Tag Archives: Death

Melbourne | Loss and love at Bourke Street Mall

imageI haven’t posted in a while. I’ll be honest and say I’ve just been working so much and haven’t had time to sit and write, but it’s not just that, I’ve lost my motivation a bit lately. While my life is almost full to bursting with exciting stories to tell, I’d kind of hit a wall with inspiration. It happens every now and again, life gets busy and gets in the way of writing, but when it happens I don’t try and fight it because I know that I’ll always regain my mojo in the end, it just takes time. You can’t force yourself to be inspired and to write beautiful things, it comes naturally or not at all. While I was struggling to express the beautiful sides of life through this blog, something awful happened, something painful and sad and devastating. I may have been struggling with the words to express the happier situations in my life, but once I started typing my feelings of anger and hurt at the dangerous assault on my favourite city and it’s people last week, the words just wouldn’t stop.

For those who don’t know what happened, on Friday five people including a baby boy died in a horrific incident in Melbourne’s busiest shopping centre. A man went on a rampage around the city after allegedly stabbing his brother, mowing people down with his car and leaving 31 people in hospital. For those who were around the shopping centre at the time – including myself and several friends of mine – it was a scary, confusing and devastating experience. I was just about to start work and was walking past the incident as around 20-30 police cars went tearing along the tramlines in the pedestrianised areas to try and stop the man. Police helicopters were circling and police were screaming at onlookers to get away as quickly as possible. Luckily I worked nearby so I could find shelter in the hotel, at this point we had no idea what had happened with vague reports of a shooting/stabbing and a lot of misinformation. My first fear when I saw the police reaction was that it could be a bomb or some kind of terrorist attack, lack of information put this fear straight into my mind.

But I don’t want to dwell too much on what happened, instead I want to focus on what really horrified me that day. While the man’s actions were terrifying and have left the whole city unnerved, it was the actions of the onlookers that really showed me a dark side of humanity. As I ran up the street towards work I was dodging between people who preferred to stand on their phones recording every second of the incident, ignoring police advice to move to safety and choosing instead to share it on social media. A friend of mine was right in the middle of the incident and dived straight into help the injured people – he was brave and selfless in that moment, ending up covered in blood and just grateful he could help stop the bleeding from a man’s head injury. He was kind and patient despite his fears for his own safety and I find that incredibly inspiring. As with all the people who stepped up and helped save lives or to protect their fellow man that day – the ones who stopped and cared. My friend has since received word that the man he helped is safe and recovering in hospital.imageBut less inspiring was the man who stood right behind my friend and videoed the whole thing – instead of helping to stop the bleeding and to tend to those who were seriously injured he preferred to stand there and capture what was happening. I know we live in a modern age where camera phones open up the world to all of us to be the journalists and to share every bit of news at a flick of a button. But just as I always felt uncomfortable reporting the news from a desperate situation when I felt I could be helping to ease the pain and suffering of others, I find it disgusting that people would prioritise social media sharing and Snapchatting attacks on mankind over helping to save lives. Have we really reached a point where sharing an experience is more important that protecting a human life? While this experience may have inspired me to write about my anger and pain, I still don’t see how sharing it could ever be more important than protecting lives. Since Friday, countless people have flocked to Bourke Street Mall to lay flowers and messages of strength, love and compassion. This really makes you see the other side of humanity – the warmth that helps the world to move on and heal after such an incident.

It’s times like these when people need to put down their smart phones and to come together, because that’s what is really important. The love you feel from the other side of the world when friends and family message to check you are okay, the love you share when your best friend’s safety is your first thought as an incident happens, the love you feel from co-workers who rant and cry and understand the pain of others. It’s so easy to get caught up in the modern world we live in and to forget to break it down to the most basic and most important things – those around us who make our lives worth living, those individuals whose lives and presence we treasure more than anything. After hearing about the death of a Lynn legend – Juggling Jim – back at home, it shows more than ever the love for this character. The outpourings of sadness on social media at his death, he brought light into the lives of others and will be sadly missed. His spot on Lynn High Street will never be filled and his memory will be treasured.

