What I wrote or; getting out of the office

I had to get out of the office and away from the desk. My head hurt. And my soul. Dramatic? Maybe. But I’m sure that was where most of the pain was coming from. I just wanted to get a little bit of this sunshine everyone (everyone who didn’t have to make revenue spreadsheets and rewrite copy for incompetent people who were asked to write their own copy but just couldn’t seem to do it, probably because they were enjoying the sunshine) was talking about.

I finally make it out outside.

I find the only table in the sunshine. It’s covered in bird shit. Covered. I wonder if the bird had some kind intolerance thing. Do birds get IBS? That would be terrifying. Anyway, the table delightfully decorated with bird poo is the only table in the sunshine and I have forgotten my cardigan. So I ignore the white and brown flakes and mounds of god-knows-what-these-birds-have-been-eating and sit down to write.

The smokers are out in force. The work-place hierarchy still firmly intact as the power-suits of the heads / managers of this and that smoke in prime position on the manicured lawn whilst  the cheap-suits of the security guards smoke in the dirt and wood-chips and litter that fills the sad flower-beds.

Once the power-suits crush their cigarettes into the lawn and rush off for some important meeting with some important client, the security guards take their places.

The short security guard has issues with his lighter and speaks in series of questions; “Oh, really?” “Fair enough?” “Two extra hours today makes it a long shift?” “I bloody hate Vodafone?” “I need a new lighter?”

I wonder if he ever got the answers he wants. His fellow security guard seems unlikely to argue with him. He looks like a very unassuming man and wears square glasses. I wonder what made him choose

a) to be a security guard, and

b) square glasses

I’m not brave enough to ask him. Besides, his colleague has more than enough questions for him.

“I’m loving this sunshine?”

Their voices and cigarette smoke drift over me.

Sometimes I wish I was a smoker. Without the cancer and wrinkles and yellow teeth and bad skin and addiction and harm to unborn babies and gangrene and all that stuff … But … Still … There is still something immaturely romantic and ridiculously ‘cool’ about the cigarette. Like Leonardo DiCaprio playing Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.  Like  Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Like Rita Hayward or Lana Turner or Ava Gardner or …. OK, who am I kidding here? Maybe it is because it gives you something to do with your hands. Or an excuse to have a bit of breather, outside on your own for a moment, during a full-on dinner-party or family gathering or something without looking totally rude. A breather? With a cigarette? Who am I fooling? It smells disgusting. I know it. I want no part in it. I am that person who gives you a filthy look as I rush past you on the street to avoid the killer passive smoke of your disgusting habit. I am that person who coughs loudly when you light up too close to me in the beer garden. I am that person who feels like they deserve some sort of medal, or at that the very least an impromptu performance by a mariachi band,  when they tell the doctor – “No, I don’t smoke” … But still. Some days …

Maybe it is because I feel like an idiot sitting at a table covered in bird excrement writing away whilst surrounded by smokers. Maybe I am feeling a bit of peer-pressure.

The sun moves and suddenly I am sitting at a table covered in the faecal matter from a flock of birds but minus the appeal of sunshine  … or a cardigan. I try to ignore all of those facts – the lack of sunshine, the lack of a cardigan, the abundance of bird poop – and focus on the positives: I am outside, I am away from the desk, I don’t smoke, I am not a security guard.

The sunshine gets locked behind the clouds and the wind picks up. A dry and miserable looking leaf snuggles up to my foot. I try to shake it off but it doesn’t want to leave me – clinging to my boot like the sooky two-year old who cannot be without its mother and , before they know it (where does the time go), he is twenty-five years old and still living at home and playing on his X-Box whilst his mother still does his cooking and washing and ironing and even though she hints loudly that he should find a place of his own, they all know he won’t be going anywhere because he’s got it too good. Like this leaf. But enough is enough. It is time for it to stop being so clingy and find its own way in the world. I get tough.

The security guards notice.

I wonder if they are out here to protect the leaves.

Or find new recruits for the security guard team.

I was pretty tough.

Or maybe I was too tough and now I am a ‘person of interest’.

I make sure they can see my lanyard and staff pass thing – just so they know I am on their side, nothing to worry about here. Just a leaf. Just a leaf.

Another three security guards join Shorty and Square-glasses. They are all smoking. I wonder

a) what is the collective noun for security guards?

b) do all security guards smoke?

c) have I done something wrong?

Shorty’s questions are getting louder – I think he is showing off for the other, taller security guards. He stands like a politician and gestures a lot.

The smoke continues to drift over me but the sunshine never does come back. I wish for my cardigan and a clean table but neither come – the end of my mini-break does though. I remember in grade 1 a kid asking the teacher why five-minutes could feel so long when we were waiting for home-time but feel so short when we were doing something fun. Like French Cricket. Our class loved French Cricket. She said it was exactly the same amount of time. I don’t think she understood the question.

And so I head back to the world of spread-sheets and data-bases and invoices and wait for home-time …

 

 

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Why I love being a morning person and other lies I tell myself

One must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can’t do anything about them.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I lie to myself everyday.

