Walking for Refugees days 10-15

Determination and unwavering belief in the dignity of refugees walking to flee war gets me through six tough days of walking. Days not made difficult by the nature of the walking but by double and triple shifts at work. Fill in shifts for colleagues who are unwell or otherwise absent. Shifts that will make it possible for me to take holidays later in the year but that wear me down now during this month of walking.
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Day 10 starts at 8pm. Paul walks the first 6km with me and then I am alone with my thoughts.  I get through it and am happy to be in double digits.
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Day 11 brings a stunning sunrise over local swamps. It’s a blessing for which I am grateful.  Something I wouldn’t see if not for this challenge.

Day 12 is lit by the full moon. Small waves break on the beach as I walk my laps of the Deception Bay waterfront. Paul and our workmates are playing tennis. I stop by and discocer one lap of the courts is 100m and one lap of the nearby football fields is 400m. Two of our workmates walk two 400m laps with me before I head back out to the waterfront.
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On day 13 I have a few hours between shifts so squeeze in a seaside march in blustery conditions. I’d love to have been able to savour the experience but all I have tine for is a quick shower and on to the day’s third shift.
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Hitting the two week mark on day 14 also sees me hit the wall.  I’ve worked over 50 hours this week and my body protests. A sore throat and onset of a head cold causes me to leave work early. I sleep the afternoon away and contemplate defeat. But I’d regret that later so force myself on. A night walk through the suburbs provides a change from my usual waterfront loops.
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On day 15 I stay in my pyjamas until midday. I’ve reported unfit for work because I don’t want to give my clients my cold. My boss is all good and knows I will still make my walk.  Besides, I’m a casual so simply don’t get sick pay. I walk the familiar paths of Scarborough where we used to live.  It’s pretty and thr lack of time pressure makes it all the more wonderful.

Distances: 12.0km each day

Cumulative distance: 194.6km

To support me in this challenge, I invite you to make a donation to the Australian Red Cross at http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills 

Local explorations

We are currently between overseas trips. We returned from The Netherlands in January and leave for New Zealand in April. We are both working hard in our jobs to save money for our future travels. We are also making time to explore South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales the way we explore foreign soils. It’s a mix of day hikes, paddles, day drives and overnight camping trips. It’s the balance that is keeping me sane as I dream of the next flight to foreign lands.

And we’re off – Cambodia trip 2016

Paul and I tied the knot on Monday night at our Halloween themed, non-government-sanctioned wedding ceremony. I don’t play the divisive and demeaning “commitment ceremony” game. While marriage equality is yet to occur in Australia (not for lack of public support), we don’t need some official government suit to recognise our relationship because 100 of our closest family and friends have (including their own certificate to recognise our union). 

Our wedding was amazing and an incredibly happy event. And I am blessed to have a kindred spirit as my husband. 

So now we’re off on our honeymoon to Cambodia. It’s the first trip where I can leave my laptop at home because I no longer work online. Sure, I now don’t get paid when I travel (I work casually) but boy will it be fantastic to just relax, explore, read and laugh without needing to make time to think. And this also means my 32L pack is half empty 🙂 .

Tonight we fly to Kuala Lumpur, arriving at 4am tomorrow morning. We have two days in magnificent KL before we continue on to Phnom Penh. Stay tuned for some stories from the road.

It’s been 10 months since we traveled together and we’ve both missed it. This will change moving forward, starting right now. 

A walk along the beach

I walk along the beach. The soft dry sand is cool against my bare feet. With most steps shells gently scratch the webbing between my toes. Tiny waves that stand barely four inches high crash on the shore as if they were Hawaiian monsters. The tide is coming in and each wave sets more sand than the last. 

I move slightly to my left and now the sand is coarser and more firm. There’s a marked difference between the fluffy dry sand up high and the coarse inter-tidal area below. It’s like the difference between icing sugar and coffee sugar, both in colour and texture. Up high the sand is almost white but along the water it is browner, almost having a tinge of red. 

Big blue jellyfish wash up on the shore with the tide. Sometimes I throw them. back into the bay. Most people hate them but I find their clear blue bodies appealing to my eye. My Instagram account has more than its share of jellyfish tags. Paul says not to bother throwing them back because they are already dead. I don’t know who is correct. 

I turn for home. Paul finishes work soon and I want to make steak, chips and veggies for tea. The chips will be store bought because I never cook my own chips and potatoes are expensive right now. I missed our simple home cooking the past months. I am slowly recommitting to this household task as I feel the inspiration and make the time. Not spending 2-2.5 hours a day in the car helps. 

The nor’-easterly is blowing towards me now. It cools the air. Summer is closing in and the days are warm. But the evenings are still lovely thanks to the sea breeze. It smells of salt and seaweed right now. Not as pungent as earlier today but still distinctly smelling of home. 

Yellow street lights compete with the stars. Over on Moreton Island the lights of Tangallooma stand out against the lumpy silhouette. A cruise liner bobs on the bay. It will have unloaded guests yesterday and reload tomorrow. By day it’s a white box on the horizon and by night a yellow blaze of lights. Planes circle over the Peninsula before landing at the airport; so close by eye but still an hour drive. Such is the deception of viewing the world over water. 

This is my home. A place where shoes are optional, lovers enjoy the quiet nights, families picnic by day and life feels breezy. I’m glad I’m continuing the sea change. 

Decompressing and starting again

It’s been almost two weeks since I left the family law job. And it’s taken that long to feel myself starting to decompress. Slowing down again and coming back to me is proving (ironically) a slow process. 

