Monday, 29 September 2008

Having me, having you

J has left again. It is a strange existence, this whole to and froing. But J has decided. He will be moving here shortly, to live with me in the flat I will hopefully have.

Last time he was here to visit me, in my girl room which has a 120 bed (the student size from IKEA which can hold exactly one very in love couple or two very drunk people for a one night stand, but not a regular girlfriend and boyfriend over a longer period of time), a desk, a bookshelf, a MALM dresser and a NOT lamp, he was very ill. It was not a very good weekend. I was just about to come on my period and incredibly irritable, and he was cranky.

This weekend was different. I was nervous before he got here, in that way that one is before a first date. It is funny. My body remembers him, but my heart doesn't. The longer that passes between us when he is but a small face in a Skype window, the less I remember why I love him. I am a simple girl. For me, a relationship is very much about the physical. I am definitely one of those women who will cheat, not in the flesh, but by giving my mind to someone else. In fact I do that every day.

When he got here, it was just lovely, straight off. He smells different, is using another clothes detergent now that we are not living together, a perfumed one. He came dragging along two suitcases full of my stuff, a small helping of what is still left behind in Britain, and of course only about 5 per cent of it stuff I actually wanted, as is his habit he had packed in a massive rush.

But when I close my eyes, he feels familiar. He tastes familiar. And he was so happy to see me. In the shower today, I constructed my relationship narrative.

My first boyfriend was lovely to look at, very much the quiet and shy type, and very bizarre in conduct.

So the crush I had after was much more communicative, loved words, the way I loved words. But I didn't jump when I should have, so I lost out.

So I jumped off the cliff with both feet for boyfriend III, although he was gay, and of course nobody jumped after. I loved the most and had my heart thoroughly crushed by the situation.

Boyfriend IV. He loved me, I didn't love him. Very safe, very boring. Dump.

Boyfriend V is J.

I have figured why I will never feel the same for J as I do for the crush who followed boyfriend I. It is because I have learned that I have to have the relationship, and be in it.

I can never again let it happen that I find myself in a relationship that is having me. I just couldn't take it. I would break.

Trouble is, when you have the relationship, and you are in it, rather than it having you and being inside you as it were, then it will never feel as intense.

J will never look into me in that way that kills a small part of me, creating new growth by burning off dead grass from a small patch with a magnifying glass catching the sun.

It just isn't the way it is. I love him, and I want him, but this is not the big love.

I am not sure if I should be glad that I have known what the big love is at all, or if I should be sorry that I have not chosen to let it be what I live my life alongside.

But I am living my own life, it is not living me. And that is how I want it, for the foreseeable future.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The one who got away... that I've caught up with



Originally uploaded by Simple Dolphin
So we meet again.

When I left the country, over a decade ago, I was madly, and I think truly, in love with one of my best friends.

Now I am here again, and I know that he lives a 20 min cycle ride from my house, with his "new" girlfriend of course. She is not at all new, they have been living together for at least three years now, I think.

We met today, at the pub, where I went to see another mutual friend of ours, with whom I've done a better job of keeping in touch.

It is odd. I used to dream about him, imagining colourful soft-focus scenarios where he would ring my doorbell in the pouring rain, in the middle of the night, to see me, to tell me something, to validate me.

Of course he never did. Even if he did want me, he was never the doorbell ringing type.

When I walked into the pub today, he looked at me. That really is all it takes. We barely exchanged a word while we were there, before I went home with my friend to see her flat, and he went home with his girlfriend.

Maybe I am finally over him. I don't want the life he has, I don't want to have a boyfriend who spends most weekends sitting inside smoking cigarettes, talking about life and having the not so occasional beer. I don't think he's the father of my future children.

But part of me will always remember that he was the first person that I loved, and made love to, and how my head was bursting with pleasure with every touch, that feeling which can never be replicated once the novelty of sex has worn off.

I wonder if he is sitting somewhere across town now and thinking about me, in his flat where he doesn't have the internet because he objects to computers, holding on to his girlfriend who never quite knows what to say to me, I think I unnerve her, though I don't know why, I knew him when we were kids, I don't know him as an adult, he chose her, he could have chosen me, begged me to come home, to be with him, to be.

I used to say to him that I wouldn't come home until he wanted to marry me. But a girl can only wait so long. And I was too homesick to postpone it till we're 56 and both divorced. Though I think he remembers as well as I do.

And there are dangerous opportunities. He recently completed the course I'm about to embark on, he probably has all the books I will ever need and naturally he knows the ins and outs of the department better than any of my other friends here. It would not be odd of me to meet up with him for a supportive chat.

Yet I don't know if it would be so clever, because he offers precisely the one thing that J doesn't, that unconditional attention, that way of looking at me without saying anything, which just makes me feel like the most interesting person in the world. He does that to everyone, not just to me. Though he is not by far the best looking friend I have, he has more broken hearts in his wake than any of the really handsome ones. I was one of them. But of course, the way he looks at me makes me think I also left a mark.

Softly, softly.

I am waiting for the phone to ring, a decade later. I know it will, and that it will be J, and that when he rings, I'll be happy. I miss him, I really do, and I count down the hours to our daily chats.

But part of my brain will play that alternative tune, Sliding Doors style, of what would happen if it turned out not to be J at the other end. I am back, and my number is the same as it was over ten years ago.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Northern rain


Northern rain
Originally uploaded by kjetil_vatne
I am sitting here in my new flat, my new flatmate and landlord, a very odd-seeming guy (though he claims to have no mental health problems) just left on a late night errand.

It is pissing it down, the way it only can when you are a certain number of metres above sea level, yet completely exposed to said sea.

