450km and Brain Injury Awareness Week

 

This week it’s Brain Injury Awareness Week. Yay for my brain, yay for yours and yay for the collective brain. Insert fist bump or maybe brain bump here.

If you saw me you’d never think I had a disability. That’s what it’s like to live with what is known as the Invisible Disability: the prosopagnosia, the dyschronometria, which still impact me and the aphasia and dysphasia of the early days are buried behind the “normality” of my appearance. So is the severe spatial reasoning deficit, the compromised working memory, emotional hyperactivity and the grand old executive functioning deficit. I’m not providing any definitions for these things because I was given none when I was discharged from hospital and I had to work out from scratch what the hell was wrong with me.

See, no one told me I had a brain injury. They just packed me off home with instructions to sort out my things and prepare for imminent death. They literally said that to me. One doctor patted me on the back of the hand, nodding and smiling as she said, “now, you just go home and sort out your things. I won’t need to see you anymore.” Then she turned on her heel and walked off into the waiting room full of people, all of them looking up to her with hope in their faces as she floated by. I looked at the big window in front of me and wondered if anyone would notice or care if I just smashed my way through and fell four stories to the concrete below.

I did smash my way through, not the window, but life instead. I refused to believe that I would die and I nearly lost the fight several times, but I’m still here, stronger and better than I ever was before. What happened to me changed me, my life and the lives of those who chose to stick around when things got really hard. There’s no going back to the way things were before and that was so difficult to accept. I lost a lot and sometimes I still lose, but that’s ok because that’s what life is, not just because I’m brain injured, but because that’s what happens when you’re a member of the human race.

I never really understood disability before I became brain injured. I certainly had no idea what being brain injured meant for a person’s life and the wide-reaching impact that it could have on their families, friends and communities in general. There are over 700 000 Australians living with brain injury and I’m one of them. So are my friends in my local STEPS support group. I see what my friends struggle with and that’s why I’m reaching out to everyone I know and everyone I don’t know to help me raise $40 000 to support what The PA Research Foundation does through STEPS:

https://www.teamparf.org.au/users/jennifer-parry

I’m walking 450km on my own from my home in Woodgate to the Brisbane CBD to kick off my fundraising. This map involved physical cutting and pasting (like we all did in primary school), photography and drawing. This is what happens when you’re not a cartographer and don’t want to spend a week trying to get Google Maps to do what you want it to do. As a result, this map sucks, but for the itinerary click here.

An adventure I will make

 

Me and the Mountain

Yesterday I climbed a mountain. I almost didn’t do it because I looked it up online and saw that it was only 5km and thought, bah! that’s a waste of time!  It was much harder than I thought it was going to be. It also took much longer than I expected it to and afterwards I felt kind of dumb for thinking that it would be easy and I was glad I hadn’t expressed any of this to anyone before I went and did the climb.

I’d climbed Mt Walsh when I was in grade 10 back in 1992 and I can’t recall it being as hard as it was yesterday. I’m not sure the school would have had us scurrying up sheer rock faces and lowering ourselves into short ravines, only to climb back up the other side across obstacles and slippery rock faces, all without any kind of climbing or safety equipment or really any discernible skill. But hey, it was the nineties and everyone was still clambering their way back to sanity after suffering through the eighties and those horrendous hair-dos. Who knows and who cares, I certainly don’t.  It was really the only useful thing I did at high school (apart from learning how to type). Mr Goodall taught us how to rock climb and abseil and I’ve never forgotten that. Those climbing lessons have come in handy so many times. “Three points of contact Jenny! he shouted at me. “Don’t let go until you know where you’re going to contact next and pay attention to where you’re going. Make sure the path you’ve picked up the rock face isn’t impassable. Geoff! Don’t grab vegetation. Katrina, what are you doing, you’re dangling in mid-air. What’s Chris doing over there? Ohhhh, come on! Don’t climb trees, Chris! What just happened? Ohhhh,quick, get the stretcher. Keith’s broken his leg!” Keith really did break his leg, but I don’t think he fell off the mountain. I think he just tripped over his own feet walking to the toilet.

