Tuesday, 7 June 2011

And the penny dropped...

So I'm sitting here in the lounge room in my pyjamas. It is a Tuesday afternoon. Jnr Jnr is napping and Jnr Snr is watching 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' while the wind and rain lash the house. Winter has well and truly made herself at home here in Melbourne. It is a time for warm custard, self saucing puddings and lots of hot roasted things. And as I am neither Nigella nor a devotee of Masterchef, most of that stuff will come out of a box. So you best get over it now.

Despite the inclement weather, I did go out this morning. I went to my fortnightly appointment with The Listener*. I talk. She listens. I attempt to uncover why I sometimes feel like a crazed lunatic. She gains a sense of purpose and usefulness. Everyone is happy.

Today I learned something about my inter-personal relationships that rather surprised me. It was a slow dawning, a stretch and a yawn then, without warning, all the pennies dropped making an almighty hullabaloo and there it was; my dysfunction in vivid technicolour.

All my adult life I have collected people. Someone I got to know at work. Someone I met through a friend. Someone else I met in the street in Manchester. A friend of a friend of my brother's. etc. etc. I would catch up with each of these friends on an individual basis and once in a while, lob the whole lot together and see what eventuated.

Let's park that there for the minute.

The reason I've started seeing The Listener is because after 5 years of being back in Melbourne, it has very slowly dawned on me that I really don't feel settled here at all. Finding myself increasingly critical of Melbourne, the people, the price of books and the appalling, aggressiveness of the drivers here, I thought it would be wise to pull apart this sense of disconnection from everything around me for my responses were beginning to alarm even me.

When I moved to the UK in early 2000, I was well and truly ready for a change. I was bored. Melbourne bored me. I knew every laneway, every cafe. I knew where to get the best coffee [that guy didn't even look up when I came in, he'd carry on making up coffee orders, passed me mine to the side of his massive Gaggia, took my $1.80 and go back to his orders - ah Johnny, you still make a mean coffee] and the fastest way to get across town in peak hour. Bored, bored, bored and very in need of a challenge.

Along came the job offer in London, right off the back of the break up of a 4 year relationship. You get the picture, this girl was indeed ready for a change of place, pace and skyline.

I left behind not a circle of friends as such, but 4 or 5 wonderful women I had assembled, pulled from various aspects of life. I loved them dearly, I still do. Each of them still has a place in my life however in my absence, they have surrounded themselves with their own circle of friends as their lives have moved on.

I, on the other hand, moved to England and continued on my erratic way collecting a friend here and there. Never venturing into an established circle of friends and until now, not aware of my lifelong aversion to the notion.

Once Mr Right and I moved to the same city though, we too pulled close around ourselves wonderful people that were at the same place in their lives as we i.e. newly married and unencumbered by the responsibility of children. Most of them were friends of Mr Right's which was fine as the women were new to the circle too as we all seemed to couple up at the same time. Lovely.

I look back now with hindsight and realise that these friends became my circle. Mine and Ian's. Our soul mates. The people who walked with us through the awfully painful times, the hilariously raucous times and those wonderfully drunken dinner parties where vodka became a dessert and our home was a place where people gathered and felt loved and cared for. England became my home.

However, after 6 years away we moved back to Melbourne which was always the plan. In my mind I realise now, Melbourne had become nostalgic notion. My 'perfect place'. The city where things were better, cheaper and easier. Yes I looked forward to seeing the friends I had left behind but I think I was naive in that I thought life would just pick up where I left off. The reality is, that while some friendships did feel like no time at all had passed, for the most part, much had changed. I had changed. Loads.

And Jesus Melbourne had changed too. A ring road. House prices well beyond our reach. A 6 year drought and 2 children in 2 years. Change was my new best friend. So I looked up old friends. I collected some new ones and only now see that I did so in order to fight the growing sense that I'd moved back home only to find that home was the place I had left 10,000 miles away in South Manchester.

I share all this with The Listener, which leads me to my increasing sense of dislocation  which has resulted in the revelation that I now see that have striven [took us a while to pin down what the past tense of strive was strove? strived?] to reconnect with lots of old friends, including school friends I had not seen in over 25 years. I heard myself talk about the domino effect of being friended on Facebook by first one school friend and then another. About my growing, yet inexplicable resistance to meeting them in real life because of an experience I'd had at the hands of said school friends in Year 11. As I heard myself recount the tale of something that happened too long ago to seemingly matter, I all but saw the copper pennies clatter about my feet.

So because a group of girls were mean [vicious and horribly hurtful] 25 years ago, I developed a rather severe aversion to groups of women. Hence my hand-picked, silo like friends who I separated carefully and only brought together under strict conditions where I was in control.

I'm wondering even now as I type all this out, what does it mean? Or does it really matter? Can it be fixed? Can I be fixed? Do I want to change? If I do suddenly find that I crave the company of large groups of women, will it mend this increasing sense of dislocation I have? Will I want to live in Melbourne? I honestly do not know.

What The Listener did says was this; nothing is concrete. If I have not found a sense of home here in Melbourne after more than 5 years, I may never. And that is ok. What I need is to take some time to be with the good people in my life [perhaps one by one] and allow myself to heal a little. To stop striving to connect and simply be.

*The Listener = my secret code word for therapist.

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