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“How can we know the dancer from the dance?” W.B. Yeats.

We spend so much of our time in a working environment and although we form bonds and friendships with our co-workers we don’t always truly know what they experience in their private lives. It is the same for the people we support, and everyone else in our communities. Going into 2018, I ask you to think about the people around you and be as open, warm and compassionate as you can be; because each of us is on a journey and whilst many of us are smiling behind that smile could be someone needing a genuine smile back.

I write this in preface of a blog that Melanie Gamble, National Communications, Marketing and Fundraising Manager for CCS Disability Action sent me yesterday. She looks at the losses and gains we all experience in life and offers a few thoughts on what we all have in common with one another – our humanity. – Melissa Osgood


“How can we know the dancer from the dance?” W.B. Yeats.


by Melanie Gamble

Life is a constant experience of loss and gain. We are constantly losing and gaining on a molecular level in an exchange between our bodies and our environment. Gases, fluids, microbes and skin particles are flowing constantly into our surrounds or being exchanged and transformed within our organs to create energy. Oxygen is gained, carbon dioxide is lost. If we were trees, we would gain the carbon dioxide and lose the oxygen. So our losses are often something else’s gain.

Nothing stays static even though it may appear to. In fact every cell in your body is entirely replaced every seven years. And yet we feel ourselves to be a constant – a singularity that is on a journey forward through time. And that journey appears to be one of constant loss and gain. And some people appear to lose more than we do. And some people appear to gain more.

In 2010, I gained a husband, but lost the ability to walk a couple of months later. I had gained a horse as a wedding present but nearly lost my life as a result of a riding accident. In 2011 I travelled to Melbourne to care for my terminally ill father. In Melbourne I was offered surgery that fixed my leg. I lost my father but regained the ability to walk.

In 2012 I started working as a Community Support Worker because I felt I had gained so much by getting my mobility back that I had plenty to share with other people in my community who were dealing with all kinds of loss. My observation and experience of disability is that it can cause you to lose many things. Like humour, self-confidence, gratitude, patience, other people’s respect and opportunities. But ironically, and like everything else, there are gains. Gains in humour, self-confidence, gratitude, patience, other people’s respect and opportunities J Although I initially thought of this work as a form of giving, I soon realised I was getting way more back than I was giving out, so my gains just kept on growing.

In fact I’d say my gains have been outgrowing my losses exponentially for the last few years, until September 4, 2017 when out of the blue, I had some sort of seizure which left me totally at a loss. For 8-10 terrifying hours I was unable to lay down any new memories, so I kept repeating the same questions over and over. I was in a loop-same wording, same inflections, and same tone, over and over. The first sign that something was amiss was a very weird out of body sensation and a realisation that if my mind was like a prison with many locked cells on many different floors, someone had flicked a switch and all the doors, on all the different levels both conscious and unconscious, had opened at once.

I have to say this was kind of fun at first as it felt like an amazing flood of knowledge, but the fun soon turned to panic as I found I could not remember anything, or think coherently. The losses from this event continued pretty aggressively for the next few weeks as I lost my ability to look at electronic screens, manage sensory input and suffered from some pretty horrific headaches. Gradually I gained back my mind and my functionality and the headaches and the dizziness dissipated. I gained a wonderful new specialist who reassured me I had most likely suffered a one-off event related to some tiny anomaly in my brain; I’d probably gained a lifetime ago as a little child suffering an unusually high temperature. He said I’d be grand as long as I had loads of sleep and tried to minimise stress for a while.

Four days after gaining this reassurance, I lost my brother to a sudden and unexpected death. There was no choice but to get on a plane and go straight to Melbourne to look after my ageing mother who has Alzheimer’s and depended on my brother as her live-in carer.

Grief is a loss like no other. It debilitates and disables. There is no gain to be had in the death of a loved one. However in this case, I guess you could say we have gained my mother, who is now living with us here in New Zealand. Her Alzheimer’s is chronic and she has little to no short term memory at all now. So she asks me the same questions, over and over again- day in and day out. This is definitely a loss – for her and for me, as anyone who has dealt with dementia fully understands, it is not easy to deal with. But four months ago I gained a little experience of that kind myself, and I know how terrified I was. So I am not always as patient as I should be, but I am fortunate to have gained enough insight from my own short lived experience to know what a confusing and terrifying world my mother now inhabits. And my heart breaks for her, so I try very hard not to lose it. And most of the time I succeed.

So is what I have described here a journey? Or is it a story in which I identify myself as the lead character; in some ways similar, maybe to yours, and in other ways different? I have lost and I have gained and I have seen that sometimes those two things are not as clear cut opposites as I might have once imagined. Life is a mystery we are all in together – whatever our abilities or our differences. Life includes all people. It leaves no-one out. So what else makes sense but to help and support one another in any way we can? At the end of the day, although the terrain is sometimes steep and treacherous and at other times gentle and smooth, I think we are all just walking each other home.



3 Responses to ““How can we know the dancer from the dance?” W.B. Yeats.”

  1. Jonathan Mackie says:

    Thanks Melanie for sharing this, people have so many experiences to their life story/journeys.

  2. Thank you for sharing a touching and inspirational life story.

  3. Prudence Walker says:

    Great reflection Mel. It is the journey of life “And some people appear to lose more than we do. And some people appear to gain more.” Some of what we loose and gain is emotional, spiritual and that is different for us all. I think this is why we can’t simply compare what people experience on the surface to each other. i.e Who we perceive is better or worse off.

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