by Nicole Skeltys
Cosmic saloons and dangerous strangers
The last fairly hastily posted blog was about T and I returning to Melbourne, to sell or stow our few remaining possessions, catch up with loved ones, then return to Pittsburgh to quickly resume our film work there and other commitments. As I write this, T has safely flown back to Pittsburgh – after a whirlwind trip featuring her brief stay in my studio/ storage space, frantically turfing out her stuff like a crab hurling sand balls out of its beach hole, then racing up to see her Mum and buddies in Sydney, then back on the impossibly long flight to America. But I am delayed here in Melbourne – the discovery of a giant growth in in my womb which has been causing me an increasing number of ailments has pinned me here like a specimen in a medical display case, my life suddenly frozen.
The fibroid feels to me like “The Monster from the Id!'”- the unforgettable cry from Dr Morbius from ’50s sci-fi classic film ‘Forbidden Planet’. Towards the end of the film, Dr Morbius finally named the malevolent psycho-sexual force that was destroying the hope of his new planetary utopia, which otherwise had been looking very promising with his lovely daughter floating around silvery new blinking machines and Robby the Robot wrestling happily with bakelite knobs. Similarly, the giant fibroid (the size of a 5 month fetus) – or MOFO to call it by its emotionally correct name – has been the unexpected twist that has thrown into doubt my return date to Pittsburgh.
Before I posted the last blurb, I edited out a few phrases which I felt were a little too grandiose to leave in: one of those was feeling that I was in someone else’s plot, that my life (or indeed, any individual’s life) was being scribbled from ‘the beyond’, part of a cosmic soap opera complete with cliffhangers, created for The Great Whatever’s own amusement.
This was no intellectual speculation, or poetic metaphor, but a feeling that first kicked open the saloon doors of my consciousness about a decade ago and occupied it for days, holding my gaze with the confidence of a dangerous stranger who knew more about me than I did. I spent days radically adrift from my ‘normal’ sense of self, experiencing my thoughts as part of a greater, infinitely mysterious, consciousness which was being broadcast as ‘my experience’. A little while later, I tried to capture some of this ‘cosmic saloon’ encounter in some lyrics for an early country truckin’ song for my band Dust called ‘111.0’:
“Am I once forgotten, now remembered?
Am I something found then cast away?
All I know is the moment I am driving through
A frequency that soon will fade away..”.
I posted the last blog very late at night, and the next morning I started sorting out my book collection, deciding which books I would give to my friend Paul who was starting up a second hand bookshop in Northcote, hoping of course I would still be eventually leaving Australia again. One of the first books that emerged from the pile was by a Californian psychotherapist Robert H. Hopcke which sported the title “There Are No Accidents!: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives”. It was a present for my brother Kim, who had leant it back to me to read, but I had put it aside and forgotten all about it in the rush to leave for America in May last year. I opened it up and read the following words:
“What if I – or you – were a character in a story?… What if what we experience as our life was indeed a work of fiction? How would we know? How could we know?…Synchronistic events – meaningful coincidences – make us acknowledge that there may well be more to our story than we think, and that everything, even things that may seem frightening or bad…is part of the narrative structure of our lives.”
I closed it and held in my hands for quite a while, as I turned and looked out the glass patio doors that separated our lounge room from the leafy, lazily dappled sidewalks of Clarence Street. I decided it was probably a very good time for me to read this book.
There’s no doubt that Tanya and I regularly look for signs and magic in our everyday lives, trying to work out the meaning of why this happened versus that, what we are ‘meant’ to bring to someone’s life, what they are ‘meant’ to bring to us. “Am I following the spiritual clues correctly, am I on the right path?”
We are not alone, a lot of our friends think this way too – and as I have made my way through story after story in Hopcke’s book over the last week or so, its pretty clear that this ‘magical thinking’ is not the preserve of New Age crystal gazers or Calvinist determinists, but something close to a basic human instinct – a version of the ‘religious’ impulse that William James so rigorously described and defended in his brave psycho-philosophical treatise ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’. Synchronicities – defined as ‘meaningful coincidences’ – hold powerful sway over our hearts and minds precisely because they suggest there is more out there than is dreamt of in Western survivalist/ rationalist philosophy. And we need to believe that: well, at least T and I do for sure.
