‘All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.’
-Edgar Allan Poe
My complicated world exists in the minds of those that share this box in the sky.
The story is mine, and theirs, and connects us to those that share in it. Those that have crossed our path by pure chance, or not.
I sit here in peace, on the 9th floor after a long day, and absorb the skyline of a big city at night.
Breathtaking, mysterious, shocking, make believe.
Real people occupy the streets below, but they don’t look like real people, they resemble miniature figurines in a game I’m playing.
I want to pick them up and put them on top of that building, or in the middle of that bridge over there. Or they could go on the boat that chugs down the river, and chat to the other boat goers. They’d like that because other pretend people are having a party on that boat, and it looks like a hoot, from the 9th floor.
Who are they, these pretend people?
How can they possibly exist without me, the only real person in the night?
Who is that lady in the apartment across from me?
She is watering her plants on the balcony, they are thirsty. Her name is Joan, and she’s never been married. She’s worked for 40 years as a florist. She has a sister in Perth who she visits twice a year and a niece who plays the violin in the Melbourne symphony orchestra, but no other family. She’s stuck in her ways and doesn’t like change.
Movement inside another building catches my eye. It’s old mate.
He’s dressed in navy blue overalls and is vacuuming the carpets. All the white collars have left the building their day is done, but it’s the beginning of a long night of shift work for old mate. His wife waits at home in the house they have been renting for over 20 years. She will have his breakfast ready for him when he comes home. They have 2 cats, 2 dogs, and play bingo on Saturdays. He is the happiest man alive.
Their stories live in their minds, inside their box in the sky.
To them, I’m just another box of mystery. A random light that shines on the 9th floor adding to the Legoland wonder of the city skyline. An apparent building block with no purpose other than to appear beautiful in the night, yet on a cellular level, invisible to them, my box in the sky is comprised of an unrealised universe of multiple connections.
Look at that figure on the bike. It rolls along the footbridge ever so slowly, on a pointless mission that ends abruptly at the limit of my vision. He’s gone, just like that, but his name is Alexi.
He is 16 and has 5 older brothers and sisters. He just finished school and now has a holiday job in K-Mart, so that he can save some money to move out of home. He is starving and hopes his mother has saved him some dinner, but suddenly remembers he left his phone at work. He turns around and heads back in disappointment, knowing dinner will be long gone.
…but to him, I am just a box in the sky.
The tallest building in the sky is that one over there. It towers over the others using its physique to boast self importance.
“I am the biggest and the best”- It beams
…but if I reached out with my arms, I could snap off the top third and all would be different in Legoland.
“But I am still the biggest and the best” the building demands.
and we would all sit for hours debating why this was or wasn’t so….when the building knows, it is simply so, because it believes it to be true, and so it is.
Then there’s the man sitting in his leather clad $5000-00 swivel chair, all by himself, clasping a glass of scotch, his tie still perfectly centered, his black leather shoes shiny and stiff. He stares at all the other boxes in the sky, the multiple lights of life, and wishes he was any one of them. He just made another million dollar profit today but his ex-wife took the kids and moved to England. His Mercedes waits in an executive car space below, but he wants to drive home in a 10 year old yellow holden. Next week, he will give it all away and backpack around Africa for a year, his heart will return, and his smile will again frame his face.
To him, I am just another box in the sky, but one he wishes to be, because it’s greener, and it’s on the other side, and it’s not his box.
What is, of all of this?
A box is a box.
A person is a person.
Alexi is no different to old mate, who’s no different to me, who’s no different to the wealthy man in his fancy leather chair, who’s no different or any more or less special than Joan, who waters her plants.
It’s all just perception. How we see ourselves, in comparison to others and how they see themselves, in comparison to us.
Are we really that different from each other?
No. We are all just a story behind a box really aren’t we?
Each story unknown to the other. Each story full of self importance believing they’re the centre of the universe, yet each carrying the same weight, the same level of importance in maintaining the structure of the building.
Like building blocks clad with beautiful lights we all come together to create the world we know.
We are one. Difference is but a perception created by fear.
I walk past him twice a day in my usual hurried manner on my way to work.
For months, I didn’t notice him. For months, I walked straight past, consumed with my own thoughts, and my own life.
-and he never made himself known.
