Two weeks ago I was finishing what was a relentless year of extreme work hours, some days starting at 2am and finishing around 6pm to make dinner and do things with my kids, yet still getting text messages till as late as 9.30pm, before setting the alarm again for a 2am, 3am or 4am start. Usually I get a welcome rest around June, but it didn’t happen this year. Two weeks before that, I was saying to myself ‘this will be the last of the big weeks’ only for it to happen the following week, and then again the week after. So by the time Thursday November 19 turned up and was over, I was hoping for that sense of relief, but it didn’t happen, because Monday November 23rd had a handful of appointments to attend.
And you wonder what happened on Friday November 20? Well, it was my birthday, a day I traditionally take off as a work-free day to tend to my own wellbeing and celebration of ‘me’, however this year, I moved house on my birthday… well, sort of. I moved from one of the downstairs apartment to one of the upstairs apartment…. and had a housewarming party that night! Yes – I am a glutton for punishment.
Some of you know that I live in an old Firestation building. It is heritage listed, built in 1924 and is renowned for its sympathetic architecture to the residential streetscape. We were living in the old garage part previously, which, as a garage was essentially one big square partitioned into 4 rooms (3 bedrooms and an open plan living space). Now we are in the old offices, residential quarters, with towering 10ft ceilings, magnificent rooms (my bedroom is 5.5m x 4.2m (18ft x 13.8ft) or 23sqm approx) (most bedrooms are around 10-12sqm), a rustic old fireplace, a balcony that captures the sunsets and storms coming in and some really quirky character, like a meat-safe in the kitchen, high skirting boards, distressed solid timber doors with diffused glass panes and cute cottage style sash windows with the original glass panels in them. And the funny thing is, for me, it felt like home as soon as we moved in. I absolutely love it!
So since we moved in, my world has changed… I can see the sky, the treetops, the clouds, the street activity, so much going on, and it seriously doesn’t bother me hearing the traffic, where in other places, it used to drive me mad. We’re not stuck in the cave with no light that we had downstairs which was starting to drive me a little nuts. My boys and I aren’t on top of each other, and sometimes, I don’t even know if they are home because there are two staircases to exit from (I think we might need to set some courtesy rules), but for now, we’re enjoying our space, our new home and our sense of freedom.
For me, so much so, over the last twelve days, I’ve done things I’ve never done as a single mum. I went to the Paris to Provence French Festival at Como House for a wander around the glorious gardens of this Victorian landmark mansion and enjoyed the fruits and flavours of French cuisine (even bought myself an antique metal pot to plant my herbs in). I’ve gone to a corporate movie night, thanks to one of my clients who wanted to thank their suppliers. I went to a little soiree at a new friend’s house to celebrate her selling her home. I’ve done a ton load of shopping (if anyone knows me, I hate shopping with a vengeance, but for some reason, I have actually been enjoying it, to the point of doing more the next day! Please help my credit card!!). I got my hair done and had a acupressure foot massage (and two other massages, because I can!). I helped collect the materials to make a billy-cart for my boys. I went out to dinner with my gorgeous friends up in Goughs Bay for my belated birthday and enjoyed it alfresco style with the kangaroos watching us. I’ve drunk alcohol every day, I’ve watched movies, including the whole first season of ‘Flesh and Bone.’ I’ve been on beach walks, walks with friends, met some wonderful new people, and tried to write the next riveting chapter of my next book “Calmer Suits Her.”
And today, I went into the city, visited a friend who works at the French shop at the Queen Victoria Market and bought some beautiful delicacies for my Christmas Drinks on Saturday night (as there was a call for another party!). I told her to choose, so she gave me some stunning soft white and blue cheeses, a vintage cheddar, some mini gherkins (I’m sure they have another name), some divine pate, some stuffed figs and some gold wrapped chocolate pears with a healthy dose of liqueur in them. It was so nice seeing the friendly shop owners from their different nationalities, toting their authentic goods, the vibrant bustle of customers wanting to get their favourite cheese or Hungarian salami. The friendships and laughter that have been created over decades in that place was magical to watch… and showed me how sheltered I really have been. After a trip to the market, I took the tram down Elizabeth Street and got off at the Bourke Street Mall, to do some more shopping (shoes this time), and wander down the eclectic cafe strip of Degraves Street and found a cute little ‘Made in Victoria’ shop called Clementines, with a bright orange Vespa out that front, where I bought a charming milk bottle style vase to put on the mantle in my kitchen.
