Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moments that mark time...

The 18th of July was an anniversary.  A tenth anniversary.  The anniversary of losing someone.  The only person I've lost.  In many ways I've been very lucky.  I haven't been to many funerals, and only really started going to them in my 30's.  I've been to the funerals of friends' parents, mostly to support my friends and have walked away knowing more out the departed than when I walked in.  But Robert is the only person I've lost.

We worked together.  We sat next to each other for over five years.  In that time, we talked about most things.  We had routines; on monday I would buy a few women's mags and we'd laugh and gossip and rejoice in Trashy Magazine Monday.  We talked about our families, recipes, houses, furniture, jobs, gardening, pets and partners.  He never really spoke of his illness much, but we pondered life and our place in it.  He was about 5 years older than me, and he was someone who quietly encouraged me and that I looked up to.  At work we were partners in crime.  Another friend at work used to call us her 'demented children'.

That same friend made sure everyone visited Robert when he eventually had to go into hospital, and then palliative care.  Some people seemed to handle this well, and could help dress or feed him.  I was in my early 30's and felt awkward and clumsy.  I didn't visit as often as I should, or would have liked to.  It just seemed so hard.  And then one morning at work I got a phone call from his partner to tell me he had died.  I was in shock.  Even though the last time I saw Robert he was barely conscious and physically fading away.  I spoke quietly to him, held his hand, and as I got up to leave, I kissed his forehead.  He tried to lift his head from the pillow and made a weird groaning noise.  I freaked out.  I look back now and laugh, wondering if he was trying to say something.  But maybe, nothing needed to be said.

His funeral was original and beautiful.  His coffin left to the sounds of Madonna's 'Like a Prayer', and I hugged another workmate and cried.  He was only 36.  We had a memorial at work, and a manager asked if I'd like to say something.  I prepared a speech, and to a full room I had my first public speaking gig.  People smiled, had a chuckle in the right places and also cried.  Even in death Robert was pushing me, and giving me new skills.

Some things he said to me stay with me to this day.  He said that I shouldn't compromise on everything in a relationship, and to fight for things important to me.  Believe it or not, this advice came from a discussion about a garden statue!  A beautiful sand coloured concrete replica of Botticelli's Birth of Venus, which I loved and my now Ex partner hated the idea of.  Venus was bought, and is still adored by me as she sits in the courtyard.  This notion that Robert instilled, came to me again as I travelled to the U.K.  Standing in the house that Shakespeare grew up in was inspiring.  In the giftshop I found a fridge magnet with something that has become one of my favourite quotes - from Hamlet  - 'This above all; to thine own self be true'.  It is a constant reminder not to lose myself.

It was a weird sensation turning 36.  This was the age at which he was frozen in time.  I had caught up to him.  And now I am 42 and older than Robert.  It is a strange thing to contemplate.  I often wish he was here, so I could get his perspective on things.  I also realise how much he has taught me in the ten years since his death.  He may have stopped aging, but he still has an influence on me.  I wish he was here so he could see who I am now, thanks in part to him.  One of the weirdest things is that his birthday was the 30th of January.  In the last few years I have met two great people who share that birthday.  One of them happens to be my husband.  I feel a kindred spirit, and share the same fun, support and chats about life with my new 30th of January buddies.  I am very grateful indeed for that.

I have spent a longer time with Robert being dead, than I did with Robert alive.  I think there are moments when anniversaries and numbers act as great reminders of important things.  And as sad as it is to look backwards and contemplate the loss, I also celebrate how this lovely person is still in my mind and life, influencing me.

Here's a photo of us from a work Christmas Party.  I miss you Bertie.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Love letter...

Peter and I saw Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris recently.  What a charming surprise it turned out to be.  Filled with beautiful scenery, great dialogue, a fun plot and, well, love...for Paris.  The whole movie just seemed like a love letter from Woody to Paris, and we were lucky enough to sneak a peak.  Interestingly, Woody Allen: a Documentary was on telly recently.  For someone like myself who has never really watched any Woody movies, it was fascinating.  The good, the bad and the ugly of Woody was all out for discussion.  If you were even just a little bit interested, grab yourself a copy.

But one thing I loved, was something Martin Scorsese said.  He said when he made a movie about New York, he made Taxi Driver - full of violence, grit and sleaze, but Woody makes a film about New York, and makes Manhattan.  Filmed in black and white with breathtaking vistas, street scenes and beautiful architecture all set to George Gershwin tunes.  Martin called it a love letter to New York.

By a weird coincidence, in that same week I saw a cartoon from the fabulous Oslo Davis.  In a play on Manhattan, he did a cartoon of 'Melbhattan', as if to show that same love for our own town of Melbourne.  All this made me think of how we can love places.  Peter and I go to the Malthouse Theatre a bit, and drive over Kings Way bridge to get there.  As we drive over the bridge, I look up the Yarra River and see the lights of my beautiful city.  It never fails to make my heart skip a beat.  Every. Single. Time.  It's one of my favourite views of Melbourne at night.  When Peter and I first got together, we decided to meet under the clocks at Flinders Street Station for our first kiss.  Everyone tells us 'what a Melbourne thing to do'.  There are so many wonderful spots in our city and for the most part I'm lucky to see the beautiful, romantic side...the Woody Allen side.

