To allow myself the time to wallow in self pity I have turned to the ‘melancholy playlist’ on my Ipod, which includes such teary classics as Sad Songs by Elton John, True by Spandau Ballet, and the song I am currently listening to – Night And day by Al B Sure.
I’m walking through our new home which at this point is still a shell – no paint on the walls, no interior doors or taps or anything remotely home-y. The completion date has been put back again and again and our predicted six month stay at the in-laws has moved on to eight and possibly ten months. I can still see the glaring positives of our situation, but I find myself stuck in a mental battle which I navigate daily.
As I walk down the long corridor of our new house (sad but still grooving and even spontaneously shimmy-ing because of a freaky genetic propensity to respond skilfully to all forms of music) I notice the empty take-away packets the dozens of tradies have left behind and my feet drag through the rubble and broken tiles. The bedrooms are still just spaces, squared by factory-like walls. In the bathroom is a note written on the back of a product order form that reads you jizz on your chin which I assume the tilers left for me after I told them to re-do the ensuite. (It’s a nice compliment but they give me too much credit.) In the living area there
are two dozen doors piled on top of each other, some cigarette packets and a crazy amount of cut plasterboard. Right throughout the house there are gaping holes for power-points and heating vents and light fittings. Our yard is the rubbish dump equivalent. To me, it all looks months away. To Johnny Hates Jazz, who’s singing to me right now, it’s the stuff of Shattered Dreams.
I am a sad sack of a man. The in-laws have generously allowed their lives to be severely impacted upon by four grandchildren, their daughter and the strange man she married (who uses their comments and activities for fodder on his bizarre blog). They’re understanding with the kids, incredibly tolerant of me and unrelentingly helpful. I recognise the privileges we’ve been offered and feel that alone should carry me jovially through each day, but I may have severely underestimated the importance of having my own family space.
As I stand in the main bedroom and imagine our bed there and feel the lush carpet on my feet as I rise to the kids at 6am I get an understanding of myself in the current situation. I’ve felt a pressure to keep my children as quiet and as ordered as possible in another couple’s house, to follow a routine that doesn’t quite compliment my focus and strength, and a matter of progressive overload has led me to a place – on several occasions over the past half a year – that I’d describe as only a few short steps from depression.
RM could see that in me when she came home today and so I have this time to walk my giant man-cave and reset myself. This is an important thing. At my infrequent worst I hear criticism all around me, I blame myself for events that should just be floating by, and I struggle to remember anything I’m good at. I interpret the actions of others negatively and I become suspicious. I know this but haven’t been able to stop myself… and I give less of myself to the boys and RM…
I really like our new smaller backyard and as I stand out on the porch and look over the reserve the kids will be running through again soon, I think of my family life in boxes, stuffed into other people’s cupboards, in other people’s houses. I realize that even though I have tried, I have not been able to release myself fully while living away from home, to act freely with my family. For that I need a space I can call our own. The space the boys will call home soon.
The evening wind is cool and there’s the thrill again of all that open green that we call ‘our backyard’ and I can remember Archie and Lewis kicking balls through the long grass out there and soon they’ll have Tyson and Maki to play with them and while they climb the trees and catch the butterflies and belt the living suitcase out of each other I’ll be able to watch them safely from these massive double-glazed windows and I may or may not be wearing pants, as I stand there with a cuppa in hand, because going pantless is always on option in my house (I want to be very clear on that).
America is singing You Can Do Magic as I step back into the living area and I imagine the glare of the massive plasma TV, which is sitting on the cabinet against the far wall, and then I can smell dinner cooking and when I look upwards the light fittings look spectacular. There’s a plant in the corner of the dining room and some family photos on the wall and when I look down the long hallway I see some toys lying about and there’s Tyson screaming at Lewis and Lewis is dancing provocatively and laughing. The polished floorboards are great for sliding on and that’s what Archie’s doing – pulling Maki along on his belly from one end to the other. RM’s just come through the door and she’s smiling because everything’s chaotic and she’s happy to be home. The kids go crazy on her and then I follow her into the bedroom to chat while she gets changed and far out our carpet looks good. The bed is unmade and ours and there’s that fresh soapy smell coming from the ensuite and for the moment it feels so right I’m thinking I should blog about it….
The ringing of my mobile phone puts me right back in the middle of the rubble but I’m feeling better and when I look at the caller ID I see it’s RM. ‘Hey,’ I say.
‘Hey,’ she says, ‘How’s it going?’
‘Good,’ I say. ‘Do you know the tilers left me a message?’
‘What’s it say?’
‘You jizz on your chin…’
RMs laughter sounds good here. ‘I’m standing in our bedroom,’ I say.
‘How’s it looking?’ she asks.
‘The same… I’m thinking I should christen it for us…’
‘Um, you should wait for me to get in on that one I think.’
‘… bit weird to do it on your own…’
‘Okay,’ I say, ‘I’ll be back soon. Hey, I’m trying to exorcise the last demons of gloom from my psyche. What’s your pick for best song from my melancholy 80s playlist?’
‘I don’t know… Shattered Dreams?’
‘Already listened to it.’
‘Any song by Air Supply?’
‘Too sad at this point, I think.’
‘Jesus no… I’m likely to start stroking the left over insulation… though it's a truly great song.’
‘Hmmm. You probably need to pep up now… so maybe something reflective but a bit more upbeat…’
‘How about that shit song you love?’
‘The one you force the kids to listen to in the car.’
‘Shazzam!’ I say. ‘'Senses Working Overtime' by XTC!’
‘Yeah. And you should dance while you’re listening to it.’
‘Ha!’ I say, suddenly feeling super excited, and maxing the volume on the Ipod. ‘That’s like telling a rabbit to shit pellets!’