The flat has an amazing view of the fjord in this place which is now my new home town and place of study. However, due to the wall of water relentlessly hitting the south-facing window in the living room, the lit-up bridge which usually echoes the Victoria and Albert equivalent in London from across the fjord, is completely obscured. Outside there is blackness, and nothing but.

It has been a turbulent day. I have spent most of it painting the above-mentioned room. The Landlord, as I shall hencefort be referring to him, is slightly behind on his refurbishment schedule which he seems to think must mean I want to spend these first days here making up for his procrastination, brush in hand.

I have painted the walls a warm white with a tinge of yellow in it, hopefully it should keep me warm on dark winter evenings to come. The plus of the room not being finished was that I got to pick my own colour. I didn't feel yesterday, after several hours in the car with my father, that I had the mental capacity to consider creative colour choices, so I just went for the simplest and most obvious.

And maybe it was good to spend this first full day here, brush in hand, rather than just sitting around ruminating about what will happen to J and I, now that he's there and I'm here. When I woke this morning I didn't know where I was at first, I just keenly felt his absence next to me in the narrow bed.

But maybe I'll like it here. And if I do, and J does too, the flat next door is for sale. And hey, I already know what colours suit the light up here.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

To my best friend on her wedding day

You told me yesterday that I have ten minutes. And I said, that is too much. How would anyone want to hear me talk for ten minutes straight? I think a good speech is a short speech.

But of course, the opposite is actually the case. How can I span the depth and width and duration of our friendship, our love for each other, in ten minutes? It really is, in the words of Crowded House, like trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup.

A teacher once told me, back in high school, that when you're young you meet these people with whom you have an incredible connection. And then it stops.

We have lived apart for over ten years now, and for each year that passes in my transient life, I treasure our friendship that little bit more. Its uniqueness shines a little brighter, like a diamond among dull gemstones I've never really found the time to polish.

When we first met, we were about four. You moved to my home town with your doctor parents, you had a posh accent and long, blonde hair which your mum plaited very tidily every morning.

Our mutual friend brought you to my house. I still had the apple green carpet, and the white wallpaper with red hearts on it, and I had a box of treasures. I let you have a lion button. It was from London, my dad bought it for me on one of his travels. And what a coincidence, or Morissette-esque irony, that it was London which would keep us apart for so many years.

As I stand here and come to terms with just having moved home, I would like you to know that you are a large part of my homecoming. We were joking on the phone that we will be only a five hour drive apart. But it is closer, a lot closer, than we have been. And closeness is important.

Closeness should be treasured, because we are growing up, growing older, and hopefully wiser. The past few years have not been easy for either of us, and some people who should be with us here are not. I am sure we are all sending our thoughts to your husband's mother, who died so tragically and in so much pain at Christmas, before she reached 50 and before she saw her grandchildren take her first steps. How she would have cried had she seen you today, so radiant and beautiful, the best woman any mother could ever hope to find for her son. And you yourself, I almost lost you in child birth, and it was a wake-up call for me. We should not put our friendship on the back burner while we wait for the right time to come. The right time might never happen, the right time is now.

We need to treasure each moment we get with each other on this earth, and that is what the two of you are saying that you want to do here today. And as for the two of us, well, five hours is a lot shorter than a slog to Heathrow, a lengthy flight and then another train ride.

So back when we were four, and you still had a posh accent, you were a very well-behaved and well-raised little child, who told other children that they would go to hell because they were not baptised. The staunchness with which you profess that particular belief might have faded somewhat, but you are still a firm believer in your values and wild horses could not get you to do something you are not one hundred per cent behind. And maybe that is why we have worked so well together, despite being different. We realised early on the importance of agreeing to disagree, and we have happily done so for over twenty years.

When you were eight, you were spotted silently crying in class, and when the teacher asked you why, you sobbed that you had left your pencil case at home. You were a sensitive little girl. But somewhere on the way your skin thickened, you joined the scouts (for which I would like to take credit but I'm not sure I can) and learned to handle both yourself and nature. And boys.

You are such a very special person, which I think is illustrated by the variety and number of friends who have made the journey here to witness your wedding day. You have moved around so many locations, from tiny villages to large cities, and in each one of those places you have put down roots, spread your sunshine. I have been asked innumerous times by boys and men how they can win your heart. And I have always told them I did not know. It cannot be denied, you have broken a fair few hearts along your path across the country. I

And a chair. You and your somewhat overweight boyfriend broke an antique chair at our friend's house by sitting on it, do you remember? Back in primary school you were forced into a date with this guy and he was so revolting that you left him in the cinema in the middle of Moonwalker. And then there was the guy in the eigth grade who gave you a lovely present for your birthday: A photo T-shirt with himself on it, railway style braces and all. And there was the guy in Bergen who just could not bring himself to believe you did not want him. There was the guy who came to visit you in Stavanger, just to be told by one of our friends that he looked like a Lego cube. There were skiers, kiters, it's a wonder you didn't end up a footballer's wife, you've always attracted a lot of boys, but sporty ones in particular. And maybe there were a few who were the ones who got away. If they could see you today, I know they would eat their hearts out.

So, to your husband, I do not need to tell him how lucky he is. OK, so he has to put up with your bad mood every morning (which you say you have gotten over but I don't really believe you) and you do fart rather a lot, especially if you've eaten dairy, but you have already allowed him to become the father of two beautiful children and your daft sense of humour is unquenchable, even at the toughest of times.

You have made an impeccable choice. When you started going out together, I knew immediately that something was different about this one. It was not just the fact that he was so bowled over by your first kiss that he started leaving your flat without putting his shoes on. He really had a unique quality, a calmness and maturity I had never seen in any of the other boys chasing you (cause it was mostly them doing the chasing).

