“In the same river we both step and do not step, we are and are not” ~ Heraclitus
Could it be? A month already. Yes I believe it is. How has yours been? It’s been a full one here. When we left each other at the end of last month I left you with rituals on my mind! Timely really as we embrace this period of settling in one place after all the exciting adventures and places our travels have taken us.
The season has changed and not just because the days are short and the air is cold. One of the adults in this house has gone back to full time office life. Not this half! I’m here holding the fort while he’s away travelling (for work) and adjusting the rhythm to the change this brings. I believe you Heraclitus ‘life is flux’ no matter where we land and true I’ve stepped into this river before but of course as always the water is different.
Now we find ourselves in a settled landscape … can you believe we have been in this house nearly one year and away from Australia for two? (That’s a photo of the kids as we left Tullamarine airport when no one was taller than me!) After a period of constant newness and change most days now look the same. It’s harmony within this (the river banks of our regular, extraordinary life) that I’m seeking. This is the season to build something with where we’ve been, what we’ve come from, what we love and with who we are now.
When the time is unknown and answers unclear, trust that is sturdy.
Walk the path.
Discover the beauty of surprise, revel in its delight.
Here in lies possibility.
For the past three or four years we’ve been moving! Moving towards creating this ‘different’ kind of life for our family. The changes have been big as has the ‘off loading’ – commitments, possessions, feelings, ideas of how life ‘should’ look … at times it has and still continues to strip us bare (read: feels raw). Like the old raw onion analogy, layer by layer we’ve been peeling and it can be intense. But onions are aren’t they! You can’t peel an onion and not cry, not feel and because I’m one of those ‘feeler’ humans I bloody wonder about those feelings and where they come from. And they’re good for us too (onions that is) – my Chinese Practitioner tells me to eat more of them! Crying too I reckon – salty, cleansing tears.
I wasn’t prepared for how raw I’d be after travelling. For me it brought up more questions than answers, particularly as we settled into a ‘sort of’ permanent setting. By sort of I mean the same school, same house and the same people in my day a change in work situations (I don’t think I really believe in permanence). There will always be expectations and societal ‘norms’ that I find challenging and I guess there were heightened struggles for me by choosing to settle in a foreign country where I can’t work in my field. My identity took a battering I hadn’t prepared for! And all the noise … gosh I missed the easy going traveller types. But even so this is exactly where I want to be and the culture shock is settling.
We’re still living the dream (the dream – it’s a dynamic notion don’t you think?). And now we are grounding in the literal sense as we plant new seeds, water what we’ve been creating over the years and take the time to rest on the plateau … preparing for what ever comes next. In amongst the wonderful mundaneness of this ‘settled’ life I choose to live it creatively.
The Mozart that is currently rippling through my body and taking me on an emotional rollercoaster as I write this letter feels like a creative call to action! It’s my new thing. Sorry Bernard lately it’s all about Mozart and Vivaldi. Gosh they are good company and are definitely putting some zing in my creative soul. When I need inspo they are on my team! My glasses are on, I’m writing words and the music is playing. Music that’s taking me on a cultural travel jaunt … I imagine the cobblestone streets, quaint buildings, romantic languages and ghosts of a different time. Ah this is one of those ‘living my best life’ kind of moments. I’ve had a few of them this month.
Artwork by Annette @ I Give You The Verbs.
We’re not in spring but I’ve been indulging my living and sleeping spaces with flowers. Like a heart they expand with colour and love. Great LOVE. Heraclitus says not only is flux an element of life but so too is opposition. Night and day, Light and dark. One moment of raw onions the next of deep colourful love. Life.
I love travelling and I dream of faraway places but right now I dream within my four walls. Contentedly. Because the grass is never greener. Where I am in this season is NOW. And from here is where I can create from. This is the season born of the last and the one before that.
BUT! Ha ha … always a but right! As we move into new season there is some tweaking, adjusting to do.
Now that I’ve landed for a period of time I need to feel the ground more securely. I want to make something of this time … not float in it. The time to float will come again. While many seek to slow and quiet their expectations and mind sometimes I feel I could do with some revving up! Controversial – I know.
I’ve never felt that my to-do list was too big, or that I wasn’t smelling the roses, that my weekends were too full or that I was trying to achieve too much. Try pinning me down for a catch up – no chance if the date is miles ahead. I am probably definitely a really frustrating friend in that respect. I’ve never spread myself or my children thinly and I like to keep space for spontaneity. To some I am sure it appears as selfish and at times it probably is. It’s my self preservation (introvert needs) and I have four kids. It would be far too easy for life to be chaotic if I didn’t protect space. Time is a gift.
When I started this writing caper it was at a time when I felt lost in my life. I was losing my husband to the corporate machine and I was in a place where I didn’t fit. If I look back over my life whenever I’ve been trust into a new setting full of people I find it challenging. It’s not that I don’t love people, I do. And it’s not that I can’t hold my own in a group, I can. And it’s not even a social anxiety – I simply don’t need a lot of people. Small talk exhausts me. Groups exhaust me. And here’s Heraclitus’s opposition at play – I continue to thrust myself into new settings because I love the FLUX of life, love change! Go figure that out.
