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Monday, 20 October 2014

Choose Life.

Our PHSK Hockey Presentation Night was always going to be a big one. Considering the antics of a regular Saturday Night and the fact that I ended up with blood all over me (a certain Trickles dancing in his bare feet and standing on glass) from the last Preso Night, I was wondering about this one and what it would entail.
Maire and I took the day off and got ourselves pampered. Hair, tan, make-up all done and all we needed to do is get dressed. Saying this, we were still nearly late!

It was in Red Scooter at Balaclava and what a great night it was! We were told it was $100 a ticket and that included your food and drink (which was wine and beer). We were there about an hour before Una went to the bar to get something else. Five minutes later I see her ploughing through people with her hands laden with drinks, shouting like a crazy woman "It's all free! It's all FREEEEEE!".

With a room full of Ex-Pats, this simple statement almost caused a stampede. For fear of the alcohol ever running out, each person was ordering their drinks in mutliples; "Vodka, lime, soda please. Actually make that four." We all became super generous too; "I'm going to the bar, would anyone like anything?". The poor bar-staff were made work for their wage that night and I'm not sure how the venue made any money with the volume of alcohol consumed in the 3 or 4 hours we were there!

All dressed up to the nines, you'd think we'd head out to a nice bar afterwards? No... we headed to XBase; which is a BackPacker Hostel containing a bar inside. $5 drinks and figuring that we most likely wouldn't get in anywhere else anyway, we stand out like the opposite to Wedding Gate-Crashers, whatever they're called! The antics in here included one person falling over a number of times (and then texting me to say she has a sore knee and asking if I knew anything about it), people "pole dancing" (and I put this in inverted commas for a reason), numerous photos taken that were discovered a few days later that nobody seems to have any recollection of and a few DMCs ("Deep and meaningful conversations") scattered about. I was asked "Are you Ciara? Spelled C-I-A-R-A? (from FB/email) gear does NOT suit you!". I was left staring at him like 'I don't really know where to go with this' and he then tries to make everything better by saying "I mean, you look nice....tonight". I literally just turn on my heels and walk away...(to the bar of course...!)

From here we headed to Revolver (which is even WORSE than XBase - which again concretes in my mind that we have no standards AT ALL); a place where those out of their brain on drugs usually go to stay out as late as possible. We decide to call it a night at this stage and headed home. A great night, a great laugh, a delicate disposition the next day but well worth it. We have it booked for next year, but I'm guessing that Red Scooter might have learned their lesson by then?!

I had to go to Brisbane to train someone in work for the week. What an absolute DISASTER that trip up was! Firstly a couple of days before I head off I hear of a murder at the same place where I'll be staying. Some guy murders his girlfriend and then chops her up and cooks her - (and then, just to add some drama, the girlfriend turns out to be a guy) and then kills himself. Nice area so?! The morning comes and I ordered my taxi for 6am and it arrived at 5:45am. The driver gets out and immediately rings the doorbell of the house about 10 times in the space of thirty seconds, waking the whole house up. I run downstairs and bite his head off for doing it and tell him to wait 2 mins and I'll be down. We get to the airport an hour and 45 mins early for my domestic flight, but the queues are so long and so many other flights are delayed that I barely make mine! I collapse into the seat only to find that we are delayed for take-off anyway. I then have the luck to have a little girl (and I'm being nice by calling her that) sit behind me and kick the back of my chair the entire 2 hours of the journey. I ask her father to tell her to stop and he just laughs at me smiling with the two remaining teeth that he had in his mouth left. In the end I grab the air hostess and tell her to move me or get the girl to stop; which she does. We are then 30 mins delayed in landing and when I eventually manage to reach the baggage claim, I discover that one of my bags isn't there. After another 30 mins searching, I discover that someone else had taken it and then left it at the door (perhaps the toothless father?)! I scramble into a taxi, where a woman tried to tell me I was skipping the line (when I wasn't), and tell the driver where to drop me. Ten minutes later the taxi crashes into another and I'm left there as they argue in Indian whose fault it was. The look on my face indicated that I was less than impressed and required another taxi ASAP, so they quickly exchanged details and I eventually make it to my destination, frazzled but still alive at least. Could I please go back to bed and start this day again?! Brisbane is lovely though - for the jogging stretch that I actually got to see. I'll forgive you for having a murderer on my doorstep.

