Julie Falling

She can only hear wind rushing past her ears.  Her mind couldn’t avoid what it tripped over until it was too late.  It was a very small rock, fixed firm in the ground.  It took the form of a child’s giggle over what she perceived to be her weight.  Even though her size is, now, what most would consider healthy.  Regardless, she fell.  Spiralled downward like a dead leaf.  When she fell, she plunged over a cliff.  A high cliff built of all her life’s woe.  She plunged through all her hoarded hurt.

She’s falling now.  ‘I’m sorry Julie,’ her boss said, at the end of yet another week in which her anxiety and depression had swung like a wrecking ball through her productivity.  ‘It’s just not working out.  We need to let you go.’  It was her dream job.  She studied years for it.  Struggled.  Sweated.  Suffered.  Built what she thought were strong, unassailable foundations.  Yet, she fell.  She’s falling still.

Falling further.  ‘I need time to myself,’ Bill said.  Her boyfriend of three years.  Now, fiancé.  Now, what?  ‘I love you, I want you, but I need some time to think about whether this is what I need.  Whether this is what we need.  I can’t believe I’m going to use such a cliché, but it’s not you.  It’s me.’  She yearned to change his mind.  But let him go, thinking another cliché: that if you love someone, let them go.  If they come back, they’re yours.  He still hasn’t.  So she’s still falling.

Falling fast.  Julie went in to the psychology sessions thinking they would achieve nothing.  She just wanted medication.  But in the end she believed the meds were a waste of money.  And the sessions: lifesaving.  Her pain washed over the initially seemingly cold, distant psychologist.  She feared the shrink would use her pain against her, or be brought as low as she by it.  Instead, he held up a mirror.  Its reflection said one simple thing about her suffering: that it was normal, rational, human, and she need no longer be afraid.  Still, free falling.

No parachute.  She screamed for the first time, thinking of growing up the fat girl as a child.  Then, as a teenager, anorexic.  The mirror was always against her then, because she held it up against herself.  In it she would always perceive ugliness, because that’s what she thought others saw.  Regardless of her actual physical beauty, the mirror would appear cracked, covered in spots, discoloured, warped; hideous.  More relaxed now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yet, still falling.  Julie had always escaped into other worlds.  Books.  Films.  Magazine articles – at least those she knew wouldn’t stimulate her inadequacies.  The pain of existence wouldn’t stop.  It would only be pushed aside momentarily in favour of pleasant fantasy.  She’d wander giddily through the worlds of Huckleberry Finn, Atticus Finch, Winston Smith, Oliver Twist, Bilbo Baggins, and the like.  She’d draw comfort from those worlds, even if her own was torturous.  No longer relaxed.

Falling through razor blades.  No more screaming.  Now, howling in agony.  She sat atop the courtroom’s mahogany witness chair, reliving all the horror her step-father had put her through.  Adding tear stains to those probably countless other victims of sexual abuse had, on the glazed wood.  Red eyes pleading with the judge, the prosecution, her mother, to end the further pain his defence’s cross-examination was putting her through.  But knowing it was no use, it was all part of the process.  The system of victimisation of the weak and vulnerable.  She goes limp.

All resistance to the fall, such that it would have achieved, gone.  On her back, through golden hair fluttering Heavenward, Julie sees her father.  He died when she was five.  Only one memory remains.  Of him reading to her.  She can’t remember the book.  Just his face.  Unshaven but warm, crow’s feet smiling behind blue eyes twinkling as he gives her alternate reality gifts from his gentle, loving lips.  She’d sought him in those other places ever since.  But hadn’t found him.  Had instead fallen.  Wanted nothing but to fall.  Continues falling.

Turned over mid-fall.  Now facing the ground.  Close enough, ever closer, quickly closer, to see it for what it is: hard.  It takes the form of her mother’s face: no less hard.  Her saviour upon throwing her stepfather out, to be jailed, besides.  But she couldn’t bear the shame.  Or, more tragically, denied it.  Cast out Julie, too.  Felt her daughter had somehow encouraged her own abuse.  Retreated into never properly dealt with mourning of her dead husband.  Father dead.  Mother lost.  Julie became orphaned.  So she fell.  Is still falling.  Is, blessedly, almost finished falling.

Falling through faces.  Her own, in an ugly mirror.  Her father’s, smiling crow’s feet, azure sea and sky sparkling eyes, loving lips.  Her mother’s, turned away, eyes downcast.  Her school friends’, taunting.  Her boss’s, confused and cold.  God’s, quickly vanished, but a fictional phantom.  Faces seemingly within reach flash across the ground beneath her.  Full of unasked for hatred and prejudice.  Unjustified revulsion.  Then, finally, Bill’s.  He catches her.  But too late.  Too late to save her.  Instead holds his lost love Julie’s lifeless, finally at peace body in the bath as a crimson river snakes down the plug hole.

