Hello From the Other Side

In Wellington airport the other day, I was flicking through my internet stream. And I came across this awesome Rolling Stone interview with Adele, have you read it?  Her voice sends vibrations down into my reptilian brain. She moves me. She’s amazing.  But I was a little relieved to read that her new song “Hello” isn’t about another lost love, it’s about her younger self. It really resonated with me, because I was about to fly into Sydney, the land of my ‘old self’… (who is really my young self, suspended somewhere in time). My passport is in my maiden name, so every time I looked at my boarding pass I was seeing my old name, the name of that Sydney school girl. It all conspired to make me very nostalgic. So on the plane I wrote this little reflection piece. Thought I would share it here…
because I think Adele tapped into something universal with her song.
If you could call yourself twenty years ago, what would you say?
Would you warn that girl? Apologise?
Hmmm. I’d try to bolster my old self up.  Give her some encouragement.
She didn’t look like she needed it, but she sure did.
I wish I could go back and give her that.
Anyway… here’s my piece about my two selves. My then, my now.

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I used to go walking there, far above the chase, and perch on a rocky outcrop in a blue-green sea of gum. I liked thinking that maybe centuries earlier, indigenous people had sat there, watching the bush fires maybe, or searching for signs in the skies. Maybe they were children, maybe they were not so different to the girl I was, hiding in the wide bush, running from the things she couldn’t shape with words.  My legs were strong then, I would relax my breathing and let them carry me along the barely perceptible bush tracks, avoiding the hostile prickles that seem to typify every Native Australian plant. Stay away!  the barbs and spikes screamed. Yet they sheltered me, surrounded me on my rock. Hummed and buzzed with all the wildlife they sheltered, too. Sometimes I could be there for hours, watching the seconds evaporate, one by one into the heated haze of afternoon. I was the only person who knew about the rocky outcrop. Just me. No one ever replied to the chalky poetry I wrote on the rocks, stone against stone. There were never any signs of any other person but me. Yet I felt the ghosts of the aboriginal children who sat there too, kept from me by time alone. In the bush I was anonymous. Alone. Free to think my thoughts and ache my pains. I loved it there.

Sometimes I could be there for hours, watching the seconds evaporate into the heated haze of afternoon.

Today I am flying back to the city that cradles my rock of anonymity, a small space amongst the wide Ku-rin-gai Chase National Park. I haven’t been there for so long. Maybe the rock has been discovered by another person by now. Maybe the bush has changed so much I would never find it again. The landmarks I used, now grown and burned and reshaped in the decades since I walked there. Strong on those young legs. And there wouldn’t be time anyway, I tell myself. I couldn’t absent myself to go bushwalking alone.  I am scheduled. Planned. There and back. Quick trip.  Short stop. Turnaround.  A thought panics my mind. Maybe I left my girl self on that rock. I have an urge to find her again. To see the banksia and gumnuts and breathe the eucalyptus in the air.

I remind myself that nothing ever stays the same.

I didn’t. I think of my internal topography. The rifts and seismic shifts of the years between. The person I have become, so far from the girl on the rock.

Soon, the driver I have never met, will hold up a placard with my old name on it. The name of that bushwalking poet. It must be the strangeness of that, making me nostalgic for her. She’s had two other names since then, two more selves layering over her original self.  She was so afraid of what would come. But she should give herself more credit. I return in her name, a brief walk in her shoes, back in her town. That pony-tailed girl in the white school shirt and grey checkered skirt. She had long brown legs. Strong legs. Walking legs. I will walk on the same bones, strong of heart, towards a new and exciting experience of this place. The questions I don’t know the answers to, the questions I won’t ask, will hang, palpable in the air. I will be patient. Wait until I am at the studio. Prepare the strength I will need to walk in my body, proud of who I have become. Because confidence is never as easy as it looks! There will be no sign of that girl, troubled and stormy, hiding on her rock in the vast space of the Australian bush.

Sydney will feel so big and busy. It always does. Everybody bright and smooth and slick. The cars so fast, glossing across the flat wide roads. It’s an efficient city. No pause for poems scratched on rock faces. For ancient faces. I turn inward and begin to sculpt my outward self. There will be expectations and I don’t know what they are, but I will smile and read the social cues I find. I will joke and try not to say the embarassing things I often blurt out. I might talk about the Sydney I used to know, so long ago.  I will stare down the blank iris of the camera and imagine myself within it. Caught in a nanosecond, angles and tilts, light and shade.  I will stand tall. Kia kaha.

And while I am doing that, the girl inside myself will look out across the Chase, somewhere north of here, back in time. Somewhere between a rock and a hard place, she will find a pathway through. If I could, I would wave to her, out there on her rocky outcrop. I would wave to her and tell her I’ll see her on the other side of twenty years. Older, wiser, taller, kinder.

