What can you do with old pillows? Or, the hidden challenges of co-housing.

What can you do with old pillows?

They say to replace pillows every twelve months  for health reasons. That makes for a lot of leftovers.

We are two households  combining gradually.

A corner offering sanctuary, my old house.

A corner offering sanctuary, my old house.

I’d been living by myself. My house had three bedrooms and two bathrooms . I was working  in a permanent job with a regular income. Not a normal thing in my life, so I  had lots of fun buying furniture, linen, bedding, cookware  … all the accoutrements of a “proper” lifestyle, after many years of making do and never having enough.  I  was able finally to have enough, perhaps even, to have abundance – lots of pillows and lots of stuff.  I loved it . I enjoyed being able to buy another set of towels or good bakeware or whatever took my fancy.

lots of ... stuff.

lots of … stuff.

My co-houser has brought her furniture, linen, bedding, cutlery, and ….  So here we are now with… excess.

There must be something you can do with pillows. All the couches (and yes, we have several couches, four in fact),  have European pillows, standard pillows and cushions, covering them. I’m interested in the way visitors will perch on the edge and stay there (there’s no room unless they move some clutter), looking uncomfortable and ill at ease, but ignoring admonitions to ” move the cushions, they’re only thrown there, you won’t disarrange anything!” The cushions and pillows aren’t placed there for decorative reasons, but as somewhere to put them.

couches are for holding cushions and pillows.

couches are for holding cushions and pillows.

And excess quilts, blankets, cutlery, saucepans, cupboards, tables  – the obvious answer – get rid of them! But who wants leftover pillows or quilts or blankets or? And how do we choose what to keep and what to give away?  Who wants to give away their cherished blankets, the ones their granma gave them when they first left home?  Which set of saucepans do we keep? Do you begin to see the hidden depths of what may have appeared to be simple?

Back to the original question- I hold the belief that excess pillows are very useful. They can be cushions, or pillows for picnics, or beds for stray animals, or heaped on the deck or … I find it difficult to give away something that is inherently useful,  someday I may need it. And no, I ‘m not a child of the Depression era.  And yes I do save plastic bags-I hate to buy plastic when the earth and all her living creatures are being poisoned by micro plastic! How can I knowingly add to that huge plastic continent in the middle of the Pacific?

Need I mention here that I am plagued by the fear of scarcity? What if my co-houser discovers she hates living in the country and moves back to the city? There won’t be enough pillows and blankets, saucepans and cutlery to go round!

Now my co-houser is much better at giving things away (perhaps reckless?). A wonderful colonial silky oak cupboard went to the removalist. Her reason? There’s nowhere for it here. I would have hung onto it, hoping that a home would be found for it. That’s why there’s a red cedar chest of drawers sitting downstairs. So far there is nowhere for it, but  my father adored red cedar. He found this one at an auction and treasured it. Throwing it out feels disloyal to his memory.

My old house- books and space for cats.

My old house- books and space for cats.

This house has big windows and not much wall space. We need bookshelves, so even less wall space. Can you see where I’m heading? Yes, we each have a collection of paintings, prints, photos, tapestries … if it’s difficult to choose between cutlery sets without causing upset, how much more difficult to choose paintings!

some wall for paintings.

some wall for paintings.

Thus the unexpected traps of co-housing when each member has abundance, requiring tact and understanding and for each person o be able to let things go.

Not only does the rationising of possessions highlight one of the unexpected challenges of co-housing, it also raises the dilemma of disposal. What do we do with them? I do not want to be part of the throwaway society. Use it, get rid of it, add to landfill … our earth is drowning in garbage. Our excess is of good quality; there are people in need. After fruitless phone calls I have given up trying to find some way of getting them to refugee camps, to those thousands in Europe I s huddling in adequate clothing and shelter. But. No one wants my excess. What do I do?

(A postscript: help! the aloe versa keep on multiplying and multiplying! what can I do?)

Writing lessons.

It’s staring me in the face.

After months of not writing no matter how much I beat myself up, promise myself I’ll do it tomorrow, set unrealistic goals and timetables …

Something shifts.

Finally.

I’ll never write if I keep going the way I am.

I have done almost no writing for? twelve months? longer? I can’t blame anyone; No one has stopped me; there are always plenty of excuses and reasons.

