Life/Death/Life

I recently became acutely aware that somewhere along the line, I got lost in the woods in relating to heterosexual men. This is a problem because I love them and one day, so the idea goes, I will probably end up hanging out with the same (lucky?) dude most days until I die. Or they die, whoever goes first. Prior to someone’s death it might be quite nice to have a pretty house, go on lots of holidays, have some kids, have lots of sex, smile and laugh a lot and eat some good food. That would be cool, and by the time this happens we’ll probably be able to coordinate a joint  Netflix stream directly to the Apple iChips in our brains. Sounds fun!

I know that if I want that to happen, and I do, I need to find some way to forgive men, find a gentler way of relating to them and stop being so cynical about their intentions. For this reason I chose a male psychotherapist, and I am slowly allowing myself to trust him in hope that a masculine influence will help me find a path back to healthy relationships. I need to acknowledge and understand my own role in creating difficult situations. It’s still a murky mess and I have no idea what I’m doing, but hopefully I’ll get there.  There are men who want relationships with me, there are men who want to be friends with me, there are men who want to be friends and have sex with me, there are men who only want to have sex with me.

I’m trying to understand that there’s nothing inherently cruel or dismissive about any of these options; I have wanted men in all of these different ways for my own reasons at some time or another. Sometimes the way they want me may not be clear to them straight away and this can make things confusing – it’s difficult for me to be patient with that but it’s what happens in life so I have to try. I am also striving to accept (and here’s the kicker), that someone wanting me in a different way to how I want them does not mean they think I’m unworthy or unloveable. It’s just two people wanting a human connection in two different ways.  I’m slowly accepting that the love I give as a friend is worth just as much, I suppose in some ways even more, than the love I could give as a partner. In an even bigger challenge, I’m becoming resolved to the fact that I have absolutely no control over how, or how much, another person wants me.

A mismatch in the ways two people want to be wanted by each other sometimes means it’s too hard to hang out, and the loss can feel really upsetting. It can be hard for both people not to feel bitter about not being able to get what they want or think they need from the other person. It may feel really lonely for a while. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés explains the importance of embracing the  Life/Death/Life nature of femininity. In her most powerful form, a woman knows when to look at a situation she had previously nourished, and let it die. People are usually scared of this happening and rail against it, thinking that only death can follow death. In actual fact, nature makes it so that death always clears the way for more life. Allowing a situation in which two people are unhappy with how they relate to each other to die gracefully, clears a path for new life. I suppose in the case mentioned above, this could mean a new way of relating to each other that makes both parties happy, or it could just mean being able to move on and find what they want and need from other people without bitterness in their hearts.

I’m tired of being bitter, and I’m exhausted from being so angry for such a long time. I just want to be able to love, and sometimes loving someone means letting them go.

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#MattandMatt2017

On April 15th 2017 I gave a speech at my brother from another mother’s wedding at Tower Bridge. By popular demand, and because love is lovely, here it is:

“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jill and I have been Matt Spicer’s friend since we were born only a month apart. We grew up in Armadale, Western Australia, and we both had the undercuts to prove it! I am absolutely honoured to be able to speak to you today about the kind of man Matt Spicer is, and to describe the incredible bond he has with his husband Matthew Coltrona.

I feel it is a cosmic blessing that Matt and I have always just ‘got’ each other. When I think back to our childhoods, I see a confident boy with sandy blonde hair, freckles, a wide smile and blue, mischievous eyes. I also see a girl with uncontrollable hair, a mouth that was always quick to laugh when she was with her best friend, as well as eyes that were sometimes filled with uncertainty.

Where I was shy, Matt was outgoing. Where I was hesitant to take risks, Matt was fearless. Where I was clumsy and couldn’t run, swim or catch a ball, Matt was zipping around barefoot in the bush, doing it all. We spent days in the pool playing mermaids, me in the shallow end and Matthew in the deep. We made Jane Fonda workout home videos (sadly lost in the mists of time). We had sleepovers when we would giggle and whisper all night long. We tormented our little brothers and Matt’s older sister, and they tormented us back. Our families spent every Christmas together and we would laugh at our parents dancing to Neil Diamond and walking straight through fly-screen doors. And always, always, when we knew it was time for one of us to leave, we would run as far away from the grown-ups as we could and hide, treasuring our time together up to the last second.

Matt’s gentle, accepting and patient nature helped me come out of my shell. He built me up, and my trust in him was, and still is, unshakeable. He was the first person with whom I ever cried with laughter, and is still one of the few people who can reduce me to helpless giggles with only a sideward glance, a pregnant pause or a drawn out syllable. Let’s face it, if someone can stay friends with you when you look like this, they’re a keeper.

