CHANGES WE CAN ALL MAKE TO LEAN TOWARDS BALANCE

This weekend we were home, and it was perfect (even with the addition of yet another bout of colds in my household).

After my post last week about finding balance, I have made a few small adjustments in my life.

The biggest change (and surprisingly the fastest) I made was rearranging my hours at work and (thanks to a flexible work place, thank you thank you!) I now have three full weekdays home with my girls (along with weekends). This has been the biggest change, and I was surprised at just how easy it was to make. Sometimes, though, we have to try things before we realise they aren’t working.

I unfollowed over 200 people on my instagram account – mainly brands and big names that I won’t miss. I remember the early days of instagram when I would hop on and each little square that I saw would elicit a sense of connection to the person who posted it. I would usually know their name and I would comment knowing they would ‘know’ me. These days it got to the point where I would think to myself ‘who are these people!?’ This encouraged mindless scrolling, thinking there must be something of interest somewhere in my feed. I felt disconnected and the whole thing felt very random (I’m not even going to mention the ads every third post). Suddenly the people I really wanted to see were not appearing in my feed at all (thanks, algorithm). Now I’ve taken a whole lot of chatter away, I once again recognise the people in my feed.

I have declined things that I know I don’t have time for – even if they are things I enjoy. This has included sharing a market stall with one of my besties at a market I have been wanting to be a part of for a long time, attending a meditation class I know I would love, filling in for a yoga teacher I admire, and declining the opportunity to take over the specific prenatal yoga class that initially motivated me to become a yoga teacher. Some of these things have hurt! But I have to focus on my family, my writing and creative projects, and the work I can do; I can’t be everything and everywhere at once.

We are all swept away by busy-ness and many people responded to my previous post by saying there is no such thing as balance when you have small children. Part of me agrees; there’s no doubt it is easier to go with the current, for it is strong and unyielding. For me, that life is not sustainable and I reach the brink all too quickly.

There are things we can do to slow down and lean towards balance. And when you’re leaning towards balance, when you’re saying no to the extraneous, I would argue that there is more space to see the beauty in household chaos and disorder. There is heart in disharmony and we can cope. So. Is there something you can tweak in your life to make the cogs roll a little bit more smoothly?

The Work (and the Seemingly Endless Pursuit of Life Balance)

I have been speaking with friends lately about finding life balance. Some questions we have asked are: Does it exist? How do you get it? Is it ok to have passions and pursuits that are internal and just for you? [Paused this to help P with her playdough]. I haven’t written here for what feels like an eternity, though I do regularly write draft posts that never see the light of day (I currently have 145 draft posts that I have begun and discarded). So rather than begin another, you’ll know by now I whinge about this topic regularly and, what do you know, there was a post about something similar waiting patiently in the wings. I thought I’d publish it today. I wrote it last year and it was originally titled The Work.

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I was listening to a podcast recently where a writer was interviewed about the work involved in writing her first novel. It took years. Writing, rewriting, editing, pausing, submitting. It took hours each day, after other work that consumed her daylight hours. It took brain space, it took energy, it took an unending amount of commitment and will. It took sacrifice of other enjoyable things; relaxation, time with friends and family, television.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this work. At first I was relating it to my own writing pursuits, and still am. Then today as I was getting P her lunch, it dawned on me: this writer was also describing the work of motherhood. The end product of her lunch was absolutely insta-worthy. Bento serves of bits and bobs. If you saw it you’d assume the person who prepared it is a mother in control, someone who’s really got things together. In reality, her lunch took me 45 minutes to prepare. P got down from her chair 11 times (yes, I counted)*. And wanted my help each time to climb back into her chair, but at the same time she wanted to do it by herself so I was required to stand behind the chair and hold her hand while she climbed up. I walked back and forth from the kitchen, trying to put together something for her to eat from leftovers in the fridge. She ate the mandarine and the kiwi fruit. She stuck her hands in the yoghurt and smeared it on the table. She threw the vegetables on the floor and didn’t eat anything else.

