“I suggest we learn to love ourselves before it’s made illegal”
My new flatmate and I went to the supermarket.
At the checkout, I picked up a copy of a magazine – I thought the model on the front was an old school friend. She wasn’t but I kept flicking through until I found an article about age differences. I casually scanned the names, faces and age differences when my senses were overwhelmed by a name from my past.
I saw that he was the same age as me and his wife 9 years older.
Then my flatmate called out and we left the supermarket.
As we were walking, overwhelmed and trying to process what had just happened, I stumbled out the story and the significance of it...
In the last few weeks I was there I met a boy called Andrew.
He would casually wait on the jungle gym outside my class for me. Once he had even saved half a Moro bar to share with me. No-one had ever done that before.
I don’t remember making the arrangement to meet up and was always surprised when he kept being there. We never talked but I've never forgotten the feeling of ‘soulness’ I had when I was near him. There was an odd sensation of being snug inside him, watching the world through our eyes.
My time was cut short and I was sent home yet I never pined for him.
But I've always wondered about him and vowed to remember his name by his initials AB.
For years I'd been having dreams about what I've always called “The Man and The Feeling”.
I've written about them often.
Sometimes The Man would be sitting opposite me while I sobbed out my latest insecurity. Listening with an acceptance and love that I could still feel a week later.
In other dreams he'd wrap his arms around me from behind, enfolding me with safety and oneness.
The connection I made on that grey day in Johnsonville, was that The Feeling in the dreams was the same feeling I'd had with that boy, when we were both 9, and the rest of the world didn’t exist.
The feelings and emotions, the love, the fairy-storyness of it all.
I feel like a twin separated at a young age who's seen a picture of another self like mine looking back at me.
Does he remember me?
Does he think, feel, dream, love, yearn the way I do?
Does he dream about The Woman and does she have a Feeling to him?
And would The Feeling be there if we met now – 25 years later?
I convinced myself that I'd rather know The Feeling and never have it than to have it and lose it. Surely that’s the biggest sacrifice a person could make – that of forfeiting Soulness for mere Love.
I know I’m saying this from fear.
I know I’ve got abandonment and rejection scars (a whole skin full of them) and I assume that anything worthwhile I get will be broken, lost, taken away or leave.
Here I am telling myself that I'd rather never have it, than have it and lose it. The cowardice!
At least I know what The Feeling feels like. I’m luckier than most.
Of course I crave nothing more in life than to have that Soulness again – my life lessons have all been preparing me for it.
Of all of the hundreds, even thousands of boys and men I've met in my life – why would I remember that one?
And why a nine year old?
Why did I have such feelings of completeness when I was with him that my subconscious carried them into adulthood and into my dreams?
The boy who waited for me in the playground and felt like a warm blanket.
If I have to wait another 25 years to be with a Man with The Feeling, I will.
Even if our time together is brief.
With this Soulness – 10 years – 30 years – a lifetime - is all too brief yet time ceases to exist.
How did she know she was different? She noticed groups of people who were the-same-as each other and she was never the-same-as anyone. As she got grown-up, these groups of people started telling her, out-loud and too-her-face that she was different. When she had to live with other-people-other-than-her-family, her differentness became more noticeable. The other-people-other-than-her-family would notice her food-things and cleaning-things and sleeping-things and clothes-things and skin-things.
In time she learnt to appear less different. She found ways of not-being-noticed but now she felt foreign-fake-different.
She had a husband and children for a while but that felt foreign-fake-different too so she left them at home one day.
She found that living by herself was easier – so she did.
When she was little, she met a boy who was different-like-her. They were so different-like-each-other they didn’t need to speak. He didn’t seem to go through the intrigued-by-the-differentness-for-five-minutes wondering like most. He didn’t see her as different so he didn’t need to wonder.
She wondered where he was now.
The Biological Soul Clock was longing. She would feel loneliness creeping up on her out of the corner of her heart. She often caught herself, when she thought she wasn’t, thinking about the different-like-her boy. She had learnt that he was married with a daughter whose name was almost hers.
