Tag Archives: plans

Choose your own adventure

When I was about 10, I went through a phase of reading “Choose your own adventure” books. It’s probably around that age that many kids fancy themselves as Nancy Drew, or the Secret Seven, or whatever the current trend is (I must be dating myself terribly, now I’m sure it’s all Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid books). Regardless, when I was in primary school (before all this “tween” nonsense and at 10 you were still a kid) all I really wanted to be was a character out of Swallows and Amazons.

I liked the idea of choosing my own adventure and having some part in deciding how the story ended, even if most of the books seemed to be based in haunted houses fighting various ghouls rather than doing anything I really fancied, but they frustrated me no end as I always seemed to end up in a loop. Instead of getting to the end of the story and out of the house, I’d keep being directed back to the same page, having to make the same decision over and over again. Trying to choose a different door to leave the room by somehow never seemed to work: no matter what different options I tried to take, I’d keep coming back to the same page until I eventually got frustrated and gave up.

Of late, on our own big adult adventure, I’ve had a couple of moments (ok days) where I’ve really struggled. I like to think I’ve maintained perspective, that I’m acknowledging that changing countries is going to be challenging and going to take time to adjust to but even so things have, at times, felt a bit miserable.

During my latest bout of negativity, exacerbated by work, child and stress-related sleep deprivation, I got a bit sick of myself and my own attitude towards things and decided I was tired of feeling rotten and looking on the negative side and that it was time to pull myself together. I embarked on this adventure upon without coercion, with my eyes wide open. I agreed to leave my job, my friends, my home, and come here for a change of scene and to experience new things. To be sitting around feeling homesick because I liked Master L’s old swimming school better or I was missing my weekly catch-ups at the local park with 4 women known only to me through the random birth-dates of our eldest children, seemed pathetic, but much to my dismay, it was how I felt.

So I decided I needed to focus again on choosing my own adventure, embracing the positives and trying to see through or around the negatives.

Friends & Family

When we left I boldly declared “I only see each of my friends once every 3-6 months each anyway, I don’t think I’ll miss them.” Besides which, now that no one has phone conversations any more, I wouldn’t even miss talking to them, as the main acceptable mode of communication these days seems to be via text message, email or Facebook.

As you are pottering around the house one morning you decide to:

a) Facetime a friend

b) Skype your Applephobic parents

c) Both of the above

 You choose c. Fuelled by the success of a (long-planned) Skype chat with your parents once morning, you suggest a Skype chat later in the day with a friend. Her kids are at daycare, Miss L is asleep and Master L occupied, and you have a lovely long chat with fewer child-related interruptions than if you’d been face to face on a “playdate” (as catchups with kids now seem to be known).

Kids

Not a patient person at the best of times, I sometimes (ok frequently) wonder how I will keep from going insane and how my kids will ever turn into functional humans who don’t hate me, if I keep yelling and screaming at them. I hate myself for getting frustrated and angry at them but it’s hard when I’m tired, bored and not really sure what I’m doing.

One evening after a particularly angry day, you decide to

a)    Take a vow of silence. Maybe if you don’t speak and just ignore them they will feed, dress, toilet and basically raise themselves

b)    Ask the dog to look after them some afternoons to give you a break

c)     Seek out a simple, more socially acceptable (and legal) strategy to help you change your approach

You choose c. Surfing the good old net (again!) you stumble across the Abundant Mama website and in particular this post strikes a chord. You adopt “Just be kind” as your new mantra and it probably helps reduce your yelling by about 30% on the first day. Plus it has lots of other useful-looking bits and pieces on it to check out.

Things to do

I must admit, at times I’ve been a bit bored. I scratch my head to think what it is I would have been doing at home that would have prevented such boredom, I can’t think of too many worthwhile things there were to do at home that I don’t have here. Perhaps playdates and coffees and catch-ups did happen more frequently than I thought. Or maybe I just spent more time than I like to admit surfing the net and watching TV. Loneliness is probably boredom’s best friend, so not having much to do has certainly not helped me feel any less homesick, either.

Given you have a surplus of free time you decide to:

 a) Bake lots of cakes and eat them

b) Take up stand-up-paddleboarding

c) Plan lots of fun and exciting things to do with the other Ls, in and out of town

You start off with a but then realise your pants are too tight and you have gained 3kg. So you try b and have an awesome SUP lesson with Mission Bay Watersports and learn to stand up and paddle the SUP Master L bought on the weekend. You are also going to do c, but one thing at a time, right?

