Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Heartlines On My Hand.

A little bit ago about three big things happened all in one day. Actually, all in the space of about an hour. I was listening.

1) I received a brand new pair of cowboy boots from America, to walk the earth in.

2) The new U2 album dropped silently into my phone with songs about grief, suicide, heartache, carrying on and holding on to light.

3) World Vision Australia asked if I'd like to do a blog ambassador field trip to Uganda in late November.

Bang. Just like that. I said yes to everything - the boots, the music, the trip to Africa. I'll be visiting some communities that have child sponsorship programs, learning about how child protection is in force, meeting people who work on HIV/AIDS projects, and hearing citizens voices in action and how they lobby government at a grassroots level.

It's only for five days, so that's a lot to pack in. I love World Vision and have seen the lives they save on a daily basis with my own eyes. I'm really honoured to be able to go on another trip for them. Back in 2012 when I finally got the go-ahead to travel to Niger in West Africa to blog about the food crisis, I was in Melbourne and rang my brother Cam straight away to tell him.

"Cam, this may be the last time I ever speak to you because who knows what's going to happen!? I just wanted to let you know. And to tell you that I love you!"

We both laughed, he was blown away and really proud of me. I like to think he still would be.

I'm good to go on this trip. Physically, mentally. I guess a lot of people are going to ask me about Ebola. So far there have been zero cases of Ebola in Uganda, and they're monitoring the situation every day.

World Visions official press release regarding Ebola, how they are helping to control it, and how you can help, is HERE. 

I should be leaving around the 21st November and be back in time for Maxs 13th birthday. He wants a big sleepover with mates in the lounge room and pizza and to play video games on the TV. THIRTEEN. Unbelievable.

Gallivanting across the world doesn't seem like what an ordinary suburban white privileged somewhat middle-aged woman with children is supposed to do. It feels a bit wrong. Which is exactly why I'm doing it. One of the best things I've discovered about having a voice on my blog is to use my blog for people who don't often get the chance to use their voice.

Dave backs me 100% like he always does. We've been sponsoring children with World Vision for about twelve years. I give him heaps of time away at the beach house by himself where he goes for runs on the beach and makes papaya brekkies. And he gives me the time and space to leave the country and shine some light on a few things that are dear to my heart.

Marriage - it's all in the dealmaking.

I've specifically asked for enough time to write from over there every night, and I really hope you guys read my words, come with me a little bit.

World Vision Australia FACEBOOK
World Vision Australia TWITTER
World Vision Australia INSTAGRAM
World Vision Australia BLOG

"But in order to get to the heart
I think you sometimes have to cut through
Keep it up
You can
I know you can
Just keep following the heartlines on your hand." 
- Florence and the Machine

Monday, 27 October 2014


That was the nickname I had for Dave when I met him - Builderguy. He was a builder. He was THE MOST ocker Aussie I had ever met, spoke exactly like Steve Irwin. (Still does.)

Born 48 years ago, the youngest of three brothers, lil Davey got kicked out of high school early and did a trade - carpentry. And he finished it! Got a maths tutor and everything, even when a whole bunch of other stuff in his life was going on, he was becoming Builderguy.

When we first met he was pretty much just working for himself, wore overalls everyday. I was a waitress and had a thousand dollars saved up, to finally go visit the country of my blood, Scotland.

Isn't it funny how meeting a person can alter your whole life?

We hooked up. He already had kids. I became pregnant with Max. Dave started taking on bigger jobs, took on his first apprentice. Then another. He built a huge house for us to live in. He took on subbies and contractors and then more and more full-time staff ... his shoebox of receipts were transferred over to a filing cabinet. When I helped him type out quotes it wasn't very good for our marriage - I had to sit there while he thought and his wording was all wrong so I'd change it because I'm a writer but he'd be adamant. We'd be yelling at each other over sentence structures. Choose your battles, people.

A few years ago he moved into some offices near the main street of Katoomba, decked them all out just so. This was a HUGE deal. He employs twelve people. He's such a great boss that most of his original apprentices have stayed with him and now have families of their own. There's a fleet of Riley Renovator utes all over town. He's always working on a few jobs at a time.

He is busy. He likes being busy. He loves what he does. I told him once that he's lucky and he told me that luck had nothing to do with it, he's worked real hard to get to where he is. It's true! But I meant lucky in that he knows who he is, his career gives him a certain standing in the world that defines his identity. He will always be Builderguy. Always.

A few months ago the lease was up on his offices and he had to move. This was a BIG deal for him - he's the guy who's always in charge, and now he had to move his entire operation. (Sometimes he still thinks he's in charge when he gets home and bosses us all around until I finally say "Hon? Work's over. We're not your apprentices.")

Moving offices was stressful. Now it's over he says it's the best thing that could have happened. When Dave Riley does something, he moves FAST. You should see him on a shopping spree! He set up a new office in one of his Katoomba houses and got the crew to knock up the coolest garage/shed/studio in the backyard just like that. IN TWO WEEKS.

