India. Be still, my heart.

Ah, my beloved friends and family. I suppose it’s time to share a little of my travels with you all. Stepping off the plane in Delhi just 4 months ago, with high hopes and few expectations, never did I imagine that the journey would unfold in quite the way it has. I had intended to write stories from my days, of places I visited, of people I met, of the funny, awkward, tiring, exhilarating and baffling moments, but each piece drafted felt but a shadow of what it was to actually be here. Instead I will share with you my experience of the most mystical, humbling and challenging land I have ever found myself in, and the impact it may have on my life going forward. I do write this with some trepidation because that seems to me to be quite the undertaking, but write it I must. So, my friends, read on with a gentle heart – with high hopes and few expectations.

For those who prefer picture books to rambling essays, you can ponder over some of my photos instead 🙂

Incredible India. This is not a mere tag line for tourism, it is a statement of fact. The number of horror stories I was told before coming here… Oh, were it not for the few souls who had fallen in love with India telling me otherwise, perhaps I would never have come.

How does one explain India? Well, in truth I don’t think it’s really possible. India is a sensual place and words will never do it justice. You have to be there, you have to see it, smell it, taste it, hear it. You have to feel it. But I’ll do my best.

India awakens your every sense. The aromas seemingly change with every step, one moment fresh cow dung – cow dung that you just watched splatter onto the road from the cow that is refusing to move aside as a truck blasts it’s horn in frustration – the next moment, the smell of gasoline from said truck and the hornet’s nest of tuk tuks and motorcycles that rapidly buzz past said cow; the smell of human faeces – that is, if you happen to brave the streets before 8am in the smaller towns where rows of people find their place to squat and begin their day; and as the sun scorches the asphalt, roasts your skin and dries out your lungs, you find yourself wishing that a gentle breeze would bring some relief from the stagnating air – but when the breeze finally comes, you remember that the huge pile of rotting garbage from the next block over has now dispersed into the air and will soon nestle in your nasal passages and parched lungs for an unfortunate length of time. Oh, but then, my friends, then you pass a temple, where an old lady sits polishing deities and vessels for puja, and Nag Champa burns, filling the air with sweetness and spice; perfumes and incense smoke swell through the bustling market place; a delicate fragrance floats from the mountains of freshly cut flowers, dew still hanging from their petals, being lovingly and rapidly woven into intricate forms that will adorn women and gods alike; the heady aroma of spices that wafts from tiny roadside restaurants; the mala beads draped around my neck, warmed by my body and the sun, the soft scents of sandalwood drift into my heart; the irresistible smells of masala chai and freshly cracked coconuts. This is India. I could write equally about the diversity within the other senses, the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings, but I will spare you the essay that that would produce, as we would, after all, find ourselves in the same place, with the same understanding. India is raw. It is a place of great discomfort, and a place of great joy and beauty, a place of intensity and extremes.

India is a vindaloo curry. It’s red and fiery. It’s flavours smack you right in your third eye. There are no subtle suggestions. It demands that you respond, whether that be with tears, crying for mercy, “Please sir, just a little curd to cut the spice” (though this will only serve you momentarily – that vindaloo can and will return at any moment, hopefully not with a burning deep in your guts), or perhaps, biting your bottom lip and cocking your eyebrow, you’ll find yourself asking for a second helping with extra green chillies on the side. And it is here, my friends, in the moment that you embrace the chillies, and the profuse sweating, and the grins of the onlooking waiters, and the protest of your mouth and stomach, and the twinkling, knowing eyes of the friends you find yourself dining with, that India slowly begins to reveal herself.

