Now that I have started, I simply can’t stop. My thoughts are continually racing, I have so many ideas and memories that have suddenly arrived in my consciousness that they wake me at night. They inexplicably merge as I blindly scribble on a notebook that has taken up residency in my bedside drawer. Once my left brain goes to sleep, the creative right side sits bolt upright. A literary bomb erupts in my head. A title is born; words gel and sentences stream. If I don’t write the flood of brain waves down, they will vanish by morning. Regurgitated back into my hippocampus and possibly never retrieved.
There is this inexplicable new sense of urgency to write. To turn the fifty-four year old mindbank of floating personal data into cemented text. Stuff that defines me. Random experiences that influence my existence. People and places that are etched in my soul. Objects that speak to me and facts I don’t want to be going to the grave with. I want to put it all down. Not with a pen and paper - that gets messy, as evidenced by my nocturnal conduct, when in darkness I have transferred the lightbulb moments onto a blank page. In the morning I have to decipher the chicken scratch! Fingers to keyboard is so much easier; it's legible, has an instant spell check, I can cut and paste, and is miraculously auto saved. Plus, there is a delete button.
My appreciation of language has grown as I have matured. My Dad was a Latin and French Scholar and taught both subjects at a high school in Invercargill, New Zealand until he retired in 1995. He encouraged me and my siblings to do both. At first, I felt so clever learning new languages although to be perfectly honest, I had no idea when I would ever use them. I’m very linear. I have to know the ‘why’. If you want me to learn something you better have a really good explanation of the benefits it will bring to me. The ‘you never know when you may need this’ doesn’t cut the mustard. So before long I felt like I was being poked in the eyes with a hot stick. Feelings similar to my relationship with Math. Isn’t addition, subtraction, division and multiplication enough? I get the need for percentages, ratios, decimals and fractions, but Algebra? Pi? When on earth will I ever need those?
Math was torturous. My dreadful marks in high school are proof of that. Latin, in comparison - and in hindsight - was at least intriguing. There are so many words derived from Latin, especially in the medical world. It finally made some sense when faced with all those therapeutic abbreviations and terms as I trained to be a nurse. And the Greeks sure know how to write a good tragedy. Daedalus and Icarus is still an absolute favourite mythological story of mine. The kid with wings flying a little too close to the sun, they melted and he plunged to his death. Tragic but gorgeously memorable.
In French, I struggled with the tenses, conjugation and the whole feminine this and masculine that. Who had the smart idea that words need a gender? And, why are there always exceptions to the rules?
I never imagined I would live in a French-speaking city let alone actually have to use it to work and communicate with patients. Funny how life can suddenly take a totally unexpected route. But here I am. Jumping the language ‘police’ hurdle was one of my proudest moments in life. Although I still battle the grammatical aspect of the language, I can function. It is most definitely not my mother tongue and I do feel sorry for anyone being subjected to my attempts to converse. My kiwi accent has been a saviour at times. I’ve gotten away with murder (well, not literally!) as I hashed pronunciation and revealed my true identity. I subjected myself to several French refresher courses, often wondering if I had actually learnt any of the material at school. I had, but it had little relevance at the time so was parked in the long-term, no-need-to-use memory. Amazing how the human brain can make sense of something when it has a reason to.
English is so much easier, right? Although it is not up there in the top ten most difficult languages to learn (Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic hit that list) it is never-the-less challenging. We have a gift of having words that can mean a plethora of things depending on the context and its grammatical title. Take the word ‘bat’ for example. As a noun, it is a nocturnal creature or an object that can whack a ball. You can be batty ( strange and perhaps delusional), or be energetic ( like a bat out of hell) and even bat your eyelashes to attract attention. Try explaining that to someone learning the language. Then there’s the classics; ‘Their’, ‘there’ and they're’. ‘Two’, ‘to’ or ‘too’? Even the brightest English speaking souls have issues with these grammatical dilemma’s, including some of my dearest friends (you know who you are!) They are my absolute pet peeve when used and spelled incorrectly (or should that be spelt?!)
I digress. This was meant to be about my satiation to write! The pandemic has highlighted a lot of things for me and I am sure many others can relate. How much we take for granted; the unappreciated freedom to make decisions and to choose what to do, where to do it and with whom. No gatherings allowed. No pubs or restaurants open. No gyms to expend energy and remove those excess calories ingested or drunk. An 8pm to 5am curfew. Nothing exciting to look forward to or to do, but write.
The time factor; a ticking clock that is a constant reference and always in the background. Its dictatorship now loose; its followers more lost. Measured more by how long one was exposed to a deadly virus to establish risk; the painful seconds experiencing the nasal swab, the days waiting for test results or spent in mandatory isolation. Counting down weeks and months since our decision-making has been at the mercy of politicians, scientists and doctors from various branches of medicine as Covid ravages the world.
Time that seems to pass faster the older I get. The realization that I have more years behind me than in front of me is an incredibly sobering thought. Knowing that to reach self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs requires a more concentrated effort to accomplish given the fading time to do so. That my dreams will only become reality if I put myself out there and go for it. Because time does not stand still, even though I feel like it has in some ways. Such distinct and vivid memories of my childhood, my career and all the ups and downs associated with them. Wedged in my mind and now eager to burst onto a page.
I’m acutely aware that I seldom bothered to ask my mum stories about her childhood, her dreams and fears, her opinions or regrets. Her 76 years of life. My birth. And now I will never know. They were swallowed up into the ground she was scattered on after she passed. I don’t want my kids to experience that heartbreaking realization that I felt; that they didn't really know their mum.
The desperate need to venture into yet another creative outlet stems from this sense of responsibility hovering over me. There is much to be said and done before I meet my fate. Of course, I am hoping I have a few more years on this planet, but I have little control over that. Our new reality of masks, physical and social distancing seems to be here to stay for a long time. Admittedly, it does make me wonder if I’d be having a better time up in the clouds; I presume there is no Covid or as many rules up there. You pass the gates, you do whatever you want to do. Is it as confusing, scary and politically fraught as here? Honestly, I really am in no hurry to find out.
The scariest thing about writing is vulnerability. Once written and published, there is no going back. There are some things that are too personal to ever contemplate sharing. Everyone of us has a triple locked vault that NO ONE will ever get into. And that’s okay. Pinky swears come with a lifetime guarantee.
Your words, whether written or spoken, are up for commentary once shared. Personal thoughts and perspectives out in the open. They can ring true or hit a sore point. Do I care? Absolutely! I don’t want to offend or sound uneducated, naive, overly opinionated or arrogant. I just want to write. Stories, poems, contemplations, memories, experiences and observations.
And I will.