Monday, 16 October 2017

Letter To My 20 Year Old Self


Dear 20 year old Ness,

Hello, dear girl! Well, actually you're a young woman now. A proper grown up. I know! You certainly don't feel like one. I suspect you never will.

And you know what? It's okay. Most people are faking it, anyway. Besides, being a grown up is totally overrated, as you are discovering.



Image credit:https://www.facebook.com/purpleclvr/photos/a.375609882543951.1073741828.369508529820753/1953758248062432/?type=3&theater


Oh yes, it's me by the way, your 46 year old self. Yes, you do make it to such a frightfully ancient number. There's a lot ahead of you. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Just like everyone else.

I expect you already got the letter I wrote to our sixteen year old self and was somewhat puzzled and intrigued. But what I said then still stands.

The thing is, I was going to provide you with a long list of do's and don't s:

DO ditch that boyfriend.

DON'T  perm your hair anymore.

DO keep working in libraries.

DON'T put up with toxic 'friends'.

But recently I had something of an epiphany around the concept of regrets.

You're inclined to a lot of introspection - you can't help it, you're a massive introvert among other things - but you have to be mindful of not spiralling into too much rumination and over thinking. Besides, you don't spend too much more time with the boyfriend or toxic friends anyway. 

So the only thing I really need to say is, you're actually okay. Just be kind to yourself.

This will be the last little self indulgent letter to myself, I'm fairly certain. After all, you now have a blog all about yourself. Coughs...

There are so many things you can write. Give them ago.

No wait. I lied.There IS another letter from your future self coming at 35. What I said there stands as well.  Some hair curling shit will happen, but you'll be okay. Seriously. 

At 46 you've realised that you're an odd contradiction of sweet, childlike and naive and an old nanna soul. And it's all good.

You will never be hip and cool and groovy. I mean, you just used the word groovy. Enough said.  


So, what other interesting things can I report about the future?

2017 is...

Interesting and challenging. 

We certainly don't live like those Jetsons cartoons, and alas, as I mentioned before, there are no hover boards. Hanna-barbera and Steven Spielberg are great big fat LIARS. Of course, you didn't fair too well with roller skates, so I'm sure you won't be too disappointed to discover this. 

Sadly I am unable to divulge any future lotto numbers. This is truly tragic. I dunno, it's like the whole 'letters to past selves thing' don't work or something? 

If I didn't know any better I'd swear The Magic Faraway Tree wasn't real and Samantha from Bewitched wasn't an actual witch...

Okay, maybe they weren't, but it doesn't hurt to believe in magic sometimes in this bat shit crazy, frightening, bewildering world. Yes, you're still a dreamer. So what? 

So yeah, the only things I need to say are, be kind to yourself and don't take it all so seriously. No one gets out of this thing alive anyway. You may as well laugh at the absurdity and sheer ridiculousness of it all. 

Which is why the perms weren't such a bad thing after all. They're freaking hilarious in retrospect. 



Me at age 20 in 1991 ready
for my TAFE graduation.




At my 21st birthday. 


See what I mean? 


Sincerely,

46 year old Ness

What would you tell your 20 year old self?

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Bated Breath


Greetings and salutations, lovely readers! How are you all? I keep pretending that there are so many of you. Why not? It's a lovely little game called Being Delusional that I like to play. No harm done. 

So just for shits and giggles I wrote a little made up story for Friday Reflections inspired by the prompt: Bated breath.  Of course I didn't get around to posting, linking and sharing it until Saturday evening, but, as I like to say, details! Besides, that's just how I rock a Saturday night! So anyway, here it is...



BATED BREATH


Adrenaline pulsated through me as I approached the counter. Every nerve ending was tingling. It happened every time. It was equal parts thrilling and gut wrenching. Yet, I couldn't stop. 

"How are you today?" the teller flashed a flight attendant smile. Her eyes were warm behind her designer frames. I glanced at her name tag. 

Louise. 


"Good thanks," I replied, matching her smile. I couldn't be sure if it reached my eyes. Mentally I summed her up. Her ash blonde bob and manicured nails spoke of regular trips to a salon. Her trim physique suggested an expensive gym membership.  Louise was thoroughly middle class. She probably had an immaculate brick home in a leafy suburb. A husband. Kids. Just like me. 

Except I was different. I had to be.

"How can I help you?" Louise asked.


I slid the cheque across the counter.  "I need to deposit this," I handed her my key card. My hands were steady. I had become skilled at pretending that depositing generous cheques was common place for me. 


"No problem," she swiped my card and efficiently tapped away. 

I waited with bated breath. My exterior remained placid, inscrutable as my heart beat a crescendo in my chest. Any moment she might say something. Louise's pleasant features would suddenly look puzzled. An eternity seemed to pass as I willed my heart to slow. 


