Life Event: Single in your 30s ish

Sometimes it feels like all of life is structured around school terms. Which don’t really impact the rhythm of my life at all.

Here are reflections of two single friends on what we do badly, and how we can love them more.

Agnes A
What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?

In primary school I lived for the TV series Around the Twist. I waited pretty desperately for Saturday 5pm to role around. It seemed a very long time between episodes. I’m not sure why I liked it so much, because I didn’t really like the books. I think it was the theme song that hooked me in. Also it might have been the first Australian television show I enjoyed. My favourite book was The Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Bernard. I loved the wonderful surprise at the end of the story. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I was truly delighted that the central character didn’t have to suffer her awful school forever!

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
I haven’t ever been married. When I had opportunity to meet somebody I wasn’t ready and when I was ready there wasn’t anybody to meet!

What’s it like?
I do well when I can distract myself through activities that make me happy like mountain climbing and planning my next big adventure. I really struggle when I have to work constantly and don’t have time for fun.

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Life Event: Dietary requirements due to chronic health

I recently organised 40 of my mother’s friends to gather for her birthday celebration. There was one person with an allergy, and one who was a vegetarian. If I gathered 40 of my friends our dietary requirements and preferences would be diverse and complicated.

Meet my friend Agnes, who has been learning manage her diet, hospitality, and ensuing social interactions.

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?Why did you like it?
I loved to read the Secret Garden. I think I loved that she had a secret world away from everything that she could work on and make beautiful 🙂

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
Having had chronic health issues for more than ten years, twelve months ago I discovered significant intolerances to certain naturally occurring chemicals in food (Salicylates, Amines and Glutamates). This has led to a significant improvement in day to day health; however it has led to a strict diet that means that it is very hard to eat out or eat something someone else has prepared.

What’s it like?
I have really gone through the full extent of the grief cycle. I know it seems crazy to grieve for the food you can’t eat…but I was a foodie! So it has been an emotional year:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. However, I am still on this cycle and still experience all of these feelings at various times. Overall, I try to live in the acceptance camp. But it isn’t easy.  I have been frustrated and tried to figure out any way out of it. How to fix it. Mostly I have been depressed by it. I am trying to recognise that what I eat doesn’t define me. It shouldn’t fill an emotional hole. And that has actually been helpful, although being forced into it has meant that it has been extra frustrating.

What was a helpful thing someone did at that time?
Sat and let me cry about it. Designed a dinner party around foods I could eat without making it seem like it was a burden. Made me biscuits. Made me meals. Happily ate the food that I made and expressed enjoyment.
What was an unhelpful thing someone did at that time? Assumed it was a choice I was making, and tried to convince me not to make this choice.

What would you want the people around you to know?
I don’t want to be a burden, so I won’t ask you to cook for me. However, it is really hard to always be the person eating something different. There is just something about having someone prepare and meal and you all join in together to eat it. It is hard to always be the odd one out.

What ways could we love you in your present season?
Don’t always ask me about what it is like, although this is occasionally ok. I will probably tell you it’s fine and I’m much healthier etc. That is my way of trying to accept this. But if you can occasionally make a meal that I can share with you, or express happiness for me to make a meal for you that I can eat. That will go a long way to helping me not to feel alone.

Five things: to give

My Dad is a present person.
He loves to identify things that will delight and use them to recognise moments.
Finished a big assignment, started a new job, anniversary, just because.

Here are five things you could give someone… or give me.

  1. Vegetable bouquet
    Yes really. So pretty and then you eat it.
    Nourish Posy Co delivers around Brisbane.
  2. Meaningful card
    Your written words matter. Say something encouraging, say something true.
    Emily McDowell makes beautiful and unusual ones.
  3. Keepcup
    Useful and good for the environment – plus most coffee shops give a discount for keepcups.
    Frank Green‘s you could throw in your handbag and still drink hot coffee 30mins later.
  4. Experience
    Enjoyable time, makes a good memory, doesn’t take up any space on the shelf.
    Theatre/Film or Music for me please. Perhaps sports or activity for others…
  5. Voucher
    Sometimes the recipient knows what they need, and this feels slightly better than giving cash.
    Netherworld do gift cards. Also Charlie’s … But supermarket/Bunnings are helpful for most people.

I forgive you

We were going through a stage of trite apologies in many of our interactions.
So for a month, Stephen and I tried to respond to every ‘I’m sorry’ with ‘I forgive you’.

It did a few helpful things for our relationship.

1. Our apologies weighed more.
Sincerity and need mattered. Did we mean it? Did it require apology?

2. Our forgiveness was more valued.
Our justified hurt/anger/frustration required effort to forgive, rather than just accept an apology. Our forgiveness moved to precede our apologies.

3. Our relationship was more developed.
Forgiveness points to restoration of relationship. It affirmed we were a couple who loved and forgave one another. We affirmed we would continue to do the hard work of apologising and forgiving.

Now years later – it’s still bearing fruit in our relationship.

The occasional eye roll for apologies offered at the drop of the hat.
The meaningful act of forgiveness.
The recognition of many, many little steps in loving each other.

