One Little Flicker Of Light

I’ve been reading a lot about the death of comedian Harris Wittels. I’d not heard of him before, but reading about him, discovered I’m a fan of many things he’s created and that a lot of people I know really loved his work and are really sad today.

People who knew him are devastated and angry and confused and almost preemptively nostalgic for something so soon gone.

All those reactions make sense to me. Certainly drugs, if that is what killed Harris, can take lives suddenly, but sometimes they creep in, slowly snatch away parts of people we love, replace those parts with things we don’t understand, or sometimes downright hate.

It can be almost like seeing them slowly erased: you begin to lose them far before the final moments.

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One night in the tale-end of winter in 2009, I was sitting on the fence outside the tragic redbrick apartment building I lived in at the time. The courtyard was continuously scattered with garbage, the police a fairly regular presence. The rent was cheap and I didn’t know any better.

I was waiting for a friend to show up. It had been three months since his brother’s suicide and I’d promised him homemade lasagne if he promised to spend the night with us.

I’d spent all day cooking it from scratch, wanting to let the mince simmer properly so it would be perfect.

He was running incredibly late. He’d called for directions several times.

Finally his car slid past, I waved and watched him struggle to park further up the street.

When we hugged, he didn’t let go and I thought nothing of it. It was a strange time, his brother’s death kept ricocheting, like an echo that wasn’t growing faint.

It wasn’t until we were almost at my front door that I realised he was high. More than high, I realised he was high on heroin.

I followed him in, frantically miming injecting myself to my partner at the time and another friend.

He sat on the couch as we all stood silent. He started to tell some stories, there was a lot of forced laughter and sideways glances.

I felt stupid. There was my stupid lasagne in the kitchen, like some kind of kitsch Florence Nightingale band-aid for a problem that was far bigger than I’d realised.

I served it anyway. He praised it, swallowed several mouthfuls and then fell asleep mid-sentence.

While he snored, we stared. I looked for track marks on his arms, something I’d seen on television. I can’t remember now if I found any because the rest of the night was so devastating.

He woke up, grinned at us and said, ‘Well. I guess that’s why they call it going on the nod.’.

This was some sort of punishment for something.

Maybe for not hurting as much as he was.

Maybe for not being a salve for his pain.

This was definitely something he intended for us to see.

He went outside for a cigarette and I took his phone. Maybe I had a vague idea I would call his mother.

Suddenly everything got very serious, very fast.

He was throwing up everywhere and I was locked in the laundry with my cat.

I was terrified, and it’s only recently that I’ve realised I wasn’t scared of him dying, I was scared of the strength of the drug, I was scared that anyone, anyone’s body, could live through that.

It was violent and chaotic, a reaction to the distress his organs were in, frantically trying to process the drug.

He threw up for the next nine hours, on and off.

When he wasn’t throwing up, he was joking around, listening to music, smoking cigarettes, pretending it wasn’t horrible and confronting that he needed to excuse himself to vomit in my bathtub over and over.

At one point I hissed at him, ‘You brought this into my house? This was supposed to be somewhere safe for you.’.

It was the only thing anyone said to him about it that night, though mutual friends later told me it’d shocked him and was the precursor to getting clean.

I don’t know if that’s true. Those are two very small sentences against the weight of that night.

He made it through.

Heroin was the length he was prepared to go to, to numb the pain he was in and I couldn’t hate him for that.

I still don’t know how you save people from it.

I’m unwilling to say how he later explained the appeal.

I will say that he was the first people who made me realise addiction is an illness and not necessarily a choice and sometimes it’s an escape from things no better or less harmful.

Hello, I am Julia and I am a Mature-Aged Student.

It’s been ten years since I was last at uni and I’ve been wondering what things I would notice were different now I am a mature-aged student.

Here is a small list so far:

+ Last week I got my subject outline and have already read it, highlighted important information and things I need to follow up in pink and blue highlighter, respectively.

+ Purchased the recommended text book and rung the Co-Op book store to confirm the order and request the switch it to a rural store to ensure the order is fulfilled faster.

+ Purchased the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (and JG Ballard’s Crash in the same order. Analyse that!).

+ Researched which university libraries I can join in Sydney and which other popular mature-aged student study venues are conducive to study and have power points.

