The Missing

It will come as a shock to many of you that I once played basketball. At a decent level, too. I am five foot seven, so that often leaves people a little skeptical, but I was not too shabby in my day. And like, clearly a point guard. Anyway, once I grew older (under 16 onwards, I think), basketball games transitioned from weekends to Friday nights when the marquee games were played and I used to really love the ritual that involved my parents driving my sister and I to and from playing on a Friday night, we’d talk about what happened during the week, download, reflect, be a family. It also, I think, instructed a lifelong habit of spending a good chunk of Friday night being reflective about the week before.

Tonight, I find myself reflecting on an overwhelming feeling of longing this week. Just…missing people. And yet, the curious thing is that this week I participated in a country wide roadshow where I literally (ok, figuratively) drowned in people — 5 cities in five days. I presented about 12 times, to around 400 people, networked every night (except the one night I did something heinous to my back and had to cancel), and probably had about 80 direct conversations or meetings. And for an introvert, this is basically the emotional and energetic equivalent of water torture. My usual reaction to weeks like this is to hole myself up in my safe space (ie my house), with my dogs, and not talk to anyone for a couple days. Sing. A necessary decompress, recalibration. And, while I fully plan (and need) to do this, the niggling background feeling, the one that’s kinda vibrating in my bone marrow right now, is not one of escape but of longing.

A confluence of a few events this week has focused this feeling with a laser sharpness, I think.

I had a 20 minute coffee with my Mum, the only time I could literally fit her into the 20 hours I was in my hometown. That just wasn’t enough time. Obviously. To be a good daughter. To be respectful to the woman who has sacrificed so much. And because she is a lovely person and she is a great Mum, she said things like “Oh sweetie, that’s OK, I’m just so happy I got to spend anytime with you at all” … Gutpunch. We spent that 20 minutes talking about what’s happening in her life, difficulty registering for Centrelink, her financial situation, her work situation, her husband. Not enough time to cover that properly, let alone talk about real stuff that matters, to give her a proper hug. I miss her.

Later, I had the great privilege to be invited to lunch at parliament house, and was introduced at random to a parliamentarian, who I recognised used to be the owner of the gym my parents attended when I was a child. I said to the man when I was introduced, ‘I know you won’t remember, but actually we already know each other” and proceeded to explain how my parents used to frequent his gym (as did I as a little kid). He asked “Who are you parents?” I dutifully answered and he said “Oh yes, I remember them well, they were a lovely couple although I know they are no longer together, right?” and I responded “That’s true, how did you know that?” and he responded “Oh I ran into your father a year ago”. Gutpunch number 2. I’m not sure how one is supposed to react when a random person from your childhood delivers the news that your estranged father (by his choice) is still alive (a year ago anyway), but all I can distill at this point is it’s a combination of relief, anger and profound aching.

Lastly, yesterday, the last day on the road, it occurred to me that the last time I took a roadtrip for work, I uncharacteristically had the great privilege to travel with workmates instead of the usual solo trip. The weird and wonderful thing about work travel is the bubble it creates. Away from your usual routine, there are fewer distractions, you get the opportunity to get to know people better because you are not in a work environment 24/7. For those who don’t travel much for work, the movie Lost In Translation is the best artistic representation of the acceleration or augmentation of relationships that happen when travelling. Its kind of beautiful. Also not all decisions are yours and so the pressure and stress reduces and it becomes much more enjoyable. I really noticed this trip how much I missed the camaraderie and closeness this fostered. I was actually quite lonely this trip, even though it was only a week.

All of this, I think, simply means I’m certifiably human. Congratulations, I guess. So, I’ll just sit in the longing, the missing for a little while longer tonight. Not to dwell, but to feel. To acknowledge and appreciate it more when I do get to spend time with the people who matter.

In the meantime, hug your people, people.

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