It all started in the early hours of New Year’s Day when a very tall and very wide bloke (you could say he was built like a brick shi!house) decided he give out free hugs in the nightclub. He said he’d had to bulk up so he could “keep up with the boys back home”. Then he proceeded, in his rather inebriated state, to lean all his bulk into me while he hugged me. My spine curved into a C-shape backwards and I felt a tugging sensation in my lower back. My stilettoes were more than three inches high and didn’t give me a solid base. Later, as I stood in the inevitable line waiting for a cab, my back felt a little sore.
Over the next few weeks, I had a bit of physiotherapy and then continued on with my life as normal. I was in a full-on, senior role in a high-pressure work environment and had a frenetic social life that matched a single woman in her 30s who loved to meet people, dance and have a good time.
Then, somewhere between ANZAC Day and Easter, I bent over in the shower and felt a sudden, sharp and very painful feeling in my lower back. I could barely stand back up again and can remember feeling fearful and panicky. Aside from my much-loved cat, Super Puss, I lived alone. I called in sick and somehow managed to lever myself into the car to drive to see my physiotherapist, Anne. I remember the look on her face when she came into the waiting area to greet me – she knew something was very, very wrong. I was in so much pain.
It turned out I had a desiccated disc in my lower back. As someone with hyper-flexible hips who danced Latin but didn’t have much core strength, my back didn’t have enough support. I was also highly stressed. That guy and his hug had triggered a weakness and begun a trajectory that led me to Anne’s office.
Ironically, I’d never really understood when people said they had back pain. I mean, I was compassionate to a point but a small part of me always thought maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Ha! Turns out I was definitely wrong – thanks Universe for that lesson.
I had to give up all the things I wanted and valued – my yoga, my dancing, socialising, my stilettoes (going to work in sandshoes everyday felt humiliating by my standards). I went to work, came home, went to physio, came home and that was about it. Most movement was painful most of the time. Getting out of bed was a challenge that required strategic thought and concentrated coordination. Anne was incredibly supportive during this time – every step of the way, she encouraged me, propped me up and was firm when needed. She was a godsend.
However, I wasn’t always gracious and accepting of my situation. It’s incredibly hard when your body decides to do something you don’t want it to do. There were times when I felt so resentful and frustrated. I can remember being halfway through a rehabilitation Pilates class for people with back issues and thinking, “I don’t belong here with these back problem losers!”. I felt so full of anger that I started to cry. I got up (slowly) and left. My exit was a concern to Anne and later, when I told her what was going on in my head at the time, she didn’t say a lot but she didn’t recoil from me either. It wasn’t my finest moment but I guess she’d seen people caught in the lows of the healing process before. It sucked.
But while I was in all this pain, stuck mostly at home, feeling, resentful, lonely and wondering if I would ever get back to where I wanted to be, something interesting happened.
For years I’d been talking about writing a book. I’d written ideas and anecdotes on random, scrappy pieces of paper, post-it notes and in notebooks. They were shoved them into a box in my office and left there. Then were also notes in journals and on my computer. I was going to write a book…someday. People told me I should definitely write a book. But it never quite happened.
Suddenly being forced to stop, be still and stuck at home with nothing else to do, I found myself wanting to pull all those notes together. At the very least, I could compile everything into a single Word document.
Over the following weeks and months, Super Puss and I spent a lot of quality time together as I sifted through all those random thoughts and typed them into the computer. But hey, it’s not as if I had somewhere else to go. Being stuck meant I had nothing else to do – so I moved on something long overdue.
Eventually it was all in one document and eventually too, my body started to heal and I was on the road to recovery. Dancing still wasn’t really on the cards but my sexy stilettoes were back on my feet.
A year or so after that awful day in the shower, I was fortunate enough to obtain a lucrative voluntary redundancy. I could be self-funded for a year and in my mind were two things – I could finally tutor at the university part-time and write my book. I did teach at the university and completed the first draft of my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, just after my birthday in October that year.
