Wednesday, 28 September 2016

When you can't find the right emoticon for scraping Weet-Bix off the floor

Lately, I've been writing, writing, writing. I would like to write a book, but all the demons of self doubt seep in. How on earth could I write a book? Me?! That's a lot of words. A lot of story to come up with.
There are so many other people who could write better. People who would actually have something to say that people would want to read. The merry-go-round of self hate (or self truth) goes on and on.

I'm a Pollyanna. I always think that things will turn out right. Will work out for the best. Work out the way they're meant to be. Trying to look on the bright side.

But what if they don't work out and the reason that they don't work out is simply because I don't try. If I just accept "Oh well, it wasn't meant to be then." I'm now beginning to see that's an easy way not to try or to give up.

So I'm writing, writing, writing. Filling the screen with words, that may or may not be put together in the right way. That may not be something that anyone would want to read. It might be crap. I might be wrong. But at least I tried. At least the words will be out there. And maybe, just maybe, someone will want to read it. Just maybe it will resonate with someone. Make someone think. Or cry. Or laugh. Or just enjoy the words washing over them. Or simply have a distraction for an hour or two from the boring moments of life. Maybe only my kids and my husband and my parents will read it and tell me it's great before putting in on their bedside table to gather dust.

Facebook and Instagram and the rest of the social media world are awash with memes and quotes telling us to live in the moment, be grateful for the small things, live life fully. We don't even have to think too hard about it, as there will be an emoticon to fit the bill.  I have moments when I'm all for being grateful and being inspired, but sometimes the small stuff is scraping Weet-Bix off the floor, time and again. It's repeating "Stop it, no, stop it, stop it, be nice, no" over again. Sometimes being a middle-aged mother is as boringly mundane as it sounds. Middle-aged mother. How on earth is that me? And, yet it is. And there is no amount of money you could pay me to again be 30 or 20.
Thinking that I knew it all, when in fact I knew nothing. Yet, when I answer how was my day, I almost bore myself. So what can I say that anyone would want to read? I'm not sure.

So in spite of that, perhaps it's time to be brave and write, knowing full well, it could amount to nothing. To try or die. To write something more meaningful than a quote in metallic print in a Kmart frame or in a cursive font on a Facebook meme. Not aiming too high, but you just never know.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Special interests

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to my mother-in-law and she was telling me how she doesn't really have a hobby or interest, as such, and how having an interest is such a good way to involved yourself in a new place. It's a way to connect with like-minded people. She was wishing she had an interest or hobby. It made me think.

I look at my Dad, who has a passion for music (playing and listening), travelling, reading and how all those things have really enriched his life and even his career.

When you're in the middle of your life, kids, family, house and career all take over and it's easy to forget about those interests. Case in point, as I write this my daughter is whining and yelling about bugs and how she won't be able to do a single thing until all the bugs in the world are gone and surely I must be able to do something about this. So my small attempt to create and be involved in my interest is difficult.

Which is why it makes it even more important to have something for ourselves. One day, you'll retire and the kids will be gone and what have you got left? Will you even remember what is was that made you happy if you've had to give it up? What's the essence of you. Some days, I struggle to remember what used to get me excited.

I know that when I sit down to write it makes me content. My head suddenly feels normal again (not writing for the past few months have certainly made me crazy). These days I love to listen to podcasts and TED talks and think about new ideas, be inspired by other's ideas and creativity. Talking to new people who are completely different from me excites me as well. Hearing new stories.  Seeing new films. Louis Theroux is in Australia at the moment and I would've loved to have heard him talk, because I love his naive way of getting people to talk and reveal themselves. I find people really interesting.

When I was younger I used to love a heated discussion. It was never personal, but debating a point with someone with a completely different view to me was always fun. Debating all the things you're not suppose to debate (religion, politics) was the most fun!

I feel like all these things are building me to do something. Maybe write a book. Maybe make a film. Have a radio show. A podcast. Something.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Finding the best of me

Writing my first blog post yesterday in yonks reminded me how much I love writing. How when I write I never know where I'm going to end up and then all of a sudden the truth starts to all fall into place in front of my eyes. It's like magic.

I'm not great at talking, I wish that I was better at it. I talk to my eldest and she's like me, the words are there but they struggle to come out. I hate it for me and I hate it for her. I hope she can discover how to write one day.

After rambling yesterday about the lack of excitement of being home and yearning for adventure, I realised that it's up to me to make my life. It's so easy to ignore what is right in front of you.

We are now in a beautiful new home, in a beautiful new city. I have three amazing kids, who are happy, healthy and hilarious. I have a husband who I'm very much in love with. Unfortunately, I think I neglect to realise how rich I am with all this in my life. I'm not the amazing mother I should be and I'm not the loving wife I should be.

The past few weeks I've had a knot of anxiety in belly. I don't know why. Like something wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it. I've felt lonely and isolated and not like me.
 It's time to shake that feeling off and put the effort back into my life. Stop looking for what is wrong. Make the good things happen. Build on the wealth of personal riches I have.

