Restoration


Off getting my morning coffee, they had Summertime playing in the background sung by Aretha Franklin and Louis Armstrong. It’s a great song and I found myself singing along to it. I felt better after that standing there waiting for my coffee to me made, the languid, sensual tune recalling memories to me of my childhood, when such songs would be played on high rotation, and of my mother, who would often sing around the house in her trained voice. I grew up with her singing the standards as she did the dishes or attending to some other domestic chore. That’s how I absorbed the music and came to love it so much and why often, as she did, I’ll break into song (I know just about all the words by heart).

The song had a restorative effect upon me. I returned to work feeling as if a situation that had become twisted had been normalised. I wished I was somewhere else, but as I hummed the tune to myself I felt nourished. I went about, a sardonic smile on my face and cracking wise left, right and centre as I haven’t for so long. That little episode in the coffee shop had a restorative effect on me.

I needed it. Despite my brave words on Sunday I felt pretty bleak yesterday. There was no belated thank-you, and in fact after quickly checking in she left the floor, a 3 month secondment as a trainer meaning she’ll be here but a fraction of the time.

Initially it all came as a blow to me. I found it hard to concentrate or to take my work seriously. I was upset with her, but I didn’t want to lose her still. I reasoned with myself. It really was pretty trivial, and for someone with skin as thick as mine it was ridiculous to feel so upset. But of course, the snub is symbolic of so much more.

After my coffee this morning I am beginning to wonder if her absence is my opportunity to become myself completely once more. It seems to me that one of the ongoing issues – if that’s the word – is that much of the fun had gone out of her interactions. I would make her laugh every now and then, but mostly our dealings were sober and matter of fact.

For me that was one of the problems. With everyone else on the floor I felt I could be the me people knew, open and witty. I would engage with people around her, make them laugh sometimes or have them call me over.

It was different with her because the first few times I tried that with her after our problem she was non-receptive. She would politely smile, determined not to engage or to show anything. I took my lead from that, and as a result there was a zone about her in which I was perfectly sensible and proper, unlike the occasionally free-wheeling and irascible character I was elsewhere (the character she had been drawn to in the first place).

Now she has gone and the zone goes with her. I don’t have to abide by those restrictions. Looking back I don’t know if I realised how restrictive it was to my natural self. I’m glad to be free of it, and a little angry with myself that I allowed myself to be so constrained. I understand, though.

The bottom line is that I’m freed up, and I want to make the most of it. I need it too. It’s been a busy few months and I’ve made many strides forward, but in hindsight I realise I’ve survived a destructive segment of my life.

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Returning to life


Just a small point highlighted by the last two posts.

I reckon about a year ago that my experiences had left me hardened to point almost of being callous. It wasn’t that I felt things less, but they were overlaid by a hard shell that left me blunt and sometimes angry, and that had me impervious to the effects of personal emotion. I would still be moved by tragedy and by triumph – I’ve always been someone affected to the point of tears by such things – but when it came to my life I was almost ruthlessly impassive. I felt like a hard bastard, and had for some time. Having survived homelessness everything else seemed trivial, even small.

It was not a circumstance I was happy with. I felt distant from myself. Being distant from myself I also felt distant to much of society, even still. I wanted to be the sensitive man I’d always been. I was sad thinking I might have lost it. I didn’t want to be tough, or calloused, or indifferent. I wanted to feel. I wanted to be part of things. I wanted to feel the torrent of life surge about me, pushing and pulling and taking me it’s capricious way because to feel, and to feel deeply, is life.

I might be sad at this moment, but sad is better than feeling nothing. I’m grateful that some of that life has returned to me. Being homeless was to live in a wasteland. Coming out of that was to return to a barren landscape. Now that landscape shows signs of re-growth and in time, I hope and expect, it will be a lush playground.

