Friday, February 28, 2014

Time and Biscuits

It's been a few non-alcoholic drinks between posts, but I'm back and flumped on the good old blogging couch, recovering from my first foray into the working mummy world. 

After a year in the twenty-four-seven parenting game, with teethers and tantrums and teddies (and tearing out my brittle hair with alarming frequency and effectiveness), I was ready and almost excitedly waiting for my return to work to herald an upheaval of epic proportions. 

Prepared to be swallowed whole by the real world and seventeen thousand red-flagged emails, I put on a skirt, jammed some breastpads down my bra, wiped the toast from my blouse, grabbed a child unfriendly muesli bar and slobber-free water bottle and retraced the steps of my previous life to the train station.

Stepping back through the grimy doors of the morning peak hour train turned out to be an unpleasantly pleasant letdown, like a return to the same point in the mundane romance novel I had completely forgotten I was reading last year. 

For the most part, it appears the same cast of characters from my previous life chapter are all still on stage and ready for the next sector of my working journey - appropriately sleepy, hairsprayed, briefcased, toothpasted, headphoned and jaded.

The key players are still there, playing their parts. The angry girl who somehow manages to squeeze goth streetwear into the conformity of nine-to-five office attire. The mousey haired woman with the eternally crumpled jacket and sensible lunch bag. The obnoxious bicycle man with the exceptionally oversized backpack. The guy with the epic collection of fantasy novels. And the usual cluster of Carriage Seven school girls decked out in blue and white and stripe and straw. 

Despite the slap of a bitter winter and a long scorching summer, the train still bucks just the same way on the tracks that it always did. The ticket machines malfunction just as frequently, the wind still rips through the station overhang with the same ferocity, the tram dings the same way it always has, and the coffee place halfway between the tram and the office still takes as inhumanly long as isn't really possible to make a short latte on the run. 

Time has passed and the calendar has come full circle, but the time warp has found its way into the office as well. Colleagues have come and gone, the phone system has been replaced, and the cream biscuits in the communal kitchen tin have sadly been replaced by plain - but the calls still come and the issues still run and the fluorescent lights still flicker just the same. 

My business cards are still in the second desk drawer, along with a forgotten pump pack of moisturiser, silver coins leftover from the ghost of coffees past, and a pile of long-forgotten filing tattooed with my trademark scrawling sticky notes and bent paperclips. Evidence that I did exist here once before, and that my pregnancy brain was in full swing when I packed up my desk a year ago.

Somehow, right through the soul shattering screaming match of birth and the sleep deprivation of early parenthood, my ability to function behind a desk and my recall of procedures and protocols and important calendar dates and phone extension numbers has remained intact. 

Even my name has been retained in the complicated new phone system, which I have no idea how to use, almost as if my parallel self was there in the office all along while I wasn't. Or was I?

It feels eerily like I've walked back into a parallel universe, one that was mine and is mine, but actually wasn't and isn't and won't be mine at all, even if the cream biscuits are returned to their rightful tin. 

Sitting at my old desk, trying to feel current, trying to pick reality from real, it is plain that while some elements of my universe are identical to how they used to be, others have flown the coop and have no intention of ever coming back down from the big blue sky.

Belonging and longing have become two entirely separate but identical things, divided into a smattering of small segments that can never be put back together the way that they started, but will also somehow be one and the very same. 

If it wasn't for the exploding boobs and the desperate need to pick up some carrots and teething gel and make it to the childcare centre by six, I could almost get sucked into the time warp and let belonging and longing rest together in the filing cabinet until 5pm. 

Almost, almost, nearly. But not quite.

Have you discovered any parallel universes on your parenting journey? I'd love to hear your stories.

M x  

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little Spot of Romance

Not yet seven and the baby's screaming -
good morning anyway, my tired Valentine.

Disheveled and sweaty in the least sexy way,
but I'm terribly glad we are yours and mine.

Please shut that superfluous alarm up,
it's trashing our orchestra of screams;
too late, the romance is playing dead, 
gone to dally with quiet morning dreams. 

We're up, she's up, the house is up,
Cupid, why can't we all just be down?
The dog is barking into the cacophony,
we must be waking up the entire town.  

I think there's fresh clothes on the floor, 
definitely dirty dishes looking for a clean;
yes, I know the household is a bit askew,
I'm going for the on-trend ramshackle lean.

