Ejo #137 – My Green Babies (or Plants Are People Too): Part 1

I’m fairly confident that in my last ejo I made it crystal clear that I am not the motherly type. But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of being motherly. Or loving. Or that I can’t care for, or nurture, another living thing. I am absolutely obsessed with dogs, and utterly devastated that I can’t have one of my own. I accost the dog owners of our local community on the daily, shouting, “PUPPY!” at every adorable canine I see. But sadly, the wanderlusting lifestyle that David and I have chosen precludes us from owning a pet. But… it doesn’t stop us from owning plants.

As most of you know, my mother had a spectacularly green thumb. Her garden was legendary. I’m not sure I’ve inherited her horticultural abilities, but I don’t think it would be too bold to say that I am pretty good at keeping houseplants alive. That hasn’t always been the case, and many (too many) blameless green darlings have met their untimely demise whilst under my care. I have felt each one, as a dagger in my heart. I love my plants, as I would love my own children (and I will wrestle to the ground anyone who dares to challenge that premise). My plants are my babies, and no, that’s not weird. You’re weird.

My Mum’s glorious green wonderland.

Over the years I have learned to care for a variety of beautiful plants, through the aforementioned trial and error. I can now confidently and intuitively assess what each of my kiddies requires to thrive (or at least not die). The biggest secret I’ve learned? A little bit of tough love won’t kill ‘em. Overwatering is a far bigger assault than letting them dry out a bit. However, it’s not simply a case of popping them in a corner and watering them once in a while (though some plants are easier to look after than others – I’m looking at you Adele!!!). The needs of plants differ from one to the other, and from one day to the next. Houseplants may seem inert, but they are dynamic, living things. They get hungry, thirsty, hot, cold and sick. They can also be happy. I must say that I find it very fulfilling, having something to look after. I enjoy being responsible for these beautiful living organisms. And in turn they repay me with purified air, fresh oxygen and exquisite beauty. Who is looking after whom? Naturally they all have names, but I do want to point out that I don’t ever name them myself. They tell me what their own names are, when they’re ready. Sometimes that’s a couple of days after we adopt them, other times they whisper it to me from the supermarket shelf they’re sitting on. They are all unique and wonderful and I simply adore them. And so, just like a proud mummy showing off her precociously talented youngsters, I would like to introduce you to my green kiddies.


ADAN & LULU

Adan means Garden of Eden in Arabic.

Adan is an Aglaonema silver queen, also known as a Chinese evergreen. And LuLu is an Epipremnum aureum, also known as devil’s ivy. She’s also sometimes called golden pothos and she is ridiculously easy to care for and grow. Adan and LuLu are my “other” plant family. Some people have work husbands or work wives. I have work children. And yes, they are mine. Whenever I would visit the office levels of our building, I’d see all these amazing large potted plants around the place and that made me jealous for us tower folk, bereft of any greenery. So I asked facilities to please bring up one or two big plants for the tower, and what we got was Adan. Better than nothing. I’ve taped a little sign on him asking the other controllers to not water him, so he’s doing really well. He gets a lot of indirect sunlight and is rather delighted to be up in the tower rather than being stuck on a desk in some stuffy office.

It’s lovely to have a pop of colour in the dreary tower.

LuLu is actually a cutting of golden pothos that I rescued from someone’s workstation. She’s unusual in that she can grow in water and doesn’t need soil to survive. Clever girl, LuLu.


ADELE
Adele was a Spathiphyllum, commonly known as a peace lily. More like a grief lily, if you ask me. Adele has been my third attempt to care for a peace lily and she will definitely be the last. No matter what I do, I just cannot keep these little bitches alive. I don’t even think they’re that hard to look after. The folks at gardeningknowhow.com reckon that, “When it comes to indoor plants, peace lily plants are some of the easiest to care for.” What absolute bullshit. Just ask Adele. And Lillian. And Sylvia. I’m pretty sure they would disagree. Look, in the interests of full disclosure I will admit that of the three, Lillian’s death was probably my fault. Mea culpa. She was whining and wilting, so I popped her outside in the sunshine for a couple of hours in the hope of reviving her. How was I supposed to know that direct sunlight would kill her? Involuntary manslaughter, at worst.

I spit on your grave, Adele.

