Winter came early this year, 2023. In Newcastle we shivered through the coldest May nights in over 60 years; some snowfields opened early; hailstorms smashed cars and gardens; wild seas drew awestruck onlookers to our beaches.
In ‘Are we there yet?’, the final chapter in my memoir, I searched for positive signs to cheer me as winter 2022 closed in. ‘Overarching them all’, I wrote, ‘is a new Federal Government making thoughtful common-sense decisions, reminding Australians that it is possible to feel proud of their leaders.’
That government has just passed its first anniversary, on 22 May 2023. Among the commentators passing judgement, one stood out. Veteran journalist and former political staffer to Conservative ministers, Niki Savva, crafted an insightful piece for the SMH. Amid the generally favourable observations was Prime Minister Albanese’s response to her invitation to name his most significant achievement. ‘The sense of purpose the government has shown’, he replied.
Savva unpicks what this means – ‘it sounds simple, yet it envelops everything’, she writes. I am blindsided by the fact that ‘a sense of purpose’ is the guiding principle for our Federal Government. How fortunate we are.
Could I say the same about how I’ve lived my life over the past year?
Since my draft manuscript was sent for editing in August 2022, my overriding purpose has been to bring my memoir into the world. I’ve achieved that, learning much along the way (not without angst), and embracing new experiences. Surviving a 30-minute podcast interview jumps to mind!
Life didn’t stand still, though: COVID-19 quietened but didn’t disappear; I’m slowly forging new at-home fitness habits to replace my gym; friendships are once more nurtured by sharing, face-to-face. I’ve begun to feel less isolated, more normal.
Nor did my husband’s cancer stay still. While immunotherapy during 2022 proved to be poor value, ineffective treatment during the first two months of 2023 left a harsher parting gift – side effects that bother and confuse him. Regular calls from palliative care have become part of Ken’s life, and he brings a special mindfulness to occasions he meets with those he holds close.
Now the memoir is done, and my tunnel vision is normalising, a new sense of purpose is emerging. It’s a kind of watchfulness, being alert for cracks – fault lines in our coping.
The smallest change in the ecology of our daily lives leads me to bend, peer more closely, listen as it calls forth something. What is being asked of me?
Together, a few days ago, Ken and I changed the sheets on our beds. I tumbled the used ones over the balustrade, through the washing machine, and onto the clothesline. Once dry, Ken brought them in; I did the folding and putting away. It’s a routine household task that in our home, is done fortnightly. Not all at once – over a couple of sunny days.
Ken realized it first – ‘We can still do it, just, but it’s getting too much for us.’
As it happened, Joanne, our best-ever home help, was due that week. I talked over our dilemma with her; next I phoned My Aged Care. A solution is on the way – perhaps.
It’s not just the detail of the fault lines I’m watching for. It’s the whole big picture – the quality of the life we share, for whatever time is gifted to us. When the colours of that life start to fade, no matter how small the patch, I’ll take notice.
Living with purpose – it’s simple but it envelops everything.
Note: This post was written 1 June but due to technical issues with my email automation system, was not notified until now. In the meantime, the world of politics moves on!
Strength and Grace
Willingly we work each day
to relight the radical
flame of hope, we do it
with our own style, often
without rest, white knuckles
and effort as the only
flicker in our tired eyes.
It burns to be alive
and still we say yes.
We find a grace in our
acceptance, a steady want
that keeps us going.
If we stop we can only
ask ourselves what else
is there to do? While here,
while breathing, we may as
well push on & on.
By Detroit poet Jacqueline Suskin