And it took time for you to decide where you were headed, you went slowly, when you moved in together you had separate rooms for the first few months at his behest as far as I can remember. Very courteous, but I am sure some IKEA bed was left feeling pretty lonely during that period. But, I remember, I was visiting you while you were studying together, and you were fretting about your first proper argument, which had concerned garlic. You liked it, he didn't. You were really quite distraught after the quarrel. And I guess that is when I first thought he would really be the one. You don't quarrel about those things and last, unless you are bound for marriage.

The two of you have lasted though as tough of times this last year than many other couples endure across a lifetime, but together you have pulled through, and you so thoroughly deserve this day as a celebration in front of each other, family, friends, and the manager who sits upstairs and probably enjoys this as much as we do. I cannot, as a maid of honour is meant to, give you advice as to how to make your marriage last. However, as a budding psychologist I can say that what separates the happy couples from the ones who don't last, is not the number of quarrels in itself. It is the proportion of bad times to happy times. If there are significantly more smiles and cuddles and intimate exchanges of glances where you think your kids really are the cutest (usually while they are asleep) than there are fights and swearwords, then you are likely to last. So, your husband will really just have to do his best to laugh at your jokes. Because, they are funny, really. I have heard them for much longer than him, and you can still make me double over just by giving me a look.

I have no doubt that you are as supportive of a partner as you are a friend. You have always had time to listen, even when you've had three hours sleep for the last week because the twins have been coughing, and your car has broken down and your electric heating is not working. Heck, you'd probably take an emergency call if your house was on fire, provided you'd made your husband jump out the window with the twins first, onto a trampoline you built yourself (scouts, very handy with bits of wood and rope).

When I have been feeling down, you have told me, it's only a phase, each difficult day is a step in the right direction. And you were correct. Things eventually fall into place, it can be a painful process but it is always worth holding out for. That is your outlook on life, and it has held you together through periods of stress under which many a weaker person would buckle, or curl into a little ball and cry for mummy.

So in place of that aforementioned advice, I could wish you the best of luck, but you don't need it, you make your own luck, because you seem to know that this is the only way to achieve true equilibrium, true happiness. The way you work on your patients to coax them to perform things they might not at first think they are capable of, that is the way you coax your friends to be better people, and I am pretty certain that is how you treat yourself.

You are relentlessly positive, incredibly hard-working, you hate losing and you are always chasing the next peak, but never without taking time to smell the flowers along the way. I am so honoured to be chosen as a witness to this greatest event of your life so far, and I am hoping that your wedding will become a beautiful gate to the road ahead for you both, that you will be able to smell the roses and hear the cheers when you turn your heads back for decades to come.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

What I miss the most...

OK, I will in no way try to pretend that I miss nothing about Britain. In no particular order, I miss the following:


  • The Guardian. This country has shit papers, and nobody cares.
  • The food on Edgware road. No more Shwarma kebabs from J on his way home from therapy.
  • Cultured people. Brits can't ski, OK, but at least the dreaded middle classes are good at intelligent dinner table conversation.
  • The Beeb. Especially Paxo. Though I can of course watch him on the iPlayer.
  • Corner stores. This country lacks enterprising immigrants.
  • The shopping... Kew, Fat Face and House of Fraser are my favourite shops. Sigh...

But at the moment, that really is about it. I do not miss the following...

  • The constant noise.
  • Way too many people on way too small an island.
  • The materialism, coupled with low wages, leading to ridiculous work hours.
  • The unemployed. I know I'm really snobby, but I quite like knowing that the state takes care of those people and that unemployment in this town I now live in is 1.5 per cent. Meaning that anyone with arms and legs and most people without are actually working.
  • The housing. Yay for space.
  • People being uptight. That is mostly a southern thing so apologies to the Scots, Welsh etc. etc.
  • The disparity in society. Which obviously is a bit gratuitous since I said the thing about the unemployed, but there you go. I like everyone to earn the same and have a good time. And I don't care if I pay 45 per cent tax.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Day swimming


underwater miyana
Originally uploaded by Technical Tina
So I've officially relocated.

It's weird. I think I'm still in denial. I landed here on Saturday and my time since has mostly been taken up with cooing over my brother's new daughter, seeing my friends and a translation job I stupidly took on as I'm now a student and should not turn my nose up at the chance of earning some money.

J is coming on Thursday. We've talked on the phone every day and chatted online when he's been at work (I have acquired our shared laptop for the time being), and I can't quite fathom that for the foreseable future I'll be missing him this much, all the time.

It is weird the way I miss him, it's nothing in particular, I just miss his company, his excited exclamations as he watches 24 whilst I work towards my first million neopoints.

And it's not that dreadful, heartburn-like kind of missing, I don't feel agitated, I just feel kind of lethargic. Like nothing's really that fun when he's not around.

But I know already that I have made the right decision. Even if it is years away, I can look forward to having an actual profession, where I can easily get an interesting job and possibly work from home in time.

And it is beautiful here. I am staying with my parents, and they are on holiday in Stockholm for the week with my youngest sister. The house is empty, except for me and the dog.

There were heat records all over the country this week. I wake up every morning in the sveltering heat, and on the large patio outside I have a view of the ocean, a ten minute walk and I am there, among screaming blonde children with impossibly golden tans, and teenagers who are slim and careless and do not, as a rule, carry knives.

Today, taking a break from the work, my friend dropped me off at the beach (I was too lazy and too hot to walk), and I spent over half an hour snorkelling and looking at the seaweed and tiny fish brought to life by the currents and the sunlight. It is almost as if the previous decade never happened, as if I have never been away. It is such a relief.