(If this has raised any issues for you that you feel the need to discuss, please talk to a loved one or call such counselling services as Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or by all means comment below. You’ll not be judged here.)

Advertisements

My Father, Currently

(For background to this blog post: https://wordjourneyer.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/every-disease-is-a-heart-disease/)

On my way to visit Dad I heard over the radio the axiom: if you can’t find the bright side of life, polish the dull side.  I resolved to share with him this newly learned wisdom, as soon as I had arrived at the aged care facility he had moved into not long after his 65th birthday.  His reaction: “Bullshit.”  For better or worse, a dry, stubborn sense of humour had been one of Dad’s genetic gifts to me.   Fortunately, for my older half-brother and sister, younger brother, and me, his Parkinson’s disease had (at time of writing) not been and I hope won’t be.  When I visited him a few weeks or months earlier, on a hot day, one of the nurses had given him a glass of water.  When she went to take it back from him, he played with her; withdrawing the empty glass repeatedly from her outstretched hand until finally releasing it to her.  He can tell me he’s sick or dying (neither which is exactly true in any conventional sense) until he’s blue in the face, but if he tried to suggest he didn’t still have a sense-of-humour I’d laugh, then quickly stop laughing, then reply, simply: “No.”

image

I don’t remember when he was diagnosed.  All I remember is that he surely had it a few years before it was finally discovered.  And the years since – despite DBS (deep brain stimulation) and endless juggling of different medications – have proven little better and often much worse.  Within the context of his disease only, of course it’s the negatives that stand out.  Like the time he’d tried a new form of medication and started hallucinating; at one point in the early morning yelling out: “Hey Colin!  How do you piss out of a plane!?” while himself using the bathroom.  Or the time I’d heard a loud THUMP downstairs, ran down them, screamed “DAD!” upon seeing him lying motionless on the floor, then felt relief when he groaned and was ok despite the fall.  And when, after we’d moved to a single story house, he’d be suffering insomnia – the major symptom of his Parkinson’s (but not necessarily everyone’s) – and wandering into my room on a semi-regular basis.

Moving Dad into a nursing home had not been any easier, emotionally, than enduring his troubles more closely with him.  But, as his up until then primary carer, it was certainly easier on Mum – in practical but of course not emotional terms.  A principled as she is loving and caring (yet sometimes stern) woman, she early on determined to stick with him for better or worse, for richer or poorer.  But during early 2015 he had surgery in Brisbane to relieve stomach and chest pains.  As a consequence of the (otherwise successful) operation, he began suffering delirium, languished in hospital for a couple more months, and on discharge was admitted straight into a pleasant, modern yet naturally solemn Gold Coast nursing home.  He now spends his time surrounded by generally much older and more infirm people, which does nothing to improve his state-of-mind.

Fortunately, all of Dad’s family, besides his sister in Victoria, and daughter about an hour north-west of Brisbane, live close enough to visit him at least once a week.  He smiles sometimes, usually if one takes the opportunity to stir pleasing memories from his past.  Or make light of them in a not disrespectful manner.  I discovered, or had forgotten, on a recent visit with Mum that Dad during his professional footballing days had been nicknamed Magic.  I cracked: “Was that what the ladies called you, Dad?”  He grinned, and Mum playfully reprimanded him.  We all had lunch with him on his 66th birthday in the BBQ gazebo outside his new and we still hope not permanent home.  And again had an early Christmas lunch there two weeks before my older sister and brother had to leave for engagements with their partners’ families on the 25th.

Dad didn’t make it home for Christmas Day, 2015.  Probably for the first time, now I think of it.  My brother and his girlfriend drove me to visit him in the morning.  I went in first.  Dad has trouble handling too many visitors at once.  Mum had spent an hour or so with him earlier in the morning.  He complained of being sick.  Then he said something that, suffice to say, was depressing to hear from one’s father.  He also told me to tell my brother not to come in (which I did, but added that he should go in anyway).  I wished him a Merry Christmas (it’s unlikely dad had any enduring idea what day it was), and left.  This is it now, when it comes to Dad.  I tell him I love him a lot more these days.  Not because I’m worried he’ll be dead soon, but because I’m sure he’ll be gone soon, besides.  A man who appeared godlike when I was a child, a stern bore when I was a teenager, a fountain of wisdom during my 20s; now, a memorial combination of all three encased in a body controlled by a brain that is swiftly failing him.

