Tagged: photography

Or did I make you f*ing dance?

IMG_1180

A few months ago, I heard a track on the radio. I have to warn you, it contains expletives. But then, a lot of good things do. It’s by Robert DeLong, and it’s called Global Concepts. Here’s how it starts:

I think it burns my sense of truth
to hear me shouting at my youth
I need a way to sort it out.

After I die, I’ll re-awake,
redefine what was at stake
from the hindsight of a god.

I’ll see the people that I use,
see the substance I abuse,
the ugly places that I lived.

Did I make money? Was I proud?
Did I play my songs too loud?
Did I leave my life to chance
or did I make you f***ing dance?

So, where have I been these past five weeks? I’ve been dancing, people. And I intend to make the entire f*ing world dance along with me.

Sorry. Expletives. They’re contagious.

But anyway, what is the crazy lady talking about? Where were we?

The last time we spoke, I was sitting by a pool in Malaysia. Since then, I’ve shivered my way around Copenhagen, driven really fast around Northern Italy, and returned home to lovely sunny Sydney, just as the trees were beginning to shed their leaves.

And the whole way through our whirlwind adventure, I had this song on my head.

Did I leave my life to chance
or did I make you f***ing dance?

Did I leave my life to chance
or did I make you f***ing dance?

Did I leave my life to chance
or did I make you f***ing dance?

You get the idea.

What does it mean? It means that since I’ve had the potential of an early death flashed in front of me, I’ve been suffused with the desire to take life by the balls.

Sorry. Language again.

I realised that there have been many, many times in life, too countless to mention, where I’ve made the sensible decision. Where I’ve said well, that’d be fun… but it’s not strictly necessary now, is it?

And in Italy, in Lake Como in fact, I suddenly realised that this has to stop.

I’m not a woman of faith. I’m really not convinced there’s any life after this one. And as such it would be a bloody shame to miss out on any opportunity for enjoyment.

The upshot being, I decided, among other impulsive decisions, that I wanted to get married.

Those of you who have known me for a long time will know that I have always proudly been not the marrying type. Not being religious, it’s simply not necessary (see above). And I’ve always liked questioning social norms and expectations. And plus, I didn’t (and don’t) want to be a party to some archaic institution that discriminates against human beings who love just as truly, deeply and honestly as I do. If gays and lesbians aren’t allowed to marry under Australian law, why should I be?

So, why the change of heart then?

A thousand reasons.

In the past year, my various families (nuclear, de facto and urban) have taught me just how important family is. Charlie’s family in particular were so incredibly supportive, loving and wholehearted through my treatment that I began to question my naive assumption that one family (my nuclear one) was enough. I’ve long called myself sister-in-sin to Charlie’s siblings but just plain old sister is nicer.

My emotional baggage about my parent’s marriage was also troubling me. I knew deep in my heart that part of my lack of desire to get married stemmed from my fear that if I married, my relationship might go the same way. I also feared bringing disparate parts of my divorced family back together and opening up old wounds.

Part of the healing process for me is confronting my own demons. Accepting that my I am not my parents, and that my family’s ancient histories are not my problem or responsibility is a big step, I believe.

The other thing that’s been troubling me has been certain people’s treatment of Charlie and myself. A subset of people have long treated our relationship as somehow less worthy or genuine because of our lack of desire to get married. I even had one person ask me if we were in a holding pattern until better prospects came along. I mean… seriously?

It’s not that I’m keen to impress these people. I think their attitude is pretty reprehensible, actually. But right now I feel I need to make a definitive statement. We’ve been through a lot this past year and all the deep connections that have been forged need to be celebrated.

And finally, I want to gather all my favourite people together in one room and f*ing dance.

Last expletive. Promise.

So, Europe.

It was absolutely wonderful.

There were sweets, and gloves, and lots of neon purchases in Copenhagen:

 

IMG_1176 IMG_1178 IMG_1179IMG_1181 IMG_1186

Lake Como was breathtaking. And life changing. And life affirming.

