35 Days – boredom and clarity

bored

Five weeks in! Go me!

Since my last blogs, which were in the first two weeks when my resolve was strong, and the first two weekends were busy with house guests swarming, things have changed a little.

Life settled back into it’s normal, guest-free rhythm. Work and school all week, followed by weekends at home on the farm. For various reasons, I’ve never managed to cultivate a busy, active social life living here in the Southern Highlands. It’s very different to my old life where I always had strong friend networks and social events on all the time. I had a tribe, in fact I had several tribes. Whilst I have a few friends here, who I value very highly, I have never really found my tribe.

The upshot of this is that when my old tribe isn’t visiting (which is most of the time), my weekends are very quiet. I’m home on the farm, catching up with the weeks’ housework, planning meals, and trying – usually unsuccessfully – to minimise my daughters time on the iPad.

Now to some of you busy, overbooked people out there, that might sound like heaven. I remember a time I dreamed of a weekend with no plans. It’s just that these days, I have no plans pretty much every weekend.

So, let me get the point before this dissolves into yet another whinge-fest. My point is that I’ve realised that it’s not so much socialising that is a trigger for me to drink alcohol, it’s boredom. Without realising it, in recent years on those weekends where I’ve nothing to do but housework, cooking or parenting, I’ve found myself totally, mind-numbingly bored.

So what to I do? Crack a beer of course! Why not? It’s 3 in the afternoon, Andy’s started (he has that annoying ability to stop if he wants to so he starts early in anticipation of going to bed early), may as well get going. Two beers lead to white wine and together we ease into Saturday night.

Weekends, therefore, are a trigger for me, but not for the reasons I expected; what triggers me more than socialising is boredom.

For those reading this imagining that I’m black-out drunk in front of my kid by 5pm, let me defend myself and be clear. Firstly, I would ease into it. A 3pm start doesn’t mean I’m hiding in the pantry swigging wine straight from the bottle. Secondly, I am – for want of a better expression – a very good drinker.

By that I mean that I can function very well on booze. I don’t go off the rails doing stupid shit. I don’t slur my words unless it’s very late and been a very big night, which would generally only happen if we have company. I can function as a good wife and mother. The dinner gets cooked and served, the kitchen gets cleaned, the kid is looked after and loved. A friend recently commented that I could be 1.5 bottles in and you’d never know it.

I don’t get in the car and drive, and I don’t call everyone I know tearfully telling them I love them. I don’t pick fights. I just get on with having a quiet Saturday afternoon/night at home with my little family. I don’t say all that to brag, in fact I see it as a curse. I know people who don’t drink because when they do, they do or say stupid shit and get themselves into trouble. I never had that barrier (with a few notable exceptions through the years, nobody’s perfect).

And now, five weeks alcohol free (or AF as they say in the sober community) the biggest challenges for me so far are 1) I have suddenly become acutely aware how bored I am and have been with my life and 2) what the hell do I do now to fill the many, many freed up hours that were previously filled with  a couple of beers and a bottle (sometimes more) of wine?

So, if I’m to continue successfully on this AF path (btw I haven’t yet made any decisions on if this is forever or just 100 days), I need to spice up my life, find ways to entertain myself while still meeting my family obligations.  I’m not a hobby person, but it looks like I’m going to have to find one. They say it’s good to be bored, that boredom fires up the creative juices. Boredom leads to progress.

I’ve also realised in my new sober clarity that no one can do it for me, it’s up to me. I have been guilty of trying to shift the blame in the past – to Andy for wanting to live on a farm, to motherhood, to my friends daring to live their lives and not entertaining me every weekend. But the only person that can make changes to make myself happier is me. I know that now.

 

 

The Best Timing of All

Bonfire

Day 14

In hindsight it turns out that I chose both the worst and best time to make a public vow of sobriety.

Worst because for the first 2 weekends – notoriously the hardest part of going alcohol free – it was party time here at the farm. Old friends coming to stay loaded with food and wine. Winter in the Southern Highlands is the time for bonfires and red wine, kids running free in the (snake free) paddocks, there’s no driving anywhere, everyone is in party mode. I am not a winter person, but these times make it bearable.

However, its FULL of triggers – it would have been very easy, and indeed probably very understandable, to cave in. I really did choose a time that would challenge me the most.

