Friday, August 26, 2011

A Father And A Son Part 1

The total project had cost approximately 20 million dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand dollars. There was the land and existing building which cost approximately 10.5 million dollars plus stamp duty and legal fees which brought the value up to 11. The money had come from a good year in the sign business through a government contract, combined with strong trade in all three supermarkets and last, but not least, in the surprised success of a new internet site and iPad application that they had invested in the year earlier. They had then borrowed 9 million dollars from ANZ just a few months after the crisis in capital and they got the money at 5.45 per cent and locked it in for two years. They had celebrated that Christmas in Aspen, congregating in a long line for an ‘in situ’ photo with all the children present and accompanied by their husbands, wives, fiancĂ©es, and partners; all dressed in their finest ski gear.
Construction, which was intended to take only 12 months, had now gone into the 15th month and they now had revised the finish time as 20 months. Due to the nature on which the deal with the building company was struck, they had guaranteed to work at a lower margin given that they would not be subjected to a completion date. The wily yet lackadaisical owner of the building company had been smart enough to see the time lag effect  of the capital crisis in the building and construction sector and now wished to keep the job going as long as possible to ensure he didn’t lose some of his key personnel.
 They had also been met with friction all along the way. The local council had implemented new by-laws on energy ratings pertaining to office and commercial spaces which the building fell under the umbrella of. This had required revisiting the existing schedules, re-developing these plans to make them align with the new ‘best practice’ standards and would cost an additional 300,000 to implement. At the same time as this took place a series of court proceedings were filed against the developer on the basis that the shadow lines of the building would have an adverse affect on neighbouring residential buildings which flanked either side of the building. When these issues became a local concern, residents began asking more and more questions about why this building, which was 3 storeys higher than the neighbours, was allowed to be built in the first place; thus putting more pressure on the local council. In turn this started a resident’s local action group which gathered impetus and soon after it was difficult for the builders to do their work with residents purposefully blocking the roads at critical times and refusing to move their cars from work zones.
The final straw in this quagmire of problems that broke the back of Alan was the change in demand per square metre for office space. In a building where they had designed large floor plates for bigger companies looking for access closer to the CBD, they had in fact miscalculated the relocation of many of these companies to newer locations on the far side of the city and this demand had been replaced by smaller firms wanting smaller floor space with better security in professions such as architecture and graphic design and not in the traditional businesses which they had budgeted for. This had resulted in the need to shift the design half way through construction and to budget for a lower per square metre rental rate which would see yields decrease by 40%.
All in all, a deal which appeared to be a ‘no brainer’ had ultimately turned into a multitude of problems and had built up stress that had filtered down through the family and its repercussions were being felt by every member. These were the problems that faced Alan as he tried forcibly to enjoy the fading tangerine sunset over Rose Bay that he had paid so handsomely for. He looked forward to spring and the prospect that the natural changes of the seasons which brought new activity, might also favour his fortunes.
When the doorbell rang Alan was excited as to who might be at the door. Rachel was not answering to his calls, so he went to the door himself and opened it with a bright and smiling face to his son who was surprised, given the current circumstances, to see his father so happy and chipper. Instantly, Alan’s face turned sour as he looked past Justin to see where he had parked.
“How many times do I have to ask you not to park there? I cannot get out of the garage when you park there. Move it down further” he barked and walked away leaving the door ajar and hobbling on his feet which were sore from a gout attack he had experienced almost one week earlier.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Are you tired of hearing this kind of crap from your parents?

The great lies of the early baby boomers # 1
When I was 10 years of age I had 9 jobs, and I was paying off 8 mortgages to support 7 families. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sessions Part 3


