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Long haul air flights: an utter privilege which sucks

It started so well. Good house/petsitters; efficient packing (roll don’t fold); timely train transport to the airport. The cute gay boy at the check-in counter asks me if I’m staying in Paris? No I’m not.

Since 1980, my favourite Aunt ‘M’ (who lives in Sydney) has owned a 300-yr old barn in the French countryside.

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For years, we have all travelled to and from The Barn (Australians are so good with names aren’t they?) in the Dordogne region; Dad first took me there when I was 15, and I took my son there a couple of years ago when he was 15 (we sat there for 2 months, reading/eating/playing badminton LINK HERE & HERE TO OLD STORIES).

Now we’re all gathering again, for my cousin’s 50th celebration weekend July 14-16. She lives in Sydney too, but has been telling us about this party plan for 3 years, supremely organized being that she is; thus approximately 85 people are turning up- mostly from Australia!

A HUGE EXCITING EVENT.

But first, I have to get there.

It starts so well, with 8 hours flying Brisbane to Singapore: 3 films, a bit of reading and writing, several power walks up the aisles, then I’m there

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I’m meeting Aunt M somewhere in the airport, for our direct flight to Paris, then the superfast TGV train down to a town an hour from the Barn. But the carpet is so bright and confusing I give up trying to find her and lie down

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Of course we eventually connect at the Gate; it’s now 2am in our body clocks, and we’re both swaying with exhaustion and hunger.

As soon as we’re onboard, Aunt M is happily snoring, and I’m trying to practice my deep breathing through the ongoing turbulence… it’s not that bad, but enough to keep me nervously on edge… I doze a bit…

13 hours later we arrive

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Home->car->train->plane->plane->train->car->Barn. Mission accomplished.

And I’m sleeping in a tent under the trees away from the noisy main party area; my perfect orange Crab Cave.

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Now I have 2 days to lick the jetlag/slight nausea/slight swaying effects of the privilege of international flight, and get ready to P A R T Y

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Happy Bastille Day too everyone: the French National holiday July 14 to celebrate the storming of the Bastille and the revolution by the people!

‘We can’t let you keep the hamster. It’s too dangerous.’

And with that, Lulu my best friend was taken away forever. Prised from my soft 6-year old hands, holding tightly to her special travel cage. I got one last glimpse of her ginger coat and black eyes before the security door slammed shut, and the full force of my tears and rage flooded me.

Mum protested. ‘This is ridiculous! A hamster can’t have Rabies; she’s never even left the house, except for today.’

Met by an official silence, I wailed harder and louder, realizing it was the only power I had. Fellow ferry passengers tutted or shook their heads, while I screamed at the men in uniforms that I hated them AND their stupid country.

So that was the beginning of my long-held, ongoing animosity towards England, small men in authority, and rules that can’t be bent or broken. I also think it was the birth of my Separation Anxiety.

I said the first of many goodbyes to my beloved Dad that day, in ferry terminals, railway stations, and especially airports, as Mum and he began divorcing. He remained in France; she took my brother and I to England to start a new life. For decades, I have connected farewells with a terrible churning dread in my guts that I may never see that person again, and that one of us is going to die.

It sounds dramatic I know, but that’s just how it’s been for me, and I know some of you will understand exactly.

Last week, after a blissful 8 days together, I had to drop ‘H’ to the airport back to Melbourne. It’s the 7th goodbye we’ve done, and a big one this time: the next day, I was flying to France and the UK for my cousin’s 50th, and to see my Mum.

As our love affair unfolds, with each visit we sink more slowly and clearly into a deeper connection; I admit I was expecting to get quite upset.

But although I felt a bit sad, I didn’t cry. Although I was a bit bummed about the length of time until our next visit (6 weeks), I didn’t stress out. ‘H’ strode calmly off into the crowd of fellow passengers, and I drove home to pack, cradled in the hum of a peaceful, kind, loving relationship.

Thank you Therapy. Thank you Meditation. Thank you 5Rhythms. Thank you Turning 50. Thank you Me, for doing all the work, bringing all the awareness, making all the mistakes and trying again despite failures. Thank you ‘H’, for being who you are, and meeting me as best you can, with both the best and not-so-best we all carry inside.

And thank you Lulu. For teaching me that it’s right to protest against unfair authority, and to let your love and pain flow, no matter who’s watching.

6 nights in a row, but who’s counting? Well me, obviously.

I love my space so much. On the fortnights that my son ’17’ is with his Dad, step-mum, and 2 little brothers, I LOVE having my home to myself. Sometimes I don’t wash up for 3 days, piling the dishes without shame on the counter top. I’ll write or read all day if I’m not working, and quite happily just have crackers & humous for dinner . Or else I’ll clear the chairs and rug out of the way, and have a wild 5Rhythms dance session in the kitchen/living room, to the amusement of the cat.

