drop its magical cloak of light around
your heart, soul and body
to illuminate your greatness –
greatness because you are unique
with your own starsong embedded in
the encrypted title deeds of your country,
your you, your essence.
I have, unfortunately, been absent for some while due to a rather virulent bug which hit me at the New Year, not the best way to start off 2016! For the past three weeks I’ve had a dreadful headache, severe muscle pains, stomach pains and bronchitis, the sickest I’ve been in my whole life. Luckily I’m not too bad now although others who’ve had the bug have taken up to eight weeks to get over it.
In that time of enforced rest, however, I watched Series 1 & 2 of “Art + Soul”, about Aboriginal art with Hetti Perkins a leading curator of Aboriginal art. The programme looks at all aspects of Aboriginal art from past to present. I am particularly fascinated by the desert art and dot paintings. These represent what Ms Perkins called: “Encrypted Title Deeds to Country”, as Aboriginal artists represent their Country in the paintings and sing Country into their art as they create their images.
Thinking of this, it made me think of how we ourselves incarnate on Earth. If we view our cosmic soul song as encrypted title deeds to our own Country, to our own unique creation like no-one else, we might get a better understanding of who we are, our unique gifts and how we express our own individual spirit voice through the way we live, create and forge our own way in life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to explain some of my own astrological chart so that you can see how my own “encrypted title deeds” operate in my own life. I was born with the Sun in Libra and my Ascendant also in Libra. The Ascendant is the constellation on the horizon as you’re born, the first energies you inhale and – for me – the energetic pathway to expressing your sun sign. So for me, I double up on Libra and it’s how I express myself in life.
I always strive to be pleasant and peaceable. But I am a staunch advocate of social justice, hate injustice, am pretty much always on the side of the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, working people and the unemployed. You could say it’s in my DNA! Added to this, I can see both sides of a situation or a person’s story and it drives my husband around the twist. He’ll make a comment and I respond, quite unconsciously: “Yes, but think of the other side, there are always two perspectives”. And he’ll rant: “There you are, off on your Libran thing again!”. Luckily we can both laugh but this ability to see both sides is intrinsic in me.
I love art, beauty, good clothes, flash jewellery and hate vulgarity, greed, bad taste (except for bling, of course!) and coarseness. I never find cruel or crude jokes funny and I pretty much never say anything cruel or wounding to someone because it offends my sense of propriety and also the awareness that words can hurt and have long-lasting consequences. I am lousy at standing up for myself although recently I’ve decided I’m not going to tolerate rudeness and hurtful comments in future.
Now if you look at my husband’s natal chart, he has his sun in Leo and his Ascendant in Aries. He is passionate, kind, brutally honest, totally without tact, very fiery, a born leader, impatient, intolerant and is always on the move. The idea of sitting at a computer appalls him, but he had a grand time as a dogman (the guy who directs cranes) on high-rise building sites where he could run around all day, taking charge of lots of stuff and being active. He once suggested he’d take me to the very top of a high-rise building (ie, walking up heaps of steps as it was unfinished and lifts didn’t reach the top yet) so I could see the views across Perth, Western Australia, and over to Rottnest Island, about five miles distant from the city. He thought he was offering me a grand treat. I thought he was offering me a complete nightmare! My husband was a union organiser, health and safety officer and shop steward – he always stood on the side of workers and was respected for his honest dealings.
I’m not saying it’s been easy over the years. We have had to work to accommodate each other as we have quite different energies and interests – I’m into dreams, crystals, psychic stuff, Tarot, arty-farty, abstract art and the peace movement. We both have the same ideals about social justice – luckily! I loathe conflict but my husband is happy to stand up to bullies. I call him my Rottweiler because I’ll get him to deal with difficult situations while I lurk in the background. My husband is into gardening, model railways, army history (he was in the British Army), landscape and portrait art, Scottish and Celtic music, do-it-yourself and home renovation. I will work into a new home and think it’s okay. Bryan will walk into a new home, note all the bits and pieces that need repairing/straightening/sort out and get on with it. We worked together once, for 30 minutes, on a piece of home renovation until we had an almighty row and I told him to stuff his renovation where the sun don’t shine and told him never again (which I’ve stuck to). My husband is a sergeant-major given half a chance, but it’s been good for me to overcome my peaceable nature and stand up to him. And it’s been good for him to have someone stand up to him and shout back because he naturally takes charge.
We both had bullies as fathers but how we reacted differed greatly. I went quiet as a kid, kept my head down, strove for approval and was incredibly well-behaved. My husband, on the other hand, played up, got into trouble wherever his army family ended up, stood up to his father and refused to knuckle under. But, we both wanted our fathers’ approval and we never got it.
In my next post, I want to talk about my Libran Sun being in the Twelfth House, and Neptune being in the First House, as they both incline me to be interested in psychic matters, to be hyper-sensitive, to sense people’s emotions and to be flitting off with the fairies, given half a chance.
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. – Vincent van Gogh
(If you’re interested in astrology, I’d like to recommend two reports by Liz Greene, a well-known astrologer, at Astrodienst. One is the Psychological Horoscope and the second is Career and Vocation. Astrodienst has software which somehow knocks up all the ingredients of your birth sign, date of birth and time of birth into reports which make you feel someone’s seen deep inside of you and brought all your secrets and characteristics into the light of day. They aren’t dirt cheap but they’re a great investment. In addition, The Astrological Houses, by Howard Sasportas, is easy to read and makes astrological understanding of your own natal chart pretty simple to understand.)
If you want facts, figures, all sorts of odd bits and pieces of knowledge, recommendations about books to read, technie internet stuff – I’m you’re girl.
But if you want practical stuff done, plants grown, letters mailed in the post, housework up to date and no dust – I’m sorry, I’ll pass and you’ll have to find someone else for that.
In astrological terms I have 10 air signs, 4 water signs, 2 fire signs and no earth. Which explains the airhead part of me and the total bollocks at practical stuff part of me.
I was a nerd/geek before the terms was invented. I used to love going to the Ramsgate library where I started off in the children’s section before gravitating at a later age to the adult section. I adored the smell of books when you walked into the library, I’d inhale that scent as if it was created by Dior.
At the primary school Catholic Convent I was the Great Bright Hope of passing the 11+ exam and going to grammar school or to the adult convent. Since I hated the convent with a passion, the local grammar school, Clarendon House, was a no brainer for me.
I loved books, reading, learning, studying, absorbing facts and figures and foreign languages. I was always first or among the top three at primary and grammar school. And I was very lucky to attend an all-girls grammar school where academic achievement was encouraged and praised. I flourished right through to my Advanced Level GCE’s. University was a lot tougher as I was suddenly mixing with clever and very clever students but I held my own.
