A Very Happy Holiday Season

Well 2103 is drawing to a close. I have to say that I enjoyed this Christmas much, much more than I have enjoyed Christmas for many years. Purely and simply, the contentment of this Christmas came from within. It would not have mattered what I had done any of the years I spent in the fog, Christmas never really shone. This was by anyone’s estimation a quiet one. We did the extended family Christmas thing on December 20th, had the five of us (immediate family) on Christmas Eve and then went our separate ways after breakfast on Christmas day. G, L and I spent most of the day mooching. There was an afternoon nap, a swim, a get together with the neighbours when all of their family commitments were done. All in all, an unremarkable day, but for me, a very happy one.

As a perfectionist, I have always found Christmas to be one of the hardest times of year. There is an overwhelming need to do just one more thing to make the day perfect for everyone around. My house has always been and still is decorated to the hilt. I have not gone anywhere near Christmas shops this year, which means the addition of no more to the Christmas stash. I am pleased with myself about that. Going further and further with the decorations was always along the lines of, “I’ll be happy if I do just a little more.” Not surprisingly, this year, I am happy with just a little less!

Our family bounces off each other. It is not so much a game of one-upmanship as that we have always challenged each other to be the best people that we can be. I love spending time in the company of the whole family. Sadly L’s partner J was working Christmas and we have not yet caught up with him but the greatest gift I got this Christmas was time spent in the company of the rest of the family. Life is complete when everyone is together! I always get excited when I see a group text come through. Everyone is included. We may be sharing something good, something funny, something stressful; rest assured that once the family has deconstructed the topic of the group text, we will all be laughing, and quite probably be way away from the initial topic.

I wrote previously about the traumatic events between L’s dog and mine while I was away in Sydney on holidays. When I came back, I came back to a house that was very, very distressed and overwhelmingly sad. The sadness was palpable; not just L and I, but S and C as well. They were integral to getting Crash off to the vet and C was the only family member to witness the attack. L and I shed many tears together and I was very worried about L as she beat herself up going back through every aspect of her life’s decisions that had Beo join our family as a rescue dog. However, now we appear to be all moving on, which is a relief. Crash was initially clingy but is now returning to his old self. He is a little less secure when I walk him but twice today, we met other dogs who jumped at him in their enthusiastic greetings. A week or two ago, Crash would have responded as a cowering mess; today, his head bowed slightly but his tail kept wagging. Yes, we are all moving on.

I have gained just over a kilo this holiday season. I guess I should not be surprised given that I have basically eaten my body weight in chocolate, well not quite but I still do not do moderation in chocolate at all well. I have gone back to drinking alcohol, though not nearly as much as I did before. My ‘off button’ is still somewhat faulty with alcohol. I never stop at just one drink. In the New Year, chocolate and alcohol will become banned food groups again. Put simply. I like myself better when I don’t drink. I feel healthier and hate the fact that once I start, stopping is not so easy. I also want to lose a little more weight and cement in this year’s healthier life style.

I went with L to the post-Christmas sales. We bought what we intended to and did not stay much beyond the time required to do so. L really does not like people all that much (her words) and finds the crowded shopping centres claustrophobic. I on the other hand love people but I too found the crowded shops claustrophobic. I picked up a bag that I intended to buy and put it down only to have it ripped from under my nose. L looked scathingly at me and indicated that I really needed to learn the rules of the Boxing Day sales. About then, I decided it was time to call it a day.

I did buy some exercise gear from Lorna Jane. Now my exercise is only walking but I have to say that when I put my Lorna Jane’s on, I feel like I can fly. I was somewhat perturbed about my choices (the top gives me a cleavage and I haven’t seen that for many years!). However today, the second day that I have worn my Lorna Jane’s, I came to the realisation that I have earned the right to wear them by losing the weight that I have this year. I actually did my walk faster in my Lorna Jane’s than in my ordinary clothes – clearly magic!

Well to you and yours, I wish a happy and prosperous New Year. I have no idea what 2014 will bring my way but I am looking forward to embracing it with open arms. Life is good, no great!

And so this is Christmas

Deep breath, here we go!

Christmas starts for us today with the gathering of our extended family. Like most, when Christmas arrives so too does the reflection. I often find that I am sad at Christmas, lacking the ability to look at the year that has flown and be thankful. This year is different on many levels, what I have achieved personally and what I have learned about myself and life this year has literally changed my life. It is often said that cancer changes lives. At nearly 5 years since diagnosis, I am putting it down to being a slow learner. I will however freely admit that the body changes caused by my less than healthy choices have been the impetus for change and the rewards have been immense. So I’ll skim through the changes (20kg weight loss, blood pressure normal, glucose normal, fitness level improved many fold, experiencing contentment) and move on to what I’ve learned because reflecting on learning is the way I will stay on the path to awesome.