As it turns out, though, the timing was perfect. The steadfast resolve that came from the announcement meant I didn’t cave. I didn’t allow the voice in my head to win – it just wasn’t a decision and so the voice went quiet. I kept waiting for the cravings, for the white knuckling, for the irritation at all the noise and fun around me, but it never came. I felt relaxed and happy the entire weekend. Sure the thoughts of a glass of wine popped into my head, but when they did I’d remind myself of  what that would mean…

Drinking me would have polished off at least 2 bottles of wine to myself each day. With that amount of wine under my belt, I’d have tuned out from all the fun chitter chatter, buzzing around in my own world.

Sober me was engaged and involved. I have caught up with my dear friends’ lives. We’ve dissected at length the enigma of the “poo jogger” and the bizarre popularity of Trump in the US. We’ve shaken our heads over the spectacular self-created undoing of  Barnaby Joyce.

And I hugged and kissed my daughter at bed time, whispering good night to her as she dropped off to sleep so happy and tired from a full day of playing and running with other kids. I didn’t breathe wine breath all over her, or slur silly, non-nonsensical rubbish at her, or impatiently dismiss her fears that she often has when it comes to lights out, eager to get back out to the party.

And remarkably, I remember everything.

So my announcement, whilst challenging, was at the best time of all because these last 2 weekends have taught me the most valuable lesson of all…. I LIKE being sober. I really, really like it.

And I LOVE my friends. 🙂

xx

PS. MASSIVE shout out to my Andy who, many weeks ago after I was having a bit of a poor me “I don’t have any friends anymore” moment went to a huge effort to make this weekend happen, and to keep it a surprise. I have been very spoiled this weekend. xxxxx

#sober #soberlife

How long do I have to pander to my kids’ fears ?

Scared

Scared

It’s a loooong time ago that I started kindy, so long that I cant even face working out what year it was. Somewhere in the mid 70s I’m guessing. Around 40 years ago, so I cant profess to remember the whole experience, but I do remember snippets clearly and have an overall feel for how it went.

We went to school. Full stop. No clinging, no crying, no begging Mummy not to leave. We were dropped off and went inside and got on with it. I don’t remember it even occurring to me to cling or cry even when I was scared or uncertain. Granted I had two sisters there, but the very last thing they were going to do was look after me. I barely got a grunt out of them until we all got home after school.

In fact, I don’t actually remember being dropped off at school. In Sydney we caught the bus. When we moved to Perth, I was 8 and we rode our bikes to school.

I know, I know, I’m doing the “in my day” thing. Ugh. Sorry. But it’s relevant.

Tippi has always been a nervous, shy kid. She’s always stayed close to me, she’s not the kid that gets lost in the shopping mall, she’s not a risk taker. Which has served me well over time as kids who wander are harder work, but it means she misses out on experiences. As she’s grown in age she’s grown in confidence, which has been frankly a big relief, but not that much confidence. At least 3 days a week, there’s some kind of clinging when I take her to school – it might be as mild as needing a few cuddles, or right up to the full blown Beg and Cling dance. Yep, she’s that kid. You’ve all seen them.

And then there’s the night fears that appeared a couple of years ago. I know, I GET that! I was terrified of the dark as a kid thanks to my two older sisters’ constant torment (cue evil Russian accent): “Dracula is coming to suck your blooooood”. Teeth time, story time, snuggle time, ‘night, love you’, dark…… ARGGGHHHHHHHH! Terrifying. The dark was so so scary for me right up until adulthood and then some.

But I had to suck it up. The hall light was left on while I was falling asleep and that was it. No parent checking on me, no staying with me, no lullabies. It was goodnight, get myself to sleep. I remember lying there in a sweat sometimes, trembling. But I went to sleep eventually and now I can live on a remote farm with no other adult in the house and all lights off and sleep soundly all night.

Tippi has the door open, the hall lights on, lullabies playing softly, a 2 minute check, 5 minutes, 8 minutes etc until asleep which doesn’t usually take long but jeeeez it is interminable when has started, it’s the end of the day, couch is beckoning.

So here’s the thing. I want Tippi to grow into a person who is independent, resilient, brave, fierce, adventurous, confident, able to take risks, living life to its fullest, and every other cliche I can think of. I don’t know for sure, but I strongly believe my parents did that for me, with a little help from my big sisters.

I confess, I’m over pandering to her fears whether they’re real or imagined. Surely by doing so, I’m fueling them, aren’t I? By hugging her 10 times at school drop off, hanging around, waving, encouraging, maybe I’m being nice and loving, but it’s not helping her to learn independence. By staying with her in her room when she’s scared at night might be a motherly thing to do, but doesn’t it confirm that if I’m not there, monsters might come in?

