“And I know, finally, that my light has direction again.”
It’s been 12 months, since you left this life, to ascend to the next. Where hopefully, your perfect soul will be waiting for mine and we can go into the next life together; lessons learnt.
When Charlie died exactly 12 months ago today, I dreaded moving forward.
Did taking that first step out of bed in the morning mean that I would forget something about her?
Did filling my head with new memories, information and thoughts cause the old ones to disappear?
Would it become harder to picture her face, her habits, the way she smelt and walked?
The fear of letting go and loss was very real. I couldn’t let anything go. I was scared of losing photos, so I spent a lot of time uploading and backing up… terabytes filled with photos and videos, and then backed up another 4 times to different platforms, just in case one failed, or my World was lost in the cloud.
Feeling guilty smiling, laughing, moving on.
Being exhausted from doing the most simple things, and struggling to find gratitude in the moment; something that usually comes so easily.
The quiet moments were the ones I remember the most.
Hank and I would sit on the front porch, late at night, the sound of waves crashing in the distance…and we would stare at the moon together. I would have him, crooked under my left arm, his warm body relaxed yet alert, big brown eyes looking up, and knowing passed between us.
He knew she was ‘up there’. And I’d talk to her. I’d speak for both of us, and let her know that we missed her, and that it wasn’t fair.
Laying in bed, and I remember the day- it was a Tuesday morning, about a week after she’d died.
I was asking that question; you know the one.
“What’s the point?”
Not “what’s the point of living?” or “what’s the point in trying/loving/being?”
No specifics, just “what’s the point?”
Believe me, I asked that question many times, vehemently to Paul, to myself… to the sky.
What is the fucking point of anything?
I would look for signs everywhere. A feather nearby, meant so was she.
I would beg for her to come to me in dreams, meditations; nothing.
And that Tuesday morning, as I was just about to drag myself out of bed, and begrudgingly start my day, cursing the sun for shining its fucking rays on me, hating the blue sky and the birds, wishing that I could be left alone to wallow….deeper and deeper in grief… it came to me.
Loud, and as clear as day,
Like someone was whispering loudly in my ear and giving me the directions for the next turn.
And let me backtrack a little here. As at that point, I had no map.
There was no ‘next step’. We hadn’t thought that far ahead. When Charlie got sick (I talk about it, and her death, here and here), my 30th Birthday present from Paul, a trip to India, was cancelled. Holidays put on hold, my business just treading water.
I had commitments that I saw through; a woman is only as good as her word.
I showed up, smiled, make up on…but the lights, as brightly as they shone, had no direction. There was no one driving the bus.
I just didn’t care anymore.
And I hate writing that. As I DO care.
I love my work. I love writing and cooking and taking photos. I am so grateful to have my book in print, and adore supporting my students in different VH programs (my Stripped Bare Beauties, The Vegie Head Academy students, as well as Robyn and I’s food bloggers in Make Some Real Dough). I enjoy interacting with my following and creating awesome content.
But I had lost that passion that had kept me going for so long.
I thought long and hard about packing up virtual shop and getting a 9-5er…writing that makes me feel even worse.
So that Tuesday morning, caring so hard about everything, not caring about anything, and especially caring about not caring about anything at all, had taken a grand toll.
It’s a paradox- like when you’re told to meditate and to “think of nothing”. You’re still thinking about something.
So that caring/not caring and even, as much as I never want to admit this to myself (or anyone) caring about living, I felt like I cared too much.
If that makes sense.
I was burnt the fuck out. And I was bored.
I needed something bigger than me to dream about and believe in again. I’ve set goal after goal, aimed true and kicked hard. But I needed a new goalpost.
Death is hard enough.
Being a cup to hold metaphorical water for everyone around you is a tougher job.
And it’s what I’d been for so long.
Supporting everyone else first, and neglecting myself, and my family and my dreams.
I’d had enough.
And those people, who you do love, and want to talk to, and be their cup to fill up all of their petty little problems to the brim with, just don’t get it. No one seemed to get it. Even after writing Rituals, I didn’t get it myself.
So this voice, this loud whisper, that broke me out of this trance, told me exactly what the next step was.
And not just live… but really LIVE. Bold, caps and italics intended.
I had been living, of course. Breathing, blinking, eating, sleeping, thinking. But I wasn’t living.
Living in the way that I should have been; that we should have been.
The type of living that only comes when you get that huge wake-up call. “When you get diagnosed with cancer and you finally decide to do everything you ever wanted to do” type of living- except that instead of us being diagnosed it was Charlie, and instead of having enough time….her time had come to an end.