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A Tribute | To living every day like it’s your last

imageSometimes horrible things happen and we just don’t know why. It’s a common part of everyday life and one we deal with on a daily basis – whether it’s someone we love getting sick or injured, someone getting screwed over by a job or partner or some kind of loss. But when backpacking, it’s a lot stranger to have these sharp pinpricks of reality piercing through the travel bubble you find yourself in. When you’re constantly on the move and everyone around you is living every day like it’s their last, everyone is happy and content. There is no need to screw each other over, instead we work to build each other up and help each other to be the best we can be. Perhaps it’s all that vitamin D, but we all manage to avoid drama and pain for the most part, and even when it finds some way of filtering into our lives it is that much easier to shake it off.

When I first came travelling, I was dealing with some dramas in my own life which had actually pushed me to leave and travel in the first place. It turned out that living among such amazing people and experiencing such incredible things was exactly what I needed. It gave me perspective and a fresh look at the situation so I could plan for my future. Travelling made it that much easier to deal with the situation and to brush it off, which had been nigh on impossible while still at home. Being away changed my attitude and made me realise how little it all mattered when it came to the story of my life, and how I just needed to live each moment like it was my last instead of worrying and stressing.

Anyone who’s been reading Absolutely Lucy for a while will know I didn’t have the best time in Cambodia and was pretty disappointed by the country. But what they might not know is that I still met some pretty awesome people while I was there, in particular two lads who were the very best of friends travelling together. The pair were quite frankly some of the funniest people I have met and they kept me laughing all night as we celebrated one of their birthdays. We all met, along with several of their friends, after all being invited on a nighttime fishing trip which ended up being hilarious. One of the boys had insisted on going on the trip for his mate’s birthday, forgetting that he couldn’t stand the smell of fish – to the point he spent most of the trip throwing up over the side of the boat. Despite this, he still managed to keep us laughing the whole time and did it all for his friend. These two lads had known each other for a hell of a long time and were a fantastic double act, I couldn’t imagine one without the other.

But sadly now, I have no choice. A cruel twist of fate saw one of the lads killed recently in a car accident leaving behind a devastated family and his heartbroken best friend. After hearing the news via Facebook, I just couldn’t believe what had happened. He was so young and had so much left to do in his life, he had barely been back from his backpacking trip a few months or weeks. I may have only known him for one night, but he made a huge impression on me – as everyone I meet when travelling does. Each person and each moment steals a little piece of your heart and leaves you with a little piece of theirs, whether you spend just a few hours with them or weeks on end. It just shows you how precious life is and how making every second the best it can be in case it is your last is so important. Nick did just that and lived every second like it was the last thing he would do and had just had the most amazing time travelling with his partner-in-crime, Will, and I’m so happy they have at least those precious memories.imageThe point of this post is not to rave on about how amazing travelling is, it’s just to say that life can change in a split second and it could all be over quicker than you can say ‘hey’. But we can’t live in fear of what could happen all the time, we need to just make the most of every opportunity and happiness in our lives so that if something does happen – we can be sure we lived every moment to the absolute fullest. So many sit around waiting for life to happen to them, but that’s not the answer – go out and make stuff happen for yourself! If travel is the thing for you, book a ticket. If it’s love, dive in head and heart first. You get the idea, now go do it – you won’t regret it.

RIP Nick.

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Guest Post: Reclaiming your life and finding happiness

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Something very special for you guys today – the first guest post on Absolutely Lucy and I’m so happy to share this incredibly powerful post with you guys. Reading it for the first time brought tears to my eyes and I know there are so many people out there who are struggling a bit and who need to read this to help put things in perspective and to show that ray of light at the end of the tunnel. This piece is by an amazing writer who luckily stumbled across my blog thanks to Twitter – thank goodness for social media if it means getting to find such amazing writers and sharing their work with a new audience.