For the past five months I have felt like a tube of toothpaste that is being squeezed tight to extract the last splodge. Physically it left me with pounding heart and muscle tension throughout my body. Emotionally I was spent, feeling anxious and stressed most of the time. I’d lost connection with the person I became before: the writer, the lover, the uncle and the friend. 

Laughter and a slower pace are slowly returning to my life. This week I laughed spontaneously for the first time in months. That’s not to say I haven’t had times of laughter and happiness. But there is a difference between the laugh we allow ourselves between a busy life and the spontaneous playfulness of freedom. Slowing down too is a challenge again. It takes effort not to race around and be “productive” all the time. Sure, I don’t want to be a lazy slob but when I lived more slowly I was more in the moment, whatever the moment might be.

The patience is slower to return. Even this process of allowing myself to decompress and trusting that I will come back to my centre is an act of patience. I’ve been here before way back in 2014 when I first started this quest for 42. It took four weeks to start to feel slower then and twelve to meet myself for the first time. Fortunately, I have met myself now so I can recognise the differences. I can see the work me and the real me more clearly. So perhaps I’ll come back sooner. But I can’t rush. That’s the point. I just have to wait. 

So what am I doing now? What does this post mean? Here’s the brief timeline:

I quit my job as a lawyer after five tough months. I worked hard to establish Men’s Legal Service for my boss but discovered I truly do hate the conventional 9-5 office existence. I could tell I was unhappy because I started to run long distances again – something painful that always means I am searching for something more. A warning sign I guess. 

I’ve taken a job as a casual support worker assisting people with disabilities. It’s meaningful work and I get about 20-30 hours a week spread over 7 days. Some days I work 8-10 hours while others I only work 2. It’s a nice mix. 

While my lawyering gig was a 65km commute by car or motorbike, my new job is local to home so I have started cycle commuting again. Not that I call 5km (1.5 miles) a commute. 

I feel connected with my work now too. It’s meaningful to me. Not to say family law isn’t a valuable profession but it wasn’t a calling for me. It was just a way to earn a pay cheque. Support work is more than that – it speaks to my heart. There’s something special about it that I can’t describe. 

My only sadness is that I sold my wheelchair bike and didn’t make a good go of that project. But cognitively I know it couldn’t work because I can’t afford the insurance. But it would have been nice to keep trying and to have followed my heart. Things happen for a reason though and the money I got for the bike is allowing us to travel to Holland for Christmas and New Year. And the project was a source of frustration too. So I am working on letting that go and being in the moment.

And the sea change is allowing me to be more connected with Paul and others in my life. I feel my old self coming back again. 

Day 1 of the next chapter

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I feel like today I started a new chapter of my story. I had my first shifts in my new job. I did a two hour morning shift and a four hour afternoon shift. I had 1.5 hours in between so I drove down to the beach and took a walk on the sand in bare feet. After work I went to my beach and lay on the sand enjoying the afternoon. I had the urge to read a good book but didn’t have one so that’s something I might need to fix. And then tonight I am cooking dinner. Paul is working late so I might walk to his work to bring him dinner before we go for a walk together along the waterfront taking in the stars and feeling the sea breeze.

I have to work out four weeks at my old job but that will be interspersed with work in my new job. I’m so proud of myself for finding a way forward to do something that is meaningful for me and to find a way to regain what I thought I had lost: flexibility and freedom.

Today is the first day of the next chapter and I just had to write a blog post.

And life changes again

Who was I kidding? Working 9-5 in a suit and tie sitting behind a computer dealing as a lawyer is so not me. I have tried valiantly for the past four months but will be finishing up soon to return to a more flexible lifestyle at a slower pace suited to my carefree nature.

I have felt trapped in the pin striped prison and have been simply trying to make the most of what I thought I was supposed to do. But life is too short to lose what I had found. The freedom and joy of living a life where pleasure and presence were the focus. And I found myself changing into someone I don’t want to be. Someone who worried about the clothes they wear and the muscles that might be reflected back in the mirror at the gym. I found myself going out to eat dinner because I didn’t have time to cook. I started working at night and weekends because I had a duty to my clients – the powers that be do not look kindly upon lawyers who fail to be prepared for court or who cause delay in filing documents regardless of the pressure said lawyer is under.

So on Saturday I took a bold step and applied for some casual disability support worker jobs. Jobs I would have liked to apply for four months ago but for which I then lacked self-belief. On Wednesday I had an interview and was immediately offered a job. Yesterday I resigned from my job as a lawyer. I have to give four weeks notice but my boss and I are negotiating so that I can have flexibility in the second half of that period (because there is no law saying I have to work out my notice and I am not entitled to any substantial termination payment).

What do I hope this move will mean?

  1. Work I actually enjoy where I help people achieve their personal goals, feel comfortable and enjoy quality of life.
  2. Flexibility to work part-time, rather than being chained to a desk from 9-5 for 48 weeks of the year.
  3. Time to have adventures and micro adventures on sunny days between shifts rather than being cooped in the office.

Who knows, I might even start blogging again now that I won’t be tied to my computer at work all day exhausting my word limit. This might be especially true when I have some adventures like long days on foot, the bike or in the kayak.

These past four months have seen me miss being involved with disability support work, longing for fresh air and the weather on my skin, and frustrated at the lack of energy I have for Paul after a long commute and long day at work.

And so the journey to find the elusive 42 continues …