December 2010 archive

Olive trees are like camels.

The power went off during the night and all the clocks have stopped, the ones that operate on mains power. There must have been a power surge, which is ironic given the fact that it’s New Years Eve.

Even during the holidays I like to know the time. I woke with a start to a blinking digital alarm that flashed 12.09 at me repeatedly and then went in search of the time. My wristwatch still works.

I had intended not to sleep too late in order to find space to write before my 10.30am appointment with the physiotherapist. Later today my husband and I also have our annual check up with the eye doctor.

My husband thinks he needs new glasses. He hopes he does because his lenses are scratched and he wants to justify replacing them. I think I’d be happy to keep my glasses as they are, but if I need new ones then I will go for it. I love to be able to see clearly.

A message just now on my mobile phone from my third daughter to let us know she is on her way home from Adelaide, or ‘Radelaide’ as she jokingly refers to the state next door to ours. She is leaving now.

I will worry subcutaneously all day long until I see her safe and sound at the end of the day. It is an eight-hour drive and she travels with her girl friend, the two of them share the driving. Long distance driving is always dangerous, but they made it there, as she messaged me two days ago, a good trip except for the locusts.

The locusts are out in plague proportions in various parts of the country because of the recent rains. The drought had kept them in check until now. It is terrifying for the farmers and can be dreadful for our crops.

I have finally begun work on my tax, another annual event, which I despise and next week I have my two yearly pap smear at the doctor’s. For me the Christmas holidays become a time for annual events, physical check ups, house cleaning and reconciling my accounts.

I put off these things until the end of the year and get straight into them the minute the last bauble is off the tree. I have already returned our Christmas decorations to their boxes till next year.

It is too early I know but the olive tree we keep in a pot and brought inside to decorate this year was beginning to look dry even though we watered it periodically during its confinement indoors.

To me olive trees are like camels, they go on and on without water, but I am not sure how a camel would fare indoors and I am sure olive trees need sunlight, not shadow twenty four hours a day.

My children are old enough now not to fuss too much when the last of the Christmas cheer disappears.

They are forward looking, the young. Already they are in New Years Eve mode. Not me and my husband.

We joked last night over dinner that it has been some ten years since we last went to a New Years Eve function and then at the millennium, and ten years again before that. When we were young we would not have been seen dead not going out for New Years Eve but these days we prefer to stay at home.

At midnight we will go out to the front of our house and stand in the middle of our street, which is normally busy with traffic, and look over the crest of the hill towards the city and the fireworks that go off in the distance.

Every New Years Eve our neighbours, a widow and her thirty five year old daughter who stays at home because she has chronic fatigue syndrome, come out onto the street and we greet one another, hugs all round for the New Year and we watch the fireworks and ooh and aah at their splendour until the last light fades over the horizon.

Then we retreat indoors again and start the climb into the next year, which is an odd number this year, 2011 and as I have said elsewhere, I do not like odd numbers. The year 2009 was a poxy one for me. I hope 2011 fares better.

I have been struck once more by the artificial highs and lows that erupt inside of me during my time in the blogosphere, the degree to which I can feel so captivated by events in the lives of my fellow bloggers that I am brought to tears in some instances or alternatively driven to states of annoyance or great laughter elsewhere.

The Internet is such a powerful medium for drawing us in. No wonder some people lose themselves in it. I imagine that the experience in blogdom is one step away from the experience that some people enjoy within second Life.

I had tried to go there once – for research purposes, I reasoned – but something scared me off, something of the virtual and limitless sense of space and ‘freedom’ it seemed to offer. I felt a bit like a potential addict walking into a gambling casino, terrified at the thought that I would soon become hooked and then I would no longer have time for anything.

I have my blogging tendencies under control by and large but any further forays into alternative realities and I fear I might never come out into the light again. I would be like our Christmas olive tree trapped indoors forever more. And that would be the end of me, I fear.

I would dry out and lose my leaves, my branches would crumble and I would become a wandering waif lost forevermore in the ethereal life that is the Internet.

Pardon the mixed metaphor. Trees do not wander.

‘Stop blogging about me.’

