This is what I choose


It went pretty much as I expected yesterday, and while I had a moment of bitter reflection I soon got past it. I’d conditioned myself to the outcome and was ready to move on from it.

Moving on, in this case, means to disengage myself from the process. I understand realpolitik, and I can respect it in aspects, but it doesn’t mean I want to be a part of it. For me, engagement means I’m all in or I’m out. I’m at the stage of my life, certainly, when I can’t be halfway engaged. I think this is more pronounced in this stage of my development, but I think it was ever so in some shape or another. I’ve always been contemptuous of dilettantes, who I’ve considered too clever for their own good. It’s not a way I want to be.

Still, I have to exist in this world. These are facts of life. Bold leadership is hard to find, anywhere, and the sort of compromise that caters to the lowest common denominator rules the day. Pure ideals and the courage to be true to them is an anachronism. I can either move with the times or be true to myself.

I think for me to be a part of that would be a compromise of my nature. That may make me an anachronism too, but I’d rather live believing in something true and noble than stoop to emulate those simply more ‘pragmatic’. I think this is one of the problems we see in society today – too many have compromised on their principles in order to be heard. Too few stand for anything these days, and this has become the new normal. It’s the narrative of our times, a spiral that has made our discourse both more confrontational and less incisive and gives power to mediocrity.

I can either be part of that or step aside from it. It goes against the grain to step aside because I always believe I can make a difference, and there is shame in refusing the fight. In this case though I feel to remain a part of it is to be complicit, and to validate its methods.

Instead, I will stay true to what I believe and closely attend to what I do. It makes for a smaller me, but then I have been craving that, haven’t I?

What many don’t understand is that I don’t work for them, or their brand; I work for myself in service of an objective. I will always do my best because anything less is a betrayal of myself. I think that confronts some and confuses others. Some, I fear, feel disrespected by it.

I accept I’m a purist, and I understand it puts me out of step. I’ve always quite liked that, though much of that was ego. Now, I just don’t want to be in step with a way I deplore. This is the choice of every person, to go their own way, to think and act for themselves, to be a true individual.

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When you care


I’m sitting in the dark in the quiet, the glow of the screen the only light. I’m meant to be doing my weekly ironing, but… I have other things in me tonight, a mix of them that leave me with a peculiar edge.

There’s some wariness in me. I fear tomorrow I will once more be on one side of a confrontation. I don’t resile from these things, but wish they weren’t necessary. I sit there wondering, are they necessary? Why not just give way? Wouldn’t that be easier?

It would be, but to what end? I don’t know if I could give way. It’s not in me. But let’s say I could, what then? I don’t know if you can understand this, but that would represent almost the worst thing I could contemplate – to go on day after day contrary to my desire and nature and rational consideration. I know people do it, but for the man I have become that feels like a living death.

People do that. Many do it easily, and lots besides rarely hold such deep-seated convictions in the first place. I do, and always have. I remember when I was barely out of my teens thinking about principles. It was something in my head, a value I held onto that I justified by rational argument: if I’m not this then what am I? It was in my head but it was also much deeper in the middle of me, something I was instinctively.

I wrote the other night in Facebook how much easier it is when you care less, which is true enough, but when you care less it also means less. I don’t care overmuch about what people make of me – that’s too much hard work. I care about what I stand for though, and for principles of honesty and decency and democracy. I care about the things I do because, among other things, there is meaning in that and purpose. Without that isn’t life a pale thing? We are our beliefs, they’re the spice of our character. Without that what are we?

I’m glad to be that way, but in all honesty don’t know any other. The value you take from things comes from the effort you put into them. The challenge I set myself is to do things with integrity. I’m not perfect, I’m deeply flawed, I fail sometimes, I don’t wish to set myself up as a paragon – I’m not by any stretch – nor do I demand it from others. We dance to our own tune. This is my tune though and it means regardless of other things I’m committed to the job at hand and giving it my best and being true to its meaning. I’m a man who puts his hand up. I believe in things. I want to make things better. I put my heart into what I do because what else is there? I’m hard at it and single-minded sometimes because there’s only one way, and that’s the right way.

