Warning Signs

Warning Signs

For a supposedly smart girl, I accepted behaviour from men that I shouldn’t have. There has never been a single horrific incident, but rather countless events I’ve dismissed as ‘nothing much.’ They go back as far as my earliest memories. Even as a toddler, I used to think… men look at me funny. The toilets at preschool had glass walls. Whenever I needed to pee I would cross my legs until the male teacher was out of sight.

Just a few years later, I overheard a conversation at a tennis barbecue.

‘I’d like to look under there,’ I’d heard the man with a moustache say as he angled his head towards my seven-year old self. I’d seen him play tennis with Dad. My face turned warm. I tilted my head forward, pulling down on the gathered side of my frilly blue and purple skirt. He sniggered with his mate then sucked the froth off his can of Fosters beer.

During my commuting days I had an encounter with the serial train sleaze. He thigh wrestled me, pressing everything from his shoulder to his knee against my body. Adrenaline morphed my flesh into concrete, and my voice mustn’t have been working that day.

Things escalated when the father of one of my ex-boyfriends roared with laughter as he dropped his pants to his ankles and exposed his genitals to me. He’d cornered me in the office of his framing gallery. I’d broken up with his son. Did that make me fair game? All I heard was the muffled tick… tick… tick… of the wall clock. Everything slowed down and became blurry. I grabbed the knot on my scarf and tugged it free of my clammy neck.

‘Ah… er…’

He fumbled with his words as well as his zipper. I seized the opportunity and slithered through the gap between him and the door.

I’m confessing what I’ve never said out loud. People would have looked at me differently, wouldn’t they? All I wanted to do was move on and forget. If I ignored these things, they never happened, right?

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About Lisa

Lisa Benson is a self-diagnosed recovering perfectionist who skipped motherhood but became a grandmother in her early forties. She currently leads a ‘double life,’ living part-time at her home in Newcastle and the rest of the time on a boat on Sydney Harbour. Her writing travels with her whether she is on land or water. Lisa is currently working on her memoir which reveals how her ritualistic past is worlds away from the spontaneous life she now lives. Lisa’s dream is to help as many people as possible, to discover their soul’s purpose and live the life they were destined to.

I had no control over what other people did, but the stakes became much higher when I buried the blaring warning signs in my relationships. By staying, I was accepting the domineering behaviour that was chipping away at my essence. Our homes don’t instantly become filthy. Dust falls one tiny piece at a time until you can drag your finger through the film. Unhappiness crept up on me like those individual specks of dust.

Before I knew it I was a frustrated version of myself. Living a lie. Playing small and bowing to the needs of yet another insecure man. I wanted to make it better. Make them better. I cared too much and for too long for those who didn’t care enough back. I was their rock, but where was mine?

It’s been hard to admit the extent of my mistreatment. I’ve been yelled at, threatened, put down, ignored, and verbally abused over and over, but it all seems frivolous when I try to put it into words. I’m sure it’s a common side effect after years of conditioning. Even now as I write this, I recognise my tendency to downplay the torturous behaviour, but I can’t deny the myriad of physical symptoms or the emotional trauma I experienced.

I was on the receiving end of rage that I’d only ever seen in the movies, but all the threats and punishments were a secret… just between us. The doors and windows were sealed tight, just like my mouth. I had become a prisoner in my own home. Not literally, but it was easier to stay inside than to justify every human interaction. I cried most days, which should have been another warning sign. By ‘settling,’ was I protecting myself from admitting another failure? Back then, I would have never called it abuse though. Neither would they. There was no proof and there were no visible bruises.

No matter how much we think we know about relationships by observing others, reading articles, or watching movies, we cannot judge or comprehend what we would or would not put up with. It’s different when you’re inside it.

As we grow and learn, we are building up our resilience. It’s the times we think are going to break us, our greatest moments of weakness, where we become strong. Strong enough to leave.

I’m finally free and I’ll never be manipulated into submission again. Not after seeing the view from the other side. So when does behaviour cross the unacceptable line? If I’ve learnt one thing from personal experience, it’s that we need to stop identifying abuse by the visibility of bruises.

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.

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

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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)

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.

Where the Fight Is Won or Lost

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

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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.

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