Personal development

I’ve back a few days now and one thing I’ve noticed is how long I’m sleeping. Normally through the work week, I average a little under 7.5 hours per night. These last few days I’ve slept for about nine hours a night. The opportunity to sleep in is always welcome, but what this is telling me is that I needed it. No surprise. I’ve felt run-down both physically and mentally the last few months. It felt as if I needed a good rest and the opportunity to re-charge.

When I do wake the routine is not much different from normal. Rigby is fed, I grab a freshly made latte, then back to bed where I’ll read the Age, the NYT times, and various other news sites and magazines on my iPad. I’ll check what’s going happening on Facebook and Twitter and randomly cruise other sites.

As the morning progresses I’ll take Rigby for his walk. There’s no set time for this, but he’s always alert. The final test is now in progress and so I’ll switch that on and have in the background as I attend to different chores – a load of washing, a tidy up, maybe some cooking. Amid all this, I’ve checked my email and attended to anything needing attending to.

Of course, now I’m writing too. I’ve started on the new book, and it’s hard work. Starting is always most difficult, and not just because it’s a blank page. That’s tough, but getting it right is tougher. I don’t expect to get it right first off. I’ve written about 2000 words so far and I reckon 75% of them will be changed before I’m happy – and that’s just the first draft. You’re trying to set the tone and mood. Trying to get the voice right, and capture the character. How you start is how you go on with it, so you need to get it right.

I have a couple of days more of this then I’m back to work. Like many people I made some resolutions and sketched in some aspirational plans over the new year. The resolutions I posted to Facebook, just to put them out there: get a book published, wear more colourful shirts, be less glip/more open. I might add to that: eat more greens (especially broccoli) and less sugar.

The plans are more general. Unless something significant occurs I must change jobs. I’m neither well used or well rewarded. I’m looking towards March for that.

As a general notion, I want to have a better Christmas this year. There are different things I could do towards that, but what I favour is finding that intimate other to share it with. If that’s the case there are other things I must do, or decide upon.

While I was away I spoke to Cheeseboy about the woman at work. He’s well aware of my past experiences, but said I should go for it. It’s funny, I’m the risktaker by nature, and he’s conservative, but he’s urging me to take the chance. I can only believe it’s good advice.

I’ve decided to accept the possibility, even to pursue it, but without hurry. What we experienced is the first flush of attraction and desire. That’s nice, but it doesn’t always survive into real life. Real is what I want. I don’t want to lose the feeling of attraction and desire, but I want something more substantial to reinforce it. I think there is something to work on with this woman, but I’ll let it happen rather than forcing it. If it’s not to be it’s not to be.

Regardless, as I’ve promised, with this woman or another, I intend to be open and honest and vulnerable. Real. That’s the next stage in my personal development.


New year’s cleanse

I’ve spent the last few days celebrating the new year down at Wye River. It’s a beautiful part of the world, but then most of the Great Ocean Road is spectacular. This time of year the small town is swollen by thousands of holidaymakers. It took me back to my childhood.

I went down on Sunday morning. By the afternoon I was in the surf. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, and it seemed like I was the only person there without a wetsuit (how different to when I was a kid, when only the odd surfer might). The sun had some bite to it though, and water was not as polar as it might have been. I went in wearing my old-fashioned boardies thinking I’m not going any further than waist deep. But then you get drawn in. The surf was good. It was busy with body-surfers and boogie boarders. The water surged like a living thing and I remembered it from when I was a kid when every year for maybe a dozen summers we holidayed down by the beach. My body took to it, recalling how to turn side on to the waves or dive beneath them, how to ride the swell lifting you with it, and when to turn and surf with the crashing wave. It wasn’t long before I was all in, in and back, out beyond the waves at times feeling it take me, before catching a wave on the way back in. It was all fantastic muscle memory, and my body was exuberant with it.

That night I sat at the campsite with my friends and we had a green chicken curry before lacing into the beer and spirits as the hour approached, conversation roiling around the table, and laughter with it to the soundtrack of some Spotify playlist. As new years eves go it was different, but welcome and fresh.

The next day was slow, walking to the cafe, to the beach, then back to the campsite to read by the creek. Come the evening we fired up the barbie and opened up some reds. We played 500 until we were merry and then went to bed.

Come yesterday I was looking forward to a hot bath and some comforts of home, though they do it well. I’d slept well both nights, assisted by alcohol. Yesterday afternoon I boarded a bus in Lorne and made my way back to Melbourne via Geelong. I had my bath late last night after first having a home-cooked dinner with the friend who’d looked after Rigby for me.

The trip away was good for me. It was good to get away anywhere, but particularly to a place so rustic and raw, so simple in a way and laden with nostalgia. Good to be with my friends.

