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I have a feeling this will be a year of Adventure. After the past year of Hard Work and Uncertainty, with so many snags and moments of doubt, I am finally on the home run. End is in sight and I am a bit out of breath, and I feel I have sacrificed some mental health over these last few months, but it's nearly there. So as I knew 2011 would be the year of Hard Work, so I feel 2012 is a year of Adventure. Change. For better. Self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps, doesn't matter, that's what in my heart.
The last few days have been so peaceful, I have finally managed to let go of the negative internal monologues and the constant stress of Having To Finish, and just went with the flow of small things, runs, walks, naps, readings, cookings, cuddles, cats. This light flow was broken this morning with the latest thesis critiques from my supervisor, which I obviously took personally, even reading 'gaps in knowledge' as 'gaps in YOUR knowledge'... And here I am feeling stupid again, and angry, and defiant, and stressed, and it's not even ten o'clock. Can't be a healthy way to progress.
He's aged. It may be the beard, silver and longish, as he can't shave for fear of bleeding to death. "So they put me on that drug, for a month", he answers her question, eyes downcast, resigned? "and it kept getting better and better, and then it just plummeted. I've been rushed to the hospital seven times since Amy's 18th birthday." "Oh that must be so awful for you, so dispiriting." I wish she'd say something more positive. He starts to answer, but she looks away to laugh at his wife's joke, and my heart breaks a little for him.
She looks like a punk. Diminutive, tiny girl, she must be a head shorter than me, and so thin, so light, especially in comparison with the large bold guy sitting in front of her, across the table. Hair all in spikes, heavy makeup, intensely red lips, green fingernails, numberless piercings and heavy chains. She looks nervy. I settle down in the chair next to her. A few minutes later three guys come muscling in between the rows, clipped hair, set jaws, shiny suits, carrying huge suitcases, all shoulders. She looks at them with distaste. ‘Rookies. I probably outrank them anyway.’
The big guy is all ears. His eyes warm up.
‘Oh yeah? What’s your rank?’
‘Bombardier. Corpral. Been in six years.’
‘You don’t look old enough to‘ve been in six years!’
‘Joined when I was seventeen. Just back from Afgan two weeks ago.’
‘A mate of mine went there,VIP security, the green zone, where it’s safe, they say.’
‘Nowhere's safe. There is no front line, nowhere's safe.’
She is jumpy, legs twitching constantly as she speaks, her look intense, focused. She tells us she started having flashbacks. That she's leaving. ‘I’ve done my bit.’
He suggests she joins the Police. ‘They don’t take ex-military. Cause of the trainin’. We’re taught to shoot to kill, they’re taught to shoot to stop. You’re in a situation, trainin’ kicks in, someone’s dead.’ She's proud. It’s at the heart of her. How will she manage without it? In the outside world?
All these soldiers make me uncomfortable and bemused at the same time. I know nothing about it. I am neither impressed, nor scared. Just amazed that this exists. That these kids shoot other kids, or men. That this is ok.
Finally got round cashing in the paint-a-pot voucher (in the form of a tile) that my man got me for Christmas last year. I adore going to that little cafe, but most of all I adore disappearing into the design. An hour and a half flew by effortlessly, and so pleasantly, I had not finished of course, will need to come back next week. Made me think of Nina who always had to stay after hours in primary school to finish her madly intricate designs started in art class. I heard she had a nervous breakdown at university.
Came accross this image on flickr, either retro or truly old, small blond-haired boy of no more than one seated in a great pile of rocky rubble at the foot of a high cliff, playing with pebbles. In the bacground the cliff turns grean, a waterfall is sparkling, there is a lick of the sea visible. The boy is tiny in the landscape, vulnerable, but so relaxed, so at home. It touched me, saying something real about childhood, this mix of dependence and awe at all things wonderful and new we work hard to keep alive later in life.
Muscles feel sleepy and protest today as we walk up to work in silence, sluggish. MM is here-but-not-here, it may be just tiredness, but it feels like we're falling into the same destructive and numbing routine of blah. He's silent but tense, like he's holding tears back. I walk beside him, but say nothing, I don't want to go there any more, we have been around this block so many times and there is nothing I can do, only he can deal with himself. This detachment pains me so much. And yet I see no other way.
Just putting my shoes on when my little neighbours spill into the yard. I'm killed instantly with a stick.
'Ptouch! I'm Daaarth Vader.'
'Oh no! And who are you', that't to J., the older one.
'I'm Yoda. But I die. I actually die in the movie, because I'm so old.'.
Sticks are confiscated as their rushing mum tries to get them on the move. C. the younger one breaks into tears. To stop him wailing I transform my mitt into The Terrible Claw out to Get You!!! By the time we're at the botoom of the hill he's all giggles.
