What are friends for?

emily gould
Emily Gould at the Brooklyn book festival

 

In a previous post I mentioned a book by Emily Gould that I was planning to read called Friendship, so I thought I’d report back and say that I did read this book and it was quite different to what I expected, but very enjoyable.

Written for a target audience of thirty-somethings, it explores the friendship between two women who are caught up in their own lives and in trying to make their way in the world. They are trying to work out what they really want and what they really stand for. Ultimately it’s about the choices we all make and how much we truly value our friendships.

It’s both funny and sad in places, and it made me think a lot about my friends and whether or not I’ve been a good friend. I’m sure that I’ve probably failed on a few occasions, but the lovely thing about real friends is that forgive you when you fail and they accept you for who you are.

My friends are incredibly important to me, so if any of you are reading this blog, this message is for you. Thanks for being part of my life.

I’m not sure how this post fits with the general theme of this blog, but they say that if you want to improve your writing, you should read well-written books and this book certainly fits into that category. It’s a nice read.

Writing in the dark

I’m writing this by lamplight. Yes literally. I have taken a photo to prove it!

blogging by lamplightJPG

We have been without power for five days and I know that won’t seem very long to those of you who live in challenging climates where power failures are a regular event, but for us it’s an unusually long period to be off the grid.

We had a big storm five nights ago and over 2,000 homes were left without power in our local area. The fact that a giant tree in our front yard fell over and took out the neighbours power lines just added to the drama. Our two cars were miraculously saved from destruction, but they were trapped behind a very large tree trunk that was laid across our driveway. Fortunately a kind neighbour lent us their car and I have been able to travel to work without too much drama.

I have really loved going to work this week – there is so much electricity there! Not just hot showers, but microwaves, fridges and power points to charge your devices. We got a message to say that our partners could come to work and use the showers, but that they needed to be accompanied ‘at all times’ by an employee. That made me laugh. I’m not sure that the other people using the men’s amenities would really appreciate me lurking about in the men’s room watching my husband have a shower, let alone accompanying him into the shower.

I am trying really hard not to write a post about how difficult it has been to live without power, as I’m acutely aware that many people in the world don’t have the same amenities that we take for granted. I don’t want to whine about a situation that is after all, temporary and fixable. At some time in the next few days a nice team of workers will come and fix the power pole that has been flattened down at the corner of our street. They’ll reconnect the wires and our life will return to normal. This is not the case for refugees in so many parts of the world and for people who struggle daily with a lack of food and other basic amenities. I think we are really lucky. We still have a working toilet and the local shops are open and doing a roaring trade in hot coffee and BBQ chickens.

So instead I’m taking the time to think about all the good parts of my life. For example, our lovely neighbours who have been kind enough not to complain about our big tree making a complete mess of their front yard, cutting off their power and partly demolishing the dividing fence. The arborist who came today commented that he had been to many houses where falling trees had destroyed the relationships of previously friendly neighbours. I’m hoping that this won’t happen to us as we have the best neighbours in the world and I would hate to have a situation that is strained and difficult. I’ve been in that situation before and it’s truly horrible.

I’m lucky enough to have some internet access on my phone so I’ve been able to keep in contact with the outside world but it’s strangely quiet in the neighbourhood. We have one battery-operated radio that we found in a cupboard (thank goodness for olden days equipment), and quite a lot of camping gear that has been hauled out and put to good use. I’ve also discovered that it’s easy to read on the iPad when there’s not much light around. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I am a tiny bit addicted to downloading sample chapters of new books from iTunes. Last night I was so bored that I read all of the sample chapters that I’ve downloaded,but never actually read, over the last few months. So now I have new list of books that I simply must read, and quite a few that I thought might be good but are actually rubbish.

All in all, it’s been an interesting an educative experience. People have been kind and generous and we have survived quite well but I am quite looking forward to catching up on some telly and having a hot shower at home, by myself.

And so begins another great adventure

TidyI’m always a bit ho-hum at this time of the year. Part of me is brimming with hope and expectations for the new year ahead, and part of me is filled with a sort of ennui which I assume is caused partly by the heat and humidity.

It’s summer here in Australia and we are having a hot one. Luckily for me, I live in a cool and shady house with ceiling fans in nearly every room, except for my study (unfortunately).

