Good Grief

It’s been just over a year since one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. A facebook memory popped up and it broke me into pieces. She died 391 days ago, in the UK, just as Covid moved from a vague Chinese flu to a worldwide pandemic. By the time the coroner’s report was done, the borders were closing in, the opportunity to travel to London was taken from us and the Australian funeral was cancelled. The online funeral experience was horrifying. It left me cold. I felt adrift, unable to seek closure or grieve with friends and loved ones due to limitations on travel, government rule changes and lockdowns. We tried several times to schedule a memorial and each time another lockdown came in place. The 5km radius hit me the hardest, as a single woman, many of my friends lived outside the radius and social catch ups on Zoom are really just you and a bottle of wine day drinking.

Since the pandemic began, my mind has been in free-fall. For me, 2020 is best described as a kaleidescope of misplaced emotions, on a spectrum of extreme gratitude to the darkest of despair. In short, a total epic shit show. Without the ability to travel overseas and viewing a funeral via Zoom, I was at a loss as to how I would ever process the gamut of emotions that I’ve been experiencing.

Lockdown gave me plenty of time to consider what I feel, what I felt, how I feel now and especially: what I want my life to look like. Taking stock. Reassessing everything. The shadow of grief still chases me and everyday I wait for my friend to call, or a postcard to arrive. But there is only radio silence. Where is she now? Is she okay? I want to scream at her for not being here during Covid. But secretly knowing that travel restrictions would have been the death of her anyway.

My experience with grief is not a unique one. 2020 was a year of grieving. But for those who lost a family member or friend, the grief was both incidental and monumental. Incidental because as a Victorian, we shrugged and got on with our lives. Whilst secretly internalising and repressing the pain, increasing in size but refusing to feel anything.

Overall, I was angsty and frustrated; with no memorial or place to lay my grief down, I did what I always do in an emotional crisis. I threw myself in to research- as if educating myself on the concept of grieving could somehow alleviate my pain. There is such a wealth of knowledge out there and I absorbed much research and data out there about grief and loss. It’s a well known fact that death of a loved one is the number one stressor event that will impact every part of our lives- our relationships, our jobs, our emotions and it will trigger depression and anxiety across all walks of life in a myriad of different ways. Grief and loss may appear to be a solely emotional reaction but there is no doubt that unchecked and unprocessed, our emotional stressors manifest in physical illness and disease.

So, not only is there emotional pain and mental anguish to contend with, it comes with the daily torture of grief and loss of feeling lost and hopelessness. Never mind that on any given day, we are bombarded by mini-threats and routine changes that trigger emotional stress (Did I lock the door, Why am I texting and driving, how do I feel today? Did I drink too much last night? Is my job safe? How will I pay the mortgage if I lose my job? What if I can’t hold it together today?); but the fact is, because we don’t fight or run, we stay both passive, yet statically reactive; our cortisol and adrenaline in over-drive, we are flooded in stress hormones and often we have limited skills to absorb, process, manage and regulate our daily emotions. And on top of that, we have had a global pandemic to contend with. If you can somehow make it through the day in an uncertain world living through an ‘unprecedented pandemic’, without the shadow of death or grief foreshadowing you, then consider yourself lucky.

Knowing my own struggles, I can only imagine how others are doing, the Covid-19 sufferers and their families, never mind the elderly, disabled, mental health challenged, parents, singles, disadvantaged and those grieving time and distance and the death of loved ones. It’s been a hell of a year.

Whether you know of anyone struck down by Covid-19 or not, it’s safe to say that it has changed our lives forever. From mask wearing to lockdowns to the end of international and interstate travel, to global economies and across all business models; the impact of Covid-19 means that change is happening, whether we like it or not. There is no going back. There is no take-backsies, no snapback, bounce-back or comeback to pre-Corona world. There is only going forward. For some, going forward means going in to the unknown. The unknown of family safety, employment, mortgage and bill payments, health and food payments, on top of the uncertainty of health and travel. Life as we knew it will become a whole new world.

I know that my 2020 story is not unique. For every person who has passed away, or had a loved one who passed in the last twelve months, there have been significant changes as to how we live our life. Whilst huge sweeping changes generate this uncertainty and anxiety that infiltrates our lives in ways we cannot even anticipate and we turn on the news to visit the chaos of a dystopian-post-Trump-American-nightmare and a daily global death count, it takes all my inner strength to remind myself to breathe and accept that the sun will still rise tomorrow.

When I consider my pendulum of 2020 emotions and you take that and multiply by every single Australian during a global pandemic; it makes you wonder how will we move past our collective grief and what impact will it have on the collective consciousness?

And as we individually and collectively process our experiences throughout 2020, it comes at a time when we would normally be in the passionate throws of that monthly-long-glow of New Years Resolutions. Where hope and optimism grow. Where we think of weight loss and long-term projects, career goals and future fairytales, love stories and fantasies. 

And what is the new year glow, without the classic reflection and inward introspection? I think back to New Years Eve 2019, last summer, where half of the eastern coast of Australia was on fire. People were afraid. A friend of mine lost her house in the Mallacoota fires. Other friends complained about their summer holidays being put on hold and camping and boating adventures being waylaid. Road closures and regional interruptions meant plans had to change. We were basking in the glow of that early 2020 ‘first-world-white people’ problems.

‘Oh well’, my friend said, ‘Lakes Entrance is off, but Danny wants to go visit his sister in Queensland.’ And off they went. The casual travel plans of January 2020 seems like a lifetime ago. Normal life and how we navigate our daily routines have been turned on its head.

But there is an opportunity for hope. If we allowed ourselves to think differently, the pandemic presents an opportunity for diversification and a huge global re-set. It has the possibility to change and transform every country and every economy. It challenges us to reimagine capitalism and for big business to reimagine a better world, to recalibrate industry and to reassess the legacies that they want to leave behind. 2020 asked us to be brave enough to review our predispositions and assumptions around equality and equity for a variety of socio-economic groups, for women, minorities and LGBTQI people. To reassess and change the world. The opportunities for society to create a brave new world are endless.

IF we are brave.

And how do we do that? How can we be brave in a world fuelled by fear and narcissism. For me, the number one technique that has helped me is to take very clear moments to acknowledge truth and kindness, to remember to pat myself on the back and remind myself that 2020 has been a complex moment in our lives. So often we are focussed on the next thing, the next goal, the next achievement, that we don’t take the time to reflect on what’s happening in the moment. To appreciate our momentary successes and small wins.

