2020: A Year in Books

2020 was the year all our plans got massively disrupted. You may recall my ambitious plan at the beginning of the year. Guess how that went.

Surprisingly well, in some regards! My hopes of travel and adventure were dashed, as they should be during a pandemic. I failed utterly at reading the New Testament. There was no one to bake for, working from home, so I didn’t really do much of that. The bushfires ravaged most of the places I was hoping to hike.

So what’s the perfect activity for a chronically ill gal craving mental stimulation? Reading! I read so much as a child, and this year really became the year I embraced that once again. In total, I had a goal of 32 books, and I am very proud to say that I managed it. As lockdowns continue across the globe, I thought it might be good for me to share 30 of the books I read, and maybe spark some ideas for you to add to your list.

Easiest read: ‘Midnight Sun’ by Stephanie Myer

Midnight Sun | BIG W
Image description: the cover of Stephanie Myer’s book, Midnight Sun, which features half a pomegranate with seeds dripping from it on a black background. The title and the author’s name are in white.

If you’re not a Twilight fan, this one is probably not for you. I am an unabashed fan. These books came out in my late teens, and I was the perfect age (and the perfect amount of angsty) to fall in love with them. Whilst I no longer think they’re the pinnacle of literary achievement, my nostalgia and enjoyment remains, and they even featured heavily in my honours thesis.

Accordingly, I was thrilled when Midnight Sun came out. It fills in a lot of gaps in Twilight (why does Edward pull so many weird faces? Does he realise it’s weird to watch girls sleep? How does he find Bella at the end?) and it shows a lot more of Alice’s gift, which involves some fairly clever writing by Myer. It also makes Bella more sympathetic (if not necessarily a better decision-maker). It’s a chunky book, but very easy to read.

Hardest read: ‘The Silmarillion’ by J R R Tolkein

Hard, but worth it. I actually couldn’t get through the written text and switched to the Audible version read by Martin Shaw, who does a stellar job.

The Silmarillion takes a long, long time to get going and can be hard to follow (I constantly forgot who the different subspecies of elves were), but once it picks up, it really picks up. The Lord of the Rings kind of gives the impression that Sauron ruined some nice golden age, but in reality (or canon, I suppose), Middle Earth has been a hot mess from the start. It’s a series of tragedies of Shakespearean proportions, but with Balrogs. If you like LOTR, you should give this one a whirl. Just set aside a lot of time. It’s 14 hours of listening.

Most profound: ‘A Train in Winter’ by Caroline Moorhead

Look, it might be cheating to list a book about the Holocaust as the most profound, but I cannot fail to be touched by the courage, determination and intense suffering of the people who lived through it.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead - Penguin Books Australia
Image description: the cover of ‘A Train in Winter’, which features three women walking through snow away from the viewer. The left woman has curly brown hair, a brown fur coat, brown trousers and open-heeled brown wedge shoes. The middle woman is a blonde with hair curled at the ends, wearing a blue coat and brown lace-up shows. The right-hand woman has blonde hair, curled at the ends, and wears a red coat over olive trousers, with brown heeled shoes. The title is imposed over their backs, with the subtitle ‘A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz.’

‘A Train in Winter’ follows the stories of the 200 or so women of the French Resistance who were sent to Auschwitz in WW2. Just 49 survived. Reading about the loss, deprivation and cruelty they endured, and the courage and unity that carried the survivors through, made a deep impact on me. Many times I felt like crying as I read. It’s not a cheerful book, but it is an important one.

Most profound (fiction): ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker

This book follows the story of Cece, who has to endure some fairly horrific stuff, but grows and learns and becomes an amazing person. That sounds fairly sappy, but honestly, it’s not a sappy book. It is a tear-jerker, and trigger warning for abuse and sexual assault, but my goodness, what a rollercoaster. Highly recommend.

Most useful: ‘The Barefoot Investor’ by Scott Pape

I’m not normally one for self-help books, or for doing what people tell me to, but I switched banks because of this book. If I really thought about it, I probably knew most of the stuff in it, but I never did think about it. This got me to do that, and then to put it into action.

