I’ve had such a gentle week, perfect for easing back into domesticity after my week away. My house needed some womanly care and affection, and supported by half the planets in the sky all nestling in everything’s-got-to-be-just-how-I-like-it-Virgo at the moment (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Moon and Sun!), I spent half the week cleaning, sorting and filing. There is a calm ecstasy in a clean house don’t you think?
There was a public holiday on Monday, so I didn’t even have to go back to work until Friday, and the kids went back to school on Tuesday after a two week break, leaving me lots of time to find my rhythm. My time wasn’t all my own though, of course – with the beginning of term comes the return of after school activities – for this week, cricket training for Nick, karate for both of them, music lessons for both of them, and then this morning Nick’s first cricket game of the season, making three afternoons and a Saturday morning of this week dedicated to kids’ extra-curricular activities.
At one stage I began a semi-resentful, bitching whinge in my head about all the driving, time taken and the expense of such activities. I popped into a cafe in town to grab a hot chocolate before karate and started chatting to the beautiful girl behind the counter, who I knew had grown up in Taylors Arm. She asked me if I was taking my daughter to dance lessons. I told her no, I was taking them both to karate. She nodded, and said wistfully that she wished her mother had taken her to after school activites – “I was so bored, and it would have helped my social skills,” she said; “I am so awkward now!” If I could have reached behind the counter, I would have hugged her, but instead I told her that it was the same for me when I was growing up, and that the Bear and I decided that just because we choose to live out here, it doesn’t mean that our children should miss out.
I didn’t have any more negative internal dialogue after that. I sat and watched them learn karate, in between sipping my hot chocolate and reading my book, and felt nothing but privileged. That beautiful girl in the cafe (not awkward! Introverted and sensitive maybe, but not awkward) had reminded me of why we go to all this effort. Our children can have the best of both worlds, why not? They can have a country upbringing, a small school education and have a wider, world experience. We can provide that for them, as well as have fulfilling lives of our own.
It comes back to what is needed to make creativity and fun a part of your life. Almost counter-intuitively, to have those things as well as be productive and useful, you need to be disciplined and organised. In semester time, I treat those after school hours as study hours. Sometimes I get myself a little treat like a hot chocolate if I feel like I need it. Like the Bear says, leave a bit of butter on both sides of the bread – it’s got to be win-win if it’s going to be sustainable.
If you’re a parent, how do you feel about after school activities? What about when you were a kid? Were after school activities a part of your life? What did you do?
Podcasts! Seriously, podcasts have been the icing on my cake this week. I just pop my headphones on, iPod in pocket and off I clean, happy as anything. My favourite podcasts this week (thank you Lulu from Uncharted Ground for your wonderful recommendations <3) were Rob Bell talking to Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity, criticism and joy:
A man will be called to account on Judgment Day for every permitted thing that he could have enjoyed and did not.
– The Talmud
Criticism is the tax on participation.
So. Good. Also, I listened to a fabulous podcast from the Sounds True Insights at the Edge library with poet, educator and activist Dominique Christina called This is Woman’s Work on the importance of women being the author of their own lives and how we have a tendency to let other people write our stories. She also talks about her fascinating research into female archetypes.
Also: Dominique Christina happens to be a world poetry slam champion. Check this out:
This little video literally started a party in my heart. The cuteness and joy factor is almost too much to bear; seriously, this will make your day:
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: I just loved this book. It was like Pride and Prejudice with a feminist, social justice bent, and a ferociously strong and intelligent woman as the main character. What’s not to love? Both the main characters face challenges and as they go through the fires of life, they are humbled, softened and somehow stronger. It is a wonderful analysis of class, the difference between the north and south of England (fascinating how weather and geography can dictate what kind of people live in a place and what they do) as well as, of course, a love story. I wasn’t ready to leave the story when it finished, so I guess I will be turning to the TV series :).
As part of my cleaning frenzy this week, I cleaned out my semester 2 files, deleted what I did not need and filed what I did. I also enrolled in semester 3’s subjects – a philosophy subject, The Art of Good Thinking, and an English Literature subject, Engaging with Literature. Not all Australian Universities offer three semester’s, but UNE does, and I decided that studying all year round will work for me. For starters, it takes two years off the length of my degree if I do it that way, but also, we have a six week summer holiday over Christmas, which, from past experience, can be a bit challenging for my need to be active/challenged/working on something kind of personality :). Also? Philosophy and English Lit over the summer holidays? Love it :).
This idea that we have, that we know exactly where we’re going and what is in store for us – it’s such an ego trip. Speaking from my own experience, whenever I have tried to steer my life in a certain direction, for whatever reason, it almost never works, and in fact, causes a whole lot of problems I didn’t anticipate that often take years to sort out. Expecting something or someone to turn out in a certain way, or be a certain way has been such a source of suffering in my life, that dropping expectations has just been a huge relief. People, places and events are so much more enjoyable when I haven’t decided ahead of time how it’s going to be (and the arrogance! oh my). I am not sure if I am just someone who really needs to learn how to let the Universe guide my ship, or if other people have this experience as well, but ever since I backed off from thinking I need make all the decisions, all the actions and generate all the energy needed to get anything done, my life has gotten soooo much easier. Just sayin’. It’s not that I don’t have a purpose, it’s just that I’m not plotting, planning and worrying about my life anymore. Opportunities come, and I take them. I get ideas and I follow them up. I do the things that are right in front of me, and mostly, I just let the mystery be. Life is on a need to know basis, and until I need to know, all the worrying, wondering and fretting in the world is not going to help me. You know?
That’s all from me guys, have yourself a beautiful weekend. I have some friends coming over this afternoon, with a bunch of kids – one of those a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years, ever since she left Australia to live overseas, so; excited <3. Dinner, sleep over, talking, catching up, but most of all, the joy of seeing her lovely face, in the flesh. I hope your weekend is beautiful, my friends, whatever you get up to.