For the second time this week, I found myself in tears while nursing my two years old. He is too young to understand emotions, but surprisingly, he does. He went to sleep in my arms, his little hand caressing my cheek, while I was trying to make some sense of this terrible tragedy in Cairns. But how can anyone understand the incomprehensible? As a mother, I hurt for those 8 children who never stood a chance for that fair go that we are all accustomed to talk about. And also as a mother of two, the only thing that I can understand is that something must have been gone terrible wrong, for a loving mother to end 8 little lives like that.
I find that there is a new taboo word amongst mothers - no one wants to admit or talk about the isolation that can result from rearing children. Sometimes you can easily get cut off from your dreams, life style, aspirations and whatever else made you YOU, prior to having children. Sometimes it is hard to keep a healthy balance between being a mother and being a person. Sometimes one might get depressed without any soul in the world noticing. And without the right support, it is easy to fall through the cracks.
Now, as an ex journalist, I am getting extremely disappointed with the way the sensational gets in the way of humane in all press reports. So I am not going to get into all that debate about drugs, drinking, race, social status, dole, dysfunctional, etc. in a way or another we are all dysfunctional at certain times in life.
But as a mother and as a person, I can only wonder about support. And about depression. Let's stop speculating over the sensational for a minute. We don't know her story or her path through life. Whether she had food for her children or enough money. Whether she had the support she needed and when she needed it. Life with so many children cannot be easy at all. Without approving her, I just want to say: It's easy for anyone to snap at a point. What sort of help did this lady and her family have? And did she reach to anyone? And if she did, did they notice? Or did they let it pass unobserved? So many questions that will remain unanswered. And yet another tragedy that might have been avoided if people were connected more to each other. It is disconcerting, this paradox: the more connected on all the social media we feel, the more disconnected from real life we become.
I think there is a very strong meaning that we all have to draw from Murray Street, as well as from Sydney siege: this is the time we all have to reach to each other. It is all well and good to take flowers and toys in the aftermath, but how can that help the ones that are no longer here? It is great to pay our respects to the victims and it is amazing to see how we all become one, as a nation. But we have to take one more step. To the ones that feel strong enough, please stop and ask the others "Are you ok?" And when we do, we should fully listen what they have to say. Not just half listening, not peeping at our phones, not just waiting for our turn to speak. And you might be surprised by the multitude of stories out there.
To the ones feeling weak at times: stop and ask for assistance before you reach the snapping point. There is help at hand and there is nothing wrong with admitting when one feels overwhelmed. The acceptance that being a mother equals long overhaul, nurse, accountant, financial planner, entertainment director, executive housekeeper, executive chef, nanny and perfect lover is well and truly ridiculous. Yes, we are all a One-woman orchestra and most of the times we are self sufficient and proud of it. But there are times when we are also vulnerable, lost and miserable. And we should talk more about those times, instead of braving it out or pretend it doesn't happen.
Amidst the odd jobs and all shenanigans involved when bringing up two great kids, I have spent this year doing a lot of soul searching, doing more of the two things that define me. On one hand, I tried to get back to writing so I did a lot of reading - good books, bad books, mediocre...I read all I could during the long nights when my 2yo wanted me to incessantly hold him and let him sleep on my chest.
Secondly, I took the dust off my camera and started photography again, as a way of documenting and conveying to the others the life in our little corner of the world.
I kept focusing on these things for two reasons: because I needed to be reminded of a world I have forgotten - a world of word crafting, of synaesthesia- where words and images melt together and freeze a moment in time. And also because at times, it felt more comfortable to take refuge in something familiar and comforting, rather than confront the realities of the mad world we live in. And 2014 was a mad year, indeed.
I realise now that it was the wrong approach, the ostrich one. Putting my head in the sand and pretending things don't happen won't chance the course of action. But voicing out some concerns, might. My "voice" is little - I have 2 followers on this blog. But maybe if we rally together, something good will come out of it. I am proud of how Australians reacted with a sea of flowers after the Sydney siege. Or how they took flowers and teddies to Murray Street. But this also makes me wonder about proximity and the way we report ourselves to tragedy. Take for instance all the children casualties and all the displaced children in Syria. Who is going to find closure for them? No one even knows exactly how many of them are affected by this ongoing war. They made the headlines for a few days and that was all. I truly hope this will not be the case for the Murray Street inhabitants. They need support, unconditional love and reassurance. What happened there was tragic. But it is also a chance for the others. This tragedy has hopefully shed some light on the life style, difficulties and misconceptions there. It is now up to us all to make sense of it and try to help. How, that is a totally new question.
I often get in trouble with my family for speaking out against violence, for trying to help when I pass by random altercations in the street/ bus station or for not exercising a better risk assessment when I decide to help in these situations. One of the question I get is "what if something happens to you; don't you think about your children?" The thing is, I do. That's the trouble, I think about my children all the time. Is this the world I want them to live in? Is this the person I want them to be? Are these the people they will mix with? And if they do, will it benefit or damage them? But the question that troubles me more is: what will they say about us and our generation when they grow up. When time comes and they learn about history and social unrest in our times, won't they consider us cowards or hypocrites for not saying anything? Won't they be ashamed that we haven't even tried help to change things?
I am not good at New Year resolutions but if I were to make one for 2015 it would be this: to try and pay more attention to people around me. Extend a friendship or just a good word - sometimes that's all people need. I cannot help but wonder, if that poor woman in Cairns had some able support, would she still be in the same circumstances today?
So I will stop, observe more, listen more, help more, smile more and spread the friendships and the laughter further. We all need a good laugh every now and then, to recover from things that otherwise are not easy to comprehend or to understand.
So here is to you, my friends and family from all the cardinal points, I send you Love and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you that Santa brings you everything you need. Not what you want, just what you need.