Most exciting: ‘Trail of Lightning’ by Rebecca Roanhorse

The actual most exciting book I read isn’t yet published, so I won’t write about it here, except to say it was an amazing steampunk spy thriller/adventure. ‘Trail of Lightning’ is a decent second place, with Navajo demon hunters, gods and magic. Lots of action scenes and some tense romance makes for a very thrilling book.

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Image description: The cover of ‘Trail of Lightning’. A woman stands on top of a red car with a white roof. She has short black hair and is wearing black pants and a black leather jacket with a white top. She holds a long knife and a gun. Lightning forks around her, and the title is written in red across her. A man is driving the car.

Honourable mentions:

‘The Colour of Our Sky’ by Amita Trasi – the story of two Indian girls separated by a crime and then a continent, and their journey to find each other again. TW for sexual assault. Heart-rending but very well told. Recommend.

‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata – short, funny, easy to read. Tells the story of an unusual woman who works in a convenience store and doesn’t want to change that.

‘Outlander’ by Diane Gabaldon – it’s a long one but a good one. It’s exciting, with a mostly-likeable main character and mostly-attractive love interest. I loved it, but I take points off for the very casual mentions of sexual assault, and the unnecessary frequency of them.

‘The Pearl that Broke its Shell’ by Nadia Hashimi – the story of two woman from different generations in Afghanistan, both of whom experience violence at the hands of a patriarchal society, and both of whom dress as men to survive at various points. It has some pretty heart-breaking moments, but it’s a fantastic story of strength and courage.

‘Boys will be Boys’, by Clementine Ford. I loved Ford’s first book, Fight Like a Girl, and the sequel did not disappoint. It’s a book to make you rage against injustice, and to make you want to rid the world of unfair stereotypes that harm both boys and girls.

‘The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire’ by Rod Duncan. I love me a good alternative historical fiction. This one was a Steampunk epic that follows a young woman who lives in disguise to keep away from the law during a version of Victorian Britain, whilst trying to avoid officers of the International Patent Office.

‘Daughter of Fortune’ by Isabel Allende. I couldn’t put this novel down, but I warn you: the ending is NOT cathartic. It’s great anyway, though – it follows the journey of Eliza, an adopted daughter of a rich family in the 1840s in Chile, who finds herself pregnant and ends up following her missing lover to California.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ by Maya Angelou. This remarkable woman did not have the easiest life – racism, sexual assault, and a childhood that carried her back and forth across the US. The autobiography is written in an unusual way – thematic, rather than chronological.

‘The Winter People,’ by Jennifer McMahon. This is a horror set in snowy Vermont, spanning a century. It has scary bits, but it’s really horror-lite – minimal gore, and not that much suspense. I enjoyed it, but you’ll see the twist coming.

‘Shameless’, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Bolz-Weber is a feminist Christian pastor, and ‘Shameless’ looks at how the church treats sex, and how people of all walks of life have dealt with the sexual guilt and shame that conservative Christianity has left them with, whilst still maintaining their faith and their love of God.

‘A Wrinkle in Time’, by Madeleine L’Engle. This is a children’s book, which I didn’t realise when I added it to my to-read list, but I enjoyed it anyway! A good vs evil romp through space and time, about finding your inner courage and strength.

‘Yes Please,’ by Amy Poehler. I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live or Parks and Rec (I tried, but I don’t like Chris Pratt), so a lot of the references went over my head. She’s a good story-teller, though, willing to fess up to her mistakes, and full of a clear passion for theatre. References to her good buddy Harvey Weinstein don’t age well, though.

‘The Boundary’ by Nicole Watson. It’s a murder mystery with magical elements, alcoholism, infidelity, and gambling addition, as well as the racial and historical trauma endured by Indigenous Australians. It’s pretty dark, but I liked it.

Probably won’t read again

‘Fahrenheit 451’, by Ray Bradbury – it just feels like every other piece of 20th century dystopian fiction I’ve read. I’m sure it was revolutionary at the time, but I think I’ve read too many books that felt similar to enjoy it.

