Day One-Hundred-and-Forty-Eight: Don’t be afraid to reconnect

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Source: shoeboxblog.com
But maybe they’re not as inarticulate and annoying in person, right?

There’s a spot on my floor, about the width of two tiles, that is noticeably warmer than the rest of the floor. I only notice it in the evening, when the weather cools, and the tiles take on a (sometimes welcome) chill. On my journey from the kitchen to the bedroom–usually with some food item in my hand/mouth–it gives me pause.

My boyfriend and I have discussed it. We’re not sure of the cause. Probably some pipe or power source running under there. Or our downstairs neighbours have a small heater on their roof. I like to think it’s a posh floor-heating mechanism that was partially installed during building, then scrapped when the owners found out how much it would cost (and how ridiculous it is to have a heated floor in Brisbane).

And what, you may be yelling at your monitor, is the fucking point of this story?

Well, it’s been 28 days since my last drink…err, post. For reasons that are clear only to the monkey who drives my brain, I felt like it was time to reconnect.

And that’s all it takes, right? Just a small thing to start a conversation, and get things rolling again.

I was talking to someone the other day about whether it would be weird for them to reach out to old friends and suggest a catch up. Now, I’m no well of wisdom (actually, the only thing I can say with any certainty that I’m a well of is blood and urine), but it seems to me that in this new-fangled age of Facebook and Twitter and all that self-broadcasting shit, reconnecting with people is as easy as liking a post or getting involved in an in-status debate about Tony Abbott. (Well, that’s if you think making sense of a plethora of poorly-formed sentences hurling abuse at bloody Labor/LNP/Juliar/Clive “Dat’s a Huuuuge Bitch” Palmer is easy.) The point is that striking up a dialogue has never been so simple and non-stalkerish.

For example:

Your high-school buddy posts a status about how fucking good Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza is. You’ve been to Meaty’s and you can totally attest to its jizz-inducing deliciousness. (You have the stains to prove it.) Why not post a casual “OMG I KNOW RIGHT LOL” and see what happens? Maybe you guys can go to Meaty’s together some time and eat ribs until you’re more pig-meat than man. Trade “What I’ve Been Doing with My Life” stories over a stack of buffalo wings. I don’t fucking know; it’s not my job to plan your meat-ups (ha!).

(By the way, if I open a steakhouse, I will call it Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza, so if you open one before I do and steal this name–thanks for reading!– I will hunt you down.)

What I’ve realised, through the magic of self-examination, is that nobody is going to react in a negative way when you attempt reconnect with them. (Unless you were a total c**t in school. I can’t help you there.) If you’re worried about looking like a desperate weirdo contacting old friends, think about it this way: if you got a nice message from an old mate, wondering what you were up to, and suggesting a catch-up, how would you feel? Warm and fuzzy, probably. You’re very unlikely to laugh derisively and delete their message. (Unless you are the the aforementioned c**t. God, you truly are a dick.) In fact, provided that the message doesn’t begin with “I wish to have tell you about the joys of Islam” (an actual Facebook message I received–please know that I am prejudiced against all religions equally), you’re probably going to be pleasantly surprised and happy to hear from them. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. (I’m not saying that you wouldn’t also be interested in the joys of Islam.)

I have friends whom I can go months without seeing. When they pop up on my radar again, or I swing them an “it’s been too damn long”, there’s no recriminations for the lack of contact, no raised eyebrows and WTFs, just a genuine keenness to meet up and talk shit about life (and eat, usually).

And yes, I get that sometimes people from our past are best left there, and you’ll probably hear a lot of “we should totally catch up some time” bullshit before you actually end up doing the thing, but, like an old friend once chided me, you’re never going to meet anyone if you don’t get out there. (I appreciated the message, but it’s totally not true. They could come to my house. And what with home-delivered groceries and the wonders of the internet, I could conceivably never leave the confines of my apartment. Or wear pants.)