The therapist digested all the words, gestures, changes in speed, language use; then she filtered it away as though nothing might change her world. She was his conduit to wash away the muck of his thoughts.
“Oooff!” he exclaimed. “I feel like I’ve just done a big poo and handed it over to you, Susan. I feel a little guilty for it”.
She laughed momentarily and then replied “How do you interpret the dream?”
“I don’t know. I think my greatest fear is that I am hopeless. Doomed to come close to all my goals but so laden with fear that I am paralysed and can’t reach out. I think it’s a malaise I have always suffered. That I might set out on the right journey towards my goal, that I might think positively and make some headway towards them but that I will throw in the towel. That I walk near my goal, see my goal, taste my goal but ultimately I will never reach my goal. It’s not just now; it’s been like this forever. As long as I can recall. When I was a child I didn’t dare let myself have what I want because my confidence was eroded systematically by my brothers and sisters. By my cousins. By my friends. Then I went through a period where I struggled and through courage and hard work I got where I wanted to go – I made the best team, I got A grades, but then once getting there I just let it slide away. Sometimes because once I got there I thought ‘it ain’t what it’s cracked up to be’ and then at other times because I thought ‘well now what? Now that I have achieved my goal, where to next? Do I now have to make new goals, and if I make new goals, where will they take me? And after that? A na na na and so on and so on. To what end? Especially when you start to think of the meaningless of your own existence. Am I making sense? Does anyone else feel this way that comes here?”
She swallowed saliva and changed her tone.
“Almost all of them. You would be surprised at how many people suffer the same problems you do. There are so many of you, what I refer to as the ‘worried well’, who can’t find meaningfulness in their existence”.
“Susan, I am not so sure that it is comforting to a narcissist like myself to think that these neuroses I suffer from are ‘ordinary’. It’s funny that.... To think that despite all my thoughts and the fact that I write them down, that essentially I am not special. Not different. And yet isn’t that how all great men came to be, by first accepting their insignificance?
What I find to be so... disconcerting... is that I meet, and I say ‘men’ here because they are usually men and I did note that I let a slip of the tongue earlier, who reach a point in their lives where they seemingly have it all, just like my Uncle Eddie, my father too, who suddenly – when seemingly they have all that they should need – supportive wife, healthy children, successful career, nice nest egg for retirement, big house, cars, good circle of friends – and they just have this male form of menopause, they breakdown and question everything. And they feel empty? How is that right? To see a sixty five year old man look back on his life as thought he might have lived all of it incorrectly.”
“Doesn’t that show you that there is nothing wrong with the feelings you have? That what you are experiencing is nothing more than the frustration of your existence. One of the solutions that Carl Rogers talks about is ‘radical acceptance’. That whilst humans keep fighting their reality they cannot truly change. And studies show that when this ‘radical acceptance’ is applied to human beings, it frees them to make changes in their lives for the better. In fact, it has been shown that where human beings don’t accept their lives as they are, that any changes they try to make to themselves will not be long term and sustainable. They are usually doomed to make the same mistakes again”.
“I like that. I will google that when I get home. Susan, that’s why I like coming here” he said. He watched eagerly to see if she should savour the comment or let it wash through her in the same manner in which his problems had. Susan returned the gesture by doing both. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sessions Part 2


“Is this the same Jeremy you talked about a few weeks ago?”
“Yes. The same. ‘Every time a friend succeeds, a small part of me dies’. I do subscribe to that Vidal quote. I think I carry over a lot of bitterness over Jeremy.
The dream is always the same. No, that is unfair to say. The dream is the same theme but it differs in the genre and setting. So what was different this time? I couldn’t really say. When I arrived at the cobble stoned street it was light. But by the time I saw him dining with his friends the night was cold and a light misty rain seemed to be there. And then I was wearing one of those Burberry trench coats. He was inside one of those restaurants that have a curved glass window pane – which is why I mistook the location. I could have been in Soho... New York.... And surrounding him were these good-looking people and they were laughing. I could tell he kind of saw me from the corner of his eye and chose to ignore my presence, but instead seem to lower his voice and continue talking. I was so frustrated because I thought ‘how dare he, how dare he be my nemesis and not heed my presence’ and that only made me more angry. Somehow I left my suitcase by the street next to a street bench. I pushed open the restaurant door and a bell chimed and I thought ‘maybe it’s Paris’ and I walked up to the table and it was as though now I had attracted his attention, but in doing so the entire table seemed to turn simultaneously and look at me. What is worse, half of all these good-looking people at the table seem to turn back toward the conversation as though I was either a nuisance or else that I were completely insignificant. I could feel myself heating up – and I flashed back to a time when my parent’s had shamed me as a boy for something I did – I must tell you this later -  and then I realised I had reached a tipping point, from which now I could not be passive and easy going – that everyone but me knew what my intentions were. That my mere presence had forced me to act, now, and that I didn’t want to and my heart was full of fear’. He fell silent for a moment and drew a long and heavy breath.  
“Shame is a very powerful emotion to feel. There have been many studies done to show how shame and shaming people has an incredible effect on people’s lives and that often we are forced to walk around and carry this shame wherever we go”. The therapist now gently nodded her head forward for him to proceed.
“It seemed, from my perspective that Jeremy has gone from strength to strength. The people at the table seemed to all have slender physiques. They looked like the type of people that treated their bodies as temples. They looked ‘cool’ and unflustered, and I have always grinded myself in the direction against ‘cool’, if not only for the purpose of trying to be different. And they seemed to be wearing jeans and comfortable clothing whereas I seemed to be over-dressed for the occasion. It was as though they were all at peace with themselves whereas I was some negative antagonistic force – but I didn’t want to play that role”.
“And is this where the dream ended?”
“No. It got so strange. So, now it seems as though the table they are sitting as is a ‘lazy susan’ styled table but there is no ‘lazy susan’ .”
“So it was a round table?”
“Yes, and the table is stained, the light is yellowy, so too are the walls. I think I’m in a Chinese restaurant and they have those little Chinese cups with no handles and they are indeed drinking Green tea. They all now seem to be older and more authoritative. I walk up to the table and I say ‘We need to talk’ and Jeremy looks up from the table and without flinching says ‘Sure’.
He stands up and he seems to be more muscular than the last time I saw him, more lean than anything else, and I feel myself faking a stoic resolve. We walk towards the counter where the cash register is and he looks at me in the eye and says ‘What is it?’
And as I start to speak I feel my mouth dry and the complications of my words and thoughts as they try to leave and strain in my throat and I say ‘You stole my idea’. But at the moment I utter the words, I see his blue eyes react in a manner as though I have played such a poor game of chess and that he had won the game before we had played. In fact, his expression suggested that we had never even played at all and I was extraordinarily humiliated but that now I must hear his response, that there is nothing I can do because I have played all my cards.”
“Oh dear me” said the therapist with kind, gentle eyes and pursed lips that spoke of humorous compassion for her patient’s folly.
“I am so glad you understand this. It is a great tragedy that I cannot share this with my girlfriend – I find it too difficult to expose this much vulnerability to her”, here he paused briefly and shifted himself in his seat, “he looked at me with such, it wasn’t contempt, it was indifference, he looked at me as though to say ‘I am Jeremy Winterbotham, I know who I am, and I am so far removed from you that I need not explain myself at all’.  And then he said to me “I am sorry that you feel that way”.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sessions Part 1

