A Healthy Regard For The Consequences

There’s this old list that gets forwarded around of New year’s Resolutions. It’s been attributed to Billy Connolly but I don’t actually think he wrote it – but there’s one that says
“Why do people say ‘Life is short’?! Life is one of the longest things anyone ever does!” Which has truth to it, and is funny BUT the sentiment behind ‘Life is short’ also holds true.

I have a friend who was born with HIV.
I know a friend of a friend who went to the snow and was found dead of hypothermia the next day. They reckon he went for a couple of drinks, nothing major, at the bar at the resort where they were staying, and got lost wandering back to his chalet.
A girl I went to high school died of a brain tumour.
My fourth and fifth grade teacher died of cancer recently.

None of these people are what’s considered ‘old’. When I say the phrase ‘Life is too short.’ or (probably more likely) ‘Life is too fucking short’ these are the people I’m thinking of. These are why I don’t do certain, like waste time finishing a book I’m really not enjoying (a movie maybe… less time commitment… but not a book) Or when I’m about to enact a plan that seems crazy and very little chance of succeeding. Life is just it too damn short to not have a good time trying, even if you fail.

It was one of two phrases that entered into my mind at the pub the other night when someone asked about my last blog post.

It was just a regular at the night at the pub with a few friends. I’d had a fairly lame day of work and was happily relaxing over a couple of beers.

Then Joe (not his real name) raised the topic of the blog post and asked the true identity of the aforementioned ‘Jenny’. Even though Joe knew the real Jenny, I stuck to my guns and claimed he didn’t. Either I didn’t do this very well or he just didn’t believe me.  He asked if he guessed correctly would who Jenny was would I confirm her identity? Figuring I’d hid Jenny’s true identity relatively well I agreed – and was immediately surprised when the first words of his mouth were Jenny’s real name.

I froze.

And then I lied.

“No way,” I said immediately, trying my best poker face and taking a big swig of my beer in an attempt to hide my facial expression.

“But it was that line,” he proclaimed. “That line where you said ‘she’d often stated she wasn’t good at reading between the lines’. I know who said that, after I guessed her everything else fell into place.”

Of course everything fell into place. It WAS the bloody girl he was talking about.

I sat there considering my options. If I wanted to it would’ve been easy to continue the lie, he’d bought it, and the conversation topic had moved on to other things.

I’d lied to hide her identity so she’d never find out.

There’s this scene in the graphic novel (and animated film) “The Dark Knight Returns” where an aged Bruce Wayne is about to do something that could kill him if he sat back and  let it. He decides at the last minute not to, saying to himself ‘It would be a good death… but not good enough’ I’d often thought about this when potentially giving up on something. Both that and ‘Life is too short’ often floated through my continuous inner monologue.

I could’ve let Joe believe he guessed wrong. There’d be no chance Jenny would ever find out.

Then again, if by some freak occurrence, I died tomorrow, say by an unexpected avalanche (a common occurrence in Canberra), or a meteor (another common Canberra occurrence)… well, if I died tomorrow  everyone would move on with their lives. As they should. And  Jenny would go on being none the wiser.

It would be a good death… but not good enough.

Debbie could tell her. Debbie (also not her real name), was the one who I’d accidentally skyped about the dream, she knew.

I didn’t want Jenny to know because I was worried it would make her feel uncomfortable whenever I saw her. And I’d already stated I’d never say anything myself because that would be a dick move to her and her boyfriend.

But Joe *had* guessed correctly. I can only conclude he is a keen observer of the human condition, a mystery novel fan, or watches way too much CSI. And I downright lied, and if there was that modicum of doubt, he could express that to Jenny if she ever raised the blogpost had been about her.

Plus, if he ever told her, it wouldn’t be by my hand. There’d be no intention behind it. If she was going to find out about it, that would probably be the the most relatively drama free way to find out. And I rarely saw Jenny these days.

Life is too short.

So I turned to Joe, and before I could overthink it anymore (me? overthink something? never!) I said:
“You really got it from that line? That one single line!”
After all, he’d earned it.

Excitement and amazement burst from his mouth.
“I was right?!?! I knew it! I KNEW IT! It all made sense. You said you’d been trying to message Emma, and I’m guessing Debbie would be right next to her on your contacts.”

