What is it about women and time management? Or just women in general????
Yes, okay, I’m not in the best of moods but, with all due respect, nor would you be. Let me explain.
Last week, my ex-girlfriend decided to move to Byron Bay to “find herself”. After our breakup – a mutual decision based on a belief that we both needed our “space” – or maybe it was me who needed the space – anyway she decided there was now nothing to stop her spreading her wings and exploring life. She’s a writer and had visions of seeking out and discovering the world of creative art in the company of the other enlightened spiritual souls who inhabit that part of the world.
My only encounter with one of these spiritual souls was a memorable four days of steamy sex in a cute little hide-away in the Byron Bay hills, prior to my ex-girlfriend coming into my life, and so my view of the “Bay” came from an entirely different perspective.
Maybe, it was the memory of this that had me gallantly offering to travel up to Byron to help her set up tent. Yes, a tent! In a tucked away camping spot, hoping for blissful peace and tranquillity to fill her days with writing, yoga and meditation, surrounded by Mother Nature at its best and complete with an Internet Hotspot to allow her to work on her manuscript via her computer.
When I suggested I accompany her, she narrowed her eyes at me, reflected on it for what I thought an indecently long time and with her face screwed up in indecision gave a muttered, ‘Okay. Thanks.’
Not quite the overwhelming response I was expecting, almost as though she questioned my good intentions and wondered what the catch was. Woman! They have such suspicious minds.
For those of you who’ve yet to experience Byron Bay, it is located on Australia’s most easterly point, a finger of land jutting into the idyllic Pacific Ocean, a place of wild, untamed beauty. When Captain James Cook sailed his ship the Endeavour past it in May 1770, he named the headland Cape Byron and the striking mountain, Mount Warning , to serve as a warning to seafarers traversing the treacherous reefs along the coast. Maybe I should have taken heed of that warning?
These days, it’s well known for its alternative lifestyle, organic markets and chock block full of artists, writers, sculptures, musicians and hippies (although they may be called something else nowadays). People come from far and wide just to experience the flavour of Byron (the bay not the poet) although this is highly probably too for one of the most well-known and largest writers festivals is held every year at the “Bay”.
And so it was arranged. With a ten hour drive ahead of us my ex-girlfriend would pick me up on Saturday at six am, enabling us to get to the campsite well before dark. Everything she deemed necessary for a journey into self-discovery would be packed into her much cherished Jeep. Oh, how I love the self-reliance of the modern woman. All I had to do was get myself out of bed at the appropriate hour, shower, shave, have breakfast, pack my swimming trunks, a pair of sandals, shirt and shorts, basically the only requirement for a weekend at Byron… oh yes, and my toothbrush. Mind you, once I got there, I was hoping to get away with even less.
Having known this woman for three years, going on four, I hadn’t really expected her to be on time. My own bag is packed and ready to go. I go inside, make a cup of Spicy Chai tea and wander out to my outdoor office, to write my morning pages; a habit that has kept me fairly sane over the years. This writing is best done first thing in the morning, on awaking, when we apparently have direct access to our higher consciousness: “a spiritual path to higher creativity”, to quote Julia Cameron. I’m not sure about the higher creativity but it sure as hell is great as a dumping ground for the frustrations of yesterday and the coming frustrations of today and who knows about tomorrow? Maybe, one of these days I will make something creative out of the pages and pages of outpouring. Only time will tell.
Keep writing de Baldi. It won’t be long now. Even if we leave at 7:00am and arrive at 5:00pm there should be enough daylight left to set up tent. Shit! I should have asked. Is she bringing THE tent? Please, God, not that bloody massive contraption of heavy duty canvas. I swear, that tent is big enough to have served as a logistics command centre in WW II. I recall the label on it. Made in the Czech Republic. I wonder which side it was on? Certainly not mine, that’s for sure.
Where the hell is she? An hour is acceptable. An hour and twenty minutes is pushing it. ‘Women! What is it about women and time!!!!!!’ Okay that feels a little better. Now where was I… oh, yes, that bloody tent. Yeah, well, you see, three years ago, with our relationship still in the first throes of getting to know each other, we went camping one Australia Day weekend, in the upper reaches of the Colo River. Oh my Lord, it’s all coming back. How could I have forgotten? Lost for four hours we were. Me driving, she navigating. Finally arrived at 10pm. Yep, this woman sure knows how to find these back-to-nature camp sites with hole-in-the-ground-canvas-wall-toilets and very little else. Certainly no lights. At the time, I knew nothing about the campsite and even less about the tent; until she pulled it from the Jeep. It landed with an almighty thud on the ground, raising a cloud of dust, visible even in the dark. No, I refuse to think about it. Back to your morning pages de Baldi.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Time for me to see what I can do to rally her along. Growling down the phone has been known to work. No use, it’s engaged. Damn-it! We’re cutting it fine. It’s going to be dark by the time we get there.
