Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

I rushed to South Africa mid-December, when I got that call. You know the one. Your father is critically ill. During the 14-hour flight, I prayed. Please let him live. I cried when the lights went down. I didn’t know what I was flying back for. A protracted, drawn-out recovery? A father incapacitated? A funeral?

I went straight from the airport to the hospital to see my great big lion of a father lying unrecognizably helpless and attached to a squadron of machines that go ping.

It will be a good story someday. But it wasn’t when, later that night, I prolapsed a disc in my back, and ended up in the same hospital as my father for treatment. Two days after that, my older sister nearly fainted and was admitted to hospital for a week with labyrinthitis. We were dropping like soldiers on the frontlines of a poorly planned military expedition. I spent Christmas, New Year and all up four weeks in physical pain that brought me to tears; dosed to the max on painkillers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, unable to visit my father again while he recovered slowly in hospital.

Joanne New YearPain is a strict teacher. She demands attention and doesn’t let it stray from the present moment. While everyone was making bold New Year resolutions, I just wanted my body back. Facebook was torture – it was excruciating to see everyone’s celebrations, overseas holidays, or simple joys when I could barely make it to the loo. I learned just how sorry I can feel for myself when I am not upright, strong, capable, dependable, a fixer, a do-er, a person others can rely on.

With each passing day, I was shown a different side to myself, and I struggled to like her.

I’ve known for some time that I’ve been shuttling at a warping pace. I have needed to slow down. Well, here it was. Enforced rest. Enforced nobody-ness. I became someone who could barely stand on her own two feet. So I did the only thing I could – I lay on a bed and worked on my new book.

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

Sometime during this season of horizontality, I wrote this poem:

How to console
the bruised animal of the body
become the kind of hero
you never really want to be
because who would ask
for this pain
even in the name of
transformation and self-development?
Then to find
the spare change of compassion
a true charity
for everything in you that is broken
and may never be fixed
to seek metaphors
for the injury
try to see it through God’s eyes
not take it personally,
this affront to the ego;
trust the story
that is telling itself
through your wretched hours
and call in the happiness
of small mercies
like the water
on your skin;
the sun shaft through the window
that lands on your face.
 
My friend Gabriela asked what I wished for 2019. ‘Just to be free of pain, strong and healthy,’ I said. To which she wisely responded, ‘None of us will ever be pain free in this life…. Perhaps wish for pain you can handle. Or even better that your faith in a higher power changes your perception of pain so greatly and gives you other things to prioritize that you forget about your own pain. Or even better yet…that you are able to soothe the pain of so many other souls that yours becomes infinitesimally negligible. Right there is a prayer worth praying.’
 
Harder to bear than the pain itself, was the treacheries of my own consciousness. I wanted more than anything to trust these words of Mary Oliver:
 
‘All things are inventions of holiness, some more rascally than others.’
 
My family and I have had a rascal of a time. But perhaps I am exactly where I am meant to be as I learn to love the parts of me that are no ‘use’ in the world; the person I am when I can offer nothing to anyone; when I feel small; unaccomplished; terrified.If You Can Write, You Can Draw - Dov Fedler
 
I had hoped to write a different kind of New Year email to you all – to inspire, lift you up, tell you of the great plans I have for 2019 and the opportunities I want to open up to any of you who want to write. I still hope that email will be written. But now is not the right time as I navigate the uncertainties of the coming weeks – like whether my father and I will both be well enough for us to launch his book If You Can Write, You Can Draw, and how I will manage the flight back to Sydney at the end of January.
 
 
My incredible team have rallied around me, and assured me that they will make sure we are able to offer the 7 Day Free Writing Challenge again to anyone who didn’t finish it or would like to redo it. We’ll be launching my brand-new website soon with heaps of beautiful resources, materials and courses. I will be so ready to offer The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough workshop in Sydney in March (I think we have one or two spots left).
 
And as soon as my body releases me from solitary confinement, I hope to bounce back into the world, with renewed insights, offerings and energy.  

I wish you all a sense of belonging  to your body and soul  no matter what 2019 brings your way.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day (18-22 March) 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.

On Returning to the Home I Grew Up In

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. ―Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon I sit and watch the sun come up over Johannesburg...

‘I Want to Write… Bbbut Where Should I Start?’

Ah, of course, where should you start? Not knowing where to begin is another reason many of us don't start writing, combined with ‘it’s too overwhelming’ and 'I don't have the time.' So say you want to write your lifestory. A memoir. Something about who you have...