As I started to ascend the mountain, gunfire from the nearby rifle range (where we’d camped in year 10) echoed off the bluffs. The higher I went the more I began to imagine that the sound would loose an avalanche of ancient rock that would crush and cover me and that my car would sit alone, abandoned and dusty in a carpark in the middle of nowhere. Rusty it would become throughout the years until it would be hauled away by the big flood of 2035. All of this brought on by my recent reading of The Outsider by Stephen King. This kind of thing is the reason why I had to tone down my reading of books by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. My imagination has a “slight” tendency to run away with me. It’s been doing this since I was a little kid.

The mountain was awesome! I got a bit scared when I got to the rope because I wasn’t sure if I could get up that section of the rock face, let alone get back down it and I almost turned around and went back. I said outloud, “No, that’s just being a pussy.” And I made myself do it. It really wasn’t that scary and neither was coming down.

There were a couple of worse sections up the mountain a bit further and I was ever so thankful for my extra, extra long legs and arms. See, the thing is: I’m actually quite afraid of heights and I knew it would be a bit scary doing this climb by myself because I only had myself to rely on. I’ve just finished reading Write Way Home by Hedley Derenzie, and on the mountain I thought of what she said about no one coming for me, because nobody would be coming for me if I got stuck, so I simply had to make it work. I don’t know if I would have pushed myself so hard if I knew that the cool guy I’m married to could come and rescue me if I got into trouble.

Climbing this mountain also made me recognise how important the effort I put into training is. I don’t like weight training that much, because mostly I think, what’s the point of even bothering with this? and it’s a massive effort to force myself to do it every second day. I particularly hate shoulder presses, but it’s the strength I’ve built by doing shoulder presses that allowed me to hoist myself easily up sections of the mountain that maybe once I wouldn’t have been able to climb. It’s the squats and hundreds of ab exercises I do every week that gave me the stability to get down the mountain in one piece (even though I fell over once) and it’s the general tenacity with which I approach my sometimes extreme training regime that allows me to do things like climb mountains on my own and force myself through fears that at some point in the past would have most definitely held me back.

I love it when I can see how all the the little things I do come together in a way that I never actually thought of, creating synergies where none previously existed. I’ll never be someone who is the best at one thing (certainly not shoulder press), but that’s ok because I’m not seeking perfection or the calibre of excellence in anything I do. Rather, I’m active in the pursuit of living a life that matters; a life spent adventuring and climbing mountains both real and figurative. A life where nobody is coming for me, so it’s up to me to embrace fear, discomfort and adversity and get on with being the person I set out to be; someone who never gives in, albeit someone who might have the tendency to underestimate mountains.

“In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ― Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

 

I Tricked Facebook

Haha! I did it, I tricked fakebook.

I set up a personal fundraiser the other day that was rejected by fakebook because it thought that I was using the personal fundraising platform to raise money for a not-for-profit. Obviously they aren’t humans reviewing the fundraisers, but bots, because they picked up on the wording of my story and didn’t like it.

This time I used different wording for THE SAME fundraiser and it slipped right by them. Sucked in you stupid bots!

Click here to see my subversive fundraiser, which isn’t actually subversive at all.

I’m fundraising to buy this tent for a 450km charity hike I’m doing for brain injury:

Nemo Hornet from Wild Earth at Burleigh Heads Qld

 

 

 

Facebook Fundraiser: REJECTED

Ugh, Facebook is dumb. They rejected my personal fundraiser. They tried to tell me that I can’t use a personal fundraiser to raise funds for a not-for-profit. Obviously they didn’t even read the information because I’m trying to raise money for a hiking tent. I can’t see how a not-for-profit would need a hiking tent, but I could be wrong.

Maybe there’s like this secret society within all not-for-profits that are underhandedly  sequestering hiking tents and fakebook knows this and wants to prevent the secret society from getting what it wants. It all goes back to olden-times when the world was run by the evil Hiking Overlord who ruled with an iron hiking pole and disallowed fakebook from setting up groups and offering boosts and providing audiences. Fakebook over took the evil overlord and vowed to never again to succumb to Hiking’s strict regime. “My own regime I will make!” Decreed fakebook and has ever since feared even the mention of not-for-profits, hiking tents and charity in the one paragraph.

