Places of the spirit

Of course, there are things that run through my head all the time. Often I think I must write about that, but mostly I never get around to it. Until there’s such an application that taps directly into my mind that will be the case.

Today I want to specifically reference the fire that has consumed Notre Dame, in Paris. I feel for the French, and the Parisians particularly, for whom this must feel like a blow to the soul. It feels an unreal event, an affront to nature, something that could never happen and should never happen.

I first walked into Notre Dame about 21 years ago. I’ve been to many cathedrals in my time, but this has always been my favourite. I’m a history buff and knowing that so many momentous events had happened right here was a thrill in itself. There was a deeper, darker connection than that though. I remember standing beneath the high roof surrounded by the immense stone columns and peering at the beautiful stained glass windows and feeling humbled by the meaning of it all. It felt a great spiritual moment.

Places like Notre Dame are living reminders of the wonder and mystery of our existence. We live in the moment so much these days, but Notre Dame had stood for almost a millennia. It teemed with life and history. With luck, it might have gone on for another millennium, or more. I guess that’s true for many such buildings and there are dozens of others who have left me just as impressed – but not so spiritually engaged. Notre Dame felt like a living place to me, not just of history but of humanity as well. I think of only one other place off the top of the head I felt so moved, the Pantheon in Rome.

Notre Dame has not been completely destroyed they say, though the spire has fallen and no doubt the wondrous stained glass is gone – as well as the old, middle-aged wooden structure. It will be rebuilt, as it must, but will it be the same place?

Update: it appears that while the roof and spire have gone and much structural damage otherwise, the bulk of the stonework has been saved – in fact, photos from inside are almost eerie with the area around the altar a pile of blackened ruins tumbled from the roof, while most of the nave seems untouched. Most importantly – and almost miraculously – the famous, magnificent rose stained glass appears undamaged.


Old photos

What I have done in the last few days: I fixed a faulty clothes dryer; I dealt with a creditor after having referred them to the ombudsman; I’ve begun my ‘spring’ cleaning in the house, as well as in the garage; I had a blood test and sorted out my medical appointments; and, naturally, I did some writing. On top of all that I started scanning some old, pre-digital photos into the system. All and all it has been a satisfying week so far.

Digitising the prints yesterday was an interesting experience. I started with pics taken in the early nineties. I didn’t scan every print – there are too many of them – just those I thought worthwhile or, as Marie Kondo would have it, gave me joy. There were a lot of memories, naturally, and familiar, much-loved faces now departed.

I remembered that time so well but there was a disjoint. It was all so real, yet these people were gone and that time lost to me. It was real, I remembered it, but it felt unreal also. I looked in my face, surprised to find myself so handsome. This is me, I thought, that was me. And now here I am today.

There was a sense of how time slips by, how it changes. I posted something to Facebook about how one day its sunshine, next day rain, and it seemed true. Looking back it feels innocent and even looking at how I was then – open, smiling, a fine figure of a man – I was surprised at the difference, though really I ought not to be. What you realise is that it was all ahead of you then and now it’s mostly all behind you.

I caught up with a friend in Prahran last night to catch a comedy show. I caught the train in sitting by the window quietly brooding and listening to old songs from about the time the photos were taken. I had a refreshed sense of self. You walk around oblivious most of the time, ignorant of anything but the moment and the self you represent at that time. But I had perspective yesterday. That was then, this is now. That was who I was, this is who I am. And what I had knowledge of was of all that has happened since.

I was in love when these photos were taken, though it had gone bad. Not that you can see that in my face. I look like a nice guy. But then there was a journey after that and most of it was fine and if not fine then it was interesting and me throughout, the one constant, but changing in ways I never understood.

I got off the train and stood waiting for a tram. This felt familiar, as did the locale. I’d lived a few hundred metres up one way, over Dandenong road, for a year. And the other way, in South Yarra, I’d lived in my own apartment for about seven years in total. I lived there when the photos were taken, and this street, Chapel Street, the shops and bars and restaurants, I’d paraded by them for years on end, stopping now and then, going in here and there, indulging in this and that, part of the streetscape myself.