All in all, it’s made me realise how much I’ve been missing out on because I work so hard throughout the year, too busy getting from one place to the next and forgetting about the journey within. Whilst I caught the train into town today, I made a conscious effort not to look at my phone and just enjoy the scenery… and the scenery was people looking down at their phones! lol
Will 2016 be the year that I create time to do things other than work? I hope so… Now that I feel like I have a really city home, as well as my country home, I feel I will most likely entertain more, therefore more trips to the Victoria Market on a Saturday morning! But time will tell.
But for now, I’ve needed these last two weeks to enjoy myself again, enjoy the moment, because in the end, I deserve it… as we all do.
We are lucky! The start of a new year is always a good time to re-evaluate what is actually GOOD in your life. There are many ups and downs, and most of us focus on the ‘downs’ in life, complaining our days away, but not really appreciating the positives that life brings us.
The stand outs for me in these first few days in the year have been that I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with my cousin and his family in New Zealand. We then stayed in a beautiful 5-star golf resort staying in a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment with each room enjoying king size beds and there was a gas fireplace we actually put on, as it was a wintery day, and the next morning, the clouds dissipated and we saw the mountains with stunning caps of fresh snow. I enjoyed a relaxing massage (which they forgot to charge me – please don’t tell them!) and we drove down to a gorgeous little French historic town called Akaroa where I found a jade carved turtle to add to my turtle collection (if you knew how much I searched high and low to find a turtle in something that was unique to New Zealand, and that I found it in the last place we went to, you too would think I was lucky!). We were also one of the ‘lucky’ tourists who didn’t have a car accident on all the windy roads New Zealand presented to us (apparently most the car accidents in New Zealand are vehicles driven by tourists). When we arrived back to Melbourne, I was expecting to pay $60 extra for my parking at the hotel we stayed the first night of our holiday, but I was just handed my keys and was thanked for our stay.
I also came home to my blessed dog Dexter who has had his own adventures traveling down the coast and getting to play on a farm with other animals and meeting new people. He hasn’t left my side all day today. He has been lovingly cared for, and I couldn’t ask for more. I also had people housesit my apartment whilst I was away, and whilst I did have a couple of complaints about how it was returned to me, it was generally well looked after. And I came home to some work… much needed after about 6 weeks off.
But I guess the most luckiest that I am, is that whilst some people struggle with their lives as being a single mother, I don’t. I keep a fairly clean home, I have two sons who help usually without too much complaining, I have two sons who shower me with love and hugs and always ask if I’m ok or how I slept the night before. I have a great little business that keeps the wolves away, I drive a nice car (well, much better than those rentals in New Zealand I was driving!) and I live comfortably without having to rely on the inconsistent child support that I’m legally supposed to get. Yes, there are struggles at some times, but as I’ve said many a time, I do not consider motherhood ‘hard work’ – it is a joy to see my boys grow up to be the kind considerate young men they are, and the reward is that they appreciated that I’m always there.
The thing is, whilst there are always something to complain about or wish we had, our focus should always be on what is actually working for us, and who knows, maybe those things you complain about won’t be there anymore and the things you wish for are.
I went to a house yesterday and met a lovely lady who was selling the family home. Her parents bought the land in 1948 for 100 pounds, built the house in 1952 borrowing an extra 100 pounds, then Dad died in 1954 leaving mum to raise 4 children under six years old on her own. Her mother is now 94, and it took her till she was 89 years old to pay off her mortgage at a rate of $40 a month, living on a pension all her life. The house was immaculately maintained because it was built to perfection at the time, and it was on a deep block. The agent is expecting for it to be sold between $1 million and $1.2 million. Her mother is now going into aged-care, and the family are selling the home to pay for the remainder of her years.
