Weekend coffee share

If we were having coffee you’d notice I like my coffee in strong espresso form. Black. 2 cups. You’d see me drinking out of a bright red espresso cup, thick rimmed and sturdy, with a white interior. You’d be sitting with me in my new study area, me at my desk and you in the old velvet chair in the corner. You’d notice I’ve brought 2 house plants in there because the room is bright and light filled and you’d wonder whether I’ll remember to water them because I always forget and I’m near-famous for my black thumbs. 

We’d be talking about what’s going on in my life and I’d tell you about the disappointment I felt on Friday when I opened the rejection letter regarding my first-ever Post Doc application. I’d tell you how sad this rejection makes me and how that even though I knew it was an exciting project, well constructed and useful to the institution to which I applied, that the competition was always going to be fierce. And I’d tell you that while the assessment panel didn’t seem to have issues with the project itself my submission just wasn’t as good as other applications because my publication track record wasn’t strong enough and my project’s alignment with the Research Centre research areas wasn’t as close as other submissions. 

And if we were having coffee you’d notice I would be crying because I have no resilience in the face of failure. You’d be chiding me for my distress and telling me it’s just one rejection out of many to follow and that Post Docs are notoriously difficult to get. You’d be telling me to pull my socks up, suck it up and go for the next thing, and the next, and the next. You’d be telling me about all those people in their 40s who applied for hundreds of jobs before they succeeded. You’d be reminding me about the experience of my own supervisor who for three years unsuccessfully tried to get a Post Doc, until she got lucky.

You’d be telling me to become more competitive: get that book written; publish journal articles from my thesis, be more strategic. 

And I’d be inconsolable because I know that approach might be good for younger people; people in their late 20s and 30s. People who are hungrier than me, more desperate. Try telling that to a woman in her mid forties with time running out of employability because there are people younger and hungrier than me, and HR departments filled with people who’d prefer younger employees because ageing is an impediment to job creation. And I’d tell you the sad truth that without institutional affiliation any academic work I do will lack value. 

And I’d look at you trying to make you understand that it’s not even about that; it’s that I can’t cope with failure and that I don’t bounce back and that I don’t have reserves of resilience because I think I’m just a bit beaten by life. And that if I look at my life it’s characterised by me surviving, not thriving. That at every roadblock I’ve experienced in my life I’ve not found another way through: I’ve just given up. And if we were having coffee I’d tell you how I don’t know why I’m like this. But I’d tell you how in my childhood I was always the same. That I was terribly sensitive and would withdraw at the first sign of difficulty. That I would give up rather than try to finish something if it got hard. 

And I would cry again because I don’t want to feel so damned sensitive and skittish. I would recite to you the quote from LOTR, spoken by Galadriel as she refused Frodo’s offer of the Ring: “I will diminish, and go into the West”. I would tell you about the fear I have of diminishing. Of becoming useless and of losing value; of having no worth. And you would see the frustration I feel at not having hard ambition and the resilience to get back up, dust myself off and try again. You would wonder why I have such little self confidence that one little rejection can floor me. You would ask why I chose to enter a field-music-that is so competitive you need to have nerves of steel to succeed. 

I would tell you I don’t know. 

Reasons to hang out in my writing room

I’ve had a lovely week this week. No longer in a depressed and angry mind-frame, I’m feeling positive about life possibilities, some of which do not include any music or music teaching at all. I’m even investigating administration positions. Not that I have any experience in those but dammit I have a PhD! I’m sure I can construct letters for signing, organise a calendar, plan meetings and events, work on excel spreadsheets, field inquiries, chase errant paperwork, that sort of thing. Actually, I’m not sure I have any of those skills, but I reckon it would take me 2 months to learn all the ins and outs and 6 months to feel like I know what I’m doing.

I’m on holidays as of today – no teaching singing for 2 weeks, and there’s a conference trip to Hobart I’m looking forward to. I lived in Tasmania for a few years when I was a young woman, and I loved the people, climate and the artisanal lifestyle some Tassie residents followed.