He never, ever, asked me for anything, he never told me his story, he simply existed.
I remember seeing him once, cooking some beans on a little gas stove. I thought he was a backpacker, on a lovely holiday.
“That’s a clever way to see Australia if you’re on a budget” I thought.
I noticed a bunch of clothes neatly stacked in a white washing basket, others dangling out of a half open window, drying I guess.
Sometimes he would sit in his camp chair, with his personal things around him, you know, gadgets, cooking utensils, an old fashioned transistor radio, and appear to be busy, as if he was trying to organise himself.
Another time, I saw him sleeping in the front seat of his car all squashed up, with his weary head resting on a pillow, that was doubled over balancing on the window sill. It was almost 9.
He must have wondered why I never said hello, why no one ever said hello.
-and then one day, a friend of mine, told me his name was John.
“Do you know John?”-He asked
“He lives in his car, you know, that little old red one?”
“Oh yeah, I’ve seen him. He lives in his car?”
“Yep. He came over to talk to me once, and I was busy, so I fobbed him off and he quieltly walked away. I felt really terrible as that’s not me, so the next day, I took him a bag of oranges and some bananas. He stared at them for ages, looked at me like he was confused and said-
‘I haven’t had fruit in 5 months’
He had a career, and a family, until something went wrong and he lost everything. He hasn’t seen his kids in 12 years.”
He was there, the very next day when I passed him, this time, with a purpose.
His head was down, not wishing to engage in any way, busily preparing breakfast.
“Hello, John” I said
He stopped what he was doing and lifted his eyes in my direction, but his head remained down.
“Hello” -he said faintly
He was so quiet I could hardly make out the words. There was something wrong with his eyes, I don’t know what but they had the potential to create fear in some.
I don’t think he was prepared for conversation, as he didn’t seem to know what to do with it.
I kept walking on my Merry way, I thought it best to keep moving.
The next day, I once again walked in front of his car to catch his attention.
“Hi”- He instantly responded.
If I wasn’t mistaken, he almost smiled this time, and his response was clear and more definite.
For a week, I greeted him and acknowledged his presence. It was difficult to tell whether this meant anything to him or not, but he always responded with an element of surprise in his voice.
Before I knew it, annual leave was upon me, and I consequently hadn’t seen John for a couple of weeks.
I wanted to prepare a Christmas hamper for him, so I bought a little basket and filled it with essential items. Fruit, tinned food, biscuits, some sparkling grape juice, bread etc.
He was one of those invisible people.
You know those?
The ones that nobody knows, and nobody seems to care about?
There are plenty of those people around.
I call them the invisible people.
The people that believe their failings deem them an outcast, or are so unforgivable they don’t deserve to share in the gift of living.
The damaged, pained souls who have lost themselves in the consequence of past, and who have been conditioned to fear, and hide and run from everything that hurts.
Those tortured minds inside which mental illness has well and truly taken the reigns and eaten away the person that was, or could’ve been.
How do people get this way?
How do people end up this broken?
I couldn’t wait to give him his hamper, to make him realise, that someone knew now, that
HE WAS JOHN.
As I pulled into the car park that was his home for the last 6 months, my stomach fell into my feet.
He was gone.
I drove back in the evening thinking he may have just been out, but his car park, his little piece of land he called home, was empty.
The very spot where his invisible life had been, was now a few random doves, some stained concrete and a pair of lifeless white lines.
‘But he can’t be gone’- I told myself.
I stared at the empty space in front of me for minutes, suddenly suffocatingly helpless.
It occurred to me, that I just expected he would be there, like I would be in my house, or my friends in theirs.
But he had no home, now did he? I just made that up to make myself feel better, and to convince myself he wasn’t so unhappy with his camp chair and beans for dinner.
But that’s not how it works with invisible people, now is it?
His home was not that car parking space afterall.
‘No permanent address’
Bollocks, I desperately wanted him to have the hamper, because I thought in my naive little mind, that he would realise someone cared.
-and I wanted for him to be given a gift, for christmas, so that he could share for one small moment, what the rest of us take for granted-feeling worthy of someone else’s thoughts.
But he was never going to stay, because he had given up on himself, long, long, ago, and his plans were not plans, but survival tactics, and that’s how he had to roll.