I can’t stop thinking about the tent. Please, Lord, don’t let me have to go through that again. Okay, de Baldi, keep focused. There could be all sorts of reasons why she’s running late and hasn’t contacted you. Humph! No doubt she will have an excellent reason once she arrives. This woman, who was twenty minutes late for her own wedding, could literally write a book of every excuse to cover every eventuality of being late; whether it’s late for work, a dinner party, getting to the airport on time or just f*** well picking her ex-boyfriend up for a ten hour journey up north. Damn it all. I have a good mind not to go.
This is beyond a joke! I wonder if she’s even coming? Why hasn’t she phoned? Does she expect me to wait here all day? Okay, let’s be positive about this. If I go into the house, pick up my bag, lock the back door, place my bag on the back veranda, than… no, I’m fooling myself. Let me go and kick the shit out of the rooster instead! Okay, just joking, I’ll phone.
I really couldn’t stand a repeat of that last camping trip. Thank goodness I didn’t know anyone there. Yet, after the weekend everyone knew me. Let me explain. We arrive at the campsite (having been lost for four hours because she was reading the map upside down!). Anyhow, we arrive at this “getting back into the lap of Mother Nature” campsite. There are some seven or eight tents all set up with their occupants enjoying a relaxing nightcap.
My girlfriend (she wasn’t an “ex” at that stage) decides we should walk the river bank to find the most scenic spot. How ridiculous. Even in the dark I could see the river boasted huge islands of mud and a reedy trickle of polluted water. Nevertheless, she found her ideal spot and we turned the vehicle’s lights on it and proceeded to drag the tent into the clearing. It needed two of us to achieve this.
Having extracted the tent from its canvas bag and laid the poles out neatly beside it, I searched high and low but failed to discover a set of instructions. None. Niks. Not a whisper of an instruction sheet. I looked at my girlfriend. She shrugged. Apparently the last time she used the tent she’d had a husband and three sons to work it out. Great! Just friggin’ great!
Before you go judging me too harshly, let me remind you that this was not one of your modern, easy to whip up, lightweight nylon type igloo tents. No, this was reinforced, bloody thick canvas consisting of an enclosed annex large enough for a boardroom and sleeping quarters capable of accommodating a platoon of fully equipped army personnel.
Well the short of it was that come midnight, there were six of us men (apparently the other campers couldn’t get to sleep with all my swearing), each holding several poles and arguing hotly about which pole slotted into which end and, once slotted, was it an annex pole or a main tent pole and which loop should it go through and so forth and so on.
By 1:30am, when they finally dragged themselves off to their own tents with muttered curses at the inconsideration of people who arrived after hours with no idea how to set up a bloody tent, and in the process disturbed the beauty sleep of the entire campsite, our tent was standing proud and tall and taking up one hell of a lot of space.
In the meantime my girlfriend had fallen asleep in the Jeep. Women! Dear God, why could you not have made them more like men?
Is she angry at me? Is that why she hasn’t phoned? Should I have gone over last night and helped her pack? Was she waiting for me to offer? I would have gone. It’s a big job. But, how the hell am I expected to read her mind? I hardly understand my own bloody mind.
Okay de Baldi, no need to get so defensive, you have no idea what’s happened. Yes, I bloody well do! She late! I read somewhere it’s a form of controlling people. If people get to know that you are always going to be late they start to make allowances for it. Either they will lie about the start time or be late themselves knowing it’s no use arriving on time. Let me stress it’s not just me she’s late for. It’s everybody. Clients included. I once asked her if any of her clients had refused to meet with her after she had rocked in half-an-hour late. ‘No,’ she said, looking astonished that I should even suggest it, ‘they always seem happy to see me.’ Then added, defensively, ‘I always phone in plenty of time to inform them I’m running late.’
So, why hasn’t she phoned???? Perhaps, she doesn’t want me along. Could she have left without me? Keep calm, de Baldi. I see Julia Cameron’s quote printed at the top of my “morning pages” notebook: “Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission”.