We stayed in a truly ridiculous spa that was once the home of a famous opera singer. We joked that we were staying in George Clooney’s boudoir.

IMG_1241 IMG_1331 IMG_1333 IMG_1334

Jazz hands in Como.

IMG_1336

Milan, where I admitted over a 2 Euro glass of prosecco in this old Monastery that I wanted to get married.

IMG_1337

We took in a tiny portion of the Salone (Milan Design Week).

IMG_1338

Then…

Parma…

IMG_1339

Siena…

IMG_1340 IMG_1341 IMG_1342

San Gimignano…

IMG_1343 IMG_1344

Bergamo…

IMG_1345

Verona…

IMG_1346

And San Pellegrino Terme. Once a glamorous spa town, now an almost forgotten historical relic.

IMG_1347

 

It was a beautiful trip, but the beautiful times didn’t end there.

It’s nice to be home.

xo

Advertisements

The bucket list tour

2013-04-01-06-53-37

Goodness. I hope you like photos.

Take this as a good sign. I’m a person who lives for pictures. When I’m sad or sick, my desire to record and create images just about vanishes. Which is why this blog was text only for so many months.

When I’m well, I start looking at things again. And planning and plotting things. So herewith, one almighty image dump.

Firstly, where am I?

I’m on a trip that I’ve dubbed “the bucket list tour”.

Last year, when I got my diagnosis in June and everything just sort of stopped, a rather lovely holiday fell by the wayside. Charlie and I were planning to head to Venice for the Architecture Biennale, and to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. Surgery, and IVF, and chemo, and all other unpleasant things took precedence. Of course they did.

Rather than lovely holidays, I had months and months as a virtual prisoner in my own house or various hospital rooms. I believe I wrote a blog post at some point about skipping the country. It wasn’t the right time, but of course it was the starting point for plotting my next trip.

It’s a strange one. Don’t expect logic or order here, because it’s a “bucket list” trip. I connected the places I wanted to go and the people I wanted to see, and went for it.

Our journey starts in Cambodia. Two dear friends, Eva and Loris, are living the most remarkable life in Phnom Penh right now. However, they’re soon to pack up their wonderful apartment and move back to Australia. So we simply had to visit them before the time ran out.

In no particular order, here are some mementos of our time in Phnom Penh.

First up, lady boy feet in animal slippers at a regional food fair in Phnom Penh. This was a big night out Phnom Penh Style. There was a rather intense moment where I sipped snail porridge in front of an adoring crowd of regional Cambodians*. There were a whole lot of young fellows with amazing sweeping K-Pop coifs. We learned how to dance anti-clockwise around a fruit table half-Khmer half-Hip Hop style (that’s our dancing posse in the next photo down- note a couple of regional Cambodian fellows who took it upon themselves to teach the dorky white folk to dance). It was an awesome night.

*There may have been two rather explosive cases of food poisoning following the snail porridge experience. Or was it the deep fried crickets at the market the next day? Impossible to say for sure.

2013-04-01-08-23-40 2013-04-01-08-23-04

These rather lovely tiles are inside a once grand hotel which is now occupied by squatters and slowly crumbling away. Apparently the film City of Ghosts was shot partially in this building. I haven’t seen it as yet but if the building is anything to go by it’s pretty atmospheric.

2013-04-01-08-19-39

Fishy delights at the Phnom Penh Central Market. Post food poisoning, the dried seafood display now looks to me like neatly laid out micro-organisms of the gut churning variety. At the time they just looked pretty.

2013-04-01-08-18-03 2013-04-01-08-17-06 2013-04-01-07-01-08 2013-04-01-08-16-22

Lovely, lovely mangosteens. The rest of the world deserves mangosteens.

