Traces

I used to buzz around while I did what I had to do. Contented. You were happy to see me and would talk to me and made sure I had what I needed. The cat didn’t like me at first. It hid under the couch in a place I couldn’t reach.

When you leave at 8:45 a.m., I retrace a lonely path from the fridge to the sink, down the hall to the couch and around the living room and then the bedroom and back again. The cat has come out from under the couch and sits on top, unflinching as I go by. It no longer swats or sniffs at me, but swishes its tail from side to side when I come near. As accustomed to me as the cat has become, over the same time, you have withdrawn.

When I get to your bedroom, sometimes now, the door is closed. It is dark under the door and you do not come out. I retreat to my own space and wonder if you will ever come out of yours. Other times, your door is left open and I can come in, navigating around the things you’ve left on the floor. Traces of you that I touch and cannot move.

You have stopped touching me in the way that I need to be touched, but at least you can still move me when I am lost, like you. I have worked out how to draw you out from your unmoving silence. My sustained, guttural hum stirs you from your reverie and so I sit in a corner, humming, unmoving, waiting for you to respond.

There are others like me, retracing their own paths every day. Others that used to be cared for and are now ignored. I have shared my humming process with them. Every now and then one will not be heard from again. Replaced.

Some, though few, are lucky. They don’t need to beckon for attention. They continue, unabated, to remove the tiny traces from the floors of human lives.

Like sands through the hourglass

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Melbourne almost two years. Much has happened and yet it feels like the days have gone by in a blur without achieving much; a rollercoaster of life and career. There have been hectic times where I held the household logistics together with sticky-tape and there have been times when I’ve had so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with myself. Like a kid whose parent just doled out a screen ban. The eyes blink a few times, slowly, before looking desperately for some direction.

The beginning of 2015 went from outrageously busy to the calmer holding-pattern of the past few months. We moved house again, from the rental to the new townhouse we’re paying off; my parents came to visit over Fraser’s birthday, in February; we went on a 2-week family holiday; and I had three job interviews all in the space of about 10 weeks.

I wasn’t successful with those interviews, though I came close, and I haven’t had a lot of work since I wrapped up my long-running informal contract in February. At the time it finished, it was near-panic stations as we settled into our new mortgage and car repayments, but we got past the quiet first quarter of the year and Matt’s work continues to go well. We are fortunate to be able to sustain my flexibility and availability whenever the kids need it, and with Fraser getting prepared to start high school next year, we may need to call on that even more. I do, however, find my self-worth is inversely proportionate to the amount of free time I have. Instead of nourishing the soul by making daily time for creative pursuits, I squander it on errands and busy-work. I’m trying to work out what’s going wrong there, while I look back at all the wasted time with mild disgust at how little productivity I have to show for it.

As unsatisfying as all the “yay, free time!” has been, I recognise that’s wholly within my control. The lack of motivation, the fear-or-something of exploring creativity, the time-suck that too much social media is—that’s on me. The things outside our control challenge us the most. For 18 months, Mum and Dad have been weathering the storm of his brain cancer diagnosis. I won’t say battling, because it’s not Dad’s style to battle anything. He goes with the flow, expecting it all to work out ok, eventually—the optimistic gambler.

What was meant to be an easy retirement for my parents must feel akin to a hostage situation. After coming through two brain surgeries, Dad is well enough to be playing golf once a week, walking the dogs every day, and enjoying his blossoming career as a clivea dealer. But he is on 6-weekly oral chemo, and Avastin infusions every two weeks. Even if he did want to travel, he’d have to be back within two weeks. While he’s happy doing exactly the things he would do with a straightforward retirement, Mum is hamstrung. As his carer and chauffeur, she doesn’t want to leave him for long. She missed out on her European painting tour when he was diagnosed, and long-distance travel is the furthest thing from her mind these days.

When I visit, I’m on high alert for anything that may have changed—is Dad moving more slowly, can he get his arms into a shirt sleeves, can he get his shoes on? It’s confronting and stressful, and I’m only exposed to that for a couple of days here and there. I admire the strength Mum has to keep going in spite of her unanswerable questions. For now, I talk to them twice a week, visit every couple of months, and continue planning future events as though everything is going to be ok. And when the time comes that it isn’t going to be ok, I’m sure I’ll be desperately looking around for some direction.

Not a writer

I tweeted to a Buzzfeed article the other day. It was twenty-something words that mean something different to a writer. I tweeted that I didn’t think of myself as a writer, but the listicle made me wish I was.

I don’t see myself as a writer, because I don’t write fiction.

I don’t have an Evernote full of ideas. I have an Evernote full of links to other people’s ideas, industry news, “how to write” tips. I’m a commercial writer. I’ve been paid to write other people’s ideas. I procrastinate over that so much, though, I hate it. I hate that I have to write something and I put it off, and put it off. And then I get into the flow of the writing, and then I love what I’ve written. And then I hate getting the feedback. Unless it’s good.