33. Mayday

Okay, so, where?

 

When Nook and I reunited our contact at the end of 2009, one of the things that I revealed to her was that I was considering a change in my job.  Not just the role, but the location.  For the past ten years I’d been in Northern Europe, and extremely happy there as well -- but things were changing rapidly at my employer, and I like to try to get ahead of curves which aren’t entirely to my liking.

Another factor was that as much as I love travel (and I do), I also wanted to get another dog.  My golden retriever passed away in 2008 due to cancer and it hit me hard.  Getting a puppy was always on my agenda, but, that’s impossible to do with a busy travel schedule.  As any dog owner will tell you, those first few months are critical for “bonding with the pack” and you just can’t be not-present during that time.   Plus, as someone who is very much a dog person, I knew I wanted to be there anyway.

It was actually May of 2009 that I first started to explore this career shift.  Tentatively.  Indeed, flirtatiously.  I am not a short-timer when it comes to my workplace investments; I like to get to know the people I work with and have never understood nor enjoyed the short term contract worker lifestyle.  Any changes that I was going to consider had to be thought out very carefully.

And so it came that I suddenly found myself considering a massive shift of life...it was just after a conference in Australia when I popped down to Melbourne to meet with an industry colleague.  I’d done him a favour a few months previous and he said that if I was in town, we should hook up for a coffee.

He showed me where he worked, the team he had built up, we had a really nice chat and it was interesting seeing how they did things.  Professional curiosity, call it.

The next morning, as I sat in the airline lounge awaiting my long flight back home, I recalled the words of my coffee granting colleague -- he was expanding his team and hiring some new folks to help with the workload.

 

Hmmm.

So I opened my web browser and took a look at the careers portion of his company’s website.  Nothing in the unit that he worked in - so I was curious.  Curious enough to send off a quick email pointing out the website had nothing on offer.  Within minutes (5, I believe) I had a response:  “If you are looking, I have something that may interest.”...

And so the dance began.

The next few months were filled with deep consideration on my part.  I made lists.  Country A versus Country B.  City A versus City B.  I put everything on it, friends, job, hobbies, plusses and minuses in each.  I thought about my daily routines, the things I enjoyed at my workplace, the things I enjoyed with friends...and I thought some more.

I had some good friends in Australia, and in Melbourne.  I shared with them my musings, as well as friends in various other countries.  Naturally, I kept mum at work and with anyone who might actually encounter anyone from my day job.

All of this back-plot is necessary to understand what happened when Nook re-entered my life and we started talking as frequently as we did.  As a matter of fact, it was well before she and I admitted feelings for each other that she asked me:

 

“Do you have to go to Australia?”

 

At the time of the question, we were “just friends” catching up in our lives.  But I think we both knew things were heading for so much more.  I tried not to read too much into the query, she was just a friend, enjoying our chats, and aware that if I moved to Australia that it would be very difficult to synchronise them on the clock as much as we had been doing.

I replied honestly.  That I did not have to, but, in considering my options, there really weren’t too many locations which would match what I wanted, and needed, to move forward in life.  I’m a great believer in never going backwards (by choice) and it’s natural and normal for humans to move forward and explore.

In October of 2009, slightly before Nook started wondering what happened to me, I received the first draught contract for the new job.  There were a lot of details yet to work out, and that process was going to take quite a while, but, it was a moment of reality check - I really was going to do this, and my perceptions of what I had been calling “home” started to slowly change.  I’ve only ever considered home to be the place that I was actively living at the time; not where an accident of birth may have dropped me upon the planet, nor where various relatives may live.  For me, it’s where you feel at home, and that place can be anywhere you make it.

Fast forward a bit, we’re now at the start of May 2010, and Nook is truly in my life.  She knew about Australia, and she knew what being with me might mean.

I’ve explained it to a number of people lately as this:  If I were to move to be with Nook, it would be “her home.”  By the same token, if she were to move here to be with me, it would be “my home.”  Yet if we were both willing and able to take a massive leap of faith and choose a third location, well, we would be able to make it “our home.”  The process of learning a city, a country, of exploring and sharing will be, we both firmly believe, quite a bonding one for both of us.

The two of us, strangers in a strange land.

But we had a lot more to get through before that version of reality could be made to happen.  I had a job back home in the Northern hemisphere, Nook had two jobs.  We both had lives that needed winding up before any notions of being together could be truly realised.

