Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Study and the Olympics

from here

This is my 400th post, so, to keep with the tradition I accidentally started, here’s an update on where I’m at with finding a vocation and dealing with those crippling feelings of mediocrity and directionlessness I first confessed to back in my 100th post, in 2012. Reaching this post this particular week is timely, thanks to both the Olympics and the end of my Graduate Diploma. Let me explain…

First: direction. In my 200th post I mentioned my desire to study psychology, and by my 300th post I’d decided to apply for a course I’d found. I wanted to study psychology back when I left high school, but, convinced I wasn’t intelligent enough for it, I ended up choosing linguistics instead. “Brainy” was the word attached to two of my siblings; I got “pretty” and “sporty.” Though these labels aren’t solely (or even mostly) responsible, my self-esteem is hale and hearty when it comes to looks and my ability to kick and/or catch things, and a crumbly mess when it comes to my academic abilities. This fear of crumbling messily was enough to stop me from pursuing psychology in 2002; I’m thankful that by 2015 I’d finally worked up the courage to sign up despite the scared and screamy voices in my head. And now I’m done! And I did well! The road ahead is long (there’s no end in sight yet), but I know where I’m heading now, which is comforting.

Next: mediocrity and the Olympics. This discovery is fresh out of the oven, and also so simple that I’m embarrassed it was something a) I even needed to discover, and b) I didn’t discover until I was 33 years old. I was tempted to not write about it, but it’s pertinent and it’s been huge, so I figured I had to. Are you dying to know it? Huh?! Oh man. So the Olympics have just finished, and I enjoyed them far more than I expected I would.* I loved Moses and Hazel turning on the TV and seeing women excelling at various sports. I loved the slow mos with uplifting music. I loved the close races (Kyle Chalmers’ 100m final!) and the weird, connected feeling that comes from cheering for the same stranger with other strangers in a cafĂ©. All of these made me well up with happy tears many times over the fortnight or so the Olympics were on, and I can’t wait for the next one. 

While the Olympics were on, I heard an interview with Kim Brennan’s husband, Scott, who was talking about how hard Kim had trained before the Olympics (she ended up winning the gold medal in rowing); apparently it was a three-times-a-day, six-days-a-week commitment. Three times a day. Six days a week. And I realised: that’s a LOT. Like, to be really good at something, you have to practice a LOT. And maybe I was mediocre at lots of things because I’ve never tried that hard to get better at anything before. I think I’ve always assumed that people who did things well were born with their gifts; I’ve never associated their achievements with effort before! Isn’t that crazy?! You can get quite at things if you work at it, people. You’re welcome. So I’m learning the guitar (again), and practicing singing along. My goal this time is not to become brilliant, but to persist. So far I’ve learned the A, D, and E chords (enough to play Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, which is what I’ve been doing, enthusiastically but awkwardly), as well as how to breathe properly while belting out Nashville songs. My neighbours are probably loving it. 

I was worried that I’d feel an overwhelming sense of purposelessness once my course finished, and I’d need to fill up my time to feel okay (yesterday I heard BrenĂ© Brown talking about the things she struggles with that go against everything she’s learned about wholehearted living, among which were perfectionism and linking self-worth with productivity; I completely related). Fortunately, I’m doing fine. Better than fine, in fact! I understand and appreciate what a privilege it is to be able to spend my time learning about Bob Marley songs and breath, and reading books and taking it easy and being, rather than doing.

So, that’s where I’m at: I’m no longer directionless, and my feelings of mediocrity have been sweetened with a dollop of hope that with some effort I’ll be slightly-better-than-mediocre at something, one day.


* Alan and I realised this year that we have polar opposite views of what was great about the Olympics. Me: I hate equestrian. Him: I love the three-day event in equestrian! I can’t stand swimming. Me: What?! Swimming’s the best!! Field events, though. I’m not a huge fan of those. Him: I love watching the field events!! Shot put! High jump! Me: Boring. Him: You know what’s boring? The running. Me: I love the running! And on it went…

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Writing, thanks to Helen Garner

I’ve just finished Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look, which I loved (surprise, surprise). Its inspired me to write again, though I worry I’ve forgotten how to do it; putting these two sentences together took far more work than expected. I’ve added “Writing” to my “Things To Do Now That My Course is Over” list, which is quickly filling up in a Monty-Python-esque way. (Me: “There are two main things I’d like to do with this time: Read books unguiltily, and learn a song on the guitar. Oh, and research for next year – three things. The three main things I’d like to do now that— hang on, I also wanted to investigate online singing lessons, so it’ll actually be four things all up. I have four main things to wait, I meant to add going to the gym regularly. And sorting photos! Six! Six things. Plus writing.”)

