What Was and What Will Be

Every year I make grand resolutions and they rarely stick, so this year I did something different. If you haven’t heard of YearCompass, you have now – do it. It’s such a cathartic exercise to celebrate what was good, let go of what was bad, and have a clear view of how you would like to approach the year ahead. Here are some excerpts from what I wrote in my booklet:

2018

This year, I…
Visited Grandma in hospital for her birthday and took her roses from my garden
Went to So Frenchy So Chic in the Park with Nathan
Rupert got pneumonia and had to stay overnight in hospital
Got a paddle pool for the backyard that was heavenly
Went to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time with Mum
Fell through the floor of the shower and horrifically injured my leg, went to hospital a bunch of times and spent the best part of five months on the couch and going to constant physio appointments
Saw Roger Waters with Nathan’s family
Did nothing for Valentine’s Day
Celebrated Chinese New Year – Year of the Dog – with my family
Went to my first ever embroidery class
Attended Aunty Marie’s Easter curry buffet and wine making
Grandma died and it was horrible
Saw Tosca with Nathan, Mum and Dad
Saw Belle and Sebastian, my all time favourite band, with Nathan
Had Posie and Rupert be models for the rescue dogs book
Went to look at a display house that might end up being a model for our future home
Signed up for Fiona McIntosh’s masterclass next year
Went to Nobu for lunch with Nathan
Went to see Julius Caesar
Caitlin and Jennifer were in the Lombok earthquake
Went to Sydney to the RWA Conference
Celebrated 1 year of marriage, had dinner at Bistrot Plume
Went to Werribee Zoo with Nathan for our birthday and did the serval cat encounter which was amazing
Had the worst TN attack of my life and spent months either brain dead or in horrific pain
Got my first fabric mermaid tails
Dyed my hair red
Went to a wedding
Refused to give another damn ever again about people who could not give a single damn about me during the worst year of my life
Saw the neurologist and finally got some answers, but more questions to be answered in February
Went on a great trip to Bali and had a magical weekend there with Nathan
We tried to buy a block of land but missed out, but have a clearer idea of our future moves
The shower finally got repaired by Dad
Rupert had pneumonia again
Had a minor but gross surgery on my toenail
Saw La Bohème with Dad
Found out I have to go back to the eye surgeon next year
Adopted two kittens
Started work on my first novel

It’s a lot. There were exciting and wonderful things here and there, but the grand sum of my year is that I didn’t have a very good time. And by extension, neither did Nathan. It was rough and hard and mean and sad and grey most of the time, and I’m so glad to be done with it all. This year was a trial, and I’m ultimately glad that I had the strength to bear it, but it was wearing nonetheless. I feel so… rumpled by the whole thing, like I have less stamina for hope and optimism in the future, but all I can do is keep faith that it will come back. Summer is good like that – it has a way of reinvigorating you, right down to your bones.

2019

Next year, I would like to…
Make my house a joyful and cozy place to be (more fairy lights and plants!)
Grow to love the kittens and have a happy and harmonious household of six
Give Posie and Rupert the best lives they can have in their twilight years
Be a better wife in every way I can
Start yoga practice again because it makes me feel so much better when I do it
Find skype language partners for French and Chinese so I can be conversationally fluent again, and who knows, maybe start another language too (I’m considering Swedish because apparently it’s easy for English speakers)
Write this damn novel, just get it done so I can finally feel some satisfaction about it
Lose this damn weight and be able to actually wear my 150+ dresses
Consider the possibility of our little family doing some further multiplying
Do some fun runs and not sprain my ankle 50m from the start
Have as many beach days as possible
Hopefully buy some land for a future forever house
Finally get my drivers license so I can take myself to the beach any old time I please
Make my garden beautiful again, as well as be able to grow enough produce to make my own pickles, preserves and ferments
Go to the movies more often, because I love arthouse and foreign cinema but I rarely go
Knit, crochet, embroider, quilt, draw, paint, whatever – just be creative again
Learn how to use my new multi-cooker like a pro and be the queen of freezer meals so if I break my leg, I never have to live through months of takeout ever again
Finally get the gallery wall happening in my lounge room after years of dithering on the issue
Hopefully take Nathan to Taiwan in the second half of next year, so he can see where I’m from and understand why a part of my soul will always live there

