Fare thee well Auntie Yvonne!

To my great Auntie Yvonne,Yvonee

Today, 13th July 2015,  is your funeral day. I’m sorry not to be there to say goodbye in person and to pay tribute to your incredible life. Instead, I pay my tributes to you from here in Cambodia.

A few years back, someone (or perhaps it was you!?) created a facebook account in your name. Suddenly, I was receiving facebook likes from my 91 year old great aunt and I was impressed. I was even more impressed when the fb comments and chat appeared. Granted there were a few typos, a few too many commas and spaces, but it was typical of you to be so savvy – you were witty 500 victor in our family, the passionate bridge player, joker, curious and considerate great aunt. Your active mind kept you young for so long.

You were my granddad’s oldest sister and the last remaining of your siblings. I felt that your presence kept alive the memories we had of Mick and that he lived on through you. Over the last few years, you became to us an adopted grandparent and your presence at all important family occasions felt not only good, it felt right. There was someone missing if you were not there.

Your life was not easy. It was one of incredible ups and downs – not many have suffered the loss you have experienced in life and very few of us could maintain the incredible optimism, love, generosity and acceptance you have demonstrated in the face of great pain. That is perhaps one of the greatest lessons you have taught me – life can be very hard, but with family and friends by your side, love can get you through. Nothing could ever break your irrepressible spirit.

By lineage, you are my great aunt and great you are indeed. I will miss the sound of your voice down the hallway, your cane, your vibrant red hair and your tinted glasses. I will miss you calling me Emily. Mostly, I will miss the sound of your chuckle and your sight of your smile looking out to the Brisbane River with a “sparkling” in hand.

Fare thee well Auntie Yvonne and may all the beautiful qualities you possessed live on in us still here on earth.

As your sister-in-law would have said with a handkerchief in hand, “Hooray now.”

Connection

A couple of months ago, I moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and felt again that great rush of excitement as any new chapter reveals itself. This excitement hasn’t dissipated – it’s been an incredible experience so far. But it’s also been accompanied by a sense of real isolation from friends and family.

I am living alone for the first time in about 6 years. My friends are constantly posting photos of their lives in places that are not Phnom Penh. And for the first time, I’m starting to see really big changes happening within my immediate family – new members are being ‘recruited’ or born, homes are changing and we are all ageing. It’s provoked in me some existential questionings – if I’m feeling isolated, am I where I am supposed to be? Am I making the right life choices? Would I be better off abandoning my love of life abroad to return to my Australian roots? (i.e. What am I doing with my life?!?)

Last week I visited Germany for a close friend’s wedding. It was also a chance to rendezvous with Brighton-based Michaelle in Munich. We took a morning walk through the city. We sat at a cafe and over a spritz, we talked. We really talked. She listened and I talked. I talked and she listened. We talked about our relationships, our work, our families, our fears and our ever evolving philosophical ponderings. We could have continued just talking for hours, if I didn’t have to catch a flight.

Having returned to Cambodia, the fears I felt have started to ease and not because anything has actually changed, but because it felt so good to talk, to feel listened to and to feel understood by someone so close, someone who could relate. I felt real connection. ‘One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood,’ said Senaca. And so I question whether the source of our fears might sometimes stem not solely from our problems themselves, but largely from the fact that we feel our problems go unknown to others, that they are un-shareable, and therefore that we are not understood, that we are alone.

It was a blessing then to see Michaelle in Munich, a reminder of the depth of our own friendship and how incredibly important friendship is. It was also a personal reminder that it’s so important invest time in the great friends and family I have regardless of the geographical distances between us, because feeling understood, feeling connected, feeling loved is so undeniably fundamental to feeling well.

Quality friendship helps ameliorate those seemingly un-shareable fears and it replaces them with perspective – nothing is more important, in my opinion, than the good we bring into the lives of the people around us and that starts just by listening. So for getting up at 3am to catch a flight into Munich, ‘just’ so we could talk, thanks Tauson.

Reunited over spritz in Munich

Reunited over spritz in Munich

Thoughts on Nomadic Friendship III

I’m drinking a glass of wine. I’m in bed. I’m in Santa Cruz, California and I’m alone. I’m here for two months working on a film project. After this, it’s off to Spain for a wedding and then Bangkok to see friends. And after that? Not a clue. This really is, as Michaelle says, a nomadic existence and while the idea of living without a permanent address is not for everyone – my mother is a prime example – the experience of living a modern day nomadic lifestyle can also be extremely rewarding. Continue reading