Who, me?

Yay, Eden is doing Fresh Horses again! It’s a meme. Whatever. If you don’t know what the hell I’m on about, go here. Or just ignore this first bit and keep reading. Or click away. Actually no, don’t, I’ll try to keep this one short… Who am I kidding, I don’t know how to do that.

Who am I? Such a hard question. I find it hard to define the essential me that differs from my roles. Mother, wife, daughter, friend… Yeah I’m those things but they don’t define who I am.

I was always shy. Not timid, just reserved and self-conscious. I never said a word to any stranger, wouldn’t even look someone in the eye if I didn’t know them. Except one day, about age three, some woman walking past said, “hello little girl.” Apparently I looked her straight in the eye and said, “you’re a tomato.” As you do. Made perfect sense to me at the time. And that kind of defines me in a way. I keep my head down and do my own thing most of the time but I know what I think and will give an opinion at intervals. And when I do, it can be extreme!

People don’t believe me when I say I’m shy but it’s true. I felt so different as a kid. I truly believed there was no one in the world like me; no one who really got me. I always marvelled at others who seemingly sailed through life, enjoying just being. I felt out of place and often overlooked. I was neurotic, still am. I’d watch others and judge: why is he walking pigeon-toed? Why is she slouching? Don’t they realise what their bodies are doing?

In high school I had physical anxiety at the prospect of socialising. I’d get off the phone with my best friend, having just agreed to some spontaneous outing later that night, and immediately feel pain in my stomach as I frantically reeled through ideas for getting out of it. Tell her I can’t; just don’t turn up; get sick; make an excuse…

I am a perfectionist. I’m hugely judgmental of myself. I’m a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m indulgent. I’m patient. I love ice cream. Especially gelato and Ben & Jerry’s. I’m overweight. My weight is the biggest and longest-standing issue in my life. I have an extraordinarily strong body and constitution. I’m lucky for that.

I’m great with languages, so much so that I ended up with a degree in Italian only because it was easy. I used to work in government even though I vowed never to as I thought that was for average people; and I am anything but average. I can be snobby, but it’s not so much a class thing as an intelligence thing. I can’t be bothered with stupid people who float through life without any self-awareness. Harsh, right? Yeah, I can be harsh. But for some reason people still like me.

I value feeling at home in a place over the people who are around me. I have a bizarre fascination with Scandinavia. I’m pretty sure I was Norwegian in another life. I love ice and snow and cool crisp air. I love European trees, autumn leaves, wood fires, wooden houses with attics and Persian carpets and heavy old furniture. I love my comfort.

Eden says she’s good at starting fresh, drawing a line in the sand. I’m shit at that. Actually I’ll clarify that: I’m good at declaring a line has been drawn and that this is the beginning of a whole new phase. As for actually following through, forget it, never happens. That is one thing about myself that I really hate, that lack of discipline and motivation. But it dominates and I can’t rid myself of it. Probably the only time I’ve successfully ‘changed’ is when I went to live in London. I ended a long term relationship, slept with some randoms, got beer from the offie at 3am, took drugs, took risks, went on blind dates, smoked, manipulated men with sex, drank a lot of coffee, earnt good money and met my husband. Sounds dodgy but it was liberating. I don’t regret any of it. Except the time I went home with an ugly Greek guy who lived in Kingston upon Thames. And maybe the time I had taken so much coke I couldn’t get to sleep even though it was like 7am so I stood on an icy balcony and looked out over the apartment complex and breathed in the cold air and smoked and wondered if the few people I saw could guess I was coked up the yin yang. That was the last time, I vowed. And I guess I did draw a line at that point.

I really don’t know who I am. But I do feel glad to be it. I feel excited at the prospect of finally being at home; I know it exists, I’m close. Can’t wait to get away from bloody Sydney. I’m glad to be married to a man currently sitting watching rugby and occasionally looking over at me and eating his shortbread seductively; and then sticking up his middle finger when I laugh at him. I am glad to be the mother of this heavy 13-month-old currently draped across me, boobie firmly in mouth, sound asleep, little mouth fluttering at interval. I’m a writer and I’ll keep writing until I have nothing left. Maybe then I’ll know who I am. Probably at the end. It’s one of those journey versus destination things, right?

Oh, and I am allergic to honey. True story.

