Armidale – first 40 days. 

It’s been just over a month (40 days to be precise!) since I packed up my (too many) belongings and moved to Armidale, a regional city in the Northern Tablelands of NSW. It’s just over 500 km north-west of Sydney and the same distance south-west of  Brisbane.  In the coming weeks, it’s my plan to create some  “Snapshots of Armidale” in the spirit of the Snapshots of Wollongong series. I’ll visit some of the local sights and give you a feel of the place. To date, apart from unpacking and settling in, I haven’t done much.  It’s high time I got outside with the BIG camera (not just the phone) and did some photo safaris! What follows is a quick update on how things are going.

Wild weeds.

The Day Job

My experience so far has been positive. The new job is VERY different to my previous role and I actually have the ability to plan, prepare and complete tasks. The previous role, as a Deputy Principal in a large high school, was more like an emergency room. While we had a strategic plan, my day was typically consumed by life’s large and small emergencies. Most recently, of course, the impact of Covid on teaching and learning. I rarely had a break, and lunch was a snatch and grab affair constantly interrupted mid-bite by staff and students. It was emotionally draining.

At present because of the ongoing impact of Omnicron, I am working from home, so lunch actually happens. At a table! With cutlery! During the course of the day, my to-do list converts to a ta-da list. I am catching up on all my mandatory training.

This pleasant pace will not continue indefinitely. The role would ordinarily involve a lot of travel to rural and remote schools but with Covid still a serious threat, the departmental upper-ups are asking that we wait till the current wave has passed before we launch into school visits again.  

On the downside, I am missing the interaction with the people I have known for close to twenty years. Many of them are ‘real’ friends, not just ‘work’ friends. I spent time with them in the holidays, shared my divorce journey with them and in turn supported them in their own times of need. I have not had an opportunity to mingle with my new colleagues “in the flesh”,  as like me, they are also working from home and in-person meetings are discouraged. 

Local Farmers’ Market

The Home Front

While my intention was to move here and live more ‘intentionally and simply’, grow veggies and get some chooks; the reality is very different. The confluence of available rental properties, a restricted time frame due to some other family obligations and the fact that the day job may only be a short contract, has landed me in a very modern and very city-esque townhouse. No garden to speak off, three levels and more (internal) space than I need.  It’s very comfortable and has a great kitchen. It’s within walking distance of the family and the town. It’s a fine staging point till I make up my mind about what happens next.  

Getting back to a new routine. 

While the house might not have the required number of chickens, the simple intentional living part can happen anywhere. It’s just not been happening around here – yet! My normal rhythms have been disrupted with the move. My bank balance has been going south with rental and moving expenses but that will plateau out.  I have given myself some grace and will return to “normal” during the remainder of February and March and get back on track. I’ll return to a less-waste, less-spend lifestyle soon. I’ll make new friends and join in on some of the local activities. I’ve already started volunteering with the local SES unit and have done three Parkruns.

Sometimes you do!

I have felt out of kilter and distracted but overall I feel like this has been a good decision. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a new lifestyle in a new town.

Is life a Rube Goldberg Machine?

I’m feeling overwhelmed at the moment. Life is still locked down – this week is the 13th week I think and there’s another four(?) to go. I’m tired and feeling anxious. The anxiety stemmed in part from job hunting. In my quest to live more intentionally and move closer to family, I am looking for a job in Armidale.

Job Hunting

I haven’t had to look for a new job for a long time but a suitable temporary job came up and I applied. It was only a six month placement but it was a foot in the door. I felt confident that it was a good match for my skills. Same job in a different school. The investment of time and emotional energy used in writing the application was draining and the wait was excruciating! Not helped by the said family asking every day if I had the job! The job was shortlisted last week, and given the silence, I assume I am not going to the next stage.

The emotional drain spilled over into a very unproductive cycle of rumination. IF I had been successful it would have triggered a cascade of events, none of which could have been started in advance.

The rumination generated a number of unanswerable questions that would have needed answers in a very short time frame and would be exponentially compounded by a Statewide lockdown! 

The list of unponderables

The list was long and included (but was not limited) to:

  1. Finding suitable and affordable accommodation in Armidale
  2. Finding tenants for my current place
    1. Leading to do I rent it furnished?
    2. Unfurnished?
    3. And what do I do with my stuff!
  3. Actually physically packing up my stuff and
    1. OMG! How did I get so much freaking stuff?
    2. Move all my stuff or some if it – and then
    3. Do I move it or store it?
  4. Handing over for my current job (while we are in lockdown) to my successor
    1. Finding a successor at such short notice
    2. And finding a successor for the successor!
  5. Saying a hasty online goodbye to colleagues – some of whom I have worked with for close to 20 years.