This was just the work involved today in one small meal, for one small person.

Now I’m cleaning the kitchen so I can cook dinner before collecting the other two from school – I tore off my dishwashing gloves to write this. P is watching an episode of Play School and I am feeling guilty as she hasn’t watched telly for days and I was feeling good about that. All these thoughts are spinning around in my head.

And I realise. To do anything we care about, there is work. There is sacrifice. There is mind-shattering frustration. In saying that, there is nothing more important in my life than being a mother. And I don’t say that to be a saint, I say it because it’s true. I knew from an incredibly young age that I wanted to be a mum, and I never strayed from that vision. And that is why I do the work, that is why I try my hardest every day. I often get things wrong (like everyone else), but I try.

The conversations I have with other women are like sneak peeks behind the scenes. At school pick up I see smiles and sunglasses and nice jeans or swish sports clothes. But I know that behind each face are the hidden moments of loneliness, of self-deprecation, of inadequacies.

Let’s share them sometimes. Because we’re not designed to face these things alone. Just like any other great work of art, motherhood takes time, it takes brain space, it takes energy. I hope you know that, and I hope it helps you not to be too hard on yourself in those sticky moments.

* Pearl can now (finally) (usually) get up and down from her chair by herself – let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Firsts, revisited

Last night I reread something I wrote a few years ago, when my third born P was a newborn baby. You can download it here for free, if you feel like it. The story was called Firsts and it was published by The Kindred Collective, an online magazine started by Caitlin Dyer (and perhaps a friend, from memory, apologies if I have missed someone!). I’m not sure why it didn’t continue as it was such a sweet collection of stories. In Firsts I describe giving birth, long days and nights mothering tiny little people, and daily cold cups of tea. As I read I remembered that part of myself: the mother who typed notes ferociously into her phone in the thick hours of the night, with a baby attached to her breast, the soft glow of the phone lighting up her face. I remembered those elongated days moving from activity to activity with babies and small children and the yearning I felt for adult conversation. Endless cups of tea and coffee being made, and cooled; rarely consumed.

In the story I wondered about those “capital M mothers” who launched children in and out of cars, who marched kids around and barrelled through life, parenting confidently with chins held high. I suppose now I am in the phase of motherhood that I imagined back then would come with this elusive capital M status. But I know now that such a thing does not exist.

In some ways, I look back and see myself as more of a mother then than I do now*. Now real life has begun to slip back in, to creep around the edges. I am no longer cocooned by my small babies. When you have babies, you can’t do anything else. You’re utterly consumed by it, and rightly so. At times in those days I felt a sense of desperation, of wildly clinging to ‘myself’, of feeling these small beings were stealing, wrenching me away. I would cry in the middle of the day, bury my head in my hands as a baby screamed for me. I would stomp my feet and tug back, demand to keep certain parts of myself for fear of losing me forever to these little creatures. At other times I would lay with a sleeping baby on the couch for hours on end, marvelling at her soft downy skin, her feathery breath forever linking with my own. The softness and contrasting brutality of days alone with babies and small children is something I will never forget. This is all part of the path and now that it is slipping away I long for it deeply. And forgive me for being slightly daft but it has only just begun dawning on me that that phase of parenting is virtually over for me. P is three and a half and while her moods can be murderous and I (still) very rarely get the chance to sit down when on duty, that physicality, the intensity that comes with being responsible for a baby has slowly faded away without me actively realising.

I held my four month old niece on the weekend and my body remembered. Afterwards, my own babies felt like giants in my arms.

As I move into this next chapter of motherhood my life is opening up in front of me again. I have been back at work for two days a week for over a year and when I’m there, I walk to get a coffee and eat lunch with my colleagues. I occasionally go out for dinner with friends and I don’t have to worry about expressing milk or getting a baby to sleep before I leave.

