pool at night.

Two months ago I stood on the edge of this airport hotel pool in Darwin at night. It was muggy and warm and the cousins I’d been texting in Sydney had all gone to sleep. I’d see them in the morning at the hospital.

I stood at the edge of the pool in my bike shorts and a singlet while Coldplay crooned softly out of the tinny hotel speakers and two older women in draped towels smoked nearby.

I stood there for ages, trying to think of some kind of metaphor for the pool that would give me the courage to dive in.

Maybe the pool was the universe? Life?



I thought about all the kind thoughts and wishes everyone would be sending me if they knew why I was there. Then I thought about all the wishes everyone would be sending my family.

I put all those nice thoughts in the pool and dived through them all.

They lifted me up and I floated on top of them.



I stayed there for ages floating on my back, watching the stars.




2005 was ten years ago now: Part 4

For my 19th Christmas I stayed with family friends I’d never met before in Cornwall. We sat in a small medieval church, holding candles and looking up at the big wooden beams. I sung along softly to Amazing Grace, a song that had been sung there for hundreds of years.

There were green rolling hills and drystone walled paddocks and grey cold skies. I walked up to the headland and looked over the cliffs. The waves were crashing against the rocks below. Something was pulling me down and down and I imagined what it would be like to fall and I had to fight against the urge to just jump. Not to end my life, just to know what it would feel like.

We drove as far south as we could. They stayed in the car and I ran up a rocky hill to the lighthouse. I looked out over the Celtic Sea, breathed in  that cold air and let it fill me up, grinned and ran back down to the car, telling them, “The world is a really big place, isn’t it?”


On December 20th I wrote in my blog:

What have I learnt?

To come back down to earth and put my feet back on the ground, where no amount of beauty or sunshine will make reality harder to find, hold on to and deal with. 

To go back to class and open my ‘Soulsearching 101: Personal Development for Dummies’ textbook and study the chapter on ‘Love and Pain in 10 Easy Steps’. 

Even though I’m only a teenager for another ten days, I’m not going to rush this study. I know I’ll never figure it all out and I’ll probably always be a teenager. ‘The Definitive Guide To Growing Up’ is not a book I could find in the Bodleian Library. The Gutenberg Bible was there, the oldest editions of Shakespeare were there, the classics from philosophers and the poets throughout the ages were there. It’s probably buried under an ocean with the Holy Grail, or sitting up on a mountain peak next to the divine guru who knows the answer to the meaning of life. 

People have been journeying for thousands of years. People have been searching, asking the same questions since the dawn of time. 

And no one I know ever found any answers on the internet.


I went to Ireland with an old friend and turned 20. When I got back to Australia on January 11th, five months after I’d set off, I wrote in my blog:

so i went down the coast and i was sitting on the pebbly part of the beach with my mum and dad sorting through all the pebbles to find the really really red pebbles when i felt so calm cos i was like hey this is me. 

this is me.

photo of beach

This is the final part of this story. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

2005 was ten years ago now: Part 3

In Oxford, the night before we met under the Bridge of Sighs, on December 13th, 2005, my 19 year old self wrote:

One day I’ll properly write this into a story. For now, all I have is this list of things I’ve remembered. It’s filled up two notebooks and the pocket in my zip up diary is stuffed full of bits of paper, bus tickets and tourist maps scrawled with the scribbled ink of a girl who doesn’t ever want to forget what she’s learnt. This is probably coming across all self-important, so No I don’t think I’m a genius, I’ve learnt that *cue cliche #1* the more you learn, the more you realise how much you still don’t know, and the more questions you start asking. Besides, dammit this is my blog and I can say what I like for whatever reason I want, fucker. 

-There’s never as much salad as there is in the advertisement. And it will most likely mainly consist of cabbage. And if you’re in Poland- even if it looks like meat on the picture- it’s probably mushrooms.

– Everyone has their own music they can’t live without, don’t go anywhere without it. Music is right up there with Elastoplast in terms of necessity.  

-The coolest things are often the things you could never plan, things that they won’t tell you in guidebooks. Like finding bears in a castle moat, a squirrel in a palace garden, a short ray of sunshine on a clouded mountain peak, a fortress in a valley.

-You can try and hide in wonderful places, see fantastic sights, distract yourself in meeting new friends and learning new things, bury yourself in books and art and taking photos, surround yourself with vibrant people and old friends, send emails, write postcards, post journals that convince yourself that you are ok. But even after you think you’ve given yourself enough time, that you have no need for tears anymore, that you’re ready to face a new and different world, that you understand what it all means, that you’re really enjoying yourself and your time again. It’s still possible to realise that you are still running. Still hiding. You don’t know what from. Even if you knew you had to get used to a new way of living, you won’t even really know what that way is.

