Friday, 4 January 2019

Not the answers of life or the universe

Recently, I have been asked why I don't write here anymore. The truth is I don't really write anywhere, anymore. Why? Well there are probably lots of reasons, but guess what? I just wrote that, so I guess I am writing. So I guess there's no reason to overthink things.

I'm almost six months into being 42 - being, of course, the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything (according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Yet, in a lot of ways I feel like I have the answers to almost none of the questions. In fact I have less answers at 42 than I did at 41. Maybe that's the wisdom that comes from age, knowing that you, in fact, know nothing.

Being the fourth day of a new year always brings a look at what you've done over the past year and hoping of what you want to achieve in the coming year. I have a suspicion that this is going to be a challenging year. I don't know why, it's just a feeling. I'm always an optimist, so I believe that challenge will bring its rewards as well. It's just that life will always throw challenges, it's our job to navigate through them as unscathed as possible.

One thing I have noticed recently that has become a seemingly constant in my world (or at least my social media world) is being bombarded with people telling me I need to have/do/be this that or the other to be happy/successful/worthwhile. Mostly, I tick none of the boxes they're suggesting I should tick. Sometimes I think that maybe I should stop being lazy and be like these people living 'their best lives', but before I can drain the dregs of my cold coffee, there's another post announcing the crippling guilt/anxiety/exhaustion these same people are feeling.

We seem to need to be ON all the time and I know there are people out there who thrive on this. I am definitely not one of them. Being busy doesn't make me happy. Especially being busy with simply being busy. I think the biggest lesson I've learnt in recent months is that for me to feel good I need to fill my cup with things that makes my heart sing.

I don't know what these things are for you, but for me it's:

Reading a good book
Getting lost in the pages of book is a wonderful thing. So many people tell me they aren't readers, or they read things they feel they 'should' read. Personally, I think all self-help, life manuals and the like should be left on the shelves. You can learn far more about yourself and your life in the pages of a cracking yarn. Reading to your child is just as important and lovely. Picking up the tale from where you left off the night before is fun for all of us. For me, it's far better for my kids' minds than any homework or tutoring could ever be. If you don't do any other reading than reading to your kids, well then that's OK.

Eating a good meal
Food is incredibly important to me. I've recently realised food is a big way in how I express my love and gratitude. Cooking a good meal for my family most nights (definitely not every night), having friends over for a meal is how I show that I care. I often hear people saying that going to the trouble of cooking is something they really don't enjoy, but for me food not only one of our base needs, it's also one of life's great pleasures. So feeding myself, my friends and family with something delicious that is going to sustain them and create a memory is a privilege. It doesn't have to be fancy, just real food -  good for you and delicious.

Watching a good film
I have always loved movies. So much so that I spent many years wanting to make movies. I even studied film at uni. Somewhere along the way I stopped watching movies (or at least I was only watching kids' movies), recently I've made the time to watch movies and go to the cinema again. Sure, I could watch hours of The Hills but it doesn't 'feed my soul'. It's like eating Pringles for dinner, tasty at the time but not satisfying in the long term. I recently re-watched Brokeback Mountain and was reminded how beautifully directed and shot it was. Watching movies again has made me extremely happy. Funny how something so seemingly insignificant can mean so much.

Singing loudly
Singing while your work, shower, drive, clean, whatever. Sing loudly. Not mindless humming, singing. It makes me feel alive.

Listening to radio/podcasts, good interviews with people telling their stories makes me happy. There's an intimacy you get with radio that you don't get with any other medium. Listening to something while I drive or walk the dog is the best. My favourites at the moment are Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing (he talks about and to old Hollywood people a lot which I love) and ABC's Conversations.

I feel weird writing this because I really don't like exercising. The thought of it, the actual doing it, I don't enjoy. Even talking about it is boring. The feeling immediately after and the feeling after doing regular consecutive really is good for me physically and mentally. No doubt.

These are the small weird human things that make me feel life is OK. Sure they're not huge life goals or achievements, but little things that put joy into my day. What are the things that put a glow of good feeling in your chest?

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Everything I am, everything I'm not

I've been asked recently why I stopped writing, and to be honest, I'm not really sure. To dip my toe in once again, here is something I wrote almost two years ago and never published. I'm not quite sure why I didn't. 

