Thursday, 18 September 2014

The objects of my fixation

“Have you ever seen something and immediately thought ‘That-is-the-thing-missing-from-my-life-that-I-desperately-need’?”

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a perfectly valid question but Mr G was not the person to ask. You see he is not a shopper so he looked at me like I was completely mad. I’m hoping I have more luck with you guys.

Scrolling through Instagram, flicking through magazines or wandering in a shop I quite often see things and lose myself in their potential. Shoes, chairs, sheets, jeans, necklaces – anything really – can become an object of my fixation and suddenly seem like the jigsaw puzzle pieces I didn’t even realise were missing from my life.  They will make life better! Easier! Less stressful! More fun! Happier!

They’re not just a pair of shoes or a gorgeous piece of furniture.  They’re the heels that will magically bind everything in my wardrobe; the chair that would make my house more ordered and less cluttered; the necklace/shirt/dress/scarf that would render “I’ve got nothing to wear” permanently redundant; the sheets that would make the bed practically make itself; the kids’ plates that would make mealtimes stress-free; the elusive toy that would capture a busy toddler’s attention whilst simultaneously educating and entertaining her for longer than three minutes.    

Of course none of this is true. No single object is capable of wholly remedying life’s little challenges – big or small. Sad as it is to admit no set of sheets will make the bed itself. No armchair or cushion will negate the need to clean and tidy the house.  No single pair of shoes will transform a wardrobe*. No set of plates will necessarily make mealtimes stress free and no single toy will ever fully capture, entertain and educate a toddler for more than three minutes. At least not one of mine. (Unless of course the toy belongs to another child who is using it at the exact moment my toddler wants it, at which point it will become highly covetable.)

But none of that is the point. The point is it’s fun to dream. To imagine how carefree and idyllic life could be with a just a few simple tweaks. For me the magic happens before I try something on or even look at the price tag because those things make them real.

Once the price is known (inevitably out of reach) or an item is tried on (and it turns out the t-shirt/dress/necklace is actually lacklustre or unflattering) the thrill is gone.  The enchantment is over.

The objects of my fixation are far more fun in my imagination than they are in real life. Can you relate? If so let’s play a game. What are the current objects of your fixation?

These are a few of mine. Can’t you imagine how they would effortlessly transform my life?

Dream away!!

* I am reluctant to be completely defeated in this regard and will continue my search for the shoe-that-will-make-everything-better. I suspect the answer is that the more shoes you have the better chance you have of finding the exact pair on any given day.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

How have parents not unionised?

There are many things in this world I find quite astonishing. The fact that in Sydney you can spend $1 million on a slice of real estate and not receive a garage never fails to baffle me. Similarly, that a society can be so wholly dependent upon technology yet setting up broadband internet remains a punishing and insurmountable feat for otherwise competent and educated mortals, shocks me. That someone ever discovered that separating the yolk and the white of an egg, and subjecting the components to various processes could yield magical things like meringues and mousse, amazes me.

Truly, all manner of things genuinely surprise me. But, if I had to single out one state of affairs that consistently astounds me, above and beyond all else, it is this. The fact that as a workforce parents are yet to unionise. Think about it. The working conditions that parents are subject to by their very small employers are burdensome.  

There is no doubt that in some sectors and some areas working conditions in Australia could be improved dramatically. Generally speaking though when you consider the basic rights Australian employees are entitled to and compare it with the conditions parents face on the frontline, it’s startling.  

Reasonable working hours? How does 24-7 sound?

Annual leave? You’re kidding.

A weekend? Absolutely not. 

Freedom from physical harassment? Unlikely.

Freedom from bullying, intimidation or generally unsavoury behaviour from your tiny bosses? Have you met a toddler?

A workplace free from hazards? Cannot be guaranteed. Actually, it can be guaranteed. Your bosses will place physical and emotional “hazards” in your way, usually several.   

A stress-free working environment? You might get glimpses but chances are you’ll be sleeping through those moments. Unless, of course, it’s one of those shifts where not even nightfall brings sleep in which case “stress-free” isn’t even close to the right postcode as an accurate label for workplace conditions.

Noise pollution? In. Sane.

Reasonable remuneration? No.

Any remuneration? Afraid not.

Bathroom breaks? No.

A lunch break? No.

Reimbursement for expenses reasonably incurred in this line of work? No.

Any recourse to a manager, an HR representative or an ombudsman to report unsatisfactory treatment? No.

So I’ll ask again. HOW HAVE PARENTS NOT UNIONISED AGAINST CHILDREN??? We’re meant to be the ones with the power! With the (albeit rapidly diminishing) money! Over the years employees have successfully fought rich and powerful employers for things like penalty rates, extended periods of paid leave and even guaranteed salary increases, so how is it that parents haven’t even secured themselves a weekend off once a month??? 

It’s mindboggling. At least it is until I take a moment to reflect on the practicalities of negotiating any type of agreement with my tiny terrorists. There have been days in recent memory when securing six months’ paid annual leave from Rupert Murdoch would pale compared to getting my pair out the door. Which is why the workplace conditions for parents are unlikely to ever change. Nevertheless it astounds me.

What blows your mind?   

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Five years in.

Five years ago tomorrow I enjoyed one of the very best days of my life. I married Mr G. Three days later we hopped on a jetplane and flew across the globe to begin our married life in a rather lovely English town. Fortunately the love and laughter from our wedding day has served as a marshmallow around us for the five years that have since passed.