So my life until I graduated from University with a 2:1 Joint Honours in French, German, French & German translating & interpreting, and German and French politics and economics was nose to the grindstone and head stuck in a book. It was a hell of a shock to exit the academic atmosphere at the age of twenty-three and suddenly find a real world existed outside of the halls of learning.
It never occurred to me to question how I function until I came into contact with astrology. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m really rather partial to this very elegant system of understanding yourself and others. It makes sense of how we manifest ourselves on earth – we are unique individuals, cast from the stars, we bring the stars down into our lives and breathe their energies out into the way we progress upon our paths on this lovely planet of ours.
Most people look at astrology as the sun signs published in daily newspapers, but it’s a lot more complex. I am not going into all the intricacies because you can explore that yourself if you’re interested. I want to offer some simple comments from my own experience which, perhaps, might prompt you to do some of your own exploring of astrology and its role in explaining yourself and your own life.
I also want to stress that my interpretation of astrology is my very own, probably idiosyncratic, so to any astrologers who might happen to read this and differ from my own views – please don’t get your knickers in a twist, this is how it works for me so this is how I’m going to explain it.
Going back to nerdy me, I have written all my life. I wrote stories back in primary school. I wrote stories in grammar school. I wrote stories at University. I have written stories in the good, bad and indifferent times of my life. It’s been the bane of my life that people call me a know-all but it’s because I absorb facts, figures and information, store them in my brain and can regurgitate that information really, really easily.
And I cannot not write.
Yet I took this gift for granted. It was so natural to me, I simply didn’t realise that writing isn’t easy for lots of other people. But when I started learning a bit about astrology, I got to understand myself a whole heap more, and also to understand my husband.
I have posted below a general overview of the houses in astrology, plus my own natal chart. In his book, The Astrological Houses, Howard Sasportas provides a brief, insightful summary of how astrology works: “the planets show what is happening, the signs how it is happening, and the houses where it is happening.”
For me, the great majority of planets are bunched in air signs with three connecting into what is called a Grand Trine, and this Grand Trine compels me to communicate. I’m a gabster. I talk, I write, I communicate because it’s what the stars are offering via my own little miracle on earth.
I’m not special. We are all of us miracles on earth, which is what makes life on this planet so interesting. If you have a look at my husband’s astrological profile, he has 9 fire signs, 3 earth, 3 water and 1 air sign. He is on the go all the time, energetic, impatient, fires up very quickly but then it’s all over. He’s a leader, a soldier (was in the British Army), a union organiser, loved working on high-rise building sites and is now retired, whereupon he fixes up our houses and creates wonderful gardens.
We are in a sense opposites, but complementary opposites. If you look at my chart, you’ll see that my Ascendant, the constellation which is on the horizon when you’re born and whose energies you first inhale, is Libra. My husband’s Ascendant is Aries, absolutely opposite. So we actually complement each other – I provide the patience, the nerdy, technological know-how, while my husband provides the practicality I lack. My family practised emotional lock-down, so when Bryan used to fire up, I would retreat and stop speaking. Eventually I learned that I had to stand up for myself and fire up too to stand my ground, and he learned to tone down the eruptions and also apologise when he went over the top.
I have watched someone who’s a Capricorn/earth sign (stubborn, practical, good with money) try to interact with someone who’s a Pisces/water sign (emotional, psychic, watery) with complete lack of understanding between the two. My friend is a Cancer/water and, while my husband and she get along, the idea of working closely together horrifies both of them. I have married friends who are a Capricorn and Virgo, earth signs, who are practical, tidy and good with money, which completely astounds me – it’s beyond my experience!
None of this I understood until I started dabbling in astrology.
In my next post, I’m going to look at the placements of my individual planets to illustrate what makes me tick – my interest in people; my extreme sensitivity to atmosphere and people’s energies; my psychic side; my writing about my life in order to a) get things off my chest and b) perhaps offer my experiences to help those with similar experiences. I’ll also explain why – although I love inter-acting withe people – close relations are difficult for me which coloured my family life and my participation in large groups.
I’d written some notes when the man sitting beside me picked up my journal and told me he was into graphology or the science of analysing handwriting.
“You’re not happy where you are and you’ll be leaving in a few weeks”, he said.
“I love my work,” I said vehemently, thinking he was real fraud.
And on the surface, it was true. I felt responsible in my position at the office and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I got my self-worth from being in paid work. I was only working part-time but, trust me, in that time I was a workaholic, always wanting to be the best I could.
Unfortunately, while my head told me one thing, my body told me another. Although I returned to work, things didn’t improve. As I was the only person in the office, I’d have to catch up with all the word that hadn’t been done. The pain in my shoulders and arms would return, and so did the excruciating headaches. At the same time, I created a crisis at work. I got bored doing the same old work. Story of my life, I’m afraid. Once I master something and know how things work, I lose interest. On to the next project.
At my office, however, I started angling to become a union organiser. I thought I enjoyed working with people, which is true in one sense, but what I ignored (or tried to stuff into the closet) was that every time I went out to talk to union members, I had to gear myself up to plaster a confident smile on my face and really steel myself to sally forth and spruik about union matters. What I also never realised until much later was that I subconsciously created conflict with the union president precisely because he was a man who, to my senses, was large and overbearing. Actually, he was quite pleasant. My response was because he brought up stuff to do with my father, something I never realised at the time.
And looking back, I can see that this is how I reacted to every male boss I worked under. Since it involves others, I won’t go into detail except to say that I did not take any criticism well, I was impatient with being told what to do, and really resented the fact that so many male bosses seemed to undervalue the work of their women employees.
Headaches – Behaviour Modification
I did come across a tremendously helpful course which was run by the Psychology Department of the University of Western Australia, aimed at helping people with chronic headaches learn behaviour modification to bring their headaches until control. It was an eye-opener to me. We were all quite driven people, over-achievers, and – to my amusement – I found the dentistry profession was well represented at this course as people were so uptight and nervous around dentists that dentists got uptight and deeply stressed themselves.
It was also another eye-opener in how hard it is for people to change their ways. We had to fill in cards which showed the level of headaches each day and what painkillers we had taken. I remember the course co-ordinator being quite taken aback at the number of pills I was chucking down my throat, mainly because I was self-medicating to get through each day. One of the exercises we had to do was treat ourselves to something special that week and I had decided to get my first ever massage. I had booked with a male therapist and I was very nervous about the whole procedure. He told me to undress to a level comfortable for me and I made it to bra, knickers and petticoat. These days I’m happy to strip right off, especially if I’m having a wonderful Ka Huna massage!
The massage was blissful and I continued having them, with this therapist and then another one later on. I did find that the day after the massage I’d wake with a humdinger of a headache, a truly horrendous migraine which would lay me out for half the night and half the day. I came to realise, however, that it was all the tension I was releasing with each massage. As I started working with the behaviour management techniques we were shown at the course, the headaches gradually abated, for which – even today – I remain truly grateful.
