Sunday, November 13, 2011

A thousand feelings

When it comes to the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words I often wonder what the number is for feelings that an image can elicit.

The spare time I've had these last few days have been spent organising a stack of photos I finally had printed back in May, into newly-purchased photo albums. Because I can be pedantic about dates and correct sequences, I had to check every single one of these photos with the information on iPhotos.

Somehow - between May and now - this large stack of photos had been rifled through and mixed up. Badly. Did I mention that some of these photos date as far back as early 2008? That's a shite load of photos to be sorting, and each day ended with a headache.

That's at least three and a half years of photos.

Three and a half years of my life, captured, in images.

The oldest photos in the stack were, in some ways, the hardest to look at. That year was all kinds of fucked up for us.

We moved house. A close family member attempted suicide, and of course there was fall out from that. We also had to urgently find day care for the Faery (in an area with long waiting lists), while trying not to miss out on badly needed days of work. Our computer died. Then, J was made redundant (without a payout). I had to switch to working full time while he looked for a job, knowing that my salary would never be able to cover all we needed.

All kinds of fucked up.

Looking through the photos from that period, I had strong physical reactions. Seeing the faded hallway carpet patterns, I could smell the rising damp and mouldy ceilings of our first winter - in what turned out to be a hideously drafty house that we'd moved into.

Seeing the golden sunset glow on the bricks of the back of the house, and the large frangipani tree in the back corner of the yard, I can taste the wine we sipped at once we'd put the Faery to bed. An end of working-week treat.

Seeing the front door open, I'm reminded of the strong winds that barrelled through it and also down the side passage of the house - winds that came up one side of the hill that this house was perched on, bitter in winter but blowing my washing dry in no time.

Seeing photos of the Faery playing on the painted kitchen floorboards, I felt the urge to scrape the white flecks of paint that stuck to the soles of my feet in those first few weeks there - a result of the landlord's cheap DIY before we moved in.

Seeing the light green kitchen walls, I can smell the cooking I did. I also feel the walls' stickiness - from lack of adequate ventilation (no extraction fan above the stove). I can also taste the distinct worry that comes with not having enough money. Not knowing when things would improve. A tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. All. The. Time.

This period was only three years ago, and I can feel it so clearly... but it also feels further back in time. We got through it, and so much else has happened - starting with another move, then another baby, a fantastic job for J (after several false starts with some shitty companies), and that job being the reason for our biggest move of all.

The photos from the newer chapter have a shiny glow to them in comparison, even though everything was printed at the same time. It's purely my perception.

Moving to a new city, a new country... things tend to have a shine for a while. The shine of newness. Adventure. Plus, the feeling of relief that we aren't in the position we were only a few years ago. We didn't run away, but anyone who knows us well understands that we needed a fresh start, and a chance to maybe even get ahead one day. With the industry that J had been employed in, if we'd stayed in Sydney, I'm pretty sure we'd still be stuck on Struggle Street today.

Things are a little less shiny now, but it's still good. There's hope, and one day we'll return to Sydney - winners, not losers.

This has been my headspace over the last few days. Reflective, and grateful that the stomach-churning anxiety of that time is gone (mostly, because I'll always find something to fret about).

I'll never underestimate the impact a photo can have.


  1. Oh man, this was even hard to read for ME so I can only imagine the thousand feelings the photos conjure for you.

    But now you're here. And the Faery WAS stinkin' cute. So the photos aren't all bad.

    I'm glad you guys got a fresh start. It was timely indeed.

  2. You're going to think I'm a weirdo.

    I'm in a bad headspace right now so what am I doing? Listening to sad music and trawling the blogs of friends for inspiration.

    I remember reading this last year when you posted it. Why didn't I comment then? I'm sorry for that. I can empathise very much with a lot of what you've posted. I've lived in too many rentals that are like this place.

    I also have almost visceral reactions to images and other things that trigger recollections of times past. The old rental in Thornbury was like that for me. The smell of damp, the long winter prior to R's birth, no money, marital discord, being ill with pneumonia and feeling helplessly trapped by circumstance. I still can't look at a lot of pictures from that time without feeling myself fall back into that hole.

    What keeps me going at times like this is remembering that I can come out of these times with my soul intact. I can and I will. I just have to keep going and try not to let the feelings get so big that they overwhelm me. Learning, still learning even in middle age. =)

    Your photographs still show a practised eye. They may have been unhappy times but the images are still beautiful to behold.

    1. I could never think you're a weirdo. Never. I'm sorry to hear you're in a bad space - those times seem to come around more often than we'd like to see them, don't they?

      I'm guessing that a Melbourne winter is playing some part in that bad headspace? I hope that whatever the root of it is, it's gone very soon. And yes, your soul will come out intact. You have an emotional intelligence like no one else I know.

      Time to crack open some chocolate? xxx