‘Great Gatsby’, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It just bored me. None of the characters were particularly interesting, and none of them really had any redeeming features.

‘Catcher in the Rye’, by JD Salinger. It’s just a teenage boy making stupid decisions for several days, and deciding all the people around him suck in the most boring, repetitive language possible. It’s not that deep.

‘Mrs Dalloway’, by Virginia Woolf. Pretty and lyrical, but not riveting. A re-read is unlikely. I had to listen to this one, because Woolf’s hatred of the full stop makes reading it on paper quite hard.

‘Call of the Wild’, by Jack London. Too sad. A dog gets kidnapped and forced to become a tough, rugged sled dog, goes through all sorts of bad things, and when good things start to happen, it gets worse again.

‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, by Jean Rhys. It’s a version of the events leading up to Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ from the perspective of Bertha, the mad wife. It’s barely comprehensible, and the only reason you’d know it had anything to do with ‘Jane Eyre’ is because Rochester is in it. It’s got no real plot and a bunch of unreliable narrators. I wanted to love it and was really excited to read it, but I ended up hating it.

‘Internment’, by Samira Ahmed. Another one I wanted to love – a speculative fiction about America putting its Muslim population in internment camps, and a young Muslim girl fighting back. Unfortunately, whilst topical, it just didn’t thrill me. The stakes never felt that high, even though they were (death and torture were very possible consequences in the book). Maybe I’m just too old for it?

‘Jesus Feminist’, by Sarah Bessey. This book is hailed in Christian feminist circles as something of a must-read. Unfortunately, I was hoping for something a bit more critical that engaged more heavily with the Bible; this was more of a “the vibe of thing” text. It might be useful for someone just beginning to consider whether their faith can also be feminist, but it was just overly simplistic for me (and unnecessarily wordy).

‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I am very sympathetic to the aims of Communism, if not necessarily the methods, but the manifesto itself makes some sweeping assumptions, and I feel like a lot of it doesn’t really hold up in today’s society.

‘The Hedge of Mist’ by Patricia Keannealy-Morrison. It’s book three of the Arthurian legends set in space. It’s very dense, very flowery, and just not that exciting. I loved the first book, ‘The Hawk’s Grey Feather,’ but unfortunately the trilogy got less awesome as it went on, I think.

‘Medea and other plays’ by Euripedes. They’re very easy to read – I got through all four plays in a couple of hours – and I’m glad I read them once, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.

Image description: A person wearing a grey jumper holds a book open on a brown duvet. There is a pair of glasses to their right, and a pair of pumpkins to their left.

That’s my thirty! I’ve got 24 on the list for this year (a new job means less time to read, I suspect), and I’m exciting to keep trying new things. What did you read this year? What did you love or hate? What’s on the list for 2021? Let me know in the comments!

2019: Lessons Learned

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. The reason is very simple: life got in the way, as it often does. In September I was so healthy I was too busy living life to blog; in October and November I was too sick. In December I was just too lazy.

Now, however, I am back, and with a goal of publishing 20 posts this year. Let’s see if I can stick to it – 20 posts for 2020. Expect something roughly every fortnight, barring disasters.

I hope, my dear readers, that you have been well and that endo has not kept you from having a peaceful, enjoyable Christmas break. I’ve been fortunate that mine has been behaving pretty well of late.

Today, I want to kick off the new year by looking back at the old one, and recapping some of the thing I learned during it. You can also read my lessons from 2018 here. Hopefully some of these lessons will also be useful to you. Some might be totally different for you – if your experiences are different to mine please leave a comment below.

1) Big decisions can bring big rewards

At this time last year, I had quit my old job as a litigation lawyer and was waiting to start my new one as a policy lawyer. In other words, I was moving out of the world of appearing in court and arguing about the law and into the world of writing and interpreting it. It was a huge and scary move, but it was so worthwhile. I love my new job; I have learned fantastic new skills, come to appreciate an area of law I never would have previously considered, and met amazing new people. Most of all, my health has benefited enormously. Away from the intense stress of family violence litigation and in a more disability-friendly workplace, my endo pain reduced and I was able to recover when I needed to without pressure or condemnation. If you are considering a similar move, I encourage you to read my post on making this kind of decision.

