Stories I can't change because I never had a hand in writing them
Mark Twain said: 'Courage is not the lack of fear it is acting in spite of it.'
So many things that I do now are to fill the gaps of what I didn't do before. To replace a memory over one I'm ashamed of, to do something I didn't do before, only still to lie in bed, horrified by what I did - or did not do one day, someday long ago or yesterday. My errors might look small to some, but they loom like bolders on the road to me. they may seem insignificant because the ones that keep me up at night, and soak my loyal dog's coat with tears on days when the sun just never seems to make it through my window and creep along the pillow to me - are usually, almost exclusively, related to animals.
People might have thought me foolish, or weak or softhearted or just too easily brought to tears, I know i've been told to many times to count that I'm just 'too sensitive' or 'too busy thinking of the past, and not the future,' but it's life that swings a club at my sense of dignity and life - and why we're here and if I fail in small steps, then the larger ones are not strong enough to get me where I want to go, and that's to know I did right, when I could, and didn't fear being foolish in the process of it.
So I get parking tickets when I jump the curb to leave my car and guide baby ducks across a main road because one day I follwed a mother duck and her ducklings down lanes and through gardens, not knowing how to help them, and not realising I was - no doubt - scaring the crap out of them and leading them somewhere they'd never escape. I've rescued ducklings from courtyards and pried them from prickle bucshes, only to have them die on the way home because I forgot to bring a hot water bottle, or food. Regrets are many and about as prickly as those damn bushes, and yet, unlike those scratches, I still feel the pinch on days like these lately when it's cold and wet and I wonder what the hell all the animals do, when my own chickens huddle by my back door and wrestle with each otherr to try to get inside and the tree in my window is waving like a child at an airplane just landed.
So I don't mind making a fool of myself because I know i'm lucky, to be warm, to have the chance to help, even one animals if not any that cross my crooked path, and that the misery that so often lands in my mind and stops me from doing anything more than remembering the worst of myself and the world, isn't going to do anyone any good, but still makes it hard for me to swing my legs over the bed and get to it. Because sometimes it is hard to be the only one singing the song, alone, out of key, and so often missing the right notes, so that animals die as often as they live, and my huge back yard is a mass of tiny graves, but I still try to make it pretty anyway. But just because trying to help is so often embarrassing or hurtful or hard or pointless or the beginning of a hardship I'd not expected, doesn't mean I let myself ignore what i see anymore. I can't keep driving past the dog that looks lost, or the corpse of the animals that is drawing birds to the middle of the road where they're getting a meal for a minute only to get crushed and add to the attraction.
It's a whole hell of a lot better than the sting of regret, and the soaking wet coat of my dog when I finish crying, knowing it doesn't make a pinch of difference to regret it now unless I do something to make it up. so i do a lot of weird things that I don't tell anyone about, and hope that they wallpaper over the hurt and regret and grief of what i did or did not do before. A lifetime ago or just yesterday. Because mistakes are so easy to make, and effort is so hard when you know you're the only one thinking this way - or so it feels some days.
So i bundle up courage, and arm myself with the knowledge that if I fail, it's not without trying, and that's almost as good as succeeding, somehow, sometimes. Pity it doesn't feel that way in my heart.
So if anyone saw me raging at my finches in their aviary a couple days ago, swaying with the beginnings of the flu and misery, you'd think i was nuts. And I guess i am a lot of the time, because it's nuts to think you can ever make up for the past, for not having any courage, or for caring about what people think. I'm way past that point now, so the raging at finches as small as an eyeball made sense to me then and still does now.
Because as is often the case, I had a box of broken finches that the bird shop gave me. They do this sometimes, and once they even held a family of beautiful yellow budgerigars because the owner couldn't care for them and she wanted them to go to a 'good home'. That was one of the really shiny days I felt maybe I really had made a home, rather than an animal's halfway house, or hospice and that i was doing some good, even if it was for a couple yellow budgerigars who hopped into that aviary and seemed to think they were in a kissing booth. I know I sound sorry for myself, because I am - today. It's a black day and I have them sometimes, months of them, once, a couple years of them and never when I expect them and always when I'm weak and sore and unprepared, and it's like a car-napping, I'm caught suspended, and I just fold up and gasp at the thought that once I was able to work a whole day. Just changing the case on the pillow is exhausting on a black day. How did I write stories, whole books? A series of them? and plan others? Apply for grants, go to lectures, teach lectures? it seemed like an impossible dream, my real life, when it fell into those black days.
Lately, the black days were blown away by the spring breeze of hope and good writing and great books, love, and weather. But it still creeps up on me on days like this and I fear for what's not being done - what I'm missing on this one precious day - just as much as i fear that it's the beginning of a couple years worth of blackness and shame, regret, pain and misery. But I don't think so. Not today. Not for me. I've got a story to write anyway, and I can't write when I'm black I can barely think beyond the horror of what I'd drawn to me. How will my animals survive if I can't even leave my room? How will I tell everyone I can't do what I planned? All those plans ... they seem extraordinary. made by someone else. Who thought I was someone else entirely. How did I make them? Why? It seems impossible to consider doing anything other than lying here, on those black days. and there were so many of them, I don't want anymore, it's a waste of a life. My life, creeping by, sweeping by me, waving slightly as it passes. It's black depression and I am relieved every morning when I can't smell it sitting on my heart so heavy it hurts to carry around. Each day it's not here I smile, relieved. And so i do what I know it hates, what will surely drive it away forever - something that will at least try to make up for the images and memories and things i did that slide over me like sweat when I'm black. I try to banish depression by doing the opposite of everything it feeds off. And embarrassing myself by being 'too sensitive' is no punishment at all. I'll make a fool of myself all over town if it does one aniamls some good and stomps on the crystal clear memory that tears my heart out when I'm black at night, with the smell of my dog's patient, kind, ever waiting coat in my face as if that had been his job since he was born and abandoned somewhereup in the hills of south australia. He sits on the bed covering my feet, toes, or just leaning against me, and if he hears me cry, he just moves himself closer, and presses on in.
