catching chances

I’m an advocate for the belief that living a rich and remarkable life largely depends on taking risks and catching chances. It makes complete sense that we can never get anything different to what we have unless we first change some element of what we’re doing. Last week I asked you for your thoughts regarding when is too soon to consider moving in with a partner and during the week we decided, after much deliberating, reading, talking, umming and ahhing that we’re going to give it a shot. Like many of you pointed out, living together will either force a making or a breaking, and I have a good feeling. Of course, this is a big deal for me and I’m a little bit afraid. Still, this year was always going to be about pushing comfort zones, embracing vulnerabilities and taking the less obvious path, so this is just one of the ways in which I’m realising that objective.

As is often the case, once a decision is made, things seem to move quite quickly. Already we’ve been accepted for a cute little unit that we inspected on the weekend and we’ll be picking up the keys on Friday. We also made our first joint purchase; a rug for our living room floor. It really is exciting times. : )

 

When I moved to Melbourne at the beginning of January it was without a plan. No one can tell the future and it’s harder still when you’re at a total loss regarding what you might want for yourself. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy with what I had and I needed to do something about it before my battered spirit was damaged irreparably. I suppose I imagined that if I threw it all in and sought a clean slate, some magic might happen.

Six months and countless ups and downs later, I suppose that’s exactly what’s occurred. After some radical twists I’ve started paving myself an altogether different path to the one I was aimlessly wandering in 2011. When I reflect on the year to date, I think the biggest difference between my now and my then is that I’ve awarded myself a most precious gift: the permission to seek change.

For so many years I knew what I wanted to do (or rather what I didn’t want to do), but I lacked the courage to act. I don’t know what I was afraid would happen; perceiving it from my present state of mind, it’s hard to understand how I could have thought quitting my job and moving interstate would potentially herald the end of the world. But I guess at the time it was my fear of the unknown that was holding me to ransom. For whatever reason, back then I didn’t feel free.

In the last six months I’ve come to realise that one way or another, things will always work out. Also, you shouldn’t ever be afraid of failing because there is no such thing. Rather, there are simply limitless turning points that when taken will inevitably lead us in varied directions. And there are lessons. By golly, are there lessons.

In this life we can choose to remain on the one road, safe in the knowledge that we’re familiar with its contours and what might be over each rise, or we can take a chance and mosey off in a new and different direction. Sure, it might be risky, but there are sure to be wonderful things to see and to do. As for myself, let me always be the brave explorer. Because there is always that chance that the things we uncover really might be golden.

 

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moving in: how soon is too soon?

Over the past few months my life in Melbourne has really started coming together; the city lifestyle is great, I’ve been granted a new and challenging job and my writing has gained a pleasing momentum. As well as all this and perhaps most significant to my newfound and apparently unwavering state of happiness, I’ve met a boy. I don’t typically like to write about my romantic life; I don’t want to bore you with the soppy details. Suffice to say that he is awesome and I am entirely smitten. And that brings me to the crux of this week’s post.

Recently this fellow’s housemate got a new job and is therefore leaving the place they share for something on the other side of the city. As a result, my partner has to find a new house mate or move into a place that’s more affordable. With the prospect of moving on the cards, the notion of finding a place together has presented itself much earlier in our relationship than it otherwise may have done. At first the comment entered the conversation very much as a throw away, proffered as an idle musing. But once spoken, the thought immediately began demanding more attention. So now I’m faced with a complex and entirely tricky dilemma: how soon is too soon to move in?

It’s irrefutable that the dynamic of a relationship is unavoidably affected by moving in with one another, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I suppose my concern is whether moving in prematurely can doom an otherwise hopeful relationship.

I have so many conflicting thoughts on this issue. On the one hand, I feel that if a relationship is good, it surely can’t be ruined or dependent on living arrangements. Also, if you like someone’s company, you owe it to yourselves to seize the day; life is short, after all. But on the other hand I wonder if the process of courtship and dating can be disrupted by the reality of domesticity, destroying a naturally blossoming love affair irredeemably.

Personally, I know I like this boy. A lot. And I am afraid of us inadvertently destroying something wonderful in our eagerness to be close to one another. I guess I’m worried that if we live together, he might grow tired of my company. Also, I want to be sure we aren’t leaping into such a big move based on the benefits of financial convenience. In this matter as in all matters, I am entirely and always on the side of love.