I particularly love my bed space. Not only do I sleep like a starfish, but a diagonal one at that. In summer, I love to dangle one heel off the mattress edge, sticking it out sideways into the cooler air. Sometimes I toss and turn, especially now that I’m a bit ‘warm-flushy’ as I move through menopause, and will throw off the covers then re-burrow myself at erratic intervals.

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Artist’s impression (thanks ‘H’)

And more than anything, I hate being woken up. By an alarm, by a noisy neighbour, by anxious thoughts, by a nagging bladder. Don’t even start me on the torture of someone who snores! Not being able to get back to sleep, knowing that I have to get up and function even though I’ve been awake from 3-5am is one of my slight-insomniac dreads…

So having a lover come to stay for more than a week, (because they live interstate so it has to be worthwhile), could be a challenge. Plus ‘H’ has similar solo living tendencies and habits to me…

BUT I’M LOVING IT!

It’s so E  A  S  Y .

In the past,  as a happily-Avoidant relationship type, which I’ve explained HERE in post ‘The 3 Dwarves of Attachment’, one of my practised boundaries was to not do sleepovers. I’d contentedly go home at the end of a date, or send them off into the dark night, without a qualm. Even the last boyfriend I lived with for 12 months 7 years ago never spent 6 nights in a row in my room (spare beds are there for a reason y’know, plus he was often away touring or teaching).

But ‘H’ and I have a wonderful groove going. After 5 nights at my house, we’ve taken a 4-hr road trip South, to a tiny music festival set in a mountain forest town, where I’m performing street theatre for a couple of days. We have a cute billet room with a very nice host, and some food vouchers as treats, plus full passes to every gig/show/performance. I love my world, getting paid to bring authentic theatre joy to people, and it’s so sweet to be able to include ‘H’ in it so easily.

Two more sleeps till the return trip to the airport and home for ‘H’… I’m going to savour every moment with Gratitude.

Blissed lissed. Or blist list.

Gratitude means feeling like the luckiest woman in the world, and humbly saying thank you for:

Airport greetings

Slow-cooked dinner as soon as we walk in the door

Warm, clean, safe home to sleep in

Noisy, cheery tropical bird dawn chorus

Tangerine sorbet skies behind palm trees out of the bedroom window

Talking; listening; looking; holding. Resting. Remembering why we’re doing this.

Beach walks

Farmer’s Market fresh organic food, and bumping into friends

A Swing Dance lesson on the sand

Painting a teenager’s bedroom walls white as a surprise for when he comes back from his Dad’s

Tasty snacks and peppermint tea

Talking; listening; looking; holding. Resting. Remembering why.

Quiet times: you do your thing, I’ll do mine

Cat cuddles. Cat meows. Cat cuteness.

And my favourite? Siestas in the soft winter sun

 

 

Comparison between 1st long distance romance visit prep, & 3rd [Don’t read this one, ‘H’ my love]

1st: Car cleaned inside and out

3rd: It’s fine.

1st: Lawns mowed, & edges snipped by professionals

3rd: It’s fine. I’ll do it if I have time

1st: All floors vacuumed and mopped (I only mop once every 3 months to be honest)

3rd: Hope I have time to vacuum

1st: Bathroom shower scrubbed with serious anti-mould stuff

3rd: It’s fine

1st: $170 worth of specialty groceries/organic juices/mineral water bottled at glacier source by albino virgins in single-use-only cotton gloves

3rd: So what’s wrong with tap water anyway?

1st: Gourmet meals planned & prepared, including several desserts

3rd: Shit, I hope I’ve got time to chuck a pot of soup on… maybe ‘H’ can cook…

1st: Haircut/facial/toenails painted

3rd: Aren’t I just loved for my quirky mind & honest, funny blog posts?

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I won’t go on; I know you get the idea. But it’s only 3 more sleeps now!

bread & butter Vs death: the neuroscience of Arguing

#1. You [with soft tone]: ‘Sorry I’m late for the movie, I thought you said it started at 7 not 6. And the traffic was terrible.’

Me: ‘ I feel pretty annoyed you’re so late, but I guess we can see the 8pm session, or just go home? Maybe we need to check in re the exact movie time on the actual day, so this doesn’t happen again?’

You: ‘I’m so sorry darlin, I felt really bad when I realised I was letting you down. Let’s see the 8pm, and I’ll buy the popcorn. Hug me for a moment first though.’

This is a ‘bread & butter’ misunderstanding and reaction (i.e. just an everyday disagreement). The exchange is clear: You made a genuine mistake, and have owned it, apologised, and given the injured party the power to decide what happens next. Both of you decided to reassure the other that they were still important and cared about, despite the mix-up. Plus long hugs are calming.