However, and again I’m not going into details to preserve the privacy of those participating in the course with me, I did notice how people simply weren’t willing to change their lives in fundamental ways to relieve the headache problem they were suffering. I was so desperate, I was willing to take on board whatever was suggested. But others made all sorts of excuses. I remember one guy boasting that he’d had lunch, as if this was an amazing occurrence. We all leaned forward to hear the delicious details, only to find him saying he’d had a ham sandwich at his office desk. Our co-ordinator looked at him, then said: “Do you service your car?” He looked puzzled but said yes. Then she asked him if he gave it petrol and oil regularly. Again he looked puzzled and said yes, but we knew where Diana was heading. She said sweetly: “Then you treat your car better than you treat yourself!”
I think it was at this time that I decided I’d throw myself into any course I was taking, regardless of how I felt about it, with the intention of working with whatever I could pick up which worked for me. When I was taking part later in an Inner Child workshop, I’d notice that when a particularly challenging session was coming up, people would fudge it and not turn up.
At this stage, I’d like to say that, if you’re attending a course and you suddenly find you are making excuses to pack it in or skip a particular section, it’s a sure sign that it’s the very thing coming up that you’re trying to avoid which you need to face up to and attend. Because sure as eggs, it’ll be challenging for you but it is likely to lead to insights or changes which are fundamental to your well-being. It may be hard, it may be challenging, but I do feel the end result is really worth-while if you’re truly committed to growing your life.
The massages and treatments I received when the RSI was first diagnosed were, now I look back, the first cracks in the ice castle I’d built up around my family history. I used to get a massage with a therapist who’d comment on the anger he felt in me. So I would simply respond: “Who me?” I never showed anger. It was never allowed in our family. Emotional outbursts were simply forbidden, one of those unwritten rules in our family life. I simply never saw myself as an angry person. Now I look back and see those awful migraine headaches as the tool my body used to try to release the anger and pain I had locked in my body.
After my mother died of lung cancer in 1987, I found I couldn’t talk to anyone about the grief and anger I felt. People were embarrassed about a close family member dying, and shied away from any talk about losing my mum. I guess to I’d had so much experience of bottling up emotions, that I had no idea how to handle this loss. So I decided to go and get some counselling. I found a psychologist in Fremantle, went along for my first session, and I can truly say that my exchanges with this very kind, sympathetic woman were life-changing.
Lucy gave me permission to be angry about my family. It was a quite new concept to me, and I was quite overcome with guilt and shame the first time I talked about my childhood and the anger I felt about my father and the bullying and control I experienced throughout my childhood and into my ‘teens until I escaped to university.
Alongside this counselling, I was also pursuing other alternative therapies, as I was find out that each seemed to peel another layer from me, like peeling an onion. I was getting a better understanding of my body but, best of all, the RSI was less intense, although it hadn’t gone completely. And the migraines had abated considerably as a result of learning to modify my Type A behaviour and take a more relaxed attitude to life.
Actually, I look at all the various healing modalities I’ve followed and think I must sound incredibly neurotic. But when I look at the illnesses I’ve dealt with, overwhelmingly they seem to be structural and psychological. I think this probably reflects the years I’d spent locked down in loneliness, guilt and fear, and the way in which I tip-toed through the healing process in order to cope with what came tumbling out of the cellar where I’d, sub-consciously, locked all my pain and feeling of being so unloved.
I thought I was done and dusted with the Canyons of My Mind series but no, my subconscious had another surprise in store for me – a nightmare!
I’ve only, thankfully, had one other nightmare in my life, when a Dementor (a monstrous being in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling) appeared and, I can assure you, I hope I never see another Dementor in my life!
I dithered about writing about this nightmare as it took a while to work out and also it has a rather unpleasant content – at least, until the end. But it seems to me it’s an example of healing at a very great depth which may be encouraging to others who may experience something similar.
So here goes.
“In the dream I am back in the house where I lived as a kid, Liverpool Lawn in Ramsgate, Kent, south-east England. I go into a room where my father is asleep but he wakes up as I enter and walks threateningly towards me, a real monster. I realise he intends to rape me and I am absolutely terrified. I run out of the house, with him in relentless pursuit and it is pitch-black outside. I then run frantically down the alley way which used to run between Liverpool Lawn and Adelaide Gardens. All these houses had semi-basements and I am absolutely terrified as I run along.
Then I see a light on in one of the basements, run down the steps and burst into the house through the back door. I shut the door and find myself facing a young couple looking somewhat alarmed (as you do, I suppose when someone bursts into your house unexpectedly). I tell them my father is following me and intends to rape me, they say they’ll help but then we all suddenly realise he’s gone around the front of the terraced houses and is outside the front door.
The young man looks outside, says that my father now has a gun, and goes outside to confront him. However, I can’t let the young man be harmed so run out and push past my father. As I run around the centre lawn and arrive at the other side, I come across people at an outside party who, when I tell them my story, advise me to tell the police who have a branch office in one of the houses on the crescent.
I run up to the police post, ring the bell and tell my story when the policeman answers the door. He tells me I’m imagining things and to go home and stop dramatising things. But then I realise I can hear my father and his parents upstairs being warmly received by the police. I am furious and enraged, rather than scared, shout at the policeman for not doing his job, and run upstairs to confront my father and my paternal grandparents.”
When I woke up straight after the dream, I felt so terrified I got up and had a cup of coffee until I’d calmed down enough to return to bed and get back to sleep without worrying about the dream recurring. It’s my belief that, when we have a powerful dream/nightmare which affects us deeply, it’s important to find out what it’s about as the dream/nightmare has significance in your life.
I must say, upfront, that in fairness to my father, I’m pretty sure that he never sexually abused me. I know there are many instances of repressed memories but it was emotional, mental and physical control which characterised my relationship with my father.
If you look at the nightmare, it divides into three: 1) running away 2) seeking refuge 3) finally deciding to stop running, stand up for myself and overcome the fear (if you are trying to analyse a dream, look at how it breaks up. You’ll generally find a new section begins “And then….”).
I also think that the inclusion of my grandparents – with whom I had a distant relationship once my aunt, the favourite, had a daughter and replaced me – is also about ancestral healing, perhaps again because I felt I’d been also on approval with my grandparents and discarded as soon as my cousin was born.
It seems to me, the fear and terror represents what I felt as a child with the episode which I described in an earlier post and which left me believing I was in my family on approval, so to speak, with that approval liable to be removed any time. Of course, this wasn’t the true situation – this was my perspective as a child. It also represents the fact that I’ve been running from these feelings for a lot of my life.
I found the middle bit a bit hard to understand, until I realised that both the young man and woman were aspects of myself – the immature beings which, in my life, have been represented by my desire for approval and to be liked which, quite often, have led to me appeasing others at my own expense, fudging the truth, putting on a friendly face when I felt quite hurt by what people had said.