I remember when Lil-lil was a week old, I held her in my arms as she screamed her little lungs out, her face beet red with anger. I clearly remember thinking "My god, I've broken her. It was going to happen eventually but this must be a world record, one week and I've already stuffed her up!"

Now with hindsight, I know these were the thoughts of a brand-new sleep deprived mum who had dreams of having the perfect child. What I didn't know then, but I do now, is that she was perfect and she still is. She has faults, some she was born with, and no doubt some I've probably given her. But she's perfect. She's so like me in so many ways, and in so many ways she's not.

She's long and she's gangly and she's all arms and legs, which I've never been and will never be. But she lives in her head, just like me. She talks to herself, just like I do. She's quiet and shuts down and thinks that her thoughts some times controls the world, just like me. All she wants is the romantic ideal of life, just like me.

Then there's Goosey. She's fiery and angry, not like me. She's more determined than anyone, not like me. She's full of self-belief, not like me. But she's compassionate, she's empathetic, and she knows her feelings affect those around her. She worries and feels and takes things on. She'll act to change if she can.

Then there's Darbs. Calm and controlled and funny and full of charm, not like me. Affectionate and kind and insightful beyond his years. Oh so secure. I told him tonight: "I love you more than anything!" and his reply: "Even more than your great-great- grandfather?" He's the most trusting soul I've ever come across and that in some ways reminds me of me. Maybe it's a third child thing. You just know there's some kind of safety net waiting to catch you.

I remember hearing my whole life "Try your best, that's all you can ask for." Until today, I think that's always been a bit of a cliche or a platitude. Try your best. That's for losers. I saw my girls run the cross country and they tried, their absolute best. I saw how much they were hurting and they didn't give up. I saw how much they wanted to give up and they didn't. I'm not afraid to say I welled up. I've never been prouder. Sure they didn't win, but as far as I'm concerned they did.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Not quite what you expect

Rarely in life is anything quite like you expect it will be. If my 15-year-self met my 41-year-old self, I'm sure she wouldn't recognise me. As life really doesn't turn out like you plan.

Parenthood is definitely one of those things that wasn't like what I expected it to be. In all honesty, if it was something I'd signed up for and paid for I may not go as far as to ask for a refund, but I'd definitely be writing a letter to say 'this wasn't in the brochure'.

When my first-born was a newborn, I remember having a moment where I wished she was 7 or 8 years old. That she could talk and tell me what on earth was the matter, that I could just send to bed and not have to rock and pat and life as a parent would be a whole lot easier. Well, yes, it's true that some parts are easier, there are plenty of parts that are not.

Like every mother in the world, I have rolled my eyes when someone has told me to enjoy that time with your baby/toddler "because it goes so fast". Not bloody fast enough, I thought to myself. Now I see a gorgeous toddler and think wistfully back to those days at home pottering around and going for babycinos, carefully forgetting the sleepless nights, the mess and the constant nature of it all.

In the midst of the chaos of having young kids at home, I dreamed of a day where they would go to school all day, pretty much take care of themselves and I could just do the "fun" stuff. Yeah right.

Having kids in school sometimes feels like harder work. It's probably not harder, just hard but in a different way. People say to me now, you mustn't know yourself having the kids in school and being back in the office. And yes, I'd say it's true.

Take today for example. My youngest had a high fever and his cries in the night had me finding him in his bedroom hallucinating and speaking gibberish. After a lot of worry, a dose of panadol and some comforting he went back to sleep, seemed calm and a few short hours later the day began. You have to hit the ground running with three kids to get off to school. Lunches, uniform, books, notes, whatever weird and wonderful thing they need for that day.

By 9.30am today, I had already made lunches, got kids ready, had a parent-teacher conference for the eldest and attended an ENT specialist appointment for the middle one. All while answering Slack messages and emails from work. By 9.30am I'm usually arriving at work, but today with a sick boy, I went home after the doctor appointment, tag teamed with the husband while he went to the office.

Working from home can be good and bad. Some days I get heaps done, others not so much. This morning was warm and there was glorious sunshine so I took advantage of the situation and did a few loads of washing. I was feeling very satisfied with my less-full laundry basket and the sight of white shirts flapping in the warm breeze. You know, being grateful for small things.

