There is an old Cherokee legend that for some reason has always stuck in my head. It is a fable of life. In our life, we have two wolves; the evil wolf carries everything negative in our life and the good wolf carries everything positive. The evil wolf is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity, resentment, lies, false pride, ego and every other scum sucking thing you can think of. The good wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, truth, compassion and every other rainbow and unicorn emotion that crosses your mind. The fable says that inside of us we all have these two wolves constantly fighting. A young boy asks his grandfather which wolf will win and the wise grandfather answers, quite simply, “the one you feed.”
I might not have got the fable exactly right, but at present I feel like I have a monumental battle going on in my life, along the same lines between Pollyanna and Gollum.
I have a group of friends, I like to sometimes call them my little secret society or my magic society but that might be just a sign that I read too much Enid Blyton when I was little. We all have code names, another sign that I perhaps read too much Nancy Drew, as they are only nicknames. My nickname is Polly. Polly being short for Pollyanna. I was nicknamed Pollyanna because I believe in rainbows and unicorns and magic. I believe the cup is always half full and that things will always get better. I like everyone I meet, even dickheads, until of course they prove themselves to be dickheads, then I am forever shocked and confused how I could not pick the fact that the person was a dickhead. Tiney would have been a good member in my secret club as she always maintained I was a terrible judge of character. But I guess I would rather be shocked by someone than expect the worst.
My problem is that I seem to have lost Pollyanna. Or I only catch glimpses of her. Maybe when I am walking, or it is a misty morning and the road ahead of me looks like it might lead to a magic land. I catch a glimpse of something beautiful and before I know it I have this creature called Gollum whispering in my ear and I lose sight of her completely. This all-encompassing beast of grief that seems to surround me every minute, I have nicknamed Gollum. He is insidious, he is slimy, he is sneaky. Sometimes he is very small and I feel like he is a leech attached to my ankle, other times he is large and I feel that he can wrap his scaly, slimy arms around me and press so hard on my chest I find it hard to breathe.
I hate the fucker. He sits with me in the shed when I start to cry he starts to whisper in my ears, questions of why and statements that I will never feel the same. Sometimes he crawls under my skin so that every part of me hurts and at night I feel him gnawing at my limbs so that I am in so much pain I feel a part of me has gone but I wake up and nothing is missing. Sometimes, just for fun he punches a hole in my chest and rips out my hearts and he stands there dripping in filthy slime, squeezing my heart little by little so I feel that I have nothing left and I will never fill the hole the he just put in my body. I hate the fucker. He is cruel and relentless and he is with my all the time. I sometimes feel that I have a hump on my back and that hump is Gollum.
Pollyanna and Gollum are battling in my life right now. I keep on remembering the wise Indian man’s response, “the one that you feed, is the one that I will win.” The thing is I am not feeding Gollum anything. I don’t want to feed that bastard anything. Yet I am giving Pollyanna everything I have got. I put on my coat of bravery every morning and head out with my dogs and kids and try to start the day with something beautiful. I stay healthy, I am eating well, I force myself to go through the motions always trying to hold onto that image of Pollyanna, then that arsehole Gollum slides his way into my brain, between my fingers or toes, wherever he can get. He seems to suck the life out of me and fill me with such sadness and despair that it is hard to keep holding onto Pollyanna. I go to bed every night and whisper to myself that I have survived another day. I also whisper to Polly, “fight harder Polly, fight harder”. When I try to close my eyes, Gollum lies next to me, eyes open, staring into my brain.
The kids and I don’t really talk about our trip. I asked Archie one day why he didn’t and he told me that it made him think of Tiney. I was asked by one of my secret society the other night to tell them about Carlos the crazy Costa Rican with an erection in the jungle and I realised it was the first time I have ever really been able to talk about any part of my trip. We spent 9 months away, having an amazing trip and it seems to have been lost somewhere in a place that is too hard to talk about. I think Gollum collected the memories and keeps them in his knapsack and occasionally dangles a memory in front of my eyes before hissing something at me that makes me hurt. He likes to hiss at me, that maybe if I hadn’t of gone away, that maybe I wouldn’t have lost Tiney. Maybe, he hisses, maybe it is all your fault, maybe dearie things would have been different if you had not gone away.