Another huge decision was coming off the depot shot. I wrote about what factors to consider in making a decision like this last year, and that it how I made this one. Remember that dropping meds may not be a success story for everyone, so think carefully before doing it.

I transitioned to the depot (aka leupron or leuprorolin) after my Zoladex went wildly wrong. Depot was pretty hit and miss for me – it worked well some months, and did nothing at all others, leaving me jumping in and out of menopause like a frog with hot flushes, causing my mood, sleep cycle and weight to go wacky. After it failed yet again in November, I threw my hands up and said, ‘enough is enough.’ I didn’t get my next shot. I was expecting disaster, but instead, things got better. My pain is massively decreased and my weight and sleep patterns are returning to normal. Combined with dietary measures, I’m feeling better than I have since my first operation. I don’t know if being on it gave my body the rest it needed or what, but I’m grateful.

Despite ongoing fears, I plan to keep making big decisions with courage over the next year.

2) There will always be people who refuse to understand

Whether they be doctors, family, annoying strangers, or even other members of the endo community, there are plenty of people who will steadfastly refuse to accept what they are being told about endometriosis if it contradicts their own experience or worldview. I see this constantly in the Australian endo community – sufferers regularly report their experiences with unsympathetic family, colleagues and medical practitioners. I’ve experienced it before too. Try and gently educate if you have the energy, but if it becomes clear that you are banging your head against a brick wall, just leave it. You can only hope that enough people saying the same thing as you will eventually change their minds. In the meantime, your precious energy is better spent elsewhere.

3) We can’t hold ourselves to the same standard as healthy people

By this, I’m not saying we have a license to be awful people. What I’m saying is that we can’t always manage the same activities, and that’s ok. We won’t always get the same results even if we do manage, and that’s ok too. We are not in competition. We can only try our best, seek balance between our health and the rest of our lives, and accept ourselves as enough. Giving our all may not look the same as a healthy person giving our all, and it may cost us much more to do so; don’t try and force yourself to keep up if you can’t.

4) There are so many other illnesses

I hadn’t realised the number of other chronic conditions that so many endo-warriors deal with in addition to endo – fibromyalgia, adenomyosis, chronic fatigue, vaginismus, interstitial cystitis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, to name a few. We are sickly, sickly children.

We are also more likely than most to suffer the various reproductive cancers – particularly ovarian cancer – because the symptoms are so similar to those we already have that we often don’t seek a diagnosis until it is too late. I’m going to write more on the different reproductive cancers and some of the other secondary conditions I haven’t covered yet a bit later in the year; keep an eye out.

5) Just as people can be cruel or ignorant, they can also be very kind

Not everyone we meet will understand endo or be nice about it, but there are some absolute gems out there. You hear stories of people with endo collapsing at the shops and being helped by random women; of people getting caught short with unpredictable periods and angels with spare pads or tampons standing by; of sufferers with no family being hospitalised and visited by other endo-warriors bearing snacks and magazines. In my own life I have my family and friends, who will do anything to help me when they know things are getting bad.

When you see that kind of beautiful act, treasure it; do what you can to spread it further. The world can seem like a really dark and awful place sometimes, but those little moments bring hope and comfort. In the words of Cinderella: have courage and be kind.

So, those are the main lessons brought home to me in 2019. What did you learn, or have reinforced? Let me know in the comments!

Setting Goals

It can be really hard to set goals when you are chronically ill.  You never know if your illness will get in the way of you achieving them, so sometimes you wonder, “why even bother?”  It’s particularly hard at this time of year with all the instagramspirational quotes that start floating around, about how the only barrier is your mindset and all that nonsense.

I still think it is worth it, though.  Without goals, the year ahead can stretch away like the road across the Hay Plains on a hot day – empty, tedious, and exhausting.

Hay Plains - Highway
Image description: A road in the Hay Plains.  A plain tarmac road in very flat, dry country stretching off under a big blue sky.  A single “kangaroo crossing” sign.  https://travelista.club/guides/australia-the-hay-plains/

I find setting goals helps add something to the landscape.  It lets me feel accomplished when I achieve them and gives me something a little closer that endless horizon to rest my eyes on.

