They say marriage is a lifetime of getting used to someone. Without a doubt, any long term relationship is a rollercoaster. You get the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes you can get all of that in the space of an hour!
You’ve probably noticed your slightly (or very!) different, depending on who your with. Some people are quiet and industrious at work, but put them in a grandstand at the football and they are boisterous and uncouth! Some people are relaxed everywhere, except behind the wheel of a car. You probably have variations on who you are, depending on the context of the situation.
Another way of looking at this is do you give your partner what’s right, or what’s left. For example, do you find yourself planning your life on how you can invest in your partner, or, do you find yourself giving them the scraps of your energy after everyone else has had a piece of you?
There’s an interesting dynamic though, in marriage. It’s the dynamic, or tension between being your real self, and being your best self. It’s the tension between doing what’s real to you, and doing what’s best for your relationship. It’s an interesting, and difficult tension.
It’s the tension that you get after you and your partner have had really huge weeks, and you want to sit quietly and they want to talk through the week. Do you be your true self, or your best self for your partner?
It’s the tension in silly things – leaving the toilet seat up because you don’t care what way it goes, and putting it down because your partner likes it down and you want to be your best for them.
It’s the tension between just wanting to go to sleep, because that’s what you want, or choosing to open up physically to your partner because you want to give your best to your partner.
It’s the tension between listening enough to hear the key points, or giving your whole attention to your partner.
I think this tension manifests itself in many things.
So what is the answer? I used the picture above because I’ve met some people who seem to think that love is a licence for bad behavior. They seem to use the ‘if you can’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ mentality to really just be selfish. Inversely, I’ve met other people who do literally everything they can to support their partner. It might be in the way they put their life on hold to support their partners career, or family, a project or lifestyle.
Is there a point where you give up being your real self, and give your best self, for the sake of the relationship? What about vice versa?
You can only every control yourself, your actions and emotions, so this isn’t about changing your partner. What I’m asking is how have you managed that tension between giving your best self to your partner, and being your real self? Can the two ‘selves’ exist? Can you be real, but still give the best of yourself to your partner? I’m curious, let me know.
Day Five :: Sydney
If you’ve been to Sydney, you’ll know how much of an amazingly beautiful city it is. The sparkling harbour, the Bridge, Opera House, Luna Park, the skyline – it truly is an amazing city. Truly, truly amazing.
After battling Pennant Hills Road, we made it to a train station for a not-too-long trip into the city. Emerging from a rail tunnel just before the bridge, we are seemingly catapulted from the north, over the bridge, into the heart of the city.
It’s as you expect. Loud, busy, unrelenting, amazing. We pass Martin Place and are soberly reminded of the horrible events just a few years ago. We pass old and new, all the way down to stunning Cockle Bay and Darling Harbour. Our first tourist trap is the National Maritime Museum, and it doesn’t disappoint. We tour the Advance, the Vampire, the submarine Onslow and a replica of the Endeavour, which, much to my children’s annoyance, wasn’t actually a pirate ship.
Lunch was spent overlooking the water in the harbour, where a nice Indian man struck up conversation with me:
“That’s your son?” he asked with his sub-continental accent
“Yes, that’s right, and that’s my daughter”
“You can tell. He looks like you. Big ears”…
After the Maritime Museum, we took the ferry over to Circular Quay. There’s something special about Sydney Ferries. A romance about those patented light yellow and green vessels, and Sydney Harbour didn’t disappoint. If you’ve ever been on a Sydney Ferry, you’ll know the feeling. That gentle bob up and down, the glisten of the light on the water, the soft growl of the diesel engines chugging through the harbour.
We round the finger wharfs and margined Observatory Hill. Luna Park smiled to our left as we chugged under that magnificent bridge. I reminded my children that Fort Dennison is where they sent the children who didn’t eat their vegetables. Before long, the classic sail-shaped roof of the Opera House comes into view and Circular Quay opens up like the pearl of an oyster.
Circular Quay is teeming. Ita Buttrose is filming an advertisement for something while disinterested tourists swarm around with selfie sticks and matching backpacks. Asian men dressed in beige pants with long-sleeved polo shirts tucked in walk slowly while their wives chatter and point, all donned in matching tracksuits and hats with the see-thru visor. Impossibly good looking 20-somethings swan up the steps of the Opera House, every photo they take is worthy of a travel brochure. Overweight security guards lean listlessly against concrete barriers, and I wonder how much of a deterrent they would be against someone hellbent on terrorising this beautiful corner of the world.
