Friday, 27 November 2015

The Evidence of Life.

"Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, then poetry is just the ash." - Leonard Cohen

You know sometimes you see or read something so incredibly extraordinary you feel an almost jealousy of the person who created it? Then quickly you let go of such ego because beyond that "thing" whatever it is, a book, a design, a play, film, painting. Anything that makes you feel SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY well, you're a part of it now. You're IN it. A human has expressed something so inordinately powerful and true you stand there reeling from the magnificence.

All good art should make you feel like you belong exactly inside that piece of art all along. Like a homecoming.

This completely fucking extraordinary piece of work was sent to me in the early hours the other night and my heart needed to hear every word of it and rejoiced in the recognition. Not only did I actually used to have a therapist called Sharon (who remains one of the most powerful influences on my life) but I felt every bit of the pain and ache and yaw and blessedness and truth that Desiree is painfully and gloriously showing us.

Desiree's life must be on fire for such words to come. My life is on fire! Huge huge flames, all the time. Everybody's life is on fire, just different degrees.

Desiree did all the speaking here yet I was the one feeling heard.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Secret Answer.

There are ninety-two blog entries I have written and never published. I just counted them all. I wrote this one in August 2012 and called it "The Secret Answer." It was hard to write about my brother back then when he was still alive without "outing" him as struggling so hard with life, his darkness, his suicidal thoughts, his emptiness.

My brother Cambo killed himself in his flat in Newtown on a Tuesday morning in October 2013 - fifteen months after I wrote this blog entry see I can do maths. Last night when I finally got to sleep at 3am after my friend Zoe and me text words and voice messages to each other I dreamt I took a raw piece of corned beef sitting in my car in the hot sun out of its plastic and put it into my my slow-cooker that my mum gave me. I've used that slow cooker many times over the years to cook big family dinners back before I left the family unit and broke out on my own.

I was broke - not financially that's easy to fix. I had finally broken spiritually and that's hard fucken hard as shit man we do everything we can to avoid being broke spiritually but it always catches up to us we cannot outrun our broke or our dark or our fear or pain for very long you gotta stop and catch a breath. If you stop too long it all catches up with you and you face it and own it or you lay down in your flat in Newtown too broke and too tired and you close your eyes because you've run so very hard your whole life until that very moment and now you've decided to outrun your own breath.


The Secret Answer. 12th August, 2012.

I saw my brother last week. I never know how much time will pass before I see him again. When it came time to leave I followed him outside, hugged him, and didn't want to let go. My mind raced with inspirational shit to tell him. How do you give the world to somebody, hand it all on a platter with a nice bow, fix everything? You can't.

I cut all of my advice, my teachings, my truth ... into a few sentences for him.


"You can do any goddamn thing you want, in this world. It's all the unseen things that drag us down. Live your life with an open heart ... tell your brain to shut up. Your brain is not your friend. Pretend for a second that you don't know everything ... and listen to things you can't see. The answer to everything in this life is Spirit. Give more attention to your Spirit - it's the secret answer that not many people know. 

It makes heroin addicts not use heroin anymore. It gives suicidal people other options. The depressed among us ... something to hope for. It's all in your Spirit, man. I swear to God Cam. It's hard - it's why most people don't do it. But fuck me, it's worth it."

He smiled. Wryly goddamn it. He hugged his earnest sister, hard, and walked off. "See ya Eed."

I threatened all of my Angels. "You better bloody well look after him."

They will. They owe me.


In my dream last night I looked at the use-by date of the cut of corned beef I'd bought from Norm's butchery in Wentworth Falls and it said "Use-by Jan '16" because everything has a use-by date especially people. In episode one of Vikings season three Lagertha dared to ask The Ancient One "When will I die?" and I fucking fist pumped for her as only few among us would ask when we're going to die. Would you want to know? Lagertha wanted to know. Fuck yeah I'd want to know my use-by date. It would make life more bearable.

