Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year of Folding Hands

I haven't written up an end of year review for a few years now. Things fall apart. My control, or, my sense of control over where I am steering my life has slipped from my grip. A lot of things have slipped, and even more things I have let slide.

In Berlin, in a hostel in Kreuzberg, in the kitchen, with two other travellers sitting behind me, eating pizza they fried because the oven is broken, speaking with Australian voices, from Melbourne, from Frankston. A dorm room full of drunken snores entering in stages. Bad sleep makes itself at home in my joints. These are aches deeper than the dimensions of my body.

There is no quiet, peace, privacy. Alone without solitude. I am run ragged by people I have nothing to do with. They judge me because I do not want a beer, I do not want to chat, I do not want to go out. Not with them.

The people I want to be with are on the other side of the world. I am as far from them as it is near possible to be, and that is my doing. Christmas passed, New Years is passing, summer will pass, and that I have not spent my time in their company is a wistfulness sharp enough to blossom into regret.

I have seen a Southern White-faced Owl, a bearcat moving, Manhattan lights from the Empire State Building, a Gutenberg Bible, Christopher Robin's original stuffed toys that became Winne the Pooh, the biggest meteorite, the Northern Lights, the leaves change in North Carolina, a bald eagle hunting ducks, rats in a New York subway, mice in a Berlin U-Bahn, Nefertiti, the holotype of Archaeopteryx, DNA, the black beach, walked into a glacier, lost myself in medieval streets, stood in the Nuremberg palace where the Roman Emperors would reside, touch bullet holes and the Berlin Wall, watched polar bear twins dunk each other, watched manatees do nothing, touched the ash of new volcanoes, climbed through a lava tunnel more than a kilometre long and 5000 years old, seen shooting stars over the Atlantic from both sides, and bought a train ticket to Poland without speaking English.

I changed medications over and over this year. I had tests, I failed tests, I lost hope. I was passed over for permanent position for the job I was in three times. I moved back in with my parents and sacrificed my kingdom. I was told therapy couldn't help me. I did not write. I did not read.

I found friends. I misplaced friends. I found lovers. I refused lovers. I was a good friend. I was an unreliable friend. I was a useless enemy. I hurt, and was hurt in turn.

Church bells, ambulance sirens and free-range fireworks are the soundscape of Berlin.

I have left my job, and my home, my family, my dogs, my friends and lover. I have left the city of my heart. I have left everything I knew, and knowing everything I know, threw myself into everything I didn't know.

There is not so much different here. There is not enough different here.

When running from yourself, there will never be enough distance.

It has just gone midnight back home. My heart is in pieces scattered in a handful of individuals so far from me, in a different year to me now. Moving on without me. That is what life does. It keeps going, whether you keep up or not.

So many hands have been folded to get me where I am, in a position may would envy. I am told I am brave, when people look at what I am doing, but I am not. My demons simply come from other angles, and I am running and running and failling to escape them. So many hands folded, in external pragmatics and internal commerce. I am so compromised I no longer know how to define myself. There is no way to identify what is of my own making and what has changed because of medication.

I know I should be enjoying myself. I know I should be exuberant, wild-eyed with curiosity, delight and horror. I know the sight of snow on those plains should have brought me to tears. I know standing on a railway platform at night should be an event to record, remember, in every country. I know I should be learning, learning, learning, soaking drinking saturating myself in the world around me, for all these contrasting details, all these mundane little surprises, all the earmarks of my ignorance and all I have yet to learn-

But I am not, I do not.

New experiences and learning were to feed future writing. Without that purpose then what I experience has no point nor potency. This is an awareness I cannot shake. There is no purpose I can assign to my existence. It is all time wasted in agonising seconds.

I am tired.

I am here because I could not be at home. Now I find that I do not want to be here, and I know of nowhere else to be.

May 2012 fear you, respect you, and treat you with kindness.



  1. Your honesty is one of the things I admire about you. And I do really understand where you are coming from with the personal demons - I don't always handle mine very well but am better at hiding it than people realise. I made my stand up comedy debut couple of months back, making people laugh when I was actually seriously depressed. But people don't understand why we want - need - some solitude.

    Hang in there, Tessa.

  2. I am looking forward to meeting you, one day.

  3. When you first started talking about spending a couple of months traveling before you settled in the UK, I *knew* there would be a burnout post. I've seen it coming for the last few weeks. I've never been gone for as long as you have, nor been gone during major family holidays, but I'm still very familiar with the introvert-wants-to-go-home-even-when-surrounded-by-such-wonders feeling. I know there's a lot more going on than that, but it's a hell of a trigger.

    But what I really wanted to comment on was this: "New experiences and learning were to feed future writing. Without that purpose then what I experience has no point nor potency."

    Perhaps 2012 is the year that you will finally come to terms with the fact that you cannot write much anymore, and that this does not and should not mean that you are crippled or worthless or pointless or impotent. Tessadom is a wonderful place; it just needs to find some other way to shine that isn't dependent upon your hands. You as a whole are not the sum of your hands. (oh, the grammar.)

    As much as I enjoy writing Dopey American Tourist travelogues, the experiences wouldn't be any different if I couldn't write them all down. There is the simple joy of *being* someplace new and different and interesting. It settles inside me, and yes, some of it drives the things that I write, but the *being* simply settles into all the cracks of my soul.

    You know perfectly well that you can't run from yourself. Might as well figure out how to *deal* with yourself instead, yanno?

    I <3 your face.

  4. There might be people who might expect you to be enjoying yourself, who might expect you to be exuberant, who might expect you to be learning. But they are far away, and hold no sway over you.
    There is no *should* anymore. (Or, I guess, _I_ think there _should_ be no should anymore. Drat. My truths will be different from yours. But then again, in this case, there's a chance they might not be.)

    It's okay to be tired. Travelling is exhausting. You need to recharge regularly, and friendly faces who'll just keep you company quietly will become one of the most precious things there are. You have friends (or at least friendly acquaintances) in the UK when you go there next, right? Go and accept the hospitality they offer, and feel _good_ about it, never guilty.

    And of course, Europe in winter is frequently a dismal place. Hot chocolate helps. But when that's not enough, consider a jaunt over to southern Spain for a week or two. Places like Sevilla or Granada - they'll be relatively quiet, but also wondrously warm and sunny, with orange trees and inner courtyards.

  5. Erica - <3

    Stand up comedy is pretty brave, Wordsmiff.

    Poppy, very much likewise.

    Jaime - that's the angle I'm trying to take. But. Gotta say, the instant I was out of that hostel and having quiet and space? I'm okay again. Phew.

    Aanimal, don't tempt me! Okay, you tempted me...

  6. Glad to hear you're OK again.

  7. *g* Let me know if you want recommendations. For example, there's this great Roman village (read: amphitheater, mosaics and lots of lines of stones to denote where houses once were) near Sevilla... (Since I'd tempted you already anyway, a little more probably can't hurt...) :D

    Checked my P.O. Box yesterday and found your card, btw. Thanks!

  8. Aan reminds me that I never told you I got your card. Which I did. Thank you! The walrus is fiercely guarding my bulletin board.

    I'm also very behind in reading your posts. Or any posts. But even though it's ages after the fact, I'll say I'm glad you got the quiet time to yourself that you needed. I think I'm sorely in need of the same.

    Happy new year. Hope it brings some pleasant surprises.