Category Archives: Marriage

Once again, in a loud voice please

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Let’s start over. From now on, you are to have first pick of the take away menu. You are to have the drumstick, the big slice, the comfy corner of the couch. No more end of the loaf toast for you, no more cold dinner, no more three dollar shampoo.  I don’t ever want to hear you describe yourself as not all that clever ever, ever again. I don’t ever want to hear that acceptance in your voice as you admit that you bought his story that your appearance is somehow less than it should be. From now on we draw a line in the sand. This is acceptable, this is not. And when it is not I want to see you let the tiger out. No more powerlessness, no more keeping quiet, no more waiting and seeing.

I saw it happening, but I didn’t know it until now. I wish I could have saved you from the crushing he has given you as he squashed the fight out of you year upon year upon year. He took away (some of) your spark and that’s not acceptable. I don’t know what kind of fears you have lived with, I don’t know what your new fears are. I hear you say it a lot, that you are frightened. But I want to say to you no. He has taught you that and he’s gone now. He has taught you that you can’t be alone, that you can’t be the strongest person in the house. Every day he has chipped away at you until your own son forgot what your laugh sounded like. Not acceptable.

It’s time now for noisy laughter, for spontaneous decisions, for expensive shampoo. It’s time to own your body and your space and your opinion. No more apologising, much more expecting. No more doubting that you’re worth spending time with. The only reason you didn’t pick up the phone is because he made you believe that nobody wanted to answer. It’s time to separate out the person he stepped on and the person you are. He tried and he failed. No more asking permission no more second guessing. Today is the day for a new haircut, a new puppy and some fresh air.

Alcohol and me

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It’s not a new year’s resolution. It is not a Dry January nor a detox nor a diet. It’s no post-40 turning of a new leaf. I simply need to know that I can. I have been drinking a glass or two of wine every day of my life for several years running. Mr 6 recently drew a picture of me with my female friends and we were all sitting around a table with glasses of wine. Clearly, it’s time to scale it back. My inner critic has been whispering furiously all this while. Am I…? Inspired in part by fear and in part by my brother-in-law who has had a month long medically induced alcohol ban and has lost 6 kg in the blink of an eye, I have set about a radical overhaul of my drinking habits. I absolutely love wine and wine loves me so I will not be going fully dry. Life is far too short and I’d become an insufferable bore. I’ve set myself two rules to follow until at least the 31st of January. Rule number 1: I can only drink at social events outside my house. Rule number two: I cannot drink two nights in a row. Given the critical blow that young children have inflicted upon my social life, I don’t think there’ll be much drinking.

We (mothers of the young) are the new face of alcoholism. We are the “Oblivion Drinkers” – mums who also work outside the home (or don’t) and self medicate with a glass or two of wine to help the stress of the day get sorted. Google mothers and alcohol and you’ll disappear into a worm hole of writings about how we’re all getting mildly or madly juiced up in the evening day after day and not noticing a habit creeping up on us. We pour with automaticity while chopping the carrots, with dinner and again once the little darlings are finally quiet, having fallen into sleep at last. We sigh and collapse, we deserve this. I could be the poster girl for a generation of Sauv Blanc Mums.

I don’t have a drinking problem. I’m also pretty keen not to get one. I want to continue my love affair with wine for joy, not for survival. So I am just over a week into my new rules. This first week included New Year’s Eve, which was of course an exception. One night of wine consumption  though (as opposed to seven or eight) is a win in my view. I’m giddy to report that apart from self congratulatory day counting, I haven’t missed it. My skin in clearer (related?) and so is my head. Wish me luck!

 

Letting go and finding new

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Coming home from China, after three years as an expat resident in Suzhou, was one of the most difficult periods in my life. If I thought I experienced culture shock going over, it was nothing compared to coming back. China is a vibrant, noisy, exciting, boisterous, energetic world where life is lived out on the footpath and in large groups of extended family and friends. Suburban Brisbane couldn’t be more different. When we are out on the streets here, we are alone or in nuclear family groups, quickly attending to the busyness of our day. Come sunset, we close our gates and lock our doors. We eat behind closed doors, we love, argue and raise our children in the privacy of our own homes. We have space, lots of it, and we prickle when someone enters ours uninvited. Coming home was hard. The silence was one of the hardest things to get used to. Quiet evenings, no incessant beeping of bike and car horns, quiet, civilised supermarkets where everyone waits patiently in line. And no nightly fireworks outside my bedroom window.