He's in his ELEMENT when he works on something of his own design. He's all moved in. It looks amazing. He is amazing. I struck while the iron was hot and decided to enter Riley Renovators into this years Blue Mountains Business Awards for the very first time. The submissions took WEEKS, so many carefully crafted paragraphs for so many different categories.

Dave ended up being a finalist in four different categories! I am SO PROUD of who he is, where he's come from, and how he's ended up, in his life. So proud. Sometimes he tells me I should write a book about his life and oh man, could I.

Excellence in Small Business, Employer of Choice, Business Leader, and Employee of the Year. (Employee was for his head foreman, Jon.)

I was so proud at the finalists cocktail party that people laughed when I got up to take photos of him getting his photo taken. SO PROUD.

Riley Renovators on Facebook

He made the front page of the Gazette! (Top row, six people in.) The big fancy awards night was held at the Fairmont a few weeks ago. I RAVED on to Dave about how he was going to win, of course he would win at least ONE award. He just kept saying, "Hon, it doesn't matter. I've already won." I went in to his new office and asked to see his finalist awards and he looked for them and his AWESOME office boss lady Elisa just pointed to the wall. She works quick.

The Big Night was upon us. We don't do things like this! What on earth would I wear? I have so many beautiful dresses in my wardrobe, still with tags. I haven't felt like wearing a dress for such a long time. The boys laughed when I tried them on one afternoon.

"Mum no offence but the chair leg looks like you have actually got a penis."
"Max, sit down ... it's time I told you. I actually have got a penis."

I bought this dress to wear to my 40th birthday party because it looked EXACTLY like the dress Jennifer Aniston wore to her 40th birthday party.  But I never had a 40th birthday party - cancelled it, too worried nobody would come. One day I really, really want to wear that dress. 

It was the night of nights, the glitz and the glamour of the Blue Mountains. Hired a sitter, kissed the boys who both LAUGHED at me walking down the driveway in high heels.

I ended up with my old faithful little black dress. Dave wore the suit he had custom-made from Yves St Laurent in New York when we flew there in 2010 to celebrate his remission from cancer. He'd never been out of Australia before, walks inside the fancy Fifth Avenue store wearing sports shorts, thongs, and a tank top. The security guard swooped straight away - "Can I help you sir?"

"Yeah mate. I just wanna buy a suit." 

He'd never bought a proper suit before. Even his wedding suit was $99 from Roger David in Penrith. His St Laurent suit was SUBSTANTIALLY more than that and he deserved every bit of it. Every time he puts it on he says he feels like a million bucks. Who still says things like that?

Dave Riley is who.

I love him so much. We hooked up and I never actually signed up for all the associated drama and bullshit of our early years and I never signed up for him getting cancer before Rocco was born. But he never signed up for his wife having a few hospital stays even BEFORE her brother killed himself. He's had to watch me in the deepest pain for a whole year, unable and frustrated to not be able to do a thing about it.

Things are getting better. I smell it in the air. The blossoms are gone and the cicadas are quietening. The other week when I said for the seventeen-hundreth time how I couldn't save my brother? Dave looks at me and says, "Hon, do you think I can save you? No. It's gotta come from inside you."

And a few lightbulbs went off. I have apologised to him, so, so much lately. For being the way I am, for not being able to "run it out" which has always been our joke. He is my biggest supporter. I've worked on and off over the years, but being a stepmother and mother and doing all the domestic stuff and having a wonky brain made it hard for me to get a career. I always tell him he should have picked someone else. He just laughs at me, tells me how strong I am. The other morning he literally woke me up laughing:

"How the hell did I end up married to a POET?"

I'm so grateful, amazed, in awe of how he has built such a successful and in-demand business up literally with his bare hands. He's so good at what he does! I feel like a flailing idiot next to him, joke that it's hard to live with a superhero. He has faults. I could easily list about 23 right now off the top of my head but that wouldn't be nice. Control issues COUGH.

He's a Leo, fierce and proud and generous to a fault. It took him 48 years to get here. We sat at those fancy awards surrounded by all of his amazing team and ate a three-course meal and every time my husbands name wasn't called out? This was my head.

And each time I turned around to see Dave clap, even cheer, with grace. He honestly didn't care.

"Hon. Look where we are. It's cool. I've already won."

He sat behind me in the tie that he got Max to do before we left home and he's just a beautiful, beautiful man. And see how that waitress unfortunately looks like a zombie behind him?

Dave refuses to watch Walking Dead with Max and I but we tell him all the time HE is the guy we'd want to be with in case of a zombie apocalypse. I'm so sticking with Builderguy. So, just like my poetry finals the other week, he didn't "win." (But he won.)

A few days later we went to the spot where he's building our new house, underneath the most beautiful old oak tree. He patiently showed me plans, made me feel included, and didn't even get cranky when I said we needed the kettle in the kitchen AS FAR AWAY from the tv as possible because it really shits me when people make cups of tea when I'm trying to watch a movie.