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...

Not Pretty Enough

I was never a pretty girl. Not for want of trying or wishing. But there it was. I longed to be someone other people refer to as ‘adorable’ but there was always too much of me for it not to sound ironic. My father put it straight very early on. ‘You will never be a model, my darling,’ he said as if it truly did not matter.

Women’s Bodies Over the Twentieth Century

'Civilization is a circle squared . That’s why in civilized societies, women’s lot and Nature’s lot has been such a sorry one. It’s the duty of advanced women to teach men to love the circle again.’ - Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues If ever our bodies held...

How the Scariest Moment of My Life Reminded Me I Am Safe

It was 2am on the second night of my recent visit to South Africa and I was wide awake with jetlag. I trundled down the stairs of my parents’ home, made myself a cup of coffee, called my husband in Australia, checked my emails and called my friend Katrina to discuss...

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents and All of Our Wins in 2018

 

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
―Charles William Eliot

‘I’m so proud of you,’ I sniffed. I was holding the first copy of Xanti Bootcov’s memoir, But They Look So Happy which had just arrived from the printer. From screen to hands is a magical transformation. I adore the heft of paper, the gloss of print. It is a tiny miracle to have walked a path with someone from ‘I want to write a book,’ to holding the book in your hands.

‘And I am so proud of you,’ she said. ‘You did it. You really published me.’

Just as she’d never imagined she’d someday be an author, I too never quite grasped that I’d actually be publishing books and the heat of accomplishment each one would bring me.

A few weeks ago, the delivery guy said to me, ‘You sure buy a lot of books.’

Despite being in an anti-acquiring phase of my life, books have escaped this purge.

A physical book is, of course, a ‘thing,’ and you can, like me, have too many of them and run out of shelf space, which is what a Kindle is for.

But books are not ‘things’ in the manner of a nik-nak. They are not tchotchkes or ornaments. They do collect dust if you are not careful enough, but they take up space in a different way than too many vases or platters do. They are more like sculptures than trinkets. They are art. They tell the story of who we are. We are defined by what we’ve read.

 

“Our books will bear witness for or against us, our books reflect who we are and who we have been, our books hold the share of pages granted to us from the Book of Life. By the books we call ours we will be judged”
―Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

 

Even if we lose or give away a physical book, it can still stay with and in us. It has been easier for me to let go of some relationships than it has been to get rid of some books.

Books leave their traces in our hearts and minds.

The gift of a book tells someone, ‘There are treasures in here I think you will love.’ It is the most meaningful of all gifts. It is the antithesis of a voucher. It is the ultimately personal acknowledgement of the depths of another person’s humanity.

So with Christmas and Chanukah just here, we want to invite you to bookishly love your family and friends. Joanne Fedler Media has something here for everyone in your life. And let’s face it, a book is such a modest investment given the time, energy and creativity it has taken to produce it, yet it is never a ‘cheap’ gift. People always feel thought about when you give them a book.

Need something for your mother, mother-in-law, sister-who-loves-to-read or grandma-who-goes-to-bookclub?

They’ll be moved to tears by Xanti’s memoir, But They Look So Happy about Xanti’s experience of adopting two six year old orphans in Mexico. 

Or if they prefer literary fiction, my book Things Without A Name (10 year anniversary edition) is a good holiday read. It’s the story of Faith, who at the age of 34 has given up on the prospect of ever falling in love because she’s seen too many love-gone-wrong stories in her work at a women’s crisis centre. It is by far my best book – and I’d love to know what you think of it.

For the children in your life, we have two exquisite offerings – Jess Zlotnick’s What Mouse Knew and Tanya Savva’s The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo – books that encourage emotional literacy and will give you a warm chocolatey feeling as you read them.

Got a doodler in your midst? A latent creative? How about Dov Fedler’s If You Can Write, You Can Draw?

And for poetry-lovers, my 50th birthday collection, The Turning might hit the mark.

I know many of you have already purchased some (or all) of our books – so THANK YOU – your support means everything to us.

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

2018 has been such a huge turning point for me personally and for my team.

We have taken over 130 writers through our transformational Author Awakening Adventure.

We are currently running two overlapping Masterclasses with over 60 aspiring authors.

We’ve published 6 books with the help of the wonderful Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and The Making Magic Happen Academy.

JFM books 

And we already have a line up of books for publication in 2019.

