I’ve had this blog post circulating in my head for some two months now. When it first came to mind I couldn’t get it onto the keyboard thanks to pain so great in my right shoulder I was unable to type or write. In fact, at the time I struggled to even brush my teeth or do a number of tasks I had previously assumed were a given.
It got me thinking about how little we thank our bodies for the good days and what we are able to do with them, yet we are so quick to admonish the parts that don’t function well when we need them.
This post isn’t because I wish to list my medical ailments and woes, nor bore you with my pain stories. Those who know me, know what I am referring to, but I do on a regular basis deal with a a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. Last year, I was given a reason to feel pain – 14 years after my initial consultation I was given a diagnosis that gave it a label finally. My doctor in Melbourne remarked upon my coping strategies and commented that he was amazed that a woman my age (then 27) could live a normal life in so much pain. My answer to him was simple, as it has been to any concerned friends or colleagues who have made similar comments. I tell them that I am grateful for my pain free days: I’ll climb mountains when I can and when the pain comes back I simply sit down for a bit and find a way to be grateful for what I had been able to do until then. Sometimes it lasts a day, sometimes weeks: it tests me, depresses me, limits me and really angers me at times. In fact only last night I was sitting on my living room floor trying to find a comfortable position whimpering in pain, feeling sorry for myself.
But gratitude is really the only thing I have. I never know when it will come back or how long it will linger for, but it’s taught me to really live in the moment and to grasp opportunities when they arise. If someone says “let’s go for a hike” – on a pain free day I will jump at it, because next time perhaps I won’t be able to.
It’s taken years and years for me to understand my body and its ever-changing needs and demands. I accept help when it’s offered, but try not to need it knowing that ultimately I am on my own and relying on others only makes you useless when they are gone.
“What has happened to your blog?” My mum asked me a while ago.
“I logged onto your blog, but you don’t seem to have written in it for some time” wrote
my aunt this morning.
What HAS happened to my blog? I am asking myself whilst sitting in my little cabin in the garden on a chilly Perth evening. It’s certainly not as though I have nothing to write about – I have a number of blog posts circulating in my head continuously but they never make through my fingers to my keyboard. I even took a notebook to work today, hoping to find a moment to scribe my thoughts, but alas it didn’t happen.
It seems the last time I wrote I was enjoying reflecting on life in Australia – opportunities and obstatunities that were presented to me throughout the year – this was MONTHS ago! Back then I was living in the tranquility of a farm in northern New South Wales and desperately looking for work to ease my finances, but secretly wanting to not work very much at all and soak up everything Australia has to offer on the final stretch of my visa.
So that’s how I find myself in Perth, where I currently live in “donga” in the garden of the family whose children I care for. I am now a Nanny, or an Au Pair, or Mary Poppins? I think I like that one best. Is it easy? Sometimes. Can anyone do it? No way. Why am I doing it? Because why not?
I escaped another cyclone warning in NSW to get to Perth for a full time nanny position back in February. That job may well have been the reason I had writer’s block for so long. I think I was physically, emotionally and most importantly, creatively drained working for a family who wanted a service, not me. I gave 100 %, which wasn’t enough and although I couldn’t admit it at the time I was incredibly unhappy. After one too many unkind words, I started to look elsewhere, in search of a family who wanted Grace and not just someone who was great with their kids, could cook and didn’t mind cleaning. I now look back on that experience and only wish I had swallowed my pride sooner and not wasted some two months feeling trapped and not enjoying what Perth had to offer me.
Long story short, I am now working for as family whose ideals are closer to mine, who don’t have me as an accessory, and whose children’s challenges and warm smiles make everyday a wonderful day.
So I live in a self-contained container in the garden. Having my own space, I now realise, is paramount to my sanity and enjoyment. I was spending every moment I wasn’t working out of the house: throwing away money I didn’t have in order to avoid being there or I was locked away in my room hiding from awkward, uncomfortable conversations.
I now work half the hours I used to and earn almost the same. I have freedom, trust and no checklists. I have never been told off, nor checked up on. Not been giving rules or written instructions or lists to sign. I’ve never had to detail where I take the car, nor justify how I spent my cleaning day. It’s wonderful!
