The Witness

The Witness

I wrote the following poem at the start of this year .. a stream of consciousness exploration. After randomly clicking on it I decided to read it to my writing group, intending first to tidy it. As it happened I couldn’t bring myself to even look at it before our meeting, and jumped into the vulnerable sharing of it in its imperfection and despite the fact that one of our group members features in the poem.

Acting despite my fears, walking into the fire so to speak, is something I’m finding is liberating and expansive and it is how I am currently approaching life. My desire is to continue to bust through my fears and expand in my experience of life. And with that said, here is my poem.

12 January
Eight years since Ian died
Waking up to strange dreams
A group of us in Bellingen
The ‘rescuers’ taking over
Mum driving my car too fast and off the road
Kathy taking charge of dinner plans
I got quite annoyed with the game last night.
Apparently we’re playing tonight
But I didn’t agree to that
And Vanessa agreed to the opposite
She specifically said ‘one night only’
And I’m with that
Drinking and playing card games
If fun for some
Let them have their fun
Even though they will think the more the merrier
This ‘rescuer’ dynamic is toxic
Or at least unpleasant
It creates a victim
Fuck that
Bloody James Bond
Got me angry the other night
And dreaming of snakes
He’s a snake.
I’m losing interest in Peter more and more
Which is quite a release
I meant to say relief
But it is a letting go
It is a relief
It’s the pattern I grew up in
Learning to give up my power
In exchange for being rescued
This victim creation .. the helpless, hopeless, confused,
Defenceless, surrendered creature
Was the result
Reliant on my captor for help and support
Until I broke free on my own
But I still couldn’t function
In ‘normal’ circumstances
I’m seeing it more and more clearly
And still, she tries to win me over
To buy her way into my affections
To be needed and for me to need her
But I’m getting stronger
The rescuers can take their big capacity
They can take their desire to jump in
They can take their bullying tactics
Disguised as love
But the love is not love
It’s an unconscious pattern
A desire to receive love

I will only disappoint a rescuer
When I reject his desire to help
Because it puts me down
And assumes I can’t do it myself
So what do I do
To meet someone I desire
Without the pattern being activated.
It wasn’t activated with Ian
Perhaps we were both victims
Who had turned into loners
Rejecting the desires of others
To take control and be our hero.
Instead we became each others hero
With neither the victim
And neither the judge
And both accepting of both the other
And the self
We did it. It worked.
We slipped out of that dynamic.
But I fell into the hole with Peter
For way too many years,
Prepared to give up everything
To be his slave and disciple
In return for love.
I made it back to me
Back to Goddess
To Earth Mother.
Which is where I am now.,
Yes, I’m back to the Goddess
This is where I needed to be
Not wanting rescuing
From a snaky spy
Or a capacious and distracted
Uncommitted and unfaithful
Self centred and rejecting
Lover
For that is no lover at all
I would have been miserable
It took me so long to see it.
But it’s getting clearer.

And I now see the guilt
And where it comes from
For all I gave to you
Feeling obliged and dutiful
To my rescuer
Feeling resentful and rejecting
Of my captor
For where is the love
When we become a possession
Where is the love
When we aren’t truly free
Yet she’s done so well
She insists that she loves me
Even when I’m not the obedient servant
Even when I free myself
Does she understand what I write
Does she reflect
Does she have regrets
She was acting on autopilot
She believed she was doing good
Just as I did also when
I let Joey make decisions
That were not his to make
Turned him into my rescuer
And my judge
Can I make amends
Now as I step out of the victim role
And rewrite my life
Now as my life
Begins again.

And as for tonight
My final night in this house
Before a new life begins

I still have the decision
Do I perform my duty
Or do my own thing
The jury needs a voice
It needs an answer
Does Joey need me there?
Or can I tell him of my experience
That might be more an education
I’ll write out the two lists
And get clear on my answer.
Do I dare
Disturb the Universe.
Rescuers be damned
We’re all in this together
And now I’ve written
And gotten some clarity
And I’m feeling a bit better
And my poem is very long.

Time to finish my email
And send it out
Onwards and upwards
I join the Goddess
And save first my own life
And then the world.
Amen.

Save first my own life
For I had given it up
It was no longer mine
It’s time to take it back
To not allow the ‘boss’ to feel
He is doing me a service
For this is my life
And I rescue myself
I’m obliged to no-one.
The judges can judge.
It step out of the triangle
And become the witness.

