Ocean Words


Beauty and Havoc – Chloe’s Sea (2015)

My big sister had a near-death experience two and a half years ago and she wondered why I didn’t meet her bedside more.
I did go; twice. Not nearly enough considering I was coming to Melbourne from Ballarat every fortnight to stay with my then-boyfriend without stopping by the hospital. The honest answer was that it was hard to see her; near amputated arm, swollen and sullen all at once and delirious with pain and drugs– when conscious, anyway. That was the first time, at least. The second time she was more herself, having recovered significantly in my absence. It was just much easier at eighteen to escape to St Kilda on a weekend rather than face such reality. It was selfish. I knew it then. Words from a fight years before, where she branded me as such, echoed in my mind.
So I drew this for her. For the girl caught too often between the playful splashes of a shore and the calm of a flat, deep ocean. That part in the middle. Where the tide lashes out at its visitors, and wave after dumping wave leaves you traumatised, exhausted, gashed, sandy and cold on escape.
But Chloe liked the sea. She taught me when to jump over those waves so I could reach the quietude that came past the breakpoint. Even in knowing full well of its temper, she wouldn’t shy from embracing this vast, volatile, all-encompassing beauty of a natural wonder.
My big sister had a full-death experience one and a half years ago and I still wish I’d visited more. Talked more. Shown her that I loved her more.
For the next year that followed I went through a repetitive cycle: numbness, crash, repeat. I’d hate to stretch this analogy so far that it turns cliché but those numb times truly felt something like being in a bubble, underwater. Distanced, the world muffled and moved around me but I wasn’t a part of it. I was in my detached coping world looking out passively with warped vision. The longer I stayed this way, the more aware I was of the impending, overwhelming, crushing moment where this comfortable bubble of relief would pop. Then, reality would flood through with fresh upheaval to drown me again. As soon as I’d grow aware of the time I’d spent numb, I would then feel guilt for my absence in living. For my muted emotions towards my grief:
I haven’t cried in three weeks. Who is this disassociated non-feeler? Do I not care?
Upon this thought is when that vacant-making anaesthesia would start wearing off. So, wading in the undertow, too late to avoid it, I’d anticipate the wave.
Change and I weren’t on the best of terms and I was intensely afraid of just how much life favoured it over what control I could muster. But somewhere, I remembered a certain Shakespeare quote with renewed clarity. The one that always stuck in my head. The one I decided was my favourite for reasons unknown to me back when I was seventeen:
“Doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together. And choke on their art.”
And it dawned. I’d forgotten that when the waves are too high to jump over, you must dive through. The only other option is to struggle. Fighting forces you have no hope of controlling will only postpone the inevitable, leaving you more exhausted when it comes.
Through hesitation for the new, I’d missed my opportunity to dive. The gasping, thrashing bob of the clinger proved to be an insufficient lifestyle choice.
Submission was the obvious and last viable plan. Letting go of fear. Succumbing to the flow.
I breathed in. It hurt. But the only oxygen there was compounded with that which suffocates.
I accepted the words fate spoke: “This you is over. But dare not worry, the next one’s coming soon. You’ll like this one. She’s better, promise. So off you go, into blue. Deep. Down. To where the first souls found their bodies. You won’t know how far there is to sink but it’s enough to start anew. Then up you float, you’re bursting through. A fresher you. Reborn but wiser from travelling that old current. An evolution, revolution, resolution of yourself. Embrace it, for no one can swim forever unless it’s a life of survival you choose, over one of living.”
And yes. I rather like this new me now.

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