Friday, 11 July 2008

Friday again (& a bit of a babble)

Yes, it's Friday again. The MOTH is away for about a week, including a weekend with his parents who feel (like his kids) that we should have waited to marry until after the kids were grown, married & settled with their own kids in high school. I'm home, as I have been since our return from Canada, working on the house, the garden, the dogs & general spring cleaning.

I've got to tell you that this shuffling through every piece of paper we own (all my teaching resources, the filing cabinet etc), old paid bills & the re-arrangement of the library has been a very interesting experience. I have had a chance to reflect on who I am & what I do. I'm learning about me in big doses.

What do I mean, you ask? It simply means that that while I've lived disjointed kind of life (living here & there, and working at all sorts of jobs) and I've kind of 'fitted' my bits & pieces around those with whom I've lived: husbands, kids, etc, I recognise that I have done a lot of interesting things along the way to where I am now. It’s all there recorded either by the books I own, in the filing cabinet or in some box of treasure stowed tidily in the garage until the renovations are done.

I'm interested in a variety of topics. As a youngster, I was both a reader and a piano player. These great loves have waxed and waned over the years, fitting in with what has gone on in life’s foreground. Hence, I have a lot of books (novels & non-fiction) and lots of piano music. This week, the books have been rearranged on the shelves in the newly painted room and the piano is dusted & waiting tuning on the 4th August. Everything is in order & the fingers again itching to play.

I’m creative with my hands: I can sew (household stuff - like curtains, beanbags & cushions; and clothes - from tailoring & wedding/evening items to all the things the kids wore as they were growing up), embroider and knit. I’ve done upholstery & patchwork, enjoy working in the garden, renovating houses, cooking and … well, the list goes on and on. Consequently, I have more than enough stash, cookbooks and potting mix to last until my 88th birthday.

I enjoy photography & have recorded every conceivable event in the family’s life, or so it seems when I look through boxes, albums & other treasures.

Professionally, I’ve never been persuaded that life should be measured by what you do for a living. The thing is I have never wanted to do ‘great things’ in that area if it meant that my family was going to miss out. It’s rather odd for a woman my age considering that I grew up during those fanatical years of women’s lib, but, then again, it’s perhaps because I was a child of that era that I am that way.

I think too, having had two husbands who are uber-ambitious also plays a part in who I am professionally. No matter the story, someone has to play a support role. That has been my job in life. Children need time as only a parent can give. Husbands need support (even if it’s simply having a daily routine which means everyone is fed & there is an ironed shirt – yeah, simplistic, I know). I enjoyed what I did for a living, certainly (& learned a lot about people because of my work hours) but I will be openly proud and proclaim that the best work I ever did was what I did as a wife and mother.

Probably unknown to most people who know me now, I was a registered nurse for seventeen years. At nearly eighteen when it was time to decide what was next, I eschewed trotting off to university straight from school simply because I didn’t want to do what everyone else in my family (mum, dad & my three older siblings) had done. Besides, I’d been more interested in boys than maths in those days, so should have done better at school. I wanted money & routine rather than the uncertainty of where the next meal would come from (because certainly I would have been a very hungry student) & nursing with a home in the nurses’ quarters was the answer.

I took the hospital training years very seriously. Yet, I had time enough to meet and marry my ex-husband. Over the years, because of his work transfers, I was employed by at least 5 hospital boards and each had its routines and positive bits and pieces.

Nowadays though, I don't remember a lot of detail about those working years. What with busy marriage to William (constantly moving from one town to another for his work choices & then his escape because in his world he didn’t think that work and family life were compatible) & four small fry, work hours became a tired day-to-day blur of sick people & grief. God knows how I got through the days, let alone the night duty that I had to do (5 nights per month - and considering that I only worked 5 days/fortnight, there was quite a bit of night duty in there). I have glimpses of clients, clients’ families and their needs and a lot of caring for other people (I was a specialist in nursing the young terminally ill - I looked after people under 50 years of age who were dying - many of whom were under 30). I mostly remember the guy who said to me that he was sad that I was leaving the hospital to move to another town because I would not be there when he died ...

Towards the end of my nursing years, my own mother died. I 'lost' a few years around then (and the paper shuffle shows it – no new happy snaps, just official school pics, no new books, and no new crafting stash). William had left me a scant 8 months before Mum died telling me that I had not done enough for his career (despite having moved from Maryborough to Rockhampton, to Cloncurry, to Townsville, to Gladstone and back to Townsville). I guess I muddled along while I grieved. I don't know. I know that I was heart broken & very lost for a long while. I was sort of lost from about October 1992 until about August 1994.

