Walking away from the bus the other day I was shocked by the hot wash of feeling that rushed across me. It was accompanied by the prickle of supressed tears, hunched shoulders and a powerful desire to avert my gaze. What could possibly have happened to produce such a powerful reaction?

Fracturing my kneecap in early December last year is as good a place to start as any.

After six weeks in a very restrictive, heavily padded and reinforced splint, I was more than ready to hear that I could ditch it. The doc said I could also ditch one crutch and start doing physio. All excellent news.

So, as soon as possible, my single crutch and I headed off to the indoor pool. Since driving wasn’t on the agenda yet, the bus seemed a straightforward enough alternative. There’s a bus stop about 250m from our place – an easy walk. The bus would take me the 2km to the pool and then I’d walk about the same distance at the other end before doing my exercises and then heading back. After weeks of being mostly housebound, I was more than ready to give it a go.

Whilst getting on to the bus was easy enough, what I didn’t take into account was the dismount. And that proved to be more challenging than I could have anticipated.

The bus driver stopped a short distance from the kerb, rather than right up against it. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem. But standing at the open doorway, I could see I’d have to take a very big step down onto the road and that, with my limited mobility, I would probably fall flat on my face if I tried. I hovered indecisively in the doorway, effectively blocking the way out for the people who’d politely stood aside for me. It was really quite an awkward-panda moment.

On the upside, the bus was one of the Transperth ‘fully accessible vehicles’ – as designated by the wheelchair symbol on the front windscreen. So the solution was obvious. All the driver needed to do was to lower the side of the bus so that I could step down safely. Unfortunately, he hadn’t noticed my predicament, so I had to turn and ask him to lower the bus. Awkward-panda moment number 2.

But it got worse.

As he lowered the side, he said Oh, do you want the ramp as well? – meaning the ramp for mobility aids, kiddies’ prams and so on. Without waiting for an answer, he closed the bus doors so that he could extend said ramp. Slowly. So very, very slowly.

By now I could feel every eye in the bus focused on me. Embarrassing just doesn’t cover it. But the ramp was finally fully extruded, the door opened and, with a tiny squawked thank you, I fled as fast as my knee, crutch and protectively hunched shoulders would allow.

I thought about my reactions while I was flailing around in the pool a little while later. Since all that had really happened was that I’d found getting off the bus a bit awkward, why on earth did I feel – not just embarrassed – but ashamed? I’d transgressed no social boundaries, knew no-one on the bus, certainly couldn’t describe any of them, and would probably never see any of them again even if I could. So why the hunched shoulders, tight chest, etc.?

But there you go: shame is a tricky emotion. It’s sneaky and can catch you unawares. According to dictionaries it’s caused by feelings of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety. Since I’ve always tended towards a rather casual approach to social norms and not been overly concerned about the opinions of others, this clearly wasn’t a case of guilt or impropriety.

That left shortcoming – and there it is: I realised that I was ashamed of being inadequate. It wasn’t the people on the bus I wanted to hide from, but from myself. My inability to do something as simple as get off a bus, no matter the reason, had made me feel that I’d fallen short of being me. I was feeling diminished by my inability to live up to some internal picture of myself. I wasn’t good enough and had let the side down.

And I think that’s what shame is: an uncomfortably self-focused emotion, resulting from feelings that you’re bad or unworthy in some way. Effectively, it highlights your worst fears about yourself. It doesn’t matter if others see the reasoning as silly, irrational or incorrect; you’ve been your own judge and jury behind the scenes without even realising it.

So how does one go about dealing with shame, whatever its cause?

There lies an entire box of tricks that I’m under qualified to open. All I can say is that, in my case, I think a good starting point was to step back and acknowledge the feelings. Accepting that they’re there and that the source was internal wasn’t all that difficult.

The next bit was harder though, as it involved trying to figure out what their root cause might be. I’ve had to be both introspective as well as analytical so that I can hunt down the source. I think I’m getting there.

In the meantime, I’ve made a pact with myself to be firmer with bus drivers – and to be a bit kinder to myself as I coddiwomple on through life. Sharing this story is an exercise in vulnerability and acknowledgement to help me along the way. I’ve no idea if it’ll help anyone else, but I think articulating it has helped me. Thanks.

Photo credit: Douglas Linder 2013

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A quick news flash on Girdle of Bones – I’ve gone live with a Kindle version of my epic tome.

Yup, after much late night procrastination – and many iterations of set up for Kindle Direct Publishing – and an awful lot of document previewing and checking, it’s finally happened. No doubt some of the set up would have been better done by light of day, but light of day currently involves a great deal of puppy-wrangling so it has not been an option.

I’m calling it mission accomplished – and have quaffed a celebratory fizzy drink to celebrate. *does happy dance*

Phase 2 is to use Create Space to publish the print-to-order version – and that will happen as soon as puppy management allows. I’m currently a little over stealthing off to do midnight to 2am edits while the puppy sleeps!

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Our Nunzio, Cassie

The past few days have been full of puppy: fetching, feeding, herding, stressing about and playing with our new puppy. It’s been a busy time – and both T and I have had very fractured sleep. Despite this, finally bringing MissMolly’s Nunzio home was a delight. It’s the culmination of months of debate, weeks of dithering, and days of shopping for puppy-related gear and ‘baby proofing’ the pool fence, house and garden.

We headed out to the airport on Thursday evening to pick her up. She’d spent all day in  a crate, having left the breeder in Quamby Brook (Tasmania) for Launceston mid-morning for a flight to Perth, via Melbourne – where there was an hour and half stop over. A long day of being cooped up for a not-quite nine-week-old puppy. Fortunately one of her siblings (Holly) was flying over to Perth as well, so she had company in the crate – but they were both very happy to be freed.

