I have been thinking about how much I work. Why. And have come to the following conclusion.
Work is a safe space.
When I interviewed with my current employer, during the second interview I was asked:
What would you say your biggest weakness is?
I have been told never to answer this question in the personal, so I said that my weakness would be the limitations coming into the role being that it was not something I’d done before. My knowledge and skills would take time to build but that, having studied for a different technical role in the past, I didn’t feel it was out of my reach.
No, the interviewer (and manager-to-be) said, what is your biggest personal weakness?
‘I work too much,’ was the answer that immediately popped into my mind. Followed by ‘that is such a wanky thing to say, you can’t say that out loud.’ So instead, I said “I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything right now.”
Later, when I spoke to one of my referees, a former manager, he told me he’d answered that question by saying that I work too much; that I have a hard time saying no, that my work/life balance boundaries are non-existent and that they would need to watch me to make sure I do not burn myself out.
Fuck, I thought. That’s exactly what I had wanted to say—but who says, “I work too much,” and has the prospective employer both believe them and agree it’s a bad thing?
I am at work on overtime tonight.
Last week, I worked my two night shifts (12 hrs), one day shift (12hrs), and then attended a leadership training program in Melbourne for two more days; up at 4.45am, drove to the city (150km), participated in training, drove home, arrived approximately 7.45pm, ate dinner, walked the dog, and got ready to do it again. On the Friday, I had another additional eight-hour training day.
Which means in the last seven days I’ve worked 68 hours.
But other than the training, which is not in my comfort zone, I like being at work.
When I am there, I am surrounded by people who are largely like me. Most of us have specific, common traits that make us good at what we do, though perhaps not socially savvy. I am beginning to realise how sheltered I have been in this regard; protected in a way that I would not have, had I worked in a more relational role, or something that is front-facing with customers.
On Saturday, I completed the first of my autism assessment paperwork. There were nine documents to fill out in total. Plus, the standard consent and intake forms for the psychologist. On Thursday, I will have the first of several appointments to discuss my answers and undergo evaluation.
G is worried about how I will feel if the assessment is negative. It’s a valid concern. I am looking for something I can point to, something I can grab and show people and say “Look! Look at this here. This is why some things feel so impossible for me. Why certain supposed normal activities exhaust me. Why I have struggled so much.”
But as G observed today, I don’t look like I struggle. And that is the gap that I slide into—the crack I fall through—and have done, probably, for years. I have developed tools and strategies, whether maladaptive or not, to somehow maintain an appearance. And it is so goddamn exhausting. The struggle is almost entirely internal. And yet, it’s not. Because shortly after G said that I don’t appear to be any different to anyone else, he also admitted to adjusting his own behaviour and language to mitigate the impact of my behaviour on him, in particular circumstances. Which means my struggle with communication, my need for information and detail, does impact the people around me.
In Australia, and in Melbourne particularly, we experienced extended lockdowns during the early days of the pandemic before vaccinations were commonplace. Most people lamented being locked indoors with their families. Most people were ready to begin mixing in society again the moment they could. Most people were frustrated with the rules of when, where, and with whom you could leave your house.
Despite the small issue of G undergoing cancer treatment during the worst of covid, I thrived. As someone who had previously believed they were an extravert, and needed people, I discovered a strange truth; that I’d rather be on my own. Or, at least, with very few people. And less frequently than I’d thought.
I learned I loved zoom because I could pretend to have eye contact without actually looking at someone. And, I could watch my own face to make sure it looked calm, relaxed, pleasant, happy. I found that I had been forcing myself to socialise in instances when I’d rather not because I believed it was what I was supposed to do. But I’d rather be at home, avoiding the world, and simply focusing on the things I found interesting. There are so many things I find interesting.
The shock of it has been unnerving. And joyful. It took until lockdown number six for me to become overwhelmed but I have realised that was due to the constant changing of routine, not the fact that we were supposed to isolate again.
Everything points to an affirmative diagnosis. But whether or not I will be able to prove that what I experience has been present my entire life is what will potentially pause the process and invalidate the final result.
Right now, I’m not sure if seeking a formal diagnosis is the right thing but as I have told everyone, my purpose in pursuing it is to more easily engage targeted assistance and therapy for very particular challenges of communication. For the rest of it, I am fortunate that I have set my life up in a way that generally works for me on most other levels.
