Tag Archives: PTSD

The Secret…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“I hate you!” Alice screeched at her parents. She might’ve been difficult, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew this was another attempt to force her to “self-calm”, as the therapist put it. They’d tried everything…mediation, relaxation, mindfulness, yoga. Yet, instead of bringing inner peace, they’d only fueled an endless, inner rage. She had to scream. Smash something. Carve a stream into her arm to let the tension out.

This time, they let her run.  After all, there was nothing more to say. Yet, they still clung onto a completely irrational hope, that somehow their only beloved daughter would find her way back out of the darkness and into the light.

……

My humble apologies for going over the word limit. I don’t know why Dale’s beautiful photo prompted such despair in my piece this week. However, I’ve never been good at meditation or sitting still.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bob’s Left Foot…Friday Fictioneers.

Bob hadn’t even thought about his foot, until it was gone. It had simply sat inside his shoe, going wherever the rest of his body was going. Not a decision-maker. More of a follower, than a leader, although his right foot always led the way.

However, it wasn’t his right foot that blew up in the landmine. It was the left.

Now, he was leaving the fallout of war behind, and was finally moving forward. It had been a long road. Yet, come October, he would be sprinting in the Invictus Games. At last, he was starting to feel like a hero.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll. I encourage you to have a go and come up with your own response to this week’s prompt. Every week, these prompts stretch and challenge me in ways that are often rather unexpected and are such an encouragement.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Monet’s Greatest Work.

There’s a fine line between madness and genius. Indeed, I’m currently feeling like the madness side of the equation has taken hold of my brain, but sadly I’m missing the genius component. I know what I’m wanting to say, and yet my brain’s stuttering and I can’t quite get the story out. Meanwhile, Monet, the man who is rattling my brain, was a mixture of the two. Moving into his twilight years, Monet was a man not only possessed by his water lilies, but was also trying to create what could well have been his greatest gift to humanity.Yet, afflicted by failing eyesight and chronic self-doubt, he was floundering. Indeed, he wrote to a friend that “Age and chagrin have worn me out. My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” So, I’m hoping that you’ll join me on another detour. One which could well be life-changing.
After visiting Monet’s stunning garden at Giverny, now we’re catching the train to Paris, where we’ll be meeting up at the Jardin de Tuilleries, not far from the Louvre. From there, we’ll be heading into the Gallerie de L’Orangerie to experience Monet’s incredible gift to the French nation and humanity…a spectacular series of water lily paintings. Monet gifted the paintings to the French nation on November 12, 1918, the day after Armistice and two days before his 78th birthday. Monet wasn’t only wanting to commemorate peace. He also wanted to create a peaceful place, where those shaken up by the war could rest their weary souls:
“You see, while shrapnel from mortars, grenades and, above all, artillery projectile bombs, or shells, accounted for an estimated 60 percent of the 9.7 million military fatalities of World War I, it was soon observed that many soldiers arriving at the casualty clearing stations who had been exposed to exploding shells, although clearly damaged, bore no visible wounds. Rather, they appeared to be suffering from a remarkable state of shock caused by blast force. This new type of injury, a British medical report concluded, appeared to be “the result of the actual explosion itself, and not merely of the missiles set in motion by it.” In other words, it appeared that some dark, invisible force had in fact passed through the air and was inflicting novel and peculiar damage to men’s brains.

“Shell shock,” the term that would come to define the phenomenon, first appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet in February 1915, only six months after the commencement of the war- https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shock-of-war-55376701/

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The Gallerie de L’Orangerie explains his achievement:
“This unique set, a true “Sixtine of Impressionism”, in the words of André Masson in 1952, testifies to Monet’s later work. It was designed as a real environment and crowns the Water Lilies cycle begun nearly thirty years before. The set is one of the largest monumental achievements of early twentieth century painting. The dimensions and the area covered by the paint surrounds and encompasses the viewer on nearly one hundred linear meters which unfold a landscape dotted with water lilies water, willow branches, tree and cloud reflections, giving the “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore” in the words of Monet. This unique masterpiece has no equivalent worldwide.”
The Gallerie also did a far better job than I, on explaining Monet’s difficulties in completing the series:

It was in 1914, at the age of 74, when he had just lost his son and could see no hope for the future, that Monet felt a renewed desire to “undertake something on a grand scale” based on “old attempts”. In 1909, he had already told Gustave Geffroy that he wanted to see the theme of the water lilies “carried along the walls”. In June 1914, he wrote that he was “embarking on a great project”. This undertaking absorbed him for several years during which he was beset by obstacles and doubts, and when the friendship and support of one man proved decisive. This was the politician Georges Clemenceau. They met in 1860, lost touch, and met up again after 1908 when Clemenceau bought a property in Bernouville near Giverny. Monet shared Clemenceau Republican’s ideas, and we also know of Clemenceau’s keen interest in the arts. During the war, Monet continued his work alternately in the open air, when the weather was suitable, and in the huge studio that he had had built in 1916 with roof windows for natural light. On 12 November 1918, the day after the Armistice, Monet wrote to Georges Clemenceau: “I am on the verge of finishing two decorative panels which I want to sign on Victory day, and am writing to ask you if they could be offered to the State with you acting as intermediary.” The painter, therefore, intended to give the nation a real monument to peace. At this time, when it was still not certain where the decorative series was destined, it seems that Clemenceau managed to persuade Monet to increase this gift from just two panels to the whole decorative series. In 1920, the gift became official and resulted, in September, in an agreement between Monet and Paul Léon, director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, for the gift to the State of twelve decorative panels that Léon would undertake to install according to the painter’s instructions in a specific building. However, Monet, prey to doubt, continually reworked his panels and even destroyed some. The contract was signed on 12 April 1922 for the gift of 19 panels, but Monet, still dissatisfied, wanted more time to perfect his work. Clemenceau wrote to him in vain that year “you are well aware that you have reached the limit of what can be achieved with power of the brush and of the mind.” But, in the end, Monet would keep the paintings until his death in 1926. His friend Clemenceau then put everything into action to inaugurate the rooms for the Water Lilies in strict accordance with Monet’s wishes.http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/article/history-water-lilies-cycle

Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this exhibition when I was in Paris, and as I’ve mentioned before, with my love of expressionist art, I wasn’t as keen on Monet at the time. However, now I can just imagine what it would be like to stand in the middle of that room surrounded by Monet’s lilies and the deep sense of peace and serenity which must fill the room, as though Picasso’s dove of peace had built its nest in there. It feels like a miracle.
Have you ever been to the Gallerie de l’Orangerie? What was it like? How did it feel? I’d love to hear from people who’ve experienced the collection first hand!
Best wishes,
Rowena

A Rainbow In the Sky…Flash Fiction.

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

Vincent Van Gogh

 

A Rainbow In The Sky

Cast into a stormy sea, raging waves tower imperiously overhead. I’m nothing but a speck in the vast, unending ocean. Lightening shoots through the darkness like laser beams. I’m absolutely petrified.

The storm has brutally ripped me away from my very being…my kids, my very flesh and blood…my husband. It shows no mercy. Will gobble me up like a shark, without spitting out the pips.

I do not understand. Please explain!

Yet, the storm rages on without end. This is it.

Suddenly, a rainbow appears…an upside down smile spreading right across the sky, strangely making some kind of sense.

Rowena

…..

May 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that changes with a smile. It can be a character, tone, setting or any creative use of smile. You can go deep and consider motive and influence, or you can light up the world with a brilliant flash (of teeth as well as fiction). And smile, because your writing matters and is not hostage to your level, experience or circumstances.

Respond by May 31, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

The Dog At the Library…Flash Fiction

“Is that your dog?” the woman gushed. Rufus had worked his magic, drawing the stranger into his swirling vortex of feverish anxiety. He was constantly recruiting strangers as therapists.

“I’m so sorry! I was just dropping off a library book. Can’t leave him alone for five minutes. Separation anxiety.”

Howling and running around in circles, Rufus was wrapped around the pole, almost strangling himself.

Yet, Rufus was a survivor. It’s not often that an Old English Sheepdog ends up at the pound.

Rufus at pound

Rufus at the pound.

Then again, I’d never heard of one called “Loopy” before.

That’s why we called him Rufus.

The Boys 2

Rufus with our original Border Collie, Zorro.

March 2, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a library. You can honor the libraries in your own experience, dream about libraries of the future or explore a community without one. Bonus points for discovering something you didn’t know your library offered.

……………..

This flash was based on our Old English Sheepdog, Rufus, who has subsequently crossed over the rainbow bridge.

