Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category

The Feel of Fall

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

After a very wet summer, fall has come early. There have already been several mornings with snow dusting the mountain tops. Beautiful…but wow! Hard to believe it is already here.

Overall, however, I’m glad for the change in seasons. This summer has been hard. I’ve been ridiculously low for the past several months. Like as in looooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I’m sure it was a combination of things that gave me the blues, (the financial instability of starting a new business, not having enough to occupy my brain, a very sore back so no exercise, etc., etc.) but underneath it all I’d have to say my being down stemmed from homesickness.

But the last week I seem to have got my mojo back. I’m organizing the apartment, doing some contract work for good friend Lesli in Vancouver, and even started flossing! (I’m one of those lifelong non-flossers, so this is huge.)

I recently read a blog post (can’t find it at the moment to link to…oh well) suggesting that it doesn’t matter where you live. You can carve a happy life anywhere you are and moving won’t necessarily solve your problems.

As someone who has often left a place or situation when things get rough, (my pattern is  to either run fast or stay waaaaaaay too long) that column really got me thinking the last few days. What can I do to make Innsbruck feel like home? What would I gain if I moved back home to Canada? What would I lose?

All questions I can’t answer right now. But as the autumn progresses, I’m going to try to unravel some of these threads. Or tie them up, as the case may be.

And I sure have a lot to look forward to here, which is also helping to lift my spirits. Mom is coming for a visit at the end of the month and her and I are planning on going to Venice for a short trip. I haven’t been yet even though it is only a 5-hour train ride from Innsbruck. Then ski season starts, which I’m completely looking forward to. I think a few hours a week in the cold, fresh air swooshing down the ancient Alps is going to be a perfect antidote to any left-over blues.

And writing also helps me with my perspective on life, so I’m going to try to do more of that. A favourite blogger uses the Anais Nin quote on her header: “We write to taste life twice, once in the moment and in retrospection.” Although I often find that true, I also find writing allows me not just to relive the same moments, but to reframe them from a different perspective. To see events as part of a larger whole, a longer path. In that process I am able to sort through some of the things that are muddled up in my brain.

So no promises, but I will try to post more often…and to keep flossing.

Musings about Stuff…or Come on Down!

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Not much is going on in our household these days. Well, a lot is going on…job hunting, discussions about the future, daily life with a child…but nothing of note for the blog.

So I started going through old photos to post and talk about when I came upon one of my all-time favourites from about two years ago.

PB100139

Does this photo ever bring back memories.

But what it really made me think of is a topic I’ve been contemplating ever since we made the decision to get rid of 9/10ths of our possessions and move to Europe. How important is stuff? (And more to the point, how the hell do these Europeans live in such tiny quarters and still seem relatively happy and sane??)

One blogger I’m following wrote about her perspective on stuff, which was forever shifted when she had to move because of a good-old New York infestation of bed bugs and had to leave behind anything that couldn’t be boiled or sterlized. The subheading is: “Know this: You could dump everything if you had to.” Very true words, Ms. Trunk.

The metaphor I’ve come up with for my own changed perspective on stuff is The Price is Right. On pretty much every show there was at least one prize package with several trips to amazing places around the world, and one that was furniture. I remember very clearly  thinking, “Go for the furniture! A trip is over after a week, but a couch lasts forever!!” I was disdainfully condescending when an over-the-top-excited contestant picked the trips. The idiot.

Now? I would pick the trips every time. Well, that is what I was thinking the last while, until I really looked at this picture. The sun-mottled room, a view of the backyard, somewhere to put a piano. It just seems so lovely, so inviting.

So somewhere in there is a balance I have yet to achieve. I know that my perspective on stuff vs. experience has shifted way, way over to the experience side. And I’m happy about that. Deeply grateful, actually, that the world has offered me this opportunity to understand the value of learning a new language or trying to talk to a classmate from the Congo or simply standing in a city center that was imagined and designed and built a thousand years ago.

And yet right now I’m longing to walk through IKEA and pick out couches and new kitchen utensils and brightly coloured children’s furniture. I’m longing for a home.

My definition of the perfect home has changed significantly the last two years…it is certainly much smaller and more practical in my mind. But it is still beautifully appointed, has a tiny garden to play and relax in, is sunny and, most importantly, has a view. Of mountains or water or trees or anything that draws my eyes through the window to the bigger world.

I’m sure there are several reasons why Europeans (in this part of Europe anyway) can happily live in small, aesthetically beautiful homes. For one thing, their relatives had much, much less only a short time ago, and also there is less space here so there is no pressure to keep up with the neighbours since almost no-one has a huge home. But I also think it is because “home” is just one reference point in a large life of vacations to foreign countries and hikes up mountains and endless city festivals and good wine in a neighbourhood restaurant.

And so as the world serves up another very big and unknown change in my life in the next few months, I will focus on achieving that balance between possessions and experiences, wherever in the world I might land.

Thankful

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

A few of my Canadian friends reminded me that it was Thanksgiving this weekend. So not on my radar. In Tirol there are autumn community celebrations called Erntedankfest to give thanks for the harvest, but it revolves around drinking and eating outside in the village center, not an at-home family event. There is no set date; each community fits it in around the zillions of other drinking/eating (in that order) outdoor festivals.