And finally, standing up to the police, my father and my grandparents is the position I’m in now – one where I’ve cleared out the old fears and childhood insecurity, and asserted my ability to be a powerful force for myself, for my creativity and for my self-confidence and self-esteem.
I should add that, since I completed writing about my childhood and since that nightmare, I am far more laid back, far less driven and far more ready to honour myself as a worthy, loveable human being who approves of and stands up for herself.
If anyone has any additional ideas about my nightmare, please feel free to contribute your thoughts, I’m more than happy to build up a collective understanding of my nightmare/dream as I feel it helps others in understanding their own dreams.
Oh, and just as an afterthought, my eating patterns have stabilised and I’ve started losing weight!
Just to wind up, as I said previously I went through my life thinking that my parents were a couple in themselves, with me on the outside. So imagine my surprise when I had a reading with a medium which turned my ideas topsy-turvy.
Doubtless there will be people who will scoff at the idea of a medium and conversations with people in spirit but, trust me, this incident came out of the blue, with no wishes for any kind of link with my parents.
I had been selling crystals at a new age fair in Victoria and it had been very quiet. A guy approached my stall and started making very accurate comments about my life so, as I was bored witless doing nothing, I trotted over to his stall and said I’d have a reading. I had no preconceived ideas, but just left the whole thing open.
The first thing the medium said was that he wanted no facts or responses from other than “yes” or “no” so that he couldn’t be accused of “reading me cold” which happens with a lot of so-called mediums and Tarot readers (and don’t forget I’m a Tarot reader!). His first comment was that my mum and dad had turned up, which surprised me no end as I hadn’t thought of them at all. His next comment was that they weren’t together, they’d gone separate ways, each to their own spiritual lineage.
Then he said my mum had told me she never loved my father. At first I misunderstood and thought she’d said she’d never loved my grandfather. But no, she said she’d never loved my father, she’d only married him under pressure from her family to get some sort of financial stability. But what she had wanted was to have her own business and be independent.
Now funnily enough, when I had an astrology reading in Boonah, the astrologer had asked me about my mother and whether she was unusual in any way. To be very honest, my relationship with my mother was very much overshadowed by my antagonistic relationship with my father. So I felt rather bewildered, although I knew that she’d been very efficient and happy running the guesthouse when we lived in Ramsgate, and always enjoyed going to work – whether it was in the grocer’s shop or bakery in Sandwich, or in Debenham’s when my parents moved to Canterbury (I was in university by that stage).
Later I obtained a psychological profile of myself from Liz Greene, a renowned astrologer, and was taken aback to read the following about my mother:
“Although your mother might have appeared conventional in her behaviour, and devoted to her family’s needs, she is pictured in your horoscope as a strong and independent spirit, who was perhaps not as able to accept the limitations and compromises of family life as she pretended to be. Thus she suppressed a natural restlessness and a rather explosive temper which sprang from a strong desire to break free and pursue her own goals and dreams without the restrictions of marriage and motherhood.”
The medium continued that my mother told him she had felt hemmed in by marriage and even more trapped when she became pregnant. And this rather validated my feeling that I wasn’t a very welcome addition to the family unit.
Then came another bombshell. The medium said that my parents had considered divorce when I was in my ‘teens. Now this was something which really wasn’t something I thought about at all. But in my ‘teens my parents had suddenly asked me what I’d do if they got a divorce. I thought they were joking, laughed and said I’d bang their heads together. Nothing more was said and it just seemed a rather puzzling anomaly over the years. Then, through the medium, my mother said she’d stayed for me. I remember thinking rather forcefully that she wasn’t going to lumber me with that sort of guilt. And then the medium added that she’d been a bit more truthful and admitted it was for security too.
To say I was a bit shaken was an understatement. All my ideas of a loving couple went right out the window. And then my father came through, saying that he was lonely in the world of spirit, as lonely as he had been in life when all the people he had loved had never loved him. It sounds sad, but I remember thinking that a great deal of Dad’s problems had been entirely self-generated and self-inflicted, so I didn’t feel a whole lot of sympathy. The medium said Dad told him my mum had great bouts of explosive anger which she kept separate from me but directed at Dad. Dad told the medium that he was glad when Mum finally died (of lung cancer) as he thought his life would improve. But nothing had changed except for the worse. Finally the medium said he thought Dad was doing a life review.
I’m quite aware that cynics out there will be rolling their eyes and snorting about mediums and life after death, but the astounding thing for me was that the medium sought no information, provided me with details which confirmed a lot of what he transmitted to me and, in the final analysis, cleared up a lot of things which had puzzled me over the years but which hadn’t really bothered me enough to explore in greater detail. The unexpected information about my parents’ marriage came right out of left field and left me quite shaken and very surprised.
There’s another factor in my feeling on the outside in my mother’s and father’s relationship. Again in astrology, and without going into great boring detail, I have Pluto and Saturn very close together in Leo in the ninth house, which is to do with groups, societies, friends, and so on. These two planets cuddled up actually bring up a lot of hidden fears, suspicions and neuroses for me to do with gatherings of people, relationships, groups and so on. So I would bring these hidden fears into my relationship with my mother and father, particularly after my mother failed to offer me any consolation after the hiding I got from my father when I was young, which I mentioned in an earlier post.
I remember my mother saying once that she didn’t think I was emotional, but in fact I used to hide my emotions because of the dysfunctional relationship with my father. I didn’t allow one chink in my armour as I knew he would sense it and fire a few verbal bullets and arrows at me. In fact, I’m very emotional – I cry at the drop of a hat at sad movies; weep at war memorial ceremonies; mourn over animals affected by cruelty; get weepy at children in refugee camps and other images of cruelty. But I generally keep this to myself.
Actually, to be very honest, I sometimes think I must have seemed like the cuckoo in the nest to my parents. I can’t have been an easy child as I was quite secretive, withdrawn and quiet. I did have a few childhood friends but lost them when I was transferred to a Catholic convent when I was six while my friends stayed in a state school. And at the Convent I never made any good friends, having arrived much later than others in my year. The one girl I thought had been a good friend turned out to be otherwise when her sister told me she used to laugh at me – perhaps confirming again my fears about groups and friends.
What I do cherish, however, was what the medium passed on to me from my mother: “You are my delight and my reason for living.”
And that is finally “it”, the end, of this review of family relationships. I am thankful for the kidney infection which helped release all the stuff bottled up inside me and extend my grateful thanks to the terrific physician author of the blog post which, unknowingly, sparked all this off, Behind the White Coat.
Added to the heritage of domestic violence was the fact that, most of my life, Dad was a dry drunk who never dealt with his anger and resentment. There was a photo of my dad when I was a kid and he was stuffing around on the beach laughing. I often wondered what turned this laughing young man into the taciturn, grumpy, miserable man he became as he got older.
