As the long-dreamed-about holiday headed towards the dreaded end date, I made a terrible mistake. I think back to my bad decision and reflect on what had prompted it. Was it because I had just discovered Instagram reels only the day before and somehow got stuck on a loop of Tom Holland and Zendaya videos? Was it because the algorithms assumed I was 8 years old? Why was Taylor Swift invading my social media and why could I not look away? All of the celebrity gossip from the black hole I had found myself in was messing with my brain. That must have been it. I wanted to be an adult, I was searching for a way out while not wanting to leave my bed or put my phone down. So I switched over to my email. Why did I even click into my work email? It was the choice that prompted every bad mood from that moment on. I mean, I could see it had attachments which meant that it would definitely include a very full timetable and a schedule for days and days of meetings about meetings. I had a pang of jealousy for all of the Avengers cast (also in my reels) and that I didn’t get to play some badass superhero and instead my destiny was laid out before me in a dearth of potential lesson plans. How could this be happening? I hadn’t even started to relax yet and it was already time to try and remember how on earth to teach anything? Where had the last 6 weeks gone?
How did the holidays go by so fast?
After all, all I needed to achieve once the holiday started was the following:
- Create a magic christmas for my two daughters which would include trying to find the Christmas spirit on a Hindu island filled with Muslims on holiday. Find them just the right amount of gifts so that they would be appreciative and that I wouldn’t totally fill up the landfill when we would throw it out a few months later. Also, try not to go broke in the process.
- Find a new, quiet house on the noisiest island and pack up all of the house in a calm manner thereby creating a miraculous kind of event for one who experiences anxiety
- Feed, bathe and spend quality time with my children, being present with them, teaching them emotional intelligence, ensuring they are off screens and that they get the right amount of sleep and learn to value the sisterhood. Give them life changing experiences that they will never forget and help them to find out who they are at their core and to ensure that the limiting beliefs that grip most adults had no chance to grip them because life was just so damn perfect and amazing.
Three simple things; Christmas, move house, raise two kids. And do it all perfectly, feeling joy at every turn. Oh and relax. Sounds like a perfect formula to reset after a chaotic year. What could possibly go wrong?
Christmas happened. Was there magic? I certainly understood why mum was in a bad mood for most of Christmas, particularly if anyone dared to frown or show any negative emotion. It is fucking tiring to create magic and I didn’t even attempt to cook a dead animal or even roast a simple spud. When the girls said at the end of the day that they couldn’t wait for their birthdays, I think that I cried a little. I missed my mum and all of my family and wished that I wasn’t in Bali and once again cursed this god damn pandemic. I slammed the dishes around and grumbled at my husband for daring to help, just to feel like I was back at home in Oz again.
I did find a house in Bali and packed up all of the crap that seems to accumulate so easily. House hunting with sensitive ears means you have to be aware of the many potential sounds that come with island life; roosters, construction, parties, dogs, people generally being alive in a noisy way – ie just how Indonesians like to live and why the hell shouldn’t they? (because it hurts my ears and I am at the centre of the universe, aren’t I ?). Anyway, was it a relaxing time with homelessness looming, a cancelled Air BNB booking a day before departure and an island full of rabid dogs? Fuck no.
As for the success in teaching emotional intelligence? Keeping them off screens? Let’s just say the little one knows all of the words to Barbie Princess and I had to ban the big one from any more Sponge Bob so I didn’t poke out my own eyes and ears. Emotional intelligence, I don’t have. When they both got some unknown illness and vomiting and diarrhea was added to the relaxing equation, perfection went out the window and it was back to survival mode.
And then there was the work email.
God damn it.
When is there time to relax?
That’s when I ran.
I realised that there was no more time to fuck around and not relax. It was now or never or else I was going to start every conversation with another adult by explaining how tired I am. No, there had to be more to life than this.
I had two more days and they were ALL MINE. I wasn’t going to try and be the best parent ever while nursing an ear infection, I was going to get the fuck out of there and sit in stillness somewhere, anywhere, where I could let go of ideas of perfection and just be biasa aja (just normal).
In the words of a Flock of Seagulls (god bless the 80s) I ran, I ran SO FAR AWAY. All the way to Ubud. It has become a disaster zone since the pandemic. It is empty. And I felt so bad taking joy in the silence of the place. But all I could hear were the birds singing and the trees swaying. A huge mountain loomed in the distance lit up by the sun and the shimmering blue sky and the time and space just lingered around waiting for me to get up and move, or not. And I did not move. I lay on a chair and stared at nature. I faced my guilt at leaving my kids, I read about how anxiety is created by the suppression of emotion and I tried to just be open. I relaxed. There was time. I tried to be aware of my thoughts catching the little buggers as they tried to remind me about my new timetable or that terrible thing I did when I was 14 or judging me on my parenting skills.
It was all going to be fine. I had taken time for myself.
Next time, I know, I need to set the bar low. Christmas is stressful, get over it. Raising perfect kids is impossible and therefore the effort to do so is wasted. Humans are imperfect. Let it go. Moving house is shit and tiring, accept it. Trying to reach any kind of perfection is ridiculous and also not sustainable.
Apparently on a scale of 1 to 10, humans are generally at a 7 for happiness and that is good enough. Anything higher or lower doesn’t last. If you are too comfortable you seek problems anyway and sink lower. So as they say, get comfortable with the discomfort, fuck off ideas of perfection, and if you can, ditch the kids and run so far away.
I recommend it. Take the time for you, you deserve it too.