December 4 - 10, 2016: Issue 292

Linda Buchan

Linda - photo by Douglas Frost
Our December 2016 Artist of the Month is a lady we've been a big fan of for a few years now, first meeting her through the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's IdS program when victorious in winning the inaugural Islands Race aboard Bob Bennet's SoFarr and when we caught up again at a Sailability Crystal Bay events.

Linda is much more than a great sailor though, her credits now encompass being a motivational speaker and extend to writer with the launch this week of STEP BY STEP: Finding My Way Back to Me.

Why this title? - In 1998, Linda was a casualty of a devastating house fire that claimed the life of her sister Kim and changed her own life forever. Since that day Linda has fought her way, step by step, towards a new life by overcoming the devastating physical effects of smoke inhalation and the emotional pain losing a loved one causes. 

The book is dedicated 'For Kim', and this is not just a tribute, it's what Linda knows Kim would want her to do - to try and stop this happening to others, and honouring that.

There were no working smoke alarms in that building. When the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 came into effect, smoke alarms became mandatory in all homes and other shared accommodation buildings where people sleep. This was extended to caravans in February 2011. Prior to that no one could take for granted the protection these devices may give if properly installed and maintained.

In 2011 Linda became a spokeswomen for Fire and Rescue NSW for their Winter Fire Safety Campaign asking people to please change the batteries in the Fire Alarms as we head into Winter each year, when so many fires occur in homes.

Linda is still going.... step by step, determined to live a fulfilling and purposeful life on her own terms. We share an extract from STEP BY STEP: Finding My Way Back to Me in the Artist of the Month page and a few insights into the authoress herself below:

Where were you born?
Wagga Wagga NSW
What did you do for fun while growing up?
Playing in the bush, building cubby houses, we spent a lot of time in our pool as a family as young children. Then in high school years riding motor bikes on a farm, driving go-karts. I learnt to drive a manual car in a brown Cortina on a farm when I was 14. We used to practice reverse parking in between two barrels, or posts, whatever we could find.
Sports: you played a lot of these when younger – Netball, Swimming – do you have trophies for Finals and what are these?
I haven't kept any trophies over the years though sport features heavily in my memories from childhood when most weekends were spent travelling around the Riverina area as a family. Then at high school playing a multitude of sports but in particular swimming and netball. All weekend carnivals spent at netball courts with my team who were like family. I still love the feeling of being physically fit. My whole life benefits. 

One memory that keeps popping to mind is the connection Kim and I had on the netball court. It was truly incredible. 
After leaving rehabilitation, what was the Program you set yourself that began recovery from your injuries and heal from the emotional pain? 
After Ryde rehab I transferred to Mona Vale as an outpatient. Mum realised  I needed something more and arranged a personal training session with Rob Rollan-Smith. I didn't delve into the emotional healing until much later. My focus was purely on physical rehabilitation for many years and emotional healing came years down the track.
How did being a sports orientated person help you then and as ongoing assets that instil discipline, mental toughness and physical ability?
Being a sports person before my accident helped me enormously. As you mentioned the discipline that time gave me is invaluable. Also the routine and consistency of training prepared me for rehabilitation. I love to exercise as it not only keep me moving physically but also definitely it clears my mind. I think for a long time it acted as my meditation and I believe I healed emotionally to some point through my physical rehabilitation. 
You have never ceased seeking opportunities to learn and have sought education in Community Services – what attracted you to this and what do you use this for?
I felt that I wanted to use my story  and what I have learnt to help other people when I signed up to do Community Welfare at Brookvale TAFE. And I still feel moved and almost as if something bigger than me is nudging me to share my experiences. 

You have since gone on to being a Motivational Speaker – what are some of the core messages you include in your Addresses?
Honestly, one of my main objectives is to share a massive sense of hope for my audience, I love leaving them with that. I tell my story in a way that expresses resilience and hopefully illustrates to them that they too can do what they want. And I hope they are inspired to find that for themselves. 
Early in 2013 you began sailing out of the RPAYC and we spoke later that year when you won the IdS Islands race – a few years on, and on reflection, what has sailing given to you?
Sailing has given me so much!! Not only the freedom I feel when I am out on the water but for me it is about doing a sport which I love with the injuries I have. It is also great to feel part of a local club where I can walk in and have a chat with so many people i know. 

Step By Step: Finding My Way Back to Me – what were the three most challenging aspects of writing this book?
1. Writing the section when I learned that Kim had passed away.
2. Having to relive it all again and dive and swim around in memories that were painful 
3. Writing about dark times. I went back there while I was writing the book.

You have a lot of the ‘can take the girl out of the country but can’t take the country out of the girl’ in you - How do you deal with the bad days and can’t put a finger right moments we all have?

* Breathe
* For me I focus on the present moment a lot. It simplifies things for me. Whether it that moment I am taking one step, or cooking, or writing a to do list for the day. Whatever it is.

* If I get out of bed that morning and fall flat on my face (which does happen) I breathe, focus on nothing but standing up again, balance and take one step and then another
What message would you communicate to anyone based on your journey?
What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?
Little Mackerel. Fun memories before the accident of doing an obstacle course there with friends from a surf life saving club.
What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
"It's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it".

STEP BY STEP: Finding My Way Back To Me

My name is Linda Buchan and when I was 18 years old I died. 
It was a winter’s day, Saturday June 27, 1998 when my young life 
ended and my new life began. A life that was to be so completely 
different to the one that I had envisaged, the one that I had expected… LINDA BUCHAN

In Linda Buchan’s raw and powerful memoir she shares her journey from the terrible night when the life and future she thought lay ahead of her was shattered. From that moment she began a new life, firstly fighting just to survive, then forging her way with incredible courage and determination to live a fulfilling and purposeful life on her own terms. She is living proof of her own mantra It’s not what happens to you. It is how you deal with it.

Linda’s way of dealing with what happened to her has been to combine acceptance and contentment, finely mixed with determination and an undeniable drive and passion for life. Her athletic background underpinned her physical determination and mental willpower, which helped her recovery immensely. To this day she draws on all of these attributes.

Available in Paperback, as an E-Book and as an audiobook through Aubible

First published in 2016 by The Author People
PO Box 159, St Ives, NSW, 2075 Australia
Copyright © Linda Buchan 2016
Cover Photo: Douglas Frost
Author Photo: Douglas Frost
Linda Sailing - in text - photo by Douglas Frost
Left to right: Sailability Pittwater Coach Keith Sinfield, President John McCausland,  Linda Buchan, Bob Bennett and Allan Jones, Sailability Pittwater Commodore. Picture by A J Guesdon, 2013.