-Nothing ever turns out exactly the way you expected. No matter how hard you plan, how long you dream, how much you want and hope, it never turns out the way you thought it would. At the end of the day all that matters is what you decide to make it. How you choose to mould what you have into something you’ll remember, something beautiful, something strange, something different. Something that you can create a cool memory or story with. Something to learn from.


Oxford is a pretty town, but I was never really there. I remember wearing my boots to the Bridge of Sighs. Under the bridge was an ice sculpture of a penguin. It was too cold. We found a bar where I could drink orange juice. The lights were too bright. We walked to his hotel.

Love was how it ended, and probably how it begun as well. We never said that word until it had all well and truly unravelled on that hotel floor in Oxford. He was shaking. He read to me the words he’d written on the plane. I remember how he stopped, took a deep breath and in one rushed exhalation told me that I had to know he was in love with me and always had been. I remember saying –  I know, I’ve always known.

He’d got the letter I’d sent from Sicily, the one about love being pain. He said he knew me better than I knew myself. That he knew I loved him. I didn’t know what I was feeling any more so I went back to my youth hostel. Someone was having loud sex in my dorm so I jammed my headphones into my ears and sat in the hallway under fluro lights. I wrote out every single word of Ben Lee’s ‘Whatever It Is.

It was the hardest night I’d ever known.

I woke up thinking I wanted to be with him, that I wanted us to be together, that being with him was more important than anything else. In the morning I walked to his hotel to meet him for breakfast.

As I started to speak, my chest caved in on itself suddenly. Somewhere deep in between my spine and the skin on my stomach something felt very heavy. Something felt very physically wrong inside of me. Everything slowed down. My body was telling me I was doing the wrong thing. My gut, my instinct, whatever it was, it was sending me a message loud and clear. My brain couldn’t figure out what was best for me, so my body was stepping up to the plate.

I listened.

I said no. I couldn’t be with him any more.

I stood up and left.


To be continued

2005 was ten years ago now: Part 2

On the 4th November, 2005, my 19 year old self wrote in her blog:

Our story begins on a small island off the coast of Sicily. Polkadot stood still and looked out to sea. To her left was a small village nestled in a lush green valley below. To her right was the huge crater, its white clouds of gas still billowing up. She could smell the sulphur and hear the dull hum of the ferries pulling into the port below. She scanned the horizon. For the haze it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky begun. She took a deep breath. She knew what she had to do. Although she knew good people make bad mistakes, she would need to leave her boyfriend and her best friend behind for a while. Polkadot wouldn’t do anymore, she needed to assume a new name. She had been in contact with her very old comrades and with them behind her she could not fail. With all her strength she stepped back onto the path and with her head held high returned to see what new adventures lay in waiting at the base of the volcano.


I met some friends in Naples then when they left I worked on an olive farm in Tuscany, chatting with the farmer as we harvested olives in the sun. We went to a market in an old walled town and for lunch all the farmers shared their produce – fresh bread, sun dried tomatoes, fetta, basil, olive oil, salami. It was the best meal I’d ever had. While they had a siesta I went for a wander around the town, turned a corner and stumbled across a full brass band and 20 men dressed in maroon and white silk uniforms, spinning huge brightly coloured flags on sticks, dancing with them, waving and throwing them high in the air and catching them with precision and grace.

We finished the harvest and pressed the olives, but there was barely enough oil for the farmer’s family for the year. There were arguments I couldn’t translate over the dinner table. It turned cold and cloudy. As I put mulch around the cabbages I jammed my headphones in and listened to songs that made me miss home, miss my family and friends. I missed my best friend and I missed my boyfriend.

We spoke on the phone. He told me he had booked a plane ticket to come and see me. He’d sold his car to pay for the it and he’d told the hospital he’d quit if they didn’t give him the time off. He’d meet me in London. I remember being excited and angry and confused and overwhelmed.

We decided to meet on December 14th in Oxford at the Bridge of Sighs. In 6 weeks time.

I began making my way north. I went to Bolonga to eat bolognaise and missed the last train. The only hotels with rooms available were 300 euros so I hung out in Hungry Jacks until 2AM then tried to sleep at the train station. Old men grumbled at me in Italian and snowflakes began to fall that were so big I could see the patterns in them.

On the stairway of a youth hostel in Florence, somewhere between the second and third floor, I stopped to read the graffiti that covered the walls. There were initials in love hearts, detailed portraits and fantastic cartoons. There were bits of advice, bragging and warnings. ‘Take the road less travelled’, ‘I shagged a hot Italian chick here today’, ‘Don’t eat the breakfast bacon’. But the bit that caught my eye was in plain black texta in a corner, simply saying ‘DO IT FOR THE STORY’. Someone else had drawn an arrow to it and added ‘You must!’

Whilst in Milan I got an email to say I’d been accepted into my uni course in Bathurst. Whilst in France, the Cronulla riots happened back in Australia. Back at my uncle’s place in London, I went to the Portobello Markets and bought some black steel cap Doc Martin boots for ten pounds. I started to feel a bit more invincible again. I planned what I’d say to my boyfriend when I saw him.

