Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's about my friend Linda....

When I was a young comedian in Melbourne, doing gigs for free and living on noodles, my friend Linda used to pretend she owed me money. “Hey, wait a minute,” she’d say wide eyed and gaping mouthed, “I owe you money!” She didn’t of course, how could she? She paid for every coffee and piece of cake we ever ate together, for every late night meal and every post show drink. Never the less, she’d ferret around in her bag until she found twenty bucks and push it deep into my hand. The bit that still makes me laugh is that she always mumbled something about Tupperware during the exchange. How she could possibly owe me money for Tupperware I’ll never know. A couple of weeks ago, the good people at Tupperware offered her and everyone else who stayed on in town some free gear. Linda felt weird taking it.

Three years ago she and her husband Wayne moved to Kinglake. I never understood the attraction myself. I mean it has neither a King nor a Lake for starters and it’s bloody miles from Melbourne’s inner city, which is where the comedy is. I was shocked a year later when Linda announced a career change. She was about to become a carer for disabled adults. Now, the entertainment industry has it’s fare share of shit to wade through, but caring for disabled adults takes it to a whole different level. As a fellow performer I have to admit that I questioned her ability to stay committed to such a thankless task and to a scenario that was never going to be about her.

I shouldn’t have judged her by my own standards because she’s still totally committed. She speaks about the people in her care, their swinging limbs and nappy changes, as though they are her own beloved children. Linda’s a good egg, so why has she felt so guilty since surviving last year’s bushfires?

In the 1960’s the psychiatric community named a new syndrome after discovering symptoms common to many Holocaust survivors and their children. They called it Survivor Guilt and concluded that it manifested in those who felt they had no right to express their rage and sorrow because they had survived where others had not.

As I cruised the internet researching the topic, it got me thinking about the way we catagorise pain. We seem to chase the extremities of trauma. Death tolls, horror stories and photos of charred cars juxtaposed with happy snaps of families lost. It’s as though we won’t be satisfied until we’ve heard and seen the absolute worst black Saturday has to offer. Maybe spectators are a bit bored with the Lindas and Waynes who although caught off guard and too late to flee, fought off the flames while their grandchildren huddled inside and saved their home. They have no dead relatives for us to ponder over in a special Sunday lift-out. They “didn’t lose anything” as one helpful volunteer informed them days after the fire. Well, they lost friends, they lost their community and they lost their peace of mind forever, but it’s hard for a camera crew to get any coverage of that and heaven forbid we should try to imagine it for ourselves.

Linda's visual art is gaining attention. Here's what she's up to now.