Sharon Can’t Tell You Her Story

Sharon Can’t Tell You Her Story

Sharon and I clicked the first time we met. We slipped into an intense friendship with ease and it felt as if we’d known each other forever. Sharon was the kind of girl you didn’t forget after the first time you met her. She was funny, with the body of a cheer leader and perfectly chiseled features. She was smart too, and men seemed to hang onto every word she uttered. She was the girl who seemingly had it all.

She met Alberto, with his movie star looks, at the gym, which they visited twice a day, 365. Soon they were living together in a cottage on her parents’ farm and for years they were besotted.

Alberto was obsessed. With Sharon, the gym and his guns. Those closest to Sharon were concerned for her safety, and one by one her friends and colleagues began retreating. She just didn’t see what they did, despite discussions about how his flaunting his guns was not “normal”.

I would spend hours planning her escape. Eventually she plucked up the courage and told Alberto she wanted out. She found the strength to leave him as a new love interest was taking shape, with a Greek God, Pantelli, a 22-year-old concert promoter.

Sharon’s Mom – worried about a possible clash between Alberto and Sharon’s protective Dad – asked if Sharon could spend the weekend with me. My brother had gone away for a few days and I offered up his bedroom.

Alberto suspected Sharon was seeing someone and set her up. A showdown ensued at my house on Saturday afternoon, where both men turned on her and left as besties, only to see Pantelli return a short while later to beg forgiveness. Riddled with guilt, Alberto arrived at my house the next day and saw Sharon and Pantelli’s cars. He jumped my six-foot wall and approached my kitchen door at the very moment my helper, Mama Rebecca, unlocked the security gate to feed the dogs.

“Lisssssaaa, Alberto’s here,” Mama Rebecca blurted, rushing into my bedroom, wide-eyed. Alberto was right behind her.

“Hi, Albie, how are you?”  I prayed he wouldn’t ask me where Sharon was. As his eyes darted around my room, the walls were closing in on me.

In a trance, I turned my back on him and headed for the bathroom. Mama Rebecca followed me. With trembling hands, I locked the door. The windows were barricaded by security bars. We were trapped. Hearts pounding. Waiting.

Three deafening shots rang out. I whispered, “One for Sharon, one for Pantelli, one for Mike,” my friend in the spare room.

“We are next, Mama, we’ve got to get out. I must plead for our lives face to face rather than through a locked door.”

Mama pulled at me, begged me not to go.

.

About Lisa

Lisa Loeb was born in Cape Town, into a family of four brothers with a South African mom and German dad. Raised in a rural Afrikaans community, at age 18 she packed her life into her Mazda and moved to Johannesburg. She co-owns About Entertainment, representing some of South Africa’s leading entertainers. In 2009 Lisa graduated from UCT with a PGDip in Business Management specializing in Events. She is married to a special soul and is Mom to two glorious human and three fur kids. She loves writing, reading, travelling, massages, beach walks, heart-stopping sunsets, running, yoga, dancing, meditating, coffee and one-on-one time with a friend.

I broke free, unlocked the door and sneaked into the passage, expecting Alberto around every corner. There was only a deathly silence.

I crept into the spare room where Mike was frantically looking for his contact lenses, whilst lurching for the cupboard, the only hiding place within reach.

 I bolted back into the passage towards my brother’s room.

The door was ajar. Sharon was sprawled on the floor, murmuring, blood pumping from her neck.

“Oh my God,” I wailed, remembering Alberto. Where is he? I have to get away. Get help. I ran to my bedroom, backwards, forwards. Where were the keys for the security gate?

Mama found the keys and unlocked the security gate. My bare feet ached as I flew across the sharp edges of gravel, towards the street, the neighbor, the phone. I called the police, the ambulance and Sharon’s Mom, unsure if they understood through my sobs.

A crowd was gathering outside my gate as I ran back towards my house.

The police arrived first. Mama and Mike came out of their hiding places and the three of us were questioned in separate rooms after being told that Sharon and Pantelli were dead. Alberto was brain dead. Unbeknownst to me, he had shot himself and fallen behind the door in the bedroom.

