Some people use their bank balance, number of facebook friends or even kilograms lost to measure their success. I use my achilles tendon.
Apart from a propensity to insert Milly the dog's name into popular songs and loudly sing them back to her or to count things in threes, it has been this rather small but essential muscle on the back of my lower right leg that has been the weathervane reflecting my internal life.
During the miserable five weeks working at Melbourne Uni (yes, I said it!), my Achilles had twanged itself for the second time. Two rounds of six weeks' rest from running with only the miserable 3km walk home in heavy traffic, careless right-turn drivers and off-road cyclists (how wide am I? I'm already on the far left side of the path, don't you think you can squeeze past me without trilling your stupid bell in warning?) and my mood was as injured as my leg.
A week after quitting the job and wondering just what the hell kind of conversation I was going to make with my family at Christmas time - 'Yeah, I'm a quitter; how's your career going?' 'No, I don't have any form of income at the moment; let's look at your renovation' - I realised that six weeks had passed again.
This time I was careful. A three kilometre power walk to the bluff, touching the parking sign pole as the official end of the course and running it back. Difficult but do-able with the Achilles whingeing slightly but not progressing to screaming or snapping.
A days' rest and then the walk-three, run-three trial again. Even better. I find myself participating more in dinner table conversations, more willing to make or take a joke. Hell, did Mum just spring me singing to Milly outside by the rainwater tank?
The walk-three, run-three technique is repeated another five times over the next week before battling the locust plagues and the wheezy laughter of Kerry O'Keefe during the ABC cricket broadcast as we drive the long trek back across the border to home.
Sapphire and I are eating lunch together. Her head is lowered and her eyes are brimming. After several gentle questions, the tear drops fall down her shirt and she says that someone called her fat. It doesn't matter who, it was said, so they obviously think so. Is it true?
But I too was called fat by my brothers. Fatty Arbuckle actually. In retrospect it sounded catchy and none of us knew that he was a silent film star whose career was ruined after being found guilty of raping and killing a starlet. The intention was merely to silence and hurt me and boy, did it work. I cried so many times with self pity and loathing and now when I see photographs of myself it is a normal-sized girl standing in the garden and two very skinny brothers who teased without any genuine malice.
I turn to my girl - also normal-sized - and know that just telling her that she's a great person and is fine won't work. She wants a solution, a project. "But hey, I keep reading that being fit - you know, all that cardio vascular stuff - can help with asthma and breathing and give you more energy. As you know I'm slowly getting back into my running again. Do you want to do some of that with me?"
Expecting her to quickly say 'no thanks' I was surprised when she agreed.
And so, for the past week, she's been out in the shed with me. The music is her choice - lots of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift; the pedestal fan is directed towards her red face that doesn't yet sweat as easily as mine and I crack weak jokes about being her personal trainer, singing along in a falsetto voice to any of the songs I know and getting a rather big squeeze to the heart when I see her smile.
She ran 2.8 kilometres today. I was very proud of her and told her that she should be too."Yeah but you ran four, Mum."
"Maybe, but I've been doing it for over ten years and am a bit older and stronger than you. You're eleven and have decided to give this a red-hot go and are succeeding." It's now my eyes that are brimming.
Sapphire skips inside to tell LC who is busy making coffee and setting up my laptop in the kitchen. Yes, it's my original one, with the K, N, I, H and L keys that stick, the internet speed of a sea slug on valium and no bells or whistles. It suits me and allows me to stop hiding out in the hot study and instead sit at the table being part of the whatever LC and Sapphire are doing.
Now that they've set off to see Tron ("I'm sure it's going to be OK because Dad and I have the same taste but I don't believe that everyone's going to be wearing the same jumpsuit type of outfit in the future like every sci-fi movie seems to think"), I've showered, breakfasted and working on four chapters of the fledgling novel at once.
My Achilles is throbbing slightly but only to let me know that it's been tested.