That’s also a lot. I hope I have enough energy for all this stuff because I’m tired even just typing it. It’s hard to open myself up to the possibility that everything might not be disastrous and calamitous, because that’s how things have tended to go this year. I feel like I’m constantly bracing myself for the next bad thing, the next phone call, the next funeral, the next injury, the next TN flare. Life shouldn’t feel like that, and I’m hoping that next year is the year that proves to me – reminds me – why I should have faith in good things happening, why I should be optimistic about the future.

2019, I’m counting on you!

New Year, Good and Bad

Rupert, getting a NYE nail trim. He cries and yelps if I ever do it, but was all smiles at the grooming salon.

So far, I’m giving 2018 a big thumbs down. It didn’t take long at all before something awful happened. One of my resolutions was to give distance, silence and no attention whatsoever to poisonous people, so I’m trying to stick to that even if I feel like dying and going to bed for the rest of the year. On the upside, I made the best lunch/dinner today. The most amazing chili con carne of my life, served as a burrito bowl with some brilliant guacamole (thanks, Nathan) and some really good pico de gallo (thanks, me). And on the downside, I was trimming Posie’s moustache and managed to snip a little v-shaped wedge into the fleshiest part of my palm. On the other upside, we ordered a new rug for the dining room this time, and I happened to have a coupon that saved me $109. So – good and bad.

Burrito bowl of dreams.

I have so much to do this year. I had a momentary freak out today that I’m already 2/365 days down, and I haven’t even begun on the big things that I need to get done. But at the same time, I felt kind of blank. Like the whole year stretched out ahead of me and the vastness of it was kind of overwhelming. I know it will feel short though, when I get to the end of it.

I originally wrote out a big list of goals, intentions and resolutions to share for the new year, but it feels too personal now. A lot of the things were boring but necessary obligations that will feel ultra boring in the process, but good at the final destination. A lot of the list was more a to-do list than anything really inspiring. So here is a heavily edited list of my resolutions for 2018, good vibes only:

I want to finally get everything framed so I can set up the gallery wall in my living room.
I will make a lot of smoothies.
I would like to read at least three books a month.
I am going to make better use of my vegetable garden.
I will be mindful about how much time I spend playing games/watching television/dicking around on the internet.
I want to listen to more music, preferrably on vinyl.
I would like to sing more often.
I am going to put fairy lights on every surface in the house, all year round.
I am going to make some quilts with all the fabric I bought in Bali, Taiwan and Japan.
I will get to my goal weight and do some serious culling of my wardrobe.
I want to actually decorate this house, make it feel like a home.
I want to practice the piano and learn the ukulele.
I plan to actually figure out how to use dropbox and google drive and stuff, so I can stop having to email myself files every time I want to transfer between phone and laptop.
I am going to be fluent in French at least by the end of the year. 

There’s so much more, but it’s kind of hard to be put on the spot. All this is a start though!

A Year of Magical Thinking

disney

So I’ve been trying to write this post for months, stopping and starting all the way since September. Despite all the horrible things that are beyond our control no matter what we do, I’m a big believer in trying to be the architect of your own happiness. And when I think of how much can happen in a year, it seems prudent to be aiming for something amazing rather than muddling on through with a vague hope that good things will happen.

You see, I want to be happy. In lots of ways now, I am happy… after a long time of never feeling it for more than a few minutes. There are some photos of me from when I was in my late teens where I am smiling and I have this giddy, wide-eyed, kid in a lolly factory look on my face, like I’m way more euphoric than I should be in the circumstances. I haven’t really talked about this here, but here goes: I guess knowing what the most unbearable lows can feel like has made me grab hold of happy moments so much tighter than somebody who had never known how low they could go. 2016 was dominated by lows for both of us, but every single day now seems brighter than the last. I know 2017 can’t be all perfect because nothing ever is, but I’m going to try my hardest to fit as much wonderful into it as I can.

