Ten Thousand Days

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 381 & 382)

September 5, 2015
Photo: Austin Ban

Photo: Austin Ban

It has been a kind of weird few days.  It’s been the kind of couple of days that makes me want to withdraw into myself and shut out the world until I feel okay again.

I am working hard not to do that and am sitting in the kitchen writing.  I have told friends what’s going on with me, and I have already promised to attend a friend’s birthday party later today and tomorrow I have an art opening of a friend’s mural so I will be out there.

But, I can’t help but acknowledge that I really want to just shut everyone and everything out.  And as we humans are not rational – at the same time – for the first time in many months, I am lonely.   Its such an odd feeling that I’m having right now so I’m recording it.  I am lonely but I don’t want company.

Someone commented that I’ve really had a really bad week.  I think others have had it worse.  But yes, it has been challenging.

On Thursday, I thought I might be murdered in my own kitchen.

Oddly, I had just been talking with a cousin about death (more on that later, and in another post) and I had recently confided to someone that I have often felt that one day I would be murdered – but in the course of helping someone.  I really don’t want to go down in my own kitchen.

Where I live, I don’t have control over my flatmates.  So far that has been mostly ok because I rarely encounter them and the worst problems have been late night noisiness (which got sorted).  But, this week, I see how lucky I have been.

A new person moved into the building and while I was writing in the kitchen, he came in.  He started rifling through my things and rather than tell him to get the F- out of my things, I assumed he was new and didn’t know his way around the shared/personal spaces and property of the flat.  So…to be helpful…I asked whether he was new here in the flat.  It turns out he was new but he was in the wrong flat. (Our building is secure, but, for some reason, the landlord has disabled the locks on the doors between flats).    I offered to show him where his flat and kitchen were.  He asked me belligerently: do I work here?  I met his belligerent tone with a firm no, but I do live here in this flat and that this was not his kitchen or flat.  I offered again to show him to his flat.  He started muttering and stormed out.

I noticed he’d left his keys on the table.  Great.  I was surely going to see him again, but I just went back to work.  I picked up my iPad and wrote to the landlord to suggest they have a welcome pack but more to put this guy on their radar as every spidey sense was screaming that this fellow might just turn out to be trouble.

Sure enough, within 20 minutes, he stormed back in, snatched his keys up and stormed out without a word.  A few moments went by and he stormed back in yet again demanding to know my name (which I gave him) and started accusing me of taking his wallet off the table  (??? – he never left his wallet on the table).  I told him I couldn’t help him and did not take the bait.  He moved closer and started shouting at me and cursing at me and calling me vile swear words.

Alert: you might have to fight to get away from this asshole.

So, although I did not stand (I felt this might escalate the situation), even in my chair, I took my stance and grounded through my feet so I could move quickly, should I have to.   I used my firm voice, put up my hand and said No, I can’t help you, mate.  He was between me and the door and as I looked around I realised there is no fire alarm or other alarm switch in the kitchen.  Great.

He continued shouting and being obscene.  He was a very tall guy and felt big and intimidating.  I was shaking but I did not get up. I did not want to escalate.  He was pacing the kitchen shouting at me and calling me names.  I put both hands up in a ‘stop’ sign and said he needed to leave now.  He said only the landlord gets to tell him what he can and can’t do.  I told him that was fine and picked up my ipad mini and said – let’s tell him now that we’re in here .  With shaking hands, I emailed the security desk and told them: “Man in kitchen shouting at me right now.  Unacceptable.” ( Thank God I had my iPad because I didn’t have my mobile with me – the only other way to reach the office is by mobile).  Knowing he would be busted by security…I guess….he stormed out, yet again.

Security came, they talked to him and his story was that I had been racist.  When questioned on it, he admitted that I had not said anything racist but he felt it was implied.  I am glad he thinks he knows enough to know what I imply in the 2 minutes he met me.  If there is anything I am not, it is racist.  The landlord told him he had to leave, and he’s out today.

However, it was upsetting.  There was a sharp knife on the table, he was between me and the door, he was a lot bigger than I, and there was no way to alert security.  After he left, I ran to get my mobile and called the desk – it had taken more than 20 rings for someone to answer. A place that is advertised as secure proved to be extremely unsecure in just a few moments.  I looked around the flat.  There is nowhere to pull a fire alarm or security alarm.  The intercom to the front door goes one way – they can call up but we cannot call down.  If something like this happens, you’re on your own, mate, and you are at the mercy of the landlord’s screening as to who lives with you.

