By the time I was discharged, COVID- 19 had taken over the world. And when Melbourne went into a second lockdown, I felt like we all needed something to cheer us up.
So, I decided to go to my local park and write positive messages on the ground.
Residents who lived nearby were allowed to exercise there and I felt it might brighten their spirits.
‘I’ll give you a hand, darl,’ my stepdad, Peter, said.
Heading there early in the morning, Peter held my bucket of chalk while I etched out uplifting quotes.
You are unique, I wrote. You are loved.
Seeing the messages, people walking past smiled and thanked us.
It was wonderful to think we could boost someone’s mood.
One woman, Veronica, even took photos and added me on Facebook.
She told me about a local Facebook group, where people had shared photos of my affirmations. Heaps of people had commented, writing lovely things.
One guy, Bruno, with very bright green eyes, wrote, From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
You’re welcome, I replied. Come and help one day.
He seemed like he was on the same wavelength as me – and we’d be outside and socially distanced.
To my delight, Bruno agreed, but before we got around to it, I spotted him in the park a few days later.
Despite wearing a face mask, I recognised the stunning green eyes immediately.
‘Bruno!’ I called.
We ended up chatting for an hour. It felt like I’d known him forever – we just clicked.
Walking away, I had the jitters.
I thought that feeling of excitement had died in me when Fil had gone.
A few days later, Bruno asked me to get a coffee with him from his family’s bakery, which was open for takeaway. We spoke about everything and I told him about Fil.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said.
When we went for a second takeaway coffee, Bruno took my face in his hands and gently kissed me.
‘I’ve wanted to do that since I met you,’ he grinned.
I couldn’t deny that I felt the same.
But I was also terrified.
What if I lost Bruno like I had Fil?
I was also worried about our age difference.
Bruno was just 23 – 11 years younger than me.
The way he behaved and spoke was a lot more mature for his age, but it was still a concern, so I put up my guard, and hung out with Bruno just as a friend.
Chatting to my brother, Jordan, 28, he had some advice.
‘If he makes you happy, go for it. Just take it slow,’ he said.
I thought about the happiness I could have if I was open to the idea.
I can’t numb the joy because of the past, I’ve got to live, I realised.
Slowly, I let Bruno in.
And soon, I’d fallen in love.
About six weeks after meeting, Bruno turned to me and asked, ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’
‘Okay, let’s do this,’ I smiled.
‘I’m so happy,’ he cried, bursting into tears.
I couldn’t believe it – my chalk drawings had found me love.
This year on Valentine’s Day – with Melbourne in its third lockdown – Bruno and I went to the park to write more uplifting messages.
Nothing will change how important Fil was to me, but I feel so lucky to have found love again. I like to think he is looking down on us, and would approve.
The last few years, I’ve experienced extreme lows and heart-wrenching loss.
It’s taught me to be grateful for moments of joy with loved ones.
Recently, I wrote in the park – find joy in the small things – and I’d urge people to seize the day.
After all, when I stepped out with my chalk, I had no idea I’d be writing my own path to happiness.
If you are struggling and need help, call Lifeline 13 11 14 (Aus) or 0800 543 354 (NZ).