On Grief and Stoicism

Last week I was talking to someone about 2016, how it’s been a bad year, that I’m running on empty.

It’s true it hasn’t been an easy year, particularly the last four months. Nowhere has been safe from the delivery of bad news: Texts, phone calls, social media, face-to-face conversations. Sometimes I dread looking at my phone because I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

To me, running on empty has meant feeling like I don’t have the capacity to grieve, to emote that I’m grieving. I process things, I feel what seem to be the right feelings, but I also feel crushing guilt that I can’t drop everything, can’t work my fingers to the bone and fall into bed every night, physically exhausted from the effort of making things easier for someone else.

I’ve been self-deprecating, saying that I’m medicated to the eyeballs and that’s why I rarely cry anymore, but I’m beginning to think it’s a growing stoicism and stoicism is a bit the the spoon theory: You have a bunch of it at any given moment and if you’re not using it for yourself, you can give it away to other people.

It’s taken a long time to realise sometimes my empathy is misplaced or overwhelming. That small, sincere gestures mean something and that it’s okay that they’re small. That feeling overwhelming grief myself isn’t unburdening the other person of theirs and what they need is someone slightly emotionally removed.

Things in my own life are not uncomplicated and I owe it to myself to work on that, to have my house in order, so to speak (and looking around my lounge room, literally as well). I would be happy to end the year with just a clearer head space and a better capacity to be there for other people.

My True Love Gave To Me … 18 Hours of Blissful Sleep.

It seems 2014 has decided to be the first “adult” Christmas I’ve had. It’s Christmas Eve and I don’t even feel a sparkle of Christmas excitement.

I’m working until seven tonight and my ideal scenario is heading home, having some dinner with B and his siblings, a few drinks and then sleeping in really, really late tomorrow.

I feel like one of the plethora of dads in ’80s American young adult fiction, who works at a post office during the night and everyone has to tiptoe around in case they wake him up and he gets angry. On Christmas morning all the children huddle around the tree, while their nervous mother cooks pancakes in the kitchen. Finally the bedroom door creaks open and the father shuffles out: robed, five o-clock shadow, blue-black circles under his eyes and pauses at the sight of his four children (boy, girl, boy, girl always). They tremble with fear, and the youngest one (blonde, curls always) lisps, “Daddy!” around the damp thumb she is sucking and suddenly the dad roars with laughter and throws his arms around his children, who fish toys out of the pockets of his robe while the mother stands in the doorway, skillet in hand, smiling at the scene, a tall glass holding a generous serve of straight vodka just out of shot on the kitchen bench.

Tomorrow is going to be fabulous, I know it, I’m just used to having more time to get excited.

New Year’s Resolution: only work one job at a time.

A Year In Review: 2014

1.What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Jumped without a net.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t keep them but I will make more for 2015, in part because for B and I, 2015 is going to be a year of preparing for some changes and I think it’s an excellent idea to spend some time getting healthier and fitter and more rested and organised and more careful with money. Which makes it sound like we’re having a baby. We are definitely not doing that. Unless it has fluffy ears and a tail.

I don’t have the best track record with resolutions but I want to try.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! My older sister Mary. We welcomed Lexi into the family in January.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, but there was a lot of grief for lives lost this year, particularly in recent weeks.

5. What countries did you visit?

None. B and I are meant to be in Japan right now, but changing jobs meant delaying the holiday and then cancelling it completely.

Next year we want to visit Hobart and Queensland to see B’s parents and there’s some talk of spending some time lying on a beach in Asia somewhere and escaping winter for a bit.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Energy. Plain and simple.

I want to be more proactive and positive about all kinds of things: my guitar playing, being a more reliable friend, saying yes to more things and pushing through the exhaustion.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

31st of May, when the sweetest puppy in the kingdom came to live with us. We love you Lilie!

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8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I left a job I’d had for six years and I didn’t have another job lined up. It taught me a lot about myself. I feel more comfortable with change, I realised life doesn’t work to a linear plan or look a particular way and I learnt to trust my instinct about what makes me happy.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I didn’t always do things with as much grace as I should have and I wasn’t always as reliable a friend as I would have liked to have been.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

December last year, my thyroid shut down. I’m still coping with the fallout from that.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

delilah5

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Wuz for putting up with Delilah.

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Honestly, I know a lot of people who voiced their opinion on contentious issues which made life harder for them and they did it anyway.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled?

I can’t even begin to list them all. It was not a year you would hold up as an example of one where humankind flourished.

14. Where did most of your money go?

delilah2

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Delilah and moving to a better house, both of which turned out to be two of the most stressful but excellent decisions ever.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

“Back to Your Heart” – a seven year old Dinosaur Jr. song.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) I’m not sadder, life just got a bit harder.