But Adele was supposed to be different. She was my chance at redemption. I kept her away from direct sunlight. I watered her with filtered water, I misted her. I caressed her. I spoilt her rotten. To no avail. She finally carked it a couple of weeks ago after a quite obnoxious, and melodramatically protracted, deathbed scene. That’s it for me, no more. Peace (lilies) out.


LUCY

A fifteenth chance at life.

Lucy is a Dracaena marginata, commonly known as a Madagascar dragon tree. I can’t even remember where I got Lucy, we’ve had her for so long. She’s grown from a wee baby dragon lass of about 20cm tall to the gorgeous Amazonian beauty you see today. But it hasn’t been an easy road with her. She really put us through the wringer, and there was a time that I wasn’t even sure she was going to make it. You wouldn’t know it looking at her lush foliage now, but for a few years she was simply unable to shake a mealybug (or scale) infestation – pests that cause plants to stop growing and start dropping their leaves, eventually leading to their death. I did everything I could. I would pick the little fuckers off individually, by hand. I sprayed her with a special soapy vodka solution. I put her outside. I moved her around the house. I would just sit with her. Nothing seemed to work. She would get better for a while and then the bugs would come back. At my lowest point, in desperation, I told David that if she didn’t get better I would just leave her outside and let someone else take her. Someone who might be able to look after her better. I’m not proud of that moment. But it happened, and I think it’s important that we talk about it. I’m so grateful that (with a lot of love and support) she managed to kick that bug habit to the kerb. After years of being feeble and sickly, she is now absolutely flourishing, strong and beautiful and I absolutely adore her, all the more for what she put us through. Her illness could have torn us apart, but instead it brought us closer together. And the biggest lesson she taught me: never give up.


DORIS
Doris is a Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as a corn plant. Doris is another old girl that once nearly died (though she was never as ill as Lucy). She just suffered from a general malade, and it took me a long time to figure out why. It was Doris who taught me about the dangers of overwatering. You feel that giving them more water is an act of love, but it’s actually a death sentence. Their roots start to rot and they slowly lose the will to live. I look at Doris now and marvel at the difference a cup of water a month makes.

The dry tips of Doris’ leaves mean that I’m still overwatering her. 😦


EUGENE
Eugene started off as a Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, which Google tells me is also sometimes called a ruby ball cactus. That’s because they’re supposed to look like this:

This is what Eugene is supposed to look like.

And Eugene did indeed start off looking like that. I have no idea what happened to him; perhaps he was bitten by a radioactive mealybug. But very shortly after he moved in, his ruby ball started to rot and wither away. Even though he was just a two buck ornamental toy cactus, I felt kind of ripped off. To be honest, I expected the rest of him to follow the ruby ball into an early grave, but shortly afterwards Eugene started growing in his own unique way. He grew so much that he started falling over so I decided to do some horticultural sculpting, practicing shibari, the ancient Japanese art of knot-tying on him. Every few months a cactus segment will grow out the side, so I lovingly and gently, but firmly, wrap the long, woody tendrils around the other ones, tying them all together. I have no idea how long we can keep this up, but I can guarantee that it won’t be me who says the safe word first.

This is what Eugene actually looks like.


SYBIL
Sybil is an Echeveria agavoides, also sometimes known as a wax agave. Sybil started off as one of those cute miniature succulent pots but she very quickly outgrew her home because she kept multiplying. This made her depressed and anxious, and she started dropping leaves so I did what every good mum would do and moved her into a nice big bowl where she has plenty of room to grow her own little babies (very adorably known as pups). You can call me grandmamma, I don’t mind!!

Sybil started off as one, then became two, and now she’s three.


STEWIE
Stewie is an Alocasia mortfontanensis, also known as elephant’s ears. He was another supermarket purchase and actually came in the big while bowl that Sybil is now residing in. The problem with the bowl for Stewie is that he likes a lot of drainage and the bowl doesn’t have any holes, so his roots became too wet and he started drooping and looking a bit wistful. I knew that I had to take immediate action, so I repotted him and moved him to a different spot (these two things really are the best first aid a plant can get). He has rewarded me with three gorgeous new leaves, and I reward him with cuddles and my unconditional love.

You can see why they call them elephant’s ears.


THE GANG

They’re called adult collectibles. I will not be answering any further questions.