From the stairs of the Opera House, it’s hard not to fall in love with this city. The city, Lady Macquarie’s Chair, Fort Dennison, the Quay all laid out, glistening, happy, Sydney.
Our next stop is what I call Centerpoint Tower, but I think it’s changed names a few times since the 80’s. I can’t believe I’m paying money to catch a trip up an elevator, but honestly, it’s worth it. Sydney, sunshine, 360 degree views. The mighty Pacific to the east and those Blue Mountains to the west. Laid out before me, this city. The bright red Coke sign at the Cross, the stoic conservatorium, the harbour, Hyde Park and the silent memorial. It’s all there, aching to be explored.
We had a wonderful evening with various family and went to bed way to late, having enjoyed every second of this long, but amazing day.
‘Thank goodness for those Aldi jackets’ I mused, wishing I perhaps bought one. Warm and waterproof were two things I wanted to be. I consulted with my travelling companions on the plan for the day – the zoo, and contingency plans as the outlook predicted rain. You see, we had plans to leave Dubbo this afternoon for a farmstay in nearby Mudgee.
Now, I don’t know about you, but two days stuck inside a farm while it’s raining outside might sound ideal. Actually, if I didn’t have the children, and I had a 4WD and a suitable cache of liquor and books, it would be very, very pleasant indeed. In this instance, however, I had kids, a Camry, an empty carton and no books. You could imagine my trepidation about the farmstay.
“Hello?” I answered cautiously
“Gwen here, from McDonalds Farmstay. Listen, it’s raining here, and there’s not much to do”
“I suppose it would be selfish for me to pray for sunshine?” I quipped
“I suppose it would be selfish for me to slash your tires if God came through with sunshine?” Gwen fired back
I suspected she was serious, and after an awkward pause, I thanked the Lord for rain, and thanked Gwen for calling, and made arrangements to visit later in the year when there may not be as much rain.
The morning was sorted – but what would we do on our spare Thursday and Friday ? We were due in Port Macquarie on Friday afternoon to meet up with family, and the originally we would go there straight after the farmstay. I put ‘the word’ out to friends and family in Sydney, and within minutes my very kind uncle and aunty offered us, humble Queensland travellers, to stay at their place for the next two nights. It was especially kind, considering it was State of Origin night, but more about that later.
Day two at the Dubbo Zoo was much better than day one, for the simple reason is we ditched those horrible bikes and elected to drive around the zoo. We saw all the animals in half the time PLUS I avoided a coronary! You could say we all won. Once again, the zoo was fantastic. The pictures were the same as yesterday, so I won’t double them up.
After lunch (and I must say, four days on the road and I’m really over bought food), it was time to hit the road to Sydney!
Unlike days previous, we travelled in relative sunshine, through rolling hills, quaint towns and past miles of farms. Quite lovely. Dinner for the kids was (three guesses) Maccas at Lithgow, the western gateway to the Blue Mountains. Lithgow didn’t get the memo that sunshine meant a bit of warmth, and we froze through 5oC. It was cold. Really cold. From there, we were ready to hit the Blue Mountains. I was prepping myself for a drive not too dissimilar to the slow, yet short drive up the range to Toowoomba, then down into Sydney. It was only about 150kms to my uncle and aunts, and I was thinking ‘1 1/2 hours, no sweat’. So, after driving around the 110km/h mark for a week, anything under 80km/h was slow. Tediously slow. Then, I got to Pennant Hills Road. Why there are not more homicides in the Hills district is anyones guess. I thought Brisbane’s one way streets were annoying, but driving through the Hills is pure murder. After some questionable u-turns, creative double line crossings and hard breaking, we managed to arrive at Thompson’s corner for some Thai and to find a suitable bottle-o that would cure my longing for a Queensland brew. From there, it was literally only another 3 illegal u-turns, interesting right turns and four polite toots of the horn that we arrived, safe and sound at my uncle and aunts.
As fate would have it, we arrived and unpacked just before the kick-off for State of Origin. He didn’t say it, but I know my uncle was ever so pleased I brought a sixer of XXXX Gold (and I know what you’re thinking, but the bottle-o didn’t sell XXXX Bitter). In fact, he was so pleased, after one beer he offered to keep the rest for safe-keeping, and got something that was a little more chilled (the Goldies had warmed slightly in the traverse from Thompson’s Corner to their place). I told him he’s welcome to keep them, and enjoy them later.Well, Maroon jersey donned, I was very gracious in victory.