On an individual level, the challenge that I offer both myself and others, is to give yourself permission to pause, reflect and then decide to act (or not), on any shade or colour on the spectrum of emotion. You are not lazy, wrong, weird, lost or selfish. You are simply having a human experience. I challenge you to recognise that it is important to take time in processing all that you have experienced. Because when you are authentic and connected with yourself and not on auto pilot, you may find that you want to do small things for yourself, for your home and for others. Light a candle and weep for those who are gone. Turn the music up loud and dance and sing like a joyful child. Take a long hot bath and turn the music down low and soothe your soul. Go out on a crisp morning and breathe in deeply and remind yourself of all the things you do have and the things in your that that your are grateful for.

Simplify your thoughts. Give yourself the gift of truth this year. Your own truth. And see how brightly your own inner light can shine. When you view your life through a spectrum of hope and success, you will see your mind opens up to the possibilities. Ask yourself: what do you want? What do you need to reimagine your daily life? How can you live more authentically?

It happened to me. The answers I sought came to me in the silence of lockdown, when the mind was quiet and I stopped to listen. I choose to believe that this way of thinking makes us stronger. Listening makes us stronger. Imagine the possibilities if we all stopped for a moment, talked about how we were feeling and chose to help one another by listening. The world is noisy. But if we choose to stop and listen to each other, it makes us strong and after all, we are stronger together.

Who’s with me?

Processing a Global Pandemic

It feels like space mountain. Or a rollercoaster at Six Flags. Not just any old rollercoaster, one of those rickety old ones that goes clickety clack, clickety clack, clickety, click, click, click … click… until you reach the top. You know it’s coming. You can feel the anticipation. Your body tenses. You prepare your stomach for the fall. Your eyes dilate. Your throat tightens and you see the coming downward slide.

The fear and the… Exhilaration… It all crashes over you; the cortisol, the dopamine, the adrenaline, the fight or flight triggers, the nervous system reacts, your muscles clench, the eyeballs twitch and-

I stop. I remember that I have to breathe.

I tell myself that I’m one of the lucky ones. The mantra begins. I’m grateful. I’m healthy. I have a loving family. I have a home. And last, but not least, I am employed. My role has been deemed necessary. Words cannot express my gratitude for that, given that I am an immune-compromised human in an unprecedented pandemic. The thought of being unable to support myself financially, emotionally and medically (all of equal importance to me), all of those things terrify me. Recently, I have had to voice the words “immune compromised” to my employer, taking the risk that that knowledge won’t be be held against me, as it has done with previous employers, in the pre-Covid days. That was scary. But nevertheless, it’s a headspace that I navigate daily- who and what I tell. If and when I tell my friends and family of my pain. If I can drop the mask just a little bit a let them know the truth of my reality.

I live in a world of remission and chronic illness and I spend most of my daily working life hiding what I feel from people far better than what I give them credit for. What do I mean by that exactly? Well, if you’ve never had chronic illness or spent time in hospital, it’s unlikely that you’ll understand my experiences. If you’ve never lived with a disability or cared for someone with a disability, it’s unlikely that you’ll understand my experiences. There’s a percentage of people in this world who understand and there’s a percentage of people who’s life is far harder than mine. Maybe on reading this, you’ll tell yourself that I’m being a jerk. Maybe you have a ton of empathy or a touch of sympathy, but you can’t understand until you feel it, until you know. But here’s the crux of the matter- the world that I live in means navigating work and managing my disability in ways that only a small percentage of the population will understand. And that’s okay, I swing between adjusting and managing my situation to make sure those around me are comfortable.

Which brings us to my place in the global pandemic. Covid has bought the reality of being chronically ill to the forefront of my mind in ways that I had never anticipated. I have had to have honest conversations with colleagues and management whom I’m not even sure I trust them to have such honest conversations with. They are well aware of my position on returning to work and my unwillingness to return to work until they can ensure my safety. I have certain questions about those things and as an organisation they are still making their own high level decisions about what happens if and when the staff can return to work. The uncertainty and fluctuating changes means that I am in a situation of negotiating my position on the pandemic, day by day, moment by moment. I consider my moments of leaving the house very carefully. Normal events of five months ago, like a trip to the supermarket, a visit to a friends house, shopping, going for a coffee, all of these daily decisions involve hours of over-thinking and internal pep talks.

To recap, here we are – fifteen weeks into an unprecedented global pandemic. No one has a clue what normal is any more or how to react in a pandemic. The word alone brings up imagery of the bubonic plague, or more recently (one hundred odd years ago), the Spanish Flu. It has been just long enough for humans to forget. Long enough for humans to forget about world wars, martial laws and how we as individuals are here to support and serve the community. ‘For the good of humanity’ has been lost amongst the noise of capitalism and family priorities.

When I look back at when this started for me, I have to chuckle. The date was March 13, (Friday 13th, obviously) – the date when the grumblings had begun. Australia had slowly started to recognise that this wasn’t just a ‘Chinese problem’ or an ‘overseas problem.’ Immigration and airport decisions were made and memorably when our Prime Minister declared that he would go to the rugby on the Sunday, before locking down on Monday. It defined just how ill-prepared our Government was. The men were aflutter with their talk of the AFL and Formula One seasons about to kick off. Nothing in the world had changed beyond the Wuhan lockdown and it hadn’t reached our country yet.

On Friday, March 13, I flew to Sydney for the weekend, a situation I’ve since come to regret. I was monumentally sick with a cold and despite a fun weekend, I spent the whole flight home thinking I was dying and the people around me looking at me as if maybe I was. Australia was only in the midst of pandemic mumblings, the talk of ‘an overseas pandemic’ was being whispered and the news talked of ‘if you’ve travelled to China, make sure you get tested’. I returned to Melbourne on the 15th March, feeling as though I’d been hit by a truck, feverish and coughing. I became petrified of all the pandemic talk and I spent two days driving around trying to find somewhere that would allow me to get tested. The first two places turned me away because I hadn’t travelled overseas. Despite my medical history, it took me four different clinics and plenty of shouting to convince health professionals that I needed to be tested.

The mumblings and undercurrent filtered across all our conversations. Corona Virus became Covid 19. In April, the fear set in, people were panic buying toilet paper and the elderly and chronically ill were being tested. Easter came and went. The ability to work from home no longer involved union conversations and reams of paper – it was expected. People were still in denial. Community transmission was considered to be low – but we weren’t testing. That wouldn’t come for a few more weeks.

A month later came apathy and panic in rolling waves. May bought the certainty of no travel, no brunches, no sport, no Mother’s Day, no funerals, no weddings, no parties, no restaurant outings, all of which led to a collective confusion and community judgement of others escalated. Everyone had an opinion. Fingers were pointed and the NIMBY-brigade dug in to argue their world view. We watched the numbers on the nightly news, graves in New York, the British Prime Minister and the King in Waiting, got sick. We sat back smugly, our numbers in the teens and convinced ourselves were were safe. We discussed quarantine hotels and policies of cruise ships, watched as a handicapped season of the AFL begun and convinced ourselves that we were okay with this ‘new normal’.

