Connecting the dead

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Dear Dad

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have not been my normal happy self in recent weeks.  The melancholy really crept up on me and has sat squarely in my solar plexus for the entire time.  The melancholy of being the one who now connects the dead in my family has been like a suffocating veil draped over my “me-ness”, and as result I am only feeling like a smothered, shadowy version of myself.

The year of firsts that I was ill-prepared for has come and gone, its beginning and ending marked with my birthday, a day that signifies joy and the celebration of another age milestone and whatever achievements come with that.  You know Dad, I am not sure if it even counts as Irish humour, you kicking the bucket on a really big deal of a birthday – the big 40.  The birthday that was supposed to be one of those really significant milestones where like many women I could look back at my four decades past and reflect with joy (and relief) that I was entering a calmer, more secure phase of my life.  Wouldn’t take much for that to be true, after all you did often say to me that I “lurched from crisis to crisis”, especially in my twenties and early thirties.  Even though you were always very proud of me as I juggled kids, work, study and various “bleeding heart” activities, I know you always worried.  Dad I was really excited to being able to show you in my fortieth year that I had finally managed to have a steady hand controlling the HMAS Kaili …

Dad, you know how you used to say to me was that I was “the toughest bloke you know”.  Right now I don’t feel very tough at all.  I feel bereft in how much I miss you.  It seems like more now, a year on, I think my grief has settled on my shoulders like a well-worn but questionably fashionable coat.

But if I am still Dad (and you know how that challenges me), I can close my eyes and hear you speak those words in your strong Scouse accent.  I can, if I am still enough, feel your arms pull me in for a cuddle and the roughness of your five o’clock shadow rub my cheek as you would let me cry on your shoulder.  Of course, you would then say “enough of that, stop ya bawling … come and have a rum”… For better or worse, we Behan’s have always sought solace in a good stiff drink.

Do you remember that time when I turned up on your doorstep crying after having an awful time at work and that is exactly what you did.  Me in my suit, trying to play at being corporate and together knocking back a stiff Bundy with you while you were waiting for Normie Rich to pick you up for your weekly “Wednesday comp” game of golf, with Mal Moriati and Big Jock Payet… Dad, I can’t tell how much it broke my heart to see Normie, the last of the “awesome foursome” at your funeral.  He looked so lost, now that all three of his mates aren’t here to share a round or two at the end of the game.  Not that I want Normie to join you anytime soon, but just saying Dad – he misses you and you might want to check in with him.  Don’t do anything silly like appear as a ghost in his hallway when he gets up with his tricky prostrate in the middle of the night … that would be just something you would do.  That bloody Irish sense of humour of yours.  Harley, the girls and I – we all miss it, but we are grateful to you for passing it on.  I have needed it lately.

A lot.  I often see something on the news or read it in the paper and think “Dad would have something funny or opinionated (usually both) to say about this”.  The kids and I still “laugh like shit” when we talk about when Jock Payet nearly drove his golf ball into an unsuspecting egret on the golf course … and you starting singing “We have no Egrets” … corny Dad joke that one.

You know Dad, this year has been really tough.  It broke my heart losing you, as I had just realised that we had finally both really found each other.  I think it took me making my epic trip to Western Australia to make us both realise the depth of our love for each other.  During one of our last conversations – I knew you were sick Dad and I was trying to probe a little bit without letting you know I was worried.  When you told me that Dr Jimmy Shepherd put you in hospital because you turned yellow, I think I knew in my head then that I wouldn’t be seeing you for your surprise 70th birthday that we had planned.  My heart still has trouble with the knowing that I am not going to see you again.

You will be pleased to know that your mates at The Royal sprang for the food and drink for a great wake instead of the birthday surprise we had planned.  Bloody hell Dad, I drank some serious Rums with Janelle Walker that afternoon.  And … yes Janelle and her Charlie (you were right when you said what a top bloke he is), and I “laughed like shit” talking about you and your antics over the years.  It was a little bit healing.

By the way Dad, did I mention how much I really am grateful for you deciding to kick the bucket on my birthday … I was feeling like I had just started to feel normal again after Mum (a whole different kind of sadness there … if you see her up there, and you are on talking terms, give her a glass of Fruity Lexia for me and tell her to go easy on the Oxycontin … it makes her dribble x), and you had to go and die ON MY BIRTHDAY!  Shit Dad, do you know how crappy that was – I know you didn’t mean it but it really really sucked.

