I have tended to use this blog as a fairly personal, non-serious place. The readership figures, whilst steady, have never been stratospheric; and of those who do log on, the preference has tended to be for lighthearted updates rather than the more serious side of life. I do occasionally descend into morbidity, and I guess this tendency has been slightly exacerbated these past few months by the varied pressures inherent in surviving a marriage break-up in the middle of the desert and total isolation; trying extremely hard to maintain my focus and belief in my walk whilst totally broke; attempting to forge a career as a freelance writer; and raise both publicity and funds for the walk so that I have a chance to succeed at all the things I set out too. And at times, those combined factors have resulted in me being both overly flippant, and less than completely straight.
So the email I received today gave me a timely reminder that everything one writes is most certainly read, and also that I should at times learn to pull my head in. Some months ago, about the time I had just finished walking, and was unsure whether or not I would be able to continue straight away (which at the time looked like a distinct possibility) I fired off a post regarding the seemingly endless round of freelance submissions I was sending off. Expecting, as I was, to find a ready audience in the Australian media (oh, Paula, the arrogance of you at times) I was both disappointed and disillusioned when my barrage of emails and submissions fell on totally deaf ears. By comparison, the English media, whilst not exactly queuing up to buy work, did at least respond promptly and, on a couple of extremely memorable occasions, actually commission work. Hence I fired off a rather snide comment about an Australian travel editor by the name of Jane Reddy.
Today, I received a response that, whilst I guess I had always half expected, had me both burning red in the face and feeling utterly ashamed of my cavalier and immature behaviour. There are times for flippancy, and I guess that wasn't one of them.
I include her email below:
Now, I include this because it was a really timely reminder to me of a few things.
The first is that nothing critical ever goes undetected; I think I knew this deep down, and was looking for a response, which I most certainly got. Can't imagine ever getting published by The Age after that little effort.
Another, and perhaps more important, is that chucking one's toys really doesn't get you anywhere.
But the final is one that has been creeping up on me for a while regarding this site and all that I write, and prehaps, this is what I really want to say.
From the beginning of my blogging days, I have tortured myself frequently over how exactly to treat this space. Is it written with potential sponsors in mind? With newspaper editors? For my family and friends? For fellow adventurers? How much should I share, and how much to keep to myself? Do I hold the best parts back for my next book, or write it all here?
I have tried to strike a balance, and I think that for the first part of the walk I managed that ok.
But the desert brought a whole stack of new challenges and difficulties, and I struggled like hell to work out what to write without worrying everyone, embarassing others, or giving away personal issues I felt uncomfortable about. Then, since I have been back, I have been too scared to really write about how worried I have been, in case those reading would simply lose interest and write me off as another dreamer who failed at the first hurdle.
And I have had enough. I have wanted to write on this blog so often, but have simply felt uneasy about baring myself, or airing my dirty laundry. But I am less than two months out from the date that I set myself to start walking, and remain as determined as I have ever been to do exactly that, despite all that has happened over the last few months. And unless I find some funds soon, there will be no trans-desert walk to write the second book about - although there is more than enough to fill an encyclopedia already! Finally, over the weekend I met up with a very dear friend of mine, who I spent hours telling about the journey I have been on over the last twelve months. She is an avid reader of the site, but told me that none of what I told her came through on the website; not suprising when I tried so hard to keep a lid on stuff.
So, whilst I have no intention of going on ad-nauseum about the past, and whilst I still wish to keep a lot for a time when I can write it in detail and context in my own book, I think I do need to put the record straight on a few things.
The first is regarding Gary. All I have to say on this topic is that Gary left the walk after one month in the desert, for many reasons. Some of these concerned his own goals and ambitions, which he no longer felt were being served by the walk; obviously, the other issue stemmed from the fact that we had been having personal problems, which we both felt we could no longer deal with in the desert environment. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions that Gary has ever made, and one of the toughest experiences I have ever gone through. For the following months we both hoped we would find a way through our problems, but unfortunately, and incredibly sadly for us both, we feel that is no longer possible.
I have no desire to share anything more about my personal situation except to say that our mutual love and respect remains undiminished, and that Gary remains a complete supporter of my walk, and I of the path he has taken. Perhaps Gary will tell his own story one day, and when he does, I know it will be touching, gripping, and wonderful.
Gary leaving obviously made my walk and the desert a very much more challenging environment than it had been. I was isolated both emotionally and physically, and had to walk for the next few months without being able to talk to anyone about my marriage or fears. It was tough, at times so tough I though I would lose my mind, but it was also the most empowering and incredible experience I have ever been through. More than anything, it taught me that I have the determination, knowledge, and guts to get through this walk; and I realised that I was truly doing what I am meant to, and felt more determined than ever to succeed.