There’s a couple of tricks to it, though, in order to prevent you from feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.  Here are mine:-

1.  Use the S.M.A.R.T. method

If it is a big goal, like that favourite of new year resolutions, losing weight, don’t just have that general concept floating around.  The SMART method says that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  In other words:-

  • Don’t make your goals too vague.  If you can’t say what success will look like, how will you know when you’ve achieved it?  A generally vague goal, like, “be a better person” is only going to be useful if you can qualify exactly what you mean by that.  Being specific about your steps to achieving that goal is also really useful.  For instance, one of my goals this year is to finish reading the Old Testament.  I have set out specific milestones of when exactly I want to finish each book, and how much I need to read each day to achieve that.
  • To quote lifestyle website YourCoach, “Measurable goals means that you identify exactly what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal.”  In other words, what will success look like?  Sometimes it’s really obvious – I’ll know when I’ve reached my goal of qualifying as a SCUBA diver when I get my qualification.  In others, it’s a little harder.  For example, I’ll know that I’ve reached my goal of improving my Arabic when I can read any word, even if I can’t translate it, and have a basic conversation about specific subjects.
  • Attainable is the most important one for spoonies.  If you can’t walk 1km without pain, don’t set your sights on climbing Mt Everest this year.  Kosciuszko is probably out of reach too.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high, but aiming high should also be within reality.  “Improve my fitness” and setting smaller, more defined goals might be a more successful choice.  If you set the bar way too high and consistently fail to reach it, your goals will feel like a burden rather than a motivation, and you’ll feel like a failure.  That’s not the point of having goals.
  • Relevant is the “why” for your goal.  Why do you want to achieve the thing?  I want to speak Arabic because I love learning new languages and it’s a handy one to have.  I want to learn to SCUBA dive because I tried it once and it was amazing and I want to be able to do it regularly and safely.  I want to finish the Old Testament because it is important to me to know the Bible so I can better understand my own faith.  I also think goals shouldn’t be too burdensome.  If you are dragging your way through a Goodreads classic reading list because you feel like you have to in order to be a better person but you actually hate classic literature, then drop it.  Find a goal that you won’t hate.  I love classic literature but reading it won’t make you a better person, particularly if you hate every second of it.
  • The original timeliness aspect of SMART planning suggests deadlines, because motivate people into action.  That’s good if those deadlines are going to be achievable, but for spoonies I feel like timelines might be better than deadlines.  It is really hard for us to commit to things with 100% certainty, and deadlines are no different.  Timelines are more suggestions than hard and fast “it must be done by now or else”.  We need still need timeframes for motivation and to make our goals realistic, but we also need flexibility.

On that note…

2.  Be flexible

If you don’t achieve your goal within the specified timeframe, it is not the end of the world (unless your goal is to save the world and there’s some sort of ticking clock I don’t know about, in which case, please don’t be flexible).  I’ve set what I think are realistic goals.  Ideally, I’d like to qualify as a diver by early March, but I may have yet more unforeseen medical expenses or bouts of unpaid sick leave which mean I simply can’t do it financially.  If it can’t happen then, that’s fine.  I can learn to be a mermaid some other time.  Our lives are made up of constant compromises, and sometimes even our big goals have to take a back seat.  That’s totally ok, and you shouldn’t feel like a failure or berate yourself if that happens.  Timeframes may change.  An entire goal may become impossible.  Chances are, it’s not your fault.

That being said…

3.  Hold yourself accountable

This is one of those hard ones where you have to strike a balance between not letting your illness become an excuse not to do something you actually could do, and forgiving yourself when it prevents you from doing something you wanted to.  If you are having a good day, use it (but don’t overdo it).  If you are having a bad day, do what you can but don’t force yourself past your own limits.  Allow yourself time to rest and recover, but don’t let it turn into laziness and slacking off.  Of course, this needs to be set by your standards and your body, not society’s standards in general.  They may think time you need for recovery is slacking off.  It is not.  Don’t buy into that.

