Irrational anger

It’s been a long couple of days with snatched sleep here and there in between nightmares and tears. I woke up early around 6ish and had an overwhelming urge to go for a walk down the beach before the rest of world wakes up to Saturday. I roll over to discover Friday’s mammoth glute session at Pilates had taken its toll. My arse is throbbing with DOMS. I get as far as rolling around on the foam roller and then return to bed with a tea and another episode of Made In Chelsea. I’m using this show as my re-education into London life. It’s quite hilarious and the perfect escapism from reality.

By 9.30am I felt disgusted enough with my laziness to crawl into the shower, dodging the mirror so I wouldn’t be confronted with my puffy eyes.

Coffee! The sure fire way of getting me out of my flat. I’m not falling under the dark cloud of depression but I know it’s there, down the next block and around the corner, ready to pounce if I let it. So I walk the long way down to the new Turtle cafe ‘A girl called Jayne’. It was really busy with no seats available. I stood staring at customers willing them to hurry up and fuck off. No one obligated.

Blood pressure rising I storm off to my nail place and ask them to fix my broken nail – first world problems – but if I can fix this one thing today that’s been driving me insane over the last two days, catching on EVERYTHING (it’s been broken for over a week but only annoyed me in the last two days), I’ll have achieved something in a world of nonsense.

They fix it and offer me a cheap manicure. I accept and choose white as my colour. Don’t ask me why, I thought it would make a funky change. (Nothing to do with wiping slates clean or purity or innocence I’m sure) Instead it looks shit and I didn’t hide my displeasure when I stomp out of the shop.

Back at the cafe there’s a seat inside in a corner. I nab it, open my book. Perhaps Fire and Fury isn’t the best book to read when you’re experiencing irrational bouts of anger. I manage the foreword before deciding the author is an inauthentic prick who is just out to make a quick million.

I need to chill.

I plug in my earphones to block out the incessant noice of people. Close my eyes and start to meditate. Breathe in…2..3..4..5..6 Out..2..3..4..5..6. In…”can I take your coffee order?”

Jerked back in the room I order a skinny cap and turn away again immediately. I continue my escape and pretend I’m floating on a cloud watching the world underneath me. A great trick I use to distance myself from problems. 10 minutes later I realise my caffeine hasn’t arrived. I’m jolted back and glare at every wait staff. There’s so many of them, all racing around but not getting anywhere. The boss lady is making her presence known order them around in opposite directions to whatever they were doing. I call boss lady over and ask how long the coffee will be. She apologies and literally seconds later it arrives. The chocolate sprinkles are divine. Like proper Lindt chocolate sprinkles I use for my hot chocolate in winter.

I spoon the froth up to eat it, completely missing my mouth and hitting the table. The disappointment of all that chocolate goodness spilled on the table made tears spring to my eyes. FFS.

I check my phone. 2 missed calls, 2 VMs and 3 messages. Mostly hen do logistic questions which I can’t face. I squeeze off replies and then text G to see if I can sit in her back garden and read my book. Permission granted I down the coffee and move to pay. Two MAMILS descent to take my table before I’ve even gotten to my achy glutes to work. I turn to one and making sure I don’t smile ask if he’d jump in my grave as fast. The till operator is rushed off her feet, bashes in the amount I owe and yells to tap and go. I’m irked I don’t get any form of customer service – I won’t be back.

Outside I clamber over a buggy in the middle of path and slam my headphones back in. Spotify – Cranberries Zombie fills my head. Very appropriate.

Back at the flat, I jump in the car, take down the roof, whack up the radio and drive to Gs. I sit outside for a few minutes breathing trying the calm the heart. It’s currently pumping so hard in my neck it’s like I’ve run for a bus!