Surely there must be other different-like-her people hiding somewhere. An irony. If they were different-like-her, they would be terminally-private like her and the chances of her finding any of them were as skinny as any of them finding her.
She remembered back to the different-like-her boy time. She came out of the classroom one day and he was sitting on the jungle gym waiting for her as if he had waited for her a-hundred-times-before.
This gave her hope. She knew right then that one day she would come home to find her very own different-like-her boy sitting on her doorstep. Waiting for her as if he had waited for her a-hundred-times-before…
- When he brings home teabags
- When he takes one of my children to the shop with him
- When he dances
- When he paints
- When my children ask where he is
- When he gives me his last $100 to pay my bills
- When he wants to go for ‘a look in town’ at one in the morning
- When he will listen to one CD on continuous replay for two weeks
- When he does ‘voices’
- When one of my children wants to speak to him on the phone after me
- When he goes out of a rainy night to get rubbish bags
- When he tells me I’m his favourite – even though he tells others too
- When he laughs unashamedly
- When he encourages me to go out with friends – male or female
- When he tries to clean up
- When he plants stone-trees
- When he brings home surprises
- When he sings
- When he is complicated
- When we are with others
- When he talks to my best friends for hours on the phone
- When he is naked
- When he gives me his attention
- When he is freshly shaved
- When he goes to pick up my children
- When he feeds me
- When he says he’ll never love me
- When he has a day that he likes people
- When he is peaceful
Feels like falling in a dream
To those around us
It must seem like we are having a conversation
We probably are
I am vaguely aware that your lips are moving
When I look into your eyes
All I hear are the distant echoes of what is going on above the surface
I am submerged
And on the verge
Of losing my breath
When I look into your eyes
I know that
I don’t need to
When I look into your eyes
I am in awe of the strength
To look away
I've got a lot on my mind and I don’t even know if I can be bothered getting it off.
I like him – but not enough
I am making money finally – but not enough
I think I have lost weight – but not enough
I am missing home – but not enough
I am a little bit mad with myself – but not enough
I'm starting to understand the ways of God – but not enough
I am progressing
No pamphlet drops or newspaper ads.
No advertising at all.
One day The Man leaves a note saying, “When you’re ready, I’ll make you an offer.”
The Man knew exactly what make and model he wanted and he didn’t mind imperfections.
He liked character.
He knew, without a doubt, that this was the one he’d been waiting for all these years.
His patience and discipline was rewarded.
Cost wasn’t an issue.
He takes it to the place that's been prepared and maintained faithfully, in the belief that this day would come…
It didn’t worry her that she was hungry – she knew she wouldn’t be hungry forever and, in fact, learnt to adapt to her constant hunger.
Something she liked about being hungry was the dreams she had about when she was able to eat again.
Would the food sustain her?
Would it surprise her?
If she didn’t feel like it right then, would it still be OK the next day?
Would it be good quality and keep?
The years went by until she knew it was almost time to eat again.
She told her friends that she was in the market for food.
Her friends gave her lots of advice and offered their leftovers but she already knew exactly what food she was looking for.
She saw a lot of food that looked good and she knew she could've tasted it at any time but it wasn’t the food she'd dreamed of.
After three years, almost to the day since she'd stopped eating, she thought she’d found her food.
She wasn’t surprised.
She'd dreamed of it so many times it already seemed familiar to her, as she suspected it would.
The food hadn’t matured yet but she wasn’t concerned.
She felt sure it was the food for her.
The woman went home quietly excited.
Her taste buds were in a frenzy.
She told a friend she thought she'd found her food but still she knew to wait.
She walked past her food many times.
How easy it would've been to reach out and take a small piece, but her dreams told her that she'd know the right time, without a doubt.
When she found that someone else had taken the food, she was crushed.
How could it have happened? Didn’t she know?