Dad, can you tell my darling brother Adam that I see his compassion and sense of fairness reflected in each of my children?  He really would have been a great Uncle, I always pictured me taking care of him like I did as a child.  Please tell my beautiful StepMum Valita how much her love and guidance and “never let the sun go down on a quarrel philosophy” has stayed with me – I was young and selfish back then and sometimes didn’t let her love me as much as she wanted.

I know that Valita sent me a little sign with Chris Isaak singing your wedding song “Can’t help falling in love” when I was dropped off at the festival by those two lovely police officers.  I felt so lost, and I kept saying “Oh my goodness” … honestly I must have been in shock, when have you ever known me to say “oh my goodness”?  Bloody Bollocks to that.  I know you were looking down on me Dad, when Dave found me in the dusty crowd and the first thing he gave me was a rum.  He literally stood there and hugged me in the middle of the Fremantle grounds while I sobbed my guts out.  I reckon you and Dave would have had some great yarns about army life Dad, while Kel and I rolled our eyes.

These past few nights I have played enough Elvis and Tom Jones songs to make me cry for a year, and the sentimentality of it all does make me roll my eyes a little.  I have sobbed my heart out to my friends a bit because I feel like you are all up there, and I am down here … connecting the dead.  I miss you – my family.  And it bloody well is not fair as it takes my focus away from my little family here – and my role to connect with the living.

Your little Boogsie has been really sad at times Dad, and there was that terrifying moment I thought she wasn’t going to be here.  I won’t go into it here because I know you know, and I believe you sent her back – probably gave her an earful too.  Thank you for that Dad, I think you know I could not have survived losing my girl.  She is such a beautiful girl, she has one third of my heart.  You would have been so proud of her at her Formal.  She always wanted to dance with you on that special night.  Her eyes matched her dress – the most beautiful of blue.  I remember how you used to say to both the girls “when I grow up I am going to marry a girl just like you”.  They fell in love with you a little bit more every time you told them that … no wonder they miss you.  Well Dad, the only thing I can say is that I hope my girls choose life partners who have half the integrity, intellect and courage that you had.  They will do more than OK if they do.

The “Big Fella” … well Dad, Harley is about to make his debut as a professional fighter.  Can you believe it?  April 29 – do they get Foxtel up there Dad?  Do you remember how I used to get so mad at you teaching him to box – back when I was all tofu eating, tie dye wearing hippie like?  But hey Dad, he went to Japan and has worked so hard to achieve this goal.  I know when he goes into that cage he is going to be looking up at you for some sort of sign.  I totally give you permission to coach him from the clouds, and please make sure he does not come out with Cauliflower ears because he is just so handsome. I am so bloody proud of him and miss him so much … Can you believe he is 21 Dad?  Seriously.  Remember my 21st?  It was not long after Valita passed away and you were in a world of hurt – having lost your only son and then your wife, but you still put a hell of a party on for me.  Of course it helps when your Dad owns a pub!  I know you and Amanda made a big effort and I did not appreciate it at the time – it was just that I missed my brother so much.  You know Harley has always looked like Adam, but holy moly – how much does Eden look like her amazing Uncle Adam?  I know you don’t “do Facebook” but did you see the picture I put up with Eden holding up a picture of Adam at 12 … look at their beautiful sleepy green eyes!  And of course, how much do they both have an affinity with nature and animals?  And just so you know – Harley, Lily and I are not letting Eden date until she is like twenty-two hundred!  Your little Clogsy is on the verge of being a beautiful young woman Dad, all legs and arms, blonde hair and green eyes.  PLUS some serious attitude – just ask Lily – they fight like shit!  But when they fall asleep together they hold hands (I have photographic evidence).

I so wish you, Valita and Adam were here to see how great these kids of mine are turning out.  You know that I have always had to be tough Dad, as you know things were not easy for me growing up.  I know in hindsight you would have done more and it was not like the army of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was family friendly, let alone to a single Dad with an autistic son and a precocious daughter.  But some of those foster “families” we ended up with when Mum when off the rails / off with a man / got married / went to rehab … really were a bit awful.  But we made our peace with all of that Dad, and as parent I learned to forgive both you and Mum – as I have learned that you can only do the best you can with what you have.  My wise friend reminds me often – you can’t know what you don’t know.

