Confessions of a Chronic Over Thinker

I’m quite enjoying the theme I have adopted for my 2017 blog posts – nostalgia.

It can be jarring to think just how many years have passed since I left high school, travelled overseas and lived independently for the first time, since I first I lost my first tooth, buried my first pet ( RIP Bruce the Budgie, 1988)

And yes, as the title suggests I have been a long-suffering over thinker. I suspect it first took hold in early primary school and crippled me way into my mid thirties. But to those in the grips of a will I or won’t I crisis – there is hope…I am living proof. Chronic over thinking can take a back seat and you can sit out days, months even years, experiencing life in the here and now, not some repetitive version of a story from the past, or  future.

But, and this is where it gets interesting, the life of a Chronic over thinker makes for good stories, good blog posts, good nostalgic writing – but do take note – I do not pine for version of myself that is evident in the tale I am about to tell.

It was 2002 and I was living in Edinburgh Scotland. I was working at a Pub on the Royal Mile, living in the staff quarters of a hostel ( ?) and surviving on a diet of cider, hot chips and backed potatoes. I was plump, I was happy.

On the rare occasion that I was not rostered on the weekend shift at the pub, I took it upon myself to book an overnight trip to the Scottish Highlands – visiting the towns of Aberdeen, Inverness, the famous Loch and hairy cow spotting.

I was travelling alone and don’t recall the nationality of the other tourists on the bus….it was not fully booked but I do recall one bus patron – Frank from Germany. Tall, good-looking and apparently, taken by me.

It so happened that the feeling was mutual. We paired up pretty quickly as bus buddies, took turns of taking solo tourist photos at all the hots spots and shared a pint or three that night.

Our connection was just plain sweet and at the conclusion of the two-day escapade, Frank asked me to join him on a day trip to St Andrews the following Monday.

We swapped mobile numbers and parted ways.

And then it started – the over thinking.

Whilst it was ALWAYS present on the Highland Tour,I had done my best to relax in his company, to lose myself in the crisp air and stunning natural beauty that surrounded me.

But apart I tortured myself at EVERY possible opportunity.

The story I told myself went along these lines –

  • What does he see in me? In a tour setting he was not able to see the real me, the flawed version, the true version.
  • A day trip to St Andrew –  a solo trip, just me and him, the real me with be revealed, he will hate me, I can’t ruin his day!!
  • What will we talk about?
  • What if he tries to kiss me, I am prone to recoil from intimacy in ALL forms….I’m a nutcase, I cannot let him see the real me.

Over and over and over and over….In the 48 hours till Monday, I embarked on this relentless campaign of self-critical chatter.

Monday came and I was right mess. I was panic-stricken, I had not slept, I was on edge and I could not be reasoned with. I felt it was unfair to send Frank a text, lying by saying I was sick and unable to attend the day trip.

So in my wisdom,  I decided to tell him person I was not coming…… I bolted across the Royal Mile, down to Princes Street and to the Bus Depot in my pyjamas and all-weather jacket. My bed hair was pulled back in a pony tail.

I guess I thought if I looked unprepared and unpresentable, Frank would understand why I was not getting on the bus.

I was wrong. Perhaps the language barrier was to blame – actually no, he spoke perfect English…..he just did not understand where the person, whose company he had truly enjoyed only a few days prior, had gone.

I was powerless to explain that either – for at that time in my life, I really had no coping mechanisms to manage my chronic, crippling over thinking ways.

And that my friends, is the end of that story.

I did not see Frank the German again.

He was a tall, handsome man who came into my life for but the briefest of moments in 2003.

And now in 2017, can I look back upon that time in my life and fully understand how I came to find myself in situations like that often. My tendency to over think absolutely EVERYTHING robbed me of so many opportunities to revel in the beauty of the here and now.

Not going to waste anymore time worrying about that!!!

Life Defined – Seven Words

Recently I had the misfortune of a stay in hospital.

But given that NSW was in the grips of an extreme heat wave, I welcomed the non-stop air conditioning, climate controlled approach to life.

The stay was short and sweet and I left almost as soon as I arrived.

Months passed and life continued.

By chance I opened a bag that I had remained closed since I had been patient in the public hospital system.

I found my discharged notes and saw that my life story, all 38 years, had been condensed into a seven word sentence:

Works in Office

Lives Alone

Supportive Family

Since discovering this extensive summation of my life I find myself reflecting on these seven words.