2013-04-01-06-58-58

Cambodia is a survivor of some really horrendous stuff. It feels incredibly crass to draw a parallel between my own recent experiences and Cambodia’s slow healing process post- Khmer Rouge, but the country really spoke to me in a way I don’t think it would have pre-cancer. The humility, dignity and quiet acknowledgment of terrible wrongs in the too recent past was inspiring if saddening. The people of Cambodia want us all to bear witness to the terrible wrongs, and so we travelled to the Killing Fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The memorial stupa contains around 9000 skulls, most showing serious head wounds. The ground still holds slivers of bone and rags of torn clothing. What terrible wrongs are inflicted, human being on human being. Shall we ever learn to just live and let live?

2013-04-01-06-57-11 2013-04-01-06-56-15

In a rather alarming twist, a tourist guide sheet hanging in a Tuk Tuk offers “shopping and shooting”, “malls and machine guns”.

2013-04-01-06-55-19

Another faded colonial gem. Squats with satellite dishes?

2013-04-01-06-54-28

Next stop, Malaysia. We were here to attend the wedding of an old family friend, and to catch up with my brother who I hadn’t seen in several years. First, a motor bike wall mural inside a bunker in Fort Cornwallis in Penang.

2013-04-05-23-45-29

Random kitsch in the old Fort.

2013-04-05-23-43-16

Creepy china dolls and other oddities in the Peranakan Heritage Museum.

2013-04-05-23-32-00 2013-04-05-23-29-47 2013-04-05-23-26-35 2013-04-05-23-16-45 2013-04-05-23-21-00</a 2013-04-05-23-23-40

Random vistas in Old Penang.

2013-04-05-23-14-22 2013-04-05-23-05-05 2013-04-05-23-08-47

A short trip to Malacca, between bouts of food poisoning. The upside of the Snail Porridge Amoeba Incident was that I got to meet a wonderful Chinese doctor. He not only quickly prescribed a quick solution to the food poisoning, but he gave me a spontaneous character sketch (frighteningly accurate) based on my blood group, with diet suggestions with a view to managing my “chronic illness”. I stayed away from alternative medical advice during my treatment but I’m now open to suggestions and may try a little of what my new doctor friend recommended.

2013-04-04-17-05-51 2013-04-04-17-02-05 2013-04-04-16-59-57

It’s now 24 hours until we leave South East Asia and I’m sitting by the poolside watching torrential tropical rain thunder down. I am truly content and so, so happy to be here writing this post in happier times.

Love to you all.

x

Staring at the sky

20130216-212228.jpg

I’ve become one of those weird people who photographs the sky.

There’s little more annoying than someone who spontaneously stops in the middle of a busy street and photographs nothing, right?

I have, until recently, filed these people in the category of bad New Yorkers. Because there is nothing that screams tourist more than someone clogging the footpath and taking lame photos. Nothing. And no-one is less tolerant of a lame-o than a New Yorker.

But anyway.

I seem to look up more at the moment.

I keep getting struck by how amazing everything is. Sun is astounding. Rain is remarkable. Clouds are like nature’s emotions. And they’re all playing out right above our heads.

Find a metaphor in it if you’d like. For now I’m happy just photographing skies.

20130216-212247.jpg

20130216-212310.jpg

20130216-212333.jpg

20130216-212352.jpg

Lucky number 31

20130210-100837.jpg

I never thought of myself as the type to deal in magical thinking. I was a realist. A rationalist. I dealt with things with the bare minimum of fuss, fantasy and fear. And then I got cancer.

I started off, true to form, brave and rational. I cheered myself I wasn’t scared of needles, or doctors. Truth: I was very scared of hospitals though. I didn’t have a nice history with hospitals. My hospital experiences were all tied up with death (my two grandmothers), near death (my mother’s horrific and extended experience with colitis) and fear of cancer-related death (my dad’s prostate cancer).

Now, nine months or so later, in that strange hinterland post treatment, I’ve had to finally admit that my superstitions run very deep indeed. And that there are fears where there were no fears before.

Two weeks ago, I wholeheartedly leapt back in to full-time work. And it was wonderful how everything slotted back in to place. It was pretty much, save for people’s polite queries regarding my shaved head, like cancer was a bad dream and that I’d now woken up.