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Meet Nixie Dust a writer and photographer who runs two blogs including Nixie Dust, where she shares her everyday life, experiences, thoughts and ideas. Both are well worth a look and a follow – or find her on Twitter. Read on for her take on taking back control of your life and finding your own happiness:

 

I remember the moment I gave up. It was a grey day by the sea, slowly turning into evening, the eerie keening of the gulls pin wheeling above me. Hove is famous for starling murmurations in the early evening, and I stood watching a huge one shape shift over the rooftops, each bird in perfect harmony with the bodies of its fellows. I stood too close to the road, tyres threw dirty water up my legs as people drove home, the occasional horn blaring through the drab, grainy twilight. I didn’t care. I watched the starlings dance until they had exhausted their airy stage. They flew on, towards Brighton. I thought, ’I’ll catch up with the rest of you.’

A few hours later I was in a hospital bed, having again been admitted for suicidal ideation and planning my death. It was the first time I’d been admitted for mental health problems in a long, long time. Even when I lost the use of my legs for two years and was plunged into the despair of seemingly permanent disability at 24, I didn’t let the tide engulf me. I went to Italy despite it all, had a steady job, moved in with friends, found love, lost it again. This time was different. I’d fallen back into a bottle, into the comfort of too many painkillers, too many nights spent alone with only the rattle of my thoughts in my skull like dice in a game I’d rigged to lose. Despite every challenge I’d overcome; Valium addiction, crippling mobility problems, mental illness; I hadn’t reached the top of any metaphorical mountain. I’d been told by inspirational websites and movies and books that once I’d faced my demons I’d rise up like a hero in the last seconds of a Gladiatorial showdown and K-O unhappiness right out of the ring. But it wasn’t like that. Unhappiness was doing press-ups in another room, and I was face down in the dust still spitting teeth, waiting for an on-call psychiatrist to thumbs up, or down.

After I was released, I had a lot of time to think about why I kept plunging back into the familiar misery and hopelessness of depression. Partly, it’s chemical. I have rapid-cycling Bipolar type II, with co-morbid Borderline Personality. It’s hard to think of two conditions that lend themselves to instability more. I don’t build on shifting sands, I am shifting sands. I take my meds every day like a good patient and for the most part I’m doing alright. Most days I don’t just cope, I thrive in spite of it all like a wildflower growing in the gutter. But partly, it’s habitual; the vestiges of learned behaviours whose ‘use by’ expired long ago without me throwing them away. When faced with difficulty, my brain automatically shifts down-gear into a myopic tunnel-vision; a place where light struggles to get in, showing the same film over and over – the ‘You’re not Good Enough’ franchise, with its infinite number of sequels.

It isn’t just me. From the number, the overwhelming number, of people I know with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts; long, weary days of feeling not-enough, too-much; I’ve had a hall of mirrors to look at and learn from. Not all of these people have clinical diagnoses, because most of them aren’t suffering from DSM-V tick-box mental illness. I think that’s what’s so frightening about it – that it’s seemingly normal. Dear god, ‘Stop hating your body’ is seen as revolutionary. And even worse, it is.

But you know what? Despite the hospitalisations and walking aids and bottle-dependency, these days I’ve got everything I could need or want: Happiness. The one elusive thing I was taught I could buy, or earn, but not find inside myself: Happiness. The world can be a sticky, painful place, and I don’t have a list of ten neat bullet points like ‘let go of judgement’ or ‘follow your inspiration’ or ‘care less about what other people think’. I just have my own experience, and the one concrete thing I’ve learned about the whole deal is that old cliche (because they’re true, am I right?) that the only thing to fear is fear itself. And tidal waves and your teeth falling out and serial killers.

