solitary habitation

The dream of solitude sponsors the hope of creative liberation ~~ [I wrote this quote down at some point; I’d like to think that I wrote it myself but I’m sure I didn’t but I’m not sure who did.]

A time ago, back when I was living in my Brunswick one-bedder, I was down on my hands and knees looking for a baking ingredient at the far-reaches of my kitchen cupboard, merely ginormous not necessarily well stocked, when I found a pot that I’d stashed in there a couple of months earlier. I grabbed the handle, sat back on my haunches and inspected its contents: rice was crusted, thick and black, to its bottom. I was momentarily confused before its history came back to me: I’d flung the pot into the cupboard when I was expecting company of a male nature and hadn’t had the time, nor desire, to clean it. It had been there ever since; I obviously had not missed the pot. I shook my head in disappointed disbelief.

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on a one-night stand

I glimpse the white of my face and the wet red of my lips in the bathroom mirror and I know I only have tens of minutes to get home before every cell in my body starts to bleed the black death of a hangover made severer for the $6.50 red wines I’d been drinking with a friend at the Brunswick Green the night before, and really, that’s when it all should have ended, when I walked her to the spot at which she was going to turn and head off on her bike and I was going to turn and go directly home. But there was this man I was texting and it was leading to the suggestion of having a late-night drink (sex) and lately I’ve been all like yeah whatever why not like it’s 2009. But it’s not, is it. Still, I say yeah sure let’s have a drink and he says he’s going to roll out of bed and meet me at Longplay, which happens to be not far from his house. What’s a $17 cab fare on a May night feeling so full of jovial promise, right? Continue reading

anxious love

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The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates

There is knowing and then there’s knowing. When you think you know, sometimes you only know. And then, oddly, sometimes when you think you only know, you actually really do know – you just don’t know it yet.

I had anxiety even when I thought I didn’t have anxiety. I had been living with anxiety for so many years that all I knew were the different extremities. When my hands weren’t shaking, or I was laughing freely, I believed it was gone. It wasn’t gone. It was still stuck in the deepest crevices of my being, in places I didn’t know how to reach. I know that now only because I don’t have anxiety. I finally found a way to get the broom into the hard-to-reach spots and swept the rest away – if not for good, at least for now. And in six months time I am certain I won’t look back on this moment and say oh I thought I didn’t have it then but boy did I have it. I know with every corner of my calm, swept, unshaking being that I don’t have anxiety, at this point in time.

I know this because I don’t wake up and have to manage the way I feel. I don’t constantly have to look for ways to stop my hands from shaking. I don’t have to excuse myself to go and stand in the bathroom and breathe. I don’t have to question my emotional responses and compare them to a benchmark I’d not known for a very long time. I can now trust the way I react to things – trust that my responses are from my heart, my core and nothing else. This is what it feels to be anxiety free: it’s being able to trust your emotional core.

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my Mysore morning

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I sat on the edge of the rooftop and looked down onto the street. A man rode his bicycle up to the street light out front, opened a rusty box mounted on the pole and flicked a switch: the street light turned off. He kept pedalling, stopped at the next light and turned that one off too, and then went to the next. Fairy-floss coloured clouds stretched across the sky, a hot cup of stove-top coffee rested in my hands, and I smiled and took a long, slow breath in, as though my body was filling up with honey and I greedily couldn’t get enough. And then I breathed out. And then in. And out. And in. And that was what I did that morning, watching the world wake from grey to pink to blue. My mind at peace, not wondering where I was going next or what I was going to do with my life or when I’m going to meet that person. In that moment, there was nothing else but my breath and no other place I wanted to be other than where I was, in Mysore, India, on an easy, perfect Saturday morning.

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my beautiful mess, our beautiful mess

Big weekend. Thursday: left my number on a serviette for a man who we now must assume never got it… Friday: at my friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner saw a man for whom my heart once fluttered, and then sunk. Saturday: did the cliché thing that bridesmaids do, and I don’t mean catching the bouquet. Sunday: in bed at 7.30pm too tired to get up and turn off the light. My life in words, or even in possessions, could look a real fucking mess. And maybe it is. Maybe all of our lives are messes, and living is simply the management of mess. But I love my mess. I love piling it up and then sifting through it, when people step into it, momentary or otherwise. I love, also, when people look at my mess and tell me that they don’t understand it, that they can’t figure it out. Because neither can I. But it is what it is and accepting that makes everything better. Just accepting, and letting go. I don’t look for meaning in my mess as much as I once did because I think a lot less than I once did. Like I told a date once, I stopped doing high-impact exercise in my late 20s. Now I can also say that I stopped thinking. And what that has allowed is more time to live in reality. That happened, and that means no more than that happened. This is how I feel and this is how I feel. My mind still wants to say, but why did that happen, what does it mean. And I do give it a moment to enjoy the mind chaos that is the answer to those questions. And then I let it go. This weekend gone I have been surrounded by love so strong, so powerful, that by late Saturday afternoon, after vows had been said, the sky’s heart was smeared across the horizon. At another time I might have cried. And I did cry. I actually cried quite a bit. A lot, some people might say. In actual fact I have tears now. But the difference was, the difference is, I cried not because of the mess, my mess, but because of how fucking beautiful that mess can be.

one bowl plus three bowls equals one bowl

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.
~ David Foster Wallace

Last year I wanted a new bowl to eat soup and salads out of, and I had in my mind exactly the shape, size and colour I might’ve liked. By some crazy stroke of luck I found it, at a little Japanese grocer near the Prahran market. A beautiful green, deep but not gaping, attractive and only eight dollars. Without hesitation I picked it up and made my approach to the counter, but I stopped short: what kind of person buys only one bowl?