Then she realised she'd been taken over by how the food looked, ignoring her other four senses.
Back to shopping.
She had patience and discipline.
She had waited this long…
Being an accepted part of gatherings. The fun and laughter and spontaneity. The physical intimacy. Even the beer.
The past month's been a hedonistic holiday from my normal life and now that Boy is phasing out, I can feel the holes he was filling, craving to be filled.
I knew I was getting out of balance with him when I realised I had holes.
Grieving has been token thus far. I miss his touch and his smell. I miss his moments of unmasked gentleness.
There have been many full circles in our time together.
Last night I was 16 again. I was the ‘easy’ girl who, with one phone-call, goes out into the cold, catches the bus then walks 30 minutes in the rain to get to his place.
I stood or sat around with not much to say – waiting for his cues. We sat on kitchen chairs in front of the heater being guardedly civilised.
He started falling asleep and I decided to leave.
I felt no warmth as I said goodbye.
I knew it was over. There was just the extrication process to go through before re-developing friendship.
I'm thankful that I've been shown needs I wasn’t aware of. Now that I know – I can’t unknow and I'm comfortable with having them and knowing how they need to be met, without feeling insecure or untogether about them. Not needing to apologise for, or explain them.
I've discovered and accepted that I'm high-maintenance.
I require stimulation and now that I know and accept, how could I settle for anything less?
Does this mean that he whom I find mentally stimulating may be just as mentally stimulated by me?
Someone who keeps coming back.
Who isn’t scared of his emotions.
Who's supportive and accepts support.
Who's strong, even in his vulnerability.
Who's brave without bravado.
Who has a taste for adventure.
Who has a sense of balance and style.
Whose integrity exceeds mine.
Who isn’t afraid of what’s true.
Who doesn’t allow time, money or resources to get in the way of doing what’s right.
Who understands and has a collection of meaningful.
Who sees all the things I secretly love about myself and cares about the ones I don’t.
Someone I can call home
And once you know
You can’t unknow
Yesterday I wanted to be your everything
But today I know that was yesterday
I came home and found your Butterfly
And understood it was the metaphor for why
We both have hues
But they’re out of tune
We both create
But can we co-create?
I feel taken over by
If I knew who I was
There would be no loss
It’s your walk and talk
we talk and walk
Your future we plan
Your magic we work
I’ve seen what I’ve seen
And I’ve seen how green
I was to try
To be your Butterfly
Now that I have seen what I can’t unsee
I need me
I need to be free
I need to be uncluttered
I need light and air
To clean out my fear
I need a home and a path
To raise me at last
As hard as I tried
I couldn’t be your Butterfly
The closest I came
Was a Moth To Your Flame
I’ve just found out that a friend of mine died last month.
It scares me because he was the same age as me, fitter than me and wanted to live more than me.
He had a gorgeous partner who had to be experienced to be believed and the two together were legendary.
I can’t believe he's dead and that I didn’t feel something.
But then I’m not really surprised. I’ve been so obsessed with myself and all my problems.
While I’ve been fretting about the next surface I sleep on, she's had to get used to not having him sleep beside her ever again.
I’ve been worried about where my next meal is coming from and she's had to get used to not having him share anything ever again.
I’ve been bitter about having no money and she has to face a house and a future, bought but not yet paid for, without him.
I’ve wanted to not be here so badly and she's probably not wanted to be here so badly too – but hers is a real reason.
How can I forgive myself for how flippant I've been about my life?
How can I think that I'm the one without?
I always end up being fed. I manage to sleep. I find money.
She'll never have him again. That’s without!
If only I could value my own life like that of a person who is taken suddenly and finally.
Would I have expected pity if I'd told her of my hardships?
Would I have been offended if she'd scoffed at me?
“Hardships? Try losing someone who you've planned next week, the rest of your life with.
Try finding his shoe under the couch.
Try having to open his mail.
Try telling people who don’t know yet that, no they can’t speak to him and, no, he won’t be in later on.
