The World, At Arm’s-Length

I settle carefully back into the reasonably comfortable, but not quite cuddly armchair. I gaze upward, out the window. Through the thin white veil of venetian blinds, I see a broken, horizontally pixelated view of a beautiful blue sky with billowing clouds gathering in the west. The tops of the gumtrees are still. Every now and then they sway a little, just to remind me this is not a photograph.

It looks warm outside. I think it looks warm. My climate controlled environment tends to mask the reality.

An unexpected visit to hospital has given me yet another perspective on this COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are in full lockdown, that means absolutely no visitors at all. And while I am not well enough to go outside, my only connection to humanity is the doctors, nurses and hospital support staff.

In “ordinary” times, this world at arm’s-length was still within reach when family and friends were allowed in. When flowers and care packages were easily delivered. When a familiar face could say, yes it is beautiful and warm outside, in spite of the air-conditioned chill within my four small walls.

I am very fortunate to have a bed near a large window. Even with the blinds, I can enjoy watching as the day begins. The sky brightens from a star studded ink black through charcoal into the grey blue of dawn. The bright azure of midday bordered along the base with the grey-green of eucalyptus leaves warms into a glaringly bright rectangle as the afternoon sun stares fiercely through the glass, eventually fading into a golden glow as it dips below the horizon, backlighting the trees as the shadows march across my room to finally envelope the world outside once again in the comfort of a sparkling night sky.

I never thought I would appreciate quite so much, the world at arm’s-length.

Return to Work – Forget Fear and Trepidation… Blow Your Own Trumpet!

I’m trying to think of how to put into words the feelings that bubble to the surface when I sit and contemplate putting myself out there. I have not had to present an official resumé for about fifteen years! Before that, I have only ever really written a handful of cover letters to accompany my resumé. I’ve been very lucky in my working life.

In front of me is a blank piece of paper with a pen resting on it. Beside that sits a rich warm caramel coloured coffee to encourage motivation. I’m hoping the peaceful background of garden sounds will inspire me to write great things about myself. For that is what is required in this competitive era of jobhunting.

An inspirational environment

How do I make myself stand out from the crowd? Most of us are really happy to be a part of the crowd. Few of us ever think of standing up in front of the crowd. Those feelings of trepidation – of stage fright – are what start to churn my stomach as I think about making the phone calls, sending the emails and walking in business doorways in the hope someone will see me as standing out from the crowd – the crowd of so many qualified others trying to find gainful employment in the same places that I am.

Am I worthy? Am I good enough? Am I better than the person standing behind me? Can I really put my money where my mouth is?! So many more uncertain and self-sabotaging questions lurk in the back of my mind, driven by the fear of rejection and failure.

I take a deep breath and inhale the sweet scented garden air. I sip on my quickly cooling coffee, roughly shove those dark thoughts back in their box, and put pen to paper.

It is not so much about forgetting to be humble, but learning to be confident.

As a friend so aptly commented when I spoke with her the other day, ‘we are all encouraged to grow up to be humble about our achievements, skills and qualities, and yet what we really need to do, is learn to blow our own trumpets!’

What are your uncertainties? How are you feeling as you step out to join the new army of job seekers? How do you steel yourself, and bolster your confidence?

Recharge Your Batteries

I have been running around like a crazy person all morning – four appointments in four different locations by 10 am… I need my coffee!

I breathe

I stop. I sit. I gaze upward. I breathe in slowly, inhaling the exquisite scent of the flowering Murraya (Mock Orange) trees. Bees dance lightly from one bloom to the next, hesitating now and then to tango with one of their workmates. I am sure they must be intoxicated by the heady perfume that attracts them to these delicate creamy white blossoms. The deep green of the leaves is a striking contrast to the intense azure blue of the sky. I know the calendar has not officiated the change of season, but nature is truly heralding spring this morning. The gentle contented twitter of the birds above my head, the warm sunshine against my back and a soft breeze meandering through the foliage every now and then whispers quietly that Springtime is very near.

The adrenaline that I have been running on this morning is dissipating, being replaced with a sense of calm. Although I am feeling very peaceful, I am reminded by the hum of traffic in the distance – punctuated by the growling of large machinery nearer by – that the chaos of regular life is not too far away.

I know that being able to appreciate these few moments will equip me to take the plunge and dive back into everyday busyness.

My morning coffee musing… Recharging the batteries of our very real lives.

Why don’t you take a moment to tell me how you manage to recharge your batteries. What is your “time out“? Where is your peaceful place?

Just Play!