A bumbling search for my path

A bumbling search for my path

Year 12 yearbook photo

Year 12 yearbook photo

A mad cap path

This rambling post shares a bit of the madcap path I’ve been on that has led to me into existential crises at multiple ages, trying to work out what work I can do that will both allow me the freedom I crave and the sense of meaning I need while making a contribution to the world.

I’ve wondered whether my crises might have been avoided had I found my ‘work in the world’ at an earlier age.  Whether a specific field of endeavour might have given me the confidence and direction I needed.  But decision making was never my strength, and I think I couldn’t have settled on any one particular subject and felt satisfied.

My intentions for this post:

  • to share my unconventional, winding, messy path
  • to declare my respect for architects and the work they do
  • to explain why I’ve never fit the mould of an architect and how I’ve struggled to find my place in the world
  • to share what I’ve come to at this point in time
  • to share my story in a vulnerable way as a means to clarity

Unguided curiosity

I’ve often felt envious of those who knew what they wanted to do at an early age and set forth on a path to pursue it.  There is a lot of power in having such focus.  I know this from the few times in my life I felt clarity and saw the path open up before me.  Mostly though, I’ve felt more like a blind pilgrim, feeling my way, or a mad explorer, running madly and erratically up every path I’ve come to, seeking to discover fresh insights.

And so, part blind and part curious, I bumbled into studying architecture.  It wasn’t something I’d even thought of before I had to select my preferences for university toward the end of high school.  It was a given that I would go to university.  My passion was studying, and my mum had missed the opportunity to go to university and so had always expected it of her two daughters.  At school I was a dedicated student, soaking up every topic and hating to miss a day of school for fear of missing out on learning something.  If I could have studied everything I would have.  As it was I took on the maximum 15 units in my final year rather than the prerequisite 10.  I was simply a keen learner and enjoyed learning for the sake of learning.  I don’t remember ever having any career guidance.

When it came time to select my preferences for what to study at university I found the choice almost impossible – until a friend announced she was choosing architecture.  The thought of architecture had never crossed my mind .. never even crossed my radar.  So the esoteric (to me at least) nature of it sparked my interest.  This was followed with a rationalisation that, since it combined two of my favourite subjects – art and physics – it might be ideal.

When the time came the following year to start university, I had gotten not into my first preference of architecture at Sydney University .. but my second preference which was architecture at the University of Technology, Sydney.  This particular university had a very career focused approach to architecture, with students expected to work in offices as part of the program.  Most of the other students were mature age students who were very focused and determined, with no doubt that this was their thing.  I certainly didn’t have such certainty .. in fact, all I had was doubt .. and so within two weeks I had transferred to a Bachelor of Industrial Design (which I never actually started).  I definitely wasn’t ready to dive into an intensive course and career path.  After 13 years of schooling (which I had taken very seriously) it was time to travel.  I found a job scooping icecream, postponed my studies until following year, and prepared to set off overseas with the money I’d been saving, to explore the wider world.

 

Spirit set free

And so began my year of joyful wandering, solo travelling, working enough to survive and developing my confidence and survival skills.  It felt like all my Christmases and birthdays (though I’d never liked either) come at once.  A world to explore.  None to answer to but myself.  Bliss.

I started writing in a journal .. something I’d never had the privacy to do.   I was buoyed up with eighteen year old confidence, reinforced by martial arts bravado.  I backpacked, hitchhiked, wandered, explored, photographed, wrote, found odd jobs, I was in heaven.  Then .. as the year drew to a close .. I made the regretful decision to return to Australia to again start an architectural degree .. this time at Sydney University.

Three years of hell ensued.  I went from utter freedom to entrapment.  And even though the head of first year, having taken in more students than they could accommodate, partly to obtain extra government funding and partly in knowledge of a high drop out rate, suggested more than once that this might not be a good fit for me – my unfortunate trait of tenacity and my lack of a better idea meant I stuck through the three painful years, at which point I was ready to once again escape the clutches of Sydney .. this time destined for Darwin .. as exotic and distant a place as I could think of without leaving Australia.

 

Blah blah blah

This is getting a bit too long, it seems, and I need to get to some point in this story.  I will cut it short by saying that I spent four years in Darwin and one year in Japan during which time I did a number of different jobs which included being a casino croupier, manual drafting for an architect, teaching English to 4-86 year olds, crisis line counselling, studying karate, music, guitar, painting, an introduction to various trades, and exploring the world by foot, bicycle and motorcycle, developing my skills of self sufficiency.