One of the things I have done over the holidays is cleared out my filing cabinet, so I’m feeling a little bit pleased with myself in that respect. Heaven only knows why I thought it necessary to keep every electricity bill and rate notice for the last ten years! Anyway, they have gone now so it’s too late to worry that I might need them for something.

My filing cabinet is looking very tidy, but the rest of my office needs some attention. Oh well…

I’ve also updated my blog theme, so you might like to check it out and let me know what you think? The eggs don’t represent anything in particular. I just like them!

I hope that the new year finds you excited about where your life might take you.

Simplify your life

cat ashtrayThere have been a lot of articles in the paper lately about how to simplify your life. These range from helpful suggestions for de-cluttering your home, to articles about being less connected to our digital devices. All of these resonate with me because I have reached that age where my elderly parents and in-laws are needing to move to smaller accommodation more suited to their needs.

This means that they need to divest themselves of all the memorabilia that they have collected through their lives and many of these items (some lovely, some less lovely) are making their way into our home. It’s quite a challenge because my husband and I are also going through a phase where we would also like to get rid of a lot of the things we no longer need, but they are being replaced by things that our parents no longer want or need. It feels like there is an endless stream of stuff that no-one really wants or needs that is insinuating itself into our lives. The problem is that it’s not just stuff of course. Every item has a story or a childhood memory attached to it, so whilst its easy for me to say ‘we don’t need that in our home’, it’s less easy for the person to whom the memory is meaningful.

I have read a few articles about how to deal with the problem of too much stuff, and the solution I like best is to take a photo of the item as a keepsake, and then divest yourself of the actual item. Another suggestion is to keep one representative item from a whole batch. For example, keep one teaspoon from a whole collection. Keep one linen tea-towel from a pile of a dozen. This can feel a bit less like you are being ruthless and uncaring.

I am only too aware that it is not the stuff that’s the problem. It’s the emotions that are attached to things that trip us up. We are human and need to recognise that our attachment to things is natural but we also need to recognise that there is only so much stuff that we need to remind us of who we are and where we have come from.

 

 

New beginnings

I love New Year. It’s  a great time to reflect on what you’ve achieved during the year and think about what you’d like to do next.

When I look back at the post I wrote this time last year, I can see that I was pretty focussed on being more focussed. My aim for the year was to try to be a bit less distracted and try to concentrate on developing a skill-set that would be:

  • Useful in my work
  • Useful to the community
  • Intellectually stimulating (I’m easily bored)
  • Valuable (i.e. marketable)

I have to admit that it has taken me the whole year to think through exactly where I’m headed, but now that I’ve done that I feel really happy.

I realise that this sounds a little bit self-important, and that’s not my intention. What I am trying to say is that sometimes it just takes time for things to become clear and once they do, it all seems very obvious. You can spend a lot of time worrying about things that will actually just work themselves out, if you give them a bit of time and space.

This is not the same as sticking your head in the sand.

I don’t mean that you shouldn’t make plans for the future.

It is important that you have a good idea of what you want out of life and what skills you need to develop so that you can contribute something meaningful to the world. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you value and what you enjoy doing, you will be hard pressed to know what you should be doing with your life, but it’s equally important to understand that you can’t control everything.

You don’t need to be extraordinary

Lest you think I’m talking about something big and grand here, let me assure you that contributing something meaningful can be as simple as making yourself available for a friend in need. Listening is a valuable skill and much in demand.

So what are your plans for 2014?

I realise I haven’t actually said what I’ll be focussing my energies on this year, you’ll need to wait for the next post for more about that!

In the meantime, what do you have planned?

Big and bold? Small, but meaningful?

What does your new beginning look like?

What does your workspace say about you?

Continuing with my theme of organising things, I thought I’d share this post on beautiful workspaces from one of my favourite graphic design blogs called Onextrapixel. It features some of the workspaces of famous designers. For example, this is the desk of New York designer Joel Speasmaker.

Joel Speasmaker

 

Compare this with my workspace below. It may not be quite as beautiful as Joel’s desk, but it’s certainly functional. I think that if you spend most of the day sitting down at work, the last thing you need to do is come home and sit down some more, so I often write standing up. And when I get stuck for ideas, I just do a bit of ironing.

My workspace
An ironing board makes a great desk

Where do you do your best work? At home, at the park, in a cafe? Feel free to share.

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