This year we published 22 new writers on the Joanne Fedler Media blog with 29 outstandingly written blog posts, edited by our blog and content manager Jennifer Pownall, who did an awesome job.

In March we are running a 5 day live event in Sydney – The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough. We still have a few places left (at the time of writing this newsletter). While I was creating and curating the Masterclass, I learned so much about how we can shape our experiences into shareable narratives and I want to pass on these insights in an intimate group of writers.

Whenever I mentor my writers, the first question we ask is, ‘who is this book for?’ If you are still reading this newsletter, the answer is, we are writing for you.Thank you for your ongoing support to our writers and to this community.

I couldn’t have done any of this without my incredible team – thanks to Norie, Naila, Lisa, Jennifer, Zed and Jean-Marc who have executed on all my crazy ideas with so much creativity, brilliance and enthusiasm,

Finally, I was asked to write my Soul Story for Karen McDermott’s new magazine Enrich. It came out in a voice I’ve never written in before – and was one of those surprises provoked by the prompt.  I hope it inspires you to give it a go – what’s your soul story? (If you’d like to purchase copies of the magazine as stocking-fillers, you can get some here – it’s filled with other wonderful stories and special offers for readers).

May you have a blessed end to 2018.

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.

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...

We Gather Stars in the Dark

My whole life changed when, at the age of 27, I was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer.  At a time when my husband and I should have been focusing on our future, we filled our days with managing the side effects of my chemotherapy. Instead of starting a family we...

Meeting Dylan

To begin at the beginning. No – let’s go back, back to before then. It is an apricot day in the big whirly world, spring-sprung and parchment-pink. Dylan fills the doorway of his china-tiny writing room, buffalo-tired, refusing to budge to the write or the left,...

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...

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...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no...

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn’t come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.
Anne Herbert

My son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all intents and purposes, he is a man. And that is not an easy identity these days. I have fought all my life for the rights of women in the face of what we used to call ‘the patriarchy’ and now goes by the name of ‘toxic masculinity’. And while it does a great job of identifying the impervious pollution of unconscious sexism and misogyny, I wonder what the impact on young men is, being thought of as part of a poisonous environment.

A while back, I was chatting with my son about one of his friends whose father left his wife after an affair.

‘It’s common,’ I said. ‘Lots of men cheat on their wives.’

‘Yeah, not real men,’ he said.

I like that about him – his clarity about what it means to be a man.

It’s an identity he’s been slowly forming through his teen years which has included him speaking up against racist comments (and taking a hit to the head for it) and becoming a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to cause suffering to animals. He’s been teased for his choices by his basketball team-mates, and still orders the falafel when everyone else is eating hamburgers. I find this ridiculously endearing because I know how much he used to love a good hamburger, and no-one would choose the falafel over the burger unless they are driven by something larger than appetite, more meaningful than instant gratification and sturdier than peer approval.

When my son shows signs of not being an asshole, I am proud. I don’t know if telling him this is patronizing, but it probably is. My feminist daughter thinks men get way too much praise for just being decent human beings, which is why the average guy generally thinks much more of himself than the average woman does. Of course, she’s right. She sees the world horizontally right now, but as a mother, I also see it vertically, and at times, even aerially. It’s a function of midlife – we get fly-vision.

I see the ‘and’ rather than the ‘or,’ and it’s with this perspective that I want to build a conversation around what it’s like for young men these days in the #metoo era. I’m talking about those who are outraged by violence, who would never, ever think about hitting or assaulting anyone (let alone a woman) and yet who are loaded with testosterone. I want to hear how it feels to be huge and hairy and sweaty and yet suffused with mindfulness and kindness (words that would make the average guy grimace given how enfeebling they sound).

I’m not making this a competition about who’s got it harder (we know women do), but I do want to speak for our sons, because no self-aware young man these days feels he has a right to have an opinion about anything anymore. I want to speak up for good men because there are many, and women need to remember our fight for safety and equality is not a fight against men.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

I know half the folk who’re reading this will get pissed off, because everyone’s ready with their particular form of ‘offence-taking’ and opinion, and because these days social media lets us. And here’s the problem – offence-taking is a binary notion, where you’re right, so I must be wrong. But I’m a bit over all that, and I’d much rather we both just listen without anyone having to claim a victory. Rumi reminded us of the field beyond notions of wrongdoing and right doing, and that’s the venue for this dialogue.