I swear on mornings after nights like that that I'll get better but it's like asking someone to sew their own fingers back on.Iit takes more than your own head to fix itself. I swear to myself I won't let myself self lose this story like I lost a couple back in those black days three years ago, when nothing felt like me, nothing came in, or went out, I was just like a girl made of wood, with yellow hair she didn't even have the strength to wash. Bad days indeed and not just for those had to look at me.
Ii know sometimes, lots of times, I do a good thing, but it's the times i don't, that I fail, that shines brighter in my mind, and is so often the reason I'm 'just too sensitive', so I try hard not to think about them, which is about as helpful as not looking at doughnuts at the Krispy Kreme stand as you go through Melbourne airport.
I can look out my window and see them now, splashing in the water bowls and picking each other over, preening and making friends with the bird in the mirror, swinging on little plastic swings and always, always gossiping.
There's always room in my aviary for another couple birds, especially ones as big as an eyeball, right? but I didn't know one of these birds would make me cry at nights for a week, just because no bird would sit with him.
And if you've seen a bunch of finches you'll know they sit up close, snuggle up, especially in the cold. and it's been cold enough not to be able to sleep sometimes this past week or two.
But despite this one, black with a red beak, meaning he was a male charcoal I called little dude, because he was couldn't fly too well, but spent his days jump/flying from branch to swing to another branch and another swing (this is why, mum, my aviaries are so full of stuff, it's not because I don't want them to fly, to be free, I dream of it often enough I think half the time they are, in a way. At least they're not in a box, and they're outside and they're as free as i can make them until one day I have an aviary I dreamt of once, that covered the whole garden and yet let the little ones without legs, or a wing or an eye, still stay safe. That would sure be an good aviary then and I'd no doubt fill it about as much as they are now...but that stuff is there because they can't fly, mum, and they need these steps. I swear. I tell you every visit but you still shake your head and tell me there's too much 'crap' in those aviaries for a poor bird to fly' one day I hope you'll understand at last) then he'd get a fright about something and fall all the way down. i coated the bottom of the cage with soft baby blankets from the opp shop but they got wet so often I spent more time changing them. He hopped out the door once when I was changing the seed and water and I just picked him up and put him back in, but for a moment he saw the world without those bars and I wish now i'd just let him sit a while longer. I forget what it is to be always behind something when I'm not sick or sorry about something and shoved up inside my house without need to leave. At least the choice is my own.
So after a weekend of migraine so bad i had the doc come give me a shot in my behind I can still feel five days later, like a muscle I never had, I went out to change water and seed, feeling frail and cranky and regretful of a weekend spent with frozen peas on my head and the sense of my brains being squeezed to tight to work anymore. I once sliced my forehead deep on each side to let out the pressure, I'd lost my mind so much with the pain. I know slightly better now.
and little dude was splayed out, half frozen in a bowl of water as deep as my first knuckle. So my little dude didn't live with me longer than a week, and despite thinking i should put him in a cage, bring him inside, I knew finches loved company. Most finches anyway. No one more than this finch. I couldn't bring him in alone. But this one, despite his efforts, despite courage and strength and determination I would watch with open mouthed admiration from my desk as he jumped and flew ever higher each day, trying to get to the top where the pretty white finches hung out, like a four year old kid crashing his way through the back of the bus, hoping to sit with the cool kids. Despite everything I tried to do, he never had a friend to cuddle up with, never had anyone to press against when it blew so hard all the loose buckets and brooms and dog toys in the yard flew up against the shed and for the first time, the butterfly chairs really did get a chance to fly. I wrote in another blog about a finch who had a friend so loyal she stayed with him as he died, as his body went cold in the nest beside her.
I thought that was a sad story and I guess it really is, but there's always something worse. That's why the black days are worse than any I've had with fever or flu or post ops when I'd lie on the floor to change the dressings so i cwouldn't hit my head on the bath as i fainted, or migraines so sharp they make me slice into my temple with a half blunt kitchen knife until I could feel pain somewhere other than behind my right eye, because my brain just never shuts up when it's got something to say, and most days it just seems to want to tell me sad stories.
I wish one day it would shut the hell up, but I know then I'll not have another day to try to make up for those stories I hate so damn much. I think it's better to let my brain slowly edge them out, wallpaper over them with the good ones I try to crack open and look at, on those black days.
So if you see me raging at birds who won't make friends with a little crippled guy who spent his days trying to get high enough to sit with the prettiest ones in their nests, or stomping out of shops because they sell glue traps that leave mice to die of wretchedness and starvation while we watch, or fight for the right to be able to park in a clearway when it's the only way I can get to the ducklings raining down from the trees in the footpath, or any of the other stuff I do that makes my family wonder whether that fall from a hammock really did knock something loose in my mind. I wish I didn't care so damn much either way. I wish I could just drive by the hurt like i've seen people drive by a scared dog loose on the road.
Listening to: 'Rain, birds, and the whine of my dog urging me to take him to the dog park despite the rain
Eating: cup o' soup and Darrell Lea rocky road - it's so good without the glace cherries
Thinking About: see above
Watching: You tube videos that make me laugh
Reading: 'A world of baby names' for my current book
Wearing: Enough clothes to make my arms stick straight out from my shoulders
Writing: My YA series, still looking forward to writing it more than anything, even chocolate. I love this stage.