We stumbled through June as job and economic panic escalated, doomsday naysayers, testing clinics open throughout the suburbs and the postcode lottery began. The whiny mumblings of six weeks ago became louder. June brought complacency and fear-based headlines. The hope of April felt like a lifetime ago. A fantasy. It felt like just as I was beginning to feel comfortable with ‘the new normal’, the Governmental lines were drawn and any certainty of travel in August and September felt like a foolish dream. I still hold out hope for a summer holiday, maybe a trip away at Christmas. The skeptic in me knows that it is unlikely. I am starting to lose hope in humanity. Hope in a time of quarantine feels unrealistic, like my dreams of travelling to America or see a live band play again. My heart breaks for my Pixies concert and my Tim Minchin tickets. My heart breaks for the music, film and theatre industries.

July brings a foreshadowing, a feeling of unsettled despair. Am I on top of ‘the new normal’? Am I supported? Am I okay? Sure, I consider myself eternally lucky that just six months earlier, I had moved back in with my parents (for a variety of financial and emotional reasons, including my care and theirs. It had become a matter of mental health and a need to cocoon myself for awhile but that’s a story for another day), but the beauty of it was I am able to be in isolation lockdown and still have family support. I no longer have a mortgage, rent, bills to add to the mental and emotional stress during the pandemic, so again, let me be clear – I cannot tell you how grateful I am.

My sanity feels like an ever-fluctuating state, moment by moment, day by day.

After all, my job is safe, the work continues and life rolls on. Onwards and upwards, in to the void I go – if it were a void that covers less than fifty square metres. I leave my bed to bathroom to the study (10 – 12 steps) and then to my kitchen (another 20 steps) for coffee and back to the study again. My day is complete. And back I go to the kitchen and make dinner and return to my bed to rinse and repeat.

I do leave the house; but when I do, I can’t wait to back at home. Safe and secure. On the rare occasion that I go to the supermarket – I feel the walls closing in and my chest tighten. I queue at the door of the Woolworths, adjusting my face mask and rubbing my hands with sanitiser, breathing in and out to centre myself. A Karen-type woman stares at me for a second too long. The pale blue mask is still unsettling to the Aussie sensibilities. In Australia, masks are not yet mandatory but I get the feeling that that decision may change. My brain tells me that if I don’t wear the mask, I’m essentially trapped at home and I don’t have anyone to talk to other than my parents. I don’t want to risk additional quarantine. The supermarket and local shops are my only solace.

In the supermarket, I walk past the teenager wiping down the baskets, his slight head nod tells me that it’s safe to enter. A gentleman behind me coughs in to his elbow, then picks up a potato. I reach for an avocado, as two small children graze past me, pushing and poking each other, as siblings do. Their mother just rolls her eyes at me and goes back to putting carrots in to a plastic bag. An elderly lady pushes past and asks me to pass her some tomatoes. I pass her them to her, using the plastic as a barrier. She stares at me a second, perhaps confused by my paranoia. I refuse to believe that I’m the weird one in this scenario. I complete my shopping in fifteen minutes, getting just the bare necessities. A group of teenagers stand too close behind me – just a tad too close… and I shuffle forward but they refuse to leave a gap. My hands tense. I clench my hands, digging my nails in to my palms; in each moment, my anxiety spikes. How do I navigate this space when I don’t trust that I’m safe? The danger isn’t agoraphobia anymore or road rage or supermarket rage or ignorance or apathy.

Right now, I do not trust the humans around me not to be infected and I cannot in any given moment guarantee that I’m not infected either.

I tap my card against the sanistised EFTPOS machine and make sure I give way to all oncoming pedestrians, careful to avoid eye contact. I scurry out, back to the safety of my car, ready to return to the sanctuary of my home. There is a message on my phone. My parents are out of milk. I sigh, making my way back inside. Whilst I wait in the queue, another message pops up, a reminder about my gym appointment, to be clean and on time. It’s funny that we now have to be reminded to clean and rinse and sanitise as if it’s a new concept. Fear does funny things to society.

As I drive home, I’m reminded that the traffic flows have changed mid-COVID; and a sense of unreality hits me. I no longer have any sense of time or distance. My friend Simone messages on our group chat, to check in about our weekly Friday night drinks on zoom. I don’t answer straight away. Enforced-Covid-Social-interactions leave me cold – I end up drunk and alone on my couch. I miss my friends but it just makes me feel sad, a reminder that I’m still living at home with my parents. And sure, it’s not that much different from pre-Covid times – but at least back then, I had a choice to go out or to stay at home.

We are doing the right thing, I tell myself. The lockdown is for community safety, we all have to do our bit. But my inner child is chucking a small tanty at my freedom and free will being taken from me. So the mantra begins again – for the good of the community, we stay inside. But my body will not allow it. The nausea rises and my hands twitch. Jittery, my days swing on the vine of free-flowing anxiety. Just don’t get me started on the other kind of needs – I don’t even know how to online date in Covid times.

For now, my only focus now is staying safe. Protection. The common good. I’ll worry about the agoraphobia later. I’ll stay inside, I’ll wear the mask, I’ll do the right thing. This is what we do now. We’ve seen the spike in numbers. We can see what happens when apathy settles in. The numbers grow. People here and overseas are dying – so we all have to do our bit.

And with every step I take from my car to the front door of my house, I know I’m still processing this Covid-Gravatron, this merry-go-round carousel of lockdown life. I feel like I’m almost getting in to the swing of things and we twist and turn, we go backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and my head is screaming “I don’t want to snap back”. “I don’t want this to be the ‘new normal'”. My brain is still there, back on the 14th March, looking out of the Shangri-la hotel, looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and thinking about the bliss of a quick flight north for a weekend away. How simple it all was.

But remember, the lessons are there for all of us to see. This is an opportunity to look inward and outward, as within, so without. This is our time. A chance to reflect. The time is now.

2020 – 2.0. An evolution revolution. Can you feel it?

Tell me how you are processing the pandemic. How are you coping? Are you? What has changed for you? Are you okay?

Choices

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about Soul contracts and life choices. How much of who we are and what we do is pre-determined, or predestined? What is free-will and do we really have it?

And then of course, an article appeared in my newsfeed on facebook as if it was pre-destined (or, depending on your take on it- a possible Russian algorithm sent to spy on my click-bait choices 🙂 ) :

As the article states “According to Buddhism, your soul has been on this Earth before. It may have been here many times, actually. Our souls come to this world time and time again. This allows growth and change. As you grow old, your soul outgrows its contract and is ready for a new one. As your time in this body is over, your soul moves on too.”

There is no doubt my soul is an old one. I’ve always been impatient, the hurry to speed things up has been interpreted as rudeness on numerous occasions. But I’m ready for the next thing as soon as I’m done with the last. I’m not interested in your positive or negative feedback, I’m already on to the next thing.