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#2. You [in brusque tone]: ‘Sorry I’m late for the movie, I thought you said it started at 7 not 6. And the traffic was terrible.’

Me: ‘This is the 4th time you’ve been late in a week. FFS, you always do this! I thought you were either dead in a car accident, or just being the worst partner ever.’

You: ‘God, calm down, you’re such an uptight drama queen. It’s only a film!”

Me: ‘I’m fuming. I don’t even want to see a film now; in fact, I don’t even wannna really see you anymore this evening!’

You: ‘Yeah, I’m not in the mood for crap like this either now! I’ll just text you in a couple of days; I don’t need this hassle.’

This has become a ‘fight/flight/freeze’ situation, not because the circumstances really warrant it, but because both parties have had their attachment systems triggered. That means that their deepest programmed survival instincts of avoiding Negativity (specifically abandonment and rejection) are surging through their bodies, in the form of adrenaline and cortisol. It’s an Argument. And biologically, it feels like a fight to the death.

The latest neuroscience research on how our bodies behave when we’re in love or fighting is fascinating; it’s easy to get obsessed researching this topic. There are practical articles, like this one for example: Neuroscience tips to remain calm in an argument HERE (Focus on the other person/don’t yell/keep body posture neutral/Breathe deep/exit the argument earlier rather than later).

Elsewhere there are clear principles to follow for resolving conflict:

  1. Show basic concern for the other’s well being
  2. Maintain focus on the specific problem at hand
  3. Refrain from generalizing the conflict
  4. Be willing to engage
  5. Effectively communicate feelings and needs

But NONE of this helped me when I was disagreeing with H last week HERE! I saw it unravelling before my eyes (we were Face-timing), and could feel my body getting stressed and elevated, but it just happened so fast… Plus, I could see it was happening to both of us… We were losing our playful, sweet, creative Snail & Crab connection…

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Upcycled postcard by H 🙂

In adult relationships and arguments, as soon as one or other of you ‘flips your lid’, you’ve lost access to the pre-frontal cortex of your brain, which controls the limbic system. This means you are literally flooded with adrenaline (causing the fight/flight/freeze sensation I mentioned before), while all capacity for compassion, mindfulness, and kindness to Self & Other flies out the window.

All we can do is practise our awareness (easier written than done when discussing chores vs social life with a teenager who goes from 2/10 reactions to 10/10 in a microsecond for example). But ask yourself how your parents fought, and how you fought with each of them?

For most of us, it’s a blend of voice raising, sulking, removal of privileges, or delayed discussions once everything’s calmed down. Other people were yelled at, insulted, shoved or even hit. Some mothers withdrew, while others wept. Some parents drank, threw furniture, or seethed in silent white fury; others were basically absent, either emotionally or literally. The full spectrum happens, and it all has a profound effect on how we disagree & argue.

It’s worth remembering too that we have an inbuilt survival bias toward the negative: typically it takes 5-10 positive interactions to overcome 1 negative one. So every fight with your caregiver (when young), or beloved (when older), can create a deeply unsettling state of arousal (and I don’t mean the good, sexy kind).

I felt ‘H’ and I tiptoeing back towards our ‘togetherness’ slowly HERE. We texted, emailed, and talked on the phone. A long, quiet hug would have been AWESOME. Nothing like it for calming the nervous system [5 more sleeps 5 more sleeps till we get one, hurray!].

Long-distance dating can be tough, but I’d rather share my bread & butter with H than anyone else, and we simply have to practise all the other less fun stuff too.

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Thanks H x

 

How you respond to the issue… is the issue. Frankie Perez

 

 

This time a week ago I was feeling like shit, thanks

And so was ‘H’. I’m sure you’ve read all about our argument in Episode 9 HERE, or the making up relief in the Update HERE.

I just want to say a quick thank you to the variety of readers who commented, and offered advice or support. It truly helped me feel better. I’m sleeping more soundly because of you fellow bloggers in particular:

Piglet in Portugal, who consoled me that she’d also had a ‘dummy spit’, but that mine was worse.

DFMGhost, who told me to talk it out, and was flagging herself the same advice for the future too.

gigglingfattie, who also advocated talking, with best wishes that it sort out.

L. Rorschach over at BackInStilettosAgain reassured me that she feels exactly the same when she argues with a significant lover!

Widdershins  (who met her wife online 13 years ago when they were living in Canada and Australia) told me to only give what I’m prepared to lose…

And finally, Debbie over at ForgivingConnects reminded me to honour myself first, and speak my truth.

It all helped. My real life friends helped of course. Having a good 5Rhythms dance helped. An early night with a hot water bottle helped. And my sweet, soft, brave Heart Voice helped me most of all.

Thank you everyone xxx

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