Now I got on the tram. I was the same man near 30 years on, the same holiday beard now as I did then, hardened now, more cynical perhaps, less forgiving, certainly less open.

How things might have been different. What if I’d made up with the girl I loved and married her as we had spoken of? What then? But we didn’t, she went on to die of her own hand, and here I am today.

It sounds sort of bleak but I didn’t feel that. I felt robust and full. I’ve made my way, I have my style, this is who I am – this is who I became. But at the same time were highlighted things that I otherwise overlook as just being normal. I had looked at my handsome face and wondered why I wasn’t more aware of it then – but I always did okay, as the saying goes. And I have ever since, more or less, but in a certain way that felt stark to me standing on the tram.

I’ve always been sexually driven, so I thought, but I wondered how I was then. And I was then too, but I was also romantic and impossibly tender. I was a good man. Since I’ve been with I don’t know how many women, hundreds, and a part of me has been closed off and even if I have charmed often in that period or seductive and interesting I’ve been the man women would happily fuck but not necessarily settle down with (with exceptions). And I recalled a woman telling me how I intimidated her – not in any harmful or nasty way, just my surety, my lack of doubt, my invulnerability.

Later, after a few drinks and a show, I sat there and there was another woman I wanted to fuck, no different to any other time. It’s fine to feel virile but is there always a point to it? You could argue that sex is a nihilistic act. It’s a moment in time in which you bury yourself in another. Then it’s over. That seemed the point sometimes but, even so, the urge returns all by itself.

I didn’t fuck the woman last night. There was no chance of that, just a passing whim.

I still have a lot to offer. I’m still presentable. I’d like to be more how I was then, regardless of how formidable I’ve become since. I don’t know if that’s even possible or, if it is, how I do it.

On the road

I’m officially on leave from work as of last Friday night. There was no sense of anticipation last week. I was busy, there were things I had to tidy up and hand over, but I was disappointed not to feel that gentle rush knowing I was about to be three weeks away from work.

I still don’t feel it really. Perhaps that’s because it’s unlikely I’ll be doing anything much. I had various plans, all speculative and contingent on available funds. Unsurprisingly, the funds aren’t available and so it’s three weeks at home – which, at least, is better than three weeks at work.

I went out for red wine and cheese with Cheeseboy Friday night hoping to force upon myself some sense of being off the leash. It was a cool, drizzly night and though the wine was good and the cheese plentiful I felt more weary than joyous. The most I can look forward to is the potential visit of an old friend, but let’s see if that eventuates.

Now it’s Monday morning and rather than sitting at my desk at work I’m sitting at my desk at home. I am at liberty. Among other things I hope this time away from work will allow me to clear my head and replenish some a weary body. I still don’t feel that uplift, but I sense my mind is slowly turning to a different perspective. My focus is shifting from the practicalities of the working man – making sure my shirts are ironed and my myki topped up, mindful of the clock and of the ongoing projects at work that occupy the mind, as well as the many petty frustrations. None of that is relevant at this moment and so I have turned off that part of my mind.

Last night I read some poetry and then thought a bit about it. I will read poetry now and then and almost always feel drawn into it. It’s a welcome sensation as if in that time I am exposed to a subterranean world of depth and meaning. It exists outside of me, in the world, if only we knew how to find it; and within me also. I sense it finally, this well of deep, curious feeling and with it a trembling, inquisitive, sensitivity. It’s a fine feeling as if now you can pick up frequencies unheard before, and let into a world of true wonder.

This time I am aware of my awareness. Because I have time before me my mind has space to indulge in the meaning of this: not just the poetry itself, but the meaning of myself in this poetry.

