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:
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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.

After the fire


I read a quote this morning which immediately stuck with me:

Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

It seems very true, and apropos of much I have thought about in the last 48 hours.

Adversity strips you back to the basics. When times are good and easy it becomes customary to adorn yourself with accoutrements of good living and success. You become immersed in that persona, your true self buried beneath layers of extraneous and ultimately irrelevant luxuries. That’s not to say you can’t be an authentic person still, but it’s nearly impossible to be your basic self. When strife comes all that falls away, either because you can no longer afford to carry it, and because ultimately it is secondary to the person you are. Adversity, should you survive it, simplifies it.

What happens then when you survive and surpass the adversity? Hopefully, you’re left with a truer sense of self and a better perspective on what truly counts. I think that’s true of me, but it also has unexpected, even unintended consequences. This is what I’ve been pondering.

I took the decision earlier this year to open myself up. I chose to let go of the shame and the dark secrets that haunted me. That process is incomplete, but is making good progress. One of my hopes was from that I would become more approachable. For many years – even before my slice of adversity – I could be charming, but also seen as generally enigmatic by many, and intimidating to some. That never worried me too much, and to be honest doesn’t concern me too much now in principle. It’s what it means that I wonder at.

Since I made that decision I’ve succeeded in broadening the group of friendly people around me. I can still be a grouch, but I’m also often light-hearted, witty, generous. I hope and expect that most people within that enclave see me as kind-hearted and true.

Beyond that darkness still reigns. I’m still enigmatic at best, occasionally intimidating, and sometimes arrogant.

There are two sides of this. The first is that I don’t know it does me much favours. The second is that I’m not sure if I care if it favours me or not.

Having survived my hardships I find myself looking back at the time before with a different perspective. By and large, life was pretty good, even happy, and in general I was a success. I took pride in being my own man and doing my own thing. I sought experience over promotion, though ultimately experience served promotion. I travelled broadly, read widely, and considered myself an urbane intellect. I was supremely confident.

Then it comes tumbling down. Rome burns. Slowly I inch my way back over an extended period until I have some semblance of a normal life, though it’s been a torturous process – and it’s but a fraction of what I had before. What I have is a mindset.

I like the man I was before. I think he was a sincere character. He meant well. All the same, looking back I realise what I see are the delusions of the man of comfort. I convinced myself that I was leading an unconventional life, and so doing that made my life worthy. If only it were that simple! And only if it were true!

I’ve come out of that with few illusions. I’m subject to the same conceits as most people, but then I deal with them more harshly than most. I feel no need for admirers having survived what I have. I believe the true essence is being authentic to yourself. I miss some of the fripperies, and still have an indulgent, sensual streak, but I see them now for what they are, pure adornment.

Above all, I don’t want to delude myself that I am more than what I am. I want to be in myself, and in these moments.

I find myself unwilling to commit to the bill of sale presented to me. It’s like I’ve become more aware of the precious self inside and refuse to compromise it – I have one life, my life. Having experienced such hardship much that passes for misfortune appears trivial. Given I have limited time remaining to me, and hence, limited opportunities, I want to make them count, and to be sincerely true throughout. I refuse categorically to allow myself to be stamped by conventional expectation, and that informs behaviour. If I seem impatient it’s because I don’t want to waste time, and if I’m outspoken it’s because I refuse to be silenced just because that’s how people behave. Life is a vital thing – don’t muddle through it!

There was always time before, so I would tell myself. I was content in being a quirky character. Now I realise that time shrinks and there’s no excuse to put things off. I have an urgency now that I only ever applied selectively before. I see life in its pure essence, feel it pushing me forward, urging me to live it now, be myself now. That’s one reason I’m now writing the books that I might never have if not for my troubles.

Whether my life ends up being conventional or unconventional or something between doesn’t really matter as long as what I choose to do and be is true to my self. Ultimately the only arbiter is myself, and I’m glad of that.

With that said I realise I have a way to go. I could be softer. I could be less judgemental. Being honest doesn’t always make for a gentle personality – though I believe I am essentially both kind and gentle. I can be true to my principles, but in a more user-friendly way – and no-one would benefit from it more than me.

That’s the next stage for me, and in my mind I see my next relationship as being central to that. I have someone in mind, but it could be someone else. I realise the person I am drawn to appeals to me because I think she has the qualities to counter-act some of my excesses. Well, for other reasons to. And when I think about that I wonder what it is she sees in me that resonates so in her? It’s such a cliché, but really the best relationships are based on complementary characters, not identical, like two pieces of a jigsaw that fit together perfectly. I need what she can give me; hopefully, I can give her what she needs in return.