But this concept of firsts is still following me around (I hear more seasoned parents laughing, laughing). I might be better at hurling the kids in the car and getting-shit-done, but I still flail around constantly, deliberating over countless things: how to discuss reality and disappointment with an eight year old asking difficult questions, how to explain to a six year old that I’m only a human despite her biggest hopes, how to carve out time for a three year old who has spent a lot of her life trailing around after her big sisters’ school routines. I think and worry about the future – phones and high school and broken hearts and rebellion. Now I know just how fleeting their babyhood was, I try not to cling to these younger years, to just relax and enjoy and not worry about the next chapter ending.

Tomorrow I’ll be at home all day with my eldest and my youngest who are both fighting colds and sore throats. We will take the middle to school and come home and make ourselves cosy. I will deliver drinks of water and tasty plates. I will read books and decide what we’re having for dinner. I’ll put a wash on and spend the rest of the day telling myself I should hang it out.

And then I will make myself a hot cup of coffee, and I’ll sit down and drink it, in remembrance of my first chapter.

*Which I realise is completely ridiculous.

Summer in the Garden

The days have been long and hot here. With all five of us on holidays, time has stretched and elongated across weeks of activity with each task, moment, day seamlessly blending into the next. We lay in bed each night, exhausted, wondering together just how we managed to fill our summery days quite so much.

We have inherited a neglected and lazily sloping terraced garden at our new home. Each day we spend time exploring it; snipping back vines of ivy and jasmine to uncover fruit trees (plums, limes, nectarines, lemons) and native plants (grevillea, banksia, wattle, flowering gums), lifting up rocks to discover hidden keys, sweeping the dirt away from the edges of red brick paved paths to find the paths are wider than once thought, extra rows of bricks are hidden underneath the edges of the beds. Slowly, over time, the garden has edged its way across the paths, and eaten everything in sight.

I’ve been slowly placing all my succulent pots around the garden in an attempt to make it look nice, but it is such a mess, it really is going to take us so long to bring our garden up to speed. Though, truth be told, I’m discovering that I love this process. I was sweeping our front paths today when an older couple walked past. We said our hellos and the woman commented, “A lot of work here, these leaves are relentless!” I agreed, and continued sweeping, only to realise I had been out the front pottering and sweeping and looking and dreaming and exploring for over an hour.

Last weekend we were given nine (NINE!) new plants, all propagated by a family member. We have three silver princess, three jacarandas and three ornamental silk trees to plant around our home. This has encouraged us to examine the light, the slope, the plants in more detail than ever.

Today and tomorrow we might plant some of them, if the heat allows. I know we will look back at photos in years to come and can’t wait to take note of their progress.

I am enjoying this space more than I had anticipated. I watch as the light turns pink in the evenings and see the gentle lean of the plants as they reach towards the sun. I see the weeds and vines enveloped and wrapped around the plants – straining to escape. Day by day we will continue to uncover and untangle and unleash. I’m learning as I go: observing, pottering, playing, experimenting. I’m so excited to see where this garden takes us and can’t help but feel like it chose us for a reason.

Draft, always

A long time between words. Between thoughts between sittings between stringing words together into sensible-ish thoughts. So long, in fact, that the blog editor has changed since the last time I was here and I’m having all manner of tech challenges while writing this, including losing a complete post filled with words and photos, ready to publish. I went to eat dinner and while gone my computer went flat, the post unsaved. Alas, I try again, this time with truffles from Christmas in hand, a mug of steaming herbal tea and a quiet house.

2018 was a big year for us. I laughed earlier this afternoon as I re-read my hopes for 2018 which included enjoy a slow and quiet pace. Little did I know that this past year was not the year for slow nor quiet. It was deep and tumultuous and raw. It threw us around the place, those giant oceanic waves of change; unsteady, uncertain. At times I handled this with grace, at others; in a heap. Over the past year the Pixie started school, I started two jobs, and eventually decided not to continue with one of them as life was already full and busy enough. I lost a friend. We sold our home of 10 years, and bought another. We moved house. I hadn’t lived in a place for so long since my childhood home. We let go of one dream, and started another. We went camping in our little 1979 camper bought from the side of the road. We made plans.

