Interview - Meriel Stanger

Interview: Meriel Stranger, author, 'Permission To Shine - The Gift'

First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your backround?

“Mmmm… what can I say, I was born Meriel Parker on the 12th April 1959 and I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm about 2 hours north of Perth, Western Australia” “I went to the boarding school Penrhos College in Perth and while at the college won a Rotary scholarship to West Virginia USA in 1977” “ I started an Interior Design business in 1981 till 1991” “I have two daughter’s Brittany Parker, born in January 1983 and Serena, born in November1987, while married to Richard ” I moved with my family to Queensland via Merimbula NSW in July 1992, after I separated from Richard in April 1994 and then met ‘James’ in August 1994” “The accident was in March 1995 – 4 months in a coma and not quite a year in hospital and I came home in February 1996 a quadriplegic.” ”I love my growth as a person since the accident, as I was a complete ‘selfish cow’ before! It was as if I survived to tell the tale” “I have had a wonderful life thus far and I hope have more to say, as I learn and grow from the accident”

Which, of course leads us as to your present love life, are you currently involved in a relationship, at present?

“After ‘James’ left me in July 2001, saying, I had wasted the best years of his life, I learnt my reality, there here is no-one in my life and I find it hard to understand society’s view that I’m not a success because I don’t have a man in my life. I call this syndrome, the ‘penis factor’! I do try and imagine a man in my life and, at the moment, there is just no room”

Let's talk about you’re your book “Permission to Shine-The Gift”. Why was this book important to you to write?

“I didn’t want this accident to be in vain, it thrust me into a life that I could have, never imagined, I had an interesting life story to tell, one of acceptance and I found that I was loved by everyone, I wasn’t about to waste their energy.”

How did you approach the research necessary for writing about your life and the accident?

“I started by writing down the chapters I wish to cover and then I asked for my notes from the Royal Brisbane Hospital and all the gaps were filled in by talking to significant others and from my memory” “At the time, I remember I got very tense; it was hard to relive the hospital stays, it was as if I was re-living that moment of time, it was almost as if I went into a trance and had stepped out of my body.”

What did you enjoy most about writing Permission to Shine-The Gift?

‘It was a challenge at the time I was writing the book, but, now, on reflection, I enjoyed every moment of writing Permission, and what the most enjoyable was to actually finish the book, that feeling that comes of writing the last words and knowing the book was finished!”

Permission to Shine-The Gift pulls no punches when taking on the subject of how the disability affected your life. What are your thoughts on the way society views disabled people in the 21st century?

“How does society treat disabled folk in the 21st century? I don’t see myself as disabled; I’m just a half blind lady in a wheelchair! My personal experience has been one of a positive time, I refuse to see things negatively, and I am probably the world’s greatest optimist!”

I'd like to talk a bit about your life today. Would you describe a typical day in your life?

“A typical day for me is to be up out of bed at 5am, between checking emails and doing my morning ablutions” “I’m usually into the shower by 6.30am, I liked to be showered, dressed, fed and ready to be out the door 8 o’clock” “Depending on what appointments I have, I usually do food shopping and schedule my carer for the day, I have one carer for 20 hours per week and another carer for 5 hours a week, the 20 hour a week carer does all the cleaning, hanging out of washing, vacuuming of floors, food preparation etc.” “My other 5 hour carer does my ironing and plays Scrabble and I don’t have any carers over the weekend, if I need someone over that time, I’ll ask.” “My carers have become friends and outside my two carers, I have a wonderful taxi driver with a team of two other men who are just fantastic, they have got to know me and my haunts.” “I spend about 30 hours a week with various disability boards and council community reference groups.”

How did you approach writing about your disabilities? Were there any characteristics that you tried to avoid?

“You soon realise that you had to be extremely honest, my way of handling anything uncomfortable was by writing the prose initially in the third person, I almost took pleasure in being brutal” “It was almost as if I needed to bleed a little in order to heal, does that make sense?”

I'd like to talk a bit about that difficult period in your life, after your accident, how did you find the strength to go on, and to launch a new career? What kept you going during those years?

“I have always thrived on being challenged” “I would have to say it was the process of acceptance of my situation, focussing on what I could do not on what I couldn’t do” “Seeing the glass half full not half empty, seeing the wheelchair as my friend, not my enemy, it is all an attitude” “I could see the way I was I was going to lose my family and it was important to me, that I didn’t! to me, that would have been a true tragedy!”

Horses - have you ridden since the accident and are you still involved in the equine or polo community?

“Yes, I have been back on a horse, the first time was in September 2000 and the last time I rode a horse was September 2001 and in October 2004 I was the Event Director for the Queensland Dressage Championships” “The dressage world is completely different to the polo world” “I live near the beach; have 8 stables in the back yard and before the accident I used to ride on the beach before I went to work, we had a couple of polo ponies at home, but, I haven’t watched a polo game since October 2000” “Not being invited to go and watch ‘James’ play polo was the first hint that the relationship was over” “I miss the game; it is very exciting to watch, Dressage is extremely disciplined to watch and I can appreciate that” “ I live in a racing stable area of Brisbane, so I hear the neighbours go out at 3.45am to exercise the horses down at the nearby race-track.”

And besides being an author, what other goals would you like to achieve?

“I have often joked about being on the Oprah show, some day and that’s one dream, I hope becomes a reality for me” “It has been one of my dreams because she is a lady I truly admire!” “One of my others goals is to get my second book published by November 2005.” “Sometimes I have this insane goal of someone sharing my life with me.” “I also have this goal where I want my girls to be proud of me, as they are my toughest critics.”

What do you love most about being an author? What is your least favourite aspect of the profession?

‘I love and enjoy every aspect of being an author, to be able to reach people in a positive way, to have the opportunity to meet people, you know, at book signings, just in every day life and have them respond to me as an author, not a disabled person in a wheelchair, has to be the most wonderful experience.”

What do you see as the greatest challenge for women in this new Millennium?

“I don’t have an answer to this question, yes; this woman is stuck for words!!”

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

“Sure, I can give you a little taste, just to whet your appetite;” With the success of my first book Permission to Shine-The Gift, I was constantly being asked why I was so happy, the working title is, The Shiny One’s Guide To Happiness” “In the eyes of society, I had every reason to be unhappy, I’m a cripple with no hope of walking ever again, I’m legally blind and I am no longer the person I was, thank goodness!” “ Happiness seems to elude many people, I hear them saying I’ll be happy when; I have paid off the house, paid off the car, got a job, get married, have a child and the insane list goes on, be happy now! Your life will always be filled with challenges, many of them, you have no idea you will encounter! That’s what makes life interesting!” “There is no better time to be happy than right now, embrace and treasure everything that happens to you, it is a gift, a true gift! Happiness is a journey not a destination; enjoy the journey, as you only make it once!”

Thank you, Meriel; it’s been a pleasure talking to you!


Book Review

Permission To Shine - The Gift


Book and Author Profiles

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