Last week was pretty tough for me. I felt literally down in the mouth, which is an awful feeling. When you feel that grim you want to avoid contact with any who might see you that way. You can’t smile, everything is hard. I’m pretty good at tossing off a few deflective one-liners and otherwise acting as I always have, but it feels not just a sham, but utterly transparent. The astute will notice, including sometimes the last people in the world you want noticing – which makes it worse.

It took a while to lose that feeling. The surfing helped because it was so natural, but even so, I was reticent. Gradually I eased out of that, knowing in my mind that I have to change it. That’s my resolution, among others, to be less glib, more open – which translates as honest and vulnerable. Donna tells me I’ll be surprised at how people react to it, and the test will be back at work.

Now I’m home until Monday and besides a few chores, I’ve set myself I need to get writing on the new book. I’ve started, but it’s torturous going. No-one ever said it would be easy.

The bitcoins I don’t have

I’m having lunch today with a woman who invested in bitcoins when they were way down low, and is now sitting pretty now they’re $28K each with a bullet. This is a minor sore point for me. I very nearly invested in bitcoin about 5 years ago. I even set-up a bitcoin account – which I retain to this day – alas, with no bitcoins in it. I don’t know that I decided otherwise, rather other things got in the way and the whole notion fell down the back of the couch, much like those other, much less valuable coins.
To rub it in I got a call about three weeks ago from a broker trying to interest me in bitcoin futures. Bit coins at that stage where about $11K. Now that’s a way to make a lot of money quickly, and lose it to. I still get these calls from people who somehow believe I’m still a man of wealth and influence. Of course I couldn’t invest in it – I had nothing to invest with. In this case though had I had the money, and had I invested, it would have been a lot of money made.
Whatever. It’s a story told every day. Regardless, it’s her shout today.

What they don’t teach in school

I wandered down before to get my morning coffee. In my hand was a voucher for a free coffee leading me to somewhere different to where I usually go. It took me to a bar in a laneway with long rows of spirits on the rear wall. I’d been there a few weeks before, just checking it out. At that time I noticed a couple of large stainless steel barrels bolted to the wall advertising unpasteurised Carlton Draught. Now Carlton is not my beer of choice, but intrigued by it I made enquiries. At the back of my mind was an old bar in Queen street called the Snakepit that once advertised that it had shipped in its Heineken direct from Holland – and it was mighty good. And so I asked the question, and though it was only just past 8am the bartender poured me a quarter glass to try out.

This time I fell into a conversation with the bar manager as he sniffed at some fresh cut mint leaves, exclaiming at the aroma. “All set for your mojito’s?” I said, by way of conversation. He nodded his head and we fell to talking. Somewhere along the line I mentioned the Caipirinha. “What’s that?” he said.

I was surprised. I thought everyone knew about the Caiprinha. I explained to him, it’s a tasty Brazilian cocktail, the key ingredient a Brazilian spirit called cachaca – like rum, sort of, but different. Great on a hot day. He was fascinated to the point of gratitude, and promised to look into it.

What are they teaching in schools these days?

Approaching the bridge

Tonight is the company Christmas party at some glitzy venue down Docklands way. I thought twice about attending, but allowed myself to be persuaded. Like I keep telling myself, a free feed and booze is nothing to be sneezed at.

It’s funny because in the barren years I lived through one of the things I missed was the company Christmas party. It was not that I yearned for the event itself so much, rather it became a kind of symbol and reference point. I went about five years without an invitation – or opportunity – for any such parties, and it was a symbol of the situation I was in. I knew in myself that the day I had a party I could go to was the day I knew I was on the up again.

Last year was the first for many that I received an invitation in my inbox. I didn’t go because I had something else on, but it was enough that I had an invitation I could turn down. This year, though there are no such calendar conflicts, I was reluctant to accept once more.

I don’t think highly of the company I work for. I hate admitting that, but think they have dubious ethics, and pay lip service towards their employees. There are good people here, and there are some sincere and looking to change things. I hope they succeed, but they are coming from a long way back. I’m happy to support and add my shoulder to that – I’ll suspend my disbelief. But then of the people I like or am close to in the business there’s a few that have recently departed, and others not going tonight. I’m going for two other reasons.

The lazy reason is that I didn’t fight it when I was urged to accept, and went along with it when they put me on their table. Like I said, a few laughs, a good meal, a few glasses of vino is no bad thing – and may be a lot better than that, who knows.

There’s another reason why I can’t miss the party tonight.

On general principles I’m not sure if this is the right or wrong thing, and don’t feel comfortable sharing it here, but… There’s a girl. Just that, no more. We get on well, we like each other. There’s nothing more than that as yet, a budding possibility that maybe we’re both open to. It’s hard at work to get that going. You need to get away from the formal environment and to somewhere looser and free form. That’s why I think I must go tonight – because if I don’t I doubt it would ever get off the ground, but if I do it might take me somewhere altogether different.