Over dinner with Peter's cousin (who grew up in Queensland and has recently moved to Melbourne), I was talking about the Great Ocean Road and Apollo Bay, in particular.  I called it my 'happy place'.  For me, driving along the winding roads, with sheer cliffs and ocean to the horizon puts my head in the right place.  Somehow feeling so small against the massiveness of nature puts things in perspective.  Maybe it's the fresh air, maybe it's the ocean tides putting my body clock back in rhythm or the fact I'm away from my normal life with space around me, I'm not sure.  But it is somewhere that makes me exhale as soon as I arrive.

I have only travelled a little bit, and feel a certain sense of love for London, Cornwall and some parts of Scotland.  Perhaps it comes from being a first generation Australian.  Knowing you are from somewhere else, gives you a connection with other places.  Like a 'sliding doors' moment of fate, where this place on the other side of the world could have been your home instead.  I know others from the diaspora who feel this too.  A weird connection with somewhere you've never really been, and a strange sense of coming home when you do eventually visit.

I am lucky enough to have found someone that I love dearly.  He is the first person I've met, that I thought I could follow anywhere.  If Peter had to move, or wanted to, I would go too.  I'd never felt this before.  I have always been quite anchored to my home town...well, city.  Funnily, we both love Melbourne so much that we couldn't think of living anywhere else.  Our sense of self is very much tied in with our sense of place.  I would love to travel more and we both place countries on our 'to do' list.  We'll get there one day, with a little luck.  But our home, our happy place, our love is Melbourne.  And this is just a tiny love note slipped to my beautiful city.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Waltz

I've been lucky enough to score myself a couple of free movie passes lately.  We enjoyed 'Wish you were here', a great australian suspense movie at an early sunday morning session.  If you missed it on the big screen, grab it on dvd.  This week we saw 'Take this Waltz', the new Michelle Williams movie. This is where I admit to having a soft spot for Michelle.  I wrote about another movie she was in (Blue Valentine) back in January 2011.  Similarly, this movie shows a failing marriage and what happens when love just doesn't seem enough.  Perhaps I should put in a spoiler alert here.

There have been quite mixed reviews of this movie, which seem to fall into either 'love it' or 'hate it' categories.  If you were expecting a jaunty rom-com, you would be disappointed.  Even if there are a few clunky moments to the film, I think overall it has much to offer. So much so, that I've been thinking about it for days.  So, the synopsis goes: Margot (Michelle) has been married to Lou (Seth Rogen) for five years.  He writes cookbooks and she writes for a local tourism website.  We see the love between Margot and Lou, but also the disconnect between them. While on location, Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) who just happens to be their new neighbour.  The spark between them is almost instant and the rest of the film explores the dance of 'will she / wont she'.

There are a few really beautiful scenes in this film, and some great dialogue.  When Margot and Daniel meet she explains that she's frightened of missing connections when she's traveling. She not scared of what will happen, but simply uneasy of being stuck in between places.  Daniel suggests she's 'afraid of being afraid'.  Later in the movie, in one of my favourite scenes, Margot is in a water aerobics class with her sister-in-law Geraldine (Sarah Silverman).  In the showers afterwards, Gerry states that she's thought about leaving her husband, but after ten years together she still likes him as a person.  She could leave him for someone new and shiny, but what's the guarantee she'd like them after ten years?  An elderly women, also in the showers, smiles knowingly offering that 'new things get old too'.

Just when you think Margot will stay in her marriage, she jumps.  Set to the song the movie was inspired by, Leonard Cohen's Take this Waltz, we see the camera spin around the room as Margot and Daniel have their first kiss.  We watch their relationship go from new and shiny, filled with adventurous sex and quiet comforts like reading books at each end of the couch.  They create their own home together and as comfort becomes comfortable, the bed is no longer the heart of the home.  It is replaced by the couch as they sit side by side watching television.  The idea of waltzing and circles is highlighted again by a scene identical to the opening scene in the movie, where Margot is baking muffins and then sits staring blankly into the oven.  What are we to make of this?  Has she left one relationship simply to end up in the same place?  In one scene Gerry yells at her, saying 'life has a gap in it, it just does.  You don't go crazy trying to fill it'.

Has Margot made a mistake?  In a way, the film leaves us to make up our own minds.  I think however, the very last scene gives us an insight into what Sarah Polley (the writer and director) thinks.  We see Margot on a fairground ride, spinning with her hair rushing, music pumping loudly (The Buggles' Video killed the radio star - which you'll have trouble getting out of your head for the rest of the day) and a smile on her face.  She is alone.  So what does it all mean?  We all see things through our own life experience.  And in this I see a woman who was in a relationship that made her nervous about life.  She jumped for something new and shiny, and although in a way she has ended up back in the same place, her smile while on the ride alone shows that she is happy within herself.  The choice and change was right for her.

This is of course my take on things.  And I guess anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog, knows that I jumped too.  In some ways, Gerry's claim that life has a hole in it is true.  You can't expect that gap to be filled by the right relationship, or job, or house or shoes!  Running after things won't make you feel differently about yourself.  You can however, aim to be in a relationship that doesn't make you anxious and allows you to be free and the person you are supposed to be.  That gap can only be filled by ourselves.  So perhaps the people who hated this movie wanted an escapist rom-com where you make a choice one way or the other and life is fireworks and excitement.  But I love it because it shows that even with the thrill of new and shiny, it's great to have love and contentment and happiness. Both within a relationship and within ourselves.