The armadillo and the equinox

It’s the equinox today, and also the first anniversary of the national apology to those affected by the practice of forced adoption.  This day last year, I was in the Great Hall of Parliament, bawling my eyes out.  As ‘years’ go, it has been tumultuous, marked by the theme of balance.  However I only realise this retrospectively, because I have been so unbalanced. 

What is balance anyway?  Taking nature as the guide, taking today as the guide, its when opposing forces are equal to each other.  Day and night are equivalent to each other in length.  One does not dominate the other.  We can look at the qualities of each and appreciate their complementarity.  Day and night are meaningless without each other. 

When I grew up, we did not observe days like these.  We observed (as opposed to celebrate) the customs of Christmas and Easter, New Year and Anzac Day.  That was about it.  So I have come to my appreciation of these solar points of the year as an adult.  And I’ve especially come to love the equinoxes, precisely because of the imagery of balance.  Everyone’s idea of balance is different, and I can only speak with authority on my own experience of it. 

In this year, that experience has been slender.  Firstly there was the apology, itself an offering of balance as the government, on behalf of the people, apologised to me the impacts of discriminatory attitudes.  Bits of my armour fell off, a good but deeply disturbing experience.  I came to understand a little bit more how much of an armadillo I have learnt to be.  Maybe an echidna.  Either way, some animal that is heavily armoured on the outside. 

Secondly, I reached breaking point at work and resigned.  No plan, no job to go to.  Just an explosion that had been building for a long time.  The wreckage has been substantial, but I was so overwhelmed with relief that I didn’t initially notice.  I was anticipating my first trip to Europe, something I’d been anticipating since I was about seventeen.  Anxiety, fear and money had stood in my way till then.  It was the highlight of the year.  An excursion into wonder.  So wondrous that returning to a Canberra winter felt like suffocation.

I was also free, for the first time in my life.  Free of deadlines, obligations, rules, expectations.  I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself.  We are not raised for freedom.  We’re raised like cage hens, our lives tightly regimented and associating only with other cage hens.  So that when it comes, I hovered at the doorway of the barn, daunted by the loss of all I had known.  I have not coped at all well.  Instead of fun and freedom, I’ve been romancing my shadow.

I’ve lived this last year, and indeed my whole life, like I am trapped between the solstices.  Summer one day, winter the next.  It’s been the solstice pingpong championships, and I’m exhausted.  I crave a balanced life and it seems as elusive as a natural blue rose.  I don’t want an all or nothing life any more.  When I live like that, I’m not very nice.  I’m self absorbed and selfish, angry and inflexible.  I’m not so available to my friends and family.  I’m less interested in the broader environment.  I don’t think this is healthy in the long run, either for me or for the planet.  In short, when I am being all or nothing, I am less kind, less creative and I can’t see the beauty.  This is not how I want to proceed through the adventure of the world.  Right now I am unclear on how to change this deeply ingrained habit of a lifetime.  In the meanwhile, it’s a calm, clear autumn day.  I’m going to get up appreciate it.


The archaeology of ‘something nasty’

Anyone who has been following me, and who hasn’t been repulsed by my descent into ‘something nasty’, knows that I’m not finding being alive to be remotely fun at the moment. I made a post in early February called Changing the Sky, which described the onset of this ‘something nasty’. It brings to mind those appalling images of tidal waves we have seen in recent years. A relentless force of debris filled water crashing across the psyche. That’s how I’ve felt, like I’m trapped in that surge of negativity and that I might well die in the attempt to find higher ground.

I’m still there, but this post is an experiment in something I’m going to dub ‘slivers of KCB; kindness, creativity and beauty’. Giving credit where credit is due, the idea comes from G Lynn Nelson, who wrote one of my favourite writing books called ‘Writing and Being’. It’s about finding a way out of the crashing depression, one tiny moment at a time. So today I’m trying to write about slips of time that were good, to refute my catastrophizing and my negativity. It’s a deliberate attempt to dwell in the good.

One. Today is my sister’s birthday. As I was thinking about trust this week, I asked myself who have I been absolutely able to trust without question. She is on that very short list. I wish her love and kindness for all her days.
Two: The rose garden and its majestic perimeter trees, enveloping me in scent and coolness on Tuesday morning while I cried.
Three: The almost total stranger who offered to read a manuscript excerpt, because she knows a publisher who might be interested.
Four: Being able to say something supportive to my friend who had just received her adoption file, and found some very unhappy reading in it. I know she will be reading this post, so I am again taking the moment to say to her how much I admire her for her strength and courage and compassion.
Five: Being appreciative that it is not a heatwave. Enjoying the shapes and colours of the clouds.
Six: Appreciating the goodness and skill of my Pilates instructor on Thursday. Pilates irons out my physical kinks and gives me a permitted space to focus on doing something kind and useful for myself.

It would be nice to try and make it seven but I won’t push it.


On being an alcoholic ostrich

Despite being the author of a blog about kindness, creativity and beauty I have to admit that in recent times, I have been not very good at any of those things.  I was going to say atrocious, but then that was a continuation of my undoubted ability at catastrophising.  A friend put a little cartoon on her social media page which says “Anxiety girl – Able to leap from here to a catastrophic conclusion in a single bound’.  Ahh….the recognition.

I have two good reasons for defaulting to catastrophic terror right now.  The first was the five figure bill from our good friends at the tax office, and the second was my ongoing unemployment.  In addition to general cost of life, which is increasingly hard to meet, I now owe the equivalent of a small new car, and I have no idea of how this can have occurred.  I believe panic stations are in order.  In response, last night I became an alcoholic ostrich and watched old Dr Who episodes.  I hoped the Tardis would arrive in the backyard this morning and I could climb in and run away, but there was just the neighbour’s cat and the usual magpies ganging up on the Iron Paw.

This was the next to final straw to a week marked by almost constant crying.  I put the crying down to the reactivation of nasty adoption baggage, which clearly has something to do with it.  However, the extra frisson was provided by hormones.  Bring on menopause I say.  Hot flushes cant possibly be worse than feeling suicidal just because you’re fertile.

So, what am I going to do?

The practical option would be just to continue job hunting.  Yes, it has to be done but its also contributing to the despair.

Secondly, how about the business you keep talking about?  Yes, but not likely to provide a short term answer.  Also, contributing to despair as I have to face just how technically and economically useless I am.

Thirdly, rail loudly and vociferously and the government and all the people who elected them for their assumption that just because I live in Canberra I don’t have the same feelings about being ‘structurally readjusted’ as for example, people in Geelong.

Fourthly, cry again.

Fifthly, go home and snog the Iron Paw.

I was reading Gordon Livingstone the other day.  He said something along the lines of this.  Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is to keep plodding in the face of everything, like jobs that don’t come or are completely or partially soul destroying, like cooling relationships, unreliable friends and irritating utility companies.  The list goes on.

The kindest thing I could manage for myself this week was to sit in the rose garden.  Under an old tree whose boughs drooped groundwards, casting shade and making me feel just a little bit calmer.  The restorative power of nature.  I think I’m off there right now.