Tuesday 29 July 2014

Retrospection brings Revelations

My mate Jim and I are doing Dry July. At a sober dinner and subsequent Koko Black chocolate inhalation session tonight, we had a mini retrospective. I just realised that it has only been 2.5 years since I moved out of my parent's house. I'd spent 3 years prior suffering clinical depression. It was so bad that my mother gave me two tasks in the day that were all I had to achieve: Make my bed and check the mail box for mail. Those two things would exhaust me. Some days I couldn't do one or both and I'd sob at my failure. Some days, I'd do both and we'd celebrate the success.
When I left Darwin at the very end of 2011, I wasn't quite sure if I'd be able to feed myself, work an entire 5 day week or stop myself crying if I ever started. Since then my failures have been vast but all lessons learnt. My heart has been broken once since but it kept beating. My brain chemistry has kicked my arse several times and I kicked it back.
I don't cry randomly anymore though. I don't wish to die. I pay my own bills and cook my own meals. I finally forgave myself for not being perfect. These are major achievements for me.
It has only been 2.5 years and I'm functioning quite well now. Even I'm impressed.
Thanks, Jim. You made me articulate it. This isn't an affirmation. This is surprise and pride mixed with slightly too much chocolate.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Confusion and Coffee

I often feel like an appropriate mix of comfortable conformism and antisocial complacent genius.

There is a constant struggle in my head around what I expect for myself and what I am not thoroughly convinced others want me to be. The latter is mostly imagined but it is still there. It doesn't make me change too much of who I am but more acts like a voice in my head that is unimpressed with my willingness to just give in and do as society tells me.

The thing is, I'm not really a bad arse or a rebel in any way. As a child and late in to my teens, I was the kind of girl who did what was expected of me. If my parents asked me to do something then I did it without question. I was a cluey kid and thought a lot about the world that I saw through fiction and no-fiction books. I did not however think much for myself.

The road was set out for me by my educated middle-class parents who I never for one moment doubted loved me dearly. First was primary school then high school and then a degree of my choosing. Something you could get a job in and that you enjoyed doing was the only real criteria I was given. I lived at home the whole time with my three square meals a day and all the comforts of my parents lifestyle.

I met my husband (now ex) outside a second year Discrete Maths class. He was geeky and kind. We talked about ideas and concepts and ideologies and literature and movies and music until we somehow got married 9 years later. In that almost-decade past, I did what was expected of me. Had the long term partner of equal intellect who loved me, two indoor pedigree cats that roamed our over-sized inner-city Canberra townhouse filled with expensive furniture and too much kitchenware. I threw lavish dinner parties with equivalent friends. I was friends with other couples with similar lives that validated my own. I wore an apron and baked. Enough said.

There are people I'm still friends with today who can vouch for the seemingly happy girl who had a pretty decent middle class life. I often wonder if they see me as the same type of person now as I was then or if they even saw me as happy. I thought I was happy. That I had everything a person could want.

Then it all went to shit.

My life fell apart through a series of inevitable miseries which I now see as a time of growth. Oh time, it is a friend and a brutal enemy. It helps you forget the pain but it gives you wrinkles. I'll accept the wrinkles as payment though.

The middle part (for those who didn't live through it with me on Facebook and Twitter) is a story for another time over several glasses of old Champagne that the waiter pours carefully so as not to waste a single drop.

The end part is now. Who I am now. What I am now. Those are not questions. There are solid answers. There are also solid uncertainties.

I have a good job that I love. Each morning I wake up enthusiastic about the coming workday. People joke that I am comfortable outside of my comfort zone and they are right. There is a comfortable thrill to the work I do but it is based in educated guesses and almost two decades of experience.

My ogre-like layered circle of friends are ordered and solid, if a little commutative. I am one of those lucky people who has a group of people who love me, despite knowing me. Some are so close that they will pick up the phone to me in tears or to me singing Pharrell or to me having butt dialled them because they are on speed dial and they won't hang up. Others interact with me at regular lunches or drinks or even via old fashioned Facebook stalking. Most don't live in the same town or country as me but those that do are people I can call on for mischief and adventures.

Then there is what I refer to as family. It isn't people I've given birth to. That really was never my thing. It is a Papua New Guinean definition of family. People who you are stuck with but actually like. That is my family. We support each other through everything. There is an unquestionable loyalty. I often joke that if my sister dislikes someone then I do to, without even having to have met them. We spend a lot of time laughing together. We don't really fight because we are grown ups. We know that even when one of us is being annoying that it is driven by love. That makes everything cool.

So I spend a lot of time on my own but a lot of time with people. I read and write a lot. I work a little too much. I spend so much time texting and talking on the phone that I had to sign up for the Optus Extreme User plan. But then I spend so much time in silence that a weekend day can pass and I've not spoken a single word. All of these contradictions are the sum of what makes me happy.

Maybe I am a hedonist or selfish or narcissistic or all the things that I worry about in my head. Things that people said in passing or that I heard in something they said. Maybe I am generous, loving and kind like my friends and family describe me as. Maybe I'm a little of all of them.

Either way, this makes me happy.

My life is not a series of adaptations. It is a series of conscious steps involving trying different sides of my life that has resulted in me being very happy and comfortable in a lifestyle that sometimes makes others uncomfortable. It is best to understand that I live each day to honour who I am and live my ethos. This makes me not just happy but content.

I often feel like an appropriate mix of comfortable conformism and antisocial complacent genius but I like that mix.