G welcomes me, puts out the chair, a glass of water and half a glass of wine. She tentatively joins me and asks a few questions. It doesn’t take more than a couple of words before the tears escape again. It doesn’t feel good to talk but I carry on but I don’t think I’m making much sense. I think I’m contradicting myself as I recount conversations from last night that feel like last year. And then we change the subject and the heart stops pounding quite so hard and it’s fine again. We talk about plans coming up and the hens weekend. Anxiety levels increase again when I remember the messages and how useless some people can be. I feel like picking a fight with someone just so I can yell at them. Instead I tell G I’m irrationally angry and will be watching alcohol consumption over the next few weeks. And then take a glug of wine.

I didn’t read my book but it was nice feeling the grass under my feet. Then an ant bit me and then another and then I needed to get away. I’ve lasted an hour, that was good. I need to get home. Maybe with some Messina Gelato? No, there’ll be people there. There’s no one at home. Sanctuary.

I get a couple more texts. One doesn’t give me the information I asked for months ago and I get angry. Really angry. So angry I have an entire conversation with them out loud. They can’t hear me of course, but I’m sure my neighbour sitting in her garden can,

Then suddenly I’m exhausted again and dehydrated. I drink a litre of icy cold water and climb back into bed.

Back onto Made in Chelsea. Tomorrow will be better.

A midnight email

Dear Bestie,
So my bad day turned considerably worse after we were messaging and after I totally broke my little toe on the door (how do you stub your little toe before your big toe?!). 
 
I don’t know why I’m sending you an email but it helps to write and I need to offload. Sis rang me about an hour ago. I’d been thinking it was about time for R’s 3-month scans and it was. This morning was results day and what with NZ and her applying for this new job Sis had it in her diary but had almost forgotten about it. The results are bad. The cancer is back and very active. It’s in a secondary location which pretty much makes him terminal. It’s in his lymph system so they need to act quickly before spreads further. Basically, he’ll be in treatment for the rest of his life and is a case of now prolonging and maintaining a quality of life. He’s getting his line put in and starts chemo next week. 3 months every 2 weeks with scans in the middle to see if it’s working.
 
They are trying a different drug because even though the other one worked it was only in the short term. With this drug, he’ll lose his hair and will look sick. 
 
Prognosis isn’t good. The stats say months, the Dr said in his experience patients last years and because of how well he reacted last time there’s a good chance he’ll last years too. But if he gets to see B’s 5th birthday it’ll be a massive achievement. He’s just turned 2. Sis broke my heart when she said he’ll never walk N down the aisle. She’s turning down the new fancy pants job as there’s no way she can do it while he’s having treatment and won’t be working. Thank god I’m going home.
 
It totally breaks my heart that they have to go through this all again and R only has years left when there’s so many a-holes out there. R has done nothing wrong, neither has my sister  – sure she can be a pain in the butt sometimes and judge my ridiculous lifestyle choices and singleness – but they are good people. B and N are going to grow up without a Dad. And it kills me! 
 
It kills me that while I was on speaker in the car R has changed his WhatsApp group name with his NZ mates back to R’s Cancer Soldiers after changing it to Conquering Heroes last year. It made me laugh and cry at the same time. When I asked him if they’d offered him support, he told me to f off he didn’t need to sit in a room and talk about feelings there’s a life to live. That made me laugh too. We bounced around ideas of videos we can make and an NZ treasure hunt he could create for N&B to do on their own. A pilgrimage to Daddy’s favourite places in NZ. He can write notes for their birthdays and Christmasses. I told them about Sam and Connie Johnson and how I’d bring back their book as Connie did such a beautiful job of actively dying. I asked who he wanted me to raise money for – I may have inadvertently promised to do the London-Brighton bike ride for him this year. that made me cry as I remember how chuffed he was with himself finishing it last June and we sat in the back garden smashing beers while Sis looked on disapprovingly. He told me he didn’t want to raise money for treatments as there’s plenty of money going that way. He wants more support for the little old ladies who bring the egg and cress and tuna sandwiches and endless cups of tea. He wants more books in the patients room, more distractions from the poison being pumped into his body. Totally achievable. I’m going to introduce him to the word of podcasts and maybe buy some board games and jigsaws. Jigsaws!!! He loves a good jigsaw.
 
