Monday, May 31, 2010

365...

Here I am....365 days since the world changed. Well, my world anyway. And I was the one who changed it. 52 weeks, or 26 pays from work, and I got one year older. In some ways those numbers sound like nothing. Days and weeks fly by, weekends seem to be gone in the blink of an eye, yet when I think of where I was one year ago today it seems like a lifetime ago.

The 31st May 2009 was simply one of the worst days of my life. However, the build up to that point, and the fall out afterwards had some pretty goddam awfulness too. How do you tell someone it's over? If you're lucky, you both know it's coming. My first boyfriend and I were like that. We'd been together for over 9 years, and the relationship had just run it's course. Well and truly, and I think we both knew it.

This one was different. 13 years of ups and downs, highs and lows, a false start and a painful end. Interestingly he spent 24 hours talking me into going out with him. And he tried the same approach to stop the breakup - but 48 hours this time. Traumatic and exhausting for both of us. But it's always struck me as a weird symmetry how we began and ended.

If I'm honest, I still have flashes of specific moments of awfulness. Some of how hurt he was, and some of how he hurt me. It's only time that will dull those moments, and I've written before that I have to reconcile the pain I caused him within myself. It wasn't nice to do, and I tried the best I knew how. But at the ripe old age of 39 this was only my second relationship. And yet I've been in relationships for the greater part of my life. Since I was 15 and I only had 18 months alone in between.

The reality is it's 12 months on, and I feel different. Maybe it's because things are progressing, the end is in sight, one way or another the finish line will be crossed. There's much more time behind me now, than there is in front of me. And maybe that's part of the change in headspace. Maybe it's turning 40. Maybe it's getting engaged. Maybe it's all these things. As I wrote last time, I can look in the mirror and see the older me. I now have this wealth of experience behind me. And very luckily I've had the support of many lovely, caring and wonderful people. Through the awfulness, these people have kept my head above water and restored my faith in humanity. Someone may have been yelling and calling me every name under the sun, but the fabulous group of people around me, reminded me that this wasn't who I was. I wasn't the names being yelled.

I think I wrote once, that through pain comes growth. As I sit here, I now know this to be true. I had put parts of myself into boxes, some not to be opened as it was all too hard to deal with. But in the last 12 months I've slowly opened them one by one. Even the one's full of fear. I feel reconnected, whole, happy and content. I still have my shaky moments in dealing with the past, but I'm getting better at it. Everyday is one more step towards the end, and towards a new beginning. One more day towards letting it all go, and being free to be myself completely. No more boxes, no more hiding, just the future. Bring on the next 365!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

F.O.R.T.Y.

So here I am on the other side. I had feared, no....dreaded this number for about the last four years, I guess. It had come to represent so much for me. It wasn't quite a mid-life crisis I had, but when I asked my older friends, it seems it is not uncommon to have a look at where you are in life as you approach turning forty. I suppose I just started looking a little earlier than most.

I think if I'm honest with myself, I had built forty up to be a doorway. One side of the door had opportunities and the other didn't. And if you haven't picked up on the subtle subtext, I was fretting about aging as a woman, and about the fact that getting older meant that the possibility of having a child was diminishing. And that's ultimately what made me take a huge leap of faith almost one year ago. It didn't matter what age I was, in my old relationship I wanted something different to my partner. And it took me 13 years to figure that out. Better late than never.

But the view from 36, 37 & 38 were all painful. All I could see was the door closing. And an immense feeling of being trapped and boxed in. I was suffocating in that relationship, and turning all the pain in on myself. As that's what I do. So from those ages I saw 40 approaching and honestly thought I'd be curled up in a ball sobbing as the calendar turned over to 22nd May 2010. I could in no way have imagined how different it would be.

May 22nd began with me waking up next to the man who had one week earlier asked me to marry him. We're still beaming with the joy of it all. We got up leisurely, went into the city and visited the shop Little Cupcakes. We strolled down to the Yarra on a gloriously sunny morning and sat and ate our treats enjoying the sights. Text messages kept beeping from friends wishing me a happy birthday. Peter and I then went to visit one of our favourite places - the Outre Gallery. And unbeknown to me, Peter had ordered a framed print for my present. Such a surprise, but I cannot believe I now have my very own Angelique Houtkampt. Huge hugs and kisses ensue.

