Saturday, June 11, 2016

Road to recovery

I hate whingeing.

Okay, no I don't, I love having a good old whinge-fest. I just usually save it for long text message conversations with my long suffering sister or rants at my husband while he watches endless re-runs of Top Gear (but that's a whole other post).

But here's a necessary whinge to give some context to the word "recovery".

2016 has been pretty shit so far. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We started the diagnostic process for Tom where everyone is still hedging around the word "autism," David had his second knee replacement scheduled for May, and his father's leukaemia started to worsen. We're still catching up from a few years' worth of trauma that I won't bore you with, and then there's just the challenge of parenting six kids while working full time. 

My main coping mechanism has been immersing myself in sport and music. I'm a jazz singer for a local big band and I have discovered the addictive joys of triathlon, which means a lot of hours in the pool, on the bike and pounding around the lake. I think I chose triathlon because I can run away from everyone and they can't catch me.

Well, the shit things happened on schedule. Thomas' behaviour has been a challenge but we've got some support services in the pipeline. David had his knee surgery and the the tragic happened - while he was in hospital recovering, his dad was admitted in the end stages of his cancer. What a desperately sad and intimate thing to be a part of. David, his mother and brother (and me, as David's carer), lived in the palliative care room for the final days while he passed. He did, and the funeral happened, and we all loved each other as best we would through that awful time.

David's recovery was painful although straightforward but complicated of course by necessary trips to support his mother, and everyone's grief was an overlay on it all. We all process things in such different ways.

As David began to recover, I of course got sick. I should have tapered off my running and swimming but they were such a stress release - pounding away the worries about how to do this, how to do that, how to get this and that done, how to manage, manage, manage...

First I got tonsillitis which knocked me off my feet for a week and then I started to get better. Yay, great. I was well for two days and then blow me, I felt like I had another cold starting. Then the headache. Oh my goodness the headache. It wasn’t like a migraine, much more intense and in the wrong spot and completely unremitting. ON the Sunday I was unwell. On the Monday, I had to leave work an hour early because no amount of codeine would knock it on the head. I went to sleep when I got home but it got worse and worse. In the morning I was vomiting, and David took me to the hospital.

They took me by ambulance to Wangaratta and after some terrible bedside manner and various fuck ups that I won’t go into here, they diagnosed me with viral meningitis.

I have never experienced head pain like it. At one point when they (wrongly) read the lumbar puncture as normal, I cried and cried and told myself that if this was just what my head was going to do forever now, I was going to kill myself. The vomiting and weakness and overall confusion was pretty awful too.

Then they read the report correctly. I was discharged the next day with painkillers and a prescription for rest. It wasn’t until the follow up on the Friday with  my GP that I was told just how serious this is. Six months for a full recovery. I’ve had three weeks off work. I am as weak as a kitten (I managed a half km walk today, although I did swim 500m in the pool the other day.)

The after effects are weird. I’m very emotionally labile and all my usual filters have disappeared. I'm saying things to people I probably shouldn't say. My balance is off (I keep listing to the left), and I find it hard to speak fluently. I have flashing lights around the periphery of my vision and my sense of smell is still a bit off. I’ve been on valium to settle the brain agitation down, but I think I will start coming off that now.

My main dilemma is training. I have a sprint triathlon I want to do in September, with a couple more leading up to an Olympic distance in February 2017. Then a half iron man in September 2017. So my road to recovery starts today. A walk around the Showgrounds and past the gallery. Walking and swimming this week, then some gentle walk-runs the week after. I must take it easy and be prepared to adjust my goals. There will always be other races. I don't have another brain.

The most important part of my recovery however will be refusing to let those filters go back up. I need to keep on saying the things I need to say, without fear, and insisting that the adults and near adults in my life support me and support themselves better.

I am going to get well. I am not going to let this drag me down.

It's been a while

Why on earth does anyone blog?

Why do I feel like I have anything worth reading?

Why am I returning to this?

I'm not sure what the answers are to any of those questions. I just have words inside me that are beginning to shout quite loudly. I waste them on comments sections on the Guardian and ephemeral Facebook updates and I should be putting them to better use. I'm not sure what is worth reading about and I don't know yet which direction my renewed blog will go.

