I’ve always been aware of the mysterious force just underneath the surface of life. I’ve never called it God. Sometimes called it fate. But, either way, always its been there, every so often offering up a situation or life lesson that I truly couldn’t explain in any sort of logical terms at all.
In my early twenties, acting was the creative force that lit my soul on fire. I was seventeen when I did my first amateur play: a fun pantomime, which I’ll always remember so fondly for both the acting experience, but also the experience of being a part of a family that wasn’t my own.
That experience was just a tasting platter to the acting adventures to come. Years later, when I was twenty, I auditioned for the role of Abigail in an amateur theatre production of The Crucible. The character was the total opposite of the way I perceived myself. She was wild, I was timid. She was daring, I was meek. She was sexy and vivacious, I was…absolutely not.
And yet when I took to that stage, there was nothing left of me. Just the shell that used to be me and a wide open storm bursting onto the stage, rising from the depths of my soul. It changed my life, that show. It gave me validation that there was something truly extraordinary about the human condition. That we could embody lives and situations that didn’t even belong to us, and with such authenticity that it really made me wonder: what on earth is this life?
But this show never would have happened had life swung the way I’d wanted it to. Some months before being cast for The Crucible, I had applied for one of Australia’s best acting schools. I didn’t get in. Devastation. I’d dreamed of going to acting school since falling in love with theatre in my high school theatre class, and there really didn’t seem to be any other pathway calling my name.
When the rejection letter came it stung, and it left me wondering: what now? All my eggs had been in in that basket, and now I had no eggs left at all. I didn’t want any other eggs. I just wanted those eggs.
Then I auditioned for The Crucible. I’d done the play in high-school but had played a supporting character and I wanted to see what it might be like to play a bigger part. So I auditioned for the main role. And got it.
The show was cast in two teams, which was highly unusual for an amateur production. Two girls were chosen to play each of the younger main characters (kind of so we’d each have an understudy) and, come showtime, we’d alternate performance nights.The performance schedule was a huge undertaking — much bigger than I’d ever taken on before, so a day off here and there sounded like a lovely idea to me. My days off would be spent playing a voiceless, nameless member of the cast. I was happy with that.
Over time, the disappointment of being rejected from acting school disappeared. I’m not sure where in the rehearsal process for The Crucible I realised I was apart of something profound, but it was certainly clear by the time we put our books down (which means: by the time we’d learned our lines). I was more alive in Abigail’s skin than I had ever been in my own, and I never would have known this truly extraordinary sensation had I gotten what I had thought I truly wanted. A place in acting school.
Whatever the mystical force is that drives life beyond the surface: it had done its bit, I knew it had. Several times I thought it. Had I gotten into that school…I wouldn’t be here.
What if. What if.
The miracle of it all turned out to be far bigger than I’d imagined. Partway through the run of shows…I lost my voice. Perhaps because there was a great deal of screaming involved in the production, I’ll never know, but it happened and all I could do was accept it. I wouldn’t be performing the rest of the season.
Of course I was devastated, but more than anything, I was flabbergasted, and I think the rest of the cast was also. What would we have done if not for the directors choice to cast and train two actresses in my role (and remember I said this was a highly unusual choice for an amateur show. What on earth were the chances of this happening? My goodness. The magic of it all thrills me, to this day.)
By the time the show had wrapped and the after party rolled around, I had adjusted to the disappointment and was happy to remember the magic that had already taken place within me. I didn’t need to perform the show more than I had, to see how it had changed my life.
And if I’d had a voice at the after party, you never do know what might have come of my life from that day on. Because it was at that party where I met the man who went on to become my lover and friend for the next three years of my life. It’s a bit of a giggle to think what might have happened…had I spent that first evening talking his head off.
It has been fourteen days and the wind has brought me here.
What happened was quite accidental (but then, is anything ever accidental in the universe?) Rather than my plan expiring as I thought it was going to (for reasons long and complicated) it has rolled over for another year.
For a moment, when the ghastly realisation was made, I thought to approach wordpress and tell them, ‘Thank you, but I’m done, here.’
I never did do that. I never did pick up the phone.
