I Am, I Do, I Know

As Good As Can Be Expected

My Dad passed away two weeks ago.

People keep asking me how I’m going, as though they’re half expecting me to break in front of them.

I’m glad they ask.

I’ve realised it’s much nicer than not being asked.

How am I going?

I’m not sure.

Mostly I say, ‘as good as can be expected.’

I suppose that is true.

I’m not sure what the expectation is when you lose one of the most important, pivotal, beloved people in your life, but I feel like I’m doing as good as I can be – I’m waking up, and showering, and eating, and caring for my son, and driving my car, and running errands, and seeing family and friends, and cooking, and cleaning, and checking emails, and making phone calls, and planning, and doing all the little things people do that fill their days.

Some people don’t know what to say, which I somewhat understand, but here’s something else I’ve realised; it’s not that hard to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I hope you are doing as good as can be expected’.

I have been showered in support, and love, and thoughts, and I feel them, wrapped around me. I am so appreciative of every single one of them.

But my Dad has died.

He’s gone.

And my life is forever changed.

Everything is kind of the same, but paradoxically, absolutely nothing is the same.

Nothing will be the way it used to be, ever again.

I am mostly fine, except for when I am not. I am mostly ok, except for when I am not.

Sometimes it slowly creeps up on me, like a looming dread in the pit of my stomach, and sometimes it hits me, bang out of nowhere, and I catch myself clutching my breath.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I am angry.

I’ve got a simmering rage inside me that I’m containing, but boy does it bubble. I’ve had to remind myself, every day, to ‘let it go’, that ‘it’s not worth it’, to ‘calm down’.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I feel robbed.

Robbed that Dad didn’t get enough time, that I didn’t get enough time, that we all didn’t get enough time. Robbed for what he’ll miss, for what I’ll miss, for what we’ll all miss.

It’s true that we don’t know our own strength until we need to; people have commended me for mine, which is lovely, but also slightly odd.

I’m ‘strong’ because being anything less seems like a disservice to Dad; to his honour, and legacy. I’m ‘strong’ because I have a child to raise, and a family to love, and being anything less seems like a disservice to them.

People see strength as ‘getting on with it’ – helping organise a funeral, and saying a eulogy without falling apart, and running yourself into the ground with errands, and doing as good as can be expected, and they say, ‘Good on her, look how strong she is,’ like you’re a show dog at a competition.

That is not strength.

That is autopilot, running on adrenalin.

Do you want to know what strength is?

Strength is not snapping someone’s neck in rage.

Strength is not losing your shit at someone else’s incompetence.

Strength is repeating the same story, over and over, to sympathising guests, when all you want to do is lie down in bed with the doona well above your head.

Strength is choosing not to be negative; choosing life, and beauty, and adventure, and wonder.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t give me the right to act like a dick.

So I am being as strong as I can, in the way I know how: by not being an arsehole. The world has enough of those.

Death evokes all sorts of feelings and reactions in people, and they’re all ok. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, or empathise. For the most part, people use it as an opportunity to think about themselves. At the centre of their own universe, they think of how death affects them. I’ve discovered, in this fortnight that feels like a year, who is really there for me, and who is not, who my true friends are, and who are just people I know.

There’s one small thing I’ve found exceptionally difficult: how quickly ‘is’ and ‘are’ become ‘was’ and ‘were’.

The instant change in tense is jarring.

And, there’s another thing: how the world just keeps spinning.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t mean the world stops.

I get that.

That is the way it should be.

It’s just a little unnerving, how everything goes on, swiftly, at full tilt.

It’s all very surreal; that this has happened, that this is life now.

I’m not convinced that anyone can truly know what it feels like to lose a parent, until they have lost one. And the well-wishes are pleasant, and the thoughts are kindly, but the advice is inordinate and borders on offensive. You either know, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re fortunate.

I’ve unwillingly become part of a club I don’t really want to be in but the other people are lovely, and they get it, and the biscuits are nice.

I’ve discovered there’s no real preparation for losing a loved one; whether it strikes you out of nowhere or you have a long lead-time – there’s no difference whatsoever. There’s only here or gone and until they are gone, they are here.