Anyway the point of my dream was the fact that corned beef was one of my brother's all-time favourite meals and when he lived with us years ago I'd purposely cook it to entice him over from his flat above our garage next door because I wanted to see him sitting at the table with my boys and husband eating a meal he loved. All the men I loved sitting at the one table. Cam would always, always help clean up after dinner. Always until I said "I got this, bro. You want dessert?" But he wasn't a dessert guy so he would thank me for dinner and creep out into the night but he wasn't a creep, oh no. He was a beautiful magnificent broken-spirited man until in the end both life and death got to him. In that order.

In my dream I opened the plastic wrap and put the cut of corned beef in my car and looked in my glovebox for a carrot, bay leaves, peppercorns ... all the ingredients I needed to make the meal I have refused to make since my brothers suicide because how dare I cook his favourite meal if he's not there to eat it? My car was overflowing with boxes full of objects from my entire life and I did NOT want to cook corned beef without my brother I mean I was standing on the side of the road out of breath and there was no power for my slow cooker anyway. Should I just sell my car? There's an answer. Most times there's many answers to one problem, right? Right?

Often there are no answers to things we need to know the most and for the rest of my life until my use-by date I'll be wrestling my brothers death like a crocodile because I have so many unanswered questions it doesn't make sense why he lived, why he left, why I'm still here, what I'm supposed to "do" because life is essentially meaningless we all know that and that's the source of all of our pain but those among us look to create meaning in our lives to make it more bearable. A year ago today I was in Uganda for World Vision. A year later I'm sitting in a half-furnished flat with an overflowing car and no meaning. I mean, I'm not mean. I'm just fucking inherently, filthily sad.

See that photo up the top there? That was the very moment Bono caught my eye in the sea of faces in the crowd of a U2 concert back in Sydney in 2006. I'd waited all day since 6am to claim my place at the very front right up touching the stage. Bono was walking around looking at the people and when he came to me he knelt down and held my hand and sang into my eyes for about twenty seconds. The song was "Love and Peace or Else." The exact words he sang as he and I looked at each other were:

We need love and peace 
Love and peace 
Baby don't fight 
We can talk this thing through 
It's not a big problem 
It's just me and you 
You can call or I'll phone 
The TV is still on 
But the sound is turned down 
And the troops on the ground 
Are about to dig in 
And I wonder where is the love? 
Where is the love? 
Where is the love? 
Where is the love? 
Love and peace 

At that point he let go of my hand and a stage guy handed him a white blindfold with the words "COEXIST" written on it and he sat at a crudely bare drum blindly banged on it. Blindfolded, he couldn't see, just feel. (My youngest son is learning African drumming with his dad. He drums on everything, He's a drummer now - you just do something and claim it, own it like Eminem says.)

I didn't sing along with Bono even though I knew the words I just let him serenade me and the look on my face I imagine was one of pure bliss, thanks, love .. for this man who means so much to me. The songs of U2 are the soundtrack to my life and Bono is one of the best poets this world will ever know. For twenty seconds he and I looked at each other and he recognised something in me as I stood there on my tippy-toes wearing red patent pointy shoes. Magic happens when you wear red shoes. One hundred thousand people roared behind me but that moment with Bono was one of the most intimate moments of my life. More intimate than any sex I've ever had. Spiritually intimate.

That moment? Was one of the moments I was trying to explain to my brother if you just stay and persevere and live this life.

These moments of pure joy in the Spirit do not happen often but when they do, Cam ... oh my sweetheart when they do they are worth everything. They are worth living for.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

I'm Stupid At Stuff But Clever At Other Stuff.

Remember that time I was in Uganda at the dodgy cafe asking World Vision workers how many equators the world has? And when we were on a boat on this incredible river and somebody said it was the River Nile and I was all WE ARE ON THE RIVER NILE RIGHT NOW ARE YOU SERIOUSLY KIDDING ME and the German tourists looked at me like I was the dumbest idiot in town because when it comes to geography ... well, I am the dumbest idiot in town. (But they continued to look at me so strangely after that I kind of hoped a hippo would eat them them or at least scare them because there were HIPPOS RIGHT THERE IN THE WATER.) In the River Nile. Because we were on the River Nile. Which apparently originated in Africa? I thought it was Egypt. And my friend Lou from World Vision said "Eden, Egypt is part of Africa." EGYPT IS PART OF AFRICA? No way. Mind-blowing.