Work

Possibly the biggest challenge. I’ve taken a slightly less senior job than I had in Sydney, as there wasn’t anything directly equivalent available. While being very positive about this on a good day (I’m getting out of the house, maintaining my skills, not getting caught up in bureaucracy and, if nothing else, earning money), on a not-so-good day it can be a little frustrating being condescended to (on occasion) and constantly explaining myself to people and trying to tell them I’m better than they might think.

After a particularly demoralising day at work you decide to:

a)    Skulk around complaining about how bored and under-challenged you are

b)    Roll your eyes and mutter how no-one realizes you’re more senior than this

c)     Prove yourself by performing and acting appropriately for your level of experience and ability and in time maybe there’ll be an opening for you at a more senior level (unlikely if you choose a or b)

You choose c.  As soon as a vacancy comes up, you are put into the position and everyone expresses their admiration that you were humble enough to get a foot in the door this way, as well as the more junior people confessing they felt secretly threatened by the fact that you are more senior to them.

So there you have it: my very own choose your own adventure. And hopefully, unlike the books, with this one I won’t end up in a loop coming back to the same page over and over again.

Why I Run

This morning I ran the SMH Half Marathon and so it seemed appropriate to put this post (which has been writing itself in my head for a while now) into black and white.

There are a million good things about running, and very few bad, particularly when you’re a fairly lazy runner like me, who, despite the fact that I’m about to list the benefits of running I can think of, still manages to come up with excuses NOT to run on a frequent basis.

  • Head space– “I lose my breath, I find my answers”. So said a Nike ad I tore out of a magazine and stuck above my desk with Blu-tac to motivate me (to do what, I’m not sure- look like the stick thin girl running across the page, perhaps). It’s totally corny, but kind of true… running is a great opportunity to think. I don’t necessarily think about anything particularly profound. My thoughts range in depth from somewhere between “What will we have for dinner tonight?” and “What am I doing with my life?” Usually I ponder plans for the kids (existing and future), work, random moves to NZ etc. Sometimes I indulge in idle fantasies about achieving super-amazing things (winning awards, setting records, whatever, usually completely unrealistic).
  • Doggy exercise– I generally try and take the dog so I feel extra virtuous (plus she gives me an excuse to stop for breath when she needs to sniff around).
  • Fresh air– Another cliché but there is something very therapeutic about being outside, blowing away the cobwebs, getting some fresh air and all the other catchphrases your Mum used to come up with. I love being out the most when it’s early in the morning and the air is cool, preferably somewhere vaguely bushy where I can smell the gum trees and hear the whipbirds.
  • Not eating– since doing my calorie-counting diet last year, I realized that (although better than many other forms of exercise) an hour’s run does not actually burn a lot of calories compared to your average daily food intake. Exercise physiology aside, however, I think the health & weight-loss benefits are about so much more than burning calories. Firstly, the time you’re out running is time when you physically cannot be eating (unless you’re really sad and desperate) and for me, I also need to not eat for 2 hours before a run or I get a terrible stitch. But really, it’s the exercise psychology that’s most powerful. Running puts you in a better frame of mind and creates a sense of vitality and healthiness that motivates you to watch what you eat a bit more. You start to feel like that girl in the Nike ad and you can bet that she doesn’t go home and eat a piece of cake: she eats an apple.  And even if you don’t feel that much like the Nike girl, you start to think that one day in the not-too distant future, you might. If you don’t go home and eat that cake, that is!
  • Exercise– despite not burning a huge proportion of your daily caloric intake, compared to a lot of other exercise, running is still a fairly good way to burn some calories. That’s all I’ll say about that, because burning calories is really NOTHING to do with why I run.
  • Portable– you can do it anywhere (as long as it’s safe) and so it’s not a bad way to see new places.
  • Easy– well it is for me, I know there are people who say they “can’t” run. I’m not sure I believe them. Really, you need very little in the way of “proper” technique (just look at the multitude of odd running styles at any running event), skill, knowledge or expertise. You don’t need equipment, rules, uniforms or team-mates. Just a bit of effort to put on your shoes and step outside (seriously, this is the hardest part, the rest is easy).
  • Achievement– I remember running my first 10km fun run in 1998. It felt awesome. That year I did the City To Surf for the first time- 14 km felt like forever and I remember being so stiff by the time I got home I could hardly get out of the car. I said at the time I couldn’t imagine ever running further than 14km, that was my limit. The year I turned 29, I decided to do my first half marathon. That really seemed MASSIVE, like something only really hard-core people did, which made me feel partly hard-core and partly like a try-hard. I felt amazing crossing the finish line, actually quite emotional. I knew then that while I didn’t exactly feel like doing a marathon then and there, that I’d never rule it out as a possibility. And in 2009, at the age of 33, it became a possibility. I did the Gold Coast Marathon in 3 hours 57 mins and then 18 months later, the Auckland marathon. On a smaller scale, too, such as starting to run again after a long break (like having a baby), it’s amazing how you progress. One day you can’t run up that really steep hill, a couple of weeks and a few runs later, you suddenly realise you can. It’s really a great sense of achievement on a run-to-run basis, not just a race-to-race one.
  • It’s my thing– my running belongs to me. I’m not particularly interested in competing against other people (I say that, although after a race I always wish I’d gone a bit faster so I could have beaten someone I know). But on the whole, I run at my own pace. I’m not even all that into PBs and improving my times and what-not. And it’s a great leveler. You have people who you think would be pretty fit who run way slower than you and the reverse. It’s always fun to look around at the start of an event- some people look amazing- fit, lean, light- and they are terrible runners, others, a bit overweight, with funny running styles- you find yourself feeling slightly foolish for assuming you’d be faster than them because something about the way they run evidently works!
  • Virtue- at the end of the day, I feel virtuous if I run! The earlier the better- it’s out of the way, my good deed for the day- done!