Not long after we got married and moved into our own place, Geoff and I brought Zorro, a pure-bred Border Collie, home from the pound. This was before we had kids and as newlyweds, Zorro became our surrogate child. I was working 3 days a week as well as renovating our house: painting rooms, making curtains and completely overhauling the garden. Just like a much loved only child, Zorro went everywhere with us. Moreover, just like so many parents, we loved our one dog soooo much, we thought about getting another…No. 2…a friend for Zorro…a sibling!

Sound familiar?

I had already been reading the dog ads in the local paper like a desperado glued to the personals. That was how I found out about the Old English Sheepdog at the pound…Loopy.

Thrilled, I dragged Geoff up there at break neck speed before we missed out. I’d never thought about owning my own Old English Sheepdog They’re so cute!!!

Anyway, when we arrived at the pound, things with this Old English Sheepdog weren’t so good. He had severe eczema, was severely underweight and malnourished and had just been returned to the RSPCA for chasing cats. The dog was also called Loopy, which I thought was a bit inappropriate for an Old English Sheepdog. So, that name should have set off alarm bells as well. Loopy was loopy and changing his name was never going to stop that.

Obviously, this was no glowing report card and although some alarm bells went off, all I remember hearing was: “POTENTIAL”. Just sort out his skin, fatten him up and we’d have a great dog. If you have ever been duped by the words “renovator’s dream”, then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

We went home to think about it. Went back with Zorro and they got on alright and we arrived home with Rufus, the re-badged Loopy, in tow.

The next day when I went to work, we left Rufus on a running lead. Much to my horror, when I arrived home, Rufus was all but choking. He’d been walking round and round in circles and the clip had gotten caught up in his fur and he couldn’t move at all. I virtually had to perform surgery to cut him loose. Indeed, he was lucky he didn’t strangle himself.

This was just the beginning of his loopiness, or running round in circles so stressed that he looked possessed. Thunder storms were hell. We’d lock him in the house to keep him safe and then he’d run round and round our kitchen table in circles frothing at the mouth with his heart almost pounding out of his chest. We’d try to get him to sit and lie down and perhaps we should’ve looked into medication but I didn’t really think about medicating pets back then.

We knew absolutely nothing about rescue dogs. Indeed, we had not been warned that he had some really deep-seated issues and may not be suited to family life. That he wasn’t just a dog looking for a new home but was a rescue dog in the true sense of the word needing a lot of work, training and patience. We were about to start a family and in retrospect, getting a second dog wasn’t a bright idea in the first place. Then, I also developed my health/disability issues just to complicate matters further.

I know this has become “dobbing on Rufus day” but his emotional issues were just the tip of quite a deep ice berg. He’d jump up onto the kitchen bench stealing food, swallowing it plastic bag and all, no doubt doing dreadful damage to his stomach. Also, because his jaw didn’t quite meet, he’d end up slobbering and then shake his head and goop would fly across the room, splatting on the wall. Charming!! He also tried biting Geoff a few times…not good!

The two dogs accommodated each other better than Bilbo and Lady did at first. However, I couldn’t help feeling that Zorro was thinking: “What the heck have you done?” They were like the original Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple. Zorro was always neat and he almost looked like he was in a three-piece suit with his black and white fur. Rufus was a scruffy, dribbling rogue anarchist. Even at the beach, he took off after a sea gull and ran a couple of kilometres away in seconds. He seemed totally beyond management.

We are not dog rescue types and we had two kids during that time. It definitely wasn’t an easy time and I was also coming down with a debilitating Auto-Immune disease which was eating away my muscles.Under such grueling circumstances, why did we battle on with such a challenging dog when we could have walked away? Sent him back.

I don’t know. Being an eternal optimist, perhaps I kept hoping our efforts would work. Also, once we’d brought Rufus home and made him part of our family, we couldn’t send him back. That it didn’t matter whether a family member was human or canine. We couldn’t give up on him. Throw him out. After all, given his issues, it would be difficult for the RSPCA to re-home him. I couldn’t just lead him to the slaughterhouse.

Perhaps, if we’d known a suitable home for him, it would’ve been different but I certainly didn’t want to be him killed. We loved him. Perhaps not warts and all but despite all his issues, he was a fabulous dog!!

He was an extremely loving, affectionate dog with an exuberance and enthusiasm matching his anxiety…a tension between yin and yang.