And typically - because my mind wasn't messed up enough, life decided to throw me another curve-ball. I got approached by a Head Hunter for a company in Europe and was offered a job there. It would be using my languages that I studied years for, it would be closer to home, a great career move and about three times the money that I'm earning now. So what's the decision then I hear you say? That's what everyone OUTSIDE of Australia asked me too. Why are you even considering this? Surely there is nothing to even think about?? Do it and pay your mortgage off, do it and go home more often, go and you'll make new friends and meet more new people...
But something wasn't sitting with me right.
Money can't buy you happiness - you can't put a value on being happy with someone, or in a particular place, or with friends; never mind all three. Why risk losing it all with something that you weren't looking for in the beginning anyway? Why throw everything that you have away in the search of more money? What's the point in having money if you have nobody to share it with or if the loneliness or separation makes you miserable?
Being half of my Dad (career orientated) and half of my Mam (socially / family orientated) made it especially taxing on my mind; with constant "What ifs"; "What if this is my only shot for everything that I've worked and studied for and I'm turning it down?", "What if I go and it doesn't work out and I can't come back to Australia?", "What if this is my ticket out of debt, negative equity and the ruin that the Recession has placed on me?" or "What if I can't deal with the wondering how it would have worked out?".
In the end I went with what I told myself I would do at the beginning of this year - do whatever makes me happy. So; I said no - much to the amazement (and perhaps disgust!) of many; but I decided to go with the dice that I've been rolled for the minute, without trying to also juggle something new. I'm struggling enough just getting through this year that I want to hang onto any shred of happiness that I have or can find. So Melbourne, I chose you; you're going to have to put up with this crazy, messed up Irish girl for a little bit longer...

And then everything is shocked back into perspective. I get a text from home telling me that a healthy young man from our parish in Kilcloon, one of my best friend's cousins, passed away. Aidan went to bed one night and just never woke up.
Just like that his life was taken from him and a massive gaping hole left in the hearts of everyone left behind who knew and loved him.  And suddenly the decision to live my life how I want to, to choose happiness over money and to try my hardest to make the most of everything is reinforced. You get one shot and that could be a short one; you don't know when your time is up, so make the most of it and do it for you. Choose happiness, choose love, choose fun and memories and experiences will follow.
My heart goes out to the Dalton immediate and extended family and to the wide circle of friends that Aidan had. Just looking at Facebook you can see the impact of the loss of this young life has had and how widely across the world it is felt. The Parish is devastated at the tragedy and the ripples of pain are still felt in Australia for those of us who are here. I feel utterly sick at the thought of the pain that my friend Doireann is going through and at the fact that I can't do anything about it. I am left feeling completely useless and wishing I was at home to even just hug her and try help in some trivial way. Thoughts and prayers only go so far and all of a sudden December and my trip home feel like years away.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal. RIP.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Getting it all out of the way...

So it's just under 7 weeks before I go home, 69 days (and 8 hours and 15 mins to be precise) to Christmas and mid-way through October. How the hell did that happen?? I'm sitting here at my computer thinking of all that I have to write about in the last month or so because my life seems to be flashing by in the blink of an eye! For someone who hasn't been allowed to exercise for the last 8 weeks or so, who doesn't watch TV and doesn't really do much else, I never seem to have any time?! What is this concept called "Spare Time" or "Free Time" and how can I get some?!

So, I haven't exactly had the best luck the last month or so. Stress is a dangerous thing and even though I tried to keep my mind strong and free from stress, my body caved in the end.
I'm sure my body was thinking that it's been a while since it's decided to collapse in a heap; so it decided for my back to go, for me to get a virus followed by a chesty cough and cold and straight after send me to hospital with stomach pains. All in the space of about 3 weeks.

Firstly I was kitted up for a hockey match and walking across the green to go to where we warm up (on average about 10 mins before the game starts!) and I got a spasm go through my mid-back. With each step that I took, the pain was more and more intense and made me get lower and lower, closer to the ground with each movement. I stopped and turned (thinking to myself that I'm not going to make it to the other side so I'd best retreat to the Club House), and I am left on my hands and knees, crying in pain in the middle of a field before having even rocked out so much as a jog! Embarrassing to say the least. What's the definition of being unfit?!
In the end Dash and Cam had to help me stand and I was left watching the game from the sideline, in a kind of sideways "Quasimodo-style" stance. A trip to the Osteo every day for a week and a couple of visits to the GP leave me very poor and with a handful of my old friends Valium, Codeine and a strong anti-inflammatory drug Proxen. I had to decrease the dosages to allow me to work without drooling or falling asleep; the first day left me having to strip off in the bathroom and lie against the wall to cool down and stop myself from passing out! Stress-related apparently. Still, I thought nothing of it and presumed that they got it wrong.
My back going wasn't exactly the best timing and it went again when I was in my apartment, leaving me lying on the kitchen floor for about 45 mins before I could maneuver myself enough to get my phone from the countertop and call someone! Obviously after I took a SnapChat and Instagram photo. Again - priorities people...