 

What do you guys think? Is there such a thing as too soon to move in? Have you ever prematurely moved in with someone and do you feel it destroyed your relationship? Or have you made this crazy call and lived with no regrets?

Let me know what you think; on this issue as with many, my mind is a mess bomb.

 

the stirring

Only The Elect Are Free

One of my many loathings is societal conditioning. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but admire the genius that devised the conspiracy. From day one we are programmed to contribute to the machine. When we are infants we are sent to school and the training begins. We’re taught maths and spelling and the position of America on the map, but most importantly we learn to do what we are told. Wear your uniform. Arrive on time. Follow the rules. Funnily, it takes only the most minimal and pathetic of recognitions to maintain these behaviours; a worthless commendation, a passing word of praise. In no time at all, we’re hooked.

We are indoctrinated so thoroughly that before long we begin to see those who do not entirely conform as pathetic failures. Those who take a day off here and there because they can’t be arsed doing something which seems to them utterly superfluous are frowned upon en mass. The guy who wears what in the hell he wants because he reckons the school administered blazer looks ridiculous is chastised and outcast. Why is he refusing to follow the rules?

Eventually we either drop out of school or graduate. Some are lucky enough to have fallen for the scam and actually celebrate the fact that they are finally free whilst arranging their ties and passively preparing to head off for another colourless day in the office. The less fortunate of us are more than aware that we are trapped. We are the ones that hate ourselves, because despite the most conscious of realisations, we do it anyway.

I hate the thought of dragging myself off to work every day, just because that’s what I’m expected to do. Last month I told my dad I’d been thinking of chucking in my job and trying something different. He almost had a stroke. The thought of four years training down the drain…

I just figure it would be better than the reality of a decade of life wasted when in ten years time, I’m still miserable. We only get to live once, right? Should our single aspiration really be to have a great big house, a dependable job and financial security..? I, for one would prefer to have a bloody good time.

And yet I haven’t quit yet. Go figure.

March, 2011

 

Last week I was quite ill. High on the dopey fuzz of cold and flu medication, I used the down time to restore some semblance of order to the many document files I’ve confused with obscure thoughts, unrealised ideas and the incomplete ponderings of my scattered mind over the past few years.

During the reading and deleting process, I stumbled upon the above rambling. I suspect that younger me would be both pleased and surprised to learn of the changes that have transpired since the moment when, in her hopelessness, she penned this piece. If the feelings of my present self are indicative, it’s a fair certainty.

 

what’s your number?

No one here needs reminding that life’s not a fairy tale; it’s a complicated, messy business. So unless your situation is altogether unique, chances are you’ve both enjoyed and endured a number of romantic relationships in your time.

According to a recent American study, the median number of sexual partners for a man in his life time is seven. For a woman, the median is four. Of course, this research included no data to illustrate the benefits gained from each relationship and the varied ways in which they enriched the lives of the participants; those would be things near impossible to quantify.

I think it is important to acknowledge that when it comes to love, it’s not the number with whom we’ve shared it that’s important but rather the nature of the beast; the way it inflates us, making us daring, eager, energised. Such is its potency and poignancy that even after a relationship has ended an echo of that former lover remains somewhere within our selves ever onward.

When I was younger, I naively believed that the number of sexual partners a person inadvertently accumulated was important; that it somehow reflected something about a person. My ignorance had me thinking that those with a larger number were careless. I thought love was special, and that by bandying it about they were lessening its value. Needless to say, I was missing the point.

As I matured and began accumulating the battle scars of life, I grew to recognise that the gradual accumulation of lovers is something we can’t always control. There is very little one can do about a relationship ending and furthermore, as ceaseless pursuers of the sublime, we’d be foolish to turn new love away when, bright eyed and bumbling, he finally comes calling.

If we could choose to meet our other the first time around (assuming there is such a one) I suppose there’d be many of us who would. For myself I’m not so sure. Because while the notion of feeling settled and at home with another is entirely appealing, the experiences I’ve been granted through my interactions with previous partners (desirable and otherwise) have stitched for me a vivid patchwork of a past.

For this reason, rather than pointlessly attempting to minimise our number of romantic experiences, we need simply to see the importance of carefully selecting partners we’d be happy to see woven into our personal history. After all, while there’s a chance there’ll come a day that our partners will leave us, our past never will.