Sometimes *cue sad, reflective music* you’ll hang out with someone again only to realise that your lives have diverged so obviously that you no longer share any common ground. You’ll sit opposite them in a cafe, smiling awkwardly and trying to react in a casual and interested way to the idea of a competitive all-male knitting club, and you’ll know that your future interactions will be limited to a ‘like’ and maybe a “sick cardigan, bro” here and there. The awesome (and terrifying) thing about the world is that it’s full of people, a good proportion of whom are statistically likely to share your interests. Expand your circles (not an advertisement for Google+). Old friends have new friends, who can be your friends too if you reconnect with the old friends. Friend poaching!

So, reach out or don’t. Whatever. The door is never closed (unless you’re in prison)(especially if you’re in prison for stalking and murdering former friends).

 

Good to see you.

We should definitely catch up some time.

TB

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Day Twelve: Failing to remember

Picture source: funnyjunk.com

Picture source: funnyjunk.com

In honour of Remembrance Day, I want to talk about memory–specifically, having a short memory.

One of the hallmarks of being a ‘good adult’ and growing as a person is learning from the past, whether that’s not making the same mistake twice or just writing down that awesome brownie recipe once you’ve perfected it. It still shocks me how some people (me included) are so quick to forget.

My favourite example of this came with my brothers’ entrances into high school. I’m fortunate enough to have three male siblings, each of whom have encountered the same pitfalls in their young male lives. When my older brother had experienced a week of secondary schooling, I asked him how it was going.

“It’s OK,” he said. “Except year eights cop a lot of shit.”

“What kind of shit?” I asked.

“They just call us little fags and push us into lockers and stuff. I think it’s just a hazing thing.”

Far be it from me to question the rituals of the male species, but to me that sounded like straight-up, good old-fashioned bullying. Apparently, it’s all good though. And it happens every year. That’s right. Every year the older kids taunt the young ones.

This brings me to the following year and my brother’s progression to year nine.

“Oh, man, it was so funny,” he told us over dinner. “We were walking along the hallway and all the year eights were at their lockers, so we ran past and dacked [pulled down the pants of] as many as we could.”

I stared at him.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. He had the grace to look confused.

“You were saying that this happened to you last year, and you didn’t like it.”

“Oh, right,” he shrugged. “But it happens every year. It’s just how it goes.”

I wanted to build a time machine, shove him into it, and take him back to a year before. Look, I’d say. That’s you, hating being treated like shit. Seem familiar?

It gets better though. A few years down the track and my younger brother enters the hallowed halls of education and manliness.

And, as it has apparently been written for the last 50 years, the new year eights were bombarded with abuse, both verbal and physical, and resigned themselves to staying the hell out of everyone’s way for at least the first half of the year. Cue the mandatory memory wipe between years eight and nine, and we’re back to hilarious stories of wimpy little ‘eights’ (who were, by the way, always much smaller, gayer, and dumber than their predecessors) being punished for the crime of graduating into high school.

The third, and youngest, brother surely had watched all of this unfold and steeled himself for the trials ahead, while knowing deep in his heart that he would defend the poor trembling children who filled his stinky shoes after he moved up a grade. Right? Right??

“Man, those grade eights are so tiny. I swear they just cry at everything.”

(I saw those year eights. Some of them were bigger than he was.)

“How can you be so horrible to them when that was you a year ago?” I asked him.

The skinny little shit shrugged. “We had to go through it and we’re all right. Why shouldn’t they? It’s just part of it.”

So, that’s it then, I guess. We’re just supposed to live in kind of a fucked-up Pay It Forward scenario where beatings replace deeds of kindness. It’s kind of human nature isn’t it? A very high percentage of child abusers were abused themselves as children. The people who know exactly how it feels to be tormented should be the saviours, but they’re not. If you can’t get your revenge on the person who wronged you, why not just perpetuate the cycle? At least someone suffers, right?

Not that it’s all doom and gloom. Sometimes it just takes a few hundred reminders to get through to people (particularly teenage boys–not the brightest bunch). Oh, how many times I’ve wished that I’d filmed something in the past to show to a present friend/brother/me.

