Can’t a girl just do the best she can?
Catch a wave and take in the sweetness
Think about it, the darkness, the deepness
All the things that make me who I am
And who I am is a big time believer
That people can change
~ Elizabeth Grant and Jack Antonoff ~
I’m in California with G for a friend’s wedding today. We have been busy travelling so I have missed a few Music Mondays (I keep forgetting what day it is in Australia) but I remembered today! I will try to get back on track when I get home in a few weeks.
The First Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.
The light filters through the window earlier each day. Mornings are cold but spring is here and it hasn’t been a bad winter. Not like last year when we lit a fire every evening and the cat melted in front of it, becoming liquid. There has been little rain and very few frosts. The ground is hard. Dry. Bushfire season will be dangerous, according to the news.
I stand at the kitchen counter and pop a coffee pod into the Nespresso, slide my Tinker Bell mug under the spout and wait for the thick, black liquid to pour from the nozzle. Outside, the daffodils stand tall declaring winter is at its end. Buds are sprouting on the bare trees and some of the magnolias have dared to bloom. A kookaburra laughs in the gum tree at the front of the house. The whir of the machine stops and the pod clunk-clunks down into the receptacle, breaking my reverie on the garden. I grab my coffee and sit down at the table with my computer. It’s been months since I’ve written, months since I’ve thought about writing.
Years ago I blogged regularly, an almost daily habit of recording my life, of making meaning out of madness. But my storyline changed and I didn’t know how to segue into the next scene. I was leading a new life so divergent from the previous incarnation you’d suspect I wasn’t the same person. And I wasn’t. Which had kind of been the plan all along. ‘If I’m not different at the end of this,’ I wrote early on, ‘I won’t be better.’
We all have two lives, a dubiously attributed quote begins (really? Confucius? I think not), the second starts when we realise we only have one. (Tom Hiddleston? Perhaps.)
I’ve already lived more than twice in this current span of time. And yet, my handwritten journals would suggest that little has changed. Things look different now, sure; daily tasks and duties, responsibilities reshuffled and realigned. So much chaos from the past has settled out but my desires have not changed. My humanness – my energy, although transformed – is the same.
Heat is a form of energy. It always flows from the hotter body to the colder body. Heat can be transferred via conduction, convection or radiation.
In bed, my partner snuggles behind me. Dialogue from my old Bikram hot yoga class pops into my head. ‘From the side you should look like a Japanese ham sandwich,’ the instructor shouts during Pada-Hasthasana, the forward fold, ‘no gap anywhere’.
‘I’m very tactile,’ I tell him when we first meet, ‘you’ll probably get sick of it after a while.’ He laughs, eyes sparkling. Every night, going on four years, our bodies touch from head to toe. His chest against my back, breath on my neck, legs pressed against mine, feet tangled. No gap anywhere. The heat radiates between us and eventually drives us to roll over and reverse the position. We dance like this for most of the night.
Pauli’s Exclusion Principle says that every electron must be in its own unique state. In other words, no electrons in an atom are permitted to have an identical set of quantum numbers.
You might be reading this on your phone, holding it in your hand. Or on your computer. You pressed some keys to access it. You touched them.
Atoms are made up of three particles. A nucleus that contains most of the mass, protons, and electrons. Electrons are negatively charged and can exhibit characteristics of both particles and waves. Particles are attracted to particles with the opposite charge and repel similarly charged particles. So electrostatic repulsion prevents electrons coming into direct contact with each other in both an atomic and literal sense.
This, and Pauli’s Exclusion Principle, also prevents you, me, us…from touching anything. Instead, we hover above things at a microscopically small distance. Gaps everywhere. The sensation of touch is simply our brain’s interpretation of our electrons’ interaction with other electrons in the electromagnetic field, the medium through which electron waves propagate.
Electromagnetic fields are physical fields produced by electrically charged objects. They affect the behaviour of charged objects within the vicinity of the field. Electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field which radiate through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy.
The human heart is the first organ to function during fetal development at approximately 20 days. The brain doesn’t begin to function until about 90 days. First the heart, then the head.
The heart generates an electrical field of up to 60 times greater in amplitude than that created by the brain and the electromagnetic field of the heart can be measured up to several feet away from the body. When individuals are in close proximity, their electromagnetic fields interact.
Perhaps, in the end, all we can touch is hearts.
In 1999, I thought I knew what this song meant. But I didn’t really.
Fifteen years later, I understood.
“All the fear has left me now, I’m not frightened anymore.”
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
This week, I am finalising my manuscript. Progress paused last year when I commenced an intensive work training program but that was completed last Friday. Now I have a few chapters left to write and have set a daily target of 3,000 words which will get me to the end by the weekend. Looking back, writing scenes from years ago, it’s all so obvious. There are visible patterns to behaviour and the underlying beliefs that drove it.
This month, I’ve been separated from my ex-husband for longer than we were married. Time bends and stretches. The last eight years have flown. The last eight years, I’ve grown. It hasn’t always been easy. At times it’s been incredibly painful. But that was what I wanted when I started this new life. I wanted to feel. I wanted to love. I wanted to know myself. I wanted to grow up.
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”
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.
“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?”
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.
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.
All that I hoped would change within me stayed
Like a huddled moonlit exile on the shore
Warming his hands, a thousand years ago
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
God only knows which of them I’ll become
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.
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.