We compromised - I suggested our own theatre room and he AGREED and I told him I need to pick the tiles in the bathroom and begged him PLEASE can we pick pieces for the house deliberately instead of having crap indiscriminately placed everywhere? We both want an industrial kitchen and a bohemian bedroom and even LAWN in the backyard instead of woodchip and I'm so lucky to have such an exciting thing to look forward to. I am so lucky.

The other day he rang, excited.

"Well hon, big day. We got the footings in!"

"Woohoo! That's AWESOME HON! Wow. So .... what are footings?"

We laughed so hard.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Eden Riley Performing "The Prophet."

I've had a splinter in the rude finger of my left hand for three days now. I got half of it out, but the more I dug to get the other bit out, the more I pushed it down. Each morning I wake up after nightmares and the shock of my brothers death, more, worse than ever before. And now I wake up with this teeny splinter in my rude finger, giving me throbbing grief on top of grief.

I told my counsellor yesterday about my splinter and showed it to him. He offered to help get it out. That's the kind of guy he is.

"No way!"

I snatched my hand away, and thanked him because he really meant it. He helps me when he can. I told him I need to buy some drawing ointment from the chemist, to draw it out. I told him I wished there was drawing ointment for "grief" just to get it all out in one fell swoop because MAN. This is actually awful. I'm so tired of being like this. My dreams are all the same - I'm desperately looking for Cam, can never find him, can never get to him in time. I dream of a huge hotel with all his friends and families with their own rooms and own hotels keys and I KNOW that Cam is about to kill himself in one of the rooms and I'm running around frantically, shouting in the fancy foyer, begging the concierge to get another key for my me to open my brothers room but he doesn't, says it's against the rules. And I have to keep stopping because I'm bleeding everywhere, all over the floor, I have to stop looking for my brother while I bleed and find ways to mop up my blood.

It's always too late. I ALWAYS wake up with a start. Another day. Make some coffee, brekkies, kiss boys, go through the motions.

I need some drawing ointment for the soul is what I need. Get all the gunk out. I'm terrified that this will never end, is this how I will feel for the rest of my life? I don't want to be stuck. I don't want this. I never knew pain like this.


This is probably the most favourite photo of me in the world.

Angry and fierce and using my words. I love words. This pic was taken at the state finals for the Word Travels Australian Poetry Slam the other week. I wasn't sure which slam to say because I got a few up my sleeve but I kind of had to do Strong Bones. It's the one I wrote for my brother, about my brother. Hopefully there will be video of it coming soon.

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling crap (SURPRISE!) so I asked Dave for a leave pass from domesticity. Word Travels were holding a bi-lingual poetry slam down at Parramatta "Parramasala" and I just wanted to go in it. Not to win - just go in it, be part of words, be heard. I drove down with a heavy heart. Parked in the shade, and signed up. There were eight poets, and half did their slams in different languages which was AMAZING. A woman did a poem in Hindi about the rapes over in India. I didn't understand her words but I heard her passion and melodic fury underneath them.

It's nerve-wracking, before you go onstage at a slam!

I feel jacked up and excited and so, so in the moment that everything else falls away. Because WORDS. I love them. I love them. It was a knockout slam so the eight went to four went to two. I got all the way to be in the last two, I performed three poems all up in the heat. Sometimes I took the mic out of its holder and strutted that stage like Slim and sometimes I stood there with the wild arm gestures. It depends on the poem and how you feel.

Halfway through the bout I looked down and there was an errant feather from a belly dancer and even though I'm not much for signs anymore, I still took it as a good one.

I hung backstage in the outdoor sauna green room with Omar Musa, a top Australian performer, musician, writer, poet.

As I gradually got through my poems he kind of looked at me differently.

"You're good."

"Thank you. You're fucking amazing."

And I won! The five judges chosen randomly from the crowd all put their scores together and my words got the most numbers. Even though I feel conflicted about poetry being a competition, it did feel good. A beautiful lady presented me with a red sash around my neck and told the crowd that in India, the poets receive a red sash after they perform. I was honoured. And beaming.

Raj Rajpal, Eden Riley, Omar Musa, Rekha Rajvanshi.

Huge props to Miles Merrill from Word Travels for putting gigs on like this. Most people in the audience had never seen a slam before. I think I might be doing a spot for the Word Travels poetry event at the upcoming Newtown Festival in a few weeks. Let's give it up for Newtown!

Afterwards I had to find some shade next to a big tree, digest it. It always comes back - the grief, the pain, the regrets. They keep coming back. Maybe one day they won't? But man.

Every word I speak I speak for my brother all the things he couldn't utter. I've written my whole life but I've decided to become a spoken-word artist because he killed himself. I'll only ever read his suicide note a handful of times because he wrote it when he was in such distress, he wrote it in a moment of time which has now passed, and I will not pore over every word, analyse every little thing. The one thing that kills me the most about what he said is that he has so much love and creativity inside of him but he doesn't know how to get it out.

That's the biggest tragedy I've ever known in my life.

So I want to help him get it out, even though he's dead. I want to honour him by speaking words he couldn't say, do the thinks he didn't think, experiences he'll never have. I ask him to step into this with me, every time. I beg him to help me with this pain.

