Some thoughts on distance.

I’ve just finished packing in preparation for a small weekend away. I hate packing but I am feeling excited to visit a part of my country that I’ve not seen before and to see how my Father lives since he moved away from my area a while back. His partner has a place closer to here that they stay at sometimes so it’s not that I haven’t seen him, just, not at his place! This makes me reflect on our relationship a bit and family relationships in general.

I was on a boat entering the Marlborough Sounds.

I was on a boat entering the Marlborough Sounds. An old, bad phone photo from 2016.

It seems that we are all forced to make choices about where to live because of what we can afford and the kind of life we think we can make for ourselves. It feels like things really changed in the Victorian Era and have continued to do so in more fragmented ways ever since.

From looking into my family tree I’ve learned that there are parts of my family that stayed in the same general locale for many generations. I can look on a map of Dorset for example and see all the areas referred to in my family’s records and how reasonably close together they are.

BUT, in 1841, after the Census, one branch of my family set sail for New Zealand.

I wonder (and I hope to learn) why such a big leap was taken. The family were recorded as agricultural labourers in the Census and I guess NZ seemed like an opportunity. I wonder how it was pitched to them? There was a bit of back and forth between here and Australia in a few parts of my family. I have family from Leicester, Yorkshire, Limerick, Dorset, Midlothian and there are many parts of my family I am yet to understand or learn about.

But the thing that they all have in common is that they all left home and came to this land. They came to a land that they had not seen, that was the other side of the world.

And I am sitting here from my relatively comfortable life and think it terribly dreadful how far apart I live from many members of my family, which in comparison, is at least the same country. But, I cannot just pop and see people freely, I can’t do so without budgeting for it and lots of travelling.

Driving will help somewhat. We tried to start my car today. The battery is dead! Oh dear.

Proximity to family is an important factor for My Love and I as we embark on starting our life together and our own family. Obviously as a new mother, having family close to advise and help out sometimes will be very advantageous. So we’re having to think about what the best compromise is going to be between the kind of property we can buy and the distance from those people who matter to us, for support as we start a family and just simply to keep those relationships near.

We’ve been busy lately on weekends with quite a few family events. And I want to keep this up but the thing is that it still never quite feels enough yet I also feel the lack of down time all the travel requires.

I feel blessed that I have been made to feel very welcome in My Love’s family and it is like I have another whole family which is a very nice feeling for me.

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My Love’s Parents’ Dog Angus, May 2018

It is my brother’s birthday this weekend too. He lives in the South Island of NZ and thus we don’t see each other in person very often, though we have been doing FaceTime in the last year!

How do other people stay close to their family? In this age of the internet which makes it easier than before to stay in touch, it still seems hard. Family is important to me and life feels so hectic, so often that it feels hard to balance it all!

Small progress every day…

I mentioned that I bought my first car recently which was a big deal for me as a 34 year old woman who knows nothing about cars. Luckily my dear little brother is a mechanic and kindly assisted with looking her over before I made the decision to go ahead.

It was one of those situations where it all fell into place. The car was on the side of the road on the way to my home with For Sale, a price and phone number scrawled on the back window. It was more expensive than I would have liked initially so I sat on the idea for a week or two, and then I decided that if my brother looked at it for me, he’d be able to tell me if it as a fair price or not.

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Picture from a recent walk home, May 2018.

I contacted the owner and she told me that she was dropping the price quite dramatically. I felt like because our neighbourhood is quite secluded that she must not have had a lot of interest. When we finally found a time with conflicting schedules for her to get it into my brother’s workshop, she dropped the price again!

I was worried initially about just taking the easy option but it also felt synchronous with my gut feeling that now was the time to get on with this whole car ‘thing’ after thinking about it for 6-9 months. So I ended up buying her.

I named her after a name I discovered while doing family history research which makes me smile:

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Isn’t is just so strange? Hehe. I kept calling the Cat and the Dog Ermentrude and eventually I decided it was the name for my Car.

Tonight was the night I get paid so I decided to buy a year’s worth of insurance. I’ve been holding off driving her until I got this sorted out, just in case I do some serious damage, to her, or someone else!!

