I don’t know what to say

This is the bit I hate. When people do the head tilt and say ‘I’m sorry.’ Both of us feeling inadequate because we have no language for grief any more.

In a way, I’m glad I’ve changed jobs. I now sit in an office with ten people, instead of over a hundred. I don’t think I could cope with lots of people coming up and doing the head tilt at me.

I’ve been in constant contact with Ian, messaging each other about shit. Inanities, funeral plans, what, where, when, cats. I said to him today I was worried about upsetting him, he told me off – “Not going to happen” as he reminded me, “We lived under the same roof for goodness knows how long and never had a cross word.”

We had a giggle last night about the amount of selfies Erika took. Literally every where she went, she took a selfie. No shame, no fuss, no bother. “This is me in outer Mongolia. This is me with an ice cream. This is me with everyone. This is me!” We laughed at the montage of photos that could scroll through for hours without repeating itself.

I’ve got her last selfie saved in my phone, she knew she was heading into hospital so got all her hair cut off. She looks calm, adorable with a pixie crop, stoic almost.

I miss her giggle.

BossLady was very sweet last night and said, ‘Don’t rush in tomorrow’. So when L messaged me and said ‘Want to meet up?’ I jumped at the chance to say ‘Yes, let’s have a coffee’. Best laid plans were foiled when we found the coffee machine had gone phut, but we coped and went to the other cafe.

I am so blessed, I had so many hugs from friends this morning. Our house, Archie’s school and where I used to work are within 50m of each other, meeting L and A for coffee meant a steady stream of colleagues coming for their morning cup of Joe fix; and a steady stream of hugs for me. I didn’t put my make-up on, there was no point, I knew I’d cry.

After a good natter with my girls, I drove to work listening to Tim Ferriss talk to Amanda Palmer. I listened to his interview with Neil Gaiman yesterday. Amanda and Neil are two of my favourite humans, they are so of themselves, by which I mean – they are Amanda Fucking Palmer and Neil Gaiman. Amanda talked about how Patreon (of which I am one) gives her the freedom to do WTF she wants to do with her art; including making the most intimate, hair-raisingly good album I’ve heard in, well, ever There Will Be No Intermission. I can’t tell you how good it is, you just need to listen and wallow in it. She is talking with Tim Ferriss and telling him how much of a relief it is to be able to do this album, and not have to go to Steve and say “I’ve made an album, it’s got songs on it about miscarriage, abortion and death. By the way, the first track is 11 minutes long” (I’m paraphrasing), but with this funding model, she can do what she wants knowing that thousands of people around the world can support her. Each month, we contribute money to enable AFP (and others on the same platform) to create their art, whatever which way, knowing that we won’t always like it, understand it, but that we want to hear what she says. And, (Brucie Bonus) as we’re cheering her on through our monthly funding, if you can’t afford to pay $$ for her album, on BandCamp, she can release the album for $1. Because the Patreon community have already paid for the recording studio, mixing etc. It’s a safety net that gives artists flexibility and autonomy like never before. Which is why the record companies are getting worried…

I digress, have you watched Good Omens yet? have you seen that a fundamentalist Christian group have petitioned Netflix to not make any more? Never mind that Amazon made it? If you’ve not watched it, please do. Apart from anything else, it looks amazing, the colour scheme of the characters, the texture of their clothes – sublime. It also has a fabulous combination of the original BBC radio adaptation actors with a stellar cast, as in Josie Lawrence and Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Derek Jacobi – the list is endless. Michael Sheen as Azriaphale might be my latest crush. Might be. He’s totally adorable as the old fuss-bucket. David Tennant as Crowley camping it up is delicious.

It’s faithful to the book, raw, and as Neil was show runner, that it’s not been tweaked to ramp up the suspense to eleventy-stupid is great. I don’t know about you, I do like a bit of tension, but stringing it out over episodes while you finish off other storylines – yawn. I loved it. I love that the book is also galloping up the charts again too.

Picture Credit

Take the donuts

People who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know of my adoration of Amanda Palmer. I found her by accident, through listening to an interview with her husband, Neil Gaiman. Yes, him. He wrote his book ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ for her, I looked her up as I’d never heard of her and slowly she crept into my life. I read her book ‘The Art Of Asking and it broke me open, I’ve downloaded the audio book, spending a voucher Hubs had given me for a present on it. I want to savour listening to it, so it’s sitting there, waiting patiently. I don’t want it on while I potter about the house, so I think I’m waiting for car trip to listen. I’ll know when it is the right time.

