My life is broken up into before and afters and as each new before comes along another after fades into the background.
I know I don’t actively try to recall the befores. They’re just diary notes on a great cosmic calendar. There’s before journalism, then before marriage, before children and before a rather nasty health complication. That’s proven to be a big one.
I’ve always been aware of the way I catalogue my life and recently as I’ve followed Jacinda Ardern’s rise in New Zealand politics I’ve realised there are also a small handful of constant threads that have remained a straight course through the ups and downs.
She is one constant on the New Zealand political landscape that has been there since I can remember. She was there in the Auckland political landscape while my afters were playing out. It’s thrilling to see her as the leader of her party now. The focus here in Australia today is on her age. What they are neglecting to talk about is her decades in politics. Those decades filled with my befores and afters.
This has got me thinking about another big constant, writing. It’s been there through it all. Not an obvious partner, not even something I was aware of at the time. But it’s always been there and it’s clearly been coloured by all the befores.
I wrote this scene seven years ago lying in a hospital bed, my head spinning with nerves, anxiety, fear and a whole lot of steroids. The scene is still in the story I’m working on now.
“It was raining and it was hot so I looked up at the sky and let the rain fall on my face but then it was hard. The raindrops were slow and too big and it wasn’t my face they were landing on. It was the face of an old man. I bent over him to shelter his face but the water kept splashing in his eyes. He wouldn’t close them and I couldn’t shelter him. The man infant-like and skeletal at the same time, vulnerable. Then he twisted in convulsions. He was dying. I don’t know why I know that. I don’t know if it’s the rain that’s killing him. Then it stops, and it’s like the rain has frozen his face in this awful silent scream.’
Prior to the very large operation needed to rectify the health issue a fellow writer talked about surgery and how the very nature of the process is a violent attack on the body. But it’s also your friend. It is going to save your life. Befriending the process is key to a successful recovery. Not sure I did it well but I truly think the following is me coming to some kind of peace agreement with it.
The dark, purple scar ran in a jagged line from the base of his neck to just above his ear. The skin looked tight and pinched as if someone had hacked his head open, then closed it with staples. In the past three months, she had seen it with fresh blood seeping between the gathered skin. She had seen the blackened blood, still tacky, clinging to the stitches and matted hair and she had seen the scar, raw but healed. Despite all she had seen it still shocked her. A visual reminder of the damage to her son’s soul.
Just to be clear, my scar was delicate and quite beautiful, a perfect koru. But I’m sure psychologists and psychiatrists could have a field day with this lot.
So, today, I’m wondering how a win for Jacinda Ardern might shape my female characters tomorrow?