Except it wasn’t a bad dream. Two days ago I returned to hospital to have my IV port removed. Oh yes, my trusty port. The port that gave me my chemo, litres of blood transfusions, five weeks of IV drugs. Was I happy to get it out? Hell, yes! Was I scared to get it out? Terrified!

Getting the port out meant saying to the world I’m done with this. Chemo is over. The cellulitis is defeated. I won’t need weekly blood tests. Treatment be gone! But new me, magical thinking me, quaked. Don’t tempt fate like that. Never say never!

Walking in to the hospital was difficult. For so many months the hospital was my turf. I felt safer there than anywhere else. I knew the secret passageways, recognised the nurses and enjoyed the changing notice boards and art displays. After just two weeks of work, the hospital felt foreign. Scary. A return to the nightmare.

And when I lay on the sliding metal X-ray tray with a pretty young radiologist saying It’ll only be three or four needles I felt faint. I hate needles. I didn’t use to, but I do now. Every needle stuck in to my chest reminds me of my first breast biopsy, and then the terrible sentinel node biopsy the day before my surgery. I so vividly remember that the last thing my breasts went through was searing pain. Isn’t that sad?

Anyway, the port came out, and so far so good. Rationality:1 Superstition:0.

Does it mean the magical thinking has passed? Not in the least. I couldn’t join a social network for people with breast cancer the other day because you had to say where your treatment was at, and all I could think was how horrible it would be if I found the cancer had spread and I had to update my status. Crazy lady, right?

I’m almost relieved that I have five years where I’m not permitted to have kids, or say it’s over, because it gives me an end date for superstition. December 24, 2017. That’s the date.

So what am I up to in the meantime? Well, I figure that if life is a game of Monopoly, I’m now out of jail and have just been dealt a Chance card. Sort of a Go directly to work, pay your mortgage, go on nice holidays, generally act like a complete yuppy and in five years you can roll the dice again Chance card. And that is A-OK with me.

Step 1 was turning 31. 30 was, to put it mildly, the lousiest year of my life. So my first act was to start 31 right. I booked a lovely house in Jervis Bay with my nearests and dearests and had four days of eating, drinking, walking on the beach (in the rain), swimming, and one very intense Pictionary game. 31 started with little pretension but much happiness, and I hope it’ll continue in the same spirit. Thanks so much to all the wonderful people who drove down over the weekend. You filled my superstitious soul to the brim with wonderful, positive, happy vibes and left little space for any cancer fears.

I hope you’re not too bored of puppy photos yet, because here are a few more from the weekend.

Lots of luck (and love) to you all.
x

20130210-104442.jpg

20130210-104502.jpg

20130210-104525.jpg

20130210-104546.jpg

New kid in school

20130126-125351.jpg

So, it’s Straya Day. (That’s Australia Day to those not familiar with the Aussie Bogan Dialect).

Straya Day for me as a child was a sorrowful day. Not because it was the day that our fair land was cruelly torn from the hands of the Aborigines by the British invaders (although that would’ve been a bigger minded reason) but because it marked the end of a long and wonderful summer holiday and the return to a school year that seemed to stretch into eternity.

So it’s strange that now, many years on, I’m feeling pretty much the same way. On Tuesday I return to work after an almost five month hiatus. And I feel quite a bit like the kid returning to school.

My head feels delightfully empty of knowledge, facts and practicalities. I wonder… Will the other kids remember me? Will they even recognise me with my post cancer fuzz? I dread the sound of my alarm in the morning. Don’t make me march to your rhythmic beat!

But I’m excited, too. To get back in the thick of things and to see if I will find the old me sitting at my desk awaiting my return.

So, farewell, summer break, and here are a few photos to remember you by.

20130126-125412.jpg

20130126-125434.jpg

This last one has been a long time coming. It’s not from this summer, but it’s the rainbow I claimed for myself. Remember, right back in my very first post?

20130126-125454.jpg

Happy Straya Day, y’all!

x