So, instead of resolutions, these are more like hopes or wishes or goals. Whatever they are, 2017 will see…

Renovating our little house (now known as Rose Cottage – I’m totally getting a name plaque and everything! Laugh it up, Mum) – the whole shebang; new flooring in half the house, restumping, new kitchen, new bathroom, new laundry, some new windows, and finally buying proper grown-up furniture that we have been putting off for almost eight years now. This house will finally be a home, finally a nice place to live.

Getting fit and healthy, like I used to be once upon a time. We ordered a dog stroller so that I can finally go on the long walks I used to love without having to physically carry two little dogs (one who is practically disabled) when they get tired, or leave them at home alone… which causes no end of drama. It’s also a safety thing – we live near a nature reserve and a lot of people like to have their big, scary, aggressive dogs running around off leash while they talk on their phones or whatever. I read in the newspaper a while ago that our district was the worst for dog attacks, and I’m always wary of that after a few near misses. I will feel a thousand times safer if I know I can zip both dogs into the stroller in a couple of seconds and fend off a dog attack on my own, rather than have to protect them too.

Finishing this damn honours thesis. It’s way off track, I still don’t know what to do with it, but I will finish it. I have the perfect shoes planned for my next graduation ceremony, so I have to have that at least.

Going on more dates. Making more time for each other to do adventurous, exciting things. Putting effort into making the simple act of snuggling on the couch under a blanket while watching a movie into something special and memorable.

Pitching my first (and maybe second) novel to a traditional publisher at the Brisbane RWA conference in August. Self-publishing has been fun, but I am really keen to see a physical book with my name (or at least pseudonym) on the cover, as well as to have a working relationship with a real live editor for the first time.

Taking better care of myself. Some of this is routine stuff like going to the dentist more often and getting all my freckles checked, but there are a bunch of other things that have been dragging on for way too long and seriously altering my perception of what ‘normal’ is meant to feel like. I’m sure I will get sick of specialists and feeling like a pincushion, but it is better to know and be able to do something, than to live in denial and fear. But I’m also going to show compassion to myself in other ways, like forcing myself into healthy routines and scheduling time for things that make me feel good, like yoga, gardening, sewing and playing musical instruments.

Going swimming at least once a week (part mermaid, you know the deal).

Making an effort to decorate the house for holidays and special occasions. All our Christmas stuff looks so beautiful right now, I want things to be just as gorgeous for Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Winter Solstice, our birthdays, Halloween and any other excuse I can think of.

Biggest one of all – getting married. We’ve been headed there for a long time, and it will be so wonderful to finally just do it. Nathan’s so excited and it was really cute to get a Christmas card addressed to “my future wife” this year. We finally put some planning into the whole thing and definitely booked the two most major things – non-refundable deposits, so you know we’re serious (ha!). What we have planned is coincidentally very similar to what my parents did back in the day – we never chose this on purpose, it just happened to work out that way, which is strange and kind of nice. We are essentially having two weddings, or rather a marriage and a party – a small private ceremony, with a big all-in party two months later for all our extended family and friends. The plan was originally to do it all on one day, which was causing no end of tears and anxiety. It finally hit us that we would be so worried about the gigantic party we had to host that we wouldn’t actually be fully focused on pledging forever to each other, and isn’t the most important part of the whole day? We feel like geniuses about the way that things have worked out, for how well it suits us and how much more comfortable we will both feel on the days, but we know there will be hurt feelings and disappointment for some… but we really just had to do what was right for us, and hopefully people in time will respect that and still want to celebrate with us after the fact.

Some sort of amazing honeymoon. We were originally planning Tokyo, Okinawa and Taipei, but now Nathan has thrown all sorts of crazy possibilities into the mix, so watch this space. I’ve only ever been to Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and the US, so it’s a little scary, but a lot thrilling to think that we may go to a country or an entire continent that I’ve never seen before.

I want to FINALLY go to the tulip festival. And see the fairy penguins. And the Twelve Apostles.