My older daughter still living at home is holding a dinner party today for a few of her friends. Early morning and she is frantic, trying to turn our normally cluttered kitchen living area into a tidy, well appointed room, elegant enough in which to receive her guests.

I am past trying, but to absorb some of my daughter’s anxiety I oblige, as do the rest of us in this household, even as we tell her to calm down. One day she will hold her own dinner parties in her own place wherever that might be and I will be spared the shared load of preparing the house for visitors.

These days my husband and I do not hold dinners as often as we once did, ten-twenty years ago. Almost every weekend we had friends over for dinner, but in the last several years our socialising at home has dropped off to the occasional dinner with one or two select friends, otherwise we tend to go to restaurants when we want to have a special meal.

I could say I am too lazy, but it is more than that. I am past it, the effort involved. I have never enjoyed cooking as much as I might, though my husband still loves to cook and he cooks well, but even he with his culinary excitement restricts his efforts these days to weekend meals for our immediate family. It is strange how much things change over time, how something that once gave us the greatest of pleasure becomes a burden.

‘Stop blogging about me’, this same daughter says as she walks through my writing room in search of extra glasses for the dinner table. The glass I used last night and left behind in my writing room forms the sixth of a set and she plans to use the lot as ramekins.

It is probably a good thing that blogging did not exist when my children were little for I fear I would be among the first to cover the Internet with words about their antics.

Now that they are self possessed older folk they might well resent the idea that the rest of the world could read about their childhood idiosyncrasies as reported through the loving fingers of their mother.

Which brings me back to that thorny old issue: writing about other people, inside and outside of well placed literary disguise.

Did I tell you? My analyst wrote about me once in a book, an official book called The Geography of Meanings. Find me if you can. I will not identify the chapter because I will thereby identify my analyst. And that is a no no. She has told me she values her privacy.

She and I had something of an altercation many years ago when I wrote a paper on my analytic experience. I did not identify my analyst by name but she was convinced that others would recognise her.

Why not be recognised? I thought at the time. I had identified her lovingly as the analyst who had helped me to come to terms with the paradox of life. My university supervisor, a literary critic, considers that my analyst in this essay reads as another Marion Milner. Milner is the esteemed psychoanalyst, artist and writer, also known as Joanna Field, ‘the pioneer of introspective journaling’.

In my analyst’s essay in which I feature as a previous ‘patient’ in three separate locations, she describes me at one point as a ‘he’.

After I had read the essay, I put my perceived identity to the test and asked my husband to read it and see if he could find me. He did so instantly. For my own benefit, I highlighted the sections.

I say I do not mind being written about in this way. Although the descriptions are not flattening – a person who is rigid in her tendency to split between good and bad – I consider it a description of an aspect of me as I once existed, if at all, in our analytic exchanges, not the me who exists now.

I take offense though at the extent to which my analyst took me to task for writing about her. I have since dedicated an essay to the subject.

It seems one way I cope with my difficulties, I write about them, and even as I write about them, I imagine people lining the streets ready to fire bullets at me for writing about myself, about them or those near and dear to them.

We live in an age of self-exposure. We live in an age of the personal revelation. We read memoirs till they pour out of us and think nothing at learning the most intimate details of another person’s life.

Jacqueline Rose writes about the cult of celebrity as a ruthless tendency to take possession of another, to get our celebrities to be perfect and then try desperately to strip them bare.

We revel in their failures. We enjoy any shaming that can take place in the life of a celebrity. Perhaps in this sense, celebrities can be seen to be like parents, the ones we might begin our lives by putting up on pedestals, only to dash them off when we realise they have failed us.

But our parents are too close to us for us to want to share them. Their faults, after all might be seen to belong to us.

You know how it is? You can insult a loved one, but no one else is allowed to do so.

I feel the same tremulous fear in writing about my analyst, whose strength and help I value, and yet here I am speaking of her in public, however non-identified. I point out her hypocrisy in first criticising me for writing about her, and then later writing about me, however much in disguise, and I feel once again the shiver of guilt that comes from ‘telling takes out of school’.

But the writer in me, refuses to concede to the moralist in me who tells me to shut up and stop blogging.

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