But see, then we visited a farmers field of crops, beautifully tall crops which I obviously have forgotten the name of but they were as tall as me, all planted and grown and taken care of by local villagers under the care and guidance of World Vision workers who implement all sorts of incredible and sustainable projects that save millions of lives all over the world. On a whim I decided to write and perform a slam poem right there in the hot sun so I did. Scribbled it out, got it filmed on an iPhone, and said it straight off the bat in one take. At the time my close personal friend Joe Hockey was cutting the hell out of foreign aid for his stupid budget and these politicians don't seem to understand that behind every dollar they are "saving" there are real live people depending on projects like the ones World Vision provide.

So I performed this piece. It actually isn't that great, it was rushed and I could have made it a whole lot better if I tried but that's the story of my life. I leave things till the last minute like I'm in year seven and Mr Patrick is so annoyed I haven't handed in my Boer War assignment and Rachel Campbell was sick of me copying all of her work by that point and wouldn't tell me where the Boer War was. I still don't know. Siri is Boer a country?

But I know my words. I've always been good at words. Crap at every single thing in school, getting twenty-six percent on stupid maths tests but I'm good with words. We're all good at something. And when I finished my piece my World Vision homies just said - you wrote that five minutes ago, how did you do that? And I said I didn't know. Jeez it feels good to not only know your talents but to use them.

In all the panic and strife everywhere in the world right now, there's World Vision, a beacon of light, saving lives - every single day.

PS I just had to google "Is Egypt a part of Africa" - it is, but some people say it's a part of Asia, other people say it's part of the Middle East. Ugh. No wonder I'm confused.

You can buy Christmas gifts from World Vision - a goat or a cute little piglet or some school pencils. It helps .. every little bit helps. I've seen it with my own eyes how much it helps .. click here for more deets

PPS Boer is not a country. Just so you know.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Do Shit That Calms Your Soul.

So this morning I'm on my second cheap mocha coffee sachet sitting on my front verandah of the cute cottage I'm about to move out of thinking how tired my body is because I'm sick and also moving house and also all the other things in the world to worry about because it feels like the world's gone to shit. I always think the world's gone to shit but the world's gone to EXTRA shit this week Siri what will become of humanity?

And I'm scrolling listlessly through the news and then Instagram and then Facebook and then my emails and I answered a particular email from a woman who I don't know but she's going through a rough trot and reached out to me because I may not have gone to university but I have a PhD in Rough Trots. With honours. And I answered her and then I wrote this status update on my Facebook page:

"I get contacted by a lot of people who are going through hard times, who are depressed, who are at the point of giving up. I guess because they see me keep going through my hard stuff, keep getting back up again, keep moving forward. It's hard as shit, like, I woke up this morning and thought "ANOTHER day? Didn't we just have one of those yesterday?" Anyway so I emailed back this beautiful women to tell her she's doing really well, that hard times don't last forever, and to do little things that bring joy in the middle of each day. I said "Do shit that calms your soul." So that's what I want to say to anybody who's struggling right now - of which there are many of us, quietly out there. Do shit that calms your soul. You're going to be ok. You will get through this. x"

And then gorgeous comments came through from gorgeous people and I love Facebook for that, I love saying "MY LIFE SUCKS BALLS OMG HOW HARD IS IT WHUT" because it resonates with so many people because a lot of the time, life well and truly sucks balls.

Quick as a flash, a cool chick called Laura made up this pic in like, five seconds after I posted my update:

How fucking cool are people? How true is it to do shit that calms your soul?

Shit that I do that calms my soul includes but are not limited to things like:

1) Blasting the hell out of Foo Fighters on the way to school pickup while mentally preparing for the anxiety-ridden hell that is school pick-up.