And finally, for 2017 – I want to host Christmas at our house. I want it to be nice enough to actually do it and the kitchen usable enough to actually cook that much food. I want the front fence to be fixed in such a way that we can eat outside and the puppies can run around freely.

This list is huge. It feels so much bigger than anything I’ve ever achieved in a single year before, and sometimes I think about everything that needs to happen this year and wonder if I’m even capable. Inevitably, something will fall down. It’s a sure thing that something terrible will happen, there will be unforeseen challenges, or plans will get completely derailed. A year is short, but it’s also very long – there’s an awful lot of days in there for something wonderful and unexpected to happen. 2016 was ridiculously hard, but I’m counting on the universe kind of owing us some good times after everything we’ve already gone through. Or maybe I’ll just spend an entire year with all my fingers and toes crossed that luck will be on our side after such a rough ride.

We ate fish and chips, and drank some stupidly expensive (for cheapskates like us) champagne tonight, so here’s our little toast: to magical thinking. Here’s to optimism and gratitude. Here’s to creativity and the pursuit of knowledge. Here’s to bravery, hard work and discipline. Here’s to more cuddles, more kisses, more thank you notes, more wearing lipstick “just because”. Here’s to enjoying the tiny, fleeting moments of unparalleled joy, like watching Posie lift her back leg as a signal for us to pat the soft part of her tummy, or when Rupert rolls his treat-dispensing brain game around the floor and barks at it in frustration. Or how ridiculously happy they were to get their own individual plates of sushi for Christmas Eve. Here’s to no longer delaying happiness when it’s never a sure thing that any of us will be around tomorrow to enjoy it. Here’s to hope, peace, kindness, and most of all, love!

Yes, it really happened. 🙂

The Year That Was

January

Only a few hours into the new year, we got engaged! It was an incredibly long time coming and was the sweetest, coziest, most heartfelt proposal I could have wished for. We gorged ourselves on mussels at my family’s annual Mussel Festival weekend five course extravaganza. We also shined up pretty nice for a family wedding and went to Hobart for the MONA festival. But David Bowie died and that was pretty awful.

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February
Posie got injured and started an incredibly long recovery period with lots of ups and downs, and our whole existence was suddenly focused almost entirely on the exhausting task of attending to her needs, monitoring her progress, ferrying her to endless appointments, cleaning up vomit and administering pills up to eight times a day. This was not a fun month.

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March
Not the greatest month either. Looking after Posie was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting, and then there was something else that left us reeling in grief, anger, sadness and lots of conflicted feelings. And then as if that wasn’t enough, there was more bad news that threw everything into chaos. Probably better to pretend this month didn’t exist. Although, looking back, I’m so proud of us for getting through this month and supporting each other.

April
A ray of light – I graduated! First of several graduations, hopefully. It meant so much to me, and I was so damn proud of myself.

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May
Mother’s Day + Posie turned 7 + Jennifer’s birthday + Dad turned 60 and we got him a unicycle + I got to see La Bohème and The Pearlfishers with Mum and Dad. Posie had a setback, which was hard for all of us, but especially Dad – he would never admit to favourites, but Posie is Poppy’s little darling girl.

opera

June
I took a tumble in the parking lot at the vet, sprained my ankle and took all the skin off my knee (I still have a big scar from this), but I got to go back to Taipei and Tokyo! All by myself, to boot. It was quite an adventure and it made me feel so brave and capable and independent, which are all things I don’t get to feel so much on a daily basis. I also got to meet Tango, our miraculous little sponsor dog.

passport

July
My cousin threw herself a fabulous Christmas in July themed birthday party and Nathan finally got an (appropriate) opportunity to wear one of his black metal Christmas sweaters. I did a fun run with Dad and Jennifer (even if I did walk most of it, which was okay considering my ankle situation) and we tried our best to survive the cold winter without proper heating.

christmas jumper

August
I dreamed of summer, Mum turned 59, but I also attended my first conference. Such an eye-opening experience, and nothing makes you feel like a legit writer like actually attending an industry event. I didn’t pitch this year – I wanted to scope it all out first. I made some great contacts and met people who have turned out to be the most delightful, interesting individuals that I can’t wait to get to know better. Already booked accommodation and flights for next year in Brisbane, already working hard on having at least one (but hopefully two) manuscripts ready for pitching.