My oldest brother used to berate the middle brother for copying him (usually, ordering the same meal in a restaurant). It often reduced the middle one to tears. Years later, when the middle one was the older one’s age, and the little one was in the ‘admire your older brother’ stage, history repeated before our eyes.

“Stop fucking copying me, you little fag,” the middle one said without even a hint of irony.

My mum and I exchanged open-mouthed looks across the table. When we demanded an explanation, the middle one pouted.

“It’s really annoying. Now I can understand why he used to beat me up for it.”

We have a name for that. It’s called Battered Wife Syndrome.

I’ve found that a little memory-bank exploration can really help with the whole empathy thing. It’s like posting on a message board: before you delight the whole forum with a stupid question, do a thorough search through the archives. It could save you looking like an idiot/hypocrite.

TB

(But seriously, those year eights suck.)

Day Seven: Stop chasing perfection

rest

On the seventh day, God rested. Apparently. If God is anything like me, he/she probably looked back on the work he/she’d just done, found 15 things wrong with it (proximity of waste expulsion zone to genital zone, anyone?), and spent the whole day tweaking and fretting.

When I was in grade two, we got a one-hour block each week to write stories. Everyone had a special story-writing exercise book to fill with various tales of fun, adventure, and woe (and Super Mario if most of the boys’ pieces were anything to go by). Each week, I’d wait patiently for the hour to come, take my book from my desk, carefully smooth the pages, and get stuck into writing. The other kids wrote short stories. Two pages was standard. Four was a more detailed yarn.

I wrote a novella (comparatively). About a dolphin… who shared a special bond with a human–SHUT UP! The content wasn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, but I had a story in me and that story needed time to develop on the page. I’m sure the other kids forgot about story time as soon as the bell rang. They’d toss their pencils and book into the belly of their desks and run cheering into the playground. I’d squeeze a few more words in until the teacher urged me that it really was ‘pencils down’ and I could finish it next week.

Ha! Seven-year-old me would think. This baby’s got another ten chapters in her at least. Every week I’d inch closer to an ending, and every week there’d be a unique (and usually far-fetched) twist.

“The dolphin delivers me safely to shore and I pat its nose. I’ve had a great time at the beach and will never forget this day. OH, but what’s this? Now my little sister is drowning! The dolphin springs back into action…”

You know how this shit goes. The problem with my masterpiece is that I never finished it. I never signed off at the end, drew a couple of accompanying pictures and took it home to Mum.

I have a whole folder of these filed away. Stories that captured me while I was showering, or popped into my head while I was climbing a tree. The initial fever of writing was exhilarating. After a few hundred words the doubt would set in. I’d eagerly picked a horse based on a cursory glance, only to realise a few lengths in that it was actually a donkey with a bung leg. (Apologies for the horse analogy; Melbourne Cup is still on the brain.) My stories weren’t stayers, and they were never good enough to finish.

Until very recently, my stories also remained unread–which is stupid. Isn’t having a readership kind of the whole point of writing? Philosophers have pondered this for thousands of years (I imagine). If I write a 50,000 word manuscript and show it to nobody, does it even exist?

“Who’s your target audience?” tutors would ask me of story assignments.

You, me, and the inside of my handbag, I’d think.

If only they’d had Twitter when I was a kid. Short, sharp, and posted instantly.

Dolphin @ beach. Magical bond #bestdayever #ocean #dolphins4lyf

Give me the next topic!

 

One of the first blogging tips I read was that perfectionism (which I hope is a word) is the downfall of a good blog. Learning to accept that a post is good enough and clicking that ‘publish’ button is the only way to generate content. If it were up to seven-year-old me, this post would have been written over six months and been well over 20,000 words. Instead, I shall embrace the typos (and rush to fix them when I find them later–thank god for the ‘edit post’ function), get to the god-damn point more quickly, and post as much word-vomit as I can.

 

In other news, I’m thinking of starting a progressive story-writing blog. One hour per week of intermittent and implausible dolphin action. Follow that shit.

 

TB