I have spoken to a treasured friend, read this account down the phone line – and shared a laugh, and nodded in agreeance at my confidants remarks ‘ A supportive family is all that matters’

True that.

I’d not be the person I am today without my support network, the unwavering love of my parents, brother, sister – in – law, niece, extended family and the many friends I have been blessed with.

When having your life summarised by medical staff who only know you as an illness, an injury – it brings happy tears to my eyes that during a short hospital stay, it was noticed that I have all the support in the world a girl could want – and then some.

How lucky I am.

The Bangles – Everything

Sunday afternoon is perfect for some nostalgic writing.

And music was the trigger that inspired the story that follows.

Home alone on a balmy autumn afternoon, summer having left Sydney 12 days ago, and in her wake a mixture of heavy rain set in. But not this weekend, the sun has soaked Sydney and smiles abound.

To celebrate I placed one of my most treasured albums on – The UK all girl group – The Bangles- Everything.

Released in 1988, when I was just 10 years old, it was if my memory serves me correctly, the 2nd cassette I ever owned – Whitney Houston beating the girl to top honours.

This cassette was EVERYTHING to me , pun intended. I loved EVERYTHING about it – EVERY song – EVERY WORD was learnt off by heart and sung off-key at EVERY opportunity.

The cassette was a gift from a women who was EVERYTHING to me – my Dad’s Mother, my beautiful Nana Boyle. I loved her whole heartedly, still do, and back then loved her more for the fact that at a women in her late 70’s would have brave a record store to get me this gift. Who was Nan served by in the record store? A late 80’s raver coming down from a night out in Kings Cross, a Jimmy Barnes flannelette wearing pub rocker?

Whoever it was, they were super helpful to my Nan, and it was mission accomplished and bridge built across the great musical generational divide.

So I’m sitting here in my lounge room, bopping along to ‘ Glitter Years ‘,  tearing up to the song ‘ Something to Believe In’ and ‘ Make a Play for Her now’, feeling like a love-sick teenager when ‘ In your Room’ and ‘ Waiting for You’ come through the speakers. Yes 29 years may have passed, but these beautifully crafted songs still tug at the heart strings and get the old feet tapping!

I’m instantly transported back to the concerts I gave to my Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids in my bedroom, when, without a care in the world, and with no one really watching, I would sing and sing and sing.

And I’m feeling a sense of sadness for all the time that has passed between listening to this music, the people I have loved and lost, my personal journey, the good, bad and EVERYTHING in between.

And whilst I might feel sad, this music also empowers. I think of the super strong woman who gifted me the album and all the memories it now inspires- time spent with loved ones, pets, friends, all with Bangles tunes as the musical backdrop.

It was by chance that I took this trip down musical memory lane today. The Bangles – Everything – turns the big 30 next year. For me the music is timeless and colours my childhood, teenage year , twenties and thirties. It has stood the test of time, an’ Eternal Flame’ in the story of my life.

2017 – The Year of the Nostalgic Post

I must be getting old if I am proposing that I spend 2017 writing nostalgic posts….

I have been struggling to find the will to write, yet over and over in my head swirl stories of my childhood, my angst ridden youth and early to late twenties. Holding onto the title of ‘ Late Thirties’ with a mixture of fear ( for sooner rather than later I will turn the Big Four Zero) and pride ( that I survived this long) …nostalgic posts for 2017 it is….these stories must be told.

I loved writing about South Coast Cafe Culture, my friend Clare and I and our shared desire for cafe latte in the early 1990’s.

Got me thinking about another ‘episode’ that occurred around the same time. This time the adventure was shared with my friend Steph. A plan devised that would see us embark on a bike ride school and thus avoid the dreaded school bus commute.

A leisurely start to the school day, the bike track would see us peddle a concrete path that was shared with fellow surfers, joggers and early morning walkers with dogs on leads. We would ride coast side, passing pristine beaches Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and turn off at Bellambi beach, heading inland to school.

As a somewhat reformed chronic over thinker, I would have planned this bike ride escapade to school for days, weeks, even months before the ‘ big day’. Before I actually enlisted Steph join me….which I would have agonised over too (Would she want to ride with me?! Would she feel like it? Did she even like riding? Did she own a bike? Would she rather roller blade of god forbid catch the bus?!)

I would have researched the weather forecast, studied the school timetable to ensure we would be wearing our sports uniform (not an easy task as we were in different year levels, with differing timetables) , planned the ride on a day when I was not scheduled to wash my hair, on a day that I did not have to carry my Visual Art A3 diary, my chefs knife kit etc etc etc.

