So..I decided to develop a blog just for my travels so if you’d like to subscribe to travel updates..pop on over to http://hurtleturtle.wordpress.com and follow.
So..I decided to develop a blog just for my travels so if you’d like to subscribe to travel updates..pop on over to http://hurtleturtle.wordpress.com and follow.
We’re all afraid of something. Spiders, dogs, flying, the dark. It doesn’t matter what makes your heart beat too fast and your mind shout blue murder, we’ve all felt that knotty stomach ache of fear. When you’re afraid of failure though, you feel like that all the time. It’s hard to explain exactly what fear of failure is, and it might actually be a fear of judgement or rejection, but fear of failure works as a catch-all descriptor. I’ve been known to practice ordinary conversations before meeting friends so that I won’t say something silly, I’ve turned up to appointments an hour early and lurked in the car park so that I wouldn’t be late, I’ve pretended I’m not afraid of heights so that I don’t look incompetent in front of colleagues and I’ve had nervous power-vomits in the middle of jiu jitsu grading when the thought of public performance overwhelmed me.
Lately I’ve been trying to do things outside my comfort zone and I’ve learnt that doing things you’re afraid of, things you might fail at, doesn’t make you less afraid of failure, it just teaches you that failure won’t kill you. That being embarrassed isn’t the worst thing in the world, that people who matter will rarely judge you for your failures, and that I judge myself more harshly than I’d judge anybody else.
Often it feels like taking unpleasant medicine though. I know some people can let go of their fear and approach things with nervous excitement, but I tend more towards grim determination and surliness. I doubt I will ever actually enjoy situations where I could fail or be judged, but I can get through them. After all, what’s the alternative? I’d probably never leave the house. If doing things you’re afraid of is the unpleasant medicine, an interesting and varied life is the cure and the result.
This year, I tried to donate blood twice and spectacularly fainted both times and the Red Cross has since asked me to never (ever) return. I definitely failed at overcoming my physical response to needles, but am generally quite content with having attempted to be a civic minded adult. At least I can say that I tried right?
I took my medicine and attended two jiu jitsu gradings despite feeling as if I would actually pass out from nerves. The whole public-performance-where-I-can’t-control-the-variables is pretty much one of my worst nightmares especially when it’s combined with the possibility of being choked. I don’t actually remember much of either day, lost as as they are in the mists of terror and nervous vomiting, but I have two stripes on my belt to tell me that I survived them both intact.
I recently turned down the prospect of continuing on in a job I hate in favour of being honest about wanting something new (and scary) next year because I realised that I’d rather try and possibly fail at something than spend my waking days having my will to live sucked out of me through sheer unmitigated boredom.
I’ve also signed up for an entire 4.5months of non-stop change and new experiences. In languages other than English and places other than home. Tackling this much travel alone would ordinarily plunge me straight into grim determination mode but I’m trying something new. Deliberate nonchalance and carefully planned spontaneity. Surely, short of being arrested, there are few ways to fail at travel? Escaping Canberra counts as success already, never mind trying to get people to understand my appalling Spanish/French/Arabic/Italian/Turkish.
Just like feeling better after taking medicine, doing things despite being afraid of failure generally leads to better things. So I’m going to keep holding my nose and downing that medicine because the alternative definitely doesn’t seem worth it.
Considering that the rest of the year is going to involve living out of a backpack wandering from country to country in search of sunshine, delicious food and quaint little nooks in which to sit and watch the world go by, moving out of home and selling my car should feel a lot less traumatic than it does.
But I’m having trouble letting go.
The Red Baron was my first major financial commitment, he gave me the means to enjoy C-town, and he was incredibly fun to drive. We went places; mountains, sea, country towns, parks, capital cities and supermarkets. And yet, I advertised him like he meant nothing to me, and then I handed him over to a new owner like I was lending a pen. I’m sorry Baron, I’m sorry!
Actually, once I cash that cheque tomorrow, I’ll probably feel a whole lot better. Because that money covers my round-the-world ticket and a tour of Peru. So I guess you could say, my emotions are really quite easily bought. Money talks baby, money talks.
Red Baron, I hope you roll on into a happy life full of chamois cloths, regular shampooings and easy highway miles.
Recently, I tried to explain to a group of friends that using a whistle and treat system to train a just-learnt-to-crawl six month old child not to pull things off the bookshelf, was entirely reasonable. I mean, it seems way more efficient to whistle to get her attention, and give her a treat when she puts the books down, rather than having to use words to explain why she shouldn’t do it. It’s not like she even understands words yet!
I’m pretty sure everyone hopes I never have children now. Ah well..it’s not like it’s on the cards for any time soon. After all, the best offer I’ve received from anyone has been to be “pen friends”.. Which reminds me of writing to Jake at East Marden Primary School who seemed to think that I care that he plays soccer with his little brother. Mind you, I’d probably only stopped eating glue long enough to tell Jake that I like to read so was in no position to judge his epistolary skills .