Now: time to recalibrate. At the start of 2019 we have ended up somewhere unexpected, but ready and eager for this new beginning. I know the new year is only an illusion, but for me it is highly symbolic. I love the freshness that January brings, to think and dream and hope, don’t you? One of the things I’m aiming to do this year is read more books. Last year during all our change and upheaval I got into a terrible habit of mindlessly scrolling on my phone at bed time. I told myself I was ‘too tired’ to read and that I had to research houses and by the time I dragged myself away I would truly be too tired to do anything else but read one page of my book and go to sleep. I’m hoping to share more titles and thoughts with you later on (for now read this post and join in at #booksinourhands over on instagram). As luck would have it, when we moved into our new home in December we had a great deal of trouble with our internet provider. This fortunate situation (though I felt very disgruntled at the time) enabled me to break some patterns and our evenings have been largely spent pottering and reading – with a bit of telly splashed in here and there. I’ve loved this shift in focus. A good book that you’re dreaming of picking up as you move through your daily tasks also helps, for me right now it’s this one.

I am still working on some concrete personal goals for 2019, I generally spend the whole month doing this. Perhaps I’ll share some of them here in the future, but in the meantime, what about you? Does the tilt of the sun in January light you up with new beginnings? Does the quiet allow time for contemplation? I love the sense of disconnect we allow ourselves at this time of year, I feel cocooned by family, free to ignore emails, to dream and think and plan. I’d love to know what it’s like for you.

We Are All Made of Stars

I dreamt there was a woman standing in the corner of my bedroom. There were other anonymous people crowded in there, all quietly encouraging my husband to shoot her. I stood nearby and as he aimed the gun I held my hands up  too, clasping them into an imaginary pistol. I squeezed my left eye shut and aimed over the length of my fingertips. Like a child playing, I said: pow. And he shot. And she crumpled to the floor; a pile of nothingness in the corner. I got into bed and went to sleep with my husband’s arms wrapped around me, a dead woman curled up on the floor next to me.

This is the type of dream I have when there’s a lot going on in my life. When I’m feeling flaky, when I’m tired, when I’m worried. It was just a dream, but the mornings following a dream like this are always tainted with eeriness, with the shadow of imagined violence that swept through my mind like a passing ghost in the night.

Nevertheless, the sun shone today (so warmly) and I brushed the girls’ hair and did their plaits and wiped down the bench and went to work and sent emails and ate my lunch. I patted the dog and ate a biscuit (two). The world continues to turn despite my melancholic night life.

This moving house business is so much more than I ever thought it would be. I’m finding it reminiscent of having a baby; no one can ever tell you how tired or amazed or in love or overwhelmed you will be, you have to figure it out for yourself when the time comes (mind you, selling your house is a little heavy on the ‘tired’ and ‘overwhelmed’ as opposed to the ‘in love’ and ‘amazed’ bit that a baby brings). My sister went through this process earlier this year and while I knew she was busy, I had no real concept of the work involved in preparing a house for sale (when you have three children) (when you’ve lived there for ten years) (when you probably could have cleaned (the oven) a bit more than you did).

I’ve been working my way through each room, and backwards and around. Packing things, sorting things, rehoming things. A little while ago I started to notice I had a lot of wool deposited around the house. In a basket here, on a shelf there. Before I knew it I had a (very) large bag full of balls of wool. As in, one of those (very) large tartan storage bags with the zip at the top. You know the ones? The balls of wool are of all sizes, many not big enough to make a full pixie hat or kotori cardi or other garment out of. I have many plans to make some block coloured kotoris, however now is not the time (my mother-in-law keeps reminding me that it is, indeed, not the time for new projects, thanks Net xx). All these small balls of wool + my night time escapades + my annoyance at waste got me thinking. I have wanted to make a blanket for a long time. Just a small one.