Why am I sharing this story now? Honestly, I’ve been feeling very resentful and irritated. I am here in Brisvegas when I had planned to relocate to Italy by now. By 30th June I would have obtained my 12-month student visa to study Italian and would be moving into my apartment in Florence. But due to Covid-19, I am not doing these things and instead, I feel stuck. Freaking incredibly and frustratingly stuck.
I’m in the process of accepting that I won’t be moving there for at least 12 months. Of course, I am grateful to be in this country, safe and with all the bounty we have here. And I know a lot of people are in far more desperate situations than I am. I recognise that I am lucky, so very lucky. But I am fighting an internal rebellion with my Soul – she longs to be in Italy and is always called back there. Unfortunately, 2020 has a plan and an energy of its own that, let’s face it, is turning everything we all planned and hoped for, on its head.
I was musing on my frustration and feelings of stuckness this morning and then recalled that time when I hurt my back. That injury led me to take my writing and my book seriously. If that bloke hadn’t pushed all his weight onto me, I may never have written my book at all. One thing leads to another and another but it doesn’t always lead to what you plan for or necessarily want at the time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck right now. We’ve all got things that we want and can’t have at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a bird locked up in a cage – all I want to do is fly.
But when I recall how my first book came together, I’m reminded that the Universe will often force us to pause when we don’t choose to do it for ourselves. In these times, the Universe is saying, “Wait. Now is the time to focus on all the things you’ve delayed because you were too ‘busy’ before. Wait. There are more things that need to shift first before that other thing can occur. Wait. Be patient. Focus. Just wait.”
I’ve got books to finish and a business to keep building. I will get to Italy, just not when I planned to. This breaks my heart. But I realise there is always a reason for the unplanned and unwanted delays we experience.
We just have to be patient and wait for the Universe to reveal the answers when she’s ready.
You can get your copy of The Men I’ve Almost Dated at all good online bookstores or via Lucretia’s Book Store.
The seagulls in Italy are the size of small dogs and as vocal as any misanthrope Dachshund who believes it must assert its masculine authority over an Alsation. I’m always taken aback when one flies past or perches on an ancient statue nearby and proceeds to loudly proclaim its superiority and place in the world. You may believe that I am a mere gull, it calls, but I am equal to any of you and king of the skies. At least that’s what I think they’re saying as I shake my head and move on elsewhere.
I’m currently sitting in my apartment in Amalfi overlooking the harbour and one of those gulls just swooped past, hence my reflections. But the memories of them on statues come from my time in Rome.
The gulls are numerous along the Tiber and one in particular didn’t hesitate to compete with the notes of the long-haired guitarist playing outside Castel Sant’Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian) two days ago. I stopped to listen to his version of Hallehujah and, as usual, my eyes filled with tears as the notes cascaded mournfully through the air. It reminded me of the first time I heard the song when the radio announcer had played it in honour of Jeff Buckley who had waded into the inky Mississippi River just day before and never made it out alive.
But the gull clearly had little respect for melancholy musings and continued its own demanding calls.
The Italian gulls live large and unapologetically, just as their human counterparts. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel here. From their passionate gesticulations when arguing about anything from football to food, to the languid confidence of almost every Italian man as he appreciates passing women like a smorgasboard and the effortless chic of Italian women (and oh yes, Italian men in their Italian suits), they know how to live wholeheartedly.
I know I am making some very broad generalisations here but I believe culturally, these assertions frequently hold true. And I love this country for all of it.
Why do we, in other countries, believe we must keep our passions under control instead of fully expressing them in all their inconvenient glory? Give me passion over repression every day of the week (and twice on Sundays). Far better to express our emotions and release them in the moment than push them down, way down, where they simmer for years making us physically ill and diluting our joy.
You know what I mean, right?
When I meet people for the first time these days, my first question is rarely the prosaic, what do you do for a living? Instead it is more likely to be, what are you passionate about? What’s your thing, the thing you love? It is there that I uncover the real gold within that unique human being. Because anyone can do a job but passion, well, that is something that is entirely yours and owned by you. You may find others who share it but how you feel and pursue it is entirely a matter for you and you alone.