We wake, and blinds are open with trepidation… NOT RAINING! Notice, though, not raining doesn’t mean sunny, or warm, but quite simply, not raining. Like the previous morning, the coffee is brewed and bags are packed. We’ve identified a few Queenslanders on this holiday, and they all stick out like sore thumbs. You see, it’s the eve of game two of State of Origin. Despite having Queensland numberplates, you’ll find the usual display of maroon is sadly lacking, being in the heart of Blues territory. Our neighbors in the hotel had Queensland plates, and I yelled out to them across the carpark that Queenslanders weren’t welcome here. Thankfully, they were city folk and sober, so we were relatively safe. Numberplates aside, the Queenslanders all were matching here in Dubbo. Aldi, you see, had a sale a month ago on ski gear. Queenslanders have scant use for anything warmer than a flanno ($7 from Big W), so for many, it’s a novelty wearing ‘winter clothing’.
Whilst Queenslanders enjoyed the idea of wearing ‘winter clothing’, the reality of sub 20oC doesn’t actually match the reality or excitement of such temperatures. Thankfully, the wives, girlfriends or mothers had been to Aldi for the sales and purchased inexpensive ski jackets for their Dubbo trip. As expected, the men shunned the Aldi sales and promised ‘they’d be right’ with the cold (Hint: they weren’t, and the Queensland fellas froze).
Interestingly, you can tell the Victorians, as they are in shorts and t-shirts. The Brits are another story all together, and don’t get me started on them Arabs!
So we arrived at the world famous Western Plains Zoo! Our first mistake (not that we made many) was thinking that hiring bikes would be a good idea. Well, they were a good idea for the kids, but then again, they weren’t peddling. 6 1/2kms isn’t far on the map, but when you’re hauling 20kgs of kid, it gets heavy. Mighty heavy.
We paid $7 to feed giraffes. That was pretty spesh.
Dubbo Zoo was pretty amazing. I’ll let the pictures do the talkin’.
As night fell, we treated ourselves to a nice steak dinner in a building as old as the hills, and prayed our car wouldn’t get ‘boosted’ by the locals as we ate. The car ended up being safe, but the rain started pattering down, slowly at first.
Then, a little faster…
Then, a tad heavier..
We hoped, and prayed yet again that tomorrow wouldn’t be raining for our next day at the zoo. We also were looking ahead to tomorrow afternoon, where we were due to start our farmstay in nearby Mudgee…
I was going to say ‘close your eyes and come with me on a journey down the Newell’, but then I realised that if you have your eyes closed, you wouldn’t be able to read. So keep your eyes open, like I did, driving 2600km’s of tough road through some of the most beautiful country in southern Queensland and through New South Wales.
At 2.30am, the world has a certain peace. A stillness. It’s fresh, and it’s freezing, and it’s full of opportunities. It’s an adventure, waiting to be explored. It’s paragraphs, awaiting to be written. It’s pitch black, save for the streetlights amplified on droplets of water teeming down the window of the packed-full Camry.
Once you’ve cleared Ipswich, you’re there. You’re on the open road, and the Lockyer, the mighty fruit-bowl of the South East awaits. You’ve driven down this patch of road heaps of times, through miles of green farmland, dotted by the occaisional fruit market, Rusty’s petrol station and Gatton UQ, where your dog goes to uni. At night though, this stretch is a different creature. There’s no fluro vests of the backpacker fruitpickers, no flashing amber of streetworks, no sign of the floods that swept through a couple of years ago. It’s just dark, and deliciously still.
The Range though, now that. What can I say? It’s treachery during the day. It’s suicide by 3am. Picture it, behind the wheel, twisting around a mountain like spaghetti on a fork, except with the added pleasure of fog so thick you’re forced to crawl along, seeing a staggering three meters in front of you. It’s thick. Oppressively thick, and you wonder if you’ll ever reach the top of this horrible, horrible range.
Once you’ve hit Toowoomba and it’s quaint tree-lined streets, you hang a left onto the Gore Highway, and then for the most of us, it’s uncharted territory. The flat plain of the Lockyer and the steep incline of the Range has given way to more undulating terrain. Rain hits the front windshield with ferocious anger. It’s still pitch black, there’s no sun to light your way, so it’s you and your highbeams vs. the road. The Gore bypasses towns big enough to rate a mention on a map, and fails to slow down for ones that are a mere punctuation on a long winding paragraph. It’s dark. Very dark. The road continues in the same way for another three and a half hours.