Perhaps it needed only time to return to this state, but I credit a couple of things for it. I think first is actually finding myself interested in someone else after years of forced abstinence. Even when things were good I never fell easily but fell hard when it happened. In this case, it caught me by surprise. I found myself flirting with someone flirting with me. That wasn’t unusual – what was unusual is that from the flirtation came real affection, and the beginnings of hope I only ever realised after the fact.

That’s been no fairy-tale and it’s not anywhere near where I want it to be, and it may never be so – but I feel it, I’m alive to the possibility, can feel those tendrils of desire and hope and pure tenderness spread through me like an elixir. Even in despair – which I am yet to experience this time – there is life, much preferred to casual indifference (though sometimes in the midst of it you may think differently).

The second thing is the choice I made to open myself up. In retrospect, I can see the choice was made easier because of what I felt for the girl. The depression I experienced over Christmas was enough for me to know that I should change things, but it was the utter mortification knowing that it had undone everything with the girl who forced me into action. I couldn’t live with the shame and guilt and tragedy of it.

I have said before opening up as I have is one of the most important things I’ve done in my whole life. It has been hard at times and perhaps difficult for others occasionally to absorb, but it has been largely positive. As I open myself to the world, the world opens itself to me.

I wish I could share it with her. It’s been one of the great frustrations that the one person I really want to share it with I cannot. Perhaps she did eavesdrop the other night and heard at least a part of my story. It would put a different spin on much she might have considered settled fact. It would be something for her to think about, and I can’t imagine it leaving her indifferent.

Regardless of what she knows or doesn’t, what I ever tell her or how it turns out, I owe her more than she can know. Meeting her, and feeling for her, set me on the path to reclaiming myself. I’d like to tell her that someday, but don’t know if I ever will.

Trust to karma


Had a boring Easter, but boring in the best sense of the word. It was quiet and relaxing. I caught up with a few friends, had dinner out Saturday and a coffee yesterday, but otherwise I slept in each day recouping my energy, read a bit in between times while attending to sundry chores, writing, and watching some of the footy.

It’s a weekend I needed, in several ways. I’ve not felt unwell, but over the last few months I’ve noticed I need more sleep than usual. Most of my life I’ve been a solid 7.5 hours a night. Lately I’ve needed up to an hour more than that. It had me puzzled, and I wondered if it had anything to do with an allergy or intolerance. Then a friend suggested that it may not be a bad thing. The change coincides with my shift in perspective and looking to let things go – perhaps my body is letting go in concert with my mind? In any case when something as obvious as this occurs then there must be a reason for it. The body knows.

In any case having four days off meant I could sleep and wake whenever I wanted. I even had a nap on one day. Do I feel refreshed? Mayhap.

Then there is the mental side of it. In my last post I described the qualms I was experiencing. That didn’t go away in a hurry, but a conversation with Donna on Saturday helped put it in perspective. As I predicted I slowly recovered from the negative mindset, which is so unlike me anyway. Thankfully I’ve not simply reverted to an earlier state. What I wrote the other day was true, and with that in mind I have advanced my thinking.

The problem is simple and hardly uncommon, and my take on it almost clichéd – nonetheless, there is good sense in the realisation I’ve come to. It’s no good comparing myself to who I was before or what I had. Likewise, there’s no point in getting het up about where I want to get to when I’m still so far from it. And it’s foolish if I concern myself with how people see me – never an issue until it becomes something potentially negative. In other words it’s a fool’s errand to worry about anything that was or could be or which I have no control over. It’s not dissimilar to what I was saying a week ago, and not inconsistent with how I’ve lived my life. It was easier before though.

Basically, I need only attend to myself in the here and now. Be in the moment. That’s not to say I shouldn’t hope or aspire, but you’re only ever going to get there one step at a time. I should appreciate what I have now, and who I am. In the scheme of things it may not be a big thing – I may be that little man – but there’s enough for me to be thankful for, and even a little proud.

I can’t pre-empt anything. I can only be me, and hope its sufficient to take me where I want to go – and grant to me what I cherish.