I think some of my contentedness stems from finally having a room of our own right next to our bedroom. It makes such a difference to our outlook, and I get to look over the city through the lovely greenery of my neighbours’ gardens. Which are mostly shrubbery, but you get the picture:

writing room view

I can see right over to the city buildings, which when lit up at night are absolutely gorgeous. It’s bright and cheerful in the room, and slightly less noisy than my former workspace. A lovely room for most of the day, it only gets really hot in the afternoon as it’s due West. But in the morning: wow. What a great space to be. I’m actually wanting to write more and develop ideas in this space. Amazing how a small change to one’s environment can make such a difference to one’s outlook. We’ll see how I feel in the height of summer without an air-conditioning unit, when temperatures can daily hit 35 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity or more.

I’m applying for an entry-level lecturer position at my local uni – tenure track. I think I have Buckley’s chance of getting an interview (there’s an Australian colloquialism for you – it means I have no chance – but don’t ask me the etymology of the phrase as there are several possibilities), but I possess many of the attributes required for such a role and I believe that I am a decent contender for the position. Anyway, that’s 2 jobs I’m going for, including the post-doc. However, I’m in such a cheery mood at present I don’t really care if I don’t get the job because right now working sounds like a horrible idea. I just like hanging in my beautiful writing room (shared, better still, with DH, which is awesome because we like working together). I feel like I’m having my very own writing retreat here in my house. Now isn’t THAT a great thought!

Do you have a favourite workspace or creative space? A room to call your own?

Hoarder disorder. A tale of spring cleaning.

Folks, this is a rather long post about hoarder disorder and spring cleaning. Grab a cuppa.

I had a little brain snap over the weekend. I’ve been angstified about my stepson using as his bedroom the verandah space RIGHT NEXT to our bedroom, which is accessible from our bedroom via a set of ill-closing French doors, the only thing between us and computer games when he visits. It has been like this for 4 years, which is long enough in my opinion for a regime change. He’s now 17 years old, needing some privacy. He has also had to share his space with the Oh Jesus* room, a euphemism for the office space DH uses, which also serves as a storage area.

Sunday morning I woke up with the niggling feeling that THINGS NEEDED TO CHANGE. After I nagged gently suggested DH mow the lawn because forest, I started thinking. What if, instead of Waiting for Godot** we created our own dressing room and study right here, right now, in the West Wing? And that’s what we did. On the very weekend anniversary of our move to our house 4 years ago, DH and I changed some rooms around. It took more and less time than I expected. More time because OMG the crap, but less time because the crap could have been worse. Stepson has been moved into my old teaching space, rattly louvre windows and all. DH and I now share a study – WITH A VIEW – and we finally have a private dressing room/wardrobe in the west wing. Huzzah!

Our house is partially made up of uninsulated but enclosed verandahs (with linings and all, fully electrified – they’re not THAT crappy), and it’s there where the stepkids sleep and where our stuff goes. The verandahs are each 2.6 metres wide by 8/9 metres long, so they’re a useful space, if somewhat long and thin, with cracks between the floorboards. There’s an East Wing and a West Wing. Originally, stepson lived in the west wing while stepdaughter lived in the other bedroom. Then my youngest child moved north to live with us and we had to move everything around. We’ve been living in the house rather uncomfortably for 18 months now, and it’s awkward with three permanent adults and 2 visiting stepkids trying to squeeze into a small 3 bedroom house containing a teaching studio.

I taught singing in the east wing for three years, and it’s the detritus from this phase which is the saddest turning of the tide moment. There is no longer anywhere to put the music gear. I’ve been teaching at the local conservatoire for the year, and the study wasn’t being used. If I am still teaching singing in 2016 I will be hiring an external space. Anyway, the keyboard is now skulking in the space next to the bathroom, an entirely unsuitable spot for electronic equipment. But there’s nowhere else to put it. Also, as with all good music teachers, I have a raft of gifts from ex-students and my old pre-school teaching days. There’s certainly nowhere to put all THAT stuff. I’m talking about picture frames and fun music toys and music mugs and my rainbow flag, that sort of thing. I also have decorating items from my former selves. Little knick-knacks which are adding to my sense of desperate overcrowdedness.

