Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Friendship rules OK?

It's days like these with people like these

Hola señoras y señores. ¿Cómo estamos todos?

So it turns out there are only a few Spanish sentences I can actually pull out of the hat before I am exposed for my basic understanding, but I had to follow through with my promise of writing my next blog in Spanish (ok technically I am not writing this in Spanish, but in my head as I type my internal monologue has a Spanish accent… Does that count?) Let’s face it, foreign languages have never been my strong point, I am still perplexed as to how I managed to get a ‘C’ in GCSE German.

You might want to grab a cup of tea, coffee or potentially a glass of wine and get comfortable as I have a feeling this blog might be a little bit longer than the rest: October has been a busy month. It’s been full of working hard on the book and also many nights’ meanderings through my new home city. I have been pretty sleep deprived since I relocated and I have been a thousand times more reflective than usual, which means about two thousand times more reflective than your average person.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship this month because I am convinced that this is one area of my life I am blessed in and my blog last month touched on RU OK? day. My goodness, over the last year if it wasn’t for my housewife Alice, I think I would have given up on life altogether. I tried to put a good front on and pretend that I had everything completely under control, but I think most people could see through that, due to my inability to really hide what is going on under the surface, Alice was the most patient, kind and understanding angel. There is no other word to describe Alice’s arrival in my life so, as well as calling her my housewife, I secretly call her an angel because that is exactly what she was and still is. She wasn’t the only angel there for me at this time, as I was lucky enough to be supported from near and far.

Alice and I on our road trip across Australia
In the UK, my group of friends from school have forever been a rock and a constant in my life. As a teenager I had no idea how much support and laughter they would go on to provide over the years. They are a consistent source of light and account for a large percentage of all the repeats that play out in my memory, like a good old rerun of Friends. I remember one night standing with my mum at a house party that my friends were in attendance at: They were all at dancing around and causing mischief. My mum put her arm around my shoulder and said, ‘You are so lucky, I love those girls and what they have brought into your life.’ Well said mum.
Then, when I moved to Perth from the UK, I was blessed with a second family. They took me under their roof and made sure that I was invited to family parties and truly made to feel welcome. I never once felt like a burden or an inconvenience, I have always just felt like I was always meant to be there and the transition to Australia was made so much easier by the love and support they gave me.

Why am I telling you all of this? Not just to do a massive ‘I am so grateful blah blah blah’ speech and to rub my happiness in everyone’s faces. It’s because I went through a period of feeling worthless, unattractive, and a whole dollop self-loathing. It wasn’t a short period of time either, it was a long period of time – the pain I felt in the pit of my stomach, the sharp pain in my heart and the sinking feeling every time my alarm went off that I had to face another day. Every day I thought, just get up and go through the motions. I didn’t even have the energy to tell myself that things will get better and to keep going. I hid myself away and felt like I was in a pit of darkness.
Over 20 years of friendship right there. Beautiful souls.
They were not good times and this is why Alice was an angel at that time. She pretty much forced her support on me… Calling, texting and showing up at my house on Saturdays with food. She dragged me out by my hair and nothing was ever too much trouble. We should all aim to do that for someone in need at some point in our lives, because you have no idea the impact you can have on another’s life. Alice pushed me out of my comfort zone, ordering me out of the house and giving me the courage to get back out into the real world again.

It was a long process and I thought I would never ever get out of that slump but I did. And I just want to say it was so, so, soooo worth it. The last six months have been amazing and I feel truly blessed just to wake up in the morning. Now instead of focusing on what went wrong and all the bad things that happened to me, I wake up with the focus of everything that is amazing and how much I have learnt.

I have been taken under the wing of more friends since I have arrived in Melbourne. It’s like they were created specifically to take me on to the next period of my life… I know they weren’t (don’t worry I am not that egotistical) but I am very lucky. I think my appreciation of them reached its pinnacle on Friday night when I was sitting on Matt’s balcony, sipping cold beer with the backdrop of Melbourne city. The sun was setting, we were laughing and chewing the fat. Life was good.

My Aussie family and guardians
We got through enough beer* to sink the Titanic and it was just one of those moments in life when you feel elated with the love of friendship. On my way out, I thought it was a fair trade for the amount of Matt’s beer I had consumed to offer to take out our empties. I literally staggered out of his flat with a box full of empty bottles, and stacked on top of that was the packaging of the food we had eaten. I could just about see over the top of the box. Just.

We had finished our evening with ghost stories, as you do when it’s dark and you’re drunk. I got in the lift and hit the button for the ground floor. I was grinning as I relived moments of the evening and replayed some of our conversations. The lift doors opened and as I stepped out I was surrounded by 20 emergency personnel. (There were probably three, but I was drunk and seeing triple… And yes, the math didn’t add up there). It was pretty surreal and I was torn between dropping the box and putting my hands in the air while yelling ‘it wasn’t me’ and waiting to be handcuffed.
‘Do you live here?’ a hot woman in uniform asked me, and I couldn’t help but laugh as I weighed up the possibility that my friends had organised a strip show for me, (because we have already established I have awesome friends).

‘No I am juscht taking my friendchs rubbisch out,’ I replied hiccupping. I was glared at by the 20 emergency personnel while I clattered around the hallway trying various doors as I realised I did not know where the bin area was.

Team work makes the dream work
I eventually found the right place, threw the rubbish in the skip and walked back to the corridor to see what was going on. Although I’d only been gone 10 seconds, there was nobody there. I stopped in my tracks and really looked around. Was I hallucinating? Was this a joke? I walked out into the street and it was filled with emergency vehicles: I felt relieved that I wasn’t imagining things but I couldn’t stop giggling all the way home.

I got up the following day slightly worse for wear and Lindsey (‘ere, Linds) gave me a call. We talked through the book and she passed on some ideas. We had a thorough update on the project, so that afternoon I began my side of the editing process. The goal is still to be approaching publishers by the end of the year and I still believe this is very much achievable. The current version of the book is being reviewed by six very important people who will influence that final version. Six people whose opinions I value, so they also have a very important job in the project… One of the six has finished the new version and I can tell you the feedback on the new ending is exceptionally positive compared to the previous version, so I am feeling a little more confident.

The very long point I am trying to make is that we all go through very hard times and I know it is different for everyone. I know my break up was not unique and I know my situation might not be a big problem for some, but it was for me. During those dark times please try to remember that people love you, people will do anything for you and the darkness lifts eventually. The best piece of advice I can give is that you have to reach out and you have to let people in, even if you feel like no one can help you or that no one will want to listen. Reach out because you have to remember how important you are in this world, how much laughter is waiting for you and how much you are loved. It really is worth fighting for and working yourself out of the darkness. And I’ll be taking my own advice next time.

*Corina Hawkins does not condone the drinking of alcohol in large quantities during hard times. Only ever in the good times while being totally responsible.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author of ‘Tattoos of memories’ and creatively bossed by Lindsey Barnett.

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