Watch yourself, my coffee slurping Valentine,
Mini Cupidess just put weetbix on your shirt;
don't worry, rub it in with the banana gunk
And the miscellaneous congregated baby dirt.

Now I got you a card, all glittering and cheap,
Picked with love and thrift at the grocery store;
goodbye, take the garbage on your way out, 
There's no room in the kitchen bin anymore.

Naps, no naps, and tipped up sippy cups, 
avocado painting on the high chair seat;
high time to inhale a bag of gummy bears,
Mummy's sneaky own Valentine's treat. 

The dog's attacking the kitchen door again,
and balance has left the washing machine;
I'll let the mop make out with the broom
and leave tomorrow to work on being clean.

Hello, can you hear me, are you in the car, 
can you pick up more loo paper on the way?
I'll put the baby down and then we'll have 
our shortened parental style Valentine's Day. 

Carbonara, wine, some parmesan cheese,
And three candles on the television stand;
not the classiest restaurant in the suburb
but ample quality for exhausted demand. 

Documentary down and lounge lamp on low,
there's enough time for a spot of romance yet;
no, you're not imagining it, the baby's awake,
that wine is as lucky as you're going to get. 

Let's go to bed with a synchronized flump,
to pass out cold as we both just need to do;
let all the energetic love birds eat our dinner,
while we sleep and snore and love me and you. 

What is your Valentine's Day story?

M x

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Philosophy of In-Between

Everything we do in our lives is underpinned by something else - by our circumstances, our individual histories, our beliefs, our passions, our guiding principles, and the underlying framework of philosophies we have picked up and crafted along the way.

With personal philosophies being such individual works of art, constructed over many years with the paint of life and some random glitter and paddle pop sticks, it is fair to contend that no two philosophical outlooks are the same.

Some people I know have a firm 'less is more' outlook on the world, while others believe success is measured by the volume of stuff we can fit in our wardrobes and under our beds.

Some individuals operate on the basis that we should always look before we leap, while others give the most credence to digging in and getting covered in elbow grease, or eating their cake and having it too, or always thinking the worst to ensure they cut any possible disappointment off at the pass.

As can be seen from a quick tour of the personal philosophy gallery, our inner minds are all individual mixed bags, peppered with the random scrapings and tidbits left on the serving spoon after we've dished up the best our grey matter has to offer.

While there is plenty of philosophical debris flying around my mental cavity, every decision I make oscillates around the same immovable philosophy that has weathered the emotional roller coaster of my being, and the tumultuous climb of my teenage years and twenties: the philosophy of in-between.

My kid mind was introduced to the foundational milk crates of the philosophy of in-between by my grade five teacher, Mrs C, who specalised in delivering real-life lessons with a booming primary teachers voice, a perpetual waft of stale cigarette smoke, and an unjaded - unjadable - twinkle in her eye.

Mrs C was that amazing teacher you always wanted and never had. She left a fifty dollar note on her desk on the first day of the year and picked it up again on the last, leaving an unspoken lesson of trust in its place. She photocopied her weekend newspapers and taught us how to complete cryptic crosswords as well as close passages, a skill that I still lean on every time I wait in a departure lounge or have breakfast at a cafe.

She took maths problems off the board and turned them into blocks and books and other physical equations, and took book reviews and creative writing to whole new levels I never previously conceived possible. She took my ability to write and turned it into a passion for words, and an almost terrifying worship of crisp scented, freshly purchased library books.

Most importantly, though, even above the fifty dollar note of trust and the ability to detect an anagram in an apparently innocuous crossword clue, Mrs C imparted the wisdom that allowed me to unearth the philosophy of in-between.

True to her no-bullshit-but-eternally-cryptic style, she delivered the guts of the philosophy wrapped up in a discussion about our impending transition from gangly primary school kids to impressively cool-cat high school students.

She explained that during the six week space i
n-between the end of primary school and the beginning of high school, we would become high schoolers: we would cease to be children and immediately become teenagers, with highly effective legs and impressive waterproof capabilities that would miraculously allow rain to roll off us just like water off a ducks back.

We would no longer need to catch the bus to school or get a lift to our friends house two blocks over. We would also no longer need to be dropped off at the school gates or picked up from the basketball courts when it rained, and no longer have any practical use for umbrellas or raincoats or plastic ponchos or sensible coats. 

