When I think of traditions, I inadvertently go back to those that made my own childhood. Some I have no idea why I did them, some I relished and looked forward with uncontained glee and others I reviled and have now turned my back on.
In this season of celebration and holidays, it seems like traditions are everywhere. Some families do a big Christmas, some have a casual affair. Some make a traditions of heading to the shops at 2am on the night before Christmas Eve and eat ice-cream as they watch the crowds of shoppers file by. Some sleep through the festivities or head to the mountains to wait till it’s all over.
The thing about them, no matter what they are, is that they create memories. Memories that can be looked upon with fondness in those moments when we feel a little lost.
Sitting here, my hands over my growing belly, feeling the baby kick me once again, I wonder what the traditions are going to be that he/she cherishes. What are going to become those memories?
I didn’t think I had any, but as I remembered the years past I realised that somehow – Evs and I had carved out our own. Things we had done year after year had become our traditions.
Our traditions now include midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Given that we both aren’t massively religious, it’s one of the one times we do go to church. For Evs, being part of the church community on Christmas Eve brings back memories for him from when he was a child. For me, I love the sense of joyfulness and belonging that one night gives him, and in turn, me. Ever since the year when we slipped into the back of the church and stood beside strangers, even while I fumble with the words to respond to, muck up when I’m meant to kneel and say “Amen” or that I accidentally threw out the communion wafer one year – it’s something we do together.
After mass, we pull into our street and sit in the car for a few minutes. The street is dark and quiet, save for the few houses that have put up lights outside. Our own Christmas tree lights up in our window, adorned with the decorations that we bought the first year we moved into our first house. That year, I had wanted Christmas to be special and while we lived surrounded by unopened boxes and mismatched furniture – we had our tree. Over the years, the lights have slowly died leaving only blinking points of orange and blue, reminding me that we need to replace them. Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t and those flickering orange-and-blue lights will become part of our traditions too.
It’s past 1am, but we exchange our gifts to each other. We always do it on Christmas Eve. The others we will open when we meet with family in a few hours. But, that moment, it’s just us.
This year we make gingerbread cookies after giving into my cravings since I had tasted them at a friend’s house a few weeks earlier. I had messaged her for the recipe and she obliged, yielding in soft, spicy cookies that Evs and I ice into the wee hours of the night.
We have a tradition of Christmas lunch with Evs’ parents (this year, lunch was at my sister’s and then a belated Christmas lunch on Boxing Day with Evs’ parents – but it was still the same) – there is always champagne and boxes of chocolates. There is a platter of fine deli meats, cheese and antipasto, prawns with garlic aioli which helps our hungry bellies be prepared for the main dish which is always a buttery, creamy lobster.
Once our stomachs have stopped hurting and heaving for a moment, we go for round two which consists of traditional Christmas pudding with homemade custard.
Tradition also decrees that we have a Christmas barbeque, but we go vegetarian at my sister’s this year and it is not lacking. In fact, I’ve bookmarked one of the recipes for a repeat performance at our traditional New Years Evs barbeque at our house in a few days.
Our traditions also include family. From both sides, where more food prepared with the labour of love appears and is eaten, belts undone, pants loosened and plates saved for later.
Gifts are given – small, thoughtful and just what we needed. The older generation settle down around the couches to snooze and chat, the TV quietly on in the background, while the those who are still able to move head down to the lake where we throw a Frisbee and relive our childhoods again on the swings.
It’s simple and it’s quiet and I think back onto these traditions with a full heart. It blows my mind that this time next year, I’ll have an almost one-year-old. I savour these moments that show they will be the last of of when I am just the parts of me that I have grown to accept – a sister, wife, daughter, friend.
The past few weeks I have been feeling unsettled. It’s not just a physical thing, but emotionally with a lot of things happening in my life – I’ve come home night after night drained and wanting nothing more to just curl up in bed and sleep.
Not quite a funk I’m in, but just my heart feels full to the point of bursting.
I realised the other day, that it actually coincided with me stopping going to Bikram yoga.
Why did I stop, you ask, since I was actually getting really into it?
Well, a few health issues after seeing my doctor which forced me to reconsider putting myself in an environment that was probably not going to help me. Nothing bad – just some low blood pressure and low iron which makes me a little bit more susceptible to dizziness and fainting.
So a heated room – Doc’s orders are for a break.
I’m really missing it.
REALLY missing that time in class, on the mat where I don’t do anything for the next hour or so except be with myself and listen to my body. It’s not only physically cleansing but mentally and emotionally as well.