I particularly loved reading Garner’s snippets of everyday life in her diary chapters, and I’ve been practicing such Garnery (as it shall henceforth be known) as I sit on my back step in the sun or hang out with the kids. I’ve had a crack at mindfulness meditation lately after studying it in my last class, and I’m intrigued by the idea of mindful photography. I wonder now if mindful writing is a thing, or whether the act of constructing and editing descriptions means you’re less present than you would be if you were focussed solely on the imagining game you’re currently playing with your daughter (Hazel: *gasp* A crocodile’s eaten our sparkly things!). Maybe the trick is to savour the moment so thoroughly that it’s easily and vividly recalled later, when the house is quiet and paying attention doesn’t require quite so much effort.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hazel is THREE

It’s funny looking at Hazel now and thinking about the fact that Moses was her age when she was born – compared to a newborn, Mo seemed so grown up and un-baby-like. Compared to a big brother, Hazel at the same age is still our baby, though she doesn’t like us saying so (“No, I’m a BIG girl!”).

Hazel had her face painted for the first time ever in December…
… and has since taken every opportunity to attempt the look herself with various media (texta, paint, make up, yoghurt) and varying degrees of success.
There have been no more wall artworks, fortunately; occasionally we still catch her painting the verandah decking instead of the paper provided, or dragging a stool up to a cupboard to access whatever’s hidden inside it, but the last six months have been far less messy than the first.


Alan recently described Hazel as being like a spring overflowing with happiness and optimism. She’s fun, empathic, chatty, affectionate, stubborn, funny, kind, patient (with herself, and with others), and friendly. She loves cuddles, helping with dinner, inviting random people to her non-existent birthday party, being tickled, spinning in the lounge room, being chased and caught, colouring in, spinning in the backyard, having her nails painted, and being carried everywhere. Shes currently obsessed with puzzles. (I had evidence of many of these in video form, but I accidentally deleted it during the transfer from device to computer, so you’ll just have to trust me.) 

She regularly calls out, from wherever she is, “I really, really love you, Mummy!”

The times she giggles most are when shes being tickled on her neck, flying around on my feet (I pretend to lose my balance and dip her towards the ground, and she laughs her head off), and playing with Moses.


She doesn’t like eating dinner, nor does she like being asked to sit at the table while everyone else eats their dinner (her 6cm of growth over the last 6 months has been fuelled purely by food ingested between the hours of 7am-2pm). She doesn’t like it when Mummy tells her she cant turn around to inspect a teeny scratch because she’s driving and needs to keep her eyes on the road. She doesn’t like it when Daddy sings Dora songs while she’s trying to watch Dora. She doesn’t like it when Moses continues to ask her the same question after she’s already said no to him 14 times.

She loves wearing my shoes.


When she spots shoes in a shop, she sits down, rips off her own ones, and starts trying on ALL the pairs, one at a time. When she spots jewellery in a shop, she just puts the whole lot on at once.

Hazel: I love you, Dad. You can come to my party.


Hazel loves being read to, flicking through books, and pretending she can read. She points to random words and says, “This says ‘Hazel’! Ha-ay-zel. I can read!!” She can quote whole chunks of The Invisible Boy (by Trudy Ludwig) and Room on the Broom (by Julia Donaldson) because she’s had both of them read to her nearly 17,000 times over the past few months. 

If you show her something you’ve made or want her to see, she gasps and says things like, “That’s WONDERFUL!” and “Good job!!!” I told her recently, “You’re such a little encourager!” She replied, “No, I’m a big ‘courager.” 

This makes her a particularly good dance teacher.


Hazel: Can I watch TV?

Me: Sure!

Hazel: Thanks, Mum. You can come to my party.

Hazel sometimes surprises us by coming up with completely new sentences, often prompted by a need to express strong feelings. Recently, when I gave her plain Greek yoghurt, rather than the fruity one she usually enjoys, she told me, “This is the worst yoghurt I ever tasted in my life.” On our way down from the Blue Mountains when we told her we’d find a toilet at our destination, she eventually yelled out, “How many times do I got to tell you I need to do a WEE?” (We spotted a Maccas, and pulled in.)

Hazel: I have hazel eyes.

Me: You do have hazel eyes!

Hazel: And you have mummy eyes.

My darling Hazel: You were the piece missing from our family puzzle. You are joy and love and light wrapped up in an energetic ball of adorableness, and we really, really love you too. X