People are mostly idiots.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people who have somewhere to be will always have to deal with other idiots who also have somewhere to be. It’s a vicious circle and one that I’m not altogether happy about participating in.

I’m sure you know what I mean. You’re probably, say, late for work. Like me, you might always be late for work. It’s already bad enough, then you remember the gauntlet you have to run in order to get to your office, inevitably on the other side of the city. You get off the train or the bus and take a look around. There are people everywhere and your hope of getting anywhere at a decent time all but fades to a distant memory.

If you’re anything like me, the prospect of this is infuriating. Absolutely, mind-numbingly infuriating. People are mostly idiots at the best of times, but when you’re late, it really does feel like the whole world is working against you.

As a stress-reducing exercise and quasi coping mechanism, I try to imagine my path to the office as some sort of objective-based video game called ‘Office Quest’ and the people in my way characters that I need to avoid in order to gain points, increase levels and gain experience.

I find imagining my life as ‘Office Quest’ is much easier than actually a) being on time or b) dealing with all the kinds of people that fill a mall each morning. I mean, really. What are these people doing, just wandering around aimlessly? Don’t they have anywhere else to be?

You know the types I’m talking about.

The people who stop in the middle of the walkway to look in their shopping bags. Who are these people? Why is it so important to just stop everything and take a look in their shopping at that exact moment? Why not move off to the side and take a look instead of collecting at least six people walking behind you?

Then there are the people who step out of the shops without even glancing at who might be coming up that cause the most grief. People traffic is like road traffic – rules should apply. What kind of person just walks into oncoming traffic without a care in the world? Worst of all, what kind of person just walks into oncoming traffic, while sending a text message? Then looks at you like you’re the worst person in the world for running into them?

Or the people who walk straight for you, willing you to move with their scowling faces then huff and puff when you don’t move out of the way. What the hell is that? It’s like some sort of weird, silent face-off that quite frankly gets a bit ridiculous and uncomfortable all at the same time.

And finally, let’s not forget about the people who change direction and pace all at the same time. First they’re walking in front of you, in the same direction as you and everything is how it should be. Then suddenly they’re not! They’re walking on top of you, walking sideways, criss-crossing or worse, all of the above! Where do you go? There are a million other people all coming at you as well and it’s like idiocy just exploded all over the place.

It’s just so bloody annoying. I don’t know, I might just be too critical. Or maybe, just maybe, people really are just idiots.

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Return to fight club.

I’ve recently returned to work after a long period in another department. Having previously experienced some, how do you say, ‘challenges’ in my old role, I was determined to be optimistic.

The morning started out on a great note. I saw a friend in the street and we walked together, laughing and joking on the way. So far, so good I thought.

I made my way over to my old desk, waving at old chums as I went. As I sat down I was met with a chorus of ‘YOU CAN’T SIT THERE!’. Shocked, I dropped a handful of belongings on the floor.

I was then ushered over to a reception desk of sorts. There sat a lone computer monitor. No keyboard. No mouse. No phone. No network connection. Ah yes, I thought, off to an excellent start. I looked skyward and hissed to the heavens ‘WHY DO YOU HATE ME?’.

After weeping silently into my hands for 5 minutes, I knew I had to take action.

Step one – find a working phone. I dialed the number for the ironically named ‘help desk’, and so began my descent into corporate hell.

It rang a few times. As I started to settle myself in for a long wait, the phone was picked up immediately. Excellent.

I explained my situation. ‘Are you in Rockhampton?’, he enquired out of the blue. ‘No, I am in Brisbane’, I said, to which he replied ‘Are you sure you aren’t in Rockhampton?’. I looked around and mouthed to a colleague – ‘Am I in Rockhampton?’. He shook his head, just as puzzled as me.  ‘Yes I’m sure’, I flatly replied, ‘In fact I’m positive I’m not in Rockhampton’.

He went on. ‘Well, if you’re not in Rockhampton, we don’t know who you are. In fact, the computer says you don’t exist’.