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Reclaiming your life and your power isn’t, for most of us, a fire walk, or Everest, or epiphany. It’s a long slog through neck-high bullshit we’ve been fed since we we were old enough to realise there was an ‘I’ in here that other people had expectations about. I never had my melon merrily twisted by a self-help article that told me to ‘care less about what people think,’ as though I could snap my fingers and glide along the street, suddenly, gloriously, giving no fucks; because it doesn’t really deal with conditioned fear, that habitual depression, in a realistic way.

The last time I checked, we were all being conditioned from a very young age to care what other people think so much that their opinions about us take precedence over our own. School for most of us was nothing more than a years-long vicious popularity contest in which we pitted ourselves against each other to find out where we belonged, egged on by adults who projected their own fucked-up conditioning about self-worth onto our budding sense of person-hood. And it doesn’t stop, even when you’re an adult slaving away in a job you despise, worrying about your waistline. Everything you’re told about how you ‘should’ live your life comes purely from what other people might think about it, from the way you look to the job you take to what you eat.

The thing I’ve learned about other people’s judgement is that it always, always comes from a place of fear. Shaking out your wings reminds them of their own prison, and most people would rather not be forced to think about that. Judging myself also comes from a place of fear, because I’ve been told that upsetting the equilibrium of a self-loathing hive by being happily myself is somehow selfish. Anyone with an ounce of common-sense can see how stupid that is. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Where, then, do you go? You happiness seeker? You Fool poised on the edge of the Tarot card? You can’t live to please other people, and even if you could, it turns out you can’t please them anyway. All you can do is nurture the faltering little weed of defiant self-esteem that just won’t die in the face of it all. For me, it’s taking that trip despite the physical challenges, or walking out of the hospital doors again into another dawn, or sending off that new story even though I’m sure the editor will hate it. I make sure I take the time to do the things I love, with or without other people’s approval, because even though it took me years to get here, it’s true that radical self love and acceptance has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Overcoming over a decade of insanity and addiction didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t find God or build African wells or ‘follow my bliss’ and become a best seller. I just lived through it all a day at a time, taking down the bars of the cage one by one, letting a little more light in with each painting, or poem, or quiet act of creative bravery. It wasn’t extraordinary, or heroic; it was a slow dismantling of a wall I’d let the world build around me with ’shoulds’.

Let us all kick away the bricks of that wall. Let us gaze at the view when it comes down. Let us all find our happiness within. Let us all, in our smallest victories, raise each other up.

 

 

Death becomes us: How will you be remembered?

Photo by Dani Raye

Photo by Dani Raye

Over the last few weeks, our newspaper seems to have been filled with death – sudden, unexplained deaths of teenagers, prolonged suffering from cancer, particularly brain tumours, and emergency medical conditions that have all led to people being lost. These things always seem to come in waves of lots of deaths all at once and this has been a particularly extreme example with several very young people dying very suddenly. I have written more tribute pieces in the last three weeks than I have in the last few months before that.

Tributes are now the easiest things to write – there is so much more pressure to get everything right and you really want to do the absolutely best job you can of recording someone’s life in 500 words and a few pictures. It can also be an incredible experience, to be trusted with the last words that will be printed about someone, to get every important detail into the story about their life and loves. It is a phenomenal responsibility and one I do not take lightly. I consider myself pretty good at writing these pieces after being thrown in the deep end right from the very beginning in my work as a journalist. Being good with people and empathetic definitely helps, but you need to not dwell on the sadness of losing someone – instead treat the story as a celebration of the person’s life and a chance for family and friends to get closure where perhaps a shock death can leave them wanting.

Sorry, I don’t mean this to be such a morbid post – but all this death and all those tribute pieces just got me thinking about what people – friends and family – might say about me if I were to suddenly get hit by a bus or something. Whether I would be described as a go-getter, as adventurous or kind and thoughtful. Or whether people would say that I loved life to the full. It makes you wonder. I mean, nearly everything that people say about you when writing a tribute is complimentary, which is reassuring, but you still wonder what nice things they would say exactly – how they view you.