I look at the labels that I set up when I began this blog back in 2009: being organised, Cycling, daily hack, discipline, family, Family fun, feminism, God stuff, , maternity leave, night time parenting, pregnancy, the payoff, work conditions, Yummy stuff...

 So many of those still apply (some don't, thank God) but I'm a much more private person than I used to be. I won't discuss specific children's issues any more because I'm increasingly uncomfortable with putting their lives online, even under assumed names. We've been through devastating things - deaths, mental illness, physical illness, incredible challenges... all great blog fodder but none of them suitable for me to type out here. Not yet, anyway.

 What labels would I put on my life today that aren't already there? Triathlon. Mental health. Jazz. Ageing. Adult children. Money. Balance. Health, health, health.

 What labels govern your life right now?

 Well, off to write my first blog post of substance. Welcome back, dear readers, if you are still reading.
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Celeriac and Fennel soup, served with board games

This morning when I woke up I had two things going through my mind - one, that I had to do something nice for David today to make up for him looking after me this week, and two, the vegetable market report that was playing on the radio station. Someone was talking about a vague recipe for celeriac and fennel soup, so with my wifely conundrum conveniently solved, as soon as I had breakfast (in bed, after snuggling with Tom) we headed off foraging in the local supermarket.

Celeriac is hard to come by here, with our place being in a culinary wasteland regional town. No matter how "in season" things are, the foodstuffs that are stocked are more reminiscent of a fifties plate of meat and three veg than a foodie's daydream. I was reminded of how we used to wrestle for the three bunches of coriander in the fresh produce store in Corryong. Never mind - after I made myself understood to the fruit 'n' veg guy at Woollies ("Oh! You mean CELERY-iac!" he declared. "That's right, cel-AIR-iac," I responded, without a hint of condescension.)

So, tasty but simple ingredients in hand, I headed home, after a pitstop at Toyworld to get some games on a whim for the kids - dominoes for Clare and Snakes And Ladders for Tom.

The children were set up at the table while David and I peeled potatoes (I know I was doing it for a treat for him but I have torn a triceps muscle and my left arm is largely useless) and chopped onion and garlic. Tom played his first game of Snakes And Ladders, and won! while I simmered and blended our creation. The recipe follows.

Gather your ingredients - a celeriac bulb, a nice large fennel bulb, a handful of potatoes (I used red delight and cream delight - they were what were in the cupboard), a large brown onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, some vegetable stock, some peppercorns for grinding and some salt.

Peel and slice all of the vegetables. Slice the onions and garlic finely.

Make up about a litre of vege stock, according to the instructions of the brand you like. I tried Vegeta Delight Vege Stock and I really like it. I always use relatively good quality olive oil.

Because I'm a wannabe food snob I always use freshly crushed pepper, and I prefer the three-coloured peppercorns you can get from the supermarket (so not quite a successful snob). Then I add Murray River salt flakes to be extra wanky.

Heat up the olive oil in a large non-stick pan that you will fit all your soup ingredients in, and saute the onions and garlic until they soften and start to smell wonderful.

Looks pretty darned good already. Add all the chopped up veggies and stir them through until you can smell those lovely aniseed aromas. Careful not to let it get too cooked though - you don't want the vegetables browning and ruining the look of the soup.

Pour the stock over the veggies until the whole lot is just covered.

Let it simmer until the vegetables are all tender - around twenty minutes.

Engage in some family fun while you wait, and ignore Mt Washmore. There will always be time to fold washing, but getting frustrated four year olds to understand that you go up the ladders and down the snakes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When the whole lot is tender, blend it with a stick blender or whatever you normally use to reduce your food to mush. Don't worry about sieves and things - this is rustic food, wanky salt aside!

Serve in a pretentiously large bowl, garnished with fennel fronds that are totally only there for the facebook picture and will be removed unceremoniously before eating, accompanied by day-old-pizza-dough bread.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I'm not interested in "What Men Want"

...not if the following list is anything to go by.

My new favourite site, Women's Agenda, published this op ed by Adam Blanch today on International Men's Day, a lament of how hardly done by men are in the feminist debate and they just want to be seen for the cuddly benign things they really are. Not those horrible rapey, slavering men that feminists rail about.