Joe promised he’d never tell. Buuuutttt after giving it a full five minutes thought the prospect of him telling her didn’t bother me so much.
If I died tomorrow? Say by a random ninja attack. (another common Canberra occurrence). Or, you know, a car accident. (This will never happen. My driving is awesome.) Well, that death… would now be good enough.

There’s a line in a book I read recently:
“Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I’m not crazy. Yes, there was a time when that may have been debatable, but the insanity plea no longer washes. Everything I’ve done was with forethought and a healthy regard for the consequences.” -‘Sex and Sunsets‘ By Tim Sandlin

The above actions were not the first time this year that quote has been relevant.

In case you didn’t know (because I never mention it, like ever, certainly not on this blog) I once spent a year writing a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’d ever had a crush on, from age six to present.

One of those girls was a lovely lady I’d worked with years earlier. We’ll call her Abigail. I’d  sent her a copy of what I’d written so far, which I thought was light hearted and funny. (It’s got a ‘tee-hee-hee’ tone I would tell people who said it sounded like a ‘stalker book’)

Her response was not positive. In fact, it was the worst I’d gotten to the book at the point.
“I don’t want to be involved in any part of this and that includes the use of any part of my name.”
(Clearly she didn’t think it had a ‘tee-hee-hee’ tone)

It would break me mentally for a few days. This is all covered in explicit detail in the book. What I didn’t cover was the humorous aftermath.

Before I’d even got copies of the book printed up whenever I ran into someone from the law firm where we’d both worked, one of two things happened:
1. Within a few sentences of greeting they’d say “So I read an early draft of your book, I thought it was pretty funny”. It had apparently become somewhat underground email forward. Getting a copy normally involved a conversation between co-workers that went along the lines ‘You’ll never guess what Liam’s up to these days. Screw it I’ll just email it to you so you can see for yourself.”
2. If they didn’t mention the book I would cautiously raise it in conversation (making no reference to the girl in question, simply stating what the book was about) the mere mention of the book seemed to end the conversation prematurely and I would often never hear from them again.

Oddly the same reaction you got with 2. was identical to the reaction I got when I ran into a co-worker and casually mentioned the rumour I’d heard, that happened after I left,  about one of the senior partners getting caught having a threesome with a secretary and unnamed third party in the boardroom after hours.
In regards to that rumour eventually I learnt this reaction was because all employees had been ordered not to comment on it.
I did wonder whether a similar mandate had been made in regards to my book. Or whether the ones that broke off all contact after it’s mere mention had simply deemed the concept a ‘stalker book’ without knowing of its comedic content.

After receiving that email from Abigail I didn’t have any contact with her. For fear of getting sued, her reaction had been so harsh and so dismissive I genuinely questioned whether I’d fallen for her, or had fallen for an idealized version of her I’d had in my head. Being aware of this, I did my very best in all future interactions with females to not put them up on a pedestal in my head.

This would fail spectacularly with one particular girl. (Yes Alyce, if you’re reading this I know whose name you’re saying right now) But that’s a story for another time.

Many years later I was preparing for my 30th birthday when my friend Trev made what he thought was a hilarious suggestion.
“You should invite that girl you used to work with. The one from your book. The one with the quote on the back.”
I looked skeptically at the webcam I was talking to him through.
“Abigail? Well, looking at it from all angles, the odds my actually be more in my favour now. She IS nine years older than me, and if the prospect of turning 40 next year is bothering her as much at the of turning 30 did back when we worked together, then she might actually consider it. Of course, the chance she may slap on restraining order on me could be a slight hindrance on our budding romance.” I mused.

He laughed. But the seed had been planted. And if there’s one thing my friends should be aware of by now, is that if a crazy idea forms in my head, then it only takes the slightest bit of encouragement for me to throw myself head first into it.

That encouragement came from Kirsty, who, two days later when I told her about the entire idea, happily pushed me towards it.
“She hated the book,” I pointed out. “She said, and I quote, ‘I don’t want to be involved in any part of this and that includes the use of any of part of my name.'”
“Maybe she doesn’t like books!” Kirsty declared. “A fear of papercuts maybe?”

That afternoon I toyed with the idea of sending Abigail an invite. It had seven years since we had any sort of contact, and ten years since we’d seen each other in person. Surely things would’ve cooled enough bynow that simply sending her an invite wouldn’t land me with any sort of restraining order. I mean, a single email in 2007 then an invite sent in the post seven years later? No way the consequences would be that bad. Worst case scenario she tossed the invite in the bin the moment she got it. Maybe I would get a nasty phone call.