When the bodies of Sharon and Pantelli had been taken to the morgue and the police finally left, I held Sharon’s silk shirt to my face, breathing in her smell, then quickly shoved it into my cupboard.

I called my therapist, weeping uncontrollably. “Alberto shot them both, and he himself is brain dead in the hospital.”

“I’m bringing you a tranquillizer,” he said as my brother walked in from his weekend away. My guilt engulfed me. I had not asked his permission to have Sharon stay in his bedroom.

I offered to swap rooms, but my bewildered brother declined. I paid for a new futon, carpet, curtains and had his room repainted, all the time wondering if any of these gestures would compensate for moving back into a room where the spirits of trauma lurked.

I spiraled into blackness. Some days I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Feeling closest to Sharon when at home, I talked to her constantly, begging for a sign that she was still around. I couldn’t accept that I would never hear her voice again.

A few weeks later she visited me in a dream. She told me “they” were helping her accept where she was. She was in a hospital with the young one and has been to visit “the other one” who was in a bad place. Her parting words were, “He put himself there.”

I started reading about life after death, forcing myself to keep going.

My therapy sessions increased to a few times a week.

I picked up on the tour that Sharon and I were working on with my friend Mike, believing that’s what she would have wanted. I looked for signs everywhere. I had to connect with Sharon. A whiff of her favorite “Samsara” perfume would jolt me back to thoughts of, ‘If only I’d tried harder to get her away from him’.

A few months later I packed up and moved to another city where I visited a psychic who knew nothing about me. He saw a love triangle, though I wasn’t one of the people in it.

“When they ask for your help you should refuse,” he said.

“It’s too late, they’re all dead,” I cried.

He explained that Sharon and I had a past life pact.

I had promised Sharon in a previous life to facilitate her paying back a karmic debt. I was shrouded in an inexplicable sense of peace as he spoke. A sense of profound knowing.

My hunger for healing was all consuming. I immersed myself in reading about Karma and past lives and I started meditating. I took eighteen months off work to dig deep into my pain and to make sense of the lesson that would remain with me always.

My second name is Sharon. Our bond is eternal.

Despite the passing years, every time I complete a document that requires my full name I am reminded of my beautiful friend, whose short life was so entwined with mine.

But through my pain came understanding. Our lives, the worlds and hope are all interconnected. By living life and being open to the signs that come from departed loved ones, I can find peace in the knowledge that they are all around us. Through remembering the past, I can more easily move into the future.  And by seeking to learn from tragedy, I contribute to my own well-being and to my journey to heal and find beauty amid the mire.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

Right Turn

'Right Turn' From the book The Turning I chose bona fides and other Latin terms you find in law books for it was easier, they claimed to fall back on precedent and stare decisis than a line Tennyson wrote that’s etched in your soul. I turned left at logic not right at...

Buoy

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Sometimes You Just Need a Little More Time

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You can tell when someone is hungry. People who are hungry have dry lips. Chapped with dry bits that stick every so often when they talk. They do not pause to lick them, the frayed seams at their mouths. Most of my clients at (POWA) People Opposing Women Abuse, a...

Is the Black Dog Jewish

If ever the human psyche held terrible secrets, and untouchable emotions, the language of modern psychology has opened its dungeons and let those dark hounds loose. We now have words (‘manic depression,’ ‘bipolar,’ ‘seasonal affective disorder,’ post-traumatic...

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

We have two lives, and the second one begins when you realise you only have one. - Mario de Andrade You will wake up one day and without looking at your iPhone, you’ll know that you are running out of time. This bolt of insight will have less to do with your age in...

Beaten to Love

Beaten to Love

I was born in South Africa in 1949. My father was Charles, a doer man from a Calvinistic family who spent days and nights drinking in the pub, coming home drunk and then beating my mother, me and my sister. My humanitarian mother, Isabella, was rebellious and an activist with a big heart. She became active in the Trade Union Movement in the Garment and Distributive Trade Union in South Africa where she worked first as a rank-and-file member and then secretary and treasurer, and finally became an organiser in the union, raising awareness and coordinating strikes.