But all of these things I feel, the clairsentient, the clairaudience and the empathy, I want to know more about how we choose.

“Your soul contract includes the time, date, and location of your birth, and the family you are being born into. It includes all the events of your life until death and how they may unfold. According to this theory, everything is how it is based on what your soul considered before choosing this life. You can’t remember this decision, yet there is a path for you and lessons to learn and grow from.


Even though there is a path your soul has chosen before being born into this body, you also have the free will to make changes as you wish. Though there may be an outline, it is not your destiny. You can get off the path, and choose differently. Your soul contract was meant to help you grow to a higher state of consciousness and awareness. Everyone you meet has their place and reason to be in your life. It may be confusing, but eventually, it will all be clear to your soul.”

And there it is – “Everyone has a reason to be in your life.” I’ve never been able to make my peace with this part of the soul contract. Forty years ago pre-birth, I made a contract with my father and mother to be their child to deliver the exact messages they need to hear / live with.

And I wonder what this even means in the context of a global pandemic, did we choose to live in this time? What about those who have died, is there a reason for those who are infected and how some have immunity and some do not? Is it pre-destined, or is it just random? Science says there is no such thing as religion and the big bang theory started all of this. And by this way of thinking, nothing has meaning and we live and we die.

“Our lives are but a speck of dust falling through the fingers of time. Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

I refuse to believe that the connections in life are all just coincidence. I’m currently working on a post on coincidence and connection, so stay tuned but in considering my life choices, I want, no I need to know there is something more. Something bigger than random atoms bouncing around in the universe and that our choices and our life has meaning.

In the last fifteen weeks, the global pandemic has escalates and heightens my thinking on choice and free will. These global changes has filtered through every aspect of society as it has made demands on defining who we are. Who we are as a person, as a family member, as an employee or employer but who we are as a community and as a human being. It has forced us to our choices, our life decisions, our hopes and dreams in ways that we haven’t had to before. It has placed demands on our perceptions and worldview – our beliefs and confidence in government and institutions, in the media and in our neighbours. Ultimately, we are being asked on a daily basis to commit to unseen acts of trust without even asking questions of the value of each decision, simply because the media and government tell us it is so. And I say to you – trust me, this is not a looney tunes, conspiracy theory post, I am not able to tell you stories of secret societies and back room deals but we need to start filtering our decisions and choices now. Prioritising if and what is working for us. Is it right to go out, who will we seem, how will we interact with them, are we suspicious of them or are we lonely and force interactions on others. All of these new considerations are being foistered on us at an escalating pace that we expect the media and the government to tell us what to do and how to behave. But they don’t have the answers either.

So where do we turn. If we breathe through the pandemic and see that our choices, our words and our values are no longer working, what then? What can we do to make changes and how can we adapt when the circumstances of daily living is constantly changing?

We are currently all going through a call to action. A call to be your best and live your best life. To keep everyone safe and to focus on human kindness. To serve and offer assistance. This is to be our focus. But what do we do when those around us are apathetic about social distancing or want to hug or shake hands? What if that party of twelve that you went to on the weekend infects everyone? This is not just a call to action for individuals. As individuals, we can all do our bit, we can direct our energy to small behavioural changes but there is a need for a society shift and indeed a global shift to raise the global consciousness. This is not something that will happen overnight. Over the next five years, we will see an escalation in destruction and fear, of humans actively fighting against the change. Lonliness, mental health struggles and fear is everywhere in the Covid-world. Our refusal to willingly launch in to change (and our rejection of the call to action), will see us – as individuals, as a society, as a nation – stagnate. Our economies will crash, property use will change, our old ways of working, travelling, communicating and celebrating will need to evolve. Right now, we are seeing many examples of anger and rage and ignorance and delusions, both in life and across social media. We see the damage that this causes. These are the lessons to bring about positive change, to reject the fear of change and to encourage us to refuse the need to cling to the old ways. If we are strong, if we believe in the common good and we focus our energy on doing what is best for all and commit to the discernment and filtering of all information, then there will be hope for humanity.

So how is this possible? Is it even possible? Of course it is. Look to history. At any point of change in society (the fall of Rome, the Renaissance, the Spanish flu, the French revolution, industrial revolution, etc), humans have fought against these moments, but ultimately, were swept along with the change.

All we can do is reflect on our role in this part of history. Look within. Consider your ‘why’ in life, consider your ‘why’ in every choice that you make. By doing this, it will allow us to consider how to heed the call to action and take the steps required to be your best self and serve others.

Make your choices through a prism of hope and kindness.

The time is now.

Feel free to share your thoughts on reincarnation, soul contracts or even your beliefs or rejection of anything in this article. Thanks, friends

…The Tough Get going.

My soul path is to communicate. To be an oracle, to speak my truth, to illuminate and to share my wisdom. If that sounds like arrogance, please know that this is not where I’m coming from. I truly believe in my soul’s journey towards creative enlightenment. My soul is too alive, too creative, it’s not quite squashed for the drones at Council. 

Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned. 

I dream of being paid for my creativity. 

I’m a writer. I’m so much of a writer, it’s written on the walls of my soul. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been a storyteller. My mother will certainly attest to my tall tales. But beyond that, I feel the world of stories and dreams more acutely than my waking life.

Recently, the fear and the nausea is rising. How long can I keep swallowing shit and tell people that it’s delicious? I’m absorbing so much negative energy that it’s making me sick and all I can do is keep plastering this smile on my face. It’s only a matter of time before I go full Michael Douglas or Jim Carrey and not in a funny way.

It’s not like I’m even any good at hiding my emotions, thoughts or feelings. They are literally written all over my face. I have three very different bosses tell me that I need to ‘watch my face’ or think about not ‘eye-rolling’ or ‘stop looking worried’. All these things? They’re just my face.

Chances are, if I think you’re an idiot, my face has already told you LONG before my words do. 

So what’s keeping me from this long drawn out entitled diatribe about my employment?

Fear. A lack of confidence. Why? Well, like I said earlier, we’re all brainwashed from childhood with the 9-5-er, the 40-year-mortgage-road-to- perdition… That’s what we do right? I’m a white middle class average, run of the mill, north-of-thirty woman, it’s time to settle right? I’ve been trained in this admin world for eight years, this is where I smoosh my bum into a wheely chair and settle in for the next twenty odd years.

Right?

I remember being told as a teenager that writing, performing, drawing are nice hobbies but now it’s time to grow up. Pencils down, textas back in the box, playtime’s over. No more colouring, no more fantasy writing. It’s over… But what if those things are your destiny?

What if that’s who you are, your dream, your life path?