While most of the class giggled and turned back to their maths equations, eager to secure an early mark through being the first to return their correctly completed answer sheet to the front, my analytical little mind went into overdrive.

Hidden within the important lecture about my impending magical transformation into a high school duck, I had uncovered the philosophy of in-between:
somehow, somewhere, in-between one momentous occasion in our lives and the next, we will always find it within ourselves to adapt and carry on.  

The philosophy of in-between hit me like a ton of happy bricks, heavy with the previously unimagined lifetime of changes, possiblities and endless versions of myself. This was mind blowing stuff for an eleven year old, who previously hadn't thought much beyond the grade six farewell dance and the end of year dance concert.

I went into cogitation meltdown: if we humans could change in the mere breaths in-between primary school and high school, then we humans (and me, could obviously change in-between other milestones too. 

For the very first time, I became aware that I would actually change as I grew, instead of just getting taller and bigger and older and wrinklier. The continual ebb and flow of circumstance and scenario would unintentionally change me, and the continual ebb and flow of me would change to deliberately affect circumstance and shift scenarios as well.

There were light bulbs flicking on and burning out everywhere. I would change in-between my first kiss and my second, I would change in-between finishing the flag wade era at Nippers and starting the surf swim years, I would change in-between being allowed to go the shopping centre by myself for the first time and deciding to make my very own independent purchase, and I would change in-between learning to drive and being allowed to take the car out on the road solo for the first time.

This was mental gold, and I quickly adopted the idea as my own personal philosophy. Like the best play dough squashed deep within the carpet fibres, it has stuck with me ever since and thankfully served me very well, seeing me through all the big bumps and railway crossings and terrible green curries of life without ever letting me down. 

The philosophy rang true in-between finishing high school and starting university, when I changed from being an energetic high school kid with delusions of future grandeur to a fiercely realistic first year with just enough cash for a cheap floor fan and a five-pack of Mi-Goreng noodles. 

The philosophy was out in force when my husband and I made the transition from the country to inner-outer-inner suburban Melbourne a few years ago, with my inner country girl (mostly) adapting overnight to the twenty-four-seven mayhem and buzz, built from an endless procession of trams and trains and taxis and takeaway joints.

The philosophy's 'carry on' attitude rang in my ears while I adjusted to the omnipresent street lights and being able to hear my neighbours talking through the bedroom wall, and catching public transport to work every day and crossing the road with hundreds of strangers pressing against my shoulders.

Not to be ousted with the move, the philosophy kept me company again in-between losing my first pregnancy and deciding to try again; I shifted and changed in ways I didn't even know possible, growing harder and softer, hotter and colder, younger and older, all at the same sad yet unavoidable time.

The marathon of pregnancy challenged the philosophy time and exhausting time again, but somehow it stood firm, with my body adapting and then re-adapting to meet the growing needs and demands of my mushrooming on-board monster - morning sickness, water retention, leaky bladder, frightfully blooming breasts and prolific weight gain included. 

The philosophy really came into it's own in the short but important space in-between the screaming throes of labour (did someone say never, ever again?!) and the first night feed in the maternity ward. In that small window of time, when the world and my hormones and the screaming baby and the very friendly midwives required me to change more than I ever had before, I pulled on all reserves I didn't know I had, and I charged on through the adaptation wall.

In the space of a single wheelchair ride to the ward, I forever changed from being a puffy, sweaty  pregnant lady to being a MUM, who could stay awake for days at a time and change a nappy and try and breastfeed and hold my water bottle and nipple shield in my teeth and still feel (relatively) happy and in love.

In-between being discharged from the hospital and coming to grips with being a stay-at-home mother, in-between wanting to sleep and realising my baby didn't, in-between wanting to clean the house and needing to feed the baby, in-between my baby learning to sit up and my baby learning to crawl, in-between sending my baby to daycare two days a week and deciding to re-enter the workforce, I adapted - like we must, and we will, and we do.

It's tiring, this adaptation business. When I think I can't possibly adapt anymore, when I am bursting at the seams with frustration and exhaustion and hanging out for a glass of white wine and twelve months of motionless, stagnant reality, I remember my philosophy: in-between the moments, we will always find it within ourselves to adapt, and we will always carry on.

What are your personal philosophies?
What drives you forward every day?

M x

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