I ended up back in Sydney to reconnect with my almost severed past and, almost as expected, I became caught in the sticky web which had me there not the four months or four years I’d predicted .. but 13 years.  In that time I started a job doing drafting .. chosen mainly because it meant I could develop my skills and maintained firstly because it offered freedom and flexibility .. but over time which clamped down like a trap I couldn’t get out of.  After three years in that job, feeling the pressure to grow, I again took a dive back into the academic world of architecture .. something I was now much more prepared for, but still no more suited towards.  Driving me was a desire to work for myself .. something I figured an architecture degree could help me with.  My confidence was a notch higher than during my first degree .. but still not high enough to embrace this demanding field.  As always, I remained a fish out of water throughout this degree.  Again, studying while working to support myself (same as my first degree), I hung in there tenaciously, finding plenty to keep me inspired and enjoying the opportunity to design organic forms whenever I could.

So why .. having spent six and a half years of my life, split by a nine year gap – fifteen years beginning to end – studying for a profession – have I felt such resistance to actually practicing it??  That is what I’m trying to explain – to myself and to whoever is interested.

I found the study of architecture and insight into the profession inspiring, enlightening and challenging.  There’s only one problem.  I don’t care much for buildings.  People, ideas and matters of spirit excite me much more.  Oh .. and I do love making things .. and working out how to make them.  But buildings are such complex beasts, requiring so many diverse skills and talents.  And the profession requires an energy and attention I just never felt prepared to give.  It requires love, dedication and total commitment.  That’s how I’ve seen it anyway.

The subjects that got me fired up during my uni degrees were rarely to do with buildings ..

  • sculpture
  • film/video
  • Indian and southeast asian art and architecture
  • far eastern art and architecture
  • object design and construction
  • the culture of nature
  • guitar performance (Diploma of Music)
  • architectural design studios (some were inspiring, some painful)
  • advanced digital graphic communications
  • principles and philosophy of design
  • drawing and design: seeing, thinking, understanding
  • creative writing
  • investigation workshop (I had to do this twice – unable to complete my investigations in one term)
  • the culture of nature (probably my favourite course of all)
  • place, identity and difference
  • thinking through drawings
  • landscape animation

Is it any wonder that I didn’t love this study!  I still have piles of books and papers and notes from lots of those courses that I have intended to explore more fully – and perhaps that is what I will do through this blog!

So that has been my unconventional career path that has led me down lots of dead ends.  All I really wanted to do was to explore the world through as many different avenues as I could.  And though I’ve puzzled and berated myself each time I’ve found myself lost and floundering, my explanation has been inspiration, inertia, lack of a better idea, blind tenacity and faith plus a determination to find my own path.

 

In praise of architects

Architecture is a well beaten path .. though offering much scope for exploration.  And that is where I want to go.  Because wild explorations are my bliss.  Dives into the unknown.  Total immersion.

I’ve had many people mention that they would have loved to have studied architecture.  But I would dissuade anyone who, on a whim, feels they might like to go into this field.  It is not for the faint hearted.  I have huge respect for architects.  It is a truly renaissance art and it demands so much – sensitivity, wisdom, creativity, rationality, interpersonal skills, an open mind, intelligence, focus, confidence, good problem solving ability, good decision making ability .. you name it. Oh .. and a love of buildings helps too.  You have to do it for the love.

 

Maybe I should have studied psychology

My latest inspiration, though not a new one, of a path that might have suited me better (at least in terms of the work side of things) would be some sort of psychotherapy practice.  I’ve heard it said that psychiatrists often go into the field to work on themselves and that would have been where I was coming from if I’d gone down that route.  Right now though, I’m interested in it as much for connecting with and helping others.  But it’s only now, at 44 years of age, that I feel I could even start to consider this.  And only now that I’ve done so much work trying to understand people and myself.  Because people have always fascinated and confounded me and I’ve spent a lifetime studying and observing them from a distance.  And I have finally started to break through a fear that was born of confusion but had me overwhelmed by contact with people.  So really, I’m only now at a point that this sort of work feels an option.

Adventure and self sufficiency combined

Adventure and self sufficiency combined

 

A search for reinvention

Over the past few years I have been examining my arsenal of skills and interests, along with my personality and ideal lifestyle, to try to formulate a sustainable and satisfying way to contribute to the world.  Which brings me to this moment in time.

And since this post is long and overdue and I need to publish it so I can shift my focus to other tasks demanding my attention .. I will finish here.  I’m squinting through heavy eyelids and I just need to move on, for now.  If you think you might be able to offer a fresh perspective or insights, or want further clarification, or just want to say anything .. please comment below!

 

With gratitude,

Charmaine

 

Wearing today's new skin

Wearing today’s new skin