So, those are my top three.  I also want to share the planner I’m using this year, because it is absolutely great for goal setting.  I realised I was running out of time, energy and motivation to keep up with a bullet journal and I needed to sacrifice the flexibility it offered me in favour of something pre-planned.  For Christmas my parents gave me this beautiful set from Leaders in Heels.

Make It Happen Bundle
Image Description: a pink notebook with “Nevertheless, She Persisted” on the front, a dark blue note book with, “Think Big, Dream Bigger, Set Goals, Make it Happen – Daily Planner” on the front, and a lilac note book with “Make It Happen – The Leaders in Heels Planner” on the front.  

Whilst it is a little heavy on inspirational quotes and a very shallow, marketable form of  feminism, it does have all the functions I need.  The weekly planner in particular has a big focus on goal-setting using the SMART method, with room for three primary goals (a sensible number, I think).  It has annual, quarterly and monthly reviews, which really encourage reflection and accountability.  The daily planner also has three daily goals.  So far, I’ve had a very productive year.  Normally I flounder a lot when I’m off work because I have no schedule, no clear goals and no accountability.  Sitting down at the beginning of the day and writing down what I want to achieve gives me focus and drive, and it is sooooo satisfying when I achieve all the things on my list.  The third book is just a notebook so I can still do bullet journalling things like make a lot of lists.  9.5/10.  I take half a point off because the weekly planner smooshes Saturday and Sunday together, which I hate.

 

What are your goals for this year?  Do you have plans on how to achieve them?  Will you be rewarding yourself if you get there?  Let me know in the comments.  I also invite my readers to keep me accountable on my goals and nag me throughout the year about achieving them.

Hope

It’s a powerful thing, hope. It makes us keep fighting when we feel like it isn’t worth it, just in case it is, or try a new medication when there is no guarantee it will work. Sometimes you hate it, because you are terrified about the despair you feel when your hope isn’t borne out. I think this makes hoping brave, because we do it despite that fear.

In the spirit of hoping, I’ve been writing a quote about hope in my diary each day this week. I want to share them with you to start this year off with some positivity, because what says “hope” more than a new year?

1) “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” – Neil Gaiman

Now, being me, I do have a problem with this quote, because I think it veers close to “you have to do something to mean something” territory, which I think it just wrong. People have inherent value. However, it does very much embody the spirit of the new year, which is that sense of “now I will achieve something.” Taken with a grain of spoonie salt, I also think it is a valuable reminder that we never stop learning, and there is value in each lesson (even the ones that suck to learn). It is an encouragement to do something – anything – to break through the ennui that can come with long-term pain and isolation. And ultimately, I think it places values on our battles and our victories, even the seemingly tiny ones, like getting out of bed when we didn’t think we could.  So, whilst I don’t necessarily want to make mistakes, I do hope I do enough that mistakes are a possibility.

2) “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “it will be better.”” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I love me some Tennyson. This quote just embodies everything I feel just before the new year comes – this one has to be better.  Maybe it won’t be, but hope thinks it will.