I didn’t exist…at all? Like ever? Was this just at work or was it a universal problem? Had I ever existed? Was my whole life one big fantasy? Did anything exist? Was I the figment of someone’s imagination? Was this ‘Fight Club’? Was I Tyler Durden? What was going on?

I was snapped back into reality with an impatient ‘Are you still on the line??’.

I starting seeing stars behind my eyes. ‘Listen’ I said, the urgency in my voice becoming more apparent, ‘I assure you I exist and I’m going to need access today to do my job’, my patience starting to wear thin.

‘We’ve got a lot of work on today, is all’, he replied with as much disinterest as he could muster. ‘I’m saying it might not happen today’. ‘I understand’, I replied, starting to feel myself blacking out. ‘I’ve probably downplayed the seriousness of the situation. I. Need. To. Work. You need to connect me. I understand how busy you are, but you seem like a smart man. I’m sure you can see my dilemma’, I responded in a low, murderous tone.

I felt that it was only then he became aware of the urgency of my situation, like he’d woken up out of some sort of fog and smelt danger. Cautiously he replied ‘ Well I guess we can log this job as an emergency and have someone up there in half an hour?’. I could sense his relief when I hissed ‘Perfect’.

It was at about this time that it dawned on me – I hadn’t been paid. Step two – payroll.

As it turns out, they hadn’t been advised of my return either. Shocking. I really was in ‘Fight Club’. They were sympathetic. I was informed the only way to fix it was to log on to the system and fill in forms that I could only access from, you guessed it, THE SYSTEM I HAD NO ACCESS TO.

When pressed on how I would obtain these mythical forms, they were bewildered. ‘We’ve never even heard of this sort of thing before!’ they exclaimed. ‘Well that’s unfortunate’, I muttered. I felt my eye starting to twitch. ‘Before we go any further, I should disclose I’ve been on the phone to the ‘Help desk’ and I now have a red hot anger growing inside me like a tumour. Perhaps we can talk later when I calm down’. We all agreed that might be the best solution for everyone.

That night I went home and lay down for a long time. That was Monday. By Friday, someone had stolen my chair.

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A love letter about Jodie.

Recently my life has changed. Not just a little, but a lot. I met someone. An extremely awesome lady who is funny, who is smart, who kisses like an electric mermaid and has turned my life completely upside down. What sorcery is this.

It’s a funny thing really. Those butterflies in your stomach, that feeling you get when you can’t wait to see someone – even if it’s only been five minutes since you saw them last. Listening and watching and waiting and knowing that this is the kind of something special that’s going to last more than a weekend.

The story of how we met is really funny. One of those drunken stories I don’t mind telling because the ending isn’t as mortifying as the beginning.

So there was this party. She was there. I was nervous. I drank most of her vodka and then vomited it up not once, but twice in front of her. Waking up at 530 and talking to her for three hours before I finally had to go home and have two sleeps where I woke each time feeling extremely sorry for myself, vowing that I would never drink vodka again. Ever, ever? Never, never.

The second time I woke up from my drunken slumber I knew I had to see her again. That my life depended on the one act of bravery it would take to ask her to hang out with me again. She did. We did. And now we are us.

Last year I believed that there was no way I could ever fall in love again. I don’t believe I have to remind anyone of the ridiculous situation I found myself in 2 years ago and how hard it was to drag myself out of the darkness.

So cue right now. Weekends that pass by like minutes, goodbyes that last hours and jokes are so funny I’m still laughing two days later.

I want to write her all the love letters and sing her all the love songs and buy her all the flowers but none of it will ever be enough.

She calls me a superstar. She thinks the colours in my mind are mesmerising. She loves that I know the words to 90’s songs. She loves that my hair is the best hair in Brisbane and she made me breakfast and she packed my lunch for work.

She has a job and a car and a dicky knee. She called me a clown when I couldn’t find the water in her fridge. She made me a lemon drink out of real lemons when I kept waking her up with my cough. What sorcery is this, indeed.

She caught my cold and was really sick but she wasn’t angry at me. She likes football and tried to talk me through some app she has and didn’t seem to mind that I had no real idea of what the hell she was talking about .

