The descent was unusually slow from Ingleside to Mona Vale for the middle of the day. It’s usually the early morning ascending that has me crawling snail-like and reflective, trying to wake myself with coffee and the early news on 702. This is my route now as I leave the peninsular for work on the days when that call comes for teaching on the North Shore. I’ve enjoyed the new pattern and routine for two terms of the school year. Today, meandering back from a visit to Macquarie University, I find myself thinking how marvellous life’s moments can be.
As my car comes to a complete stop, a lone yellow daisy catches the sunlight and my attention in a crevice of rock. There is roadwork on Mona Vale Road, nothing anyone can do but wait. I smile at the flower, reminded of all those moments during the last two and a half years when life felt as though it had come to a complete standstill. I’ve learned to see that roadblocks are not the end. They are a time to be still, to reflect, and to be grateful. I am so grateful in this moment. Life takes the most surprising of turns.
For years you found yourself on the straight path with your goal in sight in the far distance. It may have been a miniscule, blurred dot so far away that the road seemed to narrow into a triangular point but still you could see it was there. The small dot satisfied your imagination, encapsulating everything you dreamed you might be. It was as powerful as the DNA of a cell and though you didn’t know enough about science to completely understand the formula, you had this idea that eventually you would arrive at your goal. Even though your school report cards told your parents that you did not work to your potential, you believed that you had what it took to get there, that maybe the conventions of school routines and conformity wouldn’t be required in the real world.
You didn’t know then that a year of isolation would cover you after the news came at the end of summer 2009. You didn’t know that every moment would be spent in absolute silence, punctuated only with the clashing of metal trolleys, the beeps of imeds and the sad conversations of strangers through thin curtains. In that year you discovered much about focus and attention. You found out that an ordinary girl could stand and reason with the great minds of physicians without feeling like a fool. A dear haemotologist at St Vincent’s taught you this, as he leaned in and listened to your every word. Though his eyes revealed how tired he was, he never complained of being weary. You learned a lot about what matters in life from this intelligent, unpretentious man.
The small dot didn’t move through that whole season. Instead it wobbled on the horizon like it had been caught on a wave. It rocked a little up and down as if it was trying to help you find level ground. You continued to dream about life when this was all over, when your daughter was well, when life moved on. Finally that day appears and life does move on. You get caught up in the excitement of wedding preparations by day but by night you lie awake searching. When you were not looking, it disappeared. The dot was gone. The thing you focused on for your whole life went completely out of view. You don’t know what to make of this and contrary to everything you believed about writing, that day you put down your pen. There was no longer anything to record.
What do you do when the dot disappears?
You go through the motions of life. You do what is in front of you. You operate on autopilot because life must go on. You are so happy to be through the crisis but after living in crisis mode for so long you wonder: what was the point of it all? You stare at the horizon trying to find what you’ve lost. Perhaps your whole life really is just a drop in the ocean? Maybe your dream has submerged.
Then you do something you never do. Since you’ve nothing to write, you decide to scroll through the pages you wrote over the last three months; suddenly you see that it is not just one dot, but a spattering of dots that have been marked across life’s page. You pick up your pen, not to write but rather to join the dots, carefully following the sequence of events. You look; you consider the sketch as all the dots form a picture that you have never seen before. Suddenly you discover that the journey has been more than remarkable and you begin to wonder whether, in the next three months, you might get to colour it in.
FOOTNOTE: In the July school holidays I began an intense search to see how I could become an advocate for Bone Marrow Donation in Australia. My search led me to find the wonderful, Shula Endrey-Walder from Gift of Life, Australia.
Even though my daughter had a stem cell transplant in September 2009, I knew nothing of Shula’s work. We meet one rainy day at Edgecliffe Station to share our dream for spreading awareness for more donors to join the world-wide registry, so that people like my daughter have a chance of life. We became fast friends.
She, and some of my wonderful friends (you know who you are) gave me courage to submit an application to speak at TEDx Macquarie University. Two weeks ago, after presenting a ten minute talk to a panel of judges I discovered I was successful. The event is next Sunday the 16th of October, I hope you can come. If you would like to help me sign up potential bone marrow donors on the day, please let me know.
Here is my application video, thanks to the prowess of Bek Exton who filmed, edited and uploaded me to YouTube.