Each day becomes a walking meditation – an exercise in immersion and finding peace amongst the chaos. As one yoga teacher I practiced with, Rameshji, would say during practice, “Deep inhalation, deep exhalation, enjoy your breath”. This became my mantra whenever I became stressed. It was by no means easy, even at the end of my time here, I found the daily gong show – the yelling, the whistles, the horns, the bustling, the pushing – of walking down the street challenging. But if in those moments you can find peace, it is a peace like none other I have ever experienced. It is peace within the centre of chaos – it’s that moment when you find a gap in the crowd and you set your sights ahead, weaving your way around the people and the motorbikes and the carts, thinking gleefully in your head, “I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna be away from all this, go, go go!”… only to have a giant bull suddenly appear in front of you. You stop dead, you feel a little startled. The people who were taking advantage of the excellent opportunity to follow your path through the crowd now walk into the back of you, and you’re momentarily annoyed because your senses are overwhelmed to almost breaking point and the bull has blocked your only chance for swift exit from the madness. And now you’re thinking, “Dumb bull with his dumb face, stupid people pushing when there’s no where to go, moronic motorbikers honking relentlessly, why the hell doesn’t that guy get his scooter serviced so he’s not spewing fumes into all of our lungs, and why are those people stopping to take photos and slowing us all down even more, and why…?” And then across the crowd, you lock eyes with an old lady standing on the side of the road. She smiles at you with every muscle in her face – deep crow’s feet dance at the edge of her eyes suggesting a lifetime of happy moments. She smiles because she witnessed the scene, she saw the emotions play out on your face – the elevation at finding a path, the determination, the shock, the frustration – and she is amused. And you are amused that she is amused. And you both just smile at each other, do a little head wobble, shrug your shoulders. You join the locals in yelling and clapping at the bull, willing it to move on. Your legs start moving you out of that shared moment. The crowd moves slowly amongst the chaos, as do you, just as before – except now a little smile plays at the corner of your mouth, and for the rest of your walk to wherever it was you were going, the hustling and the bustling, the yelling and the selling, the honking and the unexpected cow appearances, don’t seem to bother you quite so much. And I wonder at that, I really do. How marvellous it is that a connection with a person (or a practice, or a ritual for that matter), can draw you out of the chaos – the interminable mind wanderings, the emotional roller coasters, the sensory overload – and simply reveal it to be the absurd sideshow that it is. And somehow, realising that it is all just so absurd, makes it bearable, makes it amusing.

Walking in the early morning is a special treat – here, before the bustling begins, you get a glimpse of the rituals, the spirituality, a sense of the invisible thread that somehow seems to hold everything together. Women come into the streets to wash down the asphalt and draw fresh blessings in chalk outside doorways of their homes and businesses; temples are tended to by devotees who remove the previous days puja and bring fresh fruit, ghee lamps and flowers, ringing bells, touching idols and stones with mindful movement, softly chanting their mantras; and as the sun slowly rises over Varanasi, hundreds of people descend upon the ghats to wash, bathe, swim and honour Mother Gangaji. It is in these moments that you see the other side of the chaos. Perhaps it is only in these deep rooted spiritual and ritualistic actions that India finds its balance – without it, I cannot imagine it would survive.

For me, India became a playground for spirit – my Dad would probably describe it more as a journey into woo. I’m prepared to meet him half way on that one. I have been offered blessings from Brahmans and charlatans; I took Ayurvedic medicine with some success for bronchiolitis in March, and then in May started a detox program following a visit to an Ayurvedic doctor in Rishikesh who felt my pulse for 5 minutes and prescribed 5 pills and a horrible crushed tablet mix twice a day for 5 weeks (was it worth it? Short answer, no.); I have been near naked receiving a reflexology/shiatsu massage from a man who told me a thing or two about the quality of my orgasms as he pressed on my belly button; I visited an astrologist in Varanasi who told me intimate things about my life and nature, an experience I will never forget; I swam in the Ganges, and the following day, accidentally drank her spirit during a blessing – had the priest given me but the tiniest moment to ponder where the water he was offering me came from, I might not have done so!; I meditate, I read scriptures, I practice yoga; I became a vegetarian (sorry Mum!); and I inwardly chanted Om as often as I remembered to. The sceptic within me let go and for that I have many incredibly lovely memories and experiences to carry in my heart – I will take time to reflect and take what I need from each experience. And still, there is more to try, all in good time.