This year I have learned many things that people have been saying for years; there is no rocket science but sometimes people (read I) need to come to a realisation that what is being said is true. As a stubborn perfectionist and a scientist, I just needed to have proof of the truths I am about to share.

This year I have learned:

  • Gratitude is essential for contentment. If I look over my fence and see something I like better, great! I can work towards it but I must also look back and find three reasons to counter any feelings of envy in my own life. I always had goals clear in my mind and was in a state of constant anticipation that things would get better, never taking the time to realise that where I was, was actually pretty damn good!
  • Family and people are more important than anything else. With G (husband) needing me this year for the first time in many years, I am proud to say I stepped up without issue and our relationship strengthened because of it. My daughter, L, has needed me this last few weeks more than she has for a very long time as she struggles with the unfortunate incidents in our fur family that occurred while I was away. We have taken strength from each other and from looking forward. There will be sad moments still, but together we talk and work through them and move forward. I am hoping that when G arrives home today and realises how ill-prepared I am for Christmas that he also sees that I have needed to spend time with L.
  • The power of celebration, breaking big tasks into chewable portions and celebrating as the portions are chewed up. I have used this baby steps approach in every aspect of accepting awesome; weight loss, dealing with other health issues, depression, reclaiming my house…
  • The need to let go: Looking back I was holding onto lots that needed to be let go. I found that writing was filing things away for me to revisit without emotion only if I chose to go there. This is immensely powerful and I did not understand the energy that dwelling in the past zapped from my being. The biggest learning here was that the looking back needs to be without the strong emotion of the initial incident as emotion is the energy zapper in holding on. That is not so say that I don’t feel any more; it’s more that the feelings are more controlled and I am allowing time to moderate much more than I ever have before.
  • Controlling ambition: I have let a lot go as far as ambition from a professional perspective is concerned. I have accepted where I am, will continue to look at where I might rather be but I will not allow this to consume me.
  • Reconnecting with people I have left behind: There are a couple of people who have come back into my life after years away. I love this. It is easy to look back on people and events and imagine them exactly as they were. It is healthier to realise that everybody moves on.

That’s probably enough reflection for today. There’s presents to wrap, food to be prepared, a house to tidy and clean but first Crash and I will take a jaunt around the park so that we can say good morning to the new day.

Have an AWESOME day, I know I will!

Newcastle

Spending today in Newcastle while G works. Have found a park by the water to write this. This really is a surprisingly lovely place. There is a breeze that is really quite cool. I am hoping that it will die down later as a swim beckons. The majority of the swimmers at present have wetsuits on so maybe after lunch.

Feeling incredibly sad about the events in our zoo. I really loved Beo and am sure that something went wrong to cause him to snap the way that he did. I know that L is doing it tough; she said today that she was both physically and emotionally exhausted. I am looking forward to being able to give her a hug on Sunday. Crash has gone to work with L today. She works at a university and he will get loads of attention. She just texted to say that she is working today on her laptop sitting on the floor so that he feels safe. I hope that he doesn’t get too used to this molly coddling! Crash was the ‘star’ patient at our vet yesterday and made it to their Facebook page. He is such a tart; I guess that media tart is just one step up from his normal behaviour. He is such a gentle, placid dog. I hope that the attack has not scarred his personality. At the moment, he is having trouble sitting or lying without assistance so L will spend her day at his bidding.

I am about to embark on a foreshore walk to get in a little exercise. Though in total I have had plenty of exercise while on holidays, actual planned exercise has been limited. Walking always has the capacity to lift the spirits and I think that just now, it’s what I need.

I don’t have a lot to say today; I always find it harder to write when I am feeling down. This however is a down mood for a very legitimate reason and I know that I will not feel this way forever. I am very pleased that I can accept today’s feelings as I have mentioned before, I had considered my depression to be very black and white; that is, I had felt that if I was sad I was depressed. There is a very distinct difference. This sadness does not come with fog in tow. I guess that only a person who has lived with depression would understand that statement. It is however very important to me to make this differentiation as otherwise, I would consider today to be a set-back.

Out of the corner of my eye, I just caught sight of a tiny white dog sitting on the back of a motor scooter behind its rider. I am not sure about the safety aspect but it certainly brings a smile to my eyes.

Walking along with some photography beckons: I am looking forward to seeing what I can see!

Sydney

Sitting in Milson Park, a rather lovely park in Kirribilli. The streets around the park are lined with jacarandas, no longer in flower but still majestic trees. The park itself has a combination of lush green grass, old English trees (my botany is not good enough to name them), roses, gums and extremely tall palm trees. Bearing in mind that my estimating eye has not been calibrated lately, I would say that the palms are about 30 metres tall with nothing on the trunks until the top few metres. Individually, they would look really dodgy but together they stand like sentries guarding the park from intruders who may arrive by sea. Birdsong is intermittent and rather lovely but not from any bird that I recognise.

