Friday, 30 June 2017

It's been a while

Gosh it does get rather tedious to write these kind of posts. I haven't blogged for 18months. My last post was about trying out not working to give myself some space to get well and find the joy in life again.

Well that didn't happen...

It was a great idea but not totally financially feasible and I had a great part time job offer close to home so I decided to take it. It involved working with children and families at our church and it felt so good to feel enthusiastic and to join a lovely team. I was wary of exhausting myself and of the perils of working in a faith community but I wanted to try something new and to use my teaching skills in a new context. Over the year I gradually increased my hours from 5 hours per week up to 15. I enjoyed so much of the role but again found I felt really anxious about doing it well and performance anxiety around what other people expected.

My plans for a more healthy balance in my life didn't quite go as planned. The reasons for that are many but some is my lack of self discipline and the exhaustion of anxiety bubbling along under the surface. I also think in a role where you are wanting to make a positive impact in people's lives, the responsibility of that weighed heavily on me. I know that I haven't been good at relying on God for energy and guidance and instead just try harder and harder to do everything perfectly, which doesn't end well.

I appreciated so much about the role and learned a great deal but some of my core struggles and the questions about life and faith I have been mulling over for a while now were like a stone in my shoe, a constant uncomfortable reminder and unsettling pull on me. Being involved closely in a church was truly a blessing to me. The relationships formed and the important conversations were gifts. And looking at faith and faith formation from the perspective of a child and seeking to foster a healthy and whole relationship between children and Jesus was such a joy.

However, throughout the year my husband and I talked about how unsustainable life in Auckland with an Auckland sized mortgage was and we realised that in the not too distant future I would need to return to high school teaching, probably fulltime, in order for us to make any progress financially and not continue to jump from one home maintenance bill to another. We were realising that my belief that once our kids were at school it would be easier to juggle work and family life was instead a delusion. School hours and school teaching do not go well together when you add an Auckland commute and after school meetings. I could see nights of working till 2 am regularly in my future as I marked piles of assessments and my husband continued to commute an hour to and from work with the pressure of accounting for his time in 15 minute increments.

We know we are privileged to even own a home or have jobs. But we also need to be able to live with the circumstances of our lives and the impact it has on our health, family and quality of life. Our large vege garden, fruit trees and chickens are important to us but the only time in the week to spend enjoying it was a couple of hours on a Saturday and it felt like life was taken up with work and jobs around the house as well as the general busyness of life with kids.

So towards the end of the year we decided that we needed to get out of Auckland to have any chance of having a more peaceful and restful life. Early this year my husband got a job offer in a small town in the North Island of NZ. We knew the town a little bit but knew no-one living here. After a couple of reconnaissance trips which included amazing weather and very convincing sales pitches by locals on the advantages of a move to their friendly town, we made the call and accepted the job.

We have now been here for 3 months almost. It has been a surprisingly smooth transition. The kids love their respective school and kindy. We are renting a warm and sunny but small house close to town. My husband's commute is now a 5 minute walk and we have only filled the cars about 5 times since we moved. One of our two cars barely gets driven. I applied for a few teaching and non-teaching jobs before we moved here but wasn't successful. Instead of disappointment, I felt a growing sense of glee at the prospect of not working. And it has proved to be wonderful. For the first time in seven years there are no childcare juggles when the kids are sick, drop offs are slow and gentle, washing gets hung on the line and dried and taken in all on the same day and the house is generally pretty clean most of the time. We have found a church and been warmly welcomed. We are making friends and having meals with each other. Our kids are making friends and going to play at each other's houses. And I feel so much better! My daughter and I are having horse riding lessons together, which was a childhood passion of mine that I am so excited to be doing again.

It is a strange transition to going back to being home full time. I haven't done that since Ella was 7 months old. There have been times when my mood has been low as I renegotiate my identity and role in this new place. I carry so many unrecognised expectations of myself and it is strange to not be getting affirmation and a sense of worth from work and colleagues. But I'm not lonely and the sense of space and no anxiety is almost miraculous.

So here we are. We are exploring the next steps of putting down roots here and what our new version of "normal" could be. But for now I am enjoying this breathing space and the sunshine of our coastal new home. And on a very good day I wonder whether it really is possible to have all you have hoped for and dreamed of.