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.


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.

Head and heart

I was in a pretty bad way yesterday. I don’t think that was clear when I wrote. Writing has the effect of taming things for a while, but the effect wears off often. I felt wrong, almost at an existential level. It felt fundamentally wrong and so unfair.

Later I reflected on that – why should that worry me so much? I don’t expect fairness. I know it’s just an arbitrary construction, and know better – mostly – than to take any digression from it personally. And mostly because of that I’ve been able to shrug it off and often, in fact, use it as motivation. I’m someone who responds well to such challenges.

There’s the head then, and there’s the heart. I know this in my head, and because I have become inured, and so defiant by extension, I feel it also in my self, my body, maybe even my heart. But not yesterday. Yesterday I put words to it trying to claim some order. I felt bleak in my heart though, and as I went about my day in a haze I associate with depression.

Last night I slept better than I have for so long. I have a sleep tracker that tells me how often I rouse during the night and puts a score on my sleep quality. Last night the score was 98%, which was no surprise. I woke to feel that I had not slept so well since I couldn’t remember, and reached to read the score. Once upon a time it’s how I slept most nights I think, but these days I average somewhere in the 70’s.

The sleep did me good. It settled me some. I recall just one small dream, though she was in it, as herself.

One of the things that went through my head yesterday was not just how I should feel, but what I think? I wonder if pure intellectual reaction has been corrupted by woolly philosophy. I wondered if I should be angry, but then considered that what I feel now because of her she may have experienced because of me. Does that make a difference? Does it make more sense of things? In any case, I didn’t feel angry.

I wondered if I should just walk away – but from what? I’m not doing anything but being myself. I’m not trying anything with her. I’m not trying to woo or charm or persuade her. I put no pressure on her except, possibly, by being myself – the person she fell for. And at this stage, I refuse to be anything less than that person.

I keep thinking, this is her decision now. I don’t know if that’s a cop-out, but it informs my behaviour and policy of non-intervention. Is it possible it confuses her? Would I be better trying something? That is my dilemma though, the two sides of it – I could be more or I could be less, and either might be right. Instead, I choose just to be who I am, not pushing, but present, decent, intelligent, reliable and fun. Here I am – over to you.

In my mind, I see the relationship between us constantly shifting, if not in transition then certainly dynamic. I am aware of her, and I feel her awareness of me. There was something, it hit a speedbump and went off track and raised a lot of dust – and now I am trying to steer back towards the track while the dust slowly settles. I’m not there yet, and dust still hangs in the air, but track this course and the air will clear.

But then, I wonder, is her snubbing the other evening the real final word on this? Is that what she wants me to know? There is no track?

It’s funny how we apply interpretations to events. I’m always wary of it because it often involves the emotions, and there’s the prospect of twisting the interpretation to match your hopes. I don’t know if that’s a filter I can see, but my sense from Friday is that she snubbed me because she didn’t want to face me then. I don’t think it was rejection, rather a convenience. I don’t know if she overheard the conversation from the kitchen and if that was playing in her, adding to the noise. I did a lot for her, and she knows it, and I know she is grateful, but, I suspect, it was not something she trusted herself to express at that moment. It was easier to blow by me.

These are the thoughts in me today after having slept. My head and heart are in more accord. I feel less sad and certainly less hazy. Tomorrow, at work, might tell the tale.

For me, I go on as ever. There’s no reason to doubt myself, for this is the authentic me – and I don’t want to be anything less than that.

Glad to care, but hurting anyway

I’m a man and too often these days we’re portrayed as insensitive and brutish. It’s true that I have a robust nature, but the waters run deep. All the same, I can’t remember when I was last left hurt by a woman. I think last night it happened.

I’ve charted the journey with the woman at work, and I now think it’s probable that at some point a few months ago she decided she won’t get fooled again, a decision which has informed our relationship ever since. In the last couple of weeks, it has warmed up some, though nothing to get excited about. There have been smiles again and shared moments, jokes and laughter.

Helping this along is the work I was asked to do to help her in an event she was planning. She is a part of the office engagement committee, and she’s very dedicated and conscientious. There are other members of the committee, but fair to say she is the driving force – it’s one of the attributes I admire her for, and which I find an instinctive allure.

She asked me to arrange some trophies for awards being given out on the night, partly because she didn’t have the time, but mostly she wanted to keep independent of the process. I was happy to take it on. I wanted to help her, plus I’m one of those people who like to see things go right. I don’t like to standby, I’d rather be hands-on doing it myself just in case.