The day eventually arrived…not to the sound of trumpets blaring and cannons firing, I simply got up.

Steph had said yes.

The sun shone, and our white and maroon sports uniform made it easy to peddle the distance.

We road past Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and turned off at Bellambi Beach, heading inland to school.

The afternoon ride home….

I had not planned for this

My bike peddle fell off

‘ Its ok Steph, I can still ride’ I whimpered as I tried to keep my bike upright, one leg on the ground to keep my balance, as the other leg attempted to circle the intact pedal round and round.

This spectacle caught the attention of my High School Sports Teacher.

Because to all who saw me – it was clear I was not going anywhere.

Bike was placed into the back of a four-wheel drive, I was encouraged to sit in the front seat and I was driven home, red-faced and embarrassed.

Steph, free as a bird, continued the solo to ride home, along the bike track, Bellambi, Woonona, Bulli and alighting at Thirroul.

In all the over thinking, over planning and general worrying about a simple bike ride to school – I had not factored ‘ Pedal Gate’ into the equation!

As a gesture of thanks and gratitude to my saviour, Mr High School Sports Teacher, a lottery ticket was purchased.

As for me and bike riding to school – it was a once only affair, and half-hearted at best.

It would seem that I still had much over thinking, over planning and general worrying to do in my teens, early and mid twenties and, yes, my thirties to ever get back on my bike and ride to school!

The joys of being a chronic ( somewhat reformed) over thinker

Plenty more stories to come…..

Cafe Culture

As a young girl, growing up on the South Coast of Wollongong, not really into underage drinking, parties or surf culture….there was little to do.

What I did want to do was hang out in cafes, drink coffee and look more adult, head in a book or engaged in high brow conversation with other like-minded folk.

But this was the South Coast circa 1992 and no such place existed. There was Jim’s Fish and Chip Shop ( were $2 brought you a kilo of hot chips) or the Rex Hotel, Thirroul – complete with topless bar maids and $3 schooners.

My life was miserable….

And then it appeared….a cafe….in Thirroul…name of which I cannot remember…but it was a cafe….

A planned was devised.

My friend Clare and I would catch the bus home from school, we would have a milk shake at the cafe for afternoon tea, and then Clare’s Mum would pick us up.

I felt so grown up, like all my Christmas’ had come at once. This could also be due to the fact that my friend Clare was two-year levels above me at school….I just felt so lucky.

The day arrived, the bus from school to Thirroul seemed to take longer than usual – such was the anticipation levels of engaging in cafe culture my ‘Sydney’ teenage peers, a mere 1.5 hours from the South, often took for granted…cafes on every city street, open till midnight….

Alighting the bus, we set out on foot to the cafe on the opposite side of town, smiling ear to ear for we were soon to be wrapped in the sweet aroma of coffee beans, home-made cakes and conversation about art, history and of course, and most importantly, local gossip. I knew the importance of this day, it was to be life changing – somewhere to hang out, to chat, to feel a sense of belonging, in my home town….

And then I saw it….a sign of the cafe door, in bold red letters:

‘ Closed’

Yes, cafe culture in Thirroul locked us out – opening hours was 9am – 3pm daily and clearly not accommodating of high school aged teenagers. A sense of bewilderment overtook us. All hopes dashed, and the cloak of misery and hopelessness hung heavy on my shoulders….

I glanced in the direction of the Rex Hotel, I thought of Jim’s Fish and Chip Shop, 1km away….and just felt sad.

We walked to the public phone box and called Clare’s mother to come and collect us.

Epic fail.

Afterward

That was 1992 and so much has changed in 25 years. I did leave Thirroul for a 2 year period upon graduating University and drank my first cup of coffee whilst living in the UK in 2001. It was my Spanish friends who introduced me to the art of cafe culture and I am forever thankful.

Returning to the South Coast in 2003 I got a job in one of Thirrouls first cafes. Oscar’s Wild Bookstore, a magical place that served coffee, cakes and conversation for many years.

Fast forward to 2017 and Thirroul has in excess of 10 cafes in this tiny coastal town – all with strong customer followings and opportunities for patrons to sip coffee and converse for 6am – 4pm most days!

This blog entry was inspired by an article that features in the local newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, on March 4th, documenting cafe culture on the South Coast. An article I wish had appeared many moons earlier but better late than never. And yes, a sense of belonging to this region is well engrained in me now!

 

 

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