For the first time in my life I want to understand this ball game of ‘foot’. I can’t wait to hear her yell at the TV when a man in short shorts doesn’t do something correctly with the egg shaped bit of leather. I’ll probably want to yell too! ‘Damn you overpaid man for playing a game that’s hard to understand who also takes money away from important  arts projects! Damn you all to – TRY!’. Look, I don’t even know if that’s the correct terminology but I have a feeling I’ll love every minute of it.

I am stunned every single day that she chose me. That she would even talk to me for more than 30 seconds is something that I can’t even comprehend. My clumsy attempts at humour have her laughing for ages and she tells me there’s no place she’d rather be than here, with me. An outrageous waste of her time but something I’m certainly not going to talk her out of.

So this is my update, friends. Long-winded as usual but finally from a place of peace I suppose. A happy, contented, loved-up piece of heaven where I’ve actually met someone who has literally changed everything.

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A brief history of neighbours

I read an article on news.com.au the other day about how terrible it is that we don’t know our neighbour’s anymore. The author of this propaganda suggested that the reasons behind this triumph were because of how we live our lives now. You know, longer hours, more internets (that’s my game!) and less talking to real human beings, who let’s face it, can be major dicks at the best of times.

After reading this article, I failed to agree with her. I’m not friends with any of my neighbours and don’t ever plan to be. Why? Is it because I’m a secret recluse who has nothing much to say to anyone? Maybe. Or is it because in my past experience, even the nicest neighbours often turn out to be the biggest bunch of assholes you’ve ever met.

Take for instance where I live now. The (idiot) couple downstairs appear to have absolutely no idea that when they park outside their apartment, it also blocks the access to my front door. In fact, they seem so oblivious that they even park two cars there sometimes. Or sometimes they even have friends and family over and the whole driveway is then littered with black Mazda 3‘s like they’re having some kind of mob meeting. WTF?

I haven’t approached them yet for a number of reasons. No. I prefer to stew on it from the safety of my apartment, scheming, bitching and plotting but never actually doing anything to solve the problem. Why? Because that’s how I roll.

In my defense, I called the Body Corporate and they said they’d breach them if I made an official complaint. I told them I’d think about it because I might actually be able to be a grown up person and deal with it face to face. Emphasis on the ‘might’ part.

Essentially though, I’m gutless. That’s a given. But it’s not without precedent. Here is a list of my shitty neighbour’s and why no one should ever have to be friends with the weirdos that live next door. Ever.

Rosalie

The married couple upstairs. Nice enough people and she even worked in the local video store, which seemed really cool at the time. They seemed fun and in love, except when she’d go to work.

When she went to work, a blonde lady would pull up outside the unit block 10 minutes later. She’d go upstairs and if you ran down to the back of the apartment (which we NEVER did), you could hear them boning so loudly that it echoed across the car park at the back of the unit block. What a swell guy.

Eventually he even started cheating on the mistress too and by the time his wife caught on, it was a huge mess. Wife moved out and a mistress moved in. Not sure which mistress though. Blondes all look the same to me.

West End

This was a pretty kooky apartment building down the end of a lane way that seemed to attract everyone. It didn’t matter if you were a raving lunatic or the CEO of a tiny little company no one had ever heard of, you could be found living in this place.

It had an awesome ambience and felt not unlike Melrose Place, minus the pool. There was singing shower guy – a guy that well, sang in the shower for about 2 hours at a time. You could leave and come back hours later and he’d still be in the shower, singing away.

Or the girl that lived next door to me who kept weird hours. I only knew that because she’d come clomping along the balcony at any hour talking loudly on her mobile phone. She’d stand outside my door every time and take her shoes off, always managing to stumble, crash and flail into it like a drunk polar bear with a gun to its head.

Highgate Hill

What a beautiful little apartment this was. Views of the city and a seriously old school charm, tucked below street level in a really nice part of town.

Except for the boarding house next door and the guy that lived in it. We didn’t even notice it at first until one fateful evening the outside spotlight on. He screamed out the window that if we didn’t turn it off, he was going to come down and beat the shit out of us. Heart-warming stuff.