I had to let go of so many things during that time, and it was a pruning that left me bare and raw; a sad little twig trying to come back to life after a dry winter. If I’m honest, there was a material shock in coming from a place where I was a relative affluent with disposable income up to my eyeballs, to Australia, a regular on the highest cost of living in the world lists. On one salary. We went from two international holidays a year to budgeting to the last twenty bucks in our fortnightly coffers. It was humbling and necessary, and it forced me to reflect on what happiness really was and what my family really needed.

I had to let go of a concept that I had of myself that I was competent, educated, valued and skilled. I came out of the best professional experience of my career, to staying at home with my toddler, failing at the job day after day and wondering who the hell I was. Suddenly I couldn’t do anything well. It was a new experience of hating myself and how badly I thought I was at mothering. It was a dangerous cycle that escalated over the next few years. So much of my identity had ben wrapped up in my profession, that when that was gone, I was lost.

Possibly the hardest part though, was letting go of friends. Not the friends I left behind in China, for those, despite the distance, stuck close by (electronically) and are close still. It was the friends I returned to. After a while, I realised it was time to loosen my grip. I knew that being the returning traveller was nothing special to those who hung around. We have all been away, come home, gone again, returned. It’s the job of the returnee to reconnect, I get that. So, despite being an introvert to the core, I committed myself to making the effort to reconnect with my friends. I phoned, I emailed, I Facebooked, I called again. It was an incredible shock to me to find that a few of my long term friends had simply moved on. I had to, for my own sanity, just give up.

I should add that this was all during the worst phase of my depression, when I was sad but didn’t realise, I just thought I was failing. So everything was sadder, more black and white, less logical and more tragic. I was just desperately looking for a safety net and found it not in old friends, but in new ones. I vividly recall one very very sad day, I was walking around with my toddler, six months pregnant with twins and just killing time as I seemed to do day after day. Heading toward home I considered stopping at the park for a while, to kill another half hour or so. I almost didn’t, but did. I was sad to the point of holding back tears. A woman came along, newborn in pram and toddler on foot. We talked. I found that I hadn’t totally given up because I had the courage to suggest we swap phone numbers. A little over a year later, I ran my first half marathon with her. We now babysit each other’s kids. She cooked for me when I moved house. She saved me. She never even knew it.

It was a painful pruning, but the spring came, as it always does, and the new has replaced the old. It took a really long time, several years in fact, to recover from reverse culture shock. I feel like China was a juncture in my life. There is before-China and after-China. My life BC after couldn’t be more different to my life AC. My work life, home life, social life, all of them are totally not what they were before. Many spring buds have blossomed into full bouquets that have brought me such happiness. Too much with the spring metaphor? I’m thinking too much. Yep, much too much…I feel a little ill….just threw up a bit in my mouth.

Saving your relationship from your kids

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A friend recently threw caution to the wind and bravely asked what all of us have probably wanted to ask a zillion times but were too skittish/scared/embarrassed. I’ll paraphrase her to protect the innocent. Is your relationship surviving your kids? Well is it?

Kids suck the life from your most significant relationship in more ways than you can count. I never seem to be able to write about a thing when I’m knee deep in it. Too emotional, too close for comfort, too much too soon. Maybe it’s dishonest of me not to, but I do know I have more insight when a crisis has passed. We all love hindsight right? I am also bound by my main rule of social media and blogging…husband didn’t sign up, so don’t sign him up. He gets right of veto on anything I put out there. My vow in social media and in general, is to never say anything publicly that would embarrass him, belittle him or cause others to think ill of him. I won’t discuss the intimate details of my relationship with him. But I’ll acknowledge that none of us are alone in various levels of relationship crises brought on by the little angels we, starry eyed and naive, brought into our lives.

There are things I know that see us through the tough times we’ve already had and are having and will have. One of course is dating. We have been totally crap at dating these past two years, but are determined to make it happen again. Leaving the house with nothing but your clutch in one hand and your partner’s hand in the other is a feeling like no other. For the first few minutes you feel like you’ve forgotten something, but then you ease into the quiet conversation that flows on and on without ever being interrupted for fight resolution, toilet assistance or apple peeling.

Quiet time alone has helped us too. We are both capital I Introverts. In the Myers Briggs sense. Time alone is not a luxury, it is a necessity. This is another thing that we are crap at, at the moment. When we make the effort to give each other quiet time, we stupidly wonder at the difference it makes. Like a lot of things, we know what helps, we just forget to do it. Running, for example. It makes me feel amazing, I should have my lazy ass out there every day but I’m doing well if I hit the road two or three times a week.

Some other things that help to kid proof your relationship…

Cuddle often in front of your kids. Don’t let them join in. Let them know that sometimes, mummy/daddy is more important than you are little one.

Let them see you fight, but make sure they see you say sorry.

