The Road… is Never Long

There is this thing that happens when you get to hang out with a childhood friend.  The years melt away and you’re back at your pre-baby, pre-wife self. Just yourself. Who you were before your adult roles became the bigger part of your identity.  Before responsibility and change and heartbreak and  all the stuff.  That noisy stuff that makes the mirror blurry.

I spent the weekend with my friend, who also happens to be my cousin. She’s known me for as long as I have been alive and seen me through all kinds of stuff. There’s comfort in that. We know each other’s history from the time before.  We know the dreams we had and the plans we made.  We know the paths we travelled and the ones we didn’t. And here, on the other side of forty we still know who each other is.

Really is.

And that is a beautiful, comforting thing. We both lost our mums in the last decade. Our mums were sisters.  We talked long into each night about grief, being women, the legacy of the women in our family. Being mums.  Being us while we travel through the terrain of our days.  It is so easy as women to lose sight of who your are, were, your core self. Life gets so demanding, and you choose to prioritise based on your responsibilities.  The kids, your husband, maybe your job, your friends.  How often are you the last on the list?  Have you ever been at the top of it?

I remember scoffing at women’s magazines when I was a working mum. Make time for you! Look after yourself so you can look after them!  Yeah right, I would think. There is no extra cash for that.  There is no extra time for that.  There is no one who can take the kids just so I can have “me time”.  Not everyone can afford to be that selfish.  That’s what I thought ‘me time’ was.  Selfish. Unrealistic.  A pipe dream.

And then we got sideswiped by my health problems. And prioritising became about survival. Saving the energy for an ever-more-pared-down-list of the most important, essential, crucial tasks. Spending my ‘spoons’ on the family and getting through the day. Gritting my teeth to manage what small amount of work I could, pushing through the necessary tasks.  No room there for frivolous “Me time”.  Me time was suddenly in surplus; but it wasn’t soul food time.  I was busy working on getting through the storm of body issues Dysautonomia sends my way.  It wasn’t restorative or helpful time. Just grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it time.

So when my cuzzie friend and I hatched the plan to meet halfway between NZ and Perth; in Adelaide, I honestly doubted I would make it. I didn’t think I could physically manage two flights, the days between, the struggle and strain without all my home comforts.  But seeing Erica again was powerful motivation. So I proceeded to hope for it anyway. And it was worth it. It was restorative. Girl time.  The way we can talk about a hundred things and pick up the threads at random times without ever losing our place.  I held her in a hug and felt connected to who we were again.

Maybe you think planning some ‘me time’ or ‘girl time’ with one of your dearest friends is a crazy thing to do.  Maybe you think you are too sick, or too busy, or too tired. I did.  And I booked it anyway.  It was a huge weekend for me. As I sat waiting to board the plane home my eyes filled with tears.  I took myself right to the edge of my coping capacity.  I was spent. I couldn’t walk. I felt so disconnected, dizzy and tired. So worn. But in my soul?  I was fed with the joy of finding my old self again. There’s soul food right there.  Enough emotional energy to make it through the next stretch.

Even if it seems like a crazy thing to do, book out that time for you.  You need it. You may not know just how much until you are there and you see it; you, again. Looking back at you in the mirror.  Always there, just waiting for some quality time with you.

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Back soon…

Little by little,one travels far

I’ve been buzzing about like one of those big bumble bees, drunk on nectar.  Erratically bumping into everything and trying to get to all the places I need to get to, do the jobs I need to do, and most of all, pack. With numerous, frustrating pauses along the way.

Because on Friday I am leavin’ on a jetplane!  A weekend of soul nurturing cousin-time with my cousin and friend, Erica.  We’re going to celebrate our fortieth birthdays in gentle style, over in RADelaide!   And as an extra bonus, I am hoping to meet some of the people from the support group I belong to and people from the blogging group I am part of, too!  My wheels are booked and will be delivered before I am. So, apart from the packing, it’s all done.

Actually, I am so nervous.  About the flight.  About how I will cope with the fly-in-fly-out pace of my schedule. About not wasting any opportunity and not wasting the money it is costing to get there. I’m banking on the gem of a fact, that once I’m there, the only person I need to look after is me, with the odd nod to Erica.  We’ll be just us.  No kids, no hubbies. That seems like a pretty cruisey thing!  I’m hoping the cruisey will balance out the struggles and it will all be okay. Fingers crossed.

