Music Monday | Take It Slowly – Garrett Kato

 

Life is long and short. It changes in millionths of seconds. And while it feels like it’s rushing past, I want to take it slowly so I can make the most of my time with G. It was his birthday yesterday. And I am dreaming of many, many more. He is my always.

“So we can take it slowly
Through the nights I’m growing in life
You can be my always, one and always and we can be just fine”

Science Sunday | Chemistry 101

Chemists joke about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. Depending on its form – solid, liquid, or gas – direct contact with it can burn you, or freeze the tissues and fluids in your skin. If you ingest significant quantities it can kill you. Of course, not ingesting enough will kill you too. According to these consequences, dihydrogen monoxide sounds like a nasty chemical. But it is just the humble water molecule. (I never said chemists make good jokes.) All of the dangers are true, though. Dihydrogen monoxide – H2O – water – is a chemical which can burn you, cause frostbite, or dilute the salts in your blood so much that you die from water intoxication (hyponatremia). And just like water, chemicals are everywhere. Everything that you can see, smell, touch, and taste is made of chemicals. And everything you can’t.

It is impossible to see a single atom, even with the most powerful microscope. Although, scientists have managed to photograph an atom’s shadow. How few atoms does it take to cast a shadow? Just one. But while one atom alone cannot be seen, when many are joined together we see them everywhere. Or, we see the things they make up. Water. Trees. Cars. Houses. Hearts.

The Periodic Table of the Elements lists the species of atoms that have been discovered. There are one hundred and eighteen in total but only ninety-four occur naturally. The rest are synthetic and must be made in laboratories. Everything around us is a combination of these ninety-four elements.

At room temperature, some elements exist as liquids, some as solids and some as gases. They can be volatile like the metal sodium: soft, silvery white, and highly reactive. If you’ve ever seen a tiny piece of sodium dropped into water, you would remember it. The violent reaction breaks the bonds between the hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom in the water molecule. Enough heat will be given off that the newly formed hydrogen gas explodes.

Some elements may be toxic like the gas chlorine. Like sodium, it’s too reactive to occur on its own in nature. When it is isolated, it is a yellow-greenish gas that is heavier than air. It smells a lot like bleach because it is just one of the elements that creates bleach. If you breathe in chlorine gas, you will feel like you’re choking and it can cause damage to your respiratory tract and lungs which is why it has been used as a chemical weapon.

But when sodium and chlorine join together into one substance, they become something necessary for life. Something we need every day to keep our hearts beating. They become sodium chloride – or salt.

Chemistry happens around us all the time. It is the change from rubbery dough to fluffy bread when heat is applied. It is how shampoo gets sudsy when you scrub it into your hair. It is why metals rust, or they don’t. Chemistry isn’t a secret or some sort of dark magic. It’s the explanation for everything that occurs around you and inside you – your heart pumping, or hurting.

Chemists study the composition, structure, properties, and relationships formed between substances, and how these substances can change. Reactions that are measurable. Changes that can be quantified. Attraction or the way elements and atoms bond. Why some bonds are hard to break apart and why others disintegrate, dissolve or separate easily. Chemistry is the understanding of matter.

Or maybe, it’s the understanding of things that matter. Relationships. Emotions. Attraction. Hearts racing. Body temperature rising. Stomach churning. It’s the properties of love and how it can change.

But love can’t be measured with a litmus test.

Music Monday | Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

In a darkened hall, the DJ on stage is pumping out tunes. Video clips play on a huge screen behind him. Coloured lights flash. Smoke hisses from the machine out across the dance floor and I bounce with my friends in a circle in the corner. You wouldn’t call what I’m doing dancing. I tug my ruffled denim skirt toward my knees. My purple shirt is knotted at my waist barely exposing my midriff but everyone is staring. She shouldn’t be wearing that.