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Mister & Rufus

The children adored Rufus and would climb all over him like a horse. He was beautiful with them..even when they pulled his fur.

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Who wouldn’t love Rufus?!! He was adorable!

He also had huge chocolate brown eyes and would look at you with such love and adoration. You were his world and you could throw your arms around him and he was so hugable.

We loved Rufus.

Then, one morning, we woke up and Rufus was lying on the back deck. He didn’t move. Didn’t respond when I called him. Rufus had passed away, crossing over the rainbow bridge.

A few days later, we welcomed Bilbo into our family. Being a pup, he was obviously much smaller than Rufus and our 2 year old son was quite upset. Wanted a big dog.

Bilbo grew up.

By the way, we have subsequently adopted Lady as a two year old dog. That adoption has gone really well.

What we have probably learned from our experience with Rufus is the importance of carefully matching dogs and humans. Not everyone is positioned to take on a rescue dog and people who are buying puppies also need to make sure they can handle the adult dog. Dogs really love their humans and it’s not fair to keep re-homing them. They’re a lifelong commitment.

Inevitably, thinking about how to respond to troubled or “broken” dogs, raises the whole question of people. If we send a dog back to the pound due to mental health and behavioural issues, what is that saying about people experiencing these challenges. That’s been front of mind while I’ve been writing this. This is, of course, a very complex issue but I have to believe that while love alone may not be enough to pull someone through, it certainly goes a long way. Yet, loving someone who is struggling, isn’t always easy or straightforward but we have to persevere. We also have to have faith and believe in ourselves as we struggle as well. Life and people are incredibly complex and diverse. Not something you can neatly sum up in a few words.

Somehow, my 99 word flash fiction has expanded into a psychological journey. One which I need to shut down at this point so I can get to bed.

Have you ever had a struggling rescue pet and how did it go?

xx Rowena

 

Sydney’s Lindt Cafe Siege…12 Months On.

As I gingerly entered Sydney’s Lindt Cafe yesterday, nobody handed me a bravery award, or even acknowledged the deeply troubled significance of my visit. That I wasn’t there for chocolate or even coffee.

A year after Sydney’s horrific terrorist siege in the Lindt Cafe at the heart of Martin Place, I was there to pay my respects.

Like so many, I had been glued to the TV screen during the siege. I’d broken my foot the day before. Immobilised and in pain, I vicariously experienced the horror, the not knowing and witnessed those gunshots which brought the siege to an end with three deaths and a blinding flash of light.

You don’t have to be there anymore to experience a sense of such trauma. Even if you have only half a heart, watching such trauma on TV, absorbing the aftermath of personal stories and being walked in their shoes, are enough.

As I said, you don’t need to be there.

Yet, for those that were, how do you ever move forward and yet they have no choice. Life goes on. It doesn’t stop. Pause. Hold its breath. It just keeps going and like running late for the train, you just have to get onboard.

I haven’t vowed never to frequent the Lindt Cafe but I still stand by what I said last year, with such a plethora of choice, I’d rather go some place else. Somewhere I can smile, laugh relax, write without being pursued by dark shadows.

As I said, I was far from being comfortable being in the Lindt Cafe. I could feel the gunshots going off and yet I couldn’t smell gunpowder.

All I could smell was chocolate. That intoxicating smell of chocolate and yes, that smell was very particular. It was Lindt chocolate. I was absolutely divine, heavenly and I can’t believe I resisted it all. However, it was such a hot day and I wasn’t going straight home so I didn’t even buy a drop. Even resisted all those gold Lindt teddy bears…two for $10.00!

When you enter the Lindt Cafe, there’s the chocolate shop on your left and you have to swing around to your right, to enter the cafe.

That was all fine. Didn’t affect me at all.

However, seeing the staff wearing the very same dark chocolate-coloured aprons which had been worn by the hostages,  triggered an awful sense of terror. The simple aprons made me feel ill.

It’s not surprisingly really. After all, the main images of the siege featured terrified Lindt employees wearing these very same aprons, escaping from the terrorist and running for their lives. There was one girl in particular. The horror etched into her face. She was running for her life… a survivor escaping a war zone.

You don’t forget that.

At least, I don’t.

I left without buying anything and would’ve liked to light a candle for Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson who were killed during the siege. I didn’t see anywhere I could do that but I did stop at a memorial out the front.