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Ew.

All of this has continued as we’ve grown older. Matt has always been there – reliable, stoic and practical as a lighthouse in stormy seas. I remember panicking in Matt’s car about moving out of home. As I wailed “But I don’t even know how to make SPAGHETTI!”, he calmly gave me a step-by-step explanation of how to boil pasta and make a bolognese sauce. No wonder his cooking is so good nowadays!

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some opportunities to repay the favour. I recall Matt’s 21st birthday dinner, when it became apparent he had downed one too many red wines. He disappeared off to the bathroom, with Megan and I following around 10 minutes later. Matt had generously repainted the restaurant’s hallway, and had taken a little nap in the stalls. We got him back on his feet, and as we were apologising and paying the bill, Matt staggered over and still tried to get the restaurant to accept his Entertainment Card voucher.

You can understand then, that when this dashing, handsome Italian man came along and made it beyond the impossible 4-month mark with my Matt in July 2005, I was slightly concerned that Matt Spicer, and our friendship, would not stay the same.

As it turns out, I was right. Neither of those things were ever the same. They have evolved, expanded, and experienced even more joy and boundless possibilities because of this wonderful person. Matthew Coltrona’s articulate wit combines with an intelligence matched only by his unquestionable moral fibre. He is something of a Renaissance man, enjoying a high-flying career whilst casually refurbishing pianos, writing and illustrating children’s books, churning out Michelin Star-quality meals, and all while laughing, feeling feelings and being a dream partner to my dearest friend.

I look towards their relationship as a model of what love should be. Honest, respectful, patient, accepting and supporting of each other’s endeavours, I have never heard them say a cruel word against the other, nor have I seen them turn away when there was an opportunity to turn towards. They have built countless memories and made innumerable commitments to each other. Their shared homes, their holidays, their ‘special’ dog Napoleon and their adventure to make a new life in London were all ways of saying “I love you.” The inclusion of their friends and family in many of these escapades were ways of saying “we love you.” Their strengths complement each other perfectly and I truly could not have imagined a better person for my dearest friend to spend his life with. I believe they have found their soulmate and I cannot imagine them apart.

What was my lighthouse has become a bridge. A bridge with two equal towers forged of concrete, steel and granite. Those towers are joined together with love, communication, integrity, lightheartedness and acceptance. The connection between them is strong enough to open sometimes and let the waters flow by, carrying away any resentments. Each tower is supported to stand upright from either side with the steady ties of their backgrounds, their families, the things that make them unique and the new, important and always delightful friendships they make along the way.

The bridge on which we celebrate tonight took 8 years to build and has stood for 122 years. As Matt and Matt enter their 12th year of building their future together, I have no doubt their bridge will stand steadfast for the rest of their lives, and will leave a lasting impression on all who behold it. I am utterly, utterly proud to be able to support that bridge, and I hope we are all able to admire its beauty as we do Tower Bridge’s beauty tonight.”

I love you guys xxx

 

Standing Still

I touched down in Perth almost two months ago. To be honest there is not a lot I remember about the 5 months preceding the 31st of December 2016. I have some crystal clear memories – frantically handing over my caseload to a fresh new Speech and Language Therapist, trying not to cry; power walking down the road in Seven Sisters to pick up some sleeping pills for my flight; staring up at the ceiling from the floor of my friend’s apartment on Christmas Eve; a vet tapping my dog’s eyeball to check if he is dead. The rest of it is hazy – nights wrapped up watching Now TV in my new room, staying on ‘my’ side despite there no longer being a claim on the other side of the bed. My friends’ loving and concerned faces on the opposite sides of pub tables…more nights spent on their couches or in their spare rooms, politely asking for permission to do simple things like boil the kettle or charge my phone, wishes that are of course granted but nonetheless would have warranted no such enquiry in my own nonexistent home. There are other memories too – the faces of the clients I took on in those months, the parents I met working as a nanny, the date I went on and the nice way I turned him down. The moments I could have been nasty but instead handed roses to a man while he lit me on fire. The warm faces of the family I lived with between my separation and my departure from London, making a gingerbread house with their 3 year old and watching their 1 year old son start to walk. Lying on their couch at midnight screaming into an empty house after being turned away from the couch I had previously owned; walking aimlessly around Brixton for I don’t know how many hours wearing a giant faux fur coat, holding a cardboard box with some soap and half a bottle of red wine and my dead dog’s collar and a ball he chewed before he died, crying and wishing that somebody, anybody would see me and ask me what’s wrong. Wondering why the crazy people aren’t trying to talk to me and realising that tonight, I am the crazy person, the invisible one, the one you shouldn’t make eye contact with. Someone comes up to look inside my box and walks away. It’s finally happened – I’m not going to be OK. Calling my parents at 4.50am and not forming words, crying, wailing like I have never wailed before, so much that my Mum who never cries starts crying. I take a strong sleeping pill on my flight and chase it down with a whiskey, waking up with an alarming pain in my leg and on the other side of the world.