But maybe it’s because it’s not a human and has picked up on the word charity in the story. I questioned them about it and the response from “Alex” made no sense at all, which means that it probably is a computer-generated response.

Below is what I’d originally posted with a link to the fundraiser. You can still click below to see the tent.

Just created a fundraiser on my old “buddy” fakebook. It’s to help with my upcoming charity hike for brain injury.

It would be great if you check it out

Click here to see what I’m fundraising for

Thanks!!

Hopefully I can get them to fix it. If not, I’ll have to delete the whole thing and start again. Poo Bum Wee!!!! Uggghhhhh:

 

 

 

Hervey Bay Section

I’m hiking from my home in Woodgate to the Brisbane CBD soon (map coming soon). I wanted to do it anyway, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to raise awareness and hopefully some funds for something that’s really close to my heart (or head, if you will): brain injury.

Around 700 000 Australians are living with brain injury (Brain Injury Australia, 2018) and I’m one of them. It’s likely that many people would look at me and think, there’s nothing even wrong with her, which I guess could be right because the impact of being brain injured is pretty difficult to measure, especially in the eyes of those who have no idea what it’s like to claw your way back after losing almost everything. Some people have even sought to use this against me to serve their own purposes. Sounds awful, right? Yeah, it is, but it’s caused me to come at this whole brain injury thing anew and that’s really why I’m doing this hike. I wanted to show these particular people that you can’t keep me down and that what they did was wrong in the worst kind of way because , what they did demonstrates a broader attitude to disability; an attitude that is just not on.

This is the route I will take on the hike, which begins on the 20th of September 2019. There are four basic legs:

1st leg Walkers Point (Woodgate) to Hook Point (Fraser Island) = 138km

2nd leg Inskip Point (Rainbow Beach) to Brahminy (Cooloola) = 98km

3rd leg Tewantin – Caloundra = 60km

4th leg Landsborough – Brisbane CBD = 150km

(distances are approximates taken from Google Earth Google Maps, therefore, not particularly accurate)

The whole thing will take 33 total days and I will be walking for 27 of those days.

Anyway, the whole point of this post was really to write about Old Mate.

I called into a local establishment in Hervey Bay to ask if they had rooms at their venue. The answer was no, which is fine, so I explained what I was up to. A blank look was the response I got, followed by more blank looks when I asked about a road at the bottom of the property. “It doesn’t got all the way through,” he re-iterated several times. I wasn’t sure that he totally got what I was asking and that he even knew what hiking was, so I said, “it doesn’t really matter about vehicle access because I’ll be hiking. What that means is  [insert simplistic description here],” met with yet another blank look, after which I decided that talking to this guy was a total waste of oxygen.

He went on to say that I’d need to contact the owner to ask his permission if I wanted to camp on the property. I wanted to leave, but I was conscious of not seeming rude. I also started to get curious as to if he might actually come ’round. Would something inside him click? Would he think to ask some questions? Would he eventually show some interest? No. It was obvious he thought I was a complete idiot.

me: what’s the owner’s name?

him: John

me: what’s his last name

him: Johnson

me; what’s his phone number?

him: I can’t give that out

me: but if I have to ask his permission, I’m going to need a way to contact him, so maybe you could give me the number of the establishment or the office and I could call him during work hours.

him: gives me number

me: thankyou (smiling on the outside, wanting to strangle him on the inside)

him: Ha, yeah, good luck (said with much derision while glaring at me because obviously I’m the biggest dickhead of all time)

I’d done another long distance charity hike in 2016 and couldn’t recall coming across anyone like this, so I started to worry that I’d imagined the wonderful and encouraging way I’d been received by pretty much everyone I approached for assistance back then. Maybe this hike won’t be like that one, I thought and I got a bit worried because I didn’t know how I’d face someone like this guy at every turn.

I needn’t have worried. The very next person I came across was a breath of fresh air, even if initially I thought she was going to get up me. I guess my meter was set on defensive-disappointment after old mate. Her name was Kim and she was working on road construction. I asked her about a patch of bushland near the site she was working on and if she thought I could camp there. She was so friendly and enthusiastic. She shook my hand  and offered me a campsite on her own property after I told her what I was doing. “That’s a great cause,” she said while shaking my hand again and smiling broadly. “And yes, I reckon you can camp here,” she said as she pointed at the vacant land while I looked at the colourful tattoos behind her right ear.