Try not being able to talk to him and ask him a simple yes/no question, one of the many that need to be answered every day.
Try folding the clothes he was wearing yesterday.
Try paying his bills.
Try seeing photos that are more alive than he is.
Try absently wondering why he isn’t home from work yet, then deal with the force of remembering.
Sorry? What were those hardships you were going through again?”
I'm pathetic. I wouldn’t know what hardship was if I could count my ribs!
But I will tell you one thing Father…
I would much rather have had love and lost it tragically than never had it at all.
That I envy her for.
At least she has those memories.
Does she have any regrets?
I hope not.
Do I have any?
Only that I've taken my life for granted.
But in the end I'm the lucky one.
I get the second chance…
PS I love you. Don’t ever forget it.
I’d hate not to have had the chance to tell you that one more time.
I've thought a lot about your email.
I keep seeing a vision of a ship setting sail.
You're on the ship.
You're going to a new land but you stay at the back of the ship, not able to stop watching the land you're leaving.
It's getting further and further away but you continue to stand there.
Meanwhile, at the front of the ship, the others are watching with awe as the new land comes into sight. They aren't sure what's going to be there for them but they're excited about the adventure. On the way they see dolphins and sunrises and while they're marveling at these sights, they're talking about the future and becoming friends.
They talk about what they'd like to get from the new land and they know that once they leave the ship, they might never see each other again so they're relaxed and enjoying the companionship.
You're still at the back of the ship, in the shadows. Long after the sun has set and the old land has merged into the past, you're still watching for fear of forgetting its contours, its richness, the things you loved about it.
You've missed the dolphins. The sunrises. The chance to make new friends that you may or may not see again.
When everyone else gets off the ship, they'll be able to help each other but when you get off the ship, you'll feel disoriented and behind yourself.
Then you realise.
“I'm on this ship.
It’s not the ship I would've chosen but I can choose which way I face.
I could remain facing to the back, the past, trying to hold onto the memory of the distant beloved shore.
Or I could face forward and embrace the new landscape, developing a relationship with every inch it grows.
I could concentrate on what is going on around me and be available to whatever presents itself.
I'll never forget the old land. I can't. It is part of me but there will be parts of this new land that I'm sure to find a different kind of like for.”
I have to ask you J...
If your wife were still alive - which end of the ship would you be standing at together?
She may not be alive, but she is still with you and I suspect she would be much happier to see you at the front of the ship with the sun on your face and anticipation in your eyes...
Does it not hold us to ransom at every turn and dictate our emotional weather patterns?
Does it not scheme with our dreams to torment and belie?
Is our attachment to it not perverse?
When will we see that we're lusting after a non-thing?
Only Destiny knows itself and though it's ours, we're never to know it.
It wraps itself in elusiveness, dropping its threads of innuendo for buying time and if glimpsed, appears only as coat tails disappearing around the misty corner on a warm and drizzling evening.
And are we not a little afraid of Destiny?
Do we go chasing after those coat tails to see a face and demand a name?
If we did catch up with it, what would it say?
"You see...? I'm not so very exciting...I have'nt been worth the long chase, the missed opportunities, the doubt, the despair, the hope, the courage. I'm but a mysterious package with nothing inside...why do you think I've remained elusive? Why do you think I keep just out of your reach? Do you think you would've ever been satisfied by what you saw? Do you think that I don't see those dreams and expectations you have of me? Alas, I'm merely a fantasy and you'd do well to move on and forget me..."
Sweet Destiny...you're right - it's time for me to let you go. To stop hounding you. I now take away all expectation. I've unfairly relied on you for too long, leaving me weak and misguided. I thank you for providing me with hope when I seemed to have none and for leading (dragging) me in a direction that's always been, if not clear, always forward.
I'm still in darkness and can't see the road ahead but somehow I'm now not in so much of a hurry and don't mind feeling my way.
Who knows when we'll meet again.