I went back to the shelf and picked up another. Two would make sense, I thought, for the times I entertained a singular guest, which was most times. But then two more remained on the shelf and they said to me: most people would get all four. I thought about it for a long time, standing, staring. And eventually I decided to get all four.

For the rest of the day I lugged the bowls around Chapel Street, sitting snug in my canvas tote, wrapped in newspaper. By the time I made it back to Brunswick my shoulder was tiring and as I rounded my apartment building I clipped my bag against the brick wall. I heard a little crack and my head said something very rude.

When I got inside I pulled out the bowls and found, to my surprise, only one was broken. Better than all four, I thought.

That night a bowl slipped, in a spectacular, extremely unlikely fashion, off the sink and onto the floor, smashing beyond repair. I looked at it, spread across the tiles. Two makes more sense than three, I thought.

Two nights later a third bowl fell onto the kitchen floor, again in spectacular fashion and when I was using extreme care. It also smashed everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. I picked up my keys, left my apartment and didn’t clean up the mess on the floor for the next three days later.

I was back to the singular bowl that I had initially wanted, before my head chimed in with all of society’s ideas of what’s normal and acceptable and, above all, simply the way things are done, without question.

A few months later a friend visited my apartment for the first time. He walked from room to room, looking at my things, a little perplexed, a little like something was missing. I didn’t have a microwave or a TV or a bed base and my decorating efforts were few. He said the place had a transient feel and he hadn’t even seen the boxes in the cupboard, still waiting to be unpacked. Eventually he stopped in the middle of the kitchen and turned to look at me: You don’t even have a dish rack, he said.

And perhaps that’s what I needed all along, not an extra three bowls but a dish rack. But perhaps I didn’t need an extra three bowls, a dish rack or anything else.

I still have the fourth bowl, packed away in storage, unbroken, in one piece, perfect in every way. The remaining bowl. It is a reminder of a very deliberate lesson the world gifted me. I often think about its symbolism. Because the kind of person who buys only one bowl is the kind of person who only needs one bowl. There is nothing more to it than that.

free. anxiety. free.

Be vulnerable.
Let yourself be deeply seen,
love with your whole heart,
practice gratitude and joy…be able to say ‘I am thankful to feel this vulnerable because it means I am alive’,
and believe ‘I am enough.’
You are worthy of love and belonging.
~ Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability 

It’s like arriving home and the cat’s not there. You run around looking for it, thinking that it must be there somewhere, lurking behind something, under something, because you know that’s what cats do, they hide. You become almost frantic in your search: where is the fucking cat? But you really can’t find it, and eventually you accept that it’s not hiding, it’s just not there. It’s gone. And so you sit and wait. You sit and wait for it to come home, because you assume that it will, it must, it always does. Every now and then you get up and peer out the window, call for it, softly. And although it never comes, you can’t stop believing that the very next morning you will wake up and there it will be, lying on your chest, as though it never left. Because it’s been with you for so many years, how is it possible for it to not be there, for it to disappear, just like that? But the cat has fucking gone. And it hasn’t gone temporarily like all those times you thought it had but it was only sleeping, hidden. It has truly gone. Well, fuck the cat. And the analogy. It’s gone, the anxiety. Well, fuck the anxiety too. The anxiety that has been living, in a shifting form, in my body for the last ten years, fuck that. Fuck my shaking hands and racing heart and cracking voice and the right foot that won’t stop tapping and my mind that changes directions quicker than the metal ball flinging around a slot machine. Fuck the people who don’t believe anxiety is real. Fuck the friends who didn’t – don’t – understand, who are friends no more. Fuck all that and let it go. Fuck all that and send it all love instead. To the shaking hands that are still your own, even though they move to an unknowable beat – send love. To the dread that anchored itself deep inside your body – send love. To the face you look at in the mirror – send love. To the people who didn’t – don’t – understand, who aren’t so kind, who expect you to be someone you’re not, who say ‘awww’ as though you are a small child who doesn’t know how to live – send love. Send it – them and you – love. It really is the only way.

and that’s why I was crying

It took at least two weeks for me to settle in to being away, for me to get back in to the pace of travel. I was writing a friend long emails, asking her what the hell I was doing with my life; I felt exhausted before I had even begun. I was scared that I’d made the wrong decision and that I was just running away. She replied in the thoughtful, philosophical way for which I love her, telling me all the things I needed and wanted to hear, and it soothed me.

I’d said goodbye to her a couple of days before I left Melbourne; we sat in what had been my bedroom, strewn with clothes and mess, and tried to pack my bag. Through tears I laughed about all the other tears I’d shed in that room, the anxiety I’d wrangled with, and the men I’d ‘entertained’, as well as, of course, all the happy, good times. I was so emotional and sentimental, and my friend, who is very possibly more melodramatic than I am, suggested that it was understandable that I was in such a state – after all, I’d packed up my life in a matter of a few days and was about to leave it all behind. About to leave it all behind! I kept crying, touching the necklace she’d just given me, which she’d advised not to let flip over for the engraving on the back of the pendant. It said ‘India, 2014’. And I wear it every day and I love it and I don’t care if it ever flips over (though it never does).

In hindsight, I know it wasn’t true that I was scared about making the wrong decision or running away. Nor was I sad to be leaving something that I know won’t be the same when I return, as further reflection suggested. The city never changes, you do – and that’s why I was crying.