By Sally Ryhanen, 73. Caloundra, QLD
I am a refugee from the corporate world with a disability — a 70-year-old Protestant work ethic — that has been sharpened, honed and weaponised for self-harm.
I spawned a child with the same fierce ethic and christened him Obligation. A very nasty child, with an ugliness surpassed only by the birth of his sister, Responsibility.
I am retired now, but these offspring refuse to leave home, hijacking me at every garden weed, smutty windowpane or whim of the household patriarch.
Writing is my escape, my guilty bliss. But at home, the kids, Obli and Repo, roar through my body, kicking, pinching, scouring ’til in tears I excavate the lawn with bare hands and wrench out the weeds, lick festering fuzz from fetid floors, and vinegar and newspaper my windows ’til God shines through them bellowing Hallelujah!
However, I am a woman with shekels enough for a room in which to write, Ms Woolf, or perhaps merely a space of my own. Not with the indolence of Maya Angelou’s hotel and morning alcohol, nor the frenzy of the author Lisa Freeman who scribbles on scraps in toilets, ice-skating rinks and at funerals. Just somewhere I can purchase time and space by the coffee cup.
After chaining the children up outside the chosen haven — postmodern chill café or the local resort where staff fawn as if you are wealthy like the real guests — I order the first cup, lean back, and bleed the oblivious souls of the people around me. These are my people, my muse, and my future readers.
I slurp up their faces, clothes, voices, expressions, movements, emotions, relationships, then reach up into the channel of the collective consciousness where the day’s tale hangs like over-ripe fruit, begging to be eaten.
Then I breath and disappear for two, three sometimes four coffee-cup hours.
A neon sign hangs above the entrance of each of these retreats:
Floor licking forbidden. Hosing down your table after use is discouraged.
Those claiming Protestant work ethic are immediately excoffiated.
Photo: Virginia Woolf — portrait of the English novelist and essayist. 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)