The night before I left for Oxford, on December 12th, 2005 I wrote in my blog:

I was watching MASH on TV and it was a really moving episode where the old main guy met this old nurse woman. Anyway they hung out heaps and went on picnics and sung songs and then she tries to take it a step further and he’s like no I have a wife back home. Later he’s talking to Radar and he says like yeah I’ve met a lot of nice ladies that were nice to talk to, but I married the right one. And he was so sure.

How can you ever be so sure? How can you know that the decisions you make are completely right? How can you ever do the right thing when you could convince yourself that doing anything was the right thing to do? I remember my friend saying to flip a coin. If it turns up heads and you are disappointed, then you’ll know for sure that it’s the tails option you really wanted. I wish it worked. 

To be continued.

2005 was ten years ago now: Part 1

Dear teenage girls that I work with in the town that I live in,

I’ve asked you to tell your stories about the worst mistakes you never made, and to be vulnerable and strong and real. It seems fair that I do the same. It seems right to do it today, on this exact same date, October 28, ten years ago today, that I had to start making the biggest decision I’ve ever made.

I was a teenager, but a couple of years older than you guys. I was 19 and travelling alone in Sicily. I had been travelling around Europe for 3 months already.

That morning I had climbed a volcano and written my initials in the snow on the way up. Underneath the initials of my boyfriend. Then I drew a circle around us, because, y’know, hearts break but circles never end. I know, right, lame! The volcano was called Mount Etna and the very top was covered in grey ash and sulphuric smoke.


Mt Etna


We had been together for nearly 2 years. He was taller, older and cooler. He had a bright red mohawk and black fingernails. I had a terrible hair cut I gave myself and always wore baggy shorts. I can’t remember when we met but I was still in high school. He used to direct musicals that I would choreograph. Sometimes we’d make eye contact across the rehearsal room and give a secret grin. Sometimes we held each other when one of us cried.

Even though we both thought Valentines Day was a commercial pile of crap one year he had a dozen red roses delivered to my work. For his birthday I ordered a pair of custom made bowling shoes with flames up the side. Sometimes we’d have dinner together then he’d go do the night shift in the emergency department of the hospital.

He was into punk and I was kinda in to ska, which is like punk but with trumpets. I know, totally daggy but trust me in ten years you’ll look at Taylor Swift and be like, srsly wtf were we thinking? I was more into Ben Folds Five and Britney Spears but I was into it because he was I guess. We said our bridal waltz would be Jet’s ‘Are You Gunna Be My Girl?’ and at the start he’d peel off my big white bridal dress and underneath would be black and white checked skirt and skate shoes and we’d skank around the dance floor. After I got back from Europe I was going to move towns to go to uni and study theatre and media. He looked up the hospital in that town, and found a street called Brilliant Street. We said we’d live there, on that street.

Of course we were only joking. About the waltz and the house. Of course.

The night before I flew overseas he told me he wanted to wait for me until I got back, that he wanted us to be together. He gave me his iPod loaded up with my favourite songs.

I arrived at the airport in Warsaw at 9pm. I had Lonely Planet maps but the street signs in Polish didn’t seem to match up. Hauling my backpack, I made my way to the youth hostel in the dark. It felt fucking awesome – I was totally invincible – like I could now do anything. I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I volunteered with a theatre company in Gdansk, living in a hall with ten other volunteers from all over the world. Every morning a Serbian girl would play the Amelie soundtrack to wake us up. We hid from a ticket inspector on the train to a party on a beach where people danced in the water. We visited concentration camps. We worked in schools in poor rural areas where a teacher offered me a job. I visited my uncle in London and cried in his lounge room, overwhelmed by all the opportunities that existed in the world. I sent my boyfriend back home lots of photos and long emails.

In Turkey I wore a wedding ring because Lonely Planet told me men wouldn’t hassle me and women would respect me. I liked wearing the wedding ring. I’d play with it in my fingers whenever I was lonely or scared. Other Aussie tourists just seemed to be getting drunk and being rude. I went to a mosque with a guide who told me the stories of that place and answered my questions. I went to the markets and explored the city on my own. I got on a ten hour bus to the middle of the country, to Cappadocia. For the 6 months I’d worked as a receptionist to save up money for my trip I’d kept a photo of Cappadocia on my desk at work. When I got there I rode a horse bareback at sunset in the desert where people made churches in caves and watched dervishes whirl.


cappadocia turkey


I called my boyfriend on a payphone, he cried and then my phone card ran out.

I got on a boat over to Italy and I wrote him a long letter telling him that I missed him so much it ached, and that this ache was a stronger feeling than anything I’d ever felt before. I told him that I thought that ache was love. It was a big word. We’d never used it before, but I used it then. When I got to Sicily I posted that letter.