Yes, folks. Time to admit it. I am a bit of a hoarder. Not the reality-TV kind. More the kind that would prefer a little more storage. Just a bit.

DH is always impressed when I do a clean out. He would much prefer to live with a lot less. I’m not untidy, but I do collect stuff. We have no real storage solutions in our hundred-year-old weatherboard home, with 2 households of stuff to make room for (and we have already gotten rid of SO MUCH JUNK). The things we buy for the house now tend to be storage solutions. New coat hangers or pantry containers, that sort of thing. Yesterday we bought a third portable wardrobe, one of those sturdy if industrial-looking chrome storage units. Very retro/trendy. DH can’t believe it. He finally has somewhere to hang his shirts and get his shoes off the floor. A moment of quiet jubilation for him.

DH gets antsy when I bring a new thing home. He asks me – only partly joking-: “what are you now going to throw out?” Looking at the STUFF, I finally see how he is feeling. It’s too much. I regularly clean out my closet, removing old, mouldy or long-unworn shoes and outfits that are out of fashion, tired or ill-fitting. I began this habit a few years ago, and I’m now trying to extend it to other areas in the house, but it’s hard. My worst hoarding habit, I think, is book buying. I rarely throw out old books, as I often re-read them. I’m looking at one of our bookcases as I write this. It’s double stacked. All of our bookcases are. We have 10 large free-standing bookcases, including one in the toilet. Each bookcase holds about 300 books. So we have about 3000 books, texts, academic books, magazines, recipe books, CDs, photo albums, and music books in our little house. No wonder DH is overwhelmed! I also buy art glass, pottery and porcelain things. Usually from overseas trips, they are almost always small, but where to store them? We have stacks of little decorative bowls in our kitchen cupboards, although I now throw out any old glassware and china that’s chipped.

Another of our equally serious problems is the paper trail dogging our heels. We have lots of the stuff. Every six months or so I have a bit of a clean up and manage to partially empty my in and out trays, but almost immediately they fill again. DH is the same. He can’t keep a clean desk at home (given that his desk is bright pink – an old pine desk from years ago that we painted for my stepdaughter, it could be worse), and nor can I. He collects playbills and concert programs and receipts and things. I collect bills and invoices and decorating magazines and receipts and things. I am a hoarder of old electronic equipment and pretty paper things. In my desk drawers are about 100 old computer wires. No idea of their purpose, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need most of them.

In the master bedroom I have a lot of cute little decorative boxes (many of them gifted to me) in which I put all my mostly cheap paste jewellery, which then sit on my tall boy making a visual mess. This stuff is horrible to keep clean and dusted. I even have a white and gold porcelain heart-shaped box WITH A BROKEN LID in which I put my single earrings and jewels THAT ARE BROKEN. Why?! (I just threw it out, with sorrow because it was a gift from my daughter from about 1998. It has been broken since 1998).

We went away for a holiday a while back and to ensure our housesitters felt comfortable sleeping in our bedroom I cleared out all of our bric-a-brac. I liked it so much when we returned I haven’t put it back. This includes my perfume bottles, jewellery boxes and decorative items – things from a former design look (girly romantic, if you must know). It’s getting annoying now, but I loved the streamlined look. It also made me realise I can live with much less than I thought. I’ve worn the same 2 bracelets for months, and rotated the same three pairs of earrings. I’ve worn the one perfume. Now I want to expand a little, but I can do this without the jewellery boxes that hold earrings I haven’t worn in 25 years. While I’ve been writing this post I’ve been quietly going through these old boxes, throwing out broken pieces and empty perfume bottles. I’ve popped all the earrings I’m never likely to wear again but are a reflection of my past in one of the boxes, which I’ve taped shut and stuck in the bottom of my tall boy. A memory of me. Not important to anyone but my grandchildren, perhaps.