Little man


It was a short but busy working week, and at 4.30 I knocked off early to have a drink with one of my work buddies downstairs. About 20 minutes after the girl – A – joined us, and then the others. Because it was the last day before the Easter break, and because the equivalent of our financial end of year had just ended the crowd swelled with people with different departments of the company. It became very festive.

I was in the thick of it. I didn’t intend to stay long but got carried along. Besides the girl there was a guy there I think I’m forming a strong friendship with (more of him another time), and at one stage we ended up at the bar having a shot together.

On the surface of things, it was a fine night. I didn’t get to speak to the girl much, but it was clear she was open and receptive, and the signs, in general, are better. I mixed with others, chatting about all manner of things, including one young guy who is a budding drag queen. Later in the evening one of the girls who works for me arrived. She squealed when she saw me and gave me a big hug. Later, by text, she told me she loved me – though she means it in the platonic sense. I left soon after the girl did, getting a kiss on the way out from another girl I hardly know.

Somewhere in all that were sown the seeds of dissatisfaction I’ve felt this whole weekend so far. At one point I sat next to a lovely girl sympathetic to my character and fascinated by my writing. We talked of that a little, and then I let slip my story in its very abbreviated form. She was surprised to the point of not knowing how to react, and for the first time I didn’t feel the usual flush of satisfaction.

I’ve got about my business as normal, feeling this distant sourness. Always a give-away for me, my sleep has been busy with dreams, and when I wake I feel lost.

In a way, I expected something like this at some point. I mean, there has to be a reaction. I’ve had a good run, confessing my tale without consequence, all positive. I’ve floated along feeling good about myself in general, and in general with life. That’s changed.

It’s as if I see my story from a different perspective now. From where I sit I look like a tryer, someone who used to be, someone who has recovered from some real bad stuff and three cheers for him, etc, but ultimately a loser. I played, I lost, and all I’ve got to show for it is the t-shirt. Pathetic, that’s what I feel, a try hard with a story.

And though things are probably more positive than they’ve been with A since before Christmas I’m dismissive of it. I’m not worthy. Who am I kidding? Why would she want to have anything to do with me? Suddenly I feel deluded and foolish. I want to crawl back into my hole.

I know such negative feelings are not uncommon. A lot of people suffer doubt. I know people who live their life by it. I was one of those people who rarely did. For decades I reckon I was free of any major doubt. I had my ups and downs, I wasn’t always happy, but I never really doubted the fundamentals – which was me.

Things have changed now and there’s very good reason for that. Doubt entered my life again a few years back when there were lots to doubt. Throughout I rarely doubted myself. There were moments, but mostly it was the situation. I’m older now though, and maybe that’s part of it – I’m not as shiny as I used to be. And when it boils down, what do I have to offer – a choice story and nothing in the bank. No thanks.

The funny thing is that I know that’s not altogether true. I posted something to Facebook yesterday about having received an email from a recruiter I know asking if I would be interested in a role based in London. I put it up there because it was interesting and momentarily tempting, and to highlight the fact that while it seems possible to get much happening in my hometown here I am getting invitations from abroad.

The reaction was surprising, though perhaps I should have known. All of a sudden I had people urging me to do it. I fended them off, a little embarrassed, regretting that I’d posted anything. As I wrote, I would have jumped at it years ago – but not now. My life has moved on from that phase, and as I realised contemplating it there were other things more important to me. I thought of A in that context, not wanting to leave her behind – but she was a symbol for me. What I want is a home here doing the things I want with the person I choose to be with.

My first reaction when suffering any doubts like this is to shut up shop and batten the hatches. I close myself down looking to minimise damage. I don’t want that this time. I know I can’t be that way even when every instinct screams for it.

I’ve opened myself to vulnerability, and this is the price. I chose it though, and can’t refuse the bill. The pay-off in time will be much greater than the cost – I will be that more open and honest man without thinking twice, without fear or favour. Doubts such as these should be expected. As always, I want to be a better man, and the only way to be that is to keep going.