How many similar cheques had I deposited in the past few months? I'd lost count. Each time was the same. The trepidation. Exhilaration. Bated breath. 

"Done!" Louise beamed. It was too easy. "Have a great weekend," she added, handing me back my card. 

"You too," I exhaled, then strode out past the security guard. Maybe I wasn't safe yet. He might tap me on the shoulder. I would be cornered. Found out for the absolute fraud that I was. I lived in perpetual fear of being discovered. When I wasn't, elation replaced fear. 

The guilt always evaporated when I walked out into the busy shopping mall. I felt alive. Energised. Euphoric. I was living a double life and I loved it. Time to go shopping. 

Travis would have picked Ella and Max up by now. He'd be at home, patiently helping with homework and preparing the evening meal. He'd taken on the reluctant role of house husband since he'd been made redundant a year ago. 

Meanwhile, their bills were piling up. Travis couldn't find another job despite applying for many. He sank into depression. I'd had no choice. I was the breadwinner now. 

I lingered near one of my favourite boutiques, lost in my thoughts There was only one way to stop these intrusive worries. Shopping. My card was never declined these days. That hadn't been the case some months ago. 

"We'll have to sell the house," Travis had told me. He was flat and defeated. 

"NO!" I couldn't bear it. It was our dream home, minutes from the beach. We'd been living the good life and I wasn't ready to give it up. 

"We just can't afford the mortgage repayments," Travis argued.

"I'll be getting a promotion soon," I said "we can make it work."

In the end he gave in, too bogged down in his depression. He already felt like a failure for losing his job. Now his wife was taking care of him. He'd always been so driven. We both were. There was no way we could just give up on our lavish existence. It would be humiliating. I was too proud.


Sure, we could sell the house, but then what? We'd had have to live somewhere. Imagine having to leave their prestigious suburb to move to bum fuck boganville. I'd worked too hard to get out of there. I couldn't go back. I'd have to take Max and Ella out of their expensive schools and send them to the school I'd gone to. There was no way I'd ever do that. So I made my decision.

Though in some ways it seemed like it was made for me. My role at the major insurance company where I worked involved drawing and cancelling cheques. On that fateful day I was there early. 




There was a tap on my office door. "Coffee!" my assistant Veronica trilled.

"Thanks," I took it, smiling. Veronica was a decade younger than me and I'd taken her under my wing. She seemed to have something of 'girl crush' on me. I knew she aspired to be where I was eventually. 


"I'll leave you to it," she said, closing the door. Then I saw it. A returned cheque. The customer was no longer at the address.

Ms Sarah James.


I couldn't believe it. I knew I was meant to cancel it. Instead, I put it in my top drawer and locked it. I tried to forget, but it was burned into my brain. When I left the office, darkness was descending. In more ways than one.

"See you tomorrow, Sarah," Veronica said. She eyed my Prada suit with open envy as I sashayed to the lifts. 


At home there were more bills. Final demands. The next day I banked the cheque. It was fate that my name was the same. Didn't everything happen for a reason? 

As the weeks went on, it became an addiction. I would draw another. Just one more, I told myself. To get myself out of this predicament, give me more time. One more became two more, and eventually I lost count. 

"It's exquisite, isn't it?" The sales assistant startled me out of my ruminating. "Would you like to try it on?" 

Before I knew it, she'd ushered me to the change rooms. The dress hung perfectly over my lean frame. Stress and long hours had made me too edgy to eat much these days, though I managed several coffees and wines each day.  The liquid and embezzlement diet certainly paid off, I mused.

"I'll take it," I told the sales assistant. I could always leave the tags on and return it, I told myself. Besides, it was an exclusive label, so it was practically an investment. I could already picture the likes and envy on Insta.

 And anyway, I deserved this. I had to carry the entire financial load while Travis was at home with the kids. I would need more wine. I made a quick detour to the bottle shop. 

I walked into work the next day with a sense of foreboding. I shook it off. I saw my reflection in the elevator mirror. I looked sensational. I was winning at this thing called life.

"Good morning!" I greeted colleagues who refused to meet my eyes. Outside my office, Veronica was absent. She was always there early. My stomach dropped. I glanced at the gold lettering on my office door.

SARAH JAMES 

Financial Manager

Then I saw them. My boss was approaching me with a subdued Veronica at his side.

I froze. Bated breath. It was all over. 


"You will do jail time," I was told. When I rang Travis he was livid. He was taking the kids and going to stay with  his parents. My whole world was crumbling around me. 


The last thing I remembered as I cleared my desk was Veronica's cold stare. 


THE END.

What do you think about silly old Sarah?