Isabella says, “There, I really learnt about the suffering of the workers, and I had to become politically active.” She refused to remain silent even though it meant she sacrificed her family life. We, her children, also bore the brunt and difficulties of leaving our homeland when Isabella was banned and had to flee imprisonment and we left behind everything we had known. Our family moved from house to house, often the three of us staying in one room. This was not unusual for the less fortunate in the world; for a middle-class Jewish family, it was. Also, to escape Charles’ torment and abuse and for Isabella to find work, our family moved countries: South Africa to Zambia to Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Explicit memories are hazy, but I do remember being with our African nanny, Regina, whom I called Beauty. She was the opulent mother – big, all-embracing, solidly connected to the earth like the Great Mother Ma in Credo Mutwa’s Indaba My Children, where the nations were born from the tree, Ninavauhu-Ma.

Beauty wiped the blood running down my legs from the beatings. She held me close in her lap and nestled me in her arms to keep “Father Death” from me. When the pain and heaviness got too much, I sat on a cloud in the sky in my imagination, and would climb the tree outside our house and hide. From there I could see and hear my mother and sister calling for me. I would remain so still and quiet, as I had come to know that was the best way to be. If not seen, nor heard, I was less likely to be beaten.

.

About Franceska

Franceska Jordan, AM., B. Soc Work. MSWAP. MAASW – Reiki Master and Masters in Social Work, is an internationally recognised counselor, speaker, author and healer. She has trained in Australia and internationally and worked in Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia and India. Franceska has been working in the welfare, health and academic field for the past 40 years as a counselling clinician, educationalist, planner, administrator, advocate and researcher. She received the Australian Medal – AM – for her Alzheimer’s, aged care and mental health work. Her passions include writing, reading, being in nature and talking to trees.

Yet we overcame. We did not allow the beating of our bodies and minds to determine how we live our lives and define ourselves. We did not shut our hearts to loving and being loved. We found the hardship of others a call to comfort, and with this have been able to triumph through the abuse and exile.

I don’t know when, but one day I made the decision that the abuse in my family stops with me. I determined that I would love myself and others. I became a social worker and accredited mental health practitioner. My life’s work is devoted towards healing. And now I am writing my story, to share my experiences and offer glimmers of insight to others who have not yet escaped their childhoods.

Each day, I go outside, and reconnect with the earth. As the gentle breeze touches me, I return to the love and optimism that is the core of my being. For there I am free.

And from this place, I am my most powerful in the knowledge that I am here to bring love into the world.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

The Art of Reframing

I come from a family of Oh My Godders. In my family, everything was a potential calamity: a sore throat. An impending storm. A parking ticket. Being late. Being early. Now if you grow up in OMG-hood, you learn to panic. Without much provocation. Everything in life is...

A Simple Exchange of Niceties

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. - Wallace Stevens The first available appointment was for next week only. That was in nine days time. Enough time for hands, brains, eyelids and knee joints to form according to the charts. I took a walk. I needed...

Without Self-Compassion, Why Should Anyone Trust Us?

Celebrity drag queen Ru Paul sings, ‘If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ Amen to this when it comes to the act of writing. All writing begins with self-compassion. To write, we have to own our voice and our right to write. I...

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What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

Unlikely Saviour

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Doppelganger

Doppelganger

You are my terrible twin.

We were knotted together even as I slipped,

womb-blinded, from the darkness into light,

the cord severed.

 

We will always be as Janus was,

selves torn between the ancient face

that looks forward from the doorway

and the young one that looks back,

into the shadows,

different sides of the same shiftless coin.

 

No closeness has ever felt further.

No mirror glitters so cruelly

with false promise

as the one you hold up for me.

.

