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.

Anniversaries, and my first year of blogging

It is January 16th.  Anniversary of my father’s funeral, my parents’ wedding day and one year since I started this blog.  Hence, a little reflection, but before that, a little gratitude.  My gratitude is directed towards the people who have elected to follow me.  I want to tell you how much I appreciate that, and perhaps I can best tell you why this feels so important by sharing a little story. 

It’s from when I was in early high school, a particularly horrid age for anyone and I was as gawky, unsure and downright daggy as you could possibly be.  I didn’t fit in.  I was also at that awkward crush stage, and I had a bit of a crush going for Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS.  I had a sizeable poster of him from a teen magazine on the inside of my cupboard. I recall writing a letter to said magazine which was the classic introvert statement, something along the lines of ‘Hey, not everyone enjoys parties/loud music etc’.  Told you I didn’t fit in…The magazine printed this letter and the Editor made fun of me in their comment.  Worse than that, some girls at my school figured out it was me.  Any chance I’d ever had of being accepted evaporated.  The magazine sent me a cheque but I was so humiliated I never banked it.  This was my first foray into public writing.

It’s only recently, as I’ve been trying to work through my feelings about this blog, that this memory has resurfaced.  I twigged.  Publication = public rejection.  And yet, there you are, followers.  I know it’s only the work of a moment to hit that little button, but before you did that, all of you thought I had something to offer.  And that is the greatest gift I can think of right now.  So, thank you, thank you and thank you again.

It’s been a very interesting year, filled with difference which I had been longing for after many, many years of slogging away at a PhD.  That was part of the reason for my subtitle, blogging for a kinder, gentler and more creative world.  Academia has value, but the process of it feels light years away from kind, gentle and creative.  In reading over my entries I realise I have hardly spent time talking about creativity, compared to the qualities of kindness and gentleness.  I also realise it’s also been very much about the experience of being an adoptee.  That certainly wasn’t my intent, but realising it was also valuable.  I’ll explore that more a bit later, but I thought I’d conclude by telling you that while I haven’t written here about creativity, I’ve actually been doing a lot of it elsewhere.

Namely, a new garden and I wrote two novels.

Ta-da!!!!!!

Until this year, I was the kind of person who always started novels but never finished them.  Now suddenly, I’ve managed to finish first drafts of two.  One was written slowly between March and October, and the other was written during Nanowrimo.  In case you’ve never heard of that, National Novel Writing Month.  The aim is to get 50 000 words written during the month of November.  I managed 55 000, a fact which still brings an inanely large grin to my face.

Nano was an amazing experience.  A bit fishbowly, a bit boot campy, a bit woo-hoo, and given the subject matter of my novel, a bit woo-woo.  Loved it.  Being a writer is cool.  I want more of it.  I’d even like to get paid for it!  Goes to show that if you risk something for what you love, good things can come of it.  The taking risks bit is at times more than you think you can handle.  However, if you do it in a way that is sensitive to both where you’ve been, and where you want to be, you’ll move yourself along. 

I’m not sure what Mum and Dad would say to me now, as I make tiny steps towards a life I am happy to inhabit.  I’m not sure what they’d say about this blog.  They’d find what I have written about adoption hard to stomach, although that assertion is made with an assumption that wherever they are, they still have their earthly mindset.  I hope that’s not true.  I hope they can see me trying to live the life that they didn’t get the opportunity for.  I don’t mean in terms of material things.  I was born in an era where it is so much easier to get information and help to be as whole as you can be.  I grew up with less limits in my head.  Children of the depression, they grew up thinking security was everything, and dreams were to be subordinate to that. They grew up in the era where ONE DID NOT SPEAK OF CERTAIN THINGS and they both paid the price for that.    So here I am, taking a year out from ‘life’, courtesy of their hard work for all those years.  Taking risks, looking inside and out, realising I want to make my living around language and creativity, and seeing what more I can do to make that real.