Dad was a professional Australian Rules footballer back in his heyday.  The past, in a wonderful way, is catching up with him.  Mum’s been receiving video testimonials by players from the Geelong West (Roosters) Football Club’s arguable, as far as I know, peak during the late-‘70s/early-‘80s.  It’s not important what exactly what they say in the videos, about their playing days or the club or dad.  What’s important, humbly, is what I observed after watching them with my mum, her parents, my younger brother, his girlfriend, older brother, his wife and two children (during Good Friday 2016): “Dad, what we’ve just finished watching is people we don’t even really know telling us things about you that we already know.”  To which he responded to the effect that that was a wonderful thing to say.  I responded: “Well it’s just the truth, isn’t it?”  And it was.  I said nothing special, but I said it (because someone had to) plainly truthfully about a man who is special to more people than he still probably realises.

image

We’re planning on videoing Dad, mainly for his own benefit if he’s up to it but also for the blokes down south who’ve without exception spoken so highly of their memories of him.  And also for us, too.  For posterity.  Dad is still Dad.  He’s not well.  But he’s also not a vegetable, and nor is he dead.  If we can capture him recalling what was one of the (if not the) highlights of his life, we can pass those memories along the outgoing branches of our family tree, forever.  Dad’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and died when I was very young.  (In fact one of my earliest memories was of dad’s dad lying in a hospital bed, dying of (from memory) prostate cancer, and dad standing nearby – both ashen faced – and then the door closing.)  Mum’s father died after being kicked by a horse, when she was seven.  I’ve never known a blood-related grandfather.  And nor might my children.  So my hope is that if we can take dad back to a happy past, however momentarily, and capture it, it might help my children, and their children have happy futures.  I hope they’ll learn that the past, though sometimes sad, was also joyous, rich, bright; happy – and so too can be their futures.

Phil Collins – Part Two of Two

A revelation about that Adele chick’s music came to me recently.  It couldn’t have if I wasn’t in the frame of mind I am now.  See, without providing any specific examples to support the argument, Collins’ music to my mind taps in and relates to people’s emotions.  Adele’s, on the other hand, manipulates and exploits them.  Again, I’m not going to provide evidence.  It’s just the way it is, or at least the way I see and hear it.  And I’m seeing (and hearing/tasting/smelling/feeling) things pretty bloody clearly these days, finally.  It seems to me that an artist of any persuasion should be very careful to relate to instead of exploit people and their emotions.  I can’t blame Adele for doing so.  She does have a wonderful voice.  And she’s also at once the product of a relentlessly capitalistic culture and commercial music machine.  Collins, too, is a part of and a product of that culture and machine.  Yet he I’m sure chose long ago to stick to the path of creative purity and it paid off for him through not creatively bankrupting himself or emotionally cheating his fans or his connection with them.  I, and we all whether we’re creative (in the ironically strict sense of the word) or not are capable of that choice, too.  My choice is to be true to myself, to the people around me, and to the things that I do, creative or otherwise.  And now it’s a deliberate, instead of just instinctive, decision.

IMG_0428

Me, camped by the Squamish River, British Colombia, Canada, late 2012

I did end up reading a Wikipedia article about Collins.  (Still not sure if he has a book or books.)  And, incredibly, it contains information which fits almost eerily perfectly with my comparison of him and Adele.  Apparently, in 2014 “Collins announced in an interview with Inside South Florida that he was writing new compositions with the English musician Adele.  Collins said he had no idea who Adele was when he learned she wanted to collaborate with him.  He said ‘I wasn’t actually too aware [of her].  I live in a cave.’  Collins agreed to join her in the studio after hearing her voice.  He said, ‘[She] achieved an incredible (indeed) amount.  I really love her voice (doesn’t everyone).  I love some of the stuff she’s done, too (funny how derivation expertly masquerading as originality can, at first, avoid appearing to even the most savvy sensibilities).’  However, in September 2014, Collins revealed that the collaboration had ended and he said it had been ‘a bit of a non-starter.’” (http://bit.ly/1FMxC7h).  I was surprised to find this, but I was not surprised by what I read.  The link to my situation is obvious: not only had I come to finally realise the truth about myself, I had also come to realise (perceivable, based on my limited sensory experiences) truths about the world around me to the point in which I had inadvertently made a coincidentally-timed observation about one musical artist and his dawning distaste for another.  To wit: my interpretation of the above Wikipedia excerpt is that eventually Collins discovered he had creative conflicts with and differences from Adele.  Of course, those who are fans of the latter, but not the former, might infer differently.

IMG_0961

Sunset, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California, New Year’s Eve 2012

The future is bright.  I’m now capable of more consciously effectively operating in reality.  I understand the world better than I ever have, even if I still have many, many problems with it.  And I understand my place in that world better; indeed all but completely accurately.  Though that’s not to say I think I have some special place in the world beyond that which I might make, with others’ help.  Why is the future bright?  Firstly because it always has been, or had the potential to be.  And secondly because I’m now better able to realise why it is, or certainly can be if I play my proverbial cards right.  I’m free.  Not free in the sense that I can do whatever I want.  Not free in the sense that I’m capable of anything.  Free in the sense that I’m capable of what I want to do, as long as I’m conscious of those things – some of which might also be things I want to do, albeit with lesser priority – I must sacrifice in order to do what I want to do.  I certainly want to write, as evidenced by the fact that I am right now and have many times previously.  I certainly want to love, as evidenced by the fact that I am truly in love with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met (again, besides my mother).  And I want to live.  And I will live not haunted.  Not scared.  Missing nothing.  I am, alive.

