Time to get on the tear

Someone started a discussion about poetry in our book club yesterday, and I was quick to add to it.

I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not because I don’t like it, rather I’m pretty selective and hardly get around to it. Good poetry affects me quite powerfully though. It opens me up. It smooths out the jagged edges and eases me into a different way of thinking and feeling. I believe more after I’ve read good poetry, I’m both gentler and more sensitive. Poetry is a way for me to transcend present reality and to enter into infinite possibilities.

Last night it led me to look back on this blog. I’ve posted about poetry now and again and copied out individual poems. I wanted to return to them, not just to the poems themselves but to the person I was in those moments. I wanted to read of the context and state of mind.

For some reason I had a particular poem by Pablo Neruda in my head and figured it was about 10 years ago I wrote of it. I started a little over 11 years ago, from midway in 2007.

What happened is I got caught up reading of those times and entering into the mindset I had then. It was an eventful time for me. I had a busy social life plus I was falling in love.

I was surprised by how well I described it all. I found myself really liking the man I was then – clearly intelligent, confident, digressive but original, a little cheeky, very masculine. Naturally, I couldn’t help but compare the man I was then to the man I am today.

It’s a bit unfair really. None of the shit had hit the fan then. I was on a comfortable salary – about double what I’m currently earning – working at a job I really liked. I had great colleagues and I was both respected and admired. I had a fair whack of authority then, working either with the CFO or CEO, and was given my head to do whatever I thought needed doing. There were times then I think I was brilliant – brilliant in the sense that I wasn’t just competent, I was innovative and daring, and it all worked.

Because I had money as well as the inclination I had a busy active life. I knew a lot of women, and it seemed like a lot of women knew me. I had fun with that, but as I am now I was the loyal type. I would flirt, but because my desires were elsewhere mostly I let it go there (not quite always). I had every reason to be confident about the future, and indeed in years to come, I would flourish for a while.

I have to admit, I don’t think I like the man writing these words as much as I liked the man writing here 10 years ago.

I think the big difference is that there’s not nearly as much joy in me now as there was then. I don’t think I’m any harder than I was then – and I was pretty formidable – but the mix has changed. I carry the scars of battle now, and if I’m no harder then I’m less joyous. Unsurprisingly I’m come out of my ordeal grimmer than I was before, and perhaps warier.

It might be different if I had the same opportunities now as I did then – I’m sure it would change a lot. But then I have changed in that way.

Back then I was digressive and interesting, heading off on fascinating tangents. I don’t see those tangents so clearly now. Because I’ve been so focused on getting myself right my digressions have been personal. I’m often conscious even as I describe how I must do this or that how self-indulgent and whiny I’ve become.

I’m not whining now though. It’s good to go back and read because it reminds me of my essential self. It’s fine to make plans – and I think I’m on the right track – but let’s not forget to have fun.

Amid all the necessary changes I identified earlier this year was one dedicated to becoming more expansive and charming, as I once was. I’ve noticed a change in that regard over the last couple of months, and others have commented on it. I’m not as I was then, but there are recognisable aspects and generally, I’m much more open and spontaneous with my colleagues, and more so with some.

This is the thing: it doesn’t take much to change things. I’m still the same person I was then, just adjusted differently. I need some readjustment – though it’s not as simple as that.

I’ve got two sides of my soul. One is more intense and ascetic, disciplined and responsible. The other is more spontaneous and irresponsible, extroverted and extravagant. For many years I would alternate between the two, almost consciously – I would write about it. I’d go on the tear for a while partying hard, socialising here there and everywhere, flirting like there was no tomorrow, all very Rabelaisian. Gradually I would weary of that and eventually would retire to a more thoughtful and quiet life, enjoying the small things and reflecting on what it all meant.

For the last 6-7 years, I’ve been the ascetic. Life jolted into that situation and stuck me there. There’s been little opportunity and small excuse to cut loose. I won’t say it’s made H a dull boy, but it’s made him very controlled.

I had forgotten all about that. That other H, he’s a lot of fun. I’ll know things are good when I get back to being him.

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