“Did you ever think you would have it all sorted by the time you were thirty?”
So I asked a friend of mine a number of weeks ago now.
I remember being in my early twenties thinking that thirty seemed an absolute age away (I know all you well-over-thirties are having a good chuckle at me, I am too!). I remember knowing that I would surely have it all together by then. That a decade or less would be sufficient time to get the proverbial ducks in a row. That by thirty I would feel like an adult, a woman, someone with wisdom and experience and confidence and worldly intelligence.
I never fathomed that I could get to thirty – married with three small children – and still have those days where I feel all the feelings and don’t have anywhere to file them.
Those days where I could curl up under the weight of them, pull them tight around me, and let the heat of my slow, rhythmic breath permeate my cocoon. Make a tiny vent in the smothering covers, and lay there, almost still. Balled up and heaving gently like a volcano, while my viscous, molten insides swirl and settle.
Those days where I could climb a tree to get above them – that dense, chill fog that clings to the damp grass – press the rough bark against my skin, cling tight to the swaying boughs, close my eyes and feel the movement, hear the soft wind in the new leaves.
Those days where I could trek half-way up a small cliff-side. Scramble over roots and stones, slip on loose dirt, graze knees and catch hair on over-hanging twigs. Just to sit for an hour on a cold rock, looking down on a cemetery and a train station. Gaze out over sprawling suburbs, planned and built when my parents were young, for dreamers and idealists – for back yards and trampolines and swing sets and sprinklers on summer days. Listen to the magpies and cockatoos and see the far-off city raised up like a cardboard cutout in the smog against the sky. Just sit, and look, and listen. Hastily scrawl a few fleetingly profound thoughts on perspective and clarity amidst the prickle bushes and discarded beer cans, and amble back down again.
Sometimes it’s like I’m stacking Jenga blocks. Slowly, methodically, with the greatest care and delicacy tapping at those rectangular prisms until they give way, slide free, only to be re-stacked at the top, leaving behind a weakened spot in the tower. I’m pretty good at Jenga. Picking the right blocks so as to leave it looking reasonably balanced and sturdy. Placing them gently atop the tower with finesse and a demure smile… “No worries, I can handle it, I’ve got it sorted.” But it doesn’t matter how delicately I remove those bricks or how lightly I return them to the top, eventually I’m full of holes and things are out of order and what I’ve built is weak, developing a slight lean, and utterly subject to the natural laws that govern us all. Gravity pulls it all down, and I’m nothing but a pile of small, wooden bricks, waiting to be remade.
I have a portable filing case that has all the important things in it – birth certificates, tax file numbers, rental agreements, etc. But everything else sort of just slowly piles up, waiting to be attended to, usually only once it’s urgent. That’s the way I feel today. Except that attending to the details of some feelings just requires way too much energy. Sifting through the hurts the misunderstandings, prioritising the broken trust and forgotten promises, compartmentalising the anxieties and neuroses… Getting all of that sorted is a task that feels insurmountable.
And when the urgency only manifests as a quiet building of pressure under a mountain; or a thick, icy layer of blinding cloud; or a bird’s-eye view of a disorganised tapestry of roads and trains and trees and an orchestra of suburban sounds clamouring all at once…
I internalise. I quietly, methodically… tap tap tap at those blocks.
I do not have it all sorted (and I think that’s OK, for now).