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:

w14_south-hampton

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:

IMG_0338

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. 

Sadness

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?

 

Whoops. Well, that was quick.

I quit my job on Friday. It’s a casual singing teacher job at the local university which pays by the hour. It’s well paid but without any entitlements such as sick leave. I was due to work 120 hours this semester which is a substantial amount of money for what amounts to 3 full-time weeks worth of work. Problem was, a student decided they wanted to quit mid-year and learn from someone else, and then I was informed my pay scale was being reduced by $24 an hour. The combination of those two events tipped me over the edge. They were the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I have been struggling with teaching for a while now. I am not a vocational educator. That is, I went into teaching because it was convenient. Teaching allowed me to take school holidays with my kids, it stopped me from being really poor and it was a stopgap between what I really wanted to do and poverty. As a performing artist, teaching is a valuable means of support between gigs. Paid by the hour, it’s quite lucrative. Divided by the year it’s not, but my work is specialised. 

I’m a good teacher. But I’m not a natural one. I’ve had to work hard to be competent because it’s a draining and exhausting occupation for an introvert. I give a lot of myself. The relationship between singer and teacher is pretty intense because of the complex interchange of embodied instrument and soul urge and sense of self. So when a student decides they want to change teachers it’s heartbreaking. There’s a lot of trust that goes into the relationship. Last week that trust was broken by this student, 3 days before the start of semester. 

Now, in my private practice I don’t give a rats if students want to leave. We’re performing a transaction here and it’s a negotiated one with a financial basis. They come and go and I don’t mind. They originally chose to approach me and I agreed to teach them. That’s fine. I have the authority and responsibility to control and conduct my business as I see fit. You’re only bound by the length of the invoice. So if students choose to stay it’s a positive affirmation of your worth. At the same time, I can choose to cease teaching a student if they’re not up to scratch. 

But in my tertiary position I wasn’t able to select the students.  So when they wanted to shift teachers I had no recourse. It’s a finite pool of students and I couldn’t just fill the space with another student. When you take on a tertiary student you are basically taking them on for 3 years. It’s a long term arrangement. Therefore you plan their education accordingly, and you can only trust that they will accept this long term planning. It’s also about sustaining a positive relationship with the student over this time. So when a student quits, it feels like you’re being told you’re not worth the investment. That’s heartbreaking. 

I’ve had a few moments like this in the last 6 months, and it has been getting to me. Last week I was given a teaching commendation by the university. Awarded every year to the top 3% of teachers across the university (that’s about 60 teachers, so guess the size of our academic staff), it’s based on our student evaluations of our teaching. Students have said they like me. It’s now proven. But if one rejection can send me in a tailspin it’s time to reevaluate my priorities. 

I felt like I was the teacher students wanted to switch from. It became a trickle I couldn’t control and it was impacting on my mental health. Combine this drop in self esteem with a kick-in-the-teeth pay reduction 3 days before the start of semester and I was done. No loyalty to their staff? I felt no loyalty to the university after these events. Luckily as a casual staff member without a contract or entitlements all I needed to do was give an hour’s notice of intent to quit. 

What about your other students, I hear you ask. What about leaving the department in the lurch? Actually, loyalty to the department is only as good as the treatment of its staff. I was not being treated kindly or well. As for the students: I’ll miss them. But I had stopped trusting them. I never knew which of my students would decide to up and leave my studio. Every semester I would hold my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. The anxiety was too much. And too painful. Because as a teacher you love your students very much. You want the best for them and you give them every opportunity to achieve their goals. But if every semester you wonder if you’re going to be dumped you start to protect yourself emotionally and this is not a good place from which to be teaching. It burns you out.

On top of this was my desire to do something that filled my soul’s urge. I’ve finished my PhD. I have the floppy hat picture and the testamur and the conferral letter. What now?

Well, it was time to give myself a push. Take a risk. Take a leap into the unknown. Challenge myself and stop using teaching as my safety blanket. 

I have a book proposal to write. I have jobs to apply for. I have a house to renovate and children to care for. I have a supportive, loving husband whose salary can support us for a little while on one income, and I have some new directions to find. I have a mid life crisis to manage! 

Time for a change. 

I bin gon’ fer a bit

Went overseas, didn’t take a computer and I really hate typing on my phone, so no blog post for ages. Sorry, not sorry. Actually, I AM a little sorry I didn’t blog while away. So much interesting, good stuff happened and I really wanted to write about it but my fat fingers don’t work on mini screen and my eyesight is getting worse. So I gave up and played computer games instead because that’s what you do when you’re in Europe having a lazy holiday in the south of France and northern Spain.

I had a family holiday in the north of Spain and the south of France. For more than 3 weeks. Do I feel lucky? Hell, yes. Am I tired now? Hell, yes. On arriving home Tuesday morning at 1.30am after 30 hours in transit we rolled into bed at about 2am (get this, we put ALL our stuff away, unpacked our bags, made the bed with fresh linen, played with the dog, because our house looked so clean and gorgeous we wanted our stuff not to get in the way and make us feel bad in the morning. Who does that? WTF?). I slept through to about 1.00pm, so caught up on all my missed sleep during the flight, then went and taught yesterday because I was at my most awake between 4pm and 10pm.

