The Journey Home…A Personal Quest.

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

– Matsuo Basho

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you’ve probably sensed that I’ve been grappling with something. Something like a whole lot of random puzzle pieces, and wondering why they won’t all fit together. Arranging and rearranging them and then darting down another wombat tunnel (these are rather long and extensive by the way) searching for another missing piece, hoping that this time, I’ll finally be able to see the entire picture. Or, at the very least, have all four corners and the edge pieces in place.

Fueling this quest has been a sense that something isn’t quite right, which might’ve been blown off as anxiety or misplaced perfectionism if the story had been a little different.

Scan10098

The Good Little Girl.

Of course, the general recommendation was “to go with the flow”. The only trouble being, that I was beyond the flow. Moreover, nobody ever presented me with a map or gave me any directions whatsoever to try to find the flow, let alone a lift. Indeed, since whenever, I’ve never gone with the flow or even known what it was.  Hence, why I’ve called my blog “Beyond the Flow”.

Rowena 1981

Here I am in Year 6 aged 12. The Serious Student.

Lately, this sense of not going with the flow re-positioned itself, and I felt more like I was living in between the lines where I perhaps don’t belong to either group but see something in between that other people miss. This perspective is also rather interesting when you look at it from a visual perspective, as you’re inhabiting that white space between two sentences. Not that I can actually read either sentence, as I’m up too close. It’s all a blur. I’m just there. Indeed, I could well be fast asleep, and quite at peace in what actually seems an uncomfortable, or even isolating position.

Rowena Dressing up

I used to love dressing up and performing. My brother and I put on little shows at home.

By the way, I didn’t say that I was alone. I’m not. Indeed, I’m actually starting to wonder just how many of us hover in between worlds not really knowing where we belong and yearning to find our home. Or, perhaps we/they have reached a point of acceptance, or even giving up, and have pitched a tent where they are and set up camp.

For many of us, there’s a complicating factor which heightens this sense of living in between the lines. Of not going with the flow. Even, grappling to know who we are within our own skin, before we can even attempt to work out how we can find our place in the outside world.

Scan10439

The Irrepressible University Student. You can see I’ve jumped right out of my box by now.

Personally, my struggle to know and understand myself raised up into something of a tsunami wave, after I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain when I was 26. Apparently, it had been there since birth, but randomly became symptomatic in my mid-20s. Suddenly, thanks to my diagnosis, I had an explanation for being quirky, uncoordinated, and not fitting in. Better still, I had a cure. A magic fix. I had brain surgery and was given a shunt, which not only reduced the pressure in my brain and improved my coordination, it also felt for a time like the lights had gone out. Indeed, I started to believe that the theatrical, extroverted independent woman I had always been, was largely the fabrication of this disease. That all this pressure in my head, had made me disinhibited. That at least some percentage of who I thought was me, was in actual fact the disease stepping into my shoes and even inside my very skin and taking over.

Poetry Reading

Performing My Poetry in Paris in 1992.

This, of course, left the door open for way too many questions, and they not only moved in, but also made themselves at home.

Indeed, it left many doors and pathways open as I grappled to find some rock solid sense of myself. That core at the very centre of my being. The bit that is left, when you remove and take off all the layers and external forces and just is.

“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”

Eckhart Tolle

Much of this exploration has either been unconscious, or going on in the background while I’m getting on with the realities of life. If you’ve lived with this , you’ll know what I mean when I say the front screen is running but there’s another screen running behind closed doors, behind the curtain, or even somewhere at the back of your eyeballs (the eyes being the window of your soul). I never intended to live and operate like this, and I must admit it’s been very frustrating. I’ve really struggled to know quite who I am, and then to confound it further, I developed a debilitating auto-immune disease, which side-swiped me like a massive monster truck. Of course, it didn’t stop to see if I’m okay, or to even help me get my bearings. It just kept going.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Aristotle

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been niggling with this in the background and moving very much by feel. I feel comfortable, belong and really thrive in some settings, but in others, I shrivel up and am almost screaming in my skin to escape. I feel awful. There doesn’t need to be an explanation. Indeed, there often isn’t one.

Performance Queanbeyan 1886

 

I am coming to wonder whether it’s been this struggle within myself, which has taken me so deeply inside my family history. Indeed, now that I’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle, it feels like this is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. It wasn’t a coincidence that I wanted to swing from the chandelier. Or, that I wanted the be an actress right through high school (in addition to being a journalist). There was this pull from somewhere deep within my DNA, which didn’t connect with Mum and Dad or anybody in the near vicinity. However, deep within the lines of historic newspaper text, there it was. My grandmother’s grandmother performed in an amateur Minstrel Show in Queanbeyan, near Canberra. While it wasn’t New York, the programme was printed in the newspaper, and she wasn’t only the pianist. She was also acting. Indeed, Lizzie Johnston was playing Louisa in a romantic farce: The Rival Lovers. Finally, I had permission and acknowledgement of who I’ve always been. A constant beyond the ups and downs of life and collisions with life-threatening illnesses. An extrovert who doesn’t need a stage to perform, and can even perform in words upon the page, just like my kids sing and dance across the stage. Indeed, I don’t need a drink to perform a on stage either. Rather, I need someone to tie me to my seat in the audience.