So thanks for the reminder. And here is my list of some of the other things I am thankful for:

  • The first, of course, is family and friends. The close people in my life. Through the pain and problems, happiness and successes, laughter and tears, they are always there for me.  And, I  hope, I am there for them.
  • The kindness of strangers. Many times in my life I have been helped or cheered by a simple kindness of someone I do not know. Especially here when it is hard for me to communicate and when many people lose patience quickly, I appreciate these small acts of goodness.
  • Being Canadian. I really love that I grew up in Canada. I love coming home (it will always be home) and being around my own particular brand of humans. Our stereotypes tend to be true (friendly, overly apologetic, paternalistic) and they are good things. Far from perfect (of course I must say that, else I wouldn’t sound Canadian), but overall I think that Canada may be the best place in the world to grow up.
  • My European adventure. Speaking of far from perfect…. Nonetheless, I am deeply, deeply grateful for everything that this crazy time has brought into my life.  
  • The mountains. My first and always love is water, whether ocean or lake. But these mountains sure are giving that preference a run for its money. Every different light or shift in weather brings a new, beautiful scene for me to appreciate.
  • The Internet (Now there is a 21st Century girl for you…appreciating mountains and ocean and computers in the same breath.) Being able to communicate with my expanding network of friends around the world, discovering the most fascinating, inspirational people through their blogs, having access to any little thing I want to know more about, and having an outlet for my desire to write. All possible  for me with the push of a button and a click of the mouse. Magic.
  • And I couldn’t, of course, end this list without being thankful that I have the opportunity to be a mom. Annie is snuggled here beside me, wiped out in front of the  TV after a ridiculously active day with us and cousin Lilli.  I never really knew that I wanted this until she was here, and now it is the thing I am most thankful for.

I’m also thankful that you are reading this blog. The older I get the more I realize that creative persuits are an integral part of me being a whole and happy human. Thanks for sharing this with me. I really, really appreciate it.

Mother of One

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

It seems that there is always something, something, something that women feel guilty about. Or, worse yet, are made to feel guilty about. (A great line from a fascinating New Yorker article on parenthood observes: “all the mothers want forgiveness; all the fathers want applause.”)

Being single, being childless, staying home, working, working too much, living in a messy house, cooking prepackaged meals, letting kids watch TV, andonandonandonandonandon…

Lately, my potential guilt-causing thoughts have been moving to the fact that, in all likelihood, I’m going to be the biological mother of one child. And since, psychologically, more than an 8-year gap between siblings (my step-daughter Rebecca is almost 16) means they turn out like “only” children, it is the reality I have to ponder for myself and Annie.

These past six weeks in Canada have brought a lot of contact with my many friends. (I am rich and blessed in that life department.) And many of these friends are moms who had their first child around the time Annie was born, and went on to have a second. I’ve heard more than once on this trip something like: “I thought one child was hard, but it is a piece of cake compared to having two.”

And a few weeks ago, when I was having one of my mommy pangs and asked  Markus, mostly jokingly, if we should have another, he said with a slight laugh: “I’m not sure you couldn’t handle more than one child.” Despite the fact that this is a very painful thing to hear from one’s partner, it doesn’t make it any less true.

I also very accidentally stumbled on a horrible blog post a couple of months ago (by clicking on a ubiquitous Blogher ad) that railed on about how people should either have no children or more than one, because parents of only children are overprotective, pushy, perfectionists, blah, blah, blah.

I like to tell myself that, should I become pregnant again despite our best prophylactic measures, I would still be a good mom to both my children. I would rise to the occasion and, though complaining often (I was a chronic complainer long before motherhood was bestowed upon me), my kids would grow up loved and relatively normal.

And honestly, I don’t think I’m kidding myself about that. But being over 40 as well as having been told any further pregnancies would be considered high-risk due to my placenta issues after Annie’s birth, I also have to admit that raising a high-needs child might be more than I could handle. The constant time and attention a high-needs child requires would, I think, send me spiraling into depression. I’ve seen moms of these children, amazing, loving, energetic women, and I don’t see myself in them. Maybe I’m underselling myself. Maybe not.

That leaves adopting, which, although I love the idea, doesn’t really seem to be in Markus’ and my future.

So it looks like I will be raising one child. (I don’t feel like I raised Rebecca, as she has two very loving and involved parents…although I do hope I’m avoiding the evil step-mother archetype.)

And frankly, oddly, interestingly, I’ve come to the conclusion (at least for now) that I feel pretty good about that. I’m an intense introvert, in that the only way my battery is recharged is to be completely alone for long stretches of time. I don’t enjoy the basics of running a household. I can’t be a stay-at-home mom, so need to pay for daycare. My stress level goes up when there is too much noise (of any kind, but particularly yelling.) Annie adores Rebecca and will have her to share her adult life with, if not her childhood. I still have a double-shot at grandchildren, which I think will be totally awesome. (Rebecca is an experienced superstar at accepting every single definition of “grandparent”, so I feel confident that I can be involved in her children’s lives.) And, perhaps most importantly, I feel like I’m being a good mother to Annie. Not perfect, maybe not even great, but right now, with one child to raise, I’m confident that I fall into the good mother category. (Thanks, Stacey, for the positive reinforcement of that during my stay in your beautiful home.)