Raising three children largely as a single parent has imbued me with a certain ability to pick myself up when the going gets tough.  Yet, the morning before my birthday I woke up having slept in my ugly melancholy coat, that was so heavy on my shoulders that I actually went back to bed for the whole day.  I have not done that in a very long time.  I realise now that for the past few weeks, during a family crisis, I have been on autopilot trying to steer our little family ship through some pretty stormy seas.  In doing that, I had neglected to prepare myself for this day and I simply ran out of steam.  I do not feel tough at all.  I felt lost and sad and jealous of others who have family when I don’t.

At the end of this year of firsts, I had planned for it to be so different. I had “planned” to be ok and to simply celebrate my life as it is now.  Instead, I found myself unable to plan for more than getting up to make a sandwich.

I have had a lot of time to reflect in my melancholy about how I am here and you are all … not.  I think perhaps it is time for me to stop focussing on connecting the dead.  The thing is Dad, could give me a little sign this week (like I don’t know a Liverpool FC sticker on the car in front of me or something), that it is OK for me to do that?  I can’t seem to do it by myself.

Love Kaili

PS – Hey Dad, do you like my tattoos?  I know you don’t, but it is long way to reach to clip around me the ear, and it was my way of both celebrating you and getting back at your for daring to die on my birthday! x

Nightmare on Ardleigh Crescent

The manifestation of my childhood trauma?

The manifestation of my childhood trauma?

Ok, so Ardleigh Crescent may not have the same ring to it as Elm Street, but for me, the nightmare I had last night resonated just as soundly as the ones I used to have many years ago as a very troubled teenager living in a very troubled home environment. Just like back in that time, the villain in last night’s nightmare had the face and persona of our friend Freddy Kreuger, who had first appeared in pop culture in 1984, the year that my mother married my stepfather and things in my world took a sinister turn. I think back to that time, and realise now that by making the villain Freddy in my nightly replays of certain events, did in fact make it easier to survive day by day because ultimately Johnny Depp and Co prevailed and Freddy was eventually vanquished … although we never quite know do we?

Fast forward to my forty year old confident self who has worked hard to overcome childhood traumas. I make a point in my life of today to actively live in the now, which means by default not reliving the past. So, I was very surprised that old scar face showed himself in my dream last night. When I woke up this morning, I recalled large chunks of it vividly, and whilst I don’t feel the need to expand on the content this morning, the subject matter and storyline involved my youngest daughter and would scare any parent.

But something was very different about this dream. Even though the Freddy was there and loomed large and scary, I actually wasn’t scared at all. I recall feeling enraged, irate that he would have the audacity to show up and even try it on! Even though the dream sequence took some scary turns and there were some close calls, I was able to thwart him at every stage. Hell, at one point I even recall spinning around with my dress shooting out flames, which was hell cool! (I do think this bit was more to do with the fact that the girls and I went to see Catching Fire last night and I was channeling a bit of Katniss Everdeen – Hell Yeah!).

Every scene culminated in me shepherding my girl and her friends to safety, and the finale was when I kicked Freddy’s ass UFC style (thanks to my son I know a bit about this), and took the sucker down in a mighty straight arm bar triple attack! I remember it took place in the driveway of my old house at 31 Gregory Street in Toowoomba, and I yelled out “Citizen’s arrest Kreuger … you are going down for a long long time!” … Cheesy maybe … empowering more so!

I used to wake up from Freddy dreams literally feeling like I had done battle, and sometimes I would have scratches on my arms or face that at the time made me very very scared, as I truly thought the bastard was real. Now I know that I probably scratched myself but at the time it made more sense that he was there as back then I did truly feel like I was living in an inescapable nightmare.

I am telling this story not because I need to revisit that time, but because my nightmare of last night had such a different feeling. Even though like in my past it played out on and off throughout the night – even after I got up and had a drink of water – I went back to the same scene as if it were merely an intermission. The major difference in last night’s dream was that not only was I the lead actor but I was also the director, and man that is empowering. Despite the action in my dream, I still woke up feeling refreshed and ready to have a great day!

If dreams are indeed a manifestation of our subconscious (and I will throw over to my good friend Melanie for comment on this), I am taking this one as a sign that my life is truly in a great place. The past few years have certainly had their peaks and troughs, and this has left me a little battered at times. But as the year draws to a close I know just how much I do have to be grateful for and just how many demons I have vanquished. Through my choice to work with my mentors (the film crew) and friends (the supporting cast), I have made so many amazing changes in my life, which of course has put me in a place where I can not only stand firm and protect my little family from whatever might come their way and through making a choice to live firmly in the now, I am also teaching them to do the same, which means I have created generational change, and by crikey I am proud of that!