Well… what happens is that you shove every ounce of screaming flesh and you push and you push every part of that writer, of that artist, down, down, way down. And then what happens, I hear you ask? Well dear reader, you end up where I am.

In a nine to fiver, doomed to repeat the lessons in life. Doomed to be surrounded by dream-swallowers, and mortgage-chasers. 

And then there are the Others. They are the “rest of us”= those people who just fell in to a job to pay for childcare or their next holiday or to keep the debt collectors at bay and got addicted to the slightly higher pay check. They were average at school, never really tried too hard at anything, but never really failed either. Chances are, that in any organisation, you’d expect a few of the Others. Dream Squashers. Passion killers. Monkeys, if you will. Apparently, with every job change, with every dashed hope, the monkeys are multiplying. I’m surrounded by them now.

I’m the ringmaster in this crazy circus life of mine.  I’m on the carousel the never stops spinning. I’m wrestling lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! And the animals do not want to let me sleep tonight.

Welcome to the jungle, my friends.

But the universe will not let me be. The wider world is calling and the universal energy is escalating. I feel it as strongly as my heart beat. The messages are constantly reminding me that I don’t have to choose this doomed-dream-swallower-life anymore. 

That it’s time to take the bull-by-the-horns and swing on the trapeze and –

JUMP.

When the Going gets tough…

I’ve hit a wall. This was the last thing that I thought would happen to me. After everything I’ve been through, the surgeries, the meds, the pain, all of it, I knew I had to hustle and regroup and somehow get my shit together.

My last job was a toxic mess. I’d been bought in because of the old statement ‘That’s not my job’. All of the things that were ‘not everyone else’s job…’ became mine. So I set about working my arse off (for years) to improve processes, procedures and information and how it was communicated to the wider world. I had that beast humming like a Voice contestant on Grand Final night…

…And I left with my dignity and sanity torn to shreds by unchecked arrogant and passive-aggressive behaviours. I realised boundaries I’d been putting in place were being trampled on and there was no two-way street – there was just their way, or the highway. So I took my bat and ball and resigned the fuck outta there.

The members of my team had destroyed my self-confidence and my ability to complete even the most mundane of admin tasks. I invested wasted hours in a toxic world of Mean Girls playing ‘Gaslighting Roulette’ (“Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to another episode where we play the guessing game of what mood will Sally be in today? Will she trap us all in a world of passive aggressive sarcasm? Will Catherine be a bitch today and remind us all of our tiny little lives? Will she spend forty five minutes telling the boss her tall tales about her she’ll fuck off and get another job – as the rest of us cross fingers and take bets that maybe today’s the day!? Will the twelve year old millenial tell me how I’m doing my job wrong and will I pretend to give a shit? Cos the mask is starting to slip and I don’t know how long I can last before I flick her eyeball just to get a human response from her. But the number one question of the day is will my Team Leader fall asleep at her desk, only to suddenly realise that the end of month has somehow snuck up on her and she has to complete the report and is unable to do anything else for the next three days. And can I re-adjust my face to a blank slate that I can once again pretend that I don’t care that everyone around me is on a higher pay grade but doing fuck it. And all the whilst saying, don’t worry guys, I’ll answer all the phone calls since no one else has time to pick up a goddamn phone. That’s it, ladies and gentlemen welcome to the glamorous world of Local Government!”)

Bleugh! It was exhausting!! The delights of manic office behaviour! How Fun!!

I swallowed shit everyday and did it with a smile on my face. Every day my soul was dying that little bit more. And I told myself –  “We do what we gotta do for a higher purpose: the almighty dollar.” Sometimes you gotta swallow your pride and a multitude of sins to pay the rent.

Right?

That’s what I was told. Climb the ladder, work your way up. Be good, go to school, get a job, meet someone who makes you happy, get married. The usual. And you’ll get rewarded with a pretty house and an adequate husband and excitable children. So I got on the gravy train.

Right?

Well. It was not exactly like that. I find myself drowning on this gravy train, hoping for some steak. Something with real substance. Because this gravy is starting to get gluggy…

(Ok. No more silly analogies… promise)

I spent a long time thinking about how I was done with the toxic world of Local Government that I was living in and walked away from it. But it turns out the Universe was playing a cosmic joke on me again.  Because here I am, employed again in Local Government. Council number 5. 

Remember Kathy, Robin and Sara? Well they’ve been replaced by doppleganger neurotic types at my new job. These dopplegangers are not quite replacements – these ones have souls. And a sense of humour. But the environment is the same, the toxicity is the same. Their energy is the same. It filters through every part of my job. ‘That’s not my job’ filters through our conversations on a weekly basis.

And still I come back to the quote that the “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned.

So where does that leave me? I’m forty years old. The cliche is alive and well in me. The mid-life crisis, a breakdown escalated in a global pandemic.. This cosmic joke that defines all that has happened in 2020 is here to remind me that life is short. I’m done. My current job is teaching me that. I have a job to do. And this is not it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Suzi Sterel. Writer Extraordinaire.

Un-co Confessions

My friends joke about me walking in to walls, the mystery bruises, a broken toe from attempting high heels. Makeup lasts 2.5 seconds before it becomes panda eye. Tongues are burnt from cups of tea, fingers caught in doors, heads bumped, knees knocked. Hair is poky and mussy, no matter how much I brush it. I try really hard to be a grown up, but you know, it’s a work in progress.

We joke about the Sterel family trait of being un-co. My sister in law and neice have picked it up, possibly in sympathy to the rest of the family. I wonder if I pissed someone off in a past life to live this way.

It’s worse in a professional corporate setting. I’ve hidden cuts and bruises, because of how it might look. I have cuts from shaving my legs and bruises on my arms are so common, I’m still using the ‘walked in to a wall’ excuses. And trust me, I know how it sounds.

Yesterday, a colleague asked for help and I turned to indicate that I was on the phone, but in less than ten seconds, I knocked my knee, broke the arm off my chair, spilt my coffee all over my work notes and all over the carpet. My colleagues are brilliant in maintaining a straight face, but I’m sure they’re inwardly groaning. What next on Suzi’s top ten crazy klutz stories?

My friends are no longer surprised by my stories. The worst one was straightening my hair one Sunday night, whilst still wet. Every girl, woman probably most men understand – SCIENCE – that using intense metal heat on wet hair, is going to be a #epic fail. But all I could think was it was 10.30 at night, I was fuelled by Sunday-night-itis, the anxiety was flipping shit in my stomach and I had wet hair that had to be fixed. So I made an attempt to towel my hair, but let’s be honest, it was dripping. It was too much for my 10 year old GHD straightener. The heat and wet hair connected, causing the GHD to shut down, short circuiting the entire power into the house. So the power shuts off, at the same time that I realise my hair is on fire, I smack my hand on to it to put out the singeing hair and half my forehead hair falls off into my hand, burning my hands in the process. I’m still smacking my head to put out the fire, ripping off my plastic glasses so they don’t melt and rushing in to my ensuite in the dark. Power was restored, burned hand was wrapped and I looked at my face. A cool burn mark, worthy of a Harry-Potter lightening bolt and to make the situation more traumatic, a chunky tuft of singed hair that could not be moulded into a fringe. So it was a good six months of tuft-y fun, waiting for the re-growth.