It was then time for another few messages, some reading for work, a bit of fluffing around the house and attending to the patient, when the phone rang. It was Wendy the school secretary. I had already spoken to Wendy twice this morning about late students, absent kids, so I was surprised to see her number pop up again. The eldest wasn't feeling well and could I come and collect her. So off I went to school, seeing Wendy yet again and thinking, I speak to her almost more than anyone else in Brisbane.

Walking through the front gate once we got home, Lil screamed "SNAKE!" I was a little concerned but we'd had a few pythons around so wasn't too upset. This snake was different though. Yelling to get inside, trying to get a photo of the snake so I could identify it and Lil yelling at me that the door was locked and Darbs crying cause he felt awful. Inside, a few phone calls later and we had identified the snake as an Eastern Brown Snake. One of the world's most deadliest. Awesome. By this time it had fled, or had it?

In between, I was still answering messages for work and trying to post some social media posts for the company. It was decided that on advice from the friendly snake man that we just had to bunker down and hope our reptile friend had left or would soon leave. But then I still had to go and pick up the third child from school. And my washing was still on the line. Quite possibly where the snake was.

Third kid collected and then taken for a playdate, which seemed like a good idea as her siblings were unwell and there was a deadly predator in our yard. As I drove back from dropping the kid at the playdate a fierce storm blew in and all I could think about was my white shirts on the line. And the loads of washing in the machine. And could I ever retrieve them if there was a snake there. "The snake won't stay out in this rain, Mum," Darbs told me. True, I thought, but where would it go was my worry.

So now I'm sitting here. Not having got much work done, the washing wetter than it was this morning, nothing planned for dinner, a couple of unwell (yet again) kids and a brown snake potentially taking up in our yard. Rather than sorting out any of these issues, I decided to write about it instead.

Now, I know this isn't hard. Because having an potentially fatal disease is hard, living in a war zone is hard, not having enough money to feed your kids is hard. It is, however, surprising. And really not quite what I expected.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

You can't have one moment without another

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about ‘living in the moment’, which seems to be the modern-day mantra. Everywhere you turn there is someone telling you that you need to live in this moment, forget the past and not look too far forward. This moment is the one we have.
To an extent I believe in it, but to be honest, I think original idea of ‘living in the moment’ has probably been corrupted. Instead of appreciating the ‘moment’ or being present in a moment, it’s turned into a self-centred, do what makes you happy now and forget everything else type of thing. Which to be honest, is not a life. Not a life with any real substance anyway. 
I do believe that you need to soak in the now. Appreciate what is going on around you and really relish it. Otherwise, it just becomes a blurry half-hearted memory. On the other hand, I think the past and the future is equally important and can never be discounted. The old saying that life is a tapestry is true, all these ‘moments’ equate to a life and they should be woven together to make the best life possible. How do you do that if you don’t consider what has gone before and what is coming ahead? Which is why I prefer to try and be present in each moment, rather than “live” in the moment (or worship the moment as I feel we’re being asked to do by this trend). 
Rushing into something because it “feels good” or “right” in a moment and not thinking about the past or the future will create a life of half-finished things and regret. It’s not bravery, but foolishness and to an extent cowardice. And how will you create anything of value? 
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I see that to be not just about living in the moment, but it’s the small things that you do over and over that make up your life. You can try and make each “moment” special and glorious and important, even make it special with it's 'simplicity', but god that must be tiring, not to mention disappointing. And just because you don’t appreciate and ‘live’ in every moment doesn’t mean you’re living a lesser life.  I think that it’s perfectly OK at times to appreciate things in hindsight. 
When I look back on my life, some of the most memorable and important moments are the ones that I wished I could fast-forward through. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you don’t have a remote control for life and there are plenty of times we just have to endure. I certainly didn’t ‘live’ in those moments or relish them. Those moments I won’t forget and I’m glad I experienced them because they have made me who I am, how I react to things and I carry them with me. Yes, I will move past them, but you will always carry your history with you. How can you not? So, I internally roll my eyes and tell them to shut up in my head, when I hear someone say let the past go, don’t think of the future only think of the now. 
You can’t change the past, but the past certainly changes you. You can only create your future if you know what you want your future to be. Above all life will throw at you what it will and it will be up to you to play the cards you’re dealt. Build yourself into life, rather than build life around you. 
Pain and sadness are valid emotions, and equally important as joy and happiness. You can’t have joy without sadness, I believe. I also believe that emotions aren’t destinations, but they are simply emotions. I don’t think you aim to be “happy”, happy is just one of the many emotions you feel in life. And if you do everything just to be “happy” then you are setting yourself up for failure. You may work hard to do all the right things to make yourself happy (or what you think will make you happy) but ultimately we have no control over life. What makes a life worth living and a life of substance is your attitude, your values, your principals. The way that you live, the way you treat others and how you do things creates your life, not just the “moments” that you live in. 
I recently read a piece by Brienna West, which really struck a chord. She also believes that life is not about living in the moment but more about creating a legacy through small repeated actions. I will leave you with this quote that I love:
“The truest love is not how you feel, but how you act. If you want a ‘soulmate’ relationship, think of it not as something you find, but a person you choose and then grow with over time. If you want to find your purpose, think of it as whatever you are good enough to keep doing, until you leave a legacythen it is your calling.It is not in premeditation that we decide what the big, important parts of our lives are, it is doing. Particularly, what we do over and over again. Doing defines our lives, our characters, our relationships—everything.” 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Weeklies, caramel buds and Saturday morning cartoons