Of course, that is not to say we’re pre-determined by our genes. However, personally I found it very encouraging that someone else in my family has been down this road, and I’m not crazy. That it wasn’t the result of too much pressure on the brain. It’s simply me. Moreover, there are quite a few performers on both sides of my extended family tree.

Aunty Rose & Kookaburra.JPG

My Great Great Aunt, Rose Bruhn, owned an elite hair and beauty salon in Brisbane but could also make kookaburras laugh on command, had a budgie who recited reams of Shakespeare. She appeared with them at charity fundraisers where she also performed poetry and she played the violin.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost.

Rowena Lizottes

The humble violinist. I was actually a rank beginner when this photo was taken, but I have an in-built sense of theatre.

However, I’m not sure that this discovery is going to change a hell of a lot. These days, I’m pretty content with what I’ll call “my lot”. I’ve been doing some performances on my violin, which isn’t quite the same as jumping out of a cake or swinging from a chandelier, but I now understand a little better why I wanted to perform, and wasn’t content to only play alone at home.

While this journey is incredibly personal, and having problems with your brain isn’t something to brag about, it was a story that needed to be shared. While it’s been a catharsis for myself, I wanted to reach out to people grappling with similar issues, and hold your hand. We are not alone.

The Missing Piece

Lastly, I wanted to share an animation of a favourite book of mine by Shel Silverstein: The Missing Piece . It might be simple, but it’s very profound.

If this post connects with you in any way, I would love to hear from you via the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

9 thoughts on “The Journey Home…A Personal Quest.

  1. maxwellthedog

    I meant to ask one day why you named your blog “Beyond the Flow” but I kept forgetting to pose the question. Well, I guess it makes sense that DNA and genetics and stuff could be why you love to perform. It certainly is behind the reason I like beer. I mean, generation after generation of Irish ancestors, you know. 🙂 Anyway, it sounds as though your searching and questioning is not only revealing new and enlightening information but is energizing you and providing an intriguing activity, not that you really need more things to do.

  2. Wolf of Words

    Yes, a lot of this resonates with me too. I also hear similar stories from Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and her Bloggess Tribe of which I am a member.

  3. Gary A Wilson

    Hi Rowena,

    I found many points you made resonating with my own experience. I have had no medical shockers as you did, but found other things to trip over or just be frustrated with. Mine has been a life as if most things were setup for someone other than me, populated by folks who could be friends, even good friends, but few were those who I thought really understood me and fit well in my life. I think I frustrated far more who were kind enough to want to know me, but I managed to make it difficult for them somehow.

    Instead of your medical adventures starting in your 20s, I became a religious man. That helped in many ways, mostly by allowing me to not be the final judge of things and releasing me from sensing that I had to bend rules to make something right in my eyes. By my mid 20s, I was frustrated with my own ability to help where I wanted to help and was seeking after much more wisdom than I clearly had.

    Since my unicycle and boomerang days in jr. high school, I’ve been a thinker, but it took me a long time to sort through even that. Writing helps (doesn’t it?) and imposes a certain discipline that clarifies things. What I’m finding helpful also, are the recorded thoughts of others traveling a similar road. Also, I’ve found that being helpful to others, in any fashion, satisfies an sense of being worth the air I consume. For me, that starts with being able to make someone smile or laugh to get a moment of enjoyment from life.

    You know, I doubt people like us, will ever find and correctly assemble all the pieces of this puzzle because – they are not meant to ever be one unified image or state. Perhaps, we are made clever enough to manage our collection of pieces to somehow improve the lives of people we somehow manage to touch.

    If that be true – I can live with, and be satisfied with it, but will regret not being able to drop in that last piece of a finished puzzle. I think someone telling me thanks for the laugh or help will always feel better than completing any puzzle anyway. Keep working at it. I believe you are leaving a better world with more peace in your wake that you might realize.

    Just my thoughts.
    Blessings
    Gary

  4. New Journey

    My uncle, My others brother has done the family tree on her side of the family, its been interesting to read about some of my ancestors., like you, at least I know that I have inherited my ability to be little on the quirky side, and was so amazed at the resemblance of the woman in the family I am glad you are finding your solid ground, it does make a difference to find that one person in the family, no matter how far back you go is more like yourself than anyone living. Blood is thicker than water, as they say. and if you want to swing from a chandelier my friend I will pull the chair out for you and swing you back and forth myself, as I a sure Jeff would too!! XXX

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thank you my friend. I am actually going on a little holiday this week all by myself to stay with one of my distant family history cousins I really click with. I can’t wait as I really need a break and just to download all the responsibilities for a few days. Managing my daughter’s schedule with all the dancing is challenging. So worried that I’m going to make a mistake or sleep in or something. Meanwhile, I’m required to be super-human. BTW I just posted a very interesting family history story. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about John Johnston, but he turned out to have a second family living not very far away from the second (ours). I was in shock! Here’s the link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/a-shocking-case-of-bigamy/
    I’d better get to bed.
    Hope you’ve had a great weekend.
    xx Ro

  6. Rowena Post author

    Thank you so much for the encouragement, Speak 766. I apologise for my slow response, as I went away without my laptop and just wanted to enjoy the time away without distractions.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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