Now I am standing still. There are no longer three jobs to do across three counties. There are no pets to look after. There is no relationship to tend, no baby to keep trying for. No house savings to add to. There are friends and family who keep me alive. And there is me, slowly coming out of survival mode and wondering where to put all of this adrenalin, these memories and this anger.

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Your name is Jill. You have just been dumped.

Sometimes being dumped doesn’t seem like a dumping at first, it seems a bit mutual. At some points it even seems like you should do the dumping, because sometimes people who want to break up try to convince their partners to break up with them first so they don’t have to. This is generally called Being a Coward. Doing this can make the person who was convinced they wanted the breakup to feel like they have made The Right Decision. This is mostly about protecting their own pride and trying not to be hurt.

After a couple of weeks, you might decide that despite your pride, you do not want to break up. You do not want to Not Touch, Stop Trying, Give Up Your Dreams, Not Speak To Him, Lose Your Best Friend, Move House, Not Be A Team, Give Up Your Dog, Force Yourself Not To Worry About Him, Live Separate Lives, Not Follow Each Other’s Dreams, Not Know Him Anymore, Have Sex With Other People, Become Past Tense. It is OK to not want these things. These things are very sad.

When the person who was supposed to be convinced realises they don’t want to break up anymore, it forces the person who wants to break up to give lots of Reasons. These Reasons can be categorised into Environmental Reasons (geography, employment, support network, crazy dog). They can also be Communication Reasons (avoiding talking about problems, being too bossy, being too passive, not saying the right words in the right tone of voice, using hints instead of direct communication). These Reasons are all Fixable. Once people start talking about them openly, they can be addressed. Sometimes people want to address them, sometimes people don’t. When people say they don’t want to address them and you do, it can make you feel confused and frustrated and ask ‘Why?!’ a lot.

The person who wants to break up will sometimes tell you about their Life Reasons (confused about life, what they want from life, what they think you want from life, think you are probably a Bad Thing in their life causing lots of trouble, think they are ruining your life, want a totally different life). Life Reasons seem a lot harder to Fix, but you say you are ready to live a better, less boring life too, with them! They don’t want you to. Sometimes people want to Let You Down Gently (this can also be called Being Confused depending on who you ask and what mood you are in), and when you ask if they still love you, they say yes. When you ask if they are still in love with you, they say yes. This is confusing in the context of them not wanting you to run away with them. People don’t always tell the truth. Not telling the truth is what humans do a lot of the time, so it is normal and Expected.

To the person who wants to break up, all of the above Reasons and related discussions would seem Enough. Sometimes the person who has wanted to break up has been thinking about it and getting ready for it inside their head for a long time. This means they start seeming OK sooner, and not wanting to talk anymore. They can be a bit relieved and start acting friendly. This is normal and happens to a lot of people – you have done this thing before when you have been the person who wanted to break up. It can be hard to understand that this is very hurtful.

Usually the person who wants to break up is the one who Leaves. But, in this situation, you are the one who has to Leave. This takes time to arrange, and this means that you have to share the house for a while. This is not a Usual Breakup Thing. The person who wants to break up thinks you should be friendly and be able to be around them in the same house without crying too much or talking too much or asking ‘If you still love me, why?!’ too much. You have to keep Doing Things like working, closing down your business, looking for somewhere to live, packing up all your things, realising you don’t have a job anymore after September (because you quit it to Follow Him Around). At first you want to seem like A Rational Person and show that you still love him and that he could change his mind if he wanted to. This makes the person who wants to break up feel comfortable and pleased by your acceptance. But eventually, having to do things that make you very scared about your life makes you feel upset and angry and ask ‘Why?!’ more. It makes you ask them to get out of the house and sleep on sofas. This can make the person who wants to break up feel frustrated and fed up with you.

Sometimes the person who wants to break up doesn’t understand your feelings anymore, or understands but doesn’t care as much. Sometimes they can’t understand why you’re so upset and why you can’t accept it’s over. This is normal. This means things happen like when you’re standing in the kitchen with them and they’re looking at you with cold eyes and a face they have never looked at you with before and they’re saying “I DON’T WANT TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU” and “I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU ANYMORE.” These things can make you feel like you have been punched in the chest. These things can make you realise this was always The Real Reason. The person who wants to break up can feel angry you made them say The Real Reason. Some people can infer The Real Reason themselves. You are not one of those people. You don’t pick up on hints easily and need people to spell things out for you (this was even a Communication Reason). Now it has been spelt out, you know.