So I write. It has became a way to develop connection without the small talk with others and myself. It opens my mind. It has became a way of expanding my life by sharing words and thoughts. It’s my peace within all the opposition. My meditation. My joy. My stabiliser. It gives me space to ponder opinions with like-minded people. It continues to grow with me. Adventures are born here. Wonderful, genuine, kind, inspiring people have come to my life through words and photos. People who I would never have crossed paths with or maybe I would’ve – life is funny like that. It has made me stronger, more courageous and I think its next job is to help me build confidence. A big task there for you dear words.
My beautiful friend Lix asked me if this new blog was the workshop alongside my book writing and yes I guess it is. Writing a blog has always been the workshop alongside whatever endeavour I am exploring in my life. I am sure I would have found myself on adventures without the writing that’s just who I am. But I’m not sure I’d have found such a diversely interesting motley crew of friends that gently push me to think harder, challenge my beliefs and actually encourage me to contribute. A treasured community that has taught me much about humility.
So much digression! I really wanted to tell you about rituals, why and how they have played out this month! But you know writing it oozes all kinds of self reflection from your pores. I’m writing a book so there is some deep digging going on and I have to filter it somewhere. Thanks for listening if your still with me 😉
November – Rituals.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell
Of course I could use the word routine but it has such a harshness to it these days don’t you think? It’s one of those words that’s lost its shine because it has been pushed too hard. A bit like the word ‘list’. And yet, fundamentally they are helper ants – routine and list. It’s all in how we play with them. My time together with them has been sweet this month.
Exploring how I spend my days and how rituals affect them have been necessary for me because I wasn’t feeling it. My motivation was waning and I didn’t have anything going on that was getting me excited. I know I want to be here but I really want to ‘BE’ here. And I want to write a book alongside urban home steading and growing my children.
After a couple of BIG years l’m feeling the pull to reign it in. Water. Consolidate. Consider. Plant. Establish. Dream.
Not too much to ask eh?
Lucky I’m not actually lost these days … been there done that story (remember Choose Simplicity!). If not don’t worry it’s the theme of my novel. I’ll come back to that.
No move required either. For those of you who’ve read along for a while you’ll know I have a predisposition to moving (gypsy blood, daughter of migrants – not sure). We’ve already moved across the world and twice since arriving here! No moves for a while please.
The IT guru in the house had taken some time out of a regular work gig to do some consulting. He needed to cut ties with his old job (was Aussie based) for this move to be the fresh start we were craving after corporate Sydney life. It was a scary risk giving up employment after 18 years with one company but we knew it was the right one for us. Following some time out and doing some work for himself, together, we made the decision a few months back that one of us needed to get back to a fixed income role. Given that we’d spend the past fifteen years following the IT guy’s career he was the one best suited to that task.
That fixed income job started on the first of this month so it was the perfect timing for me to step into exploring and experimenting with ‘rituals’ this month. Life was about to get a whole lot more predictable.
When this idea of writing myself into ‘writing’ a book came to me (AGAIN) I had the idea of a focus for each month. I presumed it would reveal itself. I trust life will open what I need by showing itself. I work at things but I don’t push ‘shit’ up hill …. we can only work with what we have and from where we are. Forwards not backwards. Flow not hustle. Remember the camino – you can only walk when you can walk. Rituals wouldn’t have worked two months ago – I wasn’t here yet.
There’s something a little magical about starting something new don’t you think. The excitement and the shiny possibilities. I think possibility is important for me, the dreamer that I am.
I began. Remembering last month I had already begun with the preparation so this was the next step for me. I just reread my last post. Wow! I actually think I have made HUGE leaps since then. How did I begin? I started with basics:
An oldie but a goodie – I make the bed each morning. Before I knew it I was developing a morning ‘back to zero’ kind of start to the day. Our house is over three levels. I’m not sure what the actual square metres are but it’s not big. Every inch of house has been put to good use with its staircases typical of Dutch houses, steep! We live in a row of ‘cookie cutter’ style houses. The next street is the same, as is the next. It’s how The Netherlands can have 16 million people living in a country that would fit into Australia 185 times and still be rich with countryside on the doorstep. I began to notice other people’s morning rituals. The man across the road always has his coffee on the couch at the time I’m pulling the blind up in one of the kids rooms.
We have relatively smooth mornings here, it’s dark when the kids get up. They tend to move from the bed to the wardrobe, get dressed, eat breakfast while I make the lunches and then we’re off on our bikes to go school. Rain, hail or shine we don’t have a car. We get up an hour before we leave and the two older kids get themselves to school. So I guess the ritual was already in place there … I just started tweaking it a little.
Back to zero means that when I get home I have less to do and nothing build up thus creating more space for the writing!
