Beginning to arrive




When doubt arrives at my house with his suitcases, I know trouble is brewing. He is not an easy guest to host. Sometimes I survive him by reading poetry. Lines of sentences on a page, a word here catching a word there, can be grounding to a soul steeped in never ending suppositions. Poetry gathers all the pieces of me that life strews allover the place, bringing me closer to myself in those times when the only thing I need is healing. It pulls all the parts of me together. It makes my heart start beating again and slowly I can recognise my limbs, my face, my lips, my voice. There is nothing more nourishing to my soul than words that fit. Words chiselled to hold me tight; to make magic inside of me.

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The man whose head was resting on my shoulder was a stranger. A six footed, big boned stranger in a dark suit. I did not have the heart to nudge him awake. My book was open on my lap and I was comfortable, slowly settling back into my body after a day of negotiating the world; the maps and landscapes of Melbourne. All the physical, mental and emotional bits. Read More

Friday shot: tenderness


The world is at war with itself.

This is the only explanation for the dreadful news coming in day and night.

I never quite know what to do with the events that trickle in from every corner of the world.

I want to find words, sentences that can string meaning together. But there are none.

We are not gods. We are not invincible. Our bodies get mangled. And we die. Yet we live as though this is not true.

My neighbour’s flag flies at half-mast today. For the 27 Australians who died. And for every person on flight MH17.

But then there is Gaza, and Syria and all the nameless nooks and crannies of the earth that are falling apart.

Maybe we are becoming hardened, building sheaths around the things that make us tender. To protect ourselves. To not have to deal with a world that is unfurling at its seams because it just doesn’t seem to stop.

But when we stand afar off and only point with our fingers we cannot know the things that hide behind tears. The things that words cannot express. The things contained in loss and pain. For these things, and for a world that is hurting, we should find some tenderness. These are the things we should take a moment and be silent for.

And hopefully they take us back to the beginning of things: to the understanding that life is a gift, and everyone’s life is precious.

Slaying dragons


Every morning when I get onto the train, I like to watch people.

Beings perfectly put together at the start of a new day. Clothes prim and properly tucked in all the right places. Bodies occupying their assigned space on the carriage seats, making sure nothing touches anything else. Everyone is quiet. I think it is an unspoken rule. Much like the one that takes hold of us when we step into a lift. Head down or eyes fixed straight ahead on imaginary things in space. No talking. This seems to work for most of us. Never mind that sometimes we are bubbling to say good morning to the old man who hobbles in on his brown woody cane, or to compliment that beautiful woman in her green silk scarf.

So when I get onto trains I look for faces. I watch for the glimpses of emotions and string of thoughts that pass across them like a flashlight, moment to moment.

I see misery. Yes, it is etched in the furrows of the forehead down to the corners of the mouth. Every face with a line or two. The etchings run so deep, touching the surface of the skin and into the deep tissue, right to the heart that sits behind the face.

Sometimes there is a gift given. When I notice the eyes quietly light up into a smile from across rows and rows of faces. I secretly smile to myself curious about the images behind the silent smile. But without questions asked I take this gift and tuck it in.

But this is not the norm. Most mornings I am not gifted with glimpses of happiness. Instead, they are heavy with faces that are steeped in a kind of gloom.

I marvel at the faces. I am voracious in my noticing – the different sizes, shapes, how each takes up its space in the world jutting forward, a mirror into the person. I marvel at the collective sadness of them. It fills the train. Maybe everyone is simply unhappy about another workday in jobs they may not like very much. My mind travels back and forth in thought, searching.

Then I realise that everyone is probably slaying dragons. Behind the scenes, behind those carefully put together faces is another world that is not completely supressed…because it seeps through.

I wonder about the dragons behind each face. Insecurities, inadequacy, a meaningless job, heartbreak, trauma, loss, health trouble, infidelity.

As people sit there, they are also somewhere else doing battle. We forget that these things show on our faces. And maybe this is a good thing. It is life reminding us that it cannot be contained, pressed down into a vessel that we seal and put away. Secure somewhere else. It cannot be sanitized, reduced to perfect moments of pleasure and success. A perfect existence.

Life is much more that that. It will be raw and it will be beautiful.