It totally sucks but it was lovely to hear them be so grateful for the last year together and how they’ve both sacked off work this afternoon and are going to sit on the sofa watching Netflix. I suggested the Crown S2, they want to watch Scandal – philostines! They have such bad taste in telly! It made me cry so much when Sis said that even though they won’t get their happily ever after, she was so lucky with her lot. She said some people never get to meet the man of dreams, marry for 5 years, live in a beautiful house and have 2 gorgeous kids. They’ve got it and for however long it lasts it’s a blessing. I said a wise person once said “you can have anything you want in life, just not at the same time” I think this is very true. That wise person was Chyka from RHOMelbourne! Turns out they don’t watch that either!
 
I’m also pleased I was the person she rang. I worry sometimes that she doesn’t like me much. We’ve drifted away and together lots over the years and I know she’s disappointed I’ve hidden away in my spinster cave and just grown fat and not faced up to stuff. Bless her she still has faith I’ll meet someone and have kids – possibly the only person on the planet who hasn’t given up on me. I was worried that my moving back and the Mum situation has been so fraught with disagreements that we wouldn’t get on. We’d clash and fall out and that would be horrible. But as silly as it sounds I’m glad she still feels she can verbal vomit to me. We’re still sisters and by god a formidable team.
 
Yikes that’s just reminded me, that’s what spooky lady said. She said when I move back to London me and sis would be a formidable team. She also said Sis would be a widow. Maybe she was right all along.
 
But I’m calling it now. R is a fighter he’ll be here for B’s 5th. He smashed the odds last time, he’s totally going to smash it this time.
 
Christ I’ve crapped on but this has been therapeutic. Maybe I should start writing again. Anyway so now you know and I don’t have to tell you. You don’t need to call me, I’m fine just sad and we’ll just have to get on with it. XO 
 
PS I do fear this means I might not be coming back to Aus in 2-3 years. Sorry about that x
 

My 40th year: a time capsule of reflections

Where are you now?

Currently at work in my lucrative but dull-as-dishwater contracting job. Workload has slumped to a minimum, hence why I’m writing this. I have a beautiful view of the lower end of Melbourne CBD (Docklands end) from the 23rd floor.

What is the date? What is the weather like?

It’s 29 November 2017, my weather app tells me it’s 35.1* (feels like 34.8*) outside. Blue skies and minimal cloud cover. We’ve had a heat wave with temperatures in the 30s for the last fortnight.

What movies did you see this year that you loved?

Haven’t been to the cinema as much this year (probably due to Netflix-effect) but movies that spring to mind are Lion, A United Kingdom, Hidden Figures, Kingsman 2, A Trip to Spain,  Dunkirk, Beauty and the Beast.

A United Kingdom would be the one I loved most.

What are you listening to?

Nothing right now.

KIIS FM in the car, although even that is becoming unbearable now. Aussie radio continues to be terrible. Lots of 90s playlists on Spotify. The last song I played on my phone was Superstylin’ by Groove Armada.

Favourite podcasts include Chat10Looks3, The West Wing Weekly (although I’m way behind now!), Radio4 Friday Night Comedy and the odd Graham Norton podcast.

Who are you in love with?

No-one.

Who is your best friend?

GS and I’m going to miss her terribly when I move back to London. Luckily my other bestie JP lives there and I’m looking forward to re-connecting with her over multiple pink champagne Fridays.

What do you wish you could own right now?

I wish I owned a lovely little bayside property here in Melbourne which would keep one foot in Aus. I fear by the time I come back I’ll be well and truly priced out of the market.

What cities/countries did you visit this year? Where is your next holiday?

Broadbeach on the GC with Mum, London for Mum’s 70th and Brisbane for work. It’s been a pretty boring year travel wise!

Now I’ve realized, I’m definitely visiting Tassie before I go and plotting a little tour of Spain by train next year in March/April.

What are you most worried about?

Never finding love again and not having enough money are the two things that keep me up at night.

What is one amazing thing you expect to do in the coming year?

Re-connect with my family by spending some quality time with Mum, Sis and the kids.

What are your favourite memories of this year?

