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Mostly, life is so busy and demanding that I'm either going full steam ahead or I'm grabbing what little down time I have and trying to tune out from the seemingly endless lists of things still to be done. Increasingly, there doesn't seem to be much else in between. My social life tends to be a casualty in all of this. It's not that there's no time, it's just that I don't seem to make the time for friends like I used to. Most of the time I'm okay with this: most of the time.
But there are times, sometimes . . .
Sometimes I wonder whether I haven't taken a wrong turning somewhere down the track. I'm sure I'm not the only one. When I was younger it often seemed that life was dragging it's feet. So much of it lay ahead of me and I was so impatient to get past what I thought was the boring stuff to get to the good stuff. I guess when we're young we can't really grasp just how quickly it all goes whizzing by. This isn't to suggest that I'm unhappy with my life or the choices I've made; it's just that, well,
sometimes . . .
Sometimes I wonder how differently life might have turned out were it not for some of the people I've met along the way. So many of my major decisions in life have been based around the people Iíve loved, cared about or fallen out of love with. I went to the UK the first time primarily to get over someone. I went the second time to follow someone. I went the third time because my partner was so keen to go. I don't regret any of this but I do sometimes wonder what life would have been like if only . . .
Sometimes it occurs to me that if I'd had a crystal ball back in my early 20s and could have seen all of the things I've achieved in life I would have been pretty pleased with what I saw. But does that necessarily mean I've made the right choices during the intervening years? For every achievement I can lay claim to there are many more that have not been realised. Then thereís the concessions; the trade offs we invariably make in order to achieve the things we do.
If I had my time again, would my choices be so different?
Sometimes I feel like a fraud just waiting to be found out. For all that I'm good at what I do it often doesn't feel like I know enough to justify my position or role. I worry that I don't have the right experience or the appropriate level of knowledge. I imagine that everyone else knows more than I do and that it's just a matter of time until everything comes crashing down around me. For all my professional achievements there are times when I feel like running away and hiding from the world because I'm just not good enough.
Sometimes Iím so full of life I feel could burst. Anything seems possible. It's an energy I've been able to plug into since I was a kid; an ability to see beyond the limitations imposed by the moment and imagine myself in a future time and place where everything works out. It's the quality I perhaps like the most about myself and one that has carried me through the darker periods of my life. When I was younger it might have been described as blind optimism. As I get older I prefer to think of it as faith in life.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a younger man staring back at me. The passing of the years seems to have worn well on me and I feel thankful for the youthful gene pool from which I've sprung. Then there are the times when I look into the mirror and see an older man staring back at me and I find myself wondering where the years have gone. I go looking for the younger man but he's not there and I find myself feeling temporarily at a loss to explain who I am and what I'm doing here.
Sometimes when I have a class full of children happily beavering away at their work, chatting to each other, laughing contentedly, with all of their lives ahead of them, I pause momentarily, seized with a sudden incomprehension about the damage inflicted by my father upon the many children whose misfortune it was to find themselves prey to my his evil intent. Thereís something utterly precious and life affirming about the joyful innocence of young children and I find it incomprehensible how anyone could ever bring themselves to defile such innocence, let alone my own father, my own flesh and blood.
Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by our building project. We started on a modest but decent budget but since then our money has been halved by the high Australian dollar and the plunging British pound. Meanwhile weíve been quoted tendering costs that defy both imagination and our ability to pay. When I'm not feeling totally spooked I'm in denial. Having said that, there's no turning back. We've already invested heavily, not to mention having moved half way around the world. The only way to go is forward. It's just a bit hard to see which way that is right now.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with my mind spinning. Things that seem manageable and under control during the day become fraught with peril at three in the morning. Lately I've been able to hold these anxieties at bay, managing to still the mind and allow myself to sink back into that state of nocturnal forgetfulness that we all so crave at night. Sometimes I'm successful; sometimes less so. Usually by the time I get up a sense of equilibrium has reasserted itself and I go about my daily business relatively unperturbed.
Sometimes, but not always.