The clock approaches seven and the border town of Goondiwindi creeps up, like the morning sun yawning over the eastern horizon, showing in hazy yellow detail the view we’d missed since leaving Toowoomba. Highway lined with scrub, kangaroo caucuses and farmland as far as the eye can see. Like any family road trip, we pull into the Maccas carpark. The rain, thankfully, has let up and we’re greeted by the Australian flag dangling listlessly on a pole at the end of the carpark, as if it too was waiting for its morning coffee.Inside, a cop on a special orders his breakfast before escorting an impossibly large mining truck down the highway. A polite travelling family listens, too politely perhaps, to the local ‘Australia Rise Up’ candidate, who bangs on passionately about reclaiming this country. In the carpark, her dog barks out the window of a beaten up hiace van, stickers patching up rust spots and dings from years of abuse.
We leave Goondi, hitting the Newell, the backbone of western New South Wales, where five hundred kilometers separate us from Dubbo. If google is anything to believe in, we’ll be driving through six hours of sunblessed farmland and picturesque country towns. Naturally, the rain came out in force as soon as we hit 110, just before we get stuck behind the impossibly large mining truck, some 30 clicks outside of Boggabilla. Perched precariously on the back of a large semi-trailer, it would have easily filled up both sides of a metro freeway. Sadly for us, we had a one-lane country highway with no chance of overtaking for at least 50 clicks. After hovering around 110 for the last few hours, 80 was tediously slow. Tediously, tediously slow.
The rear escort eventually waved us through, indicating the chances of being crushed overtaking the mining truck had slightly diminished, so I planted my foot to the floor and the Camry really, really showed her limitations. The tacho red lined, but was not matched with an equal increase in speed, but she eventually squeezed past the truck and its two escorts. Once again, we hit the rainy Newell as it was meant to be hit – at 110.
Hardly a soul was seen either way as we powered to Dubbo. Moree and Narrabri were but an inconvenience, but we learned after the fact we should not have waited until Coonabarabran for a pit stop. The occasional silo or promise of ‘last petrol’ broke up our trip until then, apart from that, nondescript miles of rainy highway greeted us each step of the way.
Gilgandra was the next town we ignored, and I would like to say the rain eased and the countryside was beautiful.
Finally, Dubbo greeted us. For the uninitiated, its got more than Moree, Narrabri, Coonabarabran and Gilgandra. More old buildings. More pubs. More youth unemployment. More rain. Oh, less teeth. Apart from that, more of the other things.Jokes aside, it was nice to be in Dubbo. They’ve managed to preserve a lot of the old buildings – as you can imagine, it’s the usual suspects. Banks, government buildings, churches and suchlike. It’s quaint, and given better weather, I’d expect it would give an avid photographer many minutes of joy walking around snapping the interesting facades.
Our accommodation was as described. Did I mention it was still bucketing down rain? The receptionist at the motel apologised that they were running behind on cleaning, as one of their cleaners had slipped down the wet tiles. “Seemed like she was in a bit of pain” the receptionist commented, as if the cleaners health was a mild annoyance rather than an OH&S insurance claim waiting to happen.
A meander around Dubbo was in order, before we settled in for the evening, sleeping with anticipation of what tomorrow would bring.
Did you know that there’s a law in China that adult children must provide for the financial and spiritual needs of their aging parents, if they are not involved with their ongoing care? Adult children can actually be sued by their aging parents for neglecting them!
I spent an afternoon playing Lego with my son yesterday. For about three hours, we sat on the carpet and built rocket-powered cars, office buildings complete with motorbike jumps and imagined a world where the usual laws of gravity, fear and responsibility did not exist. Whilst we were doing this, I dared not look at my quickly-growing lawn, or thinking about the garden that needed weeding, or that DIY job in the garage that should have been finished
months years ago.
In the last two months, a colleague of mine, a dad, passed away due to a horrible cancer. He left behind a wife and three kids. He would often say ‘no one gets to their deathbed and wishes they spent more time in the office’. I’m sure his wife and children would go to the ends of the earth to waste just a few more minutes with him, paddling on their stand-up paddle board or hanging out at a café.
In the last week, a family member has been diagnosed with a critical illness and is an induced coma. He has a wife and three young children. We are all very hopeful he will pull through, but in these moments, you wish you could spend just a few more minutes wasting time with those you love.
