bad television

 

In our house growing up, we were never allowed to watch commercial television. In fact, it’s almost true that I was unaware stations other than the ABC and SBS existed before I was old enough to begin sleeping over with friends. In any case, I was completely ignorant as to the content they broadcasted. Dad was insistent that if we were going to watch tv, the things we viewed be educationally beneficial, or at the very least wholesome. Starved of the sensational, we’d rise on Saturday mornings before he was out of bed and with the volume down, flick through the channels to watch the programmes aired on other networks. At this time of day it was only ever cartoons, but nevertheless the niggling guilt would gnaw at my grey matter; it was commercial garbage and it was destroying our minds. Nowadays  I don’t own a television, but if ever I find myself watching something intellectually redundant, whether it be a poorly scripted film or a mindless video on YouTube, the all too familiar voice my head loses no time in informing me that I’m polluting my brains and wasting precious time.

Increasingly over the past month that nagging madness of my conscience has returned with a chorus of modified chants, demanding I articulate exactly what I’m doing with myself and to what end. I guess I should be thankful for the respite offered by the two month grace she gave me for settling in after my move, but she’s well and truly arrived now; baggage in hand and expecting answers. The year is lapsing, she points out, yet I’m still unemployed and no closer to discovering the meaning of life, or whatever it was I’d come here so adamant about finding. So what exactly have I been doing?

I’m growing anxious again and the self doubt is back by the bucket load. Is it wrong to be seeking? Does whatever it is I’m hoping to discover even exist? Is this year going to pay off, or is it nothing more than an epic waste of my time? I keep thinking that if I’d worked this year, rather than running off on some kind of self indulgent pilgrimage, by the year’s end I could have saved a house deposit. And all the while, the ceaseless mantra of my inner voice drones on. She’s pulled up a pew in the shadows, and from there she rehearses her extensive, hugely repetitive and less than pleasant back catalogue; something about time and wasting it. I feel like a kid again, guiltily waiting to be sprung watching Home and Away commercials while there’s an informative documentary on another channel.

I went home for a few days last week with all of these worries bubbling just below an apparently stable equilibrium. But after confiding my concerns to an old friend, he told me quite simply that what I need to do is stop fretting and just be. Heard aloud, it seemed blaringly obvious. Surely I just need to get busy living and wait for the moment of dawning and epiphany to rock up to my awesome party.

Meanwhile, though I have no answers, it’s fair to say I’m feeling closer; if to nothing else, then to myself. And for the most part I’m having an excellent time, filled with new experiences and good vibes.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that since she’s stuck around for the past twenty seven years, chances are the voice in my mind is with me for keeps. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because even if I choose to ignore her, even if she’s rarely right, even if our entire dialogue consists of her criticising and me justifying, it can’t hurt to have someone who’s armed with probing questions and an endless scepticism to keep me from becoming static. Regardless of the fact that she’s just another voice in my head.

I’m also realising that the most likely way of figuring it all out is by calming the heck down. What I’m investing in this year is time. There’s little to be gained by tripping over myself, unsettling everything in my path in my desperate plight to uncover some illusive and precious thing. For me, this will be the most difficult lesson; to go steadily, sit quietly, wait patiently, listen.

 

letting the light in

‘There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.’ Leonard Cohen

 

I like spending time with my sister; her easy happiness and inexhaustible passion are good for me. I’ve heard it said that beauty attracts beauty, and this goes a long way to explaining my sister. Her life hasn’t been a carnival; not by a long shot. Yet she tackles every day with daring and boundless optimism, which curiously, draws success and opportunity to her like a moth to flame. Knowing my sister has taught me that when you’re brave enough to release your hopes into the universe, you’ll often be rewarded by having them granted. It’s almost as if the very energies that combine to form this crazy world are backing you, desperate to give you what you want, if only you can be bold enough to ask.

My sister is light. I am much heavier. I have this way of approaching life like an obligation; something I’m committed to seeing through until the end. In the past, I’ve clung to convention and responsibility as if they were beacons, crucial for providing direction and constancy on a voyage which would otherwise seem rough and bewildering to me. But knowing someone like my sister acts as a constant reminder that there’s a better way of relating to the world; that if you can find the courage to throw yourself at it with open arms, it will shower you with grace.

On Saturday evening I enjoyed dinner with my sister and a couple of her friends. After a satisfyingly drawn out meal we meandered up the street toward her apartment. It was a deliciously balmy night and the footpaths were alive with energy as people spilled out of bars and cafes. My sister was in the arms of her lovely partner, her friends strolled a little way behind, hand in hand, and I was completely comfortable with the knowledge that I was alone. Later, as I commenced the twenty minute bike ride across town, I was surprised to realise that the prospect of returning to an empty room and an empty bed didn’t upset me, either.

Saturday was a pivotal moment in my personal history, as it marked the conclusion of my first month in my studio apartment. For the first time in my life I live entirely on my own and I’m not at all bothered by the solitude. Even more fascinating, I’ve been shocked to discover that I’m actually not lonely. For me, this is certainly cause for celebration.

Truth be told, in the back of my mind since ever I can remember, I’ve craved the companionship and comfort of a partner. Sure, I’ve spent time over the years happily single, but in one way or another, I’ve always been waiting for a man to come along and rescue me; someone who’ll protect me from the world and silence and myself. To be comfortably alone is an amazing and all together new experience for me.

Sometimes I wonder how I must appear to my more balanced friends; the ones who approach life with such an easy calm that the business of living seems simple. After all, I’m getting to that age where the majority of people I know are either having kids or getting married, yet I’m still trying to figure out who I am. Regular as clock work, just as I think I may have figured it out, the earth gives out beneath me and I’m floored once more. My life has been littered with a confusion of little crises, yet these friends of mine govern theirs with absolute purpose and a clear sense of direction. What prevents me from managing that which comes so easily to them? My instability makes me worry I’m becoming their token dysfunctional cot case. I don’t want to be that friend; the one who’s too high maintenance to invite to a dinner party, for fear they might say something awkward and emotional.

This week I’ve grown to realise that, in throwing in my job and moving away, I have unknowingly gifted myself something wonderful; the permission to take the time to figure out who I am and aspire towards making that person happy. I think that alone, without the constant pressure to move forward, I might be able to focus on orienting myself, and finally figure out which direction I need to walk to find where I’m heading.

Until now, any stability I’ve managed to muster has relied on avoiding the awful imperfections that undermine the integrity of my authentic self. But if Cohen is right (and he usually is), to see that light and enjoy its warmth, I may need to not only acknowledge the cracks, but move a little closer to them. I think I’m almost bold enough to do it. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that actually, I haven’t quit my life, at all; I’m in the process of discovering it.