Meet the gang. Sarah is a Dracaena trifasciata, also known as a mother-in-law’s tongue, or snake plant. She is a super slow grower which is probably for the best because apparently she has the potential to grow up to eight feet tall. Woah there Sarah, slow your roll girl!

Rico is a Goeppertia makoyana, also known as a peacock plant. What I love about Rico is that every night he becomes quite erect!!! I mean, literally. His leaves all stand to attention like little soldiers. It’s quite amazing to see. Also, when I took his picture right now to identify him correctly, the plant-Shazam app, Picture This, told me that I am a horrible mother and that plant services have been alerted. God, this parenthood jam just never lets up, does it.

I promise I’ll water him less from now on.

Fran is a Nephrolepis exaltata, also known as a Boston fern. I don’t do so well with ferns, and I’ve definitely killed more than my fair share. But I somehow managed to keep Fran from dying, pulling her back from the light at the eleventh hour. It really is a miracle that she’s still alive, to be honest. She has about twenty fronds right now, but after I conducted life-saving emergency surgery on her (with a Stanley knife, no less) she was left with just one sad, droopy little frond. As you can see she is slowly growing back. I mist her once in a while, and she seems to like that so I’ll keep doing it.

Sally is a Schefflera arboricola, also known as a dwarf umbrella tree. Sally is not my favourite plant in the world, and I have a feeling she knows it. She’s just so goddamn boring. Which is the exact reason I’m so glad I never had kids. What if I’d had a boring one!!! A tiresome child that I just couldn’t be arsed with. Imagine wishing (as I do with Sally) that I’d never brought the little bugger into the world/my home to start with. And now I feel guilty so I have to lavish her with some attention to make myself feel better. She’s still fucking boring though.

Fakey is the “plant” next to Sally on the bottom row (see what I did there). I own a couple of fake plants because I really love having greenery in the bathrooms and unfortunately our bathrooms are completely devoid of any natural light, which plants obviously need to live. Here are the other ones. They don’t have names, obvs, coz they’re not real.

I don’t love having fakeys but my brain still gets off on the green factor, and as far as fakeys go, these ones aren’t too bad.

To be continued…..

Ejo #136 – It’s My Body, And I’ll Cry If I Want To (Part 1)

On the 14th April I celebrated one full year without my period.  This means that I am now officially in menopause.  Yay!  The period (haha) leading up to this momentous occasion is known as peri-menopause and can last anywhere between a few months and ten years!  Mine lasted about three years and the first time I became aware of it was when my period, which has always had atomic-clock precision regularity, was three months late.  Even then, it wasn’t the first thing I suspected.  I bought a home pregnancy kit, not for the first time but hopefully for the last, and was surprised and enormously relieved that it was negative.  But my period remained conspicuously absent, so I went to the doctor to get some answers about what was going on down there. 

When the lab test came back negative as well, the doctor said to me, somewhat tenderly, “Well, you are 46.”  Of course!!!  It was a lightbulb moment.  And one of mixed emotions.  “Yay”, I’m not preggers.  “Boo”, I’m getting old.  And “Duh”, because menopause is genetic and my Mum was also in her forties when she went through it.  I’m a woman of a certain age, so menopause was always kind of hovering in the background.  I had just been so preoccupied with the horrific notion of baby fixin’s growing inside of me that I’d forgotten to consider it. 

After that my periods started fucking around even more.  They went from being super light to super heavy.  From regular as clockwork to extremely unpredictable (once every three months, once every six days, whenever it goddamn felt like it).  And they went from lasting just two or three days to dragging out over a week, ten days, more.  Worst of all, they became excruciatingly painful.  There were several days I couldn’t go to work because I was physically unable to unfurl myself from a foetal position.  And I wouldn’t have been able to work a two hour stint in the tower without bleeding all over myself and the furniture anyway.

So when my period stopped coming, it was a welcome respite from all the bloody drama.  The last twelve months have passed without a single drop of blood being shed from my uterus.  That’s one of the perks of menopause.  Some of the downsides?  Insomnia, physical and mental exhaustion, having to go to the toilet all the time, itchy skin (it’s called formication – no, FORMICATION), a pudgy belly and intense joint discomfort in my entire skeleton.  I do feel pretty lucky to not suffer any of the emotional and depressive symptoms which are pretty common in menopausal women.  And so far I’ve also managed to dodge the vaginal dryness and sexy-time problems.  Can I get a high five!! 

Good times.