Those who know me know my dad passed away when I was 6. What I wouldn’t give for five more minutes that I could waste with him.
I marvelled at my son, playing with his Lego. I taught him a thing or two about the practicalities of building Lego, and he reminded me a stack of times about how to imagine. He told me ‘I’ll never stop playing with Lego, dad’. I responded, telling him I hope he never forgets how to play Lego, either.
You see, those moments of wasted time with your family are not actually a waste at all. That 30 minutes playing catch. That bike-ride. That afternoon of Lego. The sneaky after-dinner ice-cream dash. Those ‘wasted time’ moments aren’t ‘icing on the cake’ for your family. It’s one of the main ingredients. It’s the chocolate chips in the family brownie. It’s not an optional extra, it’s the sprinkles on the fairy bread.
At this point you’re probably thinking ‘but you don’t know how busy I am’. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together. I don’t. Far from it. I find myself working sometimes 6 days a week, and doing extra things here and there for some extra bucks from time to time. I’m finding though the more I do ‘stuff’, the more time I need to waste with the people I love. It’s a quick game of Uno before dinner. Taking 5 minutes in the morning to help my son with some Lego. Brushing my teeth with the kids before I go to work.
You see, wasting time with your family is never a waste. I know there are times in your life when you do need to spend some time doing that overtime, or that extra bit of study, or spending a bit of time looking after yourself. I know that, and I know that all too well.
I started this blog talking about the Chinese rule of adult kids having to look after their parents. When I’m old, and grey(er!), I don’t want my children to feel obliged to support me, financially or otherwise. I hope that as my children grow and develop, I waste enough time with them now, so that when I’m old, they’ll want to waste time with me. I hope the choices that my kids make won’t be what retirement home to ship me off too. I hope the choices they make will be about how they can waste time with me.
My son came home from Kindy yesterday with some craft, as he so often does. He had brought home a picture of a bucket with things inside. He’d learned about ‘love buckets’. You’ve probably hear about something similar – needs, love banks and alike. My son exclaimed that we need to put deposits into each others love buckets. You can make deposits be being kind, saying nice things, showing someone you love them. For the record, I’m accepting deposits into my ego bank at the moment 😉 .
Why do we put deposits into someone’s love bucket? I guess some answers would be because we love them, we want to show them and we want to invest in their life.
In a sense, love is an investment. I’m quite sure we invest love into someone, because we expect some type of return – love, support, kindness, companionship, the best for them. Whilst I think it’s wrong to give, expecting some type of return (this will usually lead to disappointment), deep inside I think we all want some type of return on our investment.
So the question is, what do you do when someone invests love into you?
What do you do with the love that is shown and given to you?
Some people’s hearts are high-risk investments. They are volatile, their return fluctuates depending on a myriad of factors. Sometimes, they give a huge return, showing massive amounts of appreciation, support and love. Other times, they are a negative investment, taking all that you have to give, the return on the investment is hurt and disappointment. The giver of love is left in deficit, the taker of love has squandered the gift entrusted to them.
There are hearts that seem to be closed to deposits. You know the type – people who’ve built walls around their life for whatever reason. People, where you’ve tried to show them you’re feelings and thoughts towards them, but they just don’t seem to be receptive to you in any way. Maybe you’re married to this type of person?
Then there’s are hearts who gives a steady return on an investment. A heart that pays interest adds to the love already deposited in it. What do I mean? Unlike a bank, there’s no cost to paying interest on a deposit of love in your heart. When a bank pays interest, they have already carefully calculated the cost of paying interest. There’s no cost to paying interest on a deposit of love, however!
So how can you pay interest on a deposit of love? I think there’s a range of ways. A word that isn’t used that often is gratitude. Being grateful to the one who deposited love into your heart. Being thankful of the love that’s being deposited can be a great way to pay interest on an investment of love. It might pay to ask the best way to pay interest on the deposit of love – you may be surprised! Showing love back is a huge return on the investment put in your heart.
Is there someone trying to put deposits of love into your heart? What type of bank are they investing into?
Are they risking it all to sow into your life – will their investment tank or will you allow it to build you up?
Is your bank open to deposits? Can you allow someone to invest love into your life?
Is your heart a bank that will warmly pay interest on the love it’s been entrusted with?
Open up the bank of your heart. Be receptive to the love someone wants to invest in you. Be generous with the interest you pay that love. It’s the only investment where both people give, and both people are richer for it.