Do bills give you bated breath?


Monday, 9 October 2017

No More Regrets


Well howdy doody and how are you? Can you believe I said 'howdy doody'? I don't even know what it means! Never mind.

I am  here to talk about regrets. I have blogged about this before and came up with a whole list which you can read here.

The thing is, I re-read the list and thought about it some more. Because I love to over think things. And I began to wonder.  The root cause at the crux of some of these regrets is my ongoing battle with anxiety.

The question I'm asking myself is this: is anxiety something you regret? I mean, if you have an anxiety disorder it's not really your fault, though it is your responsibility. Fault/blame and responsibility are two different things to my mind. You can't be blamed for struggling with such a thing, but you are responsible for managing it.






Considering that my anxiety is clearly linked to the fact that I'm autistic and that is to do with the way my  brain is wired, saying I regret certain things where anxiety is at play is almost like regretting my entire existence.

I guess I'm not making much sense. Bear with me. I mean, looking at that old list I made a lot decisions based on fear and not being able to manage negative emotions. But at the time, I didn't understand that. Perhaps I didn't have the maturity or the knowledge. I mean, I didn't even know that I'm autistic until I was 40!

And even when I knew that I had an anxiety disorder, I didn't really accept it truly and properly. When anxiety in the form of panic attacks first tapped me on the shoulder many years ago, I thought of it as something more like a broken arm or a virus. Eventually it would clear off and that would be the end of it. But as anyone who struggles with this beast knows, it simply doesn't work that way.

It's only through accepting it about yourself and taking responsibility for managing it can you move forward and live a decent life. And honestly, looking back on it, I wasn't even given adequate treatment at first. It was only through my own perseverance that I kept going and trying things. Nobody ever even suggested that I see some one or pursue any help. It's almost like you're not taken seriously with these things if you're a woman... Especially one like me who has been a stay at home parent for many years. Anyway, I was trying to make a point but as usual I am rambling!

I'm just wondering about the futility of regretting things in life when you're an autistic human who has an anxiety disorder. I can say that I regret anxiety taking over my life, but at the same time, I was never given the correct tools to address it.  Somehow it seems that I've had to be very resourceful in trying to help myself and come to terms with it.







I've had six years to digest my diagnonsense and it still seems like there are often things I have to figure out and try to come to terms with.

I'm not organised. I am not a happy bubbly type. I don't know how to put it into words without sounding really negative. I am not really the person who would ever take off and go trekking by myself or do big gutsy brave things. I am not loud or opinionated or ballsy. And while I admire people who are, I can only be myself.  I am stuck being myself. A lot of times I think I should be things like confident and positive and I'm just not.

It's like if some people work out something they want to do they seem to know exactly what to do and the steps to take and then sustain it. I'm not like that. I can do certain things at times for periods of time, but not sustain it long-term. I can do one thing really well for a while. I can't do all the things.

Having anxiety and being autistic and introverted and all those things takes up a great deal of energy. I am who I am. And it is what it is.

It sounds odd, but I've realised I have to forgive myself for a lot of my perceived regrets or mistakes I made.






Ultimately I have wonderful parents, Mickey Blue Eyes and the boys and a small circle of family and friends who care about me and mean the world to me. And I want to concentrate on that. I did make some good decisions in life. Not that I want to bang on about cancer all the time, but having a brush with it certainly makes you realise you don't want to waste energy on a bunch of regrets.

But I do regret the 'howdy doody' thing. That was pretty dumb.

What about you?

What is your attitude towards regrets? 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Waiting For Rain

There it was. That sound. I knew what it meant. That ominous wail slicing through the stillness. It always filled me with dread. It meant that bad things had happened and the villains responsible were out there lurking.

I would edge my way through the shadows and end up at the side of my mum's bed. She always let me snuggle in next to her. The siren in the distance was still a sinister reminder. It signified that the world wasn't safe outside my cocoon. My home. My dog. My parents. Books and Barbie dolls. 

Sirens were not the only thing I was scared of. There was a list, including elevators, escalators, talking in public, cockroaches and blood. I never liked watching horror movies. 

I sit by the window tapping and remembering. It's a grey, dreary day and I feel nostalgic. I wish it would rain. 

 





I remember scrunching my toes up in tan sandals. The teacher called me cutie pie Vanessa. She had gigantic glasses and her hair in a bun. I had a red suitcase. 

I remember being forced to play volley ball. I hated volley ball. And all sport. 

I remember being thrown in the pool when I was five. My screams were long and loud. I still can't swim.

In kindergarten another girl also named Vanessa was mean to me. A boy had his dangly bits out under the desk. I went and told the teacher. 

I remember skipping around the edges of the playground. I think I had an imaginary friend, but I don't remember her name. 

