Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year everyone!

Best wishes to you all for 2008!

It's been a hectic few days, and I'm not really in the habit of writing down everything yet. I've never been really good at keeping a journal. Not that I don't have anything good to say about things that have happened, just getting the motivation is the hard part.

Last night was New Year's Eve Sydney time, and as usual, we went down to the waterfront to watch the fireworks on the harbour. It seems to be a tradition in Smith's family, we've been for several years. This year, as well as Smith's mother, brother and his brother's fiance (I call her my sister for short, that's what we'll be in seven months! but here I'll refer to her as Tie) they brought one of their friends, who was pretty cool. Smith, his brother and the friend (I don't know how to spell her name, and haven't asked what to call her here) went down to the harbourside to reserve a spot at midday, while Tie and I went shopping for food supplies to tide us over. Smith's mum had to pack for a trip to Melbourne so she joined us later in the afternoon.

Shopping with Tie was fun, as always. I seem not to have inherited any fashion sense, but I'm surrounded by people who do have it - my dad, my real sister, as well as Tie and Smith's mum. I also generally hate shopping, but it's nice to have a guide who knows what she likes and how to really look around. Yesterday afternoon after buying salad, vegetarian luncheon meat and other goodies, and insect repellent and sunscreen, we shopped for sunhats. It was interestingly hard to find them. We thought we'd see them in the dollar stores, and sometimes they have them in pharmacies, but there was no luck there. Finally we found a bunch of them in Sportsgirl. Tie, Smith's brother and I wore our white sunhats all day!

Then it was down to the harbourside for the long wait 'til the midnight fireworks. We had a sunshelter tent set up, with folding chairs inside and out, and sat reading and chatting all afternoon and evening.

Although the fireworks were beautiful, I really need a year's break at least between such occasions. I'm naturally a quiet and introverted person, and I don't enjoy crowds or noise. While initially we had a relatively large space to ourselves, after a while the crowding was very tight, and there was alcohol flowing freely and contributing to the noise. After the nine o'clock fireworks there were even more people arriving, to the point where there were people standing directly behind my folding chair with their knees touching my back - for two hours while waiting for the midnight fireworks. And this is despite the fact that we had chosen a position with our backs to the path.

I sorely wanted to tell them to just go away. I wanted to get away from the noise and the crowding ... and the smells. The scent of tobacco is pleasant for a minute or so (I grew up a smoker's child, so I'm slightly used to it) but after a while it hurts; the additional odours of alcohol, the diesel engines on the boats, perspiration, spiced food, crushed greenery and magnesium sparklers all worsened the headache. Come there on a normal day and all you can smell is saltwater (and smog, I guess) - I guess that's the level of scent I'm used to, and too much is just overwhelming. Even the perfume section of a department store is difficult for me.

It didn't help that I was reading a book called The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron. It describes people who find subtle things more stimulating than others, to the point where they easily become distressed by situations they find overly arousing. It's been a very interesting book, but one I have to read in sections before I can really take it in, as it requires a lot of thought.

My personal jury is still out on whether I belong to the 20% of people you can categorise as Highly Sensitive People (or HSPs). I picked up the book because I've often experienced the kind of distress you get when too much is happening, and there are so many times I've been too frazzled by stress to function or even sleep. But the descriptions of the trait are very detailed and don't exactly match me, so I'm still thinking about it. I'll probably write a little more about it later on.

Even the sensitivity to scent that I've just described may be normal. Our sense of smell is very closely linked to the emotional centre, after all. I guess most people can walk through the perfume section of a department store without their stomach churning, though.

It got to the point where I quietly asked Smith if we could skip the occasion next year. I love Smith's family and Tie, and I'm sure they will want to come again, and they can stay in our apartment as they did last night, but I'm not sure it's worth it for me to go with them next time. The fireworks were indeed beautiful, as they always are, but I've seen fireworks on the harbour many times before. I guess we'll see next year.

The whole occasion brings to mind one of my early memories. My family live near Manly, and one evening when I was about five we went to what must have been a Sea Eagles game at Brookvale. Anyway, the field and the spectator area were actually pretty small in those days (still are, I hear), and it was very crowded.

Before the game started there were fireworks. Now, even then I had always loved to watch fireworks on television, especially on New Year's Eve. We had also taken trips up to the nearest high lookout to watch the harbour fireworks from a distance (several miles). But this was the first time I'd experienced fireworks in person. I screamed at the noise of the explosions, and bawled at the crowds, and made such a fuss that my dad had to take me right out of the park. I don't remember if we even got to watch the game, I seem to remember we didn't. (I must have been a real brat.)

I am still a Sea Eagles fan, although not a real football follower, and I have always remembered that occasion with regret. But it's things like that, that make me wonder if I'm one of these HSPs. I guess I'll read more and we shall see.

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the angel Jean