My middle girl has been home unwell for what feels like a year. Yesterday she wanted to watch something and thought of having YouTube crap on in the background made my skin crawl, so I suggested that I pick something for her to watch. I have memories of watching old movies when I was unwell as a kid, "Gaslight", "Rebecca", "Pollyanna" and a host of other old movies that I fell in love with.

My girl is always keen to see something new, so she agreed, as long as she could could have the final say.

First choice, "Little Women", nup, sounds boring.
Second choice "Anne of Green Gables", oh I've heard of that, nup sounds boring.
Third, and final choice, "Playing Beattie Bow". Hmmmm OK, I'll try it.

Now, the fact that I can find all these movies at the press of a couple of buttons still amazes me. I sat with her for the first part of the movie to get her into it. A tale about a girl from modern Sydney who's transported back in time to 1873. As I watched, I realised that "modern" Sydney of the 1980s was almost as foreign to my girl as Sydney of 1873.

Listening to a cassette player after school ("What's that?"), eight year olds left to roam the streets of central Sydney, enormous boom boxes carried on people's shoulders, big bright Ken Down-esque jumpers. It's a strange place to a nine-year-old from 2017.

My other two have been equally fascinated by the world of "when you were a kid, mum". Darbs was asking the other day if I watched Pokemon as a kid. He was shocked to hear that I didn't, but was relieved to know that I at least had Batman.
"But cartoons were only really on a Saturday morning and sometimes after school," I told him.
"That's messed up, Mum!" he replied. "Couldn't just choose something to watch?"
"We didn't have Netflix then," I told him.
"What? Not even Stan?" was his reply.
"Nope, not even Stan. Just five channels and we had to watch whatever they decided to put on."
"Well, at least you had Batman. And at least you had telly, Grandma said she didn't have one. How's that!"

I then told him about videos and going to the shop to rent movies, having to rewind them to watch again.
"Did you have to borrow food from the shop too?" he asked.
"No, just videos. It's like the library, but we had to pay for them."
After a while, my antiquated world started to bore him.

Lil-lil was then interested to hear about lollies from the '80s. I told her tales of mixed bag of lollies that came in white paper bags and cost 20c for what seemed like a bounty.
"So you went to the local lolly shop and picked lollies?"
"Well, we didn't have a local lolly shop. You'd go to the milk bar and choose freckles and caramel buds for 1 or 2c each. Maybe a banana or a pineapple if you were feeling rich. When I went to the pool they had made up bags of mixed lollies and they were pretty good too. We had giant pythons too, but they really were giant," I told her.
"Wow, I wish we had a milk bar, that sounds awesome."
"They really were," I had to admit. Far better than a 7-11.

It's funny how things that are such a big part of your childhood really are just a snapshot in time.

Rewind before you return.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


When I was 15 or so I watched a new TV series called Twin Peaks. Oh my goodness, how could a TV series change your life. When you're 15 everything changes your life. A song, a band, a movie - all of it makes you feel alive, makes you feel like you're living life in the world for the first time. No one has seen the world this way before you think.

