Inshallah


I’m in a Friday afternoon state of mind. Been working hard this morning and yesterday with complex, mind-bending stuff, but I’ve sent it off now all done and it’s set off the day. I’m in a wise-cracking mood, inclined to put my feet up and wait for the drinks trolley to come around at 3.30 to have a brew (yes, we have a Friday drinks trolley, just for now). At knock-off I’ll roll downstairs for a happy hour cocktail before heading off just in time for the footy. The weekend, from this perspective, is all cream.

There’s no good reason why I should be in such a light-hearted mood. All the news about the car is bad – the engine is blown – and the bill mounts. The encouraging discussions about possible job opportunities have come to an unsatisfying and disappointing naught. And I continue to be frustrated at work, notwithstanding some temporarily diverting work. And so on.

Truth is I’m in a different space these days. This is only a moment and nothing’s too bad anyway and I reckon sooner or later things will work out more or less as I want them to. I feel good in myself, confident and fit and strong and sharp. And the writing is going well. There’s not much point in worrying about anything.

This generally accepting state of mind extends to most things. There are things I can do, and things I can’t. Things worth worrying about, and other things not. My best option is just to be myself and not vary from it.

That includes the girl, who has begun to warm to me again. It’s still halting and hesitant, but hey, there were weeks we didn’t speak to each other. This week she’s made an effort up to and including contriving a circumstance whereby I was asked to assist her with a project, throwing us together. I admit, it’s made things a lot easier.

I still don’t know what I want from her, but that’s hardly the point. I just want to be square and honest with her, in a situation divested of the baggage and crap the last little while has been full of. I know I like her and I’m happy to like her, but if that means I end up liking her a lot more, or if I don’t, is in the lap of the gods. I’m happy to find out and follow the path where it leads as long as it’s true.

It’s easier like this. I’m true to myself and what I feel. If it marries up to her or if it doesn’t is outside my control, and if it doesn’t then I guess I know my answer. I’ve never been a fatalist – I was much too aggressive and impatient for that – but I’m more than content that led things run their true course, come what may.

For what it’s worth, I think we’ll be friends.

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The course of nature


I spent a good part of the weekend wandering around in ever-diminishing circles as I tried – and failed – to make any significant inroads writing the new book. I’ve taken a more measured approach this time. I spent a good 6-7 weeks on the first chapter, knowing that ultimately it will end up very different to the version I settled on. Still, it felt like time well spent because it set the tone for the rest of the book. So the theory went.

In fact as I set about writing chapter two, and with my mind full of ideas, I found that nothing worked – it was all lame or dull or just plain wrong. If I gained anything out of the experience it’s what not to write. As it stands the chapter remains unwritten, and the mystery is ongoing.

No matter, I’ll figure it out. From what I can tell writing is just about torture for even the most acclaimed writers. It’s not meant to be easy. In the meantime I can take comfort from recent feedback, which has all been very positive. It’ll happen.

In line with all that one of the girls at work took me aside last week and said they had heard that I was a writer. She’d been told that I’d written something, and that actually it was really good. She was intrigued and full of questions, and naturally wanted to read something herself.

I was intrigued to. I’ve shared bits and pieces of the book with people at work, but not many and very little. I was curious to know what she’d heard, and from who, but at that time she couldn’t remember.

Later in the week I asked her again, and after some reflection revealed that she had been told about my writing by the girl here I like. Really? I thought. I was further intrigued.

She is not one of the people I’ve shared my writing with. I may have made a passing comment in the past about my writing, but hardly more than that. On top of all that we basically co-exist in a friendly silence at the moment. We haven’t had a decent conversation for weeks, and even random conversations are just about non-existent. It’s a strange situation for sure, but there’s nothing nasty or even uncomfortable about it. We seem both to accept this strange state of affairs, remote but well disposed, aware of the other but feeling no need to engage. On my own part I’m happy to let nature take its course, whichever way that is.

And so anyway it felt odd to me that she had spoken about me to this other girl, and stranger still that she would comment on something I thought she was virtually ignorant of.