About Sarah

Sarah Frost is 45 years old and mother to a 14-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. She works as an online editor for Juta Legalbrief in Durban, South Africa, and lectures News Writing part time at the Durban University of Technology. Sarah has been writing poetry since she was 19 years old. She has completed an MA in English Literature and a module in Creative Writing. Her debut collection, Conduit, was published by Modjaji in 2011. Last year she participated in Joanne Fedler’s Author Awakening course, in which she was inspired to take herself seriously as a writer.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

The Turning: Reflections on Reaching 50

I am taking the business of turning 50 terribly seriously. I am dedicating the twelve months since my 49th birthday to this incongruous milestone, given that the actual age of my physical body – half a freaking century – and how I feel inside couldn’t be further apart...

Twelve Things Your Mum Was Right About

There’ll come a point in your life when you’ll suddenly have a flashback to your childhood. And it will be your mother’s voice. And you will concede – graciously or otherwise – that all those irritating things she used to say to you when you were a kid were actually...

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

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When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my...

The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

‘Can I wear this?’ my teenage daughter asked, holding up a black silk shirt from my wardrobe. ‘I need a black top for drama and I don’t have one.’ ‘Ummmm….’ I paused, remembering that the last time I wore that shirt, it was ripped off me in a moment of passion by a...

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I remember as a kid thinking creativity was this wild, carefree, easy-going emotion that you just got into, rather like finger-painting. But as I have started using the innovative side of my brain as an adult, I realise what a fragile, ethereal thing creativity really...

Playing By My Rules

Playing By My Rules

It is early evening after dinner, and I stare into the kitchen sink. I gently draw patterns with the bubbles that remain from the washing up. I herd them into the centre of the sink and I turn the tap on and let the water trickle slowly, washing some of the bubbles down the plughole. I admire my clean basin and sigh. Memories come flooding back, overwhelming me from my past.

I didn’t always enjoy the peace that comes from a sink of bubbles. There was a time when my life was controlled by rules. Not mine, but someone else’s. He had rules about these kinds of bubbles. The sink had to be immaculate. Not a single bubble could remain. If I forgot or became distracted, which was often the case, I would wear the consequences of those bubbles for days or weeks. So, on nights when I remembered, I would stand at the sink with cold running water gently herding the bubbles into the plughole. I knew that though it was possibly the stupidest, most pointless rule in the universe; it was a rule no less.

It’s not that I don’t respect rules. I appreciate and recognise that some are implicit, like manners handed down through families over generations, such as the ones my mother imparted to us:

‘Don’t speak with your mouth full’; ‘Give up your seat on a bus to someone older, pregnant or someone who may need it more.’ She taught us, ‘Do unto others as you would have done to you’; ‘Don’t disrespect your elders’; ‘No elbows on the table….’. Through these rules I learned how to be part of civilised society.

Rules have their place in the world – imagine the chaos if we didn’t have rules about how to walk on the left hand side to ensure the flow of pedestrian traffic, how to stand respectfully in a queue and not push in and how to merge into traffic one car at a time.

But then, inexplicably you encounter a rule that makes no sense.

When I first met him as an enamoured teenager, I couldn’t see beyond his long hair and rock star looks. He was four years older and he had chosen me out of all the girls in the small town in which we lived.

One day I was waiting patiently for him at his home like the lovelorn girlfriend I was. His parents invited me in and let me wait in his bedroom. Next to his bed I found a neatly stacked tower of black and red fruit pastilles. Perhaps he doesn’t like them, I reasoned. And so I helped myself to a few.

Little did I know I had broken one of his golden rules: you never touch his lollies. When he came home and saw what I had done, he exploded in rage.

.

About Jan

Jan Daniels was born in the late ’50s in England but has called Australia home for five decades. She has a deep love for the natural beauty of the country, especially of her spiritual homeland, Anglesea. Raising her three children there as a sole parent gave her a solid foundation to rebuild her life. Jan is fascinated by people, conversations, the human spirit, the seasons of life, artistic talent and reality TV. Her greatest joy comes from beauty and colour, family and belonging, the lure of cliff tops and an angry sea, the will to win and her beloved Hawthorn football club. She has long worked in community organisations and is currently business manager of several social enterprises. Now working on her memoir, Jan is looking forward to retirement and a simpler life.

