Small ways, big waves; big ways, small waves.

 Art courtesy of  Maddison Gibbs .

Art courtesy of Maddison Gibbs.

Amidst the grey clouds and pouring rain, the dull concrete and steel of the city, Phillippa could be seen huddled underneath a bright floral umbrella. She wasn’t far from the place where she lived – her house in Sydney, but not her home – and for that exact reason, she preferred to stand in the rain under her floral umbrella, crying. She wriggled her toes and noticed the increasing dampness. Her canvas vans were struggling to withstand the splashing of rain and the sploshing from the muddy puddles. Her cheeks chilled as the wind blew, highlighting the tracks where her tears had run.

In a very Bridget Jones-like way, amid self-pitied sniffles and snuffles, Phillippa wondered, How did I end up here?

Long story short, she was an empath, a Leo and a self-described mermaid, 4000 kilometres away from her country. Being disconnected from her country meant yearning and aching for that place where she knew she had belonged to for tens of thousands of years. She was struggling with friendship and boy dramas, as expected during her early twenties, while trying to finish her combined Communications and Law degree, and working part-time at a corporate law firm, plus trying to dismantle the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal (to name a few) society on a full- time voluntary basis. Phillippa has been identified by some as a young Indigenous woman who was forced to live the white man’s ways, in the white man’s world – because society needs to categorise people in order to know how to treat them.

As the rhythm of the falling water sped up, flashes of blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white- skinned panelists discussing child removals jump to her mind, before blurring into her friend’s face, crumpled, after hearing the news of her uncle jumping to his death to avoid police confrontation. An image seeps to the front of her mind, a cardboard sign with #Shame scribbled on it and stuck to her college room door; etched in her memory, just as when her seminar leader skipped through the slides describing the police brutality incident that her friend’s uncle had died from. #Shame. Pitter, patter. White panelists encouraging Indigenous child removals to white families. Patter, pitter. Shame, they screamed. Her stomach churned as it had in the seminar. Pitter, patter. #Shame.

Her eyes had focused on a single droplet. The droplet, stubborn, traced the edge of the umbrella for a few seconds before reaching the metal spoke and letting go. It tumbled, expanding, spinning and dancing. Falling. It fell somehow with a graceful splat onto the dirt.

In order to cope with the devastations of the world that seem to pelt down like hail, Phillippa had developed small and big ways of looking after herself. Her own self-care routine. On a daily basis, before heading to class, Phillippa had to emotionally prepare herself to face a world that had no respect for her. Emily Wurramurra, Beyoncé, and Jhene Aiko were there for her. Whether it be through tears or after completing the Love of Top routine, Phillippa wrote in her journal, and confided in the ocean for serenity and calm. The tumbling of the waves, the rumbling of their tumbles, the scent of salt spray and the whistling of the wind humbled Phillippa’s thoughts, and reminded her to float through life and to sometimes let her troubles flow over her head like the wind.

Perhaps due to her synchronicity with her country’s climate, or maybe just coincidentally, Phillippa was feeling the heaviness and sweat of the the build up. The build up of her emotional turmoil made it hard for her to move. Not even Jhene Aiko, or the Gadigal waves could help.

It was time for big ways self care.

Time to dig into her Centrelink money for a one-way flight to Darwin. To Larrakia country. Her land and sea. Home.

Rather ironically, Phillippa ended up back home during the build up. The magpies glided in formation towards the setting sun. Metres away, a fish jumped, flew and splashed. For the length of the orange- and white-swirled cliffs, she was the only person around.

She was confronted by the quiet of her country.

The air, thick and clingy, pressed against her. Pressured her. Like the miniscule droplets of water in the air, Phillippa’s thoughts bounced and flew around. Crumpled face. Faster and faster. Protest shouts. Bouncing, pounding, compounding. #Shame. Skipped slides. Sticking together. Sticking. Sticky. Crumpled. Shouting. #Shame. Skipped. The air got thicker. Denser. Heavier.

She couldn’t tell if she was tasting the beads of her sweat, the drops of her tears, or the snot from her nose – it was very likely all three.

Her heartbeat had aligned to the gentle lapping of the water against the sand. Her ancestors’ sea was flat and smooth. Amidst the silhouettes of the casuarina trees that were stamped against hues of the fiery sunset sky, Phillippa had, not so gracefully, tumbled, spun, danced, and landed back home.

Away from the dramas, degree, and Sydney, Phillippa could take care of herself so that she would be ready to continue her full-time voluntary job.

This article appeared in The Comma’s 2018 Annual Edition. Read more here.

This article was written by Mililma P May. You can find her here.