Thursday, 28 February 2013

What do Crocodiles and Vegetarians Have in Common?

Today I got a compliment from an old guy in a park who was holding two plastic crocodiles! I think he was trying to sell them. He told me he liked my hair and not to cut it! The interaction lasted for only a minute, but it made me smile all day.

I don't know what I would do without the oddballs and the misfits in life. I'm reading a book of Haruki Murakami's short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. In one of the stories the main character makes the following observation: "I much prefer imperfect, more memorable types of people". I agree, wholeheartedly! Over the course of my life, I've met some incredible people who live outside the box. I have learned that first impressions are just that.

The neighbourhood I grew up in was pretty conventional and conservative. I remember when a vegetarian family moved into the street. The gossip was alarming. The poor parents were condemned for depriving their children of red meat! Only one diet was considered suitable: meat, potatoes and vegetables. Even pasta was cause for suspicion!

Fortunately, this particular family had a strategy for dealing with criticism! They invited everyone in the neighbourhood to a housewarming. Curiosity killed the cat ... and, apparently, higher moral ground! Not a single neighbour refused the invitation! And the menu? ... entirely vegetarian. This was also the era of being polite, so to refuse food was not an option. By the end of the housewarming, the entire street had to eat their words!!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Times They Are a Changing (Part 2)

Are You Being Served?

So, I did step out into the world today, and I did open my eyes ... and it's a damn scary place! I stood in Spotlight with my daughter, who had to buy fabric for a sewing class.

My mum was a sewer, and I have memories of her buying Butterick and Vogue patterns, for a jumpsuit or flared pants, or, for a special occasion, a floor-length skirt! I remember the thin tissue paper patterns covering the dining room table. She used to make all my clothes. Some were more stylish than others! This involved lots of polyester (durable, yes, but no-one cared whether the fabric actually breathed!), and geometric patterns. I, of course, dreamed of owning shop-bought party frocks like my friends, who had less talented mothers ... like myself, funnily enough.

So, it was with some irony and chagrin that I found myself in Spotlight today! I only wished I'd paid more attention to my mother's sewing advice. I tried my hand at sewing, but I just didn't have the knack for it, much to my mother's disappointment. Today, though, I managed to assist my daughter as best I could, and we made our way to the counter. As we waited behind a couple being served, a rather large queue began to form behind us. Rainy days must bring out the craft in people!

Then, to my horror, in slow motion, I watched as a woman behind me leaned forward to take a number! I should have rushed over right there and then, but I was frozen to the spot. In succession, the entire herd of people behind me took number after number. Still, I stood like a grim statue. Surely, I thought, the woman behind the counter would understand. She could see that we'd been standing there patiently for 20 minutes. Surely, I reasoned, common sense would prevail? The couple in front finished their transaction and I felt the adrenaline flooding my system. I was ready to leap forward with my bolts of fabric and explain my predicament.

It was like a shoot-out in an old Western movie. Before I made it to the counter, I heard the woman say in a loud voice: "Number 22"! And before I could open my mouth, number 22 sprang from behind me and handed the woman her purchase. Finally, I spoke, in a rather pathetic squeaking voice: "I didn't know we needed a number ..."

The woman stared at me, expressionless. My daughter was elbowing me. "Just take a number," she hissed.

I turned around and saw the mass of people waiting, triumphantly holding their numbers. I looked into the woman's eyes, and I repeated: "I didn't know we needed a number ... It's my first time ..." My voice dwindled.

"How much?"
"Sorry?" I said.
"How much fabric do you want?"

With those words, my faith in humanity was restored. Maybe, it was divine intervention. Maybe, my mum was pulling some strings. If anyone could, she could! Maybe, the woman behind the counter was a softy hiding beneath a grim exterior. Maybe, all the stars were aligned. Maybe, it was the rain! Whatever happened, this woman was my new best friend!

Another story, another moral ... if you are ever in Spotlight buying fabric, take a number!

Times They Are a Changing ...

I just finished reading Franz Kafka's short story Metamorphosis. At its most basic level, it is the story of a man who is transformed into an insect-like creature. It is quite a bleak little tale! The main character comes to accept his transformation, but those around him are repulsed by his exterior. They are unable to accept that the creature might still have a human consciousness and understanding, which he does. 

