A Paradox

I’ve got nothing to write.

I could seek out things to write about, but I’m finding fewer reasons to share.

I stopped writing because life was exciting but still real and raw and related to some of you, My Dear Old Readers. I didn’t want to be a dick in a small town.

Then I found I didn’t have any other stories to share. No moments worth capturing. The best part of my day would be looking at my phone and realising there’s still enough time before bed time to watch another episode of House of Cards. Eating a piece of I Love Chocolate Torched Macadamia Dark Chocolate. Having enough light and good weather to go for a run in. Pruning the lemon tree.

Then I was bored by my own brain. I found I’d already written anything I wanted to say. I sat down with my sadness and stared it in the face. It was a deep, abiding, gentle sadness born of loneliness. I thought and felt and decided again to leave small towns and study teaching. I thought a lot of thoughts but they had no beginning, middle or end and they were nothing new. They were all about myself. I got so bored of being sad that stress became a haven. I’d throw myself into work, stimulated by anxiety. That pattern now repeats itself less often and to less extremes. I feel more hopeful and have genuine moments of connectedness and joy.

No stories though.

I started to think the validation I sought from my carefully curated online persona was not ultimately satisfying in a long lasting way. Perhaps it fed an unhealthy narcissism.

I read David Brooks’ ‘The Road To Character’, which challenged and solidified things. Namely that not everything about ourselves – about myself – is inherently good. I’m not a unique snowflake, my inner core is not a beautiful precious sunflower that needs constant showering with self love and affection. Our character is something we must actively cultivate, prune and shape. Being the best we can be can only come by striving against the parts of ourselves that aren’t so great, our struggle against sin. A meaningful vocation is one driven by a love and commitment to the craft itself rather than the fruits of that labour – approval, esteem, money.

My main motivation for sharing my writing seemed more self-serving than not, more about making myself feel good than making others feel anything or do anything, nor was it about devoting myself to the craft of writing. My secret childish dreams of turning all this writing into a memoir seemed rather self involved and lame now, feeding an ego driven desire to be famous.

I’ve written before, “If I die, I hope my fucking legacy isn’t just a bunch of badly written stories about bad dates.”

I’m trying to focus my creativity and curiosity outwards, rather than inwards. There are more stories in the world than mine, maybe I’ll help tell those someday. For now, I’ll dedicate myself towards a different vocation. I went to the uni open day today. Now I’m sitting in the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library. I want to learn how to be a really good teacher. I want to be a good human.

This isn’t the end of the ol’ DD, just gunna keep giving it a rest for a while. I wish you all well and I thank you for your patience and gentle support over the years.

With much love,

-DD

Being alone in public

I’m sitting upstairs at the RSL at a table for one. It’s a big room with a wooden floor and a low roof. It has fluro lighting. It feels like the mess halls in the Pilbara, except with more old people and families and no hi-viz. There’s no serve yourself buffet, you have to order your schnitty at the bar. Instead of listening to the big screen TVs blaring Masterchef, there’s Anthony Callea on repeat.

 

A few weeks ago I threw myself a party here in Tasmania, down the road in a shearing shed. It was an excellent party. I sung and danced and everybody danced and had a good time. At one point I was singing ‘You’ve got a friend’ and everyone was waving their arms in time and singing along to the words I had printed out on signs and I just milked it for as long as I could and we all repeated that line over and over, louder and louder. In that moment I had a few thoughts simultaneously:

1) I love everyone in this room

2) They all love me

3) Maybe, just like happiness, maybe sometimes loneliness is a choice. Maybe all I have to do is call.

4) I really love this place. As lonely as I sometimes am here, I love this community, these people, this place.

5) It’s going to be really hard to leave, and I’d better be damned sure I really want to.

I spread the glow of that party for as long as possible – calling friends and reliving the memories and only looking at a few photos of the party each week.

 

 

It lasted three weeks. Now I’m sitting in this fluro lit RSL listening to Anthony fucking Callea. The idea of giving this up and moving to the city to increase my likelihood of meeting suitable men seems somehow more plausible now, although it still feels lame and desperate. Maybe no one’s really judging me. Maybe it’s just me. Realising I’m an adult now. This is real, adult life. Right now. I’m living it.