I hope most people I come across will be like Kim. This is what pretty much everyone was like on my last long distance hike.  Even in non-hiking life the world could use more people like Kim.

I’ll be mapping the Landsborough to Brisbane leg of the hike next week. I hope it’s not too hard to pin it down. I’m not familiar with that area, so I have no idea what to expect, plus I’ll be on my way to the Byron Bay Writers Festival, so I won’t have too long to spend faffing around trying to work things out. Fingers crossed it goes ok!

Wake Adventure Sleep Repeat

Own your own worry

Last night I had a conversation with some people about the way I live my life. The general consensus from the male perspective is that I’m doing dangerous stuff and shouldn’t be doing it. One man said, “if you were my daughter I wouldn’t let you do that.” Um, but, hello, me and the daughter are both women in our forties who have autonomy over our own lives and decisions, so it’s not up to third parties to decide for us what we can and can’t do. I wonder then, how did he think he would enforce this control or police it? I also have men ask me, “does your husband let you do that?” To which I respond, “It’s not up to him. He’s not in charge of me. I am.”

I do some hardcore stuff. Stuff that I accept is not considered “normal”, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or dangerous, it just means that it’s not mainstream and when people hear about it, they don’t know what to make of it and it makes them uncomfortable, especially men. I’ve noticed that women respond much differently and are for the most part very interested in what I do. I’ve yet to come across a woman who says, “If you were my daughter I wouldn’t let you do that.”

The main issue that comes up is the idea that “someone” is going to “get” me. And that causes worry, which causes discomfort, which is then somehow my fault.  Ok, so there’s two problems with this. One is the totally illogical idea that someone is going to get me. It’s dumb for several reasons:

  • old mate isn’t just going to hide out in the national park for months on end in the hope that me specifically is going to wander along at some random point in the day or night
  • the world isn’t as dangerous as everyone thinks it is, even though the media and Facebook newsfeeds have brain washed us into believing that everyone is out to bomb,rob, kill and rape us
  • the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home with a man she knows, not hiking alone at night or doing anything at anytime of day or night on her own
  • women can look after themselves and don’t need the constant presence of a man or permission of a man to do whatever the hell they want to do
  • I am not stupid
  • Would they think the same thing if I was male

The other problem is about the discomfort of worry. I get that people are concerned about different things. That’s fine. I get concerned too, but I rarely worry in the sense that thinking about something a certain way elicits an emotional state. That’s because it’s a pointless waste of time. Worrying never changed anything, it just made you feel like crap.

Three men, who are all my friends said, “Don’t do that because I will worry about you.” I said, “Ok, thanks, but that’s not actually my problem.” See, it isn’t. It’s really not. Not at all. If you worry about someone, then that’s your monkey, not the person’s you’re worrying about. Worrying about someone makes you feel uncomfortable, which you then try to transfer onto said person, attempting to arrest their desire to do whatever it is that is causing you to worry, so they won’t do it and thus alleviating your worry and discomfort. Take this little story for example:

Jane: I’m going to hike the Fraser Island Great Walk by myself next weekend.

Dick: Really? I don’t think you should. Not by yourself.

Jane: Why not?

Dick: The dingos and stuff, it could be dangerous. I’ll worry about you.

Then, Jane is who is a really nice chic, but has yet to fully embrace autonomy over her own life concedes that maybe Dick is right. After all, she really cares about him and doesn’t want to upset him. It was silly of her to think that she could do these things alone.

Jane: Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I don’t want to worry you.

Dick: Ahh, that’s good.

And back they go to watching TV and swiping on their phones. Problem seemingly solved, well, for Dick anyway.

Women don’t need to have the permission of men to live the life they want. If you want to do something and a man says that it will cause him to worry, let him own his own worry. You don’t have to be as blunt as me by saying that it’s not your problem, but just remember that it’s really not, not at all, never was.

Embrace autonomy. It’s yours for the taking.