I have a feeling there won’t be any more installments in this series. Besides, “Nightmare on Ardleigh Crescent 2” has no kind of ring to it at all.

 

 

 

Affirmations 101

I was never one for affirmations. Despite being given Louise Hay’s “You can Heal your Life” as a very troubled homeless teenager and immediately noting that there could be something in her teachings for me, it took another 25 years before I seriously embraced the power of affirmations. I was the quintessential cinic, the ultimate naysayer.
However, after really listening to the collective message of the successful people I now choose to surround myself with, I realised that they are all firm affirmers…
Was I convinced that affirmations would work for me? Not totally, but I decided to give them a go … on the fake it till you make it principle. I would stare cheesily into the mirror and rattle off something I thought sounded like an affirmation and proceed about my day. Suddenly I noticed that the thing I had affirmed that morning would manifest in some way during the day. It wasn’t huge to start with, but in the past few weeks the good fortune and success that has come my way just makes me want to jump for joy! My latest affimation: Anytime I step up and use the knowledge I have been given in order to be an entrepreneur, I experience open doors and a wealth of opportunities….
Watch this space people … I can’t wait to share all of the amazing opportunities that are coming my way …

Hold on to your hats … it is going to be extraordinary! (AKA You like me)

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I am loving life right now. Things are really coming together. I am achieving my dreams, and the momentum with which this is happening is crazy wonderful. I have clarity on this like never before. Within the next twelve months I will be a published author and a property entrepreneur. My corporate writing business is building at a pace that is manageable yet looks like being profitable. My health is on its way to being the best it has been in years. This detox is really working and I am not even hungry. I am not even struggling mentally with the fact that I won’t be eating cheese and crackers with smoked salmon accompanied by a chilled Marlborough SB tomorrow night, which is a bit of a Friday ritual (OK, that one pinches a little)! I caught up with a girlfriend the other afternoon after a stressful meeting and said “I need a herbal tea and an apple STAT!” … Admittedly, said GF nearly fell backwards in shock. Sorry Larsy I have not gone cray-cray, I am just getting real about what I would for the next decade – my fabulous forties.

Am I there yet? No … do I have a fair way to travel down the path to better health, wealth and fulfillment? Most definitely. Is it going to take as much hard work as say … doing a law degree or raising a couple of fantastic kids – you betcha. Am I going to need to keep getting tidier/more focused/on time/committed/organised … Yerp!

So what is different about things this time?

Many things … the pain of how I was living certain aspects of my life finally reached tipping point. The desire to have and hold certain other things grew too big to ignore. I had some honest conversations with my middle daughter, and we made a commitment to live healthier together. Plus recently I had yet another opportunity to learn a couple of somethings about myself – that it is OK (really OK) if people don’t like me, and that I don’t have to jump in/interrupt/rescue people in order to demonstrate that I am worthy/smart/likable/funny/attractive to men …

At the wedding that I attended recently, I met up with a woman who I knew back in high school. We were chatting about men, as single gals tend to eventually. She told me that all men are bastards. I told her I disagree. It really is about perspective isn’t it?

Home is where the heart is (and family is where you find them)

I started this post sitting at the Perth airport after an epic journey to Queensland and back to see my oldest and dearest friend Caroline marry the love of her life, the gorgeous (and patient) Keleigh. I couldn’t wait to be picked up so I can give the two children of mine who remain at home a big squeeze. It won’t be long until MD (middle daughter) Lily, like her big bro Harley before her leaves the nest, and then it will be Eden and I, and our aging menagerie left at home … here … in Perth…. which so far from some of those I love dearly.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful for the life I have carved out for myself here in the wild windy west, and I have many who I love (and who love me) over here, but it is when there are celebrations like these you realise that you may as well live on the moon (well not quite … let’s curb my inner drama queen now). But it is a long way to go to see loved ones. To re-frame that, this past weekend I realised that I am truly blessed to have loved ones in the West and East of this lovely land, and quite frankly I am chuffed. I had been feeling quite sad about anything “over East” since my Mum and Dad both passed away in recent months, and at times I have felt I have “nothing to come back home for”. The last time I left Queensland was after my Dad’s funeral in March, and I remember sitting at the Brissy airport with tired and sad children thinking that my heart would perhaps fall out of the bottom of the plane and be left behind in pieces on the tarmac.