2) Arriving unannounced at my friend Naomi's house and sitting on her couch talking non-stop while her beautiful children swirl around us singing, being noisy, breaking things, and fighting. And we just laugh because having children is bullshit. They break everything.

3) Having running races with my seven-year old son in the frozen aisle of the supermarket. I don't know why it's the frozen aisle all the time but it just is.

4) Telling funny stories to my brother out loud because there's nobody else who would appreciate my revoltingly hilarious and obscene funny stories like my brother would. I can still hear his voice in my head. I always will. Sometimes I ask him questions "Hey Cam what's being dead like? Can you believe I have to live another day of this shit? You don't, you bloody turd."

5) Buying banana lollies and strawberries and cream lollies and putting them both in my mouth at the same time. An outrageous taste sensation don't knock it till you've tried it.

6) Forcing myself to go to the library even on bad days where leaving the house is terrifying but when I get to the library it's so soothing because I'm there with Library People. And Library People have this certain element of safety to them.

7) When I've stopped at a traffic light I wait anxiously for the light to turn green and the car next to me doesn't even know we're in a race but we are and I always win because once that light turns green I'm OFF.

8) Calling my close friends and asking them what their vagina's look like, to see if mine is normal. And they describe to me what their vaginas look like because I have awesome friends.

9) Telling my kids to not worry so much about school, that some teachers go on power trips and those teachers aren't the boss of them. I told my son once, "Mate, sometimes you just gotta think - fuck school." Because sometimes kids need to not take school so seriously because fuck school.

10) Do the running man in completely inappropriate situations, mostly in public. I used to care so very much about fitting in and worrying about what people think of me. But really, who cares about doing the running man in public? It's fucking hilarious. And quite frankly, completely necessary.

So there's ten things but there's many, many more. What shit do you do that calms your soul? I believe it's imperative for our survival, we need to show other people and our kids and the hoity toity among us not to be so goddamn serious.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The State of Moving.

I'm moving house. Again! I've moved so many times in my life. Mostly in my twenties, where I'd always find myself in some kind of pickle that I needed to get out of quickly. (Usually very quickly, like, immediately.)

For the past four months I've been staying in my friend Louise's beautiful little cottage secreted near the lake in Wentworth Falls. It's been quiet and healing and beautiful. And so, so sad. I've cried so many tears in this house. I've looked in the mirror and raged. I've cried out to my brother, to God, to something or someone to help me through. I've wondered what the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life ... what's to become of me? It's been insidiously painful to separate from my husband, to not be part of the family unit anymore, to witness the pain and confusion in my children eyes. But I had to leave. For a myriad of reasons, I knew I had to leave. Usually it's the man who leaves the family home. In this case, I did. I left the safety and security and jeez Eden wouldn't it have been better if you'd just stayed and not rocked the boat? Being stripped of my role as homemaker and mother and wife .. I've had to face myself and who I am. Who AM I?

I've been alone, which I like. But I've also been the most lonely I've ever felt ever. Being lonely is not always a bad thing, and I finally got used to my aloneness. It's been horrendously necessary.

So this cottage has always been temporary - it's beautiful, I've lit the fire all through winter and bought my own wood in and stacked it and been terrified of the huntsmen spiders who are out to kill me. I made that fire my bitch and I made myself warm - nobody else made me warm. I'm not hiding behind any one or any thing. I have beautiful friends who've listened to me cry down the phone line, so patient and loving and caring. I have beautiful friends. I let them in and they've witnessed my pain and growth and despair and strength.

So, now it's time to move on. I inspected a place and put my application in and was told I had it all in a matter of days - boom. Here's your gorgeous art deco apartment with high ceilings and a beautiful sunroom and renovated kitchen and bathroom and storage space. I have fallen entirely in love. I want to live there forever. It reminds me of a bohemian apartment tucked away in a laneway in the south of France. I have a lot of stuff to do in my new apartment. Big stuff.