Now, the master bedroom is looking roomy, clean and tidy, although long overdue for a dust. The dirty laundry basket has been removed to the “dressing room”, and an old comfy armchair has likewise moved into the west wing. DH’s shoes have gone from under the bed, and we removed the French doors from the doorway. I’ve cleaned out one of the Oh Jesus* boxes and the other is now full of unused picture frames, postcards and some scrap-booking things (scrap-booking: one of my little projects for when I have a project room. Why scrap booking? Because STATIONERY, folks. I have a thing for it).

The next area to tackle will be the paperwork, my desk drawers and the music stuff. I’m not looking forward to it. But already I feel so much better. And I’ve been writing this post from my new study area, which overlooks a view of the city and greenery from my neighbour’s garden. Beautiful.


*Oh Jesus rooms were labelled as such by my mother. They are rooms so full of crap that when you look inside the room, you think “Oh Jesus”, and close the door again. Not intended to be blasphemous.

**Waiting for Godot. Things that will never arrive. In our case, builders’ quotes and renovation commencement.



In which I explain my current propensity to be angry bored

I’m over the worst of my sads, I think, and am now quietly gearing up for the period of time I call “angry bored”. That is, I’m sick of mucking around on computer games and almost ready to hit the books again. When I say hit the books I mean in a figurative, not literal, sense. Although given “angry bored” you might be forgiven for thinking I do, literally, hit books. Tempted, for sure. 

I’m doing the usual job applications where possible. There’s a couple of Fellowships I missed out on applying for because angry-sad-procrastination-headspace so this current job crop is my last hope for the year I suspect. 

If I don’t hit the books then the house jobs will be next. I’m still waiting to hear from my builder about the little renovation but in the meantime there’s a second coat to put on the fence; I could paint the wooden valance with another undercoat then top-coat it; or I could prepare some spring gardening. Plenty to do, now that I’m getting angry bored. 

Knowing my rhythms as I do (not well, really, I’m still not all together present at the moment), I have to wait for my brain to take the brakes off and apply some acceleration. However I can feel the momentum building and the pressure mounting and I know I’m going to get shitty before long if I don’t start DOING something. 

My gym work is going well, back in a good rhythm, although this weekend was bad for food and sober September faded sadly into regret. I can feel my body and brain gearing up for working. Like a Jack-in-the-box, I’m pretty sure I’m going to charge out of my current funk into something much more dynamic. 

I’ve always been like this. Which is why I’m not worried about my behaviour of late. It WILL get better. 

In which I explain how I am on my way from A to B (A=misery, B=happiness)

Well, I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more. Sorry. Ear worm. But it’s kind of true.

I am determined not to feel shitful this week. Because crap weekend and all. Exercise makes me feel better. So today is my over-sharing post about exercise, food and that little demon called indulgence.

Now that I have all this free time I’m getting to the gym 3 times per week. I feel fantastic afterwards and not sore anymore. I hate going but my personal trainer (not too expensive, it’s only 30 mins a week) also takes hour-long group HIIT classes, and I like the way she trains. So I’m weighing myself once a week on a Saturday morning (ugh, hideous), and I am slowly beginning to lose the weight again. I’m dropping between 500gms (1 lb) and 900gms (2 lbs) per week which is normal for me. It’s slow, it’s boring, but I’m starting to feel strong again and wanting to push myself a bit more.

As the weather heats up I will add a couple of swim sessions to my week – they seem to help me drop weight quite fast and I never feel sweaty afterwards although I do feel deliciously tired, and the pool is essentially empty between 8.30 – 9.30am. And if I can make it to even one yoga session I will gain flexibility. So I am hoping my week will start to look like this:

Monday: cardio and weights, then swim.

Tuesday: Personal training session, then cardio

Wednesday: cardio and weights, then swim

Thursday: HIIT session

Friday: swim then Yoga?

Saturday: HIIT session

Sunday: are you kidding me?

At the moment cut out Monday and Wednesday and you have a clearer picture of my ACTUAL week. I know I’m wanting to exercise more because on Monday morning my body is telling me to get moving. I have to exercise in the morning because I hate the evening heat. Better get me moving early before I overthink it.