And so, I work, a lot. Because at work, I feel safe.
The metal clasp of the lead clinks in a familiar rhythm against the name tag attached to the dog’s collar as he trots along beside me. The streetlights blink themselves on as the evening light dims and it becomes difficult to avoid the snails on the pavement in the dark. The occasional crunch underfoot induces a cringe, my shoulders shudder, and I shake off the sensation of slime on my shoe.
The dog is twelve in a few months and has slowed down over summer. His enthusiasm hasn’t waned but his energy has. He pants in the warm air as summer, which arrived late, lingers.
Days, these days, consist of the everyday; get up, go to work, walk the dog, sleep. There is pleasure in simplicity when the previous years have focused on not just the pandemic but my partner’s cancer, treatment, and recovery during it.
Last week, we had his two-year post-treatment scans and blood tests. Every three months for the last two years, the blood tests have shown no improvement in his immune system. Immunoglobulins have been undetectable much less anywhere near the normal range. But this time, there was a very small increase in two of the three. They aren’t normal, or approaching normal, but they are detectable. And the MRI showed no evidence of lymphoma.
We are celebrating; not with any grand gestures. No parties or cakes. But by simply continuing to go about the everyday.
If it is so difficult to begin, imagine what it will be to end— Louise Glück
I am reading Geoff Dyer’s book of endings; The Last Days of Roger Federer. I have tried and failed before to read another book by Dyer that came highly recommended: Out of Sheer Rage. Perhaps, after listening to (because that’s how I read almost all books these days) The Last Days of Roger Federer, I will be able to return to it. I was attracted to this current book by its title and my adoration for Roger (as Dyer notes, it’s always just Roger despite not knowing him, only Roger), and also due to the fact that I’d failed to read his previous book. Although, it’s not his only previous book. Only the one I’d previously attempted to read. This new book starts in a fashion I particularly enjoy; short “chapters”. Though most people would probably refer to them only as paragraphs. Other authors whose work I appreciate for the same reason; Yiyun Li in Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, and Lewis Hyde in A Primer for Forgetting. These short chapters are put together to form a whole picture based on seemingly small, dissimilar or unrelated snippets. They are the style of book I someday hope to write.
Dyer moves from an opening chapter on The Doors, to a second chapter about Bob Dylan and references his song Tangled Up in Blue.
I had forgotten this song. And, when duly reminded, had only the briefest inkling that it was originally written by Dylan (Dylan, not Bob—never Bob, unlike Roger). Instead, I was most familiar with a cover version by The Whitlams. The Whitlams formed in Sydney in 1992 and released their third album, Eternal Nightcap, (which really felt like their first) when I was in my early years of university. They toured university campuses with high energy but I preferred to listen to them at home, alone, in my bedroom with favoured songs on repeat. It is this album that boasts the cover of Tangled Up in Blue. It was my least favourite song on the album and I frequently skipped over it, preferring Buy Now Pay Later (Charlie No. 2), and No Aphrodisiac. But the reference Geoff Dyer made to a lyric from Tangled Up in Blue “We’ll meet again someday, on the avenue” reminded me of a different song by The Whitlams. It was on a later album, Little Cloud. And I used to play it incessantly on the piano when I lived in Queensland. It was called Keep the Light On.
I do not cope well with endings. Even when I have instigated them.
It is impossible for me to turn off my care, compassion, and curiosity for people I’ve had a connection with—who are or have been friends—regardless of whether they’ve hurt me. Or, perhaps, especially if they’ve hurt me. (There are a couple of notable exceptions to this but I won’t be revealing who they are or my former relationship to them.) I don’t know if this is healthy. But I do know that I don’t know how to operate any other way. I always just want to know that they’re well.
When I work, I tend to go “off-grid” for days—almost a week—at a time. My work pattern consists of 12-hour shifts from seven until seven. These times are for both the night shifts (7pm until 7am) and the day shifts (7am until 7pm) on a 10-day repeating cycle:
While I am off, I can be called for overtime, at any time, for any of the day or night shifts that I’m not already rostered. Our resourcing has been cut to a minimum over the years and with people getting covid or taking summer recreation leave, there is a lot of overtime. I am called for multiple shifts during my break. But I try to only accept one.