For example when T and I first decided our destinies were intertwined, and we finished off our Jilted Brides album in a frenzied few weeks in January 2008 as a kind of offering to the cosmos, something that might act as a passport to a better future, I found (through coincidence of course) a highly gifted artist – Kuba Fiedorowicz – to create the artwork for the CD we had produced. Neither Tanya nor I had met Kuba until well after ‘Larceny of Love’ had been finished. Kuba listened to the music, looked at photos of us, then told us he had an image we ‘might be interested in’. Several months earlier, he had painted a picture, a semi-medieval, mystical face of a full lipped, beautiful blonde bride. Then for some reason, a few weeks after that, he had added a second bride, a thinner faced woman with long reddish hair. T and I looked at the painting and we gasped: it was us. It seemed Kuba had seen our images and painted us as brides before we had met him, even before we had thought of ourselves as brides; even before we had got together as a musical/ creative duo. Kuba’s dual bride image is now stamped on our CD, its our icon.
Now that I am once again facing an unexpected health challenge and my soul once again feels like a bunny in the headlights, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that in the last two weeks an awful lot of ‘coincidences’ have occurred, starting with my accidently picking up of Hopcke’s book and reading my own phrases there. As they say in Pittsburgh (in another context altogether) “Here we go….!”
A day after I got the MOFO confirmation, I was sitting on the couch of one of my oldest friends Kerry with whom I was staying; Kerry and I are very close, like the sister I never had. She slammed the front door, and walked into the lounge, having just visited the doctors to see what the mysterious pains in her pelvis were that had started around the same time as mine (ie a few weeks ago). She told me that she too had fibroids; not a single super-sized womb eater like mine, but a malevolent swarm: “dozens of them – Its a jungle in there!”. I stood up and we hugged each other. I’d had a feeling that she was (freakily) suffering from exactly the same problem as me. We laughed ruefully in disbelief. “Well, ” I said. “At least that means we can help each other through this journey together.”
“Yes possum”, she sighed. Then with her usual great sense of humor and resilience added. “Its FTF mate: Fight The Fibroid. We’ve got our own club!”
One of Hopcke’s descriptions of synchronicities is when one unrelated event after another seems to reinforce a message or theme: the fact that I now had a buddy to share the research and medical system navigation was the first sign that dealing with a serious health problem was not going to be as traumatic as it could have been. The second signs were the ease and swiftness with which I was able to get tests and see specialists for advice – to the astonishment of my doctor, Jeff, who was sure I would be waiting weeks to see anyone at all, let alone get any treatment. It was Jeff’s certainty, based on the experience of other patients, that I’d be stuck in Australia for months unless I could afford treatment in the private hospital system that got me feeling like Job: a petulant God was asking me to sacrifice my greatest object of value, my first-born – my vintage Roland System 700 synthesizer – to pay for my health and ticket back to America!
Ten days ago, however, it became clear that Old Testament testing and judgement was not to be visited upon me just yet. A gynecologist was quickly found and visited (her receptionist cried: “You’ve got the same birthday as me – what a coincidence!”).
By last Tuesday I was sitting in the office of the head interventional radiologist at The Alfred, one of our best public hospitals. I’d called on the Friday to get advice and here I was three days later being assessed. He convinced me that a procedure called uterine fibroid embolisation was definitely worth trying, because it would probably alleviate my symptoms by shrinking MOFO to a less megalithic shape, and it was a “low intervention” procedure: in and out of hospital in 24 hours, about 10 days recovery. The alternative was major surgery – hysterectomy or myectomy. “You don’t want to go there unless you absolutely have to, they are serious procedures of last resort.” After asking me with some surprise “Why do you have to rush back to Pittsburgh?”, he finally picked up the phone and said “Well, let’s see what we can do. What about doing the procedure next week?”. My heart leapt – so soon!! And in the public hospital (i.e. free healthcare) system! As we left the office, he grinned at me through his handsome salt and pepper beard with easy Australian humor: “I hope next Tuesday is soon enough for ya?”. It certainly was!