Take the donuts. What on earth does that mean? Ask for help. Be grateful for what people offer to help you get through. Amanda Palmer has just said goodbye to her best friend of 30 years who passed away this week. Anthony, she wrote about him in her book, he was her next door neighbour, he was also her mentor, guide, friend and a second father to her. Both she and Neil Gaiman were in the UK, fulfilling work commitments when they got ‘that’ call. The one that says you need to come now, don’t wait.

Squeezed onto the last row of a flight to Boston. Not pulling the ‘Do you know who I am / we are?’ cards so they turned left on the plane; just get us home – please. Collective fans on patreon, facebook and twitter held our breaths, willing them home while holding Anthony and his wife within us all around the world. Support was sent to them both all over social media and so on to Anthony and his family. They got there in time.

It was a remarkable use of social media; for good, not evil, no trolling, just an outpouring of love and support. They both said that it helped that so many people were thinking of them while friends and family rowed a loved-one out on his final journey.

Take the donuts.

I used to follow various famous people on instagram, less so now as I got fed up of the pleading, jumping up and down ‘Notice me please!’ from people in the comments. Celebrities are more accessible than ever before, they can tweet news about a new film to millions, they don’t have to sit in interviews to get their projects publicised. Journalists are now often rehashing twitter feeds for ‘news’; you almost know everything within minutes of it happening. Whether it is news, or not. Most often not.

People who are famous for being famous; famous for sex tapes; famous by association as a sibling or parent of someone else who was/ are famous; are now listened to intently. Whether for good or evil. Kardashians, I’m looking at you. Please, start doing something constructive with your lives, for the sake of the millions of teenage girls who think that contouring is now an appropriate level of make-up to wear to school. Please use your influence for good. Not spawning a phase of girls sucking their lips inside a shot glass – FFS.

Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, from the beginning of their careers recognised that fans were important. They got the word out, shared stuff ‘All the things’ with their fan-base. They’re open, honest, very sweet and adore each other. Watching them on stage and the goofy looks they give each other, the interaction between the two of them was heartwarming. Was it any wonder that so many of ‘us’ reached out to ‘them’ – when ‘All the things’ they make, songs, music, art – whatever, touch us? When someone hears you; when their use of words or music and something in you resonates loudly, you hang on to it. We feel connections deeply, that’s why they’re connections, they’re more than just glimpses of something familiar.

I’m not very good at asking for help. It takes a deep breath and a leap of faith to admit that you’re drowning, not waving, struggling with life and being vulnerable. We’ve a lot of friends who are struggling at the moment, families with cancer affecting day-to-day lives,  I can offer help easily. Will run around like crazy after someone else, but less so after myself.

Take the donuts. When you need help, reach out and ask for it. Call someone. If you need some wallpaper hung, a birthday cake made, your car washed, dinners cooked, whatever it is, whatever someone offers you. Take the donuts. Here’s an extract from Amanda’s book where she explains it:

Thoreau wrote in painstaking detail about how he chose to remove himself from society to live “by his own means” in a little 10-foot x 15-foot hand-hewn cabin on the side of a pond. What he left out of Walden, though, was the fact that the land he built on was borrowed from his wealthy neighbor, that his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson had him over for dinner all the time, and that every Sunday, Thoreau’s mother and sister brought over a basket of freshly-baked goods for him, including donuts.

The idea of Thoreau gazing thoughtfully over the expanse of transcendental Walden Pond, a bluebird alighting onto his threadbare shoe, all the while eating donuts that his mom brought him just doesn’t jibe with most people’s picture of him of a self-reliant, noble, marrow-sucking back-to-the-woods folk-hero.

Taking the donuts is hard for a lot of people.

It’s not the act of taking that’s so difficult, it’s more the fear of what other people are going to think when they see us slaving away at our manuscript about the pure transcendence of nature and the importance of self-reliance and simplicity. While munching on someone else’s donut.

Maybe it comes back to that same old issue: we just can’t see what we do as important enough to merit the help, the love.