So, my plan is to be a better version of me. Fill myself up with the good stuff. Read, eat right, follow my dreams and passions, take better care of myself, take pride in how I look, not settle for less than I deserve. Be the mother that my kids deserve. Be the wife that my husband deserves. Be the person and live the life that I deserve. You never know what's around the corner so I need to live the best life I can now.

I think it's so easy as a women, especially a wife and mum, to run yourself dry. To think that giving everything is what you need to do, when in fact it's the wrong thing to do and it's not giving what your family actually wants. So much neglect.

It's time to bring back the passion, the spontaneity, the fun, the adventure, live this life now. Starting fresh on this fresh new page in a fresh new stage. To find the best of me.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Musings of a repat

The whole time I was in Dubai, I'd heard and read over and over again that going "home" was the hardest part of being away.

Everything I'd read had said things along the lines of: "I was so depressed in my home country, feeling like I don't fit in", "Coming home was so much harder that leaving". Throughout our time there we had no plan to come home, when we'd come home or even if we'd come home. So when we discovered that we would be returning to Australia I always knew it would be hard. I expected to miss Dubai, to get annoyed by things here, find it hard to discover my groove. All that was true, but I've recently discovered it's actually a whole lot more.

The first few months being back in Australia, in a new city, was exciting. The green, the food, the beauty. Being easily understood. Feeling the comfort of colloquial shorthand. Moving and resettling was understandably an upheaval. Getting the kids settled a task. I expected all that. What I didn't expect a few months down the track was the wave of sadness that envelopes me at certain moments, catching me unawares.

I love Dubai, but I don't exactly miss it. I can live without it. There are things I miss - friends, the stuff that we did and the places we went, of course, but it's more than that. I miss the excitement. I miss that every day for 3.5 years I learnt something new, constantly having my eyes opened to new sounds, tastes, tidbits of information. Always something new about the place I was in and the people who inhabited it. I miss the camaraderie of being with other expats, being surrounded by people who were up for the adventure of living somewhere else, who could throw themselves on a plane and caution to the wind and see what's out there. I miss the adventure.

I guess, essentially, I miss being an expat.

Home, for me, is such a loose concept. Is it where you are born? What your passport says? Where your heart is? Where you are in that moment. Is it a place that you long to return to? Is it where you make it? I don't know. I've lived in 7 different cities and four different countries in my life.

We recently moved into our "proper" house and literally as we were moving in, my middle girl had a big stack on her scooter in the street. One moment she was relishing a new-found freedom, one of the reasons why we moved here. The next she screamed and cried and said to me: "I just want to go home!"
Confused, I cautiously asked: "Which home?"
She couldn't answer me and just sobbed. Strangely I got what she meant.

Home is that moment when you feel a sense of comfort. Home can be an old movie that you haven't seen for years, but watched over and over as a kid. Home can be a good laugh with an old friend. Home can be a shared memory with someone you love, because shared memories are without doubt the best. It's easy to remember something on your own, but it's so much more special when you can remember it with someone.

Being an expat is addictive. It's so hard to fill that void of adventure and excitement in other ways now home. To stop and say, OK, this is it for the next however long and be happy with it. For someone, like me, who loves change and growth and challenge and not knowing what's around the corner, it's the thing I've feared the most.

Repatriation is hard. You can't just go home and be the same person when you left, because you're not and neither is anyone else. As a family it's hard. Individually it's tough too, for each of us. Finding your place, your worth. So, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I felt a little lost and unsure. I think most repats would agree.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Voices in my head

Recently, I received an email from a good friend who lives on the other side of the globe and she was apologising for not writing sooner, but she did say "I do talk to you A LOT in my head, if that counts". And it does. I like being a sounding board for someone going through their day, even if I'm not actually hearing her words.

The thing is I chat to her a lot in my head too. Does that sound crazy? Perhaps it does. I hear something and I can see her rolling her eyes or chuckling with me. I also write a lot of blog posts in my head too, because as much as I have to say and no matter how much I want to sit down and write, it doesn't always happen.

Living somewhere where I don't know many people and having a husband who works hard and travels a lot, not a lot of adult conversations happen in my world. So often I resort to chatting to friends and writing blog posts in my head. I know that I'm not alone, there are plenty of mums who are knee-deep in the nappy trenches, people who have moved to a new place or people who are stuck at home due to illness or a myriad of other reasons. Sure there's social media and I definitely do keep up with the chatter there, but the outrage and opinions does my head in at times. And there are only so many times you can chuckle at Trump meme.

A few weeks ago, we headed down to Sydney for the school holidays and my birthday party. It's always great to go to Sydney and catch up with all my friends and family. Each time, before I go, I have these grand plans of wonderful catch ups and quality time spent with good people I love. What usually ends up happening the kids get sick and tired and whingy from being dragged around. I only get to see a quarter of the people I want to and quality time turns out to be rushed catch ups and nothing like I imagine. I leave feeling exhausted and frustrated that things haven't turned out like I planned. More than likely pissing off myself and few others off in the process.

