Going splat, getting back up again

ID: someone has used a high-pressure hose to etch the word ‘hello’, and a smiley face, on a sidewalk ©careerusinterruptus

Well, THAT was predictable: the boulder got us.

Three boulders, in fact: a huge one for Mum, another for Mr Pixel, and one – at 10:30pm on Friday night – for CraftyFish.

Of course, their boulders are their business. My head, my heart, my time, and my sleep, as I support them and scramble for strategies, are just collateral damage.

Then there’s the emotional-recovery week where everyone realises they’re okay after all. Just dazed, disoriented in our own lives.

On Saturday morning, though, a cool thing happened, that IS all mine to share:

A little while ago on facebook, I bumped into the author of an excellent book I’d read a few years ago. Squee! And – ooh! – turns out she’s running in the next Federal election. She commented that we need more ‘cranky, older women’ in politics, to fix this mess. Yes, ma’am!

She’s got to be… well, older than me, at least, since she was working before I started university. And the book – the title’s unforgettable but the content takes a minute – ah, yes. It was about the trade-offs between parenting and workand how that turns children into a commodity rather than people we, you know, love. … what IS her expertise? I google, and wow! A professor of economics, a field famous for its misogyny! (As if academia itself wasn’t bad enough.)

So, a woman who really knows her stuff, who’s spent thirty years caring for her children and parents while battling the patriarchy on two fronts at work, and who is FED. UP? Stuff the Senate – make her Prime Minister, IMMEDIATELY.

And she’s running with… not the political party I would have expected, based on her age and politics. Now that is intriguing.

Of course, my brain wasn’t letting go of intriguing. Not in the good week where I did all the things, not in the week where I ran the usual 9,456 errands plus extra care for Mum keeping me out til 8pm, not in the week where both kids got splatted, and not in the exhausted aftermath.

So on Saturday, when I finally had a break from scraping everyone out of the mud, I messaged this woman, re-introduced myself, and asked if I could interview her. Within an hour she’d said yes! (The magic of social media.)

I’m a bit terrified – last time I interviewed anyone I used a tape recorder, for goodness’ sake – but also THRILLED at the chance to talk big ideas, and to write something that will lift her, me, and the big women’s political group I’ve been helping nurture.

In some ways, that’s a little boulder of my own.

Certainly it’s knocked everything else I had to do, for six. Who cares about the swamp of chores that accumulated last week or whatever I was doing before we got smooshed? Now I have exciting interview research to do, remote recording software to learn, and scary commitments to make, involving dates and times. FARK!

And then on Monday, driving between care duties, I heard this podcast, about women being pushed out of STEM because the university sector is so broken, 90% of grants don’t get funded, and you can lose a 27-year job over one knock-back.

It resonated hard; I left academia 15 years ago because despite my passion, financial investment, hours, and successes, there was, as these women have learned more recently, zero employment security. Last year Australia’s academic sector cut nearly 20,000, or 1 in 5 jobs.

These women, though, realised that their passions (creating knowledge and improving public health) could be done equally well in an office, writing policy or polishing grant applications, as in a lab, running experiments. Minus pipette work, the skills were exactly the same, they just had to be phrased differently for a different audience.

I realised, that’s what I’m doing, too. My passion is and always has been, to use words to make the world a better place. I love connecting people, thinking big ideas, and communication. I’m good at that stuff, even if I’ve never done it this particular way before. With that realisation, the murk disappeared, and presto! There was my mountain.

So that’s the moral for this week: don’t forget to keep looking for your mountain. Boulders are inevitable. Soon as you can pick yourself up, wipe the mud from your eyes, look around. It’ll be there, showing you which way to go next.

Here we go again

In honour of #HurrahForGin’s classic cartoon (and if you don’t want to marry her, what is WRONG with you?!) I’m dubbing the time between Christmas and New Year’s, “Cheese Week”.

I mean, I’m perpetually confused; I only know what day of the week it is in term and even that’s hardly reliable. And it’s probably fair to say I’m usually more full of cheese than I should be.

But during Cheese Week? Phew.

The house is trashed, full of boxes and packaging and proudly-displayed new Lego builds; we’ve been out too much for me to have time to tidy any of it up and where will the new stuff even go? Everyone’s sleep has gone to shit in various ways. And nobody knows what we’re doing at any given time but it always seems to involve crisps, friends we haven’t seen for ages, and board games, so everyone’s constantly either over-excited, over-tired, bored, elated, hungry, disappointed, or all of them at once.

It’s hard to imagine a worse time to try and get one’s shit together.

And yet, you can’t help it, can you?

I mean, it’s a New Year, and all that crap.

Even I cannot resist. Sure, resolutions are just setting yourself up for failure, and yes, I still come over all snarky around motivational words.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent large chunks of the week unravelling our finances in the hopes of finally figuring out where the reins are and grasping them. In between I was reading “writer’s life” type articles, pondering writing and financial goals. With nothing in the calendar and hubby home to keep on top of the laundry, I determined that *this* year, dammit, I would DEFINITELY start with A Plan.

Needless to say, that didn’t work out.

Instead, a beloved pet became very ill and I spent three solid days finding help, supporting the kids, and then dealing with all the grief once she’d passed away. I forgot we had the pest control guy booked and dear friends we rarely see found an unexpected opening in their diary. The week cost us damn near a thousand bucks.

So we’ve arrived in 2021 our usual way: tired, papers all over the table, my screen open to my novel, dirty dishes in the sink, and I can’t find my glasses.

And yet, I’m okay with that – it’s just life, after all. Of course nothing changes on New Year’s Day.

The trick, as Neil Gaiman put it so beautifully, is to just keep walking towards your mountain.

Gaiman’s genius – unlike SMART goals, five-year plans or any of that protestant-capitalist bullshit – is acknowledging that we don’t have control. Because the universe unfolds according to its own, profoundly unknowable plan, we cannot see the whole road ahead. Bulldozing one will likely end up in the Fire Swamp.

Ditching a set route lets you respond to opportunities as they arise, rather than fighting to stick to the path, despite them.

Ditching the time limit allows you to slow down for fellow travellers, or because it’s dark. It allows you to stop and smell the flowers. It acknowledges that despite the best-laid plans, sometimes the Fire Swamp opens up right there under your feet.

By keeping the mountain centred in your field of vision, you can still find your way.

We may have left 2020 behind, but we are still in the Fire Swamp, and the R.O.U.Ses are still in charge. All we can ask of ourselves is to keep fit – eat salad, exercise, ablute, sleep – and keep walking.

Anything else is a bonus. Be grateful.