The hot flushes though.  Fuck me, they are not a joke.  They come on like an actual volcanic eruption.  From somewhere very deep inside my body, from my very core, an intense heat starts radiating out like rising lava until my organs, my muscles, my bones and my skin are all ablaze.  It feels like I’m actually heating the air around me.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  It is a total body clusterfuck, and it’s extraordinarily uncomfortable.  During particularly intense flushes my skin breaks out in sweat, rivulets of which pour down my face and upper body.  And the night sweats are even worse.  We’re talking full body saturation and drenched sheets.  This happens almost every night while David sleeps beside me, shivering because I need to have the air-conditioning set to cold.   

So, why am I telling you all this?  Let me try to explain.  When it comes to being a woman, sometimes it can feel like we are all alone.  We’re made to feel shame for our bodies and what happens to them, especially as we get older.  It might seem that there are no more taboos left, and that we can talk about almost anything these days.  But watch what happens when women want to talk about having miscarriages or abortions, or being raped.  Watch what happens when women want to talk about sex work or birth control or incontinence or sexual harrassment.  Watch what happens when women want to breastfeed in public.  Or when we talk about menopause or periods or vaginal discharges or the other (somehow worse) taboo of vaginal dryness.  We’re made to feel disgusting, and that talking about our bodies is dirty.  That it’s wrong to talk about the things that happen in between our legs.  That it’s Too Much Information and we should keep it to ourselves. 

I’m not thrilled to be discussing this shit with you.  Why not?  Because it feels wrong, and somehow dirty.  Do you see what I mean??  And that, precisely, is the reason that I am writing about it.  The concept of privacy here can be a double-edged sword.  It can be protective, sure, but it can also be used as a means of repression or censorship.  I’m prepared to sacrifice my right to “privacy” in the hope of making some positive impact.  Every woman’s experience of this stuff is different, but if I can do something to smash the taboo (or at least chip away at it, even just a little bit) by putting my private bits out there, then I’mma do it.  If one woman reads this and feels seen, I’m cool with whatever stigma comes along for the ride.  If one woman reads this and feels less alone, then it’s totally worth it. 

So, if for some reason you feel uncomfortable reading this, then of course feel free to drop out here.  But I do urge you to confront your discomfort and keep on reading.  It certainly wasn’t easy or comfortable for me to write it, but I pushed through.  Because I sincerely feel that it’s important to have this conversation.  To make it OK to talk about it.  Whether you decide to keep reading or not is completely up to you.  But you’ve been warned.  Shit’s about to get real. 

The first time I became pregnant I was living in the US, working as an au pair.  The upper age limit for the job was 26, and I barely scraped in, turning 27 three days after starting work.  So I was “old” for an au pair.  But in many ways I was still very innocent, naïve and young.  I was not a worldly 27 year old.  I was a baby.  Before starting the job I had held some loosely conceived, vague notions of one day becoming a mother.  Nothing that I would call an urge, though.  More like a pre-programmed setting that hazily loomed in the far distance.  I always used to say that my biological clock must have been digital, because I never heard it tick.  But during my time away in the US, I came face to face with motherhood.  And I realised I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. 

At the airport on my way to the USA to be an au pair. Definitely not mother material.

Long story short.  The year was 1998, and I was a wide-eyed ingénue, living in a small town in Connecticut.  I met a guy, I liked him, we had a lot of sex, the condom broke, I got pregnant.  I did not enjoy being impregnated.  I was absolutely appalled that my body had allowed itself to be implanted with the ingredients of a human being.  I physically hated it too.  The embryo would only have grown to the size of a kidney bean (I’ve blown out boogers that were bigger), but it physically felt as if my body had been occupied by some powerfully evil force.  I was relentlessly unsettled and nauseous.  I felt consumed, colonised, like my life was being sucked out of my body by a greedy parasite.  I hated this creature growing inside of me, using me, without my permission.  I punched myself in my stomach 15 times a day, hoping to dislodge my unwanted passenger.  Every morning I’d walk Daniel and Holly to the bottom of the driveway to wait for the school bus.  After waving them off, I would climb up a large boulder near the mailbox and jump off repeatedly in the hopes of jarring the little fucker out of my uterus.  I nearly broke my ankle slipping on the frozen ground.  When my period still didn’t come I scheduled an abortion. 