In Bundi, I met a man named Bikram. Bikram is a local man, in his late 20’s, bit of a smooth talker but friendly. The kind of guy who keeps you in conversation by not leaving any space between sentences to say “I gotta go” – which is exactly what I wanted to say. It was the golden hour in this beautiful town where all the buildings are painted a soft blue – from high above, Bundi would appear an oasis surrounded by arid lands. The lighting was perfection for photography and I wanted to wander the streets before it got dark. Georgie was back at the guesthouse feeling sick, so I wanted to get back to her too. And here was Bikram, chatting away about life, his family, his work, his faith. And all I wanted to do was get away. And he knew it. I was sitting there, jiggling my leg, biting my nails, looking distractedly at passing tuk tuks and cows. So he called me on it, “Am I keeping you from something?”. “Oh, no no, I just really want to take some pictures in this light and I need to get back to my friend, she’s not well”, I said, “but it’s okay, I can stay a little longer.” Both excuses were true, so I didn’t feel particularly bad expressing my need to get going shortly. So we kept talking, now about his guru, about family life in the western world, about relationships. Jiggle jiggle went my foot, nibbling at my nails. “I can see you want to be somewhere else, you are not present. You Westerners are all the same, always somewhere else to be, always somewhere else to go,” he chided. To which of course I was outraged, I’m not like that! But it was true. My body language spoke volumes and my defensiveness grew out of shame. Here I was in a moment, speaking about the stuff of life, of culture, of religion, with someone who called this land home and could express himself perfectly in English – these were the moments I should be most present in, and here I was feeling absolutely desperate to get away. So I stopped. I put my bag down, I sat down, crossed my legs and had a conversation. And I went back the next day for a chai with him. Little did I know at the time that this was the moment, 2 months into my trip, that I would learn how to move through India and engage with the full spectrum of people I was to meet going forwards.

So what have I learnt from my time in India? I have learnt that immersion is the only way to survive it, to enjoy it, to find yourself laughing when you probably should be crying or shouting. I have learnt to be conscious and present, to listen, to smile, to walk slowly, so very slowly, to stop, to sit, to take time to listen, to take time to explain, not to assume you will misunderstand or be misunderstood, to be curious and open to the curiosity of others, even when it seems they’re being brash. To be with others even when you are unsure of their intentions, to trust when you can trust, to be on guard only when you must. I have learnt to accept what you cannot control, because rarely does it matter. My heart and mind have been opened to a whole new way of being – and one day maybe I’ll embody it.

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Discoveries: The One or the someone?

Have you ever been asked “Do you believe in The One?” What was your response? Has your belief changed over time?

Many of us grow up enchanted by the romantic idea of ‘The One’. So many fairytales and stories teach us of star-crossed lovers, who either live happily ever after – or experience a love that was so incredible, it was worth whatever horror befell them. And yes, some find that special someone early in the piece, but what of those who do not? Ah, ’tis but a journey through a field of flowers!

A few months ago I posted a response to Alain de Botton’s Consolation for a Broken a Heart. I was utterly baffled by his support for Schopenhauer’s suggestion that love is foolishness, simply a means to an end, directing us toward a balancing of genetics to ensure we produce the most optimal offspring. Granted, I do have moments where I hope to find a man with a reptilian brain, to ensure a minute head circumference will counteract the ridiculously large craniums that run in my family – but my dream of a less brutal labour is swiftly outweighed by my desire to have a stimulating conversation with my partner. Happily, I have found an alternative to his pitiful consolation in two of philosophy’s greats. Socrates and Plato, come on down! (And, please, allow me some creative license!)