I woke this morning wondering, as I have many times before, about the contrasting attributes of my soul. I was always a creative, imaginative kid, but made my way in the relatively ruthless world of business. I thrived there because there were elements in me that came alive in the challenge. I was competitive without meaning to be, and ambitious because it was always so much better to do than not do. I was smart and so made my way up the ladder and a good communicator; but I was also hard and unyielding. I took pleasure in my success in much the same way a warrior celebrates his conquests. There’s little poetry in that though – yet there is poetry in me.

It’s hard to judge yourself in these things, but if I was to characterise my defining attributes I would say they are intelligence and determination, independence of mind and spirit, and defiance – which sits on the defensive side of belligerence. By and large, these attributes served me well (if we are to overlook the elephant in the room). I went further than I would have otherwise because I willed it, because I wouldn’t back down because I always wanted to be better. All of this made me formidable – though less so now.

And though all of this is true enough so is much that seems the obverse of that. I remain the creative, imaginative soul I was as a child. I am just as sensitive as I always was. I have a searching and restless mind. I am moved, mightily at times, by all manner of things, from a piece of music or poetry to the great and terrible events of our times. Despite everything I am romantic and have ever been the idealist.

This is what twitched at me this morning having read poetry last night, but it’s a recurring twitch. One of the things I seek to do in this time is to re-align myself in the hope that I will find a lifestyle more rewarding to me, both morally and financially. For me, mostly, that’s been about seeking a better angle in my career. I can still do it all, I just need to find a way back in. But then it occurs to me – should I have followed a different path? Can I still? And that’s the path in which I can be entirely my gentler self, the creative, sensitive man inside this crusty exterior.

Again, this is a question oft asked. There was a time when I could afford to answer yes – but not now, I think.

I have observed of life, as well as of myself, that little is all one thing or another. Life, and people, are much more complex than that. It’s silly to draw conclusions based only on what is visible, and it’s clear that contradiction is a law of nature.

As a thoughtful person, I find this fascinating and I’m glad of it too – it makes the world a more interesting place. Still, it’s not something I’ve ever really been able to reconcile in myself – as if reconciliation was possible. I search for a meaning or logic to it knowing there is no meaning or logic. That dissonance plays on my mind and I can’t let it go.

It’s one of the things that made me write, I think, the attempt to investigate and understand – and order – these things in the written word. These conversations go on in my head and if I parlay them into a fictional world that reflects the world I know then perhaps something of consequence can be made of it. And, you know, I find a lot of my understanding comes from putting it down on paper. It’s not quite automatic writing but often I find understanding in the act of writing, in drawing up as if from a deep well a sense not free to me otherwise.

One of the things I’ve discovered in my writing are my themes. I used to think redemption was my theme. To a degree it is, and I’m fascinated by stories that pivot on that. It’s a classic theme. But then, I’ve come to realise, my real theme is identity – self-identity. It shouldn’t be a surprise having read this journal but it’s surprising how long you can be oblivious of a thing. In my case that quest for enlightenment will often overlap with redemption – aren’t we all searching for that in some form?

I’m reading a book about Homer at the moment and I realised halfway through that the protagonist of the novel I’m working on now would fit easily into a Homeric tale – but I think that’s probably true of many. Homer’s tales touch upon so many classic tropes, much as Shakespeare does, that much of modern literature could be said to share.

In this case imagine an Achilles who has survived the battle and lived to middle age, to a time when he questions what he was and what he did while at the same time mourning for the vitality he has lost in the years between. Achilles was always a complex character, a ruthless warrior and sensitive spirit, but he was also an instinctive beast who cut a swathe with his unquestioned might. He was said to be invincible until the moment the arrow struck him in the one place he was vulnerable, his heel.

But what if he had survived all that, the battles on the plains before Troy and then the sacking of that city? What then would there have been for him? And after that? Where does it all go – ultimately, what does it mean?

I think all of us come to an age when we look back at what we have done and wonder at it. For so many years we just did it. Like Achilles, we go into battle because the battle is there. But then reflection grows on us, and some wisdom if we’re lucky. The battle slows, or has past.