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Rather poor quality photo from my walk home a few nights back. This is how I struggle to find daylight!

I am sure I will be fine but I don’t want to take the risk. I got really confident driving a Subaru Legacy in the past but this car has completely different gear changing (whilst still being Automatic) and well, it’s been YEARS!

Sadly there won’t be time to drive her for a little while longer. I want to do my first test drive in daylight hours and finding those have been tricky!

My Love and I are going on a little holiday adventure for 3 nights this coming weekend to so I will have to keep holding tight and telling her she hasn’t been forgotten!

I have so much to learn about cars and feel very behind where I’d like to be with it but the important steps are coming together and I am working towards the goals that matter the most. Ermentrude is symbol of freedom!

The scene is set.

Now that I’ve got a bit of context out of the way, I feel like I can get onto proper blogging.

To sum things all up – My life is heavily focused on the future that I now know that I want with a passion.

  • My monetary resources are filtered strongly into this through boarding at home rather than lining the pockets of a landlord.
  • I am trying to build relationships with family members whilst also…
  • Getting business done.
  • Getting as healthy as possible (currently failing)
  • Enjoying life now!

Now, business in the context of my/our life means: discussions, to-do’s, focussing on what we need to do now to secure the life we hope to have.

I like to set little goals each week and to plan my available time quite rigidly. This keeps me on task and makes sure I stay productive. I’ve been working on my family tree recently which has been a huge and fascinating distraction but it is definitely time to get myself back on track.

I bought my first car very recently. I don’t have a license. Owning a car without a license is meant to be very motivating to get the license – I can drive but haven’t for several years. First I need to get it insured which I plan to do this week as it is a pay week for me. I also need to re-acquaint myself with the road rules and any changes since I last drove.

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My car, Ermentrude. Bought 2018.

Now, working full time, commuting for a couple of hours a day, doing a lot of the household cooking, whilst maintaining a relationship, getting exercise and dare I say having any hobbies, does not allow a lot of spare time for driving practice, especially now that has Winter set in and it is dark when I arrive home.

This is going to be challenging!

This weekend is Queen’s Birthday weekend so My Love and I have taken an extra day off to visit my Father and his Partner in Ohakune which is in the central area of the North Island of New Zealand. We’ve both never been there before and I am excited to see the landscape particularly as it has been snowing! I have never really been in proper snow. I will definitely be bringing my camera.

My Love is also keen to get to work on the pursuit of driving. We have had the “luxury”/misfortune of living in a relatively small city with a decent transport network and thus neither of us really pushed for getting licenses or cars. The plan to have children has changed all of this because you can do things so much faster and show your kids so many more experiences through the freedom driving allows. It will also open up work opportunities in the future.

The reality is that if we want to have a home that is not a damp shoe box and has a yard or even some additional land, we cannot survive without cars. So in a couple of weeks we are likely to be both spending Sunday afternoons, when our respective parents are available, getting some practice behind the wheel. It means sacrificing some of the time we spend together now (as we currently live apart) but ultimately be of huge benefit.

Our options will open up in terms of where we can buy our home and what we can do for work. This is very exciting as I think we’d both resigned ourselves to having a certain kind of life and this now seems more flexible the more we uncover and focus on what we really want.

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Waikanae Beach May 2018. Somewhere we will visit more once we are mobile.

Reorientation, Part Three.

It’s an indecisive day here at my family home. The weather is fluctuating between sun and rain, and is quite crisply cool. I’m at home due to feeling unwell. I’ve been experiencing strange headaches which I am currently attributing to one of two things, or both – coffee (ie. too much) or not wearing my glasses so much lately. I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s unrelated to either.

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Rainy Gloom 28 May 2018

I’m taking this day to write a lot. I’ve been thinking about blogging for some time and I think it is best to strike while the iron is hot. I don’t have much energy for much else today, which I’m not really happy or proud of. Alas! to continue…

My life has been in forward motion since having the realisations mentioned in my previous post. I’ve thought about buying a house a few times since my mid 20s and it was always a cycle of hope and despair. The housing market in New Zealand is very difficult and to be able to achieve home ownership as a young person takes a lot of dedication – and realistically a partner.

