Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'll be there for you

Friends. Either a once-funny sitcom that eventually became so smug that it even made the old funny episodes seem unfunny, or something that's been on my mind a whole lot lately. Nothing focuses your mind on what you have in your life or, more specifically, who you have in your life, than being about to leave it all behind you. Well, not my life hopefully [although the troubling question of Aussie spiders is not an issue I've yet raised here], but leaving your country, your job, your security and all that is familiar.

It's been really bugging me that I've neglected a few people over the last 18 months or so, particularly since we made the decision to go to Oz. Just not getting in touch with people I care about, who are friends, who I don't want to let go of just yet thankyou, despite the fact that I'll be ten-and-a-half thousand miles away [that's about 17,000 km in that new-fangled foreign measurement they use there] in about two weeks. Bugging me because I'm pretty hard on myself a lot of the time, certainly, but also because I don't want to leave with unfinished business, with regrets. Bugging me enough to start writing this at 6 a.m. as the wheels of my mind grind and shudder to a start.

I want to go to Oz with a clear conscience, with something to build on, if that doesn't sound either too pretentious or too callous. I don't mean I'll have better relationships with Aussies, but there's something psychological happening deep down that means I can't leave on a sour note and just go, although that would in some ways be easier, notwithstanding the fairly obvious denial and complex issues to deal with in the future. People just slip away, off the radar and into the ether [apologies for the mixed metaphors], and the thought frightens me at the moment. It's like a sort of anticipatory grief.

There were things that happened over the last 2 years that really affected my confidence and self-esteem, and made me withdraw from just about everyone for a time. I got a bit depressed, and TV became my friend. Some people were oblivious to my withdrawal and just carried on regardless, not seeming to realise that I never reciprocated by getting in touch with them in return, but others just slipped away. I'm thankful for the former group, as they made things easier in the long run, but am really sorry about the latter. In retrospect it seems easy: just give them a call once in a while, see how they'e doing, catch up, get back in the routine. But when you've been out of touch for some time, the longer it gets the harder it is.

I guess it comes down to fear of rejection, although in the cold light of day it's hard to imagine that someone I've known for a long time would say, no, you're out of my life, see ya. But even that knowledge doesn't really seem to help somehow. It seems like the old joke: you stop the car and the bloke you ask for directions says "The football ground? Oo, no, you can't get there from here; you'd be better starting from somewhere else." I swear that happended to me once in Carlisle, and it's silly, but somehow you just know what he means.

So what am I getting at here? Well, I guess all I'm doing is some sort of cathartis, trying to express and come to terms with the rollercoaster of feelings that this organisational nightmare is constantly bringing up, and find some peace, some resolution. The nature of friendships can be either fleeting or permanent, as circumstances change, but it's something we depend on at times in our lives to be stable and definite. People come and people go, but some people you just don't want to let go of. Ever.

Having spent a lovely couple of days with James & PJ up in Grassington last week, some of this started to really hit home. We planned for them to come to see us in Melbourne: this was something we needed to do, to mutually express the permanence of our friendship. It most likely won't happen for another 12 months, more likely 15 months from now. But that's a long time when your god-daughter is [nearly] two years old, and Robert, their 3 month old will be nearly as old as Trinity is now when we next see them. If we hadn't have had the conversation, I'm sure we'd still keep in touch and that they would still be visiting in early 2007, but we needed to set down some definite plans, to mark out our territory, our joint ownership of this thing we call friendship.

As James said shortly before we left last Friday, it could get a bit "dusty" at the farewell party. I'm already practising my British stiff upper lip. But it's already starting to wobble.

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