Moving apartments without being able to lift anything or generally move at all is quite difficult to say the least. Thank God for good friends! I moved out of the place in Cromwell Road and moved to Fawkner Park in South Yarra, only 2km from work. The timing meant that I had to sleep in Una's bed for a few days and live out of bags until we got the keys to our new home. A big old house on Park Lane, right beside The Alfred (more on that later) and Fawkner Park - we drew straws and I got the middle room, with Elma getting the small one and Una getting the biggest (with own balcony, larger space and ensuite bathroom). Despite my having cleared out 4 black binbags of clothes, I still had to get rid of my desk and some other things to be able to fit in the room!

They start "Start as you mean to go on", but I hope to God that's not the case for us...
Day One and Elma takes a chunk out of the wall with her bag as she's bringing it up the stairs, telling me about how the house is freshly painted and how we had to be careful.
You couldn't write it if you tried.
Later that evening, Paul, Una, Clara and I are in the sitting room talking and Elma and Justyn were outside having a smoke. As Una was talking we could heard this water noise from upstairs and Clara and I looked at each other wondering what the noise was. Una assured us it was the washing machine, although I was sure I heard it finish earlier..? About a minute later the lights start to flicker and Clara, Una and I all look up, only to see water dripping from the ceiling into the light. It took about two seconds for it all to dawn on us what was happening before Una screamed "ELMA!" and darted up the stairs. I hobbled along behind her only to find the hall carpet swimming. Yet another indoor swimming pool feature in a place I was staying - I think I might request it at the next place just to get it out of the way! Elma had shoved her full washing basket into the laundry and closed the door, unknowingly pushing the tap on in the process when the plug was in the sink. 10 towels later and lots of "rain-dance" or "grape-stamping" moves by Una and Clara, the floor was beginning to look less like a marsh and more like carpet. We then went downstairs to find Paul had the Wheelie-Bin in the middle of the sitting room, with water flowing from the ceiling light into it, and holes cut in the architrave with a steak knife to allow the water to escape from the floor upstairs, through the ceiling and down the wall. It was like we also had our own Amazonian-Waterfall features! Rubin Carter himself had nothing on our own "Hurricane"!!

Maire turned 30 and Una suggested to come up with a Surprise Party for her. I liaised with Colm, her boyfriend, on getting her non-hockey mates there, Anna made the cake and got the photos and videos together while liasing with Veludo to book the venue and Una organised everyone when the night came and was the person for keeping me up to date. I was the decoy, and we were to go out to dinner. I had told her we were going to Claypots, but to get dressed up cos I was going to be wearing heels. We pick her up in a taxi and head to Veludos, which is around the corner from Claypots. She's jabbering away in the taxi and all I keep thinking is "keep her talking and she won't notice". Surely enough she hops out of the taxi and I direct her up the stairs of Veludos, mid conversation, and she obeys. She's still chatting as she crosses the wooden floor which is dark and has nobody around. She's still talking when we come to the curtain of the function room and she says "In here?" and opens it before being greeted with screams of "SURPRISE!" by the crowd of people who had all arrived for her! It was a great night, with Maire getting thrown out about 2am (leaving without her bag and jackets etc - which I then took) and which ended with Elaine in a trolley pushed down Acland Street by Tilly and Trickles jumping from concrete post to concrete post  in the background at 5am! Standard.

And of course the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I was nominated not once, but three times - by Aisling, Leno and by my brother Kev. I did it after hockey training in 4 degrees and at 10pm. To say it was freezing is an understatement!! Great social media campaign and for a great cause - it even went so far as to get my MAM to do it! Now THAT'S an achievement - that's when you know that you've succeeded in your social media hype and pressure! :) Well done to all involved!

A week in the house and Una gets a virus and decides that "sharing is caring" and gives it to her boyfriend Bertie and then to me. God, that sounds weird - I mean SHE gave it to me, not him...we're close, but not that close!
I felt like I had been hit by a train, shaking uncontrollably for hours, fever and nerve pain over all of my body. I was too weak to get out of bed the first day, so much so that Elma didn't even know I was in the house the whole day. Dragged myself to the doctors the next evening, where he seemed more concerned with Irish stereotypes (I was clearly hungover or after being in a fight the night before) and with selling me an apartment ("I sell apartments too you know, how much money have you got?") than with finding out what was wrong with me. Again, he asked if I was stressed out or dealing with a lot at the moment.
$90 later, I leave with no medication and no apartment, but with a note for work.

