I think I might just lose my lunch…

I hate rollercoasters. There is nothing quite as stomach-churning as the horrendous pendulum that swings between terrified and adrenaline-charged when you ride on them. It’s too much for me—I can’t do it.

This week has been a rollercoaster ride.

It begins as a series of surreal minutes during which you take your seat in a small pod that will take you where you’ve not been before. The dull clunk of the safety rail as it slides into place. Disbelief that in a few seconds you will be travelling at high speed, mid-air, unprotected. The slow grinding of gears as the engine starts and the jolting thud of the gears connecting beneath you.

The carriage springs to life and thrusts you forward, your mind struggling to catch up with a body hurtling ahead. You click your way upwards in a slow climb, the calm before the storm. It does not last long before the terrifying plunge into grief. You catch your breath for a moment with a numbing coast through the middle-ground busyness of real life before the upward chugging anger of betrayal. A blind corner question—a thought you’ve not had before—and you’re thrown upside down and screaming through another downward spiral. You gasp and pant as the new thought finds its place in one of the carriages you drag behind you, a long chain of cars that chug up and down the hills and valleys of this incomprehensible reality. The thoughts are not strapped in but bump into one another, climbing frequently between the carriages, connecting unpleasantly with each other to interpret old thoughts in new ways. They scream and whimper—each in its own way—until you do not know which came first. They are your badly behaved passengers that will neither settle, nor obey your command.

When you think you can stand no more, the ride slows and you rattle into the station, your hair windswept and tangled. Salty rivulets in dry pathways mark your face and your voice is hoarse with screaming.  You are grateful that you are mere seconds from the end, but the carriage does not stop, it merely slows, clunks and begins to move forward for another terrifying whirl though the air.

This week has been exhausting. I fall into bed so tired I could cry, and lie awake for ages trying to compel myself to sleep, trying to kick out the thoughts that have followed me into bed. I wake in the morning to find they have crawled in beside me and wait to be picked up again. They are heavy thoughts, and tiring to carry. I try to find things for them to do so that they will leave me alone. They are like toddlers that demand constant attention, and I cannot ignore them for long. One thing alone keeps them at bay…my singing…they cover their ears and hide under the blankets. There’s not much to sing about at the moment, so I sing about someone…someone I love…someone bigger and more capable than me, and the thoughts lie down and stay quiet. Sometimes they go to sleep.

My singing is atrocious, but if it is this potent…I might just quit my day job.

 

Which alters not…

Grief is ‘a natural process that draws on the resilience of the individual and the community.’

Grief.  Grief! It is a heavy word and laden with sorrow. Grief weighs me down—gravity on steroids—until I am exhausted by it, too tired to speak, to eat, to move. The droplets of my grief are pulled unwillingly from eyes too tired to cry; their downward journey an homage to this twisted gravity.

Gravity. Grave. I withdraw. How can I not when I feel disconnected from everything, from everyone? My mind whirls, water down the drain carrying one question only: what could I have done? Grief. Guilt. I have done nothing to feel guilty about, but it seems a sin in itself: doing nothing.

Grief. Grieve. Grave. Graven. The hurt engraved on the surface…and deeper…

Graven. Graven image. “A Prince has fallen,’ an idol toppled…but I didn’t worship him! ————!SNAP!———— My answer.

I love The Bard! Shakespeare speaks to me—not in the I-have-voices-inside-my-head kind of way, but in the how-does-this-long-dead-dude-know-what’s-in-my-head kind of way.  With all the tragedy of this week, with the anger and the frustrating un-answered questions, with the helplessness and the guilt and shock and every other emotion on this roller-coaster ride, there is something I could have missed. Thank you, William Shakespeare, for reminding me.

” ….Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

or bends with the remover to remove:

Oh no! It is an ever-fixed mark

That looks of tempests and is never shaken…”

from Sonnet 116

For those of you who don’t speak the ‘speare’s English, here is a paraphrase: Love does not change, even in the face of  change. It is an unmoving anchor-point  in the face of tempest.

