This edition of The Dose features one of my favorite across the pond blog subscribers, Kate Bennet. Affectionately known as Katie – she is a budding writer who blogs at Coffee House Discussions. Witty film reviews, sports and cute DIY projects are just a few of the topics discussed on Coffee House.
Today, however, I would like to share a short story written by Katie entitled…
THE EMERALD JOURNAL
It is always unbearably hot in Indonesia, even in the early morning. Visitors to the ashram wear light clothes, especially those of us going through the menopause. I was scrubbing the floors of the ashram this afternoon, sweat pouring from my brow. I have never felt more disgusting. I really wanted a cold shower but wouldn’t have a chance until the evening, after the 8pm meditation. Why did I pay to do this? It’s torture! Wouldn’t a nice hotel in the Mediterranean do just as well as a yoga and meditation vacation? I was talking about this over with Ros at dinner this evening in the canteen. I told her about how I am really not enjoying my time here, I’m just too old to be doing this manual work, and I can’t handle the heat. Her reply? “So why did you come Jane?” I was pretty upset that she didn’t have any sympathy for me. She obviously doesn’t understand because she’s still young and healthy. I didn’t want an argument though so I said, “I ask myself the same question everyday Ros.”
Jane slammed the door; that did it. Not one more. Not a single Saturday night or any other night of the week would she spend with another boring/arrogant/shallow man, in fact she would not do anything she didn’t want to just because her family or her friends told her to. This feeling rang a bell. She had made this speech before. Two years earlier when she had decided to divorce her husband. Crap. Jane unplugged the phone, the internet cable, pulled the battery out of her mobile and even put the ‘welcome’ mat in the dustbin. She then drove to a 24 hour supermarket and bought a bottle of red wine and a notebook. She scribbled furiously until she was so drunk she couldn’t see the lines on the page. The next morning she tried to decipher what she had written, it was a long list of every single thing she had ever wanted to do, every dream or ambition she had failed to fulfil. She didn’t do these things in her twenties; she never went to university or lived in a house-share or went backpacking, she was already married at eighteen. Jane wasn’t twenty anymore but she wasn’t dead either, so she was going to do every single one of the things on her list, no matter what people said or thought. As she scanned the list she wondered where to begin. Then she spotted it, ‘go to Indonesia’.
Afternoon meditation, aka lunchtime for the mosquitoes, was an hour of my thoughts swirling round and round in my head. I love the idea of being one of those women who wear brown beads and say deep philosophical things, always feeling love and never getting angry – that is why I am here. I’m tired of trying to be the perfect mum, and I don’t want my life to consist of doing the grocery shopping in Marks and Spencer, taking cake decorating courses and entering the village fayre with my home-made jam. I want to do something that excites me. I have filled my life with expensive clothes, throwing dinner parties, re-decorating the house but none of it ever made me happy – I was just kidding myself. Meditation has to be the way for me to “get in touch with my inner self” as the brochure puts it. When I took some meditation classes to calm myself during the divorce, it really helped, I thought I would love to spend every day mediating for hours. I could see myself getting stress-free, zoning out of my life for a bit, not having to think about anything or anyone, but now I’m here…Well, the reality is that I had no idea that I was a mere rookie at meditation. Yoga is even worse, I’ve been going to yoga classes for years, it was part of my ‘ladies who lunch’ routine but I have never seen such bends and twists. I have no idea how it was possible to do those moves. My body creaks and clicks during every class.
All of these thoughts were racing through my head when I remembered I was supposed to be meditating. I glanced over at Ros. She was perfectly still, not one finger or one eyelash moved. I don’t know whether to hate or be in awe of her. She looked after me when I got food poisoning on my first few days. Once she saw me crapping and throwing up at the same time, the awkward barrier was definitely broken. She is a good friend, my best friend here, caring for me like we’re family.
Lucy shut the notebook. She looked around the house, it was so empty, so sterile it felt like her mum had never lived there. “I miss you so much mum. I don’t want anyone else to live here; this is your house, our house.” She felt stupid talking out loud, as if her mum were in the room but she didn’t know what else to do, reading her journal just made her miss her even more. She wondered why her mum had told her to read the journal after she had gone. Reading that entry just made her wish she had allowed her mum to do what she had wanted when her parents divorced. All the times she had made her go on dates and go shopping to buy things she didn’t want; she should have spent that time crossing things off her list. She was desperate to talk to her mum, reading her journal was the only way she would ever hear from her mother now. She cherished each page, never allowing herself to read too many at once, drawing each reading out because she didn’t want to come to the last.
This afternoon Ros and I had an interesting conversation in the food hall, it was something along the lines of:
“Can I tell you something?” (Ros)
“Do I want to hear it?” (me)
“I’m not sure…”
“Oh Ros, what’s wrong? Has something happened?”
“No, it’s just… Well I don’t think you’re making the best of your time here. You only have 3 weeks left now.”
“It’s not that I’m meaning to criticise you. It’s just, Jane, I don’t know how to say it.”
“Just spit it out Ros.”
“I think you’re finding it hard to meditate because you’re not used to yourself. You feel uncomfortable with yourself; I think that may be why you stayed with your husband for so long because if he wasn’t there then you’d have to spend it alone. I don’t want to upset you, I just want to help. Forget I said anything.”
“I divorced my husband because he had an affair,” I said and stormed out of the food hall. Who does she think she is?
Lucy flicked to the next page, over a week had passed since the last entry. This was strange. Her mother had written in her journal every day since she had arrived in Indonesia.
“It pains me to say it but Ros was right. I’ve barely slept for over a week, tossing and turning, unable to get her words of my head. I’ve skipped meals or devoured them as fast as humanly possible to avoid her. I was meditating, well not meditating, in the meditation room thinking because I cannot meditate. I don’t have anything definite I can say about myself – I am a mother, an ex-wife, I was a stay-at-home-mum, the list goes on, but I have nothing for myself. All of my labels are dependent on others so I only know who I am based on who I am with, and I have failed in areas of my life because I couldn’t fulfil everything that person wanted. I need to find the real me.”
Lucy closed the notebook, tears trickling down her face. “Thanks mum,” she whispered, hugging the journal to her chest. It didn’t seem to matter that Jane had only crossed one item off her list – the legacy of the emerald journal had begun.
Copyright 2011 by Katie Bennett
Another one of Katie’s short stories was also featured on the Hawleyville Blog. Check it out