Sunday, February 12, 2017

Life in an angry city

Sydney is an angry city. And today I feel angry too, because it doesn't seem possible to live here and not be impacted by other people's rage, impatience, and lack of consideration.

I lost hours of sleep last night because once again my neighbours put their own comfort and entertainment far above anyone else's needs on the early hours of the hot morning.

On the way to catch a ferry I saw that someone desperate or angry (or both) about getting a park had somehow forced the rear of my car out about a metre from the curb. I almost cried.

It's just a car, just a thing, but it's hard not to feel something about it. To not sense the acrid aftertaste of whatever emotion or intention those now absent people leave on my property, in my little cluster of spaces that are my own.

Travelling anywhere in this city calls for a constant balance between the necessity of leaving the house and avoiding an experience that frays my nerves. Even travelling one suburb over to go to a yoga class is an exercise in stress management. Sometimes just getting to and from the class undoes the benefit of the practice, pulls me harshly out of the post-meditation ease.

I understand that it's possible to choose another reaction. To try to shrug it off, or sink into a numb complacency that "this is how it is". Perhaps even choose to believe that this is a lesson, a gift from the gods to teach me something I lack right now.

Of course it's not everyone. There are other experiences sprinkled in between the bitterness. Sometimes the convenience store cashier will make a point of catching my eye and smiling as he rings up my purchases. Sometimes the bus driver will say "good morning", or "have a nice day", and mean it.

But those who doggedly follow and spout the mantra of 'focus on the positive' have yet to give me a satisfactory solution for what to do with all those grating, very real experiences. Even if I distract myself with other things, other reactions, happy thoughts... they accumulate like sand under fingernails.

I've been here for almost ten years, and only in small pockets of time have I felt like I was truly home. There's been an undercurrent of unease the whole time, a feeling of not quite belonging. I've often said that I want to leave, only I don't know where to. That home is where family is. And it was true, for a time, that was what anchored me here.

But now some of those knit to me by blood have left, in physical and relational ways. My sister is married and lives an hour's drive and $18 in tolls away. My brother has kicked me out of his life. My closest aunt moved interstate. My grandmother is dead. My cousins are all in relationships or marriages and live far away. The family gatherings that once happened regularly have dwindled. Nobody has time.

What is left is an abiding loneliess and quiet grief exacerbated by how disconnected I am from the thousands of people I cross paths with. By all the "we shoulds" that are never followed through.  What I am left with is memories and a few close friends and a lot of sand under fingernails.

So what am I going to do with all this? Write it (I feel calmer already). Speak it (to my friends who understand what it is to be sensitive in this world). Dance it out (I'm on my way right now). And plan, search for a place that will feel like home.


Photograph of an artwork by Tatsuo Miyajima

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