Packing is a bit of a feat when you get dizzy on standing. When your arms ache if you lift them higher than your heart. When everything you need seems to be down too low or up too high, or needing to be washed, or folded or found. I think I am getting there, but honestly, it is sooooo slow I can hardly stand it.  I really miss those days when I could write a list and whizz through it BAM, and BAM and BAM. Now it’s kind of bzzz…..splat… bzzzzzzz…. splat.   But no worries, this busy bee is going to get the job done!

I’m going to take a break from blogging while I am away.  I hope you will still be here when I get back.  Or if you go away too, come back and find me and my blog again sometime!   See ya soon!

Oh. Forty.

I have been blithely approaching forty with a bit of a mental swagger.
Can’t scare me, forty.  Puh!
I’ve always been mildly exasperated with women who lose the plot over a number.  It’s just a number!  Every birthday you are always turning an age that is younger than what you will be.  Photos of you at this age will always look young when looked back on by your older self.  No worries.  It’s no big deal.

And then yesterday I looked in the mirror and got face slapped with a realisation.  Oh.  Forty.  Maybe you just don’t get it until you are there.
A sneaky snake of an idea began sliding in under the welcome mat of my mind.
Old.  That’s what forty is, it whispered.
No it’s not!  Perhaps it doesn’t help me fight that sneaky snake, that I already have a pacemaker, use a cane and have enjoyed my first outing on a mobility scooter. I already feel like my body is geriatric.  I don’t feel young and looking in that mirror I see the effect of all those years, all the struggle.  I’m not wrinkly, but I look defeated, tired, a bit sad really. And suddenly all my bravado about meeting forty head on is dissolving.

I’m going to be forty for crying out loud.

How did this happen so fast? My insides are still twelve!  I’ve been playing an elaborate game of dress ups and pretending to be grown up.  How can my outside be turning forty!  Far out.
It’s fair to say there is a little bit of panic going on here.
I’ve never liked snakes.

I am eschewing a party.

Not for me the whooping-it-up-gathering.

I’m not alone. My beautiful cousin Erica is turning forty, too. I’ve known her since the day I was born and I feel so lucky to have been given the gift of her friendship through my family ties.  Our mums were sisters.  We have a lot in common and it’s a comfort to laugh at our genetic quirks together! She fell in love with an Australian, and as it often goes, she followed him across the continent of Australia to live in Perth.  I miss her every day.

So!  Why not go and turn forty with Erica? There is no one I would rather turn forty with, and I am meeting her half way between our homes.  Isn’t that a cool plan? We’re going to rendezvous in Adelaide.  So excited!

I’ve been there before.  I completely fell in love with that town.  I love the order and neatness, the creative quirkiness, the variety and beauty.  It’s a stunning place.  And they have this amazing market place there, right in the centre of town.  I have never forgotten the food!  So Erica and I are going to hang out together there for a few days.  We’re going to toast our first forty years together with a nice cuppa tea and ring in the next lot. We’re going to catch up on hours of chats and laughter.  We’re going to sleep in every day and revel in the break from all mothering and wifely tasks.  We’re going to indulge ourselves and revel in the freedom of us-ness.  It’s going to be EPIC.  In a sedate kind of fortyish way.

I’m dreading the flights, but I have planned for lots of rest when I get there. I am researching scooter hire after my recent successful experience.  That will help a lot.  We might even get to those markets, all going well!

When you are sick, having something to look forward to is so important.  Planning can make you anxious; the fear of cancellations and postponements can make you not want to even try. Flexibility in your planning matters. But having something wonderful to look forward to also makes you excited, hopeful   …happy!  It’s a great distraction from the daily thought wheel.  I might be all of those things that I saw in the mirror.  But I am still me.  And that is beautiful in it’s own kind of Rachie way.  I might be limited, but I am able. I might be sick, but I am not giving up. I might be turning forty, but I am much more than the age on my passport or the face in the mirror. I reckon with a little bit of solidarity and sisterhood from my little big cuz, I can make it over the hill with a smile on my dial.

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Are you sick?  What happy plans are you hatching?
Have you hit forty yet?  How did you celebrate?
Have you been to Adelaide?  Any recommended restaurants or must-visit spots? Not the crazy hot nightspots, more the sedate kind of activities suited to the gerries.  (Ahem. Keeping it real!)

This song.  Another thing you don’t get until you are actually there.
“Now the winter at our window feels so cold”