And what if I died the next day? What if a random piano fell out of the sky and landed on me? (A common Canberra occurrence) Or a lightning bolt randomly struck me killing me instantly? (Another common Canberra occurrence.)

If I died then the book itself would be a nice humourous coda to the whole Abigail situation.

It would be a good death. But not good enough.

So I sent her an invite to my 30th. I knew she still worked at the law firm, and was fully aware of how well the office mail system worked. If the letter had ‘Personal’ written on it the mail staff weren’t allowed to open it.

It’s why I long suspected that time a mysterious package a lawyer had received that contained human feces  – Yes, someone shat in a bag and posted it to him – was an inside job. They’d written ‘Personal’ on the envelope so it hadn’t been let loose on unsuspecting mailroom worker.
(The mailbag stank that day, it wasn’t hard to guess what it might be)

I made sure “Personal” was clearly put on the envelope, even wrote my return address on the back and sent it.

I wasn’t crazy. I had a healthy regard for the consequences. When I told the rest of my friends, and my housemate at the time, about this in the following days, this would be an argument I would have to use continuously.

The general consensus seemed to be that she wouldn’t show up. But I’d thrown myself head first into this now, and my blind optimism was unstoppable.

“I’ve seen ‘The Right Kind of Wrong’ okay,” A film in which the lead character pursues a woman he meets on her wedding day. “Beautiful things that seem impossible happen everyday.” I would stubbornly quote.

My friend Sare even bet that she would cover the entire bar tab if in fact she was wrong and Abigail did indeed show up.

I knew, of course, the odds of her appearing weren’t great. Hell I’d even decided, if she did show up, the first thing I would say to someone would be ‘the universe just turned on its head.’

At around 11pm on the night of my 30th someone made a smart arse comment about Abigail not showing up. Not bothered in the slightest I adamantly declared
“She could still show!” Before adding “Kind of beating a dead horse now, aren’t I?”

But I was okay with the fact she didn’t. If she had, don’t get me wrong, that would’ve been awesome. But hey – if the next day I was randomly trampled to death by a herd of Wildebeest (A common Canberra occurrence.) Then I know I would’ve given the Abigail situation my best shot, and I was done now. That death would be good enough.

Because it’s in situations like this, like with Joe & the Jenny situation, and Abigail and my 30th that life is just too damn short to act otherwise.

Dream A Little Dream of…. wait…. who?

The following story is all true, I deliberately changed names and fictionalized extremely minor things to cover my own arse, and the identity of another who probably doesn’t deserve it. (But would complain if I didn’t so we’re back to covering my own arse again)

I woke up and looked over at Jenny sleeping in bed beside me. She yawned and stirred herself awake.

“You’re not going for a run this morning?” She asked. I smiled and leant down and kissed her.

“Thought I’d take a day off from running,” I told her. “How  about I make us breakfast? Feel like pancakes?”

She smiled and nodded and I walked into the kitchen while she jumped in the shower.

In the kitchen I grabbed some blue food colouring and added it to the pancake mix while I made them. Jenny eventually appeared behind me and wrapped her arms around me just as I was serving the last pancakes on to the plate.

“You’re in a good mood this morning,” she giggled looking at the brightly blue coloured pancakes. “What brought this on?”

“Just you,” I said smiling at her.

We ate the pancakes chatting and then went shopping. Afterwards we headed to a party at a friends house. We came home to ours and fell asleep on the couch, in each others arms, watching some old episodes of Quantum Leap.

My eyes shot open.

“Well, that’s new,” I said to myself, extremely surprised at the dream my subconscious had just thrown up at me.

Other than admitting that Jenny was ridiculously hot I never thought I felt anything more than friendship towards her. At least consciously anyway.

But here I’d just had a dream where we were dating. Full on, living together, sharing an apartment, falling asleep on the couch together, dating.

This wasn’t the first time my subconscious had seemingly blindsided me with me information via my dreams, and certainly not the first time it had managed to produce a dream so vivid that when I woke up I was confused as to how I had gotten to my bed. The reality of the dream seemed so real it didn’t seem logical to suddenly be waking up in a different place to where I was a moment earlier.