I put this down to orders of the wind. The sway of the universe whispering me to stay just a little while longer. So, here I am, writing these words–half wondering why, half quite sure that there is nowhere else I’d rather be.
Why is it that there are so many segments of us, and why is it that not all segments of us want equally?
Some pieces of me want to be heard, to be known, to be understood and validated by like minded souls who feel a little like they’re swimming around in the ever spinning washing machine of life. Other parts of me want to hide. To never be seen. To only be known by the quiet that surrounds me, the quiet that I am.
I know I must write to experience myself truly.
I know I must create in order to find home.
What else do I know?
I know I’ll always be asking questions that make me feel a little lonely.
I know I’ll always think I know the answers until I, once and for all, understand that there is no one answer. Only the next question, the next step, the next choice.
Perhaps I am here to write. But at the core of that, at the core of my words, at the core of my message…I’m here to love. I always have been, and it’s more clear to me now that I’m allowing my love to be seen.
I can’t help but feel great waves of empathy, particularly for those who are struggling in life. Those who are scared. Those who are being unfairly treated, by those who don’t even recognise the wrongs they perpetuate (as a result of their own messy humanity.)
It’s all a bit of a mess.
It’s all a bit of a mess.
So maybe I shouldn’t waffle at you about love.
Maybe I should be writing something of substance: something about the politics of what’s going on with the floods in eastern Australia, maybe, and how they’d want me to say it’s got nothing to do with the way we treat the planet (when, actually, I believe that Mother Nature was the very first woman who learned to powerfully speak her truth.)
But I’m not going to talk about natural disasters, or about who believes what.
I’m going to talk about love, and how I feel it, and how I feel for everything and everyone, and wish that more humans did.
Because underneath every natural disaster, lives love. The rescuer rowing a family to safety while their own home—a home they have loved and cared for with everything they have—drowns behind them.
That’s not politics.
It’s not who made the wrong choice about dam management and should be fired because of it.
It’s not who is right and who is wrong about the effects of climate change on a struggling earth.
It’s funny. To think of the damage caused by cultural norms and stereotypes.
Of course, there are the absolutely beautiful cultural narratives out there. Those that cherish and honour human life by holding it, by respecting it so beautifully that even the hardest of hearts must surely be touched by the story of it all.
I heard a story as beautiful, just the other day. My counsellor told it to me: how, in her culture, when a woman becomes pregnant, she becomes the queen. The whole tribe lavish her with love, care, and most importantly, perhaps…food.
This discussion came about after a lovely tender moment where she looked over at me, my bulging belly sweetly growing a perfect little gift, and offered to bake me something lovely to celebrate the occasion (that’s right, surprise, I’m fourteen weeks pregnant. And how lovely it is, to me. How lovely it is. xx)
But, I digress. Because although there are some absolutely beautiful cultural stories passed on by certain cultures in the world, other cultures do not even realise their own toxicity. (And when I say toxicity, what I mean is…truly, their cultural ideas are heartbreaking and damaging to individuals who do not fit into the selected story being told.)
There are some absolutely wonderful things to be said about the culture I was born into. But one arm of the narrative, an arm that destroyed any hope of me developing healthy self-esteem in my early years, was the idea that vulnerability and softness were somehow character flaws. I was mostly soft.
As it turns out, this soft part of me, this sensitivity, is my super power; a power that helps me soothe, and bring safety to those who need it. A power that helps me tap into the world of everything and nothing, and pull down the words and creativity needed for my writing to touch people in the way that it seems to.
But my culture called me ‘soft’. It told me to ‘harden up’, and it assumed that If I didn’t…then surely I must be broken, at worst. Naive at best. Never have I been these labels.
And if you are a deep and tender heart resonating with these words…never have you been these labels, either.
Always we’ve been perfect.
Just the way we are.
Think of the trillions of flowers, plants and trees out there. Some are soft. Some are hard, shrubs built to last in the wind and rain and hail. None of them judge each other for being ‘wrong’ in anyway. They simply exist.
No one would have seen it coming, least of all me. His death was inevitable: that part we all knew was coming.