The next day was October 28, 2005. I’d written our initials in the snow on the way up  Mount Etna. I’d climbed down and was checking my emails in an internet café. I got an email from my best friend.

I can’t remember how I met my best friend either. We lived next door to each other and our parents still do. We went to the same school, were in the same grade and caught the same bus. We went to the same dance school on the weekends and to the same scout troop after school. At scouts we tried to smoke rolled up tea bags and she sat with me one time as I scratched at my wrists with an alfoil pie dish. Before I flew overseas she drew me a picture of me as a pirate dressed in polkadots.


The email said that she’d been at my boyfriend’s house. They’d both been talking about how much they missed me. They’d both been drinking tequila. She was sorry. They had slept together.


I decided to weep openly in that internet café. The kind stranger next to me asked me if I was ok, or they might have offered me a tissue, or perhaps a glass of water, I can’t remember, but they were nice to me. I decided to tell that kind stranger why I was crying. The next morning I wrote an email to my best friend and my boyfriend, saying they could send me one email to explain what had happened, then I didn’t want to hear from either of them for two weeks. I decided to get on a boat with a bunch of kind strangers. For a week we got boats to other islands that were volcanoes and we climbed up them. One of the volcanoes, the island of Stromboli, took all day to climb through green forests. At the top we stood in the dark and listened to it rumble and watched it explode, shooting ash and lava high above us then bubble down the side. We climbed down in the dark alongside a river of lava.

As we left that volcano island I stood at the back of the boat. I watched the little waves the boat was forming glowing in the moonlight. I took off the wedding ring. My skin had tanned around it, leaving a white ring on my skin. I thought about throwing the ring off the back of the boat, then put it in my pocket.


To be continued


Dear Readers,

I’m thrilled with the response to the last post. It felt good to let that story from last year go, after it took so long to write. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, or if I’m trying to find some moral to my own meta-narrative, but I’ve been thinking about the past lately. Perhaps it’s the impending milestone birthday. Perhaps I’m clearing out the proverbial closet before I enter a new phase of adulthood and hopefully get better clothes to put in said closet.

This blog turned 3 the other week, but I’ve been blogging for nearly 13 years. That’s nearly half my life. I’m now aiming to post every week until I turn 30. That’s in 10 weeks. I’ll let you know if I figure anything out by then.

Well, here goes. Thanks for sticking with me old chums.

Fondest Regards,




On this very day, nine months ago, I sat on a log on Turner’s Beach early in the morning. It was so cold I’d had to unpack my suitcase to find my beanie and gloves, before bringing my muesli down to eat on the beach. It had only been an hour since I’d driven off the boat when it arrived in Devonport, my car packed with everything I owned- mainly clothes and books and camping gear. It had only been a day since I left Melbourne and farewelled the only man I’d been on more than five dates with in the last six years.

I wrote: I try to gather my thoughts but they are everywhere – excitement about work, nature and stability, sad and weary at leaving this man, my friends, family and dancing. Five months in Tassie. Two in Alice. Then not sure. This is my life. I’m not for the first time doubting it. Maybe it’s time to start teaching. Not to run away or give up on anything, but to chose to run towards and start a different path, a different lifestyle with different priorities.

It had been a happy Melbourne summer, but there I was in cold rural Tasmania. I sat on a log and looked at the sea. Even though my Gran disagreed, I knew I’d made the right choice moving here for work. It would be nothing like the desert.

A woman emerged from the fog riding a horse, cantering along the beach then quickly disappearing back into the fog.

Turners beach tasmania


On this day, exactly one week ago, I was sitting on the balcony of a spa cottage, looking through the tall trees to Lake St Clair in the morning. The sun was still low, dancing silver on the still water and hazing golden through the forest on the other side of the lake. There was sun on the side of my face, just a breath of breeze and bird calls. I could just see a glimpse in the distance of the mountain I’d walk up that day with a man still asleep in the cottage.

I wrote: I think this silver fox is my lover. I do want a deeper connection but maybe a lover is ok. Maybe I’m not settling for less or trying to be happy with whatever I can get. Maybe if I keep focusing on the outcome, on the end game of sharing my life with someone the way I had imagined, if I discard anything but the ideal then I’ll miss out. On connecting with anyone.


Lake St Clair TAsmania


Today, this afternoon, I sat on the same log on Turners Beach. The sky was grey. I took some photos then dug my feet into the sand and closed my eyes. I held my own hand. I breathed in and out. I could hear the waves and the wind carrying little echoes of two ladies gently nattering as they walked their dogs. I stayed sitting there for a while. I picked up a smooth rock that felt nice in my hand. I put it back down again and stood up.

I walked slowly along the sand, solo. Just as I had done so many times before and just as I knew I would continue to do. With my head up, with my eyes on the horizon and with an undeniable hint of my signature swagger, I walked the best way I knew how – alone, but not lonely.