I’m feeling discontented and dissatisfied. In the back of my mind there’s the niggling thought “Is this all my life is to be?” The day-to-day of life- friends, conversations, visits, gardening, reading … all those things that make up our lives.

Too busy? Then stop!

Too busy? Then stop!

I don’t write to make money, to be famous or to be published. I write because it satisfies something within me. I feel complete, content, grounded; when I don’t write I’m discontented and miserable, my life has less meaning, I’m purposeless. Sitting at my computer – writing, pondering, researching, reading – I feel focussed, centred, content.  Clicking that button to “publish” gives me such satisfaction and finding a comment on a post or a “like” has me leaping for joy.

Joy!

Joy!

I have been trying to fit my writing time in around all the other things that happen. It worked sort of, when I lived here by myself because not so many other things happened. I did have lots of time to myself. But with another person in the house there’s always a conversation, something interesting one of us has just seen or read or heard, or work to be done, or shopping to be sorted or dinner or … then there’s the friendships that have developed and I want to nurture and enjoy … then there’s “being” time and …so many things.

If I want to write, if I want to blog regularly, if I want to keep learning and pushing the boundaries, then I must do more than commit.  I must act and practise. And that means, setting aside the time. I don’t work full-time so I have flexibility. I can take my diary each week and block out my working times. And I can act so that nothing takes those times away. There’s plenty of time for other things. For more than twelve months I have acted on the assumption that I could fit writing in. After I’d been out for lunch, after we planned the garden, after I went to the gym, after  the housework … then I would write or I could have an early dinner and write in the evening.

Jobs!

Jobs!

Guess what? It hasn’t happened. It hasn’t worked. Not for a very long time.

I’ve been thinking about giving up – you know those moments of “common sense” when you preach the “face the facts and be realistic” lectures. Or could I hold the dream without doing anything much? Live with the vagueness of I’d do it tomorrow, or when I felt like it or when I had some space or ..? That’s how I lived for many years. One day when I have more time, one day when I’m better, one day… I have a house full of one days. One day I’ll use that wool, one day I’ll get back to the piano, one day I’ll go kayaking, one day I’ll garden, one day I’ll…

(Some of those one days won’t happen- more truths to face, to grieve and to accept, but that’s another story.)

I have read all the writers who say essentially the same thing: Writing has to be your job. You have to sit at your writing space for those prescribed hours.  It is a discipline and it’s hard work. It requires commitment.

You can have what you want, but you can’t have everything.

I want to be all that I am capable of becoming.

I want to be all that I am capable of becoming.

This morning, the final piece slid into place. Something shifted in me.

If I’m serious about it then writing must come first and that means making choices. There will be times when I have to say no. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? The challenge is to take myself seriously as a writer. And that’s the hard bit. I might have to acknowledge some of my dreams and if I do, then I might have to do something about them. And that scares me, throws me right up against myself, my fears and my lack of self- belief. I remember my tutor saying at my first ever writing workshop: “You must begin calling yourself a writer. If you write regularly, even if no one else ever sees it, even if you have no plans for publishing, then you are a writer.” Oh how difficult it was, when people asked me what I was doing, to say “I’m writing.” At the moment, if someone asks me what I’m doing, my answer is vague,  because I feel ashamed. If people ask for my blog details I don’t want to give them, I’m ashamed of how little I’ve done and how neglected it is.

How did this get finally get home to me?

My friend was travelling home and it was an opportunity to spend time with him. I’d love it. But I’d just returned from a few days in Melbourne, last month a few days’ holiday and yesterday I spent most of the day at the beach. Yes, they’re wonderful things to do, yes it’s good to relax and have fun and yes they’re all necessary …

I saw what I was doing and how I was continuing to sabotage myself. At some point I must say “No”, make a choice. Remember – you can have what you want but you can’t have everything.

I met my friend and we had a lovely time, but I haven’t forgotten.  Let’s see how I go.

What I’d like to do today.

I’m ready to start. Had a good sleep. Drunk some coffee. Head bouncing with ideas and possibilities: “I could…”

Get out my “today” book. New page. Heading:

ready to start.

ready to start.

