Yesterday was my birthday. I spent the rainy morning driving my daughter and her friends to their first high school orientation. The afternoon was spent at the dentist with my kids. That’s all fine. I’m not a child (by any stretch of the imagination) and don’t need a big fanfare on the day.
Today I dropped my son at school for camp, my daughter at her school, then drove across the city in pouring rain to spend time with a friend. What she met at her front door was a tired, angry person, ready to fight anyone and everyone. Someone willing to punch, kick and scream at the world for all its ugliness.
Sometimes life is just not fair. No amount of talking about karma, putting it out to the universe, prayer, whatever, will change that. Sometimes it rains for what seems like days and weeks and months at a time. The feeling of sun is forgotten. Given the situation in the Philippines and typhoon Haiyan, a bit of rain should not bother me, but today it is. I won’t patronise anyone reading this with first world problem comments, an obscenely privileged phrase if ever there was one. I’m just pointing out, to myself as much as anyone else, that really, a bit of rain is nothing to complain about.
The rain suits my black mood. Perhaps it’s me who is bringing this downpour. Yes. Appears as well as being in the darkest of moods I now have a god complex, I can, among other things, control the weather. Apparently.
If I rage against the rain long enough, I can blame the weather for my horrid mood. I don’t need to assume any actual responsibility for my behaviour. This was my thinking today. This was the mood that my friend opened her front door to. Lucky woman.
After brunch and some good coffee, she took me to have my nails done. A small thing, but a thing none the less. She sat by me and entertained me with highlights from twitter and instagram. She sat by me and didn’t talk anymore of the big ugly that is making me so angry. We talked about the weather. We frightened a woman a few weeks away from having her first child. Confirming what we already knew; we are now officially women of a certain age who accost strangers in a nail salon, wishing them well on their impending bundle of joy.
While we talked, my hands were massaged. If I could have stayed there all day, eyes closed, I would have. The closeness of a friend, the hand to hand contact with a stranger, slowly massaging the darkness away.
On the drive home I listened to podcasts of writers in conversation. The rain fell, wipers worked across the windscreen, and words filled the interior space. The constant patter on the roof, the muffled splash of puddles, the honesty of writers talking, took over. Waiting at the lights, I admired my nails. Smiled. Realised after all the world is only as ugly as I let it be. That is enough for me, for today. Let it rain.
I decided to bake today. I thought the scent of spices, apple and vanilla would warm hearts on a rainy weekend. Spices were ground, flour sifted, eggs beaten. Sugar and butter weighed and mixed. I took my time. Concentrating on the small details. Letting my mind be filled with the task at hand.
Sometimes a cake is a metaphor. All that mixing and measuring. The coming together of separate things to create a whole. The batter tasted sweet, with a promise of what was to come.
I feel a million miles away from people I love this week. Cake doesn’t shorten the distance. But it tastes good. It smells good. I can post pictures of it on instagram and pretend my life is one great big old piece of cake. Easy. Lovely. Sugary. Life as cake.
The thing is, cake doesn’t always turn out the way you hope. Sometimes, even with following the method to a tee it doesn’t do what you want it to.
Sometimes, cake doesn’t come out of the tin. You prise and poke, you tap and shake. But nothing happens.
I foolishly thought if I baked a perfect cake, the day would get better. I foolishly thought if I baked the perfect cake, I wouldn’t think about cancer for a while. Turns out cake doesn’t know my wishes. Turns out cake is, after all, just cake.
In my mind the cake would come out of the perfectly prepared tin in one easy, syrupy upside down tap. In my mind I would be posting another picture perfect cake image on instagram. See? The image would say, today is just one big happy cake filled day.
But cake is just ingredients. It’s just flour and sugar, egg, spice, vanilla, butter and milk. It can’t make distance shrink. It doesn’t remove hurt, or missing, or sadness. It didn’t know I needed a perfect cake.
Turns out even crumbled, falling apart baked goods taste just as good as the ones the keep together. It seems even if the cake doesn’t look the way to should, the tears don’t fall.
Nothing has changed. I’m still sad. I still wish I could place cake in a tin and drive to share it with the people I miss most. But I can’t.
The cake may have crumbled. But turns out I didn’t.
Cake. Stupid, delicious, uncooperative cake. Perhaps it is more than the sum of its parts after all.