Every day is different – some more challenging than others – as anyone who has ever spent time around young children will understand. I enjoy picnics and adventures in the park, stories in the garden, football in the playground, baking in the kitchen, trips to the beach, swims in the pool, crafts, trips to the library, road trips in the car and everything I thought I would enjoy about being an Au Pair. At the end of the day, I bid my farewell, walk over to my little house and enjoy doing whatever I please until the next morning. No questions asked. I can teach and entertain in my own space whilst enjoying comfort in the proximity of my neighbours, yet gratitude for the space between our two buildings.
I now realise how much more I have to write and show as I get to know a new part of Australia and live in perhaps its most expensive city on the lowest wage I have had since arriving here.
Watch this space for hopefully some more regular thoughts…
Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…
Happy New Year everyone!
As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.
* * *
I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.
2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.
I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.
I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.
I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.
This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.
So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.
So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!
A lesson in forgiveness
It’s something we often find hard to do, or maybe even forget to do, but can unwittingly affect us for the rest of our lives.
The not-so-simple act of forgiveness.
It could be anything from a family feud to heartbreak or from a sibling squabble to a disagreement at work. Holding onto anger and pain is poisonous and the only person it damages is the person holding those feelings, rather than the person who caused the pain. That’s why we don’t forgive, isn’t it? Because we have been hurt by someone or something and we choose to hold onto the pain and not to let go due to feeling that person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.
But what do you gain from that? How does that help you move on? How does that help you enjoy future experiences by allowing previous ones to still hurt you? What good can that negative energy do you?
There are relatively few extremely evil people in this world whose life intention is set out to cause others discomfort. In life many of us make mistakes, and the majority of us learn a hard lesson from those. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you are condoning their behaviour, or making room for it to happen again: it’s releasing yourself from the restrictions it had over you.
Walking in the bush the other day with my two bushies C pushed E over, she hurt herself and cried. I made him apologise, which he did without meaning it. She sulked for a few minutes and then continued to skip along beside him, giving him a shove now and again. I was amazed at how quickly her tears dried up and she let that go. I doubt he meant to really hurt her, or even injure her. And she got over it pretty quickly, moved on and enjoyed the rest of our walk.
Forgiveness can come in all shapes and sizes. I recently let go of something much much bigger than C & E’s afternoon fall out. Once I felt forgiveness, the clouds began to part, and something was released inside and out. I realised, to my horror, that I had let those feelings of anger poison any other feelings surrounding that. And not just that either. I sat down and thought about all the wrong doings I had received in the past and all the people who had pissed me off or worse: done something that had resulted in me no longer enjoying a memory of something, or cutting someone out of my life due to a stubborn intention to no let them ‘get away with it’. I asked myself what good that had done me and realised that the only person that had affected was me. The doer of those actions probably got over it long ago.
I don’t sit here on my blogging high horse suggesting that we all rapidly forgive anyone who steps out of line, breaks the law or intentionally disrupts your life. I only write to suggest that we all take a lesson in forgiveness. That we ask ourselves if holding onto pain helps us heal and move on. And that we take a lesson from the innocence of two children: forgive, let go, move on. Learn what hurts you: avoid it. But don’t hurt yourself by living in pain caused by others.
Stop. Smile. Laugh
The other day after a frustrating afternoon of half completed errands, cancelled classes and wasted time: I was sitting on the tram on my way back to Toorak. It was early for me, and I was wondering how I would make the most of an unexpected free evening.
We stopped at a busy interchange and a little girl got on the tram with her father. She jumped onto the seat opposite me, sat cross-legged and got out her “phone”. It was a large plastic toy phone with buttons that made different ring-tone sounds. The little girl sat on the tram pretending to be on a very important phone call. No more than four years old, she sat there nodding and gesticulating with her hands, whilst her father looked lovingly over her and I sat watching totally smitten by her.
Her back pack was placed on the seat next to her and had three characters on the front with the words: Stop * Smile * Laugh. Never has a four-year-old taught me such an insightful lesson. I stopped what I was thinking about. I smiled at her. And I laughed with her father at this little lady on the phone.
What a beautiful journey home. And what a mantra to take away from that moment.