Life can only be understood by looking backwards
But it has to be lived forwards
Last night I went back to 41 Cambridge Street in my mind, these echoes and visions calling to me through a tunnel of years. It was hearing Crowded House perform Better Be Home Soon on the Australian Rock Industry Awards that took me back. I was 26 that year and ricocheting back from the 2 year stint in England driven there after Dad died. I came home to find I no longer had a home, my mother was remarrying someone she just met, it was a rebound relationship, she was on the run from facing her own grief over the loss of my father, she admits that now.
There was a huge wedding : a big performance and there we all gathered shocked and bewildered. There is a photograph of me standing on the steps of St Christopher’s Cathedral dressed in a dress I would never wear, one that was more suited to a granny than a 25 year old girl (by no means was I a woman yet). This was a few months before I took flight to Sydney where my godparents had at least offered me some kind of home with them realising I needed support. My godfather later told me how angry he was with my mother, he felt I had been abandoned. I had a few months with them but then the lights of the city lured me and I answered a share house accommodation add for a terrace place in Paddington with a group of others who turned out to be big, big drinkers and party people.
Even the job I ended up in was no reflection of my true self, where was I really? Who was I really? I know now I was so lost, so confused, so bewildered by it all, all I wanted to do was get through the tedium of the week and my boring job to party and dance with some kind of carefree forgetting and abandon on the weekends, hoping with the lost hope and naieve innocence of someone who has never known true love to find someone whose heart and life I could share.
Two soundtracks to that time along with all the dance music we were listening to were Crowded House’s album Temple of Low Men and Soul to Soul’s first album. I still have that CD in my collection, the one in which my housemate, Jonathan scribed these words : Love you Debs, and loved our time at Cambridge Street.
Those crazy drunken days only lasted a few years and when I fell pregnant to my second boyfriend of that phase I moved out of Cambridge Street, trying to leave the party behind because I was scared of the amount of drinking and drug taking I was doing. Looking back on that time now I see that I have in some way demonised those substances and the people in that house. To a degree those moments when we were dancing, partying and loving the music were a truer reflection of my soul on some deeper level, although I know drinking and drugging to that degree disconnected me from deeper intimacy, too. I still had so much to learn about myself.
Last night in my imagination I went to the front door, opened it, walked down the dark hall of the terrace to the dining room and through to the old beat up kitchen, then climbed the stairs on which I saw my other flatmate Sally beautiful with her long dark hair. I went into my bedroom with the black painted floor and wild pink walls which became super intense in their colour after a night coming off ecstasy. I saw the futon bed covered in a dark floral duvet under which Greg and I made love and where I had to get myself up in the middle of the night to drive myself to hospital when stomach pains became so intense and I could not rouse Greg. I spent a painful lonely 12 hours in casualty to be told I had a ruptured pregnancy that would need to be aborted.
I remembered the break in of that year when all of our CDs were stolen and this included my copy of Temple of Low Men. Together with all of my dreaming and imaging last night these words written and sung by Neil Fin came to me:
Somewhere deep inside something’s got a hold on you
Its pushing me aside, feel it stretch on forever
And I know I’m right for the first time in my life
That’s why I tell you. You better be home soon.
Fast forward 5 years, Greg and I broke up twice, he claimed our drinking was preventing intimacy, he hid the pregnancy from his family saying I had had a kidney operation. An infant man he was still living at home with his strict Catholic mother, my needs had to be sacrificed for his own. I left my job trying in some way to find my way back to me and some of the darkest loneliest days of my drinking followed.
In another image I see my husband Jonathan sitting in a chair with his head in his hands looking at me and saying that if the drinking and getting up in the middle of the night to go out doesn’t stop soon he is leaving me. I remember looking at my face in the mirror and knowing I couldn’t say that nothing’s wrong any more. I have to get help. A few days later I am at my first AA meeting.
What synchronicity was it that I would end up not only meeting a man from Cambridge but living there six years later having spent those first years in Sydney living in a house in Cambridge Street? And that I would end up marrying a man with the same name as my flatmate? And my Dad.
There is such a bittersweet sadness and feeling of nostalgia about me today for those days as I sit here typing on a fresh spring morning. I think of what I lost and gained with my sobriety and of all the losses before that I am only just bringing fully to consciousness all these long years later.
I say I lost something with my sobriety as in some way leaving that house took me into a degree of isolation. Some of my calmest happiest years were early in sobriety living with my husband and facing up to addiction after he told me and I realised I had to stop. We were living only a few suburbs away then but it seemed like continents.
Still something was lost of the wild child in me with sobriety, lost and confused as I was in those years I lived closer to life, to people, to music, to fun, to celebration and yes, to a lot of madness and chaos and yet there was something deeper there too I felt it return to me watching the performances as Crowded House were inducted into the ARIA hall of fame after over 30 years of performing last night
Last night I was reminded of the gift their music has been for me, one of the soundtracks to my 2os and 30s. I think of the loss of Paul Hester they sustained in 2005 and of Neil’s farewell performance to him. I think of my own times of feeling so suicidal and of how sometimes it has been music that has had the power to bring me back from the brink, that has helped me find my way back to depths of my feeling and soul and of how it has revealed to me deeper truths than I could realise alone.
I am so grateful that I can always return to 41 Cambridge Street in my imagination and feel no longer judgement or regret but a bittersweet acceptance and realisation of all that was occurring for me then. I wonder where Jonathan and Sally are, my journey led me in a different direction and I am sure we would not have much in common now and yet still I remember them and that for a few brief years we travelled alongside each other in this mysterious, chaotic journey of life.