Now, my moral dilemma… Whilst the mother spent her early years raising her four children on her own, how is it fair, that she was able to remain a pensioner once her children were adults and have a mortgage for 58 years (not the standard 25-30 years) without earning a dollar in the traditional sense of holding down a job, and then walk away with an asset that makes her a millionaire? Yes, raising children is a job in itself, but not once they are self-sufficient. Yes, she may have been out of the workforce too long to have the skills to re-enter the workforce, but we still have training for those in her position. And yes, she may have lived a very frugal life without travel, cafe lattes, expensive cars and stylish clothes, but still, does it make it right that the Australian tax payers have essentially paid the way for this woman to be a millionaire?
As you all know, I am a single mother who strives to do the right thing by myself, my children and my country. I worked every single day I could, with my children coming to work with me at the ages of 5 days old and 3 days old respectively. I was even working the afternoon after I gave birth to my second son. I work 40-80 hour weeks, depending on my work load, and raise my children on my own. Yet, at almost 42 years old, I make good money, but I don’t have a million dollars. Yes my priorities in life are totally different – I choose to live my life, not sit at home watching television and counting pennies, and that comes at a financial cost, but I work hard to play hard, and teach my children about the moral responsibility of working and providing for the greater good of society (paying taxes!).
Does this 94 year old deserve to walk out of this life holding a million dollar cheque in her hand? Some might think I’m being a little harsh and that she deserves to live her last years in the best comfort available, and the sale of her home, that she and her husband built together, is the reward of that. But as a single working mum, it’s people like this that damages the reputation of other single mums doing the right thing by society.
Since I was 16, I have had these incredible pains under my ribcage that were more unbearable than watching session time in parliament. I had them diagnosed as everything from an infectious disease, to a spleen issue, to a rectus abdomenis strain, to heartburn, to a hiatus hernia, to everything else, except what it was… gallstones. I had been to a naturopath, an osteopath, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, a herbalist, a psychologist (in case I was just phantomly feeling these pains) and numerous trips to the GP to work out what it was. No pain killers would fix it, only 2 cups of peppermint tea and an ice-pack on my back gave me any relief, which kind of suggested to me that it was digestive.
I just so happened to have had a doctor’s appointment scheduled about an hour after an attack started back in March. My doctor asked me what the pain level was compared with child birth, and that’s a tricky one, as whilst both my kids were born naturally, one was a long drawn out 22 hours of slow going-nowhere contractions, whilst the other one was a fairly intense one and a half hours of drug-free screaming of ‘get this thing out of me.’ Except, I had lost my voice, so it was more like (in a crackling whisper) ‘this hurts, get this thing out of me!’ So the pain under my ribcage, was rating at about an 8 out of 10, compared with child No 2, but probably a 10 out of 10 for child No 1.
I had 8 attacks from the start of this year through till about Anzac Day weekend, and was almost not going to London because of it. After about attack No 6, my GP did some extensive testing and an ultrasound showed I had gallstones in my gall bladder, and it needed to come out. My GP was saying that I shouldn’t go to London, but the specialist said it was OK to go. So I went.
Being a single mum with 100% custody needing to have surgery was a little daunting for me. I wouldn’t be allowed to drive for 5-7 days after the surgery. I had to work out what to do with work and my kids. I couldn’t have my dog jumping on me after the surgery. And I had never been in a position that someone actually had to look after me, and that was really humbling. I asked a few people to help out, and many others offered, but by the time the day of surgery came closer, everyone just started to pull out, and I felt I had no one. People were happy to look after my kids and my dog, but no one was there for me.
It was hard, because I had to be at the hospital at 12 Noon on a Wednesday, and everyone works then. And then I had to be picked up at 10am on the Thursday, and everyone works then… and I can’t expect people to take time off work to help me for an indefinite amount of time, because for me, it was all so unknown. So I called the hospital, and they gave me the OK to get a cab there and back home.
