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Posts Tagged ‘life’

What a week! It’s generated it’s own Things That Are Weird post (forthcoming), on estate agents and renting in general. I’m a veteran renter, but this was well outside my experience, quite confusing and stressful.

But first (finally) the weather: Winter has hit. At least the start of it has. After a very mild, quite lovely Autumn it has turned to a cold and rainy winter.

I’m sure you’ve read about the downpour that hit parts of the UK. None of that was near us, it was much further north and west. I don’t think any of it affected Jed’s parents either, as they are rather high up, despite flood warnings in their county.

Nevertheless it has been wet. Reminding me of those horrible wet weeks you get in June in Sydney, where it doesn’t stop raining for days. Where you have to avoid puddles and running water in the streets. Where you will get saturated if you are out in the rain for more than 4 minutes, despite your umbrella. Add to this the cold temperatures, it was reasonably horrible. Thank goodness for central heating.

Luckily there was one clear day in the midst of all this rain, on the day we moved. It was cold, but all our stuff stayed dry, and we warmed up once the lifting and carrying started.

Which brings me to the move. Sheesh! Well, to be fair the move itself went smoothly, thanks in a large part to the help of Poki and DiscoDoris at short notice.Tthe majority of our stuff was into the house at 3.30 in the afternoon, and we had a bed set up in time to sleep.

The sheesh! part is our estate agents. At 5.30 pm on Monday, the day our lease in the Redhill was up and we had to move somewhere, they finally agreed to let us sign the lease so we could move. After a month of miscommunication, loss of paperwork, conflicting information about what would be required, and the most rigorous background check I have ever been through I was about ready to shoot someone when they decided that yes, by statement of savings would be sufficient to give us a 6 month lease in case one of us lost our income. GAH! After I’d been expressly told a week earlier that this was not possible as “I might spend it on a car tomorrow” – OR I might decide having somewhere to live is more important than a car!?

It was horrible, we were facing the possibility of continuning to live in Redhill in a less than ideal situation for another couple of months until I could secure permanent work OR staying in a friend’s spare room for the same period of time, with most of our stuff in boxes.

But now it is all wonderful, (if you ignore the half unpacked boxes in each room).  My kitchen is unpacked, out of the boxes it went into back in January. My plates, and my cutlery, and teatowels, and serving dishes and… yay! The kitchen itself is slim, and doesn’t have loads of storage, but it is lovely, usable and well-lit. You can see what you are washing up. It reminds me a bit of the house in Glenhaven, the one in Chelmsford St and my sister’s former apartment in Chiswick.

The bedroom is very large, almost too large, although I’m sure that will be less of an issue once we have everything in and arranged properly. There’s space for a bed for L, which we’ll be getting soonish. She’ll have the small alcove at the end of the room, which made her smile when I mentioned it. Possibly as it’s obviously a space unto itself, or that she’d been thought of already and included in the plans, or both, or something else. Whichever it’s a better situation for all of us for sleeping.

The bathroom is white, tiled, large and has a proper pressured hot shower with separate taps to control temperature. Not a dial. You don’t realise the things you take for granted until they are gone. My shoulders are telling me every morning how happy they are to be getting proper hot water pressure again. It’s a lot like the bathroom I had the last time I lived in Croydon (albeit in Sydney, not London), which was one of the things I liked about that house.

The living space is enough, not huge, but also not small, and is attached to the kitchen in a sort of open-plan way. It suits us well. There’s a large bay window with a door leading onto the private garden out the back.

All in all, it will do nicely for a while until we’re a lot more stable in other areas of our life and L needs a room to herself when she stays. Photos will follow once there’s no boxes to be part of the shot.

Let the next phase of this adventure commence! It should be a good one.

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I’ve been meaning to rant about this for a while. A post about the pitfalls of debit cards over at Get Rich Slowly has finally spurred me to action.

For those of you looking for the weekly update, it’s coming. Last week was a big week and so I need the right headspace to tell you about it.

In Australia I was mostly on top of my finances. Bills got paid (mostly) on time, I had a regular savings plan, my credit balance was steadily declining after rising during the very lean university years. I had good systems set up to ensure that I didn’t overspend.

