Archive for October, 2015

There’s never a good time for this…

shutterstock_67544215I’m at the coast, enjoying my final day of a long weekend away with my three closest, oldest friends.

This is something we did for our 40th birthdays two years ago, and the experience was so therapeutic that we promised then to do it every couple of years, for as long as we all shall live.

Each of us has left behind a trail of piled-up work, kids needing help with assignments, swimming lessons, party drop-offs and pick-ups, sick parents and household mess. There’s a part of us that feels indulgent and guilty for just walking out and leaving everyone to it.

But there’s a much bigger part of us that knows we need this. Deserve it, no less. And we’re better people, partners and parents because of this time out.

A couple of weekends ago, I had a huge meltdown. The crying wouldn’t stop for most of Saturday. It wasn’t really about something specific—just a perfect storm of ‘everything’. You know that feeling?

I think my family looked at me and had a timely reminder that “mum’s a person too”. That my energy is finite. That I need a break.

This is how I feel in a family where my husband and I share the load, differently but equally. It’s how I feel not because the people around me are selfish, but because there are so many people around me, of varying generations and ages, each with important and distinct needs.

The question often crops up: how do I juggle the teens, the pre-schooler, different businesses, writing, older parents etc and still get things done, without more frequent meltdowns.

Well, our house is currently (and often) a mess. I have nights out every so often. I go to the gym a couple of times a week and running group every weekend. I watch Netflix and read novels. I drive around in the car with all the kids, singing pop songs when they should be in bed. I say ‘no’ and ask for help. I’m never a ‘martyr’ about me time. I don’t make excuses about why I can’t fit in the fun stuff, and something always suffers for it, but those things tend to matter less…

One of us here at the coast is making a big sacrifice to do this. A big sacrifice. But it was sacrifice that or don’t do this.

There’s never a perfect time. The ducks will never line up. Circumstances won’t conspire brilliantly without some fall-out.

We can’t let that stop us though, or we’d never do anything.

Life is not serene. Driving away for our weekend there were duck feathers flying in the rear-view mirror, but that’s okay. The ducks will still be there when we get back. Still not in a line. Still quacking. We’ll just be better equipped to contend with them.

ps. This post was written in advance of our weekend. No work was done while away. 🙂

Solve enough problems

shutterstock_55969696Have you seen the new Matt Damon movie, The Martian? It’s a sci-fi survival movie about an astronaut being stranded on Mars and having to ‘science’ his way out of it. (And there’s a great 80s disco sound track!)

This was my favourite line:

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

‘There’s no way out but through.’
– Robert Frost

I remember feeling like that during those lonely moments in the depth of childbirth. Despite having my then husband and sister and the midwife and obstetrician in the room, I felt completely alone at one point: nobody else could get me out of this fix. I didn’t want to, but I had to find the strength from somewhere. I had to get the job done.

So I pushed. Once. Twice. An hour’s worth. Two hours’ worth. More…

And, finally, there she was.

The human spirit has a desire to get through.

We might love short cuts. We might love the easy way. We like things to be straight-forward and achievable. A magic solution would be fabulous.

But sometimes a challenge requires us to dig deeper and step up further than we ever have before, often under pressure, and into new things.

Despite how daunting and terrifying this seems, even the biggest dilemmas—the ones that are seemingly insurmountable—are still just about solving one problem. Then solving the next.

One push. Another push.

That’s how things are done.

Maybe it’s time…

shutterstock_81308722I sat in the audience last week as my seventeen-year-old was ‘sworn in’ as House Captain for 2016. It was a gorgeous ceremony, run by the students, with the Year 12 leaders ‘handing over’ to the Year 11s. At the end, the school captain, vice-captain and two others in key positions performed a kind of ‘box step’ switchover manoeuvre, in which the four outgoing leaders took a step back as their incoming replacements stepped forward.

It was beautiful. I did, of course, cry.

I cried not only because I was proud of my girl, who’s excited about the year ahead. I cried because I knew full well we’d be back in twelve months, which would pass in the blink of an eye, and she’d be the one handing over to someone younger…

And I cried because that’s the nature of life, isn’t it. It’s symbolic of so many ‘handovers’ in our lives, as we outgrow one stage and move on. In the end, it’s symbolic of the handover from generation to generation as each becomes the ‘elders’ in the world… (and that set me off again!)

It also got me thinking about ‘moving on’, and how there’s a natural passage of time, experience and perspective. Sometimes it’s easy to know when the time has come. You’re finishing school, or your contract is up. Other times, it’s more tricky.

  • You’re scared of the next step
  • You’re too comfortable where you are
  • You don’t feel good enough, or experienced enough yet

All those other times that you moved on in life—when you left school or uni or any of your previous jobs—you probably felt similar things.

You stepped forward not knowing if there was a path underfoot. Not knowing if there was an obstacle in the way.

You stepped ahead because it was time to do so.

Maybe it’s time for the next step now. Ready or not.

Be the light

October 11th, 2015 | Comments Off on Be the light

Be who you needed“Be who you needed when you were younger…”

I shared this quote on my Facebook page during the week and it immediately struck a chord.

It begs the question: who did the younger me need?

  • When I was seventeen, I needed someone to tell me these last two school years wouldn’t define the rest of my life. I needed (and had) a mum who would make me warm drinks and drag me out for walks when the going got tough.
  • When I was twenty-seven, I needed someone to hold my baby while she screamed for hours every day. Someone to tell me “this too shall pass”. Someone to encourage me to stop breastfeeding. Someone to ask if I was okay and help me address the fact that I wasn’t.
  • When I was thirty-two, I needed reassurance that our family would survive beyond separation. I needed to know we’d do more than that. We’d thrive. I needed hope that my daughters would grow into resilient, happy young women.
  • When I was thirty-six, I needed mentors to lead me from one career into another. I needed a new, extra circle of business-owning friends to guide me through the challenges of building something from the ground up.
  • When I was forty-one, I needed people at the other end of the gauntlet, cheering me safely through to the side where things wouldn’t come at me from all angles.
And now, all around me, there are versions of my younger self:
  • Teenagers coming to the pointy end of their education
  • First-time mums
  • Friends with depression
  • People going through separation and divorce
  • Career-changers and business-starters
  • Parents of children going through all the stages my kids have been through

This exercise helps us reflect on the times when life threw us something harder than we were used to, and we fumbled for a catch, inelegantly, imperfectly…

It reminds us that we scrambled up, every time. We moved through and on, always.

It helps us see that, over time, some wisdom began to settle. Wisdom we wouldn’t have now without the experiences that tried to break us.

We can make it easier for the people who follow behind us by being who we needed then. By doing the practical things we once desired. By saying what we once needed to hear. By not saying some other things…

And this is a good time to ask: “Who do I need now?”

  • Who is a little further along the path I’m treading?
  • Who has been through what our family is going through now?
  • Who is further along my career path?
  • Who has suffered similar setbacks?

As we endeavour to live more consciously as mentors for those coming behind us, we ought to be finding our own guiding lights. We ought to be asking more questions. Watching how it’s done. Learning the ‘how to’ at the edges of our comfort zones.

Isn’t this what life is really all about? Looking for the light. Shining the light.