My friends are gracious when inviting me to birthdays, weddings, celebrations in stating, ‘formal attire – Suzi excepted (for everyone elses Safety, Suzi -heels are not required!). They know my love hate relationship with heels. I so want to have the desirable ankle and find the comfortable heel. It has certainly alluded my thus far. The last time I wore heels, I broke my big toe. It hasn’t recovered. It aches in winter. Most people think I must be drunk to fall, but I rarely drink these days.

Working at a new job has meant explaining the occasional need to wear runners in a very formal corporate setting, including hiding ugg boots under my desk. There has been several near misses, tripping on stairs, walking in to walls and slipping on tragically flat flooring. My colleagues don’t even pretend to be surprised anymore. Nope, we have moved straight into mocking territory.

One time I was out drinking and wearing a low – heel (2-3 inches, a definite old lady heel) and three times I fell on my own two feet, no drinking that time either! And then as I was walking back to my car, my heel got caught in a grate and the shoe was stuck but my body kept going. Needless to say, I drove home barefoot that night.

Speaking of ‘shoe incidences’, there are the winter boot stories. The need for warmth and the need to look awesome, don’t always collide. Especially in a pub in the winter. The floors are both slippery and sticky, which means a confusing time where I either fall or can’t walk.

I am constantly attracted to handbags and wallets that are shiny or sparkly, but have no real functionality or use. These stupid accessory usually show themselves off during my particularly clumsy moments. There was one time I was late for a flight to Sydney and I was running the length of Tullamarine Airport and in a surprising turn of events, I did not trip or fall – until I arrived at the gate and realised my ticket was no where to be found and as I reached to my handbag, the entire bottom of the bag ripped and the contents of my wallet and handbag fell to the floor, much to the chagrin of the Qantas staff. It did make it easier to find my ticket amongst all my crap. I did make some friends, including one particularly young attractive man who smiled at me throughout the flight. I suppose he felt sorry for me.

My un-co ness isn’t limited to just hurting me. I’m consistently ‘breaking phones, computers, printers, the safe, all the things at work. These things never happen to the other team members. It’s an unspoken ‘super-power’ that I have. I fried three computers in the space of six weeks. The IT department has said that that is the record, it’s nice to know that even at my age, I’m still reaching goals and breaking records.

I’m fascinated to see how the un-co gene will progress as I get older. I’m hopeful, that it will be like some weird Benjamin Button reverse-aging situation where I just get better with age. Let’s see how that works out!

Memes, Hate Me, and 🤖: I'm not clumsy
 It's just the floor
 hate me, the tables
 and chairs are
 bullies, & the
 wall gets in the
 Way
 SHARED ONIM NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD.COM
Submitted by Charlie Gregor

 

 

Are you uncoordinated or know someone who is? I would love to hear your stories!

The Voice in my head

I barely had a chance to open my eyes before the words floated into my head:

“What’s the point??”

I stretched a little and wriggled my toes. The ol’ knees creaked as I stood up, flicking the blanket to the floors. It was still dark outside. I stumbled a little but managed to catch myself, hanging on to the wall for a moment. I was pleased for a moment, I hadn’t fallen. Not this time. I clenched my hands tightly, as they shook a little in response to the shock, but I continued rubbing them as if to convince my limbs that I was okay.

My mouth was dry, like I’d been licking a dirty sponge. My head pounded, it felt like I’d run a marathon and been hit by a truck – all in equal measure. 

In the kitchen, I flicked the light switch, quickly shielding my eyes from the sudden brightness. I turned the kettle on and while I waited for it to boil, I poured myself a glass of water, adding a slice of lemon. That intense thumping in my chest quickened. I’m sure I have a panadol around here somewhere, I thought… I opened the ever-reliable third kitchen drawer of crap, looking for a naprogesic, an endone, oxy, anything.

“Maybe you should call in sick?” The voice asked.

“No. I’m fine. I’m fine. It’ll be over soon..”

(Whatever “It” was)

I bent left, then right, extending and stretching my upper torso, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Feel the feels, let the blood flow. Taking a sip of tea, I consciously made an effort to be present in this moment.

Breathe. Take a beat.

I focused on the next 20 minutes, going through the DVD yoga routine. It felt like torture. It was supposed to help; to transcend minds, or some such nonsense. All it did was remind me that my body ached and nothing would ever fix it. I was getting sick of people going on about how awesome yoga is. Is it? What happens if your entire body was damaged from a young age? What if everything you ever knew hurt by the time you knew how to speak words? What if by the time you could speak words, no one heard or believed your pain? Where do you put that part of reality? What if head hurting and body aching led to forever never-ending pain? How do you recover from that? How do you pretend that your experience is okay? How do you plaster a happy face on when you wanted to scream your brains out or physically hurt a particularly stupid human? Every day felt like the ultimate exercise in self-control. And for very day you didn’t kill someone, you chalk it up to a win. So how do you respond to someone when they ask if you’re okay? What do you say? Instead, you focus on being grateful to get through another day and feel relieved that you’ve managed to put on clothes and leave the house. How do you deal when you are so desperate for your life to be different so that you can luxuriate in the hope of a normal life… what then???

The Voice chuckled a little. “You know you’ll never be normal, right?”

I would never want to be. What the fuck is normal, anyway?

I finished my yoga poses, inhaling and exhaling. That would have to do for today. One box ticked.

Time for breakfast. I took grabbed some juice. Full of herbs and minerals, she was able to see the veggie goodness, all the fruits and vegetables that went into this spectacular juicing. The routine was to juice the fruits and veg the night before, so she could juice on the go. She felt her body consume the celery, the spinach, the carrots, the ginger, the kale, the lemon and the rest. A detox for her body was exactly what was needed. I took a sip and gagged a little but forced myself to swallow just the same. Another box ticked.

Not that it really mattered. It was all just millennial bullshit all this yoga and juicing. She was still the same person. Everything she did was a waste of time, it barely made a difference. Lemon water, celery juice, yoga, who was she kidding? Last night she ate a tube of choc-mint cookie dough and three glasses of cab sav. Alright, it was four. Four glasses. That meant that three panadols should do it.

Just to take the pain off.

The pain of what? Life.

The pain of life, she told the Voice.

I looked at the time. Seven am. I didn’t want to be late again. I couldn’t bear more eye rolling and looks from the people she worked with.