Holly and Cassie arrive in Perth

Adding a puppy to a family unit – especially when there’s already another dog – is in some ways more stressful than adding a second child. You can’t simply pop a puppy in a pram/cot  and put out of harms way in the nursery. Puppies can get around on their own by the time they come home with you. So, unless you stash your new addition in a crate (or other secure area) for part of the time, keeping an eye on ‘sibling interaction’ is a lot trickier and more time consuming than it is with children.

I remember the day I brought Boychilde home. We’d spent his first week together at the maternity hospital and I had missed DaughterDearest enormously. I couldn’t wait to see her and to introduce her baby brother. But bringing home a new baby turned  out to be less exciting for her than bringing home a new puppy might have been. DD just waved hello from the kitchen and told me she was making jelly with Gran. For his part, the baby also showed no interest and stayed fast asleep in his carrycot.

Introductions

MissMolly, however, was all over the puppy. She was super excited that we’d come home, very curious about the new addition and keen to share my lap with her. She was also perfectly happy to get fed a second dinner when we fed the very hungry and slightly dehydrated pup. From day one, Molly’s actually been remarkably tolerant of having her tail chewed, her mouth licked and our attention shared. To our surprise (and amusement) she’s taken to bringing Cassie toys to entice her to play – and was even prepared to share her bone.

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That’s the upside. The downside is that puppies don’t wear nappies – and they do wake up and need to go outside for ablutions at oh-my-goodness-o’clock (several times). After a few nights of this, T and I are both operating on spoon deficit and could do with a solid snooze to catch up on our sleep debt.

My solution this afternoon was to trot out my time honoured technique of child sleep management: curl up on the bed with both ‘kids’ for a cuddle – and see if this lulls us all into nodding off.

Success! (only for an hour or so, but such a good hour!)

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After endless procrastination (an art at which I excel), my deadline of 31 March is almost upon me. The fabulous Sandy Lim has completed her (very thorough) edits of my manuscript and has provided me with extremely valuable insights and suggestions. If anyone out there is looking for help with their book, I heartily recommend contacting Sandy. She’s happy to work with you to create the book you know you have in you, or to edit your existing manuscript with elegance.

I’ve been admiring the cover art for my book ever since Lisa Rye delivered it a couple of weeks ago. She even went as far as to provide me with an A3 colour print, which immediately made me feel like a ‘real author’! Such happiness. It’s really helped to keep me focused on the goalposts and able to resolutely ignore my tendency to shift them.

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What’s the book about about?  Well, it’s a journey of self-discovery and transformation – an uplifting story about the transition from being a person at the mercy of medical science and high self-expectation, into someone more at ease with herself and in harmony with the ups and downs of life. It’s funny, heart warming and poignant.

I started Girdle of Bones several years ago, after a traumatic series of hospital stays and surgeries, and we’ve had an on-again, off-again sort of relationship since then. Currently we’re definitely on!

I now have a ring-bound copy of the manuscript (cover and all) so that I can do an oral edit, reading it out loud to myself to find the clunky bits and to hunt down the last of the ‘gotchas’ … those annoying things where a cut-and-paste has left something in or overwritten part of a sentence, resulting in weirdness. Then I’ll make all the changes in one go and be done. The manuscript will be traveling around with me wherever I go for the next few days and I’ll be reading it aloud (quietly) in coffee shops, parks, train stations and in the garden. I anticipate a few odd looks 🙂

Memoir is an illumination of everyday life, a slice-of-life window into another’s experiences that can be enlightening, uplifting and, often, very entertaining. I love it! Among my favourites are Autobiography of a Face, On Writing, The Liars Club, A Year By the Sea, and Shake Hands with the Devil. Each of these authors has informed my writing process, as has a deep love of story telling.

More info on release date for Girdle of Bones soon.

Over the past few months we’ve visited dog shows, breeders, friends, dog parks and websites, all with a view to finding our Nunzio… and ended up with an overload of information, too many choices and high levels of indecision. Eventually I had to resort to a spreadsheet, entering size, weight range, temperament, grooming, exercise requirements and common ailments of each of the breeds we’d shortlisted.

We ranked them out of 10, based on our original criteria of size and disposition. Then we discarded all but the top four breeds and had another think. We could immediately rule out two of the four contenders: we already have one (but need something calmer for a second dog) and aren’t prepared to risk a repeat of the other (because of health issues). In the end it came down to a choice between a German Short Haired Pointer and a Welsh Springer Spaniel.

More discussions ensued. A decision was made.

Finally after all the procrastination, we have a puppy in our sites. Sometimes it’s good to simply go with what you know.

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Based on how quickly they learn and respond to commands, Welsh Springers are only ranked #31 on the smart-dog scale. However, this still means they tend to obey a first command 70% of the time or better. This is good enough – and a lot smarter than a most other breeds.

Besides which, we’ve realised that we’re not looking for clever. We’re looking for a good companion dog for our Doberman, one that will keep up with her but not be as wildly excitable. In this arena, Welshies score very well. Their temperament is predictable, they’re good fun without being super boisterous, and are very loving. Our Honey (above) really was a Honey 🙂

So, we have confirmation that one of these little cuties is our Nunzio. They’re only three weeks old at present, so we won’t know which one for a few weeks yet.
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She’ll arrive in Perth in early April, flying across from Quamby Brook (Tasmania) with another puppy also destined for Perth. You can keep an eye on their progress via Talzon’s website or email me for updates.

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Spider and Rosie, the parents. (Images courtesy of Talzon Welsh Springer Spaniels.)