Week two of the term break is here. In Melbourne that seems to mean one day of wind, one day off, repeat, repeat, repeat.
I gave myself a week to just be. Do stuff, or not. As the day and mood took me. This week things need to be done. Reports need to be written. Planning needs to happen.
So, while I contemplate how to write about twenty-five souls, and hopefully impart not only the skills, but the message to their next educators to see the child, not just their can do and can’t do, I have a list of sorts.
Being lost in a book is time well spent. Carrying names and characters in your head and your heart, is hours well used. Stopping to read again a perfectly formed sentence is worth unfolded washing and a late dinner.
I am reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan.
I am amazed at my legs. At their ability to run step, step, step as I train. When my mind says stop, my legs keep going. Where they get their will from I sometimes wonder.
I am training for a half marathon.
This week, some of my family move house again. We are a family of movers. Houses are buildings made for shelter. Homes are within our hearts.
Last week I drove my son to a friend’s house. As it turned out, he lives just a lane-way behind my second childhood home.
On Saturday I watched as over 100,000 people sat in a stadium. I saw a man singing at the front of a band. He wore a T-Shirt with a slogan. Asylum Seeker. This was the main story in my twitter stream.
Hawthorn won the Grand Final.
Wind blows. Rain falls. Work gets done.
Books are read. Races are run. Songs are sung.
People move. Homes are made. One man sings in a stadium.
Stuff. It happens. It is what life is made of. Live it. Live it well.
As for the song. It’s just a song. Nothing more, nothing less. Listen.
Here’s the thing. Some days you really should just stop. You should stay home and not bother with all the things you’re so sure are necessary. Busy-ness shouldn’t be a prize to be bragged about.
To help you out, I’ve put together a list of tips related to do nothing days.
The dishes can wait.
I know. Crazy talk. But sometimes unwashed items can remain on the sink or bench. The sky won’t fall in. Promise.
Kids can load and unload dishwashers.
They can also do the dishes. Even really young kids. OK, so you may want to remove the super sharp knives, but nothing keeps a kid happier than warm water, bubbles and some dirty dishes. Pull up a chair to the sink, so they can reach, pull up their sleeves and let them have at it.
Pyjamas are fantastic all day wear.
It’s true. If you’re really worried about an unexpected drop in guest, or a courier, wear trackeis. Even put on a bra if you really want to. But soft pants are required for lounging.
Piles are so hot right now.
Books, unread magazines, cook books. Whatever floats your reading boat. Put a pile near a comfy chair or sofa. Make a cup of tea, coffee, bonox. Sit and sip it slowly as you read.
You can fold and watch.
Hurl all that unfolded washing onto the couch. Put on a favourite movie. Fold as you watch. Better yet, use the washing as extra cushioning as you watch. On chilly days, use it as a blanket. Also doubles as tissues for those tear inducing movies.
Don’t be ridiculous.
Stalking. It’s almost as good as exercise.
Social media is all kinds of fun. Especially when lurking. Remember when in full lurk mode not to like or favourite anything. Totally gives the game away.
Baking is good for the soul.
So are store bought cakes. Instagraming of either home baked or store bought goods is not strictly necessary. But if you do, remember cakes look better with clean lines and open bench space. If your kids haven’t done the dishes yet, crop any unwashed piles of dishes out of the final photo.
Wine should always be in the fridge.
On stay at home days, wine time comes early. How early depends on you.
Toast is tops.
Toast is a base for many meals. On a stay at home day it can be the main part of all non cake related food intake. You can even get all fancy with poached eggs, or beans. Bacon is a necessity.
There you have it. A non-exhaustive list of things to do on a do nothing day. I’m sure there are more. But that would require effort. And that’s not really in the spirit of this post. Do you have anything to add? What tips do you have for a slow day?
Sometimes there is lots of writing, but none to be published. It’s the way of things.
There have been trips on planes, late night drives home. There is work, and family, and all the goings on of the end of another term. For better or worse, we have a new PM. A new government, and, from my point of view, a lot of fighting on our hands.
This space has been changing. I am less willing to write, even in vague terms, about my kids. As they grow and begin to shape lives of their own, I have no right to write them into the posts of this space.
Those of you who have been around for a while, know cancer is a part of family life. The words that are spoken about its presence are for the ears of family and friends. I don’t want to write them here. Emotions are not all that safe around those words. Untyped is best. Some things are not for public consumption.