I’m quickly realising how much the Australian banking system actually helped with this. Here, in the UK, I’m increasingly frustrated that these systems are not normal, and hence what I am presented with is, to me, weird; part 3 in the ongoing “Things that are weird” series. (more…)

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I’m a big fan of writing lists. Of dreaming and planning how things could be better. Tinkering around the eges as well as making big changes.

Last week I found the list I wrote last July of things I’d do ‘Upon turning 30’. Here’s reflection on the results:

  • QiGong Exercises – I found a book that detailed Tai Chi type excercises. I’ve done Tai Chi in the past and loved it, but I’m no so good at actively finding a school and showing up for classes. I want the perfect teacher and situation to show up, or I like to think that I will become immediately able to practice such things at home. Not happened yet. Maybe one day. Or maybe I should just start…
  • Yoga – ditto above. Love Yoga, it’s really good for me. I once had a wonderful teacher and a regular practice and then I moved and it fell apart. Really, really need to pick this one up again for all sorts of reasons, not least that I couldn’t sleep last night because my shoulder was really tight and painful.
  • Swimming – ditto the first three. It’s good for me, and I mostly enjoy it, but getting motiviated to find a regular time, getting out of the house vortex after I get home, buying swimmers, and looking after female waxing requirements means this is all too hard.
  • Regular removal of stuff – this was quite successful. Moved myself to England with 3 suitcases and 14 boxes of stuff. there’s been some purchasing since I got here, but realistically I’m now better at getting rid of stuff and have less stuff overall. I even managed to find a decent home for almost everything I used to own. Yay planning!
  • Seasonal cooking – this has been fantastically successful and is even easier here, as the impulse to cook is stronger now that the lure of King St is so far away.
  • Notes on UK/EU – I assume this was future job related. Didn’t happen. I do have a slim Moleskine notebook which I am slowly filling with notes of fun and interesting things to do in England. More socially focuessed, less professional.
  • Notes on Sustainable Production & Consumption and Product Stewardship – again I assume this was future job related. Didn’t happen, but that’s OK
  • Drawing/Art – this fell away in the last half of last year, and hasn’t really picked up again. I suspect I have an inverse relationship between stress and creative output, and last year was insanely stressful.
  • Money! Money! Money! (implement Your Money or Your Life) – I had my financial life reasonably settled and well on track to being fantabulous when I left Australia. Understandably, this has slipped quite a bit since I’ve been here. I’ve been busy setting up all sorts of things, emotionally, and I’ve neglected the financial side. There’s too many details to get my head around, it’s a bit scary. Not having a guaranteed income hasn’t helped either as the structures I’ve developed for my finances rely on regular fortnightly income.
  • Cycle charting – this came from a book I read last year, The Pill. I made the intention to start paying more attention to physical and emotional swings throughout the month. Quite useful and enlightening.  I’m a bit more gentle with myself, acknowledging that my baseline emotions do actually subtly change on a relatively predictable weekly basis, and that “blankie days” should be enjoyed rather than ignored. I highly recommend the concept, and the book as a tool of self-awareness.
  • People, not things – hard to know how this one went. It was a strange year in relation to people.
  • Contemplation, and pursuit of, La Dolce Vita – getting there. This is probably a life goal, rather than something to be attained in a year. Especially last year.
  • Cycling – hmmmm, see first 3 points.
  • Get better at food: unjade palette; bring lunch from home; get routines set up – tick for the first one. Cross for the second, although I’m not sure this will ever happen, I like a fresh cooked hot lunch; Maybe for the 3rd, depends what I meant by routines. What I have become better at is experimental cooking to use up stuff in the fridge. I’m rather proud of that practice.
  • Details are important – I suspect this one related to people and their lives. Still not good at this one, could do much better at remembering important information and dates about friends and relations and following through on actions that would help and indicate love and affection. On the other hand, I really, really needed to not worry about other people’s details this year, as I sorted out the deluge of details in my own life.

I’ll update the list for being 31 in a separate post. I need a little while to decide what might be important in this coming year.