I scrolled through my clothes options, each one a bit crappier than the last. If I had tried harder to look after my stuff, I wouldn’t have to choose between the trousers with a hole in them or the skirt with a dropped hemline. I grabbed a dress with a coffee stain on it, but I can wear blouse over the top. I put tights on again because I have forgotten to shave my legs. For like the tenth week in a row. I looked down at my shoes, it was getting to the point where I can no longer hide the scuff marks. Hopefully no one knew that they were $20 on sale. They were awful shoes, cheap and nasty, but they were black and they didn’t hurt. They would have to do. Occasionally, I thought about buying new ones, but she knew she wouldn’t. Maybe if she liked her job more, I might try a bit harder to care. But I just didn’t care.

I washed my face thoroughly and make sure to scrub it with the loofah. The water almost helped. I looked straight into my eyes in the mirror, they were still blood shot and itchy, even make up couldn’t hide that reality. At forty, what else could you do but stare middle age straight in the eye and tell it to fuck right off.

My eyeball twitched. It was happening more and more lately. Maybe if I brushed my hair, just so…no one would notice the horror of my bleeding eyeballs. But the hair? There was really no point in trying. I’d walk outside and the wind would mess it up anyway, so none of it mattered.

I carefully applied my makeup. Just a touch of foundation to cover the hormonal pimples. They were growing by the day, like a bulging undergrowth in her skin, the oil was accumulating daily. You’d think a woman of her age wouldn’t have to deal with this. I lacquered a goopy mess of foundation over them, just to strangle them a bit more. A touch of eyeliner and mascara to distract the droopy, bloodshot eyeballs. Really, who was she kidding? I’d have panda eye by 10am. I applied a thicker coat. At least I could look good for the first ten minutes of the day.

I hoped I didn’t look too disgusting today. Or at least nothing too obvious to single me out. That was such a big fear, that someone would single her out and draw attention to her cheap clothes and ratty hair. No matter how much I brushed my hair, no matter how much I blow waved, straightened it, it was always awful. That little tuft at the top of her head that stood up to attention like it was ready to salute. I gelled the shit out of it but it looked terrible. Every time I talked to someone, it made me paranoid. Were they looking at it? What was the tuft doing? Was it re-enacting that “something about Mary” scene? Could I do a subtle hair flick or maybe a head tilt and no one would notice the tuft…? There would be at least three bathroom visits throughout the day to check the tuft.

I checked my watch. Yep, already late – time to go. This would have to do. There was nothing I could do about my face now.

I picked up my handbag, noticing that the tiny little stitches were starting to unpick themselves. This is why I can’t have nice things. They always broke. I’m the girl with the goopy makeup , the panda eye, the bumpy hair, the shirt with the coffee stain, this mismatched socks and the broken handbag. I had given up looking like the girls in the magazines a long time ago. That ship had sailed. 

With each step out the door, I felt the never-ending death knell. Dead Woman Walking. Her heels clicked to the tune, every step echoed in her heart, crushing her soul, dooming her dream.

Arriving at work, I swiped my security tag. Once, twice. It beeped. Denied. Was this a sign, should I go home? I swiped it a third time and finally the door did the long beeping thing and the door released. Oh well, another day of work.

I felt the metaphorical chill.

‘Good morning Suzi! I love that shirt on you.’

Fuck off Verity. Can’t you see how shit I look?

I plastered on my best ‘happy days’ face.

‘Hey’.

Who the fuck was this happy in the morning? Happy and wearing floral, it made her sick. It was like spring fashion had vomited all over her. It was like the word “under-stated” had never occurred to Verity. And not only that, she didn’t know how to mix it up. It was the same every day. Every single day. Floral on floral on floral. It’s was so frustrating, that this gorgeous woman could make anything look good and she chose 80-year-old, floppy potato-sack maxi-dresses. I wish I could look as good as Verity. Even if it were floral.

I looked down, refusing to make further eye contact. Just keep walking. Don’t look back. You might catch yourself in a conversation about the weather. Or worse, children.

I inhaled slowly. Every step I took, the voice told her to run for the hills. Another day to endure. You chose this, the voice said.

Seven fifty eight am. Only eight more hours to go.

Eight hours. Forty hours. Forty eight weeks. Thirty five more years. She could do this. It was going to be fine, the voice told her.

I headed to the kitchen. My hands were shaking. I clenched my fingers today to steady them. You can do this. Coffee would help, surely? And did it matter -whatever got you through the day.

I opened the fridge. There was a rotting apple and some dodgy milk that had expired two weeks ago. Great, some arsehole just left them there. Pouring the milk down the sink, I took a piece of paper towel and put the apple in the bin. As gross as it looked, I couldn’t help but stare at the rotting food. It felt like a metaphor. It was all rotting. Her face, her life, her sandwich. It was all just dying. And there was nothing that she could do about it. I put the salad sandwich at the very bottom, wrapped in paper towel.

As I approached my desk, I heard the sound of female laughter. The two women on the other side of the petition, Cassandra and Carla stopped talking. There was nothing more I hated than their stupid pointless office gossip. It was exhausting. I purposefully avoided eye contact with them, at all times. Just in case she got swept up in the vortex of their mindless chatter.

I caught myself, overwhelmed. I closed my eyes. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Seven fifty nine am. I can do this, I tell myself. It’s going to be okay.

‘But what was the point?’ the voice in my head reminded me.

I stared at the computer screen. This chair felt like a punishment. Every time I sat in it, it sank lower to the ground and the arms were slippery and stabby in equal measures. The nuts and bolts had slipped off years ago. The online forum to request OHS chair repairs was down for maintenance. The page had been ‘down for maintenance’ since she started in the role. It was fitting, really. This was her chair for life now – a dodgy, stabby, broken chair.

Eight-oh-one. I took a sip of coffee and swallowed.  Opened the spreadsheet and began –

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Her middle finger cracked.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

I scrolled down to the end, to check the requests. 2658. Yesterday the total was 4839. It felt like progress. I wonder what happens when I’ve finished this?

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

This was her life now.

Sally, the blonde girl who had sat next to her for eighteen months, sneezed. I surreptitiously pulled out a bottle of hand sanitiser and wiped my keyboard and desk.

‘Look away, do not make eye contact.’ I told the Voice. ‘Be cool.’ I slightly angled my body away from Sally.

Click close. Click complete.

All of this was so pointless. I hate this. I hate my job. I hated my life. I hate myself. I hate every single moment of my life that has led to this moment.

Nine fifteen am. Time seemed to be moving backwards.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

And then suddenly, unexpectedly –

Sally’s phone  rang. They all stopped what they were doing and stared at the phone. Sally looked round as if to say ‘what now?’

The phone continued ringing.

This hadn’t happened before.

‘What-?

