78. The body bit back.

So we wrapped up our time at Gwinganna in champion style.

My friend Megan’s vessel performed beautifully for her, through boxing and drum classes, through mountain runs and bosu ball balancing, through all manner of ridiculous aquatic activities. She threw herself at the lot of it.

I was highly impressed.

Then suddenly it was done and we were out of the compound blinking in the heat of Brisbane’s midday sun contemplating breaking our detox with a perfectly chilled glass of Pinot Grigio.

There was a short sharp dash across the road towards the restaurant and ping, pop, bam, Megan’s calf muscle said WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING BITCH?

And just as suddenly Megan couldn’t walk.


Looking on the bright side, the good thing about being confined to a wheelchair at the airport is the clean run through customs. Plus I got to demonstrate my sensational nursing skills, and I wasn’t even wearing my special outfit.

That is all.

77. Learning to love my sex.

Two-Gun Lady 1956

“I called to Naluna to run but she laughed and drew a dagger–she was a man’s woman, that girl!” – Robert E. Howard, The Voice of El-Lil


I have been one of those girls, a man’s woman, for as long as I can remember. I have always felt more comfortable around men. Always.  Because I was never a ‘normal’ girl, through my childhood I always felt judged by the other girls. And I’ve stoically carried that through my adulthood.

Being a female in a male business right through the 90s didn’t change this attitude. Even though the men were hardly opening the doors and stepping aside to let me through, I worked with more than a few women who laid banana peels in my path all the way. Maybe it’s why I can jump so well in a high-heeled shoe.

Arriving in the dining room on my first day at Gwinganna, I caught myself scanning the room looking for interesting men to talk to. It is a Woman’s Health Retreat this time so as you can imagine I came up short.

Old habits die hard.

The truth is, I enjoy men immensely. It’s a different kind of small talk; it’s about themselves not others to start with. I’m more interested in the first hand story than the second hand story. Plus I can flirt with them.  I love to flirt. Ask anyone.

In the last few years though, I have been working to reframe my reluctance to engage too deeply with the female sex and grow some girl friends – to force them, and myself, beyond the small talk.

In truth Gwinganna has nudged this along beautifully. This is the third programme I have been a part of here and I have met some extraordinarily high quality women around the communal dining table. They are women with things to say.

I think retreats of this nature attract people who are actively guiding their own life journeys. The way I see it, life is either happening to us, or we are happening to life. Gwinganna attracts the latter.  Even if they’ve been washed on the shores with a broken heart, depleted adrenals, a challenge to their health or they just can’t find the light switch for the time being, they’re not going to take it lying down.

I’ve been inspired many times by the women I’ve met here. This time round is no exception. So I’m letting myself grow in a new direction. Again.

I’m a two gun lady now.

76. I hold a new Gwinganna record.

I’m pretty proud I can tell you.  Today at Aqua Pilates I managed to shoot my ‘noodle’ (one of those plastic things little kids use in pools) about two metres into the air and over the side of the pool into the bush below.

I was trying to stand on it at the time.

Karl the instructor said that this was a Gwinganna first. He was amazed at my skill.

I was laughing so hard, I had tears running down my face. I was laughing so hard, I could well have peed myself a little. We’ll never know. That’s the great thing about pools.

Karl must have just loved having me in his class.

This is no t a picture of Karl collecting up my noodles after the class

This is not a picture of Karl collecting up my noodles after the class

75. Can monkeys do Qi-Gong?

imagesAt Gwinganna, the day starts at 545 with a knock on the door by one of the glowing people.  She calls out your name. You have to respond. I don’t know if they actually burst in and rip your bedding off if you say nothing. I don’t want to find out. I sleep naked.

Qi-Gong is at 615 on the grass overlooking the valley and beyond to the sea and the Surfers Paradise apartments everyone is still sleeping in. Or doing drugs in, I don’t know which.

Here’s what Qi-Gong promises  me:

it will circulate my life force energy through my body and activate my cells. As I feel this, my life force energy will take my attention and bring it inward. As it grows, my mind will connect to the present moment into total relaxation and calmness.

For the girl whose cranial osteopath once declared Monkey Brains as she cradled my busy head in her hands, this really sounds like a spectacular result.

So there I am, today and yesterday and the day before, caressing some kind of imaginary bubble. Pretty sure last time the instructor called it a golden ball which I like the sound of better. I always assume bubbles will burst eventually, when I least expect them to, so it’s a less pleasing visualization.

I try to still my mind, I do. I succeed. Then I don’t. Then I do.

Then I don’t.

I have done some Buddhism classes over the last twelve months and there my teacher said “Celebrate a drop of change to your mind. Remember if you gather all those drops together pretty soon you’ll have a cup of change”.

I’d like a calmer mind, and I’ve been working on it for a while now. This monkey has been learning to rattle the cage less. It got quite deafening for  a while there.

I don’t know if I like the Qi-Gong, the environment,  just feeling the new daylight warm my face or all three. But I have been liking it.

I’m thinking the Vitamin D laiden warmth of a Queensland winter is a hell of a headstart though.

74. The willing suspension of disbelief.

The Kinesiologist slash Neurolinker had machete man Antonie Dixon eyes. Staring, super intense, prickling my skin, I may have to hurt you but it’s for your own good kind of eyes.

I was in his room with a couple of ligament strains that had started impacting other bits of me, and the pretty lady at my ‘wellness consultation’ said James was amazing, a miracle worker apparently. Had I tried tapping? Had I experienced Neurolink? It was unusual she said, but it worked.