I don’t think it’s such a bad thing really. I mean, of course, “Honesty is the best Policy” and “Liar-Liar-Pants-On-Fire” and all that. I know. I’m not natural liar. When I was in Grade 2 I told my classmates that I had been for a ride in a helicopter. I can’t remember the full story but it got their attention. And it was detailed. I remember I was pretty thorough in my storytelling. It was so detailed that I got anxious I wouldn’t remember the full story correctly (I was sure I’d be asked to retell it to the whole school) and be caught out as a helicopter-faker. I didn’t get caught out, probably because I never got to the retelling stage – another little girl said she and her dad met Michael Jackson (or maybe it was Michael J Fox –I can’t quite remember now), who just so happened to fly over to see them in a, yep, you guessed it, helicopter. My once-ace-now-really-lame helicopter story was topped by a far more confident liar and that was the end of my foray into extraordinary stories for my classmates. The pressure was just too much for a seven year old.

Anyway, those aren’t the sort of lies I’m talking about.

I’m also not talking about those lies which lead to complete delusion about ones talents and skills, thus resulting in awful wannabe singers auditioning for X-Factor and being genuinely shocked when they’re told they will never be the next Beyonce … No, not those sort of lies.

I’m talking about lies that can make getting through life just that little easier to manage. They are what I like to think of as the “grey-zone” of lies …

Here’s my lie list –

 1. I love getting up early.

No, I don’t.

But I do it.

And if anyone asks I will say “I am a morning person” and I can hear the little 7-year-old me whispering liar-liar … I’m not really lying. I’m not saying what sort of morning person I am, just that I am one – and I am … trying.

2. I love running.

No, I don’t.

But I do it.

Running is the most pointless thing I do. I just run. Around. And there are all these other people running around too but we can’t really make eye contact or say good-morning because we’re all out of breath or trying desperately not to look out of breath.

But I do like early morning runs (see point 1 above) when you feel like you get the chance to see the sky in a way that many others will miss for that day.

I do like the feeling during the run when you manage to get to the top of the hill without stopping or after a good sprint or when you realise you’ve managed to go further than you thought you could.

But there is plenty I don’t love about it – at times it’s a little boring and a little pointless and sometimes it’s just plain horrible. Your toes bleed and your legs ache and you get a runny nose. I try not to think about it and just go with the lie; I love running!

3. Just getting the chance to audition is wonderful.

No it isn’t.

But I say it.

Just give me the god-damn role. It’s a non-speaking, 10-second moment in a television commercial for a car. Do I really need to audition? In reality, no-one probably needs to audition for something like that. But in order to simply turn up to some of these castings you have to lie to yourself otherwise … well, you just wouldn’t do it would you?

Those people who run acting for film and TV workshops and master-classes, they all have these stories of [insert actors name here] who auditioned for something minor, didn’t get the role but did such an amazing job in the audition that the casting director got them in for [insert name of popular TV series here] and now they are this in-demand, always-working, award-winning, Hollywood-bound actor … Maybe the teachers of these classes are using the same lie that I’m using …

Anyway, this is a very useful lie for keeping sane and not getting overly disheartened when you don’t book the gig. There will always be another audition. And auditions are just wonderful experiences (see point 3).

 4. Porridge – it’s the perfect breakfast.

No it isn’t.

But I eat it pretty much every-single-day.

The perfect breakfast is ricotta hotcakes with berry compote or smashed avocado with poached eggs or coco-pops. I always thought being a grown-up meant having cupboards filled with a whole variety of breakfast cereals like Seinfeld. My cupboard has oats. It’s cheap and it’s healthy. That’s the reality of being a grown-up I suppose. So every morning I cut up a banana and put it in some decorative arrangement on top of the porridge and think about how this is, really, honestly, completely the perfect breakfast. It’s a lie that stops me buying coco-pops and that’s okay, isn’t it?

 5. Admin is just what I do to pay the bills; my real-job is acting / writing.

No it isn’t.

But I say it.

A lot.

Particularly when I’m using Excel.

I also, shamefully, use terms like “my creative practice” – I never wanted to be that person. But here I am. Saying it. Loudly. Particularly when I’m using Excel.

My admin job is my real job. I turn up 4 days a week, for 7.6 hours a day, have a work email address and phone number and desk and Outlook Express calendar that has meetings in it I have to attend and I get pay-slips and superannuation and sick-leave and accumulate holidays and all that “real job” stuff. I haven’t made money through “my creative practice” for about a year – so this makes it a hobby, right? No. That’s not the point. That’s not what it’s about. And I will continue to tell myself this lie because without it … Well … I don’t even want to imagine …

6. No. I don’t want the biscuit / slice of cake / chocolate / wonderful-sugar-filled-treat

Yes I do.

But I don’t take it.

Of course I want the sugary treat. It’s 3pm and I’ve been doing paperwork all day and the tuna salad wrap I ate at 1pm just didn’t cut it and I’ve consider the vending machine options multiple times and then – bam! There they are, standing at my desk, offering me a plate of cookies that were left over from some meeting or a slice of Mandy-From-Marketing’s birthday cake or some other incredible home-made treat drizzled in caramel and chocolate … And I lie to myself. I don’t want it. No, of course I don’t want it … The amount of cake that is served up in the office is really quite something; I need this lie.

 

 

I am hoping, I suppose, that eventually the lies will become the truth: that I will be able to say, and genuinely believe in, all those points with complete honesty. I hope to get to the same point, in a way, as those horribly untalented X-Factor contestants … but in this case use the lie for good rather than evil.

(And I did eventually go for a helicopter ride – about twenty years after the fake-helicopter tale. That’s the truth. However, my original version of the story of the helicopter ride as a 7-year-old was far more exciting …)