Way back at the Katoomba heats for the slam in June, I walked into the library that night and for the first time since he died I felt him. I didn't know if it was actually my brain constructing my own incarnation of him in pure desperate hope or if it really was him. It did feel like him, like he was around. OF COURSE the first time he shows up it's at a poetry slam in a library. A classy dude even in death. And since the poem was all about him, for him ... I think he helped me say it. Maybe he's helping me in ways I don't even know yet. Maybe I won't always feel this way. Maybe you get used to your heart being ripped out .... I had to stop looking for you, Cam. I had blood and I had kids and only you had the key. But everything I do from now on, I do it for you.

Last night I went to ANOTHER slam and I thought jeez I have GOT to show my Computer what I've been up to. So I asked a guy to film it for you and he did - it's a bit blurry and shaky but that's ok, so am I. It gets clearer at the end. Doesn't everything? Words are my balm, my drawing ointment, my salve. My grandmother always told me I would be a writer it's true. So here's me last night, performing The Prophet at Caravan Slam, a monthly slam created four years ago by a beautiful woman named Jade. Bad idea on the unattractive lime green t-shirt. But who cares about looks and shaky and sad and whelm. Close your eyes. I wrote it for you.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Butterfly Cakes, Painful Books, Hilarious Poo.

You know when you have more than one kid and you notice that one of them needs extra loving, an extra something? Rocco was not himself, down in the dumps, tired and a bit ... over it all.

I walked past a bakery the other day and thought to myself, "Oh my god I don't believe Rocco has ever eaten a butterfly cake!" I bought three - one each and one for spare because you just never know.

When he came home from school I told him I had a surprise for him, something he's NEVER had before and to wait inside while I set it up. He was SO excited.

I set up a picnic in the neighbours backyard because our yard was full of weeds and dog poo and the neighbours are never home. It's their holiday house, every week religiously a maintenance crew come and mow and weed and do all the stuff.

He wanted to eat one STRAIGHT away but I had to tell him a story first. Hearing his silent groan, I pressed on regardless.

"WELL sweetheart, one day I had 10c for the cake stall at school. I think I was in year one too, just like you. At lunchtime we walked round the hall and could buy whatever cake we liked. I already knew I was going to get two toffees for 5c each but I walked up to a table and Rocco - on that table were the most amazing little cakes. I'd NEVER seen one in my life, they were cupcakes but had cream in them with these two bits of cake sticking out, see? The lady told me they were butterfly cakes. BUTTERFLY CAKES. IN THE SHAPE OF A BUTTERFLY. I bought just one, because they were 10c. It was one of the best things that had ever happened to me in my life."

So me and Rocco sat there on the blanket, eating butterfly cakes together. Later he told me he thought "the surprise" was a new video game or Lego or something. Our cakes were chocolate with real cream. They were beautiful. Butterfly cakes will always be magical to me.

Last night he was really tired and had to go to bed early. So I told him to pick a book. He went to the shelf and randomly picked When The Wind Changed.

I told him I didn't feel like reading that book can he please pick another book?

"But why can't we read this, mum?"

I told him I just didn't feel like it. The real answer is, I stole this book from my brothers bookshelf when he was about 14, growing up and growing out of all of his toys, losing his sense of wonder and joy in the world. Losing his little boyness. All kids go through it. But I pinched this book from him, to always remind me of the times I'd read it to him in bed and we'd laugh so, so hard, pulling the worst faces we could possibly pull.

And now on an even deeper level, I believe my brother thought he was stuck and the wind changed and that he would never get back to being "himself" again, or feeling joy, love. So he left.

I didn't explain that to my six-year old. I just chose another book - one from the entire collection of Mr Men books that Max proudly owns.

Yeah. I should have twigged from the title that this wasn't going to be such a great read. It wasn't.

I read the entire book to Rocco, grabbing tight the frame of his bunk and then my trick of digging my nails into the palm of my hand so hard it hurt so bad but it still didn't hurt more than reading that book. I read that book in an even voice, with all the right inflections.

When The Wind Changed would have been an easier read. Of course I knew some magic crap would happen to make Mr Nobody better OF COURSE.

The Wizard! Of course the Wizard had some special potion but I still don't understand his logic. By the end of the book, Mr Nobody chose a colour to be (yellow) and turned into a somebody. Of course. Like it's that easy.

I kissed Rocco goodnight VERY quickly. He had utterly no idea. "NITE MUM LOVE YOU."

Came straight out to throw Mr Nobody in the fire. It lit up so quick, even crackled and popped, gone within seconds. Quite the show, for a nobody.

Sometimes no matter how hard they try and fight, not everybody ends up to be a somebody. Life is unfair like that.

So now Max has the whole Mr Men collection minus one.

This morning, Rocco and I made poo from play dough. The beautiful @deenapoteet sent me an ENTIRE box of goodies all the way from the dirty south - Texas.

Complete with CORN KERNEL MOLDS to make your poo look even more realistic. Rocco laughed, hard. Mushed the corn in and VOILA!

I PROMISED to leave it there all day, to trick Max and Dave when they get home.