As it turns out it was quite a demanding task coordinating between managers to find out who their winners were; with the trophy company in Brisbane organising the trophies, the inscriptions, as well as payment and shipping; and composing for each winner a short summary of their achievements to go on a certificate. A lot of it was last-minute because people left it to the last moment to get back to me. In the end, it all happened as it should, in large part because the trophy company were so accommodating.

A was relieved and grateful, but I think she expected it to go well. We don’t know each other intimacies, but we know key parts of the other because of our involvement, and because there is much in ourselves we recognise in the other. I’m just as wholehearted as she is, and she knows it.

In the background, I was guiding what was to be the introduction of cocktails into the evening, which was my idea. I guess I was the technical consultant when it came to that, helping to determine the cocktails, sourcing the ingredients, the set-up, and so on. I even made a batch of sugar syrup last-minute because no-one else had.

And mid-afternoon yesterday I clocked off work to help set-up the room and get it organised with her and others.

The event kicked off. The cocktails were a hit, and there was a vibe, unlike any previous events. Come the awards ceremony I was in the background handing the trophies and certificates to the manager to present. As I knew, and she didn’t, she was one of the winners, and very worthy too.

The pressure was off and we could relax and enjoy the night. The night went on, longer than usual. I mingled, occasionally bumping into her, but mostly not. I had offered to help with the clean-up, but as the crowd was slow to disperse began to do some in the background while they were still there – disposing of rubbish, cleaning up the cocktail table and the remnants, carting stuff up and down the stairs, doing dishes, and so on. It was exhausting work but I was happy to do it. If you start something you finish it, that’s how I was brought up.

On one occasion another guy came downstairs with me carrying a load. He’s only 25, a very interesting character, but with a good heart. He’s a bit of an extrovert and has taken to me. Earlier we’d had a candid conversation about his father being basically a drug addict, and I’d shared with him some of my story. We continued the story downstairs, alone in the kitchen.

I found out he’d got in with the wrong crowd and had become a drug dealer. He was making $7,000 a week working a few hours, but then some of his friends got arrested and he realised how it wrong it was and he got out. He told me of a harsh childhood, and how he was trying to get things back on track. Weaving through this conversation was my story as he asked questions and I answered explaining how I was lucky to have good friends and how I’d survived by telling myself this is not how I want my story to end.

A couple of girls came in then and I left to continue the clean-up. Outside the kitchen, I met the girl. She made mention – and I don’t know why – that she had been sitting at her desk the last 20 minutes. I presume she might have approached the kitchen, got wind of the conversation, and backed off. Even at her desk, on a vacant floor, it’s probable she could hear us. Maybe that’s what she was telling me.

Anyway, we finished cleaning up and the last three of us went downstairs to the bar we go to Friday’s. Someone bought me a beer and I stood chatting with my best mate in the place. She did the rounds thanking people and saying her goodbyes. It had been a big night but it had gone well. Earlier she had told me she felt proud, just as she should.

Then the thing happened. Or rather it didn’t. She’s doing all this and then comes to leave. I’m standing by the door, and in fact had been opening and closing it for people. I open it again, my arm above her head holding it open for her. She doesn’t even look at me. No goodbye, see you Monday, no thanks for your help, no nothing. Off she went.

That got to me. I wasn’t hurt then but disappointed. Without understanding why it felt significant. The thought crossed my mind: am I so bad? It’s not as if she could have forgotten or overlooked me – I was right there. She chose not to. But even as I wondered that I was sure it was not because I was so bad. I think fundamentally she likes me, and behaviour like that is not in her character. So what, then?

It was something, but I couldn’t tell what it indicated. It wasn’t nice, but I didn’t see it as a negative to our prospects funnily enough. It’s a complex mix, and when it’s complex anything can happen – it’s indifference you have to worry about. I felt sad though, and subtly upset – but not yet hurt.

I went home with it full in me. At one moment I wondered if the problem was with me, but then there are people who sit around her who like me enough to give me a hug or a kiss on the cheek, and I can’t even get a handshake out of her. Above all, it felt unfair.

My dreams were all about it. I shared a house with a woman and a couple of other guys. The woman and I had a similar thing to A and I. Mostly she favoured the others. Sometimes she wouldn’t even acknowledge me. But then there would be moments of unexpected intimacy. Moments when eyes caught, a smile developed. Moments when you knew that it’s not because she doesn’t like you, so then…what?