It's so new and bright and shiny and waiting just for me. I picked the keys up yesterday and today I'm going to start to move my stuff in. I need some kind of truck situation but I'll bumble my way through like I always do. I'm a great bumbler. I have my entire belongings in a storage facility which I haven't checked once in the past four months. Part of me is scared of looking at all my stuff - I hate stuff. Want to light a match and watch it burn, baby. But my Chesterfield lounge is going to look PERFECT in the living room and I need all my special plates I bought from New York and my spoon collection and the rest of my cowboy boots and framed photos of my kids and all of the clothes I've completely forgotten about. My dresses! I want to wear my dresses again and be surrounded by my special objects like that hand-painted cow skull with the huge horns and my Pulp Fiction poster and the twenty notepads I've been writing in for decades.

All these pieces of me will be all reunited, like putting a jigsaw puzzle back together. I know I won't be lonely in my new place and even if I am I've made friends with my loneliness anyway. I've made friends with a lot of the yucky parts of myself this year. Shone a torch on the dark and murky stuff inside of me. Kept digging into myself like an archaeologist and I've clung on like a barnacle. I think I'm starting to accept and love myself. Do I not deserve to feel ok? I don't want spectacular or incredible or wondrous. Contrary to popular opinion, happiness is not a right. We have to feel all the other things too ... which makes happiness and joy feel so good when they come visit.

I'm even going to hold dinner parties. And force people to play Trivial Pursuit during dessert because I've always loved the hell out of a board game.

I'm still standing. My boys will come for the week on/week off thing that separated parents do. And I'll dig my slow cooker out and make delicious meals again because I forgot I'm a good cook. I forgot a lot of things. It's going to be so nice to introduce myself to myself - hey Eden, this is Eden. And guess what - you ain't that bad after all.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Tonight, You Bel-ong ... To Me.

I keep getting drawn to this clip, over and over again.

The fathers patience as his daughter keeps interrupting .. he's ROCKING the pink ukulele. The little girl's impeccable singing and harmonies. Her voice! It's so gorgeous, and sweet. And innocent. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

No Good Bye.

Today marks two years and twenty-two days since my brother Cameron took his own life. Where he took his life I have no idea. He's gone somewhere I couldn't follow, couldn't drag his hand and heart back from the void.

I was talking to my mother on the phone last night .. we often go through the what-ifs and should-have-dones. Which is entirely fruitless because what's done is done, we can't change what happened. Hindsight is the perfect science. But the people left behind after a loved one suicides .. well we're just scrambling and aching and charred, trying to make sense of the insensible. Understand the inexplicable.

My brother was such a thoughtful, sharp, deliciously quick-witted, capable, beautiful man. Oh he was beautiful! He was alone when he died which breaks my heart into a trillion million tiny pieces. Pieces that keep getting broken again and again until the shards turn to crumbling dust but the dust keeps breaking too because everything broke when he died. I broke. His death broke me .. as it should have. I'd expect nothing less from a love like that.

Death can shake us all up like a snow globe. Cracks and crevices become caverns, too wide to jump over. Too big to ignore. There are layers we're left to unwrap and unravel as we navigate grief in relentless stormy weather on a creaky old boat. With no map - christ not even a rudder. There's no set guide or rulebook. We let the days happen to us. It's shit. It's the absolute shittest of shit of shit. SHIT. #shit

C.S. Lewis once wrote: "Nobody ever told me that grief felt so much like fear." Oh it's true. I witnessed the birth, life and death of a person I love with my whole soul. How can that be? It's all so wrong. And frightening.

Thirteen days ago 24-year old Rhys McNaughton took his own life. His death has shocked and shattered his family and loved ones to the core. It was unexpected, nobody saw it coming. A bolt from beyond the blue. Right now this second there's a whole other family and set of friends and loved ones hurting, keening, in complete shock at the death of their beautiful guy. Rhys was smart, strong, incredibly good-looking. A magnetic personality ... he shone. People clamoured to be near him. He went to uni, was a talented footy player. I never met him - I never will. A close family friend of his reached out to me. We talked on the phone, laughed and cried together. And swore a lot. I listened to the immense pain in her words and heart. How could this happen? What? Why? Where are the answers? Where's the rulebook? WHAT?

