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Category: Life

A while back, I posted an essay to a Facebook group of women writers that I’m in. In a nutshell, this essay is about me — while I was living in Hanoi — dating a much younger Vietnamese man for 10 months, who turned out to be a covert narcissist. He almost killed me. You would think that the comments about my essay would centre around the cycle of narcissistic abuse, or trauma bonds or intermittent reinforcement. Or how a smart, educated woman like myself could be drawn in by manipulation and lies. How I was gaslighted and controlled. Or why leaving emotionally abusive

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After all the doom and gloom of the last year or so, this is an “I’m happy in Hanoi again” post. It’s taken a Stupid Fucking Virus™ pandemic, lock down and a bicycle to start enjoying this city again. After a long winter, punctuated by brief bursts of warm weather, summer — with all its sweltering heat and horrible humidity and ferocious storms — has finally arrived in Hanoi. I’ve packed away put my winter coats, jackets and jumpers (actually, I’ve posted them to Australia in anticipation of my return) and hung my sleeveless shirts and floaty dresses and baggy

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Yesterday, I woke up with a familiar feeling gnawing at my insides, and it wasn’t the upset stomach that had appeared out of nowhere (and that I attribute to a veggie burger or onion rings from my favourite burger joint in Hanoi). It’s a feeling I’ve not encountered for a while — at least a few months, even with not being able to exit Vietnam when I’d planned, and subsequently sitting out the soft lock down in Hanoi when I really wanted to get back to Australia. I had plans, dammit — but I digress. It was my old friend

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When I left Australia for Hanoi, Vietnam, I was in desperate need of a change. I’d lived in the same country for 53 years, the same city for 30 years, and the same house for almost 20 years. I’d been in the public service for almost 10 years, albeit in different roles. My life was routine: running a few times a week, sometimes socially, sometimes not; the odd Friday night drinks with work colleagues; trying and failing to get my publishing and freelance career off the ground. My relationship with my daughter wasn’t the best.

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It’s no secret that 2019 has been one helluva year. I have lurched and free-wheeled from crisis to crisis, never feeling I was on solid ground. I felt like I was either wading through partially set concrete or scanning for shifting sands or watching out for storm clouds brewing on the horizon. My boat of The Self has been hammered by a relentless ocean of awful situations, pelted with rain and hail of always being on high alert. I haven’t been able to come up for air. And. Just. Breathe. In January, I’d been in hospital with my liver failing.

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Confession time. I am going through what Brené Brown calls a midlife unravelling. No, it’s not a midlife crisis. It’s not a mental health collapse, either, although it feels like it. It’s an undoing. An uncontrolled and uncontrollable breakdown of what has been assumed and is assumed. What was certain is not. What seems to be reality is actually a foundation of quicksand. It’s a curious No Man’s Land of stripped back limbo where I’m questioning my decisions, and the preceding groundwork and reality on which I have based those decisions.

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My lovely friend Karen Willis from Sharing Bali and Beyond (I met her when I did a writer’s retreat in Bali a couple of years ago) issued her end-of-year newsletter (you should subscribe because it’s gorgeous and full of inspiration about travel and health and wellness) and something she said struck me.

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Regular readers will know that my relationship with my mother was fraught, to say the least. It was characterised by restriction and control and violence. And fear. An overwhelming fear that I was not safe, would never be safe. And that I was not enough. Would never be enough. Of course, this is was from the perspective of a child but some 50 years later, I still bear the scars — scars that still weep with blood and tears in the right situation, which — usually and invariably — involves a man because attachment.

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There’s something really nice about being on the other side of fifty. You’ve seen it all and done it all (well, maybe not everything, but quite a lot) and you know that you don’t have too much tolerance (or time) for crap… your own or anyone else’s. You know what works for you, and conversely, what doesn’t. And if things fall into the “not working for you” camp, you can say without hesitation and without too much delay, I’m done. There’s a certain freedom that comes from knowing when you’re done, and calling it. It means you can walk away,

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On 31 December of each year, I do a review of the past year. I look at what I’ve learned, what went well, and what didn’t. I revisit what I know for sure. This year it’s a little later because of, well, stuff. And by stuff I mean life and all that that entails. It has been a jam-packed year, though. Moving to Vietnam does that to a girl. From nearly dying to reinventing myself as a writer to almost falling in love, there hasn’t been a dull moment. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

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On 31 December of each year, I do a review of the past year. I look at what I’ve learned, what went well, and what didn’t.  I revisit what I know for sure. This year it’s a little later because of, well, stuff. And by stuff I mean life and all that that entails. It has been a jam-packed year, though. Moving to Vietnam does that to a girl. From nearly dying to reinventing myself as a writer to almost falling in love, there hasn’t been a dull moment. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

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A couple of weeks ago, on 22 November 2017, my mother died. Her death is something I have been expecting for a year more, and I am glad it happened while I was in Vietnam, because it meant I had a good excuse not to go to her funeral. How could I eulogise kindly about a woman who did so much damage? A woman who was unkind at her best, and nasty and violent at her worst, which was often? A woman who should never have had children? A woman who had carved a powerful message deep into my psyche

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