Suzanne Gaye Smoothy

Sue Smoothy is kindness personified.

Also known as Suzie / Sunshine Suzie we first met in 2005 when I was running a TAFE class to assist artists learn skills in business. Despite my best attempts in the land before Etsy, Ebay, Facebook and inexpensive web development it was a tough then for artists to make a living – it still is.

It took some time for my friendship with Sue to bloom as I preferred to keep students at an arms-length from my personal life in those days – a professional strategy adapted while teaching in the larger centre of Wollongong, but not so realistic in a small community. Besides, our lives were at two very different stages back then as I juggled little kids and Sue (who is 11 years wiser than I) was enjoying an empty nest.

Like many great friendships it’s hard to say exactly what the turning point was from acquaintance to friend but I do know that Sue’s generosity in supporting my family was part of that. At the time, I was holding fort for the men in my family (both my dad and ex-husband) as they fought through their own battles.

Sue stepped in.

Sue’s way of supporting people is admirable. Somehow you always know she’s there and she wisely uses her intuition to step forward when she’s needed, and step back when she’s not.

Sue and I walk.

Both living in the community of Bowraville at the time it was easy for our walks to become a ritual and with many shared interests we walked, talked and marveled at the spectacular Bowraville hinterland.

The walks have continued over the years and I cannot imagine how many footsteps we have placed around the Nambucca Valley – last Saturday alone clocked up over 7,600. I also cannot imagine what the state of my own mental health would have been without those walks – I’m tough. But not that tough.

I met Sue at a transition point in her life.

Sue left her husband Ron around her 43rd birthday after 25 years of marriage. She didn’t leave because there was anything dangerous nor violent in the relationship, she left because she felt it was time. Perhaps it was leaving at that point that enabled the two to remain friends.

Sue and Ron married in 1981 when she was 18. She’d met him when she was 14. Sue birthed their three children when she was 19, 20 and 21 – one of the babies passed at birth, an experience which taught Sue as much about compassion as it did about the preciousness of life.

I try to imagine the depths of responsibility Sue lived through at such a young age, in an age where it was perfectly acceptable for the husband to finish his day at the pub and spend weekends with mates, or at the footy. Perhaps this is why at the age of 55 Sue is as free and fun as an 18-year-old now. It’s her time.

Sue is very honest about her struggle with depression. It’s something she wrestles on a regular basis however through the years of our friendship I’ve heard a growing wisdom in her voice which protects her to some degree from the things that invite the black dog into her life.

One the greatest impacts on Sue’s wellbeing are the energies of other people and one would wonder why she would place herself on the front line of community service working with some of our communities most vulnerable people in their most challenging times as a family and domestic violence worker.

Perhaps she knows there was a lesson in this for her? Yet, despite her ongoing professional approach and her genuine care for her clients Sue craves a job that enables her to work with people in happy times.

Sue is a hugger and when she hugs she makes sure it’s heart to heart. When Sue hugs someone, (and this is a regular occurrence) that person will feel the real and genuine warmth of a human who simply loves and embodies the force of life.

It’s a no brainer for Sue to grab her massage table and turn up on the doorstop of a friend in need for a spontaneous reiki session, to stoop over to pick up the rubbish someone else left on the side of a road, to pack lunchboxes for tired mums in need (aka me) or to jump into her van or on a plane and take off for destination unknown – Melbourne, Cairo, Perth… Where next?

A musician, author, community service worker, a mum, a grandma, a friend, sister, aunty and adventurer Sue Smoothy is one of life’s jewels I’m very privileged to call a friend.

I can only hope to be as accommodating to the experience of life when I’m 55 as Sue is now.

#Meet My Friends is a project and personal challenge that I’ve set for myself to meet all of my 1,266 Facebook friends and spend at least half an hour connecting with each and every one of them. The commenced on 17 September 2018 and it has no time limits. The original post outlining the challenge is here

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