We get home in time to chill out before we head out for dinner. I'd invited about 20 friends to come along to a pub I spent many, many nights of my 20s and 30s in. The Empress has that grungy, comfortable feel and because it was so cold, an open fire was roaring in the dining room. One by one my friends arrived, and trying to juggle hostess duties and catch up with everyone proved tough. You never get a chance to talk to everyone properly. And then I gathered everyone around and announced the news, that Peter and I were getting married. Shrieks, cheers, hugs and kisses. You couldn't hope for a better response. And our friend Daniel made a small toast to us both, which was funny and touching. By the end of the evening I was exhausted.

I woke up the next morning, and as I looked in the bathroom mirror I noticed something. No, not the grey hairs or wrinkles - they started a while ago. I looked at my face and I could see the older me. She was calm and contented and happy. Peter said that when he turned 40 the year before, it was amazing as all the anxiety and pretension fell away. You become more comfortable within yourself. And as I looked in the mirror, that's what I saw. Me. Forty. Older and stronger and more experienced. Happier, joyous and beaming. I am living the life I feel comfortable in, I know that life is on the path it should be.

The door wasn't closing, but it still felt like walking through to somewhere else. A place with opportunities and possibilities and joy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

imperfect / perfect

It has been a big couple of weeks. After much stress we have finally reached a point where the house my Ex and I own will be sold in just over a month. It has taken 346 days to get to this point. I can't tell you how relieved I am about this. The end is officially in sight, and in time the past will be just that...the past.

In the meantime I've also been rapidly approaching my 40th birthday with a whole heap of mixed feelings. However, once the stress mentioned above subsided, I've been in a better headspace. But they'll be more about the birthday after I actually hit that weird number.

So, how was my weekend, I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you about it. My parents had sold their house and moved into a retirement village which is all brand new and sparkly and spacious and great for them. I had missed my Mum's birthday and Mother's day, due to the 'no car' factor. But the time had come to go and visit them. Peter and I had hired a car, which was to be picked up in the city. On our way there, the tram ahead of us was derailed meaning we would have to get out and wait for an alternative. On finally reaching the car rental place, the queue was out the door and down the stairs. I couldn't believe it. Somewhere between 30 - 45 minutes of waiting and we finally have keys to a car we didn't order and was bigger and more difficult for me to drive. I eventually got into cruising mode, but then hit peak hour midday shopping traffic combined with roadworks and almost missed the turn off to the main road heading towards my folks. Then we missed the small road turn off into the estate where they now reside. Overall, I was stressed and about an hour later than I thought we'd be.

A nice day was had, their new place is wonderful and well equipped, and I couldn't be happier for them. After a number of hours it was time to head home. The sun was just starting to set and the sky was the most beautiful dusky pink. Driving along with a stream of cars behind me, Peter began to say something. I yelled 'not while I'm driving' and he said I should find the first turn off I could. So there in a little side road in Freshwater Creek, with a service station on one side and a little country house selling apples at their front door on the other, Peter got me to stop the car. And he asked me to marry him. It wasn't what I imagined and it certainly wasn't where I had imagined. At all! But with a heart bursting at the seams, I said yes. We may have giggled like idiots for some time afterwards. Then, as I was about to pull out to go back onto the main road, a semi-trailer raced around the corner and almost collected our car. What a day!

As we drove, Peter said he'd been wanting to ask me for a while. He'd been waiting for things to be more settled, and hopefully sorted with the house. He'd wanted a perfect moment, that would seem the right time. But then with all the things that went wrong on Saturday 15th May, he realised that there is no perfect moment. All these obstacles and hurdles presented themselves, and apart from a bit of stress, we muddled through, laughing and still having a good time overall. And in that moment he knew it had to be now.