Predominantly, I understand there’s no right or wrong way to go about any of it. Being close to my family and friends has helped me, but some people might choose to shut off. I know that people mean well – and it’s better having people mean well than not having people at all. I recognise that, like with anything in life, there’s constant challenges and choices, and I get to choose my choices, and own them too. I acknowledge that grief is a bit like a wave, and I think I’ll be buoyed forever…

but I also know that I’ll still laugh

and love

and soar

and that the thirty-two years I got were better than thirty, or twenty-five, or ten, or none at all

and that so much of who I am is because of him.

So much. Of who I am. Is because. Of him.

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I Am

i used to write poetry…

i-used-to-write-poetry-sandi-sieger-in-the-thick-of-it-blog-melbourne-writer

i used to write poetry
like i knew what i was doing
but
i never did
i still don’t

i’ve worn lost like a badge of honour
like a wayward explorer
but
really
i just don’t want to be found

i have stood
and listened
to the telling
at the yelling
and then i’ve silently sat
thinking ‘well, what about that?’

i have realised there’s lost
and then there’s lost
and they are not the same
one is a bit romantic
the other not so much

and maybe i’ve made excuses
even though i always say
‘never make excuses’
but
really
i think everyone does

people say
‘i wouldn’t do anything differently’
i used to say
‘i wouldn’t change a thing’
but
i absolutely would
do every thing differently
and
i absolutely would
change some things

i don’t have regrets
not because
i don’t have them
but
instead
because i choose not to think about them

when you can’t change what’s been
what’s the point of thinking about
what
could
have

i have found two places
where my mind can wander
unencumbered;
doing the dishes
and
standing under running water

i think time is irreplaceable
and there is none to waste
but
really
every now
and again
i zone out
doing the dishes
or
standing under running water
and i know
now
that is one of the most precious ways
to savour it

i live
and will die
by two words
back yourself

i will whisper
back yourself
every time
all the time
until
i
whisper
no
more

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I Am, I Do

Saturday

Saturday

This café I’m in is bustling.

It’s humming with conversation and a coffee machine that hasn’t stopped once in forty-five minutes. There’s tapping coming from another laptop, but it’s nowhere near as vigorous as the sound coming from mine. ‘They’re happy taps,’ I think, and I know it’s true. People don’t bash away at a keyboard when they’re light of heart. They just don’t.

I order another coffee. ‘Strong, please,’ I say.

There’s a group of girls to my left. I haven’t quite nailed what they got up to last night, but I’ve pieced bits of it together, mainly from their steady stream of analysis on the night’s antics over the past half an hour. They’re laughing. Really laughing. ‘Good on them,’ I mutter. And I mean it.

The wind is flapping away at the sails outside, and a dog tied to a chair leg starts to bark. Four kids whizz past on scooters and a car alarm goes off somewhere in the distance.

It’s just another Saturday, in another week.

Except it’s not for me.

It’s the fourth Saturday, in the longest month of my life.

It’s the fourth Saturday since my world started to change.

And my brain won’t let up. Not from all the crowded thoughts.

Like whether this is how I will measure things now; because before seems different to this.

I think about how many days I spent writing emails, in the name of distraction and avoidance, instead of something straight from my heart and onto a page, and I count twenty-four.

Twenty-four days.

I have never gone that long.

Maybe it’s because I still don’t know what to say. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to say it.

The constant stream of people popping in for a takeaway coffee hasn’t let up. They roll in, and then out, hopping into their car or onto their bike, before they tick off their next Saturday errand, or go to the next place they need to be.

Soon enough I’ll close the lid on this laptop, then pay my bill, and walk out onto the street, and back home, before I hop in my car and go to the next place I need to be.

Saturday will turn into Sunday, and then Monday, and my to-do list will fill again, along with my inbox, and my phone will ring, and clothes will need to be washed, and dogs walked, and floors swept, and dinners cooked.

Everything keeps going.

Even though I’m a little bit broken.

Even though my world is splintered.

Everything keeps going.