Sometimes I just don't want to do anything of consequence; times when the thought of not having to engage with or be responsible for anyone other than myself, including those who are closest to me, seems to be the most desirable thing imaginable. While in truth the novelty of such a scenario would soon wear thin there are times when I just want to be left alone. It seems that any down time I manage to find these days is constantly overshadowed by all the commitments which, left to my own devices, may never have arisen in the first place.
Sometimes I find myself reminiscing about the past in ways I could never have imagined while I was busy living in it. Nostalgia is a term that's perhaps lost on the young, although having said that, I've always had a capacity to indulge in it. I guess it's a quality that changes over time. Back when I was a lot younger it used to be associated with a sense of heartache and regret whereas the nostalgia I experience these days is more to do with appreciating what was and valuing upwards things which I didn't always appreciate at the time.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to meet my younger self; to sit down and have a beer and get to know the often confused young man I once was. To some extent I've actually done this with my young great nephew who turns 30 this year. Seemingly born with the anxiety gene that has plagued so many in my family until they reach their 30s, much of what he has grappled with in recent years parallels my own experience at that age. He's come good now but the sharing of experience remains a powerful bond between us.
Sometimes I miss living in London but it's the Isle of Wight that I miss the most. It's where I first arrived on the planet; the cradle of my earliest memories It seems odd to think I can no longer hop on a bus and within a couple of hours be riding the Seacat into Ryde. I can think of no other place on the planet where I feel so at one with myself and with the world in general. It's what will one day draw me back again when all the dust has settled and life returns to normal.
Sometimes I think I can sense her. It's difficult to explain. For a while there was nothing, as though her very essence had vanished along with her physical being. Lately that's changed. I've seen her in my dreams. She's changed. She's shed her biological role and all of the identity characteristics such a role implies. What I pick up on now is her essence, a sense of who she actually was beneath all the layers of social conditioning and gender labelling. Yet despite all of this, the love remains. It's different; less motherly and more universal, but no less real.
Sometimes I'm intrigued by how effortless itís become. It wasn't always so. I came to art relatively late. I was always going to be an English teacher, if not a writer. I long ago shed any illusions of grandeur but as the years roll by I find it easier and more effortless to create things with my hands, especially when Iím with children. Theyíre so naturally fluid and open to personal expression. Their ability to access such creative energy inspires and encourages me to do likewise while I in turn inspire them to further investigate and explore the artist within.
Sometimes I just need to be on my own, free to hear my own voice, think my own thoughts and not have to worry about anyone else. These days, it rarely happens. Our apartment is essentially one room with a dividing wall for the bedroom. At school I sometimes have the art rooms to myself but I'm at work so it doesn't count (although it might explain why I'm happy to get in early and stay back late). Living in the city centre, there's little opportunity for solitude and without a car the escape routes are limited. Such is life.
Sometimes I find myself wishing my life away; holding out for a time when things will be easier, sorted, less stressed and 'back to normal'. I have to remind myself that life is what it is and that it's the journey that matters, not the destination. We all reach our various destinations in some for another and as soon as we do we often find ourselves pining for what was or what has yet to be. The challenge as I see it is to always be mindful of the fact that, to the person we once were, we've already arrived.
Sometimes it amazes me to think of all the pages I've written over the years. Ever since I was 13 I've chronicled my life in some form or another. I have boxes of diaries, journals, notebooks and letters, none of which I could ever bear to part with. Whether or not it would make interesting reading to anyone but myself is debatable but the ability to look back over nearly 40 years of my life and to have the ability to access the past so readily is precious beyond words.
And therein lies what might be called a poetic irony.
Sometimes I can spend a whole day doing absolutely nothing of significance and get to the end of it wondering where the time has gone, although such days have become a rarity of late. I generally pack so much into a day that by the time I get to the end of it I'm amazed at how much I managed to get done, despite the fact that many things on the list remain undone. As a kid it used to intrigue me what adults got up to with their time and why they were always so busy. Now I know.