Afterwards, my boyfriend and I went out for lunch.  Even though I was fuzzy from the sedative, I can still remember feeling absolutely fucking great.  A malignant growth had been excised from my body, and I was reborn.  I had escaped a future I was incapable of living, and everything around me seemed beautiful.  I felt peace for the first time in ten weeks.  That night I had a babysitting job with the family across the street.  As I patiently tucked the clingy little girl into bed and soothed the whiny toddler to sleep, I knew I had made the right decision.  I waited for the regret to come, I was ready to face it.  But it never did.  And it never has.

People have asked me why I never wanted children.  They’ve wondered if perhaps there was some trauma in my childhood that prevented me from wanting to create a family of my own.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  My childhood was idyllic.  There were ups and downs, of course, but I look back on those years as being as close to a perfect childhood as you can get.  I don’t mind being asked why I haven’t had kids.  But the more pertinent question to me is why people do choose to have them.  To be brutally honest, I’m confused by all the babymaking.  I don’t understand the urge to breed.  Maybe I’m missing a gene, or something. 

Nearly all my friends have had kids, and I love (most of) them.  So I don’t want to offend anyone here, but having children seems like the most basic thing you can do.  Algae reproduces sexually.  Having offspring feels like the default evolutionary option.  Like a stage in a life cycle that people go through without stopping to question why they’re doing it.  Why they want it so much.  The instinct to procreate, to reproduce, to spawn is a primitive one.  It is an animalistic drive.  Is it judgemental to feel that I am above that primal urge?  I guess it is (sorry, not sorry).  Pardon me, but I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t mindlessly added another human being to an already overpopulated world.  I’m proud of the fact that I chose the road less travelled.  That I didn’t have children simply because that’s what we’re “supposed” to do in order to be fulfilled.

So am I a more complete human being, for not having the imperative to pass on my DNA?  Or am I incomplete?  Nature designed us to survive and multiply.  Does my choice make me superior to nature?  Or am I one of nature’s mistakes?  Thinking of myself as being more evolved, because I’ve chosen not to have kids is actually fucking hilarious.  Because my “evolved” genes are gonna die with me.  Nature wins.  Nature always wins.  Brava nature.  Fucking slow clap, bitch. 

My next two abortions (minor wins against nature) were performed in Australia.  I feel very lucky to have had such easy access to terminations when I desperately needed them.  I always had a safe and legal way to exercise my right to choose what happens to my body.  All three of my abortions were excellent decisions.  I wouldn’t say I’m proud of them, but I’m certainly not ashamed.  And if I were to become pregnant today, I would have another abortion.  Because, when I tell you that I don’t want to be a mother, when I say that I don’t want children, I really mean it.  I’m thankful to be childless, and I love my life just the way it is.  Nearly three months before my 50th birthday, I am thrilled to not have to worry about any more “accidents”.  No longer being so goddamn fertile is definitely a perk of menopause and almost makes the rest of the shitshow worth it.  But, I’ll be getting David to pop on a condom for a little while longer.  Just in case. 

Ejo #135 – Promises

This one’s about my Mum.  As many of you know, her life as a girl in Greece was difficult.  At the age of four, she fell down a well and broke almost every bone in her body.  She was forced to work as a shepherdess from the age of eight and unceremoniously yanked out of school when she was 12.  She was beaten, berated and told that she’d been born only to provide an extra pair of hands, while at the same time castigated for being an extra mouth to feed.  Her parents never told her they loved her.  And when, at the tender age of 16, she resisted their attempt to sell her off to a man three times her age in an arranged marriage, she was shipped off to a country she’d barely even heard of, in order to work and send back her earnings. 

My Mum’s resilience was remarkable.  She may have been scarred by her formative years, but her ability to rise above her past was something I’ve always admired.  A wonderful example of her courage was when, at the age of 44, she enrolled to study a course in natural medicine at the local college.  The year was 1991 and, after years of dreaming about it, and talking about it, and thinking about it, she finally just did it.  She went to school and learned, academically, the healing properties of plants.  She overcame a lack of confidence in her English, a lack of formal education, overwhelming social anxiety and a damaged self-esteem in order to pursue her passion.  Like I said, remarkable. 

