Notes to self, how to live beyond a tragedy?

Sad womanTuesday, 13th February 2018.

It is bright and sunny here in Seaford Rise, Adelaide. A soft wind dances across the room being granted entry by the large windows in my study. The curtains, ruffled by the lack of respect offered by the impolite wind, try to maintain their dignified silence as sentries to the large window.

I can hear birds chirping, there is strange rhythmic insect call and I try to scan my memories to figure out the species. Realizing that I am no botanist and too lazy to Google native South Australian fauna, I relent to ignoring it. I’ve labelled the collective ‘noise’ of the outdoors to ‘background music of life in suburban South Australia’.

Yes, it is important to label, it gives one a sense of proprietary, of control. So desperately needed in my life, at this stage of my journey towards my end. I am 41 and though I don’t look haggled, dishevelled and middle-aged, I truly am. Yes, haggled not haggard, it’s not a typo; after all, I do have autocorrect, spell check, thesaurus. And no, you may not lecture me on the wrong usage of words, or throw a style guide at me, it is a free world. If my writing is an eyesore then please feel free to look away. After all, even ancient Sumerian teachers complained about the deteriorating writing skills of their young, as discovered when deciphering ancient clay tablets.

Haggled, yes, I feel as if I have been bartered, negotiated, or bargained with. I feel I have been given a peace meal offering in exchange for my rights, my integrity, and my self-worth. As a single mom of three kids all less than 10 years of age, I have made compromises, settled for far less than what I’m entitled to and agreed to the very basic that is on offer. It is a choice made by my free will but it’s not to my liking. Hence, that’s how I feel, haggled.

Disheveled, no I am not dressed as if an orangutan is my stylist, nor does my sense of style match the frenzied taste of an orangutan, but it is how I feel like I’m wearing my insides out. Nothing is where it’s meant to be, my heart breaks as I chance upon a withered plant in my herb garden. I hear it’s lament at being rejected and forgotten; it’s life not worth a sprinkle ever so often. My tears roll down when I see a neglected signpost, beaten down by the weather, barely standing still and yet dutifully proclaiming the location.

Middle-aged, I am squarely in the middle of my life and I have no inkling of which side is worst. I wish I could say I’m stuck or frozen, but the truth is, life carries you forward, like a leaf bobbing on an ocean, the current transports you. You can swim along and reach your destination quicker, fight it and drown in the inevitable or be passive and pretend that nothing has changed. Move you will, the stars will change their positions and no one seeks your permission or even cares whether you disapprove.

The thing is when you are born you watch the world with wide-eyed curiosity, and believe that you are the centre of the universe. Even though your parents and educators are constantly reprimanding you and are consistently disappointed in you, the fact that your performance can give them so much grief convinces you that you are indeed important, that you matter. You go through life, being sought after by the opposite sex or same, depending on your preference and still the impression continues. Then you have children or pets and then you are thoroughly convinced that not only are you the centre of the universe but you are the architect.

Then life throws you a crisis, you lose your job, or marriage, or health or loved one and you realize that it was all a dream. In an instant you lose your identity, If you are a manager and you are fired and can’t find a job, what are you? If your marriage breaks down then in an instant you no longer are a wife or a husband. If you get diagnosed with cancer and it’s terminal your dying. If you lose someone dear to you, a person who coloured every moment of your existence with their presence who are you without them?

Suddenly in a split second, you are changed, the life you lived until then is no longer valid, just a memory, your identity is changed forever. Confident to clueless, in a matter of seconds, but what really cuts, is that life goes on. The sun still shines like a happy day, the birds still chirp in delight and people still plan for births, weddings, and parties. The clock keeps ticking, the chores need doing, the bills need paying, you can pause and take a breath but then you need to get going.

And then it hits you, what was the purpose of my life? Why do I exist? You reach out to Epictetus and you get stoic. You begin to embrace your vulnerability and live fearlessly. You start to let go of your identities, the real cause of your misery, after all, it is not the event that shatters you but your perception of the tragedy. The drama that we endure in our minds and the imagined anguish we feel in our hearts is what really torments.

But if you stay in the moment, take a deep breath, let the smells carry you, let the noises transport you, then in that moment you can either choose to be broken and lost or you could start to truly live. In that moment you are enlightened, as a human you are granted a glorious mind that can travel through space and time, coupled with a body that can make every imagination feel as real as can be. You uncover an unexplored realm of human consciousness, where you can choose your own existence, exploration or imagination.

So I say, ‘Go forth and live, to infinity and beyond!’

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