My husband is trying to make me stop and take a few minutes, with him, just before sunset. The kids are playing, it’s cool, the light is lovely and he almost has to tie me down to stop me from being busy. When I do, it’s lovely. Stop together, every day.

This one I would like to do but it’s hard at the moment when my husband gets set upon the moment he walks in the door. I want me and him to be the first person he and I want to see and say hi to at the end of the day. We’ll get there.

When I am having a conversation with him, and the kids interrupt, they get scolded. I’m snatching some precious seconds here people, wait your turn! In a few ways and at some times, I do want them to know that he comes first.

Nothing new or particularly wise here. It’s hard. Young kids will make you or break you. They used to say that about travelling together. Nothing so far has been as hard as this for us. What is different now is that I feel great excitement for the years to come. I don’t have any doubt that it will be easier, more fun, full of laughs and maybe even some travel. I am already feeling moments of peace that I didn’t have for quite a few years. Just little pauses in the chaos that are coming more frequently and are lasting just that little bit longer.

Gratitude

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My last post was too long ago and I meant to raise the tone much earlier than this. The whole point of HOPE was to talk about recovery, not to wallow in pain. Yes I have started taking medication, yes I am “seeing someone” again (not in the dating sense), but those two things make up about 10% of who I am and what I am doing with my life right now. It’s a thing, just a small thing among many other things. Here are some other things I’d like to talk about.

As of May 27, 2013, 124 people have died on Queensland roads. I drive 30 minutes to and from work every day and there is a lot of driving though my workday. Not once this year have I died in a car accident. Not once have I lost the use of my legs forever, nor have I ever had a catastrophic brain injury from a car accident, not even once. In fact, I have been driving for 23 years and I did not lose my life even one time with all of that driving. What a gift.

In this past week, Adam Goodes, AFL legend, double Brownlow Medal winner, two time premiership player and all round total gentleman had not one but two utterly stupid comments thrown at him by ignorant, unthinking, insensitive people completely lacking in a clue. He responded with grace, and social media went nuts. I thought, you know what? Not once in my life have I ever been a part of a minority such that I have had to overcome prejudice, ignorance or discrimination. I do not know what it is like to be in the receiving end of racist comments. Again and again and again. I do not know what it is like to have to fight for my right to walk in certain streets, sit in a certain place, vote, drink in a pub or be considered a human. How freakin lucky am I and what the hell did I ever do to get such a privileged position. Hardly seems fair really.

Another thing. I have said this one before and it never ceases to amaze me. I woke up this morning and you’ll never believe it, I didn’t have cancer! Again! I know, isn’t it amazing? This happens to me every day! It’s utterly joyous. No cancer. I am being dead set serious. Every day that I wake up with no serious illness is a day to be filled with gratitude. Every. Single. Day. In addition to not having cancer, as if that wasn’t blessing enough, I did not have Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, psychosis, AIDS or even arthritis.

My kids. Wow. Pregnancy and childbirth is a minefield. So much can go wrong and for me, nothing did. Unbelievable. Aside from a few emotional teething problems on my part, we have a happy, healthy family. Even having kids in the first place is amazing. I know plenty of people who would cut off a limb to have just one beautiful, healthy baby. I got three. I am falling head over heels in love with them. Again. I can hardly believe my luck. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

And here’s another thing. When I go to bed tonight, it will be in a warm, comfortable bed. My tummy will be full and I will not be afraid of anything, except maybe the rabid possums playing rugby on the roof. The incredible thing about this is that every night of my life, the same thing has happened. That’s 14 714 times I have had a warm bed to sleep in. But even better than this is that, when I wake up in the morning, I have a job to go to. A good one. One that gives me great satisfaction and even a bit of decent coin for my efforts. I’m a bit overwhelmed.

If I go on too much I will start getting emotional, but I cannot write about gratitude without saying something about my husband. You know, I could easily have made the wrong decision about who to marry. Easy. I was an insecure twenty-something year old. But I didn’t. I married for all the right reasons and I married totally the right guy. Oh, and I was LEGALLY ALLOWED to marry him. How awesome is that? Imagine not being LEGALLY ALLOWED to marry the perfect person. How painful that would be, if marriage was what you wanted and you couldn’t have it. But I can have it. And I am so lucky.

So here I am. My gratitude is profound.

Virtually Married

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How does procreation affect a marriage? We have had the heartbreaking news recently of more than one set of friends seeing their relationships falter and fail. I feel sick to my stomach with the sadness of it, so I cannot imagine how painful it must be to go through. Kids are cited as a major pressure, not the ’cause’, but a major, major pressure. With about a third of marriages in Australia ending in divorce, it is perhaps pessimistic, but sadly realistic to say that these will not be the last of our friends to go through such a seismic life change.