+ Hooked myself up with a study buddy.

mrburns

(img.1 Said study buddy, the last time we studied together when she was a journalist and I was a PR-ist. Now she’s studying medicine and I’m studying psychology, so … communications degrees, hey?)

I also found this picture, taken in the middle of the night when I was writing my thesis on feminism and science fiction:

DSCF1880

It’s barely visible, but I had a framed photocopy of a picture of a Russian Orthodox priest hanging above my bed, because they are badass (and bad).

Nowadays I only frame pictures of puppies and kitty cats.

Delileo + Juliette

lilahredbull

Delilah is in love with a neighbourhood cat she met about four weeks ago.

We discovered an alternate route for her nightly walks, which mostly sticks to a path, but passes by two driveways. Perched on the red brick fence of one of the houses was a gorgeous, fluffy calico cat who had absolutely no interest in Delilah.

Wuz doesn’t like Delilah much, whereas Delilah is attracted to anything cute and fluffy.

This cat ignored her completely.

Delilah was smitten.

Now, every time we walk past the yard, cat or not, Delilah runs through the gate and sniffs in frantic circles in the front yard, trying to find her friend.

I have spent many an anxious minute creeping outside the bedroom windows of these poor, unsuspecting cat-owners, hissing, ‘Delilah! Come! Here!‘.

Of course Delilah thinks it’s a game, so she crouches and darts through my legs, wheels back and makes like she’s going to hoof it down their driveway.

Last night we were running late to meet B and I had to message him and tell him I couldn’t catch Delilah and when I finally did, she pulled up on a patch of grass, lay down and refused to move, such is her love for the cat.

Like the Montagues and the Capulets, this love will end in tragedy, we’ve decided to leash Delilah whenever we walk past there now (why didn’t Romeo and Juliette’s parents think of that?).

And just like that, she will learn her first lesson in heartbreak.

 

Book no. 4 of 2015: The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl

Books

My older sister told me about Shauna Reid in about 2000, I think. At the time, Shauna was running the now-rebranded blog, What’s New, Pussycat? which was/is a hilarious personal blog. At the time I picked up, she was just preparing to move to Scotland with her sister.

Unbeknownst to me (and all other readers), Shauna was also the author of another popular blog, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. The blog was a personal journey through what it’s like to lose half your body weight (literally). I remember when Shauna revealed herself as the author, I was excited for her when she announced her book deal, but somehow I found myself preferring WNPC? to Dietgirl and so it wasn’t until recently that I borrowed the book from Mary (aforementioned older sister).

The book reminded me of what first attracted me to Shauna: she is funny and not in a way I find much online anymore. She’s not about the short, sharp one-liner take downs, she knows how to tell a story about giant underpants in a way that will make laugh laugh heartily and want to squeeze her.

Unlike a lot of personal bloggers I’ve followed, years later I still want to be her friend.

Additionally, through her blog, I discovered another, I, Asshole, created by the amazing SJ Alexander, who I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing a drink or two with.

This book, it turns out, came to me at the exact right time in my life. It’s not a diet book, it’s a memoir about what it’s like to gain and then need to lose significant amounts of weight and while it won’t feel like it at the beginning and might take some getting used to in the middle, life goes on around weight loss.

Adventures are there to be had and new things are there to be loved.

I’m hanging onto this copy, to turn to throughout this year.

4/5

Dumplings and fun things.

I am pretending that I didn’t see the 2-for-1 sale on flights to Japan today because I am still so sad that we didn’t make it over there for Christmas.

Instead, we have decided I have insisted we take a week or so off mid-year and visit Melbourne and Tasmania. The last time I had a holiday was Easter last year and I spent most of that in a coma induced by both sugar and Queensland heat.

I have been to Melbourne a few times now, and I love the city, but the visits have always been fraught with issues or general weirdness. I would dearly love to sit in a bar and drink a cocktail and eat some dumplings and not have a worry in the world.

So Melbourne will be my food and drink holiday and Tasmania will be for freezing temperatures and art galleries and hot chocolate.

Book no. 3 of 2015: The Kindness of Women

Books

The Kindness of Women is a sequel to Empire of the Sun. Set in the ’60s and ’70s, it revisits Jim as an adult, grappling with the trauma of Shanghai which he has never been able to find closure from and which manifests itself in an almost innocent obsession with sudden and often violent death.