Then after the push and pull of being Sydney, I end up back with days filled with busy monotony, wishing I could transplant some of those catch ups here. It's like feast and famine. It's a feeling I've shared with a lot of other expats, it seems to be a common thing. And even though I'm not an expat anymore, in some ways I feel more like an expat now than ever.

Then you meet someone and they invite you for coffee and dinner and before you know it you have friends. You wave hello to people at the school gate, down the street and in the supermarket. You slowly, step-by-step, build up a life again and become part of a strange place.

A Whatsapp messages buzzes, an email dings or message lands on your phone and you're instantly in the thoughts of someone a city or world away.

Whatever happens, I still think those voices and unwritten blog posts will remain in my head.

Friday, 3 June 2016

People person

Earlier this week I was driving into town to pick up Skip for a sneaky birthday lunch. On the radio was one of my all-time favourites Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC local radio, which I have listened to whenever I'm able for the past 10 years (if you don't know it, go and podcast it immediately).

The show involves an hour conversation with a person - they could be wildly famous and just mildly interesting. The show this day was about a man who has studied birds for many years, mostly the magpie and brush turkey. This fascinated me as we currently have a brush turkey living in our yard and we recently had to remove almost 2 tonne (yes, tonne) of vegetation matter from its nest. This guy explained all about the huge nests they make. In the midst of my wide-eyed amazement at his tales, I thought "I'm so glad we have people who are so fascinated about this stuff that they spend their lives studying it and sharing what they learnt".

I think that's why I love reading and books and movies and blogs. I love hearing people's stories. Everyone has a story to tell and it's interesting.

I also love hearing people who are passionate and interested about stuff, even if I'm not interested on that topic. I heard Adam Spencer recently talking about maths, and I'm not a maths person and I loved hearing him get excited about numbers and their place in the world. I wished that I had a teacher when I was young who was that passionate and maybe I would be a maths person. The older I get, the more I despise this nonchalant attitude we're all supposed to have, I want to be excited about stuff and I want to hear other people excited about things.

While I was in Dubai, without doubt the best part was the all the people I met and hearing their stories. Whether is was Maria who grew up in Soviet Russia or Aabia who told me what life in Pakistan was like as a woman or the Malaysian couple who ran marathons or Leila and her life in Lebanon. It felt like such a privilege to share in their lives and their stories. And I do miss that. I miss those parent catch-ups that were like the United Nations and the whole world opened up to me. I brought home such a deeper understanding of the world and the lives people live through those conversations.

The thing is we all have stories, unique and important stories. Most people don't think their story is worthy to share and keep it bottled up. Or they make up what they think should be their story.

While looking on the Conversations website, I stumbled across an episode of someone who I sat next to at work for a couple of years. I didn't really know him well, but he was a great writer and he used to make me laugh because when he did speak he'd say "What's is going on? I don't understand any of this?" usually referring to his computer or a work meeting or a comment from a colleague. So it was strange to hear him talk for almost an hour about this amazing story of his family and his childhood. Here I was thinking he was a privileged  kid who was a talented writer, but I had no clue he had such a traumatic life.

 I'm so thankful for the people who are brave enough to share their stories. There's so much talk about over-sharing these days, that people reveal too much of themselves. I get that. But I think there's a big difference between sharing your story and writing a Facebook update about missing the train. I think people feel comfortable sharing about what they ate for breakfast or what they're doing on the weekend, but people don't want to share what's really interesting or what's really important for fear of not being 'good enough' or feeling ashamed (probably because of all the Facebook updates) or being uninteresting when what they think is uninteresting is the most interesting, because it makes them who they are.

I'm amazed and envious of the artists who can put their stories into songs or words or paintings. I think they're luck that they can share their stories and our stories too. I don't think you have to be an artist to share though. Do you share your story? Who do you share your story with?

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Rain, rain come and stay

There is much excitement in our house at the moment, you see, they are predicting rain and lots of it for Saturday. Why is that so exciting, I hear you ask. Well, it's been almost four years since our family has had a cool, rainy Saturday. One of those days where you have no choice but to curl up under a blanket, read a book or watch a movie. Maybe make something delicious to snack on and then return to the blanket.

In Dubai, it was a nice day every single day. And on the rare occasions it did rain, it usually lasted a matter of minutes and then the seeded clouds would roll away. The pressure of "It's a nice day, I really should get out and do something" is surprisingly real.

Since we've been in Brisbane, the weather has been warm and nice. Every day. So every weekend we've gotten out and bush walked and played in the park and swum at the beach and explored and enjoyed 'the lovely day'. All the while, secretly hoping that big black clouds would roll over, the temperature would drop and we'd have no choice but to hibernate at home.

Four years is a really long time not to have that luxury of hearing the rain pelt on the window, a cool breeze blow under the door and not have a single place to go. You can't fake it either. You may try to stay at home and close the curtains, but you still know that it's hot and balmy and sunny outside. The guilt will creep in and you just can't enjoy it.

I can live with damp washing. I can live with soggy shoes. I'm just looking forward to it! My kids won't know themselves, they're always asking to stay at home.

Now, I have written this I've probably jinxed it and the sun will be shining in a bright blue sky and the nagging thought of "We should really get out there…" will return.
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