I want to understand, because if I understand, then I don’t have to be a parrot, do I? Because I understand, I can explain to myself or anyone that’s interested in whatever subject we’re talking about, what my version of the truth is. And I’m always aware of the fact that it’s my version of the truth. You know the story about the major in the First World War. He sent a message along the soldiers in the trench to the messenger at the other end who is going to take the message to headquarters: ‘Send reinforcements. We’re going over the top.’ And the message got to headquarters, ‘send three and four pence, we’re going to the shop.’ So you always have to be careful of what you’re repeating. But if you understand, that takes away that aspect of the repetition, doesn’t it?

One of my main things is when people say, ‘I’m only one person, I can’t change the world.’ That’s a cop out. I’m only one person. But if the job to be done is to move the sand from that end of the beach to that end of the beach, then I’ll pick up my grain of sand. You do what you can and it’s amazing. When I came here, everybody was using those little 375ml plastic bottles. I was horrified. I’ve never bought a plastic bottle in my life. I asked everyone, ‘how many bottles do you use a day?’ ‘Oh, two.’ Now, if there’s 40 residents plus the kitchen staff, plus the office staff, plus the carers, plus the volunteers, there’d be at least 50 people using two bottles a day. That’s 100 bottles a day. I said at the first residents meeting we had here, ‘100 bottles a day. There’s 365 days in a year. Feros at Byron Bay are responsible for 36,500 plastic bottles out there.’ That’s only one person doing what I can. Within a week we all had jugs.

My mother actually said to me, ‘girls don’t need an education because they get married.’ I was very stupid and married when I was 20. So I was a child, a gawky adolescent, and then a wife; and I had this controlling husband. When I look back, it’s a form of domestic violence, the gas lighting. One day I was raving about my husband always out drinking at my friend’s house and her mother Mrs Fitch came up and said to me, ‘I think you’d like this book.’ In Tune with the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine. And I loved the book. I took it back to her and I said, ‘that was marvellous, where did you get it’? And she said, ‘oh, the Theosophical Society bookshop’. So I started going to meetings, and I just put my foot down and said, ‘Ken, you’ve just got to mind the children, I’m going to a meeting.’

My mother and sister pulled me aside one day and said they were very worried about me because they thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown because I was so unhappy. I was married for 12.5 years and I cried every day for 10.5 years. So then I started to stand up for myself, and I told Ken I was going to take a week off, ‘I don’t care if you like it or not.’ For that week I sat on the rocks and looked at the ocean, read Krishnamurti, meditated, read Krishnamurti, meditated. I thought, ‘okay, I’ve got an unhappy marriage. I’m going to have to cope with the situation as graciously as I can, because I’ve got absolutely no money and four children, and I’ve got to put those children first.’ So I got home after that week off on the Sunday night, and Ken said, ‘I’ve done the washing.’ He had washed what was in the washing basket, but there was a dirty school shirt hanging on every door, and there were dirty socks under every bed. But he’d done what was in the basket. Hadn’t changed the sheets, of course. And instead of gushing, because if he dried up a teaspoon, I would gush and say, ‘thank you, thank you,’ I said, ‘oh, good.’ And then he said, ‘I bought some flowers.’ I said, ‘yes, they’re nice.’ He couldn’t make me gush. He couldn’t make me cry. He couldn’t make me laugh. Couldn’t seduce me. I moved into the girls’ room. He’d lost all power. He came home on Monday night early, hadn’t drunk anything (because he always came home drunk enough you couldn’t have a conversation) and he found this aloof woman who was polite, didn’t get angry, didn’t cry. Tuesday night. Wednesday night he said, ‘I’m going to see Mum tonight.’ Thursday night he came home from work and said, ‘I’m leaving.’ And I said, ‘oh, are you?’ and in my heart I’m saying, ‘thank you, God.’ I was 31 years old, 4 children. I was so happy. It was honestly, as I sit here now and I’m 93, that was the best day of my life. It was the day I became me; when I was no longer a child, a gawky adolescent, a wife – I was me.

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