Katie glides into the centre of the circle, arms swaying above her head, her gold sequined halter top creating our own mirror-ball. Years of dance training have given her rhythm and confidence both of which I lack. My feet remain glued in place to the floorboards and the only movement I can muster comes from bending my knees and bobbing jerkily. Sometimes I kick a foot up behind me. I have no idea what to do with my hands so they swing stiffly by my sides. Everyone else is doing the actions to Vogue. The Year 8 school dance is three hours of embarrassment. The only thing worse than looking awkward is not being seen there at all.

Dancing is of the devil, my church would say. As it would turn out, most fun things are “of the devil” but I’m less scared of going to hell and more scared of not fitting in. The DJ announces he’s about to play something new. The swarming, sweaty, teenage mass stops moving momentarily as he loads the next song. Then, there is a shift. No more melodic pop. Instead, a guitar-heavy grunge blares into the hall. The drum beat thumps through my chest cavity. I can’t understand what the hell they are singing but I know what they are feeling. Swinging my head and swaying in the dark to Nirvana is the closest I will come to rebellion at 13.

***

My dancing improved with practice, and the realisation that no-one is looking at me, judging me or criticising me more than myself.

A few weeks ago, a friend stripped back Smells Like Teen Spirit into a modern re-interpretation that gives us resignation instead of rebellion and defeat instead of defiance. My 13 year old self and my 39 year old self know each of these feelings equally.

***

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend
She’s over-bored and self-assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey

I’m worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it’s hard to find
Oh well, whatever, never mind

Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello, how low
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido

A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial

Science Sunday | Newton’s First Law of Motion

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted on by an external force.”

This afternoon I visited a friend and as we walked around the local wetlands, we paused at a bridge. She pulled out her iPhone and began to play Hymn to the Sea from Titanic. It is a dramatic orchestral piece; exquisitely sad and gloriously hopeful. I hadn’t thought about Titanic in a long time. Although, when it was released, I watched it at the cinema three times.

Titanic was unsinkable.

Could it ever have ended any other way?

Sometimes, it feels like we are living the same story over and over. We say “better the devil you know”. Or “old habits die hard”. Or something else to justify it.

But our thought patterns will continue in the same direction until acted on by an external force. We repeat situations until we learn the lesson. Until we choose to change.

People hit icebergs too. And we can either change direction, or sink.

Music Monday | Someone You’d Admire – Fleet Foxes

“If the heart is a muscle,” I said to my psychologist, “and it atrophies without use, can it be built back up again, like any other muscle, with exercise?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I believe it can. Is that something you want to do?”

I nodded.

Although I had experienced physical heart problems as a consequence of anorexia, that wasn’t what I was worried about. As I had become weight restored, I’d started to notice that people around me felt things. And not just sad things but a whole range of emotions. They felt joy. And grief. And anger. And heartbreak. They felt gratitude. Amusement. Disappointment. And hope.

But the thing they felt that I coveted most was love. Love was not something I had a lot of experience with. Marriage, well, I had experience with that. But that was different to love.

Those early days of recovery were hard. My heart was a mess. I had no idea how to use it. Sometimes, I’d spill it everywhere. Sometimes, it would jam shut and I’d be unable to prise it open.

But slowly, and with practice, my heart became stronger. More resilient. And softer.

And it was in that softness, the same softness I’d always believed to be weakness, that I found strength. Courage. Compassion. And love.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written publicly about my struggle with anorexia. But then again, it’s been a long time since I’ve been ill. And while occasionally there are still days where I feel a bit unhappy with how I look, there are no days where I feel so worthless that anorexia has any hold over me.

Years ago, on the edges of recovery and still nostalgic about my eating disorder, I wrote the below poem and posted it here with the song “Someone You’d Admire” by Fleet Foxes. Today, I’m remembering my old self. This is today’s Music Monday.

 

Nostalgia

And in the distance
As barren hills are touched by black-tipped fingers
The fading light reminisces about the days it lingered
Over pots of tea with toast
Whispering sweet nothings to its only ghost
Then the moon rolls across the inky sky
With a gut full of ache and his upside down smile
And he stops to rest in the furthest corner
Heaves in gasps as the solitary mourner
Closes his eyes just for a minute and
Imagines the days when he was thinner.