I’ve toughened up lately. I walk away at school after just a couple of hugs. I speak sternly if she follows me out, and I don’t look back. Actually this week I did look back and she was skipping happily back into school which tells me she’s playing me. I don’t stay in her room after lights out.

Then on the flipside… she’s 5, that little teary face breaks my heart into a million pieces.

Oh FFS, no it doesn’t, it’s infuriating, I have other things to get on with and this kid needs to learn resilience.

So tell me, how loving and patient do I have to be to these fears without cementing them for her, and how tough do I have to be without traumatising her?

Parenting Dilemma #5078.

Do you have a fearful child? How do you manage it?

A Year Gone By

A little over I year ago I jumped into this blogging thing with gusto, cranking out 10 or so blogs in a couple of months. It seemed to get some reads, some interest, mainly from my friends. Lot’s of indifference, of course, you’ve got to expect that, but some nice comments too. I got some Facebook likes, and then…….I stopped. Why?

Because it got terrifying. On Facebook it gets a much, much wider audience than I would have by just staying on WordPress, which was exciting at first. Then a little intoxicating as I looked at the stats – people were clicking! But then self-judgement came in and it suddenly seemed unbearably self-indulgent, boring and well, kinda embarrassing.

So I stopped.. And I must say I now have an enormous respect for those successful bloggers with thousands, tens of thousands of readers, letting it all hang out. What amazing confidence, such lack of self-consciousness – opening themselves up to the judgement and the brutality of the internet. Because with all the love they get, there’s a whole lot of nastiness thrown their way. It’s a brave person who blogs for a living.

A couple of my lovely friends have told me to get onto it again, and after a somewhat turbulent 12 months, I’ve had an urge to write. Please feel free to bugger off now, this is me time.

The Last 12 Months 

We built:

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Our very grown up house. I think it looks like a winery. Actually it could be with the amount of wine going through our place these days.

Nothing to get excited about yet – it’s more or less a shell. We are about half way and any further progress will be slow unless someone wants to throw a lazy couple of hungey grand our way (PM me for bank details).  We chip, chip, chip away at it one tradey at a time. And to bring in the bucks to get it finished, Andy continues to work away, which frankly is hard on the family and our relationship. But eye on the prize – when it’s built he can come home, get a lower paying local job and we’ll be a family together living in our glam country home.

We sent:

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Our girl off to kindy. With a 1st of March birthday, we had the dilemma of sending her this year, at 4 nearly 5, or waiting till next year when she’s 5 turning 6. I agonised about it right up to the day she started, and then for the first half of 1st term. She is fine, she loves it, is making friends and is loving learning to read and write. I will always wonder if she’d have been better off if we’d waited, and I suspect she would have been. But she’s fine, she’s happy.

We changed:

My work situation. By far the absolutely best thing that has happened in the last 12 months is quitting my job as a part-time financial planner. I’m not sure Andy agrees, but he’s supporting it bless him. We have one kid, one shot at it, and I wanted to do it completely. I wanted to be involved in her schooling, be there for her achievements, her school life. As it turns out, I haven’t completely quit the financial services world and continue to do some contract work, but it’s in my time and I’m not bound to an office, sitting in a job that my heart wasn’t in.

I’ve never been busier, with at least 2 hours of driving a day – a MASSIVE downside of rural life is the driving that’s involved with a young family. Everyday into town and back out and in and out again. Or hang in town and have to kill hours while you could be at home working, or getting the house clean, or cooking a great dinner for the family. Tippi is keen to get the bus, and we’re working towards that, but it’s complicated with a child with anaphylaxis and putting a 5 year old on a bus trip for over an hour carrying her own epipens is a tricky obstacle to overcome.

We lost:

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My mum. In the lead up to mothers day last year, I wrote about mum and her battle with ovarian cancer. She was doing so well with it it seemed. She’d endured more chemo, but still it hadn’t made her sick – she was definitely off, but not super sick like you see cancer victims in the movies. Maybe she was just being brave, but she was managing to live almost a normal life. She did hate the chemo though.

My sister brought her family out from the UK for Christmas, and we although we didn’t know it at the time, we had our last time all together. Mum was quieter than usual, with stomach and bowel issues dogging her a little, and a bit of vagueness she called “chemo brain”. By New Years Eve she was back in hospital with a bowel blockage. It was cleared for a while, but it came back and she was scheduled for bowel surgery in February to – in her mind – fix it once and for all.

