Archive | December, 2011

A year of gratitude

29 Dec

It’s not easy to give 12 months’ worth of thanks in one blog post. But hey, I’m on holidays!

This is my last Thankful Thursday thought for 2011.

I’m looking forward to a new year of challenges, achievements and realisations.

While this year felt a little ‘blah’, and I didn’t seem to achieve very much, there are still so many things I can be grateful for.

I’m thankful for…

    • Travelling to America with The Lad in July. It was an eye-opening trip, marked by multiple trips to Victoria’s Secret & Macy’s, and the realisation that most Americans are kind, generous, hard-working people. I can’t wait to go back!
    • Living in a renovated, clean and ridiculously cheap apartment. Without damp walls, a mouldy bathroom or an entire cockroach civilisation under the sink.  Though there is a next-door neighbour who sings show tunes off-key between 8pm and 9.20pm. Every single night. Sometimes we join in.
    • The Lad. Of course! He tells me I’m gorgeous, when I feel like a heifer. He drops everything to pick me up or drop me off. He comes along to museums and art gallery exhibitions when he’d rather be watching the cricket. He makes me laugh. He listens to me cry. He buys me Reese’s Miniatures and he loves the people I love. He’s happy to go along with my (unrealistic?) romantic life plan to live in different homes until we’re married. And he doesn’t question it. What a man!
What were you most thankful for in 2011?

Gallery

At home among the gum trees

26 Dec

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Creamy cheese, warming wine, fresh air, lone early-morning bush walks, hugs and a miniature schnoodle nipping at my heels have marked my Christmas trip to mum’s charming Hunter Valley home.

Whenever I need to escape the frenetic city and re-centre myself, I hide away at mum’s haven, high up on a quiet mountain. It’s been eight months since my last visit; far too long. One of my New Year goals is to visit more often.

As I write this post, The Lad is lying on the couch, watching the Boxing Day Test (for non-Aussies, this is an excruciating tradition which involves eight hours of mind-numbing coverage of middle-aged men strolling up and down a sandy pitch, hitting a ball). Aside from the quiet murmur of the cricket commentary, it is blissfully quiet. A tiny bird is fluttering about in the tree outside the study. Crickets are buzzing beyond the fence line. There are no car horns, no irritating mobile phone ring tones (can’t get reception!), no one trying to sell me something I don’t need. I am alone with my thoughts. I am finally having the peace, rest and reflection I have craved all year.

There’s something about the way nature returns us to our centre; our unaffected state. Without stimulation, distraction and technology (well, aside from this laptop), there’s nothing to do but ‘be’. Being out in nature and being surrounded by the bugs and bees and birds, restores our balance and replenishes our reserves. I’ve spent months trying to master the ‘mind, body, spirit connection’ through yoga and meditation. But it’s always been crammed in between ordering groceries, vacuuming the floor or getting ready for work. It’s another chore on the ‘must do’ list. So I do it without really ‘doing’ it.

Up here, in this vast space of valleys and bush, I find my mind, body and spirit seamlessly weave together on their own. There’s no need to force it. I nourish my body with fresh fruits and country eggs (still with barn hay and muck stuck to them). I set off on the dusty road for a long walk and light jog. I leave my iPod with frantic dance tracks at home. Instead, the bird song and buzz of nature spur me on. In the afternoon, I sit on the grass, at the edge of the cliff, and watch the rosellas and little brown birds peck at the seed in the feeder. I breathe in fresh air, in, out, in, out, deeply and wholly. My mind is clear, my spirit is lifted. It all happens so naturally, while all I do is ‘be’.

Then, when I’m rested and revived, I step inside mum’s warm home and tell her how much I love her. I hug The Lad, thrilled that he is spending his week off with me. I pick up little black Bella and kiss her tiny, soft head.

This is living.

‘Tis the season to be thankful

22 Dec

The valley view from mum's verandah.

This is a short post, as I’m preparing to head up to mum’s tomorrow for Christmas.

But I don’t need many words to express today’s Thankful Thursday thought.

I am…

Thankful that I was able to write that paragraph, on a computer that works, in a comfortable, temperature-controlled room.

Thankful that I have a job which allows me to take time out to be with my loved ones.

Thankful that I am in fact paid to take that holiday.

Thankful that my mum is able to live on top of a mountain, surrounded by clouds and eagles and clean air.

Thankful that she has met a man who has renewed her happiness and helps around the house.

Thankful that I have met a man who loves me unconditionally. Even when I cry after too many vodkas. Or roll out of bed with a blonde afro and blobby thighs.

Thankful to God for all these blessings.

Sara from Tis the Life has written a beautiful Thankful Thursday post. You might like to read it and leave a comment.

What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday Funnies: The intersection assault

20 Dec

Funny memories seem to pop into my head just as I’m drifting off to sleep. I lie there, giggling into my pillow, trying to stifle my sniggering. All The Lad can see are my shoulders bobbing up and down.