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Here’s my latest on Eden’s Fresh Horses meme thingy. And can I just say I love how she says ‘true story’ so much.  I have never met her but that small phrase gives me so much insight into her personality, I can just imagine her saying it.  She reminds me of someone wonderful I once knew.  True story.

Anyway, the question today is on the subject of how I know everything will be alright, that the world isn’t an asshole and things are just fine.  Even when life is shit.  I love this topic, it works for me, I can’t not write on it.  I’m a big believer in destiny.  That’s not to say I think everything is pre-determined and we should all just wait around for fate to descend, but I think everything happens for a reason.  My great aunt Gwen calls it synchronicity. It makes itself known when stuff happens and you think, aah, so THAT was why it was like that.  It also shows itself when plans come together, seemingly difficult tasks just seemed to fall into place without effort.  Of course it’s equally present when things are shit tough and you find yourself challenged to the end of your capacities.

I always know everything will be alright.  At least these days I do.  But there was a time, most of my life up until my mid 20s actually, when I never thought anything would be okay.  I was a pessimist and I wallowed in negative thoughts.  I was never a worrier, but I was just very fatalistic about things and assumed that Murphy’s Law always applied and I probably shouldn’t bother putting in any effort because it won’t go my way.  My attitude changed mainly thanks to a guy I used to date.  Let’s call him Alex.  That’s not his name.  In fact it’s nothing like his real name.  But if he read this he’d know I’m talking about him.  Anyway we were together a good six years or so.  He is one of these real positive, motivated types, the kind of person that’s always bouncing off the walls and up for anything.  The sort of guy who is just as shit scared of bungee jumping as everyone else but does it so he can tick it off the list.  The sense of achievement was always so important for him.  Let me tell you a bit more about Alex.  By the age of 23 he owned an investment property, had two degrees (including a law degree) and was earning and very respectable salary in government.  He had also started his own business and had another two businesses in the pipeline.  So yeah, an extraordinary mind for business and relationship management and an amazing amount of drive and ambition.  He’d ring me at midnight and say, ‘can I just run this business idea past you?’  I’d be like, dude, it’s freaking midnight, are you for real?!  That’s the kind of guy he was, always trying to squeeze a little bit more from every minute of every day (and night).

When we met (which is a whole other post in itself), we were both still at uni, although he was already working in government and finishing off his second degree.  I, on the other hand, was behaving like a lazy, spoilt brat of sorts and relying on handouts from my parents which I spent on fast food, petrol and cheap alcohol.  We were both 21.  I had a job, but it wasn’t much to speak of, and I didn’t really care about it.  I was cruising around, not making much of an effort at uni and still getting decent grades (which is what I always did).  I think my attitude pissed him off big time, and he made it his mission to change it.  Not that he really told me this, but I know that’s what he did.  Let’s face it, I was never going to be like him, all bouncy and friendly and up for anything; I am inherently lazy, and I’m also more of a thinker (to put a positive spin on it).  But slowly, over the years, things began to even out.  We were such a contrast to each other, yet this was what worked.  And this was why we needed to be together.  At the time, when we were breaking up (which took over 18 months), I thought I’d wasted so many years.  I wished I’d realised earlier just how incompatible we were and that we were never going to get married and have kids.  But in fact our relationship as it was worked perfectly and was totally necessary for me to become who I am today.

These days, I’m the optimist.  I always see the positive, and my husband is the ‘glass is half empty’ type.  Anyway, the point of all this is not to say just how much my attitude has changed and what a huge difference it’s made in my life.  What I really wanted to illustrate is that my now positive attitude, always seeing the way forward, is what reminds me everything will be okay.  Even when shit really hits the fan, I know things will be alright.  And how do I know that?  Because everything happens for a reason and it’s never not okay.  Even mistakes are necessary, they’re all lessons.  Jesus, that sounds like a total wank, right?  Yeah, perhaps, but I do believe it.  When we moved house and it went from bad to worse, I found myself wondering whether we were meant to move at all, whether this was the Universe’s sign to me that I’m heading in the wrong direction.  I still think that wasn’t arbitrary, that all those crazy things that happened and made our move so much more difficult were warnings and indicators of what was in store, but I know that our move itself was right because it happened.