 

Six years ago I wrote:

30 used to seem so far away. All the things I thought I would have achieved by then – a house, a husband and a child. I guess if that shit was still my priority, I wouldn’t be ‘wasting my time’ in barren Alice Springs. I know that I’ll be single for as long as I’m here. I’m still ‘too busy’ to settle down.

 

I’ve been looking over everything I’ve written over the last fifteen years, like a high school student scanning a key text for overarching narrative through-lines, plotting character development and identifying key themes.

Two years ago I wrote from the Pilbara:

I can’t wait for friends and family to just be a normal part of my life again. Not something that I get excited about for weeks in advance.

 

Last year, after I’d only been in Tasmania for a month, I wrote:

I’m already lonely. I forgot how hard it is starting over. Maybe it’s different this time, maybe I’m leaving behind more than I’m moving toward. Maybe work is no longer enough, maybe I know my gypsy days are numbered.

 

I know that Melbourne won’t be an easy answer.

At the end of last year I sat upstairs at the Thousand Pound Bend in Melbourne, alone in public like I am now, but with better ambience. I wrote:

I used to think that drinking alone in public was a bit fucken miserable.

This used to be the place where I danced in the dark at No Lights No Lycra. Now it’s dimly lit with lots of dark wood and maroon leather and old books. Some strangers are laughing softly in a booth nearby. There’s some foliage in a glass jar and a candle on my table in between my laptop and my whiskey.

This miserableness isn’t as loud as anxiety. It’s a quiet, gentle hum in the background that I only tune into when all the noise of being around friends, being busy at work and stimulated when I visit the city.

I don’t know if it’s small town blues, work that sometimes brings more weight than wonder, being on the edge of learning, nostalgia, saying goodbye to my grandmothers, realizing my parents are no longer my moral compass or that those happy free single art babe women I looked up to maybe aren’t as happy as I always thought they were.

Maybe I just need to run more and meditate and do the self-care things. Or maybe I just need to sit with this feeling. Listen to what it’s trying to tell me.

Perhaps I already know. Perhaps it’s been telling me the same thing for the past nine years.

That I don’t want to be alone any more.

That what I want now, more than anything else, is to share my life with someone. More than I want to do interesting work. More than I want to be near my family and friends. Maybe whatever I do, wherever I go, this vague sense of emptiness will follow, if I keep travelling, on my own.

I’m ok about being a bit miserable. I’m mostly ok with being alone. But maybe my faith in the idea that I won’t be alone for much longer wavers sometimes, when my joyful hope that it will end gives way to pragmatism.

Being alone takes faith.

It takes courage and strength.

Tonight, it also takes cheap Irish whiskey, a candle and some softly laughing strangers nearby.

 

 

Yesterday I went back to the shearing shed where I held my party. My 30th birthday. I found this sign on the floor where I’d left it, as if the universe knew I needed reminding that even when you’re alone…

 

you've got a friend

Top 5 Posts of 2015

Dear Readers,

Welcome to 2016 y’all! I spent my first waking hours of the first day of this year crawling out of a tent on top of a mountain and looking at the sun rise over the Brindabella Ranges. I took some photos, sat on a rock for a bit and tried to meditate, ate muesli, then hiked outta there with my parents.

 

IMG_4122

 

Could I get any more fucken wholesome right now?

I don’t really do resolutions, I might pick a word for this year at some point, so for those of you who want summink real inspirational, read this thing and just get on with it.

So Operation #puttingitallouttherein2015 is probably officially over. I’ve been trawling through fifteen years of my own writing, trying to make peace with the chapters already written before I write the next ones. Like a high school student cramming for an English exam, scanning their prescribed text for overarching narrative through-lines, plotting character development and identifying key themes. One of those themes was loneliness, but that’s a bigger story for another time.

For now, here’s my recap of my writing year. Pretty self indulgent I know but whatevz y’guys, it’s my blog. This may only appeal to the die hard DD fans (I know there are at least two of you), so apologies to those who aren’t interested in the stories behind this year’s 5 Most Popular Stories. Youse can go read that inspirational link instead.

