“Don’t look back. You’ll turn into a pillar of shit!”…….

Don’t look back.  You can only look forward and look toward a place you do not know until you reach it.  Sometimes, as difficult as it seems, you must learn to leave what you have grown to love be it somewhere you have lived and where perhaps your yesterdays are all buried deep.  It is an odd feeling leaving.  You not only miss the existence of the life you have built for yourself but most of all, you miss the person you have been at that time in that place and you know you will never feel that same way again.

Perhaps there are times where the bottom is supposed to fall out of our lives.  We lose what we love, we lose our trust and faith and we lose the truth of what we thought we believed so very deeply in.  When this happens, you can find yourself in a very dark place and it is from here you have the choice whether to move on or not.

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So very Southern.  The glorious magnolia flower………

Our trip home, documented in the last 15 posts, was disconcerting at best.  Amazing yet heartbreakingly difficult all at the same time.  Our lives thrown into careless turmoil and all the while dearly missing our family Gus and Zoe.  How were we to know when we packed up our home and our lives in the beautiful state of South Australia (a wonderful posting, as every one of our postings have been) in November of 2013 to begin that remarkable journey, that it would end as it did.  That life would change in an instant!   A single very ordinary instant and that we would be made to forfeit all which we never believed we could forfeit.

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November 2013.  Our entire home and lives packed up in readiness for this wonderful adventure.  How could we have known it would end as it did………

Packed and ready to go………

Last moments in Sydney Australia.  Cheers to a wonderful adventure……….

There is the realisation that one grows from something like this, as well one should, and  you will learn much.  During the most harrowing of times, although I thought I had lost absolutely everything, I gained so very much more.  I only had to look for it.

I have learnt that I need not tie myself to the weight of other peoples’ worth for when they are not made of heart they hold no purpose in my life.  I have discovered the world has people in it who will want to destroy you at any cost however the dehumanising process they use will only make you stronger and your determined courage will see you take your rightful stand.

In times such as these you also come to know your worth and you learn not to allow it to be measured by anyone else.   That although overwhelmed by sorrow you won’t give up. You learn grief has no mercy but you endeavor to fight a good fair fight even against an opponent who will play the lowest and grubbiest of hands.  That something like this also shows you that different people will spurn you in different ways and this is especially true the sly and cowardly piss weak when they have backing and the promise of immunity.

I have learnt I needed to allow my hurt to leave as though casting a stone and that in the baptism of fire of how truly cruel and hateful some women can be, you just need to hold fast your grace.  Don’t ever allow those very disagreeable trolls who favor spite, unkindness, calumny and profound negativity to ruin your benevolence.  Believe me, they are not worthy of it………xx.

I have come to understand I will still struggle with moments of bleak resentment toward those who so brutally drove all that happened.  When my forgiveness wavers, I fret at my lack of compassion for them and this is only because it sees me momentarily lose sight to empathy and humility which I hold dear.

I am also able to recognise that although some have felt justified through misguided, outdated and restless social barriers they had the right to dislocate and make inconsolable, they in turn unwittingly unleashed the singular power of my self respect and this has driven me on.  Regardless of the heinous bitter and very nasty shit they have thrown my way, I am stronger and more resilient than ever.

Most importantly though, I now know when assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those whom I should have been able to turn to yet were exiled from, I learnt to rely only upon myself.  Big tip – Trust only yourself and believe in yourself always.

We met some wonderful people and their friendships will be with us life long.  We had the most amazing time in America, as we have done in all of our postings, and we are so deeply grateful of our time there.  We made the absolute most of every single opportunity to explore, to travel, to experience and to see and do……and believe me, we did 🙂   We took road trips of thousands of miles.  Driving through the golden forge of Americas’ heartland.  Through sleepy forgotten towns where a richness often lies in such brokenness yet these places become an awfully human place to exist.  To vibrant cities of architectural beauty.  Those magnificent steel and glass cities that sound of car and taxi horns and the thrum of a million people.  We rode trolley cars and trains.  Walked hundreds of miles on streets we could only have dreamt of walking.  We flew in American skies over patchwork pastures and smog settled cities.  In moments I remember the small things such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the dusting of snow Georgia received in our first weeks there, a terrace house in a neighborhood of Washington, glorious magnolia blossom, my first Georgia peach, blackened catfish and the very spot where Elvis fried up his peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

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Touch down in America saw us touring the incredibly beautiful city of San Francisco for a few days………..