I never realised when I was young that Dad had an alcohol problem because we only had alcohol in the house at Christmas and everyone drank in moderation. Mum told me, when she was out on holiday in early 1975, that after getting sacked from his own company, Dad started drinking a bottle of whiskey a day, to the point where she was close to leaving him. I suppose things cleared up as they were still together when they came on holiday and remained together until Mum died in 1987.
But when we were living in Queensland Dad told me once that, when he was in the Navy, he heard some Wrens talking about a Petty Office who was a real drunk and realised they were talking about him. He told me it shook him so much he he’d never been drunk since, which was quite ironic as he’d already knocked back a few glasses of whiskey/brandy/rum or whatever he was drinking at the time, and his voice was already slurred in the late morning.
Once my mum died, Dad’s slide into rampant alcoholism accelerated. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I never went to see him in the afternoon as he’d be drunk as a skunk. If I phoned, his voice would be slurred and I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. In Queensland, his life became chaotic. His house was filthy, he’d sit in his chair and smoke, but flicked the ash to the ground so a thick layer of ash lay around on the carpet. How he never set fire to his place is beyond me. His kitchen floor was covered in ingrained grease and dirt. And he became more and more erratic.
Finally he blacked out early one morning, phoned us to tell us he’d called an ambulance and my husband, Bryan, drove to his house to give a helping hand.It turned out Dad had broken a couple of ribs and fractured a couple of vertebrae in his fall. When Dad entered the local hospital I told them Dad was an alcoholic, so they gave him small doses of alcohol each day to minimise withdrawal effects. Unfortunately, he got a chest infection, had to take antibiotics and so couldn’t have alcohol. He got the D.T.’s, kept falling out of bed, told me seriously about the possums that were climbing over a fellow patient’s bed, got violent and eventually was heavily medicated.
I won’t go into any more gory details, but one thing I do want to say. Alcoholics are charmers, don’t believe a word they say, concentrate on your own survival, don’t get dragged down into their dysfunctional lives. My father charmed everyone he met. He was full of promises about what he was going to do when he got out of hospital – fishing, gardening, etc., – and suckered everyone, including his social worker. If Bryan hadn’t been with me, knew the truth of how my father treated me and how he behaved, and supported me through all the chaos, I would have thought I was either going mad or already insane.
No-one believed me when I told him what life was like with my father and at one stage, when I was trying to sort out power of attorney, I was virtually accused of being after his money. He would sober up in hospital, a psychiatrist would see him and pronounce him fit, and out he’d come into mainstream life again to continue his boozing and aggro. Eventually he had several strokes which left him with virtually unintelligible speech and confined to a wheelchair. Luckily for him he was offered a place in a first-class nursing home with his own en-suite. He was able to have a small amount of alcohol each day but eventually got to weak to handle the grog.
We moved to the UK in 2002 for my sanity and my health and because Bryan wanted to be closer to his kids, stayed on the west coast when we returned to Australia in 2004 in order not to become embroiled in Dad’s affairs again, and finally moved to northern New South Wales when he entered a nursing home. When we got to the nursing home for the first time, the nurses told me he was eager to see me. And true to form, Dad was only eager because he wanted me to take him out of the nursing home and take care of him. By that stage, I had got the determination to say no, and to care for myself, something that had, in earlier years, been sadly lacking in me.
I got a phone call at 5am one morning to say that my father was likely dying as he’d had a turn for the worse. We lived about three hours from his nursing home and got there in time to say good-bye. I sat and gave Reiki to dad, finally kissing him on the cheek as I left. In my grief, I left my walking stick behind and Bryan went to get it. He said Dad opened his eyes as he walked in, Bryan said: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her”. And with that Dad closed his eyes and passed away a couple of hours later.
On the way north to Brisbane, we drove through great clouds of butterflies which an Aboriginal friend told me later was a sign of an easy passing. Dad had been terrified of dying but his eventual death was calm, peaceful and full of ease. I was glad for him that he was finally at peace and out of this mortal coil where he’d been so unhappy.
I remember the daughter of a friend shaking off her father when he went to hug her, and it was so hard to stand back and not say to her: “You are so lucky. Your dad loves you, he’s affectionate, he hugs you. Don’t whistle it down the wind”. I have met many, many people with wise, wonderful, kind, loving fathers and I simply want to let them know too how lucky they are. Treasure your father. Sort out any differences, if that’s possible, and remember that life is a lottery – you don’t know when someone is going to die, so make the best of ever loving moment you have with them. Count your blessings.
To those who are in dysfunctional family relationships, I simply say that you are worth more. Love and care for yourself because you have something unique to offer the world. Don’t let the miserable, the selfish, the violent, the jealous, the drug- or alcohol-addicted drag you down. Let them go. These days there is more openness and awareness of family problems. As I mentioned earlier, the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study has raised awareness of how challenges in childhood can have long-term effects. Surround yourself with loving, supportive people, whether friends or advisors or health/mental professionals, and build yourself a new family if you need to with friends of your own choosing.
Remember – shine your light. You are not the Pied Piper of the Universe. Let others work out how to shine their light and don’t let them dim yours.
There are two backdrops to the situation in my home as a child, teenager and adult. The first is the underlying effect of domestic violence in my mother’s family. I adored my maternal grandparents because I knew, when I stayed with them, I was loved unconditionally. I’d spend hours wandering on my own in the big garden, the fields beyond the garden, and the small copse just below the house beside us which was the last along the lane. This was Blackheath where a bit of paradise was tucked away down this lane and I used to step outside the back gate, listen to the wood pigeons cooing and feel absolutely happy in my solitude and among nature.
So it was a heck of a shock when my mum told me, when she was on holiday in Australia in early 1975, that my grandfather used to beat my grandmother when my mum, brother and sister were kids, as he was a sweet old man who spoiled me no end. Mum said the kids used to run when he was in a rage to get away from his violence but my grandmother copped it the worst. I guess they must have made their peace in their middle and old age as they seemed happy together as I was growing up.
My mum did think that my grandmother had intended shooting through to her mother in West Hartlepool, in the north-east of England, but changed her mind when mum said something to her – what it was is lost in the midst of time. But the effects passed down generations. My uncle beat my aunt and he also came close to beating my cousin so hard he could have inflicted serious injury had my father not stopped in. My aunt married a violent man – again there was some sort of violence between my aunt and uncle when they were staying with us, I remember the shouting and yelling, and again my father intervened with my aunt and uncle leaving the next day.
I guess my mother felt safe with my father as he didn’t indulge in physical violence. Instead he resorted to emotional abuse because if Mum crossed him in any way, he wouldn’t talk to her for a couple of weeks, just sent her to Coventry. I never realised this as they were good at keeping up a front at home, but she told me later when they’d emigrated to Australia in 1978 after I’d moved there in 1972.