What can we do for you today? he said, as I set myself down at his workbench. Bit of a ski injury I’m bringing to the table today I chirped enthusiastically (my attempt to neutralize my nervousness). I was so scared of hurting myself I hurt myself. Hahaha.

He didn’t laugh back.

Let’s have a look at what your body has to tell me shall we he said. And then the next hour happened.

Apparently, Neurolink uses the brain’s ability to take control of the body and effect repairs to the system.

Its philosophy is rooted in the neurophysiological principle that the brain governs optimum function of all the body’s systems. Unless the brain is talking to the body a patient – me – will never have complete wellness or recovery. That doesn’t sound good.

So instead of treating the symptoms of the problem, James’s plan was to identify the various short circuits I had manufactured for myself and re-establish the functional neurological connections so that my brain could get on and deal with my symptoms.

He did this by testing my reflexes while touching certain points of my body. When my reflex failed me – inexplicably frankly – he Ah Ha-ed and started scratching my head, rubbing me and tapping me. Then the strength came back. Seriously, it came back.

He also took a finger prick of blood from me, put it on a tissue and tucked it into my bra strap. New levels of ridiculous.

Within twenty minutes he had found the root cause of my injury. According to James, my brain had frozen the muscle strain in place up there on the snowy mountain, and it started in my hips. So he reset everything.

But here’s the most ridiculous thing of all: it worked immediately, in an “I can walk! I can walk!” kind of way. The knee ligaments don’t hurt any more. My hip doesn’t hurt any more. No pain. Gone. Back to form.

I jumped off the bench, threw a couple of dance moves to test it all out. This time he laughed. His eyes didn’t freak me out any more. Actually I was a wee bit in love with him, just for five minutes.

I am teaching myself to reserve judgement more often. I am learning to suspend my disbelief, just long enough to educate my point of view.

Thanks for the lesson James.

73. Wrestling with the old me.

Up here again, in the sky, winging my way to a five star locked down location for a detox. I haven’t fallen off the wagon all year, and it’s August. But the truth is, I have my foot on the neck of a fat drunk girl who is dying to get back out and convince me how much more FUN she is than I am.  Frankly, after eight months, my leg is getting tired from holding her down.  I’d like some help.

I’ve been to Gwinganna before. It is in Queensland, near the New South Wales border. They run a slick operation with a team of people who couldn’t be better advertisements for the lifestyle. There’s a Gwinganna glow about their skin, and a particular pertness around their derriere that inspires me. Haven’t seen a fat one yet. Although there’s a few that turn up as guests of course.

The programmes are a mix of exercise, healthy food, indulgence, education and high thread count sheets. I’m good with this.

I am looking forward to releasing the hold on the old me for a few days. She couldn’t get out there, even if she tried.

70. Nourishment not punishment.

I have a friend in her eighties who say’s she never remarried because she was looking for ‘nourishment not punishment’.

It’s a turn of phrase that came quickly to me when I was lying on my bed after a sauna, contemplating another carrot, apple and celery juice for dinner. My sixth juice dinner. Sixth.

That’s because sweet Rachel was preparing a vegetable curry downstairs and the even sweeter tendrils of sauting onion starting sliding under my door.

Fuck off out of my room, just fuck off I didn’t say.

The aussie boy has fallen, a couple of days ago in fact. It’s a fruit and vegetable  diet for a few days post fast so til now I haven’t looked at his plate and wanted to elbow him in the bad back. But come on, sauted onions?

I’m not sure I could pull this off in real life. Cossetted away up the Maitai Valley by the chattering river and cheerful birdlife, it’s easy to channel a bit more zen about the juice and glue combo.  When we venture into Nelson though, I can feel that surly bitchy sixth former inside me rising back up to take charge. Three hours tops and I have to get back to the safe house.

And now the safe house isn’t safe anymore.

67. Too much information?

It’s day three and I feel peculiar but not hungry. And the peculiar is in my head more than anywhere else. I am cast adrift from the rhythm of my normal life – the loving preparation of food, the meal table chat, the pleasure of it all. I miss that more than I miss the food, truth be told.

I am thinking my week detoxing before I arrived here was a good thing, although it felt like a bad bad thing at the time. The big crash has possibly maybe hopefully been avoided. Don’t feel sick. Don’t feel headachy. Don’t even feel hungry. Definitely feel empty though.

And I will never look at rasta dreds in the same way again as that’s what I’m accidentally spying in the toilet before I flush. The poo version of them obviously. I haven’t actually eaten anyone’s hair.  I’m not hungry enough yet.

65. House Arrest

I wonder if it’s all part of making me let go.

There’s no cellphone reception at the Retreat so to make contact with the outside world you have to use their landline. This morning I think I was on the phone too long, and was promptly given a PIN number for future use. I weakly said my friend had called me back, but still felt like a naughty little girl. And not in a good way.

Not allowed to watch movies in the lounge in the afternoon either; it needs to stay a ‘neutral’ space apparently.

I asked if it was possible to mix the fruit and vegetable juice together. It’s not normal protocol, but they did it for me. Please don’t put me off oranges for life I pleaded overly dramatically.

I am expecting a call to the ‘meal’ table pretty soon. I’m still lounging in bed at 9:42. There’ll be a knock on the door and sweet Rachel will ask if I’m ready for my juice. It’s a rhetorical question.

The grief is in the resistance.

I wish they’d have handed out the retreat rules on our arrival. It would be easier than discovering them by breaking them one by one. Was that a rule was it? So sorry about that. Sort of.