This gets me reflecting on what my own inner dreams could possibly be? Do I have such a beast lurking inside me? Once I did. Once I was invincible. The world was my playground. Now, thirty years on, I’m not so sure. Things have changed. I have changed. Most of my energy is taken up making sure I never slip back into that dark place. A place that kept me isolated from people and from myself and what I was capable of. Possibly the most frightening is how completely I lost faith in myself during that period. How hopeless it all seemed. How little I trusted. How much I believed I could never break free and become again the carefree person of my youth. I’m getting there, but it’s a long process.
At last..! the woman has finally arrived. About bloody time! The Jeep is sagging alarmingly on its strong suspension. It is loaded to the hilt and appears not to have an ant size bit of space left in it. I look at my small weekend bag. Clearly it is going to travel at my feet… or I could just leave it behind and spend the weekend naked… not a bad thought, by half.
I watch my ex-girlfriend alight from the Jeep and I’m ready to do battle. Ready to deny, most fervently, any insensitivity on my part in not offering to help her pack. Attack is the best form of defence. Well here goes… oh, oh! I know that look. That is not a good look. That look says, Don’t you dare say one word. Not one single word, just get into the bloody car or….
I give this a moment’s consideration. The sensible thing would be to meekly climb into the passenger seat without saying a moo. There is after all a ten hour journey ahead of us. Yet, I’m unable to do it. Unable to resist a small jab, ‘I’m not sure I still want to go,’ I mutter, dropping my bag, with a loud bang, onto the timber floorboards of the veranda.
In response, my ex-girlfriend slips back into the driver’s seat, flicks on the ignition, grates the gear lever into drive – I grab my bag and throw myself into the passenger seat as she shoves hard on the accelerator – and the green beast lurches into space and hurtles down my driveway, with me grabbing wildly at my open door to pull it closed.
With blatant disregard for any oncoming traffic, we enter the Saturday lunchtime gridlock on the road running past my house. I hold my breath, terrified out of my wits as she weaves dangerously in and out of the traffic until finally we’re on the freeway.
The clear road seems to relax her, for she settles into a steady 110km. The breath I had been holding onto expels with a whoosh from my aching lungs – had I really held my breath for that long? Wow! What an Olympian!
For the next 50km or so, both of us sit steely eyed and tight-lipped, locked in our own private thoughts. Mine, very angry. Hers I don’t give a damn about. Then a noise, a suspiciously recognizable noise, has me turning to look at her. Tears are pouring down her face. Oh, oh, I know what’s going to happen. And it does. My heart instantly melts and with it goes all my anger. She looks so forlorn. So lost. What a selfish bastard I am. It came to me, not for the first time, how defensive and righteous one gets in certain situations, especially when it comes from a place of guilt.
I reach out and wipe the tears from her cheek. ‘Talk to me’, I say.
And she does. It comes pouring out. How overwhelmed she feels at leaving her family behind, along with her entire support system and, surprisingly, very sad to leave me. How this exciting adventure she is partaking on to discover the “inner her” has suddenly become immensely scary. She spent most of the morning on the phone to her friends, seeking their input, locked in indecision I nod. I know that feeling only too well. It’s been with me for at least five years. In fact, I consider her far braver than I, in this regard. My heart yearns to go on just such an adventure but my mind continues to override the heart by bombarding me with every reason why, in my case, it wouldn’t be practical. Thus, I am staying behind and she is moving on.
I do what I have always been good at. I give her encouragement. Remind her of her adventurous spirit, a yearning to reunite with the person she suspects herself to be and, more importantly, now with her three sons all in their twenties, she has the freedom and opportunity to become that person. She turns a grateful smile on me.
Delighted I was able to contribute; I sit back in my seat and close my eyes. Finally, I’m able to relax.
Byron Bay 10:30pm
We’re lost! Yet again, my ex-girlfriend’s chosen campsite is so well hidden it is hardly locatable even on our GPS. We squint at the route shown on the backlit screen and find ourselves following a dirt track leading through a forest, so dark it is almost impossible to dodge the massive pot holes and I swear we bounce through every one of them.
We finally arrive at the campsite. The office is all locked up, but my ex-girlfriend has the access code and an emailed map, showing the minuscule clearing she has been allocated. We find it… or so we think. Why can’t I remember that women and maps are never a good combination?
Tents are scattered around the camping site and beside them, partaking of a final nightcap, sits groups of campers. Great! Just great! Yet again, I have instantly become the sole source of entertainment as I climb from the Jeep. They watch with gleeful interest as I open the boot and peer inside, wondering how to extract the massive tent – yes, the tent and I meet again – from the tightly packed mountain of clothes, bedding, computer equipment and every conceivable item she could think to pack on top of it.
Oh, God, why, oh why, did you give men such short memories?