Then it dawned on me, that in all of my 41.5 years, I had never had a stitch, a broken bone, a general anaesthetic, or a hospital visit except for giving birth and a quick emergency stop over in San Francisco after fainting on a plane. Before attack No 6, when my GP prescribed me some Tramadol (which made me even more sick), I had never taken a drug stronger than a Nurofen Plus. I had no idea how I would react to anything, and it was all so scary, because I felt so alone… and I was truly an emotional mess. All I kept thinking was, am I such a terrible person that no one wants to be there for me?
The day before the operation, I started getting phone calls from people wishing me well. I took a deep breath, feeling a little less alone. I had messages in the morning of the operation from people who I love dearly, and I wasn’t sure if they would remember my ordeal, but they did, which made me feel a little bit more better, and renewed my spirit in believing in myself and the life I had created around me.
When I arrived at the hospital, I saw all these other people sitting in the waiting room, waiting for their operations, without any support, and figured that I’m not the only one… but how sad it is for us to all go it alone.
The nurse gave me a hospital gown, some hospital undies, booties and a dressing gown, and a brown paper bag to put my stuff in. I forgot to put my dressing gown on before I left the dressing room and realized I had a lovely breeze behind me, so I slipped back in and looked a bit more ‘appropriate.’ Then they put my stuff in a locker and I just had to wait with all the other ‘dressing gowns’.
But then somehow, I snapped out of it and started joking around with the hospital staff as they interviewed me. ‘Look at my winter nails’ you know the chipped scratch look when you haven’t had a pedicure for months because your toes are covered in boots. Yes ‘Susan’ is the name my mum calls me when I’m in trouble. And really, Mr Anaesthesiologist, ‘Why do you keep asking me if I have any loose teeth?’
Before the operation, I was lying on a hospital bed in another waiting room with everyone else, like some type of conveyor belt on a factory line. My surgeon comes in to see if I’m alright, then says she’s going to have some lunch before the operation. She was very carefree, while I’m sitting in the land of ‘I have no idea what’s going on.’ Then this no-name nurse comes and wheels me out, which was weird, because every other person had introduced themselves to me. Was she taking me somewhere to the wrong operating room? So I’m lying down, with my hair in a net, being transported through all the corridors, looking up at the lights, the air vents, the smoke detectors and the speakers that lined the ceilings, just like the vision you’d see in any episode of ER. I get pushed into the operating room and there would be at least 12 people in there, all in blue scrubs, talking and joking around. The anaesthesiologist comes up to me and says he’s going to give me a slight prick in the back of my hand and….
…. I wake up in the recovery room feeling like all the pains I had that caused me to have the operation were all there again. I had an oxygen mask on my face, feeling really claustrophobic, and I hear the nurse saying ‘Susan wake up, how’s the pain?’ I tell her, and she says, ‘OK more morphine.’ And she would have said it 10 times! Well, it felt like that, but in the end they said they gave me 7mg of morphine in recovery and 8mg in surgery.
So with a bit of love from messages on Facebook, text messages and a couple of phone calls, including a savior who said she would pick me up the next day from hospital, I felt better in myself about being wanted in this world. I started affectionately referring to my 4 key hole surgery marks as my ‘stab wounds,’ and that my eating had slowed down to a pace 10 times less than it usually is. I ended up leaving the hospital 24 hours after I arrived, with a menu of Panadol, Voltarin and this tablet form of morphine called Endone to have with breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 7 days.
Once I was home, I had more phone calls, a couple of visitors (after no visitors in hospital), and my boys came home. My spirits were higher than they had been in months, because I was feeling the love, even though my stab wounds were torturous.
I was hoping that this operation would take away something from my gall bladder that would take me off the emotional roller coaster I constantly live in, as if my gall bladder was linked to the part of my brain that stopped making my heart and head feel constantly rejected and hurt, but I’m afraid it didn’t. But I guess, now that I have one less thing to worry about, that caused me stress and pain, I can now move forward to find love, happiness and vitality in my days…
I will be ‘earnest’ about why I haven’t done the words of the day for the last three days… I’m scared about tomorrow. Essentially, my life changes tomorrow. I will be having my first ever surgery to remove my gall bladder. Which I know for many, it’s nothing, and it will probably be nothing but a relief for me, since I’ve had pains associated with it for twenty-five years, but still there is the fear of the unknown.