Poo. Poo is the way to a boys heart. Rocco most likely won't remember the time I told him about the day I discovered butterfly cakes but he sure will remember gleefully making that poo this morning.

Monday, 20 October 2014

"Your Brother Killed Himself. That Is So Bullshit."

I'm not the only person in the world who has lost somebody very close to them . I am not the only person in the world who has been touched, deeply, awfully by suicide. I'm not the only one to think:

"How can I possibly get through this day? What does anything MEAN?"

There are a lot of hurting people out there and just because I write about my hurt does not make me any more special or unique than anyone else. The sad thing I know for a fact - because it's already started happening - is that people in profound, shocking grief are googling certain phrases and ending up on my blog and emailing me. Because a person close to them has died - from different deaths, not always suicide.

"Grief" is quite an unobtrusive word, really. I was having a bit of an argument with my husband last week and I told him that he is LUCKY to not know such a grief that threatens to destroy him. My family has taken a huge hit, my boys affected very much, my marriage has suffered greatly because to be honest I wasn't going all that well even BEFORE my brother took his own life.

Cam took himself far far away from here. Further than the eye can see, further than the heart can stand. (The heart can't stand.)

So it's the month of his death - October. Or as Beth from BabyMac so succinctly renamed it: "#fucktober." Which sounds suspiciously similar to "fucked over" which is exactly how I feel. Some people have been sending me gifts and I feel so deeply embarrassed about it because everybody should receive such kindness. Gosh I'm thankful. I have put every gift back into its parcel cover and started to write out thank-yous to everybody who has left their return address. It's like grief wedding presents. Somebody on my Facebook yesterday saw my comment about feeling overwhelmed about it and she told me to show what I have been given, to show other people that true kindness really does exist.

It really does.

On the weekend I received a gift so incredibly astoundingly shocking and awesome, I had to show you.

It's just a cake. Given to me by Reannon from She Who Rambles. 

So, to the people before me in this horrible journey I thank you for lighting my way. I'm looking straight at you, fiend Megan. I can see you guys getting through, up there in the distance. And to the people behind me god I am so sorry. Use my words like breadcrumbs. I don't know how you're going to get through because I don't know how I'm going to get through but at least we can all not know together.

Thank you. So, so much.

Eden with a big E xx

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The First Annual International Lip Synch Awards. It's Like Air Guitar, But With Your Mouth.

At 2.16pm a year ago I text my brother Cameron saying "Hey Cam, how are you going today? Xx"

I didn't know he'd spent the whole weekend packing up all of his belongings, sorting, giving stuff to Vinnies, destroying his laptop, deactivating his Facebook account, getting a tarp ready in case he shit himself when he killed himself. That still makes me annoyed - just die on your bed, Cam. Shit your bed - it's your bed. You paid for it. I didn't know that by the time I sent my text he had been dead all day long and was already in a bodybag in the fridge in the morgue.

"How are you going today? Xx"

Cam had a really good bed, he got it specially made and it cost a bomb. One of my sons sleeps on Cams bed now. My husband Dave wanted to take the bed to the beach house for us to sleep in, not quite understanding that I didn't really want to sleep on the bed my brother lay awake making all his suicide plans in. Fucked his last girlfriend in. Hated the world in. Felt like he failed in.

I can't sleep in my brothers bed. Later today I'll probably go somewhere and smash all his white Ikea plates I ended up with because fuck those beautiful whites plates straight to hell. Aren't objects weird? I went to Newtown police station recently to get Cams suicide note addressed to me. It's mine. But it wasn't there. That's ok. I have the main part of it tattooed on my arm now in his exact handwriting. I stood and gulped air and seriously, almost collapsed like you see in the movies and I said real slow to this hot copper with tattoos:

"Can I just ask you a question? I just need to know just one thing."

But I couldn't get the question out and damn if I am not one of the strongest motherfuckers you would ever meet in life but I could NOT form the question with my mouth! And this cop, god he was kind. He was one of the kindest people I have ever met in my life and finally, finally I talked.

"I just need to know ... when you guys got the call-out, when the fireys went and the ambo and everybody ... did you all have your sirens on?"

And he didn't even stand there and bullshit me. He went and checked and it took AGES to check, like almost ten minutes. He was REALLY CHECKING so that when he came back I knew he was telling me the truth, clinically compassionate.

"According to all the reports - yes. All of the sirens were on, driving to your brothers flat."

And I cried a different cry (there are so, so many kinds of cries) and we looked at each other and I didn't even say a thing, just turned and walked away.


So my brother died and it still shocks me. I still don't know how I'm going to make it through. According to unwritten social codes I am "allowed" to cry and grieve today because it is an anniversary, but today is no different to any other day. Except I have learned you can feel annihilated after annihilation, again and again and again. "Grief" is the most strict, the most mean, the most unforgiving teacher in town.

Cameron took his own life. He tried to prepare me but nothing prepared me for this. Nothing I've ever been through even comes close. He had so much to give and offer the world, he would see Henry Rollins EVERY time he was in Australia on tour so he must have felt inspired by that? I know that frustrated feeling inside you, when everything is all balled up and you want to do something but you don't know what and the world is so fucked anyway so why even try?