Last night, it was the memory of an assault that had me in stitches.

A few years ago, a friend and I were cruising along Sydney’s eastern suburbs in my beloved red car Red Robbie #2. We pulled up to an intersection, about four cars back from the traffic lights. Suddenly, I saw a man walk up to the first car in the queue and start punching the driver through the open window!

I froze.

I had seen a similar incident in Perth, when I had lived there. A car had cut off another and when both cars pulled up at the lights, the enraged driver jumped out and began yelling and assaulting the driver who had inconvenienced him.

I couldn’t believe I was witnessing yet another, similar road rage attack.

“Oh my god, he’s really going for it! He’s punching that guy!” I yelled.

My friend K was in the passenger seat, so she couldn’t see that far ahead. I relayed to her what was happening.

“This is terrible! Why isn’t anyone doing anything? You need to call the police!” I ordered K.

Ever the diligent friend, she called the cops and told them what I had told her.

“Yes, he’s punching him! He’s still doing it! This is awful; they need to send someone right away!”

I was shaking as the lights turned green and we moved closer to the intersection. Poor K didn’t know what was going on. The police promised they were sending a car immediately.

“What’s happening now?” K asked.

“He’s running off! What a coward; I really hope they catch him.”

There was a pub on the corner of the intersection.

“There he is! He’s standing outside the pub now,” I said as we cruised through the lights.

The alleged offender seemed oddly calm.

On the footpath beside him was a bucket. It was filled with water. In his hand was a squeegee.

Yes, he was…a windscreen washer.

A poor, innocent windscreen washer. I had mistaken his eager, fervent washing for assault!

And now the police were on their way and instead of finding an enraged crim, would find an innocent man trying to make a couple of bucks.

I have to wear glasses when driving, to account for my short sightedness. Clearly, they aren’t strong enough!

Do you have funny memories that pop into your head at odd moments? 

Monday musing: If you could be, do or have anything

19 Dec

A few years ago, mum sent me The New Psychology of Achievement – a set of six CDs by motivational guru Brian Tracy. Being the self development-obsessed lass that I am, I eagerly tore off the wrapper, loaded the CDs into my iPod and listened to them day and night. I lapped up the lessons, nodded along to Brian’s wise words and believed my life was about to change.

One of the questions repeated on the CDs was “What one great thing would you dare to dream, if you knew you could not faiI? If you could be, do or have anything in life, what would it be? If you had all the money, all the resources, all the contacts and all the skills, how would you live your life?”

The idea was that once you had answered this question, you would never have to work again. Well, you would, as unfortunately optimism doesn’t buy shoes. But the idea what that it wouldn’t feel like work. You’d be living your dream.

I mulled over the question for weeks and eventually came up with a list that included:

  • Helping others to enrich their lives.
  • Working for myself from home.
  • Writing about anything and everything.
  • Being a published author, with a suite of novels.
  • Eat Tim Tams without gaining weight (I imagined one of the ‘what ifs’ included ‘If calories didn’t exist’).

Then one morning, I sat upright in bed and decided I would run my own business helping people to get organised. The idea just popped into my head. I decided to go with it. A few weeks later, I quit my stifling job and launched my professional organising business. Just as the recession hit. Perhaps not the smartest move! But even as people were tightening their belts, I still managed to build a successful little business. It was a short stint. I ended up returning to employment after 10 months (though, thankfully, in a job I loved). While answering Brian Tracy’s question didn’t get me set up for life, it did help me escape a miserable job and find another focus, even if it was just for a few months.

Asking the question again

As a new year approaches, I’m once again pondering the question ‘If I could be, do or have anything, how would I live my life?’ The aim of the question is to get us to re-frame our lives and ponder our path. It’s about a paradigm shift. Brian claims that if you can change your thinking, you can change your life. 

He says that if you can shake off the ‘I’m not good enough’ feelings and re-frame how you see yourself, you can be your perfect self. If you imagine yourself as ‘the perfect person, the very best person you could possibly be, with the very best qualities you could possibly have, living the life, doing the things, having the things that are most important to you, this is your self ideal.’ Once you start visualising and living as your ideal self, you can set out to achieve the ‘be, do or have anything’ dream and voila – you’ll be living your perfect life!

This year, I haven’t allowed myself much time to stop and think this question through. I’ve been so focused on ticking off my to-do list, leaving little time to ponder, plan and dream big.

One of my biggest fears is looking back in ten years’ time and asking, ‘What the heck did I do all those years?’ So this Christmas, when I escape to mum’s retreat for some much needed R&R, I’m going to pull out the pens and paper (I find the computer crushes my creativity) and go to town on that paradigm shift. Sure, I might come back with a big wad of idealistic crap, but at least I’ll have granted myself the time and space to create that crap. And surely taking the time to plan how you want to spend your time, is the first and greatest challenge.