I love Italy for its unapologetic passion for life, love, art and faith.
The other thing to remember is not everyone is going to share your passion and that is totally perfect because we all have our own path and things only we can do in this lifetime.
That’s why, despite his kind offer and personable manner at the café this morning, I turned down Luigi’s offer to share my bed. His passion didn’t align with mine and sadly, for him, men in their 60s don’t really do it for me.
But his conversation was lovely.
Lucretia is currently on her latest Italian Odyssey, soaking in the passion, culture and love that lives in the country where her Soul feels most alive. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
I sat in a café today fighting back tears yet staring determinedly at my computer screen. Part of me wanted to run away while the other part thought, no, I have to do this.
I’d begun pulling my poetry collection together and as I began revisiting each piece, one by one, all the emotions they held rose up again within me.
A year a two ago, I found myself working on the same floor as a specialist I had first met in my 20s. As a man with a curious and active mind, who remembered me from way back then, he was keen to read my book as soon as I mentioned it. I still remember the look on his face afterwards. He looked at me intently and said, “It must have been very difficult to write a lot that.”
I nodded and said, “Yes. Yes it was.”
When you’re a memoirist and you write from real life, your life, it’s extraordinarily difficult to hide from yourself and the experiences of your past. You must look at yourself, study where you have been, unpick the threads of your life, then somehow sew them back together.
It’s not an easy journey to undertake. It’s often emotionally challenging. When you write about yourself, you cannot hide from yourself. This is why I frequently use journaling activities with my mentoring clients – what better way to uncover your true desires than to pick up a pen and begin recording your brutal self-honesty in writing.
Just like my first book, my poetry collection is autobiographical and traverses my relationship landscape with all its pain, heartbreaks and disappointments. There is a little humour in there too and this time, I also begin exploring the complicating influence of being psychic.
I’ve found that being highly intuitive can work for and against me in romantic relationships. Yes, it may provide an extra level of insight about the person you are interested in but on the other hand, when your emotions are involved, your ability to easily to discern between your intuition and what your heart would like to happen can fly out the window. Factors like soul contracts and past life connections (or past life hangovers as I call them) can also mess with your head, a lot.
I am not one of those women who can put her emotions in a box. In truth, writing my first book was very much like my own personal version of therapy. It was only through writing about my experiences, editing it then revisiting it again, that I was able to finally clear a lot of debris from my psyche. With the birthing of that book I was able to step back and see where I had learned the lessons I needed to learn, and then let the rest go.
I find that my poetry is far more raw than my prose. It always knows what it wants to be when it arrives. It has a clear intention and energy of its own. Once written I can only change a word here or tweak a phrase there. Further self-indulgent editing inevitably destroys the life of the piece leaving it a bedraggled and shallow version of its former self. So I leave most of the words as they arrive.
The memories in my poetry are vivid. They are unavoidable and, judging by my emotional response today, I still have a lot to process about their contents. Two hours was about all I could manage today before I needed a break. But I am going to persevere. There are other books waiting to be finished and released.
Interestingly the themes of relationships, love, and energetic connections are increasingly showing themselves in my work. I guess my Muse is determined that I learn the lessons that are being delivered to me and I continue to be her reluctant yet committed pupil.
I’m not a very consistent writer. I never have been. To sit down and write at the same time every day doesn’t come naturally to me. Whether I’m working on a book, drafting a blog or creating copy for a client, there are times when the words will not come no matter how long I stare at the computer screen. I can find myself writing, then rewriting the same sentence to no avail. It will still be crap until I finally abandon the exercise and stomp off to another part of the house, muttering with frustration.
But there will be times when the ideas simply flow through me and onto the pages so quickly there is almost a word pile-up as my fingers struggle to keep up. That’s when I am thankful for the strict edicts of my year 10 typing teacher Miss Dunn who taught me to touch-type on an electric typewriter back in the 80s – yes, I am that old.