Turners Beach Tasmania

Everyone’s Vagina Is A Bit Weird


Dear Readers,

This one might be hard for some of you to read, it was for my parents. I’m trying this new thing where I don’t apologise or explain my work, but I thought it would be polite to warn you. It’s a bit explicit. It talks about vaginas. Specifically, mine.  

Things you should know: I’m ok, I’m all clear, I do want to tell you this story, I want it to be real and honest and we should all be real and honest about this stuff, about all our stuff.

Thanks to Randall for editing this story, to my colleagues and housemates and parents who didn’t mind being in this story, and to everyone who was a friend to me during this story, or ever, really. Thanks to you for reading this story so that I can finally let it go and start writing new ones. 

This one is a longer story. So settle in. See you on the other side. 

Fond Regards,





A white-coated woman zooms in on a couple of tiny black spots then leaves the room without a word. I’m lying there topless with cold goop on my tits forever, probably just seconds but I’m thinking: fuck, she’s forgotten about me or she’s found cancer, I might have to chop off my breasts like my grandma did which wouldn’t be so bad I mean she turned out ok, I’ll just make sure I get some glamour photography or pose for a nice portrait or have some very sensual sex and make the most of them before I lost my favourite asset. Then the woman comes back with another radiologist. It isn’t breast cancer. Just a few benign lumps. I should get them checked every few years, just in case.

Years later, in the Pilbara, in the middle of teaching a Zumba class I feel warm liquid in my undies. There is a community hall full of sweaty overweight women watching me so I just keep dancing for the rest of the song then tell them to get a drink while I go to the toilet. My leggings are dark blue so no one can see that I’ve wet myself. I finish the rest of the class.

The next day is a Friday. I’m crying on the phone to my colleague, asking if I can stay home for a few hours. I’d waited 45 minutes at the Wickham doctor’s office to then be told that their samples van had already left for Karratha. There’s nowhere to store samples over the weekend, so I couldn’t do an STI test that day. I am dirty, lonely, scared and ashamed. I’m crying in my car knowing I’ll spend the whole weekend thinking I have an STI from that fling I had with that carpenter that all my colleagues know about. We all live together over here so I keep everything secret. They would probably be my friends if I let them.

Roebourne gym is a small tin building with one broken fan and one huge Maori man who will politely yell at you to flip truck tyres and do push-ups on the concrete floor. When I use the skipping rope here I feel that warm liquid again but I’m wearing the same leggings so just keep going. I go back to the Wickham doctor and she gives me antibiotics. They don’t work, so I return the next week and she gives me different antibiotics. They don’t work either. I stop going to the gym. I stop seeing the carpenter.

The country is quiet and calm.

Most days I wear baggy shorts and loose cotton T shirts because of old religious ladies and teenage boys and cultural sensitivity and sun smart and heat. I am a man over here in the desert, practical and hard. Sometimes when people talk I think: that’s bullshit. I cover my flesh and let my leg hair grow. At work I drive around listening to gangsta rap and Tina Turner with twelve year olds.

Spinifex glows gold in the dusk. Clouds explode with colour. The water is blue and clear and sand on the empty beaches is white. There are zebra finches and whales.

After five years in the desert, an old friend from my hometown comes to help me pack my life into a caravan and leave for the city. I drive for three weeks, from one chapter of my life into the next.

On the way down the west coast we stop to look at the stars. We kiss gently. I ask him if he ever thinks about being my boyfriend. He says he doesn’t. The universe expands and contracts but basically stays the same.

Kilometres pass somewhere between the west and south, between time zones, between getting somewhere and being nowhere, between grids, roadhouses, servos, lookouts and one street towns. Questionable meals are eaten, Phil Collins CDs, endless ice creams and postcards are purchased, road trains are overtaken and mate waves are reciprocated. Betwixt and between all this time and space the road continues to bend, suns set and the wind picks up again.

We kill an emu. We hit it with our car then wait while it thrashes around, wishing we had a shovel in the boot or a big rock until a council man comes with a crowbar.





Get to Melbourne and I’m punching my fist in the air at the Beyonce show when she sings ‘Survivor.’ Going to the air-conditioned gym where a retired marathon runner takes my height and weight and makes me a workout plan. Walking everywhere with my hair out and feel it bouncing on my bare shoulders as I’m strutting in time with the music on my iPod. I’m drinking tap water and having cold showers on warm days. Eating ripe peaches in Carlton Gardens in the dappled shade. Dancing often and going to the theatre, learning how to write, meditate and direct. Smiling at strangers. Crossing the road at Flinders Street Station with all these people, all in the one place, all going somewhere and I think: I am part of the human race.