Every night he would sit in his apartment and screech ‘EAT IT. SUCK IT. FUCK IT’ over and over again. As time went on, the whole situation just got really out of hand. It became so bad that we were convinced he was having sex with a dead body. I don’t even want to tell you how we came to that conclusion but we called the cops on that premise.

Turns out he wasn’t. We know that cause he spent the next 4 hours (and I’m not even exaggerating) in the shower crying about how the pigs ruined his high.

All good reasons not to go befriending my neighbours. Especially because watching from a distance is so much more entertaining.

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My dummy spit

We’re having a pretty big month at my house. There’s a new car which I can’t and won’t stop talking about (I didn’t ever say I wasn’t materialistic); I’m still too gutless to talk to my downstairs neighbour about how inconvenient it is when he parks across my front door; and we are in full toilet training mode. I use the term ‘we’ because it feels like I’m doing it right along with her.

Just quietly, I feel like I should have a degree in toilet training by now. I’ve read so many books and talked to so many people that it is all I think about. Even at work I’m thinking of new and inventive ways to entice Lucy onto the toilet. Hell, I’ve even looked at my own style and polished it. Every little bit helps.

What they don’t tell you in toilet training books is how mind-numbing it can be. I feel like all I talk about is wee and poo. My new hangout place is on the edge of the bath, singing songs and reading books about, well, wee and poo.

I’ve even started using actual songs and replacing their lyrics with ones about poo and wee, just to break the monotony. For example, “I’m Outta Love” by Anastacia is now ‘I need to wee, set it free! Toilets like to eat wee wee!’. Followed my much laughter. But no wee.

But I digress.

There’s also been a lot of discussion about the right time to get rid of Lucy’s dummy. Daycare says that it’s time to give it up. My mum says that it’s time to give it up. Books say that it’s time to give it up and god forbid, other (judgmental) parents are aghast we even allowed it in the first place.

Now, I’m an avid supporter of comfort in whatever form it comes in so I’ve been fighting it tooth and nail. I even called a meeting with the daycare advising that I was fine for Lucy to give the dummy up in her own time and that I certainly wouldn’t be happy to hear about public shaming methods or hide and seek games involving it.

I think I even used the phrase “it would be against her human rights…blah blah blah”. One day I even became so worked up about it on my own that I cried and wrote furious text messages to anyone who would listen. I just couldn’t stand the thought of her giving up the one thing that has brought her so much comfort before she was ready.

Crazy right?

Yeah, a little bit. So I had to really look at my reasons for acting so irrationally. Why was I willing to start a Change.org campaign about a dummy? What was my actual problem? It’s scary but I didn’t have to think very hard.

I knew what it was. I knew deep down that it was my filthy little secret, my terrible shame that was getting me so worked up. The thing that haunts me when I go to sleep at night and a subject that makes me jumpy when anyone mentions it.

So here it is. Everyone, you don’t know this about me but…I am a thumb sucker. Yes! A THUMB SUCKER.

Oh god, the shame. The trauma. The years I’ve hidden it from everyone I know, laughing and mocking others just to fit in. Dreading sleep-overs as a kid in case I woke up with my thumb in my mouth. Or worse – not wanting to go to sleepovers so I could stay at home and secretly suck my thumb.

It’s been awful. I’ve been an addict for so many years and now at 34, I’m sad to say I still haven’t kicked it completely. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m sucking on it and you know what? I DON’T HATE IT.

I’m a recreational user. Someone who leads a seemingly ‘normal’ life by day but hides in the shadows at night. No one would ever suspect what a ridiculously shameful existence I’ve actually been living.

Now that I’ve come out, I need you to know that I’ve always been a thumb sucker. Even as a little kid I couldn’t stop. My mother tried everything to rid me of the habit. Horrid tasting gunk in the hopes it would stop me but I just cried, sucked it off and continued on my merry way.

She even tried bribing me with a Pound Puppy. Remember them? I wanted one so badly that she decided to use it as leverage to try and get me to stop. The rules were simple. So, so simple. I could have the Pound Puppy but only if I stopped sucking my thumb. Easy, right?