“What I’d like to do today” (recognising that after I’ve slept well I’m likely to attempt the impossible- all the things I’ve been wanting to do but have been too tired or too busy or …)

  1. See my Uncle in the Nursing Home and my Book Club friend who lives alone and is unwell.
  2. write and publish a post.
  3. go to the gym, swim and use the steam room
  4. sort out my study
  5. write thank you cards
  6. fold and put away the washing
  7. organise my diary, plan and book the trip to Canberra
  8. wander around my local shopping centre and window shop
  9. visit Greenpatch nursery and buy some vegie plants
  10. garden- weed under the deck and pot up some plants
  11. make some phone calls

That’s only the beginning and it’s already midday.

Years ago I experienced one of those rare moments of insight that lead to  self understanding:  I was- completely, hopelessly, totally- unrealistic about time.  It came about like this:

My current man (boyfriend? lover? partner? my significant other? never quite know what to call them) was organising a conference and ferrying delegates from the airport. I was to pick up one international arrival. I suggested to him that we have dinner en route. Well! He looked at me as if were crazy- “Dinner!” he said. “Where’s the time to have dinner?”

It was one of those optical illusion moments for me. You know the ones, where the vases turn into a profile or… I have personal moments like that, when a set of facts transform into something else. I looked at my watch- thirty minutes to the airport, fifty to the accommodation, home for me, back to the airport for him… an impossibility, absolutely no spare time. Whatever was I thinking of?

a swan and a squirrel- an optical illusion.

a swan and a squirrel- an optical illusion.

A light went on. This was why I could sometimes be late, didn’t get things done and kept running out of time… it was because I was so completely, totally unrealistic about time. (And about money, maybe the two go together.) I believe there is an unlimited amount, or at the least, much, much more than there is in actuality. And so I run into trouble.

Since that moment, if I’m functioning well, before I need to be somewhere I will sit down and work backwards:

if I need to be there by two o’clock then-

it will take me forty minutes of travel, thirty minutes to shower and dress, fifteen minutes to organise the things I need to take, that adds up to eighty five minutes. I must start getting ready, then, by half past twelve.

Sound over organised? Frankly unbelievable? You can do all that without even thinking?

It’s the only way I can be sure of being on time and even then my head will sometimes do its optical illusion trick and I’ll switch the appointment time with when I need to leave. Oh dear!

You will appreciate that I remain ever grateful to that particular man for his shocked reaction to my simple “we could have dinner.” If he’d said calmly that he didn’t think so, I may never have reached this level of self awareness and I could be back in that land of rushing, being late, wondering why I never get things done….instead of being calm, organised, accomplished, poised…(if only!

Today? Well, I realised the list- just a beginning mind, was possibly a little long…

Feed the kookaburras!

Feed the kookaburras!

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It’s possible! Who needs lots of money to be happy?

You can do it! You can stop working full-time and have enough to eat, somewhere to live, your basic needs met and enjoy being alive. Trust me, I’m doing it, so I know what I’m talking about. (The tiny house movement is just one example of doing it differently.)

 

I remember the anxiety and fear. Sometimes I think it was terror- of the future, of what might happen, of all the what ifs. I dreaded being old and homeless, joining the community who lived on the street.

I remember the constant anxiety before I bought a house. The constant worry of when I would have to move again. Rentals get sold or the owners want it for something else or… the one certainty in life was that sooner or later I would have to move. There would come the search for somewhere suitable, finding the best possible home that I could afford, then the packing and cleaning; the expense and the disruption and the stress.

I remember finally, at last buying a house. I was fifty-one and I had lived for years without even the hope that this might happen. I was given the keys to my house and that evening I sat on the floor, I simply sat there,  and  the fears and the tensions and the worries melted away. I had a home. I could plant a garden. It was mine. (Well, yes, there was a mortgage, but…)

Manning Regional Art Gallery's photo.

After many years of insomnia I started sleeping. I fed birds from the deck through the day and possums at night. I sat by the lake and was content or wandered into the rainforest across the road and breathed in the trees.

And then ( there always seems to be an “and then”). Illness happened. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I couldn’t work for almost twelve months. Then a gradual return: a half day, two half days, one full day… I reached four days. Then brain surgery, then a heart condition… In six years I was never able to return to work a five day week in my full-time permanent job.

The fear and the anxiety returned. What if I couldn’t pay my mortgage? What if I lost my job? What if I was too ill to continue working even part-time? The bag lady spectre came back.

Eventually I sold my house. A work flat was available, furnished and the changes had begun. A friend in a similar situation ( single, unable to buy a home by herself ) was happy to buy a house with me.