Before I get started, let me clarify - I don't hate men. I love men. I love them a lot. I love the one I'm married to, I love most of the ones I'm related to, and I love the little boy I'm raising to be a good man, hopefully, one day.

But the unacknowledged privilege in the article was enough to have me slavering like the worst feminazi with anti-Y-chromosome ranting, the whole day long. So settle in, this is going to take a while.

To set the scene, let's look at the politely expressed outrage that a publication had a whole page dedicated to women's issues and what they want.
A whole page!
Today, Monday November 19, is International Men's Day, a day to recognise and celebrate men. However, the day will probably pass without much media fanfare. Yesterday, one of the weekend's magazines published an edition that was entirely devoted to 'what women want'. In response to that, I would like to share with you what I believe men want.
Perhaps he will be mollified by the fact that in all the major indicators of worldly success - income, wealth, political representation, property ownership, leadership positions across the board, representation in mainstream media, respect in the sporting world - every day is International Men's Day, across Australia and indeed most of the planet.
Mostly men just want a break: We want to be judged by the content of our character, not the shape of our chromosomes. We want to be seen for who we actually are, not lumped in with a small percentage of the male (and female) population who are pathologically violent. We want recognition and appreciation for our lives of goodness, contribution and loving service to our families and communities.
Mr Blanch, there's a phrase my mother used to use: don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs. We (being women) know all about being judged for our gender. In the case of women, we are judged lacking and are denied full participation due to how our characters are judged. Do I need to repeat my mantra about the major indicators of worldly success? The judgement on your gender doesn't appear to be holding men back, as a rule. 
From the women's space: We want the conversation being promoted about our gender to stop being sexist, prejudicial and derogatory towards us.
Let me suggest that Mr Blanch is erecting a rather flimsy straw man. It's not "judging a man's character" to assert the frightening statistic of violence against women, by men. Of normalised sexual assault. Of casual, unthinking sexism from dirty jokes in the workplace through to the use of diminutive nicknames to women who are strangers or moaning about being "friend zoned". Of unexamined male privilege. Oh, Mr Blanch, definitely that last one.

If he isn't participating in those activities, Mr Blanch would do well to focus his ire on the very many men who are, rather than being angry at women for being justifiably outraged about normalised violence against women, indeed the fetishisation of violence against women by mainstream media. Being a nice guy doesn't stop these things happening to women. Nice guys have to start saying to their not-so-nice mates and relatives: stop raping and beating women. It's not on.

It would be nice to think that most men aren't actually like the horrible rapey cave men that we know are responsible for the horrible violence against women. But given that "in 48 population-based surveys fromaround the world, between 10 per centand 69 per cent of women report beingphysically assaulted by a male intimatepartner at some point in their lives" that's a lot of men. Around 34% of Australian women have experienced sexual assualt in their lifetime. It's kind of hard to sheet that home to an abnormal minority. You might even begin to think that it is some kind of systemic attitudinal problem, maybe something that you could give a name like, oh I don't know, patriarchy?
We would like the opportunity to participate in that conversation, to have a seat at the table, to no longer be the silent sex whose opinions are automatically disqualified if we disagree with the feminist polemic. 
The silent sex? Really? At this point I began to wonder if Mr Blanch was engaging in satire. Women are not heard in the media, are minimised and scorned in politics, are grossly underepresented in politics at all levels, The oft-reviled Catherine Deveny was attacked for interrupting Cardinal George Pell on a recent episode of Q & A. A shrewd analysis of the episode found no such thing - we are just so unused to hearing women assert equal ground that it shocks us and offends us.
We want the right to construct our own identities around our own values -- not to have them handed to us as outdated social stereotypes, or by hostile women's groups.
Men have been constructing their own identities - and those of women - see media links, ad nauseam - for millennia. If men aren't happy with their identity, they ought to alter it, not get upset because women are unhappy with the status quo. Don't shoot the messenger, victim blaming, blah blah blah.
From the media: We want a voice: the opportunity to talk about how we experience gender, to challenge the story that vilifies our gender as some sort of 'evil empire'. We want more column inches given to men's issues, men's experience and men's opinions. We want to put gender back on the agenda, not just women's 'gender' issues. We want to be participants in the story that is told about us.
Oh, my.
From government: We want protection of our basic human rights: We want the presumption of innocence before the law, and fair access to our children. 
You know, I hate to harp on the violence thing but the right to life is the most basic of human rights, and not only are women disproportionately denied this right by men, laws invented to assist women who have been driven to desperation have been coopted by some men to keep on perpetrating that violence.

