A Broken Plate Moment

Warning - long… grab a cup of tea… 5 months of updates in one post!!

Do you ever pause and take a snap shot of your life and wonder how the hell did you get to this point. Well that happened to me tonight… broom in hand, sweeping up a broken plate.

I had broken the plate… I had broken it when I threw my knife in frustration… frustration that I had burnt the dinner after a full day’s work… I burnt the dinner because I took my eye off it to wash lice treatment out of my 6 year old’s hair… this was the third time in a matter of days I was removing lice because in a moment of guilty parenting I persisted with the “organic” and ridiculously expensive, non toxic lice treatment (it seems that lice seem to breed even better in organic, non toxic conditions!).

Broom in hand, I felt buried tonight amongst what seemed a mountain of Chinese herbs, antibiotics, chemist cold and flu tablets and builders’ masks that Nick has been wearing to prevent Will from catching the most horrendous flu that is ripping through the family (Nick seems to think a mask that is fine enough to prevent inhalation of cement dust is superior to actual medical grade masks).

… oh, and here’s the real clanga… this “broken plate moment” unfolded in a temporary apartment - our second temporary apartment in a matter of weeks (remembering that to move a family with spinal cord injury means moving beds, multiple wheel chairs and all other matter of equipment).

This second temporary apartment seems to have broken the dam wall… for me anyway! Any coping mechanisms that have kept me in good stead for the past 16 months seemed not to have made the move…

So how did we get here? Well firstly - let me say, that back in January I decided that the next post that I would make on the Will Murray Update Page would be us announcing our move back to our house. It was the next big thing on the agenda and, to be honest, I was getting sick of writing posts about Will being sick, then getting better only to get sick again.

An incredible and generous group of people were all working tirelessly to get us back into the house in January… but that crept out to Feb, then March… and so on, with the magnitude of the job seemingly tripping us up at various stages… these hurdles and set backs seemed to blur into our daily life, whilst I kept putting off post after post determined to make my next post the big moving home one.

Well moving home is literally days away now but the “broken plate moment” made me stop and think about where we are and what we’ve gone through and I felt that perhaps some people are interested in that, but more so, I thought that perhaps some people may actually learn through our, and my parents’, experiences or gain new perspective through our challenges. (Some people may just learn not to buy organic lice remover!)

I don’t believe the learning is in the details of our story… so I’ll whizz through those.

Jan - Will pneumonia…. again! Having problems with straightening his arm after nerve transplant surgery - losing independence and strength as a result. Wen and Pete (my parents) take a quick trip to Byron Bay to see family and come home having purchased a new home in Lennox Heads! House is big, flat, great for Will - close to cutting edge spinal cord rehab… we’re all excited. Wen and Pete are finally making the sea change that they put on hold when Will was injured. Our moving home date is shifted to Feb.

Feb - Will still sick. Dr Zhu comes - Will displays unbelievable strength of mind and character to survive Zhu’s regime whilst hiding from us how sick he was. Moving in date moved to March. Wen, Pete, Nick and I start to do the maths and decide they better get a longer settlement on Lennox Heads or else we’re going to have to move out of their house into temporary accomodation whilst our house gets finished… everyone agrees this is not a good outcome. Pete negotiates longer settlement.

March - Will’s finally better. Arm still no good. Moving date moved again.

April - Will has another surgery on his arm. Surgery a success. Moving date came and went. Tension is mounting! Wen and Pete need to list their property. We have no choice, we’re off to an apartment. The move into the apartment was nerve racking, emotional, and hard bloody work. (This abbreviated April summary could fill multiple posts in itself of stress, chaos and exhaustion for us and my parents.)

May - Moving date missed again. Apartment short term rent up… off to another apartment. American therapist Eric arrives in a matter of days. Flu. Lice. Tears. “Broken Plate”.

Details done. So where’s the bloody lesson in all of that?… Maybe don’t buy your parents plane tickets to Byron Bay as a present??

Well - for me, as I started to weep, sweeping up the broken plate - I tried to make sense of the hurricane of the past few months and it came down to one thing…Change… and how frightening and chaotic change can feel, but how unavoidable change is.

Change is happening around us all the time. Things are growing, dying, shifting, moving. Nothing ever stays the same… yet, for all of us, change seems to present hurdles that trip us up, that break our flow that throw us out of our comfort zone.

I think they say that moving house, renovating and divorce is up there for 3 of the most stressful things that you can do. Well, substitute spinal cord injury for divorce and between our family and Wen and Pete - we’ve been living out all 3 at the one time… and I believe all 3 are beyond stressful because they spin us out of control and throw change in our face.

I’m pretty good at rationalising change at looking at what I can control and can’t control and switching my stories in my head so that my perspective serves me better. However, the “plate incident” made me question what was tipping me over the edge and I guess for me I was struggling to find a new perspective about not having Wen and Pete’s house in our family anymore. Crazy hey - I’m happy and excited to wave my parents off to a new state but am fighting the emotions about bricks and mortar that don't even belong to me…

Wen and Pete’s house has been a constant in our life for many years. If it’s walls could talk it would tell tales of dinner parties, barbecues, Christmas mornings, laughter, tears, happy times and sad times. It’s the house that my kids and I go to everyday of summer. We park our car in the driveway and walk the few steps over the road to the beach before coming back to the outdoor shower and lunch in the garden. It’s the house that I retreated to the night Will injured himself and it’s the house we brought him home out of hospital early to. That house has welcomed a stream of visitors, healers, nurses and practitioners for a good 12 months… That house has played a pretty big part in giving us back our son.

I’m hoping many of you haven’t stopped reading yet, because I think I’m finally getting to the lesson bit…

It was Tess, our eldest daughter’s dinner that I burnt before breaking the plate tonight. As I did so, she calmly said; “it’s ok mum it’s not that burnt” and took the food and ate it anyway.

As I swept, and wept (perhaps a good title for my book) - I reflected on her and how this chaos and change must be effecting her if I’m spinning like a top.

Tess is in her final year of school… since Will’s accident Tess has committed herself to her rowing and her studies. She has woken herself up at 4am, she has made her own lunch, she has juggled her studies with her sport, she has won a state titles, got a third at Nationals, attended Australian selection trials, been named as Firbank’s rower of the year, was awarded an academic prize at the end of last year and been interviewed for a number of American College scholarships… all with very, very little attention or guidance from Nick or I and all whilst her environment was upside down, unstable constantly moving, changing. I don’t know how she does it… in hind sight perhaps she should have written this post and delivered this lesson.

But… my lesson is to all the parents reading this post. My lesson is simple…

Change is inevitable for all of us - our children included. There are simply not enough hours in a day to tick off the basic requirements of caring for spinal cord injury and to tick off “uber awesome parenting”.

Somethings have to give - we’ve had to learn to let go. We have had to pare back the parenting of our other 3 kids to bare necessities. We have had to allow friends and family to pick up the slack. But here’s what I’ve learnt… our kids are more capable, resilient and incredible than we give them credit for.

When we pull back they learn to value what’s important to them and make it happen for themselves. Tess is exceptional and has blown us away with her strength and determination… but I believe this is in every kid that is given the chance and the space to do it for themselves. Letting go, dropping the ball - does not make you a bad parent. Letting go, change… it’s all scary - but not always all bad.

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