Those times of natural creative flow are so effortless and when it’s done, I always know it is good. Or at least, it meets my own exacting standards of good.
My Muse is annoyingly elusive though and can disappear for hours, days or weeks. But she has vehemently demanded my attention when I’ve been in the throes of abject misery – recovering from heartbreak or struggling with anxiety and despair. She often thrives in those environments of emotional turmoil and my creativity can feel almost uncontrollable. I once felt her call every night for a few short months. More than 200 poems, some several pages long, were the result.
A colleague once showed me pictures of the huge, beautiful canvasses she would paint when depressed. “When I’m happy, I can’t paint a thing,” she said. A lot of artists will tell you their creativity thrives when they are in emotional pain. Perhaps that is the Universe’s way of giving us a helping hand in difficult times – giving us something to cling to as we ride the glutenous seas around us and try desperately not to drown in the darkness.
Pain has certainly sparked my creativity many times but living a life that is inspiring has done the same. I can remember years ago, leaving my Monday night university class where I taught a bunch of smart, eager students who couldn’t wait to learn, travelling home, walking in my front door, grabbing my laptop then hurrying out to my back deck where I would write a blog in 20 minutes or less. The energy of my students was so inspiring that my Muse was jumping with joy.
Over the last few weeks I have started to hear the whisper of the Muse in my ear once again. I was afraid she had died or disappeared forever. I’m thankful she has not.
Half-formed ideas now occasionally bob to the surface of my consciousness before disappearing once more. But knowing they are there, is enough to make me feel hopeful that the creative tap is beginning to drip.
I am not struggling with despair but I am consciously seeking out the inspirations of books and art and passionate conversations. Perhaps this shift has heralded the Muse’s return? Only time will tell.
When does your Muse visit you?
Our eyes met briefly as he lifted the small cardboard box filled with a couple of TV dinners and some cat food, but it was enough for me to see far more than perhaps a lot of people do.
He’d noticed my solitary purchase sitting on the conveyor belt minutes earlier. “Dinner?” he asked, glancing at my lone block of chocolate. “Absolutely,” I laughed.
He’d attracted my curiosity as I approached the line-up. I hadn’t seen an armed officer for a while and the gun on his right hip stood out. I wondered if he was on a break or about to finish his shift and head home. Do police officers take their guns home with them these days? It seems unlikely. Wouldn’t they be locked up safely at the station somewhere?
These thoughts wandered through my head before and after he jokingly questioned my purchasing choice. There was something about him that intrigued me. He seemed awkward while waiting in line, disconnected somehow but also hyper-aware of his surroundings. He wore long black trousers and a blue business shirt. He was overdressed on a Sunday when compared to everyone else. Yet, he had the look of someone who could fade into the background easily. Nondescript. I guess that’s a good quality to have in his line of work – to not be seen.
His purchases marked him as a single shift worker with a cat. Or perhaps a married shift worker with a cat. I didn’t catch sight of a wedding ring but I know many officers don’t wear one – it’s to prevent giving away personal information when they’re working. This seems reasonable when you consider the kinds of people they have to deal with day in, day out.
It also explained that look before he left. It was the look of a man who had seen too much and was left with a repair bill that was rather exorbitant. I considered what the woman who is with him or would be with him in the future would need to navigate. A man like that would be tough sometimes. Closed. Damaged. There was trauma in those eyes. How do you cope with seeing so much pain and ugliness in the world? How do you avoid that seeping insidiously into other parts of your life? Perhaps it occurs without you being conscious of it. It just becomes part of you, something you carry around and never quite release.
Was it his energy that made him so interesting to me? My gaze had returned to him repeatedly. I could also feel his awareness of me the entire time we stood in line. Did he sense me watching him and that’s why he looked up as he gathered his purchases? Or did he simply want to appreciate me one more time before he left?
I don’t know. But he had the eyes of a man who had seen too much. And the soul of a man who had felt love too little.
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