1) That one where I thought I had cervical cancer (Spoiler: I don’t)

The piece that got the biggest response last year was this one.  I held on to it for ages. Then I stopped blogging for a few months to just work solidly on it with an editor. I had so many hopes and fears for it when I finally pushed the publish button on WordPress.

A bunch of you, you regular Very Dear Readers who are part of the the DD community, sent me private messages sharing your own stories and feelings. I always get a thrill when people let me know something I’ve written has resonated with them. That’s what storytelling is, right? Making people feel or think? Sharing our experiences to communally make sense of them? To put ideas and feelings out there so they can be validated or challenged?

I knew lots of us had similar experiences but we weren’t talking about them. I was confused about fitting my empowered young liberated woman vibes into my Catholic upbringing and family values. I was confused about having flings for the first time in my late twenties, about having to face the possibility of infertility when I thought my work and my art were my priorities. I was confused about living in such a sex-positive culture, that encouraged women to be sexually empowered ethical sluts, but didn’t really talk heaps about sexual health. A culture that didn’t really offer much sympathy to anyone with sexually transmitted infections because it was ‘their choice to bring it upon themselves,’ but did sympathise with those whose choices with drugs like alcohol, meth and cigarettes led to injury or illness. Some people take risks in their cars, in hang gliders, in pubs. I took risks in the bedroom.

Is it our families or our culture that leads to these feelings of shame around sexual health?

How can we be sexually empowered and responsible? How do you have an honest respectful conversation that will still lead to sex, when you’re naked and a dude says ‘Yeah but it just feels so much better without a franger.’ How can we talk about this stuff without being boner killers? Is it about offering your own status in the hopes that they will too? “Aww man, this is perfect, you’re a total babe, there’s ambient lighting, nice music and I had an STI test last week so I know I’m not going to give you anything, conditions are perfect!

Some stories you craft lovingly for months before setting them free, some stories just pour out of you into cyberspace and you’ve got no way of predicting if it’s going to hit any notes with anyone, anywhere.

2) The one about the flood

This one was the second most popular post this year. It was the simplest and quickest to write. I didn’t know the young people I wrote about very well, but everyone we meet becomes part of our story in a small or a big way.

Toward the end of the year I wrote more about death after watching my grandmothers die. These posts didn’t get as much of a response, but they were intensely personally and totally cathartic and also very easy and quick to write.

 

3) The ones about The Author who vomited on the boat to Tasmania

Oh man. Remember this guy? Who, in response to my four part story, started up his own blog devoted to telling his own side of the saga? Who taught us all not to forget all our instincts just because someone says YOLO?

I try to blog ethically. I should rephrase that: I blog ethically when it suits me. Some men I date I end up spending a lot of time with, I get to know them pretty well and care a lot about them. When I write about these men I always share what I write with them before I post it online. I think that’s common courtesy and basic respect to give people a chance to respond before it’s in the public domain.

The Author published his final two blogs about me before showing me. They included a photograph of me and detailed descriptions of things we did in bed. He removed them once I asked him to, but I was shocked that ‘common’ courtesy perhaps was not so common.

There are two types of men who appear in this blog who I’ve not shared my writing with: a) babes who I totally want to see again some day, and b) babes who would be impossible to write about honestly if I knew they’d read it. In both cases I try to disguise their identity completely, resist writing too much about them and only write what I would be confident to say to them if I saw them in person after I’d had a whisky.

 

4) The one where my teenage heart is dramatically broken overseas

These posts didn’t get a massive response, but for me, they were a pretty fucken big deal to write. I’d been holding on to that story for ten years!

I don’t feel this writing was me at my vulnerable, honest best. As I wrote it, I knew I’d be sharing the story with the man who featured in it, so I held back. It was painful to write and I knew it would be painful to read.

