BEC: The moment I understood 'the main thing' ...

Rebecca Sparrow


I remember the exact moment I became a different person.

The moment when the old me sort of dissolved. Faded to black. Blew away in the softest of breezes. The moment my protective casing hardened while my heart became more vulnerable, splitting open like an over-ripe summer peach.

I remember the moment I started seeing the world through a new prism.  A ‘well no-one died, no-one is dying’ prism.

It was the moment I sat alone in a hospital room in 2010 and stared into the face of my stillborn daughter.

That’s when something in me shifted – like a Rubik’s cube.  From that moment the past would forever be categorised as either the time Before Georgie Died or the time After Georgie Died.

The time when I worried about book reviews and family spats and being late for meetings and parking tickets and how other people saw me and thought of me and what they said about me.

And the time when I realised that none of that shit matters.  When my skin became Teflon.  When I lived my life not just knowing but living and breathing ‘the main thing’: living your life with the people you love.

Needless to say when I read The Age columnist Wendy Squires’ column on the weekend about the death of her mother and the profound impact it had on her — I got it.  I had one of those reading experiences where my spirit just vibrated ‘Yes Yes’ to each beautifully crafted line.  Because it was a column that reached out and grabbed the hand of those of us in the club. Those who have experienced the slamming-on-the-brakes defining moment of losing someone close to us whom we love. It was a column about how that loss irrevocably changes you and how you see yourself, what you do and the people around you.

Wendy writes

Wendy Squires

It was as if by watching my mother take her last breath, I got to inhale my first as a true free spirit. I saw the game of life as I lived it laid out before me and realised I was never going to win playing by other people’s rules. In fact, I no longer wanted to play at all. It was time to chuck in my chips.

Gradually dominoes began to topple: the high-profile ”glamour” job that was, in reality, salaried abuse was flicked and its henchmen given the raised middle finger in print. The relationship I thought I wasn’t worthy of, suddenly wasn’t worthy of me; I was happier alone. Toxic friends were shown the door and then, finally, I closed it behind me, leaving the millstone mortgage and the golden handcuffs for a fresh life in a new city that may not look as good, but feels great, to concentrate on ”the main thing”.

I look back now at elements of my old life with abject scorn: high-priced handbags, front-row fashion parades, Brazilian waxes, designer clothes, gossip, office politics, sceney restaurants, social pages, fake tans, $200 foils, eyebrow whisperers, low-fat cheese … It all means nothing.

I can’t encourage you more to read Wendy’s full column which can be found here.

What I found fascinating was that Wendy’s column was sparked by an interview she read with Hollywood star Bradley Cooper in the April issue of GQ magazine.  Rather than being the standard puff piece from a star contractually obliged to flog a film (in this case The Silver Linings Playbook), Cooper got real and opened up about how being in the room with his father when he died permanently changed him.

This extract from the GQ interview was taken from Dlisted. On the subject of his father’s death, Cooper said …

Bradley Cooper with his mum

“Death became very real. And very tangible. Because my father – someone who had been in my life for 36 years is just fucking gone. I watched him dying and I was there by his bed watching him, breathing with him, and then I saw his last breath and he was gone. I experienced the whole thing. And that was a watershed moment that I was privileged to experience. And it changed everything. Nothing has ever been the same since.You know William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence? Well, right there, in that moment, the innocence was gone. Done. Never to return. The beauty is that I just don’t sweat shit any more.

My father gave me two gifts – having me and dying with me. I used to be the kid that got the shakes if I had to talk in public; now, I just don’t get nervous about stuff. I can’t control everything. I watched my father die and I realised that is the way we are all going to die. For me, it was a switch from knowing something intellectually to knowing it by tangibly experiencing it. It rewired my neurological system. It almost did the opposite of motivating me. It was about keeping the main thing the main thing.

I don’t want to win an Oscar. It would change nothing. Nothing. The things in my life that aren’t fulfilled would not be fulfilled. Career-wise, right now, it’s better that I don’t win one. I don’t want to win. I don’t.”

I get it.  The main thing. It acts as a highlighter pen to the fraudsters and the users and the frenemies in your life. It spotlights the trivial and the meaningless.  And it demands that you live your life differently. Better. Wiser.

At least it did for me.

What events in your life have changed you?  Has any single event forced you to stay focused on the main thing?