Then I walked back up the hill and spent some more time on the patio working, the temperature in the mid-twenties by then, completely perfect. I watched the sun go down across the rooftops just before midnight, and then migrated upstairs where I am now, the breeze reaching in through the skylight to dance with the strings hanging from the blinds in the bathroom across from me.

I cannot hear a single car. The air smells vaguely of barbecues and sea salt and pollen. It is where I belong. If J was with me, home would truly be where the heart is.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Aussie Tin Roof


Aussie Tin Roof
Originally uploaded by sinoperture
Now I was going to go for a jog this morning in line with my recent healthy eating and weight loss scheme, but honestly.

It is absolutely pissing it down outside. And I am quite enjoying sitting here, listening to the rain hittingthe corrugated plastic roof on the outhouse.

So I am number 2 on the wait list to get a space at the university I want to go to, to become an Actual Psychologist.

It is not in the UK.

If I get in, and I should know whether I do by next week, I am leaving the country.

I have spent my whole adult life in the UK, and for better or worse, I do quite like some things, like the Guardian, the BBC and BOGOF offers in supermarkets.

If I do go home, it won't be easy. You can't just return somewhere after a decade and expect it to be the same.

My friends back home are ridiculously excited that I might be moving home. And so am I. I have been miserable for so long, missing them and my family.

The foremost worry thought in my mind now is that I don't in fact miss them, and I am therefore miserable; I am just miserable because I am.

And, of course, if I go, I will miss J. All the time. I know this. Anything more than 48 hours apart is a bit of a struggle. He will not come with me. He isn't ready to go. Maybe I am not ready for him to come either, maybe I need to settle in by myself while hoping he will eventually follow.

I don't know what percentage likelyhood I give to me still being J's Girlfriend a year from now, but I am hoping. He is the best boyfriend I will ever have, and I really want to be with him, build a life, have children, grow old together, feed him ice cream in bed over the Saturday paper (which sadly is unlikely to be the Guardian, but maybe we can have someone post it?).

Maybe it will be good for him to be on his own for a while, to help him learn to fend for himself and listen to what he really wants, to learn to ignore the voice of his mother in his head, and of me too.

He says that although he does not wish for me to go, he would feel better about us knowing that I am working towards achieving what I want, that I am surrounded by people who love me, that he is not holding me back.

But I have taken ownership of my actions. He is not holding me back. I am, if anything, using him as an excuse not to go home, because I feel I have nothing to show for the last decade of my life. No qualifications, maybe not even a life partner.

However my homing instinct is becoming overwhelming. It is like Tinnitus, it cannot be ignored except for by drowning it out with something louder, a sharper pain, and even then I know that it is still there.

It is still raining outside, the droplets have gotten larger, the whisper on the roof has crescendoed into a roar. I will not go for a jog. I will upload photos of J with his friends and Godchild from last weekend and ask myself, honestly, if I can justify wanting to remove him from them.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Grown men crying

I don't mean Nadal himself, who is obviously not quite yet a man (he was crying like a baby, and combined with Federer looking noble but of course deeply tragic, the whole scene almost brought a tear to my eyes).

J, however, was really in tatters as Federer is is hero, and in the summer, the one man he "would sleep with if given the chance". In the winter this spot of honor is taken up by Mr S Gerrard, who is obviously not really available in the season of long, light evenings during which tennis thrillers hold the nation's attention to ransom.

Meanwhile, I've examined my life and decided I have to take ownership of my own situation. In other words, admit stuff to myself.

First and foremost, the reason I am not moving home to be closer to family and friends is that I really wanted to achieve something here in Britain. I don't feel I have done this, not really. I wanted to come home like the hero returning on a white horse in shining armor.. like Jeanne d'Arc, maybe. Not limping on a donkey (like JC, so come to think of it, riding in on a donkey might not be all bad). It has to do with status, I want to prove myself. It has nothing to do with J holding me here, it has to do with me feeling I am letting some unspecified entity (myself, mostly) down by coming home and not having "achieved".

Secondly, I choose to be with J, who does not want to get married, or have children, or buy a house (though in the current house market, neither do I). In other words, something deep inside me does not really want to do those things just yet either. If those were the most important things for me, I would leave him and find someone who can help me live up to those aspirations.

So, in short, I am living in the UK and being miserable because I am too proud to turn home without having anything to show for my ten years in the UK apart from a BA from a slightly dodgy ex-polytechnic, and I am unmarried and childless because I am too much of a coward to be attracted to someone who wants to change my status in these regards.

There you have it. I have some tough choices to make. Should I give up my extremely generous, Oxbridge-educated, crazily attractive though dysfunctional boyfriend and travel home with my head lifted, or should I grit my teeth and think of how much my life has changed over the last ten years, and how I still have time to achieve?

J is folding up his clothes and putting them away for the evening, and afterwards I know he will take out what he is wearing tomorrow from his overfilled chest of drawers, and put it on the dining table downstairs in order not to wake me as he gets up at 0720 to go to work. Then he will brush his teeth and crawl into bed and rub his recently-shaven cheek on my arm as I type and ask if I want a cuddle. And then, although Roger didn't get any, I might get some Rogering. Cheap joke, couldn't resist.

So maybe there is a third reason I am staying put. Maybe I really have something here which is too good to give up, prospective babies and engagements or none.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Happy

I was writing up the resume of one of our patients today. In between him complaining of staff treating him badly, nothing being good enough etc. etc., his therapist had challenged him and asked him what he wanted staff to do for him, and how he wanted to be treated. He couldn't answer it.


one with the sea
Originally uploaded by Luis Montemayor
Now completely apart from the fact that I actually feel sorry for this guy despite him having done some completely horrible (and I mean horrible) things in his past, this got me thinking.