I never got to give John his Christmas hamper.
Rumour has it, he headed South to the cooler weather, a couple of days before I realised.
I know you will never read this, but I hope a little messenger is able to let you know in some strange way, that I was happy to have met you.
MY SON’S STATE CHAMPS IN JEOPARDY AGAIN, CAN YOU FLIPPING BELIEVE IT?
You may mistake me for a drama queen, (That’s right MISTAKE-I’m not one at all) -that’s not new to me, but it kind of makes me feel alive to be this way, sought of like free expression resulting in a totally new me who is-‘post dramatic outburst’, capable of actually relaxing with a cup of tea.
My drama for the week?
I’m so cranky you could probably put me in a pot of boiling water, like a toad, cook me up slowly, and I wouldn’t even notice.
Boiled Nicole for dinner. Good, serve me up, I don’t care, it might take my mind off things.
As teenagers across the globe would say-or ‘anybody’ nowadays for that matter;
This Sunday and the following Friday, our Zippy (AKA Flynny-Soz Flynnster-suck it up!)
is scheduled to compete in the Queensland age-group state championships for 100m Breastroke (PB 1:18:15) and 200m Breastroke (PB 2:49).
This is renowned for being one of the toughest age-group swimming championships in the world. This is a result of the sheer strength and depth of swimming in Queensland, Australia.
There will be over 3000 competitors at this event, who are all worthy of elite status.
How does Australia, currently ranked the second best swimming nation in the world only topped by The USA (who is a whopping 10 times our size) continually produce so many elite swimmers?
The answer is ‘Opportunity’
Children in this country learn to swim as babies almost without exception, and have readily available opportunities to partake in extension programs to develop their skills further.
So there you have it-Quality coaching from the grass roots up.
To give you an idea of the training required by kids to achieve at an elite level in swimming in Australia, here is a rough idea of Flynn’s weekly training schedule:
He is 13 years
MONDAY: 0530-0700, 5-6km 1500-1730, 5-6km
TUESDAY: 1500-1730, 5-6km
WEDNESDAY: 0530-0700, 5-6km 1500-1730, 5-6km
THURSDAY: 1500-1730, 5-6km
FRIDAY: 0530-0700, 5-6km 1500-1730, 5-6km
SATURDAY: 0630-0830, 5-6km
That’s between 45-50 kilometres of swimming per week.
Rough? Absolutely. Swimming is a terrible sport, for those who don’t enjoy, but if you love it, it’s brilliant.
The fitness of these kids, is unfathomable. Their determination, discipline and persistence rare.
‘Success happens, when DESIRE/DRIVE exceeds excuses’
One thing I have learnt through my observation of elite sport over the years, is that TALENT only goes so far.
It will take you to a platform, where without EXTREMELY hard work and endurance, you will remain. It IS possible, for those less talented than yourself to fly straight past you, if they have the drive.
You know what else?
Success happens, when DESIRE/DRIVE exceeds excuses.
…and you know what ELSE?
I have two kids.
They have the same talent.
One wants to swim, just because he does- it just is. It was nothing we said, it was nothing we enforced upon him.
The other one does NOT want to swim, for now…and so he doesn’t. It was nothing we said, and it was nothing we enforced upon him.
YOU WILL NEVER MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN WITHOUT THEIR DESIRE.
You can force them of course, the old parental iron clad chain approach, but they will always produce a half-hearted effort and reach their limits quickly, and YOU will produce a child who is tormented by the mere thought of your demands.
They either love it, or they don’t. It’s as simple as that.
At present, our Flynn is striking while the iron is hot, it’s what he wants, in the immediate term anyway.
When it comes to competing in state events, Flynn has a rough record.
He qualified for the State Aquathon Champs and a week prior, tore all the ligaments in his ankle whilst flying through the air to rebound in Basketball-I was there, and believe me when I tell you, I am still recovering today.
He then qualified for the REP basketball team who was to attend The Queensland State Champs, but yet again, he sprained his ankle prior to the event and missed out.
I’m sorry, but I just have to get this out.
Flipping flying turtle shells (AKA 💩)
All has been cruising along fine. I have tried to remain positive, but the last two experiences have tainted my innocence.
This is what’s going on.
WHAT’s GOING ON?