I once would have said that there was no way my marriage would end in divorce. No. Way. I am far more realistic now. I would like to know the statistics on families with multiples and divorce/separation rates. Someone once (perhaps well meaningly) said to me see, having twins is no big deal. Well, I can tell you, it’s been the biggest deal of my life thus far. It has nearly broken me and it has come close to breaking my marriage. I just wrote and then deleted a whole qualification on how I shouldn’t look at things so negatively and had better count my blessings. Our experiences are what they are. For better or for worse, these are my thoughts, feelings and learnings.

We have spent years putting off conversations. Years of nights too tired or talked out to talk again once that sweet silence descends on the house. Years of we really should get a babysitter this weekend only to forget. Years of texting each other important stuff because it is only in that second when the thought comes to you that you can remember what it was you had been meaning to say for weeks. Years of frenetic pace, much too fast to look, listen, be gentle, talk softly. Years of everyone else but us. Years of just just keeping our heads above water.

We have pledged and pledged again to each other that we will not do that to each other, our kids, our family, our friends. No doubt about it, we have had our moments. My I wanna hurt myself moments are often accompanied by I also wanna leave. But I do not. Want to. I want him and everything that goes along with him. He has taken to leaving me notes around the house. I call him every afternoon when I get into the car for my half hour drive home form work. I am always home first. When he finally comes in the door I feel better. He has heard all my stories. He is still extremely funny. Yes, I love him, but apart from that, I really like him. This life has stretched us to the very limit. We have been close to broken and there are many things that need repair, but we are not broken. I’m a bit broken myself, but it’s nothing a bit of mind and heart work can’t fix.

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Turning something-0

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Wow, I am having an unexpected moment. I read this the other day and found it so wise and beautiful. And then I spent a few moments looking into the eyes of this young girl and I was brought almost to tears thinking about her. It’s a face I can hardly recognise. I cannot see myself in her. I know that she wore her favourite, very special earrings that day and brushed her hair just so. I know she hated her teeth, and still does. I know she didn’t like how her hair sat uneven. She, like probably every other girl her age, judged herself way too harshly. She did always love the colour of her eyes though, even still now.

I guess she is about 10 years old here so I’m going to make it nice and neat and say it was 30 years ago today. Here is my self indulgent tribute to this dear little girl who created the first of my footprints in the sand.

My first thought is that you are sweet and kind looking, that you have perfect skin and lovely warm eyes. The ravages of late teen/early twenties acne will later come to destroy that beautiful skin, and you will despair that you are ugly for years. I’m sorry that you tried to overcompensate by presenting yourself as less that you were to feel attractive. I wish that you could have known and trusted yourself well enough to treat yourself better and expect better quality attention. But you eventually learned.

That hesitant smile tells me you are uncomfortable, the way you often are still. You think that everyone around you is smarter, happier and somehow a part of a loop that you missed out on. But you’re just fine. You’re good enough, smart enough, and in some ways honey, you’re even better than those in that loop. And the loop isn’t all it’s made out to be.

You have this cute plan for your life. You’ll marry a rich guy, rich enough to have heaps of kids. Even at 10, you know that you need lots of money to have lots of kids. You know you don’t want to live poor like you are the day this was taken. You know you don’t want your kids’ Christmas tree to be a broken off tree branch drowning in tinsel. You know you never want your kids to drink powdered milk and sleep three to a room. And you know you never want to be on the phone to your ex-husband crying for money for the boy’s school shoes. I can’t remember you ever having any ideas of your being able to contribute to the world in any way other than becoming an actress and having all those kids. This is amazing to me. I’m sorry that it took you another 15 or so years to think that you could be something very worthwhile. I mean no disrespect to actresses, who I know are very worthwhile, it’s just that had I become one, the world of the arts would not have been the richer, let’s leave it at that.

I won’t tell you now how your little plan for the next generation turns out. I may scare you off ever getting pregnant and it would be a gosh damn shame for the world to miss out on little Mr 5 and the Troublesome Two. As for your choice of rich husband, well here is where I know you learnt a thing or two since that photo. He’ll never make the Forbes list, but my girl, you chose substance over stuff and I’m so impressed. You were patient enough to wait and even to say that no husband was better than the wrong husband. You eventually found some quality attention, and have it still.

I’d like to walk in a park with this little girl. I’d love to have the chance to cuddle her close and listen to her troubles. I don’t think I’d offer her much advice. Can I finally say I am proud of her? I am. Happy Birthday.