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We hadn’t given much thought to what we were going to be doing for New Year’s Eve so it was a last minute decision to attend a friend’s party in Clapham. It turned out to be one of the better ways we’ve celebrated the New Year, with lots of interesting and friendly people with whom we never ran out of things to talk about. And while I felt a little worse for wear when I woke up I remembered to take my headache tablets and three glasses of water before hitting the sack so it didn’t take long to recover.
There’s something oddly enticing about embarking on a whole new year. It’s like a blank canvas. And while in one sense it’s nothing more than an arbitrary division of time, on another more symbolic level it’s potentially very powerful. I don’t know that I’ve plugged into that symbolic power as yet. That’s something that tends to emerge in the being and doing of life rather than just thinking about it but the thinking aspect is integral to the process - “the unobserved life” and all that stuff. So from this vantage point at the opening curtain of 2009, I wonder what . . .
I woke up on Tuesday morning thinking that I had the equivalent of three weekends remaining before heading back to work. Now I only have one. Less in fact, given that the better part of the day is already behind me. I think it’s true that a holiday at home seems to pass more rapidly than one spent away somewhere but it’s time at home that I’ve needed most, so that particular trade off has been inevitable. And while I’m conscious of squandering the time that I have, on the other hand it should prove to have been time spent.
Perhaps the two most productive things I have achieved during the past two weeks have been to finish watching season one of ‘The Wire’ and to figure out how to get videos onto my iPod. The latter I hope will make my travel to and from work a little less dreary while the former has been a longstanding aim made possible by having been lent the five season boxed set a couple of weeks ago. And having left anything even remotely to do with work
work, I’ve given little or no thought to what I’m going to do tomorrow.
It’s early, it’s cold, it’s dark and it’s wet - a dreary start to the new school term. I haven’t a clue what I’m going to be teaching when I get to work or whether a replacement teacher has miraculously emerged over the last two weeks
Yeah, as if!
So I’m looking at an increased workload combined with a cut in pay due to the new pay structure, which I have to see the boss about first thing. I’m already wishing I’d done more with the two weeks off but that all seems like so much water under the bridge now.
Another day and a very different perspective. In the process the past couple of weeks of complete downtime seem to be paying dividends. My instinct was to not worry and have faith that life would provide and while it’s still too early to be sure, things look very different today than they did yesterday. It not only looks as though we’ve found a new staff member, there’s an opportunity to grow the centre in a whole new way. Add to that the opening of the new art room yesterday and, well, like they say, what a difference a day makes!
Things are moving along at a rapid pace. The week started with one staff member down. Now I have two new recruits plus an additional safe pair of hands to further free me up. That changes everything! It allows me to just teach art and frees me up to work more strategically, both in terms of behaviour management and monitoring of the kids and of growing and developing the centre itself. It is a real mark of goodwill on the part of the boss and a vote of confidence in what we’re trying to achieve. Things are really looking up!
I always used to say I didn’t want an iPod. That was until I had one dropped in my lap as a present. Now I have two. Then I said I wasn’t interested in watching movies on it. That was until this week when I started watching movies on the way to and from work. What a revelation! Firstly, despite the small screen size it is possible with a pair of sound reduction headphones to completely immerse oneself in a film. Secondly, the long journey time has become a non-issue. In fact, I’m beginning to find it isn’t long enough!
I’m in such a different place in myself to the start of the week! Things have come together with breathtaking speed at work. I find myself feeling more upbeat about the job than at any time since I took it on. Add to that the fact that there has been a sea change in the attitude of the kids and the prospect of inducting the new staff on Monday and, well, I think it’s fair to say that this might just be the best year yet. And let’s face it, that’s a pretty empowering place to be.
Bring it on!
It’s like there’s this space in my head that’s been freed up, a whole chunk of gigabytes that have been made available for thinking about other things again. In other words, I feel as though I’ve regained my work-life balance. And it feels good - brilliant in fact! I can start to think about writing once more, and painting, and going for walks where I’m not preoccupied with work matters. It’s not that the job’s gotten easier; rather, it’s that with the new staff and what I now know, I can work smarter and have time left over for other things.
Even after all this time I still can’t make you go away. I guess that’s because I don’t really want to. So much of what we shared informs my everyday life. So many things remind me of you. Perhaps if it had been my choice to cancel you from my life it might be different, but I don’t operate that way. I can be neglectful at time but cancelling someone out – it’s not in my nature. And it’s not as though I haven’t had good reason to, that’s for sure!