I woke up this morning and I was hurt. The bruise had darkened overnight. I don’t deserve this. I’m not that person. I don’t do things to look good or be liked. I do things because I think they’re the right things to do. I think I’m a decent person, and I can’t believe she doesn’t know that. I feel it though. I can live without thanks as such, it’s the lack of acknowledgement that hurt. I got profuse thanks from two of her colleagues, plus a senior manager, but this was her chance and – butkus.

I’m weary of it right now. I just want to be able to talk to her. I want her to trust me. Like I haven’t for many years I feel hurt, but not aggrieved. I wonder if she knows what she’s done. Seems to me she either doesn’t like me or likes me an uncomfortable amount, nothing in between.

For me, I can only continue as I am. We work together. I like her. This was never going to be a quick thing, and certainly not a sure thing. I can only be my best self and hope she comes to see that.

Ultimately, though it’s painful, to be hurt by someone is proof that you care. I’m glad to care so I’ll cop the hurt.

PS Sometimes I feel there’s a conspiracy afoot – Facebook knows my feelings. She’s there first in line as someone I might know when I open Facebook, smiling back at me. And now she’s there same place in LinkedIn.

On the road again

Surprisingly upbeat today, despite having had to hand over exorbitant wads of cash to pay for my car service. If you recall the engine had blown and the timing belt was cactus also, both requiring replacement, plus sundry other repairs. I had budgeted for quite an ugly figure, but the sundry other repairs added up to more than I imagined. Bottom line is that the invoice was thousands more than I expected, and effectively has wiped me out – in fact I still owe some.

I collected the car this morning and at least I can say it was a lovely, smooth ride on the way home. It would want to be. It’s not as good as new, but the replacement engine has about half the k’s of the old one. What happens next really depends on what happens next with me, but general idea is to drive the car around for about 18 months, then look to trade-in – perhaps for a non-European car.

It feels good to drive again. It feels good to have the option available once more. The cost is just part of life.

It hurt last night when I got the news. It kyboshed a few plans, and the waste of spending so much on getting a car repaired bit deep. You adjust though. Today there’s more of a blasé attitude of fuck it, shit happens. With that is a sense of release. Damage is done and I’m pretty up, singing under my breath and sometimes aloud, Kaiser Chiefs particularly, but some Warren Zevon too. I feel pretty energised actually, go figure.

Falling backwards

I’ve never had much trouble attracting women. I’ve always thought it was for a combination of reasons. I was always slightly elusive, which drew many on, plus I had the nonchalance of someone indifferent to public opinion. On top of that I had wit and intelligence – I was an interesting, often fun person to be around. I’d like to think my more sensitive qualities played a part, but it seems to me that only ever counts as we become more intimate. There are women today who think I’m a hard bastard, and somehow like me for it. To discover that I’m actually quite sensitive too comes as an unexpected twist.

Without doing much there seem to be a bunch of women about now. I think part of it is that I’ve plugged myself back into the grid and have become visible again. I’m catching up with a lot of people lately that I’d neglected by circumstance over the past few years. Most of them are women. I enjoy the company of women, I enjoy being interesting to them, and I enjoy unpeeling the layers. I suspect there are a couple from my past who might have subtle designs if things work out the right way – they know me, they always liked me, they trust me.

I feel none of that myself but I don’t rule it out. I don’t think it’s really my scene, and for me that moment has long past. In its place is affection and genuine interest – I like them too, I’m curious about their life, and in my own way I care for them.

I did some reading over the weekend while I was in the maelstrom. I’m always reading and I have an open mind. I was thinking about what I wanted and what I felt. In the background was this other woman, A, who I like, but don’t know yet if I like her enough in that way. I want to find that out, but as I considered that and did my reading and felt as I did I came to admit another undoubted flaw.

I have intimacy issues, I think. That’s probably news to no-one, including me, but it became front and centre and here I am trying to change the way I interact and respond to the world about me it seemed high time I actually did something about it.

I had happened across attachment theory, which I’d read about previously, but from a more academic perspective. This time I felt it more personally. I can’t explain the why or how of it, and don’t know which of the formative relationships made it so (though there is complexity there), but I have little doubt I fall dead centre of the avoidant type. It accounts for most of my adult intimate relationships, with few exceptions. I would rationalise it at the time, I didn’t have the time or space, there were other things I wanted to do, I didn’t want to settle down yet/commit, there was some place I had to travel to, things weren’t perfect, and of course, I wanted to keep my options open.

