Sunday, February 28, 2010

Belonging


It's been such a busy week that I've barely had a second to myself. But I've found myself a quiet moment, and now I can write. And as Uni starts again tomorrow, I thought I should make the most of it. I went to a rally on tuesday. The S.L.A.M. (Save Live Australia's Music) rally. It was to protest the laws which have meant the closure of Melbourne's small grungy sticky carpet pubs. These are places I have frequented since I was sixteen. Melbourne's music scene is one of the many things I love about living here. Little bands, playing to a handfull of people every night of the week somewhere across this town is what makes it great. All types of music, played by all kinds of people, in all kinds of venues. Fan-freaken-tastic!

But the threat that licensing laws have made on the livelihoods of so many people in the music industry is devastating. From publicans, musicians, mixers, crew, bookers, and in the case of our beloved Tote - the complete closure meaning everyone from the cleaners to the bar staff no longer have a workplace. The beer-soaked rock 'n' roll culture is being eroded.

Luckily, there are those who say NO to this. They say NO loud enough and care enough to do something about it. And these wonderful people organised a rally. On tuesday 23rd February at 4pm they came. All ages, young and old, all types, musicians and music lovers alike. It was estimated that around 10,000 people came along. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and this diverse crowd were all there to make one unified statement...Don't kill live music. The vibe was amazing, and as I and a friend walked amongst many others, reading the home made signs, in this eclectic mix of humanity, I felt an amazing sense of belonging.

I have felt this way a few times in my life. Usually at music related events - such as the Meredith Music festival, The Community Cup (charity footy match between RRR & PBS staffers Versus the Rock Dogs [local musos]), Brunswick street festival, RRR events or various gigs. It's something I've not felt in other crowds, and is interestingly more apparent when I'm in a group of diverse individuals. I'm not quite sure what gives me this sense of belonging, but it is an incredible feeling.

And it makes me realise how important belonging can be. We all need to feel that we have a place in life, that there is somewhere that we fit, that there are others who understand us. Perhaps the old saying of 'united we stand, divided we fall' rings true. Is it a primal sense of being safer in a herd than on your own? I'm not sure. But being part of something feels great. Community is under-rated.

I was thinking about this on the way home from the rally. And while doing so, I had another revelation. There is another equally important sense of belonging we should have. That sense of belonging within ourselves. It is a feeling I have only recently begun to feel. As mentioned before, I am calmer and more content within myself, in myself. I still have moments where I wish things were different, but overall I'm beginning to like the person I am, and feeling more like 'me' every day. And that sense of comfort at the person I look at in the mirror, knowing that I am being true to myself, is an incredible feeling....as I have my last few months of being 39. And the reason I know this, is because I see people who struggle with themselves every day. Maybe they'll never reach a point where that true belonging, both in a crowd and within themselves occurs. But I have to say, for the payoff it brings, it's worth working at each day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Collateral Damage

It's been another action packed week regarding the trials and tribulations of extracting myself from my old life. A phone call to the Ex on monday resulted in a barrage of more insults and talk that goes in circles. I am accused of making things hard on myself, yet I don't know how to negotiate with someone who can't grow up and process the situation he has found himself in. Insults and abuse are not negotiating tactics. Maybe in guantanamo bay, but not in your average relationship breakup, and not continuously for over 7 months. So, I am now resigned to talking to lawyers - whatever the expense. The emotional and mental toll it takes every single time is now too much. I cannot put myself though it. I can no longer see him in person, or even speak on the phone. The distress, anxiety, tears and pain caused has hit rock bottom and it's time to admit defeat and pay for a human shield between me and him.

But what distresses me most of all, is the collateral damage. I knew Peter was distressed by hearing or seeing me upset, but I have not felt the depth of this distress so much as this week. He has been patient and bitten his tongue for months and months. He's tried to be supportive and not tell me what to do. To give me space and time to sort this out. But the flip side of that is also seeing me like a crumpled up piece of paper. There have been times where to keep it together when encountering the Ex, means a delayed reaction afterwards. And without fail - it's tears and distress and confusion and lots of it. Peter has been my lifeline, the calming voice on the phone every single time, to tell me each meeting is a step forward, that the names that have been yelled at me is not who I am, and that together we can weather any storm.

Sometimes his frustration at the situation comes out, but it's never made me distressed to hear it. Because it's human, and measured, and honest. We all need to let the safety valve pop when the pressure gets too much. It would be unnatural if he could hold his tongue for 8 months! The amazing thing is that to counter every momentary rant, there is also an understanding of the situation from a human perspective. I have found that Peter also makes concessions, like I do. Life is complex, people are human and some more human than most.