Yet, what can you say?

More and more I am finding words are so inadequate and like so many at Christmas time, I have no spare cash.

I walked out of the cafe and back into Martin Place.

heartman 24.6.2010

“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

Not unsurprisingly, being around lunchtime, Martin Place was humming. It is the hub of Sydney’s CBD. Of course, the Christmas Tree was up and I was conscious that for a second Christmas, Katrina Dawson’s kids didn’t have their Mum. As a chronically ill Mum with two young kids, I feel that. We’ve had a few Christmases where my life was hanging in the balance and have had our own horror. Of course, I’m going to be mindful of those experiencing what I’ve feared with all that I am.

Yet, despite this churning vortex of intense, grueling emotion, I was strangely comforted by a classical guitarist performing in Martin Place. I noticed him a couple of blocks away and somehow the notes hooked into my heart. Like the children being lured by the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I felt myself being irresistibly drawn towards his melodious song. Quite often, I find myself drawn towards more melancholy music, but this was so upbeat, happy and just what the heart doctor ordered.

joseph

An incredible CD of classical guitar to lift up your soul.

Thank you Joseph Zarb! You can hear him  too at http://www.jose.net.au

Still feeling reflective, there was now a spring in my step.

Music helps the heart to heal and to hope.

Dancing_Man,_Australia,_end_of_World_War_II

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

It is an intriguing coincidence that one of Sydney’s most iconic historical photographs, The Dancing Man, was taken virtually outside where the Lindt Cafe stands today. This photo captured the jubiliant excitement of the end of World War II. It doesn’t deny it’s horror but it does celebrate a better future…peace!

Jean Julien Peace for Paris

Jean Julien “Peace for Paris”

Since the horror of the Lindt Siege, there have been two major terrorist attacks on Paris and there’s a heightened level of vigilance and dare I say, fear.

However, that doesn’t mean we resign ourselves to the status quo. Stop fighting for freedom and that ultimate goal, which, even though it might sound rather cheesy and corny…world peace.

As John Lennon said: “Give peace a chance”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZC7sqImaM

give peace a chance-yoko ono-lennon

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

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There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

The Struggle to Heal: the broken foot and the Sydney Siege.

Have you ever considered the different way we respond to physical injuries versus psychological trauma? There’s absolutely no stigma going to a physiotherapist to treat your physical injuries, whereas admitting to seeing a psychologist could well open a whole can of worms.

Quite a double-standard, isn’t it?

It’s now almost been two months since the horrific terrorist siege gripped Sydney as a gunman held 18 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place at the heart of Sydney’s CBD. While the hostages each have their own story, I am addressing the ripple effect which spread beyond the Lindt Cafe and held Sydney in its grip and is still rippling in the shadows. As evidenced by the thousands of floral tributes which overflowed through Martin Place and a Facebook request to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids spread; many, many people were deeply moved and grief-stricken over what happened. We truly and genuinely cared. This concern is naturally mixed with grief, fear and compassionate empathy and there’s naturally a need for psychological healing here too. There has been such grief for the Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson…two courageous heroes…strangers we’d never met before.

Flowers Martin Place

Flowers Martin Place

The night before the siege, I broke my foot and I felt this coincidence provided an opportunity to explore the differences between physical and psychological healing. The hostages were interviewed at length on TV last night and they each have their story. Naturally, I am very mindful of their trauma and send them my love and prayers. However, I’m looking further afield at how Sydney is responding to its psychological wounds. Are we undergoing treatment?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I returned to Martin Place for the first time since the siege last week on my way home from a series of medical appointments. I usually go off on a bit of a detour on the way home and quite intentionally don’t declare my whereabouts. This is Mummy’s secret escape…an absolute indulgence. I usually end up in a gorgeously quirky vegan cafe in Sydney’s Surry Hills. There’s a portrait of “The Vegan Mary” at the entrance and they make the most scrumptiously divine Coconut Chai Lattes. They’re like drinking a coconut cloud.