And so, there are a load of reasons to run. Probably why I have never ever come back from a run thinking “I really wish I hadn’t bothered”.

Future Perfect

What we use to talk about the past in the future, eg “By this time next month, several changes will have come about.”

I get the feeling there’s a shift happening at the moment. You know, when things in your life change, subtly or not-so-subtly and you feel like you’re entering a new phase and that life’s moved on.

More often than not it’s because there are several small shifts that coincide. I guess for this to happen at the start of a New Year is not that unusual. In Australia, as well as the calendar year flipping over on January 1st, so does the academic year. Most people have a break from work over the Christmas and New Year period and so have a small rentrée even if their return is essentially to the same routine.

For me, this year, the change that’s brought about solely by a new calendar year has been magnified by several other small (and medium-sized) changes. Mr L’s parents were visiting for 10 days over New Year and left today to return to the UK, and so we are feeling that strange post-holiday feeling of going back to real life. Mr L returns to work in 2 days and faces some probable big changes this month and this year, of the exciting but also challenging kind. Master L starts preschool in 2 weeks, which his mother’s really excited about even if he’s not really that bothered about it. And then I go back to work after 8 months’ maternity leave to face all the challenges that go along with time away from the workplace: being out of the loop and then trying to rejoin that loop when my other life (as a mother of two) is what preoccupies me most of the time.  And on top of all that, Miss L cut her first tooth on January 2nd, just a reminder that her life is charging rapidly on too.

This unique feeling always makes me stop and take stock. It’s a combination of excitement and trepidation, a product of new plans and partly-answered questions. I’ve always been a planner and a goal-setter, which I suppose explains my previous attitude to resolutions (in short, I’m a fan but for a more in-depth discussion, follow that link). At the same time I’m a sentimentalist at heart, I cherish my past and hold dear memories of things I’ve done and people I’ve known. I’m not sure how the two go together, this love of looking to the future but also remembering the past….

I know it’s very in vogue to live in the moment and the popular quote which goes something along the lines of “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present.” seems to be what the pop-psychologists tout. I think there is a certain amount to be said for that. I’ve often been nostalgic for times gone past and those are often the times I haven’t appreciated as they were happening. Possibly a case of looking back with rose-coloured glasses, but maybe if we put those glasses on to look at the present and appreciated the moment as it’s happening, we’d prevent a lot of the regret that comes with looking back and realising how good you had it. However, what I don’t think is realistic is to feel you have to cherish EVERY moment. All those Mummy blogs that tell you not to wish it away because in the blink of an eye it’s gone- yep, some things, sure, but there are moments (hours and days even) of drudgery, boredom, tedium and even unpleasantness where you just kind of hang in there. I think trying to make people feel they are squandering their lives (or, rather, their children’s lives, which is the usual implication) for not “living in” all of these moments is a bit unfair.

I wonder as well, how you are meant to get the most out of life if you don’t spend at least some of your time thinking about the future? I don’t see how you can achieve much at all if you don’t make plans, think about how they’re going to come to fruition and what’s more, be motivated by the anticipation of making them come about.

And so I like this feeling of shift, it’s exciting. It reminds me that things are moving on and so I take a moment to notice how things are now because they won’t be this way again. Then when I do look back I can say, without regret “Yes that was a happy time but now I’ve moved on to more happiness”.

As JFK said, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”