They all went back to their work. 

The phone continued ringing.

Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten times.

It was if they had all psychically agreed to ignore it.

Sally picked up the phone and hung it up again. She took the phone off the hook.

They passed the rest of the morning in silence.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Brain is leaking out of my ears, I felt my soul draining out. I could literally do this with my eyes closed. Sometimes I did.

The lights feel very bright in this office. I rubbed my left eyeball, it was starting to twitch again. That must mean it was lunch time. I can only sit and stare at the computer for so long before my eyes start to ache.

The clock ticked over from eleven fifty nine to… lunchtime! I grabbed my handbag and took the twenty three steps to the kitchen without a word. I took my sandwich from the fridge and sat down to read the newspaper.

Flooding in Cambodia.

Earthquakes in California.

Volcano eruption in Italian village.

Slowly, I unwrap the glad-wrap and slowly chewed her salad sandwich. Forty six chews per bite. A swig of water. Another bite.

Tornadoes in Kansas.

Icecaps melting in Greenland.

I coughed a little. My heart was racing. I took another sip of water. My eyes lost focus a little.

War in Syria. Iran. North Korea continues secret nuclear testing. US President has dementia. Prime Minister locking up refugees in concentration camps. Housing slump. Job losses. Economy Crash. Recession.

I closed my eyes. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

That was enough world news for today.

I wiped my mouth and took a mint out of her handbag and ate it. As a test, I blew on my hand and sniffed. My breath smelt ok. I checked my face in my hand mirror. Slight panda eye, so she wiped the black mascara off from under her eye. There wasn’t much else I can do – it will have to do. 

My heart felt like it was skipping a beat. I can’t control it. It was beating so fast. Remember to breathe. Pretend you’re a robot like the rest of them.

‘I heard she was looking for a new job’, ‘I heard she was difficult’, ‘I heard they were going to fire her’ , ‘I heard she was an idiot’, ‘Useless’, ‘Breaks things’, ‘Stupid’, ‘Incapable’, ‘Terrible.’

I sat back down at my desk. The voices stopped.

Twelve fifty seven.

Sally was gone. 

She opened her emails. A new report.

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Tab. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.Tab. Shift F5. X 100. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Tab. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Enter. CTRL+S. 

Close.

One Report. Ten to go. That should fill her day. She completed them in two hours.

Click close. Click. Click Click Click –

I looked out the window. The sun had gone behind the clouds. I should have gone for a walk. I keep saying that I will go for a walk in my lunch break. That I would drink more water. That I would stop and meditate, that I would remember to breathe, that I should-

The phone rang again. The room hesitated again. It rang four five times and –

I reached over Sally’s desk and answered it.

‘Finance Department.’

They all looked at her in disbelief. The message was clear – we don’t answer phones.

‘Thank God. Someone answered the phone. I need to speak to – ‘

‘I’ll just transfer you’

I ignored their stares.

Three oh-seven pm.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

This was the riskiest time of the day. The perfect nap time. 

I took a moment to delete thirty more emails. All neurotic clients. No answer required. Delete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Click close. Click complete.

Nope. My brain was starting to shut down. I’m starting to succumb to the three-thirty-itis. Everyone else appeared to be napping, why shouldn’t she? I grabbed my coffee mug, pretending to go for a coffee. Instead, I took the next left and went straight to the sick bay. Settling in for a nap, I closed my eyes.

This is my life now. Her beige life.

I’m swimming in a beautiful ocean, a sea of calm and serenity. In the distance, I hear thunder, a crash of lightening, the storm approached quickly. The waves began to thrash her around. I’m thrown underwater. Again and again. I battle against the water, sinking further down. I can’t breathe, I’m drowning. I fight more, but my lungs are heavy. And then a voice ‘Stop fighting it’. I stopped resisting it and began to sink.

I opened my eyes. There were voices right outside the door, was she busted? I grabbed a pen and paper from the door, as if to pretend I’d been taking notes and not bludging. I hovered by the door to wait for them to leave. But what were they saying?

‘She is gorgeous. Never a hair out of place. She radiates just this perfect energy, I wish I could be just like that. She is just so confident.’

‘If only she’d smile a bit more, she always looks like she’s worried.’

‘She’s so good at what she does, thorough, on point.’

‘Cassie, have you got a moment?’

I inched open the door. They were gone. I checked my phone for the time. Four fifty six pm. I walked the thirty one steps back .to my desk.

‘Wow, that training went forever!’ I said to Sally, as if I was in a hurry to leave for the day.

‘Sorry?’

‘Never mind.’

‘Another day done,’ Sally said.

I looked at the time- Four fifty nine pm. Finally! I did it. I took a breath. I couldn’t face walking out with Sally, so I pretended to keep typing for a few seconds. I could not bear the awkward small talk as they left the building.

I ignored Verity and walked straight out the front door.

‘Have a good evening’ echoed behind me and I didn’t stop. I kept walking.

I did it. I had made it through the day. Another pointless day completed. It was over. Only three more days until I could have two days respite. I felt so sick at the thought of another day of mind-dulling insanity, I couldn’t even bear to think about food. The memory of drowning stayed with her and her stomach couldn’t bear the thought of a meal. I stopped in at the bottle shop and the way home and got a bottle of Cab Sav. On Sale. Eight dollars and ninety nine cents, what a bargain. How could I possibly resist?

I should go for a run, I should cook some vegetables. But instead I poured myself a wine. Fuck Carla and Cassandra. Fuck Verity and Sally. What do they know? Who are they? They thought that I was useless, that I was going to get fired, they would probably get her fired. Maybe she should be fired. Who even cared if she was fired? I could get another job. I have skills, it wasn’t too late.

I poured myself another glass of wine. I turned on the TV and switched it to channel Nine. The perfect channel to watch to leave her brain at the door. I stared at the screen for a while, watching but not really listening.

Was this my life now? I’m nearly forty. I’m so tired. Perhaps I should eat something. 

I think there’s some of that cookie dough left.

I should take my make up off, have a shower, do the dishes. I should call my parents, check in on friends. I should do that. But instead of doing any of those things, I stared at their instagram pages and listened to fake looking women talk about their pretend marriages, this is what they called entertainment these days. In the ad break, I flicked through the channels. The news was on-

Flooding in Cambodia. Thousands Dead. Earthquakes in California. Businesses ruined. Volcano eruption in Italy. Flights cancelled.Tornadoes in Kansas. Houses flattened. Icecaps melting in Greenland. The environment is ruined. America is ruined, the UK broken, Australia is doomed. A housing slump. Job losses. Economy Crash. Recession.

I closed my eyes. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

That was enough news for today.

I poured the wine down the sink and sighed.

Time to go to bed.

Do you have any thoughts, comments, feedback about my short story? Leave your comments below!