October 7, 2012

The train time line

When I got on the fast train from the burbs to the city yesterday an old man shuffled way over so that he was sitting on my dress. I had a little chat and a laugh with him and then got the chance to pull my clothes back to me. His wife, who was sitting on the outside of the row, hissed at him ‘why do you have to talk to everyone when we’re out’.

I’m a bit like that old man. A bit of a public transport talker, and listener.

After the cutting comments of his wife┬ápassed I settled into the journey staring out the window, reading a book on the loss of a son by his mum, it was the kind of book you could only read in snippets and then take some respite. It made me sad. When I looked up to see where I was I instantly recognised the scene. My eyes scanned out across the inner western suburbs of Sydney. I saw the local pool we swam in as kids, remembering times when mum would surprise us at school with the swimming bag and 40 cents for the pool turnstile. I looked out at the street that ran parallel to the train line that I used to run along worried Id missed my train to take me to uni, I saw a few share houses Id lived in as a young person, places where you could stumble home from the pub, kebab shops for random – but much needed snacks – on the way and then I saw the house that my girl’s dad rented when he moved out of our place. If I sat high enough in my seat I could see over the concrete balcony and into the lounge room. I remembered the heavy heart Id have when I would drop my girl off there, portacot in tow, yellow blankie tucked safely into the nappy bag and then the lump in my throat as Id walk away waiting for the hours to pass quickly so that I could come back and return her to my arms.

As the journey kept going we stopped just outside of Redfern. Its always a place where the train stops, just short of your destination, as you wait for the signals to change and for you to be deposited at the place you intended. Yesterday I was heading to a meeting of people focused on developing the dream of one woman to create a space for people online to share their stories from the cradle to the grave. In the counselling world we explore peoples backstories as a way of predicting how they will cope with whatever stress that is troubling them. We retrace the traumas that have befallen them, the triumphs, the moments where resilience has kicked in and new ways are discovered to help people cope better.

Travelling along the train line was like travelling alone on an actual timeline of my life – from the cradle to now. When I stepped back on the train later that afternoon I realised that the return journey travelled not back along the track Id already come but it headed north away from where it had started.

It headed home.

Whats your story timeline?

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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. This is beautiful Sarah, I imagined you on that train passing through your life. Love that the resiliance you learnt has resulted in the lovely life you have created today.

  2. You had me at train. Beautiful storytelling Sarah. X

  3. Truly lovely post Sarah

    I’ve also got a story that took place on a train. Mine happened about 12 months ago on a train from the Sutherland Shire into the city. I sat next to an elderly couple, probably in their late 80’s. Before too long, we got talking and I found out that in his younger days, the gentleman had a job as a bus driver and prior to that, before cars were popular, would taxi local people around in his car to make a living for his family.

    Anyway, as the conversation progressed, the gentleman and his wife told me the things they did to get the things they needed and how they enjoyed their life, although it was tough. They told me that in hindsight, they’d do nothing differently, and that the struggles are what made them the people they are today.

    At this time, I was going through struggles myself and traveling the journey of their life through their stories, reinforced to me that, struggles, yet tough at the time, develop character and even though some struggles take things away (good health for example), it also provides. The struggles in life give us opportunities and knowledge that we’d never have otherwise gained. Hearing the stories of the elderly couple’s early days in Sydney reinforced that to me.

    It’s inspiring to see that the most noteworthy stories, are the ones that come from the least expected teachers!

    • struggles are character building Nat. I think looking out for the messages in other peoples stories, and finding ways to link to them to ourselves is an art. Im always trying to refine it.

  4. I’ve been writing stories in my head for years, I always thought of them as life observations to myself. I feel relief in knowing these rambles can be captured and immortalised online in Times New Roman size 10 font, and people may be slightly interested in reading them. And that I can read others rambles, and nod my head happily to their thoughts and insights. Is that maybe the greatest invention of our generation? The online environment which has given us the ability to easily capture our thoughts and share quickly and generously thus creating a generation of head nodder’ers. Beautiful and though provoking post Sarah, thank you.

  5. Stories make the world smaller, through making connections we’d otherwise not have noticed and encouraging empathy and understanding among people are we’re invited to walk in another’s shoes. Stories are also magic in the way they can make us realise just how big the world is. As the SBS tagline goes, “7 billion stories and counting …”
    I love stories because I believe because of the myriad ways they tell the truth, even when they might be made of fiction.

  6. I obviously hit ‘post’ before I could edit that one …

  7. A beautiful post Sarah. I love how your train journey took us on a journey into your past. The ordinary and the extraordinary parts of our lives intermingle and there’s a certain wisdom gained when we take time out to reflect and observe. Thank you. For me your post is a reminder that all we do, from the mundane to the great, contributes to the great tapestry of our life.

  8. Reading your post reminded me of my time in London, where on the Underground, everyone looked no where in particular, but their newspapers or shoes, and back! I love looking at people and noticing everything about them, and had millions of conversations in my head.
    Its lovely to be reciprocated and have those words out in the open!


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