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Paths through the Sand. Waikanae May 2018

Even then, those with partners tend to need to pool together their money from their retirement schemes and other grants and to have at least some savings and probably a contribution from their families too. Perhaps this is not true of all but it seems likely for many. This is the reality for many of my generation who spent a lot of time adrift as I did.

I spent a large portion of my 20s studying. Student loans and allowances were pretty easy to come by and for someone like me who is good at managing their income I was able to get by week to week without a part time job.

I was lazy. I didn’t want to work and I saw something romantic about getting by on little. I sold it to myself that I would do better at university which would be better down the line when I got that all important career. Ironically, as I stepped into the workforce, I continued to step in and out of it to study and partially to avoid adult responsibilities.

I rather wish that I was forced into employment as a student. Perhaps the student money was too generous, or did our government think that more students would behave like I did and “get by” on little? I value the budgeting skills I gained but having a larger amount of savings by having a part time job as a student would have been better.

Perhaps I would have borrowed less or travelled more? I have a large student debt now and have been paying that off for years (admittedly at the minimum required) and that’s only reduced it by about 30%. There is not incentive to pay it off faster in this country unless you leave but it still sits as a burden.

When I first completed my BA in Art History and Religious Studies, I thought about Europe. I wanted to see the things I had studied in person and I just felt a pull toward it. It was always just a dream though. I could not fathom how to possibly make a trip half way around the world on my tiny budget.

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The Edge of the World, perhaps? Waikanae Beach May 2018

Since the decision not to move overseas, My Love and I have turned our minds back towards buying property. I started investigating it on my own but soon after talking to him about it, he was on board too. This moved the search from a small apartment, to something more resembling a home. We’ve been working on this for about 9 months now but I think that the obstacles we’ve faced have been blessings in disguise.

My Love changed careers from the unsociable hours of being a baker, to working in a government office role similar to myself. This change however became a deterrent to the bank who were previously keen to lend us what we needed on top of our deposit.

Another difficulty that seems to be apparent is that employers, particularly those offering government roles are hesitant to employ on a permanent basis. The logic behind this in my area is that with more processes going online, less permanent staff will be required in the future. That’s business I guess.

The role My Love acquired is temporary yet ongoing. This is not considered stable by a bank until you’ve done it for at least two years. So we search for new work once more. My Love does not find himself enamoured with the office lifestyle and thus this is another opportunity. There is also a hope that less commuting will be required in the future.

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A photo from my daily commute to work. Sometime earlier 2018

Our weekend just past included a lot of time on job applications so I am feeling hopeful. We both want to get on with our lives, after our next big adventure – the long dreamed of trip to Europe. We go to Rome and Naples in September to fulfil this one dream before we truly settle down to creating our home and family life.

Creating a home is an important step in life for those who want to raise a family. I don’t think that what it takes to achieve home ownership is taught, stressed or emphasised anywhere near enough to younger people. I think that our society has lost sight of what IS important and of teaching the upcoming generations how to get there. I don’t know whether this was taught in the past or not but it needs to become relevant again because without goals like homeownership more and more people are going to be unhappy because they can’t ever do it or struggle to achieve it when they realise they needed to work towards it all along, like myself. Home is where the Heart is. Cliche but true!

Reorientation, Part Two.

The beginning of my blog feels like a necessary step of context building. I think this is for me primarily but I suppose it would help any interested reader. It feels quite deeply personal and vulnerable in a sense but I am also quite aware that I have put myself within an isolated shell in recent times and stepping out might be just what I need.

To continue from my previous post…

Sometime during the first 6 months of our relationship, something really shifted in me. I felt really nervous talking about it because it was an almost complete 180 turn on what I’d previously believed. That change was wanting to have children.

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A sunny walk in April, 2018.

You could call this biology, and I felt that feeling come and go from about age 30 but I always over-rode it as I’d convinced myself in earlier life that I would not ever have kids.

Now, part of this was definitely fear. I feared childbirth itself from a young age, always telling my parents I would live with them forever, not have kids and just look after them. Ironically I moved out of home the first time when I was 17. I was afraid of the pain of childbirth and the medical aspect of it. Some other experiences of family members in hospital situations throughout my life did not really help with that! Though I think that this fear is more common than I thought as a younger person. My sister-in-law who has 2 children has spoken of the fear of the medical side of having kids in a YouTube series about birth stories.

