Taking the first step towards happiness
Published 14 December 2017
It has been three years since I first took the helm as CEO of 3rd Space. I have been reflecting with a sense of sentimentality and wonder at the journey we have taken over that time; and in reflecting, I often come back to the people who visit with us, whom I have come to know well.
The other week I was walking past the bathrooms here and stopped to chat with a woman who was propping open the bathroom door. I am very fond of this woman and feel an element of curiosity about her potential and whether it will ever be realised. I recall a time when she had become involved with a man who physically and emotionally abused her, and both had come to visit with us when it became evident she was quite unwell. He was charming and said all the right words to me, feigning concern over her health but was actually preventing her from seeking medical assistance, not wanting her to be in a position where he couldn’t control her movements. As our nurse quietly sat with her, trying to convince her to attend the hospital, he was nervously circling around them.
Later that day, a conflict ensued between them as they exited the centre and he started to verbally abuse her. The conflict escalated quickly. With our encouragement, she re-entered the building and we shut and locked the doors to keep her partner outside while the police came. I sat with her while she shook from the fear and adrenaline. Sadly, she wouldn’t accept any more help than the in-the-moment protection our building afforded. Fortunately, he exited her life that day due to a string of other criminal charges that saw him spend time in a correctional facility.
Over the years, I have seen her battle drugs and all the health concerns a full-time habit can bring. I’ve seen her sleeping rough, couch surfing, staying in hostels and boarding houses. She has, at all times, greeted me with a smile and genuine care and concern for how I am. When I had cancer this year she stopped and told me that she thought her troubles were insignificant compared to mine. We share little bits of our stories with each other and she impresses me as a beautiful, kind-hearted, large-souled, intelligent woman who in different circumstances, would have the world at her feet. Despite our best efforts to be there for her and support her, she won’t accept what we can offer and things in her life remain unchanged.
There was a time after chemotherapy finished and I was in the midst of radiotherapy, when I looked in the mirror and had nothing to say to myself. I had no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes and in the first light of morning, without the trickery of makeup, I saw a person looking back at me that on the outside looked dehumanised, android and nondescript. It wasn’t my vanity that caused me sadness in that moment but my complete lack of a sense of who I was on the inside. It wasn’t that I felt lost. I actually felt nothing – no sense of anything. And so, I wondered how anyone else could feel anything for me or about me. In that space it was difficult to remember a time when I had a firm sense of who I was and what I was about, and so it was implausible to conceive of how I might feel ok again. I had enough cognitive function left to consider taking a step or two and try a few things to see if it helped me get back on the right track. When I took these steps, I had very little faith that they would work. However, very quickly I became clear-headed, resolute, strong, happy and am close to hitting my best form. I am lucky.
I wonder how my dear friend feels when she looks in the mirror and if she feels like I did. I know there is a road back to a happier place for her but don’t yet know what it would take for her to take a step. In the meantime, I am happy that the physical security our building and its services provide for her take the sting out of what can be a very stressful existence. Supporting someone like this who has been entrenched in poverty, disadvantage and drug addiction for years to make a transition to a more peaceful and stable life is a long journey that lasts years and takes intense resources.
Are the resources there? No. What would it take? It’s simple…..money.
Christmas is approaching and we could really use your help. As we struggle with the dilemma of what gift to buy our loved ones, we don’t always realise how privileged we are to even have to make these decisions. This Christmas, you might like to buy someone you care about the gift of giving. If you can, please support us by clicking on the “donate” button on this page (www.3rdspace.org.au), and either give directly or on your loved one’s behalf, and help us to help our visitors take a step towards happiness.
Wishing you and yours a safe and joyful Christmas.
3rd Space CEO