Oh avocado, why did you come into my life so late?
I love everything about you.
I love your touch frog-like skin with the waxy bumps.
I love your weight in my palm, filling it perfectly.
I love cutting through your hard shell, and twisting the halves till they come loose on the nut, nestled in the soft flesh like a pearl.
I love levering it out with my finger and popping it into my mouth, my jawbreaker. And once I've licked it clean, the cats love chasing it around the floor.
They love the thudding sound it makes.
That walk is a delight. I surprised Danishtoes with my cemetery path, cutting straight to the river valley and keeping us on a high and increasingly narrow ledge, clinging to the slope. I'd love to clamber down to the river-side path and dip my hand in the cool water. But I enjoy this high view, and even more Danishtoes's surprise at the majestic cathedral which emerges as we turn a corner, seemingly suspended in the golden glow of the evening. I dreaded coming here today, and for good reason, but chats with her make up for the new workload.
All her arguments are sound. There are loose threads to be pulled at, there are 'wobbly' areas. Any work I avoid now will have to be done after the viva, causing even more disturbance to the research project which by then will be up and running. But when she says it may still take three months my stomach goes all funny. I've been telling EVERYONE I'll hand in this month! OUCH, MY PRIDE! There is no way I am spending full weeks on this till April! I'll have to figure out a part-time postdoc deal just to stay sane.
An unknown muscle in my calf is twitching while happy lazy tiredness spreads through my body. Such a good day, with a beautiful walk through frozen countryside, each twiglet and each blade of grass covered in icy spikes of hoar. It was refreshing to breath in cold, icy air for once. The river was full and lively, and higher up the ponds were frozen. Ducks landed skidding, without harm. Then a lunch of bar snacks and good ale with a roaring fire, and great chats about translation, reflexivity and other academicy themes before heading back to the comfort of cats.
I lay in bed thinking about body and mind, this separation which seems to endure accross time, accross cultures. The dominant myth of humanity, the mastery of Spirit over Matter. Even Buddhism, the wholesome religion/philosophy sees itself as nothing but a path to spiritual freedom, matter be damned, be discarded, be forgotten. As if we did not owe all our joy and sorrow to matter only. As if there were soul without body. The emotions of animals, the intelligence of birds, and the human beside and along-side, a difference of degree, not of kind, someone wise had said.
Watching Frozen Planet and reading The Dune simultaneously makes for interesting dreams. Both are rich is visual and sensual detail, and it is not such a far step from dunes to ice bergs, and vice versa. It's painful waking from deep deep sleep when it's dark outside and frost covers the window. Like trying to swim in treacle, easier to hit snooze, turn round, cuddle the warm, soft, lazy body next to me. But the brain is on its way already, and I know the body will follow. Hear cats scratching at the door, they do make mornings more bearable.
There is a disconcerting moment when I shake his hand, but I'm not shaking his hand, I'm clasping a lack, and immediately I know he's lacking two fingers. He must be used to this, tired of this, but I can't help but glance to confirm. He is apt at hiding the lack, and he is so charming and charismatic you forget immediately, only to remember. I document his charm, his use of words like 'wonderful' and 'gift', I document mysely failing to resist his story-telling, but that may mean the audience will not be able to resist him either.
She drives me nuts. She is grotesquely helpless, everything about her screams 'Help me!'. And where I am usually drawn to people in need of support, trying to lift her spirits is like trying to fill a sieve. Any positive charge is soundlessly absorbed, and nothing on her face changes. Those staring, teraful, cow-like eyes never change expression, the grin always plastered on her lips, so rarely communicating actual joy. Whenever she walks past my desk she searches for my eyes, but I've started keeping my head down, anything but to be sucked into the wake of her need.
I've been asked to proofread a translation of the words of Yuri Gagarin during his flight into space, words which have never been made public before. I read the English translation first, to get a feel of the text. I then turn to the Polish version, and I am immediately immersed. The emotions are real. I care about what is being said, I feel it as if I were there, even though all I have before my eyes is an excel spreadsheet. This power of language takes me aback. Do I live in an emotional desert separated from my language?
Good girl in good girl boots, black, nondescript, in good girl office trousers, grey, nondescript, in a good girl blouse, stripey, nondescript, and good girl jewelry, silverish, nondescript. Good girls wear no make up, good girls have good girl hair, mousy, nondescript. Good girls have patient voices, take diligent notes, deal with problems calmly and one at a time. Good girls ask the questions with just the right amount of concern, and look you straight in the eye. Good girls have bags under their eyes. Do good girls dream of bath time tub company, and a cool bottle of champagne?