A note on illicit drugs

So last month I wrote a few posts on alcohol. What about drugs?

DON’T take them.
Did that answer really surprise you?

Because drugs are super scary.
They have stronger and faster effects than alcohol.

People die every day because their body reacted badly
– either the drug made their body stop working properly OR
– under the influence of drugs they made life threatening choices OR
– after one taste their body changed to want that drug incessantly.

Under the illicit drugs category I include marijuana, heroin, ice etc AND unprescribed medication.

“The number of Australians currently overdosing on addictive medication is overtaking the road toll, the majority of these are accidental.” Alcohol & Drug Foundation

Prescribed medications are not illicit drugs (if they are prescribed for the person taking them and taken as prescribed). I am privileged to live in Brisbane where we have access to doctors, pharmacies and medicine.
There is interesting research happening with medical marijuana, but I’m not convinced yet.

Drugs and addiction are not things I know much about. I’ve had hallucinations, sleep paralysis, times of uncontrollable highs and stretches of deep lows as part of my messy mental health. I want to avoid inducing those symptoms or delusions even as I pursue escapism.

Casual user
IF you are trying drugs:
Think about it in advance.
Be with people you trust.
Do not mix them with alcohol.
Have someone who can call 000.

Obviously people are unlikely to follow this but I still feel it is important to say.

My series on Alcohol is also up on the blog.
How to host a cocktail party
Visible Excess
Invisible Excess

Triple Treat: Old School Music

High School
I turned up eagerly in shiny navy and bright jade.

I was looking forward to learning.
I was looking forward to friendships.
I was looking forward to distance from bullies.
I was looking forward to an environment away from my parents.
My first week of high school destroys all those aspirations – but grade 11 was a good year.

It was a good year because
– suddenly classes were smaller and focused
– relationships at school and elsewhere were established
– my faith had deepened and sharpened
– my playlist widened

This month I’ve been returning to the albums on repeat that year.

1. Moondance, Van Morrison

2. Slightly Odway, Jebediah (I’d forgotten all the swearing)

3. Take Five, Dave Brubeck

Distraction – thy name is organisation

I have a task to do. It’s not that big. It’s not that hard. But I don’t want to do it.
I need to find a piece of paper. A financial piece of paper. It is somewhere in our filing cabinet.
But the filing cabinet is more of a contained pile of paper than files.
Or it could be on one of many USBs thrown into my desk drawer.

Instead – I’ve organised everything else.

Our pantry, kitchen cupboards, wardrobes, desk, craft shelves, furniture.
My sister’s pantry.
My parents’ pantry and spice rack.
Our books and games.

Shopping lists.
Meal plans.
Birthday presents.
Study plans.
Holiday plans.
Blog plans.

All culled, sorted, cleaned and labelled.
Soon the only thing left to do… will be to open the filing pile.

Moments of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another.

I write a blog about loving people deeply (and letting others love you).
But I do not follow my own suggestions.

The unsent birthday card.
The unreturned text.
The abandoned draft email.
The silence of the phone.
The mask of fine.

It’s because I’m tired, I’m lazy, I’m undisciplined, I’m sick. Sorry friends.

I’ll keep trying, and you keep trying. Slowly we will love people more.

“Your family is great”.

“Your family is great”.

Yes, they are. With such a large sample size (35) you would expect a bad apple – but we don’t have one. Wait, unless it’s me.

Anyway, usually when people say your family is great, they are referring to tightness of relationship I have with my siblings. We are close and they are awesome. Hella & Lucas.

Note: Some of you have families that are horrible: abuse, neglect, bullying, stealing. Some of you have families that are awful: strong differences, disinterest, dismissive of one another. Some of your families have had or are having seasons of broken relationships. Some of you have families that are distant. Some of you have lost loved ones. I’m so sorry for your situation.
I know I’m naive about the wonder and delight of my good family situations. 

Our current living situation has my siblings and I living next door to each other. There’s a lot of intentional and unintentional contact: I wander over to receive fresh coffee grounds from Lucas, I pop downstairs to use Hella’s washing machine. But so far it’s been manageable.

Here are four solid reasons for our relationship.

1. Likeable
We are mostly likeable and share many common interests (there is some nurture in this, we were all exposed to mostly the same things – not a surprise we all love books; deconstruction; language; improving life, quotes, meaningful television).

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Philosophy of Confidentiality

As we love people, they share and disclose themselves and their lives. How should we act in light of our received knowledge? There are three levels of consideration.

First do not share these details.

Be aware of the trust you have been given. Be reliably discrete; make it clear you will keep confidences.

Listening to someone talk is about helping them become a new person. Part of that is leaving stuff behind, or only bringing it up when it is supportive and builds maturity.

I’m part of many spheres of influence, in contact with many different people in different stages. In an average week I will have communicated in a meaningful way with twenty people. So I’ll often refer to someone broadly – by mentioning I’ve had a recent conversation on a particular topic, without identifying the person the conversation was with. It is also why I’ve chosen to use fake names here. With Felicity and Jonathan, with Agnes and Bernard we consider the broad implications of situations and how to love, rather than stick with personal details.
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