Our 'one year' opportunity to fulfil a dream of living by the sea has given rise to "we can't possibly leave yet, let's stay a little longer". It doesn't make much sense to live in one state and work in another but then again we often end up doing things a little differently.
When you ask a kid “what are you doing?” and they say “nothing” you know it usually means something and most likely a something you will want to know about. On the other hand as an adult we can admit to doing nothing on either a lazy Sunday or a holiday. Doing nothing is allowed in small doses and when it has been earned. Doing nothing usually means doing something that is restful and relaxing, something different from our usual busyness. Spaces of doing ‘nothing’ are essential for our wellbeing.
At other times though doing ‘nothing’ is perceived as a negative thing. It is at odds with our ‘be busy’ culture. Busyness equals importance equals self esteem. Which is weird because much of our busyness is concerned with things that ultimately don’t matter, or nothing in other words. We are busy doing nothing! Yet how many of us will admit to that.
There is a different kind of doing ‘nothing’ though. Once we move beyond the doing nothing of a lazy Sunday or our well earned holiday, we enter a whole new world. Strange as it may sound, spaces of ‘nothing’ are scary. We don’t usually make or take the time to get to this point or to stay with it. As soon as we start to feel uncomfortable – bored and restless or our thoughts and feelings lead us to a place we don’t want to go we abandon the space of nothing and fill it with something. It is very hard to resist this. Television and the internet are an ever present distraction, if we went screen free for a few nights a week I wonder what would happen.
When we allow space for this kind of ‘nothing’ there is room for deeper and bigger things to surface; thoughts, feelings and memories, questions, dreams and desires. It can be downright confronting. Spaces of ‘nothing’ allow things that we keep in the dark an opportunity to seek some light. It takes courage to resist the urge to run or hide, busyness the easiest distraction.
At this particular point in my life I frequently find myself with spaces of ‘nothing.’ This long weekend has been a good example, Colin was emceeing the inaugural Australia Do lectures in the Victorian Highlands and Johanna was working each day. While Colin is routinely in Melbourne four days of the week and Johanna at school it felt strange to have three weekend days more or less on my own. I had things I needed to do and things I chose to do and things that were a distraction (like taking the photos above). I consciously tried to resist the temptation to fill all the spaces, which was a challenge because spaces of ‘nothing’ reminded me how lonely I felt at times, bored and sorry for myself and then guilty for feeling those things. This long weekend the spaces of ‘nothing’ have been uncomfortable but they have also kept me connected to my real self and encouraged me to understand and accept rather than to distract….
Spaces, pauses, gaps and silences; sometimes ‘nothing’ turns out to be ‘something’ and that something is fundamental and essential. Withoutspacesitishardtomakemeaningofthesewords. Without spaces it is hard to make meaning of life. There is of course physical space; there are things and the spaces between things. In fact there is more nothingness than somethingness in our universe. We don’t question the existence and fundamental importance of these spaces, they just are. But there’s a whole lot of other mirror spaces, other kinds of gaps, pauses and silences that exist. These too are fundamental and essential and we are similarly unaware of them. Conversation without spaces would just be noise, activity without pauses would be unsustainable and of course words without gaps are meaningless. In the same way, it seems to me, that a life lived without spaces, pauses, gaps and silences is in danger of becoming noisy, unsustainable and meaningless. Call these spaces what you will, prayer, reflection, meditation, fishing, surfing, bushwalking, painting, writing…. the list is endless and their importance under rated.
We live in a culture that admires busyness, activity and doing. Where things and the accumulation of things is paramount. Where power and position are defining. We need to be something, do something and have lots of something’s. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten about ‘nothing’, the spaces, gaps, pauses and silences that are fundamental and essential to all that something. Perhaps the ‘nothing’ is actually the real ‘something’ and all the things we thought were something are really nothing…
I’ve heard the occasional local complain about the influx of tourists, “you can’t get a bloody car park.” We live right smack bang in the middle of it all – apartment block right by the sea, 20 metres from the main shopping strip and 30 metres from the foreshore. There is actually steady traffic along the esplanade and you have to weave and dodge your way walking on the footpath. The sandy beaches are littered with bodies and towels and boogie boards, the waterways with boats and jet skis and the green open spaces with shade huts, picnic blankets, tables and chairs. The weather has been glorious. They have come in their hundreds; Easter pilgrims to the sun and the surf. Once upon a time we would have counted ourselves among them, now we are so very fortunate to be one of the ‘locals’.
