangely, while I was consumed by this churning vortex of anguish, despair, heartbreak, or pure panic, I found myself curiously carried out of the abyss by the figure in Munch’s The Scream. In hindsight, it was a bit like somebody carrying the crucified body of Christ off the cross and washing my wounds and bringing me back to life. Isn’t it ironic, that a painting which is so graphic in its anguish, can also be soothing.

EXHI001000

I was about 12 years old when I was first introduced to Munch’s The Scream in art class at school. Its impact was immediate. I loved it. This was many years before I knew that this state of extreme stress and panic, was something called anxiety. Or, that I could, at least to some degree, choose how I responded to the things which happened to and around me. That the glass could either be half-full, or half empty. I could focus on what I have and what is working. Or, I could fixate on what was missing or wasn’t working, and fall into an abyss of anxiety, depression and despair. Of course, that’s a simplified way of looking at things.

However, that way of looking at things, later probably saved my life. When I found out I had 60% lung capacity, I could’ve sat in a chair and have everything done for me because I was sick. However, I thought about how singers and brass musicians have increased lung capacity. That gave me the idea that if I worked on the 60%, I did have instead of fixating on the 40% that was missing, , I might just have enough. So, how you respond to a situation can ultimately make a huge difference to you, as all those small steps and little decisions add up.

Anxiety

Edvard Munch: Anxiety.

Like virtually all the artists I have written to thus far, Edvard Munch had his battles, and it is no secret he lived with mental health challenges, most likely bipolar disorder. You immediate see these two extremes of mood when you put The Scream and his mural The Sun side by side:

The diagnosis of bipolar disorder with psychosis is based on his own diary descriptions of visual and auditory hallucinations, a multiply documented instance of his travelling throughout Europe manifesting manic disrupted behavior that culminated in his shooting two joints off the ring finger of his left hand, and his psychiatric hospitalization in 1908 for an intensification of auditory hallucinations, depression, and suicidal urges. He also suffered from bouts of alcoholism. However, when you read about his extensive experience of familial death and grief, it also makes me wonder how much they contributed to his heightened state.

Edvard Munch was born on December 12, 1863, in Löten, Norway, the second of five children. In 1864, Munch moved with his family to the city of Oslo, where his mother died in 1868 of tuberculosis, when Munch was only five years old.

“I find it difficult to imagine an afterlife, such as Christians, or at any rate many religious people, conceive it, believing that the conversations with relatives and friends interrupted here on earth will be continued in the hereafter”

Edvard Munch

This marked the beginning of a series of family tragedies, which would’ve given Munch a very intimate experience of deep, prolonged suffering. His sister, Sophie, also died of tuberculosis, in 1877 at the age of 15; another of his sisters spent most of her life institutionalized for mental illness; and his only brother died of pneumonia at age 30. Munch’s father, a Christian fundamentalist, interpreted these tragedies as acts of divine punishment. This powerful matrix of chance, tragic events and their fatalistic interpretation left a lifelong impression on the young artist, and contributed decisively to his eventual preoccupation with themes of anxiety, emotional suffering, and human vulnerability[1].

Moreover, it would be interesting to look at parallels between Munch and author Roald Dahl, who was also Norwegian and experienced similar family losses and developed a dark, almost sinister current through his writing.

The Scream

which scream is best

“Painting picture by picture, I followed the impressions my eye took in at heightened moments. I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see. Hence the simplicity of the paintings, their emptiness.”

Edvard Munch

Essentially The Scream is autobiographical, an expressionistic construction based on Munch’s actual experience of a scream piercing through the air while on a walk, after his two companions, seen in the background, had left him. Munch recorded his initial conception in 1891: “I was walking along the road with two of my friends. Then, the sun set. The sky suddenly turned into blood, and I felt something akin to a touch of melancholy. I stood still, leaned against the railing, dead tired. Above the blue black fjord and city hung clouds of dripping, rippling blood. My  friends went on and again I stood, frightened with an open wound in my breast. A great scream pierced through nature.[2]” (Heller RH: Edvard Munch: The Scream. New York, Viking Press, 1972, p. 109) [3]

There are actually five versions of The Scream. The National Gallery in Oslo, Norway, holds one of two painted versions The Munch Museum holds the other painted version (1910) and a pastel version from 1893. The fourth version (pastel, 1895) was sold for $119,922,600 at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art auction in 1912. Also in 1895, Munch created a lithograph stone of the image, which is my personal preference. It’s so graphic.