Sleep – Aah that old chestnut, I’m shit without it. I’ve been putting some rituals and barriers around this one. I haven’t managed to give up coffee but I have given up the glass or two of wine. I’m not sure if it’s age or hormones but even one glass of red has me waking at 3am, sometimes with a headache. I’ve been reading a truck load and having more baths. I have tried to ration my reading to when I hop into bed, having a book last over the week rather than reading every spare minute. Scrolling less and reading more. Not heavy reads, joyful reads. Bugger it! I AM a shameless lover of women’s literature. Stories written by Irish writers are my current obsession. I dare the naysayers to call them fluff. Stories filled with emotion, life, perspectives, questions … isn’t that what many of the ‘great’ male literary writers actually wrote about?! How many times do I see Oscar Wilde and the like quoted on SM posts.
Watching season four of Narcos hasn’t helped with sleep oooh but I couldn’t help myself! 😉
Shopping and food: I’ve started a weekly delivery. I start the order on Monday and complete it on Wednesday, it arrives on Thursday. I then go to the market twice a week for veggies and fruit. It has not only saved a truckload of shop trips but it’s also cheaper. Stepping in to the supermarket for just one thing is never just one thing is it? I started a little list in the kitchen. I don’t always use it but it helps with flow … I can put on there what I need to do in the kitchen that day. Slowly the organisation begins tweaking itself. Today I realised that I will always need a half loaf of bread in the freezer for mornings like today’s when we run out!
Fun: I like a lot of time to myself no question about that but I also need to spend time with friends. I’ve made it a priority to have one on one catch ups. Museum visits, bike rides, coffee dates – little moments carved into my month with good friends. Laughing, sharing hello and goodbye kisses. Memory making and relationship growing.
Stuff: You know that ‘stuff’ list you really want to get to. Each month I hope to get to one, I’m not writing it down just keeping it close. Today I send some long overdue parcels. I wrote some letters this month! There’s a little pile of mending – perhaps next month 🙂
It’s probably boring for me to list all the things for you and they seem quite basic but hey I’d fallen out of synch with routines and lists. A hangover from so much travel perhaps. A recalibration was necessary to move forward. When something new comes in what needs to be tweaked or let go of … always something.
It doesn’t all go to plan and when things like guests arrive for a few days or I have to study for a licence test over three days it all goes to shit! But if I have rituals it’s easier to fall back into it. Perhaps routine sounds too rigid, rigid seems to be born of control and life and weeks are not always the same. Rituals feels more patient, kinder and flexible, perhaps born of flow.
Licences can you believe it!!! We both have to re-sit our licences, our Aussie ones can’t be changed for Dutch ones. It’s part of feeling grounded. I’m happy not having a car but every now and then I’d like the option of being able to hire one when needed.
Spending the month with rituals on my mind has not only been about introducing new habits but also ditching others. I realised that feeding a starter everyday to hopefully ‘make’ my own bread wasn’t working. I couldn’t find the flour I needed to make it and actually the bread is quite good here!
I moved my writing from the desktop to the laptop because it suits me to be flexible. Today I am at the kitchen table, yesterday I was on my bed! If I want to write I need to be able to do it in a way that fits.
My book – it’s happening. So far I have not one but five first chapters … for a time there I wrote a new one every time I started. I now have the one I think works and I’m currently tweaking it. It’s finding its own narrative so I’m going with it. While I’m writing heavily from experience it’s a novel so there’s indulging. Mostly my hope is that it’s uplifting and enables the reader to escape into the character and her world and gives them the feeling of possibility.
I am sure writing an outline is the advise I’d get but for now I’m letting it evolve. The second chapter is coming into my mind so for now this is how I’ll write it. I have also noticed that when I read a novel I’m actually learning from it. Particularly just how important the setting is in creating the pictures in my mind. The pictures (and the feelings) are the connection right? Funny how when timing is right you have space to learn something you previously hadn’t noticed. Don’t you think?
Twice lately when I have been running I have noticed myself using my hands to physically push away certain thoughts. It’s a natural reaction when creating space, it allows possibility to enter. Sometimes I am surprised at what I’m still holding on to, what thoughts I am pushing away. You can let go of all the physical stuff in the world but there are dream crushers whose words and actions are far harder to let go of. Hurt cuts deep. But how much of what we think is based on our perception of a situation? Self doubt is one of the hardest hurdles to reframe for my generation and gender I think.
Oh and I also had a daydream of sitting on the Graham Norton show with my book! Which is hilarious because I know that is so far from reality but actually it reminded me that dreams equal possibility! They don’t always have to come true, heck most of them don’t but golly gosh they are a beautiful way to sing the anthem of your heart.
All right lovely ones if you made it this far – PHEW! You’re done. See why I need to write a book – SO many words and thoughts. And gosh I’m better in real life interactions when I have spent time in creative land.
If you’re wondering about December it’s the month for traditions. We are in full swing here in The Netherlands and it is so endearing. Beautiful poems, little ones singing their hearts out, homemade fun gifts for class mates …. how does tradition play a part in our daily life and not just for the BIG occasions. That’s me this month I say as I eat some more pepernoten!