It's difficult to talk about suicide, especially navigating the minefield of it on a public forum like this. But our boys are leaving us. Our girls too - but the statistics of young men taking their own lives are huge. What's going on? Why were there no warning signs? How could this happen to a beautiful Soul like Rhys? Did he not have everything society and the world has to offer? What's going on in people's minds and hearts that they see suicide as their only option?

I borrowed a book from North Sydney library when I was in my early twenties. It was called "Suicide: The Forever Decision." I never returned it, and often wonder if the librarians wonder what happened to the person that borrowed that book. I'm still here - scrambling, surviving, fighting. Cam is not here. Rhys is not here.

This is an epidemic. Tragedies are being playing out again and again, every day. Different stories but the same narrative.

Rhys has an incredibly large network of friends who are shocked and bereft and grieving hard, real hard. Often people want to to something meaningful after one of our own has died, to try make some sense of it. I became a spoken-word artist after my brother left, to honour him. I even bought a new set of brown and aqua cowboy boots to perform in - to help keep me going. It worked. We need to keep going.

Every single one of us goes through hard things. Life pulverises us all .. at times I have felt such pain. Surely nobody on the whole planet could ever have felt such pain? But they have. I am not alone in my humanness. Feelings subside, things change, time moves on. We're not stuck in a moment forever. Everything ebbs and flows with the moon. It's going to be ok sweet ones. I promise you! Hold tight, bunker down. Let the waves crash over you. Storms eventually stop and I know this for a FACT. I have lived it. I've felt the darkest black feelings anybody could possibly feel and I'm still here, completely battered but tapping away at my keyboard regardless, shining a bit of light on Rhys.

This is Rhys.

Photo: John Bortolin

His heartbroken friends have rallied and banded together to raise awareness of suicide and depression. To REALLY raise true awareness. Conversations, dialogue, The loss of Rhys has shaken and devastated so many people, right to the core. Young people are looking at each other in bewilderment and shock .. how could this happen? If it happened to Rhys .. it can happen to ANY of us.

His mates, his people, his tribe, they're hurting. And crying and questioning. They've banded together, using all of their social media platforms and voices to speak up, to say: "Look what happened to our friend. How could it be true? What can we do?"

Barely two weeks on they've started a wave of change, conversation, bravery among their pain. We can learn from them. They've taken up the baton and doing things their way, fuelled by the intense pure love they have for Rhys. They want to get the word out. They NEED to. Rhys had such striking features so similar to young celebrity Zac Ephron that his mates affectionately nicknamed him "Zeffa." A letter has been written to Zac. It's beautiful. ".. I'm pretty sure Rhys could make friends with a tree." 

They've set up a fundraising page on the Movember Foundation website.  The Movember campaign happens every year in November, drawing critical attention to the mental health of young men. Rhys's friends "Hotter Than Zac Ephron" page is now the highest fundraising group for Movember in Australia. I'm so proud and in awe of these young people. Please spare some thoughts and possibly a few coins for the family and friends of Rhys. Please share what his mates are doing to honour him, they are so numb and heartbroken from shock and immense loss.

Hotter Than Zac Ephron Movember Fundraising Page. 

We never "get over" the death of people we love .. but we get through. Together. We have to live our lives together.

Monday, 2 November 2015

We Are The Poets.

We're the poets.
the chosen, the fire and the light.
The shadows, the skeletons, day dusk and night.

We're the poets.

                                        With Luka Lesson

The givers, the healers, the seekers of truth.
The gargoyles perched right upon the church roof
We're the poets.

We're the lighthouses,
beacons, grim reapers of love.

We speak sonnets and half verses sent from above.

We're the poets.

                                           With Omar Musa. 

Hail the poet!

Hail the storm.
Hail the stone.
Hail the chief.
Hail the Mary's.
And everything dark underneath.

We're the poets.

                                     With Phil Wilcox

We were sent here to deepen your gaze
To sharpen your senses
Survive insurmountable days
We're the poets.

The 2015 Poetry Slam Olympics presented by Bankstown Poetry Slam

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