For many, for most, it is enough to be husband or wife, and parent. There is meaning in that. We subvert something of ourselves for the greater meaning of the family unit.

That’s not been an option for me but, even so, I don’t know if my independence would be so easily satisfied. And if Achilles had become husband and father, would that have been enough? Only if he can reconcile the sensitive spirit he is with the ruthless warrior he was. That’s the journey he must take, pitfalls along the way and doubt and uncharacteristic confusion because instinct no longer counts. He must come to this a different way, where might is irrelevant. That’s the quest, the road to enlightenment and redemption if he can find it.

That’s the story I’m writing pretty much, but it’s my story too. I’m searching for that road, but at least I know it exists.

Do the right thing

I was in a conversation yesterday with a couple of women at work regarding the decline in good manners pretty much across the board. We spoke specifically about the conduct on board public transport, how people hog seats or play their music loudly, and how rare it is for someone to give up their seat to someone elderly, infirm or pregnant. I shared a story about something I witnessed a couple of months ago – a pregnant woman getting onto a crowded train and everyone ignoring until a good Samaritan – himself standing – walked across to two middle-aged men and tapped them on the shoulder, effectively shaming one into giving up his seat for the woman. I felt like cheering at the time, but was shocked that two such respectable looking men on the Sandringham line train wouldn’t act of their own accord – but then, so few do.

Then, as it happens, there was today. As I get on at the second stop for the train at Hampton I always get a seat. The train is usually pretty full within a few stops and from Gardenvale on people are standing, if not before.

Today, at Gardenvale, a pregnant woman got on. I watched thinking and hoping that one of the men nearer to her would get up and offer their seat. I was sitting by the window, wedged in, with probably a half a dozen men ahead in a better position to give up their seat. When that didn’t happen I signalled to her as I stood up, climbing past those in between so she could take my seat by the window. It was the work of the moment, but I wondered what the other men around me thought.

I know for myself that I couldn’t not act like that. I would stew on it, would feel ashamed and my gut in knots if I didn’t do the right thing. Does shame not like that exist anymore? What standards do we live by, if any?

I accept that I belong to a generation when such behaviour meant more. It was instilled in me from a child to be polite and well mannered. I have some reputation for being direct, even blunt, but if you were to poll strangers and shop assistants and servers across the world then the feedback would be that I am respectful and courteous. I always say please and give thanks. I open doors for others and let them go ahead of me. Unless invited otherwise, I’ll address my elders by Mr or Mrs. I am gracious because I know no different, and because it is a fine thing to be.

It’s a matter of great regret that such standards of behaviour no longer seem to be valued, and seemingly too many children now grow up without being taught this. I sound like a damn old fogey I know, but fundamentally this is about respect for others. Everyone deserves that, regardless of rank or position, until such a time as they lose it.

I hate kids are like that, but sometimes think they’ll grow out of it. There’s a lot happening when you’re a teenager, and a lot of it is expressing yourself as an individual and occasionally in rebellion. It’s no excuse but I understand it.

What I really don’t understand are those – such as the men today, and the men a couple of months ago – who by all appearances are respectable, and who should know better. I reckon they do know better, it’s just that instinct has now seemingly atrophied in them. Given the general decline in standards, I think they’ve taken that as an invitation to ignore their better instincts. If everyone is being ill-mannered, why can’t I be? That’s a profoundly disappointing attitude, but an attitude that accounts for a lot in society today – a society much more selfish and self-involved, a society much less generous and tolerant in nature. And this is why it’s important to hold out against that, to be an example of nobler instinct. Give it up and that will be the end of it.

I wonder what this says about our sense of self and identity? I live by the standards I’ve set myself and to go against any of them would be a betrayal of self. This is behaviour firmly rooted in my identity. That’s portable and immutable, unlike the shifting and capricious standards of society. When you take your lead from the mores of the day, rather than your self-identity, then behaviour will always be rooted in shifting sands. This comes back to education, to the ability to think and reason for yourself, to stand for your own beliefs and to have a strong sense of self. Why would you want to be any other way? But then, perhaps the opportunity isn’t known…

This story ends on a brighter note. After getting off the train I caught a tram up Elizabeth street. I was standing when a heavily pregnant woman got on a stop after me. Straight away a man stood up to offer his seat, just as it should be.