***

Plato, ever the inquisitive, asked of his teacher, “Socrates, what is love?”
Socrates looked thoughtfully at the land before him and replied, “Go to the field beyond and find the most magnificent flower you can. You must walk forward, never back, and you may only pick one.”
Several hours later, Plato returned, empty handed. “Plato, why do you return with nothing to show me?”
Plato, looking slightly despondent for failing at his task, replied, “Every time I came across a beautiful flower, I wanted to pick it, but then I feared that there would be a more magnificent flower ahead, so I decided not to choose it. By the time I walked to the end of the field, I discovered that I had passed much better flowers earlier, and so could not justly pick one to return to you with.”
Socrates nodded solemnly, “This is love.”

The following day, Plato asked Socrates, “What is commitment?” (Well in truth, he asked, “What is marriage?”, but let’s give this a modern feel.)
Socrates told him, “Today, young scholar, you must go into the forest and cut down the biggest and most beautiful tree. Again, you may only move forward, not back, and you may only cut one.”
This time Plato returned with a fine tree. Socrates asked him why he chose this one in particular. Plato gazed proudly upon his tree and replied, “Well, Socrates, I did not wish to make the same mistake as last time! I walked through the forest, seeing many beautiful, strong trees, and still I was empty handed. This tree caught my eye. I did not care if it was the biggest or most beautiful, so I cut it down in fear that I would miss it.”
Socrates smiled knowingly, “This is commitment.”

***

I was searching for an explanation for what I have come to understand over this past year, and this fit the bill. You can have varying attractions and connections with numerous people, and there are any number of people that you could potentially connect with and have a happy life.

“Well, Emmelina,” I hear some saying, “That’s not very romantic!” Well perhaps it’s time to redefine romance – I want connection, depth, understanding. I want meaning. I want playfulness. I want joy. I want challenge.

Perhaps by dismissing the idea of ‘The One’ I may be upsetting some people. But, I would argue, the very idea that one may choose from a plethora of loves, and another can choose from a plethora of loves, and somehow they come to choose each other – well that, I believe, is a very beautiful thing indeed. To have that choice – to choose despite the possibilities. To stick with that choice – despite the moments of mediocrity or hardship. To actively engage in love and connection, in learning and understanding another, in compromising, to keep making that choice everyday – that is love.

So go forth, those singles who’ve loved and lost, with open hearts and minds – make connections, put yourself out there and see what loves you might discover. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll find yourself falling in love, again and again, each and everyday, with some curious being you’ve chosen to dance with through the absurdity of life.

Discoveries: The Other Side of Fear

I’m leaving my beloved home, family and friends in 6 weeks time to travel for as long and far as my savings will take me. I have no set plans beyond my one-way ticket to Delhi and my first few nights in a hostel. When I say this to people I get a variety of reactions – some are excited for me, some think I’m a little mad, and some say “I could never do that, I’d be way too scared!” I find the last reaction most amusing, not because I think it is silly, but because I completely understand it – it’s what I have been saying to myself for the past 8 years. My immediate and honest response is, “Oh, believe me, I am terrified”.

I have spent much of my adult life thinking about things I’d like to do, swiftly followed by all the perfectly rational reasons not to do them – most often my decision not to do something has been out of fear. Fear that I would be making the wrong decision. Fear that I would miss out on some other possible opportunity. Fear that I would suffer some embarrassment, rejection, guilt or harm. Fear that I would be judged. Fear that I would come up against a problem I couldn’t solve. Fear that I would fail. Fear that I would steer myself off the path of life that I thought I should be following. There are, it would seem, endless opportunities to find an excuse not to act. I have come to realise that the things I regret not doing are the things I chose not to do out of fear; and those times that I have faced my fears have resulted in some of the most wonderful memories and moments of self-discovery and joy.

So yes, I am terrified – for all the reasons above and more – but I’m pretty sure that’s okay! My recent travels have shown me that on the other side of fear there is something new and wonderful to be discovered… except in the case of whitewater rafting on the Zambezi, where IMHO there is only terror, followed by a few long hours of paddling towards what you fear will result in more terror, and finishing with a practically vertical uphill trek in the heat of the day where you and your comrades will inspect the day’s wounds inflicted by flying oars and rocky riverbeds – and if it weren’t for sharing that experience with some wonderful friends, with their care for one another, infectious excitement and wild storytelling, I would probably have had to put it down as an experience I really could have done without. That being said, hand to heart, you will never see me whitewater rafting again.