So each night, I stitch. Sometimes just a row or two, sometimes three or more. Sometimes slowly and with many pauses, sometimes frantically and determined. As my hands move, my thoughts fall softly around me. I’m lost in a quiet calmness, my mind tethered carefully with the gentle concentration required of the task. I’m still going to sleep fairly late, later than I would like (later than KB). But this new routine is a nice one, amongst the boxes, the physical work and the nostalgia that most days bring. The stitch is a simple one: dc / tr, alternating (thanks to Helen for the pattern and the inspiration). I had been dreaming of making some beautiful neutral coloured blankets, but funnily enough this one is a good representation of my mind and our life at the moment: very colourful and a bit messy. I’ll name the blanket Moving House.

I read something the other day that suggested nostalgia is a wasted emotion, that it results in nothing positive. I like to think, however, that nostalgia is not just for the fragile-hearted, rather, it is part of a process of remembering and subsequently letting go. That moving through memories and feelings of goodwill about this house will leave me more prepared to move on when the time comes. One can live in hope about such matters.

I revisited this album this week on my trips to and from work and once again fell in love with the lyrics, because I absolutely love the notion (scientific theory?) that we are all made of stars. It adds a little sparkle to the day, don’t you think?

And on that note, off we go. Another week, a bit of razzle-dazzle and we’re one step closer to… wherever we are going.

Domesticity

Sitting here, Sunday morning. Coffee. Cereal. Sunlight pouring through window onto faces of children. Dirty dishes. Discarded pyjamas.

Domesticity.

School goes back tomorrow. Today we will move our way through all the jobs Sundays require. I went through the washing basket before making my coffee this morning and found that we hadn’t yet washed the school uniforms… the washing seems to pile up so fast that often the top layers get washed but the bottom of the basket is forgotten. This is probably so unhygienic I’m not sure if I should mention it publicly. Never fear, all the uniforms are in the machine now and I’ll hang them out in front of the heater later this morning.

The girls both have holes in their navy school leggings that I put off as a school holiday job. They haven’t been mended. In January this year I bought a few metres of navy bamboo jersey material to make them new leggings. They haven’t been made.

I always look ahead to a place where there will be more time, where life will move a little slower. It seems to be an unending lesson that this time never actually comes. These holidays I have to give myself a break though, as I have not simply been contending with time; I’ve spent the entire two weeks coughing and spluttering with a second bout of a wintery virus that has its tendrils tightly wrapped within my chest.

On the long list of holiday jobs we are slowly working our way through is sorting and clearing our home as we get ready to put it on the market. A few days ago I found an old journal I wrote when I lived in London in my early 20s. Despite being excruciatingly disturbing to read, it made me realise how domesticated my life (and I) have become. The majority of its pages had me galavanting around London at night, begrudging what he said and what she said and complaining that I can’t afford to top up my phone and there’s too much plastic on the broccoli at Tesco and maybe I’ll quit my job and move to Edinburgh among a variety of other things that I’ll never mention here, or anywhere, ever. I had nothing to worry about beyond the 18p on my phone and where I was going to buy my next can of corn.

In comparison, domestic life is… what is it? It is full and busy and intense. I like to tell myself it is rarely dull, though at times when wrapped up in the cycle it can be endlessly dull and repetitive. Sometimes it seems like a ridiculous game, a never-ending attempt to reach a certain point (that never eventuates) and I wonder if I’m trapped in some sort of experiment. Eg. Once I’ve washed the dishes I’ll… or If only I could get through this washing basket, then I’ll have time for… or Once I’ve written these emails and filled out those school notices I could… and somehow (I still haven’t quite figured out how) that moment never, ever comes. If you want it, you have to allow it to barge through the wall of domesticated life. If you want to write something, make something, listen to something, you have to grab the moment by the horns and if the proverbial hits the fan, ignore it. At least, that’s the basic theory. I can’t say I have mastered it, although, I am sitting here typing so I suppose in some ways I have. The girls are all at the table with me, colouring in. Between every third word I type there is a question usually beginning with a repeated Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyy if I don’t answer within the required millisecond. It’s delivered in that kind of whiny, elongated pitch, that cuts straight through your motherly ears (I know you know the tone). That’s ok. I can truly say I love this life. I love the messiness of it, the chaos. I love being around these little, crazy people, despite it being the most exhausting, all-consuming, insane thing I have ever done. I love hearing their conversations, I love organising their things and planning out activities, birthdays, clothing, food. I love cuddling them and reading them books from my childhood, reliving them through their eyes and minds. I love the safety and cosiness of family, of a solid family unit. I love all the nerdy things associated with motherhood: meal planning, wardrobe organising, sewing lists. Sometimes I wonder if I am really an 80 year old trapped in this 36 year old body.