Ironically, as I compose this piece on my device, I am about to say “put down your devices“…

I have been reminded these last couple of days how important good old-fashioned outdoor playing is for children (of all ages). My children got to run around like crazy kids in the backyard with some friends they had not all seen together for almost seven years – but they laughed, and ran, and jumped, and played like it was just yesterday. No devices, no schoolyard politics, just some fresh air and a good patch of lawn.

Peals of laughter and squeals of excitement were the backdrop to relaxed adult conversation. I was reminded of my own childhood where we would get together with other families (long before the era of smart devices) and children would be children, while adults chatted around the table. I remember feeling happy, safe and secure with not a care in the world. I think and hope that is how all the children would have felt last night as they climbed – justifiably exhausted – into their beds after a “busy” day.

Good morning sunshine!

This morning when I awoke, I was greeted with warm sunshine tempered by a cool breeze. A few charcoal tinged puffy white clouds floated through the sky… The perfect day to be out and about. Fortified by the warmth of my morning coffee, I am inspired to take my boys to a nearby beach for a spot of fun fishing. Why not take advantage of the opportunity for more outdoor play when it presents itself? Not only is it good for the kids, but a breath of fresh air with warm sun on my back, soft white sand in front with gentle waves lapping the shoreline can’t be anything but a good thing for me too.

Organisation, Flexibility and Resilience

As I sit down to drink my coffee and muse for a moment, the breeze has dropped, a light smattering of clouds white wash the sky just enough to allow the sun‘s rays to penetrate through and warm my back, as the traffic hums in the distance and the birds make music in the treetops around me. After a rather hectic start to the day, I feel a sense of peace creeping in… This is my “me“ moment.

My “me” moment.

Sometimes, no matter how organised we might be, plans don’t always go as expected. My morning has not gone to plan, but with some good communication and a little flexibility, I will get back on track.

During my life, I have participated in numerous courses addressing the issue of time management. As my friends and family all know (and will probably chuckle as they read this), it is a constant struggle for me, but thanks to the necessities of parenthood and finally some of that life experience kicking in, I feel I am making headway in this area. For those of us who tend to be perfectionists and people-pleasers, time management becomes a never ending battle.

A diary will always be an organised person‘s best friend, and now thanks to the age of technology, we not only have the old-fashioned paper style available to us, but countless digital versions are at our fingertips – literally – on our smart devices. It is so easy to make use of them and to schedule “on the run“. We can even share our appointments on a “need to know“ basis at the touch of a button. These days, I would be totally lost without my iPhone calendar. My life is virtually mapped out on that device. I am not completely sure I like that fact, but nevertheless it makes my days run more smoothly, and my tasks more likely to be completed.

Ironically, I am trying to pass on this wisdom as our children progress into high school. They have so much more to remember now – more information, more responsibility, more independent activities, and definitely more homework… How do I impress upon them, given my historic disorganisation, the importance of a diary to ensure the smooth-running of their days?

A last-minute rescheduling of appointments has slightly rearranged our day, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a good thing – learning how to “roll with the punches“ can contribute to resilience – a quality becoming increasingly valuable in our world right now.

What are your tips for getting organised?

Life Is A Delicate Balancing Act

The damp chill of a few rainy days gives way to the comforting warmth of the sunshine as it breaks through the heavy cloud cover, burning it off to bring in a clear sunny, freshly washed afternoon. My coffee offers soothing warmth from within as the bright light radiates surprising heat upon my skin.

Upward the sky becomes more blue than grey. The breeze jostles the last few clouds upon their way across the horizon while rustling the treetops in a dance of appreciation – both for the life-giving rain, and now the clearer sunny weather. The garden around me is almost an iridescent green punctuated by a rainbow myriad of flowers… not a still life painting, but rather an idyllic real life backdrop to soften the less than idyllic realities of our every day.

Trying to juggle a home and work life. Trying to prioritise between family and money. Trying to find a way of managing that limbo between the end of the school day, and the end of an average work day.

To those parents who successfully manage that difficult time of day, I take my hat off to you. Quite often the cost of that after-school care can negate the cost of working longer hours, but not utilising that option can also – understandably – cost your employment.

Now that I’ve made that statement, I think I’ve clarified my own solution… this global pandemic of COVID-19 has forced upon us an unprecedented situation in which we are being forced to re-evaluate, juggle and re-balance our entire lives. Some income is better than no income in a time where one might easily become the other.

Staying Positive

This morning the sky is a watery blue. White washed by clouds that can’t decide whether it will be a sunny or gloomy day. The breeze that jostles the treetops has a slight chill to it – a promise of bleaker weather, forecast to be coming. I really hoped to wake to a brilliant blue sky and warm sunshine today, but that was not to be… My mood feels a little like the weather – not quite sure which way to go – bright or bleak.