(b) Fatter.

(c) Poorer, but doing okay with it.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Swimming in the ocean.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Sitting around feeling sorry for myself and eating my feelings.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Mum and Dad are coming down and we’re having lunch, then a couple of B’s siblings are coming over in the evening.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

Nah, I just stayed in love 🙂

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Broad City, The Mindy Project.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

This question always troubles me. I don’t like to hate people, because mostly those people just aren’t worth the time and effort.

I will say that there are several people from my past who I will be making every effort to leave behind because there’s no point in continuing to be angry at them, nor do I want to resolve any issues.

24. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot this year, so I’ll go with the books I most recommended to others:

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

The Gift of Fear – Gavin de Becker

Telegraph Avenue – Michale Chabon

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

That I still mostly like the same music I have for the past five or six years?

Besides great new albums from old favourites, Young Fathers are amazing.

26. What did you want and get?

Haha! A corgi puppy.

27. What did you want and not get?

Materialistically: a car.

Travel-wise: a trip to Japan.

Life in general: energy.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

I honestly can’t recall a single movie I saw this year.

29. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

B, books, basketball, the greatest housemate known to man, Anna.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Ha. How To Dress A Woman Who Gains Weight Fast … And Then Some.

31. What kept you sane? 

Anna. I cried the night she moved out. We had good times and she is someone I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of next year because I am going to be that person who catches up with friends.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Khloe Kardashian.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Racism: institutionalised, personal, shared on social media, played out in the courts. All of it.

34. Who did you miss?     

Anna.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

If you think the ship is sinking, it probably is. So jump!

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

Breathe your air
Cut my teeth
Bones of a hypocrite that look like me
Ashes stain
Windowsill
Punk rock dream in a dimebag world
Free your family
Lose your mind
Think about the valley from time to time
Bittersweet things I’ve never been
Happy that we left but i would leave again for you

Excuse me, sir!

We live near the M5, so close in fact that on our first nightly walk in the new neighbourhood, we rounded a corner thinking it led to a dog park and instead discovered it actually led onto the M5. The road part. You could just meander right onto an 80km zone. In a way that’s terrifying, in another, it’s nice to see a vestige of times gone by when people were expected to rely on their own smarts not to get flattened by a truck.

I hate a very specific part of the walk. Unfortunately it’s the part that starts from our driveway and continues for about ten minutes until you navigate traffic and get onto a dedicated pedestrian/cyclist track. For that ten minutes I don’t want to talk, I feel miserable, I never want to walk ever again but as soon as I’m on the walking path … BOOM. I want to walk forever.

Last night we just got to the walking path when it started to rain. B wanted to turn back, I hadn’t wanted to go on the walk in the first place, so imagine his surprise when I forced him to trek onwards. Delilah loved it, she’s very much a water dog. When she stayed with my parents for a few weeks, Mum emailed me and told me Delilah got into a drain and lay down, so only her eyes and ears were above water and she just lay there, like a very furry aquatic spy.

I took Delilah for a very long walk the night before, to a postal depot in the boondocks to pick up parcels. On the way back we were waiting at a set of traffic lights when I noticed several men in their respective cars laughing at something. I looked down and Delilah was lying like Superman: front paws out the front, back legs straight out behind her and her head down, eyes closed, doing a very good impersonation of being fast asleep. We waited through three sets of red lights before she deemed it time to end her power nap.

All this is just dressing on the fact I have to go back to the gym. And keep going back. And not stop.

I even had a dream about it last night. I went to the gym and discovered they’d moved everything. I couldn’t find a single treadmill to use, or any weights, and a naked white man with dreadlocks showered in front of me. I don’t know what that part means, but the rest of it seems very much like my subconscious telling me to get off my arse.

Drawing To A Close

Every November I get antsy for the new beginnings offered by a new year. This year is no exception.

I’m not sure I’ll have holidays in December, my new job is like my previous one in that it doesn’t shut down over Christmas. Regardless, I am consoling myself with the knowledge that the week between Christmas is so hot and so quiet that it’s almost impossible not to relax.

I have my holiday reading list planned, Christmas lunch almost booked, Secret Santa selected and gift lists received. I have my 2015 day planner ready to go, my first gig of the new year booked, as well as our delayed trip to Japan (now slated for April).

Next year I have decided to start studying psychology and as for learning something new, I’m sorely tempted to bike a bike and get over my fear of riding.

It Can Still Gloam Inside

Last night after work I went to Coles to buy the makings of dinner.