Perhaps one day you’ll change your mind.
It was eight years ago today that we landed back in the UK. We were only going to be staying here for two or three years but life being what it is, we got drawn into staying longer. Ironically, neither of us remembered the date. It was a chance perusal of an old journal that jogged my memory, an entry filled with the excitement of embarking on a new chapter of life. I was flushed with a strong sense of what we had achieved in our first few years in Australia and with what lay ahead.
Wow! Eight years today.
I’ve spent the last three months working in someone else’s office, albeit one with my name on it. I have had far more pressing priorities than rearranging furniture. Today however, with the addition of two new teachers, I’ve been able to focus on what was essentially a disorganised tip and, with the help of one of the staff, bring some semblance of order to it. As offices go it’s probably the largest I’ve had although you wouldn’t have known it until today. And while the task is still not finished I’ve certainly managed to exorcise the ghost of my predecessor.
Mid-January. It’s around about now that I really start to hunger for the longer days. It is possible to detect a slight lengthening of the days but it’s minimal. The incremental creep of daylight is a little too slow to bring much cheer. It’s still dark when I leave for work and dark even before I set off for home, and it will be for another month or more before we see much relief from that. It’s the evening walks that I miss the most; the ability to go for a wander and enjoy the changing colours of the day.
How blessed would you feel? A plane takes off from New York’s LaGuardia airport, flies into a flock of birds, sputters and starts to come down over one of the most densely populated cities in the world and then lands safely on the Hudson River with no loss of life and only minor injuries. What would that be like? How would the world look after an experience such as that? How might one’s priorities shift, one’s values change and one’s world view, life view, be radically altered: indeed, utterly transformed? I mean, how could anything ever be the same again?
It was eight years ago today that I started working as temp at my current place of employment. I’ve done various other jobs along the way but I can’t help thinking that if someone had told me I’d end up running the place I wouldn’t have believed them. Yet here I am heading home on a Friday afternoon pleased and satisfied with how things are going. The new staff have settled in well and tell me it’s the friendliest place they’ve worked. And it is a happy place, and I’m glad now that I decided to take on the challenge.
It was Jenny who, last year in Melbourne, finally convinced me to join Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other for 15 years. When she suggested that I join up it was on the back of a series of similar requests by other family members and friends. Despite my reservations, my resistance even, I finally relented.
And I’m glad I did! Far from being the mindless distraction I imagined it to be it’s become a meeting place where my natural instincts towards communicating and networking have found full expression. In the process old friendships have been rekindled and new ones forged.
Over the years I’ve learnt to trust the inner seasons of the mind. There are times when the general thrust of life is outwards and upwards. At other times it’s to withdraw within and hibernate. Sometimes these internal seasons follow the outer ones. Winter for instance, at least in this country, tends to trigger the desire to shut up shop for a while. But over the last couple of weeks I seem to be waking up. I’m writing again, I’m thinking about painting and work has become interesting and engaging once more. My internal spring has started to kick in.
She’s doing brilliantly. He’s doing okay. She’s establishing herself with what we thought was the most difficult group. He’s still finding his feet. She’s loving the job already. He’s still coming to terms with it. She’s finding ways to engage and work with the kids. He’s grapping with how to find a way in. she had the weaker CV. We didn’t think she’d cut it. He had the stronger CV but is finding the position more challenging that he’d anticipated. Both are doing well but she’s doing better. It just goes to prove you can never really know for sure.
I hadn’t realised at the time that the inauguration was today. I’d planned to have the afternoon off in order to accommodate a property evaluation on the flat which is required as part of the re-mortgaging process when switching lenders. The timing was fortuitous. The agent arrived right on time so I had the rest of the afternoon to witness history in the making. I sat spellbound as the proceedings unfolded before me on the TV screen. When Obama finally gave his speech I realised I was witnessing something extraordinary, an event that might just change the course of history.
I’ve been using my travelling time well of late, watching movies on my iPod mainly, although doing a spot of reading or planning from time to time as well. But sometimes, like today, I just want to sit and listen to the rain tapping on the roof of the bus, or sit at the back of the bus and gaze absently at the capped and hooded heads in front of me, or listen to the sound of people making light conversation or chattering away on their mobiles. It’s a bit like meditating, allowing it all to just wash over me.