I’m ashamed to admit I pulled a swifty on her. I pretended to kick the habit. I swore that I was done and it would never happen again. But as soon as I had my glorious prize, I went right back to sucking it like nothing had ever happened. That’s the thing with being an addict I guess. You can’t help but hurt the ones you love.

It’s often not until you’re honest with yourself that you can be honest with other people. For instance, I was talking to a lady I know about this very subject. Someone who I have wild respect for and consider to be one of the most sophisticated people I’ve ever met. Turns out she’s a thumb sucker too and we united in our common addiction. We regaled each other with stories and techniques and both noted that it was a hard habit to kick.

Even my therapist wasn’t phased. I prepped her for a ‘huge revelation’ before I came in to see her but she just shrugged. She said that it’s really common for adults to suck their thumb and it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of. She said that it would be more useful to consider what triggered it, rather than being such a big weirdo about it. My words, not hers.

Which got me thinking. If it’s so common, why are we shaming children (and adults) into stopping? What’s the point in adding stress and trauma to anyone’s life if we don’t have to? I know I’ve just carried on about my own personal shame but that aside, I’m actually standing by my dummy spit. It stays until Lucy is ready to give it up. Or I call Amnesty International.

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My new friend

I made a new friend this year. A mean friend. A debilitating friend. A friend that enabled my anxiety and all the bad thoughts I’ve ever had about myself. A friend who wouldn’t let me go to sleep at night because I was so terrified that I’d dream about them or worse, wake up at 2 am with them sleeping beside me, reminding me that I would never be free.

A friend who stopped me from seeing the good in anyone and anything but instead helped me see the bad. A friend who constantly had me second-guessing myself, over-analysing every decision I made and every interaction I had in case I’d done something wrong.

A friend who loved my mistakes and reminded me constantly that I’m a bad person. A friend who made my soul ache when I was alone, an ever-constant hose to my simmering fire.

A friend who sometimes gave me hope but then took it away as soon as I started to believe that it could all go back to the way it used to be. A friend who held me back at every turn like a possessive partner, afraid that I could step into the light and no longer trust what they told me is true.

I hadn’t met my friend until this year but I know we have friends in common. I’ve read books and seen movies and I’ve seen the damage that can occur if you don’t tell anyone who they are.

I’ve heard about the power they have, the kind of control they can take and the grip that sometimes ends up strangling you because you no longer have the resources to fight it. No one is immune. My friend is opportunistic and preys on weakness.

My friend helped me live my life in the shadows the last few months. Helped me get up every morning to go to work. Made me feel so crippled with shame that I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. The bond we shared felt so strong.

My friend let me be a parent. It made sure that my daughter’s every need was met and that every smile she gave me was met with another, never letting me forget what a bad parent I am and how I need to try harder. My friend has been good like that.

In truth, it has been the worst time of my life. When I don’t have Lucy, I drink more, eat more and have stopped seeing most of the people I know. I want to be alone so I can eat chocolate and hate-watch TV until I am physically so exhausted that I have no choice but to sleep.

I’ve gone over every decision I have ever made and chastised myself for not being better, for not realising that everything could have been so much different if I’d just made another choice.

Having said that, I need to tell you that something happened a few weeks ago. The fog lifted and I woke up feeling different. My friend was still there but didn’t feel as powerful as before. Something inside me had shifted.

I don’t know what changed but for the first time in a long time, I feel more like myself. Optimistic? Happy? I can hear myself think again. I can hear my heartbeat and my footsteps and see the road ahead of me.

I know there’s still a long way to go and that’s ok. I wanted to write it all down so when I’m happy again I can look back and remember what it felt like so I can do my best to never let it happen again.

If you have the same friend, you need to talk to someone. My friend made me want to jump in front of a train. How much power does your friend have?

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Life after life

Recently and without any fanfare, my terrible year came to an official end. By that, I mean legally came to an end. Our custody arrangements have been etched in very expensive stone for the next two years and would you believe, the pending DVO was finally withdrawn by the police.

As with all endings, there is grief. It was such an intense journey that I had no time to grieve for anything, let alone the loss of my relationship. It is hard for some people to understand that I would be sad about the end of that particular relationship, considering what happened and what I was accused of.