However, this time I decided to go to Martin Place and pay my respects to the siege victims and survivors. I didn’t know what to expect. I naturally thought I’d get emotional when I reached the Lindt Cafe but what surprised me was the creepy uneasiness I felt even walking through Martin Place. Quite out of character, I wondered whether I should report in and call home. Let my husband know where I was just in case. After all, nobody knew I was anywhere near the city. I was meant to be on the train heading home, in the absolute opposite direction. If something happened, no one would know I was there. Not that anything was going to happen. After all, lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice. That said, we didn’t expect it to strike the first time either. Now, we’ve woken up. Sydney is on alert. Not red alert but we’re certainly no longer asleep.

You see, despite the superficial rhetoric that Sydney is back to normal, things have changed. Something has shattered and the pieces don’t quite fit back together like they used to. Everything is just ever so slightly disjointed, out of kilter. Although we’re getting on with it, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel or haven’t been changed. It’s only early days and it really does take time for any kind of healing…physical or psychological.

As I mentioned, I broke my foot the night before the terrorist siege. Therefore, the progress on the foot front provides a good platform to discuss how Sydney is psychologically recovering from the siege versus the physical healing of the foot. I should also mention that I live with a severe life threatening auto-immune disease and been through a bit of trauma myself…especially where my kids are concerned.

While I did play my violin in the Christmas concert straight after breaking my foot and I also staggered into school the next day despite excruciating pain to watch the kids perform in the end of year talent show, that all stopped after the x-ray. Once I knew it was broken, it was sentenced to 6 weeks in the protective boot and I was also prescribed Panadeine Forte and had to rest it. The kids were incredibly caring giving me a massage and doing everything for me…at least for a few days!! I’ve been severely ill before and the kids have never given me the red carpet treatment rolled out for the broken foot. That really intrigued me.

Six weeks later, I’m starting to ease out of the boot and started physio. Of course, she’s not sending me straight back out there cold turkey running along cracked and broken footpaths wearing my high heels. No, she’s given me a couple of very simple, basic exercises, which require many, many repetitions. These are aimed at retraining the nerve endings in my ankle to stop it from flipping over. This retraining process sounds very similar to the neuroplasticity in the brain. Hmm…I guess that means I have a brain in my foot.

While nobody’s been pressuring me to get over my broken foot, I do feel that Sydney is being pushed and expected to recover from the siege quickly. While it is important to reclaim our city and not let terrorism cramp our style, this can also be a gradual process. We are allowed to inch our way back and not just jump in the deep end when we’re not ready. It’s also perfectly okay to get professional psychological advice and support just like I’ve had physio to help my foot recover…even if you weren’t one of the hostages and perhaps don’t even work near Martin Place.

Boys Don't Cry.

Boys Don’t Cry.

I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try and laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
‘Cause boys don’t cry
Boys don’t cry

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

 

 

 

This psychological pressure to simply get over it is exemplified by these no doubt well-intentioned words from our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual”….

“Our thoughts and prayers must go out to the individuals caught up in this. I can think of nothing more distressing or terrifying.”[1]

Does anybody else see the contradiction? How could we simply go about our business as usual when 18 people were being hostage by a seeming terrorist? While people have been sympathetic and understanding about how long it takes a broken foot to heal, there is quite a double-standard when it comes to psychological trauma and scars. There’s this expectation that psychological wounds should heal quickly…almost like clicking your fingers…especially when you were indirectly affected. However, it seems quite logical to me that if you go through a dreadful, traumatic ordeal that you would have some kind of lasting reaction. Moreover, this reaction deserves (at the very least) the same kind of treatment, respect and TLC that my broken foot has received. This can include learning techniques and skills from a trained psychologist just like I’m getting exercises for my foot from the physio. After all, if you have a significant injury of any sort, it requires treatment.

Whether your wounds are psychological or physical, professional advice can boost the healing process. It makes good sense.

To make sense of the psychological kickback from the siege, we need to return to 15-16th December without injecting hindsight. While it is easy in retrospect to minimise the threat this lone wolf gunman posed, he had staged his campaign with maximum impact. Firstly, he chose the prominent Lindt Cafe opposite the Channel 7 TV Studios in Martin Place for maximum coverage. Then, he bluffed his way through the siege claiming his backpack was a bomb and that other “brothers” had bombs in other strategic locations in Sydney’s CBD. This threat had to be taken seriously and brought Sydney’s CBD to a grinding halt. The pre-Christmas rush vanished leaving an eerie ghost town behind. The Opera House and Cahill Expressway had been evacuated and Martin Place Train Station was closed. This was perceived as a potentially serious terrorist attack on Sydney and was dealt with accordingly. Thank goodness, it wasn’t but we still went through “the motions”.

