Sunday on my mind

Sunday in Bed

It was a day I shouldn’t have climbed out of bed.

In keeping with a new resolution, last Sunday morning I headed to the swimming pool. I used to swim a lot, but that was a couple of decades ago. I’m painfully aware of the weight I’ve put on since then, and my reduced flexibility.

I’m aware that several repetitions are required before an action can be completed a habit. This was to be my second visit to the pool, so not anywhere near a habit yet. I donned the togs and made the 20 minute walk to the pool. It was only when standing at the reception desk, I realised I had left my purse at home.

That meant an about turn and quick trip home. On the way, I questioned myself whether I would abandon the swim, but I’m pleased to report I grabbed the purse and returned to the pool. No chickening out. I even clocked up more laps than the week before.

I didn’t notice until this morning, but I left my shampoo and conditioner at the pool. That was silly move number two. Not smart given they were not the usual supermarket brands.

Back from the pool, shampooed, dried and dressed again, I decided to make a train trip down the coast to see a section of Melbourne I hadn’t visited before. A great feature of Melbourne is the public transport system, and in this situation I could board a train at the station in front of my apartment building, and alight at the station on the beach front. What could be easier? It was roughly an hour trip, but I had a new book with me and was looking forward to a break from inner city life.

I got to the barrier gate at the station and then remembered I had left my pre-paid transit card in the pocket of a jacket – hanging up in my wardrobe. I had to run back to my apartment, search through the jackets until I found the card and run back to the station again. Phew.

The train journey required a change of train at Flinders St Station. As there was a short delay before the second train was due to leave, I decided to buy a cup of coffee. I felt I’d earned it after all that rushing around. I’d taken my keep cup with me, so was happy that I wasn’t adding to land fill with a disposable coffee cup.

I took a back pack with me to carry my bits and pieces on my beach trip. I don’t know about you, but whatever I want is always at the bottom of the pack. I had to rummage through the pack to find my wallet, removing some items as I did so. You can guess what happened. As I was summonsed to another end of the counter to collect my coffee, I left my sunglasses on the counter of the café. My favourite sunglasses. Not happy, Jan.

Time to take a deep breath and keep my wits about me. At least I managed some serious reading time on the train.

Autumn Excursion

Today (wearing my celebrant hat) I conducted a wedding ceremony at Hepburn Springs, north-west of Melbourne. It was a great opportunity to get to know an unfamilar area of Victoria, so I booked myself into the local pub and did some exploring.

To my delight, I discovered that it was autumn in that region. Okay, I know that it’s also autumn here in Melbourne but living in the CBD I don’t see or experience it. Suddenly there was colour – reds, golds, oranges and browns. Leaves scattered on my car overnight.

There were other issues that reminded me of what I don’t see in the city. I knew I was back in the country when I could smell the wood fires burning. There were horses in the paddocks wearing their blankets, and the paddocks gleamed with moisture after the early morning frost had melted. Sheep with black faces and feet grazed in others.

At times the paddocks were bordered by canopies of tall gums which shielded the road. Other times there were forests of densely planted eucalypts.  Roadside signs indicated that one should watch out for wombats, and sadly I saw one sad little marsupial, paws skywards, evidently having lost a battle with a car. This was not far past a sign proclaiming Wombat Forest.

At farm gates, there were buckets of produce, with hand-painted signs and honour boxes for when you made your purchase. One sign indicated that free range, fair trade horse poo was available. Not having a garden I passed that one up. I did come home with a carton of free range eggs instead. I assume that they were also free trade.

The pub in which I over-nighted was fairly typical.  Bathroom down the hall, noisy wooden floors and a wood fire down by the front bar.  I was relieved that the drinkers on the balcony outside my room didn’t stay too late.  My only complaint was that tea and coffee facilities were not provided for guests – in fact the only things in the room were a bed and bedside table. No chair, desk, or any other amenities. I hoped that there might be a lounge upstairs for the benefit of guests but it was not to be.  The décor was pleasant but for what was provided the tariff was on the expensive side.

I woke early and went for a walk early in the morning before finding an early morning café that could not only offer a cup of tea to start with followed by a country breakfast, but also the Sunday papers.  There are some city habits that I don’t like to lose. I then found a country market and browsed the stalls with loaves of bread, fresh produce, arts and crafts, and various tools. Heaps more of course. Chocolate brownies, candles, second- hand clothing and treasures of days past and now dubious use. I purchased a lovely blue felt had and think that it will be useful to cover the frizzy hair on cold, damp Melbourne streets.

I loved my weekend excursion. Living in the city is like living in an insular bubble, in spite of the cultural benefits. I must do it again.

Discovering Melbourne

Although I have thought often of my blog in the year since I have last updated it, demands on my time lead me away from regular entry. There has been another seismic shift in my universe, and here I am once again.

As a brief synopsis, my last full time position was made redundant and in the face of a very sad economy and even sadder employment market, I retrained and launched my business as a life coach (www.worklifejunction.com.au), helping people through times of transition and career review. It was a challenge getting clients and sufficient income to cover the establishment and ongoing costs. As the redundancy funds ran out, and I was confronting utter exhaustion from long hours in business development, I became increasingly concerned. Thoughts of selling the house were looming. I did love not being in the corporate environment, and in particular not having to participate in mindless performance reviews, but all the same there is something to be said for a regular and dependable income.