Lovers are parasites; every one you take claims and keeps some many tiny parts of you. Likewise, when the time comes that you shake them off, wandering alone into the blue, you will have collected some of their colours, placing them among your pieces for the rest of your days. An eternal legacy of lovers lost.

 

This road can be rough but when you choose the scenic route there are so many wonderful things to see. Life is short and sights are all the more glorious when you’ve someone with whom to admire them. So go ahead and ask her: what’s your number?

 

‘Cause you can just never know; maybe the next one will be for the keeping.

 

What legacies have your lovers left with you?

Do you regret past partners, or see each as representing a chapter of your story?

 

the new black: you and your quarter life crisis

When I decided to run away at the end of last year, throwing in my job to commence a desperate search for contentment and meaning, I had never felt so alone. At the time I was convinced I was the only person to have ever experienced the poignant feelings of failure and inadequacy that were undermining my identity. Yet from the moment I began writing about my journey, I became aware of an entire generation of people in the same position; feeling despondent and confused. Believing, as I did, they were lonely islands. Since the commencement of this year, I’ve received many emails and messages from people who’ve been where I am. Sadly, due to commitments and responsibilities, many find themselves in a state of stuckness, unable to break from the blue. But others answered the call for change and have shared stories of wonderfully positive personal outcomes.

There’s no shortage of research on the subject of the quarter life crisis. In fact, scientists and psychologists agree that the condition is nearing epidemic standards in the western world. Growth in levels of insecurity and depression are now affecting approximately one third of people in their mid twenties to early thirties, with educated professionals deemed most likely to suffer.

Author and expert Damian Barr suggests that in the twenty first century, people in this age bracket are experiencing pressures not previously endured until our forties. “Our 20s are not, as they were for our parents, a decade of tie-dyed fun and quality ‘me’ time,” Barr explains. “Being twenty something now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.”

As well, we’ve been raised by a media obsessed with granting us the empty promise of limitless possibilities. From the youngest of ages we’ve passively received the message that success means achieving everything. All at once we crave celebrity, yearn travel, strive to look excellent, desire to be experts in our field, attempt to develop and maintain quality relationships. This perception of what it means to be successful inevitably leads to a period of radical disillusionment when the superman mentality proves impossible. At this point, we’re either broken by our inability to do it all and are left feeling like failures, or else we’re torn by our seemingly unnatural and ungrateful lack of whim to have everything and seek things we don’t necessarily want for fear of being left behind.

Thankfully, there are some positive trends for quarter life crisis sufferers. Wonderfully, research suggests that these transitional dilemmas, which typically last around two years, often lead to individuals building and concreting for themselves greatly improved lives.

Researcher Doctor Oliver Robinson from the University of Greenwich in London posed four stages for the quarter life crisis. The first is characterised by an illusory feeling of being trapped within a job or a relationship; logically you know you can leave, but emotionally you feel that you can’t. The second begins with the realisation that change is possible, leading to emotional conflict and upheaval; a difficulty which proves a vital catalyst for positive change. The crisis then shifts into its third stage; the structuring of a new, alternate life and seeking broader personal clarity. The fourth and final stage consists of cementing fresh commitments which more closely reflect your inherent interests, aspirations and values.

Experts suggest that the way to emerge from the crux of a quarter life crisis is to plan for success and make clear goals. If you feel you don’t have enough direction to make long term goals, they suggest you start with shorter termed ones and work your way up. Having a creative pursuit has been found to help people through quarter life crises, providing an emotional outlet as well as a medium through which to explore and expose thoughts and feelings. Experts propose using this time of transition to pursue interests and the things you’ve always wanted to do. And of course, if you feel you need professional guidance, don’t hesitate; seek it. In life, we only ever get that for which we ask.

Though I currently feel no less lost than I was four months ago, I’m beginning to feel much more hopeful and certainly less alone. I truly think we’re going to be okay, guys. When I’m feeling particularly confused, I find it helpful to remember some words an old friend once gifted me. She said that nothing that is for you will ever go past you. So que sera, sera; what will be, will be. Just make sure your eyes and palms are ever open, quietly waiting.

 

 

If you’re interested in reading more, here are a couple of the articles I read while perusing the subject.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/05/quarterlife-crisis-young-insecure-depressed

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/surviving-the-quarterlife-crisis-20100405-rmat.html

 

all women are fickle

“all women are fickle” or

Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night.