Had I let fear get the better of me, this past year would have been quite different. I would not have put my hand up for the opportunity to experience senior roles at work – and I would not have had the revelation that I was climbing the wrong ladder. I would not have got my sexy back. I would not have travelled to Africa. I would not have been stuck in a truck with a motley crew for weeks on end only to find that they are supremely divine specimens for whom I now hold great affection. I would not have reassessed my views on love. I would not have volunteered in Kenya. I would not have caught the matatu from Githurai 45 to Nairobi (an experience that I would recommend anyone try if they find themselves in Nairobi – no doubt you’ll grin from ear to ear the whole trip. Who would have thought public transport could be such fun?). I would not be writing this blog – not because I had nothing to write, but because I was too afraid to write it. I would certainly not be heading off to travel the world.

The point of this is not to say, “Go travel!”. Travel just happened to be both what I most wanted to do and what I most feared to do. The point is to say that fear should never be an excuse to settle for less than you want from life – there are other reasons to settle, but fear should not be one of them. If there is something you want to do, but are too afraid to do, chances are that is exactly what you should do. More than likely, there is something good to be found on the other side. And even if there is a little bad, well, it will never be as bad as our fear has led us to believe. It really won’t.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

Getting all creepy on cicadas

I love driving around the hills on a hot day, passing pockets of cicadas singing in their spirited chorale. They sing the song of summer, of hot days and balmy nights. I remember when I was 8 years old and had just moved out to the Dandenong Ranges, I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the call of the cicadas – I was convinced I had come to live in “the bush”, Crocodile Dundee style. Being a bug-loving kind of guy, my Dad told me about their muscles and membranes and exoskeletons, and how these worked together to help the cicadas sing. It all sounded kind of gross – so, naturally, I wanted to find one and have a look.

I would traipse up and down the stairs along the side of the house, looking for the source of the singing. I found a few dried up old shells here and there – interesting for a few moments – but I sought the thrill of finding one mid song, you know, with all its bits moving. Whenever it seemed like I was getting close, they’d stop singing. It was terribly disappointing. I began to think that perhaps the activity associated with making their song was so gross that it was meant to be done in private, that perhaps creeping up on a singing cicada was the equivalent of creeping up on someone with their pants down. Or maybe they were just being selfish.

I gave up. It was one of my first childhood dream failures, closely followed by the epic hunt for a four-leafed clover. I soon decided to come up with more practical childhood dreams, life would be less disappointing that way.

I feel I should attempt to rectify this. I have recently acquired stealth bush walking techniques from rhino trekking in Zimbabwe. There are no rhinos in Belgrave South, and I fear that these skills will soon be lost. I have decided it might be time to practice my stealth techniques on cicadas. I have it all worked out in my mind.

I imagine sneaking up on a cicada from behind, watching him in all his intriguing grossness as he belts out his tunes, staring him down, eyes drilling into the back of his head. I imagine that awkward sense of being watched would begin to creep over him. He would slow down his contracting muscles as he turned his little cicada head around to have his little cicada eyes rest upon mine. They would widen in horror, his little cicada brows arched high on his little cicada head, his mouth agape, asking “How?” And I would show him my sneaky, stealthy little feet. And as I silently walked away, stealthy step by stealthy step, smiling smugly to myself, he would quiver slightly, causing a tiny trill to betray what little dignity he had left. For now, he would know, he could never be sure of his solitude again.

Now to find a meadow of clovers…

“Look honey, it’s not you, it’s not me, it’s just our biology…”

It is hard to find time to think and time to write at the moment. I’m working permanent night shift and have discovered that it is not all so conducive to creative flow. My brain is muddled, it fights any attempt to go above and beyond, as if preserving what little energy it has in fear that sleep might never come. Poor little dear, so confused.