Sometimes people stop loving each other. That’s OK, that’s normal. That happens a lot. In history, even your own personal history, this is not A Bad Breakup. Bad Breakups involve other people and smashing cars. Bad Breakups involve people’s life partners suddenly disappearing forever. Some people never get given any Reasons. If this was a movie you were watching, you might even be rooting for the person who wants to break up. You would find whimsical, life-affirming meaning in their Rumspringa (or Midlife Crisis, however you want to look at it). You might wish it were you who was strong enough to want to start their life again. But it isn’t a movie. In movies people sometimes come back, but this is real life and you know he will never come back. Even if he ended up thinking he was wrong, he would never, ever tell you. If he ever felt regret he would just cherish the pining, long stares, wounded eyes and heavy sighs it would elicit.

So now there is nothing you can do and you are Very Sad. Your eyes always seem heavy and you feel like a hollowed out shell-person. You’re not very hungry anymore. That’s normal – don’t panic. Some of your friends might say “He just needs some time alone and I’m sure it’s not over.” Some of your friends might say “You’ll look back on this and realise he did you a favour.” Some of your friends will say “You weren’t happy anyway, move on.”  Some friends will say “He didn’t mean what he said in the kitchen.” Most friends will say that what he said in the kitchen was final and unambiguous. You might never know which of these is true, and that’s OK. Some things you don’t need to know or can infer later. You should try not to think about this.

You will feel sad when you see pictures of him accidentally, or if you think of a nice memory. That’s normal. You might feel sad when other people have all the things you two had planned to have together. You should try not to for their sake. If you feel sad, you can make a funny joke, or remember you don’t want those things with someone who says they’re not in love with you anymore anyway.

Sometimes when people get dumped they think something is wrong with them. They might think they always do The Wrong Thing in relationships, or that they are Quite Ugly or Innately Unloveable. Or, they might think they don’t know how to pick people who are good for them, and they will always choose people who end up saying “I’m not in love with you anymore.” Some people say “You should be alone now” – this is probably true, even though it makes you feel angry because you did not expect to be alone all of a sudden. You’re not sure if you’re meant to change everything you do next time, or if there will be someone who you don’t have to change for or work very hard to be with, or if there are any men out there who have gone through the growing up bit already and could just love you. These are all normal things to think and feel and wonder about.

If you feel very bad, there are things you can do that are Good Ideas. These include: calling your family, calling a friend, hanging out with kids, doing some exercise, drawing a picture, writing something, going to an exhibition, going to see live music.

Things that are Bad Ideas are: drinking too much, asking him ‘why’ again, looking at pictures, asking your friends about what he’s doing, thinking about what his next girlfriend will be like (willshebeyoungerprettiersmartermoreleftwingskinnier?), thinking about what his next house will look like, letting yourself worry a lot about how he’s doing, going on dating apps (because men are all horrible).

Things that are Undecided Ideas are: coming back to the house sometimes to see your dog, trying to be friends one day, taking up smoking again, thinking about how much happier he will be from an objective point of view, having sex with strangers. These will probably become clearer with time, but for now it is best to file Undecided Ideas as a subcategory of Bad Ideas.

This weekend you will move out and that will be The End.

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Transition

Once again I come back to my humble blog after a long absence, like returning home to see a friend. I haven’t had the ‘voice’ for it for a while – for me it was always about being filled with wonder and excitement about the changes I was experiencing in my life, and for a long time things have been static. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but plodding along with a settled in predictability. After going through a transformative time leaving Perth and settling in London 4 years ago (earning buttloads of cash as a locum Speech and Language Therapist and therefore travelling loads), last year I took two part-time jobs with normal salaries and began the same daily grind as most of the other people who live here.

Life is no longer a holiday; short-term hedonism has been replaced with long-term goals and sacrifices in order to land the end result – higher up the ladder, spread across more rooms and up the duff. I may not be able to go out to nice places for dinner as often as I used to, but I have jobs where people actually know who I am and where I have the same ‘rights’ (locums aren’t allowed to access training, work in the holidays or get any leave entitlements), as everyone else. I have cred, I have gravitas. I commit to things and I can wish my colleagues a happy holiday and know I will be there to see them when they get back. I have been off my anxiety and nerve pain medication for 6 months and I am managing it well because I do grown up things like exercise and meditate and do therapy and eat healthily and buy milled flaxseed.