 

fick-le

1. Marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments

2. Erratic: liable to sudden and unpredictable change

3. Insincere; not loyal or reliable

4. Faithlessness: unfaithful by virtue of being unreliable or treacherous

5. Unstable, especially with regard to affections or attachments

 

Yesterday evening I was enjoying the company of a typically lovely male companion, when he casually dropped this statement. Initially I was convinced that he was simply baiting me, so I humoured him somewhat, feigning insult and injury whilst generally playing along with what I had thought was a rouse. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that he had in fact meant exactly what he said; he truly believed that, collectively, women can be described using the term above defined.

Naturally I got serious very quickly, and had it not been for him backing down (he lives with a woman after all, and isn’t a silly fellow), things could have become messy quite quickly. As a self confessed feminist (let’s leave that one alone for another time) and a lady who prides herself on possessing strong and unwavering convictions, I found it difficult to hear such sweeping generalisations about what is obviously the fairer sex. (That’s a joke. Or is it?) As well as this, I was indignant; how can a person (regardless of gender) truly believe that all women can be characterised as insincere, unreliable beings who are unable to form lasting attachments to others, or even their own perspectives?

Thankfully we were able to bury the issue and enjoyed a perfectly amiable evening of wine and music, but the conversation got me thinking about the merits of saying the things that we think. Is honesty the best policy, or are there times when we should stifle our thoughts for the sake of the feelings of our significant (and insignificant) others?

 

For the most part, we all censure ourselves to some extent. This happens naturally in social discourse and is considered a necessary way of keeping the peace and maintaining pleasantries, whilst also ensuring the feelings of others are respected. Biting our tongue is something we are trained to do at a very young age; observe any toddler in a social setting with their parent and you can watch the conditioning taking place. I remember my sister telling me a while back about a time she’d been in a Doctor’s surgery with my niece, who was two and a half at the time. Turning to an older lady sitting on a chair nearby, she had stated as a matter of fact, ‘you’re very fat.’ Of course, this was followed by much embarrassment and flustered apologising on my sister’s behalf, who then proceeded to explain to my niece in no uncertain terms that you aren’t supposed to ever say such things out loud, regardless of whether they are true. In the given context, this lesson was clearly necessary; there is little to be gained by pointing out to a lady in a doctor’s surgery that she’s eaten too many doughnuts, after all. But having said this, are there times when speaking the truth and being blunt with our beliefs could prove beneficial?

Some people, as a result of the wiring of their minds, are unable to refrain from expressing their thoughts honestly and without inhibition. While this can occasionally be hurtful, it is often charming and refreshing. A perfect example comes to mind regarding a young man I used to teach (for the benefit of this anecdote, let’s call him James). James has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a condition that impairs one’s ability to understand and respond to social cues and conventions. A gangly fourteen year old with awkward mannerisms and a perpetual smile dwelling on the edge of his lips, this young fellow is a joy. However, on one occasion I happened to have a particularly nasty looking sore on my top lip, and while most people had been subtle enough not to mention it, James barrelled up to me whilst entering the classroom and exclaimed loudly ‘Geez, Miss what happened to your face?! It’s not very pretty today!’ To which I replied, ‘yeah, thanks dude. I hadn’t noticed.’ To which he responded (remembering that he has Asperger’s and comprehends purely on a literal level) ‘Oh. Well there’s a huge sore on your face. Go and have a look in the mirror, it’s gross!’ Thanks, James. Big up, man.

I think that possibly, there simply aren’t enough James’ in this world. Because whilst I clearly didn’t need to be reminded about the throbbing, oozing sore on my face (don’t worry, I’m exaggerating), it takes a certain strength and courage to stand proudly and with a big loud voice, state what everyone else is pretending not to see. I guess what I’m saying is that having an opinion and expressing it with passion cannot be a bad thing. After all, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Just make sure when you’re voicing your opinions that they’re something for which you’re willing to fall, fighting.

To end where we began, I am sure that when he accused my gender of being fickle, my gentleman friend wasn’t considering the extent of the negative connotations that the word implies, but rather simply meant that generally, women have the tendency to be more indecisive when making decisions and are typically more likely to weigh and consider multiple perspectives in comparison to our male counterparts. I suppose that if nothing else, this is a lesson in selecting our words so that what we say is in direct correlation to what we mean.

 

Because whilst we women may not be fickle, we can be terribly touchy when scorned.