As for me, Dad was a control freak as far as my whereabouts where concerned. I was kept close to home as a kid with curfews which earned me a big scolding if I came home a bit too late. Luckily Dad had no idea of how far I used to roam and the escapades I used to get up to once I was out of sight of our home. He used to try to steam roller me if I expressed opinions but, luckily for me, I found the courage to argue back. I know it’s made me very stubborn in my opinions, mainly because I felt so threatened by his overbearing behaviour. I’ve never handled bosses well either because anyone telling me what to do instantly puts my back up and I head out to do the opposite!
Dad was, to some extent, a psychic as he used to know what upset me and he’d go for my underbelly with his words. I remember once, after Mum had died, that he told me how she’d worried about my weight. It hurt me no end and I caught a look of malicious glee on Dad’s face as he knew he’d managed to stick the knife in and turn it. He’d praise other people around him knowing it hurt me that he never once had a good word for me. In all our life, he never hugged me or told he me loved me, and never gave me praise or approval. The only photo we ever had together was when he was finally in a nursing home, and the closest contact we had was when we had linked arms at my mother’s funeral and he squeezed my arm as her coffin began to roll behind the screen after the funeral service.
To all intents and purposes my childhood wasn’t that bad. I was born with pigeon toes (Mum said she knew something was wrong when everyone went quiet after I was born) and spent the first 18 months of my life in braces to force my bones to grow more straight. Now I tend to have duck feet with my toes pointing out!
I do know Mum said her milk didn’t come through properly, I screamed with hunger the first two days of my life, the nurses refused to believe my mother when she said I was starving, until finally they decided she was right, I was fed formula milk and stopped screaming. To this day I have an intense fear of starvation – my cupboards and fridge are always full which drives my husband stark, staring mad.
Even at a pretty young age, I was always aware that I had to be well-behaved. I can remember being in a department store once with mum talking to another woman and telling her I never played up because I knew I’d get a slap on the leg. I know even at that age – about 3, I think – I felt deeply resentful at being talked about as if I were invisible.
At this point I need to add that I’ve found out about myself since I studied astrology. I don’t want to go into huge detail because this isn’t an astrology blog, but what I did find out is that I have the planet Neptune in the first house which relates to me as an individual. It is incredibly close to my Ascendant, Libra, which is the constellation popping up over the horizon as I was born and which influences how I express myself with a Libran Sun.
In my e-book, Astro-Crystal-Mandala Healing (which I’ll shortly be re-publishing), I characterise Neptune thus:
General: Transcendence; illusion; inspiration; vision; dreaming; glitz; glamour; smoke and mirrors; enlightenment; submission; humility, ego, addictions – drugs, shopping, etc; mystical experience; subconsciousness; visions; ungroundedness; delusion; faith; trust; hope; hunches; supernatural; occult; creative artistry; idealism; philanthropy; selfishness; hoarding; bondage; freedom.
Body: Addictions; out of body; movement; dance; yoga; purposeful action; shapeshifting; directionless; lack of boundaries; healthy boundaries.
Mind: Inspiration; vision; artistic inspiration; procrastination; hypochondria, schizophrenia; insanity; delusion; wishful thinking; spiritual purpose & focus; emptiness as in Zen meditation; occult.
Emotion: Bliss; depression; euphoria; black mood; disillusionment; happiness; deception; fog.
Heart: Love; openness; embrace of all; fear; surrender to the Divine; sensitivity; resistance; separation; healing; release; sacrifice; identification with humanity as a whole; release of ego.
Spirit: Love; mystery; trust; faith; hope; surrender; submergence.
What it means in practice is that I am quite often off in la-la land, I daydream a lot, and am incredibly sensitive (although I’ve successfully hidden that over the years with brashness, cockiness and a forced self-confidence) and can sense what people are feeling under the surface. I used to go to meetings in Melbourne and come home feeling disoriented, sick and dog-tired because I never realised I was picking up on all the emotions swirling around – anger, fear, aggression, game-playing, and so on. If I do Tarot readings, I can also sense people’s emotions and I pretty much always go with my first impressions of people. If I over-ride uncomfortable feelings, I generally find I was right in the first place.
And what it meant within the family situation was that, sub-consciously, I was picking up on the hidden language and actions of my parents. I was aware of having to behave, to be under pressure to perform at school (at 9 I came fifth in my class instead of first and all hell broke loose, with lectures from parents and nuns at my convent, extra homework and added pressure to come first in the next lot of exams).
I felt like a spare part in the family, that mum and dad were there for each other, and I was not part of that inner relationship. I used to feel loved at birthdays and Christmases when I got presents and, yes, my parents went to a lot of trouble to get me some fantastic presents. It reassured me in December and September each year that all was okay and I had parental approval. Whether I had love, I wasn’t sure. My mum used to complain bitterly about how awful giving birth was and later, when I was a teenager, my father told me (as I mentioned in an earlier post) that he could have made something of himself if I hadn’t been around. But, as I pointed out to him, he and mum were responsible for my conception, not me, and I wasn’t going to take on board that thoroughly rotten comment.
Now I have to say that, for my family, I was very intelligent and fulfilling expectations of a working-class family to do well, particularly after World War 11 when many people had lost dreams and experienced difficult lives. I had the added pressure that my father had been very clever and had been denied the opportunity to go on to higher education due to his family’s poverty. On the other hand, it went without saying that, if Dad’s elder brother, John, the family favourite, had been as bright as my Dad, they would have found the money to fund his higher education.
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
At least, I think that’s the case. Because I was to realise in later life that my father was a liar, a first-class con man and he would rip off his closest friend if he could make money out of him or her.
The irony is that I went through my childhood with the label of “liar” hanging over me, and all over a storm in a teacup. When I was about four-and-a-half years old, I was talking to my friends at the window who asked me to come out to play. I told them I couldn’t but in talking to them through the window, I managed to pull down the lace curtain which used to cover the lower windows in those days.
Looking back, any normal child would have told their parents what had happened and the curtain would have been hung up again. But I was terrified because I’d done something wrong and tried to fix it myself. My father crept up on me, found what I was doing, gave me a hiding and I ran downstairs to our basement kitchen, bawling my eyes out and hiding under the kitchen table. My mother didn’t talk to me or console me in any way which was devastating.
I was so scared at my parents’ reaction that, when they asked who’d pulled the curtain down, I said it was my friend’s older sister, justifying in my child’s mind that the sister had been urging me to come outside and if she hadn’t, I would have not pulled the curtain down. My parents went storming down to my friend’s house to rant on about Jenny (and I expect my friend’s parents though my mum and dad had really over-reacted!), and it was only a week later I confessed that I’d been the culprit.
Now it’s likely that a more sturdy, outgoing child would have shrugged their shoulders over the kerfuffle and got on with their lives without worrying too much. But I was extremely sensitive, a lonely only child, and I bottled it up inside. Added to this, from that day on my father accused me of being a liar at the drop of a hat; threatened to put me over his knee and give me a hiding, again at the drop of a hat; and was extremely strict about where I went, when I went and what time I got home.
