Sunday, February 13, 2011

Schrödinger's Tessa

Music that is loud, unrepentant and live, no, alive, and awesomely alive at that, music so loud it fills your mind and leaves no space for you to think even the smallest of thoughts, music that makes your hair shiver and your ribs ache and for which you cannot help but grin manically, shout incoherently, and be saturated by it, no, not saturated, by absorbed by the music until you are nothing and it is everything. That is catharsis. That is clensing, purging, hell, an enema for the mind as all the shit gets blasted out and lost in the bass line.

That's what I expect of live music, and perhaps sadly what I need of it as well.

I was standing in the Corner Hotel last week. It was a Tuesday night, and I was alone in the crush of bodies before the stage, too hot but armed with water, mindful of those around me, resigned to tall people in front of me, and the band was good, they were fantastic at what they did, an incredibly tight and smooth performance with unebbing energy, but-


How to say this. My grip on my voice is uncertain of late, voice being such a slippery thing and I no longer have gentle confidant hands, I'm clutching and snatching too quick too tight and it's getting away from me.

How to say; I did not go away. How to say; I was neither saturated nor absorbed. How to say; I stood in the music, and apart from it.

I was waiting to be filled and full of something other than me, and so have some brief respite from the self-absorbed burden of being me. The spaces inside me were near quivering with anticipation of that storm of sound to come in and blow all the detritus of doubt and fear away and sweep all clean and clear, and those spaces waited, and waited, as the music beat in my bones and blood and came nowhere near me.

It's hard to control that little upwell of panic when one of your crutches breaks.

I kept moving. You can't help but respond to such volume when those around you answer the same call, but my hands were in fists and my teeth were clenched and I was already writing this post over and over, trying to define what it was that...what it was, what any of it was.

The invasion of living music into the mind serves not only as a clensing and purging process, it presents also the opportunity for a controlled instance of recognition. That is, the loss of self is defined as being the loss of the conscious and self-aware self, which in turns allows the unconscious and instinctive self a moment to rise to the surface and free of conscious oppression, be heard.

When the idea of Tessa is put aside, even for a moment, then foundations upon which that idea is constructed are bared.

That is my howling heart, resonating with the roar in my blood and bones, roaring free and uninhibited and anonymous in the roar of a hundred other voices.

I could almost feel it, almost, thrashing and gnashing and trying to get out get out get free. Here and there, in snatched moments, the music echoed something inside, for a moment there was synchronicity, but only for a moment. The show ended, and my howling heart had not surfaced.

This is perhaps an extreme example of the state of affairs of late. I find that I am fine, yes, I am fine. I feel solid and whole and well, and there are no undercurrents I am actively monitoring. But this being okay is, is, it isn't an illusion, it isn't a sham but it is. It is. It takes so little to rip everything out from beneath me, everything, with such swiftness and thoroughness and savagery I'm left gasping not only from the sting of whatever the world saw fit to slash me with, but with the seeming betrayal of my own self that it should collapse so easily, without even the semblance of resistance.

It is hard to trust myself, knowing that my limits are very much changed, yet still not being familiar with them, having as yet developed no understanding of how they lie and what weaknesses they possess, being now wary of anything and everything, for I do not know what will prove to be a fatal blow and set me back again and again and again.

Not knowing myself is a strange thing. It frightens me. A thorough understanding of myself and all my whys is the only certainty I've had, the only map and compass by which to navigate.

But it, I, it, that howling heart, it is still there. I felt it distant but straining in the music. I will feel it when looking at the carpet in my lounge room, or opening the fridge cabinet in the supermarket, or reaching for the phone at work. It is still there. It is still howling.

It is as though it is in a glass box. Double-glazed to keep the sound out in, of course. I'm sitting here at my desk, typing gingerly with my nerves sawing in my wrists, and this glass box sitting before me. It has no seams. Inside, my heart is a snarling, furious thing, all peeled lip and broken teeth. Thrashing and throwing itself against the glass when I fold my arms on the desk and rest my chin on them, trying to break that glass and have at me. It is so upset. There is such hurt, distress and rage in that wild mean little heart.

As it has always been, I suppose.


I can't hear you, and so I don't know how to sooth you.

I've been trawling through my music trying to find something that will, without volume, let you out. Even just for a moment, even now, at 12.17 on a Monday with the sun out and lawnmowers in the distance. I think that, if I find the right music, if I find the right emotive harmonic that is the same frequency at which you howl, with combined resonance from inside and out we may shatter that glass box and set you free.

But that is wrong. It is old habit for me to assume that which is within me is mine to change. The glass box is an alien intervention. To remove it, I need only stop taking the medication.

I am afraid, my howling heart, of not being able to read you and interpret you, I'm afraid that not having that understanding and thus not having that control over you means you will find ways out over which I have no power. I am afraid of not knowing myself.

I am certain, if I were to remove the glass box, that the understanding would not help me at all. I am certain I would not be able to contain you by mere force of will alone. I am certain you would devour me.

Who is in the box, you or me? Are we dead when you are in the box, or when you are free?

I wanted the anguish to be gone, yes. I couldn't carry it any more. But not like this.

I didn't want you cut out. I wanted you to feel better.


  1. You have such an amazing way with words, Tessa. I worry at times that my medication might be stifling the inner me. But then I remember what I was like before I became somewhat more settled. When someone once suggested to Spike Milligan that it was his mental health issues that helped him become a comic genius, he replied that he would have much rather been sane. Fortunately I don't think either of us is insane as such. But there is always that nagging doubt - what would I achieve without meds?

  2. I hear variations on this a *lot* from people who are on meds - whether it's mood control or even just birth control, altering the body's chemistry to fix one problem causes others in its wake. And it then becomes a question of whether or not fixing the original problem is worth dealing with the side effects. I remember that the one time I took mood altering drugs - I hated it, and chose not to do so anymore. But my situation was such that I *could* make that choice and not suffer for it.

    I wish it were easier for you, and not so much damned if you do, damned if you don't.