Speaking of which, (reading that is, not eating glue) there are a few authors who make me want to crawl inside their brain and live in their imagination forever and Neil Gaiman has recently joined this list. For anybody who finds reality somewhat overrated but likes their fantasy to exist somewhere on the I-almost-recognise-that-world spectrum, his books are perfect. He has the ability to put words together in ways that make me clutch his books to my chest in appreciation. I’m going to resist raving about them, but know that any child who pulled his books off my bookshelf would not be receiving a treat. Ever again.
The imagination shouldn’t ever be underestimated. It saves my sanity from cracking under the pressure of a terribly boring and almost entirely pointless job. When you can sit in your cubicle and imagine you’re anywhere but there, nothing can break you! Not even colleagues who make it their mission to press your rage button in every conceivable way before lunchtime. Somebody recently called me a ‘zen master’ due to my apparent ability to stay calm at work. They failed to grasp two essential facts (a) I can be determinedly apathetic when required and (b) I am largely unengaged with reality most hours of the work day. They also dubbed me “Rafiki” for my supposedly wise and calm demeanour. Little do they know that in my mind I’m more like Scar plotting the downfall of the executive and imagining marshalling all the other staff into my own private arm..ahem…never mind.
I’m off to train my imaginary children with whistles and treats so they know never to touch Mummy’s bookshelf. Or they’ll be taken to Neverwhere and Islington will deal with them.
I often feel like my experiences aren’t complete until I write about them and as I’ll be slumped on my couch for the next two weeks, I’m going to tell you about my recent medical dramas, why I’m not afraid of dying alone any more, and how I dealt with surrendering control of my life..for nine days at least.
A few weeks ago I came down with headaches and nausea and thought I was having an adverse reaction to some new medication. However, when I developed a strange purple rash on my arms, my motherly internal monologue began wagging her finger at me and I summoned the last of my energy to stagger into my doctor’s consulting rooms, quaveringly describe my symptoms, and slump over in my chair unconscious. Not only did I stay completely oblivious for seven minutes, I briefly stopped breathing and woke to paramedics trying to stick tubes down my throat. Unlike my previous episodes of fainting like a Victorian lady, I feel no shame here – this was no swoon! No amount of corset loosening or brow mopping was going to help me!
After being admitted to hospital, blood tests indicated that I wasn’t suffering a reaction to medication. I apparently had a virulent, mystery infection somewhere in my body and by the middle of the night, I was convinced that my head was going to collapse inwards, like a squishy melon.
The only things distracting me from my impending cranial doom were the antics of my fellow patients who were mainly elderly folk suffering dementia, and though the nights were punctuated by angry demands to be taken home and Lady Macbeth-esque moans of ‘blood, blood, blood, blood’ following a cannula mishap, I was struck by how in-the-moment their existence was. They didn’t seem too bothered by their illnesses or being alone, they were more interested in why the hospital decor was reminiscent of a warehouse.
Sadly, I wasn’t so easily distracted the next day. The doctors were speaking to me slowly and saying things like “viral meningitis” and “lumbar puncture” and I was wishing the lights weren’t so bright and that my head was detachable. By the end of that day, I was hoping that death would hurry up and claim me because it turns out that lumbar punctures are possibly the most painful and disgusting procedure in existence. Seriously, having somebody stick needles into your spinal cord to suck out samples of your brain fluid?! I mean, who even thinks of that? Yeah, yeah…it’s the only way to test for infection in your brain, but c’mon!! After three failed attempts, I was screeching “why won’t it work??” at the doctors and crying hysterically. I feel like it was a reasonable response given that they kept making my legs twitch…yes, poking somebody’s spinal cord with needles MAKES THEIR LEGS TWITCH. Can anybody spell horrifying?? Brrr..
The lumbar punctures, though eventually successful, did nothing for my pain levels and I was mercifully given a large amount of morphine. And Oxycontin. And everything became really, really, really funny. Hearing a doctor introduce himself as “Biggie” sent me into paroxysms of hysterical laughter. Which is unfortunate. Because his name really was “Biggie.” Awkward.
But the laughter didn’t last long because it turns out that chasing the dragon brings out my subconscious’ gothic tendencies. The walls started moving in on me. And they were covered in fur. And gesturing my hand in a circular motion made velvet covered chaises appear and disappear. There were black lace drapes, chandeliers, fur lined walls…I think my mind is a tacky brothel. I may have been stroking my blanket, twitching and moaning at this stage, but in my mind I was Maleficent casting (terrible) decor-spells.
