Friday, 21 October 2016

Then, here and later

"It's just I'm surprised that five years on I'm still surprised how relentless it is. The lack of time that I thought would be abundant to do things for me. Dreams of pursuing a dream or exercise or reading or anything else are still just dreams. Even to sit and dream is just a dream."

The above is a quote from a blog post I wrote five years ago about being a parent. How that before I became a parent, I believed I'd be this mother earth type who'd suddenly have all this time to dedicate to myself and my child. I was obviously deluded and the reality was actually years of relentless hard work. While I might get depressed about this and tell myself that my life is slipping away or monotonously mundane (which it no doubt is), it is just one part of many parts of my life.   

I was recently watching Dazed and Confused again, I hadn't watched it in years and it brought back lots of memories. There's a line near the end of the movie though that goes something like this: "If in 20 years time, I say that school was the best time of my life, please kill me".

I don't think there's a parent out there who hasn't been told: "Oh soak up this wonderful time, it goes too fast." And as you stand there unshowered, unslept and with spew and poo down your front, think you'd really rather forget it all, thanks anyway.

When you're in the middle of the grind. The tedium. Whatever stage of life. You often fail to take note of the good stuff that's happening around you. You may lament that it's  not as you thought it would be, let's face it, it rarely is. We spend all of our lives, waiting for life to really start happening. Then that waiting for something becomes life. As time moves on, you forget the tedium and all those good times, however minuscule, are the ones that remain. Spending all day, every day with your friends. No bills. Little responsibility. Laughing as your baby giggles uncontrollably. Watching them take their first steps. A glass of wine and a singalong after a long day.

It's like when you go on that holiday or camping trip. At the time you're obsessed with that lost piece of luggage. Getting ripped off by that guy in the market. The rain that poured down and flooded your tent. Missing that train. All these things are going to destroy what should be the time of your life, dammit. Down the track, all you remember is that cocktail on the beach. How good that gelato in the square tasted. Long hours of conversation round the campfire. When you do remember the lost luggage or getting ripped off, it simply makes for a rollicking dinner party story.

The rise of social media, ensures that we can curate the 'good' bits and edit the bad in the here and now without the necessary passage of time to help soften the memory. We are reassured the good moments are indeed good by how many "likes" we get. And if we don't get enough likes, we can try again with another "good" moment. That scares me, I have to admit. The pressure on those "good" bits has escalated to a point where we don't even enjoy them anymore (unless we get validation from someone else that yes, that's good and we're liked). Then we have to up the ante and find another good moment. Ironically we stop enjoying those small gems of good time. Those simple joys are suddenly promoted to the time-of-your-life moments. Such a lot of pressure. 

Hindsight is always 20-20. I could go back and tell myself to not worry so much about school. I could tell  my 18-year-old self, to not cover up on the beach embarrassed because, love, that's as good as it's going to get. I could tell my 25-year-old self to stop wasting so much money and put something away. I could tell my 30-year-old self to stop worrying and enjoy that tiny baby. The thing is I wouldn't listen, even to my older and wiser myself. What I can do, is to tell myself now, that this is just one moment in time. That sleepless night worrying about XYZ won't matter in 12 months or 10 years time. The small gems of joy that may escape my vision right now will appear later on, like a developing photograph. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Working it out

Life is a funny thing. Blogging is an even funnier thing. I was just having a quick look online when suddenly I was drawn to start reading an old blog post of mine Things Will Always Work Out.

Funny because, at the time five years ago, we were trying to sell our house and find a 'family home' that would fit us all and our impending arrival (Darbs). It felt like the biggest thing in the world. We didn't sell our house. We still own it, in fact. And yes, things did indeed work out. We did live somewhere. Dubai. Then Brisbane. The adventure of life and not really knowing what's around the corner. Life can take you some great places if you let it.

I do still believe that Things Will Always Work Out, and that's not because I'm an eternal optimist because at the moment I feel like I am quite a pessimist with a good dash of cynicism thrown in. I now believe that Things Will Work Always Out simply because they have to. We just don't have a choice. It's sink or swim. So when I now say "Things will work out", I think I really mean "We'll work things out, whatever is thrown at us". Unfortunately (or fortunately) you can't plan for life as it often has very different ideas.

This week marks my 10-year anniversary of being a parent (otherwise known as my eldest's 10th birthday). What a ride that has been. Being a parent has taught me more than anything else in my life. Those first few days, weeks, years were so overwhelming on so many levels. I lost myself there for quite a while. I'd even go as far to say I'm only now starting to raise my head and look around and take a breath. Ten years of parenting young children will no doubt do that to you. I'm older and wiser, pretty bashed around edges. I do have three amazing kids to show for it. And they really are incredible. I don't feel worthy of them sometimes.

As I've said here recently, I'm taking some time to work on myself at the moment. Focus on me, pour goodness on me and hope that it trickles down to my family. My husband. My kids. I guess I want to like myself more and I want my husband, my kids and my parents to be proud of me. I don't really care what anyone else thinks of me, but as long as those people are happy to call me their wife, mum and daughter, well, I think I've done alright. I know that if I can be a better person, it will make my family better. So I'm eating better, exercising more, taking care of myself.

None of us are going to make it out of here alive. Bad stuff is definitely going to happen. We can't stop it no matter how #grateful #blessed we tell everyone on Facebook we are. People will get sick. People will die. Nasty things will happen. The only thing I can control is how I am in this moment. How I treat those around me. How honest I am with them and myself.

Gratitude is the big thing at the moment. If we show we're grateful for what we have, that will make us happy. It's the secret to life. Or so they tell us. But let's face it, we're human and we'll always secretly be wanting something more, something better, something else. So, I don't really believe in gratitude.

I think appreciation is the secret to happiness. Let that person know what you admire about them. That you miss them. That you love them. Listen to them. Be there for them. Support them. I think we often forget to do this and take those around us for granted. When they are the building blocks of our lives. We think "Oh they already know we love them. Are there for them", but do they? I know I'm guilty of this. When things do go wrong (and there will be times they do), we will need those around us to keep us up and to work things out.

Recently, a friend just sent me a text saying "I miss you". It's funny how three small words can make you feel appreciated, important and loved.

I stuff up and I continue to stuff up on an almost daily basis. I'm sure this will continue for the rest of my life. Things will work out, I'm sure.

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.
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