In 1978, the Munch scholar Robert Rosenblum suggested that the strange, sexless being in the foreground, was inspired by a Peruvian mummy, which Munch might’ve have seen at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This mummy, which was buried in a fetal position with its hands alongside its face, had struck the imagination of Munch’s friend Paul Gauguin. Indeed, it stood as a model for figures in more than twenty of Gauguin’s paintings, among those the central figure in his painting, Human misery (Grape harvest at Arles) and for the old woman at the left in his painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?.

Letter to Edvard Munch

Dear Edvard,

There’s so much I could ask you, but beyond all else, I wanted to thank you for painting The Scream and giving it to the world as a way for all of us experiencing anguish and suffering, can potentially find release.

Did you find release from your personal inner labyrinth when you passed?

Or, were your own words prophetic:

“To die is as if one’s eyes had been put out and one cannot see anything any more. Perhaps it is like being shut in a cellar. One is abandoned by all. They have slammed the door and are gone. One does not see anything and notices only the damp smell of putrefaction.”

I’d love to hear from you and could you please send me a painting of where you are now.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter from Edvard Munch

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. My old friend Gauguin is feeling rather left out now that I’ve received a letter as well as Van Gogh. Do you think maybe you could send him a letter anyway, even though it breaks the rules of this challenge? You’re such a compassionate soul and I’m sure you could bend the rules a little and just send him a few lines. I’d be mighty grateful. Even in heaven, he can get a bit moody and he and Vincent had another falling it when he tried to read his letter.

Anyway, you Australians are a positive, upbeat bunch. All that sunshine must do wonders for your outlook. I’ve met one of your former Prime Ministers up here…a Malcolm Fraser. He challenged all my gloomy thinking and said: Life wasn’t meant to be easy, but it can be delightful.”

I’ve attached a print of a mural I did called “The Sun”. That’s a pretty close approximation of what it’s like here. Oh yes! Much to my surprise, I am able to have loads coffee and chats with my loved ones up here. It’s really very social.

Yours,

Edvard Munch.

sun

Edvard Munch, The Sun

References & Further Reading

[1] http://www.theartstory.org/artist-munch-edvard.htm

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-explorations/201503/creativity-and-mental-illness-ii-the-scream

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-explorations/201503/creativity-and-mental-illness-ii-the-scream

Sickies…Dogs Don’t Lie.

As a parent, I’m always wary when the kids bung on one of their dying swan “can I stay home from school” routines. These performances can be worthy of an Academy Award. Yet, all too often when I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, they resurrect like Lazarus and “party like it’s 1999”.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo in peak performance appropriating another dog’s ball.

On the other hand, our dog’s never chucked a sickie in his life. He’s either chasing his ball with mad obsessive focus and eating like a hollow-legged teen. Or, he’s seriously ill. Moreover, when it comes to jumping in the car and going to the beach, he at the door in a flash. Never tells me to “wait”. Indeed, he’d be out the door already if he could open it himself.

However, Bilbo is no longer a pup. He’s now 77 in dog years, and he’d be forgiven for requesting a Dawson Chair, a Zimmer frame and signing up for the pension. However, being a Border Collie to the core, he tells me there’s life in the old dog yet.

Unfortunately, Bilbo is gravely ill. Last week, he started getting sluggish, and my radar kicked in. We noticed he coughed up a blood cyst, but as he was still eating, we didn’t rush him off to the vet. However, last night he went off his food and when that continued this morning, we knew it was time.  By this point, we were obviously expecting one of those conversations you don’t want to have with the vet. Not only in terms of what might be wrong with him, and there might be nothing they can do. There’s also that other conversation. That is, that there is treatment, but what is it going to cost? It’s hard to put a measurement on love that knows no bounds. Yet, the bank balance doesn’t understand that, and shows no mercy. It’s a callous brute without compassion.

However, all those thoughts could wait. We still had a few hours before we could get into the vet.

Since the dogs were already in the car, I decided to take them to the beach. Not the best move, in hindsight as the vet has ordered him to rest. However, I’m not a vet. I’m his Mum and knowing how much he loves the beach and what it’s means to us, I wanted him to be in his favourite place…his heaven on earth.