And we lived happily ever after. Well, you can fill in the next events. They aren’t what matter here.

What I really want to tell you is how part of this story, the part before I resigned from my job, meant facing the possibility of poverty- looking the fear in the face and asking if I could cope. (This is a wonderful post exploring some of the possibilities.)

Harvest from the garden.

Harvest from the garden.

What if I couldn’t afford to have a car? What if I couldn’t afford heating?  No new clothes? Dentists? Food? Doctors?  Never have another massage? Or see a chiropractor? What if I couldn’t afford the restaurant get-togethers? Meeting friends for coffee? Would I have to live with hairy legs, no more waxing? Concerts? Theatre?

Of course I went through the self reprimands of how privileged my life had been, of how I had frittered money, if only I’d been more frugal, if I’d stayed in one job and worked my way up, if …but that’s another story.

Two and a half years later I can tell you that it is possible! I still have my car but if I can’t replace it in the future I live in a small town where I can walk to the things I need or catch a bus.

Shared bounty from a friend.

Shared bounty from a friend.

I know that if I have no money left for food one week there is enough in my pantry to feed us. My neighbours have hens and can give me eggs. The vegetable garden is developing and will supply some food. There’s always rice and lentils and …

If it’s freezing and the heating bill is high, then… more clothes, warm underwear… there are secondhand clothing shops, there’s the world of online buying and selling… I need special clothes for an occasion? someone might lend me something…

The most significant awareness I have and that which I believe with all my being is that we must  join together. A group of people on limited incomes can support each other in times of need. We must reach out and not be alone. A pestilence of our modern lifestyle is isolation and loneliness. We can find ways of living together and of sharing and of caring for each other.

It is possible! Not only is it possible, it’s fun and exciting. I have challenges, things to strive for and the endless possibilities that come with stepping out of the box.

Never give up, I say.

 

Take the step and throw yourself in.

Take the step and throw yourself in.

The Great co-housing adventure continues.

Boxes and furniture put wherever they would fit.

Boxes and furniture put wherever they would fit.

The front porch after the removalists left.

The front porch after the removalists left.

Perhaps there’s a reason why  Wendell Berry’s statement “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire” caught my eye this morning.

But I would never be relieved to see my house catch fire and while I know we have too much we are looking forward to sorting and simplifying.

I want to show you our home as it is today, after the removalists have brought everything, right at the beginning. I want you to share this adventure of co-housing and community with us, the creating of the home, the evolving garden, our own journeys, the shared journey, the challenges we face, the successes, the life – our own, the house, the garden, the community, this valley and neighbourhood.

When you see these photos it might cross your mind that there’s quite a lot… and I’d agree, but there are mitigating circumstances. And here’s the background.

I am more able to understand nowadays the devastating effect chronic insomnia, illness and continual exhaustion have had on my life. The more I understand the more  accepting and compassionate toward myself I am. As I become less tired and have fewer external demands I’m experiencing the contrast between a life chronically exhausted and a life less so.

No wonder I have spent years reading mainly escapist literature. No wonder I have started so many wonderful books only to put them down because I couldn’t concentrate. No wonder I have such a long list of things I want to do when…

There are flowers by the door- not all is chaos.

There are flowers by the door- not all is chaos.

I have just spent my longest period ever in a full-time permanent job.  This was interrupted by severe and long illnesses, but…with a secure wage I experienced the joy of buying a spacious light-filled house –  three bedrooms, two bathrooms. And then I enjoyed filling it up- such pleasure in having enough linen for guests, buying  quality saucepans, a dinner set, crystal glasses, furniture that wasn’t just cast-offs and the indulgence of books and books and books (and yes, clothes and more clothes).  I remember feeling I was a proper adult when I bought myself a new and beautiful fridge…and then a washing machine. I could look after myself, I could be independent, strong and capable. So empowering. But illness, Chronic Fatigue and exhaustion meant that I couldn’t keep up with the sorting and clearing out and throwing away…it’s all come with me.

Angela, my co-houser, moved to the UK eight years ago, for a planned long-term stay. Her possessions- furniture, linen, books, kitchen…all went into long-term storage. The move didn’t work out. Angie arrived back in Australia- heartbroken, homeless, jobless, broke…but not friendless.

This is Angela's bedroom. Wait until it's painted and organized!