Scanning my LinkedIn feed early one morning, I noted a job interstate that outlined all of my prior experience. I could tick all of their boxes. For fun, I threw together a quick application and emailed it off, considering that my age and current location would see my application confined to the bin. I was surprised to get an interview (via Skype) and even more surprised to land the role. With my son now independent and living interstate, and my father now deceased, there was nothing major to stop be taking the role. Okay, there were two cats to consider and a large house and garden that needed looking after but they were not insurmountable problems and so here I am. In apartment on the seventh floor of a CBD building in Melbourne.

I drove over from Adelaide last weekend with a carload of personal effects and started work on the Monday. That sounds quite simple, except that the apartment in which I am currently living is owned by the sister of an in-law, and when she vacated the apartment a couple of years ago, she walked out and shut the door on everything here. She started again in her new apartment – new furniture, new clothes, new household goods. She was also a hoarder – old boxes, broken items, empty containers: all of them are stacked in every room. She has not been able to deal with it since. There are various reasons for that and I won’t go into it here but it means that I am confronted with dealing with the sorting and disposal issue.

Currently, I am sleeping on a mattress on the lounge room floor. The kitchen and one of the bathrooms are functional and I have just taken delivery of a washing machine (she did take the fridge and washing machine) so yay – I can now wash my clothes. I really, really want to sort out the rest of the apartment though and as she wants to review items and decide what she still does and does not want, I have to wait for her to turn up. It is now 3:30 on a Sunday and although she texted that she was on her way over an hour ago (living 10 minutes walk from me) she still hasn’t turned up. I guess we are not getting much done this weekend.

There are some plus sides to this apartment. It doesn’t have a huge garden to maintain and that is a huge plus. I did buy a cumquat tree for the balcony yesterday and also a Croton for indoors. I still need some greenery about me. When she has sorted/taken the rest of her stuff on the balcony, I will make that a more liveable space, with a small table and chairs and some potted herbs – perhaps even a tomato.

I have Chinatown on my doorstep and the train and tram service run past my door, with the train being underground. I don’t have the internet connected yet, so I can slip over to the train station daily and access 250Mb of free wifi. This is not a lot but it all helps.

1 Hydrangeas in the Conservatory across the road

2. View from my balcony

3. My new abode (level 7)

Don’t Come Monday

Now that it has finally happened, I’m feeling a bit drained and over it all. More than a year ago, my senior manager indicated that projected work was not at the level previously anticipated and that this may have in impact on the team. A few months ago, he announced the process to be undertaken for a resources review within the team. A few weeks ago, he advised me that my position would not be carried forward into the new financial year and a few days ago, he confirmed the date and details of my departure.  Because of ongoing projects, that won’t be for three months yet, but at least there is a definite date.

Some people have no notice of impending redundancy, having their work ID card and mobile phone retrieved as they are being ushered out the back door. I can’t complain about the lack of notice, nor the redundancy payout which is more than fair. Between the sudden death approach though and the painfully drawn-out process that I have experienced, there should be a realistic and compassionate compromise.

All is not lost however. For some time the joys of corporate life have not necessarily been waning but the joys of working with decreasing autonomy and increasingly restrictive policies and procedures palled a long time ago.  Most people hit a peak in their career a long way before retirement age.  From then on, the opportunities are fewer, and career moves seem to be sideways rather than forwards.  Increasingly, I have been thinking ‘Is that all there is?’ Motivation has been at an all-time low, driven only by the salary that was deposited into my account each month.

I have been planning my escape route for a while and my redundancy payment will help to fund the start-up phase.  Of course my nearest and dearest are advising that I should be taking all sorts of actions now to attempt to secure another job and not to rely on my own devices, but you know what?  I am not going to listen.

For a start, I am what would be described as a mature-aged female and I know that options for re-employment are limited.  From about 40 onwards, I found that opportunities dried up significantly.  If I think back to the times in my working career when I have been the happiest and the most engaged, it has been when I was self-employed.  My success record has been a bit erratic, but in hindsight, I can see that I was under-funded, lacking in crucial knowledge or experience and without appropriate mentors.  In spite of those impediments, I still managed to support myself.

This time, I have a wealth of life and commercial experience, and a better understanding of what I don’t know.  I am up-skilling and on a massive learning curve.  At times it seems totally over-whelming but it’s exciting too and I can’t wait to be able to devote myself to growing the business full time.

It won’t be without challenges, and I will put together a risk management plan to mitigate those.  Social isolation, demotivation, and time management are a few of the issues that I will have to address.  I am relying on planning and networking to help here, plus explaining to others that working from home is still ‘working’ and explaining to my two cats that just because I am  here through the day, does not mean that I am available to constantly refill the food bowl.

I am really interested to learn how others have tackled the career change later in life, and in particular if you have started an entirely new business.  Did you feel more confident as an encorepreneur?  What were the problems that you encountered?  Are you glad that you did it?  Tell me.