In a way embracing long-term goals has in itself been exciting. Never before in my life have I looked further than, well…. 0 years ahead. Money was for spending on things that you wanted right then. You could just get more if you ran out. I’d never had a boyfriend where marriage and children were more than just abstract, millions-of-years-away things that happened to other people. My disdain for authority and work politics meant that I never wanted to be involved and competitive. Settling down and being earnest was for losers. Swoop in, shoot out the lights and leave. Hurricane Jill.
Now though…what’s changed now? I want children and a big fuck off house and an awesome job that gives me enough money to be able to live like a grown up. I guess this just happens naturally. I’ve lived in London for three and a half years and in the last year I have halved my income and doubled my rent to live just with my boyfriend in a flat in Zone 1 so he can commute up to Bedford and even though we are both professionals we have no money and no space and WHY DID I LEAVE AUSTRALIA WHERE I COULD BE RICH AND HAVE A 5 BEDROOM HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT?! What have I done? I’ve delayed growing up and now suddenly here I am in the middle of what was supposed to be a huge adventure, grown up and in the words of Snap!, as serious as cancer. Is this a good place to be grown up? If it weren’t for my fizzling out ovaries would I be growing up? Why didn’t I save some money to freeze my eggs? Why didn’t I save any money for anything? Where are those anxiety meds again?!
So fine, if I have to be a grown up, then I will plan out our new grown up life. You want long-term plans? I will give you the most comprehensive grown up plan you’ve ever fucking seen. I will get my coil taken out in February, then we will be pregnant by April. I will finish my 3-day a week fixed term contract in June and then in July we will move to Bedford. I will keep my 2 day a week Highly Specialist job in inner-city London and get some locum work in Bedford and because the rent is 50% of the price for 400% more room we will live like a King and Queen and we’ll have enough money saved for a house in no time! Growing up is easy, I will own it like I’ve owned everything else. As soon as I want things, they happen. That’s how it’s always been.
But the thing I’ve learnt about plans is that they don’t go the way you want them to, even (especially?) if you are sticking to them with laser-like focus and an all-encompassing, scary-to-other-people rigidity. You realise that doing locum work again means that you will be the expendable person at work who is far more experienced than most people but who is as distant and invisible to the team as a satellite circling the Earth. Even though you now want responsibility, you won’t get it. Anyway, ignore that feeling. You didn’t save any money and now this is what you have to do. Suck it up. You still have that two day a week job in London.
But then you find out that you and your partner are going to have some trouble conceiving naturally. This was not in The Plan. I bought a baby shirt on sale and it’s past April. Oh well, we’ll take some vitamins and change the way we eat and make sure we exercise properly and look I’ve bought an ovulation app and there’s this fertility gel and did you know X, Y and Z had trouble and now they’re fine and if we just try enough it will be fine…then your boyfriend breaks up with you.
Oh. The Plan. The Plan has taken over everything and snuffed out the spontaneity and light. You’ve been ignoring the fact your boyfriend has feelings and you’ve been so focused on The Plan that you haven’t been listening or acknowledging anything he has to say that doesn’t support your version of the next few years. You’re still together but all of a sudden you’re in couples counselling so you can actually see each other as people. Blergh. This is why I never tried to look ahead.
So, that’s where things are at now. Trying to find a balance – a moderate path that lies somewhere between floating aimlessly through life and squandering my eggs and my place on the property ladder, and being so preoccupied with these things that I can’t enjoy my life and I secretly resent my friends for having these things when I do not. When does the easy bit of life happen?
I’ve realised that immediately before I came to London, I spent a month in Edinburgh then went on a two week Camino de Santiago through Portugal with my friend El. As I come to my final months in London, I have unconsciously and serendipitously planned the same ritual – going to Edinburgh for a couple of nights for the Fringe then going and doing a shortened version of the Camino in August with El again. I think it will be good to compare how I feel about myself and my life to last time I did these trips – my body and mind are stronger and in a lot of ways I feel I’m a much better person than I was back then. Although I have a new set of challenges and a new unknown facing me, I am once again in a state of flux and am wondering which of those figs I can actually have. This way of being is scary and uncertain with no guarantees, but somehow, I feel as though I have woken up and am relieved that life refuses to be predicted and controlled.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions… and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest,and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
– Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)


Self Portrait April 2015 – put through the How Old Robot website. London has aged me 56 years.

Time is on my side

Well well well! Six months since my last post…pa-bloody-thetic.

Where was I in my last one? Ah…Lithuania. And whinging about my (lack of) job prospects. I’m going to have to fish out my 2013 diary to remember what happened after that. My guess is that I continued being stupidly busy, blowing my money on holidays and stressing out about getting a permanent job. Back in a second…

Well WATTYA KNOW?! I was right. After hitting ‘Publish’ on August 26th, my life continued much on the same trajectory as it had been on for the whole of 2013 (which, the consensus seems to be, was pretty shit for most people?).

