Sent Packing

I find myself with one day to go before we set off on the big trip down under. Now, I have decided in the main what I want to take in the clothing department, and which suitcase I will take. But this really is only about half the job. In my past I used to make a list of everything that I was planning to take on a trip with me, often a few weeks in advance. All outer layer clothing items were listed under categorical headings: trousers; shirts;  jumpers; shoes; coats. I used to count how many pieces of underwear were required and carefully record that too. I would also list the books I wanted to take and other items such as binoculars, camera, journals. Then packing would proceed in an orderly manner according to the list.John's australia 2011 047

Today I do not have a list of the items that will end up in Australia on Sunday. I am not even sure I completely know what those items will be, I don’t  have them all in one place and I certainly don’t have them anywhere near a suitcase. To my former self this feels highly unorganised and scary, a “flying by the seat of the pants” moment to pick out a pertinent metaphor.

The previous lists I made served the purpose of tightly managing the environment around me. I wanted to be in control; keeping control of the environment gave me the illusion of being in charge of what happened around me, and this increased a feeling of safety and security within me.

I realise now that very many of my former habits have slipped away as I have become more aware of how life is free-flowing, and I don’t have control. I used to be organised and ultra tidy – I could hardly tolerate any type of disruption or unforeseen event – now I still prefer not to have unanticipated things happen, but I am less likely to freak out. I can accept a level of disorder or muddle, and if I spot that I am starting to notice or fret about it then I know it is a fair indication that my stress levels have risen.

So, the packing will happen tomorrow morning, I am not unduly concerned about the content. I am much more of the opinion now that as long as I have my tickets, passport and some money – then for everything else there is Mastercard…

Been busy….

… away from my computer and from home, so thought I would share here one of the adventures.

Roz at 5

Me at five years

Last week I enjoyed a couple of days with my adopted mum reminiscing over my childhood. Well, I was only able to cover 3 years in the time we were together, but I left with a promise that I would return for more.

Mum used to keep a housekeeping and events diary during the time I was growing up. It was used mainly as a way of completing the weekly letter to my Gran who lived in Dorset, whom we saw twice a year in the half term weeks. Apart from that I think it recorded household expenditure (in the days long before home computers) and some reminders for birthdays. It was the family “go to” book for what happened when. This was true for my inquiry, and the main thrust of our discussion on this occasion centred around 1972 – 1974 when I was between the ages of four and seven. In this time we moved house twice, dad seemed to always be painting and repainting rooms, and mum was constantly washing bedding of various sorts, as well as massive amounts of clothes and curtains. These were the events that were worthy of inclusion, along with the car breakdowns, plus the job and school starts and stops. Included too are what appears to be a constant set of illnesses of one sort or another; we were faithful congregation at both doctors and church.

I am engaged in life writing, and am working on the autobiographical material in my life. I had spied the diaries in the bookshelf last Christmas when I was up with the parents, and it reminded me that they would be a good way to access some facts through the years of my childhood; what really happened when and where. At the time I arranged the visit this was all I was thinking would be possible, but as mum and I were talking, the factual record became dotted with living memories. We recalled my brother’s 8th birthday, long forgotten until we remembered him being car-sick and not making it out of the car in time during his special day out. The car had plastic seats, and although mum and dad tried to clear it up as best they could, the car stank for weeks afterwards.  Mum reckoned that it stank until they sold it – lovely!

We talked too of mum’s history and childhood; my grandparents and her cousins. She has a great pile of stories ready to come out, some of them she has already written for various magazines, competitions and writing groups over the years. I love reading her reminiscences; by doing so and in hearing the stories (some old favourites of hers I have heard many times before!) I am able to add adult understanding to my own history, and that of my adopted family. This feels like an important process of growing up and accepting what has gone before as well as appreciating the long and winding road that brings me to where I am today. Besides, it is all work in progress, and grist for my writing mill…




