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The Alchemy of Goodbye: Week 12: Blogging for Survival.

It is early morning. I hear magpies. Calling the day into consciousness. Singing up the souls of the dead. Heralding yet another goodbye.

There is choreography to the pain. The busyness of packing luggage into the car, shuffling cases around, numerous trips into the house for forgotten dolls and shoes. Lengthening the moments, making small talk. There is a conversation about the planned route home and the likelihood of inclement weather, where we will stop for lunch and what time we might arrive. Then, we the children are delivered into the nauseating clutches of the family car, being told not to fight and to put our seatbelts on. Vainly attempting to draw our eyes away from our Mother. And her sadness.

The goodbyes of my childhood are infused with pathos. My Poppa, unable to find words, would cry each time he and my mother parted. My father, lying sobbing, on the body of our Labrador, dead from snake bite.  Jacky Utley. My childhood friend. Waving to me from her Dads’ station wagon. Heading to Canberra. Never to be seen again.  Myself at 15, leaving for a year abroad, with the youthful expectation of being able to return, in time, and pick up where I left off. And my first love. Each one, indelibly changing the structure of my memory.  

Today I’m on my way to the airport. My son is driving. And talking. A deeply understated human being, he uses words like semi precious stones. With care. I catch them. I hoard them. Greedily. My lucky charm for the days ahead. Future proofing my memory. With the chemical compound for goodbye.

In the lead up to my departure I listen for the words that signify the start of the sequence. They come. They are cast toward my retreating self. An amalgam of End Game statements and opening gambits. You are leaving again. This makes me feel alone.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel anxious.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel excited.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel your absence. 

The alchemy of all these goodbyes has distilled the raw elements into a powerful elixir. One that frames the present, capturing the beauty of those I love, urging me to love them more, in this moment, than ever before. The baby learns to say my name and the cat that isn’t mine decides to sleep on my bed. These little faces are unbearably soulful. And maybe they always are. It’s just today I am saying goodbye. Again.

The awareness of how much it all matters makes me wonder if I am the subject of a bad chemistry experiment by fourth grade extra terrestrials. There is an entire living planet in the throes of death and rebirth. Hellos and goodbyes. Now and forevers. For all that, I might as well be a brand new species. From the unbearable pathos genus. With no collective noun. Because it consists of only me. Racing toward extinction anytime soon.

To each goodbye I say, ‘that hurts’. ‘Damn that hurts’.

 And so, like the experiment I am, I yield at the thought of a scientific breakthrough. For if I discover the formula for unbearable pathos, I will market it to airports to put alongside the Chanel and Dior. ‘Unbearable pathos – Enhancing your preflight emotional overload with flashbacks to your childhood. Bonus scenes of you crying in a range of exotic locations’.     

In honour of the Alchemists of old, I board my plane.

I’m heading towards goodbye.




Crying in four octaves

There is a rare breed of person who can seamlessly scale the Everest of music and sing in multiple octaves. Gifted creatures who reauthor our musical atlases every time they work their vocal chords. Think Kate Bush, Freddie Mercury, Christine Aguilera, Mariah Carey, ummm yes, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Yma Sumac the Peruvian songbird, Michael Jackson, Axl rose and Tim Buckley (father of the soulful Jeff). Moving as they do through the minors and the majors and taking us earth bound brutes with them. And leaving song shaped holes in our hearts.

This musical virtuosity is breathtaking. So expressive is this ripe habitation of the human vocal chords that I wonder if these people really need to do anything else particularly well. Potentially they could get through life just grunting and sniffing. Maybe they do, maybe this very talent creates an equal and opposite deficit in some other sense. Is it possible to have a gift of this magnitude and be ordinary in every other way? I find it compelling to consider if this breadth of expression is shared by other souls. Could we all have a potential for this depth and breadth? How we find this ‘voice’ may be as peculiar and individual as our fingerprints.

The people who are close to me know I am spontaneously moved to tears. Crying for me is a response to life. In all its glory. In all its horror. In all its pathos. I don’t think ‘now is a good time to cry’, I don’t think. I cry and then I think. I cry and think. I breathe and cry and think. I laugh and breathe and cry and think. I cry little and I cry big. A rather pragmatic friend of mine looked at my squished up crying face one day and said “the problem with you is you have too much water inside you. Every time someone presses you, it comes trickling out!” Crying for me is like being multi lingual. I get to express myself in a language that everyone understands. Or recognises at least. Understanding maybe rather more elusive.

Crying is a theatrical and social risk. Upon accepting an academy award. OK. Upon hearing that your dear friend has met the man of her dreams on the internet and is eloping with him. Not OK. Either way, I don’t have a crying permission filter. It happens. Inconveniently, painfully, soulfully. It exposes my private and soft spaces and leaves me to deal with it. Hello. My name is Lisa. If you are interested in knowing me you will have to deal with tears. Not daily. But profoundly, frighteningly, surprisingly. Crying big and small. Hello. Alive equals crying.

When I can, I will have a fairly decent crack at a couple of octaves of weeping in the privacy of my own room, home, car, backyard or movie theatre. A movie theatre is not exactly private however I do feel quite separate from others cocooned as I am in the dark. I’m not sure though if this feeling is mutual. On these occasions I am not really fettered by the concern of how my crying might affect others, how contorted my face may become or whether or not there is something to wipe my nose on. I’m usually prepared. I can then, as they say, open the flood gates. It is at these times when I feel that I truly inhabit my crying self, owning my sadness and bringing that shadowy self in. Into the light.

It is when crying ambushes me that I get into trouble. Meandering through this life, quite ordinarily really. Getting up, getting dressed, going to work, going home, and going to bed. You know. And then BAM! I catch an exchange, read something beautiful, think about someone I love, hear a particular kind of story, remember a moment. I may sniff out a few notes or if I don’t catch myself in time, I may cry a couple of lines of melody, however if all the conditions are right, I move into a full blown aria. At that moment I am not so much inhabited by my crying self as possessed by it. To my horror.

I have tried to reason with this dark twin and it goes something like this……… ‘I acknowledge the legitimacy of crying, the powerful health benefits of self-expression, the emotional wellbeing that can come from such catharsis; I really do understand and believe it is so. However, can we just not do this in public anymore? Please?’ No dice. The ego, the id, the inner child, the past life princess, the other self, they all formed a quorum and voted my self- respect away. One sobbing sonata at a time.

So I have befriended this unruly and unshaven beast. When she makes her uninvited entrance I have started to nervously welcome her in and introduce her around. I’m finding she has become less of a nuisance caller and more like one of the family. One of my family. Unique I think is the word. So it was with a modicum of newly developed control that I read the news report, in a public place, of the drowning off the coast of Australia of a boat full of asylum seekers.

And then I cried my own opus. In four octaves.

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