 

Goodbye Jack. I will never forget you.

My friend Jack passed away yesterday. I wrote this story about him in 2012. It was the first non-fiction story I ever wrote. It was for a university assessment.

Badly Drawn Boy

The first tattoo I ever saw was on my brother’s ankle.  It was a badly drawn skull and dagger.  I was fascinated by it, and as he got older and sported more tattoos, I became hooked on the indelible ink that tells a story of a life.

Jack and I sit on my verandah.  Florence and the Machine play on the radio in the background and I feel watched like I always do when I’m out here so close to the road. Jack smokes and leans back over the railing to ash his cigarette in a way that looks completely natural, as if he has lived in this house his whole life.  I don’t tell him, but he is the only person I allow to smoke on this verandah.  Everyone else must go down onto the yard, and they are never allowed to drop their butts on the grass.  I make exceptions for Jack.  I don’t tell him where to put his butt.  I find one later in my favourite pot plant, but I don’t hold it against him.

I met Jack at the local pub. We were at a charity auction and my husband introduced us, whispering to me, “he’s the one who blows stuff up and sets the dump on fire,” before wandering off to talk to someone else.  Jack stayed with me, pouring out the details of his escapades.  He showed me the videos on his mobile phone of washing machines and microwaves being hurled skywards, while he and his friends ran laughing to safer ground.  I feel sorry for Jack now that our small country town dump has been fenced off, his own fires and explosions partially to blame.

On the verandah Jack and I eat peanut cookies that are too hard. As he stretches and yawns I notice the tattoo on his arm.  It’s his newest one, but for the moment I am more interested in the one hidden by the leg of his shorts.  It started out as a swastika.

It was around 2.30am New Year’s night and Jack and his mate were as Jack puts it, “pretty fucking blind.”  His mate had a tattoo gun and suggested that they give it a go. He wanted a skull, so Jack got the gear ready and started drawing a skull on his mate’s leg. The drunken drawing ended up rough as guts with no straight lines at all. Ever the smart arse, Jack decided that the tattoo would only be improved if he added his initials, JDG.  His mate was less than impressed when he realised what Jack was writing on his leg, so to avoid a flogging, Jack allowed his mate to apply his own artistic skills to one of his legs. His mate drew a small swastika above the right knee.  The guys thought they were pretty cool and off they went to bed.  The next morning was a different story and Jack felt like a bit of fuckwit when he woke up with a Nazi symbol on his leg.

Jack works for the Gold mine in our little country town.  He drives huge dump trucks, shifting tonnes of ore at a time.  Bored one night shift, he climbed out of the cab, stripped down to his undies and photographed himself hanging off the side of the truck, one hand rubbing a nipple.  He wore sunglasses for disguise, but I’m fairly certain that if the photo ever fell into the wrong hands, the sunglasses wouldn’t be worth much.  The mine boss knows Jack is the only larrikin who would pull that stunt, but I think people in town have a soft spot for Jack, the mine boss included.

Jack yawns and stretches, then takes another cookie.  I don’t think he likes them, I sure as hell don’t, but he’s being polite.  He’s got nice manners and I like having him around.  He’s the only person in town who regularly calls in for a cuppa.  We are always careful to sit outside, because small towns have a way of creating plots where they don’t exist.

Not long after an Indigenous nurse almost spotted the swastika on his leg during a routine medical for the mine, Jack decided it was time to cover it up.  He headed off to a mate’s place in Gaeta, which is the North Burnett’s answer to Nimbin. He didn’t want any more backyard tattoos, but I wonder if the small studio set up at his mate’s house was much different. I think about the overpowering smell of antiseptics that pervades good tattoo parlours and hope that is what Jack experienced as he walked through the door.  Jack wasn’t picky about what he wanted and told his mate to go for his life and draw whatever he liked, just as long as he covered up the swastika. He felt irritated by the constant sharpness of the tattoo needle as it pricked his skin, but it wasn’t really painful.  He thought easily of a dozen things that hurt much worse.  His mate drew and stopped every now and then to re-ink the needle. He wiped away excess ink from Jack’s leg and then started drawing again. The tattoo gun emitted a high pitched buzzing, which added to the irritation of the needle piercing the skin, kind of like a giant mosquito, but the tattooist chatted away and distracted Jack from the irritating sound and sensation.  The tattoo that started out as a swastika finished as a very well-drawn Frankenstein. It looked great and Jack was really happy with it.