Alienation is a feeling with which I am all too familiar ... perhaps the reason I found the story so heartbreaking. At a very early age I was told I was adopted. This wasn't something I was able to process very easily as a child. I wanted to belong, but there were physical reminders that I was the odd one out. I was the only member of my family with fair skin and freckles! My brother wasn't adopted and I could see family resemblances in him that made me envious. 

My family wasn't religious, but I was sent to a Catholic school after primary school. I hadn't even been baptised, so you can imagine how I felt at school. A bastard and a heathen!! This sense of alienation has pretty much continued my whole life. Perhaps my decision to live in another country was an unconscious desire to make that metamorphosis complete! 

This isn't a lament, although I know it sure sounds like it! I am actually quite grateful for these experiences. They have provided me with a different lens through which to view the world. I've met countless other "strangers" like myself, who are all struggling to find a "home". 

I met up with a friend yesterday. I haven't seen her for years, but it was a sweet reunion. We first met when our children were only babies and we were both searching for friendship and understanding. With another friend we formed a trio, and we would get together and drink tea and eat and laugh. Each of us came from different backgrounds, with different viewpoints, but what we had in common was our sense of alienation! Eventually, various forces pulled us in different directions. Seeing this friend yesterday, however, reminded me of what our friendship meant to me during that period of my life. All these years later and we are both still grappling with "belonging", with "identity" with "purpose" and "meaning" in our lives. 

The truth of Kafka's story, I believe, lies in its simplicity. He isn't dealing with "alienation" on a grand scale, it's represented at its most basic level, in the home, with family members. Kafka reminds us that "alienation" can occur in any setting. 

I often feel the hurt of alienation in the most simple of circumstances: standing in a group of people and not being included in the conversation; or listening to people happily making plans that don't include me, acting as though I don't exist. In these moments I can relate to Kafka's insect character! I wonder whether I, too, have transformed into some hideous creature that people can't abide! It is such a simple thing to make someone feel noticed, included: a nod or a smile to show them they are welcome. I read a book once where the main character, an older man, was so afraid that he would pass from the world unnoticed that he would create minor disturbances, such as dropping a bag of apples, so people would see him, would acknowledge his presence. 

I am constantly amazed by how insular we have become. People go about their business but rarely interact anymore. 

I am still hopeful that I will find a sense of belonging, somewhere, somehow. But experience tells me not to make assumptions anymore, not to discount people who look different or who act differently. I think that's what's so great about blogging. Connections are made without knowing or caring what the person looks like or where they come from. Connections are made from the inside out! 

Today, I am going out in the world and I'm going to open my eyes, really open my eyes and take a look. I want to see people, to talk to people. I want to belong!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Where is My Mind?

Today I sat in the car with my teenage daughter. She was eating hot chips, drinking ice tea. She had Ed Sheerhan playing through her iPhone. We were parked, looking out at the ocean.

"Stop!" I wanted to scream, like the start of the Pixies song. I wanted to paint this picture of mother and daughter laughing, sharing a moment. I wanted her to be older than her 14 years, to be coming home from Europe, maybe, or on a break from uni. More than anything I wanted her to be telling me how happy she is. More than anything, I just want my kids to be happy and healthy.

Here's the real picture. She is crying. Actually she is sobbing. She is sobbing because she did the wrong thing, she betrayed my trust ... and she got caught. The thing is, I'd planned to read her the riot act. I'd planned to ground her for life, to take away every electronic device she owns. I'd planned to be smug in the knowledge that my instinct as a mother was right, that she'd done exactly what I thought she was going to do, and she got busted.

As soon as she started crying, though, it just broke my heart. My resolve faltered. I wanted to believe what she was telling me, even though I know differently. I did read her the riot act, but I am still trying to negotiate all of the other boundaries. I'm trying to figure out exactly what punishment I should mete out, or if I should punish her at all. It all seemed so black and white before, before she started sobbing and telling me she knew she'd made a mistake. And then there was "the moment" ... when I realised, of course, that she did what she did because she is just so insecure, so desperate to be loved and to be accepted.

I said everything I was supposed to say, but I felt unsure about every word I said. Nothing prepared me for this. Nothing.

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging

Today I Won the Lottery!

OK, not the "I can now quit my day job and buy a bigger house or take a world trip" kind of lotto, but another kind ... a better kind. Well, I think it's better anyway. The prize in this lottery will never diminish, never run out, nor is it likely to inspire envy, or cause long-lost relatives to appear from the woodwork.