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However, if I needed confirmation that Bilbo wasn’t well, this was it. He laboured down the beach so slowly, that he was his own ghost. I threw his ball, and he didn’t blink. He just let it roll into the water. I tried a few more times with the same result, retrieving the ball myself. As much as I’ve thought his obsession with the tennis ball was extreme, seriously annoying and beyond the realms of addiction, this was worse. It felt like an echoing emptyness, if that makes any sense.

Yet, like a noble warrior, he ultimately did have a few laboured efforts.

Bilbo and Maya

You have to feel for the old dog unable to chase his ball, when some young whippersnapper races off with it.

Meanwhile, his young mates chased the ball like maniacs, legs whirling furiously through the sand.

By this point, you’d expect that some kind of emotion would set in, but I was blank. Couldn’t feel anything. It’s a day we’ve known is coming, and I don’t know how to react. I don’t feel I can cry anymore. That there aren’t any tears. That too much has happened and I’ve become a rock. A rock with some kind of senses, but nothing like who I was.

Or, perhaps, I’ve simply grown up. Become resiliant.

This would be a good thing because this time we lose a dog, I have to be the strong one. I have to be the rock supporting the kids. Mum can’t go to pieces. Can’t be the mess. I need to put on the big high heels and answer their questions, hug and comfort them and wipe away their tears, especially as they don’t even remember life without Bilbo. Miss was about 10 months old and crawling when Bilbo arrived and Mr was 3 years old. I still remember how Mr missed our previous dog (a huge Old English Sheepdog called Rufus) and didn’t like the new puppy because he wanted a big dog. Mr had been able to sit on Rufus and use him as a horse. He was a very big dog indeed.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

So, Bilbo has been part of our family during a very special ten years of our lives.

Yet, it’s not time to get all misty eyed yet. At this point, we’re still at the beach. It’s 18°C and a gloriously sunny Winter’s day and the beach is magic.

Mid-morning, we return to the vet. He quickly points out that Bilbo’s gums and tongue are an exceptionally pale shade of pink and I’m quite shocked. He took some blood and we were sent out to wait. My husband ducked off to pick our daughter up from dancing. I wasn’t sure she should be there, but figured that the vet’s better versed at this than us. That if there is bad news, the vet no doubt knows what to say.

Bilbo + Amelia

11 years is a long time in human years too!

The news from the vet wasn’t good, but it wasn’t all bad. At this point, it seems that Bilbo could have an unpronouncable auto-immune disease. I can’t remember what the vet called it, and meant to write it down. His red blood cell count is down to 2.86 (should be 5.65-8.87) and his haemoglobin is 5.3 when it should be 13.1 – 20.5). He has just enough platelets to hope the treatment could work. His white cell count is high and he seems to be fighting back. He was given an injection of prednisone and is on tablets. I take him back on Monday morning for a CT of his spleen and a followup.

Meanwhile, I started my own, additional treatment. We bought him some fresh mince to see if that might stimulate his appetite and we had a rather hungry dog. He’s eaten 500g of mince tonight, minus a few donations to Lady, our other dog. It’s not going to cure him, but it might give him a fighting chance. Get him over the hump. It’s also much cheaper than a blood transfusion!!

Of course, I’m hopeful that he’s going to be okay. That there isn’t going to be something else going on and he’ll respond to treatment. He’s been in good health, so surely that must help… That “he’ll be right, mate.”

….

Well, it’s now Sunday afternoon. Bilbo’s still with us and lying on my lap quite happy to be a lap top dog. He’s eating the mince, but not so keen on his kibble. He’s perked up a fair bit. Yet, his beathing is very rapid, and I guess that’s the big concern and we still need to take that CT of his spleen.

So, I am feeling optimistic. No doubt, it’s the sort of optimism based on wishful thinking. An optimism which could seriously backfire and hurt like hell.

Yet, like the kids who don’t know life without Bilbo, I can’t imagine it either and am still hopeful that the vet might find that magic pill which will give him eternal life.

Meanwhile, Bilbo’s been instructed to “Stay. Don’t go near the Rainbow Bridge. Why don’t you watch a bit of TV….”

Yet, although he’s always been an incredibly obedient and faithful dog, there will  come a time when that last journey will come.

All the same, can I put in a request?

