Life has been a little crazy for me over the last twelve months with my mum’s diagnosis of cancer followed closely by her death, and then one of my kids became very ill with a chronic illness. From the moment I finished the latest draft of my manuscript and uni last year, I took up the role as a full time carer.
So when the three kids went off to school this year (all three tackling something new: one into high school, another spending a term away and the third changing schools for his VCE), I sat down to breathe. It was the first time in eleven weeks I had silence around me. It felt like it had been so long I had forgotten what it was that I used to do. This time had chipped away at my confidence as a creator, and I needed to work out how to find my creative spirit again.
After a few days of trying to remember who I was, what I did, I realised that I was craving nature so I planned a walk in the bush. Initially I thought it would be best to go with others. I didn’t think I had it in me to go for a solitary bushwalk; maybe it was my lack of confidence, or just a habit of always sharing my time with others. As it turned out, no one could come.
It would have been easy to just not go, but I think Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic was still ringing in my ears from last year, and I knew that this was important for me. I needed to replenish myself so I could heal, create again.
Come Friday morning, I donned my shorts and runners, packed my backpack with water and snacks and covered myself in sunscreen. After waving the kids off to school I wondered if it really was such a good idea to go by myself. In a last minute effort I called a friend who unfortunately – or fortunately – was busy. With false confidence I hopped in the car and I drove with nervous excitement to Werribee Gorge. The closer I got, the stronger I felt.
My day alone in the bush was a long time coming. I could say that I had needed it since my child became ill, but then there was the lead up to him getting sick, the pressures of balancing uni and family life, the time dealing with Mum’s estate, grieving Mum, caring for Mum. And then it dawns on me that it’s been sixteen and half years since I gifted myself some alone time (oddly enough, the same amount of time that I’ve been a mum) and just did something that would replenish me.
It was magic. Everything about it was magic. From getting a little lost, to slowly plodding up the enormous hills, from sitting on a log to eat my lunch, to standing still and hearing the birds, it was all exactly what I needed to be doing to begin my healing.
After I walked about two kay it dawned on me that all I was thinking about was the sounds around me, the views, putting one foot in front of the other. All the thoughts that have filled my mind for so many years had finally taken a back seat and allowed me to just be.
As I walked up a ridiculously steep and exposed hill, I paused, hot, out of breath and ready to give up. Then I remembered how tough it’s been for my son and how he just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, so I did the same. And I made it to the top. Even the unachievable is possible.
When I realised that I had taken the wrong path (the map I was looking at was out of date) I had a moment where I could berate myself for stuffing up. Instead I stopped myself and allowed the error to sit with me, and adapted my plans. Permission to fail. Resilience. That thing they teach kids in schools now, and something us adults have to learn on the run.
Finally when I arrived back at the car after walking for eight kilometres I congratulated myself for following through, completing, and most of all, gifting myself time. Then I sat next to the car and wrote freely for the first time in a long time. And then as I drove home I committed to myself to continue to gift myself time each week, to spend some solo time in the bush and walk, or plod, my way to healing.