I’ve often described what I do as 95% routine and 5% panic but with the plant and equipment now ageing into its 50s, that ratio has changed. It’s more like 80% routine and 20% panic.
To be fair, panic isn’t a great way to describe it, either. In those moments when things are going wrong, or you need to respond to certain plant conditions quickly, or safely shut down a unit, the last thing you must be doing is panicking. But it does require extreme concentration and urgency in decision-making. It’s one of the things I like about the job. Situations that require analysis and reflexive responses under pressure are my catnip. Perhaps it is that I enjoy that low-level of anxious arousal, the flutter of my nervous system, and the adrenaline that’s generated when something happens.
All shift long, I make megawatts of electricity. When I finish, I go home, eat a simple meal, and sleep. Between night shifts, I sleep until approximately 4pm. Then I have about an hour and forty-five minutes before I need to leave for work. On zombie day, I sleep til noon-ish; wash work laundry in the afternoon and finish any other small jobs that need doing. After day shift, I do much of the same, only I try to sleep until 5am. If I’m not working overtime, the first day off after my round is decompression day and I don’t like to do anything. But tomorrow I have scheduled some appointments—a medical screening, a beauty salon appointment, and lunch with a friend. The rest of my time off will be spent decluttering the house, discovering what art supplies I have hidden away in storage boxes under beds, and preparing for my mother to visit. It’s been four years since I’ve seen her, and this will be her first trip to our home since I moved here in 2014. Somehow, despite my best efforts to have everything stored in its place, labelled, and easy to access, entropy always wins. It seems that nothing is where I left it.
I have been searching for days for a mantra I listened to relentlessly in 2020 and still cannot find it. YouTube seems to store history. But not all history. I don’t know why. Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?
The day G was anaesthetised and had his brain biopsy, it was almost 9pm. I put on my noise cancelling headphones, played some music at a supposedly calming frequency and went to visit him. I found him in a dark room that was not, in fact, a room, it was more like the centre of a galaxy. Though it was mostly dark. I grabbed his hand, told him he was safe, and asked him where he wanted to go. Everest, he said, and in milliseconds we were rugged up and standing on the top of the world. At which point, I turned to him and said “What are we doing here? You don’t even like the cold!”
It wasn’t the first time I’d had an out of body experience; the first was when I was 12. I was riding my cousin’s pony and jumping a gate, and on my fourth jump, the saddle slipped around as the pony leapt. I know this because I watched it. The girl slid with the saddle off to the left and I watched from behind. I bounced back into my body at the same time I hit the ground, winded, and gasping for breath.
I think of these things when I’m at work. I think about energy. Enthalpy. Entropy.
Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?
I do not understand any of it.
The generator is a magic box. I rotate a turbine using steam power and at the other end of it, electrons are forced down wires through substations into homes to power televisions. Or computers. Or phones.
Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?
I will not get a decompression day this week. So instead, I’m going to try to play some other music–Grae Moore makes music for ADHD brains. I’m not diagnosed. I don’t think I quite meet the criteria. Nor do I quite meet the criteria for autism. Though the main complaints people have made about me tend to sound like some complaints about autistic traits. There is a family history there. Perhaps my masking is just that good. Or perhaps it’s not, hence the complaints.
Today is decompression day; I’ve worked my normal round (4×12 hour shifts on a night night day day roster) plus an additional day of overtime this last week–for a total of 60 hours from 7pm Tuesday night to 7pm Sunday night. On my first day off after work, I can barely summon the energy to read, much less write. So today’s Music Monday is short and I’ll be back tomorrow.
When the only thing that’s sure is this unsteady ground
Listening to certain types of music often gives me the same strange sensation of yearning I have when I look at the stars. As if I belong somewhere else. Or perhaps, rather, am from somewhere else. When I was a child growing up in the church, I believed this was because I belonged in heaven–out there, in the stars somewhere. Now, though, I know it’s because all the elements in my body were forged in the heavens; hydrogen and helium during the big bang, while heavier elements were made by fusion in a star’s core.
My affinity for out there is also a way to dissociate from right here. Right now.
