notes to strangers

Since the start of the year I’ve been leaving postcards and letters around town. They are love notes, I guess. I leave them in toilets and books and under coffee cups and between serviettes. I’m scared I will get caught and someone will return them to me. But they aren’t for me. They are for somebody else. These are some of them.

~

Everything you say you actually say for yourself, did you know that? All that you say is all that you want to hear. I love you, you say. Because those are the words that you want to hear. I love you. I love you. I love you. You don’t say it for them, you say it for you. I love you. I love you. I love you. Not for them, for you. I love you. I love you. I love you. Not for us, for you. I love you. I love you. I love you. Because it’s what you want to hear.

~

When we’re having sex I have to concentrate on not telling you that I love you. I’m thinking the entire time, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.’ Because actually, I don’t. I don’t love you.

~

Sometimes when people say that they feel different to everyone else I think, You’re not different, I’m different. How can you be different, I think, you’re wearing H&M. And then I feel bad.

~

I thought you were a stronger man than I learned you to be. I guess you feel the same about me – I’m probably not very pretty in the mornings.

~

I ate soup in bed last night and thought about you. Couldn’t stop thinking about you. Kept checking Messenger to see the last time you’d been on. You can’t eat soup lying down. I guess you already knew that. I’m sorry that I can’t be any other way to the way that I am.

~

Did you not get my letter? Why won’t you write me?

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you’re not the same person without it

You’re not the same person without it. Less of the core and more of the common. The common that exists between all of us. It’s nothing to have this common. It is the legs and the arms and the head; it is as ordinary as having all those. I wonder sometimes, do I wonder, I wonder sometimes, sometimes I wonder, I wonder if I would go back there to the dark to get some of those other parts of me and choose to keep them rather than letting them go. Let them go they said. All is coming they said. You’ll be right they said. Chin up they said. Snap out if it they said. But it is you and it’s not you but it’s probably mostly you, probably almost mostly you, and it is only everyone else who is ashamed of how sad you are. But they don’t feel the light when it comes through the window, and the colours it paints on the wall, which make your vision flickery and your tears come and your body contract because it is that beautiful. They don’t run home, sprint, unbreathing, without breath, hurting in the chest and in the throat, because they didn’t have a pen, didn’t have a phone, didn’t have any way to get the words in the head out onto some other thing. They didn’t get it, don’t get it. That it made sense to run home, up the hill, back to the pens to write the one word, the one word that came out, the one that I needed to get out and that had meant something so profusely powerful, whether it was or it wasn’t, in the moment that I ran. They’re just ashamed that you’re sad. But then I lost her. She’s gone. And you’re not the same person without it. I’m not the same person without her. Without the voice. Without that voice that talked to me all day long in my head. That said the mean things that made me hide and all those other things like being ugly and gross and silly and ridiculous and boring and unwant-worthy and all those other things: ugly gross silly ridiculous boring unwant-worthy. She said those things she made me hurt, made me lie in bed for hours long. Days long. Months long. Looking at the wall, waiting for something to come out. Nothing did. Nothing ever came from the wall. From the wall where the light was in the morning but disappeared after lunch. She made me do that and learn the pain but also life. Because life is pain. How can life not be pain when life is waiting. Life is sitting by yourself, trapped in yourself, waiting: waiting to know what will happen to you. Who will love you and who will cry for you, and who you will cry for and who you will love so much you will want to crawl inside them and feel the breath that they take from the world. And some days it feels like all this life is is to be waiting. Here, by myself, without her. And some days I don’t know who I am without her. Know I shouldn’t, but I miss her. Miss some days without her.

anxiety’s end: the things I accepted and the things I stopped and started doing

When I was twenty-four, I sat with a friend on the bench seat out front of my Kelso Street share house and, having talked about all that wasn’t going right and all that felt wrong, we concluded that at least by 30 we’d have it all sorted out. Everything, surely, would move to a knowable beat by then.

Some years closer to that endpoint – the one that society had fed us and which our young selves had swallowed – when I was twenty-seven, I went with that same friend to a yoga workshop for people with depression and anxiety. Nothing was really working out as I had planned or imagined and the things that I thought should have been making me ‘happy’ weren’t; I’d been living and hurting hard and I kept making the same bad choices and reliving the same painful mistakes. I was lonely all the way to my bones. On the up side, and this makes most of it worth it, I had come to know myself from every angle, the beautiful and the ugly. And yet I still couldn’t figure out how to get past my anxiety.

During that yoga workshop we were given a stone on which to write a word that represented something to us – a desired feeling, a state of mind, an emotion. I wrote acceptance. It was what I believed I needed most at that point to move forward, past the things that I couldn’t let go.

Several months later I turned 28 and a couple of months after that, when I was in India, I experienced an incredible and significant shift in how I felt day to day. Last October I turned 29 and I still can’t believe that anxiety has all but left me. Sure, it flutters by sometimes, but it never stays for long. And so closing in on that infamous number, it seems that it might be possible to reach 30 with something close to a balanced mental state and a content and nourished soul.

I wrote about some of this last year, and I think I gave the impression that the shift I experienced was something of a miracle. That is totally misleading. The shift happened after years of digging myself out of a deep, slippery hole. And the first thing that really helped me gain my footing, even before that yoga workshop, was acceptance.