That week I had also been complaining about heart-burn, having never experienced it in my life. The pain after eating was unreal - how did people put up with this sort of thing on a regular basis?!
The night after the doctors, Maire comes over and we chillax on the sofa and chat. I hadn't eaten in 3 days, so we went and got some take-away and then laughed about how we used to be so classy, dressing up and into fitness and now we were a pair of slobs with no makeup on, in our trackies and Uggs and eating fatty take-away on the sofa. I'll leave you to decide - what a difference a year makes, huh?!

So, I go to play our Semi-Final in hockey at Footscray vs Altona, and am literally lying in the back of Una's car with pains in my stomach. I play half a game and then the coach, Oke, takes me off. We lose 1-0 and we're out. The girl who scored was an Ex-South African player; as in - yes - the country. Slightly higher level than the Metro "Social" standard we were used to in Powerhouse St. Kilda! Anyway, they were hungrier than us for it so hats off to them. A night back to the pub for everyone else and I believe there were some sore heads the next day... 

I went straight to The Alfred Hospital with the pains in my upper stomach and was brought straight through to Accident and Emergency and seen by a doctor. I was sitting in a chair, bent over in pain, in all my hockey gear, no makeup on, sweaty from a match and not having slept the night before with pains in my stomach, when a Kiwi/Maori guy gets wheeled in on a gurney with a neck-brace on for a suspected spinal injury with rugby. The ambulance crew are trying to cheer him up as all he can do is stare at the ceiling, and so they tell him they can get him a date in the hospital and suggest me. Now, bearing in mind the only other options on the bench beside me are a 90 year old man and a nun, and the fact that the poor guy can't see the state of me; he gets all excited and is asking my name, where I'm from etc. His mates then come in and he tells them about how he's picking up and is asking me for my number. I tell him I'm sure I can reach him on 000 (equivalent of 911 or 999 for those out of Oz). He asks his mates in another language something and they all turn and look and me and then say "mm yeaaaaa man" and by this I deduce he's asking them what I look like. "I'm asking them if you're hot" he pipes up, and has the ingenious idea of getting his mate to reverse the camera on his phone and give it to him. I was quite grateful when the nurse came over at this point and threw all of his mates out and the doctor came to save me and put me in a cubicle!!

10 mins later I was wearing a little white backless number, hooked up to a drip, given morphine injections, put on a Blood Pressure and Heart Rate monitor and set up for tests. Suspected Gallbladder issue. A CT Scan, Ultrasound, XRay, Blood Tests, 3 days and 2 nights later, there is still no answer and I have to go home not really any the wiser.
"Have you been under a lot of stress lately?"
They decide that it and everything else that I've had wrong with me is linked to stress and that the Proxen (Anti-Inflammatory drugs) I was on for my back has torn my stomach and given me ulcers. I've to go home, rest and come back for an Endoscopy when I get an appointment. I haven't eaten for 6 days but I'mnot hungry, I look like death with some beautiful "Bed-Head" and all I have to wear are my sweaty hockey clothes from a few days before.
"On the up-side, think of the weight-loss!" a friend tells me, but of course I couldn't POSSIBLY catch a break with that - I was 1kg HEAVIER when I got on the scales! Story of my life!! There's a lot of fat in those Saline Drips I guess?!

At this point I would like to say that the staff at The Alfred Hospital were amazing. So nice, supportive, friendly, caring, and attentive. I realise that this is because the ratio is more like 1:4 rather than 1:8 at home, but it makes such a massive difference to your stay when you're there and you just want to go home.
The patience they have with some of the patients that were in A&E is unreal.
One particular guy was there making up problems as he didn't have anywhere to stay. He was clearly a smart guy, but he was delusional and stubborn, he kept screaming that he wanted to speak to the "man in charge"; only to change his mind when the "man in charge" wasn't falling for his story. He then wanted to speak to "the man in charge that wasn't that man" and would cry crocodile tears when the staff were encouraging him to leave. They asked him time and time again "How can we help you today", but the patient couldn't answer them and would go on a rant about some world issue or war. In the end the police had to escort him from the premises, once they got secure housing for him, after exhausting every avenue to help find out what he wanted and even after having kept him in overnight. Sad as it is, it provided great entertainment to me (high on morphine), across the aisle. I was loving the bit of agro and was disappointed when they pulled across the curtain to block my view. All I was missing was the popcorn!

Try not to stress, they said. I felt like telling them to live one week in my life at the moment and then come back to me giving the same advice. I'm only allowed to get back exercising now, so at least that's a relief and a release. Back to Pilates and jogging and bring on hitting people with sticks in 34 degree heat as my "Anger Management Classes" (Summer Hockey) get back on track next week!

So I'm sure that's it for me for 2014, that's all the drama and sickness over, the pain and costs gone! Onwards and upwards from here on out - all there is is happiness, fitness, love, friends, health, good luck and plain sailing...
Surely I was just getting it all out of the way...?