I had trembled and hung my head, suitably chastened. I didn’t understand – they were only lollies. He had obviously never learnt the rule about sharing.

Despite this, I went on to marry him and from then on I learnt a new set of rules, ones I had never heard of nor been taught. Sometimes, without my knowledge, the rules changed but I wouldn’t be given notice of the alteration. I would wear the consequences later.

The consequences could also change. One day a simple back hander across the face, another day a beating, and some days a strange silence and an awful sense of foreboding. Some rules were so ridiculous that I took evil pleasure in breaking them despite the consequences.

He was obsessive about food routines. Every Sunday he demanded a full English roast. But no undercooked vegetables or meat. The potatoes had to be crunchy and God help me if there were lumps in the gravy. Every Saturday he demanded a full stew pot with vegies cooked with OXO cubes. It was revolting but he loved it.

Eventually, I got tired of his rules.

And one day, many years later, I grabbed my children while he was at work and escaped with nothing but a suitcase and a few possessions.

It took time, but in my freedom and in my own space, I created my own gentler rules and routines: no TV in the morning for the kids till everyone was dressed and ready for school. Dinner had to be eaten at the table. And when the theme song for Neighbours came to a close it was bedtime.

There were times when I allowed the children to break the rules as a treat. On these special occasions they were allowed to eat fish and chips in front of the TV, or spend the weekend in pyjamas lounging around free from household chores. Some days, as a special break from the rules, there would be no school – just a lazy day spent together. What joy I got from making – and breaking – my own precious rules.

And so it comes to be that thirty-five years later I still feel the pleasure of consciously leaving those bubbles in the sink. I smile and run my fingers through them as I make patterns in the foam. They remind me that in this house, there are no consequences to breaking the rules. They stay there, causing no harm to anyone, until I choose to let them go.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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A Simple Exchange of Niceties

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. - Wallace Stevens The first available appointment was for next week only. That was in nine days time. Enough time for hands, brains, eyelids and knee joints to form according to the charts. I took a walk. I needed...

Grabbing the Reins of Creativity

I remember as a kid thinking creativity was this wild, carefree, easy-going emotion that you just got into, rather like finger-painting. But as I have started using the innovative side of my brain as an adult, I realise what a fragile, ethereal thing creativity really...

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

We’re all just walking each other home. – Ram Dass   It's funny how much we fret about nonsense in the light of Ram Dass's insight, isn't it? How different would we behave if we lived each day with that as our premise? So when the 31st August comes around, I...

Why Talent is Overrated in Writing

What stops many people from writing is the belief that they have no talent. This is what I think about talent: Talent isn’t enough: talent guarantees zilch. It's not a ticket to a publishing deal let alone a bestseller. It’s not even a boarding pass. It may get you to...

I Chose Silence

I Chose Silence

He was a rising Kwaito star. His callous nature and rugged looks evoked the kind of fear and enamour that was synonymous with guys from the township in those days. Some girls loved him but most loathed him. Their hatred and affection were badges of honour that he wore proudly.

I didn’t care much for him, although he was a persistent blowfly that I shooed away with each unwelcomed advance that he made. I had no regard for his “celebrity” or for any other because I’ve never subscribed to idol worship. Perhaps that’s what made me the perfect game to hunt. It was a power thing and still is; he had to put me in my place.

I was a teenager at a house party. I shouldn’t have been drinking but it was a season of experimenting in my life, and so I was. He seemed to have a knack for turning up at places where I would be. That evening was no different.  As usual, I paid no attention to him or his whereabouts throughout the night, but that became my biggest mistake. I didn’t notice that he’d followed me down the hall to the toilet, until it was too late.

I remember thinking, “Is this what I think it is? Is this guy seriously going to rape me?” as he shoved me and himself into a toilet that was big enough for only one person.

