In the middle of last year, when my depression was at its lowest (highest?) and I’d just increased my dose (yes, with the doctor’s approval), I dragged myself to a writing workshop.
On the writing workshop, it was a Gunnas Writing Masterclass run by Catherine Deveny. Gunnas is a singular place, you bond like cement with the other Gunnas, it’s honest and challenging, and when you leave that cowhide wallpapered space you feel like you can do anything. Anything.
When I told Catherine I was coming I also said I might not be, because when I had depression I often felt like I might damage things – relationships, not crockery – if I went out with Sooty. I mostly tried to stay at home. So, I was 50/50, about attending until I got curious and looked at the Gunnas facebook page for who else would be coming.
That’s when I ‘met’ Julia.
Julia who has cancer, who’d had chemo, who’s prognosis was dodgy, Julia who’d written an incredible piece that was published in the big paper about her daughter, Georgie, and Down’s Syndrome, and her big shining love and to take your pity someplace else. Julia, who had cancer, was coming from almost-the-country to Gunnas then I had better drag myself in from twenty minutes down the road.
And as usual the class was brilliant; Catherine was on fire, I cried, but I wasn’t the only one and tears are okay because we’re talking about a heaving space of dreams and sentences. People shared their work and given that Gunnas takes place at La Luna, my fave restaurant ever, we ate and drank well.
When we were finished I was almost out the door when I decided to tuck my embarrassment into my back pocket and go and speak to Julia.
I told her I only came that day because she did. That she’d inspired me, in my depression, to get out of bed and do something good for myself. She said thank you and said something lovely that I don’t remember but I remember her smile and that if she thought I was a kook she hid it well.
Now Julia and I are friends in sentences and friends on Facebook. And like all her Facebook friends I have watched in the last few months the struggle with cancer. Clichéd word, ‘struggle’, use too often, everyone’s got a struggle right? Well, when you see one like this, yes, it’s a bloody struggle. Julia writes on her wordpress blog, fivefairiesandafella, updates her FB page, and believe me, nobody reads her work without crying. But they’re not all tears of sadness, there are tears for this woman’s humility and happiness and that she recently said that the last year or so, since diagnosis, had made her the person she was meant to be. If that isn’t the best thing I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.
Only a few months ago, when I was depressed, so if this is distasteful let’s blame Sooty, I moaned to my sister, ‘Erin, why can’t I use people’s problems as inspiration? Yeah, why can’t other people’s sadnesses enrich me? It just makes me more depressed.’
We had a laugh about what a shitty but true thing that is to say. Because, really, unless you’re a psycho you don’t look at other people’s troubles and measure them against your own, ‘See? I’m fine, all she has left is the clothes on her back and it’s so motivating.’
But here’s a thing. I’m learning from Julia.
And I know she didn’t have cancer so that idiots like me could watch from the sidelines and build themselves a better life. And I’d give bloody anything, whatever it took, to unlearn everything, to not know this wickedly funny, fabulously-dressed, lovely mother of four young girls, and loving and loved wife to a terrific man. I’d go back to depressed and not going to Gunnas if she could never have heard of bowel cancer, or as Jules calls it, arse cancer.
Life doesn’t work like that. So suck on what you’ve got.
I’ve told Julia more than once that she is teaching me things. I follow her feed and like her posts, share her writing, and know I’m learning something bloody good and it’s hard to say what exactly but I reckon if we hold on tight and I keep typing we’ll get it. I’m learning that life is for Living (did I make that up, just then?) and that Julia’s choosing Life to be with her fella and her girls, she’s laying it all out and she’s not afraid to say she’s pissed off, or sad, or ask for help, or be deliriously happy, and she’s not afraid to be, finally, who she is meant to be.
This is from one of Julia’s blog posts and it sums it.
“And lastly, but not leastly (lol), I fight for all of you. All of my friends who carry me through every day, and have brought me untold joy over the years. I was a very lonely child and teenager, and I didn’t have many friends. All of you have shown me how richly you can be rewarded if you open your heart and let people close. I have so much faith in human nature now, I know there is so much good in the world. And I’ll fight to see it. Keep fighting with me, won’t you? I know you’ve all got my back, and that’s a very good feeling.”
Did you wonder who the good, the bad, and the freaking heroic, are? It’s us! Julia and Me and you, person who is reading this.
But especially, Julia.
In sentences, Jules, I say, thank you.
i actually wanted to share Amanda Palmer’s ‘
In My Mind’ off YouTube
but I’m a little hopeless so look at this instead.