I was to have travelled to India to speak at the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) 2019. It is a conference where women (and men) come together to exchange ideas in the hope that sharing experience, knowledge and networks can support economic and personal growth for women around the world. It is a global network and approximately 200 women were expected to attend. I was to be one of them.
Combined with that, I was one of the group chosen to speak with a charity run by the Australian delegate supporting this forum, the wonderful @Shar_Moore These wonderful young women had come from all kinds of backgrounds and were facing the possibility of studying to become doctors and engineers and I was looking forward to sharing my story with them and the myriad of possibilities that lay before them.
I was due to travel on the 9th April with the rest of the amazing delegation from Australia. I was in the hairdressers on the 2nd April getting prepped and pimped by the amazing Dana from @beautifyhairdesign
I had received my intravenous medication for my Rheumatoid Arthritis not a week earlier and it was full systems ready, set, GO for the big trip. Plus I was also booked to see the Taj Mahal – stopover for one night after the conference and before the meeting at Project RANi . Except something wasn’t right. Except, I was determined to overcome it, nothing was going to stop me. Turns out surgery did stop me. I was in hospital that night by 8pm representing with a blood pressure reading that was scaring people more than my pain levels, and the pain levels were through the roof. Turns out my gall bladder was filled with balls (technically called gall stones)– so full in fact one had popped out and was lodged in a pipe somewhere. Once that was determined, I was then prepped for emergency surgery. The nurses were very pleased that I had my hair and nails done for the visit and paid me a great deal of compliments. I love nurses. They do a great job in pretty extreme circumstances, and a bit of humour makes a bleak place just that bit lighter. So I always try and make jokes with the nurses so we can both laugh at our shared circumstances. There is no need to abuse the people who are making you as comfortable as you can be in, what are also pretty rotten circumstances for at least one of you #writethatdown I digress, because I am still devastated that I couldn’t go. One of the doctors was pretty nasty about it. I finally received the emergency surgery on Thursday 4 th April. I was maybe starting to accept that it might not perhaps be smart, to maybe consider, that perhaps, it was a possibility, I could not go to India… It certainly wasn’t acceptance at that point. So this particular doctor, on her rounds, with an audience, thought she would demonstrate her incredibly poor, very bad manners, terrible bedside skills, and clearly acknowledging my humanity, that despite making it all that way through what had to a have been a tough journey to obtain her skills
(dubious as I am about them); instead of being respectful of another powerful women, she dug another kind of scalpel under my skin and asked (and yes, the voice matched the attitude) “So, you still going to India?” Now I get that I couldn’t go. I get that it would have been risky and dangerous and quite potentially life-threatening if I got worse and not better. But that was MY acceptance to come to. In my own time, which admittedly, was a short window by this stage. Not her story to mock, to sneer, to spit upon. And it was mocking. It was nasty, nastily delivered, while I was drugged to my eye-balls, vulnerably lying with some tubes still sticking out of me, less than 12 hours after my surgery finished and dealing with my grief at not being able to deliver some (hopefully) supporting and powerful messages to women who might benefit from hearing what I have to say.
And so she sliced. I have several words I have used to describe her that I will not print here. I may make a formal complaint. I may move on from it without doing so. I haven’t yet decided because I am more focused on myself than I am on the slings and scalpels of others. I am more concerned with getting better and continuing my missions to support other women, to lift up those that I can reach, than I am spending time worried about some nasty piece of work having a dig ‘cause thinks I am some privileged women complaining about her holiday plans – or whatever story she told herself to make it okay for her to be such a terrible person in that moment. I get she might not even be a terrible person generally speaking. But she was in that moment a woman who didn’t just drag a woman down, she kicked her while she was in down and in pain. That’s just plain old ordinary average run-of-the-mill nasty. It happens everywhere, every day, to lots of people. And some of them aren’t as willing, or empowered, or confident, or even aware enough to know that you don’t have to be affected, and you certainly don’t have to take on the nasty acts of others. You can move beyond it.
You see, I know where my privilege comes from – I earnt it. I grew up in poverty, in a domestic violence situation where there was never enough money for food but always enough money for drugs and alcohol. I paid my own way through university by getting a low paid “cadetship” (another word for cheap labour) role in my chosen industry. AU$3.33 an hour to be precise. And was paid in minute- long increments, none of this rounding up thank you! If he said I started at 7:36am and I wrote on my timesheet 7:35am, guess what? I didn’t get paid for that minute. Yep, that really happened and yep, I really put up with it. I was 17 years old. It was my first job out of an environment where I was raised to never question what I was told. I had no skills to negotiate or even begin to understand what my rights were. I just needed to work and earn money to get out of the situation I was in, so worked my ass off, I did. His office was also in his own house that he showered and lived in. There were other blokes working there too. I never knew how weird this was until I told people this story and they looked at me like “WHAT??!” That is just one example and it’s the first in my career of 28 years since then and counting. I’ve earned my money, my job titles, my qualifications, my knowledge, and my position, as well as the ability to share how I managed to overcome my circumstances and actually be a success.
During this time I have been working on accepting this really (badword) news about India, one of the ladies I have mentored has written a beautiful message in a guest blog discussing how I have inspired her life in the time we have known each other, and shared skills that have changed her possibilities. Her opportunities.
Another approach was random, completely unexpected, asking me to be a brand ambassador for beyondBeanie insta tag @beyondbeanie
One of the founders is in design and architecture and supports Arthritis Foundation as a volunteer. The sales of the hand-made beanies and other products available support women, artists and children in Bolivia, most of them from rural areas and/or disadvantaged communities. Talk about aligning with my values! I was privileged to be asked and am organising that as I write this. (Watch this space for official announcements – but you heard it here first and hope that this does make a difference and create opportunities for the community.)
I am the guest speaker for an event in Melbourne in the middle of May (tickets available ) and if you can attend, I would love for you to come and introduce yourself. It is the 15th year the BPW Geelong group has been around for and I will be at their Moving On Up Breakfast, which is designed to encourage people to strive to ‘Move on Up’ in their lives and careers. The topic is one of my favourites – Resilience. Your Greatest Asset. It kind of coincides with the theme of my life! There have been more than a few other wonderful moments during this recovery time, where the women in my circle gave back to me at a really low moment. And so, I grieved for my loss, and then I got on with it. I am back at my desk sorting plans and making progress on other things, like writing this blog. Like supporting other women. Like applying for a book award (because you never know if you don’t try!). Like finding other ways to contribute to women through on-line communities while I am in recovery and supposedly “resting”.
I don’t do resting well, although I have had to learn, rapidly. Surgery is not arthritis, and frankly give me arthritis any day over major surgery again. It is always relative, what we can learn to live with, isn’t it?
So onwards, upwards, outwards and over it – as long as you’re using it, you’re not losing it. And that goes for my attitude as well as my bendy-not-so-bendy joints.