I’m curious about the root cause of this behaviour, but that’s lost in the mists of time and may not be relevant any longer. What’s important is now and the opportunity before me. I want to learn to commit, to give over of myself which, it seems to me, is the crux of the issue.

As I sit here writing this the key issue appears to be of trust, and maybe that gives some clue how I developed like this. It’s like one of those exercises whereby you allow yourself to fall backwards and trust there will be someone there to break your fall. I’ve always framed this in terms of independence – I don’t need anyone to catch me, I can manage it myself. Perhaps that is learned, because I couldn’t rely on being caught when it counted – I don’t recall that, yet I know my mum suffered a nervous breakdown before I was ten, which made her pretty frail. Perhaps I learned then that I had to tend for myself – my father was a distant, often absent character. In any case what I frame as a desire for self-sufficiency (which so many find alluring) is in fact a reluctance to trust to fate.

If this is so then the obvious solution is to allow myself to fall, trusting to it. Easier said than done, but at least now – perhaps – I understand.

The fallout

Harrowing scenes the other day when the disgraced Australian cricketers returned home. All three of them took it hard, with Steve Smith breaking down in his press conference. It was hard to watch, and impossible not to be sympathetic.

In the wake of that the attitude to him, and to a lesser degree the others, has softened, to the point that some now claim that the whole thing has been blown up out of all proportion and the penalties are much too harsh.

The penalties – basically 12 months for Smith and Warner, 9 months for Bancroft – are pretty much in line with my expectations. They’re banned from all cricket outside of grade cricket in that period, while I might have allowed them to play Sheffield Shield. The penalties aren’t as harsh as they seem simply because the international cricket season pretty well ends today for the Australians. Effectively they miss a short tour playing Pakistan, and next summer against India.

I was just as affected as most people by the remorse shown, but it doesn’t soften my attitude or change the basic facts. As much as anything a harsh penalty is needed to demonstrate the seriousness of the offence, and as a circuit breaker from which a change in culture and behaviour may now flow. This is a fork in the road.

It’s not necessarily the end of it – appeals and further hearings are possible – but now is the time for us to get around these individuals. They have transgressed, but they have also recognised their wrongdoing and shown remorse. Sport is all about second chances.

Of the three the most I’m most concerned about is David Warner. He appears to be the architect of the crime and has borne the brunt of the recrimination. He’s not well loved around the world because of some of his antics, many of which I’ve found hard to stomach also. He assumed role, misguided as it was, for the team, to be the attack dog, and bear the brunt of the conflict that arose from it.

That backfired to some extent in this tour of South Africa when it became personal off the field. I still scratch my head that Warner was the more heavily penalised in the confrontation with de Kock. In my eyes, as it is with everyone I’ve spoken to, de Kock’s comments and behaviour was reprehensible. The offence was doubled down when in the next test match half the South Africa crowd turned up in Sonny Bill Williams masks, up to and including South African cricket officials. That was an utter disgrace and insult not just to Warner, but more particularly his wife. That too was pretty much swept under the carpet, but it’s no surprise that Warner came into the third test seething with anger.

The whole situation was further compounded when Rabada, banned for two matches for repeat offences, had his suspension overturned on appeal. At the very least Smith was incensed by this, and I presume most of the team was. It was a poor call by the ICC, further proving how inept they are, and effectively undermining their own process. I suspect it added to a siege mentality among the Australians – aggrieved, besieged by the crowd, let down by due process, promoting an us against them mentality and an environment in which extreme choices might seem reasonable. The rest is history.

The ICC, as always, have a lot to answer for, but so too does Cricket Australia. They allowed for this situation to degenerate over a long period. Occasionally they would mutter something censorious, but did little about it. Part of the problem was the wrong people in the wrong jobs. By all accounts Lehmann is a ripper bloke, but I’ve heard stories that prove he was the wrong person to be national coach. He has since resigned. On top of that Steve Smith should not have been made captain. This offence proves that he had neither the strength or authority to prevent wrong being done, but the problem started at his appointment. He’s a great batsman and probably a nice guy, but that doesn’t make for a leader. CA has to clean up the method by which they select leaders. A Border, a Taylor, a Waugh or a Ponting would never have allowed for this to happen.

For now we have a re-configured Australian team, a new captain, and soon to have a new coach. All power to them.