Finally, when I was about fourteen, as I mentioned in another post, when Dad threatened me with his usual words: “You’re not too old to put over my knee and give you a hiding” I stared back at him and told him that if he so much as touched me again I’d pack up, move out of the house and my parents would never see me again. He could see I meant it and, as bullies do when you stand up to them, never mentioned giving me a hiding again.
In my next post, I’ll be addressing the history of domestic violence in my mother’s family, and my father’s behaviour as a dry drunk.
A couple of weeks ago, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I ended up with blood in my urine and the sudden onset of a kidney infection.
Prior to this, I’d felt really lethargic, unmotivated, very tired and quite under the weather. Looking at this subsequently and how much better I feel now, I’m quite sure I was subconsciously processing some real crap about my relationship with my father and was getting ready to release it.
But when the kidney infection came out of the blue, at the time it seemed unconnected with my feelings of malaise and just one of those things – except that the day before I read something which seemed like a kick by a mule in my belly.
First I had to deal with the kidney infection which cleared up with antibiotics but then, as I was resting and recovering and still feeling very tired, I began to put two and two together.
I had started off reading a post on the blog Behind the White Coat which seemed interesting as it was about a woman who was trying to lose weight and failing lamentably. I was interested because, as soon as I say to myself I’m going to lose weight, I start gaining rather than losing. I have often felt like a human concertina – I’d lose weight then pile it on again BUT the one thing I did notice was that I was only slim or thin when I was living on my own. If I was living with my parents or in a relationship, the weight piled on again. The first time I really lost a lot of weight was when I was 20-21 and lived in Stuttgart, Germany, for six months as part of my university third year abroad. Everyone noticed when I went home at Christmas how much weight I’d lost and I had many complimentary comments when I returned to university in my final, fourth year.
In the post Behind the White Coat – Quagmire I read about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how people abused mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually are affected well into adulthood. The writer, a pretty decent physician (she must be good, I’ve had my fair share of lousy, judgmental practitioners and I don’t praise medicos lightly!) commented: “childhood trauma causes increased levels of stress hormones which in turn permanently change a child’s developing brain.”
Although I’ve written about childhood matters, this post was particularly disturbing for me because what I’ve done is brush lightly over how I was treated by my father throughout the whole of my life until rampant alcoholism and many strokes weakened him to the point where he was no longer able to terrorise me.
“Terrorise” sounds like a bit of an over-statement but I can remember, when I was about 55, my father suddenly shouted at me (he’d been on the booze) and I nearly wet myself. I was shocked by my reaction but after reading all the material on ACE and coming to understand that most of my life I was brainwashed into thinking my father was like the Pope, infallible, I’ve come to recognise that ripping down the myths of a life is hard, very emotional work. And most of the time in the past I’ve under-stated it or glossed over it because I’ve never liked exposing myself emotionally in public.
Another quote which resonated for me was this:
“Children with toxic stress live much of their lives in fight, flight or fright (freeze) mode. They respond to the world as a place of constant danger. With their brains overloaded with stress hormones and unable to function appropriately, they can’t focus on learning. They fall behind in school or fail to develop healthy relationships with peers or create problems with teachers and principals because they are unable to trust adults. Some kids do all three. With despair, guilt and frustration pecking away at their psyches, they often find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work and over-achievement. They don’t regard these coping methods as problems. Consciously or unconsciously, they use them as solutions to escape from depression, anxiety, anger, fear and shame.”
I wasn’t abused physically or sexually, but emotionally and mentally. I did okay at school, very well in fact, because I had the subconscious belief that, if I wasn’t successful at school, I’d be tossed out into the street. I lived my childhood on tenterhooks, feeling that I was always kept in the family structure on constant trial, anxious that if I didn’t do my very best I wasn’t acceptable and would be homeless. I was the classic over-achiever, still am (but interestingly since the kidney infection and recovery, I’m far more relaxed and willing to be more laid-back), and I can tell you – if anyone speaks sharply to me, I freeze, my mind goes blank and I stutter – STILL!
I suffered repeated bouts of depression. And I chose food, alcohol, tobacco (for a short time) and inappropriate sex as a result of the toxic stress of my childhood, and while I packed in smoking, and inappropriate sex when I met my husband 37 years ago, food and booze have been ongoing escape hatches to varying degrees.
In my next couple of posts I’m going to do my best to heave out all the crap and get it out of my system because I really don’t need to lug this around with me any more.
And I’m also doing so in the hope that if people read this who have been in my situation and find it helps them, then some good has come out of my writing and my experiences.
COCKROACH IN SCALES
The other morning
There was a cockroach,
A big black shiny one,
trapped in the face of
As it waved its feelers back
at my looming face
trying to see if I was
(but never just right),
I thought it made a lot
For I’m a lousy housewife:
dusting, sweeping, what a waste of
And I’m a hopeless dieter,
fat and thin by turns.
So the cockroach in my scales
reflected both failures
What a way to start the day!
Over the years my weight has fluctuated wildly from slim to fat, so much so that I’ve felt like a human accordion at times, going in and out at the speed of light. I can’t say I’ve been conscious of whether I’ve been slim or fat because, regardless of my size, I was never aware of gaining or losing weight (apart from buying different dress sizes!).
I know many of my weight issues have been emotional, but also I’ve done a lot of reading about diets, weight, BMI, etc., because when I was young the hysteria around obesity and low-fat diets just didn’t exist. I do know that my weight has exercised the minds of far more people than it has mine. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve heard people say: “But you don’t eat a lot” and realised they’ve been scrutinising what I eat which gets right up my nose. It’s no-one’s business but mine what I eat, keep your nose out of my plate! As I said in my previous post, I’m also aware that when I walk into a doctor’s surgery their eyes light up as they order tests for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol and then look somewhat taken aback by results well in the healthy range.
I was also, decades ago, stupid enough to agree to go to a fat farm to lose weight when it was suggested by the organisation I worked for,and I really regret it. I lost 14 lbs in one week, with a mainly fruit juice diet, but of course, when I got back to the real world, the weight boomeranged back and then some. And it started me on a bit of a habit of fasting, then eating, and so on, which really has stuffed my body’s metabolism. I should have had the guts to tell them to poke their fat farm where the sun don’t shine, and that’s precisely what I would do today.
The day after I started working on this post – about weight and my mother’s death – I woke with excruciating sciatic pain in my hip and leg. It took until the next evening to realise that this was my physical response to approaching these subjects – matters of life and death which obviously have a great emotional and physical impact on me.
As soon as I twigged why the pain had exploded in my hip, it abated considerably. But I have been doing all sorts of odd jobs since then to avoid getting on with this post. So I have finally glued myself to my seat and here goes!
