little pieces

When I was small, my father went through a shameless country music phase, and as a result, so did I. Now an adult, I sometimes like to listen to those songs, permitting myself an occasional and clandestine appointment with my past. Somehow those melodies with which I was inadvertently raised can call to life the moments enjoyed by my younger self, and I’m warmed by how brightly my family burned before our fire went out.

Those songs muster images of my mother standing in a faded sundress beside an old brick barbeque in the back yard, separating a string of sausages with a blunt butter knife and tossing them onto the hot plate. My father moves between the kitchen and the picnic bench for utensils and margarine, setting the screen door banging. They laugh with one another. The air is filled with the smell of sizzling fat and flowering jasmine, and my siblings and I circle the crooked drive on dinkies, while John Williamson blasts through open windows, filtering through the fence and into the midsummer streets of suburbia.

It was within these moments that my smaller self learned what family looks like, what happiness sounds like, what togetherness feels like. But that music stopped playing when this accidental thing my parents made was broken. In the years that followed, now and again on balmy evenings my father would play his country tunes, and the older versions of our selves would cook a meal outside. But the mood was different; in our own ways we all knew where those songs belonged.

Once something breaks, it will eventually begin to crumble. Yesterday I learned that recently, my mother remarried. I stumbled upon the photographs on the internet, and saw her standing beside a man I’ve never met, voicing a new vow. It’s true she’s not the woman from my past, but her eyes, the first to ever lock with mine, remain the same. And with her in the pictures is my sister; one who used to be mistaken for my twin and who now believes these things are not for me to know. For a reason I cannot understand, she chooses to deny the inextricable link we all share and which like it or not, cannot be severed. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and refuse the sting of a mother who wanted something else and a sister who could not bear to be left behind.

Turning up the music I revisit the times before the cracks and the crumbling. Back when we were pieces that belonged together, and who were willing to share a route around warm concrete in the evenings of our childhood. Listen, sister. Remember.

 

 

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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.