You draw me to you…
Each grain of tender energy
Along the valleys
of breath intertwined
Between the ebb and flow
of the gentle, knowing tide
that binds us
EMW9WJYNBAKN The moment I alighted the family station wagon that sunny morning of the 6th of October 1982, I had no choice but to succumb to the senses of hearing and touch in order to access clues to my environment. I allowed my feet to take my body in the direction I was being lead and became conscious of the stony gravel crunching under the soles of my sandals. Some even managed to slip through the gaps in the leather between my toes where dusty sand began to gather. A warm sea breeze played cheekily with my hair, which flipped about in a pony tail tied loosely at the back of my neck. Excited tones of children’s voices lapped at my ears and my heart rose in my chest with the anticipation of all that was to come.
My inner voice was particularly audible in this moment, perhaps due to the loss of one particular all-consuming sense that otherwise took centre stage. The presence of the blindfold, a thick woolen scarf that was successfully meeting its obligation of blackening out the scenery before me, suddenly gave permission to that inner voice to leap forth in my consciousness.
“Just be prepared, alright…that’s all I’m saying”.
I swallowed hard. I knew it. I knew this was too good to be true. There was always a catch….always a let down. Where there was enjoyment, the claws of disappointment lay waiting for it’s prey. Me. My stomach was in knots by now. The ride was over. Metaphorical kicks landed in my gut…pound, pound, pound.
“Why did you allow yourself to feel it?”, the inner critic scowled at me like I was a silly child.
Well…I was a child…a child excited at the prospect of a surprise birthday party organized by her parents.
“Gee, sorry for wanting some well-intentioned excitement to materialize in my life!”, I retorted despondently.
After all, I hadn’t been completely naive. Nagging thoughts had plagued me that something was not right with this scenario unfolding before me, ever since it was first suggested by my mother a couple of weeks earlier. I had simply shoved them to the back corner of my mind and dumped a few piles of hopefulness on top to keep their muffled screams stifled for a while. A kid’s allowed to have some fun surely!
Even whilst I meticulously addressed each hand written invitation to the eight or so children I had mustered up the courage to invite to my seventh birthday party, I had watched my hand become uncharacteristically shaky as it swapped between rainbow colored scented pens. Reality was never really far from the surface despite my longing to slip into a world of Brady Bunch like contentment. I could not help but ask myself the questions.
Why was she doing this, I pondered with bewilderment and awe. Why would my mother be acting with such sickly sweet generosity ? I gave up long ago on any attempts to decipher her motivation behind such uncharacteristic behaviour. This time she had suggested that she would arrange a birthday party at a surprise location and that I may invite eight of my friends. The laughter filled hub of activity that now surrounded me was materializing as the unidentifiable location, and I was terrified. It felt as if one more step forward on my behalf would be all that was needed to smash though the trip wire that I knew was an inevitable obstacle in my path.
It was time. I felt hands maneuvering behind my head as the tightly bound scarf was given reprieve from its task. I chimed in on the tail end of its’ own sigh of relief, however once my eyes focused on the scene before me, my breath escalated to a high-pitched gasp. I covered my mouth with my hands in shock as my eyes darted over to my mother in disbelief and then back again to make sense of what lay before me. All the other seven-year-old children who were gathered around squealed in delight and giggled in response to my reaction. I could not share their enthusiasm.
Before me stood the tallest, most ominous looking slippery slide I had ever seen. Standing at the base it towered above me, its’ rainbow coloured paint-work shining rapturously in the bright morning sun. But I knew, just like the colourful costume that clowns wear, this was simply a façade that served as an entrapment to an unsuspecting child as they raced up the stairs clutching their heshen sack. I however, saw straight through to the harsh metal base, the perfect conductor for the brutal Australian heat. It glared down at me, causing a chill to run down my legs that were now wobbling beneath me like jelly.
My eyes darted back to my mother and I stared at her intently in disbelief. Then I promptly burst into tears. They knew I was terrified of slides. She knew I was terrified of slides. All slides…any slides…anything to do with slides. Even the local park variety of slide installed within me the greatest terror. I’m not sure how the fear originated but I do recall even as young as four years of age, crying and attempting to resist the coaxing of my older brothers to join them on a water slide at a water park we were visiting during a family holiday. At the time, the thought of the combination of height, speed and rushing water was just too much to contemplate, and in hindsight, understandably so. However, my participation appeared to be a mandatory clause I had somehow overlooked when signing on for this family, and so my father forcibly sat me on his lap and down I went. Once was enough. Apparently this was all that was needed to ingrain the terror in me a little deeper.