I don’t know whether my attitude would remain steadfast in the face of true tragedy.  Recently something really major happened that isn’t appropriate to mention on the blog, but I can safely say that my positive attitude made for a positive outcome, so I know there are some full on things that it will overcome.  All I can do is keep seeing the positive and keep paying attention to the Universe and what is meant to be.  Sometimes it’s hard, when I’m in a city I hate and know I don’t belong in, but I still do believe there is a reason for all of this.

Has this even stuck to the original question?  Buggered if I know.  Like most of my blogs, it’s pretty much a stream of consciousness, and reading over it again might mean it never gets published.  I’m sure some others wrote some more interesting, relevant and poignant stuff.  Go read it, over at Edenland.  Click on the button below to find it.

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Bloggity blog blog blog

So this is hell late, but I really wanted to share my favourite bloggers, as requested by Eden and her Fresh Horses thingy.  I’ve had no time to blog recently, and there’s no reason in particular, I have just been doing a lot of stuff with the Dude, getting new routines in place, going to appointments and mothers’ groups, bla bla bla…

Anyway, so yet again Eden speaks my language; shit, my shit is on the shitting internet, shit! It’s forever, it’s the internet, shit! And so on. Meh, sometimes I don’t care, sometimes I wonder if it will come back to bite me.  But I keep doing it.  Why? Good freaking question.  It’s about writing for me, my writing.  I guess at some level, every writer wants an audience, even if it’s totally self-indulgent (like this blog malarky).  It’s this odd contradiction.  On the one hand I feel like I have a heap of stuff to say about, well, stuff, you know, myself mainly, let’s face it, and I HAVE to get it out.  And my husband doesn’t want to hear every little stupid idea or rant I have.  I kind of feel like the internet cares, just a bit.  And of course I’m under no illusions that most of the internet doesn’t give two shits.  But yeah, there’s something cathartic about throwing all your stuff out to the world and letting it settle wherever and however.  I like that, it’s so random and yet I don’t believe in random, so it’s so serendipitous.  If that makes sense.  I write because I’ve been compelled to write my whole life.  I used to sit at the table with my mum before I could read or write, before I went to school, and copy out the newspaper headlines in crayon on my big sheets of old computer paper (remember that stuff, with the holes down the sides and perforation so you could tear them off?).  I have piles of these things with sometimes confusing but often interesting headlines scratched out in green and blue.  For some reason it’s usually something about the Raiders… which means I was probably copying the sports section.  Hmm.

Anyway, I always wrote stories, and more importantly I always wrote diaries; to the point of obsession.  I have this fascination with documenting everything, so even my to-do lists are dated, and sometimes even have the time written at the top.  Pointless?  Yeah, perhaps, but there’s something oh so cool and time-travel-ish about finding a random little scrap of paper with a list of ‘what I have to get done next week’ from ten years ago.  A little snapshot of my own life, a moment in time captured, however mundane.  I used to make myself time capsules ‘to be opened no earlier than 5 October 1999 when you are 21’, envelopes sticky taped up with wax seals and warnings of ‘do not open yet’ scrawled across the back.  I recorded tapes of myself talking about my life, where I was at, what I hoped and dreamed, who I liked, what I was struggling with, where I expected to be when the tape was listened to again in however many years.  Sometimes they were only short periods of time.  I once went through a phase of doing monthly time capsule notes to myself on the first of every month, then at the end of a year I read back through them.

I can still remember my very first official diary entry: ‘Dear Diary, I got you as a Christmas present from my mum…’  In fact I can tell you the exact date that entry was made: 25 December 1988, age ten.  At the time I thought starting a diary at ten made sense, seemed like the next phase.  My second entry was a lamentation about being made to give away one of my Christmas presents to ‘the poor children’.  I’m still angry that I never owned Cluedo but for those five minutes after opening it under the tree, only to be told I had to choose which present to give away.  No idea what moral lesson my mum and her asshole boyfriend at the time were trying to teach but all it did was make me bitter about not getting to play Cluedo.