It reminds me of a story I heard once about a woman who made quilts. They had ornate patterns and on completing a large quilt she realised that she'd made a mistake. She contemplated unpicking the quilt, but left it. Her reasoning: life is not perfect. So she now purposely puts small flaws in her work to replicate this idea that nothing is perfect. And I've always really liked that.

Life is imperfect, but it's how you deal with it that counts. I have someone in my life who helps me put things in perspective, who makes me smile and be filled with joy, even through all the hard times of the last 18 months. More than my best friend, he is truly my partner. We have a connection unlike anything I've ever known. I can talk to him about anything, even the difficult stuff and even when I have to force myself. And he will always listen. And talk. And understand. And on a day filled with imperfection, the man I love like no other, who makes me feel so incredibly special, asked me to marry him...and it was perfect.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes...

Life's funny. Sometimes the closer you get to the finish line, the further away it feels. I've had an odd couple of weeks. I was all nerves as my lawyer was worried that things had stalled and was throwing down the threat to go to court. This was designed to get a response, but also to have "plan B" if nothing happened. God - how horrifying. Expensive, traumatic and the last thing on earth I wanted. Luckily, the Ex's lawyer responded and now I've been advised to move forward to get the house sold.

And that's thrilling, but also fucking huge and scary too. This ties into the other reason it's been weird of late. I've been quite down. Not really having any money, and especially not having a car is really getting to me. It's hard to explain how having a car is representative of freedom to me. I grew up in a one car house. My Dad worked shift work, and so Mum was left to juggle three kids mostly on public transport. Everything from grocery shopping, visits to the orthodontist, or anything at all had to be negotiated around Dad's work timetable or the bus schedule. Even to this day, with just Mum and Dad at home together, I know she still feels guilty if she needs the car and that means leaving Dad at home without transport. I'm sure that feeling of guilt has never worked the other way.

I remember saving for my first car. A beat up old Mazda 323, gold in colour and just a bit shabby or pre-loved, depending on how you look at it. But it was amazing. I could go anywhere and anytime I wanted. I'd grab car loads of friends and we'd go to gigs anywhere. The most we ever travelled was one weekend: friday night, to a gig in Geelong, saturday night to a gig in frankston, and then sunday arvo to and all-ages show in Croydon. A car full of girls hula dancing down the freeway to Supergrass's Alright and with tongue firmly in cheek, singing along to the trash of Kiss's I was made for loving you. Life affirming party music which would put a spring in our step and a smile on our faces.

My car also took me to many adventures along the Great Ocean Road. I went camping with my friend Denise, and although we knew each other, we'd not spent 24/7 together ever! We were excited and nervous. On our first night camping, we stayed up and talked for hours in a tiny 2 man tent that used to be my Dads. We both laughed saying we thought we'd build up to the deep and meaningful stuff over the week. But, nope, within hours were were talking about the 'big issues'. To this day I have an amazing flashback near Moggs Creek where we were driving along listening to Nirvana and saw dolphins arching in the waves. Territorial Pissings was on and seemed to sum up the urgency to pull over to the side of the road and rush towards the water to see them enjoying the beautiful sunny day.

I like the freedom having a car gives me. I can do a lot of things on public transport, but it takes all day just to run one errand, where as I used to chase up numerous things on my way home from work. I'm too tired now to even think of it and find myself opting to not do things. And after 8 months without a car I feel very boxed in. The irony being that I'm finally in a relationship where options I dreamt of are finally possibilities, and I really feel relaxed within myself. But without money or a car I feel so trapped. And I hate it.

In reality I know that things will change and I will get myself out of this box too. I just have to keep facing the big scary crap to do it. Perhaps I should be relieved that 'change in inevitable'. This is just a difficult moment and in time things will be different. I was just googling quotes about change. And there are a couple which are good reminders for me "Life is change, Growth is optional. Choose wisely". This reminds me to pay attention to this time, be aware and learn from what is happening. And this one I like because it's from Ben Franklin, who legend has it was a distant relative "When you're finished changing, you're finished". A reminder that all things change, or should. We're not designed to stop developing or evolving.

And yes - the song that inspired the title of this blog entry Changes by David Bowie:
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don't want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

Time MAY change me, but my money is on the fact that it already has.