Nerd. ❤️

Being a self-absorbed, 19 year old asshole at the time, I can’t remember what gave her the courage to finally take the plunge.  I know that my Dad would have supported her unconditionally.  Had it been a new year’s resolution?  Had someone challenged her?  Did she just wake up one day and decide to do it?  I’ll never know.  Of course my Mum was an exemplary pupil, and I remember her spending hours studying every day (while I, in my misspent second year of university, wasted my hours drinking copious amounts of beer and playing cards in the university common room).   Mum graduated, and then spent the next several years continuing to study, continuing to learn, reading books, posting on forums, asking questions – always striving to know more about her craft.  Thirsty for more knowledge.  She grew her own plants, her own garden laboratory, and constantly experimented with them (OK, fine, sometimes on us kids).  She made tinctures and creams, oils and poultices.  She was always concocting something for someone, always drying herb cuttings, always fermenting, infusing, mixing, soaking, powdering.  Always. 

A few of my Mum’s thousands of handwritten labels. She literally had a remedy for everything, always within arm’s reach.

In 1999, my Mum took all the knowledge she’d acquired over the years and actually wrote a goddamn book, a compendium of plants and their uses.  Years of study and personal experience finally culminated in her life’s work.  My parents spent a shitload of money to self-publish thousands of copies of the book in Greek.  She actually wrote most of it in English, but because she felt her English wasn’t great she hired a translator to transcribe her notes to Greek.  I kind of wish she hadn’t done that.  Over the years she sold a few copies here, a few copies there.  But selling books on consignment is a real bitch, and it’s hard to make money in Australia from a niche book written in a minority language.  Not that getting rich was ever my Mum’s goal.  Her goal was to heal people.  To help them.  My Mum was driven.  Single minded. 

The title loosely translates as, “A Family Guide: Herbal Remedies”.

Perhaps that’s something I inherited from her.  Growing up, I was rather goal oriented.  I wasn’t necessarily great at achieving the goals, but boy did I like setting them.  I used to be quite the new year’s resolution queen.  I’ve come a long way since my very first attempt at new year’s resolutions, possibly inspired by my Mum but, let’s be honest, also possibly inspired by Dolly magazine.  I was a 16 year old maniac cultivating an elaborate and detailed sub-world inside the four walls of my bedroom.  Here, lifted straight out of my handwritten diaries, is a taster of the chaos and mayhem that emanated from my addled teenage brain that first day of 1987:

  1. Learn to dance and sing like Madonna
  2. Fill my wall with Madonna posters
  3. Meet five new, gorgeous guys
  4. Lose weight (still at it, 34 years later)
  5. Become a good photographer and create a portfolio of self-portraits.
  6. Get mostly As and some Bs in my half-year report
  7. Buy lots of cool, trendy clothes
  8. Enter, and win, the Dolly covergirl competition (I’m so embarrassed)
  9. Get some really good disco tapes
  10. Become the biggest flirt – watch out guys, here comes Chryss Stathopoulos!!!!  (I actually wrote these words in my diary, and I am now crying from shame)

OK, so I sucked.  Big time.  The only one of these I achieved was having a wall full of Madonna posters.  And even today, I still have no idea how to flirt.  Jump forward two years to January, 1989, and I’d somewhat figured this shit out: 

  1. Kiss at least one guy.
  2. Don’t eat any chips.

Definitely more attainable.  I easily ticked both of these off and got a taste for how good it felt to achieve annual goals (also: how good it felt to kiss boys).  In 1990, ten years before I’d even heard of Dr. Atkins, I gave up bread for the year.  Just because!  And yeah, I totally got off on people’s reactions when I told them about it.  I liked the incredulous attention.  Yes, I was a weirdo.  But I was doing me, and for an angsty teenager with low self-esteem, that actually felt really good.

The next year I went without chocolate for 12 whole months.  Sounds impossible, but it was pretty easy once I decided that it was going to be a “no matter what” situation.  I simply wouldn’t put chocolate in my mouth.  You don’t even realise how ubiquitous chocolate is until you decide to give it up.  That shit is socially difficult to say no to.  Especially at easter.  People are always like, c’mon just have a little bite.  But I resisted and it felt like a great achievement.  I learned the value of not always giving into your impulses.  And for a young teenage girl who’d regularly polish off a family sized block of Cadbury’s Snack chocolate in my bedroom whenever I felt sad, I reckon that’s pretty impressive.  For the next two decades, I alternated between not eating chocolate for a whole year, and not eating bread for a whole year.  It was just something I did for discipline.  To prove to myself that I could. 