It will turn. It always does. I don’t doubt the great reserve of self-belief remains in me, but to feel doubt for a while may not be a bad thing.

PS. I wonder if the occasion, Easter, is a part of this. I heard all these stories of people spending the break with their families, as once I knew so well myself. When I was asked I couldn’t say the same, and I miss that.

No shit


Fight or flight is an instinctive response when challenged or under threat, not just for the likes of you and me, but in the animal kingdom to. It’s a basic principle of survival no matter what species you are. In me the inclination to turn and fight as always been much stronger than the instinct to run. That’s my make-up perhaps, but informed by attitude – I’ve pretty well scorned the option to turn tail and flee, regardless of merit. H doesn’t run from anything.

I recognise what a silly stricture that is, and how on occasion I’d have been a lot better off playing it safe than squaring up for a battle. Of course that has been pride, and ego, and all those unfortunate attributes that men like me can suffer from. One of the things I’ve done with my recent reset is relinquish a good part of my ego, for that’s what it amounts to. Still, my fundamental self remains. My first inclination when challenged is to take up the fight. I am by temperament an aggressive character, learned perhaps and rational – if not reasonable – I’m still prone to feel it bubble up in me like a shot of adrenalin.

I’m feeling some of that today, and for a combination of reasons.

I wrote yesterday about A, the girl at work, and how I hoped to be available to her come hell or high water. I want to present my best self to her without being intrusive. That’s all I could do I figured.

That remains true today but that situation, combined with a few petty and routine issues at work has left me feeling impatient, frustrated and inclined to rant. It’s even in how I walk.

Basically I feel hard done being misunderstood on top of all the other shit I had to endure, none of which she is aware of, as few are. I feel a bit put upon, though it’s not her or any other person who personify it, rather some general notion of the world. It’s probably triggered by what I wrote about yesterday, the sense of having no say in things you want desperately to speak up about. That way is blocked, and in its place arises hostile frustration.

I admit I don’t dislike the sensation of being strident. It lends an edge to my actions that seems actually to draw people to me. I’m hard eyed and my language is crisp. I’m not much good at the niceties at the best of times, but they’re dispensed with altogether.

It’s how I sit here on a Thursday afternoon leading into the Easter break, stripped of the extraneous. I don’t blame anyone, I’m not about to have a crack, I’m just direct, no nonsense and stripped back to the basics. The essential me, perhaps.

I’ll have quiet drink after work and blow off some steam, no harm done.

Bolstered


I was as flat as I’ve been for months last night, but there was probably good reason for it. I haven’t heard back from the mechanic yet, but I’m expecting a repair quote in the thousands. Then in the afternoon I made a long overdue visit to the dentist. I chipped a molar late last year so a visit was necessary. After examining me he laid out a treatment plan. I don’t have a lot wrong with my teeth, but dentistry is expensive and he was recommending a crown as a long term solution to the molar situation. That amounted to just over $2,000, of which I’d be lucky to get a third back by health insurance. On top of all that this damned recruiter is being elusive, which is both typical and fucking frustrating. And so I was flat.

This morning I bounced out bed – well, as near as I ever get to being bouncy. I’m in a vibrant mood, which is a nice way of saying I’m feeling very willing. You see the world differently when you’re in that mood. You don’t exactly tingle, but feel the extremities of self. The world becomes a place of infinite possibility, and you feel about 10 feet tall.

Fortunately it happens to be Friday as well, so I can dream about actually doing something about it – unlikely as that probably is.

I was out last Friday night celebrating Donna’s birthday. We went on an old Manly ferry cruising out of Docklands and under the Westgate bridge. Not really my thing but it was a good night for it. I was in a buoyant, provocative mood. I realised somewhere along the line that I had become attractive to women again, but it was attitude that was the key to it.

I’d actually observed reactions earlier in the week, which led me to suppose that this way of thinking I’ve adopted has left me with a bit of a glow. I think I appear very generally to be more open and approachable. I’ve always been flirtatious and witty, but it was something to admire before, whereas now it’s something to engage with and – as I’ve reported previously – people are engaging with me.