Not yet…

Thank you in advance for your concern. It is much appreciated!!

xx Rowena

 

 

Courage At The End

Most of us have not had the privilege of caring for the dying. I was so moved by this beatiful story of caring for a loving husband and wife at the end xx Rowena

Sidereal Catalyst

They had hospital beds side by side in their apartment at the nursing home where they lived.  She had end-stage bone cancer, barely holding onto life.  He was diagnosed with failure to thrive, the only thing he was holding onto in this life was her.

She had weeks to live and every moment was wrought with pain.  They both had 24-hour care and the hospice nurses used everything at their disposal to make her comfortable.  Her words were barely audible and she was bed bound.  She had to be moved every few hours to avoid bedsores but every movement was agonizing.  He was constantly concerned about her, wanting to be near her, hoping to depart this world at the very moment she did.  He made that clear, announcing that he did not want to live a moment past her last breath – though his health indicated he would.  

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K- John Keats: Letter to Dead Poets.

Dear Keats,

We first met many, many years ago, when I was Sweet 16 and still at school. Although I’ve now matured, I haven’t forgotten that cyclonic vortex called: “growing up” and how you helped me through.

While I attended an all girls’ school, there were these beings we met up with at the station in the afternoons called “boys”, who’d also been condemned to spending adolescence in a single-sex school. Not unsurprisingly, there was an absolute explosion of hormones every afternoon as soon as the school gates flung open.

Since you’re not up to date with contemporary movie stars and heart throbs, I won’t mention any names but there was one particular “Adonais” who roamed the North Shore Line. Of course, whenever word got out that he was on the train, you’d be amazed how the girls flocked from all directions. The other boys were left for dead. Well, not exactly. Most of us were nowhere near his league and knew it. We stayed put.

You and I first met during this rollercoaster of love and pain, which was mingled with the angst of school exams and my future hanging in balance. In retrospect, these troubles were trifles. However, at the time each surging wave of emotion smacked me straight in the face, pulling me under before chucking me up on the beach in a bedraggled heap. Of course, I didn’t find any of these tortures “character building”. If I’d heard these words from Rumi, I definitely would have scoffed:

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

-Rumi

Instead, you spoke straight into my melodramatic and broken heart:

          Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

          While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

          In such an ecstasy!

 John Keats: Ode To A Nightingale.

Indeed, I knew beyond a doubt that you’d written: Ode To Melancholy just for me:

 Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue

Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;

His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,

And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

I think I thank you for giving me these words, although a kick up the rear and a bit of perspective was what I probably needed. Destroying your whole life over someone you’ve only known a few weeks, has to be ridiculous. After all, mathematically speaking, it simply doesn’t add up. This boy had been but a infiniessimal speck of my life to date and certainly not worth throwing my future away. However, a young head filled with hormones can’t think. Indeed, you’re sort of drugged!

Moreover, as annoying as it was to be told: “there are plenty more fish in the sea”, the truth is that the numbers were actually well in my favour. I only needed to catch one fish and while stocks looked questionable, there were enough…plenty even! Indeed, it was more a matter of catching the right fish. Not being fussy…only discerning!

It makes me shudder to think my kids are about to navigate their way through all of this madness and I hope they do a better job. As much as we can provide them with a map, compass, torch, a bottle of water and even sunscreen, that’s not enough. To be honest, I don’t know what it takes. After multiple collisions and breakdowns along the way, I simply turned up at a party and there he was. There were even fireworks. It was New Year’s Eve 1998 and we were watching the fireworks explode over Sydney Harbour. Such incredible beauty, which I was trying to photograph for eternity.

Even when I squint, I can’t even imagine what Sydney looked like in your day. Indeed, the planet was such a different place and yet so much remains the same.

Sorry, in all this excitement, I almost forgot to tell you that you’ve actually become one of the most read and loved English poets of all time. This may come as quite a surprise. Only 200 volumes of your work had been sold before your death. Indeed, in February 1820,  you lamented to Fanny Brawne:

“I have left no immortal work behind me – nothing to make my friends proud of my memory – but I have lov’d the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.”

John Keats letter

I’m so sorry that you didn’t live to experience your success. I wonder if that makes the anguish of your early death even more acute? Or, is it longing for the arms of your beloved, especially as you languished in Rome, that hurts you most? It doesn’t seem fair that one who had such vision, was claimed by death so soon!

