The things I accepted and the things I stopped and started doing
When I was twenty-four, I sat with a friend on the bench seat out front of my Kelso Street share house and, having talked about all that wasn’t going right and all that felt wrong, we concluded that at least by 30 we’d have it all sorted out. Everything, surely, would move to a knowable beat by then.
Some years closer to that endpoint – the one that society had fed us and which our young selves had swallowed – when I was twenty-seven, I went with that same friend to a yoga workshop for people with depression and anxiety. Nothing was really working out as I had planned or imagined and the things that I thought should have been making me ‘happy’ weren’t; I’d been living and hurting hard and I kept making the same bad choices and reliving the same painful mistakes. I was lonely all the way to my bones. On the up side, and this makes most of it worth it, I had come to know myself from every angle, the beautiful and the ugly. And yet I still couldn’t figure out how to get past my anxiety.
Beyond the water-stained cloth ceiling is a moon that looks full but isn’t, cigarette-ash-grey sand is underfoot, and plastic tables are packed tightly around the trunks of three palm trees housed within. I sit at one of these tables, on a plastic chair that sinks further and further into the sand when I move my weight too much one way or the other. It is the last night of my months-long visit to India, the last several weeks of which I’ve spent at the beach in Agonda.
The man sitting at the table next to mine is a Steve Merchant lookalike, and when I asked him if I could take a napkin from his table he said ‘Go ahead’ as though he actually was Steve Merchant. I did a terrible job of not laughing because besides that I just ordered an omelette, a green salad and a gin and tonic from the young boy with a dead-bored expression on his pretty face. When he took my order he wrote ‘ombelt’ on his notepad, and I, heinously, regrettably, laughed at that too because I haven’t told you yet but I already drank a gin and tonic with a turtle-shaped swizzle stick in it as I watched the sun coin-slot into the Arabian Sea. And before that I hadn’t touched alcohol since I arrived in Bangalore. The boy said ‘Whatever’ when I laughed, a commendable response I thought, and there probably wasn’t a response that could have been better, but then he asked me if I knew that gin was alcoholic. And I thought that was pretty good too.
Yeah right, he says. Yeah right. Nodding his head. Yeah right, he says. Yeah right. Nodding his head. Sure, sometimes. Sure. Yeah. Cool. You’re a bit cute. Yeah. Okay. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Are you a hockey player? Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? A swimmer? Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Should I wear my part in the middle or on the side? Yeah right. Can you give me my hat back. I’m too old for this, hat games. Yeah right. Yeah right. Yeah right. What? Yeah right. You want to go to my place? It’s not far. Not far. Yeah right. We can get there soon. Let’s go now. What? Yeah right. We can get to the fucking now, right? Can’t we just get to the fucking? Isn’t that what we’re doing?
Sometimes I see my reflection in a window and I see what I assume you sometimes see when you read my stories here: a person exposed, caught off guard. When I was younger I used to wonder when all the scaffolding would come down from the buildings, when everything would be complete. Now I know that nothing is ever finished. This morning I wrote an entire post about a breast cancer scare I had earlier this year and I very suddenly realised that this has to end at some point: this curating of my life through stories. So I’m stopping now, at least for a while. This decision made me cry (of course), it made my chest fill with panic (of course); I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. But, what I hope is, that by letting g notes go I can create space for something else.
There was a dead rat which I smelled before I saw at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the canal. On the other side of the canal, past the trees, was a small park around which homeless people camped, or I guess lived. In the middle of the grassy area a woman lay out in her bikini. It was a hot day. Sweat ran down my back and legs and the beer I was drinking was turning warm at a rate that would leave it hot before I was half-way done. I’d brought for the man I was meeting an icy-pole, along with a beer, and when he went to open it, the icy-pole, it had already turned liquid sugar. I poured it into the canal and it looked like the last of what comes up after a day of vomiting. It was difficult to concentrate on what the man was saying, it was so hot. He was saying something about his work. Design. Apps. Drum app. CV. New job. Needs one. I said, ‘I’m listening, I’m listening.’ Read More
It was Labor Day 2012. I was meant to be meeting a friend at the Standard in Fitzroy. The weather was glorious and I was experimenting with a new outfit for the benefit of a barman I’d been weirdly flirting with over the summer. I’d calculated that from where I was staying with my friend in Hawthorn it would take at least an hour to get there on the tram, and I was running late, for no other reason other than the fact I was taking so long to do everything and, also, I was finding it difficult to leave. It took several times of going back inside to check this or that other thing – ridiculous things that didn’t require checking like whether I’d got my period in the few minutes since I’d last been to the toilet – before I actually made it out the door and on my way.
By the time I walked around St James Reserve and made it to the tram stop on Burwood Road, my heart was racing and I could feel my pulse in my wrists, and by the time I made it onto the tram and we were trundling down Bridge Road, my mind could focus on nothing other than the possibility I’d left the iron on. I imagined the iron falling over, singing the carpet until it caught alight, causing a fire that would burn to cinders my friend’s apartment and the entire block. By the time the tram pulled up alongside the dirty Vine at the corner of Church Street and Bridge, I was so convinced that this was going to happen I got off the tram, crossed over the road to the corner diagonal and waited for the tram that would take me back to where I’d come from.
I never bought a washing machine as I said I would. As soon as I thought I would I knew I wouldn’t. I got as far as the online checkout and backed away, hands in the air: oh no, no, no.
I’m especially grateful for this decision now that it’s time to pack up again. A few months ago, after months and months of head chatter, I booked my ticket, emailed Barry Plant, said: I’m outta here. Everything in my life slowed down, then, and I knew my decision wasn’t part of a larger plan I’d consciously made for myself; it wasn’t me mapping out how I think my life should look. It was a decision that, in the end, I let me heart make. The heart trumps the head every time. Every goddamn time.
Sometimes you arrive at a realisation at the exact moment you’re meant to. Your perspective shifts as suddenly as if you’ve crossed a room and then turned around to see everything differently. Like Sunday’s post: when I got to its end I knew without a doubt that I felt nothing for that person, probably never had. I laughed out loud, literally, and a smile spread across my face: I had finally let go of the part of me that believed I deserve so little.
And so India called, asked me to come; I said, see you soon. Said, can’t wait.