[warning. what follows is long, rambling and self-indulgent. i hope you won't detest me for being too revealing. i never was good at playing elusive and hard-to-get.]
yesterday morning i woke up really early with period pains and couldn't get back to sleep. i got up. got some books from my bookshelf in the other room, one of which is the black book, by orhan pamuk.
i took panadol and i got back into bed and lay there in the dark with the books on my lap. i intended to put on the lamp and read, but didn't want to bother john.
i lay there in the dark, and somehow started thinking about a story i started writing about 6 or more years ago, when i was in istanbul last.
now that's a long time. 6 or more years, to have started a story, written 60,000 words, felt very pleased with alot of it, inspired and magical, and then to leave it.
there are reasons why i left it. it's like it came gushing out of me, like a torrent of words and ideas, then i dropped it. it didn't run dry. i turned away from it.
several things happened in quick succession that left me no space to write. no space to even contemplate.
my mother was with us in istanbul. she was diagnosed with cancer while we were there. suddenly, pleasant days filled with pottering, and drifting through bazaars and having lunch and absorbing the beauty and sounds and smells of sultanahmet became a jarring mesh of doctor visits, tense ferry rides, trying to keep positive, and worry.
we were given the diagnosis over the phone on christmas eve. our sad little christmas tree, which i had found down a cobbled and twisty alley way, sat fully decorated in the corner of the room. presents were beneath it. plans were made for the midday meal the next day.
it was horrific.
fast motion now. mum flew back to melbourne dec 27 or 28, for more tests and treatment. i struggled on in turkey, guilty and worried. princess struggled with her turkish childcare centre. my marriage was a disaster in itself.
i made the decision to come back to melbourne, in july of 2000. i had no idea of how much time my mum might have. we were careful not to ask that question. when i arrived back i developed pneumonia. my mum was very sick. alot of it was on my shoulders. then my husband came out around january 2001 and told me he wanted a divorce. this was a long time coming but the fact he said it in response to me saying i wanted another baby was pretty cruel. he left, princess had to deal with her parents splitting. my mother was sick, really sick. my sister was pregnant and couldn't really help much with mum. i had gotten a job within 3 weeks of coming home, a great job at a graphic design company where i was studio manager. it was cool, funky fun young designers. the boss was a woman younger than me, but she was great. we had a ball, i loved my job.
it helped me survive.
there were times when i was so depleted. as a parent, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend. lots of people helped me, i had some wonderful friends.
i struggled with money, but i managed. i insisted on buying ali out of his share of our secret-life-of-them flat in st kilda. he tried to buy me out, but i told him that wouldn't be happening. i would be buying him out. this was a huge achievement for me. i out-manoeuvred the best salesman i had ever come across.
there were endless rounds of treatment for mum. visits to peter mac. cooking for her. periods of her living with me. it was really hard, there were times went i felt i was going mad. and i felt so guilty because here was my sick mother, the woman who had helped me all my life, been there for me in times of need, and i was struggling to give her what she needed from me. everything was turned upside down. now i was the mother, she was the needy one. and i wasn't coping at all well.
i did all the right things as a parent to princess. swimming lessons, ballet classes, read to her every night, let her sleep with me when she needed to, gave her hugs and kisses, encouraged her to speak to her dad on the phone, was reasonable and controlled when he brought a girlfriend out here, let princess spend a lot of time with them, let them take her to tasmania for four days when she was only 5. we spent a lot of time talking about feelings. we still do. now princess can say to me, mummy i feel that [this or the other]. she is genius at talking about her feelings. i put a lot of effort into helping her develop her sense of humour, her compassion to others, her generosity and her self-esteem. i have worked really hard at all those things, as a gift to her. and as part of my role as her mother.
princess was having difficulty with her reading at school, i was worried, i was pathologising everything. her school was crap, indeed, but she also had some sort of learning difficulty. i was desperate. i was thinking things like oh well, not everyone is academic, in an attempt to take the parental pressure off her. she's artistic, i thought. how wonderful.
then everything started to go wrong at work. the boss had put me on a pedestal. i'd seen her do this to other people, suppliers etc. and seen them fall. as i inevitably did too. i hung in there as long as i could. i needed to be in a job to rejig my mortgage to pay ali out. on the friday i signed the paperwork, the following monday i gave notice. i got out of there before all my self-respect had completely gone. i did the right thing by her to the end, creating work for myself because she had stopped my work flow. i cleaned the fucking venetians in the coffee room.
the family took a trip to byron bay. it was great. i decided i was ready to have someone in my life. i had felt so alone during the years. even during my marriage, at times i'd felt very alone. so john came into my life and i felt things were possible again. i enrolled back at university to do a postgraduate diploma. i did really well, four subjects in one year, and three top class H1 results. i was also toying with a career as a cop. i sat the entrance exam and blitzed it. my application was halted because i wear glasses, so that was that. i wasn't prepared to have laser surgery and then maybe fail the psych exam. or the fitness exam.
john and i became more serious. things were going really well. taking things slowly, making the kids a priority.
i applied for a scholarship and got one to do a masters. this took off some of the financial pressure. i'd been keeping things together by doing consultancy work for my bro - he was a lifesaver with sending work my way. my credit card was inching up to the limit of 10K. things were pretty dire, but i slept fine at night. luckily.
i moved house to move princess's school. needed to be in a zone for a better school. did that, moved her school, found someone to help with her learning issues. we got a puppy, the gigi. my mother's health had been really up and down, culminating in her being on crutches. she came to live with us again. during this time again i became really really stressed. but then she improved and now she is brilliant.
moved again, this time in with john and his two kids. we are in a fabulous big enormous house with huge garden, tennis court, such a feeling of space. the kids are happy enough. we are happy enough. it's still early days, but we are getting married next year and i have started a scrap book.
i finished my masters thesis a couple of months ago, i've joined a gym, i have some research assistant work and even two days work this coming week for my brother. i have discovered the joys of curb your enthusiasm, the beauty of arrested development, and waved goodbye to six feet under. today at prahran market i looked at how beautiful my mother looks, with her hair grown back all curly and done up in a girly-type of do. i argued with her about how she has decided to give my brother our grandfather's gold rolex for his birthday in september. see, our relationship is back to normal! me ungrateful and bitchy daughter, she patient and loving mother.
i've been blogging since last june i think it was. or even may. i've not written a post dedicated to this, like i thought i would. i've met wonderful wonderful people on here. like a whole new world of friends.
but i think what blogging has done for me that is more important than anything was get me writing regularly again. i kept a diary for years when i was younger. i have more than twenty volumes, all different sizes and bindings, all hand-written, mostly filled with tripe, but alot of my history is there, on the page. and now i have another journal, online, of the last year of my life. not everything is here, but alot of the day to day stuff is. i was looking through my archives the other day, and marvelling at how some of the stuff is really good and i put so much effort into some posts. it got my creative juices flowing again.
so that when i woke up at 6.30 yesterday morning, and the whole house was quiet and still, instead of turning on the light and bothering the ever patient, totally tolerant and wonderful john, i got up, got my laptop, and opened a file on my computer, in my documents folder, called the sugar men. it's 60,000 words long so far. i am proud of it, and it's not finished. i thought i would get back to it in another 20 years or so. but the time has come, perhaps. now.
i opened the file and i wrote a couple of pages. cause while i lay there for ten minutes in the dark yesterday morning, i thought of a way to reorganise this story, a new order, a different way to present it.
and i was excited and inspired.
i never get up early if i can help it. this is evidence of how this matters to me.
wish me luck.