Sunday, February 14, 2010

Me/Not Me

The weekend has been more productive than I first thought. I have done some study. I have done a little bit of writing for the writing job. The house is a bit cleaner. I found a new running track, with hills, on the way to the Abbotsford Convent for the Writer's Festival.

One huge triumph - I killed my first huntsman spider today. Aged 41, I found the inner strength to slay my first big, hairy beast.

I don't like killing things, but huntsman spiders strike me immobile with fear - we can't exist in the same room. Until today, when a huntsman graced my dwelling I called a big, strong, hairy man to come and do my bidding. I have a posse of big, strong, hairy men who enact my will when necessary. They are generally friends, or friend's husbands who get borrowed for the very occasional household job - the ones I don't dare tackle, like putting up blinds or fixing big electrical things. I'm pretty self sufficient, but sometimes it's good to ask for help.

I also work with engineers, and as they like fixing things, if you throw in a meal or a batch of biscuits, they think it's great and happily do your minor jobs for you without complaint.

But as the Grounded Dutchman is back in Holland, Freaky Running ex boss is in Boston MA, Work Husband is more scared of huntsmen spiders than me and Silly Dutchman wouldn't pick up his phone, still deafened from the AC/DC concert the night before, I decided to manage the situation myself. For once I would be brave. I also had to get my sorry bum back to Abbotsford Convent by 9.30 am as I was playing roadie for the morning.

Half a can of Pea Beu and two repeats of the Hewbrew Kaddish for the Dead later, I was pretty sure I'd killed it. The carcass had to wait until I got back from the festival.

Volunteering at the Writers Festival at the Convent is something I've done for years. I'll do anything for a book voucher, which is the normal payment for spending a few hours helping out about the place - whether that be acting as an usher, manning the information desk, running the car park or playing sound technician.

I've worked my way up to the technician or roadie job over the years - the most coveted volunteer job. It's cool. You listen into these fascinating sessions with writers you may or may not know about and all you have to do is make sure they can be heard at the back of the room. They think you're great. You direct the sessions, keep time and cut people off when asked to. Good fun.

I listened to the wonderful Alex Miller yesterday, a wry man in his sixties whose intellect astounded me. There was a session on Australian Bushfires, a session on eating in Paris and I sat in on a very interesting fellow talking about Jewish Emanciption. Alex Miller brought up the concept of the writer imposing themselves in a book - the me/not me principle. Stamping a bit of yourself in your writing when you are not there. All writers of fiction get this principle.

It was a case if me/not me in the first session today. A panel talking about the narrative voice. On the podium, my own me/not me scenario played out.

I was transported back twenty three years to a Politics tutorial. Sitting in front of me with this book of travel tales was a fellow tutorial mate, still a long streak of piss, better dressed, no earrings. Gone was the threadbare, standard issue army disposal canvas sack, the stovepipe jeans, the mass of black, curly hair and the post adolescent hunch. In front of me, talking eloquently of his travels and his psychoses was a forty-year-old man, not looking a day over thirty, rather sexy in an academic way, but still the quintessential Joel I used to hide behind in Politics tutes.

He looked at me. I looked at him.

You don't forget a bloke like Joel easily - his intelligence, his intensity, his large smelly feet, the fact that he'd go off on tangents every second sentence. You knew he was going to be a star.

You'd have forgotten my seventeen-year-old self in a heartbeat.

There was a glance of recognition in his gaze as he watched me slide the knobs on the sound board.

And I was sitting there, transported back to my days at University. Being honest, I have blocked a lot of my first three years at uni, bunching it in with most of my childhood. I was still a child when I got to uni, a child who'd suffered from years of emotional neglect and a lack of general nurturing. A child who had no idea who she was or what she was capable of. A child who had many lessons to learn but had no idea who to learn from. No idea how to make friends, how to grow, how to learn, how to survive, I floundered.

Next to a guy like Joel I felt like a speck of dust.

And there, behind the sound desk was my current self. Moderately successful, solvent, confident, stable. The lessons I had no idea about a quarter of a century ago have been digested. There was no intimidation. No fear. No hiding.

Joel and I chatted briefly, remembering me and our shared tutor, who features in his book under an assumed name. He asked what I did. I write for a living - okay, I write documents for a telco - but I write.

I bought two copies of his book. I'll send the other copy to the Grounded Dutchman to try encourage him to write down his wonderful stories.

Somewhere in the ether, seventeen year old me is lurking, waiting to come out, waiting for life to happen to her, waiting for her to stop hiding, waiting for her to stand her ground and take the time to learn.

It's why I dread meeting people who knew me at school and university. There are only a handful of people I've kept in contact with. Eight years in England knocks you out of most people's social circles - a blessing in itself as it lets you have a fresh start. Moving to another city when I returned to Australia sealed the deal.

She of twenty odd years ago was a half person. You don't remember diminished people. They fade into the wallpaper. I like to think that people who meet me now remember who I am.

Card for the blog: Two of Cups. Healing. A contract. Bringing emotions into balance. A relationship. Duality. Two becoming one.


Kilometres walked since 29 January: 43 km
Kilometres run since 29 January: 23 km
Currently reading: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
Weight lost since 29 Jan: 0.7 kg


Kath Lockett said...

I hear you, Princess.

I *hated* going to Adelaide Uni. It was too big, too poncy, too unfriendly, too.... All I can say is that I did my Arts degree without any supps or unnecessary lingering and got the hell out of there.

Pandora Behr said...

I wish I could say the same - but I got sick in third year and had to do my last year part time. I got far more going back to TAFE to do stuff that interested me (Professional Writing and Editing) later in life. I still reckon uni is wasted on the young. How do you know what you want to do with your life when you don't know yourself?