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A wealthy neighborhood where the hand of a Buddha statue held a leather catcher’s mitt.  Where Martin Luther King died for his cause and where Presidents have been inaugurated.  Blue Ridge Mountains,  dear little chipmunks and ‘bandits’, diners and corner cafes, juke joints, those long long four lane concrete freeways, the slow drawl of the beautiful southern accent, water towers and the desolate painful trail of tears in Chattanooga.  Sugar dusted beignets at Café du Monde, Spanish moss and mocking birds.  Fresh home-made waffles and pancakes, fried chicken, pecan pie and corn bread.   Sometimes it was the America I had always imagined and often it wasn’t, but perhaps this is what it means to travel.

Our teeny tiny snowman made from a dusting of Georgian snow……….

I missed the hot clotted air and heat of the south which wrapped around me, tanned my skin and frizzed my hair.  The south has a heat which is indescribable yet it lets you discover your porch, friendships, lazy afternoons and a pitcher of anything icy cold.

Once back home in Australia, unsettled and with a sorrow I could not comprehend, I unpacked my bag and shook out a raging aching heart.  It may have been over but really, it was only the beginning…………

And here in Newcastle, as unforeseeable as it was at that time, my life is all I imagined it to be.  From the moment I arrived I knew I was home.  Nowhere I had ever lived before gave the warmth of knowing I was home and you know instantly where you belong and that is the true beauty of life .  At home and at one with that beautiful ocean and where optimism, one of humanities great traits, beguiles and where soul expanding moments continually happen.

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Don’t look back.  What matters is now.  Go only forward and go with courage and dignity and summon that great value of the human spirit which is to never ever give up……..xx

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Footnote:  “Don’t look back. You’ll turn into a pillar of shit”  is a line by Ellen Burstyn in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.   

Japan Part II – Japan became a blur as we both became more heartsick…….

This has been a very difficult post to write.  It doesn’t require comment nor judgment and nor does this post necessitate analysis but it does ask the contemplation and quiet consideration of humility…………

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Two thirty am Japan time we received the call.  Gus had been rushed to the emergency vet and his prognosis was poor.

And then he was gone…….

I have no way of understanding why this happened or what possible purpose Gus’s passing served.  The moment was of crippling agony as it was brutally raw.

Our dear, beautiful and gentle Gus.  Lost.  There is no shame in saying we both cried our hearts out.  Sorrow at the loss of Gus and despair of Zoe’s terribly suffering.  Later that morning, and after very little sleep, I wrote down seven words.  A promise.  I always keep my word and my promises and of course I will honour this to the very end regardless of any consequence.  Always keep your word and especially keep it to the dead.

We grieved for our family so cruelly and forcibly removed from our care.  We grieved for the terrible impact this very poorly executed decision created and we grieved for the incomprehensibility of it all.  Emptiness can be so final and grief can be a strange and foreboding place to find oneself especially when the impact of it pushes you to the very edge.

I still cannot believe we lost Gus.  That he did not return home and that we also very nearly lost Zoe.   It has been almost two years and I still find his fur, his beautiful soft fur on the occasional piece of clothing and I do not want to wash it for fear of washing him away forever.

After he died, I drank until my head and my body hurt but it did not stop the ache of my heart.  I did not know when being forced against our very will to surrender our beautiful companions, a move so callously ordered of us, that we would never see Gus again.  I knew both of my companions would suffer terribly during that forced separation and I very clearly stated that fact to those who were driving this.  I am not too proud to say either that I begged for both my beautiful cats and for the smallest crumb of compassion yet this was so callously dismissed.  The entire circumstance of what happened is very untidy and very dirty and be assured, when a door is slammed in your face and you hear it bolt you also know things are about to get very, very nasty.

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Don’t think me oversentimental nor dare consider me a poster-child for victimhood in writing this post as the nefarious process used to order our removal, the clandestine execution of the QA and RTA, the gross administrative failings exposed, the duplicity and so very much more have been difficult and deeply painful paths to tread.   For almost 24 months I very gently pulled at clusters of tiny little threads.  Though often a challenging and laborious task, these seemingly innocuous little strands unraveled to reveal a great deal and their unfurling bestowed light to the very dark underbelly of all that occurred.

During these very long months, moments of uncertainty and a terrible bitter darkness crept in but thankfully now this steaming festering pile of feculence is no longer my burden to carry.  You will finally hear the truth and you will be given the opportunity to dissect between that and the force-fed bullshit and lies you have been constantly been told.  This candour too will come from those who hold positions to rightfully and legitimately do so and that is all that matters.

