I have been learning how to feel my feelings. Apparently I’m not very good at it. I am assured it will be for the best, though remain unconvinced. For a start, I am assuming it was with good reason that my brain shoved them in the bottom draw with the abandoned single socks (whose partners ran off and left them without a word of explanation). Also, I seem to have only two major feelings that boss the others around with wild abandon – all puffed up and insistent on their right to exist – anger and sadness.
I am willing to concede that they have proven useful at times. Such as when I am angry. To my astonishment I have found that the honest expression of my feelings has been quite freeing. Though I’ve noted that the target of my fury often doesn’t appear to be quite as enchanted by the experience as I am.
Or when watching a sunrise while accompanied by a beautiful melancholy. They sit side by side so well, the sadness nestled into the rising golden light. The sunrise all the more significant when bathed in a touch of sorrow. A sense of softness that comes from allowing my heart to feel what it feels without judgment, melting away the night.
“… she told me she’d never adjusted to the light, she’d just never developed a tolerance for the world, her inoculation hadn’t taken.” ~ Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows
Some friends and I have started a Bookckub. This is our first book, I chose it for the title. It is about two sisters, one struggling for life while the younger struggles with letting her go. Mental health, death, that intimate back and forth that only siblings have, inappropriate humour in darkness.
I have lost faith in a lot of things this past year … this book and it’s themes feel like they are no mistake. Some faith in something larger than myself is restored by the sense that the appearance of this book in my life is not merely a serendipitous turn of events. It is, as it turns out, a magnificent read.
My father is 74 years old and has become a bit of an internet sensation. And rightly so, for he is currently riding a pushbike from Freemantle, Western Australia to Sydney via Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road in an unsupported ultra road race called the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. A 5,500km odyssey to test even the youngest and fittest bucks.
To give my international friends some context that’s the equivalent of pedaling your way from somewhere offshore in the Bay of Biscal, across France, to somewhere in the Black Sea past Romania – via Bosnia, Macedonia AND Bulgaria. OR, roughly 2000 kilometres more than the Tour de France. He camps on the open arid plains, picks up meat pies for nutrition along the way (and a chocolate milk for the daily halfway mark) and rolls on. You can follow him on Facebook at Back Road Bicycle Adventures. This is my interpretation of one of his many photographs from the ride.
I told a friend about it yesterday and he replied “That’s mental”. After a few moments staring in to space, envisioning the feat, he said, “like fully PROPER mental”. You would probably agree, but I know better. I know he is out there with my sister. She is in his heart and if he closes his eyes she is there next to him. They rode together, she is from where the wild things are. She lives now in the rustle of breeze through trees, the warmth of the sun on your face, mountain views, star filled silent night skies, in streams and in waterfalls. This is why I camp so often, climb hills, splash through lakes and fall into waterfalls. This is why a 74 year old man is riding his bike 5,500km around the bottom of this beautiful land. To have his daughter by his side again, the wind at their back as they ride in to the setting sun. If your daughter’s spirit lived on the open road, and for just a moment, death did not stand between you – wouldn’t you want to be out there too?
It is not mental, it is love.
Despite it all, I still believe in love … or perhaps because of it. I know the depths a human heart is capable of. Somewhere we know it can only ever end in loss. Not one of us gets out alive.
I would prefer to have things worthy of the pain than to shroud myself in the protection of fear – because the hurt is only ever an alternate expression of love that has lost a place to rest, a homelessness of the heart. At the end of my life I would like to be able to say that I loved well, that I loved deeply, despite knowing that ultimately it could only ever lead to pain. That, I suspect, would be a life worth living.
It is a work in progress.
I’ve lost my writing mojo. Having lived for so long in such an insular way – life throwing some doozies at me as it has – I have lost a sense of myself outside of this grief. And I am so tired of writing about that.
A friend and I chatted about this last week – the only other person I know who shares a similar loss. I asked him how I get outside it. How do I expand again? He told me he can’t recall when or how that happened for him. He just knows that one day he noticed that it had. And so I wait to exhale.
I hope that it comes soon. I miss my own company, I miss being present, I miss not feeling like there is something muting down the sound and experiences of life, I miss feeling connected to others. I miss a sense of being defined by so very much more. I miss joy.
That I am asking the questions is likely a sign that I am on the road back to all the things I miss, that I am forever changed is not disputable. As such, I’m not sure who it is that I am returning to but I do hope she has more expansive things to write about. Bigger thoughts, less self absorbed things to say.
The Australia I know is green and brown as far as the eye can see. I was mesmerised by the alternate landscapes in Europe. Huge hills of reds, golds and yellow. The majesty of Alps. We have a thing called Alps, it is but an ant hill in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Australia is beautiful. It’s just that I grew up here, in the country, so I barely notice it anymore. I often change the tones when I edit my photography – blasphemous!
Most of us live in the brown and green bits. Less of us live in the biggest bit in the middle – desert and Outback, red dirt and sands, dingoes and giant red kangaroos, feral camels and pigs. It covers 70%-ish (nobody really knows) of this continent and contains less than 10% of our population. That’s a lot of space. Enough for a single cattle ranch that is bigger than the odd European country or two, the worlds longest fence (to keep the dingoes out), longest stretch of straight road, and straight railway line. Skies so vast and clear that you can see up to 5,500 stars (I’m not sure who counted them).
All of the life decisions I am making right now are about seeing the big bit in the middle. Hitting the road in a 4WD camper and heading in to the Never Never. It takes some planning and preparation – she is unforgiving of fools.
“That horrifying moment when you’re looking for an adult but you realise that you are an adult. So you look around for an older adult. An adultier adult. Someone better at adulting than you.”
Have you ever had one of those days when you’re looking around for someone to do the adulting and realise there’s only you? I’ve had one of those weeks. I’m usually perfectly independent and capable but some days (read:weeks) … well you just want to be taken care of.
I have searched my home, looked under the couch cushions, through the washing basket, under my bed – everywhere – for someone to do the things for me. To cook me dinner because I’ve had a bad day, tell me they’ve put the washing on, talk to the annoying (and a bit rude if you don’t mind me saying) parking ranger, balanced the alarming books, listened to the reasons I’m crying (regardless of their varying levels of rationality), put on my favourite movie and kindly told me to put my feet up.
It has, rather aptly, ended with me having given myself a mild concussion in a wayward climbing incident. And the realisation that nobody is coming, and it is a very childish thought, that you are actually an adult and should probably just get on with it. Adulting sucks.