I know you are waiting with anticipation to find out more! Today, I had my first blog comment ... and it was the best comment I could hope for. It was made by a beginner blogger like myself. Her opening words were so simple, so achingly beautiful, they made my cry: "You have a reader now".

I googled her blog and was astounded to discover words so similar to my own:
"So the idea was to introduce you to my little family with some stunningly hilarious well-written prose about how we all came to be here. I would have had you all hooked by now, hanging on my every word and waiting for the following instalment. But I don’t really write like that. I tend to blabber out whatever my sleep-deprived mind is currently thinking about. Occasionally, I may even write a sentence or two that makes sense. More importantly, I write for me. To get all the chaos in my head out onto the screen. I don’t want a thousand followers, eagerly awaiting the next chapter of my life (though that would be kind of cool!). If anything, I want one… yes, just one… person to say “I know how you feel” or “Yep, I’ve been there”. Because right now I’m feeling a little alone and lonely and wondering if anyone in the world understands me."

If you are interested, and I hope you are, read her blog:

Talk about serendipity!

My daughter came home from high school today and actually shared something with me. I was holding my breath in case some noise interrupted her train of thought and reminded her that she was talking to me, her mother, the person she both loathes and loves. The person she runs to and runs away from. The person she is so terrified of becoming. She told me that today she actually sat with some kids at lunch, and that a girl in the hallway told her she was pretty. I let my breath out slowly and silently, and took a chance:

"I have some news, too," I said. "I got a comment on my blog."
"Was it Dad?"
"No," I replied.
"What did they say?"
"They were really nice."
"Looks like we both had a good day," she said.

I am welling up as I write this. I think her final words were something along the lines of: "Well, don't make a big deal of it, OK?" Man, she knows me too well.

Gulp ... "Too late," I said. "I think perhaps I went a little overboard in my reply."

She rolled her eyes.

Double gulp ...  I definitely won't tell her about this blog!

I don't care, though. What happened today is proof to me that there are good people out there. It's proof that even if you aren't religious, miracles exist and prayers can be answered!

And to my reader (who is probably by now regretting having made a comment!): I know absolutely how you feel, and, yep, I've been there. I'm still there, in fact, but feeling a little less alone thanks to you. Let the eye-rolling begin!!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Lighthouse and the Waiting Room

I was walking to the train station and I overheard the fragment of a conversation that made me smile. It went something like this: "No, Mum, I don't know where Bridge Road is ..."

That was the sum total of what I overheard, said by a grown male obviously to his mother. It wasn't so much the words that made me smile, but rather the way he said it, with a suitable mix of exasperation and love. I also felt sad overhearing this little vignette. Both my parents are dead and I miss them. I miss having parents. I miss being driven crazy by them.

I sublet an art studio in the city and I try to go there once a week. It's not nearly as romantic as it sounds. Artists, as I am discovering, are like cats. They tend to be skittish and wary of strangers. The studio is in a rundown building and mostly I am there alone ... always alone, trying to convince myself I am having a good time. I hate getting there. It takes me two hours on the train, but once I'm there I feel like I can breathe again. Somewhere deep inside, I know being there is a good thing for me.

I started a new painting. It was from a photograph I took at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. It's a simple painting, three chairs in front of a window near some lifts. I took the photo because I loved the peacefulness and stillness of the empty chairs, and the reflections of light on the floor coming from the window. I started to cry as I painted. The waiting room. That's what those chairs represent for me. There is so much joy and sadness in a hospital waiting room.

I don't know if you recall, but I mentioned in my first-ever blog that I would talk to you about lighthouses. This story involves serendipity. I love the concept of serendipity!
  1. ser·en·dip·i·ty  Noun The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: "a fortunate stroke of serendipity".

The day I purchased a book from the junk shop called Instructions to Lightkeepers, I was also reading Jean-Dominique Bauby's book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In 1995, Bauby, a 43-year-old editor of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him paralysed and a victim of "locked-in syndrome". He was only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. It was in this state that he managed to compose and dictate his memoir, published two days before his death in 1996. The book is a beautifully written account of Bauby's struggle to accept his physical imprisonment, and to find meaning in his existence. I was afraid to read it at first, afraid to confront my own fears about existence and the meaning of life, but Bauby wrote with a sense of humour, and the story was encouraging and reassuring rather than depressing. 