This is no doubt my greatest folly…trying to find reason in between the lines of this nonsensical play. Why did death snatch you away in your prime? Why couldn’t it take someone else? After all, there’s so much evil in the world and those who waste away their time. Can’t wait til 5 O’clock. Then, there was you writing such inspirational verse, reaching to the deepest depths of human understanding and YOU were snatched away! It makes no sense!

Not that I mean to be nasty and I’m not the first to ask why the good die young. Indeed, is it so unnatural that I would ask:

 “Please, sir, I want some more.”
― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

I don’t think so. Not at all. I am not the first to utter this lament. Indeed, your friend Shelley wrote a moving tribute and when he drowned in a shipwreck in Italy, he actually had  your poems in his pocket:

Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I weep for Adonais—he is dead!

Oh, weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!

And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years

To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,

And teach them thine own sorrow, say: “With me

Died Adonais; till the Future dares

Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be

An echo and a light unto eternity!” …Verse 1.

Later, Oscar Wilde wrote:

THE GRAVE OF KEATS

Rid of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water—it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

Rome.

Oscar Wilde

Keats Grave

However, as much as I lament your languishing suffering and premature death, would Keats have been Keats if you hadn’t contracted tuberculosis? If you’d simply married your one true love and live happily ever after? I doubt it, although perhaps I’ve just walked straight into another conundrum.

On that note, I’ll emulate a certain white rabbit muttering: “I’m late” and disappear down a rabbit hole without a trace.

It’s been so absolutely wonderful to finally speak with you and reflect on what you’ve meant to me and no doubt millions around the world.

A bright star, you’ve definitely left your mark!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Everyone’s clock runs out…eventually.

This post is a great take on the transience of life and the ticking bomb which is our human body. If you are looking for a read that will get you thinking, you’ll enjoy this xx Rowena

Rethinking Life

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Picture from Pixabay

I think we’re a lot like watches…we have delicate parts that need to work together, if we are to run properly.  If one part wears out, we don’t keep proper time.  No matter how well we care for our watches, something always goes wrong.  Parts are replaced and things run smoothly until the next time.  Each second ticks away, adding up to minutes and hours, months and years.  Newer models come along, models with fewer movable parts, but they seem short lived and are replaced more frequently.

Once our watches start losing time, we might be surprised to find they no longer make the parts needed to fix the problem.  And when someone tries to sell us a new watch we frown because we simply want the watch we already have, to keep running.  Somewhere in our minds we wonder why things wear out, instead of just…

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The Itis…Monster Flash Fiction.

Neither awake nor asleep, she could hear his gravelly voice huffing in her ear: “I’m going to get you!”

She knew that voice too well and flinched. His grotesque form leaning over her bed, she could almost feel his fingertips touching her skin. With the stench of rotting flesh, this monstrous beast came from the very pits of hell.

Trembling, she shrank into a very tight ball.

No! She was still determined to get the bastard. Wring his neck. Finally, destroy the beast.

But there was nothing there.

No monster to slay with her almighty sword.

Yet, there was!

Rowena Newton March 13, 2016.

March 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story. You can pick any perspective, even that of the monster. It can be literal or symbolic; it can be heroic or realistic. Think about the shifting roles of what is a monster and who is a monster-slayer. Consider how easily we give the label to others or to fears we can’t name.

 ……

itis: Suffix meaning inflammation.

On the 22nd August, 2007, I was diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis. You can just imagine being diagnosed with something like that. The word itself is bad enough and it took me at least a month to pronounce it let alone spell it. However, the disease itself was far worse. It took 18 months to correctly diagnose after boarding a horrifically intense, medical merry-go-round.

It is hard to believe that someone who is still walking around and indeed still breathing, could have been so debilitated. Most of my muscles had wasted away and I needed help getting dressed and even pulling my blankets over me at night. Yet, I was also mother full time to a toddler and a baby not to mention the crazy afore mentioned Old English Sheepdog, who morphed into an energetic Border Collie pup somewhere along the way.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007. This was 3 months before my diagnosis and despite how I appear in the photo, I was already very ill.

Six weeks before my diagnosis, I tripped over at home and much to my horror couldn’t get up at all. This wasn’t due to injury. Rather, I didn’t have the muscles left to get myself up. The disease had gobbled them up. I rang my husband at work, over two hour’s away. We didn’t even discuss getting an ambulance. He suggested using a chair to lever myself up and when that worked, I simply got on with it. That said, we gave a friend our front door key and tried to spend us much time as we could with my Mum. Our home became the most terrifying place in the world for me.

