Like sands through the hourglass

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Melbourne almost two years. Much has happened and yet it feels like the days have gone by in a blur without achieving much; a rollercoaster of life and career. There have been hectic times where I held the household logistics together with sticky-tape and there have been times when I’ve had so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with myself. Like a kid whose parent just doled out a screen ban. The eyes blink a few times, slowly, before looking desperately for some direction.

The beginning of 2015 went from outrageously busy to the calmer holding-pattern of the past few months. We moved house again, from the rental to the new townhouse we’re paying off; my parents came to visit over Fraser’s birthday, in February; we went on a 2-week family holiday; and I had three job interviews all in the space of about 10 weeks.

I wasn’t successful with those interviews, though I came close, and I haven’t had a lot of work since I wrapped up my long-running informal contract in February. At the time it finished, it was near-panic stations as we settled into our new mortgage and car repayments, but we got past the quiet first quarter of the year and Matt’s work continues to go well. We are fortunate to be able to sustain my flexibility and availability whenever the kids need it, and with Fraser getting prepared to start high school next year, we may need to call on that even more. I do, however, find my self-worth is inversely proportionate to the amount of free time I have. Instead of nourishing the soul by making daily time for creative pursuits, I squander it on errands and busy-work. I’m trying to work out what’s going wrong there, while I look back at all the wasted time with mild disgust at how little productivity I have to show for it.

As unsatisfying as all the “yay, free time!” has been, I recognise that’s wholly within my control. The lack of motivation, the fear-or-something of exploring creativity, the time-suck that too much social media is—that’s on me. The things outside our control challenge us the most. For 18 months, Mum and Dad have been weathering the storm of his brain cancer diagnosis. I won’t say battling, because it’s not Dad’s style to battle anything. He goes with the flow, expecting it all to work out ok, eventually—the optimistic gambler.

What was meant to be an easy retirement for my parents must feel akin to a hostage situation. After coming through two brain surgeries, Dad is well enough to be playing golf once a week, walking the dogs every day, and enjoying his blossoming career as a clivea dealer. But he is on 6-weekly oral chemo, and Avastin infusions every two weeks. Even if he did want to travel, he’d have to be back within two weeks. While he’s happy doing exactly the things he would do with a straightforward retirement, Mum is hamstrung. As his carer and chauffeur, she doesn’t want to leave him for long. She missed out on her European painting tour when he was diagnosed, and long-distance travel is the furthest thing from her mind these days.

When I visit, I’m on high alert for anything that may have changed—is Dad moving more slowly, can he get his arms into a shirt sleeves, can he get his shoes on? It’s confronting and stressful, and I’m only exposed to that for a couple of days here and there. I admire the strength Mum has to keep going in spite of her unanswerable questions. For now, I talk to them twice a week, visit every couple of months, and continue planning future events as though everything is going to be ok. And when the time comes that it isn’t going to be ok, I’m sure I’ll be desperately looking around for some direction.

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Not a writer

I tweeted to a Buzzfeed article the other day. It was twenty-something words that mean something different to a writer. I tweeted that I didn’t think of myself as a writer, but the listicle made me wish I was.

I don’t see myself as a writer, because I don’t write fiction.

I don’t have an Evernote full of ideas. I have an Evernote full of links to other people’s ideas, industry news, “how to write” tips. I’m a commercial writer. I’ve been paid to write other people’s ideas. I procrastinate over that so much, though, I hate it. I hate that I have to write something and I put it off, and put it off. And then I get into the flow of the writing, and then I love what I’ve written. And then I hate getting the feedback. Unless it’s good.

Settling in to Brunswick

One epic drive and a truckload of removaled stuff later, we arrived in our new place. Matt and I were both amazed at how you go from countryside to Coburg, just like that, and within 15 kms of the city. Apparently, the urban sprawl spreads south-east.

We drove in convoy, with Matt in one car with one kid, and me in the other car with the other kid and the cat. I drugged Kami with anti-psychotic, because he yowls on the way to the vet and I didn’t fancy listening to that all the way to Melbourne. He took the half-tablet easily and settled in for the trip well, with a pitstop to stretch his legs inside the car somewhere around Albury.