I’ve never been one of these people who worries about what others think – I think you can waste a lot of time doing that when often the people who voice thoughts are not the ones whose opinions actually matter. But I have always been rather intrigued by how people see others and by which traits we are remembered. With my plans to go off travelling next year, I’m sure I’ll meet a lot of new people and it makes me wonder what kind of first impression I make and how people remember me when I have moved on. I always think that a first impression is worth everything because as we all know, you can never get another chance at it, whether personally, professionally or socially. It is always important to be the best you can be the first time around because this first chance can taint a future relationship.

So, I’m going to be brave and ask the question – at this moment in time – how would you remember me?

I had already written and published this post when I spotted the Daily Prompt and figured this fitted quite well!

Drowning in a tea cup

Photo by Max Charping

Photo by Max Charping

Life got just a bit out of control recently. A lot has been happening, too much to deal with really so my response was to stop blogging, because quite simply, I didn’t know how on earth to put it all into words. It’s very rare for me to be speechless, or for anything to put my life on hold, but the shock of everything really did just stop me in my tracks. The shock hasn’t completely worn off yet and things are far from settled, but I’ve missed blogging and I didn’t want all my hard work in creating this little world to go to waste, so here I am.

I’m sure all of us have felt overwhelmed by life at times, I know that I have, I just try not to let it take over and start making plans to deal with things. I’m an organiser, someone who deals with a situation and moves on quickly by finding a solution. It’s just the way I am programmed. So it’s been hard the last two weeks to have my emotions up the wall and feel so scattered – I’ve been getting annoyed at myself for moping around. But when those feelings engulf you, it is very hard to see a way out. I know you all know what I am talking about – if you have ever experienced any real pain or suffering in your life, whether you’ve been bullied, lost a loved one or been through a bad break-up. All of these are devastating and turn our lives from the steady and calm waters to stormy tidal waves that rock the boat we once thought was so safe.

It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, with work and relationships, and to let them seem like greater problems than they actually are. We are all guilty of letting a bad situation take over at times, some react by letting it plunge them into depression and others throw themselves into work and other matters to take their minds off it. Normally I am the latter, I throw myself into anything else in order to deal with the problem and move on, but this time things just caught me by surprise and I started to feel like I was drowning in a tea cup.

You might be thinking at this point “what a depressing post, get over it love”, and I am, trust me. But what really helped me was a heavy dose of perspective. It is important, when you start to feel like this, to take a step back from the situation, which can be the most difficult thing. But taking a deep breath and taking everything into account can really make a difference to the way you view things. My perspective came in the form of a terminally ill man who I had written stories about over the past year after he was given a shock diagnosis of a brain tumour and only 18 months to live. He died at the weekend, but only after squeezing every tiny bit of beauty and fun out of life. Writing his tribute was the hardest thing after seeing him so full of beans only a matter of months ago, but it helped to know that I was doing my bit to help the family to come to terms with things.

Something else that has helped me get a grip on things was hearing, from someone I highly respect and have learnt a lot from, that I am an example that he uses of “someone who will go very far”. We had a chat that led to him telling me this and giving me some interesting career advice that has certainly influenced some of the big decisions I’ve been making lately. It was great to be told from someone who is such an expert in their field and has so much experience that he agrees with my plans for the future and encourages them. Definitely gave me the boost I needed to firm up these plans and to make the first move.

I just want to highlight the importance of saying things like this to people we work with, people we have relationships with, our friends and families and anyone we come across in life. It really can make all the difference to share a positive and constructive opinion on peoples’ work and careers. When we put so much time and effort into things, it is important to reward this with praise and encouragement because it could give them the push they really need to make their next move. Don’t be loose with false praise because that benefits no-one and only hurts you in the long run when you have to explain people’s failings as a result of these words. But kind words and support when you can see the hard work that has gone in, that can mean a lot to us twenty-something’s and graduates who are working our way up the career ladder.