Maybe the reason I so often feel down is that I haven't really figured out what it is that makes me happy in life. Last night, I had a lengthy (therapy style) conversation with J about his mother and how she has shaped two of his most important core beliefs: That he is inadequate in personal relationships and that he is a bad person if he does not love his mother. I could write a whole separate post about that conversation, but in essence I asked him whom he wants to decide how he feels about himself, his mother or, well, he himself.

And in the car home today, as I was driving Westwards into the beautiful sunset after the end of my shift, Celine Dion in my lungs (yay Magic) and a cool draft from the Micra's window on my right arm, I thought that maybe the same is true for me.

I went into journalism because I was told from an early age that this would be a good profession for me to go into, because I am extroverted, good with language and fairly creative. But it didn't fulfil me. Then I went into psychology, because I guess I am interested in people's stories. And I am. I was chatting to another patient for quite a period of time this evening, and his life story interests me (sadly, I have to say, more than his outcome in this particular case). But my job does not fulfil me, and sometimes I fear that even if I manage to qualify as a psychologist at some point in the distant future, I will still feel the familiar restlessness.

I have come to the conclusion that for all my left-winged, Guardian-reading, bleeding-hearted socialist leanings, I don't want to work for a large public organisation. Been there, done that, and it simply doesn't suit me.

Partly the attraction of becoming a psychologist is that at some point I will be able to run my own practise, out of my own home, where I get to choose my clients and my hours and how I spend my day. I can schedule time to do morning pages when I feel like it, and although of course I will have a duty of care towards the people I deliver therapy to, this will not involve carrying a ridiculously large bunch of keys, hauling belongings in and out of store, or watching cockroaches scurry across the kitchen floors of entirely inappropriate for their use Victorian buildings.

Maybe I wouldn't be happier, but this is I think the life I would choose for myself.

J is twitching slightly as he does. I have given him a cellular blanket to sleep under, he keeps waking at like 0530 in the morning, and I was thinking it might be because he is too hot. My best friend tells me this really affects her baby boy twins. In case the cellular blanket is slightly cold, I have covered it with a red polkadotted fleece blanket I got for my birthday from his now-former not-quite-sister-in-law. He is so cute it's not even funny, his ear plugs protruding slightly from his ears below the Boots in-flight eye mask he wears cause our landlady is too stingy to put up curtain rails.

He is a manager now, though only acting. If only his team could see him as I see him. But I wouldn't want them to. J when he's asleep is mine and mine alone, I guess it is a sign of our intimacy that he falls asleep every night looking completely ridiculous but not caring. And without fail, about five minutes after settling down, me still playing Neopet games, his hand fumbles across the duvet to find mine, to stroke it quietly goodnight one last time. And this, I am certain, is one thing that definitely does make me just a little happier.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Disappearing From View


Disappearing from View
Originally uploaded by Steve Stone
Because I have not been blogging for so long, I just had a look around and saw that most of the people whose blogs I used to read, with the notable exception of Daisy, have done a semi-disappearing act.

And maybe that's what's so attractive about blogging. You can bare your soul and then disappear, and it's as if everything you said disappears with you, as opposed to if you told your real-life friends, and they would still know.

Except of course, paradoxically, what you have said is all the more permanent because it is stored right there for you to see, online. People don't tend to delete their old blogs. I guess it would feel too much like burning a diary.

But even in real life, people don't just disappear. Last night I had a very weird dream about an ex-friend of mine (I am not sure why we are ex-friends, but he rejected me on Facebook so I guess we are), which involved a drowning car and his fiancee (very soon to be wife) wearing a hijab.

So I messaged him on Facebook this morning, and he replied almost instantly. We have not been in touch for about two years. And there he was, at my fingertips, almost close enough to touch. I guess things never really disappear. I find it strangely reassuring.

Last year, J and I went on holiday near where my gay ex lives, and I met up with him (again, arranged on Facebook, where we are friends). It was extremely reassuring. He used to be a nervous wreck, but he has really grown up, he has bought a flat and has a great job (much better than mine) and seemed so... happy. I think I don't ever want to see him again, just so I can hold that idea in my head that this is how he exists now.

Sometimes I think I have an unhealthy obsession with the past, that I should just let stuff go. But my brain has never been much for forgetting. Stuff sticks, from useless trivia to ridiculous relationships. And I kind of like it that way.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

May appear closer

I once had a teacher to whom I told the story of how I was madly in love with one of my friends, but didn't know if I should tell him.

He told me: "When you are young, you don't appreciate this kind of closeness. You think, this is nice, but it'll keep happening. But it doesn't."

Of course, I didn't tell my friend until it was too late, and we never ended up together.

And now I realise that my teacher was completely right. I have met three people in my life that I would count as soul mates. And I don't think that's cause I use the term flippantly, I think I have just been lucky. J is not one of them. But I know that he is close enough.

With J it is different. I don't love him because he reads my mind. I love him because he is his own person, he is not me, he is not inside my head. And I feel really strongly about him. Almost four years in, I still love his smell, love burying my head in his chest in the morning when we are still half asleep and my eye mask protects my soft skin from his stubbly chin. This is something that should be cared for.

I let those three people above go, quite flippantly in some cases. I don't regret it, it just wasn't meant to be with either of them. But I have learnt my lesson. You will never meet someone who is the same, who fills the gap, who makes you into the person you want to be, that you used to be when you were with that other person, who completed you.

Meeting your soulmate and losing them means you will always be a little less of yourself, that a part will be missing.

