Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is me

Who I think I am ... or what people think of me.
"It's none of your business what people think of you," K said today, as I was doing the 'handover' of his boat. "It is your business what they do and say to you, but not what they think."
(He wanted me to sign a form saying I'd get off the boat after my sojourn looking after the moorings and batteries. I told him I actually had a home to go to, but he was having none of it. So then I said that while I was a liveaboard, I'd tell all his girlfriends that he'd given me the boat because I was so good in bed. Form solved.)
And there is a fragment of the construction of a personality.
For someone so outwardly bolshie, I have a way-too-fragile internal framework. I find the differences between what people perceive of me and who I think I am are vast, oceanic.

The publicist rang me on Friday about a book trailer. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It's like a movie trailer but for a book. They are coming down next week to film it. "Do you want me to come down?" says the publicist. "I'm worried you may not be comfortable with speaking lines."
"Us writers are used to sitting in a quiet room ... so acting, speaking lines?" I say. "I dunno."
She's right. I'm all over the place but the script for the trailer is just right and I have faith in it. I'm more worried that the fishermen will hate it. And the whole idea of going on film freaks the shit outta me.

I struggle with my addictions.
I consistantly forget to buy soap.
Can openers are my daily nemesis.
I'm not beautiful. Handsome maybe, but not beautiful.
I'm letting people down, close people, every day.
At uni, every time I walk in to teach a class, I think, 'They will find me out for a fraud.'

A Noongar man beeped at me as I was walking up the street. He shoved his four wheel drive into the closest parking spot and bailed me up. I know and deeply respect him as a statesman for his people. I thought maybe he wanted to catch up about something we'd been working on lately. 
Instead he grabbed my shoulder and said, "I've just been out to your shack, Sarah. Adie and me headed out that way yesterday for some cultural workshops. Adie said, 'you've gotta come and see what this Wadjela woman has built out here.' He just loves it. He said ' Look how she's made a soap holder from an abalone shell.' Both the rainwater tanks are full, by the way. But there's bees in the roof. I checked your hive, none in there."
"You lifted the lid on the hive?"
He nodded.
"You guys crack me up.  Did you water the olive trees?"
"Didn't need to. There was a misty rain the whole time ..."
We talked about what happened out there in the 1800s. The massacres and the land theft.
"That's my country," he said.

(I remember when Adie turned up while I was building a veranda. He'd walked into the shack, breathed in the feel and said, 'this is a good place, sister.' I told him about what had happened the night before as I sat by the fire.)
 "What you heard that night," the Elder said today, "that was the spirit welcoming you. You are very lucky."
He patted me again. "Thanks. That place is gorgeous. Thanks."
I was too taken aback and graceless to thank him in return.

First generation Australian.
Bad skin.
Borne of hard scrabble Irish Catholic immigrants.
Doesn't clean the sink.
Moults copious amounts of hair.
Dodgey moral code.
A forgotten cat kill under the bed.
Can't finish her thesis cos she's too scared.

There's a few narratives going on here. I can make up one persona on A WineDarkSea and another on the main street of town, another through the books I write. None of them would be definitive or in any way honest because most are only serving to plaster over my fears of being uncovered. I am big. I have big hands, big feet, big hair, big personality ... and yet I feel so small.


  1. Sarah,
    You are a beautiful woman, intelligent, and a bloody good writer. You have such an exciting future ahead, so much to look forward to ... so many friends wishing you well on your journey.
    On top of that you have the best blog!
    Trust yourself, don't stop being who you are (we love all your personas!), or doing whatever you are doing ... just be you and the rest will fall in place behind.
    I admire and respect you,and am proud to call you friend.

  2. I've tried to reply to your comment several times now Barbara ... all I can say is THANKS. And a smile and hug next time I see you.

  3. It'll be fine, it's only a fuse...

  4. Great post Sarah. Raw & revealing - honest. We love you just the way you are.

    BTW, the 'everyone will find out I'm a fraud' thing? That thought has ocurred to me so many times: exhibiting artwork, delivering my one and only paper, every time I walk into my classroom. One of the many paradoxes we live with. Welcome to planet earth.