We who face this storm are more-than-familiar with the phrase: LOVE looks like something and now more than ever, LOVE looks like SOMEONE! He is an ever-fixed mark, an anchor point that does not change like shifting shadows, does not bend, does not move.

Here lies our resilience: Our experience of the world has changed, but the world has not. Our lives have changed, but our anchor has not. Our present has changed, but our future has not. There is still rock beneath our feet. There is still an anchor for our souls…an ever fixed mark…that looks like SomeONE, that looks like LOVE.

Denial…

The sun streams in the window. It is morning just as it has been every morning my entire life long…and yet it is not. The innocent moment of blissful forgetfulness is fleeting as the crushing weight of what has happened finds its place on my waking shoulders. I rise and shake them in preparation for a day that is like every other, even though it isn’t. I zombie walk through routines that seem banal in the aftermath, but who am I to feel this way? I am not Judas’ Jesus, just one of the eleven too stunned to understand the betrayer’s kiss. I keep moving because necessity compels me to.

It works for an hour of mind-consuming task. Ask me then and I will tell you: I feel fine. One thought later and I will say: This isn’t really happening to us. I convince myself there must be some mistake, some mis-remembered fact that will prove, in time, to have been a terrible misunderstanding. I have known this person for most of my life. This is out of character.

How could I have been so wrong?

But there has been no mistake— his words tell me so. Confession, not rumour. Confession after denial, after denial, after denial, after denial, after denial. Confession. Freely given. I am thankful for that. A confession is a gift.

And how can I deny what he has confessed with his own mouth?

It makes me angry. I have a thousand questions that beg for answers:When? Where? Why? How? Why? How? Why? One confession—a thousand unanswered questions—and anger, anger that makes me cry. I wish there was someone to blame, some scapegoat to be sent into the wilderness with all this pent up fury and grief and sadness and turmoil on his bovid head. But there is nothing I can do. No. thing. to. do. but grieve.

They say that movement from denial to anger is progress…and it is enough progress for today. I will retire now to sleep a restless sleep, to dream of broken pieces and bleeding wounds—dreams more vivid than the straying focus and too-short concentration that plague my daylight hours—while my stomach rumbles, not from food it cannot digest, but a truth that it will not.

How do you prepare for this?

I got a text on Monday to say that something ‘tragic’ had happened and that an ‘urgent’ meeting was called to talk about it…but the meeting was 26 hours away.

26 hours of wondering who had died.

26 hours of wondering who had been murdered or committed suicide.

26 hours of wondering how on earth to prepare for a tragedy.

Tragedy is one of those things that strikes—you know, the kind of thing that takes you unawares and comes out of nowhere- a midnight phonecall,  being called into the office at school or someone coming to wherever you are to tell you something has happened. The scene from Saving Private Ryan comes to mind—you know the one where the officers come tell Mrs. Ryan that three of her four sons have been killed in action? Tragedy takes you as you are and shows no mercy. You might be in your pajamas or in a three piece suit. It does not matter what you are wearing because it will always be inappropriate. It does not matter what you were doing, it will be cast aside. That moment will always be the moment that everything changed. Before, and after.

How do you prepare for that moment? What do you wear, what do you do, where do you go? Preparing for the meeting last night I racked my brain. Do I bother to dress nicely (black for mourning?) or just go as I am. Is make-up appropriate? Is anything? What won’t I be able to do tomorrow? What won’t I be able to do ever again? What would I know in ten hours…and then 8 hours…and then 4 hours..and then 2 hours… that would change everything? It was a guillotine waiting to fall, a monster waiting to pounce, a sentence waiting to be given.

I tucked my children into bed wondering what I was going to have to tell them in the morning. I drank in the innocence of their faces, of the way they looked before tragedy touched their innocence, and changed it. Before, and after. Who were they going to have to say goodbye to? How was I going to teach them how? Who would we be in the morning?