The human current carries me under the eyes of the lions at Waterloo and into the station's belly, lined with electric suns in neat rows, into curved infinity. The thrill of being in the herd runs through me, with so many, but so alone, in a world of possibilities, but in control, on the move, but calm and my own mistress, with but withdrawn. The city tide drains into the underground and I too slip in. The veins of the city are emptying after one huge heart beat of a day. Trains whiz us away into soft dusty darkness.
His body language is all wrong. He's slumping in the tube train seat right opposite me, suit all wrinkled, awkwardly hugging a leather briefcase. His legs are knotted, feet pointing inwards. The posture of a bored child in need of a pee. Without looking I get up at the next stop, squeeze past him and leave. I walk the tunnels quickly and get on another line. I'm checking my phone as I feel the jerk of the train pulling out, and lift my eyes. Everything freezes. I can only see his eyes. He is sitting right in front of me.
One of those days again *GROAN*. Not get enough sleep last night, Skinnytoes and dad went out for a beer so stayed up watching Frasier, fooling around on Flickr, not like I can fall asleep without him anyway. And then even after lights out I lie in the dark and worry don't I, every time I feel the tide of sleep overtake I'm jerked back into reality with a bizzare pang of guilt. So today officially zombying around, my eyes follow the text but the brain is left detached, floating somewhere in the stratosphere far far away from this office.
Another flickr impression. A picture take from the water by a swimmer looking towards the beach. A stormy sky, and the waves so high from this perspective, leaden and bruised. A drop on the lens. I am overtaken and each cell in my body LONGS to be in the sea, in the ocean. Feel the lolling, the tossing violence of the sea. Scrape my soles on volcanic rock, scratch my leg open on a shell and feel the cold itchy pain of salt in my wound. Lie on my back tossed by the waves and look into the wet sky.
I should be doing more with my time, there is so much reading to be done for the new project, and I could be working on articles and blogs and all manner of useful career things, but while the final draft is being read I feel like someone is holding my throat in a grip just loose enought to catch shallow breaths, but not loose enough for a sprint. I'm floating in a limbo, waiting. What I want to hear is: this is fine. What I fear hearing is: this needs much more work. I don't have much will left.
Well isn't this unexpected. I could hardly get going this morning, lunging back into dreams every time I hit snooze. Walking to work we held hands all the way, giving one another courage to face another bland day. I was thinking about my cup of coffee, and about how it fails to wake me. It turns out what I need is not coffee but an argument! Step on the toes of a colleague, have a misunderstanding, feel the adrenaline surge, feel my chest constrict, and all of the sudden I am on top of the world!
You takin' to me?
"A year not dating isn't that long. A friend of mine has this weird thing going, you have to call it a relationship, but it's all through texting. It must be eighteen months now. They met once, and then they've just been texting. And flirty too, but every time she tries to pin him down to meet he is very busy."
"No-one can be busy every day for eighteen months."
"Exactly. That's what we all tell her. But you know this is what technology does to you, some years ago you wouldn't have imagined something like this.Just text."
There is a group of Japanese students on the bus, and as the snowy landscape opens before us they voice the enthusiasm we all feel. The sun is radiant, and the snow exhilarating. The humble Peak looks alpine with the white dusting, we are fooled into believing the hills are two thousand metres, not two thousand feet high.
The soil is saturated with water, and we thrill at how full the rivers are. We help a large tree trunk slide along a bank into the foamy white water, and it breaks and is carried away with furious speed.
There is a real satisfaction in walking in snow, even if it's only a few centimetres thick; it still manages to make that lovely scrunching noise underfoot. We climb the last hill and I look over to the slope I walked the day before, and then turn around to see the whole path we had walked today, clearly laid out in the white and black photocopy landscape. Low, heavy clouds are slowly pulling in, a grey blanket which promises snow. The valley is dirty green, and scruffy mists hang above the villages. The moors look pure and unforgiving in comparison.
Her talking about work all evening made a bit nervous, a bit bored, and a bit superior too, at the bottom of my heart, superior that I was not obsessing about this quite as much. An impressive girl no doubt, and hard working, and smart, but so much posturing. Fortunately Dogboy and DrMatt were being silly as always, the views were beautiful, and it got bitingly cold at the top of the hill as we stood around what looked like an abandoned James Bond shooting site, all rusty radio-telescopes, mysterious machinery and snow covered heather whipped by the wind.
Later in the evening we were all tired in the cold pub, dozing over our pints, and TheNewGirl and DrMatt seemed bent on outdoing one another in tales of hardship. She talked about growing up on a council estate, and her father 'buggering off', and she sounded defiant, and it was clear she did not really know why she was telling us all that. She was challenging us, wanting us to like her for what she is, I think, but still full of spikes in case we reject her - 'I don't need you guys anyway'.
She reminded me of myself.
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