Learning as I go along

I might wish that the dramas of the last 2 years had never occurred, but I have to acknowledge that for all the inconvenience, confusion and occasional despair that it’s not all bad. It’s a hard way to do it, but you learn more when times are different, and more so when they’re tough. Sometimes you can overlook that in the stress of the moment (in reality, days, weeks and months), but often times I am made to remember – particularly so in reference to my writing. If nothing else, my prose should benefit from this abundance of life experience.

It’s maybe because I look at things with a writerly eye that I observe so keenly. It’s fascinating to step away from my experience and see things with an almost scientific detachment. I try to record a lot of it here, which is one reason I’ve been more candid about my situation in recent times. I want to record things as they are for posterity; and I want to set down the observations I make of it while they’re still fresh and present.

I’ve entered into a new phase of my life. It remains precarious, and while many of the challenges remain unchanged I now come at them from a changed perspective. I have to deal with and manage myriad different things every day, and often to no avail. That happens on one level of my self. On another level I sit there watching, assessing, and ultimately processing what I observe. I understand more as that happens, my knowledge grows, and the link between cause and effect becomes clearer. I may actually become wise one day.

In the last week or two I’ve been able to observe states of being new to me. In retrospect they seem logical and obvious, but they’re the sorts of things that until you experience them will never occur to you.

Once upon a time I was reasonably well off. It’s one of the things that makes my story piquant. I wasn’t rich, or anywhere near it, but I was pretty comfortable. I had property, shares, assets, thousands sitting idle in my bank account, and an income that ranged from good to excessive. Most of it was the result of hard, and more often, clever work. I marketed myself well, had attitude and brains, and was able to combine the lot for the benefit of my lifestyle. I earned it all, but I was fortunate too.

Hand in hand with this was a pretty attractive lifestyle, and about 25 years of it. I travelled all over the world, sometimes very basically, like a student might backpacking, but often reasonably well, and occasionally indulgently – in any case the frequency I was able to manage this was relatively privileged.

I lived well too. I went to good bars, ate at excellent restaurants, attended fascinating events. At home I ate well, drank well, and dressed stylishly. This was my expectation of life, my entitlement as modern parlance would have it, and I didn’t know much different. I had a full and interesting life. I had much fun.

Those days are long gone, and by and large something I accepted easily once I was out on my arse. It was struggle enough to find a roof over my head. I might get wistful occasionally, but any sense of expectation – and entitlement – was long snuffed out.

Now that I’m working again, and in a home of my own, it’s changed subtly. There’s no expectation still, sadly, and no entitlement, but suddenly living in my own home I feel the absence of the social lifestyle I’ve barely thought about before. I go to work, I come home, I make my dinner, I watch TV, and I go to bed. There’s no room for extravagance in my life. No dollars available for a social life. I live very quietly, uneventfully, and that’s the way it’s going to be for a while, and maybe forever.

This might be stating the bleeding obvious, but life is a lot less interesting when you have no money. Well der, you think, and fair enough, but despite the obvious nature of the statement it comes as a bit of a revelation for me. I’ve had it good, I know, but possibly better than I realised. With dollars come options, naturally, and with options there comes diversity of experience. I’ve had that; now I don’t. Many, perhaps, have never experienced it. That’s one of the things I’ve come to understand. I took my life for granted, by and large. Now I’ve come realise that what was common for me is uncommon in life. It’s given me a new perspective.

There is a corollary to this. In my new, plain, boring life, I’ve come to feel the lack of a close family about me. In the absence of a social life authentic intimacy more than fills the gap. I don’t have that though. I’ve had close family before, who I miss, and episodes of intimacy and passion on the personal level, but, right now, neither of them. I never felt their absence before because life was full with other things. Now I have neither, and feel the gaping loss in both instances. C’est le vie – it won’t be forever.

All of this is humbling I guess, in the conventional vernacular. My story is riches to rags, more or less, and cliché is that I must be humbled by it. I guess I am, in a way, but to describe it as humbling implies an emotional attribute I don’t really feel. I don’t sit around pining for what used to be – I don’t allow that, and it’s pointless besides. I don’t really see it through a personal prism – perhaps I should? It’s entailed more of a reassessment, and a commensurate re-adjustment. Shit happens, it is what it is, doesn’t matter what was before, it’s now that counts, and what I can make of it going forward…and so on.

Put aside the difficulty, it’s not so much humbling as enlightening. I guess I can put that positive spin on it convinced that I will get back to somewhere close to where I was before. I won’t be so well off perhaps, and I may not earn as much as I did at my peak, but I reckon I’ll go ball park.

Maybe that explains something else. I’m sitting there at work doing my stuff. And I’m sitting there in my aforementioned lounge room watching TV and I don’t feel the man my circumstances proscribe, and less so every day. I feel much as I have most of my life – capable, confident, ambitious, assertive, and bold. I feel it in my bones. Fucking vibrant…

I can feel that, but at the same time feel as if I’m bound within a thin, elastic, transparent membrane. This is the practical truth of my situation. I can see through the membrane. I know the life beyond it because I’ve lived it. Yet the membrane keeps me from it. I feel myself pushing at the membrane, stretching it, my muscles straining and feeling as if I’m set to burst from it. I feel certain that at some point I must muscle my way through it. Just a matter of time…

I feel this person then, comfortably alpha, and surprisingly at my ease – but it’s in almost direct contradiction to my circumstances.

The truth is that these are my circumstances. I’m striving to change them, and am confident I will – but this is my reality now. It’s a bloody tough reality too, as I recorded the other day. I may possess a buoyant belief in myself and the future, but that’s all hot air and whimsy until it actually happens. The reality is a heavy load of baggage I need to shed before I can get anywhere.

Life is an interesting experiment. I can be as philosophical and scientific as I like; I can step aside and observe and record what I see like some kind of social anthropologist; and I can plan and plot and hope and desire with all my heart. These are the things outside. Separate. I need them for my self: I probably couldn’t have managed thus far without them. It’s the things inside and close though I have to deal with first. It’s nice to learn and hope, but I can’t be getting too far ahead of myself. The membrane is a fact. There is no inevitability. Feeling it doesn’t make it so, and faith does not make for truth.

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