Next, there were the awakening years - the years where the kids and I went to university & studied photography, music, English literature, French language & literature, culture and education. By then, I was nearly 35; the crown princess was in her first year of high school & the cadet princess in her first year of primary school (I had married William in 1980 before I turned 20 years of age & had had 4 babies well before I was 30). We all grew intellectually, not just me. I suppose it was a mix of age and stage. That voice inside my head (which sounded a lot like my mother nagging me to do what she thought I should do) was silent, my husband had deserted me & I was left free to choose my own path, my only obligation being to the four children aged 4 to 11 years who needed more than just the day to day grind.

To cope, I introduced them to all my interests. In hindsight, it's the best thing I could ever have done. The kids started dance, music & tennis classes that lasted until the end of their school years & lead to two of them becoming professional musicians; they met interesting university people like Tess & Marie-France (who in turn introduced them to language learning and professional music possibilities), & they went to endless 'family bbqs' with folks from our local Catholic Church, who couldn't (and still don't) understand why William and I ended up divorced).

After university, came the break-up of family. No, this was not a sad and sordid event. I’m talking about the happy & adventurous time of moving on & off-spring growing up. Both the crown princess & I graduated at the same time (me from university, she from high school). We both left Australia & the family for a year - she to Finland on a gap year student exchange, I to France). The other three kids spent a year with their father (whose friends had their knives out for me for wanting to follow a few of my own dreams - can you believe it that at that stage, 8 years after our break up, William had not yet told his work mates that he had left me & had let them think that I had left him to go to France?). Again, there are no family pics (not even school portraits) from that year but this time because William wasn’t into that sort of stuff.

I returned to family life the following year. The Crown Princess did not. She worked in Emerald for a couple of years for a friend of mine and then went to university in Brisbane to study music. In 2001, The Crown Prince finished year 12 & I finished my second lot of studies. The year after that, he then went to Germany & I moved from Townsville to Mackay in Central Qld to teach in a high school. The books and paper were sorted to within an inch of their existence!

Of course I kept many books and all the photographs.

Life in Mackay again started a tug of war between mothering and professional life. For a while, the girls went to stay with their father again. However, the Living Doll came south within 14 months & she finished senior at school with me in Mackay and then the cadet princess moved to Brisbane with me and The MOTH not long after. My professional life again mingled with parenting. In the end, three of my kids did their senior year at the school where I was teaching, so we did it together in the same way I did my university years. It was good. One day, I'll blog about Wednesday afternoon tea-times.

So what about The MOTH? I met him about about 9 months after I arrived in Mackay. I had been single for 10 years (not withstanding a couple of flings with most interesting people in between times). We dated a year and then decided to move in together and BAMMM! he, like William, was transferred with work and my career-path climb took a dive.

Have you any idea about how moving house from town to town and the necessity to pack it and pay for its movements make you ruthless in what you keep and what you throw away? After doing it eight times for moving, it becomes part of the natural life cycle even when you stop moving (not that I've lived in any one house more than 4 years, except for my Townsville house from where I came and went). What I mean is this: I cannot imagine what life would be like if I didn’t regularly a drastic paper cull. I also enjoy the revisiting of where I've been and done over the recent years as I do it. It's good evaluation time for what I do in the future (yeah, maybe one day I'll blog about the '5 year plans').

We've been in Brisbane nearly 5 years (in two houses). We started with a household of five and have dwindled down to just the two of us. We've adopted a cat and two dogs.

In that time, I've taught a good three full-time years and two part-time ones. So this week, I got rid of a lot of the paper that comes with teaching. I'm resigned to the fact that whilst administrations want experienced teachers, they don't want to pay them the wages nor do they want to have people with real ideas of methods of teaching contrary to their ideas. First year teachers get full time jobs. The experienced ones do supply teaching and contracts.

I'm also resigned to the fact that it's not possible to have 2 high flying careers and a successful marriage.

So Paul's away & I'm tidying up my life. I'm giving/throwing away a lot of stuff & preparing to live within the tidy boundaries of being a housewife for a while. And guess what ...

I'm enjoying myself a lot.

I miss teaching & my spelling is declining badly, but I don't miss that endless grind of expectation for a pittance of financial remuneration & the whine from society about teachers only teaching cos they are not capable of anything else. I don't miss all those sulky, under-parented kids who think the sun shines from their butts & that the world owes them whatever their hearts desire, nor catching the winter head colds, smelly under-arms or deputy principals who are totally inadequate as time managers and teachers (& so are promoted so not to damage kids any further).

I get to spend time with my now adult off-spring, travel with Paul & take Lucy and Harry for long walks. I also have time to indulge in my passions etc.

But now, enough reflecting on life for one day. It’s time I got back to the job.


michmolk said...

Wow - what a life you have led so far! I really enjoyed reading that :) Good on you for starting over and getting your kids so involved in life.

Daughter of the Midwest said...

Bliss, thank you for this reflective post. I thought I knew a good bit about you before, but I realize I didn't. You are a very complex, educated, accomplished and well-traveled person. In short, your life has been very interesting and it has made you a very interesting individual. I look forward to your next chapters in life. I don't think that there is anything you couldn't do.