Don’t get me wrong, there were some pretty awesome events including both mine and my loved one’s 30th birthdays. Jim’s came in September, 3 months before mine, so I wasn’t really feeling the ‘pinch’ when we celebrated his. I made sure to pull out all the stops because I know I can be a bit shit when it comes to doing things for people’s birthdays, if I even remember them in the first place. So that’s why I arranged dinner in the gorgeous private dining room in The Oak pub and restaurant in Notting Hill for us and 10 of Jim’s friends. I also spent ten…yes TEN hours making a cake in the shape of a cricket bat. My housemate Heloise watched me for the last 2 hours or so, observing in some kind of transfixed horror my botched attempts at icing. In the end, I don’t think it turned out too bad! The little presents I got him as well as the party we had at our place were the icing on the…oh, I guess I can’t use that analogy now. Jim and I made hundreds of canapes for everyone which we were really proud of, though we were happy to finally serve the last ones and get on with partying.

Jim’s party was a double-fun-bonus as my very good friends from Australia – Casey and Charles – arrived in London that day and I saw them for the first time in years in my very own kitchen. They stayed with us and a few other friends during their trip, and I had an awesome time hanging out with them and remembering the good old days as well as making new memories. Casey, Bianca (who lives in London) and I have known each other since we were 14/15 years old through working at BIG W! Together we have such a bevy of ridiculous stories from our time there; we are the original disaffected fucks. I ended up staying for 6 years – well into my Uni days.  I still have stress dreams about not doing my night ‘routining’ (tidying) properly and forgetting my log-in code. Grim. To spend some time together, we went on holiday together at the end of November/start of October to a random holiday destination – Transylvania. We had a LOVELY TIME! Although we had grand plans to travel outside of our Transylvanian base Cluj Napoca, we ended up lazily wandering its pretty streets and spending time catching up in ancient squares, cute little cafes and bars. I would thoroughly recommend giving Romania a visit – people were so outrageously friendly and there were enough markets and tiny shops to keep our touristy selves happy. I feel so lucky to have those two people in my life (though I’m secretly a bit glad our impulsive and wine-fuelled plan to get some kind of tattoo to symbolise our friendship has not yet come to fruition).

Not long after that it was time to ‘pop’ back to Perth for 8 days to surprise my Mum for her 60th birthday! As far as I can remember I have NEVER surprised anyone, so I was pretty chuffed with myself when we actually managed to pull it off. My dad and brother were in on it, and helped to arrange the logistics so that I could casually walk in and surprise Mum at our favourite restaurant – Restaurant Amusé. We’ve been visiting them since they opened a few years ago, and all their staff were really on board with making the surprise work. I arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, my brother David picking me up from the airport and kindly giving me his bed while he slept on the couch. He had even bought my favourite soft drink – Passiona – to help me feel at home. Aww! His lovely girlfriend Sofi had bought me the most gorgeous Salus handcream, which was wrapped and waiting on a lavender pillow on the bed! So thoughtful and relaxing after a long haul flight. I slept in while David played GTA 5 and his cat Cereal stared at me and occasionally tried to sit on my head. Later that evening after I caught up with a friend, David, Sofi and I got spruced up and arrived at the restaurant early. We made sure Mum and Dad had their backs to the door, and I was smuggled away down a hallway right next to the kitchen. Finally the maître d’ (who is co-owner with her husband and Head Chef), signalled that it was time and I walked out, casually sat down in the extra chair, and apologised for being late. I’d been a bit worried that Mum would keel over at this point, but luckily her blood pressure meds worked perfectly and she let out a scream of joy and shock 🙂 Seems I almost messed up the whole thing by sending a jet-lagged Facebook message from Singapore, which obviously then told Mum that I was contacting her from Changi airport! She told Dad in puzzlement, but he managed to convince her that Facebook was hardly ever accurate due to signals bouncing off the wrong satellites and…stuff… Phew!

I have never experienced such crippling jetlag as I did upon returning to London after being in Perth for eight days. It was awesome spending time with my family, catching up with friends and touching in with the little people who have sprung up all over the place from the loins of those I know. But, your parents only turn 60 once, and I’m glad I’ve been able to be there for both of my folks’ celebrations.

