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

 

 

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on love bites and loneliness

When I was midway through the second grade, I was enrolled in what was to be my fourth new school in half as many years. On our first day, my siblings and I were escorted to the library where all the students were assembled. A wiry woman with pursed lips led us to various class groups and instructed us to sit down. Abandoned amongst a sea of strangers, I began to sink beneath the weight of my despair. Blinking back a sting of tears I somehow made it to recess when I was smacked with another shock; I wouldn’t be able to sit with my sister, as primary and infant students had separate playgrounds. I’d had enough. Desperate to go home, I gave myself a hickey on the inside of my arm and informed the nurse I’d been bitten by something big and deadly. With raised eyebrows, she phoned my dad. I stayed home with him for a week before he relented and re enrolled us in the school across town. It meant a thirty minute drive every morning, but it proved an instant cure for my stomach cramps.

Sometimes when we were kids, we’d go to our nanna’s place for the weekend; a prospect which delighted me to no end. I’d have a terrific time until the end of the first day, when the idea of sleeping in a strange bed after having eaten my evening meal from someone else’s dinner service became too overwhelming. Dad would get a phone call, and an hour later I’d be bundled into the car, where the relief of the familiar washed away my unease almost instantly. For the remainder of the weekend, I’d wander the house aimlessly, while the others phoned to relay excited stories of cinemas and trips for ice cream.

I’ve always been a little anxious.

The onslaught of change and uncertainty has devoured me this week. Once more I’m that lonely little girl with an ill feeling in the pit of my stomach, a shortness of breath, a lack of mental clarity. My instincts are to retreat. But gone are the days when a harmless love bite might herald a rescue party or offer refuge. I’m a grown up now, I know the secret; we are all alone.

Yet in the midst of attempting to quiet the raging cacophony banging away in my mind, and while doing what I can to ease the insistent churning of my gut, I’ve somehow managed to find myself a home; despite my attempts at self sabotage.

Having heard that the rental market in Melbourne is ridiculously competitive at this time of year, I figured it would be best to apply for absolutely everything. I dutifully attended approximately one billion inspections and filled in what felt like a trillion applications. While it was exhausting, it made me feel industrious and good. In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I began to get calls congratulating me on my successful submissions. As it turns out, I was less than ready. A stammering mess, I hastily declined several perfectly acceptable offers before ardently attempting to proffer why each was unacceptable. However, while my friends and family empathised with my bout of bad luck, the reason in me was growing sceptical. The apartments were fine, it scoffed. The problem was me; I was being a noncommittal pansy. I had to toughen up.

Without allowing myself too much thought on the matter, I held my breath and said yes to the next offer. I’m now in possession of an inordinately pokey and ridiculously overpriced studio apartment. On the up side, it’s light and airy and very cute, and it’s near enough that I might feed off the life of the city; a feature which may prove essential once the money runs out.

From past experience, it’s unlikely that my nerves will abate until I establish some kind of normalcy. I need to do it soon; my instincts are urging me to retire, my long neglected creative side is growing impatient. But I’m still worried. While I’ve signed a lease and am ready to commit to a life of part time seclusion for the sake of my writing and self discovery, what if I discover I can’t sustain it?

So many of us seem stuck in a vicious cycle of having passions we want to pursue, but realising that to maintain a certain standard of lifestyle we need to work, leaving us no time to explore the potential of our whims. I suppose that’s why they call them struggling artists; when you choose your craft over comfort, the sacrifices are significant. And I’m not sure if an anxious creature like me has what it takes to handle the bumps. After all, behaving unconventionally is scary.

I keep thinking back to that little girl pottering absently through vacant rooms, desperately awaiting her siblings’ return from their holiday. She was young and had been through a lot for her age; her need for comfort was understandable. But even she could see that if only she’d had the courage to see out the night, things would probably have seemed better in the morning. Even she recognised the fun she might have enjoyed, had she only acted a little braver.

I suppose it’s time I waited out the dawn.