I date a bunch of men in cocktail bars hidden in alleyways. I write an erotic bush poem about being in a swag with a man I met once at a rodeo then I read it out in public. I feel like a woman. An attractive woman.

At a literary event I meet a handsome man. We pash in the street then go to my house holding hands. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken someone home with me that I’d just met. The first time I’ve taken someone home in a long time.

He loves my body so handsomely that when our flesh touches my naked skin remembers how good it is to have warm hands on it. I’m standing on my bed with his lips on me and fingers inside of me when I feel a warm liquid rush out of me. But he doesn’t stop so neither do I. We sit giggling, glowing.

I say – my body has never done that before. He says – you’re some kind of amazing porn star who squirts when they orgasm. I take the wet sheets to the washing machine, thinking: maybe my body has done that before, maybe I just wet myself.

I go to the nearest doctor, around the corner in Carlton. She does some tests and gives me a script for some antibiotics. I never fill that prescription.

Book in to see a different Melbourne doctor who does some more tests then tells me – we should get this thing checked out, just in case you want to have kids one day. She draws diagrams and uses analogies saying- it’s fine to go to any old cheap hairdresser for most of your life but for your wedding day you don’t worry about the cost, you just want the best hairdresser. She books me in to the wedding hairdresser of radiology for an ultrasound.

I talk to an insurance lady on the phone as I’m walking up Nicholson Street and she asks me if I want ambulance cover, just in case. A tram goes past, I cross the road saying – I guess I do. I read out my credit card details, hang up and put my phone on silent before walking into the ultrasound place. On the way up in the elevator I think: I guess now I can get IVF one day.

I sit in that waiting room and see the lady next to me has brought another lady with her. Don’t know if it’s her friend or her sister, but I don’t have anyone with me. I just then realise this is a place where people bring other people with them in case they learn something bad.

I try making Melbourne Ultrasound Man laugh about how weird it all is, this business of someone you’ve never met putting goop on your naked skin and then seeing inside of yourself on a small screen. There’s a joke here somewhere, I know.

Melbourne Ultrasound Man smiles politely. My ovaries look alright to him but there are a few tiny black spots, benign lumps in my uterus. I should get them checked every few years, just in case I ever want to get pregnant.

My body is benign. Not the whole thing, just the bits that make me a woman, full of blotches biding their time, waiting to bloom. I think: My new doctor uses better analogies. Cancer flowers. For fucks sake.

On the way home I look for soymilk for my muesli. The hospital café guy reckons he’ll sell me some for a good price. I think: that was a really big thing that just happened back there and now here I am just buying soymilk for my muesli like normal.

I have to just sit with my feelings, I know that. I still get scared so I get busy, mostly working and packing up my life again. Then I get gentle with myself, crying in my room in Carlton. I know my ovaries are okay so maybe I can still have children one day, but still I lay down and my whole body gives in to the weeping. Thinking about the songs I want at my funeral and writing a letter to my body saying: Hey I thought we were a team. I don’t really know how you work I just assumed you always would. Until I got old.

When I was a kid I was so sure that the one job I wouldn’t fuck up would be being a mum. Somehow I just knew I would be excellent at it.

I tell my mum when she visits Melbourne. I take her out for dinner before a theatre show, saying – there’s a little bit of a health problem, a few sexually transmitted diseases and some weird symptoms that my Melbourne doctor and I haven’t figured out yet. She doesn’t need to come with me to any appointments. I am dirty and ashamed and scared but next morning I spread out all the diagrams the doctor has drawn for me. I try to talk that slightly less foreign language of clumsy medical jargon about symptoms and fibroids in amongst awkward admissions about sex. I think: people care when you let them. I’m not going to have any more secrets.

When mum leaves I go back to my Melbourne doctor. She draws more diagrams, uses some more analogies, prints out more bits of paper with results and books me in to the wedding hairdresser of gynaecology. I’ll have to wait one month.

I go to Tasmania for that month and work. Sometimes I sit up in bed at night, Googling medical terms like Douglas Obliteration and Spontaneous Abortion and all these potential side effects of things printed on the bits of paper and diagrams. Sometimes I call friends because I knew there are jokes in this somewhere. Sometimes I cry alone in my room. When my colleague asks me why, I say – there’s a medical appointment in Melbourne I’m worried about.

I didn’t want to say any more. Didn’t know how to begin.

I volunteer to go on a road trip to Hobart to pick up some equipment for a show. Between the north and the south I again float in a little bubble moving effortlessly through space and time. I see fog and frost for the first time in five years. Everything emerging from the fog looks dramatic and beautiful, the sheep and trees and green rolling hills. Kilometres pass. The road bends and the sun sets, oozing red through smoky paddocks as little back burning fires dot the hills like puddles of lava.

On my last day in Tasmania I have a meeting with my colleague. We talk about the next show we’ll be working on, in the desert. I nod at everything he says, thinking: I can’t do this if I have to fly back for some kind of operation, I can’t do it if I’m sick or dying or barren.

