Hunting for magic

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THE thing about grief is that it doesn’t just go away. You don’t wake up one morning and go ‘well, thank fuck, I can get on with my life now’.

It’s just there. Right behind you. A ghost. A memory. A blemish. A bruise.

I promised myself I’d write one post about mum’s cancer. And I did. ( http://www.petajo.com/our-truth/ )

And then I decided to write one post on the awkward position I found myself in – caring for mum while pregnant. And I did. ( https://www.mslexia.co.uk/blog/2014/02/writing-motherhood-rediscovering-daughterhood/ )

But the grief is still there, weighted to me. And if I can’t write about it, then I can do nothing. And it’ll fester until I lash out at a dog that won’t stop barking, or kids that won’t brush their teeth and then I’ll hate myself for letting grief win.

So here I am.

Writing again.

I fear I’m tripping into some wasteland of overshared emotions. I’m surely embarrassing myself. But I have to do something….

My days are harder now. I’ve moved into the amount of time where I’d have paid mum a visit, rung her up, sent her a picture of the kids…

More often than not now, I want to touch base with her and have to endure realising that I can’t. And I never can. And where do I send all this everyday love?

This is where my family and friends will tell me they’re here for me, and I appreciate that. I really do. But the thing is, it’s not the same. Because the way I send a photo to mum of the kids, or call her up, is as natural as breathing to me. It’s instantaneous. It’s completely without thought. It’s what I’ve always done. What I’d taken for granted I would always have. Anything else is unnatural and I need more time to grow into that new normal.

My head pounds with thoughts, my brain desperately trying to make sense of it. Trying to find ‘the good’ that comes from this. Because writing is most natural to me, I sense it must lie there. The answer. Buried inside my skull. If only I can find it.

So every thought I have, I examine closely for magic. A gem of an idea. A kernel of a story that will exonerate me from this part of my life. I crave something amazing, some giddying idea that propels me forward and past this murkiness. I have my eyes peeled. My brain recording all it can. “Don’t forget this, it could be important,” I tell myself.

It’s exhausting and confusing. I have gone cross-eyed trying to see the details in high-definition and headachey from the noise of my own thought process.

I am so tired. What I wouldn’t give for five minutes of ‘before’.

 

Our truth

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THERE are a million different ways to start this post. The safest way is to start with a disclaimer. I don’t write this to inflict my sadness on anybody else – especially my family. I write this for myself. To work out what I’m going through and make some kind of ridiculous peace with our current situation. Writing helps. I write this in part for my mum. To tell her things that the lump in my throat might not let out in person. Maybe it will. But just in case… And I think – I’m hoping – she’d see my sharing it here as a grand, practically romantic, gesture.

I’m bound to start waffling here because I don’t want to say what’s happening. Saying things make it real. Irrational fears you have before you drift off to sleep are not real. If you can continue showering, working, walking around like normal, in the daylight hours, then everything is okay.

So I’ll put it this way… my mum doesn’t have cancer. It isn’t terminal. And she will live a hundred years. We have so much longer than just a couple of months.

My mum is strong.

Still.

She has planned everything that will happen over the coming weeks. She has done all she can to make this process as painless as possible for her children. She has seven children, did I mention that? Seven kids, 15 grandkids, plus countless friends, and friends of her kids that she’s “adopted” over the years.

She’s had a tough life. A fun life. A full life. The stories she could tell you… of flashing earrings, sick children, cattle properties, being mugged, modeling, car crashes, courting, childbirth, toe sucking, fleeing… so many adventures.

In my eyes, she’s always been surrounded by admirers. I spent much of my childhood feeling like I was at a pop concert (mostly just country taverns and surprisingly raucous bowls clubs). My mum on centre stage and we’d have to find her through the throng. We did this by following the sound of her laugh.

Mum has taught me to be independent. I’ve never needed a man. When people say I can’t do something, I can’t help but wear her face – her arched brow, her nose in the air, her voice saying ‘watch me’. She taught me to rise above it. But more importantly, she showed me I could do anything. She has let me do anything. She has trusted me to learn my own way. She is also responsible for my stubborn streak. Her and her best friend Sue showed me the importance of friendship.

By her example, I’ve become a hard worker, loyal and diligent and sometimes (okay, often) scatter-brained. I know one day in my not-so-distant future my kids will ask me questions as I’m drifting off to sleep and I’ll say ‘yes’ without having the faintest idea what I’ve just agreed to.

