Robyn’s story: From grub to butterfly

By Robyn Warwick, Narrabri
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

I am now a strong, independent woman that wears strong colours and had the nerve to paint my house purple, when the norm was green, cream and white. But I wasn’t always this way.

Image of flower garden

There had been a few times in my life when I had to draw upon my inner strength to continue living the best I could but this would be my biggest challenge yet.

Looking back to a vision of myself as a young child, I see someone who was colourless. My most important aim was to be good and not rock the boat. Back then and still to this day my siblings would refer to me as the ‘goody two shoes’.  Mum would say she didn’t know I was there and that I was never any trouble.

This urge to please was never too far from the surface. I never voiced my opinion about moving all the time. I was never asked for my opinion, or how I felt continually experiencing the sense of not belonging. I was looking in on life.

When I married, I swallowed my sense of better judgement and moved in with my in-law’s to a flattened out petrol tin house. The aim was to save money and build our own home.

The time finally came to subdivide the land and have a block of our own, but my
mother-in-law refused to give her only child his independence. On top of this was the
revelation that they were going to build a section of their own, attached to our house.
I protested for a little while, but eventually caved in.

It wasn’t until I became a widow at 29-yearsold, when my husband died in a car accident,
and with two little children to protect, I was left with part of a house on someone else’s
land, that the colourless shell began to crack.

So began my journey of strength—a two-year legal tug of war and bravely standing up
to my mother-in-law, when a clause in the agreement for the land was for them to have
custody of my children one weekend a month.

I remarried; this time, a restless man who only wanted to be a truck driver, after spending seven years in the army. Money was tight trying to keep two households—one at home and one constantly moving up and down the East Coast—and when mobile phones came into vogue a $1000 a month phone account was the norm. Driving a truck was a lonely life, and the lifestyle impacted on his health, his physical form and his moods.

Investigating my family tree had been an ongoing hobby for many years, searching
for relatives and trying to fill the gaps in my childhood. The end result was something that never crossed my mind—I discovered we had an older sister who was adopted out at birth.

The unbelievable event happened, when 16 years and five days after my first husband was killed in an accident, my second husband was hit by a car, whilst walking across the road to his truck, and died at the scene. Once again the responsibility of raising our daughter fell on my shoulders, so more strength was needed.

The child within me still felt responsible for other people and I became a carer for my first mother-in-law and my own ageing parents.  I carried this feeling through to my chosen career as an advocate, trying to solve other people’s problems.

It wasn’t until I waved goodbye to my youngest child, as she walked through
the departure gates heading to Japan as a Rotary Exchange student, that I gave myself
permission to ask.

For the first time I was free to do whatever I wanted. But what? I was 53-years-old.

I threw myself into knowledge and education and became a qualified remedial massage
therapist, reflexologist, level two reiki practitioner, all the while still working as an
advocate. I finally put on the cap and gown at 57-years-old and achieved a Post Graduate
Diploma in Social Science—Community Service.

While happy with my achievements, for some reason I felt that studying was just
another form of responsibility and I longed for something more. So I traveled to Japan twice and then to the centre of Australia—they were all such wonderful experiences. Discovering who I really was and what made me tick was daunting but amazing.

The time came for me to begin another decade and so I decided to face my 60s with
vigour, energy and to define my fitness. I started riding an exercise bike, lifting weights
and continuing with my yoga.

Another challenge raised its head, when a moment occurred where my focus wasn’t
totally concentrated on the road and I had a car accident that destroyed the car I was
driving and the oncoming vehicle. Thankfully everyone escaped injury, something I will
be forever grateful for. I however, suffered injuries that have led me down an entirely
different path.

With my right elbow totally smashed and requiring reconstruction with plates
and screws, I was told my arm would be permanently stiff. The flow on effect of all
this was the knowledge that depression had wrapped its arms around me, threatening to
overcome my existence and place a veil of grey over my eyes and around my heart.

There had been a few times in my life when I had to draw upon my inner strength to
continue living the best I could but this would be my biggest challenge yet.

A path of awareness, a path where depression started out as my enemy, has
now become my friend, making sure I appreciate and I am aware of every day and
the path of putting my thoughts, feelings and emotions down on paper. This experience has steered me to Bellingen and Camp Creative and to a class of incredible people who
guided me down the path of a fledging writer.

What is ahead of me? What is around the corner? I do not know. One thing I am sure of now is that I am strong, I am colourful and I can be seen.

More information
PO Box 561, Bellingen NSW 2454

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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