So, what then do I write?
We have a new coffee machine. I am running still. Training for a half marathon, and wondering how much longer my arthritic joints will take that kind of punishment.
I have decided on the days I am home during the week, I’ll make decent lunches. Life is too short for a hurried salada and vegemite somedays. What’s the point of working from home, and having a free-lance Hubby if we don’t take advantage of time? Is that blog fodder?
Perhaps I’ll instagram the lunches, the coffees, I already have more than enough photos of my running shoes; then again, what’s a few more?
A new story is mulling, I am pulling out the words. Trying to plan out chapters and characters. The task is hard, but it soothes me at its best, and exhausts me, berates and belittles me at its worst. Ah, words, even when I write you, you can be cruel. So maybe I’ll write about writing. Or the not writing, as some days go.
I have thought a lot about this blog, and at the end of the day, even after it’s been a while, I come back to it. So, it seems it is here to stay. The writing may change, but then again, don’t all things? Nothing worth keeping stands still, well, not in my mind anyway.
I haven’t been around much lately. Because, well, life. It is happening as I type.
The days have been a promise of sunshine and warmth. Washing attempting to float in the wind, pegged against its will to the line.
Rhythm escapes me as I run the well worn tracks. Magpies eye me as I pass. The perfect playlist eludes.
Sunshine and freshly cut grass, the signs that spring is here; an itchy combination to the hay fever inclined.
I tried to blog the everyday, the ordinary. But life is not about that right now. So instead, the posts remain undone. Snippets of words come in the half-dream of 3am. I wonder about getting up and writing them down.
For now, life is enough. No less and no more. The words of 3am remain half spoken. For the moment they can lurk. I have no time to catch them.
Today the sounds of Johnny Cash singing One, played in a cafe as I sipped coffee. The man in black. He brought to mind another man in black. And it made me smile. And that? It is enough. Because life. It’s happening while I type.
Do you know what is outside the window? Sunshine. Warm, happy making sunshine. Blue skied, window opening, new air being breathed into the house sunshine.
It has been a long year. As well as one where time slips away. Unused.
Life is the double bloom camellia outside the window. It is walking passed the palliative care nurses station without making eye contact. It is the too often uttered word, cancer, weaving in and out of my days. Friends. Family. Stories of people unknown.
It is making time for running. And time to sit and read. Head buried in a book, forgetting, just for a while, what the world away from crafted words is offering.
August has been full of life. The dark, cloud heavy life of reality. Of plane trips and visits. Of laughter, tears and one too many coffees. Of theatre, ballet and singing loudly with hundreds of others to a well loved movie. It has been friends, new and old. Full of text messages and conversations.
It is the as yet unmade decisions on the lesser of two evils election. It has been Syria’s unending devastation, and a Prime Minister talking about crimes against humanity; while actively perpetrating some of his own offshore. All in the name of votes.
I am waiting for spring. Reality will not change. But sun will warm skin. Feet will be uncloaked from socks and boots. Shoulders will bare themselves to the sun.
I am coming back into myself. The long hibernation of soul that is winter is shedding its blanketing layers. Reality will not alter. But there will be warmth to welcome it, and blue sky to light the dark.
The bedroom boasts a bow front antique mahogany chest of drawers. It was the first grown up purchase we made as a married couple. We couldn’t afford it, but bought it all the same. Interest free, hire purchase.
Inside one of it’s empty drawers I found an old button. Fabric covered, weft and warp worn from years of hiding.
I imagined this new very serious piece of furniture would make me into a neat drawer person. Carefully I folded and arranged all my clothing.
Over the next few weeks I not so carefully shoved clothing items into the drawers and stacked its top with all manner of stuff.
My drawers are still stuffed full. In no particular order. Every year I decide enough is enough and sort them out. Remove clothing items not worn. Make neat orderly piles. Fold to perfection. I open and close drawers with ease and a smile. I find wanted tops or jeans at a glance.
Then I undo all my good organised work. Drawers protest at being closed. Clothes scrunch and hide. Undies get lost as they fall down the back of the drawers.
I wonder, will I one day have neat orderly drawers? Will I one day find need to have things in sectioned neatness? Or will there always be a rebellious teenager living inside me and my drawers?