Sugar


The latest episode in my health story led me to a pathology lab in Highett for a Glucose test. This, I gather, is to test for potential diabetes. That’s not something I want to be diagnosed with, though I expect if it comes to that, it will be at the minor end of the scale. I know it’s a reasonably common occurrence in people as they get older, but if it’s to be, then I figure it’s something I can manage. Having said that – I doubt I have it.

There is some family history. My sister, when still a kid, had her kidneys operated on because they weren’t functioning properly. I have a feeling she has only one and a hald now, though it’s so long ago, and so rarely mentioned, that I’d almost forgotten altogether. My memory tells me it was something to do with blood sugar, but no doubt the medical experts out ther can set me right.

My gandmother on my fathers side had a minor form of diabetes also, though she called it ‘sugar’, as so many of her generation did. “I’ve got sugar,” they would say, meaning some variety of diabetes. In her case, she wasn’t on insulin or anything, but had to monitor her blood sugar and watch her diet.

Anyway, it was quite a tedious morning. I had to fast leading into it, so no coffee this morning. They took some blood and then I was made to drink some sickly sweet glucose concoction and sent away to the waiting room. The idea was that they’d take another blood sample an hour later, and another an hour after that. By comparing the results, they could measure how efficiently I was processing the sugar in my bloodstream.

So I read for an hour by myself as people came and went in the lab, the bell ringing, old people shuffling in for their weekly test, and shuffling out again. I watched with half an eye. The book I was reading is excleent (Transit), but I felt restless too.

Generally, you go along with but a cursory look to one side or another. This is your life, these are your routines, that’s what you can reasonably expect. My recent past and more generally inquiring mind lead me to look a little further afield perhaps, but it’s true all the same that you become conditioned to the life you lead – even as occasionally you rail against it.

It’s not all like that though. People live different lives. They have vastly different routines, or no routines. As for expectations? They’re all over the shop. Here I am then, sure, I’m being tested for diabetes but you look at me, and I’m a robust looking fellow who might just be bulletproof – certainly, I feel that way often enough. I’ve got a quick mind still, am conversationally fluent, and all of this feels a bit like an aberration. I’m here, like, in the lab being tested, but I’m not really here, you know what I mean?

And then you see the old dears come in and the shuffling old men and the men who feel like they have to tell you all about their hospital stay last week, propped on a cane, and you get an idea of this other world. That’ll never be me, you think, as you do. Sure you’re being tested for something, just like them, but you’re robust and bulletproof regardless and, look at me, I could do a tap dance here and now if you asked me to. But, you know it’s bullshit.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, maybe half of them could tap dance as well. So when you go in for your second test, then your third, you’re bright and airy, cool as a cucumber, you engage and laugh about craving the first coffee of the day as if to say, look at me, aren’t I well? Aren’t I different from them?

I note all this like an anthropologist would. There’s always a part of me cool and detached. I guess that’s why I write – there’s always a part of me watching. I know I’m different, so to did the nurse who took my blood – but in ten or fifteen or twenty years, I could be just the same.

At the end of it all, a little over two hours, I drove away and bought the coffee I promised. In a week I’ll know the results of the test and I’ll take it from there.

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A complete individual


With Wimbledon on, there’s been a lot of talk in Oz about Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, especially relative to the new darling of Australian tennis – and world number one – Ash Barty.

Like, everyone, I think Ash Barty is a breath of fresh air. She’s unpretentious and decent and upfront. She just gets the job done and with very little angst. In some ways, she’s an old fashioned Australian sporting type, and maybe even a throwback to previous eras in tennis when it was nowhere near as hyped as it is now, and the egos were much more reasonable. Now she’s hit number one she appears to have established a rich form line which may well carry her to the Wimbledon title, and beyond. The test will come against Serena Williams – just about her polar opposite – but I think she’s clever enough to win that.

Like just about everyone I deplore Bernard Tomic. I think he’s a disgraceful human being. Clearly, he has issues that lead him to behave as he does, but he has to be accountable for his actions. I can find no redeeming features. He’s lazy, arrogant, disrespectful and, worst of all doesn’t have a crack. He’s derisive of others and petulant to boot.

Last week he made the news by losing in the first round and being stripped of his prize money for basically tanking it. I think this penalty is the cumulative result of many tournaments and matches where his effort is cursory at best. I think it’s fair enough, but then if someone shot him out of a cannon, I’d think that was fair enough also. As you can probably tell, he’s held in general contempt. (I admit to some pity for him – he’s obviously playing up and there are reasons for it – but in the end, it’s up to him to be better).

