For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving times

The biggest challenge at this moment is that the new house doesn’t have half the space that we have now. I think I’ve mentioned that before.

Here we have a garage, a huge boiler room, a huge utility room, a huge kitchen, a large living room, a spacious bedroom / office, a big computer / educational room, a king size pantry and a cloak room with storage space. Upstairs there are 3 huge bedrooms, a single bedroom, three massive walk-in cupboards and a bathroom with a storage room behind it.
The new house has a spacious garage, a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a downstairs toilet and a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. Upstairs there are three double bedrooms, one boxroom, an airing cupboard and a bathroom with bath, toilet and shower.

In the course of the thirty years that Ken and I are together we’ve gathered an incredible amount of stuff. And every time we moved, we moved to a bigger house. When we moved from Holland to here we threw and gave so much stuff away it was almost embarrassing. Still, we needed a fifty cubic meter removal van to shift what was left over. But all those fifty cubic meters easily fitted into this vicarage. However, in the past four and a half years we’ve somehow managed to fill the place to the rim.

By all standards the new house is classed as big. Also, the garden is fenced off and has plenty space for both dogs and trampoline. It’s good to look at all that and realise that this new house has everything we need.
The only conclusion I can come to is that we have (far) more than we need.

That’s all very easy to type down, but downsizing within the space of a few days isn’t easy at all. Especially as we've already been chucking things out in a big way. Now, I’m going through everything again. Do we really need this? And if yes, where can it go? There is of course the storage. But the reality is that our next - and hopefully more permanent - house is unlikely to be much bigger than the one we’re moving to now so I want to make as little use of the storage as possible.

As usual, I have a plan. And as it happens, it’s quite educational ;).
We’ve drawn a floor plan of the new house on squared paper. Then we’ve measured all the furniture, drawn that on the same scale and cut it all out. Next everybody has been looking at what they wanted in their rooms and how much would fit in. Over the past two days Myrna and Owen have packed up their stuff and we’ve moved as much as would fit into Old Faithful (his third house move and he’s still going strong!). The big things will be done by the official movers, later. I’ve done most of the kitchen and I’ve created storage space in the garage.

So now we have the situation that we more or less have - or know what we want to have - in the new house, but this one is still very full. But knowing that what we really want is already in the new house makes it slightly easier to decide to do with what’s left. There’s still quite a bit to go in storage, but I’ll have another look at it before the movers come. And the rest will go either to friends, to FreeShare, to the carboot sale, on the fire or to the dump.

An important part of this whole process is the cleaning. This house is very difficult to keep clean. It’s old and drafty and then there’s the coal dust from the solid fuel Rayburn throughout the whole house. Obviously, it’s sensible for practical and health reasons to clean things before you pack or move them. But also, by consciously looking at each item again, we get another chance to decide if we want something to remain part of our lives. Or has it served its purpose? Do we still need that particular item to keep a certain memory or has the memory become part of us? The cleaning helps to symbolically prepare for a fresh new start.

Today I did ‘the last round’ in Myrna’s room. I had not been looking forward to it, because her room - like Owen’s - was a tip. The only way I could do it was to switch off my disgust and go into automatic mode. Myrna had done a lot of packing and sorting herself, so I knew that the things she values most were already in the new house. I said to Myrna I’d rather start off by myself and she happily left me to it. After a while I discovered I was quite enjoying it, strangely enough. I managed to gather another two bin bags full of rubbish and I had to change my bucket of soap three times. But now the room looks cleaner than it’s looked for ages and it’s nearly empty.

While I was cleaning away - ”wax on, wax off, Daniel-san” - I discovered I wanted to take charge of the housekeeping duties again. With me writing and translating, it was Ken’s task to see to the daily household duties and it has really done me the world of good not to have to think about it at all and not to interfere. But from the state of Myrna’s room - and I’m mentally preparing for Owen’s room, because I know that’s even worse - it’s obvious that Ken doesn’t take pride in keeping it clean and tidy and I know he hates having to negotiate with the kids about keeping their rooms in an acceptable state.
It’s not my favourite task either, but after seeing what it’s like now and having noticing that Myrna was really pleased I was helping her, I thought we’d all be happier - and healthier probably - if I take on that responsibility again.

Moving into the new house will be a good moment to make new arrangements, to work out new schedules. We will no longer have a separate computer room, so Ken has promised the children they could have their own computers in their rooms. It’s something I’ve managed to avoid up to now and I am still very reluctant. But I’m willing to give it a go, although I have set a few conditions.
First: All computers will have Watchdog and there will be no negotiating about extra time.
Second: Every other Friday we will have ‘room inspection’ and if the rooms aren’t tidy and clean, the computers will be shut down until they are.

