Everything is dancing; even the molecules inside cells are dancing. But we make our lives so heavy, carrying incredibly bulky burdens with us like rocks in a rucksack. We don’t realize the freedom, the lightness of just dropping it off, letting it go. Tenzin Palmo would know. She, who lived in a cave in the Himalayas measuring 10 feet wide and six feet deep. She, who remained there for 12 years, for three of which she was in full retreat.
Two years after arriving in Australia I look back, somewhat ashamed, over the last 365 days and recall the many times I was floating, rather than dancing. In many ways an individual who still couldn’t pinpoint what group to belong to; bits of microscopic plasma suspended in the jelly substance that fills the eye ball. A ‘strong swimmer’ that refused to be flushed?
Somewhere I read that a young bird, leaving its natural territory, is also called a floater. I imagined a secretarybird, striding across grassland with its long, pink legs and crest of black feathers and thought – this should be me. Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, a resolute survivor that can walk up to 30 km per day! The bird, not me of course.
Early this year I fell acutely ill, totally unexpectedly. We were still hiking in the Grampians the previous day.
The detail is far too gross and tedious, but a surgeon had to remove a damaged part from my colon and divert the cut end to an artificial opening in my abdominal wall. I now had a stoma. Not even 60 years old, and I had to live with a stoma. I did not want to live. I wanted to die. But I did not want to die in Australia. Surely my ashes couldn’t be scattered on foreign soil. Because of the stoma bag and tender condition of my intestinal workings I was however not allowed to fly – let alone to South Africa.
Quite unlike the usual me, every day became about me, me, me. Four months long. I must have been the most unpleasant person to be with. All hats off to my husband and daughter, who came all the way across the Indian Ocean. They deserve serious kudus for putting up with me. To my amazement even Warrnambool friends visited regularly, despite my grumpiness. I humbly apologise to you all.
However. One morning, not too long ago, I followed Tenzin Palmo’s advice and simply dropped all the rocks in my rucksack. The adage ‘just manage what you can manage’ once more became my lighthouse. And I’m happy to announce that tennis and yoga will very soon, as per in the past, be part of my routine. Life is short.
As during the previous year, my latest journey around the sun had plentiful yin and yang. Let me list 10 things that stand out:
- Watching from the Rod Laver stand how Roger Federer demolishes Denis Istomin – I didn’t attend the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
- Deciding that Tasmania must be the most beautiful state in Australia.
- Knockin’ on heaven’s door, breathing the same air as Bob Dylan for a short while.
- Trepidation over the abilities of an Asian colorectal surgeon giving way to extreme respect.
- Finding the highly endangered Orange-bellied Parrot at Werribee’s treatment plant on a wintry Sunday morning.
- Reconnecting with my only living sister, after a six month feud.
- Being taught life lessons by my 75-year-old piano student.
- Discovering the joys of watercolour painting.
- Spending the Christmas holiday with our children and grandsons.
- Realising that some ileostomies are only temporary, and that I was one of the lucky ones.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Here’s to the next 12 months then – embracing the foreign, continually seeking, living the adventure.