I won't deal with the dross of the men's rights movement rubbish about access to children. (And I'm sure lots of women want a lot of men to pay child support, too. Is that a gender based failing, Mr Blanch? Or is it just people of both genders being, you know, arseholes?)
We want equal access to government resources, research funding and support for our health and wellbeing. 
I'm not sure but this sounds like the resentment against the success of the breast cancer awareness networks. I'm sure there's room for men's health issues to be lobbied for effectively if men wish to do it, such as the commendable Movember campaign. Mr Blanch might take some comfort however from the knowledge that when women turn up in emergency rooms with cardiac symptoms, they are less likely to be treated appropriately. Yay, swings and roundabouts!
We want the epidemic of male addiction, depression and suicide to be addressed. 
As do most women, the ones who love the men who are struggling. These maladies are not to be laid at the feet of women who are upset with patriarchy, however. Haven't you head? Patriarchy hurts men too.
We want our experience of family violence victimisation recognised and validated. 
In Victoria, male intimate partner violence is found to be the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged 15 to 44 years (VicHealth 2004). 
We want Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner to also pay attention to the disadvantages we experience because of our gender.
Which disadvantages? Wealth and income? Leadership? Social status? See above.
From the workplace: We want our wellbeing to be more important than profits. We want to be able to take time off work to bring our children into the world, to be a part of their lives, to be the role models and fathers that they need us to be. We want to be protected from injury, to be paid for our overtime, to have work life balance, to no longer have to sacrifice our wellbeing and our family life for our family's survival.
Strangely, these are the things that women have also been fighting for, form a much lower base. Hint: it isn't women who are imposing these pressures on men.
From women: We want collaboration. We want to work with you to create a future in which our children our safe, supported and empowered. We want to co-create a society in which we all enjoy freedom from violence, prejudice and disadvantage. In essence, we want the exact same things as women do.
Mr Blanch and men like him can expect collaboration as your unequivocal right when they accepts the power differential that has been for millennia and remains firmly on their side. When they acknowledge that crucial fact and want to change it also, then they can claim they want the same things feminist women do. Until then, they should exercise some unaccustomed humility, shut up, and listen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A "dooring" is not an accident

When I was able to struggle up from the road surface after being knocked off my bike, the first words that came out of my mouth were worthy of any cycling nut: “Is my bike okay?”

It was – startlingly okay, actually. I fared much worse than the machine. I have stretched tendons and ligaments and bruised bones and atrophied muscles, all of which require considerable sessions of physiotherapy. But ultimately, like my bike, I’ll be okay, unlike James Cross , who was also the victim of an inattentive driver.

I was pleased that there was, coincidental to my accident, a spate of publicity about “doorings.”* I was less pleased at the message of the publicity – that cyclists and motorists shared an equal responsibility to prevent these “accidents”.

Let’s get one thing straight. A “dooring” is not an accident. It is a failure of vigilance, a case of negligence, a lapse of concentration… but not an accident. 
Drivers are required under the law to ensure they do not present a hazard to other road users, and whether drivers like it or not, this includes cyclists.

Furthermore, regardless of how defensively a cyclist rides, the laws of physics do not allow them to avoid a hastily flung door, especially when tram tracks or cars driving too close block the cyclist’s ability to veer right.

Separating cyclists to a cycle lane on the passenger side of parked cars is no answer. These lanes are debris strewn and prone to pedestrians wondering across without consciousness that it is a transit zone. Passengers alighting from vehicles are even less likely to be vigilant for oncoming cycle traffic.

This is first and foremost an issue of driver education and law enforcement.