It’s scary because I’ve never had a General Anaesthetic, so I don’t know how I will go with that. I am susceptible to low blood pressure, which could be a concern with the anaesthesia, as the nurse suggested she will need to tell the anaesthesiologist. And it’s a little scary because, at this stage, I’m doing it all on my own.
Most doctors will say that you can eat the same foods, as before. Whereas internet chat rooms suggest everything from can’t eat as much as before because you get full more easily and end up losing weight, to gaining so much weight after gall bladder surgery that you’re completely unrecognisable. There’s also the worry about the post-surgery pain and complications… potential high fevers, endless nausea and vomiting, sharp pain in the right shoulder, a cacophony of pain killers (which can also cause nausea and vomiting), diarrhoea, seeping wounds, you name it, it’s a little bit scary. But then, most just need bed rest to make everything just go away.
And whilst I have dreaded this day for weeks now, worried that I’m not worthy to have people care for me while I go through this ordeal, I’m lucky to have some amazing friends who are looking after my kids and Dexter (my dog), I have some lovely neighbours who say they will keep an eye out for me, and I will have the wonderful nursing staff at the hospital by my side, but as a single mum, it kills me that my kids will see me at my worst and have to look after me, instead of me looking after them.
I know I am lucky not to have made it into a hospital, besides having babies, for all of my 41 and a half years. I know that I will benefit from the surgery, even though it will take 1-2 weeks of recovery. And I know I have the most beautiful boys to live for. I don’t know if I will be able to stomach my favourite foods, as I am a sucker for chocolate, cheese and anything dairy, but rich fatty foods aren’t ideal, especially while my body is getting used to having one less organ in it. I’m not sure if I can have my fun-filled social evenings with one too many bottles of bubbly up at the lake anymore… well maybe, but it might be measured in glasses, rather than bottles. So much uncertainty, yet hope for a positive future and hope for no more debilitating attacks.
So I’m guessing my next post will be post-op with hopefully some positive results. But I will be earnest… I will give you the good and the bad to help others going through the same procedure. We all have different accounts, different bodies and different coping mechanisms, and this one has definitely been a breaker for me… breaking me out of my strong sturdy self into a weak, vulnerable mess.
Most people who know me, know that I have quite a generous heart and soul, but some days, you get into being a little bit ‘thrifty’, for the sake of either others or the environment. So there are three things that have been part of my day to make it ‘thrifty.’
1. I am the social co-ordinator of my son’s hockey team, and we are having a pizza night tonight. I have managed to get 1/2 a pizza + a can of drink for each person participating for $5, however there will be a fairly hefty profit from that, which will go to the club.
2. Instead of buying some new winter boots, I need to get two pairs fixed… one needs to be resoled and one has a missing leather button from its side. I spend a good hour trying to find a replacement leather button, but had to settle for a plastic do-it-yourself button where I’m hoping the shoe-repairer has a piece of leather to shape over it to make them look the same. Hopefully it can be done.
3. I’ve been eBaying a few of the boys outgrown clothes that they have rarely worn, just to get rid of the pile of clothes that are too good to give away. If they don’t go, my son’s tutoring service is organising to send some clothes and supplies over to the earthquake victims of Nepal, so they will go there if not sold by Sunday.
So that’s my thriftiness for the day. Sometimes thriftiness is a necessity in life, sometimes it’s just good to know that you can live on a tight budget if you need to, and it makes you feel good when you can, or if you get a bargain!
There were many elements of today that were lovely… The weather was nice. The music on the radio brought back some lovely memories. I had some lovely conversations with some lovely people. I managed to write a couple of pages of my lovely new book. It was lovely that my youngest got to have a play with a friend after school, and then my kids played lovely together. My dyslexic son finished his movie trailer project (more so so proud than lovely, but still, it was lovely). I was able to finish my work in business hours. And, I cooked up a lovely chicken stir fry for dinner. Lovely!