3) ““Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”
– Emily Dickinson
Admittedly this is one the longer side, and a poem, but I love Emily Dickinson, and I love this portrayal of hope.  It talks about the value of hope itself: its persistence, its ability to survive even the worst storms, how it comforts us, and how it is always with us.
4) “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  – Desmond Tutu
I don’t think my hope is necessarily as strong as this at times, but at least it is never less than “thinking there possibly could be light at some point.”  That’s a lot less catchy, though.
5) “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.
This one will be most applicable for my religious and spiritual readers, but I couldn’t leave it out because for me it is such a good descriptor of my faith in hard times.  The Bible is pretty clear that this life is going to be full of hardships and woes, sometimes catastrophically so, and often without any reason that we can see.  However, the Bible is also clear that these things do end, and at the conclusion of it all is the reason Christians have hope at all – Jesus and a new, better life with him.  During my darkest times, even if the rest of my life looks like a barren, careerless, pointless, painful mess, at least I can set my eyes on that.
6) “There never was a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”  – Bernard Williams
Night is so often used as a metaphor to explain away our problems – we all have to go through dark periods, darkest just before the dawn, etc etc – but what I like about this quote is that it isn’t saying sunrise brings a solution.  It’s just saying that hope is persistent.  Even when problem after problem tells us we shouldn’t hope, it comes back like the dawn each time.
BONUS QUOTE:
There have only been six days since the new year but you get a bonus one anyway because I’m benevolent like that.
7) “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.”  – When You Believe, The Prince of Egypt
If you haven’t seen the movie Prince of Egypt, you should.  The soundtrack is great and it is the grittiest, most realistic portrayal of Exodus I’ve ever seen.  Far more so than the movie Exodus, which I thought was fairly bad.  I digress.
This song is sung as the Hebrews flee Egypt.  Their people have been slaves for generations.  The Egyptians have been cracking down on them, raising the quotas of bricks they must produce and reducing their materials.  One random who used to be a prince has shown up out of the desert and said, “worry not, pals, God’s going to release you.”  They’ve had no hope for years, and this is a pretty slim one.  Now it’s come true and they are heading out into the desert with only what they can carry, amongst them children and the elderly, and they will soon have half the Egyptian army on their tail.  It’s a time with not a lot of hope, but it’s all they’ve got, and the song is just excellent.  I’ll post the lyrics below, but first watch this incredibly low-resolution video to hear it and see it in all it’s glory:

If you want a faithful lyrical version, Celtic Woman do a lovely one.  If you want a less faithful one, Mariah and Whitney also have a version.
Lyrics:
[MIRIAM]
[Verse 1]
Many nights we’ve prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could

[Chorus]
There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe

[TZIPPORAH]
[Verse 2]
In this time of fear when prayer so often proved in vain
Hope seemed like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I’m standing here

[MIRIAM]
Now I’m standing here

[TZIPPORAH]
With heart so full I can’t explain

[MIRIAM & TZIPPORAH]
Seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I’d say

[Chorus]
There can be miracles when you believe
(When you believe)
Though hope is frail it’s hard to kill
(It’s hard to kill)
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
(You can achieve)
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe

[Bridge]
[HEBREW CHILDREN]
Ashira l’adonai; ki gaoj ga-ah
Ashira l’adonai; ki gaoj ga-ah
Mi chamocha baelim adonai
Mi kamocha nedar ba kodesh
Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta
Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta
Ashira, ashira, ashira

Ashira l’adonai; ki gaoj ga-ah
Ashira l’adonai; ki gaoj ga-ah
Mi chamocha baelim adonai
Mi kamocha nedar ba kodesh
Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta
Nachita v’chas-d’cha am zu ga-alta
Ashira, ashira, ashira!

[Chorus]
[ALL]
There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail it’s hard to kill
(It’s hard to kill)
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
(You can achieve)
When you believe, somehow you will
Now you will
You will when you believe
(When you believe)

[MIRIAM & TZIPPORAH]
You will when you believe.

So, go forth into the new year with fresh hope, my friends.  You never know what this one holds.

Happy New Year: Change, Surrender and Big Decisions

TW: domestic violence, assault, sexual assault, child abuse, animal abuse

2018, like so many other years, has not been easy, but it has been big.  I spent around 3 months in total off sick. I had my third operation in two years.  I battled medically-induced depression, went into menopause twice, visited my homeland again, celebrated my second wedding anniversary and adopted two beautiful animals.  Most dramatically, though, I learned when to quit.  Literally.

I’ve worked in the same place, with one minor break, since January 2014.  I started as a volunteer paralegal.  In September that year I started as a part-time paid paralegal.  In July 2015 I finished my Masters of Law and my BA (Hons) and went full time.  In January 2016 I was promoted to a senior paralegal position and moved to a different section.  In August that year I become a solicitor.  I’ve never worked anywhere else as a lawyer.  I met my husband there.  I was instilled with a love of law there.  And, in the final work week of 2018, I quit.

