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It’s the first time that I’ve done the interviewing and I have to admit I enjoyed it. Six mothers but only one father - I guess you could say that’s not an unusual ratio with these kids. What I like is that it gives me an opportunity to establish myself with them, both students and parents, before they actually start. “You could sell snow to the Eskimos,” joked Carol afterwards. I laughed. Yes, I’m pretty passionate about what we do and these are not easy kids to win over. Nor are the parents for that matter. But it all went well.
No one would have noticed from the outside looking in but I found myself feeling somewhat disorientated. My sense of balance was off and I had a surreal sense of not being quite present while at the same time feeling an odd sense of observing myself. It was disconcerting to say the least. Dad died, we presume, of a brain haemorrhage, although for some odd reason an autopsy was never carried out. He was buried within 24 hours of his passing. (I still don’t know why.)
It passed eventually but not before giving me a little uneasy cause for concern.
Having only interviewed her a couple of days ago I was somewhat surprised at how genuinely pleased she was to see me. All her friends wanted to know who I was. When I told them they all said they wanted to come to the Centre as well. Her teacher told me she could be a real trial; a terror even. Having met her mother I can begin to see why. It would seem to be a thoroughly symbiotic relationship. But terror or not, I was thoroughly endeared to her.
And so another one enters the fold. Let the journey begin.
It’s curious the way we can often end up with someone who is so different to how we are. When love is new it’s all so exciting. The things we share in common fascinate us while the areas in which we differ we consider interesting at best and at worse, to be glossed over or ignored. Over time of course the gloss wears off for both parties and we find ourselves re-evaluating what is mutual and shared and what is borne alone. That’s why love is so important. It’s the bonding agent that holds things together and gives them meaning.
If anyone had told me ten years ago that I would reach a point in my life were it didn’t really matter anymore I wouldn’t have believed it. I used to imagine people who thought like that were in denial. And maybe I am in denial. It’s hard to know for sure. Increasingly though, I don’t think I am. Life changes and so do our priorities. Things we imagined we knew for sure sometimes slip away and something else moves in to fill the empty spaces left behind. It’s poetic, and as long as there’s love, that’s all that matters.
It’s quite mind boggling. Although we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves there’s a distinct possibility that we could do incredibly well out of this. Who would have imagined? The timing is positively serendipitous. It opens up a whole new set of options. The possibilities are . . . well, like I said, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Suffice to say that recent developments have got us both dreaming of things we could not have previously imagined possible. The next few weeks could signal a complete shift in focus. It’s exciting. Then again, the promise of change often is.
Always there are consequences; always a price to be paid. It’s inescapable. Two steps backwards equals just that - two steps in the wrong direction. The bounce back factor is pretty much embedded now. Perspective brings clarity. It’s an old coat that no longer fits. Even so, I still try it on for size from time to time.
In the morning I’ll make a fresh start. I’ve even made a list. Dubious distractions aside, it’s an exciting time right now. I find myself grappling with such things as, if this, why not that? Why not indeed! No reason; none at all.
Try as I may I’m unable to lie here any longer. For some unknown reason my mind has been kicking into overdrive these past couple of nights. I wake up at 3am with my mind awhirl with a myriad of thoughts. I try all the usual tricks: I change position, stretch one leg out, curl up into a ball, get up for a drink, but nothing works. Every time I close my eyes and try to drift off it all starts welling up again. Nothing disconcerting; just thoughts about lots of stuff.
In the end, I decide to get up.
ďHow long have you two known each other?Ē she asks.
ďIíve known Terry since I was 16,Ē replies Carol.
ďWow! Thatís such a long time. How did you both meet?Ē
We look at each other and smile. Where to begin? Itís such a complex story. We laugh.
ďLetís just say Terry is like a brother to me,Ē she says.
ďYeah,Ē I continue. ďLetís put it this way. If I was to count my five favourite people on one hand, Carol would be one of them.Ē
Our friend smiles. ďThatís really special,Ē she says.
ďYeah,Ē I agree. ďYouíre not wrong there.Ē
It can still creep up on me and trip me up. I donít know that we ever fully overcome these things. The difference now is that it doesnít have the upper hand. Itís no longer an all encompassing, overwhelming obsession. Iím calling the shots now. Itís a choice and sometimes I choose to exercise that choice. Itís all a question of balance. In fact itís more than that. Itís a question of perspective married with a sense of who I am and what Iím capable and worthy of. Because there are some corners that, once turned, we cannot reverse around.
