By Grant J Everett
My wife Linda and I have known Kylie (often known as Smiley Kylie to her friends) for six years. In that time she has come leaps and bounds, learning all kinds of practical skills, building her social network and moving one goal at a time towards the life she wants. She was a friend we saw several times every week, and she came to mean a lot to our entire circle.
Even though we live in the era of eHarmony, speed dating and other exotic ways to connect, Kylie met her husband Shane in one of the time-honoured old-fashioned ways: they were introduced by friends. They clicked instantly, and only got closer over time. Soon, they were finishing their long phone conversations with “I love you”. But while Kylie and Shane were growing closer in many ways, they weren’t getting any closer in a geographical sense: Kylie lived in Western Sydney and Shane was located in a little town in rural Victoria. Relationships can be hard when you are separated by 900 kilometres and a state line, true, but they found ways to make it work. They enjoyed taking turns visiting each other for a while, but having to say goodbye for months at a time would be painful for anybody. For things to go to the next level, Kylie and Shane both knew that one of them would have to leave everything behind and close the distance for good. The time to make this decision came when Shane got down on one knee and proposed.
After long discussions, it was decided that Kylie would move down to Shane’s hometown, a tiny green gem tucked away in rural Victoria called Timboon. Primarily a dairy farming area, Timboon is known for its whiskey distillery, gourmet ice creamery and cheesery. It’s the sort of place where nobody is a stranger, where you’re on a first-name basis with everyone at the supermarket.
Shane grew up on his family’s dairy farm and has been man of the house since his father passed away. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cows and dairy farming in general, and he didn’t even pause when I asked him how much milk you can get out of a cow (anywhere from 15 to 35 litres per milking). As you’d expect from born-and-bred salt-of-the-earth types, Shane and the other locals get up so early that they make the dawn look lazy. Doesn’t sound much like Sydney, does it?
While we were initially worried that Kylie might run the risk of getting isolated, we had no reason to be concerned. In fact, the exact opposite happened! As the love of her life knew everybody in town, the entire Timboon community immediately welcomed Kylie into the fold. If she was good enough for Shane, she was good enough for them. It’s worth noting that while it’s common for kids who grow up in rural areas to head for the big smoke once they’re ready to strike out on their own, having a city girl move to a remote area is much rarer, so I’m sure Timboon is always happy to take in some new blood. A great example of Kylie’s popularity was how half of the local shops closed down on Kylie’s wedding day so their owners could attend! Kylie doesn’t just have a new address: she has a new family.
Before moving south, Kylie had built a considerable support network of friends and support people in New South Wales, and she’s stayed in regular contact with some of them. My wife Linda, in particular, has been speaking to Kylie on the phone every week. The two of them were always close, but it was still a surprise when Kylie asked Linda to be her matron of honour on the big day. Linda was proud to accept. A handful of other friends from New South Wales were able to make it, too, including Chaplain Sue, her husband Doug and their daughter Rebecca, among others. Sue, in particular, had gone above and beyond in supporting Kylie over the years, playing a big role in building Kylie’s living skills and providing emotional support. Sue also helped Kylie to travel down to Timboon during the time Kylie and Shane were still dating.
Kylie and Shane’s wedding ceremony was held in a beautiful outdoor chapel nestled deep in the Timboon bush towards the end of summer. Thankfully, the weather on the day was perfect. Just like the bride and groom, the reception was down-to-earth: rather than relying on fancy canapes and exotic main courses, there was an assortment of the best locally-made cheeses and a perfectly prepared lunch of roast chicken, lamb, and pork with all the trimmings. Sue had used her baking skills to make a two-tier wedding cake decorated with fondant hearts and flowers, one layer a moist chocolate mudcake and the other a fruitcake. Kylie was sure to save a slice for her first wedding anniversary, as is tradition. It was an honour to be there for Kylie and Shane on their big day, and seeing somebody attain their dreams is a wonderful thing to witness.
Recovery is about more than wellness: it means building the life you want. There is no such thing as a “standard” recovery, no set template. A major part of recovery is figuring out what it actually means to you, as hitting a target is always easier if you can see it. Simply saying you want to recover isn’t enough: you need to be able to define it.