He’s taken to the new place very easily, with only one full day trapped inside.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/muser74/11657741106/player/b479797888

I’ve been working steadily through the boxes in between outings and doing bits and pieces of work.

We’ve been on a bunch of outings: New Year fireworks at Yarra park, dumplings in Malvern, the Melbourne Museum, organic fruit and veg shopping at CERES, and swimming at the nearby Brunswick Baths. I’ve also added a basket to my bike so I can ride to the shops. It could be that we get down to occasional weekend car use, which seems like a luxury after all these years of having to drive everywhere.

I didn’t get to do a video walk-through of our renos at Bowral, because I kind of forgot in all the logistics of staying out of the way of the movers. When Trudy reminded me, I was already mentally prepared not to go back. It was time for the new. Our lease at the new place is only six months. I hope we get more time here, but we may have to move on that soon if the owners want to move in. At least we’re on the ground now to be able to look around when the time comes.

For now, we’re enjoying our new digs and exploring the surrounds.

 

 

Bowral to Brunswick

So, do you know what’s been going on? Shame on you.

Just kidding.

Holy wow! It’s been almost a whole year since I posted here. I got over the guilt a while back. I’ve learned that when I write for a living, I stop writing for fun.

On with the N.E.W.S.

We redecorated our house. Got a new paint job inside, fixed our outside drainage issues so that our garage would stop flooding with heavy and prolonged rain, put two skylights in, installed a new kitchen, replaced blinds, carpets and old laminate wood floor with vinyl. Here are a couple of peeks.

With flooding:

The back yard2

Without flooding:

Untitled

Kitchen, before:

Purple kitchen

Kitchen, part-way through renovation:

Untitled

Kitchen, after:

New kitchen splashback.

I’ll do a walk-through and post a video up in a couple of weeks. The place looks uh-mazing. The weird/frustrating/not-that-uncommon-for-us thing is that I got all this done within a matter of weeks after us having paid a designer for drawings of a super-awesome extension and then deciding we would up-stumps and move to Melbourne.

WHAT?!

Yep.

May 2013 will be known as “the month we spent torturous weeks deciding what to do when we realised living in Bowral wasn’t serving our careers or our family life very well.” Also in the mix, was Matt wondering about his career moves and finding that he didn’t want to be a developer anymore. In June, he committed to a career change and a daily commute to Sydney for the past 5-or-so months.

We contemplated a move to San Francisco, a move back to Sydney, and a relocation to Melbourne. And by “contemplated”, I mean some yelling and much crying. I cried just about every one of those May days and even thought I was in the midst of a slightly early mid-life crisis.

Because this was a fork in the road.

And when you get to a fork in the road, you have to decide whether to pick up your baggage and keep going with the flow, or to examine it and choose what you need.

Classic Aprill behaviour is to go with the flow, and because I’m a laid-back sort of person, I’m generally just tagging along. I’m nearly 40; I don’t want to just tag along anymore. I want to be where I’m going, on purpose.

We’re keeping our Bowral place and renting it out—just in case we want to pull the ripcord—and we’ll be moving to Brunswick a few days after Christmas. We’ve found a great place to live and the boys are enrolled at school.

Change is hard, but I can already feel my brain and my creativity waking up again.

I’m feeling positive, though I know I’ll be lost without my sister-friend around the corner.  xx

Identity and work

I’ve been struggling with identity in recent months. Society has wired us to identify ourselves with our full time occupation, whether it’s paid or not. I left indentured servitude in 2010, with a break in there to have kids. And I’ve never really identified myself as a mother, either. Yes, I have kids, but mothers to me are crafty and bakey and much more nurturing than I. My kids are 9 and 5; they’ve been making their own breakfasts for years. I console myself with the fact that at least they’ll be able to live off WeetBix when they move out.

When I left work and started freelancing I didn’t really think too much about it. I just took those little bits of work when I could get them and got on with life. After stumbling on my market niche in 2011, I decided I wanted to be a subject matter expert. When I found my audience only weeks after I’d verbalised that decision, I started developing my area of expertise and marketing myself to my new-found tribe.

2012 was my year of public speaking. It was challenging and exhilarating. By the end of my last speaking engagement I crashed hard from exhaustion and I’d only spoken at three conferences and a few seminars. But my tribe had grown and it was exciting. I’d found my identity amongst my growing professional community and new friends. And maybe that’s the problem, the extrinsic nature of this kind of identity. Just like that of work.