When I told you how it felt it was like you really, truly got it: I mean
got it, and thatís because I really
it. There are things that I know now, things Iím confident about that I never truly was before. Thatís not to say Iím without my doubts. I breathe, therefore I doubt. But on this issue at least, I know the score and for the first time in a long time I feel like you know it also, and not only know it but youíre able to acknowledge it unconditionally. And that I really value.
Iím beginning to realise just how much time Iíve wasted: months and months, possibly years of potentially productive time. Paintings that could have been painted; stories and books that could have been written. Thereís no point in regretting whatís lost but it certainly informs where I find myself now. I have been more creative and productive these past few months than I have been for years. I made a conscious decision to engage; to follow through, and thatís what Iím doing. Itís just Iím having so much fun with it, why did it take me so long to do so?
More than anything else I just want to demonstrate to myself how easy it is and how real. Iíve no real plans for what I intend to do once I get there. Iím only going for three days and Iíve not given it much thought up until now. Iím happy just to wander and explore. Later in the week Iím off down to the island for a few days also. Andrew wants to take me out camping. Iím not sure that sitting around a damp fire at night is my idea of fun but it might be once Iím there.
It's late Monday night. I left London in high spirits, boarded the Eurostar with great anticipation and thoroughly enjoyed roaring through the channel tunnel at some 300 kilometres an hour. Arriving in Bruges I found my way to the hotel with uncanny ease and spent the rest of the day exploring the narrow streets of the old town, ending the day in a restaurant with a pizza and a cheap bottle of red. But now the day is over my hotel room feels a little lonesome. Outside it’s cold and surprisingly quiet.
Travelling alone is something of a mixed blessing.
I don’t know why but I seem to have found myself ambushed by a dark blanket of existential angst. I look in the mirror and the aging face staring back at me seems increasingly foreign and unnerving. While wandering the streets of Bruges all I can seem to think about is the fact that I’m going to die some day! Where has this black vision suddenly descended from? I’m on holiday; I’m supposed to be having a wonderful time! Instead I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by tourists and wishing I was back home in London. I didn’t anticipate feeling this way.
Note to myself: don’t bother coming back to Bruges. Having spent another day really trying to enjoy myself I have to admit defeat. The town itself leaves me cold. Busloads of tourists gather on every street corner. The architecture is interesting but the place itself feels soulless, sold out to the tourist trade with freshly restored and beautifully preserved buildings that have been all but scrubbed clean of any historical interest they may have originally possessed. I could have seen it all in an afternoon. In fact I did. Since then it feels as though I’ve simply been killing time.
What a difference a day makes. Heading down to the island I found myself puzzling over the dark cloud that descended upon me these couple of days just passed. Spending time in the company of friends and young children has done a lot to shift my focus away from such negative preoccupations. Instead I find myself helping to put up a tarpaulin; gathering wood and enjoying the company of others around a camp fire; eating tinned beans and sausages and drinking cider beneath a moonlit sky, while the wind has us all wondering whether the tarp will hold the night.
The rain crept up on us in the night but it didn’t really matter. We all managed to stay dry, although we all opted for breakfast back at the house rather than in a soggy field. It’s been a very chilled day – chess, a snooze, a little chemical enhancement and a family meal. Perhaps this is what I should have been doing all week. I slept better this afternoon than I have done for ages and spending time with the kids has been a real treat. Andrew and Sarah are such good parents. They really understand what kids are about.
It’s nice having somewhere to go and just be, and being on the island I can do just that. We did nothing in particular today, just sat around, played chess, enjoyed the kids and went for a drive. Nothing too demanding or out of the ordinary. There aren’t many friends in this part of the world with whom I can do that. To be able to do so there means a lot.
Returning to London this evening I felt uneasy, as though something was wrong but I didn’t know what. I thought I’d left it behind in Bruges.
I don’t want to go back to work tomorrow. I don’t want to have to be responsible for anyone else. I want to climb into bed, throw the covers over my head and shut out the world for a little longer. For whatever reason, I’m feeling withdrawn and vulnerable. The idea of having to be in the thick of things leaves me cold. Despite having had two weeks off I feel as though I’ve nothing to offer. It’ll pass I know but just at this point in time the last thing I want is to go back to work tomorrow.