I hope it is late on a warm afternoon with reflection our companion, regret out of town for the weekend and peace the only light shining in our eyes.
As I walked bewildered back down the hall, I saw you leaning casually, waiting for me.
As I came closer to you, you looked me in the eye and said something I'll never forget.
“I’ve been watching you. I love you. I have something to tell you. You need to stick to the Path.”
I was overwhelmed by the love I could feel coming from you and I knew, without a doubt, that I'd never meet anyone who'd love me as much, and as unconditionally, as you did at that moment.
I'd been to yet another party. I was beyond even sight and I'd driven home, barely missing the tree outside my caravan. I staggered inside and there you were. I didn’t know how I should feel but knowing and feeling were somehow absent at that time.
I lay down and, wrapped in apathy, I demanded that you explain judgement.
Even though I felt more connected to the mattress than to myself, I heard and understood what you were telling me...
He was very young and his father had just died suddenly. His wise and compassionate mother thought it best to keep him in the routine he was used to, so she chose to take him to the mothers coffee morning where he always enjoyed playing with his friends while the parents chatted.
That day, however, he was disruptive and aggressive, causing the other mothers to tut and huff and make surreptitious comments about his mother’s lack of discipline.
His mother didn’t blame the women. She hadn’t told them that his Father had been taken from them.
Neither did she blame him.
His subconscious mind still controlled his emotions and he was not capable yet of rationale.
Instead, when his behaviour became out of control, she scooped him up, cuddled him to her and whispered soothing things into his hair. He curled into her like a much smaller thing and she knew it was time to go.
People can never really know what's going on in someone elses life and if they did, they might be less quick and harsh in their judgements.
I felt comforted that the unsaid thing was that your love for me didn’t know judgement. Like the mother, you knew what was going on in my life even if others (including myself sometimes) didn’t.
I was so overwhelmed that I became a little afraid and a lot untrusting.
I had to ask friends who knew you, what you were about.
One said knowingly, “He’s intense like that. He’s not scared to love.” And another warned me that others might not understand my relationship with you.
The biggest part of me felt unworthy of you and your attention and love. Why me? I knew I was erratic, confused and depressed.
My self-harming habit had me convinced I was an eyesore and I struggled to see what you found appealing about me.
You showed me one day...
You came with me into town where I saw some friends who were genuinely pleased to see me. I could feel your gaze on me and I felt loved and admired and even a little beautiful.
Later when we were alone you replayed what you saw and I cried. I thought only I could seen that corner of light in me that was humility, grace and love.
I cried because you confirmed that it was there. It had been on so rarely and so briefly that I had forgotten what it felt like.
And I cried because I wanted that light to be on all of the time, day and night, even when I slept.
I was crying for what I was missing.
Nobody had ever committed themselves to me the way you did and, although I had been in love before and could feel myself lingering at the door of maybes, I was scared. More scared of myself than you. What if you helped me get better? I was scared of being better. I hadn’t been well since I was six years old and it felt like all I knew – all I was good at.
I was scared of deeper things, things buried, things that knew what they wanted. Things that knew what they were entitled to.
And, most of all, I was scared that you would leave me.
But you kept coming back, again and again, and each time it allowed me to uncover more of myself. Sometimes I wouldn’t see you for a while then I would turn around and you would be there with an intensity that confirmed that I was yours and you were mine.
Being so involved with such an intense observer was sometimes a little overwhelming and when you weren’t watching me, I felt like I was watching myself.
That was our first break through. You showed me how to, literally, watch myself. Or my selves. We identified that I had four. Remember them? The Beautiful One who loved being seen and was good at business. ‘Butch’ who was bolshy and liked fishing and driving trucks. The Mother who looked after and nurtured everyone.
And the wisest - The Six Year Old. She put our hair in plaits, wore out feet naked and was absolute joy...
It felt like they appreciated being given attention and eventually they showed me something crucial to my future wellbeing.
They showed me that I could be extremely beautiful – if I chose to.
I could do the guy stuff – if I chose to.