The last few days have been a coincidence pandemic.
On Wednesday I am driving down to meet my old pal Tim Patterson for lunch – Tim ( a film editor) and I last worked together when I did some remixes for ‘The Secret’: the production team for this international ‘power of attraction’ movement is based in Melbourne, and Rhonda Byrne, its guru, is an Aussie chick, with a background in TV advertising. On my way to lunch, in a kind of daze, I suddenly thought: ‘Hey, I should be alert to synchronicities’. No sooner had I thought this, than I looked up and saw a truck in front of me sporting a sticker with the company name of “Patterson”. When I got to the restaurant, I waited for a long time but Tim did not show. I sipped my wine and went into a reverie again: I started to think about whether I should talk about Tanya having some precognitive dreams in the next blog. No sooner had this thought entered my mind, than a young woman at the table next to me started to tell her dining companion about a psychic lady a mutual friend of theirs had seen last year: “She made all these predictions about her having a baby, the size of it, hair color, and everything, and she wasn’t even pregnant! But you know, within a year, it all came true!”
I got up (Tim did not show), drove back to the studio and started writing a piece about mental illness and bi-polar in particular. The last book I read before I left Pittsburgh was a memoir called ‘Scattershot’ by David Lovelace who was not only bi-polar himself but who came from a family where everyone (except his sister) had turned out to be bi-polar too. In his at once absorbing, horrifying and exhilarating account of life as a ‘manic depressive’, he briefly sites statistics that ‘about 1% of the population’ is clinically bi-polar. That statistic jumped out at me as implausabile, as I count amongst my current and former close friends, about half a dozen people so diagnosed. I started to jot down some notes about that, and also how some mental illness bleeds in and out of psychic phenonema and mystical experience. Then I hopped on a tram going down Lygon St into the city, and met a former work colleague for dinner. After I rattled off my two minute pot-boiler digest of my American adventures to date, we turned to her situation. She started by explaining that her holiday house investment had gone pear-shaped recently due to the fact that her husband’s brother, one of their coinvestors, was bi-polar, and he had gone off his medication and was starting to turn their lives upside down with a prolonged manic episode…
Finally last night, holed up in my studio/bedroom, I was frantically trying to finish off some music for the Grandview Scenic Byway Park films that Tanya and I were working on in Pittsburgh. For one section, I pillaged some of my back catalogue, an old funky acid track called ‘Authority Over the Fish’ which I had not thought of, let alone listened to, for years: but it seemed to fit a particular action sequence very well. After I had finished editing it, I saw my Gmail blinking. I had been sent a message via Facebook. A friend of Tanya’s who I didn’t know, had befriended me, and part of his introductory message was a fond reminiscence of ’90s Australian techno-acid favorites, including a track he’d heard on the radio a few times and taped it because it had this wicked psycho-acid bass line, brass stabs and funny sample about someone having authority over the fish….
Tomorrow I go in for a procedure that may or may not help me get better, and get me back to America. One of the most frequent ways I seek consolation and guidance is by laying out Tarot spreads, or flipping over other kinds of divination cards – most often alone in my room, intensely wanting some kind of conversation with my destiny, with the Great Whatever. T makes me feel good by flattering me on my knack with the cards; certainly since the three years that I have began studying and consulting them seriously, and periodically recording results, I have managed to give myself (and others) goosebumps with the seeming accuracy of what falls in front of me – and not just ‘wishful thinking’ at all, but warning messages which eerily come to pass. So tonight, as a way to finish this blog on synchronicity, what could be more appropriate than my asking the Tarot about the outcome of my operation? So, once again, here we go…
‘Page of Wands’; Meanings: new beginnings on a creative level, ideas still forming but with much potential; a message of a new things to come; great promise and hope…