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The last photos taken of Gus and Zoe before their forced separation and the splintering of our family……

I am aware too that to be vindictive and abjectly mean is something that sets itself so deeply in some that it can never be changed.  These sorts of people need to harm and demean in order to bolster their own flailing self-esteem and because they hold such unhappiness within themselves and their lives.  I am also well aware of the little victory celebration held on the very day of our farewell with notable ‘toasts’ to our demise over large Margaritas and that the word Karma was uttered after Gus’s passing.  As deeply distressing as that all was, I accept that to endure this sort of cruelty does not deem you to respond in the same manner.  When the word Karma was stated I thought, how very vicious and heartless are some in that they have to bandy such cruelty around, but I understood that I could not hate those so sneeringly gleeful at Gus’s passing as my compassion for their displays of hate, shallow ignorance and their great senselessness needed forgiveness not retaliation.   Karma is in fact a beautiful Buddhist term which relates to fate, actions and intent.  What it simply means is that when you intentionally set a course to destroy another you then must be fully responsible and accountable for your actions.

I am also very proud of the fact we paid for all of our vet bills which ran into many thousands of dollars US and we paid to have Zoe returned home without begging for money (not that we would ever lower ourselves nor our standards to that) as some have done recently in order to have their pets returned to Australia.  Even though the organisation and its actions contributed to these massive accounts, to the death of Gus and to the suffering of Zoe they have stated they will not be responsible financially or otherwise.  Please note:  I am able to state this as it is a fact.  It is the truth. It is the actuality of what was stated by the Australian Defence Force.

I believe however, the most difficult of all to contend with during this entire time has been the breach of trust.  A trust placed in the ADF that they would uphold and follow all of the correct procedures and processes required for a QA and RTA, that the exercise be an ethically and lawfully managed action, that there would be transparency and accountability and that morally, no personal agendas would influence an outcome.  When this sort of betrayal is perpetrated it robs you of your innocence, your faith and it robs you of all hope.  It requires of you to re-evaluate all that you have believed in and it allows you to see how truly cruel and how truly deceitful humans, especially those in positions ‘power’ and organisations can be.  The entire process just seems now to come across as, I don’t know, almost schizophrenic in its implementation!

Despite all that has occurred, I very much intend to live my life with kindness, empathy and humanity for these values hold the greatest space in my heart.  And this is regardless how much the organisation, its hierarchy and the ‘very objectionable pussy posse’ (last four words copyrighted for an essay to be published) who the organisation recruited to do their very dirty work, tried to strip me of my very being.  The sadness of this terrible mess has been catastrophic but I will not allow myself or my life to be a reflection of those who so brutally drove, encouraged and supported this.  Perhaps though, you cannot get to somewhere good unless you have come from a deeply troubled and difficult place.  When you endure arduous times only then can you truly appreciate wonder and the good which comes from it.

There have been times where I have felt completely powerless.  Defeated by masterful stonewalling, evasion and lies but at no time did I give up.  I will never not raise my voice to injustice and wrongdoing for when you are silent, when you become a bystander or when you become a fence sitter you do nothing more than encourage persecution and I for one will never cower to injustice, to hatred, to hate speech or to oppression and I will certainly not cow down to the Australian Defence Force.  We are all truly capable of accomplishing the most extraordinary things when we are pushed to our very limit, so I most graciously acknowledge those involved in this heinous onslaught for pushing me to a point which has made me the strongest and most formidable person you are ever going to encounter.

Hate, defeat and despair are all part of the human existence just as love and kindness and compassion are and I know which I would rather have in my life.  Don’t ever allow anyone, no matter who they are nor how powerful they believe themselves or their organisation to be to rob you of your dignity, your spirit and your ultimate humanity.  No one has that right. No one!

You can either sit around feeling sorry for yourself or you can get up and do something about it.  We all have and will have to face terrible moments in our lives.  That is the very simple privilege of our human existence but it is how we choose to deal with them and those who have perpetrated these acts that ultimately counts.  Be the one to challenge when you know something is very very wrong, champion change, be inspiring and be the one to stand up and say ‘Not on my fucking watch you don’t!’  The choice is ultimately yours.

Stay graceful in your darkest of moments and do not let your grief become indulgent.  It will linger long after an event so do something constructive and good with the agony it brings.  Pain may surround you but you can transform its discomfort to become something powerful and very positive.   Hateful barriers and those who build them are meant to be knocked down so do not ever, ever give up.

Part III of Japan coming soon……..xx

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