In year five I went away for a school camp. All the other girls hated me on sight, mistaking my shyness for being stuck-up. 

I remember going overseas in 1981. I was ten. I had long red hair. Weirdly I don't remember being scared when the plane took off. I was terrified of everything else. I remember the vivid colours of the tulips. Playing records and eating gigantic bowls of custard. It was awesome. I remember my brother and I staring at the punks with their jagged Mohawks on the train. We rode bikes everywhere. 

I remember our next door neighbour teaching me to ride a bike in our cul-de-sac. 

I remember games of 'redlight' and sausage dogs. 

I remember barbecues and cracker night. The elated feeling of leaving school on the last day of term when the long summer holidays stretched before you. Before long the elation evaporated into boredom.

"I'm borrrred," I would wail.

"Hello, bored. I'm Mum," my mother would reply. 

But I always had books and music. And sleepovers with friends and cousins.
 
I remember when my Dad used to wear bright orange flairs and it seemed completely acceptable. 

I remember when my brother had a birthday party and no one turned up. Mum had gone to so much effort making cakes and chocolate crackles and various treats. There were no more parties after that. I didn't care. My birthday was in January. Everybody went away to the beach in January.

"They can have that," my parents declared and put the air-conditioning on. Summer was something to be endured in our family. 

I remember sitting in the sun all day at a school sport carnival. I went home bright red with severe sunburn. My mother was furious. I had asked to be allowed to sit in the shade and the teachers said no. 

I remember my auntie Evelyne taking me and my cousin to Luna Park. It was 1983 or 84. Again I suffered atrocious sunburn. Back at my aunt's flat she rubbed tomatoes all over my singed and painful skin.

I remember being called a red-headed match, and - my personal favourite - a red headed rat rooter. Nice.

I remember other kids saying things to me like: "Gee, your hair's nice. Pity it's not blonde." 

I remember old dears stopping my brother and I on the street or at the shops to ooh and ah over our red tresses and slip us each a twenty cent coin. A veritable fortune back then. You could get a whole bag of mixed lollies from the milk bar! Yes, I am showing my age. Sigh. 

I remember catching the old red rattlers to Central station and attending Ultimo TAFE.

I remember  walking through the dusty dungeons in the bowels of the State Library when I worked there. I remember feeling like a fraud. I was supposed to be a grown-up now. But I still couldn't look anyone in the eye or speak above a whisper.

I remember humiliating job interviews when I burst into tears.

I remember beautiful dresses my mother made. I loved dressing up.

I remember getting married on a warm November day in 1995. I was completely calm and contented in my lovely lace gown with a long train. I carried roses and raised my voice for the vows. 

I remember being told I would never have babies without IVF. 

I remember having an ultra-sound and being told I was already 26 weeks pregnant! It felt like being told I could fly. I had magical powers. Maybe I could twitch my nose like Samantha and magic up anything. 

I remember giving birth to my sons. 

Son number one:  "Here's your baby!" Mick held him and he streeeetched his little arms.  

Son number two:  "He has such expressive eyes," the  midwife commented. Mick passed out! 

Son number three:  The 19 week scan. "There is no heartbeat." Goodbye, little man. 

Son number four:  I was sliced open. He was so TINY. Perfect and tiny. Our family was complete. 

I remember the day Mick had surgery for bowel cancer. I sat with him while he had chemo-therapy. 

I remember going to Sea World with my family. I accidentally dropped my mobile phone in the shark tank. 

I remember giggling about all the silly things with my boys. 

I remember watching diggers and excavators with my then obsessed toddler son.

I remember my second son's collection of soft toys. His favourite was a dog, imaginatively named "Doggy". If we went anywhere without Doggy, we were in serious trouble! 

Being told I that I'm autistic at age 40 is something I'll never forget. I finally understood a few things about myself. 

There was the glorious cake my mother made me for my 40th birthday. Who could forget that?! 




Memories of all the amazing meals around the kitchen table in my parents house. My mother's cooking is THE BEST. 

I remember Mick shaving my head when I had chemo for breast cancer. I remember the beautiful hats my aunt made for me. 

I remember that I need to stop remembering and live in the present. Mostly I do. Except when it rains. 

I remember the wistful, wonderful, comforting feel of a rainy day. I've always been a pluviophile. That's what I've discovered. 






Rainy days still evoke a sense of nostalgia. When a siren sounds in the rain I am reminded of all the feelings. Feeling unsettled, then safe. Uncertain, then comforted. 

Sirens signify danger. Rain is healing. Soothing. 

When the rains falls, the sirens fade. 

I remember it will rain again. Soon.  


Do you feel nostalgic when it rains?

What do you remember?