I hate days like these when the heavy clouds of depression settle over me like a blanket. Thankfully it’s the exception rather than the rule but that’s cold comfort right now. I’m in the grip of an overpowering sense of foreboding and gloom that I can’t seem to shake. The thought of having to deal with so many people today does nothing to lighten things. The temptation to take the day off nearly got the better of me but it’s one I’ve chosen to resist. Better to face the demons and be done with it than turn and run away.
It passes. It always does; surprisingly quickly in fact. It begs the question however: what does it mean? How is it that you can be staring over the edge of a precipice first thing in the morning and by lunchtime be munching on a cheese and pickle sandwich wondering what all the fuss was about? How can two such diametrically opposite states be so close in proximity to each other? Does one negate the other? And in which direction does that negation flow? How much is psychological, or chemical, or both? All I know is that it’s finally passed on.
I wouldn’t have guessed that power walking to Diana Krall was possible but it is. I know. I did it this evening. And as I did my mind wandered at a different pace. I found myself asking what is the meaning of it all? A corny question; a clichť even. Strange how something so fundamental and deep has become such a banal catch-phrase. Still, it remains a valid question and an increasingly pressing one for me. It sometimes feels as though there’s something, some essential piece of the puzzle of life that I’m just not getting. What could it be?
. . . and then it occurred to me that there’s this whole cast of characters within me. I don’t mean in a schizophrenic sense but rather in terms of multiple parts of one personality; of me. There’s the Go-Getter who likes to think anything is possible, and the Cautionary Character who sometimes allows self doubt to get the better of him. There’s Mr. Magnanimous who likes nothing better than being the centre of attention and the Solitary Soul who likes to go within and hide. And many others besides. And somehow, all of these different characters need to find expression somehow, sometime . . .
They say a week is a long time in politics but it can also be a long time in one’s own personal politics. Where was I in my head last week? It seems such a long time ago. I suppose it’s all to do with the rhythms of life or something like that. All I know is that the clouds of depression have passed and I’m feeling upbeat about, well, everything really.
Of course, having said that it occurs to me there are little voices in the background saying things like, “Are you absolutely sure?”
When are we ever sure?
London is at its finest on days like today. After the dismal weather we’ve been having of late, today brought everybody out in droves. Southbank was heaving with people, me included. I woke up this morning and realised that I still hadn’t seen the Juan Munoz retrospective at the Tate Britain which finishes tomorrow. Usually the last couple of days of a show are crammed with people like me; people who kept meaning to get around to seeing the show but didn’t. Today was the exception: today the sunshine was a bigger draw than the exhibition and I, the beneficiary.
It’s just not happening tonight. Despite the coffee, the stable table, the window view – it’s just not happening. I should have done it this morning while the inspiration was there. Instead I got side-tracked. I tend to do that sometimes. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel like I was letting the side down. Despite assurances to the contrary I feel the pressure to produce. Sometimes that’s a good thing, the thing I need to spur me into action. But I’m afraid that’s not the case right now: quite the opposite in fact.
Nope, it’s just not happening tonight.
I’m becoming bored of the sound of my own voice, or my own words at least. I feel like I’m just rabbiting on each day simply for the sake of reaching the 100 word target and really, for what? By the end of this month I will have completed two full years on this project. Yeah, it’s the discipline and all that but it bothers me that my life seems to be so boring and predictable these days that there’s nothing much of real interest to write about, and that what I do write is little more than verbal diarrhea.
It’s not that it’s changing; it’s changed, and some time ago, too. It was a gradual process and I can’t pretend that I didn’t notice it happening. Nor can I believe I alone am cognizant of this. There are implications of course; options to explore and choices to be made. It’s curious the way history repeats itself. Maybe it’s just what happens. Time can be a thief in more ways than one. So do we just accept it? The devil you know and all that? Things are not what they were, and it’s a thin line between compromise and self-deception.
I feel like I’ve lost the plot to my own story. I’m not suggesting that it’s a permanent state. God, I hope not! But I do feel like I’m floundering. I’m not falling to pieces or anything like that. It’s not dramatic; rather, it’s an internal loneliness, a feeling of separateness that takes the shine off things. I’m not depressed. I go to work, smile and genuinely enjoy myself. It just feels like there should be something more, like there’s something missing. And as the years slide by it worries me that, whatever it is, I may never find it.
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