Friday night I felt its sexual edge. It felt responded too. I felt as if I gave the sign then it might be on. I wasn’t interested in giving the sign though. I’m not saying I won’t at some point, nor am I making a judgement on it. Strangely, for the moment at least, I felt spoken for. I had to save myself, confident that the effort would be rewarded.

One thing I’ve taken from this is that while I’ve become more open and engaging I’ve lost nothing of my self-assurance, and in fact it is burgeoning. There have been moments in the recent past when I scraped the bottom when I felt pretty frail, but in general I’ve never been short of self-belief. Sometimes it has been despite everything, and I think that gave it a harder edge.

The funny thing is that I’ve made myself more vulnerable by revealing the secrets I was ashamed of – but the effect has been to liberate my sense of self and to surmount any lingering shame. I didn’t know what to expect and feared all sorts of implications, but against expectations the experience hasn’t detracted from my self-image, it has bolstered it. Adler would probably have something to say about that.

Raising the bar


At the end of a birthday weekend I’m feeling pretty content. When I was young and hungry I used to think that content was the enemy of achievement. I didn’t want to be content. I wanted to be perpetually striving, to be forever trying to do and be more. I figured if you were content it meant that you were happy to accept the status quo. It made you fat and lazy, and probably pretty boring too. I was too aggro to cop any of that.

I’m older now and I still believe in striving and growing, but I also figure you can come at it from a position of contentment. What I failed to recognise when I was young is that there is a difference between self and circumstance. When I was young they seemed tied up together, my self determined by my circumstance – ergo, I could never be happy without the circumstantial justification of it. I needed in a sense to achieve and continue to achieve in order to validate my identity. I’ve moved beyond that now.

My circumstances are still a long way from what I desire, but in myself I have managed a quasi-serenity unlike anything I can recall for many years. This has flowed from the decision I made earlier this year, which basically was to let go of the story that was holding me back and to choose another story.

I’ve always thought of myself as positive by nature, and felt it was essential in surviving the trials of homelessness and unemployment. I think now that much of what was positive about me was born out of innate pig-headedness – I was never going to allow for a situation or a person to dictate to me my fate. That is mine alone, and I choose not to lose.

In its way it’s admirable, but it depended less on what could be and more on what I chose to defy. It was a perspective born of pugnacity.

Am I about to become less pugnacious? I don’t know. I tend to think that I am basically the same person as ever, just that I’ve opened up a little and shifted my perspective by a degree or two. It’s amazing how such little things can wring such changes in outlook – and what a difference those changes make.

I was busy over the weekend celebrating Cheeseboy’s birthday on Friday drinking and eating in the city; and celebrating mine last night with a barbecue on Hampton beach. At the end of it I came home and I came to post something on Facebook that seems the very essence of what I’m experiencing.

I need both poetry and the intellect in my live, need to be both moved and provoked. These are essential elements of who I am. I admitted to the need to play up occasionally, to play both the lair and larrikin when it suits. And into that mix come my friendships, which feel pretty rich right now. I concluded by proclaiming that I was likely the happiest I’d been for many years.

I am content in myself, in the man I am, and my expectations. I have expectations, and I still want to strive. The order of things has reversed from before. I am the man I want to be regardless of my circumstances. As that man I seek more, and it feels true because it stems directly from me. I set myself goals before, and constraints, none of which fit me in this version. I am put in mind of some of my juvenile reading, particularly that of Herman Hesse, who was big in his writings in achieving an elevated state of being from which everything then flowed.

Put simply I know what I want to feel, but think if I stay the course it will come to be. I realise now that I was held back from progressing before because I had fed myself a story about what was reasonable, and it was inhibiting my self. I’ve let that go. I’m content with who I am, but want to raise the bar on who I can be and where my expectations can lead me. I am now this person going forward, rather than the person I was held back by the time before.