Sunday, February 17, 2008

Selling the Family Home

mmmm .... selling the family home is a wierd thing. The house is on the market and at one level I so want it all over with. But another I really don't want the house to go - its been the "base" I have known for many years and that will be no more. In many ways it's the final confirmation of mum's death - sounds funny, but in some ways that is some of what she was / offered; that base.

It will be nice to all be finished but it is a process of grief as well as celebration as well as "it just is" along the way.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


During Lent this year I am reducing/not drinking caffeinated coffee. I dropped down from my usual three cups of coffee a day to two for the first week - no real deal. As of Thursday, I've been down to one - now that's been a bigger deal but not in the way I would expect. On Thursday, I realised that I had just drunk my one coffee for the day as I finished the coffee. Today was a crazy day which involved being up early to do work for a 9am meeting. I had my first coffee at 7am. When I was in a cafe for my meeting it didn't occur to me in the slightest that I was doing anything strange ordering my normal coffee. In fact it took me until about 1pm to realise that I'd just had two coffees. I was not stressed about it - but it lead me on some interesting journeys of thoughts - how easy do we fall into things which we choose not to do/how easy is it to not live the life we have chosen and lots of other thoughts. The process of choosing to give up caffeinated coffee for Lent has been as interesting as anything else - the "decision" just happening "in" me. It's like it was something I "just knew" to do. And it isn't so much about what I'm giving up on this occasion nor even about not depending on something - it's much more about choosing life and choosing to remove something from my life that is not good for me. It's also been interesting that just as strongly as my decision to not have caffeinated coffee, was my decision to keep having decaf - the rituals of coffee in my life are ones I love and think are very healthy, so I've kept the healthy aspect and am choosing against the unhealthy. It's with all that in mind I read this post from Maggi Dawn about Lent - words which I've read before but are much more poignant right now as God does significant work in me around relaxing in him and in myself being human and as God calls me away from the idol that self-improvement has been in my life and continues to call me and lead me more into a life that is lived and on about his kingdom - now that's a life worth living.

It's a common misconception that Lent is about self-improvement. Somehow a
half-remembered custom of giving things up has been mixed in with our society's
obsession with self-help and self-improvement, so that we've blurred the true
meaning of the fast into a rather individualistic concept, more like a New Year
Resolution to detox or de-clutter.
Lent is not about giving up luxuries, not about losing weight or gaining other benefits, not about food per se, not about de-cluttering or Feng Shui or about any other kind of feel-good, de-toxifying exercise. In the end, it's about denying yourself some of the essentials of everyday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-aligning ourselves with God and his purposes in our world;
about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any
And neither is Lent about achievement. We cannot earn God's love, nor
save ourselves. If our Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the
need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and
unshakeable knowledge that we are human - we are but dust, and to dust we shall
return - but that to be human is enough, under the loving gaze of God.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nourished by those around me

I've been really conscious recently just how thankful I am for the people around me. It's not so much "wow I have unreal friends around" - although that I do :) It's been more the sense of who is around me (in terms of the character of those people) and the things that they give themselves to and the impact on me of that. I am nourished by them.

Some of the times I've been conscious of recently:

- an amazing conversation over lunch with 3 other Solace people: real, deep, able to challenge, most excellent. I came away from that conversation refreshed in a way I rarely experience. I've thought long and hard aboutwhat made it what it was - and I do believe that largely it was the character and longings for real conversation of the 4 of us around that table.

- the loving to engage with the Bible and respond to it of the people who are part of our 5pm time at Fairfield SPACE

- a friend who last night in the midst of me stating how life is and some struggles doesn't particularly comment on those but speaks hugely of the character that the wrestle I was talking about in me shows and how much she loves that character. Man, that's the best thing she could have done to nourish that character in me.

- a friend who gave the day yesterday to do a range of tasks off my to do list

- an ex boss who as she was signing me up for my library card to return to study made sure she asked about how the process of grief had been and about where we were up to in selling the house

- the joy and embracing of life of the 2 yr old twins I am friends with

- a friend who is wrestling with what it means to be a presence of life in her local community and speaking with me about it ... it continues to challenge me at every turn about what the things we are talking about mean for my life - all very well to be able to help someone journey with it (which is important) but it's excellent that as I do that it calls me to evaluate how I am living too

That's just a smattering of the occasions that nourish me - for which I'm thankful.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