But no one would have foreseen my reaction to it. Not the way it happened, not the way the emotional slideshow of me slowly played out like a blocked garden-hose building in pressure, waiting for the almighty explosion that eventually would come.
My Dad told me: ‘Aaron’s died.’ We were on our way home from our shared workplace, an hour and ten minute drive from the city to the country, where we lived. He did a good job, my Dad. Quiet. Calm. Matter of fact, but caring. My Aunty was the one that received the news. He’d been ill, which on top of the cystic fibrosis had finally proven too much for his already fragile body to handle. Someone should tell Brooke.
I’m not sure why Dad chose an hour long car ride to do it. Perhaps he and Mum felt it would allow me time to let it wash over me, I’m really not sure what they had expected. But one thing I do imagine they expected were tears.
There were none.
Not a single one.
When he’d broken up with me, I’d constructed a wall about a million miles high, and equally as wide to protect me from both the feeling of being rejected without proper means, and the feeling of loss I’d surely feel in the face of losing him. We both still cared for each other very much. Very much. Though, for family reasons that are a little too personal to share, here, he felt it best he protect his final years as best he could. By saying goodbye to me. I understood. Still, it hurt.
On New Years Eve (his very last one, as it would turn out) he called me at my Aunties house, where I’d escaped the boring walls of home for a much needed holiday. ‘Is Chookie there?’ he asked, to my Aunties amusement. I took the phone, smiled at my Aunty, and fell into our world, again. He’d missed me. I’d missed him, too. We laughed and chatted for a bit. Finally, we said goodbye.
A few months later, Aaron was gone. He was about twenty, from memory: I was eighteen. And I didn’t care at all that he was gone, and I absolutely would not be attending his funeral, so they could all just go on and forget about that, ridiculous nonsense.
The day of the funeral came. I got up, as usual, and made the long trip in with my Dad where I began my daily routine. Pick, pack, tape up the box. Pick, pack, tape up the box. I’m not sure what part of the work induced the explosion. Perhaps it was the ripping sound the tape makes when it whirls off the tape gun, or perhaps it was simply the fact that I was at work, in the first place. All anybody knew was that one moment I was fine. The next, I was wailing. Sobbing in the most out of control fashion I could muster.
My Dad took me to the train station. If I caught the early train, I should make it to the funeral on time, and so I boarded the V-Line back to the country and off I went to say my last goodbye to Aaron. Technically, not my Aaron, anymore. But, according to my heart…still very much, my Aaron, apparently.
The train ride was interesting. The poor lady across from me did her very best to pretend my dark sunglasses hid my tears (and quietened the accidental sob that sometimes escaped me. Meep.) The dusty town I arrived in was quiet, too. No one would notice as I wandered along the streets, searching for a church I’d never been to before, in a town I’d never been to before.
I wouldn’t ask for directions, either. More accurately, I couldn’t ask for directions, on account of me being that odd girl: too shy to talk to any human outside of her comfort zone. So I asked the universe for directions. My plan was (and this is no joke) to follow whichever direction my hair blew in the wind, because certainly whatever higher forces I was connected to would get me to the funeral. Bonus points if they got me there on time.
I walked. And walked. And walked.
Finally, and with no thanks at all to my hair, I found the church. A little late, but early enough. The funeral had just begun.
‘Chookie,’ Aaron’s beautiful Mum said, after the service, as she wrapped me in her arms, and thanked me for coming to say goodbye to her baby boy. She seemed happy to see me (really, really happy) and in that moment…I knew the explosion of me was meant to happen, that I was meant to be there. For Aaron, but for his beautiful family, too.
They may not have noticed my absence if I’d not gone: the church was overflowing with hundreds, all of whom, apparently, Aaron had touched with his cheekiness, joy and boundless wisdom, too.
But I was there. And his family did notice.
I was grateful.
Grateful the morning had brought about the most unexpected emotional explosion, ever to have rocked my world.
Mental health is a very important issue at this time, and precious humanlives are the sweetest thing. Including yours. Reach out for help if you need it, beautiful friend. There are people who can help you find your own sun again. Let them. So much love. You’ve got this.You do. ❤️