My Little Friend

First World Problems.

It’s a catchy phrase, one that is probably as annoying as it is overused. But it doesn’t change the fact that, positioned as we are in our lives of relative privilege, we all have them.

Anyone who has dipped into the small, sometimes straggling stream of consciousness that is this blog with any regularity will know that I am prone to referring to inanimate objects as my friends, particularly if those objects are books. It’s even more likely if the books in question are about food or music (or more even more books).

Yesterday, however, I came to realise that there is one inanimate object in my life that falls into a category far beyond casual acquaintance. And while I will try to stop myself (in my moments of pseudo-grief and virtual mourning) from waxing lyrical like Anne of Green Gables about kindred spirits, it is with deep sadness that I have to report that my humble laptop — my cherished companion of several years, with whom I have shared many quiet and productive hours — is seriously ill.

I know, right? First World Problem — and yes, with Capitals for Extra Emphasis to acknowledge just how ridiculous this is.

But really, there’s a lot to like about my laptop. Until yesterday, and unlike my children, it did exactly what I asked it to, it didn’t answer back or throw tantrums, and it always stayed exactly where I left it. It didn’t mind when I used it to make up stories, or pour my heart out, or spend hours staring at its screen (sometimes blankly, other times distractedly if I happened to be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston or Tom Wlaschiha). As a freelancer, I can safely say it was my most reliable work colleague (with whom I may or may not have had various one-sided conversations), that it made an excellent travel buddy, and that it never, ever complained. Not even when I asked it to work stupid hours or make an impossible deadline.

It was with a heavy heart that I made the trek to The Bloke’s office yesterday, with my little friend tucked up in its favourite travelling case, to visit The IT Guy. Honestly, it felt a lot like the time I took my cat to the vet the week before the vet was kind enough to return the visit with a fateful (fatal) house call. I did, I’ll admit, phone The Bloke for several updates during the course of the day, but eventually The IT Guy admitted he was stumped, and began muttering darkly (or not — I wasn’t actually there, after all) about diagnostics and various other things.

And so, my little friend has been taken away.

I remain hopeful that we will be reunited, preferably in this world (I’m not certain they have blogs in the next one).

But please know that you are cordially invited to my First World Problems Pity Party, when we can all raise a glass wherever we might be in this world, whatever our particular petty predicaments may be.

Who knows, by then I might even have figured out how to add pictures to my blog posts while using the iPad…

 

The Wellspring

My First Principles: words, music, food.

Know your First Principles…

This month marks the first anniversary of the day I sat down, summoned my courage and started blogging. From the outset, I have said that this is where I come to make sense of it all, and after twelve months of showing up on the page I firmly believe that doing so has benefited me, and probably my family, too.

I believe it’s important to thank all the people who have joined me since I set sail on this voyage, and to make special mention of the mums who sought me in the school playground to chat about everything from Holiday Bonus Points to the meaning of saudade, or to jokingly re-introduce themselves after I blogged about The Name Game. I want to thank the friends who provided early encouragement (and who, to my eternal gratitude and partial disbelief, continue to do so), as well as the hundreds of complete strangers who stumbled across my little site and stayed to read a post or two. Discovering that my words have been read by people all over the world, from Argentina to Germany, Turkey to Taiwan, as well as here in Australia has been an astonishing and humbling experience.

Find your wellspring...

Find your wellspring…

I believe there is a wellspring in each of us, the source of our creativity and our connection with humanity and the planet we are so lucky to live on.  Writing this blog has enabled me to dive into that wellspring and to clarify what is important to me, what I am passionate about, and also what I am challenged by. It has provided me with a platform to speak my truth, whether I was struggling to make sense of the Sydney Siege, or speaking out against the death penalty, or fangirling over my two favourite Toms (Wlaschiha and Hiddleston), or reveling in the beauty of street art.  And writing about all these things has enabled me to connect with people in ways I never have before.

I believe that I am truer to my First Principles – my Holy Trinity of words, music and food – when I visit my wellspring regularly.   When I align myself to these three things, my most important sources of nourishment, I live a better and far more authentic life. I may not always progress smoothly; life simply isn’t like that. But honouring the things that make me who I am and finding the time and space to share them with others certainly makes it easier to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that characterise every person’s existence.  Blogging reminds me that we are all riding this rollercoaster together, and that it can be terrifying and thrilling and every other kind of emotion I can name (and probably a few I don’t know yet know precisely the right word for) along the way.  It also prompts me to remember that the same is true for each of us, the world over.

Connect...