This weekend I was proven wrong on so many levels. Not only was it just awesome to see Caro’s family, including her cousins Sam, Cassie and Jason with whom I share many hilarious childhood memories, but I also got totally embraced by her wonderful husband’s huge and friendly family, who “got” my jokes, didn’t mind my sentimentality and allowed me to share in their unique blend of casual and hilarious affection for each other. I reckon I have made some life long friends and the standing joke was that I had now added the “Davey” last name to that of Behan-O’Connor … which would make me K-Bod, which befits my celebrity status as a superstar crime novelist…

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So, K-Bod may have left the building, and indeed the state, but in the words of the Gubinator “I’ll be back”!

Panic at the disco … my Monday Top 10!

Panic

I confess to having a feeling of panic today. I have been writing late into the night and still don’t feel satisfied with my work. I have stacks ‘going on’ in my life also and am finding the juggle a bit much today. The temptation is of course to throw my hands in the air, dive back under the doona and achieve nothing. Which is why I am blogging. Not as a procrastination mechanism but as a meditation technique. If I don’t write what I am worried about down and also the many tasks I have to do, I will just churn it all around in my mind all day and get nothing done. So here goes:

1. Lily’s operation – after months of surgeries, casts, wheelchairs and crutches, my 17 year old has what is hopefully the last operation to remove some screws from her leg. This is exciting. She has to be there for 7.00am tomorrow morning. To be collected by 6.00pm unless they keep her overnight, which based on her last experience may be a possibility. Note to self – other daughter needs somewhere to go for a few hours.

2. Real Estate seminar 8.00 – 5.00 tomorrow – I really want to do this as the topic is ‘options’, which is exactly the strategy that I have spent the past few months teaching myself about and the one I think is going to make me the most money, as I have the skills to make it work. I only wish it was not tomorrow, but I guess Lily will be in surgery so short of sitting at the hospital worrying, there is not much else I should be doing … apart from …

3. Writing up the project sheets for my new client. This job could be really lucrative for me, and I don’t hate this sort of writing, but I would rather be working on my manuscript. But rent needs to be paid and food needs to be purchased…. speaking of my manuscript, it needs to be completed to a standard that I am happy with by Thursday 31 October to make the cut off for two major mentorship programs …

4. Speaking of Thursday, I have another thing to do on Thursday, a not so pleasant thing and this has caused me a certain amount of angst and sleepless nights. But, I am assured by those helping me that things are in hand so I just have to let this one play out. But again it is a time consuming thing.

5. Also for Thursday and Friday, I have my small business course which I have to do to get the funding to get my writing business off the ground. I am finding this tedious and a huge interruption on my time, but nonetheless a necessary evil.

6. House inspection scheduled for Wednesday 30 October – trying to get this postponed until next week as I really do not have time to vacuum the window tracks and clean the oven.

7. Saturday and Sunday, I have my longed for next stage of the self-development course – it is all about tapping into what you are passionate about and making it work in your life. I hope this will bring me some clarity and perspective about where I am heading. I know I am going to be with some very cool people on the weekend at least.

8. My money situation. It is really stressful being almost broke, but I know that this is only going to be the situation for the next ten days. I am a bit stressed about what to do when I get money though. It will be good to pay some long overdue debts to some beautiful friends who have helped me out in my time of need…

9. Speaking of need – must call electricity, gas and other bills up to beg extensions. Gosh darn it. That takes time too. 

10. My Best Friend’s Wedding … in Queensland … that I have yet to book tickets for as I don’t have the money … Thank god she is not on Facebook. I can only cross my fingers and toes that number 8 comes to fruition in time for me to get there.

SIgh … do I feel calmer? Nope. Any readers, please feel free to jump in with some strategies.

Reading Like A Writer

Love this! I am going to do this from now on.

A Dream Come True

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I once read, I can’t remember where (although I want to say it was Stephen King) that writers should read a book twice.  The first time as a reader…the second time as a writer.

I have found that advice invaluable (whoever said it) and I use that technique with everything I read.  I will read a book and see if I like it.  If I do, I then reread it and find out what the writer did to lure me into their world so effectively.  Most of the time, I’ve enjoyed a book or story because of the characters…I love a good hero or a despicable villain.  The plot is important, of course, but if you don’t have great characters with lots of depth and layers, I find it hard to get into the story.

So, if the writer got my attention, I reread it to find out how they…

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