Returning to the UK was a dispiriting experience. Although it was wonderful to be back with friends and family, I spent day after day on the telephone and computer, trying to get publicity, funding, and sell work. On top of this my mother, after suffering Breast Cancer last year, became very ill with Menieres disease and was often bedridden, at home and without support, back in Australia. I felt totally torn, and just wanted to be with her; yet she continued to insist that she could manage. After she had a particularly bad turn, I made the choice to fly back here - a decision I am very glad I took.
I was more than prepared to teach to keep myself going, but unfortunately it took until the day before I left the UK for my criminal check to come through. Had it been through straight away, I could have earned enough to get myself back on the road in September, funding or no funding. As it was I had little choice other than to try to sell articles and take what part time work I could find to keep myself fed. I am absolutely indebted, as I have often written, to my many friends in London who so generously granted me a place to sleep and who more often than not fed me to boot.
For the past few weeks I have been working very hard toward attracting funding, and a corporate partnersip with, Dove cosmetics. I write this now because whilst I am often flippant on this site (as previously stated over and over, get with it Paula) I have written nothing about why I have approached this company, nor why I believe so strongly in working with them. I do so now because I feel very strongly about the company and my proposal to them, and want to challenge the perception that I may have unwittingly given that I am just chasing funding willy nilly.
When I was walking out of London two years ago, I passed the first billboards which Dove had launched as part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. As I was staggering up the road, feeling overweight, self conscious, and very uncertain as to whether I would ever make it further than Greenwich, these gorgeous, curvy, smiling women looked down at me from lifesize underwear clad glory, and gave me a weird hope and inspiration that anything really is possible; that there is more to life than being a size 10, make up slathered professional in a hatchback - or at least there can be, if you desire it (please don't write in slating me, all you gorgeous size 10's in hatchbacks with wonderful jobs. Think you're marvellous too. It just wasn't for me, that's all). Throughout my walk, I kept coming across these billboards, and every time I did, they reminded me that I was on the right path, that true beauty comes from achieving in what you truly value, that success is something one defines for oneself rather than some esoteric formula dictated by a woman's magazine. Even down into the desert, Dove products were available everywhere, and somehow when I saw women in nomadic tents using them,it felt as if there was yet another synthesis between Dove and the walk. I used the products myself, slathering myself in them morning and night; in some odd way, when I was really down, they reminded me of why I was doing this, of all the years when I was too scared to set out, worrying I would never make it.
It took me months after my return to pluck up the courage to actually phone Dove. I kept making excuses: I'm no good on the phone, They'll never want me, I'm the wrong size to model anything, What's the point anyway - they'll only knock me back.....the list goes on.
I finally contacted them a couple of weeks ago. I haven't had a response yet - but in a wonderful coincidence, Dove Australia have just signed a contract with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to support the foundation in their fundraising walk in Sydney later this year. I told them I was more than happy to fly over from the desert and walk with them - I will never forget the support my Mum was given by the Foundation when she was going through chemotherapy and other treatment.
I write all of this because I am sick of not writing. I want to just be straight about exactly where I am at, without worrying about who is reading this, or what they think. More than anything I want to be back walking by the end of September. I am doing everything I possibly can to achieve that. If it is not possible (I try not to think about this) I will simply teach for a couple of months, and return to the desert around Christmas. Either way, I have no intention of giving up; I know that this walk is where I am supposed to be, and what I want to do. Gary and I worked and saved for five years to make it happen this far; we even remortgaged, then sold, our house. Now I simply can't find money from anywhere else, and I have felt strongly that after having walked so far, and proved myself through some of the hardest conditions I could imagine, that I should surely find someone willing to fund the walk. But if I don't - I will make the money myself, eventually. I just want, so much, to be able to continue.
The email I received from Jane Reddy was a good reminder of the traps it is easy to fall into; taking frustration out on other people is an old fault of mine, and one I have never been proud of. It sure got me unstuck this time - and serves me right, too!
I hope that for those of you who have wondered what the hell is going on, that this posting clears up some of the issues. I also would ask that you respect the privacy of both Gary and myself by not pushing for further details; anyone who has ever gone through a marriage break up will understand how sad it is for all involved, and I am especially conscious of the fact that this blog is written by me, thus leaving Gary without a voice - I have no wish to be disrespectful of someone whom I hold in the highest possible esteem.
I hope also that perhaps this gives you some further insight into where I am really at with everything, and hope you still buy the second book when it comes out! (Yeah, good one Paula, get the first one published first, huh?)
Thanks for listening, and best to all of you.