This is Angela’s bedroom. Wait until it’s painted and organized!

When she found work her choice was to house-sit, furniture and possessions staying in storage. A move into a small unit meant there was no space to retrieve her belongings. After several years, my dominoes all fell perfectly and we bought this house. I moved… and all my stuff. Angela remained living and working in the city, but  was finally able to move her long-term stored things to this house. (Imagine her delight in seeing much cherished possessions again! ) We stacked everything somewhere- we are talking two households here and neither were minimalist. And this house has no garage or external storage space.

At last Angela has reached the moment when she can leave her current work, uproot herself from the city and move to her home in this small, beautiful, rural valley. Today, the unit has has been packed up and all the contents are now here, Angie is yet to arrive. As Max says “Let the show begin!”

Share our adventure!

One of my kookaburras yesterday.

One of my kookaburras yesterday.

(And I thought this post was going to be all photos! Silly me.)

The Great co-housing adventure begins!

images[6](Or, as Max says in “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Let the show begin!”)

Well, it’s almost begun. Angie, my co-houser hasn’t arrived yet, but all her things are here. (Well, except the clothes and things she needs for the next few weeks.)

Life is an adventure!Here’s some of the background to this adventure.

Angie and I have been friends for forty years. More than friends, she’s part of my family. We have cared for each other, slept on the floor at each other’s homes when we’ve been homeless. She’s the person I have phoned in the middle of the night, after I have phoned for an ambulance. Over the years we have  guarded each other’s back, when trouble was stalking.

We’re often single. Careers and security have not been our primary aims. So we haven’t reached middle age, financially secure and affluent. ( Most of the time we realise how  very secure and how richly abundant we are in so many other ways.) For many reasons we have chosen to buy a home together.

There are so many reasons. I am passionate about the necessity to create community and build a safe and loving space where we can belong and have that absolute sense of trust. I love the Wendell Berry poem which says “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

to give my presence, my aim

to give my presence, my aim

I want home to be that place of unconditional love, total trust and safety…the place where I know I can be completely vulnerable… and I’m not thinking only of these four walls here and of Angie and myself. I am committed to building a larger community and helping to create such a space for others.

With Angie here, I can relax. There’s someone else to share all the jobs.  There’s someone who loves  and supports me through thick and thin. There’s someone who will give me space and silence and solitude whenever I need it. There’s someone to provide that rare and special feedback that will enable us each to grow and blunt our sharp edges, to point out when we  have been less than the best we can be.  There’s someone to laugh and play with, to have fun. So much, so much to be so very grateful for.

The garden will be started- finally! The house will be painted. (I HATE THE COLOURS!) Together we will practise living frugally and sustainably and we’ll be better at it, because we’ll  have each other to prop up our resolve when we fall into lust and wanting. (We both love things- books, paintings, beautiful objects… and I adore clothes. I fall into lust and wanting very easily.) We have more than enough.

(And you thought this was going to be easy, Angela!)

Life in the moment!

Life in the moment!

I said to Ange the other day: “Thank God you will finally be here!!! We can paint and garden and start a market stall and go to the gym regularly and get fit and have picnics at the beach and invite people for meals and sort out boxes of stuff and get started on that photographic project and you can begin building and making and maybe we’ll have some hens and we’ll sit about and read and have a glass of wine together and cups of tea and…(I stopped for a breath)”.

Angie: “I’ve been looking forward to resting and doing nothing much for a while!”

(Silly girl!)

Blocked

?????

?????

I feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Blocked. Frustrated. Can’t move forward. Can’t move back. Can’t move sideways. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been to the gym, the “to do” list just keeps on getting longer.

Know that feeling?

I live in a spacious house. All by myself. Large rooms- back deck and front porch; wide, long room downstairs; gracious loungeroom and a huge, sunny family room + kitchen. When my co-housing partner lives here, there will be the grand total of two of us

scary, isn't it?

scary, isn’t it?

