Dumplings made me smile


It’s very late and my forehead feels like it has a tartan octopus strap wrapped around it, secured with hooks at my temples. Storms are breaking up around us, so the air is suffocating without rain’s relief. And there is a single fly buzzing around the room adding its drone to the downpipe drip and the blood-pressure buzz behind my eyes.

I wanted to read tonight. I’ve started Every Word is a Bird You Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet. It’s hypnotic and beautiful. Out of nowhere I cried at the end of the most recent chapter. In a book about words! I’m going to send it to Erin.

Instead of reading I’ve flipped the lid again to jot down a few thoughts. I read somewhere that when we write a diary, our choices of what to examine from our day say more about how we want to live than how we do. I rarely write about my disappointments and my anxieties. Partly because they’re boring but mainly because I’m not inclined to examine them too closely. Or perhaps I actually take comfort in the macro view, piddling about in the everyday rather than stepping back for some stock-taking perspective.

It’s been a very difficult year. Week after week of no daily note because I’ve been too tired, too emotionally spent to relive the dull dramas of my committee roles, my children and my marriage. I am overcommitted and floundering. I am missing deadlines. Bills are unpaid. Story opportunities have sailed past, unrealised because I’ve been too distracted with the twenty jobs I’ve half attended to.

Today my mother said something, replayed a conversation she’d had with someone from the distant past, which shattered my fragile equanimity. Over lunch with an old family friend, someone whose children I played with at primary school, my name came up. “She was always good at everything,” the family friend said, a notion so ridiculous and empty it should barely have registered with me. Instead it sucked the oxygen from my chest. My patent mediocrity, my inability to stick at anything or finish anything or succeed at anything was laid bare by that ridiculous observation, a comment made with good intentions and repeated with a mother’s love, held up to me like a vicious mirror.

Despite the storm torpor our home is frosty right now. The Husband is unhappy with me and The Ballerina won’t talk to me. The Champion is our only relief, bouncing between us with love and laughter as if nothing is wrong. But even she can’t withstand the silence for long and escapes to her room with Netflix.

Which leaves it to the Athlete, half a world away in China for a training camp and World Cup, to lighten my mood. Reaching out to her is always a risky proposition. She’s struggling with persistent pain in her forearm and an old knee injury has flared. When she starts talking about these injuries and their impact on her sport I absorb her anxiety and sadness like a sponge.

But today she ate dumplings. And messaged me with such enthusiasm for the world she’s exploring and the strange and wonderful food she’s eating that it made my heart sing. Which is why, for all the genre’s shortcomings, I prefer to focus on life’s small pleasures than its enveloping pain.


Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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