But of course, like a brain, you grow, you develop, you adapt, until that missing part is still missing, but no longer of any consequence to yourself. This hurts. I would not recommend it to anyone.

And I am tired of this adaptation, having to scramble around for ways to build a bridge across to bits of yourself that are suddenly isolated on some kind of island in your personality, having to start afresh, looking for an uninjured part of yourself to offer to the next person, because everyone deserves to meet the part of someone who has not yet been mauled by someone else.

J has not had this. Sometimes I feel sorry for him because he hasn't had this, because he hasn't ever had a soulmate, because he hasn't lost anyone this way. Because if you haven't, it's difficult to know the level of regret and loss that can be felt in retrospect, even if you know it was the right thing, the only thing, to do at the time.

He says he sometimes thinks we are soulmates. What he means, I think, is that sometimes we have real intimacy, that we laugh at the same things, or with each other, that there are moments when we don't have to speak and we just melt into each other.

These things are all true. But I don't think he's my soulmate. Nothing would make me happier than if I give him that experience that other people have given me before, of being completely understood, completely accepted.

But the first time around, it is difficult to appreciate this. You think, in my teacher's words, that it'll keep happening. But it doesn't. However, J doesn't know this. Which is why I fear for our relationship.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Running for life


racists
Originally uploaded by t. magnum
I did my first 5k run today. J was doing 10k, but I know my limitations and didn't go for that one. I have to say I felt it was a very wise decision as I waved at him doing the second lap of the course, having already finished. I took about 30 min and overtook at least four kids while running. An expensive jog, some might say, but it went to a very worthwhile charity so I felt good both on the inside and the outside afterwards.

I like doing things with J. We so rarely get the chance to do something together (although I realise that due to my lack of fitness we didn't actually run together..). After the race we went home, had some lunch and then went out to take photos. J is quite mystified by the settings on my camera, I have thought about it and might start him off on fully automatic settings next time.

He is asleep next to me at the moment, having given and received a back and legs massage to help recovery after the exertions earlier on. He really is the cutest, especially when, as now, he turns over on his back and splays his fingers out in front of him for no apparent reason. Maybe my typing actually disturbs him slightly.

I have been fighting today to stay positive. But I really do feel a lot more at peace, I have a feeling that things will turn out OK in the end. We went to see Prince Caspian in the cinema yesterday, and cheesy though it was, it served as a helpful reminder that maybe I fail to find peace because I have turned my back on God, or spirituality, or what you like to call it. It is difficult to live without faith. If only one believes, things usually fall into place, one way or another. So I shall go to sleep tonight and try to be at peace with myself, but not until I've said my prayers for something to happen to make it all OK.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Something to look forward to


Messy Bed B&W
Originally uploaded by fostere3
I get to have a lie-in tomorrow. Even better, I get to have a lie-in with J! We are both going to give blood sort of mid-morning, he has taken the morning off and will work through the evening instead, as I will be at work then at any rate.

It will be my first time. I'm a bit apprehensive. Historically I have never been afraid of needles or injections, but I've had some bad experiences over the past few years; Hep B immunisations which really stung, the cancer scare and subsequent hospitalisation two years ago, and I had bloods taken at work for screening a few days ago, I still have a bruise and it really hurt. Call me a wimp, I am not looking forward to it.

Still, I really do feel I should give blood. Everyone should. It costs nothing and it could save a life. I don't know what my blood type is, if it is rare or common, but I will do my bit if I can, though I guess I am secretly hoping they'll say I'm aenemic or something so I can't do it.

I look forward to it at the same time. J will be there, and I know he will support me and be proud of me. I really like the idea of him being proud of me, probably psychologically to do with how I felt like my father has never been proud of me for any of my achievements. Coincidentally I think my father will also feel proud when I tell him, though he might not express it very well. And afterwards we can have a sugary drink together (which will probably totally ruin the healthy eating drive I am on) and maybe even a quick cuddle before I head off to work. It is lovely to have a boyfriend, sometimes.

Waiting for the train to come...

People do strange things when waiting for the train. Some take the opportunity to do work, but most people appear to see it as some kind of little pocket of time in which they're entitled to stare into space, take account of their life and do absolutely nothing. In today's busy society I guess that is quite rare.

And because they have this little private break available, they do private things, like adjust their "very special but very private" (quote Technorati) parts, pick their ears, examine their iPods for ridiculously long periods of time, pick at invisible scabs on arms or hands, draw abstract art in the dust with their feet and so on. I love watching that, imagining what might be going on in their heads. If anything.

I was waiting for the train tonight after work, straddling my bike, helmet balancing on one handle and fiddling with my iPod in my pocket on the opposite side. The sun was just setting and the light was turning blue. A car pulled up on the car park behind me, casting my shadow across the empty tracks, throwing my life into relief; a woman behind a barbed wire fence, waiting for her train to come, waiting for something to happen.

A young black man pulled up on his bike behind me, I could tell there would be that tacit jostling for who would get to put their bike in the one bike space there always is on that particular train. I got there first and should in theory have first dips, or so the unwritten cyclist code states, I think. However some people will still try it on. He looked tired, was wearing a blue jacket and quite formal trousers, I was thinking maybe he too was coming from work.

A lot of the Africans I work with cannot for their lives understand why I want to cycle when I have a car available to drive (I hasten to add that this is not my car but J's which I am free to drive whenever I want; thus I can still virtuously say "I have never owned a car"). For some reason they just don't see the point. For them cycling and trains are modes of transport you use until you can afford to get a license and buy a BMW (most of them drive very flash cars considering their salaries). It's a matter of status, I think.