However, despite all my good exercise intentions, my diet is a little horrible. I’ve been trying to reduce my food intake from about 2000 cal to 1500 cal – which is a perfectly reasonable amount of food for someone who is weight training and also trying to reduce a dress size or two. This is not so easy. I’m getting very hangry (angry hungry) while my body adjusts to the new portion sizes and I’m not always able to contain my eaty moments. So last night, for example, I ate a cup of home-made macaroni cheese as well as 2 lamb chops and a salad. Plus 2 glasses of white wine (I know, what was I thinking?) and some licorice bullets. Now, one of the above has to go. I’m thinking I need to reduce my wine intake again. And maybe my licorice bullets. And perhaps the lovely delicious carbs. According to my diet diary I was 222 cals over for the day.

Most days I manage to keep it at 1500-1700 cals, but I might be cheating a bit on portion sizes. ANYWAY. Last week was woeful. I’m struggling to be as disciplined as I was the first time I lost all the weight. I think it’s because my last diet was very restrictive in terms of carbs and sugars. I can do it, but actually my diet needs to be sustainable in the long term. As I’ve mentioned before, I nearly always eat freshly prepared unprocessed food. My worst diet enemy is my DH, who has a sweet tooth and who can eat crap all day long. I need to be able to have dessert from time to time, or eat pasta, or have a glass (or 2) of red wine. But it’s SO hard to LOSE weight without restrictions. Easy enough to MAINTAIN as long as the exercise stays consistent.

So here is my plan to get from A to B, in the form of diet and exercise.

  • Let’s start with Sober September. Well, not quite because why? but I’m saying it here: I’m cutting down to 1 glass of wine a night! MAYBE I’ll even have a night off drinking altogether. I know! Amazing!
  • I’m reducing my carb intake to 1 meal a day. So if I have my delicious sourdough soy-lin bread in the am, no high GI carbs for the rest of the day. Including (sniffle) pasta.
  • I’m reducing my pasta and rice intake again (but I LOVE my pasta)!
  • I’m cutting out evil ice-cream dessert. Including chocolate bullets. Even when DH just brings them out and flings the packet all over the couch along with the Rocky Road and the chocolate bars. (EVERY FREAKING NIGHT).
  • What shall I add instead? Well, I’ll go back on the nuts and seeds for snack food, and there’s always oranges and apples and bananas and strawberries to enjoy if I need a sweet something.
  • I’m gonna do the exercise plan above and not shirk on the Monday and Wednesday.

I’m on my way from A to B. I’m determined.

In which I aim for good humour and bon vivant.

This week I am determined to remain cheerful and not be grumpy with the world. Today we are having our hot water unit replaced at a breathtaking price but I keep forgetting that the last time I priced hot water units was about 15 years ago. So there’s some inflationary cost there. Or so I keep telling myself as I grit my teeth for the bill. The guy is here now, and we should have hot water by the late afternoon.

On another positive note, an electrician came to look at our job today. Granted, it’s not a small job because we will need a new powerboard and general updating of our old electrical circuits, but we have a Queenslander. It’s all completely accessible under the house, very little stooping or crawling into cavities. And I had budgeted for it. We’re just doing stuff arse about, is all. Said electrician will send us a quote for the job later today and with luck might be able to do the job very soon.

On another positive note, I have decided on the light fitting for the dining room (which is in the same room as the kitchen). It’s this one:


Ok, it’s not exactly cheap. But I don’t want anything too engineered looking or busy. It’s perfect for our little dining room:


Ignore the lounge setting at the rear of the room – it’s no longer there. Our table is 2 metres long and the light fitting is 1 metre long, and is about right for a long room. So now I am going off to buy the light fitting and keep my fingers crossed that the electrician can start work ASAP on our stove. Because dammit I want to be HAPPY!

In which I generally bitch about stuff.