But. I can’t settle my work space. Right now I’m camped in the dining room (yes, there’s a dining room as well) – computers set up on the dining table, papers strewn everywhere, books stacked…Angie, my co-housemate suggests the second bedroom is my space and some stuff is in there-  left over clothes of mine that don’t fit in my bedroom, a largeish table, full boxes and plastic crates, all my paperwork, stationery…Downstairs is stuffed with furniture- a desk, a workbench, cupboards, bookshelves, books and books and books, filing cabinets, plastic crates full of stuff belonging to both of us, all my parents’ family photos waiting to be sorted, my notes from courses I have run, old letters (of course!), boxes of Angie’s…all waiting to be sorted. There’s no garage, so downstairs is where it’s all at. My stuff, and it is stuff, is scattered in three places. No wonder I keep losing things.

Where do I settle my study? upstairs? second bedroom? downstairs? the dining room? turn the loungeroom into a work space? Where do we put guests?

questions,

questions,

I haven’t mentioned the garden. You remember the garden? One of our aims is to be as self sufficient as possible, so the garden is a top priority. Well, here I am, eighteen months later, and I’ve only been playing around the edges. Where will I create the beds? How will I make them? Where do I start? Treated pine edging or colorbond or?  If I put a tree there, will it stop the sun?  Questions, uncertainty, indecision… and I’m back where I started from, feeling stuck.

By now, you’re probably feeling irritated with me and want to tell me to “stop carrying on , just get on with it!” I’m irritated with me!

However. And there is usually an however. I have watched people talking about how they feel blocked and I have seen that they have solutions. I’ve watched them reject any options or possibilities. For some reason they didn’t want to move forward.

What does this tell me now? That I am refusing solutions? Choosing to stay stuck? Why do I keep rejecting any possible solutions?  What am I frightened of?

This is a life lesson, of course. It’s not just in our homes or gardens we get stuck. How many times have you been at a point where you have felt powerless, you can’t make a choice and  your life’s been  in a holding pattern?

And isn’t it an uncomfortable place to be? No energy, restless, I take to prowling about, unable to settle anywhere. Nothing gets done.

What was I told once? It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need. Here and now, it doesn’t matter what choice I make. All that matters is to start. It’s my old friend, fear- the fear of making a mistake. What did I learn, many years ago, from Susan Jeffers? To “feel the fear, and do it anyway”. What do I have to lose?

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

P.S. If you have an idea about the garden or the house, I’d love to hear it. Think outside the square!

 

 

 

 

Regrets or Letting go.

Writing101. Daily Prompt: Groundhog Day. If you could relive the past week, would you? Would you change anything?

 

I read this and hear Frank Sinatra singing “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

but I also hear Edith Piaf “Je no regretted rien…”   

Would I want to relive the week? No, but I do want to learn from it.

These two singers represent  two extremes of looking back. My mind turned to regret. It’s too easy to look back with regret and from there to judge ourselves harshly. It’s a long way from self acceptance.

But how do we learn if we don’t look back on the past? And how do we do that if we don’t examine the past critically? I know from working in schools how important it is that children learn to accept responsibility for their actions and to accept responsibility for the consequences. It seems to me that it’s crucial to distinguish between regret and accepting responsibility, learning from our actions and moving on.

I’m in the fortunate position of not working full-time and so am in the process of changing old patterns and making choices in this new set of circumstances.

Now, I have clear priorities and I know the things that matter to me. Do I always do these things? Do my days fit my imagined ideal? No, of course not. I’m human and therefore I am not perfect.

I'm really good at making lists.

I’m really good at making lists.

In the last twelve months I’ve spent a lot of time recovering and settling, reflecting and dreaming, making lists and not doing what’s on them,…and yes, I’ve fallen into times     of self  – criticism,those moments of “I should have…” One of the lessons I keep on learning is to trust and accept myself, whatever state I’m in, to get rid of judgement.  I don’t find that easy. Perhaps it’s another human paradox that we must balance acceptance with change, that is, changing the habits and patterns that no longer serve us.

I’m learning that if I leave exercising until late in the day, I probably won’t do it. I’m trying things out- when’s the best time to write? How do I juggle the cleaning, the cooking…all the demands that maintain one’s life? How do I manage what must be done with what I most want to do?

The best way for me to discover what works best is to look over the past week and reflect on it. When did I do the most significant things? What worked? When did time slip away from me? Benjamin Franklin used to start the day with the question “What good can I do today?” and end it with “What good have I done today?”

Let the day go.

Let the day go.

My gut feel is that as I spend time in the evening being grateful, then the shape of the days will come.

Relive the week? Relive the past? No thank you! But reflect on it? Yes. Learn from it? Yes.

And never give up, never give up, never give up.