Building 12 2_22.

poeTRY@noodlehaus

No cheesburger – or fries – or chocolate thickshake, 

could possibly describe her as they would obviously mistake.

Her infectious smile for a cheeky smirk, 

and her fantastic nature as a faulty quirk. 

Her eyes shine bright and big and bold,

her hair hangs long – it’s brown not gold. 

I knocked – she answered – it was a match made in heaven,

and now I see her twenty-four seven!

Her confidence and presence is hard to miss, 

and I bet that all the boys be steal’n a kiss.

From this very special girl I know,

who’s taught me how I need to show.

The world – myself and all mankind,

Exactly how we need to find.

The joy – the love and all the noodles.  

View original post

Phil Collins – Part One of Two

All my life, I’ve been haunted.  Or scared.  Or missing something I could never quite comprehend, much less expect to discover.  With the sometimes benevolent and other times malevolent benefit/detriment of hindsight, I’ve wondered if it’s been because I was born 10 weeks premature.  Or because I was never truly born, but instead surgically removed from my mother (via caesarean section).  Or because as a result of my prematurity, my first few days and weeks were spent in a humidity crib, when they otherwise would have been spent bonding with the most important woman, at least by virtue of creation, I’d share my (but not all of her) life with. Maybe.  But I’ve since realised it almost certainly (albeit not actually certainly) had nothing to do with missing something I’d had trouble finding.  Or holding on to a never productive pain I probably just imagined from an immediately but progressively (but not always quickly enough) less painful childhood.  It really was about imagination.  Or more particularly paranoia.  But that’s all.  I’d imagined certain horrifying realities about my life and ignored or repressed actual, more pleasant ones.  I could never be as free as I deserved until I accepted that some pains are normal; and others are the product of fantasy and fear and paranoia and, simply, poor influence or advice or treatment.  No more.  No more.  No more.

Melb-Adelaide trip 2011 5

Me, Melbourne to Adelaide and across the Eyre Peninsula to Cactus, south of Penong, and back to Adelaide surf trip, 2011 – photo Ross Dudgeon

Phil Collins has always been an artist I’ve admired and enjoyed, albeit not known a lot about or patronised to any serious degree (I’ve never bought any of his music.  I plan on doing (or downloading) so.  And at least reading a Wikipedia article about him.  I wonder if he has a biography/autobiography?).  An ex-girlfriend of mine used to listen to his music in order to get pumped up for our first few dates.  It worked (arguably to ill-effect, eventually).  I for one, like I said, have always enjoyed his music but, and this relates to the point of this piece, whenever I’ve heard it I’ve had frustrating difficulty figuring out what his name was.  It was always on the tip of my tongue or brain.  And even with time it would never pop into my head.  (Apparently when we experience such “tip of the tongue” moments, our conscious mind might give up but our subconscious usually continues working on the problem and offers the revelation later on.)  I’d just hear his music again at some point later, and experience the same frustration at not being able to figure out who it was by.  Over and over again, kind of like how life feels when you’re not enjoying it.  Or avoiding enjoying it.

395056_10151298058689203_592270904_n

Sunrise over San Francisco Bay Bridge

Again, no more.  It fits perfectly with the enormous corner my life has turned, and the not so horrifying or debilitating truth about who I am and my current and potential place in the world.  I used to struggle to bring Collins’ name to my mind and/or lips (perhaps it’s no coincidence that my first name is “Colin”), just as I used to struggle to be honest with myself and avoid engaging in paranoid fear about the almost completely self-invented lies I for some reason perceived as terrifyingly true.  Not long ago, after I turned the corner (unashamedly aided by psychoanalysis and depression/anxiety medication) in my life I was listening to the radio and one of Collins’ songs came on, and I was able to summon his name.  Pretty well straight away.  Finally!  It felt so good.  So symbolic of what I’d been struggling for.  Struggling to be honest with myself.  To love myself, non-narcissistically.  To be unafraid.  And my reward, or one of many, was the ability to put a name to some wonderful music which, it’s now obvious, so tellingly and symbolically happened to be by someone who shared my name (albeit switched with his surname, and an extra L added.  It’s always annoyed me when people add an extra L to my first name).  Fear is useful, sometimes.  But even if I still had rational fear, I had forever, I hope, lost the fear to rationally realise.  I was free, of that.