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.


  1. This is lovely Meshel, and well written. You are lucky to have people like LInda in your life. Everyone should have one. And good on her for turning a tragedy into something that has meaning for her life and touches those around her. Go girl...

  2. Beautiful post Meshel! You have a great style to your writing. V. engaging.

  3. What a moving blog post.
    You make me want to know Linda. I truly feel for those who survived and saved their homes, as much as anyone else affected by the bushfires.
    The psychological toll is often underestimated.

  4. A thought provoking post Meshel. My heart goes out to everybody affected by the fires, regardless of what ways. I don't believe there are gradients of "worthiness" after disasters. Yes, count one's blessings no matter what you've been through, even the most horrific, but everyone affected has their own stuff to bear.

  5. A beautiful post Meshel. Your friend seems to be a beautiful soul, one that this world needs. We all need a Linda in our lives.

    I agree, no matter who you were, or how hard your heart is - Black Saturday affected us all in one way or another.


  6. That Linda's a dirty Tuppaware Pusher. ALWAYS has been, ALWAYS will be.


    (not Marj and John, naturally although they do think she's a dirty pusher too. 'Sme. Fahey. )

  7. You've captured an important point in a nutshell. Nothing happens in isolation for one. I also believe that there is always going to be someone better off than you and someone worse off than you. And pain is pain, regardless of how it compares to someone else's. A wise person once gave an analogy - If you have a broken leg and the person next to you has a headache, the pain you both feel is real. Neither is diminished by thinking of the pain of the other person. It just is.
    Thanks for writing about the fires, first story where I didn't cringe at the coverage.

  8. Great post Meshel. Heartbreakingly true. Keep up the great work.

  9. This ain't from Miss Gerda, it's from Linda. Oh. Moy. Gawd. Luuv?? I've just found this tonight. To all you darlings saying nice things about me, to tell you the truth I'm a cranky old arse. Funny, I think back to those early days post-fire about that woman informing us we "didn't lose anything" but a year on we've found we lost other stuff like our sanity, the comfort of perceived invincibility, a deep, close relationship with each other; that's kinda ratshit. There's an up side though. The gift of compassion of the nation is forever etched in our grateful souls. I still have some of my (disability) darlings visit me regularly for the odd art session at my house coz I can't stay off the mountain too long for fear of more panic attacks; I don't know what's safe anymore & I'm trying to find the old me hoping one day the fat, old mole will shout 'round the corner. But one thing I do know, I really do still owe you for a lettuce crisper & a set of square-rounds! Wait... two more things I know - shit photo, Babe, truly shit photo and three, I love you so freakin' much, Minshol.

  10. Excellent post Meshel, and credit to those who left excellent responses. It's nice to see there are still some people out there who are thinking. All the best to you Linda. I hope you find yourself again.

  11. these are the people I think about and thought about as we were driving through there a few months after the Saturday. The ones who can remember what happened and relive the trauma over and over again, seeing constant reminders of how short life can be and constantly questioning their good fortune to stay alive. Everyone who was touched by the fires are heroes.