We go off for a walk down over a field and through a little forest to a beach.

The whole time we’re walking he makes space for me to talk about my medical appointment in Melbourne. I ask him about the bush and about family. Those are two things I like to talk about.

The whole time I’m feeling bits of sun on me, smelling the eucalyptus and tea tree and running my fingers through ferns. I pick up nice looking rocks, hearing the waves and the wind and I feel ok. Everything was going to be ok.

I have friends and family who I love, I’ve done work I love with colleagues who are really friends, who I also love.

I feel valued and respected and supported and cared for.

I don’t have any grudges or have reason to believe anyone hates me for anything.

I don’t have any really big regrets.

I am proud of what I’ve done and who I am.

Mostly I’ve told people that I loved them and I’ve tried to show them.

I have an underlying sense of foreboding that I may not get to do it all, but I fucking love my life.

When we finish our walk he says – hope it goes ok, whatever this medical thing is you’re going to in Melbourne. I say – yeah, even if it’s not OK, I’m OK with that. He says – yeah, we’ll put on a pretty good show for the funeral. We laugh and hug and I get in my car, drive to Devonport and get onto the boat back to Melbourne. On board I write in my diary:

Whatever happens, let it be known that I was grateful and lucky.





I’m lying on my back on one of those reclining hospital beds with my legs apart and my knees in the air, my feet in these metal stirrup things. The white-coated woman looks inside me with a big magnifying glass and bright light that she moves around like at the dentist. I turn my head, looking at all the framed certificates on the wall.

There’s a tube in my bottom, another tube up my front and one of them had a camera in it. Then they’re pulled out and the steel opener thing they use for pap smears goes in. It’s wound open wider than usual, a really long cotton wool bud goes in and pokes around. Then my cervix is finger painted black. The paint shows up a few tiny black spots, so a long pair of scissors goes in and takes out a bit of me.

There’s anaesthetic, but I feel the pulling, I feel the cutting. Tears come out of my eyes, just a few. The woman is being very professional, though her voice is kind when she says – it’s all a bit strange isn’t it?

She tells me to come see her next week to discuss the results. I tell her I’ve booked flights over to the Pilbara to work for a few months, she says: you might just have to fly back, just in case. This is something that might stop me working. For fuck’s sake.

I don’t know exactly how much I spent in total on medical bills. I gave up keeping track, I just wanted to know what was wrong. I didn’t care how much it cost in the end. I didn’t even want to wait twelve months until my health insurance wait period was over, if I was going to be barren or die I wanted to know right now. In the space of about 5 months I spent between four and six thousand dollars. At that first gynaecologist appointment I had to step outside to get phone reception so I could transfer between my accounts.

When I go back to the waiting room to pay, I see everyone else waiting has someone waiting with them. I touch the necklace my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. Wore it for good luck.

I call mum. I buy a crappy orange cake at the Fitzroy Gardens.

I walk around trying to feel something.

There’s dappled afternoon shade.

The grass is green and there are big oaks.

Put my jacket on the ground and sit on it, leaning my back on a tree.

I feel a big calm gratitude feeling.

I meet some friends in the gardens and tell them how gross and weird it was. How one minute I was sitting across the desk from a total stranger explaining the circumstances in which I wet myself, the next minute I was in the next room with my legs in the air and metal things up my clacker.

We go to a restaurant for dinner. I can’t think of much to say so just bask in the warm glow of close friends who all get along without really expecting me to say anything. They all know. We try to find that joke, but instead I go to the toilets for a quick and quiet cry. They hug me hard.

I see some other high school friends that I only catch once or twice a year. Some of them have had babies while I’ve been in the desert. I don’t tell any of them. Don’t know how to begin telling them this story.

The day before I fly to the Pilbara, the gynaecologist emails me the report of the tests. I need to come and see her, not urgently though, just when I get back to Melbourne in October. I’m not going to die between now and then. I call my colleague and say – everything is fine, I’m not going to die before the show. He says – good, we won’t have to dedicate the show to you in the program notes. We laugh.





In the Pilbara I’m on my own for a week.

I don’t sleep.

Two people die in the community. One is a suicide the other a stabbing. But those are not my stories to tell. I go around to the grieving houses and avoid eye contact as I hand over bags of food to the families and say  sorry for your loss.

Tell my colleague that I’ve been seeing death everywhere and he says – well, it’s true you’re not a young girl anymore, you are gonna die one day. It’s the best thing anyone has said.

I stay at work late because I’m scared of trying to sleep and not doing it right, because I’m scared I might die one day, it may not be today, but it’s gonna be someday so I’d better be a good person and I’d better do good work.

I don’t eat enough and when I do eat it it’s out of the microwave. I lie in bed with my eyes closed. Get up and write lists of how I am going to do good work. I try meditating with the CDs mum gave me. When the sun goes up I get up too and go for walks along the beach and cry a lot.