And here I found myself once more, with the same urge to run and nowhere to go. Backing out was not an option, despite the copious tears that drenched my party dress. I looked up at my parents in disbelief. Why would they plan this knowing full well of my fear? How could this plan ever be envisaged as the perfect celebration to brighten my birthday and fill me with joy and delight? Oh, that’s right…ofcourse…This was the catch. Again I stared intently into my mother’s eyes and recognized the signs of satisfaction…almost glee, that she seemed to obtain from orchestrating another’s heart-ache. Forgive me if I am sounding melodramatic, but this terror was real and demonstrated previously on countless occasions that made it impossible for anyone who knew me closely, particularly my parents…to deny. And here I stood in a dusty suburban theme park, having been lead specifically to the Magic Mountain of Slides. To me, this was no “Fun Park”.
And then I also had to contend with being confronted by the shame and embarrassment I felt in this moment as my peers and their parents stared at me in confusion. This was a scenario that would haunt me in similar social situations throughout my childhood as I found myself caught in the predicament of rationalizing my responses as my parents stood perfectly composed, presenting their well-rehearsed middle-class niceties, seemingly bewildered by my behaviour. Unable to explain my distress through muffled sobs, I was left looking like a spoilt little brat who was not pleased with her birthday surprise. As my mother tightened the grip on my arm whilst still smiling through her red lipstick, she lowered her mouth to my ear and in inaudible tones to the rest of the gathering, she ordered me to join the other children on the climb to the top of the stairs.
Your silence is deafening
Not even ear-plugs of disdain
Can quieten the echo
That richochets through my heart
Oh Soul so tender
How you flinch at my touch !
A purplish glow
Replaces the Light
Revealing the bruises
Why choose this suffering?
And I plead
Take me back to the beginning !
Oh how I yearn to know!
I am willing
Heart wide open
This morning I woke with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the support of my friends which doubled when I read some beautiful comments on my blog. I’ve been inspired to re-post this piece on friendship that I wrote a while back.
To all my new Blog Land friends – Thank you ! You will never know the impact you are having on my journey towards greater self-awareness and self-love.
My friends are my spiritual-kin. This is not a new revelation but after spending recent days communicating with some of my most treasured friends, I have been awakened to the sum of their influence upon who I see when I look inside myself. For although true friends are often described as mirrors, reflective of our hopes and dreams about who we really desire to be, who emphatically applaud and encourage us on our way, they must also bear witness to who we really are. It is because we cherish the uniqueness of their experiences and their learnings so profoundly, that we can accept their gentle critique of the sometimes flawed nature of our thinking. A friendship that stimulates self-knowing by not always supporting our ego-centricity but that challenges our self-concepts and identifies our insecurities, can be an arousing breath of fresh air to the soul.
In this world we are often consumed by the roles we play, whether as someone’s mother or partner, in our professional life, or in fulfilment of our cultural identity or status. True and honest friendships ignite greater awareness of our inner identity. These friendships provide a sense of freedom…a release from the role-playing and a peeling back of the layers that mask the essence of who we are.
Distinct from family relationships which can stifle us by promoting conformity to the group, obedience and expectation, true friendships act like a loving injection of unflappable courage. They promote individuality and self-love, and always will encourage us to leap towards the most fulfilling path. For just as we want to achieve our best for ourselves, our true friends…our spiritual kin, desire the same for us without competitive zeal or secret condemnation.
Thank you my friends !
Sailing through this sea of life, I continue to find myself in choppy waters. My fellow voyagers are quick to reassure me I have the right equipment, my reputation is renowned; and that my thorough experience as the master of many varying vessels and explorer of bays near and far, is well documented by all.
Given the wondrous praise bestowed upon me by both my crew and fellow voyagers I cannot help but ponder why I keep heading for tumultuous waters ? Caught in the rip, I do see the calm, still pools ahead…oh so inviting…oh so enticing…yet they allude me. Are my navigation skills truly so poor ? How can that be for a seafaring woman of such high regard ?
Here I sit perched atop my cabin, scanning the horizon for calmer seas. Here I sit alone…a solo traveller on this voyage. Other ships pass me often, bidding me good fortune on my travels but never stopping long enough to share a tale or two over a pitcher of rum. When a lull approaches, inviting space and time for exploration at foreign ports, I courageously disembark my vessel, tossing my trusty life-jacket aside to expose the vulnerability otherwise shrouded beneath. Yet too often my hopes and expectation give way to disappointment at the sinking realisation that the Captains that stop in my waters do not share my fervour for future endeavours, or are just plain simpletons in disguise.
