It’s the second day of spring today and I am sitting on the floor in my upper level room typing this as warm air breathes through the open window. The winter here was uncannily mild – barely any rain, and no snow in Christchurch itself. The farmers will be concerned.
There are big cracks in the wall of this house from the earthquake five years ago. In six weeks its getting bulldozed and rebuilt.
I’ve taken the day off because a virus I picked up two weeks ago has reared its ugly head again. I spent yesterday dry coughing and sleeping. Today I feel a little better but my voice is still croaky and I don’t have the stamina to talk much – a key part of the job I’m doing at the moment.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been absorbing a different kind of working culture. Results are important, and self-development is encouraged. Ripe grounds for the tech-savvy and ambitious.
I am ambitious – for balance. The old seesaw is still there, bumping from one extreme to the other. Income versus time to write; which one is uppermost this time? For me, finding my way round a new country and with a new job, making time to nurture the fragile plant of writing ambitions is something that needs work. I am out of balance at the moment – hence, getting sick. If Mum were alive, she would say that my body is trying to tell me something. Like I need to let myself relax more.
Security is important. Having a job, making money and supporting myself are important. Part of being an adult after all. But there are other pieces of the puzzle too – including making space for a creative life.
I saw Mum and Brian struggle with this equation all their lives. They dreamt up ingenious ways of making money: some worked for a time. Making and selling kites. Running a bed and breakfast. Teaching people how to build their own wooden canoes. When the money got tight, Brian would go back to relief teaching. As a teenager, I was puzzled by the exhaustion he exhibited after a day of sitting in a classroom; sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands at nighttime. During the summer holidays my sister and I would join Mum and Brian out on the vineyards training vines in the January heat. It was menial work and I wondered why they accepted it when they could have done other things. Perhaps they were trying to make room for their dreams?
So what have I done over the past month and a half?
I’ve learnt how to swing a golf club. I’ve seen Mount Cook up close.
I’ve fallen in love with a tall kiwi with blue eyes and an assertive manner and a mean golf swing. It’s been amazing and unexpected. Three months ago I was riding home on trams, feeling invisible as I took my seat next to businessmen who wouldn’t look up from their screens. I was dreaming change but unable to comprehend that it can come so swiftly and in such a positive way.
I’ve shared some of my least-proud moments with Mike and it was okay, it is safe to let myself be seen.
My adventure is going differently from how I expected it. I am growing, but not in the ways I imagined. My old narrative was one about walking alone. Instead, I am here in the midst of life, with its daily pleasures and small frustrations. I am shopping for groceries on the weekend and learning how to cook a juicy steak . I’m talking to people. I’m getting up early to jump on a bus to work and catching glimpses of snow-capped mountains through the windows. I am reading in my spare time. I am learning how to argue and to express my opinion freely.
I am learning how to be proud of who I am. I am questioning what work I want to engage in years to come. I am still writing and the storyline follows the lines more of a cardiogram – spiking then falling hundreds of times a day – than a smooth arc.
Twice now I have felt the earth wobble beneath me, a gentle pulsing that I only recognized after was the tremors of an earthquake. Once I was sitting in a chair outside and I thought Mike’s dog was bumping against the chair legs. The second time Mike said, ‘If I tell you to get up, go and stand in the doorway in the bathroom.’ Not words I expected to hear while lying in bed at 9.50pm on a Monday.
Adaptation is a slow but sure process.