Checking his messages on his phone and then staring at the bookshelf he did not know what it was he wanted to say when finally they would meet. He had wrestled with himself in sleep the night before, scared to his wits end by a dream in which he was belittled and made to feel infinitesimally small and reminded of his insignificance. But when it came to define the dream the following morning he was stuck as to how he could put words to adequately describe the shame. Shame had been featuring heavily lately, creeping into his thoughts about his work, his relationship. Questions of whether he owned his own work or whether he was an imposter, questions of whether his love was real or whether everything he attacked her about was in itself a reflection of all his own shortcomings. Coupled with these dreams he felt the shame merging with insignificance and he felt completely paralysed.

He squeezed his fingers into his palm and felt them cold. A door opened upstairs and soft murmurs could be heard. He turned his head as the previous patient walked past, opening the door swiftly and exiting leaving only a small faint scent of perfume.

“You are not the owner of your work, you are merely a conduit for the Great Creator” he thought recalling some self-help book. He reached for his journal and made his way to the stairwell. There she stood, looking down at him with an empathetic expression which immediately disarmed him and brought to the forefront all he wished to tell her.

“You look lovely today” he said, “You’ve dressed perfectly for the weather”.

“Oh” she said with a stammered puff of air which denoted an unreasoned fondness, “thank you, it was cold and wet this morning so I decided to wear boots”. Her voice, which was soft, and might be described as mousy, was in fact considered and more potent for its lightness.

He sank himself into the armchair and placed his journal on the side table. She smoothed out her skirt and neatly crossed her left leg over her right, as she always did, and studied him to ascertain where she thought he might be heading today.

“I had a dream”

“Oh, well, let’s start with that” she said with disarming ease.

“And I wrote my journal. But I will start with the dream. This was a variation of the one I told you about that other time. You know how I caught stuck on that mountain top in the aeroplane with my cousin and my other friend and I was about to fall out. Well, it’s not exactly the same, but it is similar” and then he slowed his movements and took the journal out to guide himself.

“I was selling pots or pans – I don’t know, they seemed to be special, or especially designed for some purpose. And I was happy. I think I might have been involved with the company or had some stake in it. But then I passed a street one day where, well, I wasn’t sure what kind of a place it was really, it could be Paris, it could be Rome, and it could be Sydney. I just don’t know how to describe it other than there were cobbled stones. You know when a new city sometimes fabricates the look of an old city. It was new but it was old. And there I was with a suitcase full of items and I was busy thinking about my business when I came across Jeremy Winterbotham.”