Raising a son has given me a passport to a world I would never have had access to otherwise. I grew up with sisters, with an artist for a father. Until my son, I’d never watched a boy-sprout grow into a teen-wolf and then into man-form. I’ve been so committed to working for women’s voices that I have, at times, tuned out from understanding the harmonies that are necessary for us all to sing together.

No matter the righteousness of our intentions in one direction, we will always create collateral failures. This is the nature of all human endeavour, which ought to be the antidote to our hubris, and give us permission to change our minds. Our opinions, enthusiasms and devotions should shift as we grow in consciousness. This is what it means to become a true adult, something Toni Morrison calls a ‘difficult beauty.’

With my eye fixed on the longing to end all violence and to create a world where no one has a #metoo story, I also want to open up the dialogue, so we stop generalizing about ‘men’ and ‘women.’ We’re smarter than that and life is more complex than these blunt stereotypes. I want my understanding of suffering to include the quiet agony of young men who have committed suicide before anyone ever knew that macho-heart was breaking.

As a radical feminist in my youth, I want to say that I can’t imagine I was an easy mother for a boy to have. I was vehemently anti-violence which meant ‘no toy guns’ and ‘no violent video games.’ I had strict rules about how boys should behave, and my son stress-tested all of them. I read every book on parenting and then threw them all away. I regularly accepted my abject failure as a parent and resorted to praying when my strategies crumbled. It was only when I saw a therapist who told me to ‘untangle my story from my son’s story,’ that I began to understand that my form of parenting was a form of bullying itself, a way of castrating potential (anticipated) violence. This is a form of toxic expectation, just as bad as expecting our children to be gifted, heterosexual, religious or some other projection of our own unlived life or congested consciousness.

I want to take responsibility for my role in the world we have, to stop blaming others, and to unhook from my own tendency to slip into the victim-role when things are not going my way. I hope I can model this for my children so that they can both move forward in their lives looking for the ‘and’ rather than waving slogans.

I want the chance to speak to people who want to listen to what I know. And I want long conversations with people who know things I need to learn.

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.

People with Passion Interview with Tanya Savva

'I love this part the best,' I said to my husband this morning. I had just finished nominating Tanya Savva's new book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo for the NSW Premier Literary Awards. There's something deeply happy-making about helping other people reach their...

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...

Writing about Ourselves So That Others Will Read It

  When we write about ourselves, it’s not dissimilar to writing about a fictional or imaginary character. In Hemingway’s iceberg, we see that what we need to know about a character is vast compared to what we show. This depth of knowledge helps us to...

How to Make Readers Part of Your Success When You Launch Your Book

How to Get Your Readers to Become Part of Your Success as You Launch Your Book   The purpose of launching you book is to get people to buy your book after all your hard work. To do this properly, you need to understand why people buy books. People buy books...

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories InsideI recently went to see A Star is Born at the movies: the remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper directs and also plays the lead male character, Jackson Maine - a singer/songwriter and alcoholic.The morning after...

The Dynamics of Manifestation… I Get It Now

A couple of years ago, I wrote a book to help other writers get their story into the world called Your Story: how to write it so others will want to read it. My aim for it was modest – I was going to self publish it, and it would be a gift to the writers I mentor and...

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”

I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father verbally abuse my mother for eighteen years and had myself been pushed down onto the pavement, my elbow crashing against the cement. Berated. Humiliated. Shamed. But the spoken words – the admission – were surprisingly new to me.

I sat and listened to her story. It was 1988, in northwest Bangladesh. Aayana was our laundry woman. Twice a week she gathered our dirty laundry and hand-washed all our clothes and ironed everything. She liked to chat while she waited for the sun to do its magic. Her favorite topics were knitting and her daughter, Rehana, and granddaughter, an uncommon affection usually reserved for sons and grandsons. Aayana’s family lived in close quarters in a compound of one-room bamboo households that shared pour-flush latrines, a tube well-water supply, a smoky kitchen with two clay burners rising from the floor, and a bathing area in a corner by the well, protected from view by hanging jute sheets.

Her husband had come home late from a night of drinking tea with friends. Perhaps his dinner had grown cold by the time he arrived or he was irritated by something he had heard at the tea stall. Maybe the sales at his tiny market shop were poor. He was unhappy with himself, his life.

The neighbors heard and saw. Still, he hit her. But she found her resolve. She gathered her battered self and made him leave. From that day on, he slept in his cramped stuffy market stall; he would not touch her again, in intimacy of body or soul or physical violence.