But it wasn’t so lovely ending the day with a headache and my dog Dexter barking to get some attention making it painfully worse. Even with some Nurofen, it’s not subsiding… oh well, we can’t have it all. 🙁
Well… today I walked the dog, made my son breakfast, then his lunch for school, had a shower, got ready for work, organised some items to post from Ebay, looked at emails, went to the post office, went to work, came home to write some copy, sat down with the tail end of Ellen while having lunch, wrote an email, went back on the road for work, sat in the car working, went to another appointment, came home, said hello to one son and dog, the other son wasn’t home yet, called him, he was just around the corner, wrote the last copy, did the dishes that had been sitting in the sink for a couple of days (oh no!), put the recycling in the recycling bin, told my oldest son to get ready for hockey training, told the other one to do his homework, picked up the broken peg that the dog had chewed, took son to hockey training, talked to the secretary about the pizza night organised for Friday night, was given the raffle tickets to hand out to other team member’s parents, came home, made dinner, ate dinner, helped both sons with homework, cleaned the dog poo off the bathmat after dog takes dump and eldest son didn’t take dog out for long enough walk, back to homework, and now it’s 9.45pm…
Sound domesticated? Just another day in the life of a single mum…
Oh how I wish I could be dependent on others, but today is not one of those days. There are so many days that I wish I could have someone to cuddle up to, give me a massage, look after me when I’m sick, do the washing, etc, or even show that my feelings matter, but as a single mum, I don’t have those luxuries. I do though, have the luxuries of making my own rules to raise my children, I don’t get nagged, I don’t need to get anyone’s permission to do what I want to do, and my money is mine (or the tax department’s… sometimes I can’t work out who I’m actually working for). So I guess it’s all not too bad.
But I couldn’t even depend on myself today to do what I wanted to do for myself. I guess it was one of those days. I had a kid-free day (well for 9 hours of it, of which I have 10 minutes to go), so it was just me and my trust companion Dexter (my dog). We had a few things finish up on eBay, so we bagged them ready to send out when they PayPal notifications come in, we watched a movie, did the grocery shopping where I usually have the help of my kids to bring it in from the car… but, no, it was all me. I had dinner by myself with Dexter getting a few grains of rice off the side of the stable table while we watched TV (because I’m a sucker for sharing my food with him) and I wrote a couple of emails, which reminds me, I have to write a couple more. See! I can’t even depend on myself to remember!
However, I did have a couple of people depend on me. My best friend desperately needed a chat, and I was there for her. My second Dad also called to say Hi, and my nextdoor neighbour and I had a little chin-wag, while I got cuddles from her sweet daughter (who wanted to steal my wallet from me… hmmm). Oh, and Dexter depended on me to take him for a wee outside.
I didn’t even bother about yesterday’s word ‘Tired’ because I didn’t want to go too negative with my blogs. I just want to bring a little distortion of funny and serious to say that life is what it is, no matter how we feel or who chooses to be in our lives. The reality is, we can only depend on ourselves to be the best we can be.
While we throw ourselves into our work, our family, our day to day routine, we could suggest that by keeping busy we are ‘enthusiastic,’ knowing that the quicker we can get through the day, the quicker we can sit down and relax with a ‘savvy B’ or a beer. And, whilst I would love to sit down and have a chin-wag with a friend over a bevvy, it’s not going to happen tonight, as I have one son who has to play at a hockey match at 6.30pm.
So whilst I don’t feel too enthusiastic, I will say that I somehow have done a lot of things this week which show enthusiasm. I have read two novels, written up 23 properties, sent out a stack of ebooks for excited readers wanting to review “On the Road to the Best Orgasm Ever,” I have had something on every night this week with my boys – from drama classes, to hockey practice, basketball practice and even a school meeting about next year. I have been to bed early, and woken up way too early (this morning was 4.30am) and have even had an enthusiastic cry or two. So while there is no real positive enthusiasm behind it, there’s enthusiasm just to make things happen and get things done.
And even if we are tired and feel that it’s all relentless by the time Friday night comes along, we should pat ourselves on the back for getting everything we need done. A single parent’s life never stops, and somehow we need to maintain our enthusiasm to just keep going. Happy Friday! 🙂