I am infected.
I woke in the night after a chainsaw cut slithers in my throat like a piece of wood, and immediately thought,
ARE YOU FLIPPING SERIOUS?
What if I pass it on to Flynn?
He’ll kill me, I’ll kill me, everyone will kill me.
This can’t happen again.
His immunity will be down as a result of heavy training and he’ll be susceptible.
So I quarantined myself, and the bedroom became my home.
I covered my mouth with a towel when around him….ridiculous I know..yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m hearing you, but he didn’t do all of this body shattering training for nothing.
This seemed to work for a couple of days…my cold went like this:
SORE THROAT-HEADACHE-NOSE LIKE TAP-COUGH
Not a major drama?
Xavier (my other son) woke up collapsed onto my death bed-
“Don’t come near me Xav, I’m sick”
“So am I”
Bloody hell. I took his temp. 37.6. Not bad, but a temp all the same.
He had little red dots all over him, that looked rather like ‘chicken pox’
‘But he’s been vaccinated??’
I ran into Flynn’s room so fast my legs almost got tangled, and the dogs tail landed under my right foot
“Yelp” he squeeled
“Sorry Wondeez, but get out of my way”
He slowly looked up at me, completely unaffected by my apparent outburst
“Geez. Looking rough mum. What’s the towel for?”
“Are you feeling ok?”
“Thank God. No spots? No sore throat?”
“No, but I have a strange green growth on my left toe”
“I’m fine mum. Have a cup of tea”
The doctor examined Xavier very carefully.
“Looks like chicken pox, but hard to say. Hmmm. Very interesting. Could be infectious. Better keep him away from people”
Oh good Lord.
Now there were two infected individuals, in the same house, with different diseases.
As Michael (my husband) never catches anything, I wasn’t concerned he was a potential infector.
We all had scabies once….yes, yes, OMG, mum keep your hair on, it’s a potential occupational hazard in the nursing field I’m afraid, but anyway, Michael didn’t catch it, even with me sleeping all over him….He must have very untasty skin.
He would have to be the designated boss of the house whilst I was underground 😉
Isolating two people is not easy. Especially when one of them is an 11 year old boy, who fancies practicing his rapping all day long…
“Xavier, I have a headache…VOLUME”
So we locked him in the computer room. That’s where he’s living now. Occasionally I send him food, via a little trap door we constructed😜
It reminds me that one day he will leave me- as everything does eventually-and walk his own doggy road
-but I can’t think about that.
“Come here baby, you are JUST a dog”
He waddles up to me, tongue out, backside wagging, always smiling and grateful for nothing.
It reminds me of his loyalty despite my laziness and grump days, when I know all he wants is to go around the block, and play with some buddies in the field.
“Hello buddy, hello friend, my name is Jasper and I have a tennis ball”
It reminds me, that my husband loves him too, and so do my boys, and so do I, and so does the universe and everyone in it.
Just look at the illustration.
Two feet, two paws walking side by side.
It doesn’t really matter now does it? I know my dog just wants to walk…the destination is simply a means to an end.
His name is Jasper, he’s 6 years old. He’s a black Labrador, and he’s a gift to me.
Everyday, I learn from him.
Everyday, he softens me.
Everyday, he reminds me what’s important
and what’s not important.
With no words, he teaches me.
So many lessons, so many values, so many simple, simple truths, that humans wouldn’t know about, now would they?
His innocence is what I love about him the most. We often say
“Shame, he’s just a dog”
Ignorance is bliss is it not?
The not knowing.
Living a reality where hatred and evil are an unknown entity.
Living a world where his happiness is directly proportional to the number of revolutions his tail does in a minute, and that’s the only measure.
The past is simply a misspelled word missing an ‘a’ , and the future, the whole future, is captured in its entirety in the next five minutes.
He owns nothing, yet parades around like he’s the King of Planet Boonga.
Every tree and every lamp post is worth his attention.
It is irrelevant to him, if I’m ugly, or if I am unliked, or if I only have one friend, or if I have or have not brushed my teeth this morning, or if I am hopeless at my job, or if I am an Olympian who broke the world record last week.
All he needs is to chase his tennis ball every now and then, to frolic with his buddies, and the LOVE of us.
I think I would like to be born as a dog next time.