 

5) The one that has a photo of an animal made out of a vegetable

Possibly my most popular post of all time! There must be a lack of photos of animals made out of vegetables online! This post was really about me trying to pick up an organic farmer at the Karratha Agricultural Show two years ago! It consistently comes up in the search terms people use to find this blog, along with:

  • Where to meet single hipster men in Melbourne (lots of variations on this theme, including ‘Why are there so many hipsters in Melbourne?’ ‘Where can I pick up cute guys in Melbourne?’ and ‘How do I meet middle aged singles in Fitzroy?’)
  • Whatever boils your potato
  • Nigerian girls latest swag
  • Swag dance shag
  • First date ideas Karratha (someone is getting lucky!)
  • Mariah Carey in Alice Springs (someone is getting disappointed!) 
  • FIFO Dad poems
  • Lonely outback woman looking for a relationship
  • Could a Mormon breakdance? (My personal favourite from 2013)
  • Sample Hat Made Out Of Vegetables (lots of variations again, including ‘I want vegetable bird images please’ and my personal favourite ‘Vegabal animal’)

So there you have it. 2015 in a tidy little nutshell. I reckon I’ll be getting stuck into another longer piece which might take a while. Thanks for sticking with me, for getting involved and commenting here or on Facebook

Wishing you all good dates and great stories in 2016!

With love and thanks,

-DD

 

reflection in river photo

Rare selfie reflected in some remote Tasmanian river

Real Conversations With Real Men on Real Dates

Previously unreleased highlights package from 2015! The best! The worst! In chronological order! These all actually happened! Actual men said these actual words!

 

Mid January

Setting:     Lying 30 centimetres apart, on his bed, on the top floor of a trendy converted warehouse in North Melbourne. This man trained as a lawyer, works in policy and plays the keyboard in his spare time. Met on OKCupid. This is our 6th date. We are fully clothed. At this point in the evening we have finished a game of chess and are part way through a study we were completing in the interests of scientific investigation.

ME:     Ok, question 28 is ‘Tell your partner what you like about them,’ and it says you’ve gotta ‘be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.’

HIM:     (Pauses momentarily). Well, it’s obvious you’re very emotionally intelligent.

ME:     (Smiles to self).

Result:    Pash. I move to Tasmania the next day. Sporadic messages are sent. Meet twice throughout the year when I’m in Melbourne, but it is unclear if these are ‘dates’ or ‘catch ups.’ Faith is nevertheless restored in the existence of decent blokes and my capacity to meet them given the right circumstances, mainly, the right location. Consider moving to Melbourne.

 

 

 

March

Setting:     Perched awkwardly on the edge of a low couch, 1.5 metres apart, in a corner of the classiest restaurant in town, upstairs at Bayview Restaurant in Burnie. This man is a teacher, who enjoys outdoor adrenaline sports and is currently reading a book about the history of the crusades. Met on Tinder. This is our first date, my first ever date in Tasmania. I wore high heels, he wore a suit. At this point in the evening, we have been talking for 30 minutes- mostly about outdoor adrenaline sports, but currently about television shows.

ME:     Nah, I never got into Game of Thrones, the heads on spikes in the first 30 seconds of the first episode scared me off.

HIM:     Yes, but once you get past the gratuitous violence it’s really great.

ME:     What does gratuitous mean?

HIM:     Do you seriously NOT know what that word means? Really? (Raises eyebrows in disbelief, doesn’t explain the meaning of the word, proceeds to gratuitously use the word ‘gratuitous’ throughout the conversation)

Result:     No pash. No further dates. Bump into him the following day in the staff room of the school I work at.  Avoid staff room for a fortnight.

 

 

Mid October

Setting:     In a spa drinking cheap whiskey at the Lake St Clair Very Expensive Spa Cottages in Tasmania, zero centimetres apart. This man is a musician. Met on Tinder. This is our third date. Both naked. At this point in the evening we have planned our 8 hour hike for the following day and he has just been teaching me something about Ekhart Tolle.

HIM:     Yeah I used to sell drugs but now I have someone who does that for me.

ME:     …

Result:     No further dates. Delete Tinder again.