When you work as a freelancer, you never truly belong to any of the organisations you work with. It’s doubly true when you work remotely. Freelancing is already a rollercoaster and when I read this article the other night, the discomfort I couldn’t put my finger on became so clear. The abstract identity of the near-full-time role I’m performing had been overwhelming me. It seems worse in a traditional corporate environment that favours functional specialists over segment specialists.

What I find so confounding and fabulous is that once I clarified what my problem was, the answer was delivered to me. There I had been, losing myself in an undefined role, when I completed a personality survey the next day and was shown my archetype—The Wise Owl.

Not only that, I read this article last night—”The honor and dignity is always in the work, and how that work is performed, not in the title.”

I am the Knowledge Bird, and I have my tribe.

Dear band: it’s not you, it’s me.

Going to gigs is different these days. The gigs themselves aren’t different. Though, many of those old-time venues have closed down. It’s me that’s different. Older.

Last night a group of us went to see The Presets. We were those haggard-looking people sitting at a table in the corner of the lobby with wine in small plastic glasses. We were those people reminiscing about the 90s music scene and bothered by the misspelling on the door to the ammenities [sic].

In the 90s my internal monologue was a bit like this:
This is awesome!
Sing along.
Buy a tshirt.
This is awesome!

Last night it went like this:

Note where the exit is in case I feel like I might faint. (I get claustrophobic in crowded places.)

Gee, the Enmore has a nice ceiling. I’ve never noticed that before.

Oh! cool graphics on the screens.

Hm. The audience smells nice. Not like in the bloody 90s.

Glad we’ve all only got one square foot to dance in. My un-co white-girl dancing is less obvious.

The keyboard/singer guy is quite attractive from back here.

That stack of amps looks like a spine.

I think the Ecstacy just kicked in for those people over there.

Gah! strobe lights! Just close your eyes and clap, for god’s sake.

Why can’t these bitchez stick to their square foot?

Oh! I think I recognise this song.

Beer cans get really flat on a general admission dance floor.

I like those wall sconces.

“I’m here with all of my people..” OH I KNOW THIS SONG!!

Guy in front tries to take photo with old-skool Nokia. His girlfriend and I look at each other and chortle.

It’s hot. Peg an open bottle of water over this direction!

Scan across audience fashions.

Good lord. My back is sore.

Leave at the end of the gig impressed with the Presets and remind myself to listen to them on Spotify tomorrow.

Main bedroom makeover

I know it’s been a while since I last posted at this blog. Since my last update about public speaking, I’ve done that two more times and I have another one coming up in August. There’s other exciting work-related things afoot, but I’ll come to that another time. The focus of this post absolutely belongs to the main bedroom of this house.

In between conferences we finally turned our attention to getting some things done around here. When we moved in, we had a shabby ceiling to look at—drooping in some rooms and with water stains and cracks in others—so we had a couple of guys come to fix and repaint it. Around the time they were here, we also attended to our outdoor drainage dramas by having a trench dug and filled with ag pipe and gravel. We also constructed a beautiful new driveway and parking area out of natural river pebble, so our friends would be able to three-point-turn out of our place without increasing the size of the unwanted lake in the front lawn. It’s not quite finished out there though, and I didn’t take any before pics. woe!

It was the offensive suede finish paint job inside the house that has been most troubling since we moved in a little more than a year ago. Just to remind you: here is the main bedroom as it was.

The main bedroom

The main bedroom2

And here it is after I finished hanging the prints, yesterday.

Prints centred over bed.

To show the grey curtain.

Main bedroom towards bathroom, hallway door

Bedside

The curtains are a silver, block-out pre-made deal from Curtain Wonderland. The prints are a few years old from Redbubble. The charcoal drawing is mine from an abandoned university art degree. The ampersand cushion from Aunty Cookie. The ruffled doona/duvet/quilt cover is from Urban Outfitters. The heart lights are a few years old from Beacon Lighting. The lamp, an old one from Freedom Furniture. The fabric bird decals by Love Mae.

We do still need new carpet and I’m undecided about the colour.

What’s next? the bathroom.