Thursday, May 28, 2009

Duelling With Devils

Theme Songs of the Day:
  1. "Paper Aeroplanes", by Angus & Julia Stone
  2. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", by Neil Young
  3. "Neopolitan Dreams", by Lisa Mitchell


I'm going to Tassie. Tasmania, that is.

When I share that with the locals in Melbourne, I get one of two responses:
  1. "Why??"
  2. "Aw, yeahhhh, Tassie is BEAUTIFUL!"
I've heard that Tasmanian Devils really do spin around like in the Loony Tune cartoons. I've heard that Tasmanian Tigers aren't really extinct, if you know where to look for them. I've heard that some of the wildest places on earth are still pristine and hiding in this little corner or the world that most of mainland Australia has forgotten.

My travel companion for this leg of my journeys is Jill Rushton, the lovely Canadian that I met in Maui earlier this year at a pivotal time in my life:

After Christmas 2008, I sank rapidly into a fairly deep depression in which I did not make it out the front door of my house for most of January. I would lie awake at night waiting for sleep to arrive, listening to my inner monologue loop endlessly around thoughts of "Why did/didn't I do this; Why am I so far away from where I should be; How in the hell did I get myself into this mess; How the hell am I going to ever get myself out of this mess; Who do I think I am [bloody useless fool]; yadda-ydadda-yadda-doom-and-gloom-ever-downward-spiraling-blah-blah-blah......"

In the morning I would awake and lie catatonic, staring at the wall for an hour or so before mustering up the courage to get up and have a shower to face the sunlight. Being surrounded by so much natural beauty didn't help at all; it only heightened the contrast between how I felt within and the cheery surroundings without. I kept the blinds over the window to wallow in as much darkness as I could and found solace by distracting my mind with hours of mindless sessions on YouTube watching conspiracy theory movies, alien encounter clips, and other random obscurities.

My brother was a great support to me in this period, holding a safe space for me to move through this process, giving me room and permission to wallow without judging me, as if he knew all along that I wouldn't allow myself to linger for too long in this place of self-pity.

"I don't feel like doing anything, or seeing anyone today," I would announce gloomily. "Then don't!" was his cheerful reply.

I've never understood people who have had challenges with "depression", rather heartlessly writing the condition off as a sign of a weak and undisciplined mind. It's not. It is very real, and can be very scary - even to the most self-aware individuals. Depression is a very elusive, seductive creature: it beckons silently to you, lulling you into a sense of security and then drowning you in your own heavy thoughts. I can see now how the weight of it all could quickly add up and become unbearable, especially without the love and support of family and friends around you.

After a week or two of moping around the house all day and feeling lousy, I forced myself to get out into the sunshine, into nature, and do something, anything I could find joy in. This is when I started blogging, volunteering, hiking, sailing, swimming, surfing....anything to get me out of the house and having fun.

This was also a time to make peace with some lingering open wounds upon my heart, and move on into the next
phase of relationship where you allow yourself to enjoy a person for who they are, wherever they are at, warts, old hurts, and all. After a two-year absence, I returned to Maui for Chinese New Year's Celebrations, which had become such a big part of my previous life, and was welcomed back with open arms, as if I had never left.

So it was there that I met The Canadian, her travel companion Kristen, and their chaperone [the perpetually hungover] Knuckles Tulio while stealing away to the hot-tub to relax muscles sore from a day's worth of Lion Dance and Kung-Fu performances. After two years fighting tooth-and-nail against brain cancer, Jill has recently lost the most important person in her life , and has embarked upon a journey to "rediscover both what's important to me and what makes me who I am." You can read her blog by clicking here.

Here I am, after moping around for the last month or so about losing everything, reawakened and finally enjoying all the beauty of life surrounding me... my breath is knocked out of me and silent tears stream down my face as I discover her story and see Facebook photos of good times....recent good times....shared with a loved one who has only recently left us. And again, I am reminded of what is truly important, and how lucky I really am. And of how beautiful, cruel, and beautiful life can be.

That experience has humbled me, and deepened my appreciation for the beauty of people and places surrounding me. I hope I never lose this perspective.

We're never really alone, are we? Our experiences may feel like we are the only ones going through this, indeed who has ever and will ever go through whatever it is that we are going through at that time... but the fact is that we are all more similar than we are diferent. We can find more that we relate to in others, than we can often find in ourselves. There is comfort and solace in the bond that exists between those who have had a shared, or shared a similar exerience. And we are all sharing a very similar experience - it's called the human experience.
"Are we human beings having a spiritual experience?
Or are we spiritual beings having a human experience?"

-overheard at a cafe, a long time ago-

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The Canadian has been traveling throughout Australia spending time with friends across the continent, blogging about her journeys here. The plan is to meet up in Melbourne, and head down to Tassie to share the cost of a campervan to explore the island for a week.

I've organized a stay with Peter Bedford, whose CouchSurfing profile says that he lives on 60 acres of wild bush in the mountains of Tasmania where "he and his family and working towards creating a self-sufficient lifestyle." Sounds wild.

The Guidebook to Hiking in Tasmania that I bought describes some amazingly beautiful multi-day treks, which I hope to somehow accomplish despite our lack of cold-weather gear. There is no agenda other than to explore, experience, and explore some more.

I am really looking forward to getting on the road again with new friends, and to making even more new friends, and to learning whatever lessons Tasmania has in store.

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