Recently, our whole lives seem to be teetering in the balance… We hope for a brighter future. We hope for this pandemic to abate, but the news isn’t so great as we hear of communities struggling with a second wave of infection. Just as restrictions are easing in some places and people are getting back to work, economies struggle to support themselves and the hopeful jobseekers within them.

Hope – such an important human quality. Hope is what allows us to find that positivity. Hope is what drives us to find a vaccine for COVID-19. Hope that the health guidelines will improve the situation. Hope is what motivates most of us to abide by social restrictions. Hope for a brighter future.

Hope gives us the power to stay positive. As I finish my few moments of musing, the breeze has dropped a little and the sun has peeked through those wispy clouds. I remain hopeful for a brighter day, and a brighter future.

How are you feeling today?

Stay safe and stay positive.

Cheers to a brighter future!

Returning to Work

Today, I contemplate my future. Maybe you are contemplating yours…

Looking forward…

Many of us take a break from our regular work or career for a myriad of reasons. Maybe before further studies, you have taken a “gap year“. Perhaps a young mother returning to work after maternity leave. Perhaps an older parent returning to work after spending time at home as the primary carer for young children. Maybe you’ve taken a sabbatical – some extended leave – from your regular employment and are now returning to a new environment or even considering a career change. Or as is the case with so many now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps as restrictions ease, you are looking for a new job – any job!

I find myself fitting into a few categories. I am an older parent returning to work as my young children are now well ensconced in school life. In fact, I am older than many parents of children in primary (or elementary) school, so I am also in the group who may have taken extended leave from their usual career. And thanks to COVID-19 and it’s effect on the world economy, I am now searching for employment (and an income) that will fit into my current lifestyle, requiring flexibility and restricted hours.

I am discovering a whole new world of jobseeking sites. I am so pleased to see agencies actively marketing job opportunities for people returning to work and looking for a balance with business and personal life.

One of a number of options – working from home – allows the flexibility to look after family, and in the current world situation, the ability to continue working without as much interruption as for those in a more face-to-face and physical industry. A great thing – not only for our own financial well-being, but for our economy.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, then I will be happy to update you from time to time over a “morning coffee musing”, if you like, on the resources and opportunities that I find.

Physical Distancing versus Social Distancing

It’s funny, as I chatted with a friend this morning, we talked about “social distancing” and its effects on COVID-19, ourselves, our families and friends, our colleagues and the general population.

We are really being asked to physically distance, because there are many other ways we express ourselves socially these days. Social contact is not limited to physical situations. Social (and related) media play a huge part – especially for younger people – in the way we interact. Yet, as the human species, physical social interaction is so important to who we are and our mental well-being.

We are rediscovering the importance and strength of family and social groups. Physical restrictions brought upon us by the pandemic have made us acutely aware of the value of those family members and friends we can no longer hug or comfort. Those who live alone have become truly isolated from our basic human need for physical contact.

Thankfully, we are now able to socialise on a “virtual“ level. These unprecedented times have encouraged individual families – whose members through busy lives – had become almost strangers at times, to reconnect. Facebook groups and the like have helped bring us together in ways that were never before possible. I am able to share everyday news with my whole family at one time… Not quite, but almost like being around the table together.

I know that we will have to learn to live with COVID-19 and all the lifestyle complications and restrictions that come with it. I am thankful for today’s technology – that it allows us to connect socially and visually with those we care about – but I so very much look forward to the day when we can again embrace those people with our arms as well.

A Misty Morning Musing

Barely a breath of breeze. Barely a ripple on the water. As I gaze outward the only sounds that break the peaceful silence are the rhythmic dripping of dew from the rooftop onto the awning below and the haunting call of a water bird echoing through the passage. The rising sun is burning off the mist as it drifts lazily along the surface.

I feel my spirit lifting. All thoughts of what hasn’t been done, what needs to be done, what should be done, dissipate along with the mist.

A few days away reconnecting with old friends. Children building sandcastles on the beach, playing with total abandon. Finding some yabbies and baiting a hook in the hope of catching dinner for the family. Playing games together around the dinner table and easy conversation until late in the evening.

I was reminded of a recent “getaway“ we had at home, also catching up with old friends. An impromptu “sleepover”, children laughing, adults chatting, followed the next morning by a lazy breakfast.

We were lucky enough to leave our regular reality for this idyllic place, but I realised as I sat and sipped my morning coffee that although the change of location was a bonus, the “human ingredients” were what made the perfect recipe for a perfect getaway.