Of course, you say – there’s your right way, and there’s mine. I’m not pushing ideologies though, that’s every mans own business and if I take you up on that then that’s something completely different. I’m not going to tell you what to think, or how to live your life, and if you choose to do your thing differently to mine then that’s your business. There are some things less ambiguous. If it’s meant to be fair then it should be fair. If it’s supposed to be democratic then it ought to be democratic. And always we should be decent and honest. I won’t accept any back-sliding there and so that leads, sometimes, to disagreement.

It seems to me this stubbornness leads me to regular conflict. I’ve been called a warrior again and again, and I understand why. I don’t crave these confrontations though. I’d rather we agreed, I’d rather that we all understood the same thing. I understand how self-interest works, I can even respect it in a way because in a way it’s honest. I’ll oppose it still when it crosses the line, but what I really can’t abide is the craven submission to it by some because it becomes simpler. I can’t abide these moral bullies getting their own way to the detriment of some higher principle because those who could stop it, don’t – and because it’s easier to compromise than it is to stand for something.

I could be talking about anything these days – certainly it sums up much of our parliament.

So this is something of what I face tomorrow. I dread it, but I won’t back down. I suspect I’ll be defeated, but a point will be made.

So all of this in me now, but at the same time, there’s a fantastic sense of poignancy in me. I cherish the fact that I’m capable of feeling so delicate and sensitive. I tremble with feeling unrelated to anything I’ve written above. If I am a warrior then I am also a man riven by deep feeling. It feels like a flaw, a crack in me, a vulnerability if you like, but because I’m cracked in such a way I have a direct sense of the mystery about me. It’s like my skin has been peeled back and upon the raw flesh I feel life, stinging and oppressive in a way, but true and pure and real as well.

I can say none of this to anyone, which is a pity. Something like this is made to be shared. I feel wonders. I feel illuminated. I feel something more than the man contained in this body. Sometimes I preen, I’m a man full of vanity and it delights when I can make a girl smile with my clever words or impress with my smarts. I realise though what I want is to be loved for what I have inside me, this delicate thing I can’t begin to understand, no matter how many words.

The fight justifies itself.

So it goes


I’m posting something here I wrote for Facebook, but never published.

I’ve got into the habit of being quite candid on Facebook, which is quite different from being candid here. On Facebook, they know my name, and the people I’m connected to know me, either intimately or more distantly.  Once upon a time, I was someone who would never post anything personal on Facebook, but that was who I was as a man. I’ve tried to change that because I’ve tried to change myself in key ways. One of the best ways to do that, I thought, was to expose myself in ways that made me uncomfortable. In time it gets easier, but it feels good too.

This time I’m not posting it because it raises speculation about others I’d rather not discuss. Personally, I’m happy to speak about these things all day and all night, but when there are other people involved it’s unfair to post things that people will read who also know the other.

To be fair, it’s a bit long-winded for Facebook anyhow:

So I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning thinking as I have been lately, and as always I do. I’m listening to Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye and Etta James and munching on a bolognese roll for an impromptu brunch and wondering, among other things, if I’m in love. The answer seems immaterial somehow. It’s just a word, a state of being that arrives sometimes and departs often.
“If I were but a simpler man,” I think, which is a bit like a grandfather clock wishing to become digital: it won’t happen because it can’t. And like all of this it just is, a moment in time, which brings me to Vonnegut because I watched Slaughterhouse 5 again recently, the book of which I read, when I was young, left me pondering for weeks.
It seems to me as I get older that my view of things becomes simpler, even if I do not. In the book, we learn that every moment, past, present and future, have always existed, and always will. Elsewhere he said we are what we pretend to be, so must be careful what we pretend. He also said in a quote most now know, that we should enjoy the little things because one day we’ll look back and realise they were the big things.
It’s good to be mindful, this, here, this moment. This is what I know and feel. This is how I yearn and this is what I wonder. This is what I cherish. What happens next I don’t know. I can only be me and true to whatever that means, and honest, which is harder yet. Nothing counts until you put it on the line.
Time soon to let some secrets go which may make more sense of these words, but not yet. Till then, let me leave you with another Vonnegut quote which is eloquent in its brevity:

What I write about


Generally, when I come to post something to this blog I have a range of things that have crossed my mind I might choose to expand upon in writing. Sometimes what I post will be more spontaneous, though less often. Something will have triggered, either in the personal realm or more broadly current affairs which makes for a response I want to put on the record. Generally, there’s no shortage of anything to write about, because something’s always happening.