Dancing to Bjorn Again with Mum at Melbourne Zoo was pretty special.

Surprising her in London for her 70th was also lovely.

The amazing feedback I received from the board and exec after my presentation, hitting budget and overseeing some amazing events whilst being 3 team members down.

What were the top 3 accomplishments from the last year?

  1. Definitely the work and recognition I got from my charity gig – even if it did almost kill me.
  2. Gaining a 2:1 in my Graduate Diploma in Psychology.
  3. Taking control of my finances.

What made you laugh the hardest this year?

Is it bad that can’t think of anything? I don’t seem to have done much laughing this year.

What do you think are your greatest assets and skills?

Jack of all trades, I’m the ultimate generalist. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and like to understand why and how things work. I’m calm under pressure and get creative when stressed. About once a year I’ll come up with a genius idea.

What are your life goals at the moment?   How have you progressed them this year?

  1. Change careers from marketing to psychology.
  2. Create balance in my life.
  3. Make a difference.

I’ve made progress on all 3 fronts this year. Graduating and the move back home may actually help progress #1. I’m enjoying a part-time lifestyle which has created headspace for the first time in years and even with the extra time, I’m naturally gravitating towards volunteering in community projects.

What was the best thing you bought?

A toss-up between my Koala mattress, my Matt Blatt glass table and my Pilates membership.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Take That coming to Melbourne.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?

Happier, I feel like I’m making progress and there’s a plan of sorts in place. Even though I’m leaving a home I truly love.

ii. Thinner or fatter?

Possibly slightly thinner although there’s still considerable improvement to be made in this area.

iii. Richer or poorer?

Definitely richer. I have significantly less debt and actually have a savings account with money in it! Thanks, Barefoot Investor.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Now I wish I’d laughed more and had more fun. Worried less about what people think of me and had more confidence in my abilities.

How will you be spending your birthday and Christmas?

Birthday will be with GS and KF at Taste of Melbourne possibly underwater as it’s due to rain up to 50mm on Saturday. The on my actual birthday I’ll be at Pilates and then volunteering at Love Your Sister.

Christmas plan will be crashing GS and MF in a cottage in Olinda in the beautiful Dandenongs. Lunch tbc.

Who was the best new person you met?

Samuel Johnson.

What valuable life lesson did you learn this year?

To have confidence in my abilities. Don’t default to thinking it’s your fault.

What do you think you will be doing this time next year?  

I will be living in Streatham in London. It won’t be 35* and I hope I’ll be still doing Pilates and will be connecting with old friends and families as well as making new friends and continuing to contribute to the local community. Possibly working in a psych job…hopefully. Possibly booking a ticket to escape the cold for the Aussie Open.

 

7 Top tips from an AirBnB host

While I’ve been selling my corporate soul in a dull but highly lucrative contract, I’ve also been supplementing my income by offering out my spare room on Airbnb. Initially, it was a case of “needs must”. My cash flow was so ridiculous that I forced to get past my aversion to sharing my personal space and beautiful home with strangers.