I could be the Mother – when I needed to.
There was no longer any need to be all of them, all of the time – causing scattered and confusing moods. They were all merely suits that I could put on and take off when I needed to.
The pressure that released was life changing, The Girls became one and I felt calmer and more in control.
I was the centre of my own attention and my depressions were gaping holes of black that I could only attempt to write or paint out of. You knew when to leave me alone and when to come in and wrap your love around me.
After months of painting and hiding I sensed that I would be leaving my hometown soon. I didn’t know where I was going but it felt so strong that I packed and said my goodbyes...
Within a month I had moved to Wellington and a loneliness I thought would kill me.
My skin became a sieve, my depression a trenchcoat, and hope mocked me.
I wrote “There is nothing more disheartening than to not believe in something and soul destroying when that something is you.”
All I could do was paint. I had a painting on the glass dining table in the house I was looking after. I painted for 8 or more hours a day and when I wasn’t painting I was writing, crying or sleeping.
I globbed PEACE in purple across the whole painting with a determination I hadn’t felt forever.
We went for a walk in the Botanic gardens where you showed me a sculpture that I had never stopped to appreciate.
It was called “The PeaceMaker”.
I felt like I was going to faint and gulped at air that didn’t feel there.
Surely you couldn’t be serious. Me? A PeaceMaker? You were telling me that I would be a PeaceMaker? I could only feel disbelief and anger at your cruelty. You were more aware than anyone how in turmoil I was. How could you tease me with the seed you planted that day of something that my heart and soul didn’t know it yearned for until that second.
I stormed away.
At my wishing sculpture, “Rudderstone” I put my knuckles out to either side, pressing hard, looking to the sky with tears in my eyes and a plug in my throat and prayed that you could be right. Desperately I wanted you to be right!
Over the next few weeks you showed me how to study people, how they walked and talked, what they wore and I realised I could be anyone I chose to be. I was free from the history I had in my hometown and was now a fresh white page.
Even though my optimism’s wings were still drying, I was starting to write about things future rather than things past.
I was creating what hope could look like to me.
I was still lonely and you got me out of a few unpleasant situations but for the first time in a forever time, I felt like I was moving forward.
My office was warm and comfortable, I was surrounded by my own things and it felt like home so sleeping under the desk for months didn’t bother me at all.
I studied and studied.
I read and wrote voraciously and I slowly allowed admission that I might be alright after all.
You came and went.
I loved your company but I was getting stronger and didn’t miss you as much when you weren’t with me.
And I wrote.
I wrote so much that I got growths on my fingers and pains in my arm and often had write with my other hand. The writing was medicine and I felt closer to you than I ever had before.
Then we turned a corner and you changed my life forever...
The first page made me start shaking. By the second page I was sobbing. This was what my language looked like. I left school without any qualifications but I felt sure that I knew something, I just didn’t know what it was.
This book marked the beginning of the rest of my life…
On my darkest painting, just days before that memorable Easter nights dream, I'd written…
Today - the knowing little smile I wear is that of a woman wrapped securely in the Faith, Hope and Love you brought back to me. Peace by Peace.
My ‘place’ is now warm and comfortable, furnished with meaning and draped with colours of passion and depth.
I now know that you were the Man with the Feeling in all those dreams. And it was your presence I felt when I sat next to Andrew 30 years ago.
It's your belief in me, the way you kept coming back, the people you sent to help me that's uncovered and shown me who I am.
And you were right, I am a Peace-Maker.
With your help - I've made Peace with myself.
I also know that one day I'll come home to find my very own different-like-me boy sitting on my doorstep, waiting for me, just like you waited for me a-hundred-times-before…
Like I can’t sleep?
Are you wondering my wonders
As I wander over yours?
Are you making rough drafts
Of dreams to be
Coloured in the colour of future?
My heart has been pacing
The static is raw
With the roar of this Union
It has come
but it can't start until you call..."
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Sept 25, 2006