And then Saturday will be here again.

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I Write

Show + Tell

A few months ago, I stumbled upon new website Show + Tell, the brainchild of Monty Dimond and Brooke Campbell (read my interview with Monty here, where she explains the inspiration behind the website). I loved it instantly – its rawness, freshness and realness appealed to me.

So, naturally, I was thrilled to have a little piece of writing appear on there recently.

Check it out here.

Show + Tell

Stay tuned for more!

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I Do

Sincere Forms of Flattery

Sincere Forms of Flattery

So, I’m certain you already know about O&S Publishing, a little e-pub business I started with my friend, Olivia Hambrett. And I know I’ve written about Sincere Forms of Flattery on this blog before. And now, there’s only one week left until we release our little love project – très exciting.

But if you don’t know? Here’s what it’s about…

It was the idea that started it all. An anthology that drew together a cluster of top notch young writers and asked them to write a short story in the style of their most beloved writer. Accompanying the story would be an essay on why their chosen writer is so important to them and how their own craft has been affected by this wordsmith. The anthology would be an homage to writers of the past and those who continue to enthrall today. A volume of love and appreciation.

Originally, we were going to print it, but when the idea for O&S Publishing took hold, we decided to make Sincere Forms of Flattery our first title, and try e-publishing. We would have complete editorial and aesthetic control and the book would be instantly and globally available.

SFOF brings together a handful of some of the most exciting voices we know, honouring some of the most terrific voices literature has ever known. It will be the first title of O&S Publishing and it is coming this year.

Get ready for a seriously good read.

Sincere Forms of Flattery will be available for download on June 3rd, 2013 for $7.99. If you would like to pre-order your copy, at the discounted rate of $5.99, please email sfoforders@gmail.com with your name, email address and what e-reading device you use by June 2nd and we will contact you with the next (extremely uncomplicated) steps. 

I’m so excited to share this fab, fab read with you all.

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I Do, I Write, Press

Oh, looksy, it’s me!

I’m very, very thrilled to announce some exciting news… I’ve got a new writing gig and it’s with a company and publication I admire and respect greatly; Forbes.

As of, oh, well, now, I can add Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent to my bio. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ll be writing about (one of) my favourite cities in the world, Melbourne. Blogging, answering questions and providing expert advice.

You can view my profile here.

Sandi Sieger, Startle/Forbes Expert, Travel Correspondent

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I Do

I Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up

As the Editor of Onya Magazine, I receive a large number of emails each week from people pitching articles and ideas, as well as those seeking internships, work experience and full-time or part-time positions.

Many of these emails end up straight in the trash.

I used to feel obliged to answer all emails I received but then I decided that if some people couldn’t be bothered putting in the effort when sending an email – you know, things like spelling and grammar – then I couldn’t be bothered replying.

On the one hand, it’s kind of disrespectful to send an email to an Editor that features spelling mistakes or one that doesn’t even make sense. On the other, it’s kind of hilarious.

I love it when people approach me with pitches and ideas. I love people that are bursting with enthusiasm and passion. With energy and talent. Those people get published. Those people get internships and jobs.

It’s not about being perfect – everyone makes mistakes from time to time. But someone that makes a genuine, honest mistake is not the same as someone who just doesn’t have it.

Editors are savvy and switched on – we’ve usually worked with a lot of people and a lot of words. We know what works and what doesn’t. And, usually, who works and who does not.

Below you will find a small selection of screenshots from emails I’ve received – along with my exact first thoughts after reading them. I only recently decided to capture some of these excerpts from emails to bring my point home. Part of me wishes I’d been doing this for years; there’d be a veritable treasure trove of errors to share.

Hmm, might need a little rethink.

First up, it takes two clicks to discover whether it’s a Sir or a Madam that heads up Onya Magazine. Use those two clicks to discover the name of the person you are emailing. I don’t take well to Sir/Madam or To Whom It May Concern. If you can’t find the name of the Editor, or the person you think you should be emailing, you probably shouldn’t be a journalist or a writer. Basic research skills are a must.

Herewith, go away.

