The flip side

Thursday 24 April, 2014:

Yesterday, I think to myself, was like leafing through the back catalogue of all my most bummed out moments.

And this thought gives me a little more balance. I can see that my response isn’t, strictly speaking, about Sheree at all. Not that I’m unaffected by the vibe. But that actual feeling of panic, hovering just above my solar plexus – it’s much, much more complex. Not complicated exactly, just complex. Over-determined by layers and layers of responses to other situations, going as far back as I can remember.

Just thinking about it now brings up some of those old patterns. But it’s kind of ok, because today’s more ‘neutral’, I guess.

So I let myself dwell on my fears a bit more. This time I consciously try to make a mental list of those times when I’ve felt the same hollowing, emptying, panic inside of me, turning my body to chalk and water. I try to list ten times; I easily get to 25, and right then I’m grateful, because I know without a doubt it’s not only about Sheree.


But after that, something interesting occurs. I try to create a counter-list of situations where there’s been the ‘opposite’ feeling, though I don’t quite know what it is, or should be. First things I think of are just… times I’ve felt loved; times someone stayed, you know? Recalling those moments brings tears rushing to my eyes for a second – but then I shake my head, because I know that isn’t really it.

Those are good moments, when you feel safe because it seems like you’re loved by someone else. But on their own, they’re like the flip side of those other times – because if that’s all you’re relying on for your happiness and safety, well it’s no guarantee. You can’t make anyone love you, and I know that.

And gradually, something else just steps in, quietly. Other moments, and other memories:

  • The first meeting of the ‘Graffiti Committee’, with Dimario at my side.
  • The afternoon that I called on Inia’s lawyer, Lena Tamaleiagi – and we walked up to the boardroom with Inia and Noa.
  • The evening, in driving rain, when Esau, Kost, Zion and I assembled for Zion’s disciplinary meeting.
  • The day that Slade and Zion and I held an impromptu meeting of our own to discuss Karys’s machinations.
  • The way La-Verne and I patiently got our ducks lined up, ahead of the reconvening of the Board.
  • The feeling I got listening to the Board chair’s voicemail, in which she ‘postponed’ (effectively cancelling for all time) that same meeting.

I didn’t have to feel loved, in those times. But I was conscious of something else: a sense of personal power, and the knowledge that I wasn’t alone.

That feeling’s the opposite of hollow panic and fear – and it signals a belief in my own sufficiency. It isn’t the feeling that comes from being loved. But nor does it mean having to be strong all alone, either. It proceeds further by choosing to stand shoulder to shoulder with others.


I’m thinking about all this, as Sheree turns up and sits in the sleepout again. And while I’m more aware of my own reactions today, it still makes my brain kind of ache – to have to deal with them so intensively.

When I go to the gym, I practice saying it to myself first, before I tell Sheree that I’ll take her home when I get back. I don’t ask her if I can take her home, I say, “I’ll drop you off home when I get back from the gym, it’ll be about 6:30.”

My heart’s pounding as I say these words. I don’t want a confrontation – and I feel perilous at the thought of upsetting Tau. But I have to start setting some boundaries around this. And even if I didn’t have the additional feeling of my own buttons being pushed – I would still want to set some boundaries, because this is my home: my preferences; my decisions. I know now that if I give Sheree an inch of decision, she’ll just start setting her own boundaries.

I’m half expecting her to demur and say no, she’ll catch the bus later. I’ve gone over my response if she does. But to my relief, there are no arguments, she just nods and thanks me.

Ok – so it’s better than yesterday. And at some level, I guess I find it interesting.


I drop Sheree off, then start cooking dinner. Tau comes in and hums and haws for a bit, and fiddles with the remote control – and I can see he wants to ask me something.

“You algood Tau?” I say.

“Yup,” he tells me, and then, “What time is it, Miss?”

“Around 7?” I venture. “Why’s that?”

“Ohh nah, algood… just gonna go Ellis Rd, Miss,” says Tau (this is the new location of High Times: Tau thinks the owners must have wanted to get rid of the hustlers who stood around its door all day and hassled the paying customers).

“Want a ride, Tau?” I say. “I’ve only just started making tea – I can come back and do it after.”

“Oh, yes please,” he says. “If that’s ok.”

So I take Tau to the K2 shop, which happens to be right next to a dairy – where I get bread, milk and three litres of soft drink. I haven’t planned to.. but then I can’t handle not having bread and milk on Anzac day morning, with no stores open. The drink is more of an afterthought – just because the bread and milk is pretty cheap; the whole deal costing just a couple of dollars more than the supermarket.


Friday 25 April:

I don’t sleep from around 1:30 onwards. My mind aches with the effort of all this. I say I don’t want to second-guess things, but in the middle of the night.. maan, that’s all I’m doing, without wanting to; without even trying to.

My thoughts track like this, over and over: Is Sheree going to come over today, and stay in the sleepout all day, and if she does, what will I say.. and how will I say it? And what happens if I do?

My mind presses on, into all the possible ramifications and outcomes. And I think how I need to get some peace in my heart.


Around 9, I run Tau up to Ellis. But it’s closed; he looks rather aghast at this fact. Anzac day and all, so maybe it’ll open up at 1 – who knows?

When we get back I rake up the leaves and twigs on the drive, meanwhile Tau and Leroi scratch around for all the scraps of K2 in the shed, to try make enough for a bucky. They’re actually laughing about it though, and then after a while, they come out and help me sweep up the leaves and get them into a kleensak, just before it starts raining.

Tau comes in and does some organising and deployment of kitchen paraphernalia, re the heating up of the newly reconstituted K2. It’s pretty interesting to watch, and I cook my noodles at the same time, with Rachel Ray on in the lounge.

“Tau’s Kitchen…” I remark, apropos of Rachel Ray.

“K2 Kitchen,” Tau replies, laconically, as he prods at the synthetic cannabis which is heating on an inverted pot lid, over a pan of steaming water.

We look at one another and snort with laughter.


A big fat bumblebee just flies in, and for some reason I google the symbolism:

Bees continue to be a symbol of unified family when we learn about the queen. Worker bees elect a queen, and take special care of her until she matures. All the members of the hive work together to support the queen. They do this in order for the queen to insure new life, and continuation of the colony. This is symbolic of a family working together for the benefit of the group. It’s symbolic of teamwork too. The bee often comes to us when we need reminding that there is no “I” in “teamwork”. When the bee pays us a visit, we may need to self-evaluate. Are we more concerned with being “right” or having our own needs met than being concerned for our community? Bees in our awareness might be telling us to sacrifice our own needs or pride for the needs of others in our lives.

I find this all so interesting, to think about. And not comfortable, not comfortable at all. But it does resonate with me. ‘Two contradictory ideas’: compassion… and boundaries. I need to remember them both.



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