Connect to your own greatness…

I believe I am blessed in my life to be supported by my family, the crazy trio you may laughed with – or perhaps just laughed at – and cried with over the past year.  You’ve shared our adventures and misadventures, and witnessed some of the tests and trials my husband and I have encountered while parenting two strong-willed and independently-minded girls. The Bloke, Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop all inspire me, challenge me, delight me, frustrate me, and fill me with more joy than I ever thought possible. They also willingly put up with a wife and mother who is happiest when tapping away at the keyboard, and who considers herself incredibly fortunate to be able to do so on a personal and a professional basis – even if it means my life is regulated by the alarms I set to remind me to pick the kids up from school.

I believe, looking back, that it probably wasn’t a coincidence that I began blogging in spring, the season of rebirth and renewal.  Spring is a great time to start new things, and to watch them grow. One of the themes I have returned to again and again over the past twelve months has been seasonal change, as I’ve connected with the world as it transforms itself around me and noticed details I may not have otherwise. In the process, I have become far more aware of how I respond to the seasons and the unique ways they express themselves in this Great Southern Land. (As a side note, I would also argue that spring is probably a much better time to set resolutions than those first remorse-filled weeks of January when we lament our Christmas and New Year’s excesses and wish for the umpteenth year in a row that the festive season and the bikini season did not coincide.)

But having said that, I also believe that it doesn’t matter when you start something new: the important thing is to begin. To have a go. Or to have another go. Or even to resume doing something you love, because you know it serves you and brings you closer to who you truly are. For me, it’s writing, reading, listening to and playing music, cooking well and eating better.  It’s also exercising: running, weight training, and practicing yoga.

...and Begin.

…and Begin.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a yoga workshop welcoming the coming of spring.  It was a chance to find stillness within, to connect with my breath, to meditate on new beginnings and to draw strength and inspiration from the wellspring within.  Emerging into the twilight two hours later, I was greeted by the sight of the moon, luminous and full, lighting up the evening sky.  Seeing that shining orb reminded me that I, too, have come full circle, and I remembered what I wrote in my very first blog post: that what I write here may never be great, or even particularly good, but it will be mine. The most important thing was that I began.

So rise up.  Follow your breath.  Find the wellspring within.  Connect.  And begin.

A Winter’s Tale

Southern CrossThe Winter Solstice has just slipped past down here in the Southlands, and with it the shortest day.  It’s about as cold as it ever gets in Sydneytown, when the sun dips down before dinnertime and the stars swing overhead in the early darkness, pricking tiny silver holes in frosty skies.  The Southern Cross shines brightest in the winter sky.

Winter.

Some say we don’t know much about winter, down here in the Antipodes. It’s not like we need to don down jackets just to pop out to the shops, and any child sporting a pair of earmuffs is probably impersonating Anna from Frozen rather than protecting their extremities from the cold. But having spent two years living in Canada, in a city on a more northerly latitude than Moscow where winter lasted the better part of eight or nine months, I can honestly say I have felt colder in Sydney than I ever did in Edmonton.

Sydney cold seeps.

Sydney stormIt gets into your bones. It is dank and it is damp. It rides in on southerlies, straight off Bass Strait, and settles into every exposed crevice. It saps and it leaches. It is persistent.

Winter weather in Sydney is a petulant child: sunny one moment and sulky the next, or threatening to storm before suddenly showing off, throwing ridiculously perfect rainbows and breathtaking beautiful sunsets skyward as twilight descends. It makes us stamp our feet and rub our hands, yet takes great delight at seeing our breath emerge in great clouds of white when we speak into the chill.

In wintertime, we seize the days of sunny splendour that remind us that summer does return to our city, we grasp them and will them to last.  We retaliate against unexpected rainstorms by buying yet another umbrella when the weather catches us out. Again.

But when the wind blows and the temperature drops, we often retreat.

As Edith Sitwell once said, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

In WinterIn winter, we wrap our fingers around warm cups of tea. We roast and we slow cook. We bake. We pull portable heaters out of their hiding places. We wear ugg boots anywhere we think we can get away with it, and even in some places where we can’t. We curl up with books under blankets. We indulge in marathon Netflix sessions. We curse the fact that Season Three of Crossing Lines is still in post-production because we’re running out of episodes of Tom Wlaschiha…er, sorry, of Season Two…

And, somewhere in the midst of all our burrowing under covers, swapping recipes for soup, and muttering the motto of House Stark, there comes a point when Sydneysiders start to smile. It’s a strange and subtle tipping point, that begins with a slight upturning of the corners of the mouth, and usually ends up resembling a smug grin.

Because the secret to surviving a Sydney winter is very simple: all you need do is remember that around here, winter doesn’t last all that long.

And, besides, as Anton Chekov said: “People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy”.