I am trying to remember that, as Rumi says, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.”
It is one in the morning on December 29 and I’m sitting quietly in the corner of an emergency vet hospital one and a half hours from home. It’s the closest emergency and specialist centre to me and I’d rather not be here but H, my cat, has deteriorated over the last few days and I cannot just hope for the best.
A few hours ago, G called out to me from another room. “I love you more,” he said, as I was googling respiratory distress and calling the emergency vet for advice. “Yeah?” I shouted back. “But do you love me enough?”
“What do you mean, enough?” he asked, realising our banter had shifted.
“I’m going to take Hunter to the emergency vet,” I said. “You can stay here.”
I heard the familiar crunch of styrofoam as he hauled himself out of the beanbag in the lounge room before coming to the dining table where I sat staring at the computer.
“No, I can’t,” he said. “You know I can’t.”
So at 10.15pm we piled into the car with the cat whose breathing was shallow and rapid, nostrils flaring.
A year ago, I almost succeeded in burning down the house. Not in the Talking Heads way, but rather in the way that I’d spent until near midnight on Christmas Eve cooking and preparing for the following day. After wiping everything down, cleaning the stove top, and placing the wooden chopping board on the stove for the following day’s prep, I stumbled into bed.
A couple of hours later, I woke to a strange, distant beeping sound. Weird, I thought in my sleepy haze, that sounds like a smoke alarm. It took a moment to process as my brain registered the noise; the far-away sound transitioning from a flat battery beep to a genuine, urgent, emergency beep.
Our house had only one smoke detector which, months earlier, had fallen out of the cement sheet ceiling so I’d placed it on top of a bookcase in the family room just down the hall from our bedroom. I moved slowly in the dark, assuming the smoke detector had failed, and felt my way along the bedroom wall to the sliding door before shuffling through a small gap into the hallway.
I opened the door at the end of the hall into the family room and switched on the light. Thick smoke obscured anything more than a few feet in front of me.
The cats, my God, where were the cats?
Edith darted immediately between my legs into the hall that was now beginning to fill with smoke. I ran back to the bedroom, woke G in case we needed to evacuate, and said I had to go find Hunter. I coughed my way through the smoke into the kitchen to attempt to identify where the fire was. But there was no fire. Just thick, heavy smoke in every room. I found H and hurried him into the bedroom where G was up and trying to come out to help. “Go back, go back into the bedroom,” I said. “There is no fire. I have to figure out what is going on.”
I wrapped a wet washcloth around my face to reduce the amount of smoke I was inhaling–we hadn’t yet begun to wear N95 masks so I didn’t have one readily available–and I knew from my workplace fire training that any damp, thick cloth would help filter the smoke. I walked from room to room opening windows, switching on fans and opening doors but could not find the source of the smoke.
Back in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove, I heard the familiar crackle and pop of wood as it heated and burned. Then I looked at the chopping board. I’d used it all day, washed it many times, and it had been waterlogged when I’d left it on top of the clean stove. Now, it was dry and beginning to curl at the edges. I grabbed it with an oven mitt, shoved it into the sink and doused it in water. On the underside was a perfect, charred circle where the hotplate had been slowly scorching it for hours. Eventually, I worked out that as I’d cleaned the stove and wiped the knobs, I must have flicked one ever so slightly into the on position. Just on low. Just enough that it heated the chopping board. The water had kept the board cool enough not to burn but instead, smoke profusely for hours, and now that most of the water had evaporated, it was dry and ready to burst into flames. It took hours to clear the house of smoke and even weeks later, if the air was very still, you could still catch a faint whiff of it.
Over the next 24 hours, Hunter’s breathing became loud and scratchy. The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day, here. Boxing Day is a Public Holiday in Australia, and I called my vet, expecting an answering machine message that would advise me of their holiday opening hours. Instead, a person answered. And although there was only half an hour until closing time, they could fit H in. Did I want to bring him down? It’s a Public Holiday, though, they said, and an emergency appointment. Was I ok with both the extra charges? Yes, sure, I said. Whatever he needs.
I took H to the vet for raspy breathing and suspected smoke inhalation. One of his eyebrows was singed off and I guessed he had jumped up onto the counter to investigate, inhaling lungfuls of the heavy smoke. He’d always had a slight snore but in the 24 hours after the smoke event, his snore escalated to something else.