Nearly thirty years later I was in the office of an organization in Myanmar that empowers women’s lives through community organizing and savings groups. We had just concluded a two-day trauma awareness training for a group of twenty-two women of diverse ethnic groups from villages in the violence-infested Rakhine state and informal housing settlements in Rangoon. We had shared stories of trauma: domestic violence, disaster events, sons arrested and jailed.  The director and training translator, Van Lizar, approached me. Listening to her story I recalled Aayana, and my own reveal from eight years earlier. The patterns were matching, like the cards of a child’s memory game. Across thousands of miles and three decades, three voices and three stories – the pain, emotional scars and wounds could be interchanged.

 

.About Sandra

Sandra hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drawn to international living and the non-profit sector by faith, others’ stories and curiosity, she has been a management professional in the sector for twenty years, most recently in Myanmar. She is the proud mother of two: a 5’2” Amazon daughter who is fierce, courageous, and has a wildly open and accepting heart and a son who is a young man of great strength who cultivates a deeply open, gentle and kind spirit. Having raised these two while living abundantly around the world, it is now time to write her first book.

There too was the shame that we had let this happen. The anxiety. The fear and self-doubt. An identical fallout was imprinted on Van Lizar, the Director of an organization leading thousands of village women towards self-empowerment; a woman trained in Law in Ireland. Myself, a holder of a Master’s degree and undergraduate cum laude. And Aayana, semi-literate, semi-fluent in three languages and poor by any standard.

But I also saw fire in the eyes and heard the laughter when we felt our own power, when we finished each other’s sentences. Our love for our sons and daughters was fierce. I witnessed the recognition of how far we had come since the day we said, “No more,” when we claimed for ourselves what we had facilitated in others.

Months later we talk about survival. We speak with a voice of courage, not fear. We have forgiven ourselves and him. We have not forgotten. We confess to having good memories of intimacy, of sex, of secret late-night talks and shared meals. We have supportive friends. We are less judgmental. We are becoming more disciplined in our lives. We fearlessly bear witness to nameless victims’ stories. Our spirituality, our faith and our understanding of our connection to a suffering world grows deeper.

I imagine seeing Aayana again and hearing that her story and journey has been the same. I want to tell her that my daughter’s name is Rehana, a chosen reminder of Ayana’s love for her own daughter and to teach mine to be self-empowered.

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...

Spelling Out My Story

“Bernard! If you don’t stop that, I’ll go get the sack.” That was all Marie said, and her son stopped, looked up in fear, and apologised. Marie relaxed back into her seat and explained, “He knows I’ll hang him in the sack from a tree for an hour. It's funny, he is so...

The Write Time

When is the right time to write? Or do anything for that matter?There are proverbs, quotes, and metaphors galore, to justify time management – be it an excuse to procrastinate, or a drive to be productive.To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose...

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...

One Story in an Immeasurable Community

Some years back, when I had half the number of children I do now and half the ache in my heart, I found my first writing community. It was at the Centre for the Book, a historically solid structure in the middle of Cape Town, close to the austere buildings which...

Let’s Take Care of Each Other’s Stories

They tried to bury us.They didn’t know we were seeds.- Mexican proverb On days when I didn’t have to deliver a lecture to first year law students back in the late 1990’s, I worked at People Opposing Women Abuse. It was a volunteer job two days a week. I shared an...

After Angie’s Example

After Angie’s Example

Angie was one of those girls who seemed to have it all. People enjoyed being around her. It wasn’t just because she was kind, it was that she exuded strength. But Angie got her strength the hard way.

On a warm summer evening, after all our exams were over and life seemed like it couldn’t be more perfect, Angie turned to me and started talking. “At these quiet times, I like to remind myself that life can change in a moment,” she said. Angie’s demeanour was calm, but I could tell by the way she fiddled with her hair that she was about to break the serenity I was feeling. Intently, I listened to her soft voice.

“One Saturday, I joined some friends on an evening out, and when an old friend invited me out for a night cap I agreed. I’d known him most of my life. He was a stand-up guy. You know the kind. The one even the teachers immediately warm to.” Angie sat very still for a moment and then she carried on. I think I knew it before she said it, but I waited and hoped I was wrong.

That night, Angie came home with something to hide.