I got to see the Frankenstein one night at the pub.  Jack was there with a handful of local lads having a beer. He had his work pants on, so he unzipped, pulled them down to his feet and proudly stood in his undies so I could see his new ink.  I thought it looked really good, but was careful not to appear too enthusiastic in front of the other pub patrons.  Who knows what they made of a married woman staring at a half-naked young man’s upper thigh.  Jack certainly didn’t care.

I watch Jack drag on his cigarette and wonder what he’s thinking. He hasn’t stopped stretching and yawning since we sat down.  It’s really bright on the verandah and his sunglasses prevent me from seeing the expression in his eyes but his body language reveals that he’s comfortable just hanging out with me in the winter sun talking about tattoos, Nazis and blowing up shit.  He rests his hands on his head and leans back in his chair.

Jack and I know that tattoos can be both beautiful and ugly. What appears ugly to some may be beautiful to others, which is something Jack experienced as a young artist when he discarded a stencilled desert scene in primary school. He thought it was ugly. The vulture, snake, cactus, and sun brought to life by a ten year old boy with a toothbrush and paint was destined not for the rubbish bin, but an art gallery to be sold for $80 thanks to being rescued by the school principal.

Jack went on to excel at art in high school but  It’s been 3 or 4 years since he left school and when I ask him why he doesn’t draw anymore, he cannot answer.  The art on his body is the only evidence that he has an affinity for passions captured in images of ink, paint and charcoal.

Jack decided it was time to get some new ink.  He adopted a horror theme after Frankenstein and drove his Holden ute to see a tattooist in a nearby town.  The tattooist was a professional and accomplished artist with an accredited studio, but like most tattooists, was a little on the strange side. Jack allowed him to guide his decisions about placement of the faces and figures in the semi-sleeve on his forearm.  One face was the character of Michael Myers from the old-school horror movie Halloween; the other was Jesus-Frankenstein from a Rob Zombie album cover.  Jack has always loved the old school movies because they were classy, unlike the stuff churned out by Hollywood nowadays.  He was stoked with his new ink and drove back home thinking of adding some colour to the greywash and how far he might extend the ink up his arm.

Jack showed up at my house one day keen to see my books on wildlife identification.  His mate had seen a strange paw print and they thought one of my wildlife books might help them work out what it was.  None did, but we sat for a good while talking about wildlife while Jack thumbed through one of my field guides.  He wanted to see a platypus and thought there might be one in the creek up the back of his house.  He told me about the bilby that had been on his front verandah one morning when he woke up, how it had hung around for a while, and then took off, never to be seen again.

I think Jack has a soft spot for animals. He told me once that he’d seen a dog that had fallen from a ute tray get run over by a truck. The dog wasn’t dead and he watched the owner heartlessly pick the animal up and hurl it into the bush on the side of the road. He said he wanted to stop and punch the prick in the head, but he kept on driving, probably feeling sick and angry at what had just happened.

When I first heard about Jack, then saw him in person, I thought he was a bit wayward.  My husband told me that he was a good guy, but that he might appear to be someone who could easily go bad.  To look at my friend, you would probably think the same.  His blonde hair is unruly, he has a pretty foul mouth with a typical Aussie drawl.  He often looks like he’s recovering from a big night and of course, there’s the big tattoo on his arm, not to mention the fact that he’s seen as the local larrikin. I guess I thought him a typical young person with not much direction, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Jack still wants to blow shit up, but instead of doing it with homemade explosives at the local dump, he forked out the three thousand dollar fee and got a qualification to become a shot firer.  After logging five single shots with an assessor he will be fully qualified to store explosives and conduct domestic blasts and mine blasts.

He’s also keen to make sure that his tattoos have meaning and that they relate somehow to his life.  He’s not interested in following trends or copying what some footballer has. His indelible ink will show a little of his inside on the outside and let him be true to who he is, even in this very small town of ours.