Am I destined to be a solo voyager through distant oceans ? Wary of pirates lurking to overthrow my vessel, I tighten the lock on my wares as each stranger in the dark approaches. Yet the tiniest flicker of light burns still within, in anticipation of the discovery of unchartered waters that may be revealed with the turning of each fresh page of my cruiser’s log. Wiping the fog of disillusionment from my binoculars, I raise them once more in the hope of spotting that illusive sea-mate with the qualifications to join me on this journey, providing the inspiration to fill out my sails and steer me towards more peaceful waters.
in search of the key
we dip into pockets
near and far
yet to discover
the illusive freedom
Thanks to Sara Fryd for the inspiration !
Many of my childhood memories conjure up images laced with disturbing emotions that leave a cold, isolating imprint in my mind. For that reason, over the years I have unconsciously and almost certainly wilfully swept them aside, the broom of awareness tentatively leaning across their piles of murkiness in the corners. Although not completely discarded, they are at least out of sight…for now. Episodes of true joy and bliss from my childhood memories are few and far between. Unearthing them typically requires major excavation through my mind. On discovery however, the sensation is comparable to a rebirth of the child within, as I access feelings of innocence and wonder.
One memory from my childhood that gives me such cause for celebration centres on a simple yet loving gesture from an elderly lady who lived in my street. It all came about as a result of the many afternoons I would spend in my street, perhaps as a strategy to escape the tensions inside the home. As I a young child, around the age of five or six, kneeling on my worn and splintered “hand me down” skateboard, I would propel myself along the footpath with my hands. The resulting calluses from paddling along the path left the little pads of my hands rough and sore, but that did not take away from the fun of traversing Michael St., dodging stones and bumpy concrete as I went.
I recall fantasising about the lives acted out behind the various front doors I passed on my way. I distinctly remember the home with the high timber fence painted an austere blue with a grey pebbled pathway leading to the door. My mother disapprovingly remarked that the girl who lived there was encouraged by her mother to “dress up like a model in ridiculously modern clothes”. I was not to know that this focus on “inappropriate attire” would be a theme that would be revisited in the years to come as I grew further into girlhood. The comment however, did little other than to instil an almost envious curiosity within me. I was always on the lookout for the teenager, but strangely she rarely appeared.
Then there was the two-story house with the weather-board extension that had been added as the family grew. I never recall interacting with the two children who lived there; perhaps they may have been a few years older than me or attended a different school. So I was even more deeply shocked, hurt and scared when one day they pelted me with “flour bombs” as I passed. These were small packages of flour encased in plastic wrapping that exploded on contact. I was mortified that they could be so cruel as I hung my white doughy head and sped off down the street to number twenty-six. This was really only one of a very few negative incidents to occur outside of my home but as a very sensitive child, the sense of injustice at having done nothing to provoke the attack sent me into self-imposed confinement to my bedroom for a while.
When I emerged again in the afternoons on my return from a day at school, I became more aware of a pale brown brick house about halfway up the street, with a matching pale brown low brick fence. A steel gate painted white, closed the simple concrete driveway off from the street. Often in the afternoons the old man who lived in the house would stand on the foot path leaning back against the fence, framed by the numerous rose bushes that lined the garden side of the wall behind him. I imagine this was his hour or so of reflection as he watched the world of suburbia pass by. Over time, considering we were the only two people not to rush off and disappear into the mysterious worlds I imagined behind those front doors, we struck up a rapport. I cannot recall what we may have discussed, or if much was said at all. I do know though that he became a comforting figure, ever present and gentle, just like the brown cardigan he would always wear. I knew he had a wife but I did not see her often, only rarely catching sight of her petite, fragile figure as she tended to her roses.
Then one day I must have mentioned that it was soon to be my birthday, for when the day of my birthday arrived, there the lovely old couple were, together at the fence waiting. Leaning in towards me the old lady handed me a small package wrapped in soft purple tissue paper. As I put out my hands I looked up into her face and noticed for the first time the plumpness of her skin and the loving twinkle in her eyes. With nervous excitement I peeled back the paper to reveal a little pillow that had been made by sewing two cotton handkerchiefs together. One was adorned with a red and blue patchwork pattern and the other had a picture of a puppy printed on it. A lovely scent wafted from the pillow and as I raised it to my nose I was instantly absorbed by the meditative effect the aroma inspired.