Try to picture getting angry at Einstein devouring a donut brought to him by his assistant, while he sat slaving on the theory of relativity. Try to picture getting angry at Florence Nightingale for snacking on a donut while taking a break from tirelessly helping the sick.

To the artists, creators, scientists, non-profit-runners, librarians, strange-thinkers, start-uppers and inventors, to all people everywhere who are afraid to accept the help, in whatever form it’s appearing,

Please, take the donuts.

To the guy in my opening band who was too ashamed to go out into the crowd and accept money for his band,

Take the donuts.

To the girl who spent her twenties as a street performer and stripper living on less than $700 a month who went on to marry a best-selling author who she loves, unquestioningly, but even that massive love can’t break her unwillingness to accept his financial help, please….

Everybody.

Please.

Just take the fucking donuts.

But I have to!

We had bounced our weekend away to this past Sunday night as we had Monday off; 26 January is Australia Day, the day the first fleet arrived. I’m not using this post to discuss the ins and outs and pros and cons of the public holiday.

My weekend started on Friday with my trip to Thornbury to see Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman her husband was there too and also read from her book. The evening had got off to a great start as she retweeted my tweet saying ‘I’m dosing up on codeine and wearing a heat pad, not going to miss this!’ She (and he) sung a couple of songs and then settled in for a long signing session. I’d inadvertently got fairly near the front of the queue, still didn’t stop people shoving and pushing around us all. I was behind one girl, rammed up against her by people behind me, she ended up about 10 people in front of me. Never mind, when it was my turn I handed Amanda my book, she noted all the turned down pages and flicked through the scribbles I’d made. I explained that the book had got me through the past week, I explained about Peanut and his seizure and thanked her. She asked how old he was, how he was, I said that he was fine, we were waiting for tests and then said ‘I’m a bit late the Amanda F****** Palmer phenomenon, I’ve only just found you. But I wish I’d found you earlier’ She held my hand and said ‘Sometimes we just take what we can get, when we can get it.’

I got home after midnight, closer to 1am, I drove home in silence, processing the week. Still thinking various thank you’s to various people. Still thinking I’m here, I’m not anywhere else. Still inside. I cannot remember ever feeling like this before. It’s like all the books I’ve read have suddenly lined up and gone ‘See I told you’. As Eckhart Tolle says:

In awakened doing, there is complete internal alignment with the present moment and whatever you are doing right now.

After having that huge shift in me a combination of Peanut, Amanda Palmer and general disquiet, on the Saturday night I then took myself to the last IMAX showing of Interstellar. Hubs was adamant that I had to see it on the IMAX screen before it gets closes for the refit (he’s the Project Manager for the refit, talk about a dream job). I’ve never been to a film showing where it was completely silent at the end of the film before. The credits rolled and we filed out in silence.

I’m hanging out to get the DVD and wishing I’d had a chance to see it earlier so I could have seen it again on the IMAX, dammit. As a spectacle, you couldn’t really beat it. The story line may be a bit clunky at times with the dialogue not always great, but experiencing the film on a huge screen with a great sound system was an experience in itself.

Again, I drove home in silence thinking about things. Life. Stillness. The universe. My thoughts swirling around in my head, not forming any pattern or cohesive stream, but I just let them wander in and wander out again.

Sunday morning we headed off to our first swimming lesson of the year, I spoke to Peanut’s teacher and the lesson coordinator about the seizure. We sat and watched him bounce about in the water, putting his head under and kicking like mad, just in joyful glee of swimming. Toddlers teach us so much about being here and now, his latest thing is to say ‘But I have to!’ with the emphasis on ‘have’. Where he’s picked it up from we don’t know, but it’s hilarious when it’s wailed in relation to chocolate milkshakes as it was yesterday (which was Thursday as I’ve not had a chance to finish this post until now).

We had lunch with my cousin and her husband, Peanut’s Manny who was looking after him for us, then we headed to the Yarra Valley to the Balgownie Estate for our night away. We did some wine tasting, brought a bottle of cuvee and split it in our spa bath overlooking the valley. We had a nanna nap. Got showered and dressed for dinner, then split a bottle of red over the meal. The most alcohol we’d drunk in ages. We talked, planned, ate, walked, talked some more and generally unwound. The 24 hours we had out our normal life was not long, but enough.

