Music Monday | The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows – Gretta Ray (covers Gang of Youths)

Lyrics

Cause not everything means something, honey
So say the unsayable
Say the most human of things
And if everything is temporary
I will bear the unbearable
Terrible triteness of being

Songwriters: David Immanuel Menachem Sasagi Leaupepe
The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Pty. Ltd.

Virgo Season

It’s Virgo season, baby! And that means, it’s birthday month. Years ago, I started with birthday week–but I’ve now learned to stretch it out, long and slow, over the course of a month instead. Three days ago, my coffee machine died. It was just a small pod machine I purchased in Queensland from the store my ex worked at. It had done well to last nine years with the amount of use it received. But without coffee, I’m not that pleasant to be around. And since I’m off work for a few days and we are in lockdown number seven, G surprised me with one of my birthday presents; a barista machine. As much for his sanity as mine, I suspect. I’m going to have to get up half an hour earlier for work to make my coffee now, but even the almond milk I’ve converted to this year frothed nicely with the steam wand. Happy birthday to me!

What I’m Reading

Lately I’ve been ‘reading’ audiobooks. I started last year, when G was in hospital–there is something deeply comforting about having someone else read to you. In the last couple of weeks I’ve finished Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer, Nardi Simpson’s Song of the Crocodile and now I’m working my way through Paige Clark’s She is Haunted.

The Believer is a narrative non-fiction of six separate tales expertly woven together through Sarah’s curiosity, non-judgement and her own life. In it she shares how her own beliefs (or lack of) intertwine with these six vastly different people and how we have more similarities than differences even if some people believe in ghosts, UFOs, heaven, and hell. It is a work of compassion and empathy, and, as the back of the book says, The Believer looks at the stories we tell ourselves to deal with the distance between the world as it is, and the world as we’d like it to be. How they can stunt us – or save us.

Song of the Crocodile was both heartbreaking and beautifully written. Nardi’s artful description and incredible story-telling contrasted sharply with the story itself and the pain of race relations between Indigenous and settler/coloniser families in this novel. I don’t read a lot of fiction but this was a stunning debut novel.

She is Haunted is the debut collection of short stories by Paige Clark and while I am only half way in, I’m hooked. Paige’s characters have compelling voices, and the collection features themes of transnational Asian identity, mother-daughter relationships, grief and intergenerational trauma. I will finish this book tomorrow; less than 48 hours from when I started–an extremely rare occurrence for me.

Music Monday | Grateful – Rita Ora

Anniversary season is hitting differently than I expected–in a good way. Yes, it is overwhelming to be revisiting all the dates of medical procedures and big information, but overwhelming gratitude has been the predominant feeling.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the day I took G back to hospital to begin the staging scans and assessments prior to treatment. By now, he’d had multiple CT and PET scans, an MRI, and a brain biopsy–which is as risky as it sounds. He had been diagnosed with primary CNS lymphoma, all within ten days of me taking him to the hospital, but it was this week coming that they performed further scans–lumbar punctures, ultrasounds, ocular exams and more PET scans–to confirm with certainty that the cancer was only in his brain and not anywhere else in his body (which would have made it secondary CNS lymphoma).

We are four days out from the anniversary of the commencement of his treatment, fifteen days away from the anniversary of him being placed into a coma, and sixteen days from the night they called me to say his organs were failing.

And yet, here we are. One year later. He is outside, pacing, as he speaks to someone from work on the phone. This is typical; he always preferred to stand and move when having conversations in the before times, and nothing has changed. He is working. Not a lot, just a few hours per week, but working nonetheless. This time last year, we assumed treatment would be a linear process. He would go to hospital, have chemo, it would work (or it wouldn’t) and he’d come home. We did not expect nor account for any of the complications he experienced. By the middle of September last year, we weren’t sure he’d ever work–or walk–again.

And yet, here we are. Grateful is an understatement.

Music Monday | To Build A Home – The Cinematic Orchestra (ft. Patrick Watson)

We are home.

After seven seemingly endless months, we are finally home.

Together.