I wore my jeans, comfy t-shirt, jumper. Waterproof mascara. I wore my numbness, my nerves, my confusion. I shook with tension. I walked in a daze. I held my husband’s hand. I thought about all the night’s in history when my people sat waiting for word, sat huddled together through the long night waiting. I looked into the eyes of my friends, those who gathered with me to hear the words that would change everything, relieved to be with them, relieved that they were there, feeling their tension.

…and then it hit…and no-one is dead…but it is a tragedy…and everything was inappropriate (except the waterproof mascara).

I was inappropriately relieved that it wouldn’t touch my babies.

I don’t want to say what it was because, although the pain is mine to share, the story is not mine to tell. We will walk this road together, my family and my friends and I. We will love, and grieve, and forgive, and heal. Today we weep and rail and question and hurt. But we are together, and being together is everything.

We walk through a surreal fog, but with very real arms around us.

The problem with being me…

I would have to be honest and say that I am a creative person. I love to make stuff up as I go along (or is that called lazy?). I make lampshades out of wrapping paper and cellotape,  fancy dress costumes out of old curtains and sponges for washing your car, and recipes for foods that haven’t even been invented yet. My house is yellow, my furniture is blue and the accessories are an eclectic rainbow of whatever makes me happy at the time. I read an article once about a woman who described herself as maximalist. She set me free to be me when she said something like: all the things I love live happily together inside me, why should they clash on the outside. I love her philosophy! The photos accompanying the article were of her store in an out-of-the-way part of Melbourne that had antique rocking horses alongside Japanese dolls, victorian parasols and crisp white linen and clean-line chairs, lotus candle holders and shiny red patent leather shoes. That is what I am like; a mash up of colour and ideas and passions all jammed into a frame that, quite frankly, is too small to hold all this awesome colour…so it leaks out…

…the problem with being like this is that sometimes all the ‘leaking’ produces something wonderful, like the Moroccan style lentil patties that I made for dinner a few weeks ago. They were a delicious blend of earthy spice and preserved lemon tang, creamy lentils and chilli burn. They were magnificent…and consequently, unrepeatable. No matter how I try, I cannot remember what it was that I did to make them taste quite that scrumptious. And that is the problem with being me…one of them at least. Another is finding shoes that are big enough and pants that are long enough…but that is another story.

 

Dreams of flight…

When I was a child, I often dreamt I could fly. I would run hell-for-leather down the length of our huge garden. Just as I reached the swing, a few meters from the giant mulberry tree, I pushed up from the ground and jumped into the air. My body would begin to soar effortlessly up and over the pear tree and glide effortlessly over the vegetable patch beyond. I remember the exhilaration, the feel of the wind in my face, and the dizzying drop of the ground beneath me, the weird sensation of everything beneath me shrinking rapidly. I circled the garden a over and over before coming in to land—a perfect parachute landing without the parachute. I remember waking from these dreams feeling alive and happy. I would lie awake thinking about flying and pursuing the dream, willing myself into flight again.

 

As an adult, I dream of jumping. I stand in a crowded place near the beach, people milling around me: a juggler on the unicycle, children eating ice-cream, pedestrians. I breathe in, summoning my inner strength—and jump—my body rising three or four stories high before completing my trajectory back to the sand. I stretch my arms out to balance me, to slow my earthbound journey. I land, without pain, only to jump again. I jump five stories high, then ten, over and over. I am not afraid of being up so high, which is ironic because I am terrified of heights when awake. The feeling of shooting upward is exhilarating, addictive and the fall a mere step towards the next jump…and then I wake, disappointed at the loss of possibility.

 

How old was I when I stopped dreaming about flying? When did I stop believing that I had the capacity to soar the heavens? If flight is a metaphor for success, what on earth is jumping a metaphor for?  Do you ever dream of flying? I’d love to know….drop me a line and own up…: )

Child not included…

In life, there are questions we need answered:

What is the meaning of life?

Is there a God?

Why is the sky blue?

Where do ducks go in the winter?

What happens if you stick a peanut up your nose?

One question I do not need answered is this: Do I get a complimentary child if I buy a bed from your store?

For those of you with screens too small to see the print, it says: queen size bed. bedding and child not included.

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