So what’s a girl to do?
The thing about yoga is that you don’t have to be in class, surrounded by other yogi’s, on a mat, decked in Lululemon, sipping coconut water to be connected. You can easily incorporate your yoga practice into your everyday life and feel the benefits.
Breathe often. From what I have learnt from yoga so far is that our breath, no matter how our body and mind responds is the one thing that remains constant and links it all together. It’s a hugely important part of yoga and it’s quite surprising how much we actually forget to breathe during the day. Spend a few moments in the day checking in with yourself – remember the adage – JUST BREATHE. Taking a few deep, calm breaths during the day will make you more mindful of yourself and help you negate some of the stress.
Be open. There’s a phrase in yoga that I read about which describes when you go into class without your mind already made up with what you can or can’t do – it’s called ‘beginner’s mind’. I struggle with this a lot because I know, for example, that I’ll suck at Tree pose or anything remotely asking me to balance. This beginner’s mind is so easily translatable into your life – approach life without any preconceived notions about yourself – be open to what it might bring and you may be pleasantly surprised. LET GO.
Look inside you. There’s a moment in yoga when you stop looking around you and you just focus on yourself and the movements you are doing. There is no-judgement in the room, but you only have eyes for yourself. This, I think is one of the most important things you can take into real life – instead of looking to other people for validation or approval, take the time to look inside yourself and be in tune.
Be calm. You might have had an awesome class or a really shitty class and you expect the next one to be the same. Every day is a chance for something new to happen and be different to the day we had before. When starting something new, don’t look back or fret for the future – just be and look forward to the experience. Enjoy the moment.
While I haven’t been able to get to yoga consistently, I’m always surprised by how much it teaches me in such a short period of time. I’m already on the lookout for another studio (not heated!) that I can continue my practice.
What life lessons have you learnt lately? Please share!
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” – The Phantom Tollbooth,Norton Juster
For as long as I remember, I have been very good at sitting still.
It rocked when we were children, as I could find a quiet hiding spot and sit there, perfectly still, grinning away in the dark at the thought of being not found.
The quietness was like an old friend, comfortable and familiar and despite being surrounded by people, I could close my eyes and drift away to a place that was all mine.
It wasn’t that great when I would be given up being found for good and everyone would have left me, already engrossed in another game.
But I didn’t mind sitting there.
These days, I’m not so good at it.
I can’t help but notice the people around me – on the train, in the streets, sitting at their desks – body language screaming out “I’m busy, I’m connected, I’m late!”
Heads down, fingers furiously typing away at their phones, laptops, iPads.
Conversations scheduling the next thing to do, minds racing a mile a minute to work out how they are going to fit in yet another task into their ever-increasing list.
As my own life has become busier and filled to the brim with juggling work, family, marriage and everything else in between – when I close my eyes – I can’t find that place of peace anymore.
There is this voice in my head that whispers at my shoulder all the things I SHOULD be doing instead of sitting still.
How can I just SIT there when I have no time and there are THINGS to be done?
“Ok…I’m just going to sit here.”
“What? Seriously?! You could be out running right now! Or writing. Or finally cleaning out that cupboard full of random eBay things you have hoarded for the last three years”
“I NEED this. Shoo.”
“You NEED to get a move on. You have so much to do!”
“So what’s on your list today? I can help.”
“Just breathe. Breeeeeeeeathe”
“Did you remember to take out the chicken from the freezer?”
“Oh shit. Oops…back to breathing…”
This voice tells me what SHOULD be happening. My mind is crammed with all the things I SHOULD be doing to reaching my goals and desire of happiness – misguided and true both.
I SHOULD be exercising right now if I want to get fit.
I SHOULD be working on that article if I want to be a writer.
I SHOULD be taking on more work if I want that promotion.
Last week when I was home due to my wisdom teeth – it was the first time in a long while where I had no choice but to slow down.
I nearly went nuts.
I ended up filling my time with catching up on work, answering emails, chasing clients and writing reports.
To clear my mind after a particularly headachey morning, I went for a walk with the thought “I’m just going for a walk – don’t care how far or how long. Just walking”.
I ended up running half of that walk because of the voice in me that said – you SHOULD be running – you’ll get there faster.
Being in a corporate environment I am surrounded by that flow of go-go-go all the time – people are constantly on the move, time is precious and everyone is aiming to get that one rung higher on the ladder. And in the moments where I actually do try to stop and stand still – I’m swept away by this buzzing in my head of all the things I SHOULD be doing instead of not moving.