But ours hadn’t.
And she so gently reminded me of this.
I picked up my phone, and Googled a picture of a caravan.
A cute, little retro van, with a curved roof and a red flower pot at the door. Obviously not practical, but totally adorable. And that photo, became the profile picture of the Instagram I created, quietly (as when in mourning, the last thing one should be doing is planning the next step!) and @thecaravanproject was born.
When Paul got home from work that night, and found me on my computer, instead of curled up in a ball, he was surprised.
The one thing I know about my husband, is how to approach him with one of my crazy ideas.
And I’ve had plenty of them over the years.
So I broached the subject carefully.
Hey hun, I start. He knows something is coming when I say this.
What do you want now? He replies smiling, a knowing look on his face…yes he’s heard this many times.
Well, you know how we wanted to travel Australia in like, five years? How about we do it sooner?
And from there I tell him.
That voice. The fear of losing time. The never-ending not-caring I was feeling.
The worry that I would wake up one day, a cancer growing inside of me, and no time to do the things I’d always wanted.
The fear of him being wiped out by a truck on the freeway and me opening up the door to four police (which did happen one morning, but they were looking for someone who’d lived here before).
The stress of his unfulfilling job killing him at 40, a heart attack, falling to the earth, never to be revived. Of losing Hank.
Of regretting not sleeping under the stars and watching the sun rise.
The fear that we would lose that gift that Charlie’s death has bestowed upon us.
Morbid, I know. But grief will do that.
The lessons we learnt in that moment came, one after the other, whooshing over our grief heavy bodies.
We both knew.
It was going to happen.
We would not let her death be without this lesson. We wouldn’t ignore this message.
The one thing about me that you should know, is that I don’t do things by halves.
If I’m in, I’m all in. I don’t think small. I think REALLY big.
This was no exception.
Some could pack up their possessions, quit their jobs and leave.
I like planning and practice. I like knowing what I’m going to have for dinner at breakfast time. I want to make sure I have enough of what I need.
I also have a crazy need, that my work must leave a legacy on this Earth.
So this blessing that grief had bought me, buoyed me. And in those moments, where I felt lost and indescribably small and insignificant, I simply asked for Charlie’s help.
And there she was every time.
Her death is our greatest gift.
So, what does all this mean?
Let me tell you what I know now, as it’s all still unfolding before me.
For 12 months, we are going to be travelling Australia in a caravan.
I’m going to be filming along the way; cooking easy, healthy and delicious meals.
I’m going to be running workshops and demonstrations all over the country. Just like my 2013-2014 National Tour, I’ll be running a series of day long and half day events. Sign up to my newsletter to find out when they’re announced.
I’ll be writing my second published book. To me, this looks like a coffee table style of book, with stunning pictures (taken by Paul and I), stories about food in different regions, and recipes.
We’ll be recording our Podcast.
We’ll be working on our App.
Both are yet to be officially announced and released.
And of course, Hank and Holly are coming with us.
A few things need to happen in the interim.
We’ll be moving back to Melbourne for a short while. Paul has business to attend to there, we need to do some small renovations to our home and it’s where we’ll be starting our journey.
We’ve got no dates just yet, but it’ll be soon. My time here on the Coast is coming to an end- energetically I needed this time away to focus, heal and de-clutter my life. But now I’m ready to rejoin the real World.
We need to decide on the caravan we want.
I swing between two.
Both are stunning, functional and comfortable. I need to really think about what’s going to look best during filming and what’s going to be promotable. We’re hoping that the videos will snowball into Television. We’ve been in talks with production companies, and the gap is there; no one is coming at it from the angle we are.
Whichever one we choose… we’re going to christen it ‘Charlie Girl’.
We’re not old, grey nomads, on a last hurrah.
We’re young, childfree, and instead of viewing it as just a holiday, it’s going to be a life change and one that will be the inspiration for all of my work.
What does this mean for Vegie Head?
Nothing really! Things will be flowing the same way; more recipes, blogs and videos, ebooks and of course, my Stripped Bare Program, The Vegie Head Academy, and my VIP Club House. There may be the added addition of a few more things on the website, but VH is staying, kicking along powerfully.
Right now, we are grateful to have each other, and are looking forward to seeing our dream unfold. It’s going to be an expansive journey, and a huge adjustment in many ways…
But we can’t wait.
And I know, finally, that my light has direction again.