More than once of late I have wondered how it is that I am still here. I am not prone to exaggeration so believe me when I tell you that a series of storms tore through my life and left nothing but wrack and ruin. I would like to tell you a story of redemption, courage, unbreakable spirit. Alas, that is the stuff of one hour episodes, 8mm reels digested in two hours or less – stories tied in bows that allow us to skip away comforted by the fact that everything happens for a reason and it is all for the best really.
Reality is not literature. I do not know why these things happened and the compression of them in to a neatly tied package that I can point to and say “Ah so THAT is why” removes the reverence that must be held for what has been lost. What I do know is that I have learned a thing or two. I learned that I had sown my existence on rocks and thorns. I learned that I know nothing about anything with any certainty that stands up under a strong wind, and that hope is a slippery sliver of moon that can be annihilated.
My hope has occasionally been reclaimed in one thought: something has moved through my life with intention, and there is a fifty-fifty possibility that the thing is benevolent. Someone said to me yesterday that sometimes all that is left is to admit defeat. I have always been a brawler, when life knocks me down I stand back up, fists raised. And so, if I was ever to learn to surrender it all had to be torn down. I have been left with no other option but to bow my head and acknowledge that I am not in control and lack the strength to combat this force.
I sit among the ruins of this life, sifting through the rubble, holding things up to the light, inspecting their value and usefulness, determining whether they can withstand colliding storm fronts. I am seeking new foundations, things that will not bend or break under the most trying of conditions. Most is thrown to the wind, useless. Humility is all that has made the cut.
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.
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.
“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.
My thoughts have been turning a great detail lately to where home is. In these musings and ponderings I have come to the conclusion that the home my heart feels is irrelevant to its bricks and mortar location.
The places I live are where my son and I move in circles with around each other within comfortable silence. The place there is no need to constantly validate the strength of our relationship through incessant speech. I am never as silent, and as peaceful in silence, as when I am with my boy. It is having a house that others use as sanctuary – a place they are drawn to when trouble strikes. It is preparing them food, hugging them, and telling them that it will be OK even when I’m not entirely sure it will be. It is the friends I visit when the same trouble strikes me, and the people who hold me, feed me and tell me it will be OK, even when they’re not sure it will be.
Home, I am beginning to understand, is the people I love who love me back so fiercely that I have moments when tears well and flow over in gratitude.
Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories”~ Zadie Smith, White Teeth
I have no interest in your opinion of the weather, or traffic. Sure, tell me the outside story – but only for context. What I want to know about is the inside story.
Is your heart still broken, or is it patched back together by love? Does it have a scar that runs across its width and breadth that will never fully heal – or have you found a way to live again?
I want to know what lights you up. There is no greater joy than to watch a person ignite from the inside. What lights them is less relevant than the warmth that radiates outward as they speak. There is no greater beauty than watching a person’s laugh lines etch across the corners of their eyes as their lips turn upward in to a smile.
I want to know what leaves you under the covers unable to move for fear that a single step more will break you for good. There is no greater honour than being handed another’s grief. I am interested in your humility, not your humiliation. If you hand me your heart I will hold it with care. Tenderly, so as not to do any further damage. I want to know what is behind what I can see, the beauty that lurks.
I’ve just never been much for small talk
The lights were being tested for new years on the bridge last night and I suddenly felt very sorry to see 2016 go; despite having been the most difficult year I have lived. It is, after all, the year my sister took her last breath and there is something about that which makes me reluctant to see it come to an end.
It is through it that I have reconnected with my family, especially my darling brother who is the only other living person that truly understands my experience of this loss. It is the year that my son did such a fine job of becoming my carer – the only person who knew exactly where to place humour during that devastating week at the hospital and when a hug or silence was the better option. The year I saw what a fine young man he had become and during which my brother-in-law gave me the privilege of witnessing grace in motion.
It is the year that I fully understood that I walk among giants. The friends that carried me with such care, tenderness and humility. Remarkable people to whom I owe an immense debt of gratitude. And a year in which new friends were made who have shown such a gentle patience with the chaos of grief that I have been. I hope to add them to my collection of giants.
These are the gifts that came from this year. The bitter sweetness carves a line of immense gratitude and love across the ball of sadness that still remains firmly lodged in my heart. Á bientot sis.