Earlier this year, I was asked by the her words team if I would be part of their interview series. At the time, I really didn’t know what they wanted to talk to me about, but I knew they’d read my blog so wouldn’t expect me to talk about rainbows and unicorns, so I jumped at the chance to have a chat in front of the camera. I’ve never met a public speaking opportunity I didn’t like. Same goes for cake.
The interview took place in Melbourne, on a ridiculously hot summer’s day in a trendy inner-city warehouse apartment that made me feel like the sweating rather than glowing middle-aged suburbanite that I am. The women from her words are quite amazing – earnest, smart, and driven to help women of all sorts to tell their stories. They also managed to film me so I don’t look sweaty, for which they get copious bonus points.
My interview took place over a couple of hours, and I think the fact that the interviewer and production staff were all incredibly young and enthusiastic made me feel more determined than ever to tell my story. As a young woman in my 20s, I didn’t have the confidence I needed to feel comfortable wanting to build my career when mostly everyone else was marrying and having children. Instead, I built a facade of not giving a damn, whilst secretly yearning to be just like everyone else. In many ways, I was walking on a treadmill, always moving but never actually getting anywhere. I did things – bought a house, travelled a bit, built my career – but I never knew why or to what end. It has only been in the last five years that I have realised that opening up about who I am and how I feel means that I no longer yearn for anything (other than a cure for cancer, a couple more kids and a Snickers bar every now and then.)
The theme of my interview was vulnerability. Losing four babies and then getting cancer in the space of just a few years made me incredibly vulnerable, but at the time I didn’t openly acknowledge that, and instead tried to persist with my facade. If I didn’t look at the words ‘Cancer Centre’ on the side of the building I went to for chemo, then I could go through eight months of treatment without shedding a tear. If I pretended to be happy, relieved even, to only have one child, then I could tough out conversations about my small family. If I could pretend my heart was hard, then I could get through all this unscathed. Except, of course, for all the scars.
Then I started writing this blog, growing gradually more game to reveal my feelings to the anonymity of the Internet. But the Internet is far from anonymous, especially when you post photos of yourself without your top on, but quite remarkably instead of people judging me for telling my truths, they joined in, telling me theirs, letting me know that I was far from alone. And so it began, a kind of mid-life rebirth of the non-hippy kind, with me learning one of the greatest lessons of my life – that by opening ourselves up to others, we open ourselves up to ourselves.
A couple of months after this interview was recorded, I broke my arm in six places, and learned that extreme physical pain, pain that cannot be accurately expressed in words, tears a hole in your soul and lets everything pour out. I was no longer the acquiescent patient, smiling my way through chemo like some balding nut-job. I was broken, smashed and wailing. The level of vulnerability I felt then, and at certain moments still, was acutely terrifying, and caused what the doctors call situational depression and post-traumatic anxiety. It is hard for me to write that down here, pains me to show you that new vulnerability, but bugger it, I am here tell my truth. I broke my arm and it kind of broke me, but I am being treated, being mindful, going easy, and am thankfully feeling good again.
So here is my interview with her words. The bitchy resting face sure gets a good showing, and my husband things I sound a little bit like Judith Lucy (which in my books is not a bad thing), and I’m proud as punch of myself. Oh and I did actually talk about unicorns …