Once back in Perth, my attention turned to a certain looming milestone. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to worry about getting older, and in some respects I’m quite comfortable with it; I’m more confident, relaxed and happy than I’ve ever been in my life. But on the other hand there are certain things that I expected to have achieved by the time I hit 30. The choices I made throughout my 20s came into question – has all my travelling and loving been worth it? My peers from University are now running hospitals, or are married and have (numerous) kids. And here I am – living what feel like the right choices for me…but not the right choices in terms of where I’d dreamt I would be as a little girl. Getting a permanent job didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought it would be. I’m not as skinny as I used to be, and there are lots more dark circles and bags and general wrinkliness than before. And above all, the biological clock is ticking. Shit! Probably for that reason, I became grossly neurotic about having as nutso a party as possible down in a rented house in Brighton for my 30th. This coming from someone who initially, honestly, did not want to have a party at all. Luckily my very good friend Shaun (who proves to me that boys and girls CAN be friends), was also celebrating his 30th and came over to London (his previous home), with his girlfriend to spend the weekend with the crew. We had an amazing time – “I’m Keith Richards bitch!”

I was immediately relieved upon actually turning 30 on the 8th of December; the anticipation was infinitely worse than the event. I had been asked numerous times ‘What does it feel like to be 30?’ I decided I should probably ask my friend Shaun the same question, since that seemed to be the done thing. “What a fucking stupid question”, he replied. And that’s why we’ll always be friends.

A bunch of stuff has happened since then. New Years Eve was great. I took a WHOLE MONTH off drinking alcohol, in order to test myself, be a bit more healthy, and most importantly raise £600 for the Epilepsy Society. I finally got a permanent job at a Highly Specialist level. In other words, I finally got what I wanted. It was a hard fucking slog and I know it’s odd that I add it on almost as a footnote, but perhaps I’m not keen to talk about how much it means to me. Perhaps I’m sick to death of talking about it since it felt like that’s all I was talking about with my friends and family for a while. My stress levels have dropped dramatically since the start of the year, and one of the biggest things about my newfound stability is the prospect of mortgages and maternity leave. Oooooo-err! 2014 is lookin’ pretty good so far.

Casey, Bianca and I in Cluj Napoca


Mum, Dad and I just after the surprise!
The day I turned 30.

Summer

As I sit here on my crisp white sheets, bright hot sunlight pouring in through the window onto the pink peonies my new housemate brought home for me, it’s hard to imagine that the last 6 months have been so grim. I feel like I’ve surfaced from underneath grimy bathwater in a sharehouse tub; the weather having the same affect on my outlook on life as it does on the London streets that in the sunlight look cleaner, longer, wider, and invite you to look up rather than down at your (wet) feet.

This ‘Blah’ period started back in January when Jim and I touched down in London after our 6 week amazeballs holiday to Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. Leaving the warmth, love and cuddles with the mini versions of my friends that had sprouted in Perth made the sting of the London chill even harder to handle. Still, Jim and I instagrammed the shit out of our huge jumpers and laughed about what a shock our bodies were going through transitioning from temperatures upwards of 40 degrees (Celsius), to subzero, ear-biting, nipple-hardening conditions (even through layers and layers of clothing – what’s with that?!).We even looked forward to the prospect of snow, since it’s still a novelty for me and really, who doesn’t like snow? I decided to try my hand at reviewing some of the exhibitions, films and theatre productions I have the great privilege to see on a regular basis, and my new goal solidified in my mind – finding a permanent job.

I enjoyed the fact that I had a couple of days off before returning to my contract work. In fact, if I had gone back the day after we returned, I probably would have died when a helicopter crashed into our street after colliding with a crane atop a high-rise building. It hit the ground at 8am, the exact time I would have been walking to the tube and passing the usual people, considering saying ‘Hi’ and not doing it. I heard it happen and at first thought the strange metallic boom was a piece of metal falling off a truck, or even worse, a piece of infrastructure falling off the railway lines that pass overhead near the crash. Then the sirens started, more kept arriving, and the traffic stopped flowing past my window. I dragged myself out of bed in curiosity and looked in amazement at the fireball burning a couple of blocks from my window. In the next couple of days it was announced that two people had died – the pilot and one pedestrian. People told stories about how they had seen the helicopter catapulting towards them and had run for their lives, narrowly avoiding death. The main footage used by the BBC was shot by my friend’s boyfriend who had been knocked off his bike by the impact. I wondered who the victim could have been, and worried in particular that it had been the bin man. On the way home from my first day back at work, I opened the Evening Standard on a busy Hammersmith and City Line train and saw the face of a man I walked past on my early starts. He was notable for his neat beard and for being morbidly obese. As the article explained that everyone who knew him thought he was a fantastic guy, I tried not to cry. I started to wonder what the point of everything was – one minute you’re walking to work, the next you’re burning to death in a pool of aviation fuel. I realised that, like the survivors, he may have seen the helicopter coming but had been unable to run away because of his size.

