Updated: Jul 26, 2019
“Yes, man is mortal, but that would be only half the trouble. The worst of it is that he's sometimes unexpectedly mortal—there's the trick!”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
There’s nothing like having a glimpse of mortality to make you revaluate your life choices. For me that was being widowed unexpectedly at age 30 with a newborn baby.
Personally I would have been happy to wait a little longer along my timeline for that level of reality check. Perhaps had a little more experience of death through the natural passing of a grandparent or something a little less dramatic… but life had a different plan, and I’ve had to run with the fallout from that tragic experience with a curious number of consequences.
Aaron and I met when I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday. He was a year older and a friend of a friend. We were married when I was just shy of twenty two, in the hastily turfed back garden of the little house we had built together in the suburbs.
We moved in to that house with my university degree safely completed, two fairly standard full time 9am-5pm-type jobs, a little red car, a house full of second hand furniture and a lot of love. We added a few pets and spent the next decade using our twenties to work hard and pay down our debt, travel a little and enjoy our experience as a couple - we’d go out to movies and parties, hang out with the neighbours, potter in the garden, cook and dream together.
We both wanted children and I wanted my first before I was thirty. Our son arrived a week before my thirtieth birthday. As I’d always been a full time worker since I’d left uni, the experience of being a full time, stay at home Mum was immediate and life changing. I was suddenly a Dependant, with my own Dependant. It was challenging, but it was the beginning of a whole new chapter. It was, as many new parents will testify, both exhausting, but incredibly exciting.
Then, with no apparent warning, four and a half months later, my thirty one year old husband had a cardiac arrest in bed in the early hours of a mild Saturday morning in March. With our baby shrieking in the background, I called an ambulance, performed CPR and he was taken to hospital. However, the damage was done. He never regained consciousness and passed away in palliative care an excruciating nine weeks later. Our son was only six months old.
Now what happened after that has been a long voyage of discovery. From the very depths of despair, along a very non-linear timeline of “recovery”. I don’t think you can ever “move on” from experiences like this, you just “move forward”. In the first couple of years it was just about surviving and raising our baby, actively treating my depression and PTSD and finding a way of negotiating my “new normal”. I made a lot of positive steps, as well as many wrong ones. Bereft, I found I couldn’t live in our little house and made the tough decision to move away.
I threw a lot of ideas and fairly ineffectual coping mechanisms at the wall in those early days, but it was hard to make anything stick. My brain was a confused mess. I was depressed, swinging from wildly and multi-directionally motivated to flat and hopeless. After a year, as the attention of concerned well-wishers trickled away and the happy-breastfeeding hormones were dissipating, I had a minor breakdown, but that was a tipping point. This was going to be the end of the madness and the destructive pain. I knew what it was like to be happy and I was damn well going to get back there. It was like a little light to follow in the darkness. I owed it to myself and my son, who knew no other existence. I could choose to be miserable forever, but my son did not deserve to live that life with me. And oh, how Aaron would have hated that for both of us.
I went and saw my GP, who was also a mental health specialist. I’d been regularly visiting, and he kept a good eye on me and had kept my head above water, but time alone was not going to heal me. He prescribed anti-depressant medication and a clinical psychologist.
The psychologist diagnosed and then treated my PTSD with incredible and fast success. It was like being freed from chains. I started to feel that being normal again was possible. It was probably at this point I could really start imagining what the way forward could be like in a way that could involve positivity.
I have now spent a decade crafting my life towards my goal of Simple, Creative, Living. As with any life, particularly with someone in the middle of it who is a little bit life-battered, slightly anxious and dangerously artistic, it is a non-lineal journey. There have been many joys and sorrows, great decisions and appalling mistakes. But it has all been a colourful journey and I make decisions as deliberately as possible with the hopes I squeeze all the intensity of experience and emotion out of it. I now share a farmhouse in the country on a modest bit of acreage. I have a lovely husband, two stepdaughters (now twenty one and sixteen), a cheeky ten year old son, an intolerably spoilt dog and a farmyard menagerie.
Although it has taken some time to publish, I chose to start writing this blog on the tenth anniversary of my husband’s passing (May 11 2019) as I am expecting to be pretty average at it - I can sometimes have great ideas accompanied by poor discipline and follow through, which I like to blame on creative temperament. However Aaron really believed in the dreams I would sell and the stories I told and I remember him once getting quite mad at me about it. “I was all ready to come along with you with this idea”, he said exasperatedly, “and it never happened!” Well, I’m thinking of you today, my friend, and hopefully it will motivate me to make this some sort of habit.
I am writing this hoping to add another branch to my creative tree, add some discipline and stimulate my writing skills. I want to explain how simplicity and creativity form part of my country life. If I share anything that resonates with people or inspires anyone, I’ll consider it a bonus.