I know that by the time I have figured all this out, my girls will be grown and this brief window of my life will be over. Most days I don’t give it a second thought, I just move with the motions. But now and again I try to tune in, to pay attention. Because domestic life may be inane at times, but I don’t want to miss a second of it.

In an hour or so we will head off to the farmers market and stock up for the week. I don’t know what we’ll cook this week. I’ve been so unwell that we haven’t eaten very well or cooked much over the holidays. The day will flow on as all days do. We will try to make sense of the messiness, and then we will let it go.

That Elusive Thing Called Balance

Sitting Down, Stopping, Staying Still. These are all things I am trying to practice. It has been a long time since I’ve written here. I have drafted a few posts, but for the most part I have simply not been able to find the time. After finishing Yoga Teacher Training last year I promised myself that 2018 would be the year of routine, of slow. I wanted to have a breather and get into a run of the mill schedule that included a bit of work, school drop offs and pick ups, family time, time for cooking and the farmers market and of course craft and cups of coffee. Nothing big. Nothing busy. Plain old pure normal.

I have managed to incorporate most of these things into my life. All good things. I’ve somehow landed an incredible job at a not-for-profit that is truly family friendly. I’m job sharing with another mum of three, working the amount I want and I love it. I’m making and selling things. I’m teaching yoga. I went to the farmers market on the weekend. We spend lots of time in the country on weekends. We have chickens and a veggie patch. But after five months of trying to do it all I have realised that life can’t be contained. Things come up. Physical things. Scheduling issues. Emotions. Time or a perceived lack of it.

Truth is, I am exhausted.

And I’m still searching for that elusive thing called balance. It has to be out there, right? I feel as though I am in a constant battle with time. Each day I get up, fight with time, feel disgruntled at the lack of it, and go to bed. I stay up late to try to do things, to have time to myself. Each morning I wake tired and do it all again. That all sounds very bleak and of course I smile and do good things with my days and for the most part I am happy. But I can’t help but feel I spend more time chasing than being.

In a bid to encourage myself to slow down, to do one task at a time instead of racing time every day, I was standing with P by the school gate this morning after drop off, watching a digger move dirt. A Mum I am getting to know tapped me on the shoulder looking rushed and tired. We had been passing each other in the playground and managing nothing more than a quick “hi!” for weeks. She has been working four days a week during school hours since the start of the year, thinking it would be a good balance being there for the kids in the morning and afternoon. She’s exhausted. She can’t get everything done around the house on her one day off and she feels as though everything outside of work is just falling to pieces.

Another friend of mine has been struggling with a sick husband and sick kids during the seasonal shift, while trying to balance studying full time. She told me she woke up at 2am the other night and got out of bed to wash the lunch boxes and do the kids’ school lunches for the next day to save her time in the morning.

I can relate to all this so well. I don’t know many parents who feel as though they have struck the perfect balance between work, parenting and life. Who are able to pay the bills with ease and just sail on through. I’m sure these people are out there. But from my observation the majority of us are struggling to do everything.

I’ve complained about this before, no doubt. And I am a believer in not thinking we have to do everything. I’m realising though there’s a gap between believing in something and actually playing it out each day in your own life. This transition can require a cultural shift within the family, it means pulling away from things, getting rid of the “shoulds”. We are figuring this out in our family, slowly, slowly.

Balance… where are you, really?

Bringing in the Weekend

It is a sunny winters day today. The girls are on the couch watching Play School in their pyjamas and I’m gearing up to clean their bedrooms. The smallest is sitting next to me doing some drawing and intermittently yelling at me if I don’t take a texta lid off fast enough. I’m finishing my luke warm coffee and knowing my time sitting is coming to an end.

