The joy in the simple pleasures after an epic journey

IMG_3348Recently I had to travel for work and I was totally dreading it.   It involved a long haul flight, long days and little down time.  Ever since I have had kids, sleep has become such a precious commodity that I do everything I can to ensure I get as much as I can.   Gone are the days of waking up all hours of the night, the kids rarely wake up these days, but my sense of scarcity, I simply haven’t been able to shake.

So all I could think about this trip, was how tired I was going to feel.  How draining it would be. I whinged, complained and worried about it in the week leading up.

And, it really was atrocious.  31 hrs of straight travel in one stint, it literally included planes, trains and automobiles.  I had barely any sleep and yet, had to function at work on a different time zone  and from 7.30 in the morning until after dinner.

But you know what.  I was ok.  Actually, I was more than OK. I was good. I had spare seats next to me on the planes so I managed to stretch out my legs. I was traveling with colleagues and we laughed till we nearly cried, taking photos of ourselves looking terrible and bedraggled. We regaled stories to our colleagues about our epic journey.

On our final day, I had a few precious hours to myself in the morning and was fortunate enough to be in amazing hotel room with a huge snuggly comfortable bed.  I couldn’t sleep but I so enjoyed just lying horizontal and appreciating that I had nowhere I needed to be, nothing I needed to do. I bought a huge Starbucks tea and had what was perhaps the greatest bubble bath I have had in my life.

So, actually, it wasn’t all bad at all and it was a great reminder for two important reasons..

  1. Really, if this is my biggest issue, I’m doing good.  Perspective is everything.
  2. You need some suffering in life to also experience joy. Sure, sitting for hours straight on a plane may not exactly be suffering greatly, but that time of discomfort and strain, made me appreciate that bath and bed with so much more pleasure that would have been the case if I had simply gone straight to the hotel. Mark Mason writes about this concept in his book “The subtle art of not giving a F*&^” (which I happened to be reading on the plane), I know, provocative title but he has some really valid points to make about how we approach our lives and what we choose to care about.

It also made me realise that maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself to always achieve a perfect nights sleep and to avoid anything that might make me more tired. There seems to be lots of advice around, driving it home about how we should be eating, drinking, exercising and getting that all important good nights sleep. Which is totally true. But also, every now and again, it’s not the end of the world to miss a bit of sleep and go on a big adventure instead.

Is there something you are avoiding that might actually make you appreciate the small things?

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Wise v’s Smart

I am not the smartest kid on the block…as my friends and family will surely attest. My general knowledge is appalling.  I’m a Trivial Pursuit failure.  I have nightmares about that moment when someone says “Oh, not fair, such an easy question, EVERYONE knows that”, because inevitably, I don’t. I am not the one that can answer the children’s many questions about the universe, animals or history.

However, I have, on a few rare occasions, been called “wise”. Which has been the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon me.

I love the idea of being wise. I love the idea of people coming to me for advice and guidance.  To get my opinion or thoughts on something.

Clearly, I am not wise about everything.  But what age has taught me, is that you don’t have to be smart at everything to be wise about some things. And being wise is not just about having knowledge, it is about being able to combine knowledge together with experience and some level of common sense.

For me, the path to being wise, is to start by being curious. Being eager to learn. To investigate. To read. To listen to others who have experience.

Whether it is at work, or at home with the family, when I feel unsure, I know if I open myself up to being curious, the answers usually come. And, in fact, it helps to consider yourself not very smart, because that is the key that makes you willing to learn more and open you up to other people’s opinions or ideas.

Sure, you probably don’t want me on your table at the parent trivia night at the school, but I hope that my colleagues and family will sometimes value my insightful views about life, work and how we can all bring the best of ourselves to the table.

Which is why being “Curious and Wise”, just got added to my vision board, is it on yours?

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Dance like everyone is watching

I was watching my daughter at the weekend,  dancing and singing with abandon.   She is eight.  She was putting her whole heart out there,  singing, miming, doing hand gestures,  kicking, spinning…she was doing it all.

They say dance like no one is watching, but she didn’t care that I was watching…in fact,  the audience made her push harder,  throw herself more energetically into the performance.

It made my heart lift, watching her… she wasn’t self-conscious at all,  enjoying herself so much in the moment,  not caring what others think because clearly she is thinking she looks fabulous,  (after all…that  is how she is feeling on the inside)

And it made me feel nostalgic,  because I remember feeling the same way.   So many hours spent in my bedroom,  spinning and kicking.  Imagining myself on the stage.   It was so much fun.  It was awesome.