I have had enough of this weekend. Really, I have. Friday started well enough: I stayed at home to wait for our new fridges and stove, which arrived and are pretty. However, trades are thin on the ground at present and there’s no electrician available to install our new stove. So there’s a big dusty cardboard box on a crate in our kitchen. At least our stainless steel pigeon pair of fridge/freezers look good. Why pigeon pair? Because we can’t get a regular 4-door fridge through our front door. Anyway, the pair work well and make our kitchen look quite good: larger, actually. I had fun putting all the food in the new fridges and retiring the old white fridge, which although still functioning had lost most of its seals, the fridge light, and an important shelf which had been broken for years. Question is, do we replace the seals and the light and the shelf to give to one of the kids for when they move out or do we let it go to the whitegood repairman to resell? 

Friday evening I take the dog for a walk, prepare dinner for the kids (adult children, mostly), and head out to a fabulous new show by a local modern dance company. All’s well: the hubby and I skip out on the post-show function speeches and are having a great chat in the car, to be continued, when I discover the cat has peed on our bed. On our doona. And on some of my clothes I had heaped on there to hang up after arriving home. I lose it with the cat. She is becoming senile and doing this on a regular basis now. She is flung outside for the foreseeable future. I am furious and turn on DH, because I’m just generally shitty. He’s not well and turns on me. We scrabble around to find clean sheets but there’s no other queen bed doonas about so shiver throughout the night under a single sheet and an old blanket (normally in a sub tropical climate this would not be an issue but it’s still winter here and nights get cold). 

Saturday arrives. I awake in a filthy mood. I head to the gym where I work out my frustration with a good dose of HIIT. It’s helping me lose weight and yes, 1 kilo down since the previous week. I feel better. I go home, make myself a delicious cooked breakfast and not one hour later the hot water unit blows up. On a Saturday. And I haven’t had my shower yet. For the second time this weekend I lose it. We can’t get someone to replace the unit until Monday. So no hot water for our showers or kitchen taps. 

At this point I give up on the whole house renovation thing because the house is now falling down round our ears and there’s no joy in sight. I can’t get a builder to come round and do any work for us, there are no trades, and why oh why does the hot water cistern have to explode now? Hubby takes over. I’m done. Done with the whole shebang. I’m sick of not being able to close our bedroom properly (3 sets of doors into our bedroom, 2 being French doors with no handles so the dog just pushes them open and there’s also no privacy), I’m sick of wanting a simple thing like asking builders to come and renovate our house and not having ANY luck. 

I have a cold shower and we head out to look at some stunning houses recently up for sale and very beautiful and well beyond our meagre budget but with 5 bedrooms and 3 living areas and pools. We covet, enviously. We drop the doona off to be cleaned and buy some pee-deodoriser. The children have disappeared to friends’ houses, so hubby and I retire hurt to watch some Netflix and eat comfort food. It’s going well until we get the evil circle of lag. No more Netflix: no more streaming TV because stupid poor service from our and all Internet providers in Australia.

So you can see why I’m shitty today. I hate this weekend. And the cat keeps whining at the back door. 

And later I have to go to a concert. I think I’ll bail on this one. I’m too shitty to converse with anyone. Let this horrid weekend be over.

So I go see a counsellor and…

Ok. Trying not to feel hugely contemptuous of the very nice lady I just saw to help try and get my depression under control. 

It’s a problem when you’re so highly educated in various psychology concepts that everything the poor woman suggests I’ve already done. I’m exercising, eating well, not drinking too much, my sleep is ok and I’m not worried about it, I’m preparing job and post doc proposals. I’m being active and proactive, not reactive. 

She’s going to try CBT with me. How about she get me a job? That will make me feel better. Not some bullshit psychology approach that is actually not designed for people like me. 

When I say people like me I’m referring to those who actually engage in reflective thinking on a day-to-day basis. I’m in an existential malaise here, made worse by boredom and lack of intellectual stimulus. I’m not sure she understands what that is. 

I need someone smarter than me. 


Today I am sad.

Some might call it depression.

I am underemployed and I wonder if I am employable in the long term.

I looked at my Post Doc application again today. It’s very good. I’ve no idea about whether it will get up.

I’m applying for a job on the other side of the country. I’ve no idea whether I will be considered for the role.

I was awarded a teaching commendation for a job I’ve chosen to leave. I received the letter of congratulation yesterday.

I feel guilty for feeling sad. I have so much. So why do I feel so unfulfilled?