 

how to make friends

Being new in an unfamiliar city can be difficult, namely because you can no longer rely on the support and companionship of your friends; something which we often take for granted. Recently I realised that if I was going to properly enjoy this venture, I would need to form some local friendships; a concept which to me, is entirely intimidating.

I suppose I could be described as socially awkward; I never know what to say in group situations and as a result, often wind up saying the wrong thing, or else sitting mute and being considered quite peculiar. For this reason (among others), I’ve never been awesome at making friends. The few mates that I do have I’ve known since we were fairly young, and I couldn’t tell you where I found them, or why they’ve stuck with me for so long. On the rare occasion that I have made a friend as an adult, it’s gone swimmingly until the moment that I’ve realised that my newest bosom buddy is in fact a psychopath. At which point, I’ve been obliged to walk briskly in the opposite direction. True story.

So suffice to say, the necessity of making friends has left me feeling both bewildered and slightly nervous. In response to these feelings, I did what I always do when I need answers; I looked it up on the internet. Fortunately, the articles I read made it all seem fairly easy; basically, you just have to find people with shared interests and act friendly and approachable. (Though I must admit, I did wonder as to the intended audience of the stuff I was reading when one concluded with the slightly disconcerting suggestion that if you can, you should refrain from ‘pressuring others into being friends against their will’. Umm… )

Even so, I was left with the impression that there mustn’t be much to it, and that once I’d warmed up and got the knack, forming new friendships should be a fairly simple process; especially taking into account my blossoming confidence and new found willingness to climb out on the proverbial limb. In my head it went something like this:

Step One: Find people with whom you have something in common.

Step Two: Bond over said thing that the two of you have in common.

Step Three: Become the best of friends.

Unfortunately, what I’m finding (and this could be a result of the previously mentioned communication retardation), is that making friends is every bit as difficult as I’d originally expected.

In truth, approaching strangers can be an intimidating operation. After all, we’ve all experienced rejection by our peers, and unless we’re crazy, we’re unlikely to want to risk a reoccurrence of such an event.

One occasion in particular has left me scarred for life. It was when I was ten years old, and my dad and I were waiting for something or other beside a group of girls. I guess he’d seen I was looking lonely and, noticing the children nearby, urged me to go and introduce myself. Suitably wary of kids my age, I told him they seemed to have enough friends, but he said I was being silly; that you can never have too many friends. Braced by his optimism, I approached the girls and, as expected, was met by raised eyebrows and a pout that stated quite clearly: there’s something hideous standing quite close to me and I can’t figure out what it is or why it hasn’t gone away yet.

If you were wondering, I didn’t make any friends that day.

I reckon there’s a lot to be said for the argument I put forward almost two decades ago; people only need so many friends. As a result, working your way into an established clique can prove quite difficult. For the past few weeks I’ve been making a concerted effort to mingle, in an attempt to make some mates. Perhaps it just needs more time, but I’ve gotta say; so far, people haven’t been terribly receptive.

 

Do you agree that it’s difficult to make new friends, or do you find it fairly easy? Got any hot tips for this socially awkward individual?

 

When it comes to forming friendships, I’m about as clueless as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Watch him figure out and then apply an algorithm for making friends. Oh, if only.

 

the fruit of courage

On Monday I delivered my very first spoken word poetry performance at the local pub’s fortnightly meeting of Passionate Tongues. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been on a natural high ever since. That I had the courage to stand on a stage in front of many dozens of people and share my words is a concept that’s hard to fathom. It’s not that I wasn’t scared; I was freaking terrified. But I’d told myself this was something I could do and I needed to know that I was right.

‘I’m new to Melbourne; fresh from Newcastle, NSW’ I told an audience of raised eyebrows. ‘If you’ve never been, it’s the kind of place where if you write poetry, you mainly keep it to yourself.’ Back when I was at university, I wrote a lot of poetry. I enjoyed the way you could be sparing with your words yet still say so much. But after being awarded a measly credit by my creative writing teacher, I decided poetry clearly wasn’t my calling and turned to wordier varieties of self expression. Nevertheless, poetry has remained a guilty pleasure, and when I discovered that Melbourne was home to so many awesome poets, my excitement was tangible.