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About Mma-tshepo

Mma-tshepo Grobler has jumped out of planes, swam with sharks, and conquered the world’s tallest swing. Although adrenaline is her drug of choice, she’s an introvert who prefers pyjamas and books to idle chitchat. Mma-tshepo studied to be a journalist but has never pursued journalism as a career. She believes that writing is her real calling, and her words have been featured in Sawubona Magazine and TypeCast Literary Journal. Mma-tshepo is currently working on her debut novel, Another Country, which she plans to publish in December 2019.

A male friend heard the scuffle whilst passing the toilet. He stopped and knocked, asking what was going on. When the scuffle wouldn’t stop, he started to push the door with such power that it flung open. He looked bewildered and asked if I was okay. The celebrity said that it was all a joke, and I just walked away.

I have never felt the need to speak out about that night, but I now find myself questioning my silence.  I had faced an undeniable threat to my safety, and yet my subjective emotional response to this event was to not report it. I didn’t keep quiet out of fear. When I think back on my temperament as a teen, I believe that I kept quiet to make a statement.

I was incensed. This guy knew that he frightened a lot of girls my age with his thuggish advances, and he thrived off that. He attacked me with the aim of achieving the same because he had failed to illicit anything more from me through previous advances. He had attacked me to put me in my place, but he didn’t succeed. He failed to disempower me because I refused to cower and give him the satisfaction of conquest.

I’m much older now. I realise that my silence then was the best tool in my teenage shed of defence. But today, silence means death. There is no room for reticence where countless women suffer attacks similar to mine and worse, daily. Justice has a voice, and it grows louder every moment through movements of activism and solidarity like #MeToo. Maybe if there’d been movements like these when I was younger, I would have responded differently to that attempted disempowerment. I don’t know. What I do know is that silence kills, and that is why I am using my voice today.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

In Search of Words about Writing

What is it like to write? When I first discovered Dylan Thomas in my early teens, it unbolted a mayhem of yearning inside me. I knew only that I wanted to do that with language, to cause a rousing inside another, simply by the laying down of words in a particular...

I Know What Stops You from Writing

    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic And she said yes I asked her if it was okay to be short And she said it sure is I asked her if I could wear nail polish Or not wear nail polish And she said honey She calls me that sometimes She said you can...

A Simple Exchange of Niceties

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. - Wallace Stevens The first available appointment was for next week only. That was in nine days time. Enough time for hands, brains, eyelids and knee joints to form according to the charts. I took a walk. I needed...

Where the Fight Is Won or Lost

You can learn the craft of writing any way you choose: you can take a course, you can read a book about writing, you can read great writers until your eyeballs bleed. There is no one way to learn what you need to know about writing. And that's because the craft of...

How to Make ‘I’ Contact

One of the first rules of public speaking is to make eye contact with the audience. That’s how we connect and earn trust. In writing, our challenge is to make ‘I’ contact. We have to be connected in with our own story in order to connect people in to our story. Who we...

The Biggest Birthday Yet

Good lord, it is two days to my 50th birthday. I am not ready to own such a majestic number, never mind have to blow out that many birthday candles. Also, it means I have to stop ‘turning’ 50 and just be 50. I have literally devoted my entire 49th year to getting to...

I Have Not Said Enough

I Have Not Said Enough

I work as a journalist in South Africa, a country known as the rape capital of the world. Every afternoon I switch on my computer, make sure my WiFi is working, and begin to trawl the web for news stories about criminal cases that have reached the courts. It is unusual if I do not find a story about a man in court for raping a small girl, a small boy, his partner, or many women. We are trained as journalists to be impartial, to strive for accuracy, conciseness and fairness, and so I do my best to make sure I get the facts straight as I summarise the cases for Legalbrief Today. I do not put a spin on what makes me so wildly, blindly angry.

Cultivating detachment is one way of coping with the volume of human trauma I am made aware of daily. Trying to understand it is another. I know that these abusers have often been abused themselves, that they are angry and powerless in a society damaged by apartheid, and that – facing hopeless futures – they make themselves feel stronger by victimizing the vulnerable. But rationalizing rape and sexual assault is not completely possible. There is the residue which remains like the ‘thorn, heavier than lead’ that Mary Oliver spoke of in ‘Morning Poem’.