On the same day after I'd purchased Instructions to Lightkeepers, I read this passage in Bauby's book: "There is always the chance that we will stumble upon some unknown corner of the hospital, see new faces, or catch a whiff of cooking as we pass. It was in this way that I came upon the lighthouse, on one of my very first expeditions in my wheelchair, shortly after swimming up from the mists of coma. As we emerged from an elevator on the wrong floor, I saw it: tall, robust, and reassuring, in red and white stripes that reminded me of a rugby shirt. I placed myself at once under the protection of this brotherly symbol, guardian not just of sailors but of the sick ... those castaways on the shores of loneliness."

I miss my parents. After their death I felt as though I had been cut loose, set adrift in the world on my own. I am one of those castaways Bauby was writing about ... on the "shores of loneliness". 

Bauby finished his chapter on lighthouses with this thought: "I wait for winter. Warmly wrapped up, we can linger here until nightfall, watch the sun set and the lighthouse take up the torch, its hope-filled beams sweeping the horizon."

Bauby has become a lighthouse for me, as have so many others. Kindness is a lighthouse. Laughter is a lighthouse. Everywhere I go, I am searching for lighthouses.

Yesterday, when I was on my way home, I saw a bus. The word "uncertain" was written on the front of the bus, as its destination! Even a bus can be a lighthouse ...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Would You Like Some Shame with That Humiliation?

or When Good Ideas Go Bad!

Someone at my kid's school came up with the bright idea to have "waste-free Wednesdays"! The concept goes something like this ... on Wednesdays, the kids try to bring in a lunch without any excess packaging. In theory, I support this. Honestly, though, I'm not entirely convinced that "saving the planet" is such a great idea. I mean, who are we to assume that depleting the world's resources and hastening our demise isn't actually part of the master plan? Putting that debate aside, however, since I've already gone to the effort of having children, I am committed to doing my bit to save the planet ... or, at least to save the planet from my children, if not for them!

When it comes to school lunches, my offspring would rather go hungry than eat the nutritious, healthy snacks parents are supposed to provide! So, in order to keep the peace and make life easier, school lunches originating from our house contain a healthy variety of processed food snacks. Waste-free Wednesdays haven't changed the content, but rather the presentation of our lunches. This involves removing snacks from their packaging and re-gifting them into lovely snap-lock containers. I thought we were doing pretty well with our little subterfuge, until my youngest informed my husband that for two weeks in a row his name failed to make the chalk board reserved for those whose lunches were completely "waste-free". Apparently his drink popper let the team down. As Maxwell Smart would say "Missed it by that much"! 

I was immediately reminded of my own school days of "public shaming". Specifically, I am referring to the dreaded "snowman"! Our class spent days constructing beautiful snowmen out of coloured paper and cotton balls. I wasn't a particularly great student, but I loved art. I was proud as punch over my snowman. Unfortunately, my warm glow lasted about as long as a snowman on a hot summer's day. The teacher informed us that we had just made "grammar snowmen". Here's the punchline ... every time we made a mistake with our grammar, we had to remove an item from our snowman. Cute, right? You get the idea. Our incompetence would lead to the subsequent dismemberment and death of Frosty, and everyone in the class would be witness to the crime! Needless to say my snowman suffered a quick and ignoble death. I only hope it was painless for him, because it certainly wasn't for me. The snowman exercise didn't help me with my grammar, and neither did it bolster my low self-esteem. I'm not too fond of snowmen either!

What annoys me most is that I chose my children's school in the first place because I didn't want them to suffer the same ongoing humiliation I endured at school. Generally, my kids have had a much better experience. Their school gets it right, most of the time. 

This need to be "seen to be doing the right thing" doesn't just happen in schools. Something I've noticed lately is how many theories are espoused on the basis of being "good for us"!! I think we need to be careful not to lose perspective. There should be a balance in life. Otherwise, the "fun-free fuckwits" will end up ruling the world!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Hooking in the Suburbs

Perichoraphobia: fear of suburbs

I have this vivid childhood memory. I'm in the car with my family (depressed mum, manic dad, angry brother). As usual, I'm anxious! My mind won't shut down. It's winter, which is depressing enough, but I notice something as we speed past the city limits. My anxiety begins to increase tenfold. We're on our way to visit the relatives: angry grandmother, sullen cousin, detached cousin, alcoholic uncle, nervous but nice aunty.