Since I had been negotiating with my potential new employer for some time, we decided that since I was going to be in Australia anyway in May of 2010, that we would complete our negotiations and kick of the formal process of contracts being drawn up and whatnot if I could pop down to Melbourne after the conference I was attending in another city.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it’s allowed us to have and maintain friendships all over the world.  Obviously, Nook and Chair couldn’t be without the Internet, but other types of friendships are also able to be formed and blossom online.

I’m lucky enough to know a few people in Melbourne, so popping down for a few days after the conference was something that I was planning on anyway.  Meet up with some friends if possible, have a meal, some of the superb local wines, and seriously ponder if this was a city that I could imagine myself and Nook living in.

But those meetings and negotiations were all scheduled for the end of the month.  First I had to make it through the start of the month, and the many, many frustrations that brought along with it.

 

Just move on, damn it!

I rarely swear.  Those who know me would be hard pressed to think of more than one or two occasions where my frustration got the better of me and I blurted out any form of expletive.  But the mounting frustrations of Nook’s Ex, and his behaviour, truly brought me to that point.  Thus the title of this sub-chapter.

Nook’s kindness and consideration is legen (wait for it) dary.  She truly wanted to move forward with her life and the choices she made, but she also cared enough about the relationship she just left to want her Ex to also move on, to see that he had a future which did not include her, but did allow him to choose his own path.

As a part of that, Nook thought that meeting up with him one more time, I suppose to say “goodbye” and to add a punctuation mark to the closure of that relationship, was a good idea.  I understood what she was trying to accomplish here, but, I also was fully cognisant of the reality that regardless of her goals with such a meeting that his were nowhere near aligned the same.

Think back to your own early relationships, crushes, flirtations.  Think about that special someone whom, for whatever reason, caught your eye.  You would look for any sign that the feeling was mutual; a stolen glance, a smile that lasted just that second longer than most, perhaps even talk to friends and ask if the person in question mentioned you, talked about you.

It’s a part of how we humans are wired.  We look for that “in” -- that crack we can widen or that door we can open further.

But there’s a darker side to this.  Just as nearly any woman can spot another woman “on the prowl” for her partner from across the room - men too can recognise the same type of behaviour in other men.  We know how we work, we know how we are wired.  Consider it a form of gender specific species hunting, if you will.  These hunters are looking for their “in” - a way in to get to know someone, or expand their relationship in some form or another.

So it is no small surprise that when Nook suggested that she and her Ex meet up one more time, he saw this not as an opportunity for closure, but an opportunity to exploit for all that it was worth.  She suggested that it be a coffee-and-closure chat.  Half an hour to an hour.  Highly public location.  No private meals in candle lit restaurants, no visits to each other’s homes.  He eagerly agreed to the meeting, and scheduled a date later in the month of April - but said he had another idea about the meeting specifics.

I tried my very best to stay completely out of the ending of Nook’s previous relationship.  She needed to handle this her way, and in a manner which was comfortable for her.  I tried to provide advice and suggestions, when asked for, but I did not want to seem in any way pushy nor controlling.

Having said that, I was not a fan of this plan to meet.

For good reason.

It turns out that with perhaps a bit more strongly encouraged nudging on my part towards Nook, she sought further details about what he had in mind.  The results were not encouraging.

It was a date.

He was planning on taking the entire day off from work and taking her to do one of her favourite activities; something that he knew she loved, but, he showed no interest nor enthusiasm for during their relationship.  He was aiming for the heart strings, and pulling out all the stops to try to open that door and restart the relationship.

Needless to say, neither Nook or I was particularly impressed with this plan.

She called off the meeting.  Which brought about more acid-toned emails and communication...which leads us nicely into:

 

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Ever read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo?  Nevermind that apparently this is even necessary for some people -- but for decades the instructions have boiled down to three simple words:   Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

As a child I was constantly bemused by this.  It created an infinite cycle of consumption.  As soon as you open a bottle and read the instructions, if you follow them you’ll only stop when you run out of the product.  Clever ploy on the part of the shampoo makers of the world.

I mention this because there was a similar cycle taking place with respect to Nook and communication to/with her Ex.  During the first few weeks of May this became its most intense.

My advice remained the same:  No contact is the only option.  Any communication will, I felt, encourage more, and not of the type that she wanted.

But something would come up; perhaps a practical consideration about the splitting of the previous household, a question about a bill or whatnot.  That would lead to a response, which would inevitably lead to an attempt by the ex to re-open the door.

