Stuck.

Los Angeles freeway

LA freeway

So tell me folks, does this picture fascinate you? Make you want to stare at it for hours? No? Me neither. Out of all the pictures I took and the wonderful people I met on my trip to the US this must be one of the LEAST fascinating. It is, however, stuck on my digital photo frame in the kitchen right now, and I’ve been staring at it for the better part of the day, if only because the power switch is hidden behind a rather large and heavy chair, and I’ve been too busy (lazy) to move it.

I thought I might blog about being stuck, about how we end up in these thought pathways that we don’t know how to get off, because our own heads are too big and heavy and we’re too busy (lazy) to move them, but then I realised that…well…I’m really tired. And all of a sudden the picture wasn’t about being stuck any more, but about those very first, very earliest memories of my first ever day in a foreign country.

I couldn’t get over how not-foreign everything looked. The airport was like the ones I’m used to (okay, about a zillion times bigger), and African-American people didn’t look like African-Australian people (now that was an interesting observation. Possibly because the African-Australians in Tasmania are, for the most, very recent migrants or refugees, and are still much more African than they are Australian. This manifests itself in lots of very subtle ways, but it was still noticeable).

There weren’t any other Australians, but it was easy to ignore that at first. You just kind of presume they’re somewhere else, maybe in another room, that where you are just happens to have a really large amount of American visitors. It took me a good few days to get over the amazing “co-incidence” that EVERYBODY I met was American. Wow. Really? You too? The fact that I stayed with Australians (*waves HELLO to Theresa!! I’m imagining you picking the kids from school!!*) helped propagate that myth in my mind. But I digress.

The man who took me to Theresa’s house was Lebanese, and that didn’t help either, because I automatically presumed he was Lebanese-Australian and driving a taxi in Melbourne, not Lebanese-American and driving one in LA. LA looked like Melbourne. I’ve said that before, and I may say it forever. My very first thought of being in a foreign country was how like home it was*. We talked about Lebanon and how he misses his family, and his teenage kids and what they’re doing in school, and his wife who’s a nurse, and he pointed out his house to me, a double-story place with a little balcony overlooking the freeway, all of which he would return to after he dropped me at Theresa’s house, the last run on his graveyard shift. I took photos out the window, just because. This was one of them.

He stopped at the mall and bought me a coffee at Starbucks, which felt equally Melbourne-like, which I commented to him, except for the fact that we don’t have Starbucks any more because they pulled them all out. He told another man, an American man, who laughed a little and said “Australians are smarter than Americans then”. And with that I knew the truth: I hadn’t left Australia at all. The reason I was so groggy was because I’d been drugged and driven around Melbourne for fourteen hours.
Obviously.

Well…not really. After all, I had a stamp in my passport finally. And everybody drove on the wrong side of the road, and there were vegetables on everyone’s front porch. I got it. Eventually.

It’s been good to remember that day, to remember my taxi driver and the man at Starbucks. I don’t feel like the picture is about “stuck” at all any more. It’s about memory.

I’ll fix the photo frame. But I might, just randomly, pause it again in a couple of days, and allow another memory to overtake me. Nothing better, when you’re stuck at home, to be stuck in your mind in a foreign country.

*All that changed the day I landed in the Mid-West. The Mid-West is like being on TV. THAT was when I discovered what culture shock felt like.

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KAZAM! I got Januaried.

I’m back.

I’m glad. It’s nearly February, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see the calendar page turn over, and it’s nothing to do with the picture for the month, which is entirely inoffensive (the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, for all my US friends). Once the bushfire week calmed down the weather has been lovely, it’s just…just a January thing.

I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t put my finger on anything but grief, and that scared me more than I knew how to say, because grief is an unknown and debilitating suck of time and life and energy. It scared me because I didn’t want to spend a year in that place of numb, some emotional holding pattern of spiralling downward and inward, nor did I know what to do about it.

I prayed. I read my bible. I tried to dream, and think of all the great plans we’re making for 2013. None of it helped. That too scared me. I put a smile on my face and made sure I kept walking, and ate enough chocolate to drown out the noises of the darkness inside.
Ever been there? I’m sure you have.

And then last week the miracle happened. I found Sonnie’s email address again. I went to the supermarket and ran into Emma and the kids and arranged a playdate. Selena texted me. Sally emailed. Stevie emailed. Suddenly the blank squares below the Capitol Building in Lansing were filled with times and dates and arrows and circles for coffee and names of friends I love.

I thought I needed time by myself. I did. More than that though, deeper, I needed time with people over the age of ten*. People I could relate to, People I could be myself with. It’s summer. Bible studies and social networks and things like that shut down because people go away. People went away. We went away.

I never knew how good it’d feel to see my friends again.

KAZAM! I think I just got Januaried.

*Okay, make that over the age of 30. I don’t think hanging out with a bunch of twelve year olds would have improved my mood that much either.

So tired of waking up tired

Just. Still. So. Tired.

All the time. Tired. Sick of it, really. Not used to feeling this way. I get the feeling that, more than anything else, it’s my body’s reaction to grief, to change, to serious upheaval. I’ve heard that bodies can do that kind of thing, even when the mind thinks it’s okay. I’ve thought I was okay. I’m sad sometimes, but not waking up overwhelmed with grief and tears any more. Just tired.