I am lucky that I am able to talk to him about this all. From the minutiae, to the big picture of 'people', more than just individuals. Life in all it's chaos and glory. In these moments I know that I have found the person for me. The one. In the 12 months I have now known him, I am so acutely aware that he feels like a missing piece of me. The piece that makes me complete. Happy. Calm. Contented. It is a feeling quiet unlike anything I have known.

I found myself today at a conference. It was held in a snazzy new building in the city. A colleague and I were admiring the design and architecture, and there was this glass panel section of a waist height barrier. We were two stories up, and if you looked over the barrier, you could see right down to the ground floor. It felt thrilling to walk up to the glass and feel like you were on the edge of this great height. My colleague stood back, saying how it made her feel uneasy. It was again a reminder that I would have felt just like her 12 months ago. I had noticed that I was developing vertigo even to the point where walking on a pier made me feel uneasy. I don't know when it started. I was never that way as a kid. But I think that the general anxiety levels I was experiencing from being in my old relationship, was bringing out these other symptoms. I was anxious about so many things. The relationship with my family, about keeping the peace, about getting home on time, about going out with my friends, about wanting a life that my partner didn't. It was like wearing a jacket as a teenager and growing into adulthood, feeling it pinch across the shoulders, feeling it restrict your movement, actions, development. The moment the ill fitting jacket came off made me feel like I could breath again. And with that jacket, went all the fear I was holding on to.

The problem is that the jacket still sits in the corner. I am not entirely rid of it. And any moment I have to deal with it, is a harsh reminder of where I was and especially, where I was headed. The time has come. I am calling in reinforcements. It must be done and done soon. I can no longer deal with the situation. And this week has made me realise that I have to get this sorted out for myself, but also for the amazing person who has been there for me every step of the way. There will be no collateral damage from this, as I won't allow it. Peter is too precious to me to have it any other way. Those old habits of giving concessions to people who treat me badly, must stop. If not for me, than for him. But mostly for us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We are Family


Maybe it's because Christmas is not long gone, or maybe it's because of my own situation, but I have become acutely aware of families. I have many friends with all sorts of differing relationships with their family, and I think just about every issue under the sun. Some people seem to be so entwined within their family that a sense of suffocation is felt. Others feel the harshness of distance, either physically or emotionally. And no matter your age, these issues are always present in some form or another.

On reflection, it makes me think that my family and any issues we may have are quite, well, garden variety. Maybe I'm lucky, as I seem to get along with all my family. We don't live in each other's pockets, but I know that if I needed them, they'd be there in a heartbeat for me. I have space to grow and be myself, and any difference I exhibit is accepted, as well...difference. I am the youngest of three children, and am the only girl. Yes - the baby and a girl - a dangerous combination. There are some years between my brothers and I, as our Mum was widowed after emigrating to Australia and having my two brothers. She then re-married and had me. And although my brothers have their Dad's surname, I've never felt like a 'half' sister. The glorious thing about coming along last, is that when I arrived, it's just how things are. We're one family with different names.

I think we all had some difficult years growing up, namely because Dad was a grumpy bugger at the best of times. However, now that he is elderly and in ill-health, those angst-ridden years don't carry the weight they once did. Sure, issues are still there, and his impact on our behaviour and development is still present to this day. But right now, I am seeing him differently. Not knowing how long he will be with us, is enabling me to put aside those childhood and teenage hurts, and be in the moment with him. Rather than focussed on years gone by.

In dealing with all the fall out I am currently still wading through, I know that if I needed my brother's help, they would be there. If I asked Craig (my eldest brother) to come along when I meet up with my Ex (so he can't threaten or abuse me, at least without a witness), I'm sure he would. And Dale, my other brother, rang me the other day to give me some advice and the name and number of a lawyer. He doesn't think I should put myself in the firing line any more, and that whatever it costs to get this sorted, is worth the money so that I stop getting hurt and can move forward faster with my life.

I am fortunate in that I love my brothers, and am lucky enough to respect them as people, and father's in their own right. They have great wives and fabulous kids. And although we don't often catch up (partially through distance and because of everyone's busy lives) I know, to borrow a phrase, they have my back. I have posted this photo of Dale and I. To me it sums up our relationship, and it always makes me smile. Whether either of us realise it, he has always looked out for me. When I had my first minor car bingle, he was the one who took me outside to look at the car, assess the damage and take control. And again the other day, he rings trying to help and to make sure that I am not getting too damaged. And I thank him for this.