It’s one of the most difficult things to explain to people. They do it because they can. They do it because they know they’ll be forgiven. They do it because they know we care enough to forgive and give them another chance; and another, and another, until they reach a point where they begin to trust and with that trust they begin to allow their defences, the driving force of their negative behaviour, to drop. Not a whole lot maybe, but a drop is a drop nonetheless. It’s a process, and it takes time, but it’s time well spent nonetheless.
I’m really hanging out now for the end of winter. It’s a longing that will take a little while to come to fruition. I’ve adapted well to the darkness this year. It hasn’t particularly affected my mood thus far. But I’m ready now for the feel of sunshine on my face; for walks in the park after work; for opening the blinds first thing in the morning and having the sun stream in and for looking out from the kitchen window to see how the plants on the terrace are doing. It’s still a way off yet. But I’m ready.
After a prolonged period of wanting to do less, I now find myself wanting to do more. It’s not enough to be simply going to work each day and spending the evenings in front of the TV or the computer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. For a while that’s precisely what I wanted to do. Now however I’m becoming fidgety, in need of something more substantial to fill what remains of the day once I finish work. I haven’t figured out what that something is yet. All I know is that there’s more to be going on with.
It was just an old bag, somewhat dated now, a brown and tan expandable 70s item on wheels with no intrinsic style. It had been sitting in the wardrobe collecting dust and taking up valuable space ever since we moved in. So when we had a cleanout this evening we decided to fill it with all the things we couldn’t recycle and bin it. But as I carried it to the dumpster I remembered that Mum had given it to us when we moved to London, and as I threw it inside a wave of nostalgic sadness swept over me.
I wonder, can do it? I wonder if it’s possible to leave work on time each day this week without stacking up a backlog of work for later? It would mean remaining totally focused all day. It would mean working smarter and not allowing myself to be distracted by tasks that are not really urgent or even necessary for that matter. It would mean directing and delegating more efficiently. And to really derive maximum benefit from it I would also need to be clear about what I want to do with the extra time.
Can I do it? Lets see . . .
I had intended to go to Venice in next month Ė everyone tells me itís a good time to go Ė but somehow my heartís not in it. Maybe itís the time of year or maybe it just feels too hard to organise at the moment. Either way, Iím leaning more towards staying in London for the mid-term break and doing the galleries and maybe a trip up to Highgate Cemetery which, Iím told, is well worth a visit. For someone who used to love the idea of travel Iím not as keen as I once was.
Of course, I may change my mind.
The time is ten past five in the afternoon and Iím on the number 321 bus home feeling well and truly knackered. Itís been a good day and, for Group 2, the best day theyíve had Ė ever! But Iíve had so many different things competing for my attention that thereís been no time to focus on any one in particular. As for getting away on time, thatís been shot out of the water today. Right now, what I need more than anything is the chance to switch off, allow myself to chill out and let tomorrow take care of itself.
Something’s missing. Every day I go through the same routines and the routines themselves are few in number. I rarely venture outside of them these days and even when I do, more often than not they’re simply routines of a different nature. I don’t have anything against routines per se. I quite like them in fact. It’s just that sometimes it feels like life is passing me by at breakneck speed and I worry that as I near the end of it it’s all going to look like so much wasted time and that I’ll have missed something really important.
While crossing Vauxhall Bridge today at precisely 6:45 am I could see the sky beginning to lighten over the London skyline for the first time this year. Not a whole lot yet maybe but itís a start. I noticed too when leaving work yesterday that it was still light at 4:45 pm, lighter than it is now on the bus. I derive great pleasure from this because once it begins the incremental increase in daylight gathers momentum exponentially as the darkness finally submits to the changing of the season and the heavy blanket of winter begins to claw itself back.
The whiff of change is in the air. Iíve experienced it enough times over the past couple of weeks to trust it. Last night I went out to celebrate a friendís birthday party and walked back happy to soak up the empty streets of London with a welcome chill on my cheeks and a satisfied spring in my step, smiling from ear to ear as I wound my way home. Today I went to see the new contemporary art exhibition at Phillips de Pury & Company, revelling in its creative ambience. Winterís passing. Iím waking up. Lifeís becoming interesting again.
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