House is on the market

So the family home is having an open for inspection for the first time today. It's wierd being able to look up your family home on the internet and see it listed amongst the other properties for sale. It's an empty house now, clean and with the garden done - now just a few things in the cupboard and a few things left in the garage for dad and I to deal with. The Auction is in 4 weeks (presuming we don't sell beforehand). In so many ways, it's the end of an era. Even though mum and dad were separated for 10 years and in a sense I left home at 13 (when I went to boarding school) and all sorts of other things - there really has been a strong family unit sense in many ways. It's bizarre but the actual selling of the family home is in many ways for me the end of that family unit. Mum's death was, but in so many ways this is more so for me. It really is a symbol of the family unit as such being finished. There continues to be dad and I - and my commitment to him is higher than ever - however, there is a sense in which that is two adults who are profoundly connected, rather than in the sense of a family unit - it's hard to put this stuff into words often.

However I word it - something profound is ending for me in the selling of this house. It's not selling mum's house, it's selling our house and in the selling of "our" house, "our" is no longer. It's not a bad thing - in fact I think quite good and healthy, however, real and as an ending, grief is involved. We have owned this house for 20 years - of those years I personally only lived in it for 5 years and even then in much of that time I was hardly there (while I was at uni I spent much time at friends houses). However, those 5 years were over 3 different times of living there and for 16 of those years at least mum has lived there. Also, much of my stuff has been in and out of there numerous times and it's only now over recent months that my last stuff has left the house. There is a sense in which it has still been "my" house and that will end with the sale and subsequent settlement.

"Our" family homes have always been important to me and apart from this one there is only one which I can in any way get to in any normal way - and that's the one from the first 3 years of my life in Richmond NSW - it is still there (or was last time I visited it and the street anyway!). However, the base family home from my primary school years has units on the property now (Westmead, NSW) and our two houses 2 doors apart on Groote Eylandt are a little hard to get to on a regular basis (although I do plan to go there this year).

There is a sense in which this is all the end of "our" family unit. Profound, real, grief-filled yet good, freeing and a real ability to move on all mixed together.

It just is

Had a lovely day yesterday - driving down to Anglesea with a friend. We had lunch in one of my all time favourite cafe's just on the other side of Anglesea.

It was a day of wide ranging mostly unfocused conversation - lovely and relaxing. One of the things that came up only really in passing a couple of times was me being an only child. It came up in connection to me being a CODA and it also came up in connection with mum's estate and the dealing with that.

As I think about it - I can't actually conceptualise what it would be like to have siblings, it's just not the way my life has worked. Really at quite a deep and fundamental level, I'm not sure if I can really picture a family with more than one child - that is all I have known in my own direct experience. For me, nuclear family equals parents and one child. I know other things in my head but the more I think about it, the more I realise how much my mental picture of "family" comes from my own direct experience.

And, as always, I'm aware how much my being an only child shapes who I am - in ways that I'm aware of and in ways that go way beyond what I am conscious of. I can't imagine sharing the journey of what life has and is in my family with another person - it's just not how life has ever been, or ever will be. Am I sad about that? Not really. It's more a realisation that the concept of a sibling is really a foreign concept.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The experience of being a CODA - isolating and unheard

I don't talk about it very much - but I am very aware that being a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) impacts me greatly. A discussion today about how I learnt to speak - sent me into a self-reflective mood around my life as a CODA tonight. Often CODA's feel isolated. However, I think the thing that I find hardest is being a CODA of deaf parents who don't sign. It really feels like the world that I "belong" to is very small - I'm not part of the deaf community, in many ways I'm not part of the "normal hearing" community, but neither am I really part of the CODA community because the "norm" is signing families. There are a few of us CODA's from non-signing families but we are very few and far between. It's an isolating experience.

Over the last year or so a person who has worked with me for a number of years has realised that for me to say that I don't feel "heard" is not simply "I don't think you have taken in what I am saying", rather it is "I don't feel like my existence is being acknowledged" which we both realise comes from very early childhood experiences, particularly stemming from not being "heard" by my parents. As I have been around young children in recent years I can't imagine what it was like for me as a baby/toddler to not be "heard" by my parents and the number of times I felt like I was ignored and just plain treated as a non person. One of my responses to this has been to desperately seek out being "heard"/"acknowledged". The reality is that my parents did all they could to "hear" me (my sense is within what they could control were over-protective) - but the limitations were so huge and given the circumstances there is no way around the fact that there would have been many times where I was in want or need and was not responded to. I am still coming to terms with how this has effected me.