Today we’re doing some tidying, meal planning, and a few other bits and pieces before heading to our local Winter Solstice later this afternoon. Things have been incredibly busy lately with both KB and I writing reports or marking for school/uni and we’ve barely had time to take a breath. I’m not someone who thrives on busy-ness, I much prefer white space in life and do almost anything I can to preserve it. Lately that has been impossible, contradicting almost everything I’m learning at Yoga Teacher Training! But it has provided me with a different platform to practice my learnings, and I suppose a window into what normal life would be like for many of my future students, who may or may not have an awareness of the importance of creating space in life, let alone the tools to do it.

So I have a toddler on my lap now, precariously lashing out at my keyboard, which means this post is coming to an early end. I’m off to tidy, potter and think about how I can carve out some time (because to carve out time is sometimes necessary when finding time is difficult) in these remaining short days to think about how to move forward as our days begin to stretch out and lengthen once again.

What are you letting go of this Winter Solstice? What are you moving towards?

Births, Deaths, and Other Synchronicities

One year ago, my Grandpa died on my birthday. After much deliberation over how to spend the day this year, Mum brought the family together at her property in South Gippsland. On the day of my birthday, Saturday, we had a birth/death gathering of sorts with a long lunch, wine and sweets. It sounds strange and in some ways morbid to see it written down like that, but for me, it was the most perfect, quiet and thoughtful way to spend the day.

At 3.30pm, the moment I was being born into the world 35 years ago, and the moment we held Gramps as he left us one year ago, we all wandered up to the top of the hill and looked out across the expanse before us: hills, sun, cows, trees, sky.

After Gramps died, I wanted to get something to hang on my wall to remind me of him. I hunted around for months through the depths of the internet, hunting for a big photo of the ocean, or the Prom, or the outdoors; a photo that symbolised something we both loved together which was the big wild world. I kept going back to a photo of a Great Egret that I stumbled across on instagram. After literally months of going to the website to look at this picture and finding out that Robert was a Gippsland based photographer, I emailed him. I was hoping the photo was taken somewhere in Gippsland, as Gramps lived on Phillip Island and we spent a lot of time together down there along the coast. I asked Robert where the photo was taken and instead of simply telling me the location, he wrote, I took the photo at Anderson’s Inlet, Inverloch, in South Gippsland. It was a peaceful late afternoon on a low tide, 19th May 2016. 

I couldn’t quite believe that after looking at what seemed liked thousands of coastal pictures, the one I had chosen was taken the evening before my birthday, the very evening before Gramps died, at a place we visited often together. The last time we were there we sat by the sea with the girls and ate fish and chips. I wrote back a rather emotive email, and ordered a large copy of the print.

Last week I was looking for an envelope for Bird’s lunch order. I was rifling through papers and in amongst a box of life-admin debris I found a water-colour birthday card painted by Gramps, pictured above,  which he had posted to me in 2004 when I was living in London. I stuck it on the wall in my bedroom after receiving it in the mail. On the back you can see old brown outlines of the sticky tape I used, around big letters which say: “LOL Gramps.” By LOL he always meant “lots of love”, however I can’t help but see the funny side of it in this context… rediscovering it the week before my birthday the year after he died.

We came home on Sunday and I did all my usual things: pottering, cooking, preparing for the week. I find myself wondering about death, about how life is possible and how someone can simply be gone, while others are still here. I overheard the girls talking the other day, the conversation went a little bit like this: I wouldn’t like to die, would you? / No way. Can we just stop talking about it? It is really a disgusting thing. / Yeah, it is disgusting. / Yeah, disgusting. I have been carrying around a sad sort of melancholy these past few days, but it has felt kind of warm and necessary. I’m moving forward into this next chapter attempting as light an attitude as I can muster, as he would have wanted. For, no matter my attempts, I will always be someone who thinks a lot. I’m convinced it isn’t always a bad thing.

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