Mixed font sizes and colours. Buh bum.

To Whom It May Concern. Buh bum.

Wittingly obvious this person is no writer.

It’s really sad when people seem lovely and say nice things about your publication but it’s even more sad when they’re three years into an expensive journalism degree and still miss the fundamentals.

What?!?

It’s definitely S-I-E-G-E-R. Maybe the old  ‘i before e, except after c’ game would be handy.

Dear blank,

I don’t care.

What some people fail to understand is that it doesn’t matter where you work or what you’ve done, what matters is that this is your first point of communication to an entirely new audience or person that isn’t aware of your background – so write accordingly.

Excelled? Clearly.

That’s lovely. This is actually Onya Magazine.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have received an email asking for an internship at Vogue or work experience at Beat. I like to reply to these emails like so;

‘Thanks for your email. If you’d like to undertake work experience at Frankie Magazine, may I suggest emailing them with your request.’

I understand that people tend to copy and paste the same submissions to Editors around the country. I really get it. But carelessness and laziness is exactly that; careless and lazy. Two things a good writer is most definitely not.

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I Write

Transfixed By A Paragraph.

Jack Kerouac in NYC

I’ve always strongly believed in the power of words. I decided to be a writer when I was six years old – I still have the notebook I wrote those words in. To me, there is a certain magic in words. A certain rhythm. I can be transfixed by a paragraph, by a passage, by an advertising slogan.

I love to write. It’s probably the only thing that really calms me. The only action that makes my mind stop swirling and allows me to free-pour out of my brain. It’s me, at my most natural.

I simply cannot live without words. Words, and the many varieties they come in, are the first thing I turn to whenever I am confused, happy, angry, muddled, pensive, upset, curious…they are like my breath, like my heartbeat; pretty impossible to live without.

And much like writing, reading, also in its many forms, is something that I find difficult to abstain from. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw, once said in an episode, “When I first moved to the city, I would sometimes buy Vogue instead of dinner – I just felt it fed me more.” I can relate to her sentiments.

Sometimes, when reading, you come across a paragraph so powerful that it actually has the ability to change you, even just a little. Words so powerful they capture you. You are forced to read the paragraph over and over again, as though it is a wish you want granted. It doesn’t happen with every book, and it doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. But, every now and again, you read something that not only connects with the very core of you, but also, in some small way, actually alters the way you think and feel.

Emily Dickinson once said, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes, I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” Sometimes reading other people’s words can make you feel that way too. Here’s a few of my favourite paragraphs, my favourite words that, placed next to each other, are like magic.

Some excerpts of writing that speak to my very soul …

A paragraph written by Janelle McCulloch in her book La Vie Parisienne:

“We live for certain moments in life. They’re usually the moments when happiness falls unexpectedly around us and we realise that, for that brief second in time, we are extraordinarily content. These moments can be potent. They can make us believe that all moments can be like this, even though the reality is that they are as rare as that other ideal: The Perfect Life. They are so potent we will do anything to prolong them, hoping against all hope that they will lead us into a kind of permanent beatitude.”

A paragraph from Kathleen Tessaro’s Elegance:

“I can’t recall the last time I saw someone enjoying something so much, so openly. Perhaps it’s my age or just the people I hang out with, but almost everyone I know is an aspiring cynic. We stand at the edges of our experiences, smoking cigarettes and trying to convince each other that we’ve seen this, done that and it isn’t so hot anyway. It’s considered un-cool to be passionate, if not downright gauche. And on the odd occasions when one of us does become excited, it’s under duress, both embarrassing and brief. It’s considered unrealistic; a kind of madness that descends and has to be apologised for the next day. ‘Real life’ is, after all, a serious and rather dull business. And the more serious and dull, the more ‘real’ it is. I don’t know how we all collectively come to the conclusion that this is the way adults behave.”

An excerpt from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Walt Whitman’s O Me! O Life! poem from Leaves of Grass:

“O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer:

That you are here-that life exists and identity.

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Yes, without any doubt, words are powerful.

Sometimes, they just get me. Right in the throat. And they make me want to do powerful, good things.

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