Chapter 6 - Celebrating 20 years of Sharing My Love of Yoga with You
Before you read on you might like to go back and catch up on the previous chapters.
*** Can I also just say that this chapter discusses a farming fatality, grief and mental health issues so please go gently with yourself and if you find this triggering at all I encourage you to seek help if you need to speak to someone. ***
Life with our "large" family finally settled and I remember when the twins turned two celebrating that we had in fact survived, the fog had lifted and we seemed by some miracle to have a thriving tribe of cherubs . They all seemed to enjoy each other with the normal siblings taunts but generally happy little souls adventuring about with our amazing neighbours. My yoga classes turned into three a week in Barraba (including chair yoga) and we had started to look to purchase a property close to town that would enable JB to have the farming outlet that he craved after growing up on the land. After much searching we found a beautiful place just 7km from town on 270 acres that ticked all the boxes and even afforded us an incredible water-view. We spent many weekends enjoying picnics on the farm, fires by the dam and planning our home that we would live in one day called "Estabar". (meaning : new beginnings or nest)
For this to all happen we had to sell our home, which very sadly meant leaving our fabulous neighbourhood, and renting an old country home while the building took place. Our builder was amazing - a true master-craftsman - and in the March of 2009 we moved into our new fully solar-powered home. At the same time this was happening we had also purchased another business in Bingara so time was being split between the two towns but JB was loving having his cattle, horses and land to play on. We also had numerous other baby creatures that would somehow make their way into our new home to be rescued, fed and for some they would eventually die - but that is life on a farm isn't it? With 5 children all loving creatures we were destined to become an animal nursery to some degree and this was always fully encouraged by the father person and reluctantly by me. My rule was always that I was busy enough taking care of the humans but others have to look after the animals.
So this idyllic adventure playground cultivated a beautiful family space one which saw a continual calendar filled with lots of gatherings of friends, parties, kayaking and swimming in the dam, campouts and Friday night pizza picnics on our front lawn in our own "under the stars" restaurant. I have incredibly fond memories of these nights with views over the water and full moon above, almost sensing the protection of the hillsides to the left and right of us. I really was relishing my own slice of heaven and for the first time in a many moves felt truly at home. The Piscean in me had everything she needed, including a beautiful water view over which to enjoy my erratic yoga and meditation practice.
We enjoyed a constant stream of visitors, family and friends and we still love being that home that people come to. One of the things about living away from your family is that while you may not see them very much, when you do they come to stay and it's so much fun! It's a standard joke in my family that "mum doesn't cook - she caters", and I love it!
Like all families on the land we experienced our share of trips to the hospital for stitches or broken bones after kids came off motorbikes, horses, burns, ran into doors, pushed each other off beds, etc, etc. Particularly having a son really lifted the level on this. Samuel was always into adventure and showed no fear as he kept up with his older sisters in almost everything that was going on. He was also JB's shadow and right hand man on the farm whether they are mustering cattle/goats, riding bikes/horses, checking fences or working in the yards - Samuel has always been throwing himself into life on the land and often OFF calves pretending his was in a rodeo!
But there was a day in 2012 when an accident happened on our farm that would change my family forever. On one of those perfectly, idyllic weekends when family and friends are visiting, the dads are doing their thing, the mums have gone to town to get supplies and some of the kids are adventuring - sometimes things go wrong and on this morning it did - it went terribly wrong.
This was a phone call I never wanted to receive.
A ute rolled with two of my children and another child inside and tragically my 12yo beloved nephew died instantly when he was thrown from the vehicle
but it was right here through immense trauma where I discovered my superpower - my connection to breath - and the reason that my yoga practice helped us in the midst of the chaotic scene that awaited me. I believe beyond anything else that it was this that gave me the ability to remain calm amidst unbelievable stress and pressure, that enabled me to make rational decisions when I got to the crash scene, that enabled me to calm and console others around me and my breath that helped me make the type of phone calls and have conversations that no-one ever wants to have.
My life suddenly stopped at that point and from there is a definite before and after. It was simply the most devastating day of my life and the aftermath was heartbreaking to the extreme. There were all the stages of grief around us including anger, blame, plus police, a court case, wider family relationships completely broken and all while we were trying to deal with the grief, trauma and our own individual heartbreak.
My beautiful nephew loved "Estabar" - it was his second home and a place of refuge for him. He was a coastal cowboy who loved nothing more than staying with us, riding horses, motorbikes and hanging out with his cousins.
I will be forever grateful to our Barraba community who rallied around us and held us tightly in their arms protecting us from the scrutiny of the media, along with cooking for us for weeks on end when I could hardly lift my head. They loved and supported us as we all tried to return to school and life, and step out of the shadows of that horrible day. We were being constantly uplifted by the love and prayers of our amazing extended family when I simply didn't have the energy for anything beyond what was required to keep the family on track and get myself up and moving. We were lost in our own grief and at times when I could hardly breathe I felt other's breathing for me. It was through this time that I heard a lot of "just take one day at a time" and I realised that one day was way too much to manage so "one breath at a time" was all I needed and from there I took the next breath and then the next and then the next.........
I immediately cancelled all my yoga classes until further notice so that I could give everything I had to my family. It would be several months until I would return not really feeling ready to face the world with my open wounds but I did. Yoga once again became part of my salvation and a step toward restoration. My wounds would eventually begin to close over but never heal completely - just leaving scars that would find their place in the back of my mind and fade returning only when triggered, sparked or invited for some weird reason I felt I needed to punish myself. That happened a lot in that first year - I think fuelled by such irrational guilt that I hadn't been able to protect my children, our friend, or my nephew that day. I felt as though I had to put myself in that vehicle and relive it over and over and over again so I could try to experience their pain. I wouldn't go to bed at night until I had completely exhausted myself and then the moment my eyes opened I was up and out of bed as laying there in stillness just allowed the nightmare to continue and roll through my mind as if on some kind of crazy speed dial. All of my senses were heightened, certain smells took me straight back to the scene, my irrational fears of things going wrong, my over-reacting to loud noises, my children shouting my name would send my heart into overdrive, the sound of the motorbikes, watching my kids ride off on horses - they would all evoke utter terror in my mind as the mental battle continued and just wouldn't let up.
Almost immediately after that day we were incredibly lucky to have been connected with the most beautiful counsellor (Jan) and she supported us through the first couple of years. She was also of great support when I fell utterly and completely into a hole and needed to go back onto medication. I had been so busy making sure everyone else was OK and expending so much energy punishing myself with guilt that I was close to collapse. My nervous system was in crisis. Jan in her wisdom could see it coming. I remember so clearly being on the phone to my sister just feeling desperate, falling down onto my knees in my garden and just sobbing. I couldn't bare the burden and how would my family ever recover from the loss of their beloved cousin and their own trauma. This was my point where I knew I had to take Jan's advice and needed to see my doctor and find a way to stay afloat.
It was my family that had been my reason to get out of bed every day - without them I would have curled up in a ball and never faced the world again, but I needed to show myself some love, some compassion and do whatever it took to make sure I was OK.
WE WERE ALL GOING TO BE OK..........
You can hear a little more about this chapter via my interview with Stephanie Trethaway from Motherland Podcast at https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/motherland-australia/id1488436358?i=1000567764077