Dermatomyositis can be difficult to diagnose and yet I had these distinctive tell tale red stripes across my knuckles, which are known as “rainbow hands”. Early on, I received a false negative on a blood test and once you eliminate what you’ve got, you’re in considerable strife. My uncle who is a dermatologist, ended up diagnosing it at my cousin’s wedding. I was obviously severely ill and while I was sort of thrilled at the instant weight loss, I suspected something sinister. Just getting in and out of chairs was murder. Even in that dark, ambient lighting my uncle recognised those rainbow stripes on my hands and was on the phone the next day. Three days later he had results and an urgent appointment with the Professor of Rheumatology at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. He told me to take my toothbrush as I wouldn’t be coming home. Two and a half weeks later, I left hospital in an ambulance bound for rehab for 6 weeks.

The kids went to stay with my parents. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was only 18 months and still breastfeeding.

This wasn’t the case of the kids having a holiday with their grandparents. It was incredibly traumatic and even though I knew I was very ill at the time, I was later told that I didn’t appreciate just how sick I was and that they’ve lost patients at that point before. The long delay in my diagnosis had almost been catastrophic.

I still remember Mister asking me: “Mummy better?” with his big brown eyes and blond curls and saying nothing. We didn’t know. Our son’s development froze for a good six months after that. He stopped doing a lot of things he’d been able to do and regressed. He also got very angry with me. He wanted his old Mum back and how was he supposed to understand and accept what we couldn’t?!!

Before this all came about, when I used to think of monsters, I used to think of baddies lurking in dark alleyways or public toilets grabbing me by the throat. I never thought that the greatest, most terrifying monster I would ever face, would be inside myself. Indeed, the very problem with any auto-immune disease is that it’s your body attacking itself.

The monster is inside you.

Now, that does make things tricky, doesn’t it?!!

You are not your disease and yet it lives inside your body and your cells start attacking each other, themselves. Yet, it’s not you…whatever!!

That’s starting to sound like one of those brain busting conundrums.

My brain hurts. How about yours?

Time for a good old-fashioned cup of tea!

xx Rowena

 

The Masked Intruder.

You creep…
a foul, odorous gas
permeating
my each and every cell,
even creeping in between
the fibres of my bones.
Splitting my very atoms
to build your sovereign shrine
within each cell…
a nest to lay your poisonous eggs.

Catastrophization turned real,
blasted invader!
You can’t even leave
the smallest little part of me
alone.
Penetrating deep within my DNA,
you lurk beyond the microscope.
No one else can see you
but I know that you’re there.
A Machiavellian villain
purring like a cat
toying with its prey,
you enjoy my pain
and laugh.
You bastard!

What am I supposed
to call you?
How can I figure out
quite who or what you are?
You might have a name.
Be something out of a textbook.
Of course, Google knows
exactly who you are.
Yet, even they can’t explain
why you came.
Or,why you came to me.
After all,
why didn’t you go next door?
Find someone else to be
your magnificent host?
I’m not going to blame
my God of love
for all your hate…
my pain.

Yet,
the earth has turned
round and round
and I still don’t know
why you came.
I didn’t offer you tea,
let alone cake.
Yet, you stayed.
Now, you are I are bound
together as one.
I am the bride.
You are the groom.
A forced union,
I had no say in it.
No say in it at all.
I never vowed a thing.

So,
how can I break through
the chains which bind us?
Bind us together as one.
Until death do us part.
There is no divorce.
No escape.
We are fused.
Melted together.
This is forever.

Or,
So I thought.

Suddenly,
You were gone.

Your ring’s still on my finger
but your hands are no longer
wrapped around my throat,
squeezing out my very last breath
until my face turns blue, corpse-grey
while you somehow kept me alive
but only just.

Dare I ask you why you left?
Or, if you’ll return?
No. There’s no time to stop,
reflect or introspect.
I’ve changed all the locks.
Carpe diem seize the day.
I’ve finally reached
the other side of the rainbow,
basking alone in the sun
where even your shadow is gone.

I live inspite of you
but maybe even
because.

Rowena Newton
3rd February, 2016.

Written on the train to and from a dentist appointment at Kirribilli. I was fuming because it seemed that the dermatomysitis had affected my teeth. Not hugely but was playing silly buggers. Grrr!!! It set off yet another round of cannonfire.