I asked Owen how on earth he managed to get a medal in cadet camp for the cleanest and tidiest room.
He said: “Well, I’m a totally different person in the cadets then when I am at home.”
Me: “How do I get you to tidy your room here, then?”
Owen: “Discipline, Mum, discipline.”

So that’s what he’ll get from me from now on. :))

And the difference between these two children became all the more apparent when I talked about it with Myrna. She said: “I like my room a bit messy, but I still want it to be clean. But you need to help me cleaning it, because if you don’t I just get distracted. Cleaning is much nicer when we’re doing it together.”

Another major advantage about the new house is that it is so much easier to keep clean. It has gas central heating (no more coal dust!), double glazing everywhere and it’s well maintained. It’ll be a whole new experience, for instance, to clean the window sills without having to be careful not to wipe the paint off or punch holes into the wood.
Ahh, the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to moving!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The End of Never

In case you hadn't noticed, I've changed the name of my weblog.
It was a bit of a silly name for a blog of someone who strongly believes that we are the creators of our own reality.
In Steiner Kindergarten they asked parents not to let children wear slippers that looked like tigers or bears or any other animal really. You are what you wear. Of course I severely frowned at that and of course I experimented. Turned out they were right.
Witches say: Careful what you wish for, you might get it.
Quantum physics say: Matters of a similar frequency attract each other, resonate.
Who was it that said: Attention is energy and energy makes things grow.

Anyway, I just knew that if I want my life to become more balanced and stable I should no longer carry the motto 'Never a Dull Moment."

There, that's the last time I've said it.
And I will not wish for the opposite, either.

Factual Update

I have spent the last two days making lists. So here’s another one:

* We are moving soon, real soon. As in starting next Saturday.
* We can rent the house until 15 July 2008, but luckily only the first six months of the rent are fixed, so we can start a new round of house hunting somewhere in February.
* Because we are officially homeless we will be getting help - practical ánd financial! - with the move.
* Our new landlord is a church, again. A different one, though. I think this means that God really wants the best for us and this is His way of saying: Hey, I don't want you guys to become homeless!
* We’ve packed about 100 boxes and I think we’re halfway.
* The new house is about half the size of this one, so the homeless officer (he’s really cute, by the way :) has also arranged storage.
* Ken, Myrna and Owen have gone camping (and I did encourage them to go) and are having a great time and good weather.
* I am intensely enjoying being by myself, with only the cats and dogs here to interrupt my train of thoughts. Oh, and the telephone... But I’ve gone on voicemail now...
* AL is coming back to England on the 4th of September. So just as well we’ve got four bedrooms in this new house. She doesn’t intend to stay, though. Wants to be back in Holland before her 18th birthday. More about that later, probably.
* I’m so tired I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel not tired anymore. So right now I’m going to walk the dogs - my beloved husband took all the torches with him, so it’s just as well it’s such a bright night - have a shower and go to sleep.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Confession Time

We are sorting and dumping and freesharing and packing up.
We are getting ready to move.
So why haven’t I been blogging about our new house, why haven’t I been screaming from the rooftops about it?

No, I haven’t lost my faith. But after four months of riding an emotional storm, going from happy ups to depressive downs, series of disappointments about houses that seemed to be perfect but then just fell through for sometimes incomprehensible reasons, I have become rather cautious.
Yes, we do have a house. We think. The contract hasn’t been signed yet, they’re waiting for the bank references to come through. It’s just a formality, but still... I don’t know if I could bear to endure another major disappointment. So I thought if I don’t allow myself to feel elated and thrilled and it does go pear shaped, that at least I’ll survive... and I’ll be able to deal with the emotional fall out and disappointment from the other family members.
The other reason is the house itself.
It’s fabulous, it really is. It’s exactly right for us, too. It’s on the outskirts of the town where most of our activities, clubs etc are based, so we’ll be saving lots and lots of money and time on transport. It’s in a quiet cul-de-sac, with lovely views onto the Lake District, yet it’s close to amenities and there’s several bus routes nearby. The house itself is even detached! Having the feeling that you're still kind of free and not literally attached to someone else is a true blessing and it will make moving away from this wild and free place in the middle of nowhere easier.

It has the right amount of bedrooms and even a study, big enough for my desk and book cases! It’s the first house we’ve seen where we can move our - huge - four seater settee into, without even having to take doors or windows out. The kitchen is big enough, there’s a bathroom with both a bath AND a separate shower cubicle (!!) and it has a garage. And best of all, the pets were welcome!
So, why am I not jumping up and down with joy and why aren’t there a million photo’s of this new place on my blog?
Because, unfortunately, we can only rent it for eleven months, until 15 July 2008. Also, it's a fixed term contract, so we can't get out of it if we find something else before that date.
And that just sort of puts the dampers on my enthusiasm.

