Photography: Trish Jean
This post got lost and never published, it sat in a draft state…but someone has asked to see it, so here it is…more impetus to shift myself from suffering to something else…gratefully taking more precious steps in the journey away from workaholism to this creative life.
It’s time. I have a funny relationship with time. I can lose track of it, I forget, mostly, the dates of when things have happened, the months and years can whisper by with barely a breath on my skin. Time is an occasion, a turning point, a meeting, a parting, a worn signpost, but sometimes a scar on my landscape. Time here in my cottage near the sea has been a gift of recuperation, of creating and re-creating, of excellent windows and doors, that it’s time to close.
One of the things I’ve really loved about living at the Writers Wrest in Wollongong is the garden beds under the front windows. They are just like my great aunts’. I’ve wanted for so long to have lots of agies , and lots of them there are, lining the driveway, stroking my thighs on the front path, brilliantly blue amongst the other stunning plants that reach out of the backyard garden beds. So giving them up when I move will be hard. As will giving up close proximity to the ocean. But there is water where I’m going and no doubt Agapanthus too. Where do we find that which we want and need when it’s not there with us?
So it’s been a testing year, and I’ve reveled in what makes me human – my choices to love, to laugh, to cry, to grieve, to grow, to try, to expand who I am to become who I have always been. Despite the challenges, losses and disappointments there’s been wonderful and unexpected things, there are doors closed and new windows opening. And I am grateful. As I experience my own and others’ journeys my compassion is deepened, my knowing is deepened, my faith is deepened.
That doesn’t mean I coped with it brilliantly, indeed the fallout and space of hurt saw me easily sunk. Perhaps it’s because the last year has connected me back to epic journeys in my past, and whilst difficult, it has thankfully provided a new lens through which to view love, given me the chance now to understand epic lessons on life, love and importantly myself. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sinking isn’t easy because it’s not just a relinquishing. It’s a slow battle of what and whether to hang on to. But it is an opportunity for deepening. And I think for me I’ll do my best to deepen the best of me. It’s knowing you’re going to have to feel, and knowing you’ll have the choice to feel more than you’re counting on if you choose to go there. I do know too that it’s an opportunity. Just grasp that Leonard Cohen lyric:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
I caught up with some family members on the weekend. It came up in conversation about how hard that period of time and the grief associated with the loss of my nephew and his mothers’ loss of their son has been for us. We talked openly about needing to watch our mental health. I really liked how we could even use that terminology without any concern. It’s liberating, ’cause frankly I don’t know many people who haven’t needed to nurture their mental health at one point or another or keep an eye on it. It’s no different in a sense to keeping an eye on or tending to other aspects of our selves and our lives.
I’ve had the situational blues before, when I finished college and was overtaken by the fallout of multiple losses, and I struggled for a while when I first stopped being a workaholic and faced the big black hole that was left when work didn’t provide my sense of identity or provide the framework for how I spent my time, achieved and contributed. And I’ve struggled this past six months, even though at the same time I’ve made some good ground. And it’s freeing to put words to it, to accept it, to share it.
I had a lesson in art making lately that provided a great analogy of my life. Unsurprisingly it turns out that it’s not just thinking about what you want a situation or yourself or life to be, it’s not enough to have some kind of idea of what it will look like when it all comes together. It’s not even all at your hand!
We’re shaped by ourselves and the journey…and in the case of my artwork, which just happened to be set in a suitcase, it was the journey in the car it didn’t survive. And whilst I didn’t like the artwork and I laughed at the absurdity of it in pieces, in its brokenness lay a gift. The gift of a second chance and the gift of a dawning appreciation for the process of art (or life) making and what I needed and wanted from the process, not just the end product.
Contemplation during drive time over the subsequent couple of days and a great Artist Network meeting the day after the fateful slamming of the suitcase lid combined to give rise to an epiphany. I’d limited myself both in the story I was sharing and the way I was sharing it and at my hands there were illustrations of my making that could be a tool for carrying the words, the crafted tales of lives and journeys. I highly value story telling but I’m not so good at getting past my own barriers and telling it verbally, it flows more easily from a pen.
So I made a new artwork based on the same intention, that I really like and am proud of. It’s more deeply me, what’s found it that suitcase. And I think that experience and the revisiting of my journey this year as I made the artwork helped me to finally return to a choice of direction I had chosen to delay earlier in the year due to turmoil.
It’s exciting. I’ve got a rough heading from the compass, I’ve got my suitcase and I’m jumping into the maelstrom, for life has turmoil, I’m ever changing even as I’m always me…and it’s time to go deeper into my story in the Big Smoke. Look out Sydney, I’m on my way!
In my hopes and dreams and experiences and reflections and writing I find and carry what I need. And practically speaking, as I made my decision I could draw on what I have learned that I want and need…proximity to family and friends, community, new challenges that let my authentic self emerge in all her quirky wonder, and the knowledge that there will always be cracks and light and into those I can plant my flowers.