* * * *

I have recently finished reading Alain De Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. It was a simple, interesting and clever introduction to philosophy with some practical applications to everyday life. Each chapter uses a philosopher to provide a consolation – for instance, a Consolation for Frustration is provided through Seneca, and the Consolation for Inadequacy is discussed through the essays of Montaigne. I was thoroughly enjoying this book, experiencing numerous moments of self-reflection and understanding, until I came upon one terrible chapter. I am so glad that this chapter was towards the end of the book – had it been first, I have no doubt I would have tossed the whole book in the bin. The chapter was entitled Consolation for a Broken Heart– thankfully my heart is not broken (bewildered and frustrated by constant self sabotage, perhaps, but not broken) for I would find no consolation here. Upon finishing this chapter I wondered if I would ever be able to take Alain De Botton seriously again. Picking up another of his books, I discovered I cannot read his writing without feeling irked by the cynicism, bitterness and angst that oozes out of every paragraph. So I hope if I get this off my chest, I will again be able to read his words in a more balanced way. Or, perhaps, he just isn’t as awesome I had come to believe. We’ll see.

* * * *

Alain begins by pointing out that few philosophers have dared to enter into discourse on matters of love –this almost sounds like a disclaimer, “Look guys, I didn’t have much to work with here, this is the best I can do. Don’t hate me for it.” Well, Alain, perhaps you shouldn’t have bothered with this one.

We are introduced to Alfred Schopenhauer, a German philosopher who lived a miserable life –misery found him at every turn, or perhaps he sought misery in an attempt to make his pessimistic philosophy of life his truth. Yes, Schopenhauer was an arch-pessimist, the Godfather of misery, and, I might add, a misogynist. Here I was, reading about this man’s life and thinking, what could he possibly have to say to console someone with a broken heart. I cajoled myself to keep reading… Come on Ems, Alain always brings it around, be open minded, no doubt it will be one of those full circle tales with a delightful ‘ah-ha’ moment at the end. Ever the optimist!

Getting to the point… Schopenhauer’s belief is that we are driven towards a Will to Life; that being, an unrelenting and subconscious pursuit to find a suitable co-parent so that we may produce the ideal offspring for the betterment of our species.  Love is simply a conscious manifestation of this Will to Life. So, here comes into play the idea that opposites attract – a large nose will find balance in a small nose, obesity in the athletic, the tall attract the short, so on and so forth. Schopenhauer goes on to suggest that the feeling of love is false, a trick of the mind – it is simply there to serve the purpose of pushing these two opposite people together to procreate, and then, when they succeed in birthing the object of their affection, their love will dissipate and they will immediately be repulsed by and hateful towards one another. So, to summarise – either you ignore your biological instinct and fall in love with someone with whom you will undoubtedly produce abominations; or you temporarily fall in love with someone with whom you will certainly produce some wonderful specimen with, but will also certainly come to resent. Charming.

Yes, this argument was presented by the same man who described the value of Socratic reasoning. So let’s consider how the conversation between Socrates and Schopenhauer might have gone.

* * * *

Socrates: Schopenhauer, tell me, why do you think people fall in love with each other?

Schopenhauer: Why, Socrates, that is simple! Love as a manifestation of the Will to Life – they are subconsciously driven to produce quality offspring.

Socrates: Ah, but Schopenhauer, are there not situations where people fall in love without the possibility of procreation?

Ems: Pick me! Pick me! How about all those loving homosexual relationships Socrates??

Schopenhauer: Silly girl. Love between homosexuals serves the purpose of preventing the birth of ill-begotten children.

(Yes, he did suggest this)

Socrates: … Schopenhauer, are there not homosexual parents who have procreated and raised perfectly wonderful children through sperm donation or surrogacy?