I discovered blogs ages ago, but didn’t actually start blogging myself until probably four or five years ago. I didn’t really know what my blog would be about, in fact I still have no idea and have changed the name more times than I can count.  I used to have two blogs, one about baby/parenting/birth stuff and this one, which was more about writing and general crapping on about me, but then I decided it was better to just lump everything in together, so I actually moved all the posts from my other blog to this one, changing to dates to when I originally posted them (yeah, again with the date thing).  I have this weird thought that people might try and stalk me or whatever, like I wonder how other, more prominent bloggers do it, talk about their personal home life, where they live, and use their full names and those of their kids.  I don’t know.  I’ve written about this before anyway.

My favourite blog of all time has to be Soulemama.  Gawd she is awesome!  I so want to go live in Maine (I think that’s where she lives) and have snow and knit things.  That is almost my ideal life.  I save up her posts and then read eight or nine at a time, so I can get lost in the awesomeness of it all.

Recently I’ve been enjoying the hilarity of The Bloggess, and although I don’t get to read it as often as I’d like I think it’s pure comedy gold and I’m still laughing about her tweeting celebrities to ask them for pictures of themselves holding twine. Twine! See the comedy?

And I’m not sucking up or anything but I have to say my number three (in no particular order) favourite blog is Edenland.  Truly!  I just like the way she writes, I like the stuff she talks about, and so many of her musings really resonate with me.  Her stuff inspires me and makes me think and want to write more on my blog.  She doesn’t mince words, she doesn’t talk shit or be pretentious and she is funny and insightful and intelligent.  And she rarely lets spelling and grammar mistakes get in the way, which makes her writing even more pleasurable to read.  Thanks dude, you rock!  And by the way, a cache is the memory of your computer.  So if you went to a page, it caches it, remembers it, so if you’re offline and you go back it’ll show it, whatever it’s remembered.  But I actually prefer Eden’s definition: the collective noun for blog posts. eg. ‘Today I read a cache of posts.’  It works.

Here’s a button thingy that lets you see what other people said about this if you click on it.  Or you could just go to Edenland and read.  Yeah, I know, I don’t get it either, but here it is anyway.

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So I’m doing this Fresh Horses link up post thingo because I read Edenland and she said I should. And I just want to. The question posed is around death and dying. Specifically, what is my funeral song, do I think about death, and am I totally petrified of it?  I’m going to attempt to answer, in my own unique round-about way.

Funeral song: well I once had this discussion with a uni friend of mine (a guy), and he said his would be Dire Straits Brothers in Arms, which I thought was an absolutely kick arse choice.  I mean, what a cracking song, up there with their very best stuff, and it’s so emotive!  It’s perfect, except it’s a guy song.  Makes no sense for chicks.  I am a massive fan of Tori Amos, have been for about 15 years now, and I have pretty much everything she’s ever produced.  So there are quite a few of her numbers I’d think about having as a funeral song.  Maybe Toast is a good one, makes me think of remembering someone after they’ve died.  But actually I think Bjork’s Unravel would be a freaking awesome funeral song.

Do I think about death and dying?  Yeah, I do.  I have been lucky as I haven’t known a lot of people close to me who’ve died.  And I have a very philosophical view of it all in that I believe it’s part of a greater cycle.  I don’t think it’s ‘the end’, I think it’s the beginning, a transition.  When I gave birth to my son, I knew exactly what people were talking about when they likened birth to death.  It’s that transition from one state to the next.  And I actually believe in reincarnation, so although I wouldn’t live life to anything but the fullest, I know it’s all part of the journey, a greater journey.

The other night I was telling Mr Chewbacca about how I held my dog Pickles while she slipped away and he was pretty freaked out.  I think I would have been when I was younger too, but at the time it was exactly what needed to happen and I found it a really spiritual experience, emotionally mind-blowing, if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms (no, that’s not the right phrase, you know what I mean – emotions, mind, the opposite of each other, you know? Meh, doesn’t matter).  We acquired Pickles when my mum dropped her keys by the car in the Woolies carpark and this puppy leapt into her lap.  I was 13 and begged to keep her, as you do.  Turned out she wasn’t wanted anyway, so we kept her, and she was a wonderful bitsa dog, tough and boistress, but so loving and sweet and loyal.  She must have been about 16 when she was ready to go.  Her legs became arthritic to the point where she really couldn’t hold herself up any more and one day she just didn’t want to eat and drink, she was over it.  We looked into her eyes and we knew, she wanted out.  It’s bizarre, isn’t it, that we can just do that with animals, help them slip away peacefully, but we can’t with people, even though people can articulate clearly that they are ready to die.  We took her to one of those 24 hour emergency vets, as it was a Sunday.  Just my mum and me, as it was when she arrived on the scene.  The vet looked her over and agreed with what we thought, she was ready to leave us.  I can’t quite recall the specific reasoning behind it, there were some medical problems, but suffice it to say we agreed to give her the injection.  My mum was actually a little more emotional than I was for a change, which was odd because every other time we’d had to deal with the death of a family pet, I’d been the one totally freaked out and refusing to be involved.  When our cat Halley died I was about 16 and refused to even go down to the grave site, so my parents buried him together, despite hating each others guts at the time.  When our dog Jessie died, at the ripe old age of 16, I was 21 and I couldn’t look.  I did go down and stand with my back to the grave my parents yet again dug together, but that was as far as I would go.

