It was going to be a long drive, but I was excited.
It was a chance to get out of the radio station and away from the noise and egos to one of the smaller regional stations.
I’m a radio Copywriter. I write the radio commercials you love to hate.
I like my job. It lets me be creative to an extent. But of course there are the never-ending deadlines, someone always turning the music up and those loud, loud egos.
I had a hire car and was heading east into the heart of the West Australian Wheatbelt.
A two hour drive with just the radio for company. It wasn’t the station I wanted to listen to but it would have to do. I didn’t know the car or its wireless and it would be way too dangerous to try and change stations on the move.
Anyway, I needed to brush up on the latest hits and hear my commercials in situ. But soon enough the signal started to break up. I persevered but finally gave up and switched it off.
Besides, the silence would be good, a welcome respite from my usual busy, noisy work day.
Bliss. Just the open road and me. As the forest gave way to paddocks of wheat stubble I smiled to myself. I needed this time to relax, contemplate how good I had it and to leave the petty station politics behind, for a couple of days at least.
I felt good. I was on a journey. A road trip between places.
Thoughts came and went, as they do, like clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. I left them un-followed as I drove onward. Soon even my thoughts evaporated, clearing the way for emotions to seep into my awareness.
But these were not the peaceful, happy and contented emotions I had expected, given that my life is pretty damn good. No, these were lonely feelings, deep and desolate. An almost primordial sadness oozed and filled me.
Then came the harsh cutting feeling of paralyzing regret. Of having missed the boat as a real writer. Capable of only producing 30-second radio commercials, depressing poetry and the beginnings of unfinished books.
Why was this happening? I thought that when the distractions of life had gone away, then the “stillness of being” would descend bringing peace. Well at least that was what all those spiritual magazines said.
No. It seemed the distractions only kept my real feelings and emotions at bay, like a flaming stick keeps the wild dogs away as night descends when you’re alone in the forest. And as my flaming baton burnt low and the night closed around me, so did the dogs, tearing at my soul as I sped onward.
A new awareness then gathered me up, lifting me away a little, and I was able to see and feel the emotions dispassionately like an audience watching a performance. It’s not enough to quiet the distractions I realized, to simply turn off the radio and its never ending babble. We all carry our own internal wireless. Always jabbering to itself and dredging up tales of our past that have been told so often they no longer bear any resemblance to the truth, whatever that is.
Fearful musings that pick at the scabs of our lives. Terrifying loneliness fills the spaces left silent.
But what do I do? Do I pull the car over to the side of the road and find a new channel, turning up the volume, or do I drop that flaming torch and allow the dogs in? And if I let them in what would become of me? Would I be torn apart? Thankfully time ran out to answer these questions as the growing excitement of nearing my destination crept in and chased them away.
Later that night I lay on the bed in my 1970s motel room without Wi-Fi, a functioning TV or a wine glass. With a half empty bottle of wine on the bedside table (don’t ask), I got to thinking about the wild dogs that wait just behind the noise and static of everyday life. If I let them in would they attack and devour me as I suspected or were they like me, like all of us, in need of attention, some love and affection.
A kind hand and a good meal perhaps? Were these wild demon dogs from the night of my being not as dangerous as first imagined?
Had I been running from them all my life, when all I needed to do was stop, turn around and begin to make friends with them, albeit one at a time? I’ve never been good at running, both literally and figuratively and had been brought down many times while trying to escape, so that doesn’t work. So why not turn around and reach out a comforting hand?
We all have our own personal demons just waiting behind the static. Fearful creatures we try to avoid at all costs. I think I can, with time, make friends with some of mine so that as time passes, when the music is turned down and thoughts drift away, I can find myself peacefully sitting in a comfortable chair.
And at my feet? A pack of sleeping contented dogs. Man’s best friends.