Drivers make decisions every time they open their door in order to avoid the consequences of being a hazard. Are they on a busy road where their door might be ripped off by a passing tram? Are they on a freeway where a speeding car could throw them to the verge? Is their car parked securely? Drivers need to be educated to make the decision to check not just their rear view mirror but over their shoulder and to ask the question: “Is there a cyclist coming?” When they fail to make this decision, they need the compelling persuasion of a ticket, or charges when an injury occurs.

There is currently insufficient emphasis on the rights of cyclists during driver education. Furthermore, there is little energy invested by police in pursuing people who do not make cyclists’ safety a high priority. After my own incident, a police officer explained to me unapologetically that they would not be pursuing even a failure to give way fine had I not been injured badly enough to attend hospital.

My incident was caused by a driver who turned left in front of me, to park. Although he stopped and was very kind and solicitous, he had no comprehension that he was breaking the law by failing to give way and cutting across another vehicle (me). He had his indicator on, he reasoned, so therefore he had the right of way. In this last week I narrowly missed being collected by another driver who was just about to make the same decision and who clearly had no idea that he was doing the wrong thing, despite me giving him a very asserting stop gesture and shaking my head. The comments sections of newspapers which have given this issue publicity have been replete with people who clearly either don’t know or don’t care that the law is firmly on the side of the cyclists.

Of course it is advisable for all cyclists to ride as sensibly and defensively as possible, and always within the law. Cyclists will continue to be injured and killed, however, until the Police and driving educators place a higher emphasis on driver awareness and accountability.

I was not in fact “doored” – ironically, a near dooring seconds earlier slowed my progress so that the left-turning driver hit me at far less velocity than would otherwise have been the case.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The joy of falling

I wrote this earlier this year, and I thought of it again when I was knocked off my bike last week:

The joy of falling

Falling over always makes me cry. This is not ideal when you are naturally clumsy. I am forever slipping over that tiniest smear of grease on the kitchen floor, or that one squashed grape in the fruit and veg aisle. 

I don't know how to land gracefully or safely, and it seems that all the rolls of flab in the world won't protect your bony protuberances when you land on them from a great height.

What smarts even more, though, after a comedic (to everyone else) tumble, is the feeling of having lost control, of losing one's grip on the ground, of being powerless and prey to the laws of gravity and pain. Once you are falling, there is nothing you can really do to stop it. When I have fallen, I am left with a lingering feeling of panic, of vulnerability, of shaken confidence in my ability to stride across the world.

When I bought proper cycling shoes and cleats, my sister told me, "You will fall off." When I tried to get on my bike in the back yard and figure out how clamping my feet to pedals on this inherently unstable thing called a bicycle was actually going to work, I cried, and I hadn't even fallen off yet. How on earth was I going to do this? How was I going to manage when the prospect of a fall, and not just from my feet onto the kitchen floor, was a certainty?

I found that the only way to get going and figure that out, was to commit to the clamping, and to the inevitable fall; not to timidly push my bike around the yard, but to get onto the street and get up some momentum and trust that the advice I'd been given and the skills I'd developed thus far would keep me upright for at least a time. 

I pushed my right foot onto the cleat, and lifted it to the top of the stroke. I pushed down hard, simultaneously engaging the clip with the pedal and driving the wheels forward. I had no choice but to follow suit with the left foot, clipping it in with a chunky click and feeling the bike leap forward. 

I rode around the block. 

I didn't fall off. 

I unclipped before I came to a stop at my drive way, and still I didn't fall off. I felt a great wave of hubris wash over me, and it was still with me when I set out for work the next day. I exulted in the feeling of doubled power as my legs pulled up on the pedals as well as pushing down - the dread Mega Hill of Death became a mere molehill and I smirked as I whirred past cyclists who were struggling as I had done just the week before.

Just before my destination, cyclists must negotiate a dreadful intersection near the Arts Centre where they have to cross right over a lane of traffic in order to go straight ahead. At peak hour, the cars are impatient with the bikes, who must weave in and out of them in order to position themselves safely. I am used to darting around and sticking my feet wherever I need in order to jostle for my own rightful position. I did this, but underestimated how much time I would need to free my foot. It stuck fast, the bike slowed, wobbled, and then in a graceful motion of surrender, keeled over to the side, taking me with it, fortunately onto the grassy verge. 