Then there’s Kyrgios. The jury is much more mixed when it comes to him. There’s plenty who despise him. They see him as graceless and rude. They find his antics offensive. He’s also a wasted talent.

Then others think he’s great. For a start, he has in abundance that thing that Tomic lacks altogether – charisma and personal charm. He’s entertaining, even fun, and on top of that, a complete individual. He runs his own race and has no time for the conventional courtesies. He’s candid and straight-forward and, even if he is a wasted talent, completely free of pretension.

As you can tell probably from my commentary, I fall more so into the second camp. I find it a great pity that a man of such extreme talent – potentially the best in the world – so fritters it away. But then I acknowledge his point that it’s his life and his choice. He’s upfront with his shortcomings, that he hasn’t the concentration or dedication to achieve much more than what he does now – which amounts, generally, to several highly entertaining cameos and the occasional disappointing walkover.

He gets away with a lot because he is so utterly charming (though not everyone sees that). And because he is great to watch when on song. And because he’s so honest and transparent. Underneath I think he’s a genuinely nice guy who isn’t made for the circuit, and he’s definitely someone I’d like to share a beer with (my measuring stick). He has none of the contemptuous and cynical ill-grace of Tomic, and his sheer individuality is refreshing.

As an Aussie I wish he was winning one grand slam after another, but would he be as interesting an individual if he did? Ultimately it’s his right to deploy his talent as he chooses. We assume goals and a career on his behalf. That’s how we see things and have become conditioned to expect. He’s rejected that. I think he’s a pure soul, and while occasionally I may shake my head at his antics, I can’t help but like him. And I respect his right to choose his own road. He’s an individual, and for that, he should be applauded.

Getting the job


About five minutes after I sat down at my desk this morning, the guy who interviewed me for the digital job walks in looking lost. I watch him, knowing that he’s searching for my manager to talk about me. Our eyes catch, and we nod, then he discovers my manager and closes the door behind him.

I knew this was coming, but it sat poorly in my stomach. I could hear her voice, if not the words. I didn’t much care what she said about me, what I hated was that someone so poorly suited to it was to stand in judgment of me.

I spoke to the Digital manager last week after I had the interview. He came down to see me, and we found an empty office to talk. He told me he was leaving in a month. He said that he had recommended me for the job, but it wasn’t his decision. He asked me how the interview had gone, and I scoffed at the idea of an ‘interview’ and expressed my reservations about the differing personalities. That’s good, isn’t it? He said. I couldn’t see what he meant until he expanded further, indicating without actually saying so that they – the powers that be – were aware of the contrast and that it might work in my favour. The inference was that, after a period, I might be placed in the top job.

That put a different spin on things. I was unexcited by the role, but it would be hard to turn down if there was a clear career path leading from it.

In the meantime, I interviewed for the other role on Friday. It still interests me much more. It may not pay as much initially, but I get training and certification in Intelligent Automation out of it. I find it pretty interesting, as well as compatible with my experience, and certification like that will open doors elsewhere as I get older. It’s a good investment, and in 12 months they plan for a Centre of Excellence which will create further opportunities. The interview went well.

I may get offered neither role, but I’ve decided – in principle – to accept whichever of the jobs is offered to me first (contingent on salary). I should hear back about the IA job by Wednesday. The digital job may be sooner.

You might think this activity would please me. It doesn’t. I hate the phoniness attached to the process. I just want to be me and do the job.

Horses in the dark


It was a clear and mild last night, and I was in the city after an early dinner and heading towards a freebie play at the Malthouse.

We caught a train down St Kilda Road and got off at the Police Memorial. We walked down the street and travelling parallel with us on the road were a couple of mounted police on their horses. They clip-clopped along at a steady and reassuring pace, unbothered by all. I continued my conversation but had half an ear on the horses.

I was filled with affection. What wonderful beasts, I thought. There was something unperturbed and totally relaxed about the horses as they ambled along as if they had done this a hundred times before and were content with the life they had been gifted. It was a dream for their riders, too, I thought, imagining that this was something they had always wanted to do.

They were heading back towards the stables, I figured, which were nearby. I imagined what happened then – saddles removed and harness, given a brush down before a feed. Then the night ahead in their spacious cubicles, the odd clip of a hoof on the floor as a horse shifted, the sighs and gentle whinnies, and the quiet, companionable conversations between them in the dark.

They veered away as we went on. I looked in their direction feeling a quiet glow. That was something good.