This wasn’t a totally spur-of-the-moment decision.  A few months back I applied for a job elsewhere on something of a whim, and was moved into a merit pool.  I didn’t really expect anything to come of it.  However, the Friday just before that last week, I got a call offering me a position.  Two days later, I accepted it.

It was an incredibly difficult decision in many ways.  In my old job, I was a litigation lawyer.  I was in court at least three days a week, and meeting with clients or preparing for cases the rest.  Most days I would be appearing with less than an hour to prepare.  I was helping extremely vulnerable people.  I acted on behalf of domestic violence victims, the homeless and the mentally ill.  I got to argue points of law with magistrates who seemed hell-bent on confusing me, and work with angry clients who were not too far from assaulting me.  It was often incredibly rewarding, but, as I’m sure you can guess, extremely physically exhausting.

In addition to the time pressures that any legal job has – file this by 10am, send this letter out by 5pm, subpoena these documents by Wednesday – you also have a bunch of other unique stresses.  There is the belly-churning stage-fright you get before appearing in front of a magistrate, the pressure not to embarrass yourself in front of your colleagues, client and court by stuffing up.  There’s the emotional burden and vicarious trauma you take on by hearing stories of domestic violence – often involving serious physical and sexual assault, sometimes against children and animals – every day.  There’s the standards you hold yourself too to be the best lawyer possible, standards that are drilled into you irrevocably in the hyper-competitive environment of law school.

There’s also a hefty dose of physical exhaustion.  In addition to travel between the office and court (walking distance, in my case, so walking it is), there is an inordinate amount of running around involved in court work.  You have to chase around after a seemingly endless stream of clients, registrars, associates, other lawyers and even your colleagues, none of whom are ever where you need them to be.  There’s the inevitable last-minute change of courtroom because the lights aren’t working in courtroom 5, or because the magistrate that was hearing your application now has to do an emergency bail hearing instead.  There’s the frantic jack-in-a-box hopping up and down that a lawyer needs to do in the courtroom to demonstrate respect for the court.  All in all, combined with the mental and emotional stress, the job is incredibly exhausting, and I simply can’t do it any more.

I am extremely sad.  I love litigation.  I love the thrill of winning a point or getting a good outcome for a client.  I like the challenge and the test to my skills.  I love arguing (as my family will probably attest).  Not only that, but I’m moving away from some truly fantastic colleagues whom I will desperately miss.

Moreover, it’s a huge change in mindset for me.  Three years ago I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be a family lawyer.  I would do five years of practice, then get accredited as an Independent Children’s Lawyer, maybe even a mediator, and after ten years I would do my specialist accreditation in family law.  Now I’m moving into a government organisation working in a policy role that has nothing to do with litigation, family law, or domestic violence.  I’ve had to give up an entire future because my body was wearing out faster than I could replenish it. I’ve had to hugely re-evaluate where my life is heading and what I want to do.

In all honesty, now I don’t know.  A lot hinges on 2019.  I may hate this job and scramble back into litigation and work until it breaks me beyond repair (I hope I’ll have more sense than that).  Alternatively, I may love it, and be happy to never go back.  I may change career several more times, as my generation apparently does.  Right now, I have no idea what the future holds.  It’s scary, but I’m ready.  I’ve got my positive brain engaged.  This is a new opportunity to discover what else I’m good at and see if I love other things too.  It’s a new workplace, next to a beautiful walking track and near to my sister.  It’s also (I sincerely hope) a physically easier job, that will give my poor body the chance to heal that it so desperately needs, so that I can actually get back to building a career (whatever that looks like).

I’m proud of myself for taking this step.  Yes, I quit.  I gave up.  Some might say I failed.  Whatever.  Sometimes, quitting is what you need to do.  It was the right decision for my health, and hopefully for my family too.  It was scary, but I had the courage to do it anyway.  2018 was a year for courage.  2019 is going to be a year for perseverance, as I stick to the scary decisions I have made and see them through to their end.  I’m ready.  I’m happy.  Bring it on.

I hope your 2019 is full of hope, happiness, and beautiful surprises.  I wish for strength, endurance, courage and beautiful, painless moments for all of you.