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That old devil called the past: Week 21: Blogging for Survival

Today I did a survey. It took about 12 minutes. It tried to measure how much I worry in relation to how much I believe in a god. And yet in the eons that have made up my lifetime I have never previously made that connection.

And yes there is definitely a connection. I worry about God a lot.

I remember listening to babies cry in church. Becoming fussy in the arms of their silent, anxious parents. Once their noise hit the appropriate level of nuisance they were banished, along with their carer to the ‘Mothers room’ out the back. A room that smelt of stale farts and moulding draperies. A room where the Sunday sermon was piped in through a crackling old speaker salvaged from the wreck of the Hesperus. A room that made babies cry even louder.

There were the Deacons. A group of men who held the church congregation to ransom and whose role was as mysterious as the Knights Templar but with less costuming. Holding secret meetings, counselling wayward boys and judging women who didn’t behave. They were fun.

And the array of prohibitions that seemed as interminable as the wives of Solomon. There were the boundary disputes: Who could go to heaven, who might go to heaven, who, I’m sorry, just didn’t make the grade. The generosity police; who could give, who could receive, who could love, who could forgive. And the exercise limitations; When you could have sex, dance, gamble and drink. Or not.

Communion was also a terrible ordeal. Those beautiful little glasses clinking in the tray, topped up with the most delicious looking red cordial and the neat squares of crustless white bread, fit for an angels tea party. But no, not for the experimentalists. I tried some anyway. Hanging back after everyone started to file out and guzzling the dregs from the discarded glasses. And it’s funny now, thinking back, because that is actually a skill I have maintained. You know. Trying things I’m not supposed to. And drinking other peoples booze.

Oh yeah. The animal sacrifice. The ritual slaughter of the roast chicken. Put on to cook by the minister’s wife, on low, in a covered frypan at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. By the time it was consumed at 12.30, that animal had really suffered.

And Mrs Haig’s singing. Lifting her voice in exultation. It really scarred me.

And it’s not that I think this has any connection to God.

And that’s why I worry.

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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