I can only surmise that one of the people I have shared some writing with, or spoken to it about, has shared it with her. It felt odd to get the news (and, you know, I knew it would be her even when the other girl couldn’t remember. I felt it in my bones, though it made no sense.), but it was gratifying too. Gratifying that she would take the trouble to talk to another about me even when we don’t communicate at all, and gratifying that she thought positively of the writing too.

The clock ticks, but at some point it will strike midnight.

Going backwards


So I’ve taken the day off to get some chores done. First chore is get my car to a mechanic in Chelsea Heights for a service and a RWC. I’m pessimistic about the prognosis because the car’s been ailing – oil pressure issues, together with the battery running down all the time, and in need of a definite tune. Has to be done though on my road to recovery.

I’m out the door by 8.30 and driving down Beach Road. It’s about a 30k drive, but pretty direct and going against prevailing traffic. I’ve made it most of the way and am in Wells road, 2k from the mechanic, when the speedo goes from 80 kmh and dropping rapidly. It’s as if someone’s thrown out an anchor.

Fortunately I’m in a clear patch of road, so while I’ve still got some momentum I cross from the right lane to the shoulder of the road on the left. The car comes to a stop, basically no power available.

Drat I think , or something similar – if only it had made the extra 2 k’s, but not to be. I call the mechanic and explain the situation and says he’ll come by. Ten minutes later he’s there and gives me the bad news: timing belt. For an Audi that is bad news, though not uncommon. There’s a grand plus right there, but then there’s the risk of a damaged piston too. Oh my lord I think, or something similar.

I call RACV, organise a tow, then get a lift back – the mechanic will deal with the towie. Not the start to the day I wanted.

Later today I’m off to the dentist, and hoping there won’t be any further bad news.

To cut or not to cut


About a fortnight ago I set out to document the fall from grace that led to my homelessness. I’d kept tabs on it in real time recording the sundry moments here in this journal, but while that’s a valuable record it’s flawed. It takes time to see the whole picture, and to see the patterns unfurling – and perhaps it takes some post-event wisdom too, looking over your shoulder at what happened and knowing well the hard lessons learnt.

So I wrote, for myself, but also in the back of my mind, to share. I’ve been telling bits and pieces of this tale over the last month, and those select few, earlier than that. There’s no-one in the world I’ve told the whole story to from start to finish. It’s a big story and a long story and it doesn’t make for idle conversation. I even had thought that perhaps I might put my story up on Medium.

So anyway I began writing and re-writing and the experience soured me sometimes, and sometimes it was illuminating. I had to think hard to place things in their proper sequence, and many times I would close my eyes to re-capture the feelings I had then. All throughout I was determined to make it as honest as my memory would allow. That meant plumbing the emotional depths I fell too, as well as – most importantly – taking responsibility for the many missteps along the way, born from pride mainly, and hubris. This was the point of the thing, not just a true rendering of the tale, but an accounting of it.

I’ve not yet finished writing it, but have reached the moment when finally I got the job that meant I might find a home again.

I’ve got many people fascinated by my story, and others intrigued by the bits of pieces they know of it and wanting to know more. As this is a process of opening up I shared it with someone yesterday.

She called me up last night to discuss it with me. She was shocked by what she had read. In a way I was surprised. I don’t really know where to place my travails and privations in the scheme of things. I know it was tough, but I know that people experience tough times daily, and many much tougher than me. I don’t want to glorify my misery. I want it to be true, but I can’t be objective about that truth because I am at the centre of it.

I think what she was shocked at – and which was hardest for me – was how there seemed no end to it, how one thing seemed to come hard on the heels of another. But still, some of that was my fault, and here I am, free of it – there was an end. And there I go qualifying things again.

In any case the crux of the conversation last night is that she wants to help me. She’s a wealthy woman with nothing to spend her money on and she sees me as a wasted talent in my present predicament. Those are her words. She thinks I have much to offer, but need to get from under things.