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DSCF7684

  1. Turning off the TV redirects attention
  2. Dinner eaten at the table creates better manners overall
  3. Don’t ever mention anything you own that you might not want to share on a continual basis. Like games on an ipod (which I’ve not mentioned, and never will).
  4. Learning the names of teddy bears creates a non-confrontational way of getting a small person to bed when at a BBQ. “Henry says goodnight, Horace says goodnight, incidentally so does L”.
  5. Kids don’t like being told that they’re behaving like they’re in a younger age group, and will assist with behaviour modification, if you do it the right way
  6. Food is more likely to be eaten if you assign to a broad category they know, rather than a specific foodie description along with “give it a try”
  7. Playing sharks and alligators while walking up the street is fun. As is playing wash-the-dishes while waiting for a bus
  8. “I’m bored” often means “I’m lonely, pay me attention”
  9. “I’m hungry” often means “I want crisps, or I’m bored (as per 8)”. Practical suggestions will not really help.
  10. “I can’t do this” often means “I want to check that you care about me enough to do it with me/for me”. See also no. 11
  11. It’s too easy to do everything for a child, but really, you shouldn’t. Particularly one that has learnt that everything gets done for her when she asks, and uses this as a proxy for checking that the adults around her care about her, or she’s not thought through how to do something. The more she does, the more confidence she’ll have to do things, and the more she’ll be at home here.
  12. There is a time for fun, a time for affection, a time to be strict and a time for quiet. While option 1 might be the preferred default for the child, options 2-4 also need to happen.
  13. Apparently I have a no nonsense voice and don’t-mess-with-me raised eyebrows. Works on 9 yr olds who get lazy about asking for stuff out of their reach on the table, and 5 yr olds who are behaving horridly.
  14. I am a responsible adult in her life, but not THE responsible adult, so can and should take a step back.
  15. However, part of my job is to act as a buffer and helper in the parenting duties and a re-assurer that this is normal and she’s a good girl, and he’s doing a great job.
  16. Ultimately it’s all about reassuring in many varied ways that she’s important and cared for and part of her Dad’s life.

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I hide.

In a stressful or confrontational situation my first inclination is to hide, run away, become invisible. Sometimes physically, sometimes metaphorically. Even after that situation has stopped it takes a lot of courage for me to stop hiding.

For years I’ve known that I’ve hidden behind masks (pre-exchange to Thailand) and behind a thick emotional wall that rarely let anyone in. I conceptualised people in my life as belonging to various circles of closeness. Being aware of who had made it past which protective wall and could be trusted with what aspect of my true self. Heart family, spirit family. There’s a very, very sensitive core inside that not many people see, extroverted introvert.

However, this morning, after a particularly trying, and in various ways lonely, couple of days I realised that actually, behind that wall that I always knew was there is also a set of caves.

Sand Mine detour

This is where I hide. The wall keeps people out, I hide in the caves. (Yay Moon in Cancer!). Anytime that I feel like I’m a disappointment to someone, any aggressive situation, some noisy situations, particular tones of voice, or facial expressions, any time I don’t acknowledge what I need for emotional support and plough on through pretending it’s all OK or don’t get what I need for emotional support when I do know what it is, or feel that someone has completely and unfairly misjudged me, I retreat into these caves.

This morning I realised I was a few levels down.

On the other hand at least I realised it, which has helped in coaxing me back out again, looking at the fears and needs. Taking some actions, like calling girlfriends.

Looking back there are entire periods of my life where I’ve lived obliviously in these safe, warm caves. The caves which prevent me from actually dealing with issues or forming deep relationships.

The flip-side to this (thanks Leo Rising!) is that I’m also really good at the facade of not hiding, to be safe you can’t actually let anyone know that you’re hiding, they might try to drag you out or attack you. Stoicism, pretending I’m coping, being gregarious, very chatty, a social butterfly, being efficient or logical can all be smokescreens to the fact that I’m retreating further into those caves. Crab-like. Not always, but they do sometimes form this function.

In some ways it does feel like a crab by the seaside. Scuttling away under a rock at the first hint of danger, and then slowly, checking at every step, inching back out into the light, always ready to hide again.

It’s a trust thing. Trusting it’s OK to come back out. Love will do it, as will compassion, geneuine friendship and demonstration that someone notices and cares, certain places draw me back out, as do certain practices (morning cafes) and habits. The sense that I am safe and am in control enough that I won’t disappoint anyone, or myself. I’m realising how much of my life is predicated on not really trusting that anyone actually cares or notices.