The older I get, the more I come to love animals, and I’ve always loved them – and horses are one of my favourites.

When it rains…


After applying for an internal job in digital the week before last, yesterday I interviewed for it.

Initially, I was to be interviewed by a combination of an HR person, the head of Digital, and the guy I would be reporting to. Come down to the interview; there was no HR person in sight, the Digital manager was called away elsewhere, and it was left to the guy who would be my direct boss.

I know him quite well, and he’s a lovely, competent person. We’ve worked together on bits and pieces over the journey, and he’s always been pleasant and helpful – unlike most of IT. Still, I wasn’t entirely thrilled when I heard he’d be my boss. Part of it was that I’ve never seen, or treated him, as anything other than an equal. It never occurred to me that he might be my superior (to be fair, it rarely does). The more significant concern is that he’s a retiring, reserved type and I’m hard at it and striving. No kidding, I reckon I’d overpower him without trying (and I wouldn’t be trying).

Regardless, we’re sitting there, and it’s less an interview than a conversation, and he admits he’s never interviewed a colleague before. I make reference to my CV at one stage, and he admits he’s not seen it, and I’m wondering what’s going on. I fill him in a little, and he tells me about the job, and the more he tells me, the less enthused I become.

Basically, a lot of it is managing issues with the digital entities, including service desk issues. That’s maybe 70%. The rest of it is more up my street, but still not thrilling. I know I can’t say no to the job, per se, but I’m thinking this is going to bore me to tears.

To put it in perspective. I’m in a role now where I can be both autonomous and very creative. Creativity is one of my strong points. I can look at a problem and come up with a variety of solutions, some of them sophisticated, some of them just smart, and a few right out of left field. It’s how I think, how I see. The problem is – as I’ve long articulated – is that while I can have a million smart ideas, I lack the leverage or authority to implement more than a scant few of them. Hence my eternal frustration.

Give me this new job, and I have a team about me that can probably build much of what I can conceive – but the role precludes creativity. It’s not my job to be smart like that or to formulate solutions. The position is about managing and coordinating disparate resources and no more.

But then – and isn’t this ironic? – another role popped up last week. It sounds much more interesting and a better fit for both my experience and aptitude – working with Intelligent automation (Robotics). This is a growing field and something good to get into, and it also aligns with how I think. Half of the solutions I scope are mapped out in Visio flowcharts. The job also includes full training in the app. All good for my CV.

The problem with the job is that it’s only a 12-month secondment, and the salary is $10K less than the other (but still more than what I earn now).

I feel as if I’m being fitted up for the digital job. It’s not a sure thing but, I suspect, mine to lose. I actually feel some obligation because of that. I’ve been complaining so long and the digital guys been so encouraging that I feel as if it would be rude to decline the role – and probably foolish, too.

I’d be no shoo-in to get the robotics job, though clearly, I’m a strong candidate. I’d enjoy it much more, and the potential opportunities are greater – but it’s no sure thing, and the money is less.

All this time I’ve been crying out for opportunities, but when they come, they come not singly but doubly. Watch this space.

An untainted heart


Google popped up with a memory this morning dating from 2013. On this day back then I was visiting Lords, in London. A few days later, I flew home, and I haven’t been abroad since.

I knew it had been a while, but to be confronted with the facts like that was disturbing. There was a string of about twenty years when if I wasn’t away every year then certainly I would be the year after. They weren’t just ordinary trips away either. There were a few long trips to Europe, a couple of extended breaks in Asia, another through North Africa, some working trips here and there, as well as the short holidays away to places like Bali and Fiji and New Zealand.

I’ve said it before, but this regular travel made up a part of my self-identity. I never felt more myself than when I was away. I’m someone who, in general, embraces change and difference. I’m naturally curious. I like to get beneath the skin of things and feel myself in it. There’s a restless inquisitiveness in all that, but also a desire for authentic experience. And I like to live by my wits – as a western tourist you’re a member of a privileged class, but I was always aware of that and sought to catch the same busses and trains the locals do, and eat the same food, go to the same bars. And I always did it off my own bat, bar once for a brief period, organising things myself and following the restless whim where it took me. Gee, I miss that.

At work yesterday, I was a part of an exercise in setting SMART goals. At one point we had to note down the things we hoped to have achieved by this time next year. I could’ve written down a hundred things. What I did write related to my writing – getting two books submitted for publication by then. But I might easily have put down more practical goals, of which I have many. An outcome of achieving some of those would mean more money and the hope that I could get back to travelling sooner rather than later.