Much of this I considered as I sat having a coffee in a cafe in Hampton. I looked out over the street watching people walk their dogs and my mind ticking over. At the end of it as I began the walk home with my groceries hoisted on my shoulder I wondered if I was more complex than most people, or just more aware of my complexities? That led to the obvious question: does self-awareness lead to greater complexity? I might easily have asked if self-awareness simplifies things. It probably does some things, but overall I expect the scales are tilted the other way.

Self-knowledge means looking beyond the surface and beholding the depth and detail beneath. I think it is inherent that with that comes understanding, but so to complexity. Either way, I wouldn’t want to be any different.

But maybe


For some reason about every six weeks, I need a monster sleep. Often times I’ll sleep for ten hours straight on those occasions as if the body has been crying out for rest denied. The rest of the time I run pretty much to a standard routine without feeling any ill effects. I switch off the light around 11.30 and am out of bed a little before 7.

Yesterday was an easy day, more or less. After laying in bed late to read I got up, walked Rigby down by the beach, before returning to make a minestrone while watching the Sixers beat the Heat in the play-offs. I watched some of the Anzac Day coverage from France, including a wonderful speech from the French Prime Minister, before settling down to watch the footy with Cheeseboy and JV. In the evening I had a bowl of the minestrone, groused about the footy, and watched some cursory TV while feeling my energy seep from my body. It was a little after 9 and I felt like nodding off.

I didn’t fight it too much. I was in a funny mood, neither one thing or another, an old Sports song running through my head, Don’t Throw Stones, and no real desire to remain conscious. I went to bed, read for a while, then switched the light off. It was about 10.

I woke a little before 6, dozed for a while, then decided not to pretend. I got up and fed Rigby and made myself a coffee. Back in bed, I turned on the lamp. It was still dark outside and the light made the shadows in the room deeper. I read for about 40 minutes I guess, enjoying the novelty of it as well s a new book, but a part of my mind was turned in on itself.

Something felt different. I was different, or at least my perceptions were, but something about me seemed changed to. In myself, I felt quieter. The force in me that often expresses itself outwardly in how I walk or talk, or in my eyes, was instead internalised. I wondered what it was. Is something about to change?

The Sports song was in my head still as I prepared myself for another day of work. I took a distant view of it in keeping with my low-key mood. In fact, everything seemed distant. I was all small movements, with none of the brash outwardness I sometimes portray.

Sitting opposite me on the train to work was a woman in her mid-twenties, a fit looking intellectual wearing skin-tight leggings. I sensed her awareness of me, which made me aware of her. She reminded me of a girl I’d had sex with, and all of a sudden all I could see was her naked body. There was nothing lascivious in it, it was a function merely of memory. I looked away from her, out the window, becoming reflective.

I’m in my early fifties now, but I look like a well turned out forty year old. I tend to base my behaviour on how I look rather how old I am: and if you can get away with it, why not? There’s a lot of things in that. No-one wants to get old. No matter how self-possessed it’s the rare person who doesn’t take some lead from their personal appearance. And of course, it’s vanity.

I’ve always been vain. You could say it was bred into me. My mother was always stylish, and my father immaculate – and his father, my grandfather, was a devotee of Henty Buck. It was not only all around me, the value of personal appearance was always drilled into me, and above all, the beauty of style. I believed in it and as a good looking boy was happy to exploit it.

I’ve always been aware of it, but somewhere along the line, it meshed neatly with my ego. For many years I rode that wave until it crashed. I’ve reformed some. I’m still vain, and I’ve still got an ego, but they’re quieter than they used to be. I can’t deny myself, but I want to be the master of my ego and not the other way around. All this I pondered as I peered out the window and train quickly filled. I felt quiet myself, humble, just me.

You try and find the right answer – at least I always do. There isn’t always a right answer though. I know that even as I search for it. I like to have something definite to navigate by or act upon, though it’s rare that it’s possible. Even on the train I searched for that. Was it time I accepted my age and just be it? But then, why? Why if in mind and body you feel timeless? Should I feel flattered to have a young woman aware of me? Was it wrong of me to see in my mind’s eye naked bodies? But then – why must I have a position on these things? Can I not be?

In the background of all this is work, and the girl there. I’ll write about it separately, but I had more cause on Tuesday to feel abject disappointment with work. It left me off-kilter as I went for a glass of Albarino on Tuesday night, wondering how such things can be. As for the girl, more and more it feels that this is my personal journey. I make no representations of her. I won’t chase her, or bend myself to be something I’m not to attract her. I am me, myself, as if that is the point of it. I read something the other day, if the door doesn’t open then its not the right door. I’m happy with that. I hope it opens, but if it doesn’t, so be it. In the meantime what I feel is good and true, and maybe what I need. I can be thankful of that, and by extension, her, because she is the cause of it.

Everything is quiet in me. It feels safe, but a little strange. There is no single answer, no easy explanation of right and wrong. Everything is true because its real. Whether something is about to happen or not I don’t know, but maybe.