But what all of these comments and articles and thinking has made me realize, is that parenting Annie since she has turned three-years-old, is, in fact, fairly (or should I say relatively?) easy. I loved the first 10 months on maternity leave (although wouldn’t have called it easy), had a very, very…very…hard time being a parent when Annie was two (not all due to Annie, but also external life circumstances compounding parenthood). But these last few months, I gotta say, have been much less challenging. Not every second, not even every day, but overall I have to admit it isn’t that tough. First and foremost, Markus is an amazing and involved father, and often takes Annie alone for dad/daughter time. (Oh, how I missed that these past 6 weeks!!) As well, Annie is a ridiculously happy child who spends most of her life laughing, running, singing and begging to be tickled. Pouting and crying almost never last more than one or two minutes. Her high, high energy can be expended in many ways, as she is open to almost all experiences. I love it when she is in daycare a few hours a day, and she loves it when she is in daycare a few hours a day. When I can’t reason with her (sometimes I can!), bribing almost always works. And, putting guilty feelings aside, when I need a break or want to get something done she is very open to watching TV. Now I know everything in childhood is a phase, and Annie could wake up tomorrow a miserable, difficult child for the next six months, but I certainly can’t say that about her at this time in her life.

I get the feeling, because I have had the exact same thoughts, that many people see life as a contest. Whoever is the busiest or makes it through the hardest times or rises to the most difficult life challenge wins. If someone comments how easy it is with one child, my reaction is always to think or say something like: “well, you have family nearby, or you have lots of money, or you have [insert excuse why I can claim that my life is just as difficult.]” I actually talk myself into thinking my life is sooooooo hard. I really think that it is time to let that go. I don’t need to believe this life is that kind of (con)test and even if it is, I’m O.K. if I don’t win. (You people, all you commenters who want me to know  you are superstars because you have more challenges than me, you win. Because, in honest-to-goodness fact, I think you are superstars too. Good job!) What I do need to do is complain less, appreciate my life more, accept myself and other people for who they are, and love my family. Not easily done, but I’m going to start putting in more time working on just that. And the next time a friend asks how is it going with Annie, I’m going to say: “Delightful, thank you. Now tell me about your parenting troubles. Right now I’ve got lots of time and energy to listen.”

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

This road less traveled thing is becoming a bit stale. At least, that is what I felt this morning when I started this post. So much uncertainty, so many decisions to make, so many made that can’t be remade…or undone. I always seem to be drawn to the path of most resistance. I remember once, years back, someone saying to me that they only pursued things that they were good at. I thought, “You can do that?” I hadn’t even considered it. Somewhere deep in my genes I came to believe that if it wasn’t difficult, it wasn’t worth doing. The word ‘deranged’ comes to mind.

But then, I guess, I always become restless and crave change when I mosey down one path for too long. Stabilitiy is a haunting presence for me…calling out for a while and then, just when I am settling in, it starts to poke, poke, poke at me, asking if that is what I really want. The little devil.

I guess I’m improving though. I didn’t become maudlin until after 3 weeks of Markus being away. Last time it was 3 days. We are hoping he can return on the 20th. Sigh.

It is also very irritating that I have trouble sustaining a good depression these days. All these comparative thoughts keep nagging at my brain, trying to get me to perk up and be grateful. No one is pulling off my toenails, no one is telling me I have 10 minutes to pack and leave with my child if I want a chance to flee the country and avoid almost certain peril.

And I’m starting to collect all of these remarkable friends here, which also makes prolonging a satisfying pity-party tough. Yesterday a few people from class came over, which was very nice for me. Senegal, Serbia, France and Egypt were represented. I find my classmates so beautiful and interesting. Would this be the case if we weren’t thrown together in isolated circumstances? I don’t know… I guess that is unknowable.

This morning after a few low, loooooooooong hours, I called up Lauriane and we decided to trek out for lunch with the kids. (She has little Jua, who is 5 months old and a real heart-breaker). Both were asleep for the first part of the meal, which gave us a chance to talk and even gossip a bit. (Mostly in German no less). Jua is pretty much the world’s best baby, so once she woke up she just sat with us and smiled and chewed on anything she could get her hands on (teething, I think.) Annie was so sweet as well, saying that she wanted to sit by Jua. We set her up to hold the babe for a few seconds; wish I had had the camera. Big, big smile. We then went off to feed the ducks and play a bit outside. It was a warm day here so we took advantage of it. One of Lauriane’s friends, who teaches French at the University, met up with us. (She also speaks English, German and Spanish fluently. Of course.) She was so interesting, having studied and lived in England (Oxford) and South America as well as France and Austria. So by the time 5 hours had gone by, I was feeling quite fine about life again.

So maybe this journey is not too much like a pathless woods, and it will be good, both going and coming back.