Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A new perspective for a new year

For probably the first time since arriving back from Italy, things are starting to feel a little 'normal'. It's hard to pin point why things are now starting to feel more normal. It could be the recent acquisition of some desperately needed furniture. It could be that both Aff and I are back at work with a routine somewhat resembling the one we had before leaving Canberra. It could be that we are able to share the cooking again (circumstances in Italy meant that Aff had to take on most of the cooking), or, it could be the very welcome return of our cat after nearly 12 months spent in Kerang. Probably a little of all these things I guess. However, I say things are "a little normal" quite deliberately. There is much of our lives thatis not yet as it was. Upon thinking about this over the last few days, I realise that we are at an interesting cross-roads, and with a great opportunity to examine the things that make us satsified, content and most importantly, happy.

It has been sometime since I last found myself in a situation where I had virtually no commitments. Prior to leaving Canberra last year for Italy, finding a night or weekend free was like discovering gold in a long forgotten river. It was very precious indeed. Once discovered, however, it had to be kept very quiet, or stoutly defended. This period was a strange mix of high satisfaction and deep felt tiredness and stress. I involved myself in a range of activities and groups, and explored different areas of interest I would not have thought to explore before coming to Canberra. Being involved in all these things brought me a great sense of self worth, which served as a great motivator, as did making new friends, and finding a sense of place and purpose here in Canberra. On the other hand, these noble pursuits also caused significant strain on myself, and my home life through the all consuming nature in which I often take things on. I was constantly filling gaps of time with things to do, and events, social or otherwise, to attend. Feeling self worth is obviously a very positive mind state to have. Feeling tired, strung out and resentful at the same time suggests the way I was going about things was probably not quite right.

And so here I am, 10 months later, with a rare opportunity to re-examine my priorities. A few things are different now. For one, this should be my last year as a PhD student, and so the Mt Everest like task of writing a thesis looms large. This alone is enough reason to slow things down in other aspects of my life. Secondly, I am married now, and as I wrote when in Italy, this has, somewhat surprisingly, re-jigged some of my priorities. Thirdly, a new appreciation for home (or at least, the realisation that its ok to do so). Seven roller coaster months in Italy, and two months of reflection since has brought about a new perspective on what makes me truly happy and content. Nothing more so, it seems, than sitting in my own backyard with a coffee, and the newspaper. This change of mindset is the most recently realised since arriving back in Canberra (unsurprisingly coinciding with finding a nice new place to live). I have always considered myself a bit of a home-body in denial, constantly trying to fight off this perceived reclusive, anti-social desire, or at least trying to justify time spent at home by filling the days around it with activities to balance the equation. This, I now realise, does not really work for me, and more importantly, is not really necessary.

This new perspective first came out during the house hunting phase. My usual determination to find a place "close to the action" was being strongly out weighed by the desire to find a place with lots of space, and a backyard worthy of sitting in (with coffee/beer and newspaper). The possibility of having a decent veggie patch was also secretly high on the assessment scale. The place we chose most certainly reflects the latter considerations than it does the former. After nearly four weeks living here, there are no regrets about our slightly more outer suburban existence.

While I have realised a desire for more "home time", I have also identified that my need to "get out of the house" does not simply stem from me wanting to fight my natural state. Quite the contrary in fact, which I am relieved to say. Upon thinking about the the motivations behind the things I do, I realise that I have a very strong desire to connect with people. I used to fear that if I gave into my natural desires, I would become a recluse, and not want to talk to anyone. This, I now know is not true at all, and in fact, if I allow myself the time to myself I need, I soon crave connectedness. I now realise that craving connectedness is a far healthier state than living in constant fear of its non-existence. It's not really rocket science, but it's always an eye-opener to examine the underlying motivators, and assumptions behind the things we choose to do with our lives.

With all this in mind, I am very much looking forward to what I hope will be a significantly more balanced, and ultimately more relaxed and measured approach to life in 2008. As for what I do with my spare time, not really sure, a couple of things I'm sure ... but then again, what's the rush?

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