“It’s lavender”, the old lady explained, a sweet smile radiating from her lips, “Keep it under your pillow and whenever you have a headache or cannot sleep it will help bring calmness to you”
How did she know ? I thought to myself. How did she know I suffered from a terrible inability to sleep that was sometimes accompanied by a pounding in my chest and a strange sensation that felt like stomping footsteps in my head rapidly approaching, increasing in volume and intensity, until I thought my head and heart would explode with the tension? Fascinated and grateful, I thanked her for the lavender filled pillow that would become a treasured and truly soothing accompaniment to the night time rituals I developed to help me escape into a wondrous dreamscape of fantasy; a place that brought me so much relief.
Not long after her loving and knowing gesture, the old lady passed away. I didn’t see the old man in the street as much after this but one day I did tentatively approach him. He told me that each night he would lay his wife’s nightie and dressing gown out on her side of the bed and place her slippers alongside on the floor. Although the admission somewhat overwhelmed my naive understanding of grieving and loss, I was pleased that he had found his own gesture to comfort and soothe him in his time of loneliness.
Reflecting upon the gentle impact this sweet old couple had on my childhood has helped me appreciate that whether we encounter significant trauma in life or even just minor hurdles thoughout our days, we need to cherish and honour the little rituals that we develop to help us survive.
Giggles of innocence
Bubbling with love
Swept up in the swell
of motherly joy
Enter predestined passions
A professional calling
Awash in a whirlpool
Riding the waves
of growth and fulfillment
Caught in the rip
Whipped up by moonlight
In muddied roles
Momentary stillness descends
Pressure rising and falling
Silence stems the flow
Providing the compass
to temporary floating
Til the dawn tide
At the birth of the Sun
This afternoon my daughter and I went for a walk and contemplated our five key ingredients to leading a satisfied life.
This is what we came up with:
- A roof over our heads
- Clothes on our back
- A full belly (We are true foodies !)
- Love in our hearts
- Friends in our circle
Do not dispel
The inner rumblings
Of primal knowing
And of self-
Revved up by Mars
And its astro-wielding
Drag yourself out
From the merde-ridden nest
…where mad men dwell
Access peaceful resolve
And with gilded grace
Refuse to endorse
The slog of self-reliance
Demand all those who desire
Of your domestic landscape
Honour your virtues
Or be flushed out in style
Black thoughts stain
On the silk of the soul
Laundered by the Light
Infuse with Pain
Ever since I was a young child I have enjoyed taking myself for long walks. Typically I would leash up the cocker-spaniel Sophie and walk in the direction of the ocean that fringed the beach-side suburb of Melbourne where we lived.
Sometimes I would challenge myself by traveling routes that weren’t so familiar to me, weaving through the backstreets as I went. Although my path may have varied, my aim always remained the same – to stay away…far away from the family home as long as I could. Poor Sophie would often look up at me, tongue dripping, panting furiously as she pulled in the direction of home, only to be ignored and told to ‘walk on’. Even though my late return would earn the wrath of my mother when she heard the side gate latch click sometime just after dark, it was worth it. The chance to escape into my own thoughts and transport myself into a land of happy families was too precious to be limited by the turning hands of a clock.
We lived in a fairly comfortable middle class suburb in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It was the 1980’s… a time of financial prosperity, for “keeping up with the Jones”. This was reflected by the number of fancy Volvos and shiny Fords housed in the double garages attached to architecturally designed homes that became more abstract and ostentatious as I made my way closer to the beach. I recall one home I actually nick-named “The Castle” because it’s façade was fashioned to represent a miniature castle, complete with turrets and all!
However, it was not the silver badges standing up proudly on the bonnets of the cars that pulled into drive-ways around me, nor the obligatory BMX bikes that dropped on the pavement before me as children ran to greet them, that caught my attention. It was the emotion that permeated the air as families regrouped after their day apart. Strong enough to filter through the otherwise constructed symbols of contentment, when those remote controlled electric gates opened, it hit me like a rush of warm breath on my skin…Happiness, Unity and Tranquillity. I inhaled, allowing it to soak through every pore on my skin until my heart swelled with a painful longing that jolted me into moving on.