When I arrived and they listened to his chest, they wanted to perform an x-ray; a procedure which would require the vet and a nurse to stay back past closing time. Would I be ok with additional charges? Yes, sure, I said. Whatever he needs.
When I first adopted H, I used to smoke–inside–and although I quit many years ago, I have been paranoid ever since that I’ve given him lung cancer, in much the same way that I am sure I gave G blood cancer.
Nine hundred dollars later, we went home. Just monitor him, they said, and see if it settles down.
It didn’t settle down, so for the last 12 months, he’s had various treatments and investigations including blood tests, a specialist cardiology appointment and ultrasound of his heart, antibiotics, steroids and other medication. The final consensus has been “asthma” for which he has been prescribed an inhaler but I (not a vet) disagree with the consensus. Yes, he had been coughing. And the inhaler has eliminated the coughing. But there are other things, too. A loss of his higher register voice over a period of years. A new struggle to swallow and a choking/gagging noise when he eats. Vomiting. The high-pitched stridor in his throat as he inhales, that only I can hear when he rests his neck on my ear as we are laying down watching TV. At the vet, he is too stressed, too anxious, and too growly for them to hear what I hear.
Instead, those additional symptoms point to some type of laryngeal paralysis which is getting worse. He is booked in with the internal medicine specialist on January 18 for a scope in his nose and throat to identify any potential blockages. But the last few days of heat at 35 degrees Celsius saw his breathing rate double from 30 breaths per minute to 60 and to become more laboured. His breaths have been shallow or gasping and neither his steroid inhaler nor the emergency Ventolin salbutamol has helped.
G thinks I have hypochondria by proxy with the cat. And while I do have severe health anxiety and some of it may be transferred, I know there is something very wrong with his respiratory system and if he suffocates at home through my lack of action when a vet visit could have saved him, I will never forgive myself. H has outlasted all my relationships to date; at almost 12 years old, he has been with me through several heartbreaks, interstate moves, and has not faltered in his devotion to me from the very first moment I opened the cage door at the pet shop and he climbed into the crook of my neck. G is catching him in the longevity stakes, of course, and will eventually overtake him but I had intended to have H around for at least another five years before he breaks my heart.
As I wait, a man brings his elderly German Shepherd in. I catch snippets of his explanation to the nurse who is triaging the late-night attendees. Christmas Day, a whole roast chicken. Vomiting. Restless. Won’t sit down/lie down. Strange because. Osteoarthritis. I know that cooked chicken bones are terrible for dogs’ tummies and begin to worry for this dog that looks like the one I’m minding for 12 months. They take the man and his German Shepherd through to the back. Hunter has been under observation for almost two hours and no-one has come to give me any news. An hour later, the man comes out from the rooms in the back without his German Shepherd. I can hear him at the reception desk. He is sniffling. Crying. He makes a phone call I can’t hear. And I know then, that he won’t be taking his dog home. I begin to panic that I may not be taking Hunter home, either.
There is no sadder place than an emergency vet at two am in the holidays, except, perhaps for a hospital. And I’ve seen my share of those, too.
Another couple of hours pass, and they call me into the room. They ask why I brought H in tonight, and I explain the history of his breathing and investigative testing over the last 12 months, his current treatment, and the deterioration over the past three days.
“I can’t find anything wrong with him now,” the vet says. “His respiratory rate is normal, he is not in any distress–except perhaps some anxiety at being here–and all his other vital signs are good.”
This should be good news. Instead, I am only convinced that everyone except me is missing something while also knowing this is only going to further G’s belief that I’m making up symptoms the cat does not have.
We drive home, or rather, G drives us home and we fall into bed as the clock ticks over to five am.
At 8.30 am my alarm goes off. I have a doctor’s appointment at 9.40 am. I’ve had three and a half hours’ sleep and am starting to feel the effects of the covid booster that I had the afternoon before. I cannot tell if my headache is from the vaccine or lack of sleep. If the buzzing in my body is the vaccine or lack of sleep. If the nausea is the vaccine or lack of sleep. But I am starting to feel like death.