Schopenhauer: Uh…

Ems: Oh many! Sorry to butt in Socrates, but to be fair, Schopenhauer didn’t know this was possible, I mean, he was living in the 1800’s. For the sake of enlightenment, Schopenhauer, you really should check this guy out, he’s pretty quality offspring. 

Socrates: Well played. Now, are there not examples of parents who have remained in love despite producing perfectly adequate offspring?

* * * *

Schopenhauer’s philosophy is heavily flawed and paints a bleak picture of love that would console only the most cynical of hearts. It seems little more than the bitter words of a heart broken man. And where is the consolation that Alain was suggesting we take from this? I believe it’s something along the lines of, “Look honey, don’t take it personally. It’s not you, hell, it’s not even me – it’s just our biology.”

Perhaps there is no consolation for the broken hearted. Perhaps philosophy doesn’t have all the answers. Love is beautiful and complex, it makes us vulnerable, it makes us foolish, it changes who we are and who we will come to be. Love is something to be in awe of. Why try to rationalise it?

If nothing else, a broken heart is proof that you were lucky enough to experience something incredibly special. There is no doubt that rejection is horrible, particularly when it follows what seemed to be a beautiful love affair – but it is unlikely that anyone will have the right words to soothe you (beyond the usual remarks from thoughtful friends, “He never appreciated you anyway”, “She wasn’t good enough for you”, “What a fucking dickhead”, “I know a good hit-man”, and so on). Perhaps suffering a broken heart is something that we must simply endure, experience, and feel in its full force, as part of the most exhilarating, frightening and important journey in which we can engage ourselves: the pursuit of love.

 * * * *

The Consolations of Philosophy was made into a TV series. For those interested, you can watch the Consolation for a Broken Heart below.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

 I particularly enjoy the ending. Alain has spent the episode trying to console a woman using Schopenhauer’s Will to Life, but she insists that his consolation is, well, kind of tragic, but nods out of what I can only interpret to be politeness as he pushes the point. And then, in a terribly awkward exchange, he tells her his Will to Life is asking him to ask her out to dinner. Does he not realise that based on his consolation, he has just said informed her that he thinks they will initially enjoy each others company, that he believes she would make a suitable co-parent, and that inevitably they will grow to resent one another…? But hey, that’s okay, because they will know it’s all biological, so can avoid that whole broken heart saga when it comes to a bitter end. Keeping all of that in mind… You and Me babes, how about it?

 

 

Just write it out…

Ugh, body clock totally out of whack. My life has become one with the night shift. It’s 4.30am, I want to sleep. I have a headache and a busy day ahead of me. Lying here in the dark tossing and turning. I am feeling anxious. What to do, what to do. Well this is supposed to be an honest account of things, so let’s go with that.

I haven’t felt anxiety for a very long time. I don’t like it. It’s one of those uncomfortable feelings that pops up once in a while. It used to stun me, render me completely useless; but right now I can see it as a reminder to check in with myself, to make sure that I am present, to ground me in my choices.

Anxiety: Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Are you sure you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew? Are you sure you’re really okay about things you keep telling yourself, and everyone else, that you’re okay about? Are you sure this is going to work?

Me: Well shit, I don’t know.

Anxiety: Well you sure as hell aren’t going to get enough sleep tonight to enjoy your precious day off. So how does that make you feel?

Me: Uhh, a little anxious actually – I’ve got plans.

Anxiety: Sucks to be you then.

Me: Nah. Just going to write you out.

Things may not go as I plan – that is one good reason to plan so little! – but I will get to where I’m going, one way or another. Sometimes things will go awry, sometimes things won’t be okay – but it won’t be the first time, and in all likelihood, if things fuck up, it won’t be in the worst way possible. The adventure that lies ahead – it’s about the experience; it’s about going for something I so yearned for, yet seemed so out of my depth. If it was supposed to be easy, if everything was supposed to happen according to a plan, if there were no surprises, no challenges, no moments of discomfort – then it really wouldn’t be much of a journey now, would it?