Karmic balancing

Last day of the year. There was a time when I’d formally review the year past, before going on to set my goals for the year to come. It’s not so formal these days, but I adhere to the basic concept still. It seems a natural thing to do. I know people decry the making of resolutions and whatnot. They make the reasonable point that it shouldn’t take the end of the year to make plans, it should be a normal part of life. And resolutions are a cliché besides.

That’s fair in principle, but few people live up to the principle. What we should or shouldn’t do rarely matches what we actually do, and there’s plenty of reasons for that.

The older you get the quicker life slips by. It takes a lot of mental effort just to maintain. Routines and schedules blur and confound. Deadlines rush at you. It’s easy to slip into a kind of torpor where life runs on autopilot. There’s not the space or the occasion to stop to look around and re-evaluate. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying how it is so often. And thus life proceeds apace, until it ends.

The Christmas/New Year period acts as a kind of break in that routine. There’s plenty of traditions and rituals around Christmas, but much of it is about returning to family and the values learnt in the formative years of your life. Nostalgia and sentimentality take over from the practicalities of making a living. And this time of year there’s the time and space to actually sit down and contemplate such things. I think it’s natural to reflect on what was and, from the leisure of your Christmas break, to ask yourself what it is you want different to what you’ve had before? The division of one year to the next is the perfect time for that.

I’ve been more aware of this than most people, I think. I won’t necessarily claim to be a planner, but I’m definitely a thinker. I’m cynical enough to doubt resolutions as such which, in any case, tend to be spurious and swiftly forgotten. For me, this time of year is about looking back at the direction I’ve taken and to re-align myself for the year ahead. And I’ll set myself KPIs to guide me on that journey.

It seems to me not much changed in a practical sense this year past. I’m in the same home, I have the same job, I’m earning practically the same, and I remain largely unfettered. I wiped out a big chunk of debt and got my car repaired (to the tune of $7K), but in so doing incurred another, consolidated, debt. Still, the pressure is less than it was and I can see my way clear eventually.

The big thing that happened this year was in my self. I don’t know how you measure these things. Am I happier now than 12 months ago? Certainly, at this moment I am, but happiness is like the tides, and anyway I’ve never thought it much of an indicator. I may be an oddball, but there are more important things to me: what would I rather, a dull but happy life, or a challenging but interesting life? That’s a no-brainer for me. I crave experience and knowledge. I want to understand, knowing that is a chimera. Truth and authenticity are the things I want, things that are real and meaningful. Enlightenment perhaps.

This year I have become more enlightened. It’s well expressed here repeatedly in the last 12 months so I won’t go on about it now. I feel a more honest man now than a year ago and have relinquished a lot that was holding me back. Still, a long way to go, but good signs.

The only other thing worth noting is my writing has continued strongly. Certainly, I am better at it now than I was then, and expect given another year the improvement will have continued.

I also have a working car now – that’s a big thing. And after many years I finally renewed my MCC membership, though it has relapsed again.

So, next year.

My goals are simple. I want to continue on the path I’m on psychologically, though it takes courage and the way forward is not always clear. That’s not something I can review every 12 months. It needs constant attention.

As I did last year I’ll strive to improve my lot – a better job, more money. It’s wearying being constantly under pressure, and infuriating that I’m not properly rewarded for my work. And I want some nice things for a change – more of a social life, a holiday, the odd trinket, not to mention the formerly ‘normal’ things I’ve learned to go without. In practical terms, it means – most likely – finding another job. I’ll get onto that. More simply:

  • I want to be properly rewarded for my effort.

I’ve set myself little KPIs to ensure I live better:

  • I plan to go out for one cooked breakfast/brunch a month.