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home

‘Cause, I built a home
For you
For me

Until it disappeared
From me
From you

And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

And, I built a home
For you
For me

Songwriters: Jason Angus Stoddart Swinscoe / Patrick Watson / Philip Jonathan France / Stella Page
 
To Build a Home lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Intrigue Music, LLC

Music Monday | The Final Countdown – Europe

We’re leavin’ together
But still it’s farewell

Tomorrow, it will be six months since I took G to the hospital for strange stroke-like symptoms. We didn’t know, that night, that it would be months before he’d leave a hospital again. We didn’t know that we’d have to relocate our lives, in the middle of a pandemic, to the covid capital of Australia for his cancer treatment. We didn’t know it would be more than half the year–in fact, into a whole new year–before we’d be back to our home.

And maybe we’ll come back
To Earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame

And, while we are on the final countdown to going back later this week or next week, we are are still another six months from the end of rehab. Tomorrow, he has a total hip replacement; osteonecrosis, cartilage destruction, and collapse of the femoral head the result of a joint infection after his second round of chemo. And then, the real work begins.

We’re leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?
It’s the final countdown
The final countdown

Everything Is Waiting For You – David Whyte

On July 20, Victoria recorded 341 new coronavirus cases. That same day, France recorded 350 new coronavirus cases.

Just over two weeks later, Victoria, with some restrictions in place, registered 725 new coronavirus cases while France, with minimal restrictions, had more than twice that at 1,695.

Melbourne went into a hard lockdown. Restrictions included a curfew between 8pm and 5am, a requirement to stay within a 5km radius of your home unless you were a worker with a permit to be outside of that radius, and you could only leave your home for one hour per day for exercise and one hour for errands such as grocery shopping.

Children had to stay at home and return to remote learning, parents had to work from home if possible, retail and hospitality venues closed and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.

It has been eleven weeks, and from today, restrictions will ease a little. Because unlike Europe, our State government took extreme action. Difficult action, yes. Action with consequences for business, for workers, and for mental health. Absolutely.

But on October 16, France recorded 25,086 new coronavirus cases. Victoria recorded 1. On October 17, France recorded 32,427. Victoria recorded 2.

Lockdown has not been easy. I don’t pretend that it has. But the alternative, tens of thousands of cases per day, is incomprehensible.

And now, as we ease slowly into a covid-normal summer, everything is waiting for us.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte

Deterioration

I wrap myself into my quilt like a burrito. I’m sleeping on the couch which, while not overly comfortable, doesn’t induce the same anxiety as having an argument with myself about going to bed. Instead, when I become sleepy, I close Instagram, blow out the candles, turn off the salt lamp and roll over.

I am not sure why going to bed holds such angst for me but it always has. At least, until I met G. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to going to bed because I felt safe. Held. Loved. I try to replicate this feeling now while he’s not with me but the best I can do is to stay awake until it is impossible not to sleep.

In the last week, there has been another infection, two surgeries and blood counts that still aren’t following the predicted path. My OCD has fixated itself on his illness and now intrusive thoughts of blame drive all manner of compulsions, day and night. If I haven’t given him covid, I must have given him cancer.

Life is random and unfair, I tell others. Bad things happen to good people for no reason. And while I almost believe that is true,  intrusive thoughts still swirl that this is somehow my fault. My punishment. For what exactly, I haven’t determined. It could be a range of things and my brain is providing plenty of options. As a result, my anxiety is out of control. Today I had a telehealth appointment with my GP who has recommended blood tests, an ECG to check my heart which has lingering issues from my years of being underweight due to anorexia, and some medication.

“This is the only prescription I will give you for this medication,” he tells me, “due to it having addictive properties. You must be sparing in your use but it will help with the panic attacks and anxiety. I will give you a second prescription for something that you can use long term but the effect won’t be noticeable for two to four weeks.”

It’s been seven years since I took medication for my mental health and while I suspect I need it, a new fear has surfaced during the pandemic and my husband’s illness which will likely prevent me from doing so; I cannot take any medication for fear of the masking of covid symptoms or because I may have a bad reaction requiring treatment. I will no longer even take paracetamol or ibuprofen, pain killers I have taken for years, especially when I have severe cramps during my period but now I am afraid they will mask the symptom of a fever and I will never know if I accidentally acquire covid. I will not take new tablets, not even vitamins, in case they cause some sort of reaction where I have to present to a hospital because the more places I go, the more likely I am to come into contact with someone with covid. My anxiety is pushing me towards never leaving my house again, unless it’s to travel to the hospital where my husband is having treatment. Home. Hospital. Home. Hospital. That is the extent of my world right now.

And all of it seems justified.