Sometimes it lifts, and those are the times I notice, and I notice when it comes over me again. It occurred to me that, especially now, there are things that energise me and things that make me tired. It’s probably always been this way, but more noticeable now.

I took the kids to the beach today. That energised me. I love the sound of the waves. I love the water.

Going home to piles of housework still waiting to be done made me tired.

Exhausted, I walked up to the supermarket. Time on my own energised me. Time in the mornings with half my brain still waiting for the kids to get up makes me tired.

Honest talk with adult friends energises me. Small talk makes me tired. Facebook, on the other hand, energises me.

Writing energises me. Work (admin) makes me VERY tired.

Spending time in my kids’ rooms (which I cleaned from top to bottom the other day) energises me. Spending time in my lounge room, which the kids have completely trashed, makes me tired. It’s school holidays. That’s a part of it. Still makes me tired.

Paul Simon energises me. Paul Kelly makes me tired.

Funny thing that, eh? A bit of self-knowledge goes a long way. I have the day to myself on Wednesday…you’ll find me in my kids’ bedroom, writing on Facebook, listening to Paul Simon…please leave me there as long as you can!

What about you? Have you ever figured out what activities energise you, and which make you tired? How do you find the balance of energising and tiring activities?

 

A vision for new

Hello again! Sorry, it’s been a while. Been a tough few weeks, and we’re just back from summer holidays, and it’s about time I get back into my blogging schedule for the year.

Holidays were fun, and I had grand intentions of putting up some wonderful photos of the cool places we went, but my SD card reader isn’t working right now, and I’m tired and grumpy, so I won’t. I’ll do it Wednesday.

It’s funny getting back from holidays. All the vision I had for new, for change, smacks hard up against the old and the needing-fixing, and it’d be so easy to let it all slide, especially when there’s this many loads of washing to do, and when there’s this much to change, and this many kids in the house, and this much Lego on the lounge room floor.

We’ll get there. The normal doesn’t swallow the vision completely, I’ve learned that now. It might go underground for a month, might hibernate, but vision, like Ashgrove Farm cream on non-homogenised milk (my new LOVE! I forgot milk used to taste this good!) always rises.

Image

(One of the fabulous cows at the Ashgrove Farm, whose vintage cheddar I will always remember fondly. Even their orange cheese was nice. Did you know that in America all the cheese is orange? No joke! I found it pretty much inedible. Sorry America. Love you, hate your cheese.)

What about you? Have you had grand visions for 2013 yet? Are they getting swallowed in the mundane?

Up, and down. A meditation on grieving.

Sometimes I think that the reason I eat porridge in the mornings, even when it’s hot, is because it cements the grief back down in the pit of my stomach where it belongs, and not up banging around in my face.

I’m old enough to know now that squashing things down is unhealthy, and that things need to be let out. I’m old enough to remember the understanding that after I’ve cried I feel better.

The grief isn’t close enough to my eyes to come though, not today, nor is it buried deep enough to forget. It’s stuck there in the back of my throat, unable to find its way either up or down.

I read an email just now from a friend that I miss and it made me cry. Up, and down.  Now I shall eat porridge.

Two by two they came

Well it’s about time I wrote something. Dad’s funeral has been, and Christmas, and New Years, and life is slowly and falteringly closing around the hole that’s left. I’m tired. Bone-weary and dog tired, and I don’t want to write anything serious today. You’ll get what you get. And today it’s…

noahs-ark

I was reading the Bible this morning, and I’m up to the bit about Noah. Now personally I like God, and I believe in Him, and I give Him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the truth of the Bible. I’ve seen enough bizarre stuff and enough miracles in my life to not have a problem with believing in the bizarre and ridiculous, and I’m pretty okay with the knowledge that my brain is small, and finite, and that there’s a creator that’s bigger and wiser than me, and outside of time and outside of my understanding.

Still…(I’d say “but”, but it seems a bit wrong in the context)…

Spiders. Blowflies. Mosquitoes. Easy to find, sure. Not easy to find their gender.

I get that finding a big old daddy kangaroo is pretty obvious, or a mummy cow, or a daddy dog or a mummy chook. These are pretty straightforward animals, and, well, my kids would have no problems telling them apart. But daddy-long-legs’. Yeah. Good luck with that one. Good luck with making sure your cockroaches are a breeding pair, not a pair of males. And HOW MANY people have brought home a placid little girl bunny (hello there Theresa!) or cat or smoochy puppy only to have it find its masculinity in a surge of hormones after a few weeks. Or a “male” cat getting pregnant.

Now I believe in miracles, and I believe absolutely in Heavenly intervention, and that the Holy Spirit that leads and guides me also led and guided Noah into getting the genders right on all these crazy things – and just perhaps there were a number of ridiculous insects that DIDN’T survive the Ark because Noah got it wrong. Interesting thought. I’m not sure what I think of the pictures that put them all in nice patient lines though. I mean…really?

Really really?

I wonder if Heaven will have a movie screen of the past, and part of my hopes not. And I wonder if there’ll be people lining up in a snaking line, to wait to talk to Noah and ask him personally how it happened. We’ll all be there in line, waiting patiently, two by two, to find out finally all the answers to all the questions we’ve ever had in this life.

I like that. I can deal with life now if I believe the future, in Heaven, there will be answers.