I was around eleven years of age when my older sister married and I discovered that her new brother-in-law and his wife lived with their two young sons in my suburb. I had met them maybe once or twice…he was tall, robust in stature and handsome; she was young, blonde and fashionable. Their street name was instantly recognisable to me due to the scoping of the area that I had accomplished over several years worth of long walks. I remember spending one evening walking up and down in front of their home, ecstatic to discover that they had not yet closed their gates thus allowing me a viewing section a metre or so wide between the walls of their high blue-stone fence. Slowly I would stroll across their drive-way trying to inconspicuously snatch a glimpse into their world. Dusk had just fallen so the light of the living room lamp illuminated my view of two tall glass vases filled with oranges, strategically placed on each end of the mantle to frame the collection of family photos above the fireplace. Crossing the road for another viewing, I thought I saw movements deeper in the home as children were prepared for baths before dinner. I imagined their mother lovingly combing back their hair and wrapping them in their dressing gowns to protect them from the cold night air.
I must have made a strange sight, pacing up and down like a burglar’s apprentice casing the premises in preparation for a midnight break-in. On reflection, I’m surprised no-one approached me to inquire what I was doing, considering I was a young girl alone in the street with only a confused dog by her side, whilst every other child was safely ensconced in the pre-dinner rituals of suburban family life.
Suddenly from across the street I heard the clanging of a rubbish bin being dragged up a gravel drive-way and I recognised the form of my sister’s brother in-law approaching the nature-strip. I felt an urgent longing to bolt across the road and throw myself at him, pleading him to allow me to come inside. I imagined pouring out my story of desperation to escape the bizarre and lonely world I inhabited to his beautiful wife. I envisaged her wrap her warm Country-Road clad arms around me, assuring me she would provide the maternal care and protection I craved.
I put my head down and walked on.
Where are you Prince Charming?
Where did you go?
Once so gallant and true…
You slayed the dragon
You rescued the damsel
She handed you the power
to conquer your kingdom
Together you basked in the glow
of new beginnings
Adorned in your armour,
You brandished your sword
For a time the Princess’ ambition
Outshone her reality
But as the pages turned
The castle walls began to crumble
No compromise, realistically possible
The Princess’ trust was severely tested
This Urban Cinderalla would not have her ending
As she struggles to re-write the remaining chapters
Facing up to her life …
One like nothing she’d dreamt of
Now both Queen and King to her children
Never, ever did she imagine
Prince Charming would morph into the Beast.
This morning I found a hand written note under the wiper on the windscreen of my car. It read:
“Hi, My name is A. in Apartment 111. I have accidentally left a white paint mark on your rear left door while opening my door. I apologise for this.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
Hopefully it can be buffed out. “
Actually, I was hosing down my car at the time and didn’t notice the small piece of note paper until it was soggy and torn through the middle…the blurred ink resulting in a meshing of words that represented an almost indiscernible blue blob.
When I eventually made sense of it, A’s confession did take me by surprise. Firstly because I hadn’t noticed the white spot of paint the size of a felt tip pen nib somewhere in the middle of the rear left door; but more notably, it was the honesty displayed by A in owning up to the incident that held my attention. With a little pang of guilt I must still have buried somewhere in my cellular memory (I think I felt it near my left kidney), it got me thinking of the many little misdemeanours, the “white spots” I have committed over the years that I have not owned up to. These include: receiving $2.50 more than I should have in a handful of change that time at Woolies, not registering my dogs during 2007, and telling the DVD store it wasn’t me who hired Bride Wars in an attempt to get out of paying the fine.
Ok, well I’m no large scale criminal but the temptation not to “fess up” when things happen that we’re not super proud of is an interesting trait of the human condition. The temptation to cheat, to tell a white lie or not disclose culpability can invoke a little thrill, if only momentarily. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the rigidity of the social controls to which we are conditioned that create the wish to cheat a little, to break rules just a little, to not “fess up” if after checking that no-one’s looking we realise we can get away with leaving a “white spot” on our neighbour’s car.
Anyway, I think I can forgive myself considering that despite being raised a “good girl” indoctrinated by a conservative Catholic, patriarchal upbringing, I have resisted the urge to turn to a life of delinquency and commit even more outrageously deviant acts.
And I’m grateful for the integrity displayed by A in Apartment.111. I think I’ll leave him a note too, perhaps saying,
“Hi, It’s C in Apartment 405. The sum of the numerous self-inflicted scratches and dents far out-number your single little white one…so don’t worry about it ! ,
But thanks anyway,