My housemate comes back one morning and I say – I am not okay. I drive to the Aboriginal Medical Service at 8.30am when they open. The doctor gives me Valium to try that night. My tongue swells up and I have to breathe through my nose, eating only soup for the next three days. I tell my housemate – I’m still not okay and that I can feel my heart pounding in my ears and my chest is fluttering.

I go back to the AMS, but to a different doctor. She does the mental health checklist. My anxiety and stress levels were no good. A nurse put little wires all over my body and she asked me about my mum and I cried. I was homesick and scared. I saw a woman I knew in the waiting room, an old woman whose son died in police custody. That is not my story either. I don’t say hello.

My colleague asks if I’m OK so I tell him – I’m probably just grumpy because I have my period. Later I send him an email saying – hey I’m not really ok, I’ll be ok but I’m struggling. Before rehearsals he pulls me aside and says – it’s ok, I have a wife and daughter, I understand. He hugs me and pats my back. I feel ashamed and lonely, thinking: I have insomnia and anxiety and I want to fly out of the desert right now. For fuck sake, period problems? What happened to no secrets?

I float in the ocean and let it take me where it wants me to go, which isn’t far at all but anyway I give in. Then I shit, shower, shave, do my hair and put on a dress to go over the road to watch a footy game I don’t follow on telly with my colleagues.

I tell my parents I’m taking anti-depressants. I tell my brother about my cervix getting biopsied. These are weird conversations.

I don’t even want to do a good job anymore, I just want to do it and then go home, wherever that is. I’m not giving much of a shit about anything. I can’t think of things to say or pretend I’m happy to see people in the morning.

I am not in my real life, over here in the desert. I used to think about what I wore almost every day and strut around the city in time with the music on my iPod.

I see some zebra finches and two out of season whales on morning walks.

When we’ve done the show my colleague drive me to the airport. He asks me what’s wrong and I say – I’m taking antidepressants because I’m still scared I might be barren or dying. I tell him everything, about the ultrasounds and the biopsy. I tell him for all that, he gave me a pat on the back. We laugh. I think: I’m going to tell people everything more often. I’m going to let people care.





Back in Melbourne now I sit with my doctor. She draws a diagram with little black dots and lines and the dots were cancer cells but at the moment there aren’t many actually and they are benign. I should get them tested every year though, just in case.

We’ll monitor the fibroids in the uterus and the cells in the cervix and the other STIs but we should rule out the bladder. We’re a team. She sends me to a regular radiologist and books me in to the wedding hairdresser of urologists. I have more medical terms to Google but this time I call a friend. She says – it’s ok, everyone’s vagina is a bit weird.

I download a bladder diary app and log everything that goes in and out.

I get gooped for my bladder and as I go to transfer money on my phone at the radiology reception desk, I drop everything out of my bag. A handsome man helps me pick up bobby pins and business cards. That’d be right, I meet a handsome man at the fucking radiologist. I am a non-sexual being right now. The drugs make me not give a shit about anything really, but I guess that’s the point.

Waiting with all these old women in the hospital urology department waiting room, I have to take off all my clothes and put on a backless gown and my massive vintage Swiss Army backpack won’t fit in the day patient lockers.

I look down at my feet and I think: fuck, I’m in a hospital with blue booties on, shit’s getting pretty real right here.

Three ladies put tubes inside me, a camera up my butt and a catheter up my clacker.

The urologist pumps me full of water and another lady makes me cough, jump and run and I say – maybe if I ran a Zumba class or orgasmed it would work. The ladies all laugh.

The urologist puts her fingers inside me and tells me to squeeze. Afterwards, when I’ve emptied, they can’t explain why I bleed mid-cycle, there’s nothing wrong with my bladder, but the unwanted urination is possibly due to an almost non-existent pelvic floor muscle

I think: nothing major is wrong. I’m not going to die. I think: Excellent.

I also think: all this. All this time and money and feelings and thoughts for you to tell me I’ve just gotta do some fucking pelvic floor exercises?

I go to a pelvic floor workshop with a room full of old ladies. We’re asked in what situations might someone urinate when they didn’t want to and one lady says – what about just getting up out of a seat?

I think: jeez, I’m doing okay. Everything is going to be fine.

I go to see my favourite monk talk about happiness. He used to give different advice to everyone individually. Now, to any problem anyone presents with, he just says – don’t worry, you’ll be dead soon.

Maybe that big calm gratitude feeling I had back during that walk in Tassie, and later in Fitzroy Gardens, was me thinking about my own death, being kind of okay with it. Maybe that’s a pretty fucking huge thing to think about and be kind of okay with. Maybe it’s the only thing I’ll ever really need to be ok with.

Not a young girl anymore. Gunna die one day.

And so it goes.

So get on with it.