I weighed myself the night before I had the cast removed when I broke my leg and ankle in 1996 and then when I got home – 6lbs disappeared overnight, yeay! In the six weeks I’d been immobile, unbelievably I’d lost 14lbs, much to my surprise. It was as if the shock of the fall galvanised my body into detoxing all of its own accord.
From these comments and the intro you’ll probably guess that I have had some challenges with weight. And I’d probably be a weird woman if I hadn’t, given the obsession with thinness and fatness in today’s Western society.
In my childhood I was what you then called “chubby” but no-one banged on about weight and obesity as they do nowadays. In those days it was accepted that kids could be chubby but they’d lose this puppy fat once they hit puberty and started growing into adulthood.
The first time I became aware of perhaps being a bit weighty was when I stayed with my German penfriend in 1965. She was absolutely gorgeous and had a terrific, slim figure. Beside her I felt large and clumsy and I remember we each weighed ourselves but, as it was in kilograms, I had no idea what it meant. I do know that she and her mother exclaimed at my weight. When my cousin and his male friend visited us while they were in holiday in Germany, they only had eyes for my pen-friend and I felt fat, awkward and lonely. For the first time I became self-conscious about my figure.
I do know now that I ate because it was comfort food in a family where I felt on the outer. I closely associated food with being loved by my parents, particularly if my mum and I shared special food which Dad didn’t like, and we’d have this when he was doing overtime – mushrooms on toast (mushrooms were a luxury when I was a kid) and soft cod’s roe on toast (another luxury). I can also look back now and see that carrying extra weight was protective for me. My father was a bully, a control freak and he used to browbeat me if I voiced my own opinions. We’d go at it hammer and tongs until my mother would intervene to try to calm things down as she hated the discord.
At University I guess I remained somewhat podgy in my first year. I was in student accommodation and I used to drink a very hot cup of black coffee prior to meals in the refectory. The idea was to dampen my appetite but it wasn’t particularly successful, particularly if they dished up Queen of Puddings for dessert. It was my favourite and I’d eat my own portion as well as the portions of anyone who didn’t want their serving! I guess I really wasn’t overly bothered about my weight, just felt a sense of dissatisfaction which I never really pinned down.
The first time I really lost weight and became very slim was when I was working abroad during my third year at University. I was living in Stuttgart and started work at 7.30. We had a break around 8.30 and I’d get a roll with cold meat for breakfast. At lunchtime, we had a subsidised meal in the staff canteen but as very little of the food appealed to me, I had very small lunches. And in the evening, when I cooked for myself, I also didn’t eat much as it’s not much fun eating on your own.
I was, however, very happy at work as I made friends with a lovely Hungarian lady, Frau Kiss, a Hungarian refugee who’d settled in Stuttgart. She helped me in lots of little ways which made life more pleasant. Eventually I also met some really nice girls in the women’s hostel where I was living. When I first arrived in Stuttgart I lived in my own unit on the ground floor and it was quite lonely. Then I was moved to the basement area where I shared a room with a Finnish lass. She was a real raver and was always out in the evenings so I started leaving the light on in the small sink area in our room. She was quite taken aback at this as apparently the previous German girl had left the room pitch black and then complained when Marjia-Liisa made a noise trying to get ready for bed in the dark. But my little act of helpfulness broke the ice between us and from then on we got on like a house on fire.
Then a couple of English girls arrived from universities in the UK, they got stuck in the basement area like me, so we all got together. We were finally joined by Barbara, a German girl, who had a great sense of humour and adventure. And we certainly got up to all sorts of adventures between us, quite innocent now when I look back. But we were always laughing and having a good time together.
We went to the Christkindlmarkt in Stuttgart which was wonderful although bitterly cold. We visited the cinema at the American base nearby where we parked Barbara’s car and found it dwarfed by the huge American yank-tanks lined up in front of the cinema. We drove to Ulm to climb the steeple of the Ulm Minster, the tallest church in the world with 768 steps. It’s often called Ulm Cathedral but is actually a Minster as it has never been the seat of a bishop. We climbed up to the top where we found beautiful views over Ulm and the surrounding countryside, climbed down okay but when we got outside, our legs were like jelly and we ended up flopping on the floor laughing our heads off. I stayed at Barbara’s parent’s house one weekend, her folks were incredibly hospitable, and we also visited Rothenburg-ob-der-Taube which is a wonderful, medieval town.
We girls had boozy sessions in our rooms, confident we’d hidden all signs of the mayhem until we’d get home and realise our rooms smelled like pub bars, an empty wine glass or two stood on the mantelpiece and the sour-faced women running the hostel would greet us with icy faces!
One night Barbara introduced us to Schnapps, I think it might have been Goldwasser, which we English girls imbibed with gusto. She told us to skol it down it which we did and all promptly got drunk as skunks as none of us drank much at all. We were staggering everywhere, and I remember waking up with an appalling hangover. Barbara thought it was hilarious as we British girls sat there, head in hands, moaning, until she frogmarched us one by one to the restroom and stuck us in a cold shower!
I didn’t realise that, in this new lifestyle in Germany, I’d lost so much weight until I returned home for the Christmas holidays. My parents both commented on how much slimmer I was, and so did my boyfriend, but I didn’t see it in myself at all. I do know that when I returned to university in the fourth year, after my third year abroad, many people commented on the remarkable change in my appearance although, once again, I hadn’t realised how much weight I’d lost, it just sort of happened.
Much the same sort of weight loss happened when I worked on a kibbutz in Israel in March 1972, prior to travelling to Australia. I did physical work on my feet all the time, and the weight dropped off. I do know that unless I’m really active, it’s hard for me to lose weight, even more so now I have mobility challenges.
I realised much later down the track that my time overseas in my third year at university was really the first time I was away from anyone’s influence. I was pretty much on my own, and I lost weight because I didn’t need it to protect myself from my father’s bullying ways and the fact that I extended that to being subconsciously fearful of any relationships I had with the opposite sex. I loved being independent both at university and in Germany and France where I also spent six months.
Because I have so many air signs, nine in astrology, I have always been in my head and thinking, thinking, thinking. My conversations start: “I think…..” or “I’ve been thinking…..” (and generally my husband looks nervous because he says this usually means hammers and nails somewhere in the house), or I say, if people do rash things: “Why don’t people THINK”. Occasionally I look down and remember I’ve got a body attached to my head and say in surprise: “Oh, hello, body, still hanging around are you, thanks very much, I appreciate it.”
I started getting some idea of why I used food as a substitute for love and weight as protection when I saw a psychologist after Mum died. The thinner my mother got as the cancer spread, the fatter I got as if in some way I could protect myself, I think, on two fronts: from the fear of death myself if I got fat and from the grief I was experiencing as Mum came closer and closer to death. Seeing the psychologist after mum died, to get help from the loneliness and grief I felt, also opened a can of worms – mum no longer stood between me and my father as the peace-maker, we had to face each other, and our relationship got rocky to say the least!