So why am I only ‘maybe’ open to it. Like I say every time, I don’t want to get involved with someone at work. It’s messy, it’s awkward, and everyone has an opinion. I say it every time, and a good dozen times later I’m still saying it. It really gives me pause, but not sure it’s enough to veto.

The other reason is that I still feel a bit gun-shy about my circumstances. There’s a lot of embarrassing explaining to do, which I know I must, and part of me wants to – needs to – but it’s scary as well and I don’t know what to think. Making it worse in way is that I project a certain image. People have an idea of me which is very different from the reality. I probably exaggerate the importance of that, imagining the disappointment of someone who thinks I’m one thing and finds another. At the end of the day I’m me, aren’t I? independent of circumstances.

This is a bridge I have to cross, if not tonight, with this woman, then at a future date, with someone else perhaps. I have to move on, and maybe that starts tonight – and that’s why I’m going to the party.

Fond remembrances

Off to a funeral tomorrow. The father of one of my best friends has died. I’m there to support my friend, but I knew his father also, a lovely, gentle, earthy man from the north of England. He was not young and his passing falls into the category of inevitable, but it’s no less sad for that.

My friend lives in Mullumbimby now, and I see him rarely. He called me when he came down as his father ailed, and we hoped to catch up but it was not to be. I haven’t seen him for ages, and when I see him now it will be at his father’s funeral.

I got the message last night. I wondered, as always, how to respond. I kept it simple and real. It’s a hard time and it’s not for me to make it harder. I felt sad though, sad for my friend, and his family – all lovely people, sad for his father, who I really liked, and finally I felt sad for myself remembering what it was like to lose a parent.

I’ll be there to pay my respects and support my friend. There’ll be at least one other mutual friend there. At the end of the day over a cold beer the memories will flow, and the sadness edged with fond remembrance. For a little while we’ll live with the knowledge of mortality. It will be real and gape within us like a precipice we can’t see over. There’s something enlivening in that, and as we who remain toast to our memories we’ll head home later grateful to be alive and among friends.

A weekend doing nothing

Since sending my book off my weekend lifestyle has changed big time. For every weekend for as long as I can remember I spent hours each day sitting at my desk writing. Once the book was in the mail there was no more need to do that.

My next writing project is an essay, and I spent a couple of hours making some notes and doing some research, but that’s been pretty well it. I made a decision to do as little as possible because I was curious as to how it would feel. What I felt was a bit lost. When you’ve built up such a solid routine it feels wrong when you step away from it. I felt lazy in a way, as if I was skiving off from important work to be a bum.

Then this last weekend came and I had an excuse to do nothing. We celebrated Diwali at work on Friday, and I hoed into the assorted Indian tucker like the true cosmopolitan I am. Somewhere along the way I partook, literally, of a dodgy curry, and knew about it from about 3am Saturday morning, and every 90 minutes thereafter.

I was supposed to get my hair cut Saturday morning, but it seemed an unsafe proposition and so I cancelled. The local farmers market was on and I took a chance betting I could get back inside 90 minutes and I went along.

I love farmer’s markets. There’s always such a good vibe, and the produce is generally top notch. The farmers market in Sandy is always busy, with lots of kids, and more dogs than you could point a bone at. I went without Rigby because I didn’t want to manage him as well as everything else, but there were plenty of mutts whose eye I caught..

I did my usual shopping, buying some artisan bread, gourmet snags, a couple of herb seedlings, as well as an indulgent choc brownie. I was out of there within 40 minutes and heading home along the beach track.

Once more I thought how good life is in Australia, and particularly in a place like where I live. Leaving the market I heard the sounds of distant song, a choir it sounded like, singing Consider Yourself, from Oliver Twist. I walked a little way along the path until I came to a clearing. I stood on the high headland looking back towards the yacht club. Down below was a community choir of some ilk giving a performance to a collected crowd. Why it was I didn’t know, but I was happy that such a thing might occur.

I walked on, looking out towards the bay where just offshore a yacht race seemed to be in progress, and passing by good citizens with their beautiful dogs.

It’s no exaggeration to claim that a bit of my heart melts every time I see a dog. I love them to death, and each time I saw one I felt a little better, no matter the churning in my gut. It seems to me that a dog’s life span is shorter than ours because they manage to cram in as much delight, love and affection in their dozen odd years as we do in our seventy. They are a much purer expression of happiness than what we are, and we can learn a lot from them.

I got home just in the nick of time. I gave Rigby a hug and spent the rest of the day and much of yesterday being a bum. Fact is when you’re crook like that you don’t have much motivation to do more, and little energy. I felt a little lost, but ultimately spent most of the weekend watching a movie on Foxtel, or reading.

Next weekend I intend to get back to some routine. Today, I’m well again just in time for work.