No one has to understand it I guess. I have had a lot of people say ‘Oh, you mean you miss being with someone’ when I’m honest about how I am feeling sometimes. No. I miss the person I shared my life with for four years. The person who is the co-parent of our amazing daughter and was the step-mother to my handsome, yet terribly bad-tempered cat, Cliff. The person she turned into at the end is what mental illness does to people. You no longer recognise the person you thought you knew and any attempt to find them is often futile. It’s devastating and life destroying and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The most damaging part to last year was the accusation that I was a perpetrator of domestic violence and the fact it took so long for the police to withdraw their application. So why did it take 15 months to shake? Here is my best and non-legal attempt at explaining it.

In September 2012 there were changes to legislation in Queensland. Basically these changes mean that anyone accused of committing domestic violence is slapped with a domestic violence order, no questions. These changes are fantastic for victims of domestic violence who genuinely need help but have the potential, like anything, to be abused by a small group of people who are on what I like to call, ‘revenge quests’.

For example, in one of our appearances, the Judge said that ‘with the introduction of new legislation, everyone in a relationship was potentially a domestic violence perpetrator as sneezing, in the right setting, could now be considered ‘abuse’. I agree.

In my situation, I wasn’t even home (work swipe card records prove this) on the day of alleged abuse and yet no one wanted to make a decision. Please don’t get me wrong. The changes to this legislation offer victims of domestic violence a voice where they so often have none, which I support. However, the system used to prosecute these cases is flawed and wagers largely on who the Judge and the police prosector are on the day.

In my case, it was a combination of the system and the adjournments that my lawyer sought because much to our dismay, every time we went to court or wanted to speak to a prosecutor, no one had read through our evidence. No one.

In one instance, the prosecutor was so confused that we were two women that he couldn’t even get our names right. In another instance, the prosecutor didn’t even have our case with him. We were in court and he didn’t even have our case. You can imagine, this makes everything a little difficult.

It wasn’t until my lawyer threatened legal action against the police that anything was looked at. After that, we were sent an apology email with the news the case was being withdrawn 15 months later. What a system! I’ll stop before I sound too bitter.

While all this went on, I didn’t see my daughter for three and a half months. Can you imagine that for a second? Three and a half months. From March 2013 to June 2013, my co-parent refused to let me see her.

My lawyer wrote letters, we attempted mediation but to no avail. I even did an anger management course at my co-parent’s request, on the promise she would let me see her. She didn’t. It just added further fuel to her intense social media campaign against me.

Later on I was asked why I completed an anger management course if I didn’t have a problem with anger. I said that I would have flown to the moon and back in order to see my daughter if she’d asked me to. I would have joined the circus, recorded an album, danced a jig if it meant that I was going to see her. Wouldn’t you?

When we ended up in family court in June 2013, my co-parent, now  faced with the the fact she would have to let me see our daughter, accused me of being a child molester. Yes, a child molester. Terrible stuff and it still sounds like a bad daytime movie.  I still have difficulty talking about this period of time and to be honest, it’s still a bit of a blur. The great part – no one believed her. So that’s a huge plus.

So 15 months later, I sit in my living room with primary custody of our daughter and no DVO (and for the record, no temporary order either). It’s been hard to sit still to be honest. Last year moved so quickly and I had to be on top of everything, reacting to every moment like some sort of ninja.

Making peace with the silence and really, with myself after what happened is proving to be the biggest challenge of all.

How do you start life after life? Is it even possible? Is it possible to put all the accusations, all the social media shaming, the very public Courier Mail ‘newspaper’ article behind you so that you can begin again or at least, begin again from the middle?

To put behind you all the doubts you’ve had about your parenting, all the doubts you’ve had about yourself as a person and just keep living? I don’t even know yet.

Time heals all wounds and stuff but how do you know that’s true and not just something we say to make ourselves feel better? How do you trust that it will?

This ‘life after life’ thing is the hardest adventure I’ve been on and I’ll be honest, some days are better than others. If all else fails, at least I’ll have new material to write about it.

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