It was at this stage that, for the first time in my life, I voluntarily surrendered control of my life to other people. I’ve always been slightly afraid that if anything happened to me in C-town, I would die alone and unloved. It turns out that I have friends who would sacrifice entire long weekends to holding my hand (even if they did comment a little too often on the softness of my skin and made me afraid that they would skin me and make gloves out of my hands..), taking me to the toilet, wiping my vomity face, and looking after my mama’s travel arrangements. At the time, I cared about nothing except the fact that my head felt like a malignant growth trying to kill me, but knowing that people loved me enough to be there for me, made everything a little less traumatic. I’m not going to die alone in C-town, I am not going to die alone!
Apparently I didn’t have viral meningitis. Nobody knows what I had, but the anti-virals and antibiotics killed it. Killed it stone dead. But that left my enduring, blinding, vomit-inducing headache a worrying mystery. The words “stroke” were being mumbled in my presence and if I didn’t feel like I was already halfway dead, I would have been worried.
But, it turns out that after a lumbar puncture, a leak can occur. Yes, A LEAK OF YOUR BRAIN FLUID. And when the fluid levels in your brain gets low(ish), it makes the lining of your brain SAG AWAY FROM YOUR SKULL and gives you a terrible, horrible migraine. I know, I know, I’m sorry that I’m traumatising you with this, but that’s what my neurologist diagnosed. And if I hadn’t recovered (ie if the leak had continued), he was proposing injecting blood into my spine so that the clot would block the leak. What??? WHAT?! Just, just leave me be, ok?!
An MRI and an MRA indicated that my brain was in good health despite the leaking and sagging. And though everyone kept telling me that the MRI/MRA noise would probably make my headache worse, it actually felt like my poor achey brain was getting a massage. I particularly liked the sequence that felt like the inside of my head was being tapped and polished. (I was on painkillers at this point and may have still been high…)
Anyway, after nine days in hospital, losing six kilos, and discovering my low tolerance for opiates, I plan on using “saggy brain” as an excuse for anything and everything, for at least a good six months. Because, apart from feeling loved by everybody, a good, useful excuse is the only thing I’ve gained from this whole deal. Oh, and some good stories of course.
On a bright sunny day a few weeks ago as I was sprinkling long release fertiliser on my pot plants, I realised that I knew what those little multicoloured balls tasted like, the sharp tang as I bit into them and the sour aftertaste as they dissolved. As strange as it sounds, it really is likely that I’ve eaten long release fertiliser, and even more than likely, that I’ve eaten it on more than one occasion.
As a result of a bizarre childhood habit of eating anything I could put in my mouth (and a whole lot of things I couldn’t), I can look around any room in the house and I know what almost everything tastes like. I ate books, erasers, pens, pencils, textas, plastic wrap and paper. I gnawed on windowsills to strip them of paint, I chewed on bookcases, bedframes, chairs and tables. I ate carseat foam, syrofoam bubbles, the lead weights from lace curtains, cotton thread and shoe laces. I ate my mother’s Nivea face-cream straight from the tube, vaseline from the tub, glue from the stick, and paint from the box. I ate rose petals and daisies from the garden. In fact, it would probably be easier to list the things I didn’t eat. Somehow, by some miracle, I never ate anything poisonous – or at least, nothing that had any immediate symptoms, I suspect that lead weights and old-school lead based housepaint really couldn’t be classed as non-poisonous in the strictest sense. And I never ate poisonous plants, cleaning products or medication. But really, that’s about it, everything else was fair game to my all-encompassing appetite for non-consumerables.
As an adult, I’ve repeatedly asked my parents why they never took me to see a doctor about my strange childhood behaviour and they simply shrug their shoulders and say ‘ah well, you grew out of it..’ Uh yeah, I grew out of it…eventually. Frankly, I still occasionally gnaw a little too enthusiastically on a pen before catching myself, though I haven’t chewed on the furniture for at least a decade. Perhaps the reason that my parents never intervened was because I was a gnawing ninja – nobody ever saw me attack but they certainly saw the aftermath. And though I always denied my toothy handiwork, and they in turn disbelieved my denials, they seemed to just put it down to childhood misbehaviour.
However, it would seem that my unusual eating habits aren’t unique though, the ancient Greeks and Romans named the consumption of non-nutritive objects as pica after the eating habits of magpies. There are a number of specific pica disorders including xylophagia (the consumption of wood or paper) and tricophagia (the consumption of hair or wool) and hyalophagia (the consumption of glass). Apparently my tastes were too encompassing to be given a Latin name, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none style, but that doesn’t matter, I prefer to think of myself as having non-discriminatory tastes and an advanced palate.
I have no idea what triggered my brief career as a magpie, or what ended it, but if you notice your child gnawing on the furniture, I’d recommend (unlike my parents) you consult a medical professional.
At a minimum, you should probably advise them to only eat cardboard in small mouthfuls or else they’ll get stomach pains similar to those you get if you eat pasta and bread too fast. Also, soap may look tasty, but it’ll never be worth your while.