Considering I would do this every weekend for many years this is hardly extravagant.

  • And every three months I plan to take myself off for a massage.

That’s good for body and soul.

So we come to friendship. People change, they live different lives, they go off in different directions, that’s life. I’ve been out of step with a lot of my friends for a while simply because they are now family men, and I am not. We worked around that pretty well, but then other events intruded.

You live life at different speeds. That 15 months I was homeless life was superficially slow, but in terms of experience, it was sped up. I came out of that with issues unsurprisingly, but by all reports, I was fundamentally unchanged. The biggest reported change has been this year past when suddenly I began opening up. The point of all this is that I’ve moved on while others – comfortable, happy, content – have remained the same. Somewhere in that your friendship changes.

It’s taken me a while to acknowledge that. It’s a bit sad, really – I wish I could be as close as I used to be to some. I think my new openness makes some uncomfortable (others have embraced it) not knowing how they should respond to it, or how it makes them feel.

The bottom line is that while those friendships will continue they won’t be what they were before. I realise I need to make new friends – friends more aligned with the open person I want to be, without the baggage of preconceived notions. So:

  • I want to widen the circle of close friends, with more women particularly.

This is easier said than done. It’s not easy making new friends. But then this other plan may help.

I’ve always been a believer in karma. I’ve always been socially engaged. Since I suffered my ‘misfortunes’ I’ve been more alert to the deficiencies in the system. And I want to give something back.

Perhaps volunteer work will fix the need – and it’s a way to meet people besides. An acquaintance studying social work wants to use me as a case study and has suggested getting me along to a St Kilda homeless shelter. The idea appeals to me.

  • Check out volunteering options.

Then there’s my health. I’m reasonably fit, but there are more things I can do. Unfortunately, I’ve been constrained financially, especially when it comes to dental work. I’m in good health generally, hardly get sick, but there are nagging issues:

  • Dental – I need a crown and probably another filling.
  • Sinus – must get sorted this issue that every night sees me with a blocked nose.
  • Psoriasis – small patch on my right, but a nuisance.
  • Knee – could it be my patella? Slipped at the airport a couple of months back and hasn’t been right since.

I want to get on top of these things. Seeing a doc on Wednesday to get started.

There’s my writing too. By this time next year, I expect to have completed the revision of my first book and have submitted it to publishers, and I’ll be working on the final draft of the book I’m currently halfway through writing.

There’s nothing there about romantic relationships. I want that, but it’s not something you can legislate. If I put myself in the right places and measure up to being the man I want to be then it might happen. That’s all I can promise.

If there is one last thing it’s something I don’t have direct control over. I believe you’re master of your own destiny, but I also feel as if I’ve been dealt some tough cards in recent years. I’m putting it out to the world: deal me a good hand this year. I’m due. I’m in karmic credit I reckon and ready to cash in.

Happy new year to you!

Being a woman’s man

I’ve never aspired to be a man’s man, though I’m sure there are many who see me like that. I can play the role well enough, and a lot of it comes easy. At work I mix easily enough with the blokes, stopping to chat about the footy or cricket and portraying some classic Aussie persona both laconic and sardonic. I can settle over a beer or ten and happily chew the fat about classic male subjects such as sport and work reminiscing about times shared in the past. That I have a confident, strong aura, and perceived to be independent of mind, means that I portray a masculine authority that papers over a lot of the cracks.

I’ve never really been terribly interested in it though. Sure, it can be fun and the conversation of passing interest, but generally its superficial too. This is one of the pities of masculinity, that we rarely engage in the deep and meaningful with each other, and when we do it’s generally awkward and uncomfortable. It’s sad to think that as men that intimacy man to man has been bred out of us. Even when we choose to we’re generally poor at it. It’s easier to skate across the surface with a ready laugh and a glass of beer. Of all my male friends I think there’s only one I have a truly candid relationship with, and I barely even see him.