But I have to: stop, breathe, walk, run, talk with my husband, be with my son, relax and unwind, read. The past two weeks have taught me a lot. Tomorrow I’m taking my niece to see the soon-to-close Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery. I wanted to go again as soon as I’d walked out of it and she’s very theatrical and dramatic, so for her to see clothes like that up close and personal will be an experience I hope she won’t forget. It’ll be our first Auntie Niece outing, our first of many.

 

 

 

Morning tea and AFP

Today was the morning tea for my birthday at work. I supplied nibbles, brought in napkins and a couple of colleagues also kindly made cakes for me. I was in a quandary as to who to invite and who not to. That ever British thing of not wanting to offend anyone, but I can’t feed everyone though, so some people have not been included on the list.

I’ll wring my hands over it later.

At my request, Happy Birthday was not sung. There was lots of food, my motto ‘Never knowingly under catered’ you’ll not be going hungry at anything I organise. We had as usual a few people say they would come, but couldn’t get there due to last minute diary changes, but not even had we started clearing up the seagulls descended for the leftovers. The lady who helped me with the food made panna cottas, I put a notice on the intranet asking if you had one, could you please wash up the glass and return it to me? Guess how many have been eaten, enjoyed and not washed? Yup, lots.

In the middle of it all, the weekend hit me. A lot of people were asking me what I was doing for my birthday in a short space of time; I did try not to say the reason why we had to move things around, but then other people were there who did know and were asking how Peanut was. It’s not easy saying the same thing over and over again; I’ve still got the tape of his seizure running behind my eyes every time I close them, so it’s no surprise when the tears began, they wouldn’t stop.

We’ve started doing more research on seizures, not for any other reason other than we have to do something as otherwise we’re feeling a bit useless. The out-patients appointments haven’t come through yet, but Peanut saw our GP yesterday afternoon and was his usual chatty, happy self. Opening his mouth wide unprompted when she wanted to look in his eyes with her torch, not that he’s had lots of sore throats and earaches or anything. When Hubs was washing him in the shower last night, he overstretched and said ‘Ow!’ Peanut said ‘We need to get an ambulance!’ Given that we’ve had two trips in three months for our family, it’s not surprising that when someone is hurt he thought that is what we do.

Peanut slept through again last night, the pair of us getting up to peep at him whenever we woke up. At 5:45 when he woke up, he came in to our bed we all laid there dozing till 6am and the alarm went off and then we all got up. Our routine will change, but slowly. I don’t want him to figure out what we’re doing by making too many changes all at once.

Last night I sat on the couch while Hubs watched the cricket. I am enjoying the T20 festivities, but they’re beginning to wear a bit thin now, (similar to the AFL season with matches nearly every night of the week as TV coverage wins over everything); the cricket is on practically every night in the house, and we’re not at the World Cup yet. On my couch I finished reading Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking, I don’t know how many pages I underlined, wrote notes on and folded corners over. The book is looking very well-loved after only one reading. I have a feeling it will be a book that I dip in and out of often. I read out a page to Hubs too, laughing so hard I could barely get the words out. Other pages made me weep, some I just gave over to primal guttural sobs so raw was the writing, so loudly did it resonate. If I had read this as a teenager, my life would have been completely different. When can you begin to make changes? When do you start to say ‘I need this?’ or ‘I want that’. I hope I’m not too late to make changes, to begin to ask for things that I want and need as person.

All my life I’ve done as I was told. Gone where I’ve been led. Only in the past ten years as my first marriage unravelled and broke down, then began to rebuild myself again did I find a little glimpse of who I was. Friday night I’m going to see Amanda Palmer at the Thornbury Ballroom, she’s going to do a book signing after the show. I’ve been thinking about what I want to say to her. Given what has happened this week, it’s changed. Now I’ve finished her book, it’s changed again. I came late to the AFP phenomenon. I’d not heard of her before a few years ago, I honestly can’t remember when I was aware of her, she just wandered into my life and is now a firm fixture here. It’s like she’s a girlfriend I’ve known for years.

I need to say thank you to her. I need to tell her that she saw me, even though she doesn’t know me, that she saw through the façade, looked me square in the eye and saw me. I wrote yesterday that everything has changed, nothing would be the same. I know that something huge has shifted inside of me and I’m still processing it.