I go to the doctor and forget why I made the appointment so I end up discussing the headaches which are coming more frequently now than ever before. They could be hormonal, I say. Or they could be stress related. I list all of the reasons I could be experiencing frequent headaches but I never mention brain cancer. And neither does she. Where are the headaches located? she asks, and I motion across my forehead. At the front? she confirms. Yes. And do they get worse if you tip your head forward? Yes, I say. I can then get a shooting pain behind my eyes that takes a minute or two to recede when I lift my head again.
“Aspirin,” she says. “I’m going to give you a specific dose of aspirin to take every day for a week. I think they are tension headaches. Come back next week.”
I ask her to reprint my referral to the gastroenterologist that I’ve misplaced so that I can have my low iron levels investigated. And I check that I do not need a referral for a mammogram, that I can just book in through the breast screening program. Then, I go home to bed.
By lunchtime, I cannot sleep any more but feel awful. G feels wretched, too. And we are not sure if it’s from staying up all night or the vaccine. Or both. He says he feels hot, but when we take his temperature, it is normal. Several hours later, when I start to feel chilled, though I wouldn’t say feverish, I take my own temperature: 37.8 degrees Celsius, a mild fever. I take two Tylenol, have a warm shower, and go to bed.
Christmas has been a difficult time for me for 27 years and I ponder whether it is my own anxiety that ensures I add more traumatic events to the list each Christmas. Is it my attitude to this time of year that makes it more challenging, or is it the subconscious memory of terrible events that determine my attitude? For years, I worked on Christmas to avoid it altogether. Two nights ago, I took H to the emergency vet, believing he may be close to death. Today, he has been chasing the other cat around the house the same as he always does. Did I imagine it? Was his breathing really problematic or was it simply my fear that made it appear so? Will I believe anyone telling me there is nothing wrong with him or will I always think they are wrong? Are H’s perceived breathing problems a metaphor for my life? Perhaps, I am choking. And all we can do is keep breathing.
This world of words and pictures and music is a strange one. Everything I say here is true. Has always been true. And yet, it can never be the whole truth. I cannot write every thought I have, describe every interaction, post every photo or memory. That is to say, it is not a complete picture of my life. Only what I choose to share. But does that mean that what I don’t share can never be known? I’m not so sure. Quantum entanglement, while only in the initial stages of scientific exploration and understanding, possibly, probably shares more information and secrets than we will ever know.
Today, I feel better. There is no headache (a miracle) although I’ve not yet taken any aspirin. And there is no strange buzzing in my body. No nausea and no fever. I am lying on the couch as I type this, the clock ticking over to one am on December 31. The laptop is propped on a pillow on my thighs, H is lying on his side on my stomach, his breathing noisy but not distressed. His body rises and falls with my breath; he stretches, pushes his paws against my face, turns over and relaxes again.
G says this music is boring. Running errands on the weekend, and listening to this album, he asked if we could change it–put something on that wouldn’t put him to sleep. I could not explain how multi-layered the lyrics were to me, how it was anything but boring. I didn’t change the album.
On Sunday, he went for the first bike ride outside since his illness. Before cancer, he used to cycle hundreds of kilometres per week. Ride for hours at a time. Race. The cancer (PCNSL) attached itself to his cerebellum; the part of the brain that is responsible for coordination, balance, language, attention, your nervous system. Damage to it can make it difficult to judge distances, spatial orientation, and can inhibit motor skills and speech. His balance was ok while he was on the bike, he reported, but he did fall off when he tried to stop.
In the first year after treatment, tapering off the steroids caused many of the typical adrenal problems associated with withdrawal; severe fatigue, weakness, body aches, and loss of appetite. The rehab program provided by the occupational therapist of approximately a half hour a day of both muscular resistance exercises and balance exercises left him exhausted. But in this last year, his endurance, stamina and exercise habits have increased. He’s been riding the bike trainer almost every day, walking every other day, and has been more diligent with his balance training. More of that will be required if he wants to remain upright on the bike. I worry that he will break his other hip, or something else, if he falls.
There are so many ways our bodies can betray us. And so many forms of recovery. It seems, we are all recovering from something. So here I am, thinking about our bodies. And what they mean for our salvation.
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.
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