We live in societies where slaying dragons is a thing of shame, something you do behind closed doors of your house. And maybe there is time for that but we forget that we don’t leave our hearts at home when we leave the house in the morning. And wherever the heart goes, the dragons will be there, for as long as we are human.

My morning train rides remind me that people are not as perfectly put together as they appear. It is easy to assume this when I walk the open streets and my public face collides into other public faces. There is an illusion of order in the world that slips away when they sit on train seats and have nothing but the time to really see their dragons. There is often nowhere to run.

I hope one day there will be less shame about struggling with life. I hope we will become comfortable with discomfort, our own and that of others. That instead of stopping our ears, covering our eyes or turning the other way, we will look these dragons straight in the face so we can see where the blade should touch their necks.

And we will be mindful too, that we are not in this alone, everyone is slaying some form of dragon.

I will keep watching people. They will never know I’m there, embracing them in my mind and loving them through their battles. I will stand at my post, slaying my dragons, too.

Sometimes normal days

lonely on benchAs I’m writing this, I’m sitting here. Here on the edge of my bed. Listening to the tree outside my window rumbling. Branches beating into each other, waving frantically in the boisterous wind. It’s a familiar sound. It tells me in vivid ways that my tree is alive. And that I, too, am still here on this brand new morning.

This noise, this rumbling, it mirrors the one unfolding inside of me. Un-settled, un-quiet, un-still. When I woke up, my feet sank into the same carpeted floor they touch every other morning. I smiled at something silly my mind said. I had my usual morning banter with God. I bemoaned the state of my kitchen and of the world as I scurried through the cold, empty corridor of my flat. It was a perfect morning and I was perfectly…well, I was perfectly Sunshine. Then there was that moment when the wind outside was all I could hear. It drowned out everything else. I thought it whispered something about uncertainty.

The whispers caught on my skin like leftover snowflakes and soon they were pouring right into my bones. And this, this is the simple explanation to why I’m sitting here with the churning wind inside of me. The longer explanation requires me to tell you what it means to be human, because sometimes normal days are like that.

You wake up with every intention to rock life’s socks off. You are a rock star afterall. You can do this. You got this. But these become just words that filter through your fingers like black burnt ash. One or two steps later, you are on the ground, not quite sure which thought or emotion took you down.

There are times when we mirror our external world – the ugly things people say to us, the doubts about us they whisper into the air, and the inadequacies they sew onto our sleeves. These become things we see in ourselves. Not that they are true but because they are reflected back to us. We are taught early on that mirror reflections cannot lie. But what they don’t tell us is that mirrors cannot capture the whole of us.

So sometimes normal days are made up of sorting out the dross reflections from the gold. Sitting with the rumbling inside and listening to what it is saying. And, yes, it is always saying something. Rumblings tell us where the insecurity hides, where the fear is, where we need most work.

I saw a woman seated on a bench, her big collared coffee-brown polyester jacket holding her body tight. She had this gorgeous red hair that made me look twice. Her gaze was stretched out across the Yarra River, far, far away. A dry autumn leaf sat in-between her fingers and she twirled it round and round and round. Her world seemed frozen in that moment. She oozed a sadness that was defined and complete. I could reach out and touch it. My heart went out to her and caught hers.

I haven’t been able to forget her.

As I walked away I thought about her. And I thought about myself. And of the thing we held in common in that instant my life grazed hers – the churning within.

I saw it in the noise of ordinary life that filled every corner of the city. There was a rhythm in the commotion. I fell right in step with it, with the beating of my heart and the noise inside on which it swung. But to catch the pulse required me to listen to the noise.

Sometimes normal days are not quiet. They force you to sit on the edge of your bed or on a lonely bench cupping yourself. But if you listen to the sounds of your own disquiet, you will notice the flow. The up and down, rise and fall of the moments that make us who we are.

We can feel these moments and not be paralysed or disintegrated. We can be in the rumbling and still hope for the quiet that comes after the storm. And we do this by staying. Noticing. Breathing. And breathing again. If you stay within yourself long enough, you will realise that there is nowhere else to go. And that you owe it to yourself to love you through the boisterous moments. And that some normal days come to test the muscles of your human spirit.

Staying put and reaching out for another hand is the victory of what it means to be human. When, as Ellen Bass poetizes “….you can hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you. I will love you, again”