They live in the suburbs. And even though I'm probably only seven or eight at the time, I'm aware of something sinister about the suburbs. My chest begins to tighten as the landscape changes. There is an emptiness in the suburbs. There are fewer trees, and the houses are all the same. Everything is symmetrical, orderly, neat and tidy. Perfect.

I'm frightened by perfection. I know already that I'm imperfect, flawed, that I was a mistake, given up for adoption. I am already trying (and failing) to be perfect. I'm convinced it's the only way I can make amends. This desire will lead me down a dark path. Never thin enough, never pretty enough, never smart enough.

We stop at my aunty and uncle's house. Inside, it's spotless. It's clutter-free, mess-free, dust-free. In other words ... soul-less. My brother and I are the perfect foils for my cousins. We are non-believers. They are God-fearing and church-going. We don't have any obvious talents. They both play piano. We have a cross-eyed Siamese cat that my grandmother hates. They have a poodle that my grandmother adores. I hate the suburbs.

My cousins always have a new hobby. The one closest to me in age does rug-hooking. She brings it out after we arrive, and sits with a serenity that rivals the Madonna, poodle at her feet. I am jealous and miserable. I draw and write poetry, but both seem ridiculous activities. My poems are amateurish rhyming laments. My drawings reflect my desperate need for security and happiness. They are filled with smiley faces, sunshine and rainbows ... none of the things I feel inside. I hate the suburbs.

All these years later, I find myself living in the suburbs. Technically it's not. Technically it's a beautiful seaside "city". The house I live in is anything but suburban. It's ramshackle and old and chaotic, which I love. But it's still the suburbs. Even the small community of creative people here conform to the stereotype of being "creative". They remind me of the skit in Little Britain: "I'm the only artist/writer/musician/gay in the village!"

I have tried my best to conform, because the true heart of any suburb beats to the rhythm of conformity. The worst possible sin is to "stand out". But I just can't do it. Recently, I read Sarah Silverman's autobiography, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee. In it, she describes her battles with depression. When asked by someone what it feels like to be depressed, she answers that it feels like homesickness. I couldn't think of a better description. That is exactly how I feel at the moment: homesick. Homesick for family, homesick for friends, homesick for the city. I hate the suburbs.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Parent Trap

Something occurred to me yesterday as I watched my daughter sit in the back seat of the car clutching a pink bowl in her lap. She is still adjusting to a new school, and every morning this week she has been throwing up. Yesterday she told me it wasn't nerves, she was really sick. 

I patiently told her I knew she was sick, but she had to at least try to make it to school. I felt unbelievably cruel watching her get out of the car, dry heaving, and walking the last little way to school. I know, though, if she doesn't make it through this week, the nerves will be just as bad next week. Still, there's a part of me imagining that I've misdiagnosed the situation completely, and what if she really is sick with some terrible disease?

Why, for the love of the universe, do we ever become parents? Do the benefits really outweigh the negatives? Why didn't anyone sit down with me and explain what it would be like to live with your heart in your throat for the rest of your natural life? Why didn't anyone warn me that I might not be cut out for this as a career?

And here's what I came up with! I think that lying is part of the evolution of the human race. I think the whole entire purpose of a human being's ability to lie is to ensure the continuation of the species! Sure, we use lying for a number of different reasons now, mainly selfish, but in the beginning lying was purely a means of self-preservation! I will bet that when someone asked Mary if she enjoyed being a parent, she said: "Well, Jesus is certainly no angel, and I wasn't really prepared for motherhood, but now I wouldn't have it any other way."

Isn't asking someone with children if they love having children, a little like asking someone if they love the haircut they've just had? It's not until you get home, behind closed doors that the tears flow! Who wants to admit they've made a huge mistake? Hair, of course, will grow back. And children will grow up, but you are parents forever, and ever, and ever!

If parents were completely open and honest about the challenges of raising kids, just how long would the human race continue? Of course, maybe I'm a little jaded. I have four children, two of whom are teenagers.

That being said, if you asked me right now, right this very minute, whether I made the right choice to have children, or whether the good moments outweigh the bad, I would say ... YES, absolutely! I love my children more than life itself, and I love being a mother.

Would I lie to you?!!!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Cool Kids

"We're through being cool. We're through being cool." Devo

I've been thinking a lot about friends and what they mean. I didn't grow up in Australia, so none of my childhood friends are here. The upside about that is you can reinvent yourself without anyone challenging you, or exposing you! The downside is that you can end up feeling like the ancient mariner, constantly telling people the story of your life. And, sadly, there is no shared history, no shared understanding.