I was the tenth speaker on the open microphone, which meant I was beckoned after the stage had been warmed by feature poet Skye Loneragan and several other established writers. After a weekend of nervous anticipation, suddenly all eyes were on me. To my complete surprise, I remembered all my words and performed two poems entirely from memory. When I finished, the room began to applaud and I was consumed by an absolute euphoria. I felt as if I was on fire. Members of the audience and fellow poets were patting me on the back, praising my efforts; it was the best feeling I have ever had.

My personal pride at this achievement goes beyond being happy that I was able to perform for a crowded room. Since ever I was a kid, I’ve been afraid of letting people see me; ignored the pilot light burning within and it’s longing to catch aflame. All my life I’ve allowed insecurities to govern my actions and struggled with an inability to show others my whole self. Now I see exactly how limiting this has been.

After performing my poetry for a full bar, I’m pretty sure I can do anything. I’m no longer willing to keep a leash on my hopes and dreams, withholding that buzz for fear of failure. I’ve tasted the fruit of courage; watch as I eat my fill.

 

 

an uninvited house guest

When you move to a big city and the only people you know are your sister, her partner and your ex boyfriend, it’s easy to feel a little isolated. For the first month I enjoyed the seclusion, revelled in the quiet and the knowledge that I didn’t have to please anyone but myself, immersed myself in my writing and the harmony of words. I guess I’d classify myself as an introvert; I enjoy my own company and don’t require frequent socialisation to exist contentedly. But if you spend too much time on your own, what I’ve found is that slowly, almost immeasurably and without you realising, your contentment equilibrium steadily drops, and you begin to feel heavier. Introvert or not, people need people.

So inevitably, after a couple of months the Loneliness moved in. She took to sitting at the end of my bed, all droopy shoulders and forlornly upturned eyes while I worked on my computer. Or she’d wander in while I was in the bath and sit dejected on the toilet seat, full of sighs and heavy heart. When I was in the kitchen she’d linger at the breakfast bar, staring indifferently out the window and forcing me to question why I would even bother to fix a meal when she didn’t eat and I was no longer hungry.

Soon I began to wonder, whether as a result of her constant mumblings, or my own mind’s manifestations, why I bothered moving to Melbourne in the first place. After all, I was spending the larger part of my time alone in my little studio, secluded from the goings on of a city that was just outside my door. Until now I’d been telling myself that I was choosing to stay pent up; it meant I was being productive. But if productivity was my sole purpose, I needn’t have bothered changing states; I could have written words anywhere. The truth was that I had no idea how to discover or access the activities the grand metropolis had to offer.

I was feeling pathetic and totally dejected; an inevitable side effect when you begin taking life advice from an abstract embodiment of your own emotions. Clearly it was time to get out. Meet some people. See some things. After all, it was fairly unlikely that anyone was going to knock on my door and enquire as to whether I’d like to join them for coffee. Besides, that would be strange and slightly creepy. I’d have to take matters into my own hands. Order my own hot beverages.

If you’ve struggled to shake off the company of Loneliness, you know that she can be a nasty hanger-on. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to find a number of activities she doesn’t enjoy so much. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think she may have moved out.

What I’ve learned is that Loneliness hates to help people (she really is a selfish piece of work). Seeing that they needed assistance, I started volunteering twice weekly at Lentil as Anything, which is a local vegetarian non for profit restaurant. This place offers three meals a day, serving a combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s not a soup kitchen; guests from all walks of life frequent the eatery. The philosophy is that once you’ve enjoyed your fill, you’re invited to pay whatever you feel your meal and experience were worth, depending on your means.

It’s an awesome place with terrific food and an inviting atmosphere, yet when I was preparing for my first shift, Loneliness made it very clear she had no intention of coming with me. In the end she climbed grudgingly into the passenger seat, but when we pulled up she refused to get out of the car. After a fantastic first shift, I returned to find she’d given up on waiting. It was days before she showed up on the door step, wandering in wordlessly and without any explanation as to where she had been.

The more time you spend with Loneliness, the less you want to; she is quite the wet mop. Perusing the markets with my sister a few weekends back (Loneliness hates group activities. Like a jealous lover, she resents having to share you, so she stays at home, sulking), I stumbled across a woman who described herself as a spoken word poet. It turns out Melbourne has a thriving performance poetry scene. Basically, some dozens of people meet in any number of pubs throughout the week to drink beer and perform their poems for an audience. Once I began getting involved with the spoken word, Loneliness gave up on me completely.

