Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One year ago

On this day a year ago, I said goodbye to my dear Mum. I think I've done pretty well this past year. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've definitely had my moments, but in general, I've both accepted and coped fairly well with Mum's death. Better than I did my dear Dad's, in truth. With Dad, I thought I was over the worst of my grief around the six month mark at the time, but looking back, I was fairly consumed by grief for a good year, perhaps more. It wasn't obvious grief. I wasn't breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably or anything, but it was grief-related, that's for sure. I've learned that grief presents in different ways sometimes. After Dad died, I spent a lot of time looking back on my past, especially my childhood, teens and late teens - even my early twenties - basically when I lived with my parents. I questioned decisions I made and friendships I'd formed and lost. I analysed past relationships. I saw the bigger picture. It's difficult to explain, but essentially I analysed stuff a lot. No stone was left unturned in my mind. Sometimes, that was rather taxing emotionally. I've always been a bit of an over-thinker, and thinking about everything became overwhelming at times.  

Then the day finally came when I realised that not only had I stopped analysing everything so much, but that I could also think about Dad and not feel sad anymore; instead I could smile at the memory of him. Embrace today, not live in the past. Corner turned.

However, within a month or two of reaching that inner peace with losing Dad, I found myself flying to Perth to watch my Mum die. I braced myself afterwards, assuming I would react much the same as I had after Dad's death. I even warned my boys of what was to come, 'Some days, I might just seem in a bad mood and you won't be able to work out why because I'll get upset at everything - it just might be because I'm missing Grandma, okay?' In fact, I assumed it might be worse. I was close to both parents, but my Mum and I always had a very special relationship, a particularly strong bond.

Yet, what followed sort of surprised me. Following Mum's death, I found myself looking more to the future than re-living the past, and I guess that may have a lot to do with the fact that there is a sense of calm knowing that my parents are together again - and with my sister, Valda. As they say, it is the circle of life. We all die one day, so it's important to embrace life and enjoy it until that day comes, right? If you want to do something, do it. If you want to feel something, feel it. Look back if you want to - sometimes looking back is the only way we can move forward - but don't forget to look ahead. There's so much more to come, am I right?

Certainly, I feel I have probably embraced life more so over the last year than perhaps I have in the past, or at least a very long time. I'm getting out in the sunshine more, writing more, living more, appreciating more. I have my down days, yes, but all the other days are pretty damn good.

Mum would be proud.

Love and miss you, Mum.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Loose ends

This is me, twenty-five years ago, standing in front of Windermere - England's largest natural lake. (Can you believe it was actually summertime when this photo was taken? Good ole English weather, eh?) I was almost a week in to a two-week road trip through the UK with two friends that immediately followed a fourteen-day Contiki tour through Europe with one of them. (Sorry, just to digress for a moment ... I wonder, when looking at this photo, why I'm wearing black socks with grey cotton pants and white shoes, and why didn't I push down one of the legs of my pants before the pic was taken? *sigh*)

Just before I left for my holiday, I had been seeing a guy. Although it was very early days, I quickly realised the relationship wasn't going anywhere; he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, and I was interested in someone else at the time (someone I had planned to see on the holiday). We quite openly discussed our feelings for other people. During one of those discussions, I pondered the point of us continuing the 'relationship' (for want of a better word - it hadn't gotten anywhere near serious - like I said, it was very early days), and he said, 'Go on your holiday, see how things go, then when you come back, we'll see where we're both at. At the very least we're friends, and friendship is the basis of any relationship.'

Wise words indeed, however it wasn't enough for me. I knew - in my gut - nothing was going to eventuate between us, and in truth, I felt uncomfortable going halfway around the world to visit someone while someone else was waiting for me back home. So one day when I found myself alone in a rental apartment that I was photographing for work (I worked for a real estate company), and noticed a telephone in the corner of the room and found the line was still connected, I called him. 'It's not working,' I explained. 'I just think it best we end it now, rather than drag things out.' After a short, respectful and kind discussion between the two of us, we were done, but vowed to remain friends.

I left that rental property finally understanding the whole 'weight lifted from your shoulders' concept. I'd allowed my first serious relationship to drag on and on, well beyond its expiry date, and I was so proud of myself for not doing that again. I knew that he was probably using my upcoming holiday as an excuse to prolong the inevitable, and perhaps once upon a time, I'd have done the same, but in the past, that hadn't worked for me.

Later in the evening in Windermere, after the picture was taken, I sat on the bed in our cosy B&B room and wrote a postcard to send to my ex. You see, his ex-girlfriend was from the same town. I knew he'd find the humour in it (and he did).

Although things didn't work out with the other guy either (something I kinda knew going in to it, but wanted to know for sure), I don't regret the decision to call things off with my ex. As the saying goes, Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Maybe it's a Virgo thing, but I like things to be finished up neatly and I'm no fan of living with question marks hanging over my head. Tying up loose ends - of all types - makes me feel a gazillion times lighter, like I can start afresh and look to the future. Wipe the slate clean. I knew, getting on that plane to the UK, I was free of any future decisions, and I could just live in the moment, and importantly, my ex was able to do the same.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Look up

Many years ago now, I once had a conversation with an elderly lady who told me that you could see beauty in everything around you. All you had to do was look. The trees, the stars, the flowers, newborn babies ... beauty all around.

I see a lot of beauty on my paddling sessions. Birds flying low along the water, fish swimming underneath my board, distant trees swaying in the breeze, the way the sun glistens off the water. It's all so beautiful.

But sometimes, in every day life, I forget to 'look up'.

Like right now, you're reading this. Look up. What's around you? Your home, backyard, partner, child, pet? The view from the nearby window?

I was checking Facebook the other day, and as I looked up for a second, I saw the view pictured above. I don't think the photo quite captures it well - the colours in the sky reflecting over the water as the sun was setting really took my breath away, and I almost missed it - lost for a while in a virtual world.

It was a gentle reminder to look up. Sometimes the most beautiful things are right in front of you.