Except, then I started to feel sad.

Because where has that girl gone?   She has been replaced.   By someone who is always a little bit anxious.  Worrying a lot about what others think.    Scared she is not doing things “right”.   Someone who is held back by the knowledge that she is really not actually an amazing dancer.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am conscious of having fun in my life. But what is missing, is the reckless abandon.  Doing things that I’m not very good at, just for the joy of doing them.

It reminds me of a conversation that they were having on the MamaMia podcast the other week,  about doing things you know that you know you are not good at on purpose…because as adults, sometimes we miss the point.  That the fun is the creating,  not the output.

So,  I took some inspo from my little person and when I was feeling flat before work this morning…you guessed it…

I put on some tunes, turned it up WAY loud and I rocked it in the lounge room.   I imagined I was on the stage and everyone was loving it.

I tell you, it is near impossible to feel bad whilst dancing and singing.  It pumps through you like electricity.  And I am reminded that even though I’m a very serious and responsible adult,  I don’t always have to act like it….( I just better not tell my physio … but she didn’t specifically say no pirouettes, did she!?)

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Breakfast, lunch, dinner…repeat…

Yet again, I found myself spending my weekend drowning in a sea of recipe books.

I used to like planning meals, Hell, i used to ENJOY going to the supermarket.

But, people, those days are gone…long gone.  Planning meals is getting harder and harder by the day.  I buy food, and the kids…well…eat it.  So, then I have to buy more food.  And more food.  And more food.

And I’m not a totally organic-straight-from-the-source-of-nature kind of mum, but I do prefer home cooked meals and I am really conscious of how much fruit and veggies the kids are eating.   I find myself pondering over lunch boxes trying to calculate the protein, carbohydrate and vegetable portions that each person in the family has eaten.  Not too much sugar, too much salt, too much wheat.

And…we haven’t even got started on dinner yet.  Have we had red meat this week, fish too many times?  When will the kids have afternoon activities,  impacting what time we can eat?  When will we be home from work, will there be time to cook?  What have we got in the freezer?

Did I miss the deadline to do an online shop, yet?

This is one of those things that i just KNOW I have to get organised, otherwise it becomes a thorn in my side and an unnecessary decision that has to be made each day (apparantly there are only so many decisions you can make in a day, so you want to save it for the good stuff!).  I am so happy when my weekly meal plan is posted and we have a fully stocked fridge.

However..it has somehow become MY job, when it used to be shared with my husband.  But because I didn’t mind it, it became mine, and somehow I have ended up being the planner, the shopper and the cook.

I used to have a spreadsheet of weekly meal plans, with corresponding grocery lists.  Yep. I was one of those people.  Those spreadsheets gave me goose bumps of satisfaction. But they all needed re-doing with a family of four now in mind.  Plus I need breakfasts, lunches and dinners all to be included.  I’m exhausted.

So, I started scouring the internet for ideas to help me and , not surprisingly, there are websites that you can subscribe to that send you meal plans and shopping lists (although a lot of them are in the US…which is fine but then you have the seasons all backwards for what fresh food is available).

And then I decided to try Hello Fresh (no, this is not a paid commercial…ha ha…although, Hello Fresh team, please feel free to send me free boxes).   They deliver a box each week with a list of recipes and ingredients to cook them.   Two things ticked off at once, but still a home cooked meal.  Awesome sauce.  At least that is dinner sorted.  PLUS, the recipe cards make it easy for ANYONE (yep, that’s you husband and kids) to step in and cook.

But here’s the thing.  Now I feel guilty about it!!  Yep,  bloody guilt!  Is this being lazy? is this wasteful?  another ridiculous concept in the modern age?  First world luxury?  And, should I be ashamed of myself  that I can’t find the time to pop down the shops to feed my family?

Sigh…well, I’m just going to have to shake that off, because, frankly, guilt is a waste of my brain space.   Outsourcing things is smart, not wasteful.   And maybe some time in the near future,  I will find the space and time to enjoy planning and cooking meals again.  In the meantime, I can just bake slice with the children at the weekend instead.

On that note, I’m hungry…what’s for lunch?

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Seriously, my career does NOT make me a bad mother…

Sorry peeps but I have to get onto my soap box for a small moment this week.

Miranda Devine published this short article “Don’t let your career make you a bad mother” the other week, and not surprisingly…it has caused a bit of a stir among the media.

