I sit here confused as to who I am.
Willy Wonka tells me to, ‘hold my breath, close my eyes and count to three’. When I open them, for a moment I see the real me. I believe in magic, freedom, love and all things natural. The bush, the sea, the mountains and the desert. I believe in miracles, in smiles from a stranger, in the warmth of a touch, in all things that support me. I believe in giving. I feel whole when I see people enjoying food that I have prepared with intention. I also feel this when I give love to an animal, especially to those that do not always have the privilege of someone’s time to just be with them, sit with them, walk with them, talk with them.
As I get older and healthier with no more issues around dying to face, I feel the road ahead is more daunting than ever. I have a lovely home with a sustainable mortgage, no other debts other than a small credit card, am surrounded by a loving community, have a supportive family, the epitome of a loving husband by my side and live in a beautiful part of the world but in the last 6 months my world has suddenly been turned upside down. Why now after all these years of coping relatively well with living a life unknown waiting for a kidney transplant to having then experienced the ultimate gift from a stranger to have a second chance at it all, felt so incredibly charmed and energised that I became somewhat of a career person and fulfilled so many personal goals and achievements, why now do I feel so empty?
The definition of ‘barren’ in the dictionary is something or someone who is not productive or fruitful, or a place with few or no plants. This term actually relates to being ‘infertile’ but there is no term to simply describe a woman who has no child except ‘childless’. I’m not sure if I truly relate to my friends with kids. As I sit around and try and join in with their conversations I sometimes joke, ‘Oh yes, my dog Karri does the same thing.’, but it’s difficult and sometimes boring but I smile and try my best to fit in. My feelings have nothing to do with being left out, simply that my life took a different road. I find joy in hearing about my friends and families kids, I adore them all but the fact is I will never bear my own children.
I never doubted I would find love. If it’s one thing I have always regarded highly, it is myself. After living and surviving an illness such as mine my WHOLE entire life, self doubt never really crosses my mind. For this gift I am eternally grateful and actually have and will continue to search for the meaning of my resilience until the day I die. I owe self love to why I am here. Yes science played a part, but it was the practice of owing it to myself to allow these practitioners, alternative and otherwise to help me that ultimately saved my life. I stand proud of this achievement so I always knew I had this kind of love to give to another. The kind that stands for trust, instinct and pure joy. I am truly grateful for this man for simply knowing he accepted all of me. No, it’s not always easy but when it’s not, I know we can talk, yell, swear and simply be honest because life is not easy. No judgement. We are all in this together.
In May I lost my Uncle Sam to cancer. I went through this journey mostly through my cousins hearing of their struggles living with a dying father. I visited him when I could but not so often as you have your own life and struggles to bear but he was never far from my thoughts and my parents filled me in to where he was at week by week. Two months to the day he died, I lost a second Uncle. My dear Uncle Tony. He was too young to die. He was 66 and left behind four children, the eldest just turning 40. He died within a few hours of feeling unwell. With only a history of diabetes, his fate was to die suddenly of a heart attack. Our world as a family unit, at that moment, fell apart.
In a way, I still does not seem real. His immediate family understandably, cannot move on. We grew up in a close knit Italian family. Four brothers in partnership, my dad being the eldest. My siblings and my cousins were bonded by our families owning a huge family business where we got to spend most days and nights together, all throughout our childhood. I have the fondest memories of never ever feeling alone. We had each other while our parents worked tirelessly to provide for our future. Cracks started to form when the matriarch of the family, my grandmother, passed away, also of a heart attack. I was 18 and around that same time I went into acute renal failure and started dialysis. The business folded, the brothers went their separate ways and that bond we had as kids, for some of us, drifted away as we turned into adults.
I feel lost. It’s hard to move forward from grief, especially when people so close to you are suffering so much more than you. They know I am here for them. I write to them, speak to them and hope that one thing I say, might ease their pain, even just for a moment. I came close to death, too close but it shames me to say, I was not scared. It was only when I was at deaths door did I get a true sense of P.E.A.C.E. The kind that fills you with a warmth I cannot describe, a sense of serenity that stimulates every cell in your entire body. It scares me to admit to how beautiful it felt to surrender. I clearly wasn’t ready then and I know I’m not ready now but how do I live in this world as a healthy person who now has a future when I have never really lived a life where a future existed?
The last two years I became the store manager and buyer of a very successful shoe store in Margaret River. It was a dream job for me. I had been with the company for four years prior whom supported me through my illness, even when I had to take months off at a time to recover from getting my old transplant removed to receiving my new one. Managing and buying used to be different roles but when changes occurred, it became a combined role. For the first year I did this over four days a week and in this last year, I did this three days a week with the management side being shared by my previous boss who’d had come back from maternity leave one day a week. As much as this helped keep up with back office duties, the stakes became higher from the buying perspective. The responsibility to fill a store with high end, mostly European made shoes to cater for specific styles, age groups, with a focus on comfort ,quality and improve from the pervious season, straight after the deaths of my Uncles left me burnt out. It was not the job. I loved the job but I had nothing left to give myself after months of trying to be the strong person at home and at work.
After ignoring the signs of stress, anxiety and depression, my body started to tell me something was wrong. I visited my doctor and he asked if I thought I might be stressed. What is stress? Living life attached to a machine….. having a fluid restriction of 700mls a day…. having a 30cm tube sticking out of my gut with the daily risk of infection….not knowing if I would ever get a transplant……not knowing if I would die waiting……? If I handled all of that, why the hell wasn’t I handling my job or my life? So here I am today. After months of feeling sad and confused, I took the plunge and have been granted three months off work. I am not going anywhere. I am simply going to spend time with myself and figure out who I am now I have a future.
This is the second week of my three months off. Last week it kind of felt good. The weather was good so I got in some beach time, our BNB was busy, I started an online program to get me to focus on using my kidney story for the greater good and my little recycle clothes venture which I’ve kept on the side line for four years was finally picking up where I could see potential in the possibly replacing income that I’ve lost with dropping my real job. But today I feel sad and I feel stressed. I feel that I’m not doing enough. I sit here and write feeling guilty for not being there for others. Who am I if I don’t have a purpose…..a job….an illness….giving love to an animal in need….grieving with my family…looking after a child?
The time has come where I need to stop and be with me. I need to acknowledge my past, my achievements thus far and understand it’s ok to feel confused about the future. The real issue for me is that I know there is more. For what I went through has shown me a higher state of being, feeling and living. I need to find that love again and use it in my daily life. If my calling is truly to make a difference for others, as I honestly believe I can, then I need to make a difference for myself, right now. How can I get through today that will help me get through tomorrow? It’s hard for me to stop because it brings back so many memories when I was forced to. If freedom is what we all desire, how can we find peace amongst so much suffering?
I was one of those people once. I once suffered tremendously. I was saved by a stranger who reached out her hand and I humbly took it. The journey has been a long one and now I face the challenges of someone that has a future, just like you. This is all new to me and scary as hell. I just want to reach out my hand too but maybe for now I need to place it on my heart and have a rest. I have the time now. I don’t need to rush. I am here and I am finally safe.