Recently, I went to a 40th birthday party for a friend here. I had a good time, but I struggled to make conversation with people that I know only as acquaintances. Small talk is hard work. When I looked around at the groups of people laughing and talking, I felt a little jealous. My friend had invited people from all the various stages of her life: family, uni friends, parents, work colleagues. There was genuine love and affection in the room. I have avoided such parties for myself, because they would only highlight the people who aren't present in my life. I still keep in touch with many of those people, but it's not the same thing as having them here, in the flesh.

The other day, I had a lovely conversation with a high school friend of mine on Skype, minus the camera! We had a great connection in high school and then lost touch. So many years later, and so much water under the proverbial bridge, it felt as though the lost years never existed. I felt a rush of joy and exhilaration. When the conversation ended, I realised I was so completely understood. Here was a friend, halfway around the world, who I haven't seen for years, and yet the connection was as strong as ever.

This reunion brought to mind another friendship. Throughout our lives, we make decisions that define who we are and who we want to be.

 I made one of those decisions in Year Seven, and it has impacted on me ever since. That year, I went to a new school. It was traumatic and challenging on every level. My daughter is facing that challenge today, as I write this. I so wish I could help her to adjust, but there are things in life no-one can help you with, you just have to ride them out.

I developed two good friendships at my new school. The first friend was very unique. She wore skirts and low heels to school (something nobody did then!). Surprisingly, this never held her back from excelling on the monkey bars. This friend also had very strong opinions, which she was always happy to express. The other friend was the complete opposite. She was cool without even trying. She had long shiny chestnut hair and hazel eyes. Her mother had had her when she was quite young, and looked more like a sister than a mother. They used to share blue jeans. Tragically, her younger brother (one of twins) had died on a school excursion. I can understand the magnitude of the tragedy now, but then I only really understood that it gave my friend a certain attractive vulnerability.

These two friends did not get along with each other. They were always disagreeing and fighting. I was constantly in the middle, trying to act as peacemaker. I had enough conflict with my warring parents at home, and didn't want to face it at school, too. Things went from bad to worse and it soon became obvious that I couldn't be friends with both girls. Something else that became obvious was that the cool kids had recognised my cool friend as one of their own, and were trying to reclaim her! I'm not really sure why, in retrospect, she ever humoured me in the first place. However, the benefit of my association became obvious when I was invited to a party that one of the cool kids was throwing. My cool friend was invited, and so was I, but not the other friend.

I saw this as my big chance to gravitate to the cool kids' corner of the playground. My other friend maintained she didn't want to go to the party anyway, but it was up to me if I wanted to go. I did want to go. I really wanted to see what it was like to be in the inner circle for a change.

My friend and I went to the party, and instantly I could see she was at home. It was a cool party, and the first party I'd been to that wasn't a celebration of something, but was just a party. I was pretty damn excited. I stood with my friend, waiting for something amazing to happen. The music was cool, the people looked hot, I felt great. I was being accepted. I couldn't quite believe how easy it all was. People around me were laughing and having a great time. After an hour or so of hanging out, I began to feel uneasy. Something was missing. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then, all of a sudden, I had an epiphany. I was bored. I wanted to go home! I didn't find their jokes funny. I didn't find their conversation interesting. It was something I hadn't prepared myself for. I was so worried that they would reject me, it hadn't occurred to me that I might reject them! I realised I missed my other friend.

I called my mum and asked her to pick me up.

After that night, my cool friend started hanging with the cool kids. Nothing was really said. I guess nothing needed to be said. I hung out with the fringe kids. We did our own thing and never quite belonged, but we had a lot of fun. The thing I realised about being on the fringe is that there are fewer rules to live by.

My not-so-cool-friend became like a sister to me! She has stuck by me through thick and thin. My mum became friends with her mum, and when my mum became sick, they were a huge comfort to me. I have never regretted my decision that night.

Today, I have an eclectic group of friends scattered across the world. I'm not sure what would happen if they ever came together, and I'm not likely to find out, but it is a comfort to know that they're out there!
They're funny, they're smart, they're honest, they're real, and they never make me feel insecure. How cool is that?!

Friday, 1 February 2013


If a Person Blogs in a Forest and No-one Reads It, Does It Still Have Meaning?