I think the reason that I stopped, in the end, was age.  Just getting older, wiser.  You could say I became more mature.  Doing something for the sake of it held less appeal than when I’d been younger.  I gave myself free rein to eat chocolate and bread whenever I wanted, at around the same time that my friend Nicole introduced me to her version of new year’s resolutions.  Her unique selling point was that she’d set the same number of goals as the number of the year itself.  So in 2009, she had nine goals.  And in 2010, she had 10 goals.  I loved this concept and immediately started planning my 11 goals for 2011.  To me, a resolution veteran, this felt revolutionary.  It was a fresh new take and I was totally onboard.  I can’t remember all of my goals for that year, but I definitely remember one of them.  And it was to write an ejo a month.  As you can see, ten years later, this is a goal that I am very proud to still be fulfilling.  I can’t imagine not writing these ejos.  They have become part of who I am, in a far healthier way than being known as the girl who doesn’t eat chocolate. 

Some of my 15 for ‘15 goals included making my Mum a photo calendar of her and my Dad (which she loved) and taking a self-portrait every single day of the year (which was an incredibly rewarding challenge in terms of how I saw myself, and also with the improvement of my photography and editing skills).  I also set myself the goals of running in a 10km race (didn’t do it), doing yoga three times a month (didn’t do it), attending a writer’s group once a month (didn’t do it), studying a photography course (didn’t do it), having a massage once a month (I couldn’t even do this one) and losing 7kg (sound familiar? didn’t do it).

As you can see, my goals were becoming more difficult to achieve.  And I’d regressed back to the kind of bullshit nonsense I’d been mindlessly slapping together as a 16 years old.  Also, the fact that I wasn’t able to tick off so many of them was actually starting to tick me off.  And really, I was just finding it more and more difficult to think of so many goals as the years went on.  Eleven goals was no problem.  But coming up with 16 new goals for 2016 was tedious. It wasn’t fun anymore and I wasn’t really getting much out of it. So, when 2017 rolled around I simply decided to give it all up.  For the first time in 30 years, I was resolution and goal-free.  And it was so liberating.  Just “being” was a luxury.  Just living my life was a treat.  I somehow continued to achieve things that I wanted to do.  And I didn’t go crazy on bread or chocolate or ice-cream or chips.  I was just kind of a grown up about it all.  Ha, imagine that.  Me, adulting!

Since then, I haven’t really missed “doing” new year’s resolutions.  I live my life as best I can.  I do yoga every day, I try to eat well (shoutout carnivore), and I try to be a good person.  I meditate every day in the shower.  I give to charity.  I read a lot.  I have therapy.  I think about how my actions and words affect other people, and I strive to be the best version of myself on a daily basis.  Without pressure.  I no longer need the gimmick of a yearly goal in order to “improve” myself.  I just aim to do that in every moment.  I am proud of myself for that, and I know my Mum was proud of the woman I turned out to be. 

My beautiful Mum died two years ago today.  Nothing will bring her back, but I have thought of one way in which I can keep her spirit and memory alive.  I have decided (resolved?) to do something this year to honour her.  And, along with three other projects, I’ve set myself a target date of the end of this year.  I’m not calling them new year’s resolutions, because they’re not.  They’re just things I want to do. 

So, what are they?  OK, first up I want to learn the lyrics so I can sing along to the 1980 song “The New Rap Language” by Spoonie Gee and The Treacherous Three.  Yep, I am a 49 year old white woman.  Who gives a shit?  I love the idea of the mental and linguistic challenge of learning this eight minute, densely-worded rap.  Studies have shown that mental exercise, things like learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument, can stave off degenerative, neurological conditions.  So this is my fun way of fighting dementia.  Yay!

Next, I want to learn how to pick a lock.  I’m not talking about using a bobby pin to jimmy open a flimsy suitcase fastening.  No, no, I mean using a lockpick toolkit to open a serious padlock or door-lock, secret agent style.  I promise I’m not planning on using this skill for any nefarious reasons.  I just reckon it’d be a pretty fucking cool skill to have.  And, once again, learning a new skill, learning how to use my fingers in new, dexterous ways, creating new neural networks; it all has to be good for my brain, right?