Yes, you would say “Move” but the fact is, I couldn’t move in London at the moment.  I don’t have an income or permanent job so nobody would rent to me.  I’m kind of stuck.  I carry my mobile and my iPad to the kitchen now.  I’m going to have to think about other measures and refresh myself on my self defence moves.

It is distressing to feel unsafe in one’s own home.  My room is secure; apparently my flat and my kitchen are not.  But, I won’t be pushed out of my own kitchen.  Everyone else goes to an office during the day and this is where I work.  I don’t intend to change that.  Forget taking back the night – I’m taking back the kitchen.

Although I have tried not to dwell on it, I am aware that I was shaking for a long time afterwards – it triggers memories of other assaults and the adrenalin and cortisol were coursing through my body.  I know that has set my system all catty wompus and there will be a setback in the next few days when my body tries to get off of high alert and re-regulate.

And, despite my efforts, thoughts of it have popped up over the past few days.  I have even thought about what time I come home so that I am not likely to encounter him anywhere late in the evening.  Not that I even remember what he looks like.  The only thing that stands out is how big he was.

Afterward the incident, I reached out to my male friends.  I told Kt-, Lk- and the Cheese.   Nobody is really close by, but the Cheese is the closest.  I just needed to make sure that someone knew about it and knew the details – just in case.  I didn’t tell my family.  They would have worried – and he is gone now.  But I don’t like thinking of the ‘just in case’ scenario and yet, living alone in NYC and London, I’ve had to think of it on a number of occasions. Personal safety is really a pretty fundamental need in our world.  I think that living in big cities makes us aware that none of us is really ever safe from our neighbours and the social contract only works if both parties agree to it.

I am a positive person and so I don’t dwell on that.  The number of frightening, abusive and assaulting encounters I have had with strangers are minute in the grander scheme of all my encounters.  But, like any thought, it is the bad ones that have more power.

I was thinking about an article I read on homelessness and how impossible it is to get sober, get one’s life in order and get off the streets with the insecurity and vulnerability experienced in living on the streets.  We are not at risk from homeless people in anywhere near the proportion to the immense risk that homeless people suffer from the rest of society.  They are truly physically vulnerable.   I am not comparing myself to the homeless, but the sort of semi-public manner in which the landlord treats common spaces by failure to secure them and failing to secure the flat doors within the building has left me feeling vulnerable.  Despite my mother’s pacifism, I know that I will go down fighting, should it come to that.

So much has happened, like I said – I’m inclined to just withdraw but I am fighting that.  I am taking back the kitchen and doing the rituals of writing (staring out the window and sipping coffee).

What has become clear is that I’m getting broody.  I mean its really 20 years too late for that.  But, it is when we are faced with life threatening situations that we become not only grateful for the people in our lives who help us feel secure (Cheese, Kt-, Lk-) but we also see what remains lacking.  Maybe that is what I’m feeling – a longing which I call loneliness.   I have noticed this in the past – when I have felt vulnerable is when I most feel the lack of that sense of ‘family’ most.  Yes, my birth family is across the world from me.  But it isn’t that family for which I feel a lack.  Its probably the worst possible moment in my life to think of entering into anything but I really would like to have a family of my own.  That need not be a child.  I’m too old for a child, I think.  But family can be created with a partner.  Hell, maybe I should just give up and become that crazy cat lady.  Unfortunately – although they do accept abusive bat crap crazy residents – pets are not allowed, where I live.

I rarely admit it, but I am admitting it the last few days.  While I see other people leaving relationships, I am beginning to feel that for the first time in years, I have, these past couple of months, felt a desire to try again.  And even as I write this, my new flatmate came in (not the batcrap crazy fellow) and asked me to have dinner with him some night.  He was very nervous in asking me, which I thought was sweet.  I won’t date someone in my flat, but perhaps I will go out with him as a flatmate.

It must be autumn.  I know that every summer I see people coupling up at the end of summer because people just don’t want to go out and find a mate for the winter during the cold damp nights of autumn.  Pay attention some time and you’ll see the pattern.  I’m sure I’m caught up in the drive for autumnal coupling as well.  Whatever this longing is…I hope it passes, one way or another, soon.