With no physical damage, and cars and snickering pedestrians everywhere around me, I managed to extricate my feet, and walk, duck like in my treacherous shoes, over to the footpath. My bravado had completely left me and my whole body was shaking. I knew that I had to get to my destination and I wasn't going to get there clattering around on cleats. I had to get back on the bike.

The rest of my ride was tentative, but I got there. I had learned that I needed to give myself time to get my feet down, to anticipate that I was in a situation where I might need to just click out and stay out for a while, that I couldn't rely on my quick reflexes to absorb my lack of planning. I felt a larger lesson seeping into my bones.

On the way home, I fell off again. This time I was trying to do a standing start up a steep hill, and I couldn't get enough momentum. My free foot slipped on the pedal rather than clicking in, and I toppled, this time onto the road, and I fared worse than in the morning.

The next day, my legs and hips were a mass of bruises, and I had wrenched my ankle hard enough for it to swell badly, and ache. I began to wonder if I had done the right thing in investing in these shoes.  Sure, the hills were easier and the snazzy equipment made me feel like a real cyclist, but wasn't it easier just to keep on with the sneakers and old pedals? Maybe I should just give it up. My sister was doubly right. And what if I fell of again, and again, and again? What if I could never get the hang of it? How stupid would I feel then? How incompetent! Uncoordinated! Because, after all, that's what I am!

A couple of months ago, I would probably have admitted defeat. The pain of falling, and the possibility - heck, probability - of it happening again would have put me off. The phrase "comfort zone" has real meaning here.

However. I've been having dreams about clipping in and clipping out. Whilst lying in bed I've been noticing my feet practicing the motions. Every time I stand up or sit down, the aching bruises prompt me to think about how not to fall off. I've rehearsed intersections and hill starts in my head. I've mused about how less humiliated I felt than I thought I would be, and I've remembered the kind hands reaching out and the smiles of solidarity from other cyclists who've been there and will probably do that again themselves.

This morning I rode in again. I planned ahead. I was cautious and careful. I respected my limitations, and the bike's. I became mindful of my feet melded to the cranks, and aware of how my body and my bike were moving through space. 

And I didn't fall off. But somehow, I don't think it would have mattered if I had.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Whole of the moon - more navel gazing

When I was a teenager, I had complex fantasies of being someone else. I wrote characters into my never-finished books who were enigmatic, where I was just weird; confident where I was aloof; popular where I was desperately trying to fit in. My characters were smart and different like me, but unlike me, they weren't objects of ridicule or disdain, they were physically attractive, and they didn't have a knack of being in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time, saying precisely the wrong thing.

In year 11, I think it was, a song came out called "Whole of the moon," by the Waterboys. The lyrics encapsulated every one of these fantasies:

I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands
I had flashes but you saw then plan
I wandered out in the world for years while you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

You were there in the turnstiles with the wind at your heels
You stretched for the starts and you know how it feels
To reach too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

I was grounded while you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth, you cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley, you saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon

I spoke about wings you just flew
I wondered I guessed and I tried, you just knew
I sighed and you swooned
I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

With a torch in your pocket and the wind at your heels
You climbed on the ladder and you know how it feels
To get too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon, the whole of the moon, hey yeah

Unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers
Trumpets, towers and tenements, wide oceans full of tears
Flags, rags, ferryboats, scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision underneath the stars

Yes, you climbed on the ladder with the wind in your sails
You came like a comet, blazing your trail
Too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

I was listening to it on the way home the other day on my bike, zooming down St Kilda Rd at some dangerous rate of knots. And all of a sudden, I realised that the gut-knotting yearning that usually accompanied my enjoyment of the song was gone. Instead, I felt sorry for the glistening persona who is the object of envy in the song.

Because, I can see the whole of the moon now, or most of it, and I can fly higher than I ever really trusted I could. But I didn't just get up and fly. I did wander, I guessed and I tried, and that's why. I don't begrudge any second of the journey of reaching and trying and failing and not being like a comet, dammit, just an ordinary person who wants to get a bit further. And I really do feel like I have the wind at my heels now, for the first time in my life.