Cams last name was changed after his dad killed himself and he had a new stepfather and it really confused him, made him question his identity. He told me a few years ago he wanted to change it back to the original but why have the last name of somebody who left you? I get that. I was "supposed" to be a boy to carry on the family name and my real dad was a cock so it was with great glee that I changed my name when I got married, purposely putting my maiden name nowhere near my sons names.

My brother Cameron would fall really, really hard for women. SO HARD. The biggest relationship of his life was with a beautiful woman named Shae. They tried to make it work for so many years. I've been in close contact with a lot of Cams people, lately. The ones he truly loved, the ones who TRULY loved him back. It's hard to love a broken man. There are so many photos of Cam overseas with Shae, she took one of my all-time favourite photos of him. I thanked her, for making Cam SO happy because in this pic I can see the gorgeous, twinkly-eyed little boy I knew years ago. When he was happy. Before the world got him.

The bond I had with my brother is broken because that's what death does. But I'll always love him. I'll wonder what could have been. I'll always cry. I'll always be kind of amazed I can still go on.

He told me once that one day, he wanted to meet a girl who would agree to choose a new last name with him after they got married, start anew. Isn't that beautiful?

He was living with me when he told me this news about wanting to change his name and my god how he wished he never told me. EVERY time I saw him for months afterwards I would literally run over to him before he scampered up to his flat (because he never wanted to bother us much, next door in our big house with our messy family. He always preferred to lock himself away.) I would irritate the UTTER SHIT out of him.

"CAM! I got it - ready? Gunn. CAMERON GUNN. With TWO fucking N's! IT'S PERFECT."

Or I'd tell him Cameron Carvello. Cameron Stone. Cameron Steele. He'd BEG me to shut the fuck up, he hadn't even decided if he'd do it yet. Sometimes I'd drive past and he'd be standing somewhere and I'd yell out my car window:

"CAMERON WONG" and all he did was shake his head and smile that smile, the smile that breaks me when I think of it now. I just wanted to help reinvent himself because lord knows I've reinvented myself over a hundred times by now. Jeez I thought he'd pull through. Huh. He wanted to build his own house. My god he would have made THE MOST beautiful father. He was a caring, kind, smart, hurt, passionate, arrogant, fuckhead, conflicted, sad, overwhelmed, beautiful man.

I take back my permission and understanding, Cam. Come back. This is awful. You have no idea how many people loved you.

If somebody is a well-adjusted member of society then they are sick because society is sick. The whole world is actually sick, but we take it personally and think there's something wrong with US.


All this talk of suicide prevention and awareness and government funding complete with hashtags for what exactly? How are our views, our help, our understanding of suicide changing? (Look, I'm sure good stuff is coming. I hope so. I'm just a little bitter right now.)

So here's an ode to my brother. To you. Here's to being stupid idiots and not caring. I have been lip-synching songs since I first bought a pink cassette tape called Women of Rock in 1980. Music is integral for us humans. Music and shelter and food and play and connection. Love. That's all it ever was, all it will ever be.

So .... introducing the worlds first International Lip Synch Awards. The judge is my 12 year old son Max. You can enter as many times as you like and here's my entry which basically means nobody else has entered yet SO I'VE ALREADY WON. My six year old said "Oh my gord mum, you are SO going to win this. Good LUCK!!"

And I said thank you my sweetheart. And if Max deems me the best then I WILL win and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize is one thousand dollars cash, coming straight from Cams death insurance money. I don't want my brothers money. I want my brother back. I also want you to enter - you KNOW you want to. On Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook ... enter as many times as you like and be as wild and free as you possibly can. Hashtag it #edenland so I can find it. You have exactly one month - that's a lot of time you guys, come on. Hit me with your best shot. My video actually took 42 years to make.

Even just film it for yourself and don't enter because it is quite fun. I'll be showing the entries wherever I can, as they trickle through. If they trickle through, because who can even be bothered, right? What does anything mean? NOTHING. But just know - if you enter, and people see your entry? You will make them smile maybe laugh and they may be feeling suicidal or bereaved by suicide so you're actually helping.

(I'm desperately hoping the roaming robots at YouTube don't take my video down for infringing copyright, but if they do hopefully somebody can help me put it back up in a different format? This means so much to me! I can pay you in death money - I'm serious.)

To repeat - there is only one winner. One thousand dollars. Not every child wins a prize ... I'll never forget the look on the faces of the kids at one of my kids birthday parties when I wrapped just ONE present in the pass-the-parcel. Exactly how it used to be when I was a kid.

Every one of those shocked kids kept looking for their lollipop or small toy. I had to stop the music to explain and my exact words?

"There's only once prize you guys. Life is hard. Sometimes we don't all win."

I don't know what Cam would have made about all the things I've written about him on my blog since his death - it was hard enough writing about him when he was alive. "This is my brother you guys! He has a beautiful heart and he is REALLY suicidal isn't he gorgeous!"