I'm on the train, going into the "Big Smoke", as a Canadian might say! I don't know if Australians use that expression. I've been in this country now for a long time ... over 16 years. But more and more I feel as though I've just arrived. I am the eternal stranger: a stranger to my family (by way of adoption), a stranger to this country (by way of emigration), a stranger to myself (by way of identity crisis).

Anyway, I'm on the train! I am feeling a bit sick. Coffee but no breakfast (too anxious), train swaying, me typing, too much adrenaline ... always too much adrenaline! I am still wondering what I am doing writing a blog that no-one is reading. Should I keep going? Yes, I tell myself. Do you remember The Flintstones cartoon? Sometimes Fred would be grappling with some moral crisis (like whether to take Pebbles with him to bowling, when Wilma expressly told him not to!), and suddenly a little version of himself would appear on either shoulder, one dressed like an angel, the other carrying a pitchfork! Of course you know who would win out.

So, miniature versions of me are, at this very moment, battling for supremacy. The devil keeps telling me what a loser I am, while the angel keeps reassuring me that things have meaning intrinsically, and that it matters not if I am blithely blogging away in complete obscurity. My angel is very eloquent!

This raging debate has sparked some self-analysis, always a dangerous thing. I realise that I completely lack the self-promotion gene. In fact, I often try to convince others NOT to engage my services! I am aware that this comes from a complete lack of confidence in my own abilities, but I am unaware how to change this. I've been reading other people's blogs, hoping to gain some insight. I have also shamelessly googled articles on how to attract readers to one's blog. I know that I wrote in my rather saddy pants introductory blog that it didn't matter if no-one read it, but who am I kidding? It's not the popularity stakes that worries me. Trust me, I gave up on that a long time ago! It's the loser factor I can't face. As much as I want to pretend that I enjoy being on the fringe, not part of the cool kids at school gang, there is a huge, insecure part of me that is desperate (DESPERATE) to belong.

Honestly, though, just a few readers would do!!! Just a few page views that weren't related to me would be fine and dandy. I know what you're thinking! First she says she's ok without any readers, now she wants a few ... but next she will need a few million. Nope. Not me. Really!

Here's the problem, though. I am telling YOU all about this, but YOU is really ME! And that isn't gonna solve the problem at all. The thing I noticed about the popular blogs is that they all seem to be linked to Facebook, Twitter etc etc. Also, I'm thinking these people probably started off by simply telling friends and family about their blog, and then it grew from there. I can't even do that!!! I feel like I'm pyramid selling! The only person who knows about my blog is my husband, and I think he only reads it to check on my mental health status. The blog articles I read on the Internet suggested reading other people's blogs and leaving comments.

Ok, this next confession is really embarrassing. I have been reading other people's blogs. (That's not the embarrassing part ... wait for it!)  I've already mentioned Kim Berry's blog and I also like Edenland. The writers are funny, honest and self-deprecating. What's not to like? And they are all going through difficult shit like me, like all of us. And, let's face it, no-one who is going through shit likes to receive the "family newsletter" (yes, you know the one I'm talking about!) at Christmas telling you how great that person's life is! Kids are studying to be rocket scientists, hubby just took me to Paris, my cookbook is being published, I just bought a well for an African village blah blah blah. Pukeworthy stuff and worse, it makes regular people feel like shit!

But I digress. I thought maybe the commenting on someone else's blog was a good idea to snaffle a few readers. So ... I read Kim Berry's blog about her back surgery and how she is really doing it tough at the moment. I can relate. Health stuff really scares me, and I'm a complete hypochondriac. My dad went to the back cracker cause he had a sore back, and it turned out he had three years to live. His death was anything but peaceful and it frankly scared me to death (he would have laughed at that, so it's ok). Here's the shameless part, I tried to leave a comment on her blog, only where the name should be I put the name of this blog!!!!! Oh man, I am a loser. My comment was genuine, but, the intention was not. The comment never made it on the blog anyway, but I felt, and still feel, completely ashamed. So, no more comments for me. Sorry Kim. I don't even know you but I feel I've let you down. I still read your blog, though. Maybe one day I will take your blog course and tell you this story? Maybe!!

I am going to just keep blogging away in obscurity, with my dignity more or less intact. Turns out, the loser isn't the person who has no friends, the loser is the person who sells her soul to get them.