But it wasn’t to be. The blockage became inoperable and untreatable, nothing more they could do. By then she had barely eaten for a few weeks, weight was falling off her. “Take her home” the doctors said, “keep her comfortable, give her whatever she wants.”

So we did. Mum never really grasped the fact that she was terminal, right up until the last week when she went into palliative care. My sister came out, leaving her young family in the UK for weeks, we all spent weeks going to and from Sydney to nurse her and be with her and Dad. And then, finally,just before Easter, we were doing the bedside vigil as we had been for a week. She was so weak, unable to speak or move. We sat with her all day, then at the end of the day, we kissed her, hugged her, told her goodbye, we love her, it’s ok to go. Her eyes indicated that she could hear us, and she loved us too.

My sisters and I left Dad alone with her and went home to Mum and Dads house where we’d all been staying together. Dad came home soon after. We were shattered. Then, within half an hour of Dad leaving the hospital, they called. She’s deteriorated, it’s very close. Did we want to go back?

We talked about it and decided no. We’d said goodbye. She’d held on all day, waiting for us to go. This is how she wanted it, she wanted to spare us from the moment. We sat together until the call came, and when it did we hugged each other close and wept.

At Christmas time when we were all together, we never dreamed we would be burying her by Easter.

Fucking cancer.

What the Hell Just Happened to our Dog?

I came home from work tonight tired and cranky. Andy is away as always during the week and I knew the fire would have gone out, it’s freezing here, and raining now and I dreaded getting home to the dog feeding frenzy, a freezing cold house,  lighting the fire, dinner, kids bath and bedtime. Any me time felt a long way off, and with Tippi sick this week, I’ve been unusually disturbed through the nights so I’m tired. And grumpy.

So grumpy in fact, that I took it out on Andy over the phone. I hated this farm tonight, it got to me as it does sometimes. I fed the dogs with more resentment than usual – no love for them as they wag their tails furiously in welcome – then headed inside to get the fire lit. ABC for Kids was on, but Tippi was chatty and laughing, feeling better after a few days of illness. I just wanted her to be quiet and watch TV.

At some point, I became aware that Jaq, our 3 (4?) year old kelpie was barking more than usual. She is a farm dog; an outside dog mostly, only coming in on occasional nights to sleep on the lounge room floor while we watch TV. She barks a lot – there’s a lot to bark at here. Wombats, kangaroos, rabbits, foxes, feral cats. We’ve got them all, and I go out several times a night to rouse on her and tell her to shut up.

But this was her different bark. I went outside, and here things are hazy. This wasn’t normal. She was under the veranda, scuffling, a high pitched yelp, desperate. It sounded like she was chasing something big. Then to the shed, yelping, banging, what was this creature she was chasing? I’d no idea what was going on, and I was scared. I rang Andy. What was getting her so worked up? I called her, to my surprise she came but she was manic. Under the veranda again, banging, yelping, high pitched, not her usual bark. I called her back again, she came. She was crazy, she was at the front door yelping, begging to be let inside. Andy, helpless from Brisbane, called our neighbour and told him to get over here.

I let her in the house. She ran from room to room, more yelping, she was terrified. Trying to sit, looking at me with imploring eyes; “help me” she seemed to be saying, “help me”. I looked all over at her, there were no obvious wounds, no blood. A vile stench that I couldn’t place. I tried to calm her, but I was scared of the wild look in her eyes. Tippi wanted to pat her, I yelled at her to get away. This wasn’t our dog, she’d lost her mind. Running, yelping, then into our bedroom and … silence.

I tentatively went in, Andy on the line. She was lying on our bedroom floor, still, foaming at the mouth, breathing only just. Then nothing. She was gone. Eyes open, glassed over, the most still she’s ever been. She’d died in that moment, terrified, on our bedroom floor.

I couldn’t help her.

Two hours later, I still can’t really process what happened. Maybe we’ll work it out, maybe we won’t. Tippi, surprisingly comprehending of the finality of death cried and cried. For the first time ever she turned down the icecream I’d dished out. She’s in bed now, fell asleep in under three minutes. Her first experience with loss, they were good buddies, Tippi and Jaq.

Tonight, when the world mourns the loss of a great actor and comedian, we also mourn the loss of Jaq, our very own Red Dog. She was Andy’s dog, and he is alone tonight in a hotel. The loss he must be feeling. I’ve never missed him more.