My mum is here at the moment, helping me with the kids during the school holidays. Goosey was telling Grandma about Bruno Mars and just how amazing he is. She played a song of his to share and then she put on the Beatles and danced with equal gusto. My mum reminisced about the first time she heard the Beatles and how an older neighbour pined about just how terrible they were with their long hair and the racket they played.

Life is the same. But different. The kids listened to my mum tell about being their age and lighting the stove for dinner when she got home from school and walking to the outhouse in the dark and cold. They were horrified! Kids are much different today they said. Not so much, she replied. They still have the same worries and insecurities and fun and moments.

The new Twin Peaks is back on the box and I was so excited. I wanted to pick up where I left off. I wanted to have that feeling I had when I was 15. Except, I'm not 15 anymore. As much as I want to love it, it's darker and heavier and less innocent. There are more distractions. It's not the same. Neither am I.

The past couple of weeks, I've realised that I miss a time when there's no iphones or texts, or social media or streaming or binge watching. When you went out, you went somewhere and hoped you ran into people. You met up and talked. You waited a week to watch a show at a certain time, along with everyone else. News was news, because they didn't have to update endlessly. You waited to hear a song on the radio or you went to a store to buy a CD. Got excited to feel that crisp magazine cover in your hand and couldn't wait to get home to open it. Got excited by the prospect or something. The experience wasn't diminished by reading a review online as you walk in. Life felt more adventurous. When you're alone, you're alone. The moment was far easier to live in. Much less distraction.

I realise that makes me a dinosaur, but I'm OK with that. Actually I feel lucky to know what it's like to live without being ruled by device. To dream about what might be and not worry about what's not important.

I'm the mean mum who (for the moment) won't let my kids have iMessages and the like. But they can have their holidays doing exactly what they're doing and I know that when they see their friends on the first day back at school they'll have that exciting moment where they can swap stories and laughs. And that to me is precious.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Future blindness

It's a funny thing writing a blog and having all these little thoughts and memories to look back on. Sometimes I cringe and other times I'm reminded of a time and place that is long buried in the back of my brain. For whatever reason, I've been quite nostalgic recently, maybe due to binging on Party of Five last week.

I recently re-read a post I wrote about the dangling carrot of life and how we're often focussed on looking ahead to reach a "goal".  While I still believe a lot of what I wrote in that post, there is a part that feels a little naive and I realise I've become a little more jaded as the years have gone by. In other ways, I'm also a little more optimistic.

As the great John Lennon wrote: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" and this is all too true. Recently, though, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how things may have been if I'd done things differently. Hindsight is always 20/20, especially if you learn some lessons about the mistakes that you make and the wrong turn that you take.

Whatever path you take or choices you make, life will continue to unfold. It's relentless like that. Well, relentless until it's not.

The thought that keeps popping up into my head over and over is while it's great to be in the now and appreciate where we are, I'm going to go against current wisdom of living in the moment and say that I think we sometimes need to think longer and harder about how what we do now can affect where we end up.

As I drove the kids home last night from soccer training, thinking about having to spend another two hours tonight at netball training, hat will I cook for dinner so the kids can be fed, bathed and in bed at a reasonable hour and that I may actually get a moment to chat with Skip so we're not passing ships in the night. Darbs pipes up: "I can't wait to be an adult and do whatever I want, whenever I want!" As the thought that I wasn't doing anything I really wanted to be doing sprung into my head, Goosey quickly replied: "It wouldn't be that good, cause you'd just be dirty and eat lollies all the time, then you'd end up with diabetes and you'd die."
"No I wouldn't!"
"Yes, you would!"

Ahhh yes, being an adult and being able to do whatever you want to do....

Later in the evening, I was talking to one of my kids and asking if they'd been mean to one of their friends that day. "Well, yes, but it was funny."
I had to drag out the whole, "when you do something think about if you'd like it done to you, if don't then don't do it" lesson.

It's that old lesson, that I hope and pray will go into their heads, but as I look around life as an adult I wonder if it does. Ever. So often I see people who just go on, head charged and do things, because they deserve it. They're entitled to it. It makes them happy now, don't worry about later. Who cares who is hurt or affected. The live in the moment, YOLO rules, are adapted for themselves.

So, yes, my thought is live in the now and appreciate what is around you, learn from the past, but don't forget that what you do will affect the road ahead. After 40 years of life, I've discovered this to be oh so true.

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