 

A photo posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on

        Much more importantly, during all of my own chaos, rather silently….my cousin…a beautiful brave warrior, lost her 6 year battle with cancer.  She was two years younger than I am now and she leaves behind two children.   I didn’t know her as well as I wish I did but her actions and her attitude in the face of so much adversity were an inspiration to me.   She died, as far as I can tell, just as I was snapping these bubble photos.   I know it is sentimental, but I would like to think that maybe she floated here for a moment and that she went on to find her way Home.    

 

For her, and for her family, it was a far worse couple of days…

So….

 

1  I am grateful for the men in my life.  I know it may sound sexist – I’m pretty scrappy and have often felt like a tomboy, but I am grateful to know that there are men out there to whom I can turn for some of that masculine energy in times of distress.

2 I am grateful for a fun night out with Kt- and Al- at an art gallery opening night and then at a bboy dance off and digital paint jam.  I never would have imagined a year ago that I would be going to these things on a Thursday night or that I would have such interesting new friends in the city but there you have it.

 

I taught that BBoy how to dance 😉 #bboy #breakdance #streetdance #dance #bustamove #hiphop

A video posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on

    3  I am grateful that a rather reticent person gave me some affirmations today.  I like him very much and he is challenging me to own my own and alleviate my own anxiety and to try to understand how to treat him, in a way that is comfortable for him.  He is an introvert like I am.  What I forget is that I am living an introvert’s paradise.  I spend my entire day and evening alone unless I choose to spend time with people and so a text message or quick messenger chat is a welcome distraction from myself.  For most people, engaged in the world of working with others, finding and carving out that alone time is challenging and so, quiet is precious.  If you’re busy, or have two (or three!) jobs, it is even more so.   I am growing in this experience, and so I am grateful both for the exchanges we have and for what it is teaching me about myself and ways of relating.   Joy – Well, despite the above, I did have moments of joy in the past couple of days.  I mentioned the bboy dance-off and the digital paint jam but the thing that always brings me so much joy is to watch groups of children play with the bubble men around the city.  I miss the bubble men when they leave for the winter.  Yesterday I also had the joy of watching and photographing the adults who, like me, delight in watching the children play.  It transports us back to those moments of unguarded joy, when we, ourselves, were children. The bubble man outside of the Science Centre had great style with his spins and Sherlock Holmes costume. Please pay the buskers and bubble men, folks.      

Winner of best squeal of the day? Boy in red, of course! 👦 A video posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on

 

Oneness –  I had a nice few moments with my cousin D- on day 381 as we chatted online.  The topic was death and dying and we had our cousin B- in our thoughts but we also evoked the spirit of his brother Dg- and my mother.  I felt their presence as we spoke of them.  I loved them both.  Dg- was the brother I never had and because of him, I became an LGBT rights activist.  My mum loved Dg- and Dg- loved her.  They had a special bond.  It never occurred to me until after talking with D- that they died so closely to one another and that maybe they found one another on the other side.  Even as I felt their presence, I was happy to feel that they were together.  I have a big family – 15 sets of aunts and uncles and kajillions of cousins.  We were so blessed to have that, growing up.  And, while I have lost both grandparents, one parent, beloved aunts, uncles and cousins, I know there is going to be more funerals than weddings in my future.  But each death holds its own bittersweet pain.  I am sad that such a bright light went out in the world, yesterday.

Service –  I have tried to be aware of other people’s struggles this week and to be available to listen to their pain and to give support.  I don’t think I’ve talked much about the incident in the kitchen or about B-‘s death.  I tend not to talk much about the things that are really bothering me until I’ve worked them through for myself.  I’m not repressing things, and I have let important people who support me know what’s going on.  For now, my energy is occupied at a deep level on processing things.  And maybe that’s just the way its going to have to be, for a little while so that I can both withdraw and be present at the same time.  You wouldn’t know it to look at me and so it will remain a challenge to be present to myself as well as to other people’s pain, especially as it flicks like a knife at the edges of my own.  But, I am doing the best that I can, and that is all we can do, for ourselves and others.

 

For what are you grateful, today? 

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