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry
for breaking your heart

But it don’t matter, it clearly
doesn’t tear you apart

Anymore

lyrics from Adele’s ‘Hello’
You can listen to the song here:

A Midnight Clear

Every year I find myself time travelling over our box of Christmas decorations.  All those handmade kid decorations and the sentimental ornaments that take me back to times before.  There are the annual ornaments I always received from my Mum, a tradition now adopted by my sister.  There are the ones from children I taught, and older ones too from so long ago I barely remember their origins. Garlands and baubles and hand embroidered love hearts.  Toy soldiers made from pegs and pipe cleaner reindeer. Jingle bells from the first year I was married and a tiny wax baby Jesus nestled in a walnut shell.  I watch the kids unwrapping each one and remembering, smiling as they feel that special Christmas magic.  It’s a time of year I adore.  The carols play us the lullabies of yule and this mood, this palpable feeling is the reason why I love this season so much.  Family, love, memories, togetherness.

Only this year, I can’t manage to trim the whole tree.  December First happens to have been a very big day this year and we are all a bit tired.  The children lift and bring me each decoration and my arms shake as I hang them; just so. I push myself far beyond my capabilities. My husband puts the kids to bed and returns to find my head in my hands.  I am spent.  It’s not just the emotion of Christmas.  I literally can’t move my legs.  The weakness and pain radiates down my legs pinning me to the chair.  I stare at the tree.  The lights blink through the blur of my tears.  It’s Christmas, but not as I know it.  I don’t understand this pain I am having, the weakness and trouble with walking. I am afraid of it. It’s not a usual Dysautonomia symptom.  Walking is not mediated by the Autonomic Nervous System, but the Central. I don’t understand and I don’t want to even try. I’m just weary.  I am upset that even Christmas decorating is now tainted with the wrongs of this body.  I try to make the tree come back into focus.  It’s beautiful.  It’s not finished… but there is tomorrow.

My favourite carol floats through the living room. My tiredness overwhelms me.  Time for a silent night.

I need a silent night, a holy nighttoHave you heard this beautiful carol?
It’s the perfect Christmas-carol-for-mummies.
Here’s the link if you’d like to have a listen.

Have you been trimming your tree, too?

Falling

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 9.47.30 amYou can fall foul of the law, fall to the enemy, buy a TV that has fallen off the back of the truck, fall head over heels, fall pregnant. Statistics can fall, you can fall over yourself to get to something you want and in some countries, Fall is a season. At one of my schools I was dubbed ‘Falling Tree’ because of the way I would faint, straight over. Tim-ber!  Some silly boy started it and it stuck for a while, until he moved on to finding someone else’s problems funnier than mine.

That reminds me of a song I used to love. Catch me, I’m falling.  A much nicer boy once put this song on a mix tape for me.  I love Real Life (the band).  And OMD. Ah, those were the days! A little bit of synthie-pop-magic from 1983.  Of course, actually in 1983, I didn’t know who these boys were, it took nine more years before I discovered them.  Back in 1983 I had heard of Abba and Human League and Joan Jett.

Catch me
I’m falling down again.
I know it’s a dream
But just the same.
There’s a face before
My eyes are closed
But I can recognise
The danger there.
Slumber comes and darkness falls

And shadows dance across my walls

Today, I’m falling under.  I know I will surface again, but today is a day for letting myself sink.
My head feels like a separate entity from my body doing a nodding dog on my shoulders.  It is heavy, it hurts. My eyes feel like they are attached to the suck end of the vacuum hose. I woke this way and it hasn’t let me be. This time of day is usually my respite time.  My quiet time.  My rest and prepare for the afternoon, time. But none of those things are happening while my eyeballs thrum away at the inside space of my head.  I’m just here, getting on with today, one throb at a time.  Looking out on the white skies of winter in short instalments between shut eyes.  My screen brightness is turned down to low. The light hurts today.  I type by touch and hope there won’t be too much to edit later.

It all makes me feel nostalgic, it’s like I can slip so easily into the eighties in my mind when the present day is too difficult.  I’m back there, somewhere around 1987 sneaking over to friends’ houses to watch secular movies, listening to my walkman under the bed.  Casey’s Kasem’s American Top 40.  Whitney Houston, Nik Kershaw, mixed tapes and much unrequited love (mostly for the lead singer of A-Ha).  I had Minnie Mouse on my wall and Rudi the sausage dog as my unwilling psychotherapist.  That dog had to listen to endless hours of my teen angst.  Poor sausage!

Nice to remember the old days.

Here is Real Life.