But I guess I feel the same about commuting as I do about life in general. It is so much nicer to get to work knowing you have spared the environment, toned your thighs, produced the vitamin D you need for the day and had time to relax and read the paper. Who wants to be stuck on the motorway if they don't have to?! The cycle to work if I don't get the train is just over an hour and I only do it for special occasions, but the train / bike combo is perfect.

And after a stressful shift nothing is better than freewheeling down the hill with the wind in my hair. Or at least the few tufts that stick out behind my helmet.

When I fulfill my dream of having a baby with J, I shall probably be driving more, at least for a few years. But until then, I see no reason to stop waiting for the train and start waiting for red lights to change.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Dance me to the end of love


Table Dancers Project
Originally uploaded by Jameel K
J was away all of last weekend on a stag do which was essentially a lap dancing club crawl through Prague, only punctuated by some heavy drinking and bruise inducing paintballing.

It was J's virgin time at any kind of nude sex worker venue, and quite intriguing for him I think. He said he found it arousing to begin with, but that it grew a bit old after a while. Or in the words of one of my colleagues, "I'm sorry, but the sex workers in Prague just aren't that attractive." Do I believe him?

The bride to be of course knows nothing about this. I find it quite satisfying that I always end up knowing these things about stag dos etc. that the other girls don't. I don't know why they find it so upsetting. If a man is gonna stray, he will, and there's not much you can do about it. OK and there's the feminist argument but I can't do with entering into that at the moment.

It's not that late but it is a little. J is already asleep next to me, eyemask on and earplugs in. It's a necessity when one a) lives near a heavily trafficked road (where the hell are all these people going who drive around really fast at, like, 0330 in the morning on a Sunday) and b) one is flat sharing with people who decidedly don't have party bladders. Also, when we cuddle in the morning, I put my eye mask on my forehead to protect me from his stubbly chin. Very useful, I tell you. He is very cute right now, and his feet are occasionally twitching in that adorable way which occasionally keeps me awake and probably means he's dreaming about football.

For me, the lap dancing extravaganza (to the tune of about GBP500 I believe; all the other participants are bankers in the city) worked to remind me that first of all, J can find other people attractive. He's both very unobservant and also very polite so never looks at other women when we are in public. I'm telling you he's the one. Secondly, I was reminded that other people could find him attractive.. He was telling me about this dancer being all over him, and although it is her job, it was a useful hint that, you know, he is a lot more attractive than the average British male, not to mention than the average sleaze bar customer. OK so they're not all hideous but from my personal visits to such venues I have been less than impressed.

Which, all in all, made me quite jealous, actually. Of course this lead to me being ridiculously horny for days on end, but poor thing, I forced him to intercourse when he returned having slept about four hours all weekend, and this evening he just begged to be let off the hook.

He is fast asleep now, his leg periodically twitching and his thumb stroking the duvet cover (it's my white sateen one, which he particularly likes), probably thinking it's either slinky underwear on a stripper or my tummy, which he often gives a very similar treatment. It's nice to be jealous sometimes, it reminds me that I should never take him for granted.

Oh, and of course he claims he didn't have any private dances.. Yeah, what ever.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Swimming

Life always seems better after a good swim. Today I am going back to work for the first time in about three weeks, I have been off on holiday with J and also went home to see my parents for a very rushed long weekend.

I really don't feel like going to work. I sense that I'll have a nervous breakdown if I don't succeed in finding a new job soon. I went as far as to turn to religion, while we were on holiday I went into one of the many magnificent cathedrals we visited and prayed sincerely for some direction. I put my fate in the hands of God, and said that I trusted that the path I am on is leading somewhere with meaning, that I am walking down this road full of clinically irritating psychopaths and megalomaniac managers for a reason. And I do kind of trust that life doesn't throw something at you that you can't handle. I felt better afterwards. Not like I saw the light or anything, but God or no God, I guess it is a way of cognitively rationalising life to oneself.

And I know that once I'm at work it will probably be so busy that I won't have time to think of how I'm wasting my talents walking around with a bunch of keys letting what is essentially spoilt brats into the laundry room and the patients property store every five minutes.

It is a lovely day today, nice and cool, a bit of sun, the water was very warm at one end of the pool, so I'm guessing the morning sun came in that way through one of the large windows. There are kids everywhere, I guess universities and colleges must have closed up shop for the summer, though the elementary school nearby is still going strong, I can hear kids playing through an open back door, and if I close my eyes I can almost imagine that they are on a beach, that the distant hum of traffic is the ocean.

So will God show me the meaning of all this? I am not sure. But I am waiting.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

So if I felt more sorry for myself I'd get published...

Juno. See, good. Not miserable.
J and I were discussing last week the merit of suffering in art.

We were watching the football (always fertile ground for discussions, especially since J, wishing to pay attention to the screen, tries to be as brief as possible in his debate, rather than going by his usual mantra "why use one word when ten will do"). Russia were winning which of course forced me to go on at length about what it is about the Russian people that makes them put up with God knows what amount of human rights abuses, corruption and an extremely badly dressed former KGB president.

Not to mention why they are intent on having their own facebook, their own blog platforms etc. etc.

Having exhausted these usual areas of exasperation, I went on to say that they seem to have some kind of suffering fetish as well. According to J's mum, Russians are so used to pain that it has become a way of life for them. OK, so the Soviet Union was quite harsh with Gulags, the aforementioned KGB etc. etc., but now they supposedly have a democracy and they are all just squandering it away by allowing the Duma's powers to be ever reduced and allowing the country's considerable natural resources line the pockets of the ridiculously rich whilst many still struggle to feed themselves and put a roof over their heads. The solution? Pander to racist nationalism and take it out on the "foreigners" whom were up until recently not foreign at all, but fellow Soviets, voluntarily or otherwise. Why do people put up with it? Are they scared, or do they simply not care?