I was hoping to go through the self-serve checkouts. Despite being very indignant about their invention to begin with (having spent many years as a checkout chick myself), I now much prefer them, especially after work, when I don’t feel like talking to anyone. Instead I was drafted to the register of an actual person, an older woman, easily in her late 60s.

She studied the things I was buying, easily concluding I was making spaghetti bolognaise. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, please with herself for recognising my intended meal, and by what came next. ‘This looks like my recipe!’.

I felt terrible, because money is tight right now, and I’d purposely selected the cheapest way to cook it. I’d forgone things like bay leaves and wine and a good parmesan for the very basics. I felt terrible because she was far too old to be standing for long shifts and what happened in her life that she still needed the income?

She passed me the bags and I stared at her nails, well maintained, painted a light pearl pink and I wished her a good night and meant it and already she was focussing on the next person over my shoulder.

Workin’ For The Man

Tomorrow I am getting a five years of service award at work.

Five years at a job I jumped to in order to avoid the fallout of the global financial crisis on my last job, it’s a job I knew nothing about, a job I have held for what have probably been some of the most formative years of my life, a job I probably didn’t expect to stick with for longer than 12 months.

In the last five years I’ve thought I wanted to be an English teacher, a psychologist, a journalist, a photographer, or a sub-par Sedaris-esque memoirist. Now I just want to excel in the role I have and have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

I still struggle to describe what I do at work, but I increasingly see its value. I’ve learnt a tonne about myself: I’m good with relationships, terrible with diary management.

Some of my closest friends have been made at work and they’ve probably seen more of “me” than most.

I don’t know if I’ll be here in five more years, I suspect not, but it’s been exactly what I needed, especially in the last 18 months.

Anything I can measure in large units of time surprises me.

Them Zombies.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I could lie to and say it’s because I’ve got nothing interesting to say at the moment, that I’m chained to my desk all week at work, that I spend my weekends doing Bikram Yoga and eating raw, but why bullshit you all?

I discovered The Last of Us and B bought me a gun metal grey PS3 controller of my very own and so that’s what I’ve been doing: killing them zombies.

 

ps3

Who went to school with someone who is famous now and what was he/she like?

I was reading a thread about this on Reddit yesterday and it got me thinking. What would people I went to school with say about me if I suddenly got famous?

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‘She used to come to my house every day and play Mario Bros. Once she came over in the morning before school and my mum didn’t realise she was there and walked out naked.’.

‘She told everyone that her World Vision sponsor child was her adopted brother.’.

‘She brought a packet of those hard sugar balls you decorate cakes with to school and told us they were her medicine. Then at her birthday party, her mum put them on her cake and we all knew she was a liar.’.

‘She brought a baby bat into our classroom and then denied it.’.

‘She used to wear talcum powder on her face. Like  a lot of it. Did she think that looked good, do you know?’.

‘She had massive chronic bitchface.’.

‘She had these two blonde streaks in her hair that were so obviously done at home with bleach. It’s like she thought she was James Iha or something.’.

‘When we broke a scale in the classroom at lunch time and pretended it wasn’t us, she panicked and told us that the teacher would probably get it dusted for fingerprints. We got caught.’.

‘She and one of her friends ate a finger bun at recess every single day.’.

‘She was really average at maths, but her older sister was like a maths genius.’.

‘She didn’t get all the euphemisms in Ænema or know that “Die Eier von Satan” was a cookie recipe. And she claimed to be a massive Tool fan. Pfft.’.

‘She was really tall. Do you know how tall she is, by the way?’.

‘She was like a feminist or something. She made this shitty art project in year ten with a Barbie in a plastic Coke bottle and it was meant to be about media projections of women’s bodies or some shit. It looked like it was done the night before it was due.’.

‘She liked Tess of the d’Urbervilles.’.

‘I gave her three detentions one day as punishment for going to the front office and photocopying the pages she missed when she was away from school sick. She was meant to just be sitting in the corridor quietly, doing her work. It was my reward sometimes, to let them sit in the corridor. I never let her do that again.’.

‘I signed all three of her detention slips one day and didn’t make her do the detentions because she was actually an okay kid and to be honest, I’m not sure we’re technically meant to allow students to work in the corridor. How can we teach them if they’re not even in the same room?’.

‘ I banned her from continuing with PE. She really sucked at physical activity and she was a total smartarse about it.’.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

I was going to go down to All Tomorrow’s Parties in Melbourne this coming weekend, but life drama got in the way and so I put my ticket up for sale on Mess+Noise. Happily, a gentleman from Melbourne named Simon wanted to buy it and we conversed about the best way for me to get the ticket to him.

Somewhere along the way, a friendship developed:

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