I have only ever tried to honour him, talk about who he was and what a waste it was and to show the unbearable pain left behind in his wake. Wake - ha. That's why they must call it that, after a funeral.

Cam I want you to know you were worth sirens. That ambulances and cop cars and a huge fire truck went racing through the streets of Newtown on this day a year ago, desperate to save you. You didn't believe it my beautiful man but you were worth saving. You were worth EVERYTHING. I miss you so much that I can't breathe. Please let there be an afterlife. Please let me see you again.

I did my video over a period of days back in September, around Cams birthday, before and after I got my tattoo. SO MUCH good stuff is left on the cutting room floor so I'll be entering this competition again oh yes I will. The world NEEDS to see my take-off of Get in the Ring just like the world needs to see you let go. Not care. Be an idiot. And if you don't win the 1k? Does not mean you are not still good at it. Hell I just lost one of the biggest competitions I ever wanted to win! I'll try again next year. Then the year after that. After that. After fucking that so that when I eventually win? I'll grab that microphone with gnarled seventy-year old arthritic hands and literally piss my pants from excitement at being named Australias Slam Poet Champion.

In the meantime I did this BECAUSE YES, I ACTUALLY AM STUPID.

If you look close you can see the EXACT moment in Matt Corby's song "Brother" where the shock of Cams death overwhelmed me. My awesome piano in Lose Yourself. The distress and then rage during Shake It Out. The way I'm trying so hard to let Cam go by nodding during The Parting Glass. I have to let him go, everyday I have to let him go.

If I were to teach anyone anything, it would probably be resilience. So step into this with me, bro.

Let us all be barnacles, motherfuckers.

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Monday, 13 October 2014

She Went To The Poetry Slam Because She Decided To Live Her Life Deliberately.

The most beautiful thing in the past few days was witnessing a huge gust of wind reefing off a veil straight from a brides head during wedding photos on a Sydney pier. For about fifteen seconds that long, white veil flew through the sky just like that plastic bag scene in American Beauty. The bride and bridesmaids were SHRIEKING until it finally landed so gracefully, right in the middle of Sydney Harbour.

Before I got to that point, I had to get the train down to Sydney, change trains, walk amongst throngs of busy people in the middle of the city and NONE of them were my brother. I looked. I look for him everywhere. Just ended up sitting in a cafe having a complete meltdown, listening to Guts Over Fear over and over while I drank a chai and wrote out my poems from scratch on a pad of white unlined paper with a black pen to reassure myself I knew my poems off by heart.

I knew my poems off by heart because they were born in my heart, but one can never be too careful. At this point I didn't care if I won the NSW Final of the Word Travels Poetry Slam - I really did not care. I just want my brother back. It's hard wanting things you can never have. Meeting all of the other poets and organisers on Friday night was truly a privilege. To just even sit in the green room and be all nervous, be part of something, to not know if I was reciting the "right" poem but dammit it was right for me so just do it Eden you've come too far to falter now.

It was a steep learning curve, the ins and outs of "the scene" and the subjective nature of the voting, even though I do love that the five voters are chosen randomly on the night, giving the poetry back to the people so to speak. The utter wankerdom of a specific individual - wow. Purposely psyching people out, except me - I had my foxforce five forcefield up and would not engage. We engaged later and my truth about how much I saw shocked this person, taken aback for only a split second, only as aback as a person loaded with that much arrogance can be taken aback. I had a sore back. If that is how to "win" at things then I will never win. It was a hard wait - twenty poets, all taking turns, all speaking their words. I LOVE WORDS.

I text random photos like this to Dave all night, who was in the audience with some beautiful friends - and it seems, beautiful strangers. "Hon! I'm practicing my poem one more time in the dunny and this is how I feel - as overwhelmed and as full as this garbage can."

And then my name was called, out of the magic hat. Who pulled my name out of the magic hat? My Steve Murphy, one of the most beautiful humans I know who booked his ticket even before I did!

Phenomenally stylish photobomb in the background by the beautiful Styling You ... and thank you Woogsworld for coming too! 

Smiling after I even lost, with Christina from Hair Romance you utter spunk I love you but am actual jealous of all the burgers you and Jim will soon be eating in 'Merica.

And Caroline! And Brooke from Slow Your Home I am SO SORRY for crying on you!

So up I got, on the small stage, the lights were bright which was good because I don't like to look into peoples eyes when I talk about such big things. I did my poem - every single word just so, like I wrote it. I actually can't even remember writing it, all those months ago. But I did it, and I felt people feeling it the same way I wanted them to feel it when I wrote it.

I sat back down to hear my scores - mostly 8's - and I knew I hadn't won. Bitter, bitter tears falling down onto my cowboy boots you stupid idiot don't WANT things and you won't be disappointed! It's just ... all of my energies lately have been focussed on the slam and now? Now I was just unceremoniously dumped straight back into Griefworld.