Admittedly, when I first heard this article being discussed (on the Mamma Mia webcast), I immediately went into battle mode.  WHAT THE?  This is OUTRAGEOUS!  As they debated it out on the webcast, I found myself yelling at the radio … how dare you imply that I am a bad mother simply because I choose to go to work.

Feeling a tad defensive Claire?  Ahh…yes… possibly.

The thing is, I am a little bit sick of these silly arguments and inflammatory articles (which, mind you,  I’m sure was designed to do exactly what it has done).   Because when you break it down,  the whole argument is completely flawed by the fact that the analogy she is basing her assumptions on in the article…was, infact,  a woman who was both a mother AND a doctor…and by all accounts it appears that she managed to do both these things successfully.

Because actually,  the reality is not the either/ or debate it is made out to be.

It is not simply a choice between being a crazed career woman who palms her children off to nanny’s while she selfishly talks on her mobile phone (have you seen the movie Storks? Please reference for classic stereotypical example of career parents) OR  an obsessive stay at home mother, who spends all her time at the school canteen and frowns on mothers who dare to bring anything but sugar free home baked cookies to the Fete Bake stall.    Sure…there would be some people who sit at these exaggerated ends of the spectrum but most of us normal people would sit somewhere in the middle.

Our prioritization of our jobs and our kids may change from year to year, month to month, day to day even.   And there are so many other facets of our lives that define us. If I wasn’t a mother, I would not cease to exist or add no value.  But I am a mother and yes…I do work.  I am also a wife.  I am a friend. I am a blogger.  I am a really bad but enthusiastic dancer.

When I choose to “prioritise” dancing around the lounge room instead of doing homework with my kids,  does that make me a bad mum in that moment.  Hell no.  It makes me really hilarious and cool (just for the record)…and it makes my kids roll their eyes and laugh.

So PLEASE can we stop having this conversation.   We do not just have Option A and Option B on the table.   We have a plethora of choices,  and we need to stop judging people for the choices they have made.

At my funeral,  I hope my children talk about what a wonderful, caring Mum that I was.  My colleagues talk about my passion for my work.  My friends and husband talk about my general awesomeness.  Then they all do some daggy dancing at the wake.

Rant over.

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One of those days…

Gosh… I so want to get back in here!

So far, it feels like my day is not going to plan. I got up to take the dog for a walk,  but when I got dressed and walked outside with the lead… I realized it is raining (much to the dog’s confusion).   I had a message from our grocery delivery service saying our goods were on the doorstep…they are not.  I decided I would use this time in the morning productively and do some work.   Can’t log into the work system.  Then my son got up and said his ear is aching and he doesn’t feel very well.  All this, and it hasn’t even hit 6.30am yet.

I can feel myself being sucked into a bad mood.  I’m sooo not looking forward to this day.  It would be really easy to just walk straight back into bed and climb under the doona (especially because it is raining!).

I know this is a vital point where I need to catch myself.  That if I continue with this thought process, by the end of today I will be wound up like a super spring coil and I will most likely blow my top (most likely at poor unsuspecting husband or children).

I need to shake it off.  At the end of the day, nothing actually disastrous has happened.    I just need to revise some of my plans.  I am adaptable!  I can do this.

For times like this, I do actually have a list.  Here’s my “get out of the funk” list:-

  • Have a bath
  • Listen to happy music (ideally including dancing around like a maniac)
  • Walk/Run
  • Cup of tea on the front veranda
  • Headspace app meditation
  • Write in my journal
  • Write a blog post

Ha!  Hence why I am here.   Writing my thoughts down on paper always seems to put them in perspective, catch them before they get out of control.

Right…lets go start this day again.   Put on some music, get the kids up for school, do some daggy dancing.

Any more ideas for my “get out of the funk” list?  I’d love to hear them…

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Blissful moments…

I’m lying on my back, bobbing on the surface of the water.  It was cold when I got in,  a refreshing hit from the heat of the sand and the sun.  But now it feels warm, like a salty cocoon.   The waves are coming thick and fast, but I’m far enough out to just float over them,  rocking me gentle back and forth.

I can see the sun glistening off the curves of the wave tops,  the cliff tops, splatterings of colour from umbrellas and towels across the beach.  And I can hear laughter and the screams of children splashing and falling about.   My husband is falling asleep on the beach with his hat over his face.  My daughter is lying next to him, drying out from her recent swim.   My son is jumping off the wharf, I can see his face strained in concentration and then bursting with happiness as he launches himself off the platform.