(All of this is my own personal experience. All of it is true. All of it has layers of meaning. All of it is shared with love and openness. None of is meant as instruction or advice. And it is not an exhaustive representation of all that I did to re-calibrate and heal.)

The things I accepted (with varying degrees of success and which require constant upkeep and reevaluation):

  • I accepted that my anxiety was real and that it was there to show me things about myself I had ignored for too long and needed to understand and heal.
  • I accepted that it wasn’t going to go away when I wanted it to, but when I was open to the lessons my very own person was trying to teach me.
  • I accepted that my life would never be how I imagined and things would never turn out the way that I thought they should. It sounds so easy – it was so hard.
  • I accepted that all that had already happened would never be undone.
  • I accepted that I won’t always get what I want (or imagine that I need) from the people whom I want most to receive it.
  • I accepted the idea that people show you who they are through their words and their actions – and the version of themselves that they show you is the only one you should trust. Not the one you have imagined, not the one you wish them to be, not the one you think they have the potential to be.
  • I accepted that I fear rejection, abandonment, vulnerability and intimacy.
  • I accepted that I fear death. (Along with everyone else.)
  • I accepted that I am alone, and I always will be alone. (We all are.)

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last night in India

Beyond the water-stained cloth ceiling is a moon that looks full but isn’t, cigarette-ash-grey sand is underfoot, and plastic tables are packed tightly around the trunks of three palm trees housed within. I sit at one of these tables, on a plastic chair that sinks further and further into the sand when I move my weight too much one way or the other. It is the last night of my months-long visit to India, the last several weeks of which I’ve spent at the beach in Agonda.

The man sitting at the table next to mine is a Steve Merchant lookalike, and when I asked him if I could take a napkin from his table he said ‘Go ahead’ as though he actually was Steve Merchant. I did a terrible job of not laughing because besides that I just ordered an omelette, a green salad and a gin and tonic from the young boy with a dead-bored expression on his pretty face. When he took my order he wrote ‘ombelt’ on his notepad, and I, heinously, regrettably, laughed at that too because I haven’t told you yet but I already drank a gin and tonic with a turtle-shaped swizzle stick in it as I watched the sun coin-slot into the Arabian Sea. And before that I hadn’t touched alcohol since I arrived in Bangalore. The boy said ‘Whatever’ when I laughed, a commendable response I thought, and there probably wasn’t a response that could have been better, but then he asked me if I knew that gin was alcoholic. And I thought that was pretty good too.

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this is what she hears

Yeah right, he says. Yeah right. Nodding his head. Yeah right, he says. Yeah right. Nodding his head. Sure, sometimes. Sure. Yeah. Cool. You’re a bit cute. Yeah. Okay. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Are you a hockey player? Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? A swimmer? Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Should I wear my part in the middle or on the side? Yeah right. Can you give me my hat back. I’m too old for this, hat games. Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Yeah right. You want to go to my place? It’s not far. Not far. Yeah right. We can get there soon. Let’s go now. What? Yeah right. We can get to the fucking now, right? Can’t we just get to the fucking? Isn’t that what we’re doing?

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Sometimes I see my reflection in a window and I see what I assume you sometimes see when you read my stories here: a person exposed, caught off guard. When I was younger I used to wonder when all the scaffolding would come down from the buildings, when everything would be complete. Now I know that nothing is ever finished. This morning I wrote an entire post about a breast cancer scare I had earlier this year and I very suddenly realised that this has to end at some point: this curating of my life through stories. So I’m stopping now, at least for a while. This decision made me cry (of course), it made my chest fill with panic (of course); I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. But, what I hope is, that by letting g notes go I can create space for something else.

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for what, if not for pleasure

There was a dead rat which I smelled before I saw at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the canal. On the other side of the canal, past the trees, was a small park around which homeless people camped, or I guess lived. In the middle of the grassy area a woman lay out in her bikini. It was a hot day. Sweat ran down my back and legs and the beer I was drinking was turning warm at a rate that would leave it hot before I was half-way done. I’d brought for the man I was meeting an icy-pole, along with a beer, and when he went to open it, the icy-pole, it had already turned liquid sugar. I poured it into the canal and it looked like the last of what comes up after a day of vomiting. It was difficult to concentrate on what the man was saying, it was so hot. He was saying something about his work. Design. Apps. Drum app. CV. New job. Needs one. I said, ‘I’m listening, I’m listening.’ Continue reading

I caught a glimpse of myself

I caught a glimpse of myself, an outer body view, sitting in a low, squat armchair holding Miranda July’s short story collection in one hand and a pilsner in the other. Music playing (Seekae, a Melbourne band that my friend and I have been following since they first began). Sunshine filtering through a lace curtain. Window open. Wildflowers sitting in a vase on my desk, mostly dead but still beautiful. And I smiled and closed my eyes and sank in. My mind, threatening to be peaceful. German class is terribly difficult, and most of me doesn’t really like it and wants already to declare defeat. It makes me think of the time when I went to a Body Step class in 2006 and the instructor narrowed her gaze and said to me, ‘It’s really not that hard.’ A boxing instructor once told me the same thing. My body and voice and mind are not so much the most naturally coordinated instruments. Continue reading