A bolt of lightning

I’ve never been much of one for self-help. A good dose of cynicism, glass of vino and a decent meal can do wonders for most ailments, right?

Most, except for one which I’ve been kicking around for way too long.

If this was a film, this next bit would be a montage set to angsty acoustic chick- music, and it would be much more entertaining.

Cue slow refrain:

When I was 20 I accidentally kissed a boy with a girlfriend at Oktoberfest at the Round House. Apart from his dubious levels of devotion, he also had glandular fever.

Three weeks earlier I’d attempted to eat chilli in a Hindi village in Malacca. The stomp of heat around my cheeks got washed down with an impulsive gulp of water. Water was from the local well that came with a free gift of e-coli.

The combination of the two cued a concerto of fatigue that seeped into my days.

The tedium of muted tiredness, stress at this mystical tiredness, a spluttering immune system and some unpleasant reactions to long-term antibiotics turned into the shadowy outlines of CFS, ME, or whatever you want to call it.

Whatever it was that tinkered along the edges of Tori; like it or not, it changed who I am.

You see, these were the days when I started to cook.

Fatigue makes for lame company. Dinner was a more hospitable timeslot than late night drinks; meals at home were more achievable than public transport to the city. Cooking nice food was a way to entice friends to stay in and spend time with The Tired One.

Years later the acronyms have much less of a say in my day to day. I work, I love, I eat, I drink- perhaps a little too much. But stress remains my sticky spot, the one that can slip me down the waterslide to the badlands of marshmallow brain and Bambi-lame limbs.

Seven and a half years after that Oktoberfest, me and my ballast of 9.30 bedtimes said; enough is enough.

There are things coming up which I want to be well for. If there’s stress that comes then I want to be able to smack it down. If I’m going to ‘do’ worry then I want it to be about what’s real, not about the added mate of how I might feel tomorrow, and the day that.

It seemed only a bolt of lightning would do.

The Lightning Process was tricky to get into and harder to get my head around. Three days in a room without natural light, a trainer, and five other people with CFS isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. It’s certainly not mine.

LP lives somewhere in the tundras between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and hypnosis. It’s had great results for people with CFS, OCD and some fledgling success in the UK with MS. It seems to have a claim on all the acronyms. It’s a little pattern of intervention which teaches you to put a halt to the spirals of adrenaline which keep you stuck on a bitter merry-go-round of stagnation.

It’s three days and a little intense, but has a great bit carrot attached to it. Supposedly you can really change your own health. Bring it on.

I particularly like any system that has as its key message ‘live the life you love.’

Every night of the course we were supposed to go out and test what we’d learned, and see if we really could live the life we loved, all the time. If only all homework was like this.

Bring on a brief wander to David Jones, to quickly partake in Clinique free gift time- I told you I had a knack for knowing when it was.

Cue three wonderful evenings of new-place investigation and wine bar hopping. Yay for pay week and new liquor licensing laws in Sydney. Cue a montage below of conspicuous consumption.

Bring on a brief jaunt to Chifley Tower’s Bacco for bellinis and free pizzette.

Then a sneaky sojourn down the Alice in Wonderland style stairs to Neil Perry’s newish Spice Temple, to tut-tut over sultry and politically incorrect photos of lasses from the South East who adorn the walls and drink cocktails named after animals- and Chinese new year’s (a jug of pig brings a muddled mix of lychees, gin and sparkling wine). Shock the pants of your palette with Szechuan peppercorns and chicken hot pots made by steeping chicken thighs in beer, soy and chilli oil over burners at your table. Marvel at whether a ‘three milk cake’ dessert, with a texture not dissimilar to an old bathroom sponge, which squats in a pond of condensed milk is great, or awful.

Agree that this place was built as a shrine to genital swinging bankers, so they can engage in a subterranean game of spice eating one-upmanship and general brew ha haaing. Celebrate my staying up until 11 pm. On a school night!

Day two and we bring on from stage left a walk around Circular Quay to the Sydney Theatre Company nursing a hazelnut gelato in a cone from gelatissimo. Slowly advance down the wonderful wooden beams of The Wharf, and sit out on the balcony drinking a glass of pinot grigio and nibbling pate with caper berries and balsamic onions while watching the sun set.

Day three; embark on an excursion to Sepia, Martin Benn (ex Tetsuya, ex Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay) and Dan Puskas(ex Oscillate Wildly- and the son of the receptionist at my old work-(!))’s new venture on Sussex Street. Coo over the sensible design which plants you straight in the wine bar from the street- with the two formal dining rooms branching off in tangents to the side. Murmur appreciatively at the thrifty option of cava by the glass and try not to sound ridiculous by commenting on the wine’s ‘mousse’. Silently wish they’d figure out how to do proper wine-bar food, the kind where you can eschew your cutlery and really get your hands into it. Love the sushi rice with smoked eel and licorice powder. Have a little swoon with every taste,it’s mellow and sexy and ambiguously assertive- my personal development goals personified in a dish.

Round out the week with a visit to my new Peter Pan Happy Place; a wine bar associated with Sydney’s new shrine to excess; Rockpool Bar and Grill. Do a happy dance at the Ella Fitzgerald soundtrack which swells, blink in astonishment at the racks and racks of Riedel glasses -an installation in their own right. Secure the best position in the corner and make our way through more glasses of Provencal pink wine than may be reasonable, and attack plates of jamon, roast pumpkin with yogurt and burnt butter, sardines with a twinkle of chilli propped up on bruschetta and a wagyu burger that made The Hungry One descend into silent joy. Add to that a black forrest trifle the size of a fireman’s hat and passionfruit marshmallows which are a soft pillow of summertime and you’ve got a starburst of joy that expands through space and memory.

It was not your average week.

But then, that was the point. It won’t always take a bolt of lightning, but it’s a kick start, a reward for a new way forward.

May there be many more nights of wine bars and 11pm bed times. Even on a school night.

Especially on a school night.

This is the life that I love.

  1. Tors darling – sounds mesmerising and I’m thrilled you took the walk on the alternative side! Just don’t start reading The Secret… xxx

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