Again, the simplicity of the writing is what makes it so powerful, and quite often touching. Older Jim is much more gentle, a kind, dependable father and friend.

The uncertainty of the ’60s swirls around him, world events including the assassination of Kennedy are touched upon, but the events which shake Jim happen much closer to home. He is attracted to people with a loose grip on life, he is often a spectator to the insanity and danger that envelops them.

The Kindness of Women isn’t as tightly edited as Empire of the Sun, but a slight looseness suits the tone and themes, as the plot almost dreamily traverses a period of dramatic change in cultural and social norms.

4/5

Book no. 2 of 2015: Empire of the Sun

Books

Empire of the Sun was a book I’d seen a thousand times before on my mum’s bookshelves. She owns a rather arresting hardback version, a stark white and red cover.

When I lived at home, the premise didn’t much interest me, although at some stage I realised it was written by the same author as the infamous Crash, which piqued my curiosity a little.

I think I was discussing the plot of The Narrow Road to the Deep North with Mum and my disappointment in the quality of writing when she offered to lend me what she thought was a much superior book written about the same era.

Much has been said about Empire of the Sun, it is now firmly entrenched in popular culture, there has been a film, there is a band of the same name, so I don’t want to rehash discussion which is readily and more eloquently available elsewhere.

Briefly, it is a fictionalised autobiography of J.G. Ballard’s time spent in Japanese internment in Shanghai as a child. It is a war book, but not as they so often are, a story told by those fighting.

Empire of the Sun is a story about how war stops time for ordinary people, how brusquely everyday life ceases, how societal norms collapse, how people become complacent and compliant in order to survive and how they come to feel safe in captivity and begin to build microcosms of the lives they led on the outside.

The writing is stunning in its simplicity. The young Jim is a perfect protagonist. Because he is a child you can forgive him his selfishness and small cruelties, his naïvety allows him to infiltrate parts of the human psyche in a way that would seen devious or distasteful in an older character. For the reader, it means slowly becoming aware that you empathise with some of the things he does, some of the things he thinks and that in in times of tragedy there is sometimes no space for grace and martyrdom.

5/5

Delilah: Scarfenger.

lilah

About a week ago, I was lying around being lazy.

Before we go to bed, we switch the animals: Wuz comes in and spends the night indoors, Delilah goes out and sleeps in the yard. They both hate it, they would much rather we didn’t, but those are the rules. Because someone might run away during the night and someone else still pees on the carpet occasionally.

Anyway, back to my laziness: it was my job to wrangle the animals and it sucks, because you have to catch Wuz while Delilah gets in the way and there’s barking and hissing and generally it’s a royal pain in the arse. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

As a joke, I turned to Delilah and said, “Hey Lilah, where’s Wuzzy?”

Her ears pricked, her body stiffened, we laughed.

Turns out the joke was on us: Delilah stood up, ran outside and herded Wuz in.

Maybe this is just a hilarious coincidence, we thought!

No, she now does it most nights.

She gets it: “Where’s Wuzzy” means “Go get the fluffy thing that hates you and bring her here”.

She now understands three things. The other two are:

“Walkies?” which makes her run to the bucket by the front door where her leash is.

“ATTACK!” which means, jump on the bed and run all over Julia until she gets out of bed. Only B uses this command, Monday to Friday.

Unfortunately she no longer comes when called.

In fact, on last night’s walk, she was off in the distance doing something and refused to come, so I had to go and drag her away from what turned out to be an abandoned pile of once hot chips. She was scarfing them down. We walked  on for about 20 metres, when she looked at us, grinned and ran as fast as her chubby butt would let her and ate the rest.

Treat motivated, her breeder told us.

I guess so.

Kar Krashing Up With The Kardashians

For the most part of this afternoon, I have felt ill. I’m not sure what’s causing it: the fact that I read my weekend roster incorrectly and instead of having a super long weekend, I am actually working, or that I accidentally forgot to take my blood pressure medication, or whether it’s the fact that I’ve been sitting in a tiny booth, accidentally huffing some extremely toxic paint smells from my newly arrived Kim Kardashian t-shirt.

This brings to two (2) the number of items of clothing I own that have Kim Kardashian’s face on them.

When they first learn of it, most people think my love of the Kardashians is somehow ironic.

They are wrong.