And I’m trying really really hard to take in every piece  of this blissful moment. Because actually, my mind is still racing.  I’m thinking about what we might cook for dinner tonight.  I am wondering if my son is getting a bit exhausted (last night he was up at 1pm with a headache…has he had enough water?).  Does my daughter have her suntan lotion on?  Where is her hat?  I’m actually still a bit annoyed at my husband because before we headed down to the beach he was sitting staring at his phone, caught in another world of social media, messages and chats with work.  A world where he spends far too much time.

I have to consciously bring myself back into this moment.  Remind myself that joy general comes as little pockets across the day, not as a blanket across every single thing that happens.

And so,  I’m making a special effort to remember every little piece of this moment.   This little blissful pocket, from our lovely holiday.  Like a snapshot in my mind.  As I take in each thing,  it feels like someone has plugged me into the wall socket and bit by bit I’m charging back up.

Are you taking time to charge up so you are ready to jump into life?

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What do I stand for at work?

I have a new boss at work, and it occurs to me that they  knows nothing about me…except perhaps the things that other people may have said.

Which has led me to stop and really think about my brand and reputation, because I guess it has been a while since I have had to think about selling myself and what I stand for.

I have been reading Lead like a Woman by Megan Dalla Camina and Michelle McQuaid and there’s a whole chapter about brand and reputation. And I have to confess that I kinda skimmed over that bit a little bit… I mean, I have that nailed…don’t I?

But then, here I am, it’s 1hr before my first meeting with the new manager and I’m thinking…who am I? What are the most important things for them to know about me?

What do I stand for?

And…even scarier…I’m not sure I know the answer.

I mean, I feel like I have done lots of soul searching over the last few years. I’ve deep dived into my work life balance. What it means to manage all the different pieces of my life, how I prioritise the things that are important. I have a fabulous vision board on the wall of my study, with things like “laughter and friends” and “road trips and adventures” …because I know these things are important to me.

And…I have done strengths survey’s and I know what my tops strengths are, like leadership and team work, and that I thrive the more I get to use my strengths.

But…my brand…in a work context….I’m now feeling a little under pressure. This is my chance to start off on the exact foot I want to. To frame the things about me and my history…and what I what I want in the future in the context of the brand and reputation that I really want…express my point of view… I’m not sure that my opening statement should be …I love road trips and adventures?

So, I guess, now I know why there’s a whole chapter in the book (and a whole lot of other books written on this subject). And it seems like now might be a good time to go through some of the worksheets. I’m sure it will all come flooding back because I have thought about this before… and this might just be the timely reminder I need to check in and see where I am at.
Do you know what you stand for? after all, who knows what opportunities might be lurking around the corner…

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Rainbows, rainbows, rainbows…

I absolutely love rainbows,  there is something about the sweeping colour across a bleak sky that just lifts me up and puts me in a better mood.

Recently I’ve seen so many rainbows and I love this visual reminder of such an important metaphor, because, you can’t have the rainbows without the rain.   And yes,  I have been complaining a lot about the rain too recently.   It is supposed to be Spring time where I am, and whilst it is usually all about sunshine and flowers at this time of year for us,  this year…Winter seems to want to hang around a little bit longer.  Quite frankly,  outstaying its welcome.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of winter …snuggling up in front of the fireplace,  drinking hot drinks and eating comfort food.  But there comes a point towards the end of the short days and long cold nights that I start to get over it.  I’m feeling grumpy and fedup,  I’ve put on extra weight due to the winter hibernation and I’m really hanging for the sun to come out and just make me toasty warm.

Yet,  to no avail this year, as the rain and cloud have continued long into Spring (and, mind you, all through my recent vacation).

And then, out of the blue, I look up and a beautiful bright rainbow is shining through the clouds and my complaining immediately stops.

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Of course, this applies to so many other facets of my life.  It is easy to get caught up trying to eliminate all the “bad” parts of the things I have/need to do,  in the hope of having days jam packed 100% full of joy (Surely this is not too much to ask?).   But, the reality is that you can’t experience real joy unless sometimes you experience the sadness.   It reminds me of Inside Out, the kids movie where the feelings are all represented by characters in the  child’s head.   They try to ignore sadness and make it just go away,  but it doesn’t work,  they ultimately realise they need to let the sadness out to fully experience the other feelings …clever clever

So,  thank you rainbows, for shaking me out of my winter blues and reminding me that every cloud has a silver lining or at least, a big shiny rainbow with a pot of gold.

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