I’ve done some getting around Sydney, driving, walking and public transport and I have to say I am enjoying it. There is no disputing that it is big and busy but it is definitely a place that I like to be. I have caught up with extended family since being here and thoroughly enjoy that opportunity when it presents. I drove yesterday with one aunt to visit another 2 hours north of Sydney and had a lovely day. Being with the two of them is as close as I can get to spending time with my mother who died more than 15 years ago. There were some laugh out loud moments as things that they said and did or even just their mannerisms brought my mother flooding back into my memory. Truly blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with these two lovely ladies!

G has not only survived but enjoyed his first few days in his new position and tonight we will be catching up with friends for dinner before heading back up to Newcastle for work tomorrow and another dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow is a landmark for me, the last day that I should be working while I am still on holidays – read that as, I’m back in my real world on Monday and back at work!

I have mixed feelings about going back to work. I still feel, as I have for the last few months, ostensibly well. And I have to say, that is a great way to feel. Staying healthy is a very high priority for me these days and I am hesitant about the additional stress that work introduces. I do however have additional tools to increase my own personal resilience that I did not have previously and am counting on these keeping me grounded.

I am looking forward to going home for a number of reasons, not the least of which; my dog Crash has spent the last two nights at the vet after an altercation with my daughter’s dog Beo. The attack was vicious and unpredicted and Beo was euthanized. I feel the need to be there for both my daughter and for Crash, not to mention my son and his partner who were involved in saving Crash and getting him to the vet. All in all, a very sad state of affairs. Beo and Crash had been best friends for the last couple of years although we never fully trusted Beo following his rescue from an unfortunate home. There had been scuffles before but nothing like what occurred this week. We will all miss Beo but know that the decision was right for us and for him.

I am also looking forward to time spent in my own home and sleeping in my own bed. I am almost (I can only say almost) looking forward to getting back into the routine that having to go to work causes. I am looking forward to regular eating and exercising and just having my own stuff around me. Well this year I have decided to resurrect the ‘Christmas letter’ that was for many years a run down for our friends of what the year had brought. Over the last few years of dealing with depression, it never quite got written. I think that at least once, it got written but certainly did not get printed or posted. Well, I have stories to tell, best get telling!

Reflection on the Move

So, move completed and life has returned to calm; I can’t say normal because I guess that our living arrangements, if not abnormal are at best unusual. G found out at the last moment that he had to be in Newcastle for 0900 Monday rather than Sydney so, rather than take the 0600 train, we decided to make an evening of it and stayed in Newcastle overnight on Sunday. We stayed at accommodation on the beach, walked on the beach and enjoyed a lovely meal. I was surprised by Newcastle (bear in mind I’ve only seen the seaside part). I thought previously that Newcastle was a very industrial city with little to recommend it. How wrong was I? The beach was sensational! The beach had a ‘romance novel feel’ to it, complete with cliffs overlooking the sea. The water was lovely. I was tempted to swim but it was quite rough and I did not wish to become a ‘rescue operation’ for the young surf life savers so I paddled and took photos instead. We ate at Jonah’s By the Sea and enjoyed an outstanding meal, albeit expensive.

I am feeling much better now that G has completed his first day. He came home with a new car, new phone, new computer… I am guessing it felt like Christmas for him. He is happy and comfortable with all of his colleagues and is setting off over the next few weeks to meet as many people as possible. Today I cannot imagine why I was so stressed by this process. It seems to me that it is in my nature to manufacture stress where none exists. This is both self-destructive and very annoying but I am not sure, at this stage, how to stop myself from doing it. I am aware that it is a part of my make up to take on the stressors of those close to me. I not only do it with my family and those that I love, I also do it with my work colleagues. When they have something bad happening in their lives or even more particularly they are being less than awesome to each other, I get stressed. I get more stressed by their behaviour towards each other than by anything they could ever say or do to me. Hmmm, I need to learn to balance empathy with self-preservation. Though I have always been aware of my reactions to those around me, this past few days has made it very clear to me that I need to react far less to things over which I have no control.  

I am looking forward to the next few days of cooking dinner and ironing G’s shirts. Over the last 10 or so years, ‘doing’ for each other has not been a part of our routines. Though we are always there for each other emotionally and by phone, actual physical presence has been rare.

Back in Sydney today, I am looking forward to doing some walking. I am staying virtually under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the north shore so will walk across the bridge and drink in the lovely atmosphere of The Rocks. I love the history and the olde world feel of The Rocks. Obviously the traffic makes it very clear that the time is present but it is easy to transport myself back to times past.

Time for moving, there is doing to be done!