It’s the worst kind of feeling – my natural instinct is to let things go and be what they are, but the message of always striving towards…something ends up with me feeling frazzled and unsettled.
Sarah Wilson talks today about creating happiness without the expectation of something happening. Relishing in the moment of unbounded possibility and trusting yourself enough to let go of the constant voice in your head.
To find power in sitting still.
With this in mind, I walk down to my favourite coffee shop, shielding myself against the bitter cold and wind as much as I can. It’s a miserable day in Melbourne and I’m looking forward to warming my hands on my coffee and savouring that moment of respite before the day explodes into a myriad of emails, meetings and spreadsheets.
Typically, I’d be checking my phone – answering emails, making phone calls or going through in my mind what I need to do for the day.
But I stop.
Leaning against the wall of the cafe, I close my eyes.
I ignore the sounds around me, people chattering, coffee being made, phones ringing and focus on each breath as it comes.
As I listen to the steady rhythm of my breath, I feel my back sink into the wall. I feel the wall take my weight and that weight leave me.
It’s only for a few moments, and I’m sure I looked like a loon (or possibly someone who was such dire need for a coffee that I was falling asleep there and then!), but it was those few moments that re-energised me.
I felt calm and ready to tackle the day.
We tend to over-analyse things – reject simplicity– because – hey, it CAN’T be THAT easy.
But it really is.
Sitting still, even for a few moments can have such a profound effect.
There is such power in stopping, in pausing and staying still.
I’m going to try and do that – every day – just spend 5-10 minutes not moving.
And that doesn’t mean an extra 10 minutes in bed.
It means – meditating, clearing my mind and re-energising my soul.
Finding happiness in the unplanned and peace in the silence.
Hahaha ok…so that was a little mean. Even more so for my mother whose eyes just lit up like I had given her the world.
Ahhh…feeling just a *little* bit guilty over that one.
I’ve had a bit of a technology detox over the last week or so – after my confession of feeling overwhelmed by life and work and just things in general – I couldn’t find the motivation to do much, let alone blog.
I still read and commented when I felt like it, but I didn’t want to be shackled by the thought of “I HAVE to write something”.
If you know me at all, then you know I don’t take too well to being forced to do ANYTHING.
In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to get me to do the complete opposite.
Ha! My parent’s never thought of that….too late!
I want to keep this blog a place of positivity and happy thoughts, but try as I may, writing is something I turn to as a solace and I think it hurts me more when I can’t throw out my verbal diarrhoea for the world to see.
This time away has also given me the chance to step back and think of the direction I want to take this blog.
It’s hard – when I first started writing, I wrote for myself. My daily musings, thoughts – all good and bad and it was PERSONAL.
I can’t do that anymore, for a myriad of reasons, but one thing I learnt from that time in my life is that writing for me is not something that I can force. It comes when it comes and anything else that I do without that REASON for writing – it’s not genuine. And I’d rather not write at all then spew out post after post on the mundane that really has no authenticity at all.
Does that make sense?
I write best when it flows naturally, when the letters and words just jump from my fingertips and my thoughts can barely keep up. I don’t self edit and by the end, you’re usually left with what is presented on your screen.
This blog, has been trundling along, content in its journey but without a real aim or method. I never really thought it NEEDED it, but the more I think about what I want to do with this blog, the more it is clearer to me that I need to define this in some way.
The creative recluse part of me is throwing a tantrum at the thought of that and threatening to hide away, its writer ego sorely bruised with the thought that people should read whatever I write, but the realist in me knows that really, everything needs to have a purpose.
The other thing I thought about was – if not my innermost thoughts – then what do I write about?
I love to read. I’ve mentioned it before, but what I haven’t mentioned is that I find inspiration EVERYWHERE.
Seriously – to the point, whatever I am reading makes me so inspired about that topic it’s all I think about. Well, until I read something else and then I get engrossed in that topic.
Short attention span, yep, that’s me.
But reading all of this made me think – how would I categorise myself? I’m a not a hardcore foodie blogger (although I love to eat and create recipes), definitely not a fashion/style blogger (somebody please help me here) and barely skim the definition of a ‘healthy living’ blogger (but it’s important to me).
Who AM I?
So nearly breaking my brain cells thinking too hard about this one thing (which was made decidedly more hard because I didn’t have my drink of choice – yes, you guessed it – on hand. People shouldn’t make big decisions or think too hard without wine.), I realised one thing.