So I do credit this desire to have children to biology to some extent. However, I think that a lot of the reasoning behind my belief that I did not want to experience what is perhaps life’s most beautiful act (the creation of life with someone you love) was the influence of culture on my psyche and some of the dominant themes that I grew up with. I was given the impression that children were not a priority, that your career was absolutely the most important thing to focus on and that happiness was to be found via a constant stream of minor achievement – the next step in that career path, the next person who liked your selfie, the next glass of wine after work or that shiny new purchase.

Concurrent with this idea are the concepts in our culture that proclaim:

  • Family is not important
  • Building comfort and stability is not important
  • Independence is not important
  • A relationship with Nature is not important
  • Taking care of yourself is not important
  • Even that Love is not important…

These are damaging, pervasive and insidious ideas.

Once you slash through the power of the pressure to consume, use up, waste, overlook and take for granted, you are able to see other options and life changes dramatically. My desire to start a family with My Love is one of many changes have flowed on out from taking a really hard look at why my 20s were almost wholly unproductive and what lead to that lack of real focus and drive towards creating a life for myself.

Our culture has Nihilism at its heart and while this is not new information, it is my sincere hope that a decent portion of people my age and younger can see that there is wisdom and contentment to be found by living with greater simplicity and overcoming the belief that life has no meaning.

To be continued…

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Early evening sky near my home. May 2018.

Reorientation, Part One.

Almost 18 months ago I began a new life with My Love that has changed me in ways I could not have ever predicted. The Carl Jung quote always comes to mind:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Sometimes I think he has had more of an effect on me than I on him but only he could truly answer that. My whole life focus has shifted from being one adrift and somewhat in tatters, making poor decisions without a great deal of care for the consequences. I’ve had times in my life where I thought I was on the right track but it would turn out I was incorrect and I would almost be back to square one. Now I feel comfort and sure that things are headed in the correct direction.

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My Love & I in Waikanae, May 2018.

We live in a somewhat difficult or unusual way. I have been living in my family home, where only My Mother and her dog, Lacey remain. My cat Thor is here with me too but My Love still lives in the city in a small but convenient studio apartment. I live there with him a couple of days a week on average.

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View from My Love’s place, early Autumn morning, May 2018.

I used to live close to his place in a rather run-down flat within a bigger house. It was too big for just me but I had resided there with a previous partner and had kept the place for a while after we parted so that I could figure my life out.

It was expensive and a silly idea in hindsight but it took even greater catastrophe for me to do the right thing and leave that house. After discovering some issues around dampness, quite common to old rentals in this city, and an ensuing battle with the landlord about how I could relinquish myself from a lease for a place that I felt was a detriment to my health, I moved back to the place of my birth on what I thought might be a temporary basis.

It was quite nice timing as My Mother was set to take a 6 week holiday to Europe and I was able to take over the responsibility of the house and to look after Lacey the dog. I also had a 2 week holiday with My Love to Tasmania, Australia scheduled for shortly after my Mother’s return and to be able to leave Thor the Cat in a comfortable place, rather than in a cattery was a huge relief to me. My friend who had previously looked after Thor had moved away between the time I’d booked the holiday and our trip, so that cattery had been quite a real, and undesirable possibility.

Lacey and Thor have an understanding relationship and while they aren’t known to cuddle with each other, sometimes they will cuddle either side of me. Thor knows this property well as he has stayed here with myself, Lacey and my Mum before when we’ve been in-between flats too. He is happy here.

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Lacey & Thor getting reacquainted about 1 year ago.

After our holiday to Tasmania, the thoughts of moving there (it is beautiful in so many ways) were strong within both myself and My Love. One of the reasons we went there was that I had been there twice before and was quite charmed by it and wondered if he would be too. Reality has it though and at this time in our lives, family is very important to us and moving to an island that currently takes two plane rides to reach is probably not the wisest move. We’re in our mid-30s and are not realistically in a position to start our lives over in another country.

That said, I do feel like I’m starting my life over again, all of the time.

To be continued…