I know that the personal is political, and it is not just as a concerned citizen that I am so bothered by the unravelling society I am witnessing. As a woman living in a patriarchy I too have felt devalued and wronged. As a daughter of a father who, while he never touched me, was too aware of me sexually, I know the terror that comes from feeling helpless. In a clumsy, unthought-out way I tried to write about that sense of exploitation and shock in my poetry collection, Conduit. In ‘Imago’, I write of the radio journalist I met ‘who speaks of being raped by a powerful man and how it felt when no one believed her’. In ‘Every Day’ I tell the story of a 14-year-old girl who was gang raped in Katlehong, trying to imagine how it might feel to have survived such violence. ‘Later, in dreams, maybe, they will come to her, /the faces of the men who feared her enough, /even after they fucked her, to imprint on her skin, /the small cigarette-shaped brands of those who feel powerless.’

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About Sarah

Sarah Frost is 45 years old and mother to a 14-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. She works as an online editor for Juta Legalbrief in Durban, South Africa, and lectures News Writing part time at the Durban University of Technology. Sarah has been writing poetry since she was 19 years old. She has completed an MA in English Literature and a module in Creative Writing. Her debut collection, Conduit, was published by Modjaji in 2011. Last year, she participated in Joanne Fedler’s Author Awakening course, in which she was inspired to take herself seriously as a writer.

Sometimes it seems that rape and sexual abuse in South Africa, and globally, has become intrinsic. It is not going to stop any time soon. As the mother of a five-year-old girl, the question I grapple with now is how do I teach Ella Lucy that her body is a gift she can choose to give anybody should she so want, when the world I’ve brought her into believes her body is a reason for her to be distrusted, diminished and denied? Living in a distorted society makes for distorted identities – no easy answers.

In the poem for which my book is named, ‘Conduit’, I write of a woman walking alone, ‘wondering, in the shadows /how she will ever know /what it is she needs to say’. Seven years on, I have not said enough. At times, I blame this incapacity to write on doing two jobs and raising two children, but it is not the logistics of my life that have silenced me. Perhaps it is a profound doubt that what I say about the everyday sexism I see all around me will change anything.

But it is precisely this despair I must work against.

It is possible to find a way forward. Joining this conversation is just one way that I can make my words in ‘From the sea’ become true:

‘You, poet, alone, immobile, at your keyboard,
The night sighing, a stranger at your back.
You wrestle with the anger of the invisible,
Lay it down.
Stop picking at the scabs
That make you mute. Look around.
Poets shoal within reach,
Breaching the surface.’

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

Why Talent is Overrated in Writing

What stops many people from writing is the belief that they have no talent. This is what I think about talent: Talent isn’t enough: talent guarantees zilch. It's not a ticket to a publishing deal let alone a bestseller. It’s not even a boarding pass. It may get you to...

Song to Myself

She who always knew that she was destined – destined, mind you – for more than domesticity never suspected that perhaps her knowing might be nothing more than the soul’s delusion holding imprints of hopeful mystery. This knowing comes now to bother her in the hubble...

The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

‘Can I wear this?’ my teenage daughter asked, holding up a black silk shirt from my wardrobe. ‘I need a black top for drama and I don’t have one.’ ‘Ummmm….’ I paused, remembering that the last time I wore that shirt, it was ripped off me in a moment of passion by a...

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was...

Dueling with a Four-Year-Old

There is a world, a ‘place of tomorrow,’ Kahlil Gibran writes, in which our children’s souls dwell, which ‘we cannot visit, not even in our dreams.’ That world of fairies and elves my daughter inhabits is a familiar, beckoning place. I delight in her lilting musings...

Joanne Fedler Media Spotlight: Jess Zlotnick

'The purpose of freedom is to free someone else.’ -Toni Morrison   I started mentoring writers ten years ago to save myself from starvation as an author in a climate of declining advances and book sales. But something happened in the teaching that saved me from...