Anyway, the discussion, punctured by Sweden's abysmal performance on the pitch, wound onto J arguing that at least Russia has punched above its weight in terms of science (yes, they did go to space..) and the arts (the Bolshoi are very good, I have to admit, they brought a tear to my eye several times and I don't even know anything about ballet whatsoever), maybe partly because of the pain.

"But would you argue that you can describe the complete spectrum of the human condition if you haven't ever been completely miserable," J asked.

I'm sorry. Oh purrlease. Suffering makes good art, you say? That's completely ridiculous.

Firstly, the "greatest", by which I mean most publicly reveered high art and literature, rarely comes from those whom I assume suffer the most, ie. those living under extremely deprived conditions, the underprivileged and undereducated.

No, it comes mostly from well educated self-indulgent people who sit around on their arse and have time to feel extremely sorry for themselves. It is so easy to create "art" from suffering.

Pain is an easy feeling to describe and to evoke in the recipient of the art piece. Just look around the internet, every second blog is written by someone who is a self-professed and most likely self-diagnosed depressive, or someone very angry, or just downright world hating. You hardly ever see any happy blogs.

Writing on the subject of happiness is seen as the domain of the self-help manual and dodgy self-improvement literature. But it's not. These books don't describe happines, they make a stab (usually in the dark) at describing how to attain it. And why? Because happiness is "boring". But how can we argue that happiness is boring? If it is, why do we all crave it?

I love nothing more than watching a good film which leaves me feeling uplifted and have faith in life. So why don't people create happy art more often? Because it's fucking hard, that's why. It is easy to depress your readers, it is nigh on impossible to lift their spirits (partly because they're miserable old buggers but that's a different matter).

So suffering makes great art? What-evvah. People write based on suffering because it's so hard to make happines materialise on the page or on canvas. And because it is so easy to make one self miserable, but so difficult to attain happiness. If it was easy, wouldn't we all just put art theory into practise and make ourselves happy?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

What a night can change

Photo by Losiek
It is raining outside today. Water droplets are lined up along the clothes wire outside like a pearl necklace on the blue nylon string. I was up until 0330 last night, doing nothing in particular, just enjoying being home alone and downloading sentimental crap from Limewire. At the very same time, unbenknownst to myself, my brother's girlfriend's waters broke.

He sent me a picture from his phone and called me at around 530 this morning. Everything went well, apparently. She started having strong contractions around 1900 last night, and they put some towels on the bed underneath her at home around 0230 in the morning, and then her waters broke a little later. They dashed off to hospital, only about a 10 minute drive from our house, in his brand new second hand estate car which he has bought for the occasion.

He said he had stayed with her almost the whole time, but that during the last pushing phase he had to step outside for a moment to gather himself. "There is just absolutely nothing you can do," he said on the phone, almost at a loss still. "And of course, to know that it is partly your fault that she is in so much pain." But needless to say, it was all worth it in the end. She was very brave and their baby girl and mother alike are both doing well and healthy. I will be calling my parents shortly. For the first time in weeks I felt very happy as I drifted back into sleep this morning, I felt strongly that I love my brother and as an extension of wanting to protect him, I also want to care for and protect his baby girl. It is a lovely feeling.

Friday, 20 June 2008

I was lying in the bath today, the bath curtains rustling out of the open window like a lover turning over in bed, still asleep, next to me. J is away on a stag do, which originally was meant to involve paintballing and lap dancing, but now has been cut down to only the paintballing, as apparently some of the guests complained about the costs.. Nothing to do with their partners complaining about the lap dancing, I'm sure.

I am alone in the house for once. Neurotic Flatmate II is off on holiday with her beloved mother, whilst her boyfriend (unofficial fourth flatmate of the house) is in the city of the university where he is purporting to be finishing off his PhD. He actually rang me today. A lovely chap he is, though unfortunately completely unattractive. So we are the four of us, J and Neurotic Flatmate II who are both linguists, and PhD and I who are both slaving away in very low paid jobs. The difference being, of course, that he has a bright future ahead of him in the oil industry, whilst I have a bright future ahead of me somewhere, though people fail to specify when I put them on the spot about it.

But back to the juicy lap dancers. Personally I wouldn't have minded J going. OK, so the thought of J fondling or kissing someone else drives me mad with jealousy, but to be honest, what I don't know can't hurt me. I would be hypocritical if I said that the thought of kissing someone else than him has never crossed my mind. I did tell him strictly no sex with Eastern European prostitutes, though. He said that was OK, and somehow I believe him. We are talking here of a man who has never been to a strip club. Even the one other time when he was offered a visit (another stag do, you will not be surprised to hear), he opted not to go and went to watch the rugby in a nearby bar instead. I am not making this up. Sometimes I really think my boyfriend might be gay. But of course he is not, or I would have known. I think.

It is hard to define exactly how I feel at the moment. I have been trying to listen to myself more, maybe the reason I find myself miserable so much of the time is that I never really stop to pay attention to what is actually going on in the present. I have always lived half with an eye on the horizon. But every time I stop to take stock, I find that I don't really know what I feel, except for anxious and this seething kind of impatience. I can't explain it, it feels like being hungry, though the feeling is not dampened by eating, which I've tried in the past but am now no longer trying, as I have decided I need to stop the excessive cheese eating which started during a recent holiday to France, and start eating... well, something else.

I have not blogged for a long time. I have not had the time nor energy. But maybe I should take the time to do so. I think it's good for me. Now where were those chocolate bisquits again...

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