Settling In

Popcorn has made the adjustment well and is a happy resident
Popcorn has made the adjustment well and is a happy resident

A couple of months down the track post the permanent Sydney move and the place is beginning to seem more like home. Rooms have been established, including plenty of guest rooms, furniture is all in place, boxes (mostly) unpacked.

I have always wanted plenty of animals (or creatures) around and it gives the place such a greater sense of permanence. Popcorn, the border collie, was an unplanned but very welcome addition and has made himself very much at home. He is a lovely boy and fits in well with everyone, even Roxy and Tango who very much ruled the roost.

IMG_1962Speaking of roosts, I have just added five pretty little canaries in an aviary. I owned canaries when I was little and loved them, so the chance to take some in when offered was too good to pass up. They only arrived a few days ago but appear happy, chirpy and are already using their nests. They will also be a good interim step before the chooks arrive. I wasn’t sure how the dogs would react, particularly Roxy who is fascinated by birds and loves to chase them. She is equally fascinated by these new residents but given the threat of being sprayed with cold water by me, just sits and watches them by the hour. Hopefully they will take the edge off the excitement of chooks when they arrive in the next month or two.

I’m also spending some time propagating plants. Whilst it’s exciting to get new plants, I also want to have more of what grows well here. It will also be a more economical approach to gardening. Anyway, this means I’ve been collecting seeds and cuttings. I’m also now growing more plants from seeds rather than seedlings. I have a feeling there will be a few failures along the way, but lots of learning will be involved and the results will be rewarding.

One of the next activities for me is to start joining some of the local groups. I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of the spinners and knitters in the not-too-distant future. Kandos is fast becoming home.

A Time of Change

Right now I’m spending the last two nights in Wahroonga as I finalise packing. It’s hard not to be a little reflective as in the next few days I will be taking the final steps of an enormous change in my life.

In fact the last six years have seen a roller coaster of change in what for so many years appeared to be so predictable and commonplace. However over the last six years, and particularly the last two, my life has changed so much … and all for the better. Six years ago I thought my lifelong dream of living in the country was no longer an option. A few years later, a redundancy after 30 years of corporate life and a period of  timeout gave me the opportunity to rethink my priorities and what I might really want to do for the next period of my life. I had a choice to view change as an opportunity or a problem. I know what works best for me and decided to use this as a the time to be brave, make the most of change and not have regrets.

This adventure started out as looking for that elusive work/lifestyle balance as I sought to keep my foot in the corporate door, albeit part-time, and enjoy a country life. It took very little time to recognise that the lifestyle was winning and that it was time to opt out of a career that I have enjoyed and provided me with the opportunity to take this step. My girls had made their decision to be independent, which made the decision to do something for me much easier.

It seems fortuitous that on my 55th birthday I will be spending my first night in my new country home fully relocated. It’s hard to believe that 15 months ago I hadn’t heard of Kandos and a Convent was inconceivable. Or that I would be tackling significant renovations. Or moving permanently to the country. But somehow it seems so right.

I’ve realised that to a degree I haven’t escaped the corporate work ethic and often spend a full day working through my “to do’s” in the garden, particularly in the lead up to the Kandos Gardens Fair, and that I project manage renovations and I always have a prioritised list. However I’ve promised myself that in the next few months there will be some guilt-free down time. I want to knit (sadly neglected). I want to bake (I can’t remember the last time I made a cake or biscuits), I want to read (I was once a voracious reader but too many things have distracted me). I want to try new things. I don’t want to schedule these activities or make more lists, but this will take some time before it comes naturally. I’m also looking forward to joining some of the local community and interest groups – to meet new people, put something back into a wonderful and welcoming community and also to pursue interests that have been on back burner or yet to be realised.

Anyway, right now I’m just pacing myself to get through the final packing and move. There is so much to be done that I really shouldn’t be sitting writing a blog post. But by Tuesday night, my life will be moved to Kandos and a new phase commences.

Unsettling Times

I have sold my Sydney property which is a big step and a relief in now moving into a new life. However it means deadlines for moving out of Sydney and packing everything up. I’m doing trips to Sydney at least once a week to move things here as well as pack boxes for the removalists, which is surprisingly unsettling.

I’ve only lived at our place in Wahroonga for around five years which is a short time for me, but for many reasons it has been more a home to me than other places. It has been a haven and home for the girls and me, had many good friends through the door and holds many happy memories. Now I’m packing, I’m really missing my girls and realising that they have moved out and we won’t be together again like before. All is good – we’re all doing what we want and is right for us, just a jolt to realise that everything has changed so much. And permanently.