After the road opened up again I walked to work every day as usual, except this time through the charred remnants of the crash and the photos of the victims pinned to the buildings’ temporary walls. I diligently avoided the mysterious blackened circle on the foothpath. The crane was slowly rebuilt as every day I ducked and weaved my way through commuters into the tube. There’s something about the Underground that can really grind you down if you’re not particularly sure about your decision to be in London. I remember cramming myself into a carriage, feet barely touching the floor, the train trundling forth while everyone desperately tried to block out their surroundings with kindles, phones or bad morning papers. I was face to face with a glum (as in actual upside-down-smile) looking woman in a grey pant suit wearing ill-fitting Apple earphones that loudly blared Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham! The juxtaposition between that catchy 80s party fave and the picture of abject human misery before me made me want to either burst into tears or peals of laughter. I found out that day that my so-called accountants had been acting dodgy and had fucked off back to Australia. This meant that a) I had a massive tax debt, b)  my finances were an incomprehensible mess that I had to find another accountant to take on and c) a few of my friends were in the same boat. Great.

A few weeks after the helicopter crash, a 16 year old ex-student of one of the secondary schools I work at was stabbed to death in a street near the school in the middle of the day. I didn’t know him, but the thought of that happening to one of the kids I work with and just the fact that it happened at all made me feel sick. Some of the students put up a poster of the boy in the corridor and I couldn’t help but look into his eyes every time I walked past. There is evidence that youth offenders and people getting excluded from school largely have undiagnosed speech, language and communication needs. Obviously it’s not the only reason that kids have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, but it’s been established that people with trouble communicating are at a higher risk for those kind of things. For a while I was looking at the young kids I work with and wondering What’s going to happen to you? I felt a bit helpless. To round it all off, Jim came home one day and told me that a lady in his office had gone down to the basement, locked herself in a rarely used disabled toilet and killed herself. My usual resilience and ability to deal with crappy things was on the verge of disappearing. One day I looked out of my kitchen window and thought Fuck this God forsaken place. I flagged with my Doctor that I wasn’t feeling the best.

Obviously some good things must have happened during that period, but misery breeds misery and my frame of mind only allowed me to see the shit. I suppose I went into survival mode, just keeping my head down and focusing on one thing at a time. Which was scarily similar to the state I was in before I left Perth. Our prolonged winter didn’t help at all – icy winds from Russia combining with grey skies sent from on high to irritate and oppress. I wrote a few pieces and waited to become the next famous blogger in London, which would obviously cure my existential funk. I went for a couple of job interviews and despite getting good feedback and gaining enough points to get the jobs, ONE OTHER PERSON would do better than me and get them. Inconceivable! I realised that up until now – all the way through high school, university and my early career (thinking about it, probably back to primary school as well), things have always come easily to me. I achieved academically whilst distracting everyone around me and misbehaving. I did well at Uni without having to try too hard and I had never, ever been turned down for a job. How things had changed since I bragged about how easy London was for me. What a naive, patronising twat.

Slowly the days got longer and the layers of clothing required to step outside grew less and less. Gradually my usual frame of mind crept back – I decided to see the position I was in regarding my career as a lesson to be learnt – instead of avoiding challenges and coasting along at a B+ level, I had to lift my game and learn perseverance and patience. On the surface I had assumed that as soon as I wanted something I would get it…though I guess deep down I had always worried that if I tried for something I really really wanted and didn’t get it that it would break me. I guess that happened on a lesser scale, but despite being rattled I was OK. And what’s more, I realised that everyone else had similar things happen to them after living in London for any period of time, and you just have to suck it up, get over yourself and get on with it. It still hurts not getting something, but it just makes me want it more and makes me try even harder. I want to do anything I can to stop kids in London going down that horrible path to crime and substance abuse, even if sometimes it’s hard. I want to dedicate myself to them and make sure they’re alright. Jim and I have finally moved in together and now instead of Sainsburys and a main arterial road, I open my window to the sounds of birds singing in the garden and kids laughing over the fence (it hasn’t gone all gross and suburban though – we’re still in Zone 2!). I understand tax better and am with some great accountants, and have finally paid off my debts. Importantly (for me) I have been on a couple of holidays, one of which I will be writing about soon. I’m writing again because it’s for me and I love it, rather than wanting to grab the attention of anyone in particular. Instead of taking the sunshine for granted I love and revel in it like other Londoners and keep in mind how different things can look in the grey. I’ll keep applying for permanent supervisory roles and when I get one I’ll appreciate it so much more. Things aren’t perfect but they’re OK and I feel like I’ll be better mentally prepared when winter rolls around again. Phew.