Airbnb was a good alternative to a more permanent housemate and the variety of guests means you don’t get bored or annoyed with anyone for long. I’ve been doing this for 3 months now and as we head full throttle into backpacker season, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Know your market: Who do you want to stay in your home? Couples? Singles? Backpackers? 20-year-old party animals? It might seem obvious and I’m sure there are a million articles advising you to tailor your ad to that group. My advice – work out who you DON’T want in your home and then pepper your ad and descriptions with words that will deter them e.g. I stress how Elwood is St Kilda’s quieter neighbour with a lovely grown-up cafe/restaurant culture, away from the hustle and bustle of late night bars.
  2. Screen, screen, screen: No matter how long you pour over your listing, there’s always a surprisingly high number of people who will pay it no attention and try to book without checking suitability. Use Airbnb’s booking criteria and screening functionality. I have one queen bed in a medium sized room, yet I’ve had booking request from a family of 3 (including a small baby), a woman wanting a 6-month rental, and friends wanting single beds. Don’t be scared to screen and ask lots of questions up front.
  3. Manage expectations: If you offer use of your washing machine, dishwasher, tea/coffee/breakfast etc make sure you can sustain that offer and include washing powder. These are all lovely touches to increase your ratings but manage expectations by offering a shelf in the fridge and pantry for their food so they don’t eat your breakfast morning, noon and night. Make it clear where the washing powder lives and where crockery lives so you don’t come home to unloaded dishwashers every night. If you need access to the shower at specific times to get ready for work – let your guests know.
  4. Don’t underestimate how much loo paper you will go through! My guests are usually backpacking couples. So far all very sweet and lovely and we’ve had lots of fun swapping travelling stories. On one couple’s visit, I went through 10 toilet rolls in one week! That’s a pretty extreme example but and luckily I had plenty in stock.
  5. Limit your length of stay.  I read this as a tip to deter squatters when I first started hosting. Initially, I limited my length of booking to 14 days, but then naturally found longer than 7 days and I craved my own space. So now I limit stays to 7 days. Most bookings are for the full 7 days (given the profile of my guests).
  6. Stay strong around your rules. I’ve never had a bad guest and I’m sure it’s the case for 99% of cases. Any problems are usually down to miscommunication (see point 2 & 3). I’ve had two cases of guests wanting to stay longer – I’ve said ‘no’. I had one couple (the super poopers) live in their room caining my broadband – I pulled them up on it and explained their use excessive, they stopped.
  7. Always ask guests to dispose of their own rubbish and food at the end of their stay.  Guests will always generate waste and rubbish and if you hate putting out the rubbish – like I do – make sure it’s clear in the checkout instructions that they leave the pantry/fridge as they found it i.e. clear and dispose of rubbish appropriately.

I’ve found guests to be respectful, quiet, rule-abiding and very pleasant so far. Hosting isn’t going to make you rich overnight but it’s a good income supplement. I regularly make over $300 (profit) a week from offering out a room that would normally just gather dust. Plus you get to meet some pretty interest folk along the way 🙂

For someone I know…

It’s Daffodil Day here in Australia. A national campaign which nods support to all those affected by cancer. And that is one in two of us fine folk.

Today acts as a bit of a reflection day for me. Particularly this year, as for the past few years, as per the campaign, I’ve called out someone I know dealing with the roller coaster of a cancer diagnosis publicly on social media. This year for the first time in – I can’t remember – no-one in my close circle is affected.

7 years ago Mum had a malignant mole removed from her back.

5 years ago, it was my turn with a malignant melanoma found in my calf.

2 years ago, my school friend died at 37 of advanced ovarian cancer.

2 years ago, my brother-in-law, a fit personal trainer aged 37 was diagnosed with stage 4 anal cancer.

1 year ago after enduring the most aggressive chemo and radiotherapy available, he went into remission.

6 months ago, we were devastated to here the cancer had returned in his stomach.

2 weeks ago his scans showed up nothing abnormal. His body, used to fighting the crap out of cancer for the past few years had killed it off once more. He’s back in remission.

To say this is a relief is the biggest understatement. The father of two kids under 3, he’s a walking, talking example of how looking after yourself, enjoying a healthy balanced lifestyle puts you in the best position when fate deals you a doozy. He enjoys a beer every night and eats the odd tub of ice cream in one sitting but also works out for an hour 5 times a week before work.

The chemo he was given was tough, new and scary but he handled it like a dream. The doctors were amazed how he bounced back. I firmly believe this was due to his lifestyle and physical fitness.

But this drug would not have been available if it hadn’t have been for campaigns like Daffodil Day across the world, funnelling money into research. In Australia only 10% of research projects receive government funding. We as a society need to chip and do the heavy lifting when it comes to ensuring progress is made.

One in two affected by cancer is one too many. So please, on your way home tonight, buy a bunch of daffodils, a dougal bear or a pin.