Unlike last time, however, my subconscious was a little more forgiving. The last time the reality of the dream had been set in the ‘present day’ so to speak. In that dream I’d still lived in house I was living in at the time, still went to my sister’s place and walked the family dog, Lentil, like I used to do. That dream had been harder to distinguish from reality than the previous night’s. When that dream had happened it literally took a good few hours for it to completely dawn on me that the dream hadn’t happened.

This time the dream had been set in an alternate reality, or at the very least in the future. The life I was living in the dream was so different to the life now it was easy to distinguish between what was reality and what wasn’t despite the dream being so vivid and real it was disconcerting.

Of course, as Jenny was a friend of mine I still saw her on a regular basis. That freaking day in fact. Immediately I put to work 4 years worth of high school drama classes in an attempt to act normal around her. I pondered whether it was like in sitcoms where the girl in question is completely oblivious yet everyone, especially the audience, are completely aware of the fact.

If I was being totally honest with myself, which wouldn’t happen for at least a couple of weeks, I could’ve just told her about the dream. Irregardless of her boyfriend. Not for an attempt to win her over, but due to the sheer comic nature of the entire thing. I’ve had dreams about hooking up with friends before. (Minor aside: I would like to point out, in this particular dream while there was a lot of relationshipy stuff, we did not have sex… apparently even in my dreams I don’t score…)

Having absolutely no romantic inclinations to the person in question I’ve told them about it figuring they’d be as amused by the whole thing as I was. Ninety percent of the time it was all fine. The other ten percent it confirmed their long standing (but completely untrue believe me) suspicion that I’d actually harboured strong romantic feelings for them. So ten percent of the time it was awkward for a short period until they got over themselves. Sometimes I pushed the ‘healing’ process along by deliberately talking with them about girls I was actually interested in.

I’ve actually had the ‘just friends’ talk delivered to me by a number of female friends despite the fact I wasn’t interested in them. So maybe it was the fear of accidentally triggering that conversation with another friend that caused me to hide the details of the dream and attempt to act normal around them and not like I’d just had a dream where we were in a loving committed relationship.

Except…. except….

I was on skype one day waiting for my friend Trev to come online so I could tell him all about it. Nothing like having a friend over the other side of the world who can laugh at your expense but who is also completely removed from the situation.

But I got impatient waiting for Trev’s timezone to sync up with mine and opened a message window to my friend Emma and told her the entire thing, typed it up as quickly as I could and hit send.

Except it wasn’t Emma. It was someone right next to Emma on my contact list who happened to actually be friends with Jenny, and was not separated by continents and timezones like Trev was. And man, did she take great amusement and mockery of the entire situation. She had a field day. For days.

Trev came online late that night when the timezones synced up and told him, even adding on the accidentally messaging to someone else. He did what all friends do in the modern age and immediately facebook stalked her. As well as her boyfriend.

Trev didn’t openly acknowledge the obvious reason for why I was fighting so hard not to actually tell Jenny about it. He knew when I’d had similar (though in at least one case, far more erotic) dreams about other friends I’d told them about it. I didn’t even hesitate when it happened with my old housemate Tam. We laughed about it the next morning. We thought it was funny.

Except this time…. this time…..

Trev’s final notes on the entire situation were simple.

“She has a boyfriend, so there’s no real way to make a move without coming across as a dick in some way shape or form. So the smart and logical thing to do is just forget about it and remain friends.”

Then, after further commenting that she was, in fact, ridiculously hot he added:

“……BUT if in some how or some way, something ever does happen between you two… you HAVE to give me details.”

I found this little exchange so amusing that, in an effort to make some peaceful conversation with my housemate at the time (a relationship which deteriorated further and further as the lease came to an end) I told her about it.

Her response was of course, to look up Jenny on facebook. Her words stung a tiny bit.

“Wow, there’s no way YOU have a chance with girl like her. She’s way out of your league. She’s like actually hot.”

Now, I take up argument with this comment, and not just because there’s indirect slight on my physical appearance. It’s not the “she’s out of your league” comment. That part’s true, I’ve been quite clear on Jenny’s attractiveness. I have issue with the ‘there’s no way YOU have a chance with a girl like her’.

People date out of their league all the time. And it’s even okay to acknowledge that you are, in fact, dating out of your league. Or at least trying to. It’s the moment you let that fact BOTHER you is when the situation becomes an issue, and insecurities begin.