People huff and puff about the Kardashians being “famous for being famous”. Most of this huffing and puffing happens on Twitter where people hang out, hoping to gain followers and a book deal from their niche hot takes on the day’s events.

We all want to be famous for being famous for fifteen minutes.

My love of trashy pop culture is long held. I’ve had more success giving up smoking than I have Who Magazine.

I used to defend it by pointing out that I also read The Economist, before realising technically, I bought The Economist, but rarely did I read it.

Maybe I’m inherently nosy and the Kardashians are an ethically sound release for my anti-social desires.

Maybe I just like watching over-glossed pumped up lips.

Whatever it is, I am actually emotionally invested at this point, particularly with Khloe.

Khloe is the tall one, the Cosmo cover to Kim’s Vogue. The unlucky in love one, the one who agreed to film an anti-bullying video for a Perez Hilton campaign, but used the opportunity to point out how hypocritical he was. She’s the funny one, the one who takes care of her younger sisters and yells at her mum for being obsessed with Kim. She is the fun sister-in-law, buds with Scott and Kanye and definitely the least high maintenance.

She’s a tall girl who married an NBA player (Hello! Tall girl dream!) and I’ve probably cried more over the breakdown of that relationship than I have any of my own.

They’ve become a family I don’t have to live with, who I can fast forward through when they’re being boring, who I can lie in bed with without it being weird.

They are like McDonald’s for the brain, a warm fuzzy feeling for half-an-hour without any of the health risks.

Like a McDonald’s fiend, I do find myself having to lie about how often I partake. When asked, Quarter Pounders of viewing become just something I indulge in every now and then amongst salads of ABC News 24.

Like a McDonald’s fiend, you only have to look at me now to know I am lying.

A Boring Blog Post About Goals.

Yesterday I worked my second last shift ever for my old employer. I stayed on weekend shifts after I left to help out and probably did so a little longer than I intended. Uni starts in March and I decided I had to pull the plug so I could have some time off in February.

Normally the weekend shifts can be done at home, but much to my dismay, there was an issue connecting to a server and I had to go into the office.

The office itself is lovely, but stifling on the weekends when there’s no air conditioning and the shifts are more on-call than flat-out, so I had eight hours to kill and there’s only so many gratuitous photos of Josh that I could print out and stick to his monitor as a Monday morning surprise.

Instead I stared thinking about my goals for this year and narrowed them down to about five. Then I thought about how I motivate myself. I surprised myself by realising I am not rewards-based because I reward myself for everything. Get out of bed? Reward! Go to bed at the end of the day? Reward!

Delilah and I are both very treat-oriented, but not necessarily treat-motivated. We are over-treated.

The only thing that’s ever worked for me is the “Seinfeld Productivity Secret“. Give me something to cross off or colour in and I’m all about doing that.

I had a pretty specific idea about what I wanted it to look like so I bought PDFs of a goal planner and a weekly/monthly planner from etsy, tweaked them a little bit and created a book.

I wrote down the five things I want to do and why, stuck a motivational picture in there and then listed all the things I needed to do to achieve them all.

When I got home, I stuck a monthly planner for the goals that need me to do something almost daily up on a wall and each night, I’ll colour the day in if I did what I needed to!

There’s one up for doing the C25K again and another for guitar practice. It’s already made a difference because guitar practice is something I just forget until the Sunday night before a lesson, between work and walking the dog and dinner and a million other nightly things, but now there’s a big ol’ reminder there.

Another interesting this was looking through my old photos for the motivational picture for the C25K and weight goals.

I’ve had a really bumpy few years with weight. First I was chubby, then I lost a huge amount when the side effect of one of my medications was almost complete appetite loss, then my thyroid killed itself and a side effect was extreme weight gain and then the mental side effect of that was a compulsion to eat all of the snacks because why not?

I wanted to find something realistic, and I found this picture from almost exactly two years ago:

IMG_8475 This was post-no appetite, pre-thyroid.

I laughed when I saw it because I remember this outfit well. I called it my space mechanic outfit, like Kaylee from Firefly.

I also thought I was really progressive wearing it because I’d started gaining some weight back and thought I was too big to be wearing shorts.

I am perhaps not the best judge of my own appearance.

I’m not sure how much I’ll blog about goals here because I’m typically pretty bad at keeping resolutions or remembering to track them.

We’ll see.