cocktail party

September
Nine wonderful years together! Also, Father’s Day and Patrick’s birthday. And then Nathan turned 33, and I embarked on the last year of my twenties… and subsequently freaked out a bit that I should have achieved more by now. I tried some eight minute writing prompts during this month as well, which I need to get back into. My garden came alive again too, which was very welcome after a long winter.

last night

October
My Honours thesis pretty much fell over this month – don’t worry, it will get back on track! I just need to find a few perspective. We attended another family wedding, a BIG one. And Posie and Rupert were pretty much the best dogs in the world, no contest.

Posie and Rupert, snuggling

November
Mum and I went to Bali on our little mother-daughter adventure. Bintangs, batiks, tapas, swimming, monkeys, activities, fun. I wrote about it 1234 times I got home just in time for Prince Rupert to turn 11 – we had planned on having a hot dog party for him, but life got in the way. But it’s totally on for next year, and he’s even got a little costume to wear.

ibu oka

December
Nathan and I went on our biggest, most ambitious adventure to date which I will be posting about in the new year – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nara. I always feel so grateful that we’ve had all this time together before having kids to go on these types of adventures and really enjoy spending time together, and we’re already plotting all sorts of exciting possibilities for our honeymoon. I got to fulfill a lifelong dream and go to Disneyland (actually, DisneySea – Tokyo Disneyland is for next time). We got home in time for Caitlin’s birthday, and of course, Christmas. We got a new tree for the first time ever and I don’t think I’ll be able to bring myself to pack it away, it’s so beautiful.

thumper and miss bunny

Overall…
I think 2016 mostly sucked for mostly everybody. There was so much about this year that was challenging, exhausting, shocking, painful, and there was a big dose of depression for both of us – we really had the drag ourselves through most of the year. But there were definitely sparkly bits, little moments of wonderful, big moments of fabulous. Looking back over the year, I don’t want to ignore the troubles that we endured, but I don’t want to dwell either – I would rather just be proud of us for getting through it all, and ending the year on such a high. 2017 – you are going to be amazing!

new year

In 2013:

I went to Hobart with Nathan, drank the best ginger beer of my life and saw St Vincent and David Byrne on stage.
I did well and not-so-well at uni – I got one of the highest marks I’ve ever received, as well as the lowest. This has been a learning experience for me, and it made me realize that the world isn’t going to implode if I don’t get perfect marks.
Nathan changed jobs and actually gets to spend some time at home now.
I’m gradually starting to get the hang of this ‘cleaning the house’ thing.
I visited Boston, Washington DC and NYC.
I had a fairly complex eye surgery, looked like a zombie for a couple of months, but managed to come out the other side with a perfect result.

In 2014:

I want to cast off self-doubt and uncertainty and start writing for publication again. There is so much intimidation in reading poetry or stories by talented people. Suddenly, everything I’ve ever come up with looks so gauche in comparison; anything of mine that is ‘good’ is just a sad imitation of other peoples’ magnificence. There’s no easy way to deal with this, other than just to remind myself constantly: get over it.

I want to teach Posie how to do some tricks. She’s so smart.

I want to go somewhere with Nathan. For a number of reasons, this doesn’t seem to be the year for a grand adventure, but I’ll settle for a little one.

… however, if a big adventure presented itself, that would be amazing too. I’m not sure about my chances, but I am keeping fingers (and toes) crossed that there might be another study tour to apply for this year. America was so amazing, and although the schedule was full on, I had an opportunity to learn so much more about my destinations than I ever would have as just a tourist.

I want to plant more roses in my garden.

I’m going to stop letting people get to me. I wish it was as easy as just cutting all toxic people out of my life and never seeing them again, but things don’t always work out like that. If they have to exist in the same space as me, I’m not going to let them bring me down anymore.

Most of all, I want this year to be an improvement on last year: not that last year wasn’t amazing, but I want every year to be better than the last. Onward and upward!