I’m trying to keep this post relatively lighthearted because the last one (or maybe two) were a bit of a downer. So on this topic I’ll just make two quick points:

1) If you’re dating someone who you think is out of your league, and think about it a lot, that’s okay, that’s AWESOME. Focus on the positives though. Not the ‘they could leave me at any time because they can do so much better’ – this will only breed negativity and unhappiness, think the positive route ‘This is awesome. They could’ve had anyone and they choose me. This is great.’ because this second statement, well it’s more true than the first negative one.

2) As for perusing someone you think is out of your league I’m going to use a quote from the book ‘Shit My Dad Says’:
That woman was sexy. . . . Out of your league? Son, let women figure out why they won’t screw you. Don’t do it for them.

Okay….. I admit it….

Crushes are a very young thing. Someone I contacted for my book said that. (oh god, I hear you say, again with the book). At the time it annoyed me because I was writing about crushes and the way she said it was patronizing and a little arrogant.

Crushes still happen when you’re an adult. However, as I’ve made it clear by now, it is an entire different ballgame. Because as an adult you don’t have the ‘I don’t want to make high school a living hell’ line. As an adult you realise, or at least you should, that if you have a crush on someone you should just admit it and tell them. Worst thing that can happen is they reject you. You might hate yourself for a tiny bit, but you’ll get over it. It’s highly unlikely the world will end.

I’ll allow two exceptions.

When it’s someone you work with, there ARE complications. Sexual harassment laws are in place. You have to be careful. It can be considered unprofessional. It can get you in trouble BUT if you think about it, and it’s safe, and the worst that will come is utter awkwardness around the person in question YOU SHOULD DO IT ANYWAY.

And of course, if the person is in a relationship. Especially if they are married. Then most of the time there is nothing to be gained and maybe you should consider ‘just getting over it’. (Jenny’s not married btw. But she does have a boyfriend.)

So after weeks of fearing Jenny might figure the whole thing out, and eventually acknowledging to myself there may be a reason, in this case, that the dream happened when it did, I woke up one morning and realised I’d put a considerable amount of brain power into something that I didn’t need to.

I like romantic comedies. This should be my one shame as a man, but really, I just don’t care if other people pay me out about that. Thing about a lot of romantic comedies though is the rules are different to how reality works. You’re rooting for the sweet guy in the movie who’s pursuing the girl of his dreams despite the fact she has a boyfriend. The boyfriend is often portrayed as being a douche in some way shape or form so you know you’re in the right that you’re happy she ends up with the nice guy stereotype.

(Another quick aside – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is the one chick flick I’ve seen where the boyfriend/fiancee character is NOT portrayed as a jerk! And so is the one chick flick I’d recommend everyone check out. )

Except in reality, while this is the case some of the time. (The boyfriend being a douche) There’s a lot more to it. She was clearly with the guy for a reason. Couldn’t be that, you know, there were admirable qualities in him that she fell in love with that you’re not seeing because you’re biased there, could it?

I wasn’t going to be a dick and go after a girl with a boyfriend. Especially not when she seemed happy with the guy. That’s not being fair on her, that’s purely being selfish.

If she was happy, I was happy. And I was okay with that. And it was this startling revelation that meant I didn’t act weird around her anymore. Which was good, because shortly after that the whole nasty redundancy happened and I could use all the friends I could get.

I am curious as to whether Jenny ever figured it out. She’s often spoken about not being able to ‘read between the lines’ well. Then again the mutual friend hadn’t noticed any change in behaviour. When I wrote my book (oh god, he’s talking about the book again) about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’d had a crush, seemed to be an even split between the ones that knew I had a crush on them and the ones that didn’t.

And this Grey’s Anatomy quote (yes, along with chick flicks I watch Grey’s Anatomy) echoed in my head a couple times when I was ‘trying to act normal’ around Jenny. To give some minor background, the guy has been shot and can’t get medical attention so is saying his last words.

Charles: Can you find reed? When this is over, can you find her? I always … I always had a crush on her. I don’t think she knows.

Mary: She knows. Girls always know.

Charles: Well, tell her anyway.

Did she figure it out? Does she know? It doesn’t really matter. I’m sure I’ll tell her someday. To be honest, part of me kinda hoped she did. The rest of me, however, is firmly in the camp of her never finding out about it until I tell her.

So the logical thing to do is to write a goddamn blog post about it that she may read, right? Lol, oh well. I thought the story was amusing.