The Dandenongs

Practising mindfulness is something I have found invaluable over the years. It doesn’t need to be sitting in a circle with your eyes closed, breathing in the good and breathing out the bad – that’s meditation and I HIGHLY recommend 10-15 minutes practice of that every day. No, I mean practising being present. Not worrying about the future, lamenting over the past but just understanding where you are, seeing, breathing, hearing, appreciating. It is liberating.

As part of my ‘6 months left in Aus’ countdown, I have promised myself to enjoy moments of my life here mindfully so I do not take for granted. I do not take regrets onto the plane, but can look myself in the mirror in March and say “I lived and enjoyed my life in Aus”. There will be things I don’t get around to, but that’s OK, it’s always good to leave a reason to come back.

So without formally coming up with a Bucket List, I’m taking that format to describe the next 6 months. First up a walk in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.

Being the arse of winter here in Victoria, we’re all a bit fed up with the endless cold, the rain has finally arrived to fill up the reservoirs ahead of summer but it’s doing nothing to lift our spirits. It’s been a cold winter. So a weekend of temperatures in the high teens and a full day of sunshine brought Melbourne temporarily out of hibernation. And it’s on that coattail, I decided to jump in the car and head to the ‘Nongs.

It was very muddy and I did think 5 mins in, this was a bad idea but 10 mins in, I didn’t care about how dirty by trainers were – there were silvery poles everywhere, a thick springy carpet of moss everywhere, sun bouncing off a thousand surfaces.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Walking along, I followed a family of Dad, boy and girl through the forest. The girl, possibly 5 years old, wasn’t happy traipsing in the mud in her wellies. She saw me with my camera and asked to see my pictures. I showed her, and her immediate question was “But where are all the fairies?”

“They are hiding from me, maybe one day we’ll catch them” I responded.

I was only half humouring her, it’s not difficult to believe fairies live in this forest.

A trip to the ‘Nongs is not complete without visiting Sassafras to pick up a coffee, wander around the tiny shops especially the sweet shop to stock up on retro 80s lollies. I was very happy with my rhubarb and custard boiled sweets and takeaway coffee and singing to Smooth FM all the way home.

Mastering Your Own Destiny

Decision made: Operation Ausexit is a go.

There were lots of tears. Tears when I told my boss I wouldn’t be stepping into her shoes and taking the promotion, tears when I broke the news to close friends, one by one. Tears when I finally told my team, relief that it’s no longer a secret but sadness that it’s now so real. Tears of joy from Mum every time she remembers I’m coming back. And tears every time I see or do something I won’t be able to do again once I move back. Walk on the beach after work, have my birthday in summer, surrounding yourself with gum trees on a Sunday morning and basking in the magicalness of it all.

One of the life lessons I have learnt is that you are the master of your own destiny. Things came to a bit of point a month ago when decisions made, resignation submitted and all the best intentions made, work needed to replace me and advertise for my replacement. I needed to earn considerably more money to pay for apartment renos, and a shipping container to take all my stuff home. Fortunately, I have skills I can whore out to the highest bidder and it turns out I’m quite the whore.

A stressful couple of weeks touting myself around my network, came back with 4 potential roles on a 6-month contract. Crunching number showed 2 of the 4 weren’t worth jumping ship for as the incremental increase in wages would be negligible. 1 wasn’t a solid offer and the final was the perfect solution. A very lucrative part-time gig allowing for a handover and keeping my hand in at my current job. I thought I’d crashed out of the interview and following an angsty weekend of waiting got the wonderful news the job was mine. Cue more tears.

I started my new part-time life yesterday, and while it’s going to be busy at best and chaotic on an average day, I’m so proud of hustling myself into this position. I get the best of both worlds: living the corporate life in fancy pants offices, interstate travel, enabling weekends away in QLD, earning a disgraceful daily rate; then keep it real in charity world, seeing through my plans, topping up the coffers and living locally. Talk about balance…

…So long as balance doesn’t mean too much office time as my bestie reminded me last night. I have 6 months of Aus life left ahead of me (until I come back of course!) and I will be making sure I will be maximising all the opportunities.

Speaking of which, I must prepare the spare room ready for my next Airbnb guests.