I am still endlessly happy that we will not end up having to go through the whole eviction process and becoming literally homeless, I am eternally grateful that we still have an actual choice about where we are going to live and that it's in a quiet neighbourhood, in a detached and well maintained house.
But the reality is of course that I know exactly how difficult it is to find suitable rented accommodation, where they’ll have both kids and pets.
I am determined to make the most of living there and I will do my utmost to see it as a kind of a holiday, but I haven’t been able to shake that dreaded knowing that we will have to start looking for a new home soon again...

I know it will be different, next time. We have learned so much and I think we are at the beginning of a whole new episode in our lives. Owen seems to be really on his feet and is endlessly happy about a possible career in the TA or the Army. Myrna has been investigating the possibility of going to school. She’s not sure about it yet, she might want to do part time schooling, but it’s obvious that she is going to go through major changes in the near future. AL hasn’t made a definite decision yet, but it looks like she’s staying in Holland if she can find a place to live there. And even if she is going to use her return ticket, I don't think she’ll want to live under the parental roof for very long.
Ken has applied for a job and he is seriously thinking about setting up his own business again if he can't find employment.
So, all in all, things are in full flow.

I suppose I am just very, very tired and it takes a lot of willpower to just hang on in there and not give in to that craving to just roll up and go to sleep in a quiet corner...
And it isn’t as if I can leave things to Ken, bless him.
He is of good intentions but in times like this his ADHD and Asperger Syndrome are all too obvious. The only way for me not to loose it completely with him is to be one hundred percent practical and structured about it. Make lists for him to work to. Try and avoid any situation that may cause arguments and discussions. Keep him as busy as possible, without loading too much responsibility onto him.
It sounds awful and unloving, but I know - after nearly thirty years - that this is the only way I can uphold my love and respect for him. And he knows it, too. We both have learned to accept that this is the way it is, this is the only way our relationship works and will stay intact. We are complementary, in a very extreme sense of the word. We are the ultimate challenge in each other’s life.
And after all this time, many many frustrating moments and much pain, we both know that it's absolutely worth every little shred of effort we've put into it. For ourselves and for our children.

I think it was Shukr who said on EF’s blog:
“Overcoming difficulties is one the best lessons we can teach.”
I agree with that, wholeheartedly.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Structured autonomy

Owen is back from cadet camp.
Even in the first year after AL was born I learned that whatever principles, ideals, scruples or opinions I might have had, they were all going to be turned around, thrown out the window, forgotten or trampled upon. Challenged, at the very least.
My children - and I’m very much including my clan children in this - taught me that expectations were no more than obstacles, blinkers, causes of pain, hurt pride and desillusion.
I’ve learned to be ready for the unexpected.
Well, there’s definitely no way I was prepared to experience what I felt today.
This huge sense of gratitude for the British Army.
For the fact that they gave my son a chance to discover the best in himself.
It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen Owen as happy and content as I’ve seen him today. He looks radiant. Self confident. Proud of himself. Bronzed and muscled. A Young Man.

It is more than obvious that these twelve days of discipline, structured and organized physical activities, learning and excelling in all kind of skills, being appreciated for his willingness to take part, being given responsibilities for overseeable tasks, being seen as one of the team (not only men! I hasten to add!), being able to talk about things that are important to him and share them with others, has done him the world of good.

So this is what it’s about, I think. I feel. Autonomy. It isn’t about structured or unstructured. It isn’t about learning from books or from life, in school or at home. It’s nothing to do with veganism, homeopathy, Zen, spirituality, religion or atheism.
It’s everything to do with freedom. Freedom of choice. And being given a total and unconditional freedom of choice. Being able to genuinely follow your heart’s choice.

Owen has made a choice. He hasn’t discussed it at length with me, with us. Because he just doesn’t do the verbal thing, the putting feelings into words. Although, when he does he is so crystal clear it is practically impossible to misunderstand him. But after having had the chance to try out both the structured and the unstructured, after having tried out both the self directed learning and the instructed learning, he chooses to join the cadets and he is determined to join the army.

I realise that I expected to feel sad and troubled about that. And in a way I do. I cannot imagine any mother in these times not feeling troubled about her child wanting to join the army. But strangely enough I most of all feel happy. I haven’t been able to wipe the grin of my face since I saw him get off that bus.
He was in here just a minute ago to sit on my lap for a second (any longer and he would have crushed me) and hug me intensely. He is so happy. So how could I not be?

He hasn’t changed. But he has found the ultimate way to be who he is. And he has most definitely found it all by himself.