I wish this was different, particularly given the challenges of recent years. I can’t say I’m particularly good at this either with other men, but it’s a different story with women.

I was at a party last Saturday at which there were a bunch of people I knew quite well but hadn’t seen for a while. It became familiar very quickly and easy and all the rest of it. I ended up sitting between two women, which suited me fine as I was a bit weary of the blokey carry-on at the other end of the table.

What resulted was a series of very authentic and open conversations. There are probably a variety of reasons why this happened. Everyone knows of my struggles and I think that makes it easier for others to be vulnerable with me. I’m a good listener, too, and trust comes into it as well. I think a lot of this plays to my natural self. I’m reflective by nature and I think women particularly see me as thoughtful and sensitive. This is not something new.

In a lot of ways, I think I’m more naturally a woman’s man, as opposed to a ladies man (though I’ve been accused of that). I’m interested in those things. I’m curious about what moves and motivates people. Cause and effect are fascinating to conjecture. And I care too, really. I understand that each person has a life, it has weight and complexity and, to them at least, is precious. You can’t help but respect that.

I’m wary of generalisations, but generally, women have a closer, more intimate relationship with their deeper self, and are much less wary or self-conscious of it than men. I think many women wish more men were as sensitive and as open as they are. That’s where I play well. I am interested, I am sensitive as well as curious, and I’m respectful of their feelings. Both women the other night gravitated to me, and at the end of it expressed the hope of catching up again soon.

This is why I miss all the female friends I used to have. It’s a different conversation and a different way of being. As I get older I realise that more and more I become a woman’s man – because it’s more real.

The pain I’m meant to feel?

Sour today. Back at work after a day home yesterday. The wind and the branches of a mulberry tree out back had ripped off a bunch of roof tiles a few weeks back, leaving a hole. I worked from home while someone walked on the roof in the hot weather. It was hot still last night. Even with air-con, it made for disturbed sleep, and then I dreamed, it felt, all night long. The dreams were not bad dreams but they were dreams I would rather have not had.

All of this leaves me feeling a bit pinched today (not helped by the disgraceful behaviour of federal parliament yesterday). It’s another hot day today and I have no real appetite for anything.

I was flat-out yesterday preparing this submission and that doesn’t help either. It was a productive day but by the end of it, my brains were leaking from my ears. I can’t really face much more of it today, though there’s still more to do. Somehow I can’t be bothered doing much else either – but then you have days like this, especially when you’ve not slept well.

You know me though, I’m always searching for causes and effects. I reckon all this started a little after lunch yesterday when I pulled from my letterbox the first Christmas card of the season. It was from my aunt, and once more she invited me to share Christmas lunch with them. I wish she wouldn’t.

I appreciate the gesture but it places me in an awkward position. Even if everything were good I’d think twice about going. They live about 90 minutes away, and though I’m fond of them all I’m close to none of them really. It’s their do and as far as I’m concerned Christmas day is not a day to be a hanger-on.

On top of that, however, I can’t really go because my sister and father will be there and I don’t want to see them – and don’t want to make it awkward for my aunt and her family. They know nothing of this. I’m not about to gossip to them, mainly because it would be unfair. And so, instead, I run the risk of seeming aloof.

So I got the card yesterday, read the message, and all this ran through me. I worked on through the afternoon, I stopped to watch the cricket sometimes, I made dinner – but all this had started I reckon.

It informed my dreams in the end. That’s how it works in my opinion. Not always like that, but often, the things you’ve put aside or lingering at the back of your mind return to you interpreted through dreams. There’s something pure about the process. It synthesises the real dope, stripping the extraneous white noise. It gets to the real cause, and then creatively portrays it in much the same way as when I sit down to write – though perhaps more psychedelically at times. Dreams are magical realism.

What I’m left with is the sour residue. Back in the day I’d shrug it off and get back to things. That was a strength. Funny thing is that if I wasn’t running from it then I was just about sweeping it under the carpet. These days I figure I’m meant to be running to it. I think I’m meant to feel this pain.