If you could be, do or have anything, what would it be? Or do you already have it all? Share by commenting below. 🙂

All I want for Christmas is to not be a brat

18 Dec

I like to think I was a pretty good kid. Kind to my parents, helpful around the house, only occasionally annoying to my big brother. In truth, though, from time to time, I was a bit of a bitch. Mum and I had a close relationship. Unfortunately this meant I took a lot of my frustrations out on her. I dramatically stormed off on many occasions. Threw forks. Refused to help prepare dinner. The usual, bratty teenage girl ‘tude. I’m sure if I have a daughter, she will chuck as many tantrums and shed as many tears, while screaming ‘MUUUUUUUM!’ and thinking I’m being, like, totally annoying and unfair!

I’ve since grown up. I’ve moved across the country. I live on my own. I pay my own bills. I throw only the occasional fork. I try to be a good friend, a valuable team member at work and helpful to The Lad. I’m a respectable, responsible woman of the world.

Until I return home.

Then, the beastly bitch rears her ugly head. The horns come out. Try as I might, I can’t help reverting to my teenage self when stay at mum’s place. What’s with that?

I want to be helpful. I want to be a good daughter. Then mum will ask me to help her move a bed from one of the cabins, or set up a table tennis table, and I turn into an eye-rolling, huffing, puffing, foot-stomping cow. The worst version of myself.

Why do we regress?

To find out why I do this, I did a little sleuthing.

Apparently, the GFC left many 20 and 30-somethings without a roof over their heads, forcing them to head back to the nest. In a 2009 MSNBC article, clinical professor Dr. Marion Lindblad-Goldberg was quoted as saying that a return to home often results in regression. That is, grown adults move home and feel infantised. Their folks issue a list of chores, ignore their privacy and stay up at night worrying about their whereabouts. They then react the same way they did as teens – sulking, yelling and refusing to lift a finger. Guilty!

“Theoretically, by the time you reach adulthood, you’re supposed to be at the same power level as your parents,” Dr Lindblad-Goldberg said. “But it’s never like that. Parents can relate to their adult children when they’re away from home. But in the home, particularly if it’s the same home, the kid goes from being 28 down to 25 to 20 and ends up at 7.

While these insights are about adult kids moving home, it seems to be true for those of us who head home for the holidays as well. We arrive as equals, adults, and leave as bad-tempered, back-chatting brats. Why? Psychologists say it’s about repeating learned patterns of behaviour. Behaviour that gives us a sense of belonging. Within the family unit, we each play our role. A role we honed for years, learning what actions won our parents’ acceptance and those that othem up the wall. It “just feels natural to snap back into our well-rehearsed part.”

Is it possible to reverse this role? To be at home without regressing to our teenage selves? Psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker says the key is being aware of our old role and stopping ourselves before we slip back into it. We should aim to act the way we do with others in our lives, such as our colleagues and friends. We should be our mature selves.

The last thing I want to do is upset mum or cause conflict when I head home these Christmas holidays. So I will be heading there aware of my regressive role. And doing everything I can to keep myself from turning into the bitchy brat I used to be (I know mum will read this blog post, so she can use it as ammunition if I do!)

Do you regress when you go home? Share your experiences by commenting below. 🙂

Last night I danced with the fishes

17 Dec

Excuse me while I swig on my glass of Diet Coke and eat another pizza slice. We had The Lad’s work Christmas party last night. So I’m typing this post as I lie on the couch, doona draped across me and chick flicks on the tele.

Yes, I am feeling a tad sorry for myself. But I swear, it’s due more to us trekking through the city for two hours in search of a cab after the party (while I teetered along in my tight, blister-producing strappy heels) than swigging a few glasses of white.

We had a fantastic evening. The party was held at Sydney Aquarium, so we began by meandering through the venue, peering into fish tanks, pointing at penguins and smiling at the turtles. Giant Lego men, made from thousands of Duplo and Lego pieces, had been set up along the way. A Lego man held a penguin donning a scuba mask and snorkel.

The Lad and me on the dance floor.

Dinner was set up around the dugong pool, so as we ate (not fish, thankfully!) the instructors told us all about the giant, quiet ‘mermaids of the sea’. After polishing off the mains, we were led back into the aquarium for the party portion of the evening. For a corporate office, it was a riot! The Lad and I ducked into a photo booth (see the evidence above), tucked into choccie cake and cheese and then headed into the dance room. The scene was spectacular. The dance floor was set up beside a huge panel of glass, behind which swam sharks, sting rays, sword fish and a colourful array of big and little fish. Bright blue, purple, pink, black and white, grey, orange and other fish hues flashed by, clashing with the disco lights that roamed the room. We boogied down to some golden oldies, even Farnham’s You’re the Voice and hits from all the disco decades…

That’s about all I can manage to write. It’s time to duck back under the doona for a much-needed nap!

Are you heading to a Christmas party this year? Where is/was it held? Did you end up feeling as bleuruguhgh as me?

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