Life is what you make it

life is what you make itIt had been just over six weeks since we’d first arrived and whilst the first two weeks were fairly full-on with finding somewhere to live and reliable transportation, life had slowed down to a painful crawl. I’d applied for two jobs best described as residing at the extreme opposite ends of my work/qualification spectrum and whilst I would have been happy with either, just to feel a sense of purpose once again (and, ok let’s be honest, money), neither one looked like panning out.

The lease had started on the unit and rather than spend money on rent AND a motel room, we decided to move in despite a rather large hitch.

Furniture. We didn’t have it yet.

Not to worry though, as there are some wonderful people in the world (and more importantly, in Hamilton) and we were loaned all the blankets, sheets and towels we would need from the managers of the motel we’d been staying at. The airbed, pillows and doona plus a fold-out table and chairs came from NIH’s boss. With a communal kitchen in the complex complete with cutlery and crockery to loan, we had everything we needed to ‘glamp’ it out until the furniture arrived. Little did we know that was still over three weeks away but that’s another blog entirely!

The unit was lovely, even with next to nothing in it. Very close to everything yet quiet and peaceful – a real relief after staying next to one of the busiest roads in Hamilton. No more having to worry about finding a reason to be out so motel cleaners could access our room. Our own little courtyard with grass and trees rather than brick walls and busy highway. Very short walk to the lake and our new favourite coffee shop.

And yet …

I was feeling quite lost. NIH had a job to go to every day and was making friends at work whilst I was left to find things to occupy the great gaping hole of 10 hours between him leaving and coming home.

Every day I would take myself out for a walk. The weather was lovely and it kept the app on my phone happy, encouraging me to complete my 10,000 steps every day or at least 60 minutes of moving. Small goal indeed but enough of a ‘purpose’ until something better came along.

During these walks I would listen to a downloaded book on my phone app (Bolinda BorrowBox– if your library service doesn’t have it or something like it, ask them why. Totally brilliant and completely free.)

“Girl in the dark” by Anna Lyndsey is actually a biography. The blurb sparked my interest:

“The story of an ordinary woman with an extraordinary illness. The memoir of a life lived in darkness and a passionate love affair with light.”

Basically, Anna develops an allergy to light. Any light. Imagine that for a moment.

I didn’t have to though, as Anna described it so perfectly I felt I was there with her, huddled in a corner in the dark, as she made up word games to play in her head to pass the time. No computers. No reading. No TV. Her body could not handle the light emitted by them. All she had was her mind – and audiobooks.

Amazingly, she managed to cope and tells her story with humour and honesty. Her descriptions are rich and beautifully moving, even more so when she gains remission and can go outside again – although generally only at twilight.

I felt a kinship with her and yet so very ungrateful for my life at the same time. Sure, it was a hassle not having furniture. Yes, the future was a little uncertain with regards to work. Most definitely I missed my family and friends. I was desperately lonely. But in actual fact, I realised I was supremely lucky.

We had a nice space to live in and the furniture would arrive eventually but to be honest we were quite comfortable with what we had – amazing how little you actually need to get by.

Eventually the right job would come for me and life would get so busy I wouldn’t have time to scratch.

I’d make new friends and family are always just a Skype date or quick text away.

And I had my health. I could go walking out in the world without a care. I had each day to do with as I chose. I was not a prisoner. If Anna could find the strength to go on in her tiny dark room, then I had absolutely nothing to whinge about.

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New Year, New Goals

pencil watercolourIn all aspects, 2014 was a pretty spectacular year for me. The NIH and I made it official with a twilight ceremony at the soccer fields on what was possibly THE hottest day in recent history. It was a sweaty afternoon but a lovely one just the same. We also traveled extensively overseas, seeing the sights I’d only read about and drooled over in movies and TV shows. Career-wise, work picked up and a few projects really pushed me to better my graphic design skills. My studies took a bit of a hit, thanks to the two months away and a complete overhaul of their online study site but I only have three modules left and will be pretty chuffed with myself when I finish them off by June.

So, with so much done last year I do wonder how on earth I can top it in 2015 and recently sat down to make some realistic goals. I separated them into the subject areas of Drawing; Relaxation; Health; Personal Growth; Writing; Household and Food and came up with a list I think I can actually manage.

1. DRAWING

I bought myself an A5 visual diary and pledge to draw, paint, doodle or otherwise scribe in it every day. It doesn’t have to be Michelangelo level or an entire new piece every time but it does have to make me work on my illustration skills. There’s no getting around it, people. I’m a sucky illustrator and I’ll never get any better if I don’t practice. The picture above is something I worked on over two days using new watercolour pencils. It didn’t take long and was kinda nice to do for an hour in the morning with a coffee by my side.

2. RELAXATION

Recent health has been shoddy at best and downright piss-poor at worst (namely ending up in hospital attached to an IV cocktail of antibiotics). It’s nothing I really could have avoided but it has very much made me aware of the preciousness of my health. So, as part of a routine to take care of the physical I will have one massage a month. Doesn’t sound hard, I know, but I am really not the ‘massage’ kind of person. Once upon a time the idea of stripping down and a stranger touching my body in a non-sexual way would have made my skin crawl. “How could a massage be considered a treat?” I wondered. Now that stage has passed, I need to get into the habit of doing something that is not only relaxing but quite necessary for good health.

3. HEALTH

I’m a fairly active person but the last few years have seen a real struggle with weight, despite trying every 12 week program there is. Unfortunately, if your hormones are shot and your body is out of whack, no amount of ‘diet’ or exercise will help and it becomes a real study in frustration. Fortunately, I’m onto a program with the naturopath and have completely cut sugar from my diet and results are starting to appear. This year, I want to be a little more gentle with my body. I don’t feel that cardio really helps me and it certainly doesn’t make a difference on the scales. Instead, I want to be stronger and calmer. The local gym does “Body Balance”, a Les Mills program combination of yoga, tai chi and pilates, and I really enjoy the classes. More of that, please.

4. PERSONAL GROWTH

This is one I will most definitely struggle with – criticism. Criticism of myself and of others. I will make a concerted effort to keep my trap shut and turn my thoughts and words from negative nellies into positive pollies. I will look for the good in every situation, person and deed. I will let go of past hurts and grudges and move on with love and acceptance. My NIH may have snorted derisively at this one …

5. WRITING

Blog once a week. That’s the goal. And if I stick to the rest of my goals, I should have at least one semi-interesting thing to write about.

6. HOUSEHOLD

Clutter and mess annoy me no end. And instead of grumbling about others being messy or hoarders (which I can’t anyway since I have pledged to stop criticising and start being positive), I will have a mini-cleanup of places other than the usual each week until the house resembles something more like Better Homes and Gardens and less than Hoarders USA.

7. FOOD

My dad had a fantastic sourdough starter and made the most awesomely fragrant bread. Since he died, I’ve struggled to get a starter happening but this year is my Year of Baking Bread. This year I am going to master the starter and the art of making authentic sourdough bread that tastes fantastic and in no way resembles a doorstop. I have downloaded ‘Sourdough 101’ from the Sourdough Baker and I am going to do it over and over and over again until I get it right. How hard could it be?

So there you go – seven totally doable goals for 2015. And now I can tick a blog for Week One off the list …