Music everywhere

I have days where I listen to no music at all, it is all too noisy and lively for this peace –  loving soul. Then there are days where it seems necessary and I “find” music I haven’t listened to for a very long time. I don’t very often ferret in the CD drawers, as I play most of the music I do listen to from my iPod, but today, for reasons unknown, I was drawn to it. I had a fancy that I wanted to add some Eric Clapton… and I knew J’s collection had a few that my collection missed. (By the by, I found a poignant sign of our cementing partnership was the mingling and mixing of our music collections. This was a significant step in togetherness for me, and it maybe a topic for posting another time…)

As a result of today’s ferreting, I have uploaded 15 hours of CDs on to iTunes. Some are golden sounds I have known and loved;  Blondie’s  “Parallel Lines” (rediscovered in the drawer – I am delighted, I didn’t know I had it on CD), Kirsty McCall’s “Glorious” (which is), Madonna’s “Music” (as far into dance music as I ever ventured), and then there is what I went looking for; Eric Clapton’s “461 Ocean Boulevard”,  a lovely album, quite new to me  although J said he was listening to it in the pub when he first went up to University in 1973!

So, just now, I am revelling in the music and enjoying hearing some old and some new tunes. In the past I have always found that even if I may not have heard a song for years (maybe ten or more) when I do it all comes flooding back; the era, the memories, even some of the feelings. I am now listening to “The Best of James”, added to the playlist today but originating from my Indie period in the 1990s. This album was released in 1998, which I could say was not a good time for me. I refer to it as my “black and blurry” period with too much work, not enough nourishing fun, and too, too, much living it up madly without due care and attention for health or wellbeing.  As I listen today I am expecting the old feelings to wash over me, but this is not what happens, the songs just sound familiar and friendly, but fresh, and I feel a million miles from that time in the late 90s.

What wonderful news this is for me! Where music has always taken me back to its time and place, the “there and then”, I find I am now able to be present in the here and now. I am not trapped in the old feelings and can listen with new ears, having no unwanted intrusion from the history these songs would have provoked in me on past listenings. I feel released and free to enjoy my music in a whole new world, the world of now. I am looking forward to revisiting some other classics of the collection that maybe held more horrors from the history. I wonder how they will sound with my new ears?

Future Proof?

According to the dictionary future-proofing is defined as “to make ready to meet potential future requirements, or make use of potential future opportunities.”  This is what I am doing in my life right now as J and I seek to make plans for our future after he retires in August 2014.  It feels a little like herding cats. There are multiple and varied possibilities; travelling, boating, house purchasing, not house purchasing, renting, world tours…. you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful puzzle to have to solve, but I never knew the future could be dizzyingly rich and varied.

Up until now, it seems, I did not lift my head out of the “work-and-house-owning” more conventional route. I left school and went straight to University, I left there and went straight to work – at no time did it cross my mind to choose to travel or break out of the rut. At 18 or 21 I was not adventurous enough to try this, although folk around me did go off inter-railing, but I did not feel I was missing out (this was the 80s – maybe a bit before gap years became de rigour). My parents did not encourage breaking free, or being different, and I complied with expectation; I married and owned houses, and worked and paid a mortgage… My life was on a straight train track, a single unwavering line towards a retirement that seemed, and indeed was, many years away.

Then I met and fell in love with J. This blew up the straight track I was on and, if I might stretch the metaphor, I think I moved off a train track and on to a sea… a vast swelling ocean that disappeared over the horizon with no markers or landmarks, no obvious direction of travel, and no suggestion that this situation would alter anytime soon. Now life could be anything, or everything, and I would have to take responsibility for my choices consciously and honestly; no more could I rely on conventionality to forge my path, or feel I could devolve the responsibility for living my life to fate or family ties.

So, I face my new future squarely, one with many precious opportunities. The official date it begins is now determined, and it is only 10 months away! Can I future-proof this future? There are many bridges to cross to get there, although it appears we may first have to build these bridges. Most importantly we have to choose where they go, which rivers we cross, how we want to live this life.

Also, we have to do some proper planning. The back to basics, nut and bolt budgeting and project management:  What can we afford? What do we want do with our stuff?  Where do we want to end up? Again, many questions and not so many answers yet.

I am lucky to have so many choices, and I now feel more adventurous and freer than in any time previously in my life; so much more ready to meet any future requirements. Given this, I intend to make use of any and every upcoming opportunity that takes my fancy in this possibility laden future.