 

 

December

Location:     Elbows are 20 centimetres apart, leaning on a wooden table out the front of The Standard in Fitzroy, drinking champagne in the hot night air. This man is an environmental campaigner who plays guitar in his spare time. Connected on Tinder. Met last year through Tent Guy at Bella Union at Finishing School. This is our first date. I am wearing a new (darker) blue dress that I purchased that afternoon. At this point in the evening a cool breeze has just begun to blow.

ME:     I know when I stand up my dress is going to be all sweaty and sticking to my thighs. Gross. I probably didn’t need to tell you that did I?

HIM:     I probably didn’t need to tell you about my ear candling before either, but whatever, seems like we reached that comfortable point already.

ME:     (Smiles to self).

Result:     No pash. Catch the same tram a few stops. Before he gets off there’s the inevitable kiss-on-the-cheek-and-hug-while-falling-into-each-other-as-the-tram-stops. I leave town the next day. Make vague plans to catch up either in Melbourne or Tasmania the following year. Congratulate self for re-installing Tinder. Give up on attempting a monkish acceptance of perpetual singleness. Restore faith in the existence of decent blokes and my capacity to meet them, given the right circumstances, namely, the right location. Resolve to move to Melbourne in 2017.

 

sailing at sunset on the sea

 

Dear Readers,

I’ve already shared with you the most ridiculous conversations I’ve had with men online. Consider this my belated Christmas gift to you – some small snippets that never made the blog this year.

I’ve got one more story to crank out before Operation #puttingitallouttherein2015 comes to a close. Until then, I wish you all excellent relations wherever your location may be and where there are bad dates, may there be great stories.

Thanks for being part of my story this year.

With love and thanks,

-DD

On Hopelessness

I feel a bit hopeless.

It’s that same thing it was in the Pilbara.

When you love the kids you work with but you don’t know if it’s going to be enough. When you just want to pull them out of the cycles that pull them down, just cuddle them and protect them from all that bad shit. You don’t know what to do, or even if you do know, you have no idea if it’ll make any difference. You’re watching kids fall through all the nets that are meant to keep them up, all the systems that are supposed to be in place are failing one by one – education, health, justice, family, religion, culture. You can see them falling and you put yourself at the bottom, fighting against all these shitty stats, trying to find small moments of growth.

When the small miracles of change you’re looking for, those little shifts, are not measurable or tangible. When all you have is faith – that anything you’re doing is doing anyone any good. When you can see how easily they could end up in jail or miserable or dead, but you can also see so clearly the other path they could take, the person they could grow into.

When the love you have for them is so fierce is scares you, it crept up on you without you even noticing.

When you see bits of yourself in them. When sometimes you want to love those bits and sometimes you remind yourself to be patient with them.

When you find yourself never reading any newspaper article about Aboriginal deaths in custody, or deciding not to watch any news story about violence against women, because you can’t separate the faces in those news stories from the faces of the kids you love and see each day. When thinking about that shit gets too hard so you try to switch it off because it’s paralyzing.

When you know what you have is a tiny opportunity to make a massive difference. When you wear it heavily and it weighs you down. When you have more fear than hope.

When you know you’ll leave some day.

When you want to leave. You know that someone else will take your place. The cycle will continue and you won’t be part of it. Eventually you won’t call any more, or send postcards. You aren’t a friend, you aren’t a parent, you aren’t a teacher.

You don’t really live here.

Although there is love here

 

This is not your home.

 

 

Beach sunset seagull

Liffey Falls

 

tasmania rainforest

 

I walk down through tunnels of green with sunlight on ferns

I find a perfect red leaf on the path

I hear the wind through the tall trees, the gentle thud of pademelons bounding away and the massive power of the waterfall crashing and pounding

 

Further downstream I sit on a log and close my eyes and breath in and out

 

liffey falls waterfall tasmania

 

I listen to the trickle of creek water over rocks and little twitters of unseen birds

 

There is no other way to say it:

My heart just bursts

 

This big feeling just fills me up and I feel it flowing out of my chest and being lifted up with the wind and the shade and the tall trunks that reach the sky

I am floating through the forest

The feeling fills me up in a way I don’t remember in the desert

This land, where everything is so close you don’t even have to reach out to touch it

It’s all just

Here.