I spent a lot of time away from her when I was young and when we were apart, I would look at the moon and wonder if she was doing the same and thinking of me. I was a melodramatic Linda Ronstadt fan-girl at a tender age. Tragic. I see now, it created a small cavity inside me, it made me be the over-zealous, hands-on, overbearing, never-leave-my-kids parent that I am today.

My kids can thank her for that… or ask for an apology. J

That’s probably where my hurt lies… for the time I missed being with her, as a child and as a young adult finding my way in the world (taking her for granted as young twenty-somethings are prone to do)… this was the time I was meant to really eke out the great stuff in our relationship. Seek out her advice on everything, better understand how it was for her now that I’m a mother too. Get her to babysit.

Now our time is running out.

How can I possibly know all the questions to ask so that I’m equipped for the various stages my children will go through? Who will I ring at two in the morning because I can’t sleep and I actually believe I’m going insane? Who would put up with that kind of shit except my mother?! It’s surprising and depressing that, for all my independence and accomplishments, I am very worried about who is going to look after me? Selfish, I know.

But writing this has helped – as I knew it would.

And this… is for my brothers and sisters, my children, my nieces and nephews, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. You may not all be as silly-hearted as I, but maybe this will offer something in the way of comfort….

 

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight

Someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight 

Somewhere out there someone’s saying a prayer

That we’ll find one another in that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are

It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby

It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky

 

 

 

I love you mum. xxxxxxxxx

 

 

No Place Like Home by Caroline Overington

DEAR Caroline, I think you’re a swell girl. A brilliant writer. A gifted storyteller. But I noplacedon’t think I can see you anymore. I know, I know, I’ve only read two of your seven (?) books and I’m sure your other books hold much promise too… but I just *sob* can’t.

It’s not you, it’s me.

You see, I’m what people might call a little ray of fucking sunshine. I’m smiley and cheerful for the best part. But when I read your books… I get a little mad at the world.

Your stories are real life. With all the sugar-coated goodness sucked off.

Matilda is Missing had me messed up for weeks!

Your fictional worlds are faultless in ‘high definition’ details. Your plots are edge of the seat stuff. And somehow you manage to impart a bigger picture of our society without any actual lecture.

I finished reading No Place Like Home and planned to take a nap afterwards … but I can’t sleep because I’d like to slap Roger Callaghan. I’d like to take a pipe bomb and drop it at his feet, to be honest. See what I mean? No sunny sunshine in that thought!

In fact I don’t think I’ve hated a person this much since I read Z For Zachariah. I wrote that character a letter in grade eight or nine. I even used the ‘f’ word AND let my teacher read it. She didn’t mind. I think she hated him as much as I did.

But I digress… what’s worse than Mr Callaghan himself is the fact that life is a breeze for him. While we are so busy trying to understand – or to judge, or to be simply fearful of – people that are different to us, we can’t see that we ought to be more wary of this privileged white man and what he represents (profit before people) than of any well-meaning but perhaps confused immigrant.

Certainly it pains me that his life is so lavish and imbued with success despite his abhorrent narcissism. That our society – in magazines (*cough… sorry, associate editor. I’m sure your mag is the exception to the rule) and television – parades the tawdriness of certain C-grade celebrities and further inflates their ugly egos.

This is a story that presents Australians with all our various racist attitudes. By the end of it, I wasn’t convinced that we, as a nation, were any better than those Africans who would butcher albino children. It’s the same fear of the unknown, we just don’t wield machetes quite as often.

So yes, your book may do many amazing things to get readers questioning what really motivates the ongoing non-issue of asylum seekers… but it’s just so sad.

I don’t think I’ll ever get the image of that mother climbing up her dying child’s body. Ever.

Never.

It’s clever how your story came from an ex-priest, though. Maybe that’s your story, your perspective, getting its own voice. Authors are gods in fiction and in so creating such a lovely boy – the only one brave enough to befriend a mutilated stranger – and then killing him off, you must have been glad for the chance to say ‘there is no answer here’. No higher plan.

Because, in my experience, killing a fictional character can be very painful.

In closing, I love you but I can’t read another story where the victims are innocent, especially when those innocent victims are children.

Don’t be sad. Maybe one day, I’ll be brave enough to pick up The Ghost Child. But till then, I’m sure you’ll find happier reviews from your countless admirers.

Yours in sunshine and lollipops,

Peta-Jo

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