There is a range of things I could write about today, for example. At some point, I want to share something about my recent writing. Or I could comment on the recently announced merger of Fairfax with Nine – a shocking development for so-called media diversity. There’s always something I could write about the variety of women in my orbit (or I’m in theirs – one of many things I’m never sure about). Then I could post something about work, but really that will just make me feel more sour. Or Mad Men, my favourite show just about I recently began watching again from episode one. Then there’s the weekend, the Tour de France, the engagement committee stuff, even a memory from when I was about 13 years old and got appendicitis while on a school camp, and so on. Realistically, I couldn’t be bothered about writing any of that – instead, I’m writing about how I couldn’t be bothered.

One thing I’m trying to do lately is live in the moment. The past has gone, I can do nothing about it, and the future is unknown. What I have is now. It’s a perspective that seems to be framing my outlook on adding to this blog. I’ve no doubt that I’ll end up writing about some of the things I referred to above (though I’m certain that some will go without), but right now all I want to write about is right now.

That’s a lost perspective, really. We write about things – things that generally exist within a timeframe, and often within a theoretical viewpoint. The here and now is something that just passes by. We leap from one thing to the next, but the bits in between are transient and disposable.

But here I am now, sitting at my familiar desk at work writing this at 3.34pm. Over my right shoulder is the window which from my 18th floor looks over the east of the CBD. There’s the usual hum of conversation and the tap of fingers on keyboards, and a slightly raised voice in the middle distance – the English guy, the guy who makes his own beer.

Before I started writing this post I had asked my direct manager a question which she bristled at. It was a reasonable question but sometimes she takes umbrage at these things as if I’m having a go at her. In this case, I was asking something on my offsider’s account. He’s on secondment to his role and is a champion at it, but is becoming impatient because though he’s been promised for a while there seems no action on formalising his role. And that’s the question I asked: what’s happening with his role?

I’m sure she knows she should have done something before now – certainly that’s what she promised, though promises are cheap these days. So she tried to shut down the conversation and drop the heavy hint I should not go on with it, but I have a policy that I do not take hints – tell it to my face, straight out. So I didn’t drop it and she became antsier, but eventually answered: it will happen, but not yet.

In a moment I’ll get up from my seat. I’ll do a circuit of the floor. One or two might call me over. Generally, it will be something to do with work, but it might be something else too: how was your weekend? The Bombers are looking good. And so on. I might stop at one or two desks myself. I might catch the eye of the pretty one, she might smile, I might pause, though I have no intention of anything happening. And I’ll think of A., who I caught glimpse of earlier but didn’t speak to. I’ll stop by one of the guys I manage. What’s happening? I’ll ask him. Anything to report? Eventually, I’ll end up at my desk.

This is today. I caught up with a friend for coffee early on at Kirks. At lunch, I wandered down to a bookshop that’s been opened up in an old cinema (Hylands). Just now as I was typing this I asked my offsider, just back from lunch, what the new spicy chicken nuggets from McDonald’s are like. Tonight I’m having coconut curry. And so on. Tomorrow something similar will happen.

Frailty and power


I went out for dinner last night with Donna. It happened to be the date of my mum’s birthday, and it’s become a tradition that we catch up on that date to celebrate.

We didn’t dwell on it. I don’t think we mentioned mum once except towards the end to mark the occasion. I wasn’t maudlin or sad. I’m glad to remember and I think it’s a fine thing, but I’m past the point I dwell on it for too long.

