It all started with a small comment at a party. Someone recognised me and told me a story. Apparently I had a stalker, not just a cyber stalker, but someone who lived within 10 minutes of my house. This person had trawled through reams of my old blog posts to extract details like my car licence plate, would spot my car at the local super market carpark and watch me from a distance, while i darted in and out of the shops with laden with paper bags of meat and flowers.
It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve been stalked before, but this seemed worse, a incongruity in this pastoral corner of the world we live in, where neighbours leave fresh avocados at your door, where the post office has a special corner for your parcels, marked with a cardboard sign and roadside stalls with honesty jars line the way home.
I didn’t feel like writing much any more. It was the New Year season, and for many reasons other than the stalking, I felt like I was stuck in a liminal space.
No routines, no structure, the rictus grin of inane festivity.
And then one of the children did something deeply upsetting and required extra care and especially mindful parenting. The cure to everything is love. What if it doesn’t work? Increase the dose. Simple, but not easy.
Out of nowhere came the horrible heatwave in Victoria, a week of incendiary temperatures that swept through our area, leaving fires and parched grass in its wake. We were lucky to escape unscathed, but the damage was everywhere. Our friends olive grove where we camped at last year was wrecked by a violent fire tornado, and our favourite cafe burned to a crisp.
We started drawing up detailed fire escape plans, realising the perils of the beautiful acres of native bushland surrounding our house, the only sizeable thicket of trees for miles around us. Each tea tree, gum tree and olive tree a miniature explosive device.
Everyone has little routines, secret poker tells, which are leading indicators of their well-being. If they’re doing them, you know everything’s alright in their world.
For my husband, it’s exercise.
For me, it’s cooking, having friends over, taking photographs, putting on lipstick in the morning, and most of all, writing.
But the writing dried up and the usual wash of morning shower ideas thinned to a weak trickle, not worthy of documentation or even rumination.
The difficulty of getting your groove back is an exponential curve. If you make constant small adjustments and regular maintenance, the wheel keeps turning, the momentum goes on. Once you stop, the effort it takes to start again is painful. Writing this post has been torture. Five words forward, four words deleted. It was the same when I went back to work after having children. Self-doubt is a familiar stranger.
At times like these I go back to basics. One foot in front of the other. Meditation to Sogyal Rinpoche. Playing music that gets me going. Light a candle and sit in front of my desk. Go outside and watch the prayer flags flutter in the wind.
One of the lines from a book I love (American Dream Machine by Matthew Spektor) – “If you live long enough, you get to play all the parts. You get to be every person in the play.” Everything comes and goes. Everything is a phase. This too shall pass. And I am slowly learning to be cool with this.