Shit! No wonder I was anxious! No wonder I still feel like I’m recovering. 

Rube and his machines.

Being the sort of person who loves a good analogy this cascade of actions reminded me of a Rube Goldberg machine. You know, those chain reaction contraptions where one rolling marble bumps against another to set off a chain of events.? There is an old Honda ad which if it’s real, and not CGI, is amazing! 

I think life is just one big Rube Goldberg machine where you tinker with the bits and hope you put them in the right place so they all work together in a nice steady series of movements towards a satisfying end. The pieces in life’s Rube Goldberg machines are the time, skills, resources and people you have built your life with and have available to you.

What happens if it doesn’t work?

I explained my analogy to a colleague. He asked what happens if you don’t put the things in the right place? If your bits don’t line up and the motion comes to a halt? I hadn’t actually thought out the analogy that well, and I didn’t know how to answer so I just shrugged.

I guess you just keep experimenting? It’s not as if you can go back to the beginning. You just restart from where you are. Perhaps you would be able to re-purpose or recycle some of the parts and use them again?  You might even change your design altogether.

But you just keep moving forward. 

At least it was spring!

Strategies for Intentional Living 1 – Morning Pages

As part of my meanderings around the idea of slow living, I have been listening to Brooke and Ben Macalary’s Slow Home Podcast. A lot of what they talk about resonates with me. “Slow” living is a loaded phrase. It has connotations of laziness or “dropping out” attached to it which might be hard to accept especially for people like me who prefer to be “busy”. Brooke suggests another label for slow living.  She says many prefer to think of it as intentional living.

What is intentional living?

Intentional living means that you maintain a lifestyle that adheres to your beliefs and values and you don’t just live on autopilot. Rather than floating along with the dominant culture’s tide, you steer your own boat. My values include reducing my consumption, a value shared by many, but not supported by the dominant culture of capitalism. “Culture” wants to buy lots and buy often. I am digging this groove because while I’ve been living “fast”, I have been living intentionally for some time. I have worked on my life’s purpose, I have values and beliefs which I stick to. 

Curiosity about how other people live intentionally sent me down an internet vortex. There is plenty out there on the interwebs about this topic. Looks like I wasn’t late to this party, just that I have been partying in the dark for a while! Label-less!

How do other people “do” intentional living?

In one pod episode,  Brooke describes her morning routine and refers to “Morning Pages”. The idea intrigued me. Like Brooke, I aim to get up early. In summer, I usually do some exercise in an attempt to beat the heat and humidity. In winter,  It’s hard to get the runners on when it’s dark and cold, so it’s more likely that I will settle down with a cup of tea and do some writing. Morning Pages might be my thing.

Morning Pages

Morning Pages were “invented” by Julia Cameron back in 1992. The idea is that you write three sides of standard US letter paper (A4 for us Aussies!) first thing in the morning before you do anything else. It’s a stream of consciousness style of writing. Just write the things that pop into your head. Don’t censor it, don’t stop to think, just write. The first thought that comes into my mind is that it’s a waste of one side of a piece of paper! The rule about “before you do anything else” is so you capture your thoughts before they are waylaid by the realities of the day.  

Thinks to self: I’m presuming it’s OK to pee but NO cup of tea? That’s a bit extreme.

After you’ve written your three pages in longhand you are supposed to throw them out. This way you are free to write anything without the fear of someone else reading your private thoughts.   Frankly, I hope that someone will, one day, actually read my scribbled, illegible journal notes! I leave them messages! Sometimes I laugh out loud at my little notes to a future reader! Such wit and humour!!  

Journalling vs Morning Pages.

Stream of consciousness scribbling can lead to the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the writing rainbow. First, you write draft zero, get all the rubbish out of the way and then you *might* find the pot of good thoughts. Your flow hits the perfect viscosity. I often experience this when I am out running or walking. A great story idea pops into my head. sometimes I’ll stop and record a breathless voice message because invariably, I have forgotten the said brilliant idea before I get home!

I have used my own photos to order unlined books through Photobook Australia.

I keep a journal,  so far I am up to Volume 10.  I use an A5 hardbound notebook with unlined pages and write in pencil although I don’t write in it every day. It’s a hotchpotch of shopping lists, to-do lists, ta-da lists, ideas for blog posts, self-recriminations, summary notes I’ve taken while listening to online courses or Youtube. It serves as my travel diary. It even holds some deep dark secrets! I’d love to be able to decorate it with beautiful sketches and calligraphy but doodles are as far as I go in the artistic department.

I don’t want to throw my jottings away!  My first intentional decision then is to stick to journalling.  My journal serves a similar purpose. One day I’m hoping some of my descendents will read it and say “What a funny old chook Great Grandma was, I wish I had met her!” Through the pages of my journal, I think they can.