I’m aware that writing about these things might sound a little whiny. Believe me, in person, I’m anything but whiny. I give myself some grace here. This is my private space. And these things are real. These are the things that pass before my eyes, the thoughts that occur to me. And, you know, I like to understand, and the act of writing helps me do that. That’s why I write in general, I think, the desire to parse experience into some more meaningful. This is a record, and I want it to be true to my experience.

I’ll give another pretty innocuous example.

Last night I was in bed reading, and a poem by Rilke is in the text. I read the poem and appreciate it, but something is off in me. I’ve always read poetry, if not frequently, then at least regularly. Rilke is one of my favourite poets. I pause in my reading, wondering how things have changed. As I lay there, I realise that I was a different person when I read poetry before. I was never a dilettante, but I read from a position of comfort and security. Poetry was a pretty thing in my life full of pretty things. It was just as poignant to me then as it is now, I was sometimes moved and occasionally inspired. It would warm me. But then I would go off and live what was, generally, a pretty life – and that includes the easy travel.

I read these things differently now. Last night I began to articulate it to myself. Looking back, I was hardly innocent, but I was undamaged. I was worldly, but I had the easy expectation of things falling my way and the general belief that all I aspired to would, in due course, become mine. There’s a kind of innocence in that, really, and I’ve lost that completely and it changes the way I experience and see things. It’s a great loss.

This explains the general sense these many years. I am burdened when I wasn’t before. I’m healing, but I’m damaged. Where I was light previously and easy, I’m now hard. I wish so much it wasn’t the case. It feels tragic.

I’ve said occasionally that I still don’t feel like I’m living a ‘normal’ life. I don’t know if what I think is normal is long lost and unreasonable to expect now, though I tend to frame it in simple terms. I realise my life was privileged before, that what for me was normal was likely abnormal for most. I would like to return to that but have no expectations. I’m happy to expect the same as anyone else, that normal will do me.

I will get to that, I think, and perhaps beyond it. Unfortunately, in the time between – my lost years – the things I fully expected to attain, I know will never be now. I won’t be a father now, I may never become a husband.

In the end, it’s not about dollars or cents, but state of being. I want to be carefree again, to be part of the world without having to struggle, to be just another person. I’ll never reclaim my innocence, but I’d be happy to read poetry again with a heart untainted by loss.

Rounding the beast up


I’ve been off the last couple of days, and I don’t mean physically. It got to the point that I was in a state of heavy brooding. It seemed not to affect my behaviour at work, where my behaviour is more tightly managed, but out of work and at home, it came down on me. It made me bad-tempered and short, though it was purely between me and the TV screen. I was conscious of this, and it only made it worse. I didn’t want to be bad-tempered. I didn’t want to feel as I did. I didn’t want to snap. That I was all those things despite myself added to the burden of it.

It felt so oppressive at one point last night that I made the decision that if I felt no better, I wouldn’t go to work the next day. When you feel like this, you don’t want to be among people. Say what you like, but it’s not stupid. If I’m going to be bad-tempered, then I don’t want to be in an environment that will only aggravate it further. It makes me feel bad and, besides, the primary reason I feel this way is because of work.

In that regard, nothing particularly had happened. The job hasn’t progressed because the people advertising it are away. That’s frustrating but reasonable. And in fact, I’d had some particularly productive days. Maybe that was a reason. I hate working for an organisation so generally lacking in competence, and surprisingly lacking in knowledge. I feel like an outlier. I wonder how it is that I’m working for such people. I’m not asking for anything special but to be allowed to do my job properly and with people who know what I’m talking about. And I can’t let it go because I don’t want to be the person who lets it go, who compromises and lower standards. And I’m not that person. But being that person and working in a place like this means there’s great frustration that has no outlet. That’s my problem.

Last night it worked out okay, by happenstance, just about. There was a game of footy on the TV, and my team was playing. It was an entertaining, tight game. We were the underdogs and trailed for most of the night. Midway through the last quarter, we were three goals behind. But then injury forced change and the team charged home and kicked the winning goal with 19 seconds on the clock. That brightened me up.

So, I’m at work today. It’s Friday, and I feel okay. I rode the lift up, and I’m aware of all the things I keep locked away because I couldn’t go on if I let them out. Bits and pieces leak out from time to time, and I’m affected. It’s like an escaped animal you need to round up before it does too much damage. I have to deal with it sometime, but there’s no future in doing it all at once. Chip away at it, makes things better bit by bit, that’s my strategy, and I think it works. I just need to do something about my job.