But then this morning as I’m heading to work on the train I’m listening to an audiobook and there’s a scene where there’s someone who had gone away many years ago returns to the town he grew up in and reunites with the friends and family and the woman he loved. He’d gone off, had adventures, made a name for himself, and to some he’d become a hero. But then he is undone meeting these people he once cared so much about, all of whom had missed and wondered what had become of him. Their affection for him was undiminished and he is embraced, forgiven for his absence and loved for his essential qualities, buried deep within his hardened exterior. He had gone away, become tough through experience, then returned, and in his return he connected not only with his loved ones, but with his sensitive self, so long neglected.

I listened and felt incredibly moved. I could understand completely, as if it reflected my life – though it doesn’t, not directly. Then, as he is held by his adoptive mother I found myself gazing out the window of the train with tears in my eyes. I felt as he did at that moment, though in a different context.

I have not gone away from my mother, she went away from me, and she won’t be coming back. I remembered that feeling as he is comforted by his mother, the strong man made frail by love and I missed that and envied it and realised that it was something I could never experience again.

I have lived without it. He went away, I stayed, but both of us became hardened in the interval. Love was not something we encountered and we took its absence for granted. He didn’t know what he had forsworn until he was wrapped in its arms again. I forget too what I no longer have, but am reminded – unsatisfactorily – when I witness the experience of others.

As I said, I’m not about to get my mother back and that’s a fact of life. That’s not to say I can’t experience variations of that, and I earnestly hope, expect, and plan to do so. Like a lot of things, that’s just the situation now.

I have these moments but the truth of it is that I’m an incredibly resilient character these days. I get knocked off course sometimes or experience a wobble, but it doesn’t take long before I right myself again and some innate quality is reasserted.

That was at 8 o’clock this morning. By 10am I was sitting in a fancy office high in a tower at the bottom end of Collins street being interviewed for a job. I blitzed it, though it’s only the first of a few. I found myself inflating to my persona, confident and articulate and in control, tall and stylish and direct. It felt my element, as if I knew the moves before they were made, aware of the impression I was making. It’s all performance, though largely unconscious. I left knowing I’d killed the interview and thinking how odd it was that so recently I had been touched by frailty – and now was a master of the universe.

Mum would be proud.

As I feel


I’ve made a point in recent months of acting as I feel. If I’m positive about something I’ll show it. If I like you, you’ll know it. If I disagree with something I won’t bother to hide it (nor will I make a big deal of it in general). It’s all about being authentic and in the moment, and one of the benefits of it is that it doesn’t play into narratives and negates play-acting. I still have my secrets, I still retain my essential privacy, but I’m sufficiently transparent to leave no-one in any doubt about it.

This philosophy has been pretty well tested in dealing with A, at work. We’ve gone backwards and forwards. There’ll be times when I’m sitting on the edge of her desk and we’re talking easily and she’s beaming. Half an hour later the shutters are down again. Spontaneous interaction works better than structured, probably because she is taken by surprise. Sometimes you would think we hardly know each other, or never exchanged a fond word, but as if to mitigate against that an email will pop up from her more playful and girlish.

I’ve felt for a long time that fundamentally she likes me, but is wary of getting close to me. Perhaps that’s because of what happened over Christmas. Maybe she has something in her past that influences her behaviour. Or – and for some reason, I am beginning to believe this – she is inexperienced at these things and conflicted (I know she’s single and sensitive about it). Or maybe I’ve just got it all wrong and she just humours me occasionally.

Whatever, I’ve responded consistently throughout much as I’ve described. Fundamentally I like her, and that doesn’t go away. Sometimes I’m more sweet on her, and at other times frustrated. I’ve not lost patience, but when I don’t feel it, or when I’ve had enough for the moment, I back off a little. There’s nothing contrived in this, I’m still friendly when I see her, I just don’t try anything or go out of my way.

Things are – in general – a lot better than they were a couple of months ago, but this cycle keeps repeating. Last week I had run out of patience and had no real desire to interact with her. I was at the stage that if she walked in the room I’d be happier walking out because I don’t want to face that conflict. That didn’t happen, but it sums up my state of mind. She picks up on such things and the routine is that she will make an effort then. I’m a little cynical of that now because I know how it turns out. Last week I wondered if finally, this was it, I’d run out of patience. So be it if so, true to my feelings.