I have been giving myself things to do. I like to make lists. Many of my lists don’t get touched, but making lists makes me feel that I have a future to attend to and lots of things to do. One of the things I attended to last week was to save every single one of my blog posts onto my google drive. The google drive is all connected to the cloud and I always wave my arm in an abstract direction skywards when I mention the cloud. I have never trusted the cloud. It all seemed a bit too strange to me for everyone’s everything to be saved up there in the sky. However, I learnt a valuable lesson when my main USB stopped working in the States. It contained all my photos since the kids and I moved to Tenterfield, all my cakes, my numerous jottings, photos of our travels thus far. It contained my life. A quote in the States by some tech guru was for $1000 to even look at it and I thought to myself ‘fuck that, I should have used the cloud,” as I waved my arm vaguely towards the sky.
From that day, onwards I started using Google Drive and on my return to Australia my wonderful tech guru husband-in-law saved all the content on my USB stick and advised me that I should be using the cloud. I once again waved my hand skywards and nodded that I was very tech savvy.
So, last week, to keep myself busy I went through the process of saving all my blog posts to the cloud. Going through my posts was a big process. I had Pollyanna on one hand clapping her hands in glee at some of the moments we had experienced and Gollum on the other side of me whispering in my ear, “you had a great trip dearie, what if you hadn’t of gone, would things have been different you bitch?” No matter how many times I slapped the bastard down, he kept on crawling back onto my shoulder, leaving his trail of slime glistening down my back.
It all came flooding back. The times with friends in the States, swimming in Narragansett Bay. Baseball games. Being completely overwhelmed by our arrival in New York City and then finding a new way of life of throwing away maps and timetables and getting lost in Central Park. I have visions that will stay in my head forever of the kids in the water features, the sprays of water like diamonds in the sky as the sun set behind them.
Visiting Martin Luther King’s memorial as Rissie trailed her hands in the Reflecting pool and Archie played a piano with the backdrop of a huge photo of Martin Luther King. Listening to Gospel that reduced me to tears. Heading to Costa Rica with the crazy bus trips, the tour guides with erections, the thousands of dogs that followed us and we could not help loving. Rice and beans, teaching English to the little assassin.
Returning the America for a magic Christmas with friends. Discovering the Athenaeum, walking in a blizzard, seeing the magic of a snow-covered land. Finally making it onto the ice in New York City wearing that beautiful red coat in my head. Marching against Trump the day after the inauguration and watching the kids scream with all their might “Rise up!” and shaking our hips to the band that sang, “keep your tiny hands off my underpants!”
The closer I got to Italy the more that Gollum tightened his hold on my chest. That amazing month with Mum and Phil. Rome, Pompeii, Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Matera. Magical Matera which I will hold in my heart as one of the most truly beautiful places I have ever visited. Beautiful Florence, which grabbed me and held me to its heart as probably my favourite city in Italy.
Finally, Tuscany. The closer I got to the end, the sadder I got. Allora. Allora. Sometimes there is nothing else to say. The beautiful simple life we had there in that medieval walled village with an incredible group of people who welcomed us into their family. To me life in Italy felt so simple. Gelato. Allora. What more can one say. I wrote in Italy and finished a manuscript that I asked Tiney to proofread, it basically ended with the fact that I had never been happier. Tiney told me the same thing, that she had never been happier. At this Gollum jumps on my shoulders and claps his hands in glee covering me with slime and despair. What happened then you fool, what happened then?
One month later I was writing about how death had changed me. In the space of a month it seemed that my world had been turned upside down, everything had gone topsy turvy and try as I might I can’t even remember the pure happiness I was experiencing by the time I got to the end of my time in Italy.
Life is different now. Every day seems a struggle. I seem to put every ounce of my life into pretending to be strong, especially for the kids and finding the energy to give Polly enough food to smash Gollum in the face, or to at least keep him away from me to give me some moments of peace. But Polly is not around as much as she used to be. She is there at sunrise and the occasional sunset, when the kids say something funny, she helps me smile. But all the while, I have this insidious bastard of a creature wrapping his long arms and fingers around my head and my arms, whispering in my ears, things, like what if, and why and you know the pain will never leave you don’t you dearie? His whispers leave slime on my face that I find hard to remove.
My life has become a battleground. I feel I need to make Pollyanna stronger. Like Carol in the Walking Dead when she got organised and defeated the cannibals at the Terminus. I feel like I need to make Pollyanna more like Joan of Arc with chest plates and swords and sharp things to kill evil creatures. I know that most importantly I must keep feeding her the simplest of things like love, and the hope that resides in my soul like a religion. Someday I think Gollum will be with me forever. I just hope that he gets beaten down to something small and weak and insignificant, so when he does open his filthy mouth that Pollyanna can put her little foot on his head and grind it into the ground. That she can say hush now Gollum, today is not your day.
Fight harder, I keep whispering to Polly. Please fight harder.