Living in Australia is great, right, but OMG the travel. I hate flying economy to and from anywhere other than south east Asia. I finally worked out what it is, apart from the cramped seating and no lying down. It’s the chairs. They are so high off the floor that I have no purchase for my feet. Consequently my feet swell and I get cramps from trying to literally hold myself in the chair. For much of the flight I sat bolt upright, too, because I have a bad back from driving for 3 days solid. I stick a damn pillow in the small of my back and I must look really dumb but it’s the only way I don’t feel utterly crap. Oh well, first world problems, as they (trolls) say.

Now, of course, I was unable to sleep much last night because jet lag, so I’m in bed about to attempt some more shut eye before I teach this afternoon.

So, in some nice news, my article was published, huzzah – http://rsm.sagepub.com/content/37/1/123.full.pdf+html

Not much other news to report other than I had inquiries from four prospective singing students, which is good because I need the money to pay off the debts from the holiday.

And the holiday? Well, I was in the south of France and northern Spain. You figure it out. ;)

Submission feels good, m’kay?

Hah! Got you there. You thought it was a BDSM site. Nah, I’m not into that kind of submission. Ew. Each to their own. Aaaanyhoo.

I submitted my Post Doc application today. The first of many, probably. But I got it signed off by my Research Centre Director, so that’s just the first step of joy in a long, long, long process that will probably be ultimately unsuccessful. And it’s the first independent study I’ve had an idea about since I had the aha moment to begin the PhD.

Why would I want to do any more study, my mother asks. Well, mum, I say, vaguely annoyed that she thinks that research is about studying when clearly to her I’ve been a “doing” person all my life (singing, teaching, NOT studying or writing down stuff or learning stuff). Um. Because I like learning about stuff, mum? And it’s an interesting job?

Now get this. My sister (Australian Indigenous Rights lawyer) has been “studying” her whole adult life, because most of her work is doing stuff like looking up stuff and writing down stuff and that sort of thing, reports and such. She is also undertaking PhD studies (submitting hers 7 months after I submitted mine), and she just got a great new job at uni. Blessed mum has not said anything remotely like this about my sister’s new job at the university, which is also about research and teaching. And studying.

SIGH. Apparently being a teacher and singer means I don’t write down a thing. Um. Yes I do. It’s kind of amusing to wonder what my mum and dad think my job actually is. I co-edited a book with DH about teaching singing. My name was on the cover. I sent a photo of me holding my book pointing to my name. On the cover. My mum and dad thought my DH had written the book ON HIS OWN. Even though my NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my mum and dad to bits, they are awesome, generous, kind, thoughtful, lovely people. They are sending me and the fam to France to spend 2 weeks together in a CHATEAU. They paid for the plane tickets. They lent me a lot of money to buy our house. They are AWESOME. But moments like that give me pause. I mean, c’mon! My NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Anyway. Life is pretty good, actually, proofs have come for my journal article which I have to complete by this week because Spain, and my students all seem to think I’m ok. Which is good, I guess.

But I want that Post Doc. I really, really do.

Gigs! I got gigs! And happy/sad today.

Well, just as my life takes a turgid turn for the boring, a great thing happens: I start getting gigs! Not very frequent at the moment, but they are good for me as they pay for stuff and I get to have fun on stage with a bunch of great folk. This is important for a singing teacher, that my own performing legitimises my teaching practice. My gigs are seminars about happiness – I’m blessed to have some lovely people who think I can actually sing and perform, who have asked me to do this stuff with them.

And for the first-ever time I went to the physio today because I have a super sore shoulder muscle. Its from doing lots of piano playing and computer sitting – I’m doing some crap things to my alignment that affect my neck, which then affects my back – mostly sitting down for too long and for too many years while teaching singing. I’ve been strapped up to make me keep squeezing my shoulder blades together. I’m tired already. I really hate chronic pain, and my back injury is in no way a spinal or bone-based condition, it’s muscular and can totally be fixed through exercise. Meaning I have to go to the gym and work out a truck load so that I don’t feel all muscle-achy. I want a massage. Oh, the pleasures of ageing. Not.

On the dark side, my DH’s mother has taken a turn for the worse. She’s 87 and in frail health – has been for years. On Saturday night she had a fall (as you do at 87), and then a stroke. It’s relatively minor, but at 87 even a minor stroke can mean catastrophic events. We’re waiting with bated breath to find out the outcome. Meanwhile I’m in all kinds of grief because a stroke was what finally took my beloved Granny Moose at age 89. I know the outcomes of these things. I’m hoping my MIL recovers well enough to make it to Christmas but there are no guarantees. And I grieve for her husband, who has lovingly looked after his wife for more than forty years of ill health. He was distressed and sad and even though at age 87 he knows the end is inevitable, the shock of the stroke has surprised even him. I’m particularly fond of my FIL, and I worry for his health and happiness as his wife slowly declines.

So happy/sad today. But at least I’m writing my Post Doc properly now.