At any given moment you have the power to say that this is not how the story is going to end.

Travel Writing Workshop

There has to be some sort of reward for surviving a week of above 40 degree temperatures here in Adelaide, and today it was attending a travel writing workshop.  I don’t necessarily see myself taking up a new travel writing career (it pays too poorly for a start) but as always I have come away from the day impassioned and full of ideas for different writing projects.  The last workshop that I did was writing for radio and that was enthusiasm-generating as well.  Oh for the time to do it all.  Those brain storms and possibilities are all documented and at some point I will return to them and follow some up.

Not that I haven’t been writing.  My manuscript ‘The Red Heart’ is with the publisher and supposedly is undergoing an editing process as we write and the cover is also being designed.  The release date was 14 February but that date is drawing alarmingly close and I haven’t had confirmation that it will actually be made available on that date.  Hopefully soon.  In the meantime, I need to do some more work on the sequel.  I have the general plot idea but as I am just working on the first chapter there is much to be done.

I have a short story to submit to an anthology as well.  The publisher is seeking submissions on love stories, and I have just the thing in my bottom drawer, written about some of my observations from my occasional work as a marriage celebrant.  It will need some minor adaptation to suit the submission guidelines but other than that it is ready to go.

Time is one of the most precious commodities in my life, and I have come to the decision that in the middle of the year, I will reduce my working days to four per week.  This will of course mean a reduction in income but in part I will be pulling the belt tighter and in part will be developing alternative sources.  I have started a program of study that will be the springboard for the next career change – one that will ultimately allow me to be self-employed again.  More on that later.

In the meantime, young Donald and I are travelling to Japan in a couple of months and this will be an ideal time to put some travel writing ideas into practice.  We are going to attend the wedding of a young friend and are very much looking forward to the cultural experience – as well as the food, the sights, and the adventure.  I will be writing about it here of course, but will think about other avenues in the coming weeks.  It will be such an antidote to recent drab working experiences – I can hardly wait.

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

Reflection and Writing in Robe

One of my favourite places is Robe, in the south east of South Australia.  It is a historic coastal village that is known these days for its lobster catches, most of which are destined for foreign tables, unfortunately.

At the end of the week I will be travelling to Port Fairy in Victoria for an annual sojourn with friends and on a whim I have taken the entire week off work, and have been spending the preceding days in Robe.  Here I have been writing, and walking and thinking and meandering.  Tonight, in honour of my impending birthday, which is one of those with a zero on the end, I am taking myself to a highly recommended seafood restaurant, and dining on lobster.  This is an extravagant indulgence but this birthday won’t come around again and I think I deserve it.

Robe is approximately four hours’ drive south of Adelaide.  When making long journeys by car, I borrow a couple of talking books from the library.  Listening to the story makes the time pass more easily.  Baz Luhrman’s film ‘The Great Gatsby’ is about to be released and before seeing it I would like to re-acquaint myself with the book.  It would be great, I thought, if I could find a digital copy of the book at the library so that I would listen to it in the car.  It seemed such a positive omen for this trip therefore when there on the shelf and right in front of me was a copy of Gatsby.  It was meant to be.  I listened to most of it on the way down and was captivated by the elegance of Scott F Fitzgerald’s writing.  It is something to aspire to.

I am staying in a motel, which is a little uninspiring, but is one of the cheaper options in town.  Of course I am paying the rate that applies to two people but that is what happens when you travel on your own.  In between discovering where the best coffee in town is brewed, I have also been working on a short story which I started some years ago and at that time, reached a dead end.  I have circumnavigated that block and finished the tale, in draft form at least.  That feels good.

I have also revisited a novel, based in Robe and which I started a decade ago.  Reading now what I wrote then, I realise how laboriously written it was and how much needs to be deleted.  The story itself, not totally plotted, has merit but the telling needs much work.  At least I have developed skill to the point where I recognise bad writing when I see it, especially my own.  I will pick this story up again and try to do something with it.

The weather is too cold for swimming in the sea, or even paddling.  Great for bracing walks along the beach though.  This is the view from the Town Beach.

Looking along the Town Beach

This afternoon, having finished the draft of my story, I wandered along Long Beach instead (yes, that is what it is called).  The tide was going out and I cannot resist looking for treasures that the sea might have yielded, like a perfectly formed fan shell.  There weren’t any but  I found a shell with iridescent nacre and also a bit of wave-buffeted and encrusted green glass.

Shell and piece of glass found on Long Beach

Shell and piece of glass found on Long Beach

In a previous post on Slow Writing, I mentioned my intention to acquire a fountain pen again and to write; write letters, write in my journal (as opposed to my blog) and to write those more intimate communications.  I brought the pen with me and yesterday, sat in the window of the local library, overlooking the foreshore and brought my journal up-to-date.  Sigh.  Why would I ever go back to work???

Time to get ready for my dinner.  Along with the jeans and woollen jumpers, I packed an outfit suitable for fine dining.  I shall wash and dry my hair, pull on my stockings and apply my most sophisticated face.  I am surprised that I have reached the age that I have, but fully intend to make the most of it.  Bon appetit.