Which brings me to a rather terrifying share; tonight I plan to deliver my very first poem at one of the local poetry gigs. I say ‘plan to’ because waves of nausea have already begun knocking the wind out of me. By the time tonight rolls around, I imagine I’ll be too comatose to leave my apartment, let alone mount a stage. But last week I witnessed firsthand the performance of Sarah Kaye, an American performance poet who I’ve been following for the past few years, and I decided I needed to try. Besides complete public humiliation, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

So spare a thought for me tonight, but for now, enjoy a performance by the gorgeous Sarah Kaye. x

 

 

how to be seen

On the occasional blue moon throughout my childhood, our mother would appear unannounced on the door step. Possessed by a sudden wave of bashfulness, we’d stand staring out at her from the hall, with no words to draw her across the threshold. Then, grinning like a Cheshire cat, she’d break the shocked silence with a gregarious gesture and in an instant a silly excitement would sweep through the house. Regardless of how long she’d been gone, we were always devastatingly pleased to see her. After all, she was our mother.

Never one for answering uncomfortable questions, she’d coat us with her sticky charm in order to avoid having to admit how long she planned to stay. So we’d hang on her every word, for fear it was her last, and furtively cancel our plans, knowing from experience that it would be while we were away that she’d surreptitiously take her leave. Of course we couldn’t avoid school, so after a few days we’d inevitably arrive home to learn that she was gone. Flattened with disappointment, we’d grieve our loss anew. She never stayed long, but knowing that did nothing to ease the sorrow.

As a result of her sporadic and unpredictable pattern of visitation, I developed an agonizing obsession of imagining every car turning into our street was hers, and I spent my early adolescence sneaking shameful glances down the road. It was all I could do to disguise this secret longing for someone I knew would never come. The painful truth was that as hard as I tried to will her to me, she and I were never connected.

For me, our mother’s visits were both glorious and wretched. While my siblings would willingly open their hearts like well worn books to the page on which she’d last written, I would covet mine in bitter defiance. I was angry that she could come and go as she pleased while I remained here, needing her. I’d learned the hard way that like a wild wind she’d no sooner arrive than she’d be gone again, and I couldn’t bear it. So during these rare and short lasting visits I kept her at arm’s length. I thought I was protecting myself from further hurt, but regardless of how detached I appeared the pain when she left was no less raw.

Since the earliest days of my childhood I’ve struggled with feeling vulnerable. What initially stemmed from a combination of pride and self preservation with regards to my mother is now an integral part of who I am. Perceiving emotional dependence as a brand of personal betrayal, I learnt to greedily guard my weakness. Now I’m wondering whether, had I been more like my siblings, who gladly offered theirs like a gift in open palms, I might possess more peace and contentment.

On Saturday I was at my weekly writing group in the city. A broad spectrum of individuals who write for both pleasure and profession, we meet weekly to discuss what we’ve been working on, offering suggestions and constructive criticism to one another. After having completed a five minute warm up writing activity, we’d commenced moving around the table and sharing what we’d written. Before long everyone’s eyes were on me. I didn’t want to share; what if they thought I was dumb? But I choked down the foul tasting fear and the words of decline that were dancing on my tongue and I began to read my work. Against my instincts, I permitted myself to connect. It felt good.

I’m realising that if I’m ever going to experience freedom in all its brilliance, I’m going to have to allow myself to be fragile. I know I can do it; I’m courageous. I just have to let go of the fear.

I think of how my mother looked as she stood on our front step, giddy with cheerfulness. I couldn’t understand how, after twenty five months of absence, she could show up and act so exuberant. But now I recognise that performance for what it was; a facade behind which she was sheltering her own vulnerability. While standing alone on the other side of the door, a part of her must have worried whether this time she’d be turned away. And she couldn’t bear to let us see how much that would sting. For all those years, I was incensed by her superficiality, but only now do I understand what was happening behind the veil. My mother, like me, was afraid to be truly seen.

I’ll close with an offering of wisdom spoken by Brene Brown, a lady who’s spent years researching the subject of vulnerability and whose uplifting and informative presentation I have included for your pleasure. It’s worth a watch; she’s quite the funny one.

There’s another way. We need to let ourselves be seen; deeply seen, vulnerably seen. We need to love with our whole heart, even though there’s no guarantee. We need to practice gratitude and joy in moments of complete terror and to just be grateful; feeling vulnerable means we’re alive. And we need to believe we’re enough. When we work from that place, we stop screaming and start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.