    1. There is a certain catharsis in revealing flaws or at least self perceived flaws and a certain kind of power in it too, removes the ammo perhaps!
      Still, I'm not going to spray anything worse all over the internet. :~)

  5. Sarah your writing is beautiful and I love you're honesty. I think we all wrestle with similar thoughts and feelings at times - it's just that we usually keep it close. I have just joined an art group and after the first excitement I then felt "what if I am not up to it?" But I know - just face the fear & stare it down - put your work up to be seen...

    1. Yes, the fear. Bloody hell. It can be paralysing when entertained. Funnily enough, this morning I was telling my son about how amazing his Gran is, setting off to gad about Europe for several months on her own, when she knocked on the front door and came in, fell into my arms, in a complete state of panic attack.

  6. feel way too close to this post sarah. 'everyone will find out i'm a fraud' is the reason I gave up teaching in Tassie. Pretty much gave me anxiety attacks when I walked in front of the classroom. And its good to hear you are such a mess in your everyday life. Me thinks most people would go into shock if they knew how I lived. Miss 'A cave by the sea' already MF...

    1. I'm gathering that everyone feels like a fraud! Isn't interesting to speculate whether our greatest teachers and mentors felt the same way? Thanks Anne.

  7. Lovely piece Sarah, and your honesty and rawness is beautiful. But stop that talk, the criticism that can loop through our heads, and replace it with some positive tracks OR treat yourself to some pleasure and kindness. Don't sabotage yourself. xx

    PS I've heard the fraud thing a lot, but only from women. Like the self-critical thing I wonder how gendered it might be. Curious.

    1. Thanks Melba. I'll find some good loops!
      And see below for some answers to your wonderings. Some of my male colleagues have also expressed the same fears but I too have wondered about how easy it is to admit vulnerabilities and frailties. I asked my 15 year old son about it this morning and he said he doesn't have a problem with it at all.

  8. Yes, the fraud thing is no secret. You even trod this ground before I think, partially anyway, though more along the lines of potential for plagiarism than being found out..

    "It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest, it's no secret ambition bites the nails of success, every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief.."

    Nothing like the Irish for finding themselves out then making up a song about it anyway. It's the quality that counts though, the integrity behind the sentiment, both of which amount to trusting in one's self, believing in who and what you are. The more you bury yourself in that the harder is it for people to think you are not what you seem to them to be..

    1. Nice pick Ciaran, thanks for that.
      When I was in Launceston presenting a paper with all the Bono's of the historian world looking on, I was nervous as hell and worried about the found out thing. At the end of the paper, one of them approached me and said: "It's okay to entertain doubt. In fact with historical writing you must always exercise doubt - but don't doubt yourself. You are on the right track. Keep going." It was a great thing to tell me and though I'll always remember it, I do forget sometimes ...

    2. All of this is good.
      All of it.


  9. The fraud thing. It's universal. Might take different forms with different people but it's not a gender thing. I reckon it's about hoping and then being afraid of not growing up into the full person we might eventually become. I am less prone to fraud panic as I get older, but it has plagued me at times over the years. Strangely mostly in my middle years. I was bullet proof as a twenty something, angst ridden in my late 30s and mid 40s when I was a genuine fraud (I was teaching drama at Uni and had no training - zip). At 60 I turned my head around and thought 'why should other people's views of me have that much power over me?' I figured I was older than most of em and had done a shitload of living. Hasn't been a total victory. I still freak at times when faced with a challenge which might expose me.
    As for you. I don't know you from Eve, but I like the you I know through your writing and the glimpses you give into your life. And indeed I love people who share their vulnerability. It makes me feel normal. Can't stand the ones who are certain about everything.

    1. Thanks Mr Hat. I'm getting less certain about I don't know what as I get older, so perhaps it is the same trajectory you speak of.

  10. This post has really struck a chord with me right now, because there are a bunch of (young) people here in this tiny village of a city who - having accidentally exposed my true identity - think that I am an elderly, sexually perverted and hateful troll, and nothing I can do or say will change their minds. I suppose they do have a valid point in their summing up (as perceived and related by someone who really hates me), but I don't really see it like that. If it's any consolation, I too have big feet and big hair.

    1. Oh I'm sorry to hear that Tom ... still going on from weeks ago?
      I believe the original trolls under the bridge also had big feet and big hair. Must have a word. They are making us look bad. :~)