Today I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the Inspiring Australia Leadership Summit. An appropriate time to tell my tale. Please read with an open mind:
An uncomfortable subject. A self-assessment in vulnerability and openness. Fear of being judged or misinterpreted. A, no, THE defining story in my life to date. Character building by necessity not choice.
STAGES OF COPING, REASONING AND SURVIVING
It’s no secret that EVERYONE HAS A STORY. Although many people’s stories remain a secret. Most of us have multiple, but everyone has at least one. A story that has shaped us. A story that has influenced our chosen path. A story that may define us. Good or bad, better or worse, richer or poorer. You see life throws us all unexpected curveballs, this was mine.
A story of FRIENDSHIP. A story about my best friend, my mum, my rock. After losing my father to leukemia at the age of three, it was always just mum and I. The strongest of relationships. As a family of two you have no choice but to trust and be open. Communication is everything. Being disciplined is unnecessary. Self-discipline innate. Responsibility, maturity and a strong sense of self are qualities prematurely developed when one must be at ease with ones own company from a young age. No hiding. No blending in. I had a blessed and spoilt childhood. Great friends. Great education. Great support network of family friends and families of school friends. I was the boy that got everything I ever wanted. Too many showbags. Too much lego. More sporting equipment than the shed could handle! But it was more than just material goods. Holidays, sports, adventures, a private school upbringing and the opportunities that came with such privileged networks.
Mum was a free spirit. A nomad. A gypsie that found solace in unique experiences and exotic destinations. Together we travelled extensively together. The world was her playground. The ocean her favourite ride. For my 21st birthday I made the decision to forgo the big party for a holiday in Thailand (mum lived in Saudi Arabia at the time nursing in a British military base). An all expenses trip to learn to dive so mum could share her passion. Her obsession. Her solace. Her love of diving. Together we shared an awesome holiday, like best mates would, diving, drinking, reading and eating in paradise.
I had the mum that related to my generation. The mum that my mates would go to for advice. The ‘cool’ mum. No subject was too taboo and her advice appreciated by all. Opinionated. Independent. But caring and thoughtful as only a nurse can be. She was so much more than my mum. My housemate. She was the friend I could tell EVERYTHING and ANYTHING to, and expected the same in return.
SHOCK & DISBELIEF
Fast forward a couple of years and my life was progressing smoothly. I’d finished university and found myself as a web developer for a fun and progressive IT and events company. Surrounded by great friends and a steady girlfriend I was head over heals in love with. Life was good. UNTIL.
On the night of the 22nd of February 2001 I received the news. I was informed my mother had passed away, but worse was to come, she had committed suicide. This was my curveball.
In a state of shock I tried to comprehend the facts if her death. Driven to Somers, Got into beloved scuba wetsuit. Self administered lethal dose of anaesthetic. Submerged herself in her beloved ocean waters. Lost consciousness and drowned. So peaceful. So violent. So inconceivable.
DENIAL AND THE NEED FOR ANSWERS
Suicide? Murder perhaps. Nonsensical. Or did they have the wrong identity? Perhaps. So out of character and out of the blue. My mum, the strong, social, independant woman. Someone with so much to live for. Instinctively I needed to validate her actions. To find her reason. There was no note. Her diary full of dinners, opera, and movie dates but giving no clue as to why. No justification. No terminal diagnosis. No call for help. No peace of mind.
BETRAYAL AND ANGER
Anger and frustration intensified. I felt abandoned. So alone now. How dare she be so selfish. How dare she take her future, my future, our future, our friendship. Something so calculated, so contrived. It made it worse that this was not irrational, spur of the moment madness. Rage festers.
Then I felt guilty. On overwhelming pain of regret. why couldn’t I see this coming? Did I miss her cries for help? Was I not there enough? Was there something I could have done? Something I should have said? Signs I blindly ignored? A lack of empathy? A communication breakdown? Why did I see NOTHING? Know NOTHING? And now, understand NOTHING?
Woe is me. I was too young to be orphaned. Too immature to lose my comforter, my go to. I had lost that security blanket – that one person you turn too when things were dire, my only direct family, my sounding board, my mum. I’m hurting. You don’t know my pain. You don’t understand what I’m going through. You are not me. I was the victim. I had the right. I could substantiate this feeling. This pain that was all mine to dwell on as I like.
JUSTIFICATION & ACCEPTANCE
In time I learnt mum had been fighting her pain for a long time. That she had her reasons for needing to let go.
That she had been fighting an ongoing battle, hiding it from me and waiting for my independence – a good job, a loving girlfriend and family, good friends, maturity. Had she been strong for me. Lived for me. Had she held out in immense pain, feeling incomplete and insecure. Never whole. Always a hole. On my behalf?
SUPPORT AND SURVIVAL
Some familiar faces got me through. Many of whom are here tonight. My best mates, my girlfriend, her mum, my godparents, and my confidant – Waldo my dog. Their pain mimicked mine. Betrayal, disbelief, despair all universal. Our common bond. Our binding melancholy.
I have forgiven my mum. Most of the time! Kids birthdays and Christmas are hard. Knowing the joy these two terrors (my children) could have bought her. But I’m at peace knowing that she is at peace.
My world changed. I didn’t want to be behind a computer all day. Personal Training became my calling. Interaction. Motivation. Transformation of bodies, mindset and lifestyles. Transformation of lives. The power of movement. My coping mechanism, the method to mental and physical release. Empowering others to feel the benefits of exercise
became my purpose. Studying and practicing my passion became my life. SKULPT IS BORN.
My story, my curveball, had forced some strong personal qualities that define me as a person today, most notably empathy and wisdom. It’s something I rarely speak of. Facts above that only my closest friends know. Facts too easily misinterpreted and assumptions and opinions too easily made. Of course there is so much more to this story. There is more to every story. Understand this is no cry for sympathy, no call for compassion. Everyone has a story. Pain is rife. Understand this commonality. Talk. Forgive yourself and others. Get empowered. Find your passion, your purpose. Live.