On the plus side, I’m writing this out and sharing it, rather than hiding it away again. Metaphors help in many, many ways.

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New Rhythms

During my final weeks in Australia, while living with my sister, I read a book on a woman who moved from Venice to a small town in Umbria and her reflections on life there. It was also a chronicle of the food of the region, which always intrigues me. One line in the book spoke of deliberately choosing to live a quieter life, and that therefore they were not anxious to quickly create habits and structures to their new life, but rather to let these build slowly and to find a new rhythm.

This struck a chord at the time, and still does.

I’m still building habits and structures for this life. Some have solidified through choice, some have been inherited as part of moving into someone else’s life, and some I have acquired through drift. I’m also at a stage of worn-outed-ness such that some positive habits I was creating have slipped back into my previous not-so-positive ones. I was getting good at meal planning and preparing myself for work before I went to bed. I was getting good at getting through to-do lists. These have slipped, although I suspect I’m a bit sick/exhausted at the moment, so this will pick up again.

Partially, I suspect these structures and habits will build once we’re in our own house, rather than sharing a flat, and all my stuff is out of boxes. Maybe.

On the other hand there’s been a lot of negotiation around the even more basic life assumptions, like communication between partners, how the past affects reactions in the present, how children are dealt with, what the expected levels of house maintenance are, and building knowledge and confidence in various areas that I really shouldn’t surprised that I’m worn-out.

The one habit I’m not acquiring, but would like to have, think I should have is correspondence. There’s many lovely people who have written me emails, and I have failed to respond. There’s many lovely people who have not written me emails, mostly as they don’t have my address (ex-work colleagues for instance). The problem is finding time and a voice. I don’t feel I can write these emails during work hours, DECC’s restriction on personal mail systems knocked that out of me, but I am tired and don’t feel like writing when I am at home. Anyway, if you have written me, thank you, I’ve loved the thought and reading about what’s going on. I’m really sorry for not responding, yet.

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Returning from lunch after reading a provocative book (might cover this later) I realised that in many ways I have in front of me a blank canvas to construct a life, and started to think about how I wanted to live. Which then somehow led to a reflection on the difference between choosing a life based on how you want to live vs choosing one on how you should live.

I’ll probably define this differently to most people, but I see it as the following:

How you should live is the test of your 20s, checking cultural norms and stereotypes, going along with something because either your parents lived that way, or all the cool kids are doing so (or rebelling against these two things). Whereas deciding how you want to live is about active reflection of what makes you happy and satisfied and choosing to pursue this. I feel that this is a question you answer in your 30s, or maybe that’s just me. I’m sure my younger sister started answering this question a few years ago, for instance. The second is more work and takes more effort than the first, but is in turn more worthwhile.

Becstarr and I have spoken many times about the benefits of share housing, and I suspect this might be one of them. It gives you a better chance to break-down what is an unconscious normalised habit and what actually works for you as you are exposed to many different ways of setting up a house, and negotiating how to live within that space.

A quick shortlist of some of the ways I want to live, which I know add to my personal well-being:

  • a mostly clean and uncluttered house. Not scrupulously so, but a place where care has been taken
  • fresh, interesting, home-cooked meals, eaten together at a table. This has been one of the best aspects of the first few months in Surrey. Few opportunities to eat out (far from the lure of King St, Newtown), and so in order to continue to enjoy food I have been forced (and have enjoyed) more cooking than previously.
  • coming home at a reasonable hour to spend time with loved ones, rather that working late. I turned down a job interview today for a potentially very prestigious job because of this reason.
  • plants, flowers, light, air flow
  • good, flowing, intelligent conversation about concepts and issues, or fun, creative conversations about ideas and experiences. These are not mutually exclusive
  • a sense that adventures are possible and new things can be discovered on a regular basis
  • being able to dress in a way that makes me feel elegantly stylish
  • a sense that there is more to life than sleep-eat-work-recover

This is just the start, I’ll be tucking this idea away for future reflection. I suppose this is an important aspect of the title of this blog, what I mean by learning to fly. I had planned to write a full-post on that idea, it will happen, at some stage.

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