In the meantime, I’ve continued my normal life and, as I’ve reported previously, been feeling a lot better about it. I interact with a lot of people, some I like, some I don’t, some who are men, and some women. It doesn’t mean much more often than not, but I like to flirt if I’ve got a willing flirtee. There’s one woman I’ve probably flirted with since day one, but probably more so in recent times because I’ve had a lot more to with her.

She’s a smart, attractive, stylish woman. I remember when I first met her I thought I’d like to get to know her better. Still, there’s been no meaning in my flirtation, just a bit of fun. Then last week something happened that gave me an inkling that she was getting into it more than I thought. I know at least she likes me, how much I’m not sure.

Just the possibility of something cast me back into my own thoughts. She is quite different from A. She’s the sort of woman I think a lot of my friends could imagine me with, and perhaps I would have expected myself 10-15 years ago. She would fit in well. As I thought of her my mind gravitated to A.

How is A different? They’re both attractive women, though K is an overtly stylish, fashionable woman. They’re both very smart. That means a lot to me. I suspect that A might be more interesting – and by that, I mean more generally curious, with more stories to tell. She’s a great reader too, which counts for a lot too. Still, these are superficialities. There is an intangible – there always is. In this case, I wondered if that intangible was legitimate, or if it was, in fact, a bias.

I have a thing where I try to feel the future. Now that doesn’t always work so often times I’ll just immerse myself in possibilities and see how I feel. This morning I had just about the perfect conditions to do this.

I woke reluctantly at 7 with Rigby’s tummy growling. I got up and fed him and let him out and then went back to bed. For the next hour, I drifted between a pleasantly fuzzy half sleep and something deeper. In my vague mind, I tried to focus myself on K, but there wasn’t enough there. It’s much richer with A because I know her better and we have a history. What a dreamt about where the simple things that no longer happen. Once, I remember, she was sitting in the next partition to me at work. We talk all day without any of the self-consciousness that now infects the conversation. She told me about a book she was reading. It’s crap, she told me, but she can’t help reading it (there’s a metaphor for our relationship…).

The point is I felt fond and affectionate and protective of her. I felt as if we were intertwined, as perhaps we are. It was a very pleasant hour.

There are very clear signs I can read in that, but I just don’t know how true they are. I have a habit of hoping for too long. I was halfway to letting it go as being too hard. But then you know you like her. And you think you know her in some intrinsic way – that’s the intangible. You recognise something you can’t put words to, but it’s true. I think both of us feel that.

Where that leaves me I’m unsure. I guess in the end my aim was true – be as I feel, and let’s see where my feelings lead.

Drifting to and fro


I was in a so-so mood heading into work this morning, but tending towards the glum side, though for no good reason. I was in a little before eight, and felt an immediate lift as soon as I opened my email.

An announcement had come through overnight advising that A, who had been acting in her training role, had been made permanent because – as it was made clear in the email – she is a star. I know all this, and it surprised me not one bit, but I felt a wave of happiness for her. I know how hard she works, how committed and capable she is, and this seem the most just of just rewards. And I fondly imagined her gratification at this and it gave me pleasure. (What does that mean?)

I hadn’t intended contacting her today. We’re going through another of those familiar phases when we’re out of step with each other and I had opted to step away from the dance for a bit. Sometimes I wonder if she’s just as full of doubt as I am which is why she acts as she does, perhaps mirroring me, as I mirror her. That I cannot see, affection blinds you. I wonder sometimes if it is a figment of my hopeful imagination, but then she’ll get all girly, she’ll sign the whiteboard behind my desk with her name and a smiley face, she’ll beam at me. I don’t know, and when I don’t know I drift off.

So I had decided it was time to drift off for a while, particularly with other things happening. But then reading the email this morning I knew I had to respond to it, if only as a courtesy. So I sent her an email lauding her and telling her to lap it up because she’d earned. And she responded with a friendly but nondescript email, all of one line and a smiley face.

Oh well, I’ll be pleased for her regardless.