Grief (revisited after a year)

I haven’t written anything here since January 2015.My last post was titled simply, “Grief”, because even for me who loves words I could hardly find any. I wanted to pay tribute to all involved in the family tragedy in Cairns, because it involved Torres Strait islanders and I had grown fond of many local people I’d worked with on various islands over a two year period. Being a close knit community and family orientated I knew that terrible incident would shatter them.

I feel somehow hijacked by grief this past year. I’ve had a year of ill health, unexpected and sudden. I’ve learnt that it takes time to adjust to change. That we don’t do¬†ourselves any favours when we set the bar too high with a list of shoulds and oughts in our minds. I started this blog in late 2013 expecting I’d post every week, expecting I would finish the book I was writing about my remote area nurse experiences, but life has presented me with surprises and now I need to lower the bar and do away with my list. I feel what I feel, I can only do so much in one day, life is what it is and so is grief. Grief has no rules it simply is.

Our remote area nurse community has been rocked the past few days with the news of the murder of one of our colleagues in the course of her work in Central Australia. I predicted that this tragedy would bring to the surface many stories of loss, fear and disrespect from other RANS and it has. I’m sure the outpouring of grief for Gayle will continue for a long time as will the sharing of each others stories. This death could have happened anywhere, in any remote community, at any time, but it is bringing up the important issues of safety, duty of care and respect. We are encouraging each other to remember what we love about our work as a defence against despair and being eaten up with anger. But grief is it’s own master and we each have to find our way to journey with it. My thoughts go out to us all, family, colleagues, community members, police, our families who worry about us and people not connected with remote health but who have heard the news and are saddened by it. May we find our strength close by in what we love.

Odd Friends

When you find yourself in a remote place you welcome any overtures of friendship. loneliness, culture shock and generally figuring out how you’re going to fill in the hours after work can be quite a challenge.

A sulphur-crested cockatoo befriended Fasi and I one afternoon. It was sitting on the guttering of the clinic building just above our heads, leaning over peering at us as we talked. When we walked the hundred or so metres home along the red dirt track, it flew through the gum trees, over our heads and landed on the metal railing outside the kitchen, loudly calling “hello”. It must have once been someone’s pet, although we never found out whose, and it never ventured far from the back verandah and it’s water and sunflower seed tray, from the day it arrived till the day we left.

I loved that bird, it brought another dimension to the harsh life I was experiencing in Aurukun. Just watching it waddle about on the railing or wandering into the house made me smile.

Seven Seasons in Aurukun

IMG_4326A year after I started work in Aurukun a book was published (2009) Called “The Seven Seasons in Aurukun”. It was written by a woman who’d been a young teacher for two years in Aurukun in 2004/5. It was the book I’d wanted to write, her experiences, her impressions. She didn’t try and explain the “Indigenous Situation”, wasn’t overly political, the book was highly personal. Just want I needed to read at that time, to see how another woman had survived in Aurukun. I’d been writing my own account in a journal with the thought that it would one day make an interesting read. She was a teacher, I was a nurse, both had very different jobs and relationships, but when I heard about her book I assumed I didn’t have anymore to add.
Sitting around the white plastic table in the kitchen of the clinic one morning, the nurses discussed this book. A male nurse loudly stated his opinion that the book was “self-indulgent crap”. I cringed inwardly wondering how he’d judge anything I wrote in the future. It’s taken me a few years to realize someone is always going to say that about anyones memoir, and worse. It doesn’t matter, we all have a story within our one life and only we can express it.
I’m now on the third draft of my remote area nurse memoir and I hope I’m prepared for any opinion, comments and judgements when it’s published. Each story passed on adds to the wealth of human experience.