Sometimes I can get so tired I experience what I call brain-lock. I might be standing in front of a group of students, talking to someone or simply trying to figure something out when my brain stops for a few moments and Iím completely at a loss for words. It usually occurs when I kid myself that I can function on a limited ration of sleep. For a while I can do this and as long as I don't overdo it I'm okay. But if I try burning the candle at both ends then brain-lock is usually the end result.
Sometimes I think I'm younger than I am. Much younger. When I look at people twenty years my junior they generally look as though theyíre my peers by age. Conversely, until recently I always used to see people my own age as being much older. It's something that has started to change during the last couple of years but even so, I still can't get a handle on the fact that I'm in my fifties. Even seeing the word written down seems absurd. How could I possibly be in my fifties? But that's what I am, for better or worse.
Sometimes I wonder how I manage to do it. I don't know many who are great at getting up in the morning and I have to acknowledge I'm better than some. Even so, keeping track of time in the bathroom is a constant challenge and one I couldn't manage without a timepiece. As for breakfast, I long ago mastered the art of eating toast while simultaneously getting dressed and downing a handful of vitamins with a glass of milk a coffee. But what really amazes is the fact I always manage to catch the 72 tram with seconds to spare.
Sometimes I think about all the people who have mattered to me who are now out there somewhere in the world getting on with their lives oblivious to the fact that I may be thinking about them. There was a time when I couldnít have imagined living without some of them; a time when their every thought and action was so completely interwoven with mine that they seemed inseparable. In truth, there are many whose paths we may cross in life but few with whom we travel any great distance together, a concept I used to rail against but now accept.
Sometimes I wonder how my body will hold up in the years to come. For all that Iíve had a few aches and pains over the years my body has generally been a friend to me, neither crippling me with any debilitating physical ailments nor letting me down in terms of overall health and well-being. Long may it continue! However, beyond a certain age the odds do start to stack against you. On the few occasions that I have had a bad back or a wonky knee Iíve realized that oneís health and mobility should not be taken for granted.
Sometimes I try to imagine what Iíll be like when Iím really old. Having spent so much time with Mum during her final years itís not such a leap of imagination. Iíve never really doubted that Iíll live to be old, notwithstanding the poor track record of certain men in the family, but how Iíll do so remains to be seen. Iíd like to think I can do it with dignity and with my faculties intact. Not that Iím in any hurry to get there. But as the years go flying by it gets harder to ignore the end game.
Sometimes we need to take stock of things and see the bigger picture. In a country like Australia it's easy to get wrapped up in the details of own lives, to the extent that we lose sight of how privileged we are and how fortunate. Compared to so many we are wealthy beyond measure. As for me, Iím healthy, Iím gainfully employed, Iím blessed with a loving partner, with wonderful friends and opportunities and choices that many in the world could only dream about. So for all its many challenges, life is good and I wouldn't be dead for quids.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how trusting and utterly delightful the children I teach can be. After so many years of working at the other end of the social and behavioural spectrum I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure Iím not dreaming, while at the same time remaining conscious of the fact that not all children are as fortunate as these ones are. And for all that I love what I do it does beg the question about whether Iíll eventually tire of it all and move back to working with children who are not so demographically blessed.
Sometimes I think about what it means to be constant and true. The daily challenges of life that we all face over time raises questions about who we are and who weíre being. The person I used to be is not the person I am now, though the two are intimately linked. The young woman who dreamed of being a pianist and the woman who gave birth to me were similarly very different though undeniably the same person. We like to think weíre constant and in many ways we are, but it is a constancy born of challenge and change.
Sometimes itís like thereís a voice whispering in my ear telling me not to worry, that everything will work out fine in the end. Iíve always had it. If I believed in angels (and whoís to say I donít?) I might imagine Iíve had someone watching over me for many years now. Who it might be, who can say? Perhaps Iím simply imagining it all. Angels donít really exist, do they? Then again, why else have I led such a blessed life when so many others have not? Still, whether they exist or not, itís wise to count oneís blessings.
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