We aren’t complaining though. We love the energy that the crowds bring. Mostly people are relaxed and happy, spending time with their families and doing fun stuff. It creates a great vibe. Everything is relative though, peak tourist season in Caloundra feels pretty much like a normal day in Melbourne’s CBD.
This Easter we have joined the masses at the beaches, walking the foreshore paths, in the cafes, watching the local surf competition and wandering the markets. We have also headed inland and walked the Tunnel Track, getting a quick fix of all things ‘bush’.
There is something inherently relaxing and peaceful about immersing yourself in a natural environment. It is like taking a deep calming breath, a centering for your body and soul. We are happy to share the natural spaces and see people ‘fill up’ and we are also happy knowing that tomorrow the crowds will be gone and a relative calm will return…
A few days in Tasmania and now a few days joining Colin in his Melbourne CBD apartment – rural exchanged for urban; brown earth for grey concrete, trees and mountains for bright lights and skyscrapers, cows and sheep for cars and trams, but here in the CBD there is also a bustling mass of humanity, a melting pot of people and a vibrant palpable energy. Not better or worse, just different; nice for a change .
Our time in Melbourne has been filled with
FAMILY – the joy of being together and the sorrow of knowing what we are forfeiting by living away. Eating, talking, catching up, making the most of the moments….
FRIENDS – keeping in touch and up to date, enjoying the company of those who are special to us
SHOPPING – tired legs and empty wallets and lists mostly crossed off
DRIZZLE – some typical Melbourne weather; dreary, grey drizzle
We are fortunate to also have a view from our 16th floor balcony here in Melbourne. The cityscape is interesting and the night lights compelling but the sea and sky in Caloundra are calling…
We are South, way south, in Tasmania, making the most of the opportunity to spend a few days with my family. Tasmania is home, my childhood home, and coming back is always good for my soul. Watching my nephews play in a tennis tournament, hanging out at my sisters’ houses, staying with my mother and visiting my father, being with people that I love; for a few days I can imagine how wonderful it would be to live closer and feel more connected. I am reminded of the cost of moving to the ‘mainland’ all those years ago.
The other joy of being here is being able, for a moment or two, to be surrounded by the beautiful countryside for which Tasmania is renowned. We made the most of a morning exploring Evandale and its surrounds – rolling hills, green and brown, fertile plains, ploughed and sown and the backdrop, stately mountains imposing their presence. Heritage buildings co-exist along side ramshackle farm sheds, fences partition farmland parceling up the earth and the white woolly sheep and black grazing cows. Wineries and craft and boutique food stores draw a crowd, even on a quiet Monday morning. Vines and crops grow beside trees and bushland, dams and streams intersecting the land; it is verdant and fertile, full of living things.
These are places to breathe deeply of beauty and peace, to restore balance and harmony, to find solitude and rest…
Time: we measure it, segment it, obsess and complain about it, fill it up and waste it; it goes too fast or too slow, there’s never enough of it and rarely too much of it; you can’t control it, stop it, or speed it up; time is bigger than us and way beyond us.
For the first time in a very long time I find myself with ‘time on my hands’. The overwhelming days of three children in three and a half years are a long distant memory, the relative calm and joy of family life and primary school days are long gone too, the fun and challenge of a houseful of teenagers is past and a return to study and part time work occurred more than a decade ago. And now? Now I find myself in a very privileged position, one 15 year old still at home, a day or so of work a week managing the books and admin for Colin’s consulting practice and time. Time to walk along the beach in the mornings, learn to play tennis, take photos, do some volunteer work and still there is time. Time for what I’m not sure. It is hard to move beyond the feeling that I must be busy and productive. I wonder why?
Moving from the bustle and busyness of city living to the laid back lifestyle of a coastal town has been so life giving, so freeing and so enjoyable. Of course living where we do now, surrounded by natural beauty, sky and sea, is a big part of that. Along with this though, is an uncomfortable feeling that somehow I’m not measuring up; no career, no ‘important’ busyness, no four children to fill the spaces. When I strip away all those things what am I left with and what do I do with ‘my time’. I don’t know and I’m not sure. Somehow the questions and reflection are important, it is a challenge to stay with the uncomfortableness of this. It is so tempting to fill an uncomfortable space, fill it with anything so that it is full. Fullness of this kind does not interest me, grappling with questions about meaning and worth do.
Time is something I have in abundance at the moment; it is not likely to always be so. The gift of Time will teach me something if I have ears to hear and eyes to see…