This time, with Pickles, I wanted to be with her all the way.  I held her paw and stroked her head and ears as we looked into her eyes one last time and knew we were doing absolutely the right thing.  As the injection went in, I felt her relax, so gratefully and gracefully, and her body went limp ever so slowly.  A wee spread out across the table she was lying on and we knew that was it.  But as I held her paw and stroked her head, I could feel that although she was technically dead, her body was still full of life force.  Her spirit was strong and present, and it would be a while before it would go away completely.  I understood then completely why many traditions observe the 40 day mourning period and have another funeral service about 6 weeks after the death, to mark the final departure of the soul from the earth.  It makes sense.  I think this is how it happens.

So in answer to the final question, no, I’m not terrified.  I’m terrified of ghosts though.  For some bizarre reason, I am completely and utterly freaked out by the idea of ghosts hanging around and coming to find me and be near me.  Every time I knew anyone who died, animals included, I’d sleep with the light on for months.  When my grandmother died I was so scared, I couldn’t sleep properly for ages thinking for sure she’d come back to say goodbye to me.  I think it’s because I believe in ghosts.  My mum always tells the story of when her father died, in 1980, so I was not quite 2 years old.  She was in bed, with me sleeping next to her, and my dad had gone out to the living room to sleep on the couch, as he usually did when I was in the bed because my breathing was too noisy and kept him awake.  She heard someone coming into the room and immediately assumed it was my dad and thought, ‘I hope he doesn’t wake the baby’.  But then she heard my dad’s snore echoing down the hall.  And at the same time she felt that whoever was there definitely wasn’t my dad.  She knew it was her dad, come to say goodbye.  She felt him there, even glimpsed something out of the corner of her eye. And then he was gone.

My best friend once told me about how she woke up in the middle of the night and saw her dead grandfather standing in the doorway of her room!  She was about eight at the time.  It was so scary she just jumped up and ran through the spectre and upstairs to her parents’ room.  That story always freaked me out big time.

But I’m not sure that I’m too afraid of dying myself.  I never once thought about it while giving birth, even though it was such a full on mammoth thing and I thought I might never get through it at many points.  I’m afraid of a lot of stuff, wary I guess you could say.  I would never go bungee jumping or sky diving, just wouldn’t ever do it, doesn’t interest me, makes me feel sick.  I don’t get off on adrenaline, and I wouldn’t consider having overcome my fears as an achievement.  In fact I think even if by some miracle I did go sky diving, I wouldn’t overcome my fears, I’d just realise why I never wanted to do it in the first place.  So I guess I’m scared of activities that involve risk of death.  But the actual act of dying, the process, the happening, I’m not too afraid of that.  It comes back to this whole destiny belief that I have.  I think death, like birth, illness, addiction, accidents, tragedies, life in general, is not arbitrary and not random.  I believe in synchronicity.  It might sound clichéd but it’s what makes sense in my head.  So when someone dies, it may seem hopeless, pointless, horrific, but it happened because people needed to learn, and that was the only way.  I’ d never say that to someone who had just lost someone dear to them, but I do truly believe it.

Check out Fresh Horses over at Edenland to see what others have chosen as their funeral songs.  I’m sure their posts aren’t frigging 1500 words either, so happy reading! Oh and is it just me being a total dufus nerd freakazoid, but does anyone else think of Blackadder in the context of ‘fresh horses’?

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