My third goal of the year is to plan my funeral.  Nope, I’m not intending on dying any time soon, so don’t worry about that.  I’ve just been thinking about this one for a while.  Planning my Mum’s funeral brought my sisters and I together, giving us something to focus on other than our excruciating grief.  It was all-consuming and helped to fill our days.  But it was hard, man.  It was fucking hard.  You’re making big decisions at a time you’re barely capable of getting out of bed in the morning.  When I die, I don’t want David and my sisters to have to go through that.  Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of my parties, but bitches, I throw down an epic event!  I don’t mean to brag, but we’re talking about the kind of party people talk about for years afterwards.  People are still talking about the 7am cucumbers in the jacuzzi from the first house party David and I threw in 2011.  Living in Dubai has always been hard for me, because I haven’t made many friends.  So whenever we visit Melbourne, it’s become a tradition to throw a massive shindig, get everyone I love together and go a little crazy.  Drink, dance, carouse!  Over the years, I’ve honed my skills as a party planner and I’m pretty proud of some of the bashes we’ve thrown. 

There was the gorgeous garden party at Madame Brussels, the 80s party complete with awesome tunes, daggy fluoro outfits and plenty of jello shots.  There was the picnic in the park with bottles of rosé, yummy finger food and a crazy thunderstorm.  In 2016 we held a weekend-long, ten year anniversary party at a log cabin in the mountains, and most recently, we celebrated David’s 50th birthday with a wild Studio 54 party.  Yes, there was a white horse.  Yes, the police were called.  I guess what I’m saying is that I like planning the details, I like creating the invitations, making the music video teaser, getting my creative juices flowing.  And most of all, I love all my friends gathering in one place to celebrate an occasion.  So why wouldn’t I want to plan the biggest, best, and most amazing party of all to celebrate my own life.  I know exactly what music I want played, and I want to make the video.  I don’t need eulogies. I won’t be able to hear what you say anyway, coz I’ll be dead. Instead, I want to tell you, my friends, how I feel about you. And what you mean to me. I’m gonna turn the whole fucken funeral thing on its head.  I’m going to do it my way.  And you’re all invited.

And finally, my passion project.  The goal that has the most meaning to me this year.  I want to translate my Mum’s book into English.  I want her knowledge, her work, her sweat and tears and inspiration to reach a larger audience than it currently has.  Hundreds of copies of my Mum’s book are sitting in a storage facility in Glen Waverley, gathering dust.  That’s not what she intended, it’s not what she wanted.  And it’s not what I want.  Maria Stathopoulos, the author, deserves to be read.  She deserves to be recognised and lauded and celebrated for her work and for her small, but worthy, contribution to humanity.  She wanted everyone to have access to the world of natural medicine, the healing properties of plants and herbs.  She wanted everyone to share her joy and enthusiasm and love of the natural world.  Her own personal antidote to our industrially, and corporately, manipulated existences.  And I will help her to fulfill that desire.  I will honour her. 

I’ve already started working on it.  Last year I commissioned my talented artist friend Anka to illustrate the plants that my Mum had photographed for her book.  There were 36 in total so it was a huge undertaking.  Each illustration took her between two to five days to complete, working with archival inks on heavyweight cartridge paper.  The project happened over five months, from May until October 2020, a period during which Anka, who is London based and works in hospitality to support her art, was locked down and not earning an income.  The assignment gave her some breathing space, a small, regular income and the opportunity to focus on her work.  I am so grateful that my Mum’s book was able to facilitate that.  I love every single one of Anka’s illustrations, and I know my Mum would have too. 

Anka’s beautiful drawings of my Mum’s dandelion, echinacea, rosemary and horseradish root.

I also asked my sisters to check if we kept any of Mum’s records or notes that might help me to translate the book, and Pieta actually found a bunch of floppy disks labelled “Mum’s book”.  Perfect.  Except who the hell has a floppy disk reader?!  No-one.  Pieta had to buy a FDD to USB drive and then convert the text to word documents.  I’ve been practicing my Greek too, so that I can fine-tune the translation (because google translate can only do so much).  Last year I picked up a few Greek magazines and I’ve spent hours just reading the words, not even understanding most of what I’m reading, in an attempt to re-familiarise my brain with the language that is actually my mother tongue. Three of my goals this year are just silly promises to myself. The last one is a very serious promise to my Mum. It’s not easy. None of this is easy, but I’m driven. Single minded.