Anyway, Wahroonga is being vacated over the next month, the Convent is becoming more established (a proper fridge and a garbage bin are contributing to the feeling of permanence), I’m making an effort to fit into the local community here and the garden is consuming a large amount of time.

It has now well and truly set in that this has been an enormous move in so many ways, but also feels so right. The dogs have made themselves so at home so quickly from only ever knowing a townhouse. It’s a bit strange given it has been such a big change for them, but they have never appeared uncomfortable with what was asked of them – from the constant long drives (from non-car dogs) to the new house and gardens. It’s a good sign. Their presence and obvious enjoyment has made the transition much easier for me – they have been great little companions through all this. I only hope they will embrace some additions to the Convent. I’m not sure that Roxy will make chooks or another dog or cat very welcome, but I’d love to get some more animals.

Anyway, I’m now so far past the point of no return and have taken so many life-changing steps over the last 18 months. So far it all seems right, just challenging and so much change to take in …

The New “Normal”

As I start to see light at the end of the tunnel with a permanent move to Kandos and things settling down once my Sydney home goes on the market, I keep telling myself that life will return to “normal”, but I’m not sure what this is anymore.

I’ve never lived in the country before and life in Central NSW in the Convent is likely to be far from what I’ve always considered as normal. I’ve also never been on my own like this before. The girls only moved out recently but moving to a new place without them really means being on my own for the first time.

I guess it means settling into what life will now be like. I know I will have my garden, new home, time to focus on my interests and discover new ones. It will mean making new friends whilst still keeping the old ones. It will also mean participating in activities and helping out here in a town that is much like me in settling into a new future.

With my homemade yoghurt in the fridge along with camembert and feta, my first date and walnut loaf  from my new bread maker, the knitting back in action and more roses to plant, life is looking pretty good at the moment. Friends arriving this weekend is the icing on the cake.

Balance Means Some Difficult Decisions

A balanced lifestyle – this seemed like the ideal – a utopia that so many seem to be seeking. Being at a stage of life where my children are independent, I have a level of financial stability and the chance to both work and have a country lifestyle. Sounds idyllic. And I probably could have pulled it off. But what if you fall in love with one of the lifestyles? What if being in the country means also wanting to be part of the community and participating in activities? What if you want to add to the animal collection – chooks, cat, another dog? What if it becomes a wrench every time you have to head back to the city for work (which you still enjoy, but not as much as the other option)?

I have found myself in this position. What seemed like the perfect lifestyle balance actually ended up as having to make some hard choices – I just want to be at the Convent most of the time and not “balance” – which was becoming making sacrifices rather than getting the best of both worlds. I know I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position. However I have the choice between a balance of work and lifestyle or an idyllic lifestyle – I’m opting for the latter.

My workplace has been great – they were there when I found the Convent and have participated in my excitement all the way through. I’m planning on continuing to play a role for them, albeit more remote, helping with some of the work that I really love but Convent-style.

This lifestyle stuff can be challenging – it’s when you start thinking of trade-offs v choices – are you giving things up or just getting more? There’s no right answer. Balance is not an analytical equation and means making some very personal decisions. I hope I’m making the right ones – I obviously think I am.

A close colleague once explained to me that life comes in cycles – especially for women. The first 25 years is becoming a person – growing up, no longer being a child and becoming an independent individual. The second 25 years is often being something to others – a wife, a mother, an employee. I think I’ve done this plus a lot more. I’ve had over 30 years in corporate life and nearly quarter of a century in a marriage and as a mother (which I will always continue to be). Post 50, the next 25 years becomes yours. The children are no longer dependent, you hopefully have more flexibility financially and you can make some major decisions for the remainder of your life. I guess I feel I have paid my dues and am now making my decisions. I also know that this will require some major changes and readjustments.

By the end of the year I hope to be permanently residing in the Convent at Kandos. I’m not quite sure what all of this will mean. I know I will have a lovely home, I will love and nurture my garden, including being as self-sufficient as possible. I know I will get more involved in the community and contribute to a town that has made me so welcome. I know I will get more creatures, and I know I will continue to do some ‘work’ work but no longer crank up 60 – 80 hours of pressure. I will also continue to be a Mum.

It’s exciting but also a bit scary. One of the more adult decisions and for the first time, it’s one I’m making just for me …