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Since then, events in Paris have also dwarfed what happened here. However, Sydney could have been a different story. We can not minimise what people have been through because something even worse happened somewhere else. Once again, that is the power of hindsight… something anybody who lived through the siege, didn’t have at the time.

As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the siege has rippled far beyond the hostages and their families. TV and other forms of media bring events right into our lounge rooms in vivid technicolour, drawing us in. We are human beings, not robots, so of course we have emotions, feelings…a response!!! Moreover, although Sydney is a big city, it still has an intimacy about it. Somebody always seems to know someone involved. As it turns out, I used to work closely with one of the Sydney hostages many years ago. I must admit I felt quite shattered hearing her talk about the intense trauma she endured on TV last night…especially when we were so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all those years ago. That was my first full-time job.

There are also those people who work in or near Martin Place and those who frequent the Lindt Cafe but through some almost freakish twist of fate, they weren’t there that morning. They slept in. Missed the bus or were sick. Started a diet and swore off chocolate. Just like the siege survivors are asking, “why me?”, they could well be thinking: “It could have, or even should have, been me.” That intense sense of identification, another form of survivor’s guilt, deserves compassion just as much as my foot and yet these walking wounded have no walking sticks or boots to communicate their angst. Their own grief and anxiety seems hard to understand and perhaps even self-indulgent, attention seeking. They could well have a whole Pandora’s Box of questions, emotions and fears even though they were nowhere near the place. They also deserve hugs, understanding and compassion.

The whole question of the future of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place confronts these psychological scars head on. Personally, I can’t understand how they could ever re-open it at that location but others have called for it to re-open and there will be a touching memorial inside. I know the chances of a repeat of the siege must be statistically unlikely but with all of Sydney open for coffee, I’d rather be gentle with my soul and go somewhere else. I don’t need to go through that emotional stress…especially when I’ve never been to the Lindt Cafe before.

I’d much rather head back for that heavenly Coconut Chai latte in Surry Hills and think about something else…like a buying a box of Lindt chocolates at the supermarket.

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that just as people may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivors can also experience post-traumatic growth. I have experienced both. It would be an intriguing process if only it didn’t hurt so much!!

[1]The Australian Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/p/national/islamic_state_linked_terror_grips_Ck62N1NvnYuygeXu1rfXbI

 

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

 

 

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Terror in Australis: the Siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Today, it’s 9 days before Christmas and our Christmas tree is standing in a plastic bucket of water almost naked awaiting decorations. We’ve had a very busy weekend with our daughter’s dance concert and I played my violin at the school Christmas carols and we also had to get the decorations out of storage.Oh yes, our son and I made our Christmas cake as well. To be honest, we’ve almost been too busy for Christmas!

Tonight was going to be the night. Being a bit of a flamboyant type, I usually like to turn decorating the Christmas tree into something of a ceremony with some Christmas cake, mince pies while the sounds of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echo throughout the house. Our decorations are an eclectic mix accumulated over the years and include snowmen and coloured-in Christmas stencils the kids have done over the years.

Martin Place at Night

Martin Place at Night

However, how can we possibly dress our Christmas tree tonight while hostages are still being held captive in a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place? They’ve now been held captive for over 11 hours.  We all know the impatience of being stuck in a queue for more than 5 minutes and the fear of being trapped in a lift for any length of time and none of these horrors even comes close to the psychological and emotional trauma of being held captive by a gunman and it’s pretty safe to assume that someone who would take people hostage in the first place might not be the most stable of characters.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

However, the tide stops for no one and so we went ahead with decorating the tree although instead of the usual Christmas cheer, we were watching the rolling news coverage instead. So much for Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas cheer but there are bigger things at stake.