I don’t disagree much, but of course was reluctant to accept her help. She anticipated that and said, quite sensibly, that there was no shame in accepting the support of friends. I have in fact done this along the way by necessity, but it eats at me today like acid. I know intellectually that she is right, that I should be big enough and humble enough to accept the help I need when it is proffered. As always it is my spirit that rebels, the pride that has done me so wrong, and the fear of being indebted, obliged, of having a part of my independence bought and paid for. I know it seems like nonsense, but it feels true, even right.

I admitted that things remain tough, but they had been a lot tougher and this was like a cakewalk compared to before. We have different scales though. I still have upwards of $20,000 in debt I cannot pay, excluding the ATO. I have a car I can’t drive because I can’t afford to register, insure or service. And, as I revealed to her, I limit myself to one lunch a week. All of that makes her aghast, for me I just shrug my shoulders and look upon as a necessary challenge. It would feel like cheating if at this stage I accepted her help. I’m almost fearful of having it easier when I haven’t worked for it. I’ve strained so hard throughout and wrested myself from the utter pits by force of will and self-belief. To accept an easy out seems to me cheapening it.

Of course, I know, that’s ridiculous. That’s the man I’m trying to overcome. He was the man I had to be, honed for battle, but in relative peace he doesn’t work. He’s grim and defiant and mightily proud and closed off to good things as well as bad. He’s cold and ruthless, mathematical, but that’s not who I am at heart and who I can’t afford to be if I mean to be happy, and he’s the man I’m trying to overcome by exposing my sins, my struggles, my pain.

She’s offering me enough to cover my debts, repay down the track. Other than pride there’s no real reason to refuse. In fact it’s very similar to a plan I tried to hatch about 12 months ago: with money in my hands I could negotiate my debts downwards and free up my cashflow, as well as a good part of my peace of mind. It was a good plan, but the key element was missing: dollars. Now I’m offered the missing dollars with which I could extinguish the debt once and for all, the angry daily calls, and the stunted repayments robbing me of lunch money. I could repay the friends I feel so guilty about, and maybe even I could get the car back on the road.

It’s tempting. Cut the Gordian knot. Yet almost certainly I will refuse her offer.

Switched on


Hot days in Melbourne and controversy at the AO as the players complain that play should be called off when it gets too steamy. That’s sure to happen today if the temperature hits the forecast high of 42.

It makes for hot nights too. Lucky I’ve now got decent air-con, but it goes all night. It doesn’t make for a perfect sleep, but it’s better than tossing and turning.

The office should be a cool refuge, except that the corner of the building in which I suit cops the brunt of the sun. Better than being outside though.

Amid all this is me. It’s been a curious year so far. I placed myself in a position of vulnerability which has taken some getting used to. I’ve been contemplating my future here as well as navigating the complex emotions wrought by the uncertainty in dealing with the girl here I like. That got quite difficult at one point as it seemed we had reached an impasse, and I felt responsible for it.

It has not progressed not much beyond that point since, but it has progressed. Much of the complexity was on my part – what did I want from this? What did I really feel? How do I parse this into real life, working in the same office? At times I took quite a fatalistic approach, which was healthy and felt sensible: there’s no rush to this. The old fashioned ‘if it’s meant to be it will happen’ notion got a run, but grounded much more practically: there was a connection before and, inshallah, it will be there again. Be patient, let it be.

In the last 24 hours something ticked over in me. You get caught up thinking about the other person so that sometimes you forget about yourself. I think I realised that I really liked her, which released a flood of positive feeling through me. Endorphins, I guess. I felt a benign glow. There was something fatalistic about that too: accept what it is, enjoy it, be it…

As a part of that it’s like the sex switch was dialled up. It was already on – it’s never off – but it was supplementary to everything else. Suddenly I had the raw and intoxicating taste of sexual desire. Grand feeling, that. I felt like I embodied it.

That’s where I am now. I can only be me, and I can only be open. I don’t know what the path back is – lines of communication must be re-established – but if that can be managed I think everything else will flow.

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.

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.