If you ever feel like the walls are closing in and you’re taking on water at the same time, like it’s all just getting a bit too much for you – try taking a step back. Speak to people, my friends have been a saviour to me the last two weeks and I don’t know what I would have done without them. Talking about it all also helps get a grip on the situation and to work out your next move. Don’t just go into a black hole of despair and suffer alone – I nearly did and it made things even worse. What are friends for at the end of the day?

Photo by Jill Justus

Photo by Jill Justus

Have you been in a difficult situation lately – what did you do to find a solution and reach the other side?

The tough side of being a journalist..

A few days ago, the mother of an old friend and ex-boyfriend posted this picture on his Facebook page. Another tribute paid to a fantastic young man who was still finding his way in the world, when a horrific and shocking accident struck him down in his prime. I was one of the first to hear the news when he had tripped while camping fallen on a huge knife used for cutting wood, and while in the woods, with his brother, he bled to death.

It was horrible and I’m getting a lump in my throat just thinking about it. Even now, more than half a year on, the thought still sends a wave of nausea over my body and the news hits me all over again. With family and friends scattered across the UK and Canada, it was difficult to pass the news on to others who, like myself, had grown up with him. While his body remained in Canada, his mother attending the funeral, we held a memorial service in his home town where old friends, family and school chums all came together and spoke of memories we shared of that crazy boy, before releasing purple balloons.

It was a very emotional day and really tough to see so many tear-stained faces there. His mother gave a beautiful speech about him and others spoke of their time with our dear friend. Despite losing others in years gone by, this was easily the most poignant loss, partly because this was the first time I was old enough to really register the loss, and because it was such a shock to us all.

There was another reason why – because this was the first time I had to report on a death that touched my life so much. As a journalist, I am used to dealing with death, horror stories and shocking news on a daily basis (as well as all the more feel-good stuff – it does balance out). I have been dealing with horrible accidents and death knocks almost since I first started and remember clearly reporting on the case of a three-year-old child that ran out into the road while at the town’s annual Mart (fair) and was hit by a car and died shortly after. I saw the accident happen and it was devastating to watch the family’s reaction, then a passer-by holding the little’ boy’s hand as he took his last breath. It was horrifying and I was in total shock, but the next day, I took a deep breath and headed into the office to report on the ‘story’. It was one of the hardest days at work that we have had for a long time, and I was reporting on it with a woman who has a little boy the same age.

It was definitely one of the worst stories I have ever had to write, but it was easily trumped when I had to write a tribute to a boy who used to be one of my best friends, and who was a huge part of my teen years. Having to chase up with the Canadian authorities the details of what happened to him and how the accident came about was hard. It was tough to hear them talk about him as a case rather than as my friend, but I battled through it. Being a journalist is difficult because once you release that part of your mind, you are constantly looking for the story in everything. When you are trying to comfort the family and friends of the deceased, it is tough not to listen out for the quotes and the introduction to your story. It is not heartless, just amazing training coming into play. But the last thing you want in this situation.

It became easier after the memorial service, when I saw his mother alone to put together a tribute piece to him. It was a tearful afternoon but was filled with laughter at lovely memories and it really helped me. It helped me to come to terms with the fact that my friend was really gone, but also to know that he would never just disappear as long as we all remember him. It also helped me to write a fantastic tribute that really did justice to the type of person he was, and I hope that all of his friends agreed.

This is the first time I have managed to speak about this in so much detail since it happened and I hope that I have used my friend as a way of illustrating that journalists actually do a very hard job – particularly if they live in the patch they cover and have to report on loved ones in terrible situations. Not all journalists are heartless, many, like myself, become completely involved in their area and genuinely love it. We live each moment of pride and failure for our town and form strong bonds with the people who live there. Journalism is not just a trade, or a job, it is a lifestyle and a decision to become a huge part of your local community.