Rather than just rehashing what’s already being rehashed and rehashed in the media, I won’ t go into details here. I would recommend going to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website at: http://www.smh.com.au/

However, as you might not have heard of Martin Place, I thought I’d provide something of a back story. After all, you would think that the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House would be more likely choices for a siege but once you look around Martin Place a bit, the thinking becomes clearer.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Martin Place was officially opened in September 1892 and was named after the Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, a former New South Wales Attorney-General and Premier. Moore Street (between Pitt and Castlereagh streets) was widened and renamed Martin Place in 1921.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

Celebration in Martin Place: This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place where this exuberant gentleman is celebrating  the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

The Dictionary of Sydney writes:

“Martin Place has been called ‘the heart of the city’, and it was added to the Australian Heritage Commission’s list in 1989. It is the site of the Cenotaph, built in 1927, and some of Sydney’s finest buildings front it, including the GPO, two Commonwealth Bank buildings, Challis House, the Australasia Bank head office, the Colonial Mutual Life building and the APA building. Martin Place was also the site of the spectacular but now demolished Hotel Australia and the Rural Bank head office. It is home to the head offices of the Reserve Bank and a number of other banks.

Martin Place provides both a ceremonial and recreational focus for the city. Because the GPO and its associated telegraph office was originally the place where news first broke – the shipping news – people have long gathered in front of the building at times of national significance. They flocked there at the ending of wars, which was why this location was chosen for the Cenotaph, which has always been a more significant gathering point than the main war memorial in Hyde Park. The famous photograph of the ‘dancing man’ has cemented this place in the story of the ending of World War II. Today, Anzac Day and other commemorative services are held at the Cenotaph in lower Martin Place, which is also the site for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas tree. Giant screens, first erected to allow Sydneysiders to view events from the Olympic Games in 2000, are now a regular feature of the Sydney Festival, while political demonstrations in Martin Place are a constant part of the ebb and flow of the city’s life. In 2008 it filled with people to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech making an apology to Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations.”

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/martin_place

ANZAC Parade through Martin Place 1930

ANZAC Day Parade through Martin Place 1930

Personally,  I think of Martin Place as a quiet place of reflection where you can take a bit of  time out from work while eating takeaway or perhaps a sandwich and there’s always a large contingent of pigeons.Come rush hour, there’s also the rush and bustle and Martin Place transforms into a sea of rapidly moving legs. It’s a great place to go people watching. Take photos and feel completely immersed in Sydney.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer's Festival last year.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year.

Quite aside from its Martin Place location, the siege is in the luxurious Lindt Cafe. I’ve never actually been there myself but friends have. It’s the sort of place you go for that special indulgence and in so many instances, sharing the chocolate you love with the person you love. Lindt chocolate is absolutely divine and to be perfectly honest, many of us would have fantasized about being accidentally locked in Lindtland with all that chocolate. Obviously those chocoholic fantasies are a very different scenerario to what’s now going on at the Lindt Cafe. One minute, the hostages were in heaven, the next minute they were in hell.

This siege is like having a bullet shot into Australia’s heart and it hurts. It bewilders. We can’t understand why something this awful is happening here. Our innocence, our naivety perhaps, that these things might happen overseas but do not happen here, has been shattered. Nowhere is safe.

Traditionally, Australia has been geographically isolated from “trouble”. World War I never reached our shores and while the Japanese dropped bombs around the Australian coast notably in Sydney Harbour and Darwin, the war was largely waged on foreign soil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, performers have all lamented this isolation and have often fled our shores either by necessity or design. We were something of a backwater but the world has shrunk and we can no longer depend on this isolation. We are now part of the world wide web. We can’t turn back..whether we want to or not.

It is now more than 12 hours since the siege began and it’s hard to believe that there is no end in sight.

It is shuddering to think about what the hostages are going through…as well as their family and friends. I know that anguish of living in suspended animation and the thought of being taken away from those I love and who love me…even though I’ve never been in a hostage situation. That is anguish and we’ve seen a few of the hostages who escaped on TV and their terror is chilling.

We pray for the peaceful resolution and for the safe release of the hostages and for healing from this anguish.

I am also praying about the repercussions of this event. People are angry, scared. We’ve had our very way of life threatened and it’s only natural to fight back and defend you and yours as well as your beliefs. We do not want terrorism or violence of any sort in our country and while we do need to defend our country from internal and external attack, we also need to nurture a culture of love and acceptance where people of all  cultures and creeds feel at home. That said, extremism of any sort needs to be dealt with strongly so we can continue living in a free and just people.

I am hoping to wake up in the morning and hear that the siege is over. That it has ended well. My goodness. I am now heading off to sleep in my own bed while the hostages and sleeping or more likely spending the night with a gun point at them. Reminds me not to take things for granted and to be thankful, even though I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.

I send them, their family and friends my love.

xx Rowena