Unfortunately, the pattern of this type of behaviour on his part led to a lot of uncomfortable feelings for Nook.  At one point, a flurry of invasive emails, phone calls (both mobile and land line), as well as SMS text messages resulted in her not feeling comfortable going home that evening.  She decided, wisely, to go to a highly public place quite a distance from her home and wait many hours before heading back home.

I was on the phone with her on her drive home.  I’m pretty sure it was the very very early morning in my timezone, but that didn’t matter in the slightest.  I just love hearing her voice at any time, even in this context.

She approached her home with care, circling around the complex to make sure no familiar and unwanted cars were present.  With things all clear, she parked, and I stayed on the phone with her until she was safely inside, doors closed and locked.

No, this shouldn’t have been necessary, but, given all that had transpired around this time, it was.

As I started my trip to Australia for a week-long conference, and then a few days down in Melbourne, things transitioned from a quiet period of essentially no contact between Nook and her Ex to one of increasingly frustrating contact, at least from Nook’s point of view (and mine).

At one point, I was sitting in a conference session when I got a SMS from Nook to call her.  Since doing so on a mobile phone whilst roaming would have cost me more money than I make in a month, I tried to (ab)use the conference WiFi network for Skype on my iPhone.  This was before Skype officially allowed it to work over 3G, so staying in range of the WiFi network was rather important.

In yet another moment of frustrating irony, it turns out that there was no place in the WiFi zone which provided both coverage and privacy to have the conversation I needed to have with Nook.  As I roamed about the floor, nodding hello to friends and colleagues, I meandered into a corner, hovering at 1 bar of WiFi and every few minutes having to deal with the “Network Quality is Poor” alert from Skype.  Grr.

After the call dropped a few times, I thought I’d try my luck outside, hoping that there’d be signal as well as privacy; that worked a bit, but didn’t compensate for the heavy nature of the conversation that she and I were having.

The Ex was stuck in the loop of trying to pry open that which was closed, and every time Nook would break off contact, he would find some reason to start it up again a short time later.

Being so far away from Nook, so many kilometres as well as timezones, really hurt.  I just wanted to do my best to make it all better, hold her hand and take her away from all the frustration, but it wasn’t our time for that yet.

For now, Nook had to deal with this annoying cycle of communication, and I had to deal with being on the other side of the planet.

 

G’day.

After the conference I took a flight down to Melbourne to meet up with friends and try to sort out the last remaining elements that I was negotiating for a job contract.  After the last few days of feeling helpless at the conference and trying to be there for Nook, my head was spinning.  I knew I wasn’t likely to get much down-time in Melbourne, and, if things went well, life was about to get a whole lot more complicated.

When I met up with some of my local friends for dinner, I suspect they weren’t expecting me to blather on as much as I likely did about Nook and I, as well as this potential job change.  They seemed genuinely happy that I’d be moving to the area, but I suspect that after our second (or was it third?) bottle of wine, they’d had enough of the brief catharsis I’d achieved.

It was necessary.  There were a lot of things that were going on inside my head and at least vocalising some of them needed to be done.  I’m grateful for their patience.

One of the other things I told Nook I would do in Melbourne was keep my eyes open for any potential engagement rings which met the sort of style requirements that she was after.  The day that I met up with my friends for dinner I called Nook and told her that I had a “very interesting day” shopping in Melbourne.

She wondered what that meant and I was cagey on details.  Let’s just say that the more she asked what “interesting day” meant, the more I grinned, knowing something she did not know.  More on that in the next chapter.

I’d arranged to meet up with my local potential-boss the morning of my flight out of Melbourne.  We figured it would only take an hour or so, and my flight wasn’t till mid afternoon, so there was plenty of time.  I got there nice and early, we had a coffee overlooking the bay, and then sat down to business with one of the Human Resource representatives there to help navigate us through what needed doing.

Agreement was reached.

Hands shook.

I went downstairs to head back to the hotel and pack up for my flight out and, of course, called Nook straight away.  I know exactly where I was standing, and my first words to her:  “This is happening, Nook.  It’s real.”

I launched in to some of the details of the agreement, but the important point I wanted to convey was that barring any unforeseen problems, the two of us would be heading Down Under at some point in the coming months.

It sounded so simple, when I said it like that, but there were many, many challenges yet to come.

So that was May.  What a month.  It went from extreme discomfort at the behaviour of Nook’s ex to cautious optimism and a hint of serious adventure just around the corner.