 

After all is said and done I feel the same
All that I hoped would change within me stayed
Like a huddled moonlit exile on the shore
Warming his hands, a thousand years ago
I walk with others in the yearning to get out
Claw at my skin and gnash their teeth and shout
One of them wants only to be someone you’d admire
One would as soon just throw you on the fire
After all is said and after all is done
God only knows which of them I’ll become
Songwriter: Robin Pecknold

Blur

Two thousand and seventeen evaporated in front of me. Between April and November, I remember little. An intensive training course meant that my days started at 5am; consisted of work, study after work, household duties and more study. Sleep, if I could find the time. The end result makes it worthwhile; shift work with an advantageous roster pattern. But the last year flew by in a fog.

There is no merit badge for busyness, I reminded a friend today — and myself. No-one is handing out medals to those who pack every day full of activities that are “important” but which suck the life out of us — and our kids. Yes, we all have responsibilities we don’t find thrilling. But there are also things we pop into the “must do” category that, quite often, aren’t. Is it possible, instead, to let go of things that don’t energise us? To make sure that anything we commit to gives as much to us as we offer up?

To take a sharp photograph, we must be still. If we are moving, the image will blur and we won’t be able to see it clearly.

Life and love work the same.

Music Monday | Castle – Slum Sociable

At the end of a year, people like to make resolutions, create goals or define ambitions for the next year. These can be helpful but they can also make life overwhelming, so they tend to fall by the wayside as the year goes on.

What if, instead of adding responsibilities and commitments to our lives, we set an intention to let some things go? Things that no longer serve us. Things that take up time, create stress but don’t add a lot of value to our lives. What if we stopped sending our energy into those things, instead, directing it towards what is really important to us? I’ve let go of many things in the last few years. I’ve become better at trimming the trappings of my life that do not add meaning. But I need to do more.

Letting some things go will be difficult. But energy flows where your attention goes. And focusing on some things, even though they would be good, isn’t beneficial. I need to save my energy and say good bye to some dreams.

So in 2018, I am choosing to invest my energy into those things — mostly people — that really matter to me and whose love and support can always be relied upon.

Music Monday | Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra

Welcome to this special Christmas edition of Music Monday.

Recently on Instagram, I commented that it’s been three years since I relocated to regional Victoria — and not a day goes by where I wish I was anywhere else.

My sis-in-law commented that not a day goes by where she doesn’t wish she was somewhere – possibly anywhere – else.

I’ve been nomadic my entire life. Places don’t hold me — only people do. And even that is a recent development. Family means something quite different to me these days.

Today we celebrated Christmas, and family, at our place. And I loved every minute of it.

Merry Christmas friends, family and internet folks.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay

From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

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Music Monday | I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – Jon Bon Jovi

Until I’m six feet under
Baby I don’t need a bed
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
‘Til they roll me over
And lay my bones to rest
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead

I used to be proud of how little I slept.

“Only three hours?” others would stare and squint at me suspiciously. But it was amazing — I had so many more hours in the day than “normal people”.

Developing healthy sleep habits was a large part of my treatment; building a routine, sleeping even when I didn’t want to, shifting my thoughts about what needing sleep meant (turns out, it doesn’t make you weak). Now I’m regularly able to sleep for five to six hours — which may not seem like much but is double what I was getting several years ago.

Recently, I’ve moved to permanent shift work involving a pattern of night shifts and I’m in the process of converting my sleep rhythms so that I sleep during the day. I’ve always slept better during the day than at night…except when I am woken up.

Music Monday | Waves – Dean Lewis

When I left Queensland a few years ago, I sold the piano I’d had since I was 10.

There is a swelling storm
And I’m caught up in the middle of it all
And it takes control
Of the person that I thought I was

Music had been one of the keys to my recovery — my piano, instrumental to the re-connection with my heart.

Memories, of a stolen place
Caught in the silence
An echo lost in space

A couple of years ago, my partner bought me a piano for my birthday.

Moments of magic and wonder
It seems so hard to find

It is the best present I’ve ever been given and is much more than 88 keys in a wooden box. Right now, I’m learning to play this.