31 December, 2012

Last post of the year

New Year's Eve, Wellington, New Zealand.  Only eight hours till the New Year.  The sun is shining, the temperature is warm, our summer project is finally underway, and we still have another 6 days of holiday left.

Christmas Day seems like an age away.  The day went well, and we had unusually hot weather.  Visitors have now all left town, and it is time for us to get onto our New Year projects.  Yes, there were some ouch moments.  (For example, I should know better than to rhetorically ask the question "what's the point of life?" then take a breath before answering "to be kind and happy."   Taking a breath allows an unthinking brother-in-law time to say "to reproduce."  I think I knew that's what would happen, but said it anyway.  And I am becoming a little more antagonistic in my old age, and had a retort ready.)  And with all this sunny warm weather and wide open windows, we have had to endure the sound of neighbourhood families playing backyard cricket with their visitors.  Occasionally that can make the two of us, sitting alone in our quiet house, feel a little melancholy.

But there were also plenty of good moments, enjoying the peace and quiet, the ability to go to bed late and sleep in the next morning, to have afternoon naps (or afternoon delights), and to do whatever we wanted.

And now we face the end of 2012.  2012 has not been great for me.  I've been sick, felt old, and some weight I was hoping to lose has come back tenfold!  I'm finding stress harder to deal with, but wonder if that is because I've been feeling overwhelmed.  And moving some of those things off my to-do list might help with that.  So too will accepting the aging of my mother and in-laws, knowing I can't do anything except deal with it. Acceptance provides a great release and relief, I have discovered in the past, and I attend to embrace it in this coming year. So I'm hopeful for 2013.

And I hope you all have a better 2013 than 2012.  I fully intend to.

24 December, 2012

Just the two of us

I write this with an aching back (the result of a frenzy of cleaning today), with presents still to be wrapped, the Christmas menu not yet finalised 100%, and with sweat on my brow.  Yes, after going AWOL last year, it seems summer might just have arrived.

I will be hosting members of my husband's family tomorrow.  I'm happy about that, as I get to do it on my terms.  Although one thing I realised.  When you're used to cooking for just two, figuring how much asparagus you need for 10 can be a bit tricky!

Wishing all of you the very best for this season.  Hoping that you each find your own way to celebrate, commemorate, and to just "be."  And hoping you know how important you are in my heart, and how grateful I am that you share your lives with me here.

17 December, 2012

The city is in bloom

This time of year has memories for me.  Ectopic memories.  Ectopic  (as most of you no doubt know) means out of place.  And that is how my memories of my two ectopic pregnancies come to feel at times.  Whilst they were real, and happened directly to me, and have made me what and who I am, memories of the pain and grief now seem out of place.  Because that pain and grief is no longer part of my life.  And, in the midst of the sadness that is around us just now – children gunned down at school, poor Pacific communities devastated by Cyclone*Evan – I want to remember that we all heal from sadness. 

Right now, Wellington’s pohutukawa** are in bloom.  Pohutukawa is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.  An evergreen tree that lines the beaches of the north, it is now ubiquitous in Wellington; its crimson blooms bursting into flower early this year, heralding the forthcoming summer, and holiday season.  One of the sharpest memories I have of the times I spent in hospital for my ectopic pregnancies was looking out the window and admiring the pohutukawa in bloom.  For many years afterwards, seeing the pohutukawa in flower was bitter-sweet, bringing back sharply painful memories.

But this week, as I’ve driven through the city and watched the trees begin to bloom, I’ve felt nothing but joy and awe.  Joy at the forthcoming holiday season, the summer break when we all get at least 10 days off and most kiwis are able to take two, three or even four weeks.  Joy at the thought of maybe finally getting a summer, after such disappointment last year.   And awe at the beautiful coincidence of the perfect red and green colours of the tree.  It is as if nature is celebrating with us!  And in that joy and awe, there is also appreciation.  Appreciation of the fact that pain fades, and time truly does heal.

*Cyclones in the Pacific = Hurricanes in the Atlantic
**We don’t add an “s” to Maori words, even when they are used in the plural.

11 December, 2012

Thoughts from the news

This week on A Separate Life, I am turning to the newspaper for inspiration.  I thought I might do the same here:

This morning on the newspaper was a photo of a father and son at the annual Christmas carol celebration at the Governor-General’s house (in the garden – after all, it is summer here) last night.  They looked happy, and I thought about the father preparing to take his son to the celebration, looking forward to celebrating Christmas together.  And I thought, “is it just because we don’t have kids that we don’t go?”  I’m not sure to the answer to that, but I suspect so.  And for just a moment, I let myself think what Christmas would be like with children.  But along with the joy and excitement, I also anticipated the stress, the expense, the disappointment (for a number of reasons) if the child(ren) doesn't like the presents, the early early mornings (children in NZ get up at uncivilised hours on Christmas day – after all, it is light here around 4-4.30 am), the chaos and tidying up that would need to be done at the end of the day (or night), the children's meal or bed-time deadlines (beyond which they become ... fractious, shall we say), and the fact I probably wouldn’t have much time to sit down with a glass of champagne and wish my husband a merry Christmas.  And I told myself to snap out of it.  Our Christmas will be lovely.  Different, more tailored to our tastes, calmer, but still lovely.

Then I read the story of the young woman who killed her newborn daughter earlier this year.  (You’ll remember I wrote about it here).  Her father admitted committing incest with her earlier this year – when she must have been six-seven months pregnant.  The daughter is still in psychiatric care.  It is tragic.  But once again, such events remind me that being able to have or not have children is no measure of worth, is neither a punishment nor a reward, and is no indication of a judgement that they have been found worthy and that we have not.

05 December, 2012

No kids/busy kids - is there much difference?

Those of us without kids often think about our old age.  Lisa recently wrote some thoughts about it here.  I'm very conscious of this, as my elderly mother is deteriorating fast, and her condition could possibly be passed on to me.  (I'll find out in due course, no doubt!)  I'm visiting her this week as I won't see her at Christmas, and the last few months my sisters and I have been looking at what provisions we need to put in place for her future. The head in the sand routine would be tempting, to avoid all the complications and sibling issues and guilt.  But we can't do that, and we won't.

So yesterday, as part of the week I'm spending with her, I took her Christmas shopping.  She has always hated Christmas shopping, especially as she has aged, finding the decisions too difficult, and keeping track of everyone is too confusing.  I, on the other hand, find it fun (mostly).  And we knocked it off in about an hour.  On the way home, we stopped at the supermarket and ran into one of my mother's friends.  When she heard we'd done all the Christmas shopping, she sighed with envy.  "You could make a fortune coming down here every year and offering your services to Christmas shop for us oldies," she said laughing.  Turned out her three daughters live quite close but, as she said, her face dropping sadly, "they're very busy."

Now of course if my mother's friend needed her daughters badly they'd be there I'm sure.  As I'm sure if I desperately needed help and was alone, my nieces would be there too.  But it was yet another reminder that the elderly can be alone - and a bit lonely - even when they have family, even when their family live close.