As I’m sure you can relate, our marital life has been steeped in light, fluffy, sugary goodness since we tied the knot. Is there anything that can ever cast a shadow over the luminous love a couple enjoys on their wedding day??? Of course there is. It’s called life. And if there’s one thing Mr G and I have enjoyed a fair bit of in the past five years it’s been ‘life’. And while it might not have all been marshmallowy lightness, the truth is, there is nothing that makes me happier, or more grateful, than our marriage.

Between us we have navigated many of life’s joys, a few of its catastrophes, plenty of chaos and much of its daily grit. We have overcome some trivial disputes and some that have been far less trivial.

We have shared some obvious milestones; having two children, moving countries, moving house (twice), starting new jobs, entering our 30s, growing up. Together we have experienced sleep deprivation, crises of confidence, moments of glory, pangs of panic and an incredible visceral love for our girls.  We have shared countless meals, car trips, conversations, arguments, dreams, setbacks and just about everything else in between.     

Every marriage is its own mixture of the best and worst of life – it is shared love, joy, disappointment, pain, grit, excitement, friendship and more. Aside from the fact it’s ours, I realise there is nothing about our marriage that is any different from anyone else’s. Because of that I wondered whether it’s too indulgent to write about. Perhaps it is but earlier today I read something that quite literally took my breath away and made me want to write it anyway.

At the beginning of July Hannah Richell’s husband died while surfing. Her account of the grief that has followed is the most raw and poignant thing I have ever read. Like us, they have two children and on the day she wrote this she had celebrated their beloved 4 year old daughter’s birthday. Without him.

She wrote about the love and life they shared, and the fragility with which she has come to appreciate it was all steeped. Now, she is often overcome with the urge to tell people to appreciate what they have, to live every moment like it’s their last, in case it is.

Her beautiful, wise and moving words made me recognise, possibly more than ever before, the blessing that is simply living life with someone you love. It’s a blessing that can be forgotten, sometimes easily, in the haze of everyday life. It’s certainly slipped my mind on certain occasions.
Mr G and I have had the remarkable good fortunate to enjoy that blessing for almost a decade. It is my most heartfelt hope that we will share many more decades together and if fate is kind I have no doubt we will. But regardless of how our future unfolds nothing will ever change the decade we’ve had together. 

Tomorrow, and this weekend, I will not celebrate five years of sweetness and light. I will celebrate five textured married years with a man whose kindness, love, stubbornness and talents never cease to amaze me. And for that I have never felt more grateful.  

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The unexpected lesson I learned from Instagram

“Remember, no one is happy as they seem on Facebook, as depressed as they seem on Twitter or as insufferable as they seem on Instagram.”

Those borrowed words of wisdom caught my eye a few weeks ago and made me laugh. They kind of hit the nail on the head, yes? I have written before about the fraud of Facebook but today the social media channel I want to discuss is Instagram.

I joined up less than a year ago; I resisted for some time before that because, well to be honest, I didn’t feel my life was pretty enough to take part. From the glimpses I’d caught Instagram, to me, seemed a forum for people with beautifully styled homes, impeccably-styled clothes, well-chiselled features and ridiculously well-honed photographic skills. Those categories count me out so for a while I assumed it wasn’t the place for me.  To clarify, this is not faux modesty; I have plenty of strengths and qualities but styling and photography aren’t among them. (And while things might be improving, well-chiselled I am not.)

But, after I noticed that a growing number of my friends and family seemed to be cavorting around this photographic forum I decided to join. (To be honest, the fact my grandfather had an active account brought me around pretty quickly.) So I jumped in and rather quickly became rather fond of Instagram in all of its gorgeous glory.

A few things became apparent. For a non-visual person I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the visual element. I live and breathe words – for pleasure and for work – so leaving that aside in favour of happy snaps feels a bit like a holiday. Scrolling through photos of dreamy bedrooms, idyllic views and memorable moments is totally different from scrolling through Twitter or Facebook.

A picture says so much and the beauty of it all is kind of mesmerising. My photographic skills haven’t evolved but I’ll tell you this - there’s a filter to fix just about everything. 

I also discovered that my initial assessment of photographs worthy of Instagram wasn’t entirely accurate. There are plenty of lust-worthy homes and fashions to be devoured but there is also much more. There are friends, families, holidays, food, funny moments, all captured and encased in flattering filters for you to follow and like. It’s another way to keep in contact with the goings-on in the lives of those you love. (And even the lives of people you don’t even know, let alone love, but find yourself inexplicably drawn to. Pixie Curtis anyone???)

Aside from the unexpected pleasure of stalking strangers’ photos, something else quite unexpected happened when I joined Instagram. My life didn’t change but I started to look at it differently. There are a lot of moments in my life that are not worthy of Instagram. For example, breakfast most mornings, my house at 5pm on any given day, our laundry, my car, inside the girls’ cupboards, inside my cupboards are just a few of the #ThingsNoOneWouldEverInstagram. But there is more to life (even my life!) than those dreary details.   

I started to notice that my life actually is dotted with pretty or memorable moments, and keeping my eyes out for them opened my mind to them. I won’t pretend that it changed my life (ha!) but it certainly did focus my mind on the simple every day pleasures. Who knew my life was filled with #ThingsWorthyofInstagram? A well-earned coffee, a cheeky grin, a glass of wine, a freshly made bed, a toddler wearing wedges, cousins congregating, a cake worth replicating, a celebratory bottle of “champagne” that turns out to be beer … these are the little details that help make everyday life that much more enjoyable.  

Hmm did someone say insufferable?? Maybe I should post a picture of my laundry. Are you on Instagram? Love it or loathe it?