So although I don’t particularly like feeling anxiety – I shall take it as a good sign that I am stepping in the right direction.

Anxiety: Yeh, but, but what if…

Me: Sh-sh-sh-sh-shut your mouth. It’s sleep time.

Discovering warmth and peace in unlikely places.

Yesterday morning I got home from work and made an unexpected discovery: if you put Deep Heat/linament all over your back and butt, then crawl into bed, you will feel like you’re being spooned. Yep. I feel I should discuss this with Deep Heat’s marketing department, it could save many a soul from those lonesome nights. I just need a good tag line… Anyone?

No, this is not some habit of mine, to get home and experiment with various concoctions. Thanks to a personal trainer who thinks that 120 lunges is a reasonable demand of my body in a single training session, my buns are in protest, screaming at me on a daily basis. My back ache, well that’s thanks to hunching over cots, night after night, willing little humans to board the train to Slumber Town.

I sit beside the little Perspex cot, pat-pat-patting this tiny bottom, telling him the joys of Slumber Town. I’ve got you first class tickets, little buddy. It will take you away from all these beeps and buzzes, away from these strange voices that talk of strange things, usually signifying that there will soon be an insult on your delicate little senses; a land without pricks or tapes; and those tubes or cords that hang from your body… gone! This cozy train will take you to a land of muslin cloths and gentle swaddling, where you can nestle into your Mother’s breast, or snuggle up to your Father’s chest, where voices speak only of love and adulation; you can bask in the sunlight and drink warm milk, and sleep undisturbed for hours on end. Go on, little lamb.

Nope. Still crying. I sigh, slightly exasperated. My colleague looks up from her magazine, smiles and gently chides, “Just checking, but you know he doesn’t understand what you’re saying, right?” I suspect she’s just jealous and wishes she could board the slumber train too. And though she was referring to his lack of intellectual development to comprehend speech, I began to think that even if he could understand what I was saying, he couldn’t comprehend the image or experience of the land I was promising. I am offering something he doesn’t even know exists, and if he had an inkling, he would probably be crying that it wasn’t his reality.

If you had sat me down a year ago and told me of myself as I am now, I would have done that disdainful laugh, you know the one, where your head moves back a little and air rushes out your nose, like a bull that’s a little ticked off. And then I would’ve felt like jabbing you, hard – for how could you be so cruel as to get my hopes up? Sicko.

Oh, self-doubt, what a terrible thing! For so long I had dreamed but not dared; and to be told that I would dare, well I would have thought you were teasing me, I quite possibly would have cried. In fact, the moment I came to this realisation, lying in my tent, somewhere in the heart of Africa, I did. To discover the actual potential of life – to shift from thinking of it as a dream to resolving to make it a reality – I felt a rush of fear, peace and utter excitement. I still do.

“You did it!”, my colleague exclaims in hushed tones, shuffling over to me.

“What?”, I said as she gestures to the cot, “Oh”. I look between my hands, which I had absentmindedly planted at either end of the now sleeping baby; I am immediately reminded of a wonderful neonatal nurse, Yoke, whom I met a few years ago when I used to work in the nursery.

Yoke worked part time in aged care and neonates – she had mastered the art of caring across the life span, and it oozed from every one of her pores. I remember her placing her hands at either end of a crying baby, one on his head and one on his bottom, telling me, “You must let him know you’re here, that you hear him, that he is not alone.” (Perhaps now I should suggest to the nursery that they put Deep Heat on the heads and tails of the babies.)

And as I looked at this little life sleeping soundly between my hands, head bobbing, exhausted from an extensive wailing session, rejuvenating himself for whatever comes next, I felt like I was holding my heart in my hands, and it was full of love, peace, and potential.

In the next cot along, another little human was returning from Slumber Town. She lets out a whimper as she realises her reality, where she must battle with the bottle, surrounded by beeps and buzzes, tapes, tubes, and unfamiliar voices. But I’ll get her through, and then she can board that train again and go wherever her heart desires.