Why do I have to categorise myself at all??
All of the things that I like to read and inspire me, then naturally I should write about the same.
It’s what I love. It’s what I know.
And so I will.
Be that it may be completely random – without rhyme or reason.
After making that decision and polishing off my wine, I looked over to my sidebar and smiled at the words I had written – long ago – but still relevant now.
Random and complicated.
Emerging cook and fitness nut.
Closet nympho…errr… I think I came out a while back
I am that girl still and that is what I know best.
So, lesson learnt.
Can’t force the genius and be prepared for more random.
My English teacher once told me “What one person could say in three words – you say in ten”. I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not, but I agree that my writing style can be a little long-winded. I can’t help it – I like to describe – I’m fascinated by words and their meanings and take much delight in stringing them together in different combinations to create some semblance of a piece of writing. Also – this blog – it brings out the rambler in me. Everything I would normally say, or more likely think, I just put it down in words.
I ramble at the best of times, babble when I’m nervous, murmur in my sleep and rant when I’m drunk or angry. So – it’s just me
So now that I’m 29, I’m meant to be all mature and wise and grown up yeah?
Fat chance of that.
It’s weird the amount of people that came up to me yesterday that when I told them I was 29, reacted in a way that was quite hilarious.
“You don’t LOOK 29!”
I’m not sure if I’m meant to take that as a compliment to my youthful aging or an insult to my obvious immaturity.
I got the idea from this lovely blog, who has the wonderful notion of writing a letter to your one-year-younger self, explaining with your one-year-older wisdom what they would learn in the upcoming year.
I thought, I’d give this wisdom thing a crack.
So here goes.
Dear 28-year-old Sig,
So…this might get awkward. In fact, it’ll get so awkward that when Evs comes and joins you in your studio apartment in Hong Kong in a few months time, you’ll be cursing the convenience of the bathroom vicinity to the bed and breaking every marriage rule in the book (#54 – if you hear noises and smell smells – you don’t talk about them. Ever. Even after the night out eating spicy Japanese food).
Ok, wait. Let me rewind back – you’re looking horrified.
So, this three month secondment to a far-flung city/country/Special Administrative region will come and go in a blur of colours, food and friends. That moment when you step onto the plane, leaving Evs, your family, your DOGS behind – don’t be ashamed to admit that you might not want to come back.
This trip WILL be the highlight of your year. You will learn that people aren’t really what they seem and learn that you can’t be friends with everyone. Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and tolerate people.
However, you will also discover that friendship comes in the oddest of all places (By the way – good on you for reaching out to a (haha – literally) virtual stranger and getting out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it.)
While HK’s dazzling lights and blindingly fun social life will ensure you have the best three months of your working life, I think there is a part of you that you will discover is happiest at home. Don’t lose that feeling. It’s what tells you what you love the most.
You will travel. And find a place that makes you fall in love with it as soon as the heat and the monsoon rain and the steaming, sweet coffees and delicious fresh food hits your senses. And don’t laugh at everyone’s mistake of thinking you’re on your honeymoon – take it all in – because this IS a second honeymoon.
Yep, think three times in ONE DAY. I know right?!! I couldn’t believe it either. Phew!
You will also learn more about Evs in those two weeks that will delight you and smile secretly inside (and not because he did that thing you like three times in ONE DAY).
You know what I’m talking about (Ohhh yeah).
And that seed of thought, it will get stronger and stronger. Don’t ignore it. Don’t worry about it – yet. You still have time.
That seed, will actually take two forms and you will make a firm decision on one of them. This year will see you pursue and get onto the path of living it. Don’t be afraid. THIS is what you have been waiting for.
It will be hard, and it won’t be easy. But, have faith – keep strong. BELIEVE in yourself.
You will nearly lose one of your closest friends – by the way – it IS your fault. Be a better friend, Sig.
You will renew your belief in living a healthy life. Have you noticed Sig? That as you get older, those nuggets of wisdom that your father used to say when you were a girl – it makes sense now?
“Early to bed, early to rise – makes you healthy, wealthy and wise”
Wise old Dad.
And yes, like Dad insists – yoga CAN cure everything (Just not your stupid leg – work on those calves coz you WILL keep fucking it up).
Sig, you’re at a point where you have a crossroads looming ahead of you. Only you know which path you will take, only you can make that decision. Think about it, think long and hard about the memories you want to create and the future you want to have.
(And Sig – please get rid of that fugly dress you INSIST is cool. It makes you look twelve. I’m being honest here. Sorry.)