Rick Hanson has great things to say about regret and gratitude.

I’d really like to know what you think.

 

 

Making changes and resolutions.

I don’t like New Year resolutions. I don’t like the attitude that now it’s New Year so we make resolutions and I hate it when people ask me what my New Year resolutions are. It feels imposed and artificial.  I don’t like that.

But I don’t want my life to drift along. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that “I was always going to…but now it’s too late!” I do need to remind myself of the things that matter and are my highest priorities. That way I can keep control of my life. At least, that’s the aim.

Easy enough to say, but not always easy in practice. I get busy and routines fly out the window. I discover that it’s a week or a month or even longer and I haven’t spent any time in mindfulness practice, or  exercise or  writing. Too easy then for me to fall into gloom and beat myself up – never helps.

In some TV show one character said of another that when she died they’d put on her headstone ” She died with potential.” Now that scares me.  I do not want to die with potential. I want to use it all up. Was it the singer Placido Domingo who said he would rather wear out than rust?

Helene Lerner, in an interview on CNN, about Resolutions,( posted on January 21, 2014,) reminds us to take time for self-reflection; to go inside ourselves and ask ourselves what it is we really want, what excites us and turns us on? She reminds us of how easy it is to get off focus. And that’s where the time for self-reflection needs to come in.

Helene says that if we decide that this is the year to do something we’ve always been going to do, then  DON’T GIVE UP. She emphasizes that there’LL always be obstacles. The challenge? is to keep going. I’m embarrassed by how many things have been on my list for years.

In the post  “When self-improvement gets boring, try these 6 motivational strategies,” (in the Huffington Post: healthy living, posted 01/26/2014, written by Brant Secunda and Mark Allen,) the writers talk about “soul resolutions”. They explain what they mean by this is those goals that ” concern the deeper aspects of personal growth.”

I like this much more than New Year Resolutions. For me, these are those essential, on-going goals that keep me oriented. They are my life blood.  I won’t even know what they are unless I spend time in self-reflection.

BUT…that doesn’t mean I do it. I’m so easily distracted from that self-reflection time. I might get up late and have appointments.. so my time goes. Or I decide to set time aside at night.. then I read for too long or a friend phones and I’m tired.  I can make excuses or justify missing my time much too easily- I can always do it tomorrow, I think to myself, one day won’t hurt. But the next day I mightn’t  even think about my soul resolutions.

As long as I never give up.

Winston Churchill said “Success is not final. Failure is not final. It is the courage to go on that counts.”

That gives me heart to pick myself up yet again, take time out and keep going.

I’d really like to hear any tips or strategies you have for keeping on. How do you overcome obstacles?

And here I am, living in the country

As someone once said to me “it doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need.”

So, here goes!

Some years ago ,I fled to my mother’s, who still lived in the village where I grew up, to put some space between the man I loved and myself. We needed some distance to lick our wounds and give ourselves time to see whether we had a future.
I ended up with a job and a mortgage and have stayed without ever really making a choice to stay.  Continual illness and large chunks of time off work  meant I have lived in constant anxiety about not being able to keep up the mortgage payments and becoming homeless.

.. It’s a long story. Eventually I sold my house, left my job and  bought this house with one of my friends- a large house in a small, country town. The main street still has a shop (more a shed), for irrigation things and the rural supplies shop has hay bales and farm bits in the window. Window display is clearly not a selling point. I hear cows mooing at night. There’s a sheep in the backyard a few houses along.

Six months after moving into this house, I’m still living in chaos. Boxes line the hall, books are stacked downstairs and I spend too much time searching for a piece of paper I had five minutes ago.

My friend has never lived in the country and she prefers inner-city; she is truly an urban dweller as was I.  But we are mortgage free! And we have some space where we can grow vegies, live a simpler life, put solar panels on the roof and contribute to our community.

Renting in Sydney, I couldn’t see how I could ever buy. I feared being a bag lady. Buying with a friend has risks. It’s a challenge. But it means I don’t always have to put out the garbage. If one of us is ill, we have someone to drive us to the doctor, make the chicken soup…And, we are sharing resources rather than  gobbling up so many of the earth’s resources.  A couple of times I’ve thought I might have been getting sick- my first thought? It didn’t matter. I don’t have a mortgage. My friend and I are two of the lucky ones. We can only give it a go!