HomeAll postsPanning for gold in the muddy creek of life

Panning for gold in the muddy creek of life

Panning for gold in the muddy creek of life

by Nalini Haynes

Life’s a bitch then you die, or so the coffee mug caption said when I started work in the Australian Taxation Office a couple of lifetimes ago. Since then, in yet another incarnation of my weird and wonderful life, I qualified as a counsellor including studying Narrative Therapy under Michael White at the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide. I particularly like Michael’s take on life and relationships: he says our identities are built from shared stories. These can be shared stories of loss and abuse and negativity, but it is possible to renovate the most negative story, to pan for gold, to find flecks of gold, tiny nuggets of gold in the muddy creek-bed of life, to help reframe people’s identities in creative and constructive ways. This can mean finding that primary school teacher who had faith in you, seeking out that friend who cheered you on but has since moved away, actively seeking out the great and good in your life to turn the ashes into a beautiful garden.

I’ve had a shit week. Supanova was good although exhausting and the IMAX event (that I still need to write up) was interesting and enjoyable, but my week at university was the same old crap where they want more meetings while refusing to take simple steps like providing large print on paper for copyediting and manuscript assessments. Guess what I’ve been focusing on? This endless treadmill, the lack of progress, the fear that I’ll fail.

An analogy for lifeSince Supanova and Tuesday’s IMAX event, more gold has been revealed in my pan. Friends have been supportive in social media. And one day, when I was feeling particularly depressed, I stood in the kitchen waiting for breakfast to finish cooking and I looked out the window to see this yellow flower, the first flower on this bush in my garden. It lightened my mood, shining like a light at the end of the tunnel into my broken heart. This flower reminded me how I enjoy the simple things in life, I appreciate the ‘free’ things in life. This flower reminded me to look to the friendships I’m building in this city that has felt so alien and isolating, look to the friendships. This flower reminded me of other good things that I should focus on instead of focusing on the crap.

So often in my life there has been long gaps between good things happening. These have been the times of many tears and much sadness, the times when it’s extremely difficult to find anything good or hopeful in life. The times when refusal of disability access at university feels like it’s the end of the world. Times like this week, with Supanova followed by IMAX surrounded with encouragement from friends on social media, THESE ARE TIMES WHEN I SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED AND OF GOOD CHEER.

Even if refusal of disability access and bullying forces me to leave university, it should not be the end of my world. I have Dark Matter. I have all the people involved in Dark Matter (a small but precious group), and all the people who follow Dark Matter (you, dear reader) who are TEAM DARK MATTER. My life has never followed the path I’ve wanted or expected. It probably won’t start now, hard as I try to stay on this treacherous path that might lead to a career. If I stop trying so hard, maybe it’ll be easier: I’ve heard that walking tightropes is easier once you stop trying too hard to stay upright. If I stop trying so hard, maybe I’ll be able to appreciate what I have better, enjoy life more and build something unconventional – and maybe I won’t end up destitute living under a bridge, which is the overwhelming fear I have as an unemployed disabled person who went hungry and cold as a child.

Today I stopped to admire the flowers. I didn’t get too close: getting too close could be somewhat hazardous to my health because BEES. Tomorrow I’ll have another coffee. Next week maybe I’ll have coffee with a friend (other than poor Edward who has been almost my sole coffee companion for years now since moving to Melbourne) and talk about life, the universe and everything. I’d like to hear about someone else’s life, someone else’s ups and downs, in a personal, meaningful way outside of social media.

Share your joys you double them, share your sorrows you halve them.

I’m panning for gold. And looking for someone to share their joys with me. Am also good for sharing sorrow.

Below are some more photos of my garden that I took today, reminding myself of beauty and hope and to keep a positive focus.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


  1. I know that feeling oh so well. I lost my job in January 2006 after being refused disability access repeatedly, including in writing. It’s been a saga since then. Who’d’a’ thought, living in a ‘civilised’ country in the twenty-first century as we do?
    Panning for gold, panning for gold…


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