“As he drove me home after everything happened that night my ‘friend’ didn’t even noticed me cringe as he bent forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek.” I watched the anguish on Angie’s face as her words painted a picture of her home-coming. She told me how she no longer felt safe as she closed the door to her apartment.

“I pulled off my red dress and flung it onto the floor right there in the hallway. I kicked off my crimson shoes, one by one. I had loved those shoes, but I knew I wouldn’t wear them again. I pulled of the scarlet scarf that I had thought was so trendy, woven into my hair at the beginning of the night.  My red, beaded necklace felt like it was choking me. I grabbed at it, and as it broke I felt satisfied as I heard the beads bounce on the floor. But when they lay still, they looked like droplets of blood.” While Angie stood in the scalding hot shower – scouring at her skin and double cleaning herself, berating herself, and wondering if she had been impregnated – she imagined that he slept contently.

 

.About Xanti

Xanti Bootcov was born in South Africa in the late ’60s. She enjoys travelling around the world, which is why she has lived in seven different countries. She believes in equality for all people. Xanti gave up on a single career path when it became necessary to choose between travel and career. After seeing the shadows and the light of abandonment and abuse, she adopted her two children. She has always been interested in understanding why people do what they do. This helped her when her experiences as an adoptive mother shaped her view on parenting. She’s been through earthquakes, a volcano erupting and a couple of fires. Currently, Xanti lives in Mauritius but continues to travel the world whenever possible. Visit her website www.xantibootcov.com or her Facebook page.

Angie and I sat in silence while I worked through what she had told me. She felt that she had become a cliché, a joke… a regret. She had gone out with a friend. She had no fear as the evening progressed. She had not worried that she would be unsafe.

But after that night, Angie had a secret she didn’t feel able to disclose. She didn’t think anyone would believe that she had said the word “no”. At quiet times, she would sometimes practice the word. No. NO. NO!

Angie couldn’t stop her own mind from blaming herself. She had willingly gone out, looking pretty. She’d put on some perfume and painted her lips. She smiled and laughed and enjoyed herself. She felt she was the accused, not him. As the months went by, Angie attempted to scrub her dirty shame away, and she played the night out again and again.

The entertaining evening out with friends had ended her innocence and left her with a cold reality she didn’t know how to process. She couldn’t understand why she had neither struggled nor screamed. In fact, she had played dead, her stiff body not moving at all. How could she believe she was not at fault? Her lack of compliance went unnoticed as he pulled himself on top of her. As he covered her mouth with his and held her down and as she shook her head – open eyed and tears flowing – he had ignored her small voice pleading to go home.

Until she told me her story, Angie had not fit the description that I held of someone who had “been through something”. Until then, I’d always loved horror movies, but after Angie I knew that no horror movie will ever be as scary to me as life can be.

She was still in one piece, but inside Angie had broken.

With the passing of time though, she was able to reframe her experience. Angie did what she could to cope, and when she was no longer able to look at herself in the mirror she went out looking for help. She was one of the lucky ones. She found a way to mend her shattered psyche and began to help others. That brought her strength back.

As a woman I often feel vulnerable. I am a small person and, while I can be strong of mind, I know that my size puts me at a physical disadvantage. But Angie’s courage stays with me every day. Like bones that mend, Angie became stronger. She was proof to me that when something unexpected takes us down a dark path, we don’t have to let it define who we are.

I am stronger for having known a woman like Angie. Her example stays with me, and when I am feeling torn down, it lifts me back up into my own resilience.

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

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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.

Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019

I rushed to South Africa mid-December, when I got that call. You know the one. Your father is critically ill. During the 14-hour flight, I prayed. Please let him live. I cried when the lights went down. I didn’t know what I was flying back for. A protracted, drawn-out...

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...

Bringing Inequality Back into the Bedroom

I came to marriage by a circuitous route. As a radical feminist, I avoided it, certain it was for unintelligent girls who had no aspirations to travel or write books. I was never going to be ‘given away’ or called ‘Mrs’ Someone Else’s Surname. Working with abused...

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...

What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

I’m a novice writer. But I’m an experienced reader, as most writers (novice or not) tend to be. As I sink my teeth into yet another book, I find myself frustrated with the writing, but intrigued by the content. The author had a clear vision of what the story meant to...

7 Things the Writing Community Can Do for You

Being part of a writing community has changed so much for me. I have been a writer my entire life, but I have almost always navigated the ocean of words on my own. Only in the last year have I come to realize what it means to my journey to have other oarsmen in the...