And Griefworld isn't like Seaworld or Dreamworld. Nobody EVER buys a ticket to Griefworld. There's lots of roller coasters in Griefworld. It has big gates you can't escape, it's not fun, there's a sad gallery of old sepia fading photographs of the people we love, in Griefworld. We have to camp out and live there. You wave at your family, from a distance. Sometimes you can get a leave pass for a day here or there for no reason at all because grief has no logic but mostly, when the people we love the fiercest die? We live in Griefworld for a very, very long time.

An organiser from Alice Springs sat down beside me and I didn't even remember her name at that point but I will never forget her kindness. Laurie May. She rubbed my back! And told me some secrets about slam that made me laugh - she teaches it to kids, she encourages them to write their words, use their voices, that it was more important to be heard than to win. I told her I wasn't crying because I didn't win I just ... really wanted to make the grand final to make my family PROUD and that I missed my BROTHER and this whole past year my family has missed their MOTHER and Laurie May? Well she just kept rubbing my back as my tears dried and told me how incredibly touched she was at my piece and that the whole room felt it and that was enough. And she was right. She told me all the things I tell other bloggers when they get disheartened. She told me things that judges on reality TV shows tell the "losing" contestants.

Competitions are weird.

When it was all over, a woman came up to me and grabbed my hands and thanked me said that she was bereaved from suicide too, her husband took himself away and they had three children and her son was sitting next to her in the audience, tears streaming down his face as he listened to my words so yeah, nah, I didn't "win." But I did something else, whatever that was.

I spoke to a lot of people. Two of my best friends from YEARS ago came to see me but that deserves a post of its own. In the end I just wanted to get out of there so I did, congratulating the winners and scampered off with Dave but we couldn't find the right carpark so we split up to look separately and then I got hit on by two drunk guys - separately - and I felt scared, pissed off that I was scared, sad that I didn't win, and MY CAM IS GONE.

ALL my brain is doing right now is this time last year this time last year so I had to stop looking for the car, sit down under a brightly lit-lampost so my imminent abduction would at least be captured by street cameras, and hope that Dave found the car before the carpark was locked up otherwise we would have had to catch the train home and that really, REALLY would have sucked.

"Have you ever heard the sound of disappointment? It tangles your head like a winter rose. Comes up eager and shining And it likes to leave a scar before it goes." - Eurythmics 

Dave found the car! We drove to Harrys for a dirty street pie because I actually won the bachelor YEARS ago!

The next day was a bit of a nothing day. I wanted nothing. I wanted to want nothing. I hated the whole weekend. I hate this month. I hate some stuff that must be hated. But a beautiful woman sent me a flower garland headpiece which I wore for most of the day for no reason at all and I cut up watermelon and we ate organic blue corn chips in the backyard where the boys set up their own wet'n'wild because the weather is getting warmer, even though a part of me is winter forever.

I am so lucky. I am so lucky. Then Dave explained it beautifully, chomping away.

"Hon." (Chomp) "It's like, you decided to start playing soccer one year and ALL you wanted to do was get to the end to go up against David Beckham and now you're shattered that didn't happen?"

We laughed so, so hard. Because that's just fucking ridiculous. He is so right. There'll be a video of my performance soon which I can put up on my blog, Wordtravels are working as fast as they can to make it all happen.

All that kept popping into my mind - where was Robin Williams Oscar statuette right now? It isn't the hunk of gold that made him amazing - it was how he made me feel, stirred something inside me when I watched Dead Poets Society right after the suicide of my brothers father.

And you know what we did the next day? We took ALL of our beautiful kids down to the Opera House anyway and we watched the grand slam grand final and man, I was so glad to just sit in the audience and not have all that pent-up energy inside me. It's actually quite important for me right now to deal with the hard things that are already in there, needing to come out. I imagined every poet being Cam, telling me all different things, telling the world the words that were inside him that he could never get out and I don't care how delusional that sounds, it was comforting. And if we really ARE all one then it WAS him.

I have something big planned for this blog on Wednesday are you ready you guys? I hope so. And I have something even BIGGER coming up in November so Eden? Settle the fuck down. You can't do all the things.

Max, Me, Tim, Dave, Phoebe-Rose, and soldier Rocco in the front.

I loved how much Phoebe-Rose loved it. I love her. ALL the kids loved it - words. It was all just words. Blown away. The power of our words in a world where so many of us feel so powerless.

I was so proud of them all for coming. In the end, all of the sixteen people up there on stage were good enough to "win."

We ate a seafood dinner and went to the Guylian cafe after for hot chocolate and we laughed and mucked around and it was so late, on a Sunday night.

The saddest thing by far out of everything that happened? A kind person dived in to Sydney Harbour to rescue that brides beautiful long white veil. He swam back with it clenched between his teeth and he was the hero of the whole wedding party and I could not believe how impacted I was. I was so sad! It's not fair that some people get back the things they want. I know that veil probably would have cost 1k in some fancy shop but if I were the bride? I would let it sink and in years to come I would tell bedtime stories to my children about the day daddy and I got married and how the wind blew the veil off and now it sits at the bottom of the ocean and all the fishies swim through it and do pretend weddings and sometimes, on special days? Even the mermaids do too.

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