 

I feel welcome here.

 

 

Seventeen

Around this time of year, 12 years ago, when my seventeen year old Canberran Catholic school self was supposed to be studying for her Year 12 exams, she wrote this in her deadjournal:

 

I could do so well and get so far and get brilliant marks and academic awards and I could even get into law but I’m wasting it,

wasting it expressing my feelings on the internet,

wasting it talking on msn,

on long distance phone calls,

on missing busses

on counselling friends and being counselled in the library, the toilets, the quad, the canteen line, the internet, the phone,

on shopping sprees,

on grass seed fights,

on going into Civic with mates,

on catching up with old and new friends,

on socialising, on going out,

on dreaming,

on planning,

on thinking,

on churning out crappy poetry,

on discovering things about me, about other people, about the fucking world,

wasting it on the Year 11 Drama class I’m directing and costume shopping for red fish net stockings.

 

Next year I’ll work for a year, choreograph Gangshow then fuck off to Bathurst to learn, then I’ll fuck off around the world.

I’ll fuck off to check out the art and the architecture and the history and incredible culture of Italy, then follow in the footsteps of my parents and teach in Africa. Then I’ll ride an elephant in Nepal and ride on top of a train in Tibet. Then in the untouched rainforests of Irian Jaya I’ll meet isolated mountain tribes. Then I’ll go to fucking Antartica like I’ve always wanted, sail a cruise boat or even a small research driven tiny boat, I don’t care, I just want to visit the whiteness, the emptiness, the ongoingness and neverendingness of it, I just to see some emperor penguins standing proudly and some little baby grey penguins sliding around.

Then I’ll go back to Lady Musgrave Island to snorkel and scuba dive and rediscover the whole other world that exists beneath the waves and to laze on the beach and watch beautiful sunset after stunning sunrise. I’ll watch the seasons change, the turtles come in to mate, the whales migrate, the dolphins play and the albatross glide. I’ll watch the turtle eggs hatching – all those tiny little helpless life forms struggling towards the sea. I’ll write my name in the phosphorescence in the sand where it can glow all night.

Then back to the centre. I’ll drive the two and a half weeks up to Alice Springs with no air conditioning in the car, sleeping under the stars in a sleeping bag on the side of the road and staying in dodgy caravan parks, stopping at towns here and there.

Then maybe along to Perth and visit my Great Aunt who gets so excited when we call each Christmas and dive all the great wrecks they have along the coast.

Then go to Darwin, just to see what its like, to get used to the sweat and flies and dust, to get accustomed to seeing nothing day after day but red sand and blue sky and a thousand stars at night that no one in the city ever dreamed of.

Then to Melbourne to shop it up and stay and have a funky time with my friends for a while in their share house.

 

Back in time for Gangshow, back in time for all my Year 11 students 18th birthday piss ups, back in time for Christmas with the family at Gran’s house then Boxing Day at my Godmothers with the cousins down from Sydney, back in time to be amazed by what cool job they have this year.

Back in time for all the festivals and concerts.

Back in time to still be welcomed at my family home for dinner and a hot shower.

Back in time to visit all the friends I’d make and the people I’d remember along the way.

Back in time to go to all the homes I’d create around the planet.

Back in time for people to forget most of me, but remember enough of me to want to catch up when I shoot through their town.

 

Just drive and keep on going. Just jump on a plane and keep on flying. Just step out the door and keep on walking.

Every day would be new and exciting and every day I’d learn something, and I’d want to keep on learning new things, to never stop learning and wondering. Each day I’d come up with so many more questions that I’d ask people and find out.

Each day I’d meet new people and talk to them and be introduced to a whole new perspective. Some days I might get hurt by some people, but I’d only learn from it and just keep on going.

I’d have so many stories and so many interesting and exciting adventures to share with other people like me out there, and they’d tell me their stories.

Just get out, but never go far enough to let go of anything, or forget to hold on to something.

Get far enough away, but never get far enough to get out of reach.

 

 

friendly beach tasmania