Let's Go!

On Monday we arrived home after spending five days in Melbourne. It was 1am by the time I pulled into the driveway. Searching for my house keys while Lucy was in the back being sad was stressful. Taking the last flight home used to be a way of ensuring every moment was squeezed out of the day. These days I question the sanity of that decision. The keys were found after a text message from my travelling buddy. They were in the back seat with Lucy. We had used them as a distraction after she grew tired of all the other toys in the car. Nothing is sacred when travelling with a toddler. All resources can and should be utilised to maintain everyone’s sanity.

My first real trip with Lucy was to Bali when she was four months old. It was my third trip there. I find a level of comfort returning to familiar places. The first time I went I didn’t expect to love it. It was just cheaper than the Gold Coast for a friend’s belated 30th.  This trip was a designated girl’s trip with my gluten intolerant friend. The food intolerance was an important factor in deciding where to go. Dining with a coeliac limits dining options. Thankfully Bali, especially Canggu, has unlimited choices for those with food intolerances. That’s one of the fabulous things about hipsters, they do great food and because most of them have food intolerances, there’s options for everyone. We ate our way through our holiday while adhering to the napping schedule of my infant. It was glorious.

The only downside of travelling with such a young baby in Bali was the amount of attention it attracted from locals. They couldn’t get enough of her. Part of this was because Balinese babies do not leave home before six months. They also don’t touch the ground of the first three months of their lives. Lucy on the other hand was an international traveller who ate dirt for breakfast. The fascination with Lucy was a blessing and a curse. She invited real conversations with locals and travellers alike. But sometimes I just wanted to explore in silence. The time we spent in Ubud was particularly intense.

It was in Bali that I realised how much I loved Lucy. The day I took Lucy home from hospital was the scariest day of my life. Here was this little human that I was solely responsible for. Going through the pregnancy this was the thing that scared me more than the expectation of giving birth. The first three months I was in survival mode. Other new mothers were posting gushy feelings across their social media. I felt more like a lioness. There were no great moments of overwhelming love. Just a deep feeling of protection. God save anyone that does anything to hurt or even inconvenience my baby. Being away from the requirements of normal life showed me how much I enjoyed Lucy’s company. Which is weird since she wasn’t talking, eating, moving about or any of those interesting things. One day it just hit me how magical she was and how much I truly loved her.

The second international trip we took was to New Zealand. This time it was just us. Lucy had just turned one, had discovered how good real food is and was a confident explorer.  We concentrated our time between driving, hiking and trying as many different types of ice creams as we could. Side note, food is a huge part of my travel. Sightseeing is what you do to kill time between eating.  

Taking a trip that was just us meant I could be selfish. There was no need to share her with anyone else.  I wasn’t distracted by everyday routines, chores or the other things that can take our attention away. Coming back home I’ve brought us a double swag so that we can escape camping on the nights when I want to get away but don’t have to cash or time to go somewhere more glamourous. I figure it’s a shame to explore other countries without making the effort to check out our own backyard as well.



Chapter Three The Power of Vulnerability.

I spent the first week of July driving around the incredible country that is north of Auckland. It was a holiday for just Lucy and I.  All the research I had done told me that it was a beautiful part of New Zealand. It’s so cliched but I have to say it. Nothing prepared me for how beautiful it was. Hiring a motorhome meant no strict itineraries. Being able to make plans up as I went along was exactly what I needed after the crazy that has been this year.

On the second morning I was making breakfast. The previous night we stayed in a caravan park I found by surprise. It was off the main highway going north, down a twisty steep descent which ended at a grassy area between a cove and a small beach covered in black shiny rocks. I had parked the motorhome with the back window facing the small cove. It was beautiful. That morning while cooking breakfast, the new album from Florence and the Machine was blasting through the speakers. During the second song Florence sings ‘we all have a hunger’. I was dancing around like an idiot in the tiny space between the stove top and the bathroom door. Lucy was on the floor laughing that baby laugh. There was so much happiness in such a small space.  And then the tears started.

I cried and kept crying throughout that trip. On the way to Cape Reinga I cried while driving down tiny roads surrounded by chicken farms. At night when Lucy had gone to sleep in the back, I sat at the front and cried in the dark. In the country that my mother was born and left before she was a teenager, I found it possible to start grieving her death. I also found the ability to really enjoy my daughter’s presence again. I found the power of vulnerability. To honestly sit with my emotions and just let them be.

In the last few weeks things started getting hard again. I was already struggling to deal with the weight of everything when we hit a period of teething followed by the flu. The lack of sleep made it next to impossible for me to regulate my emotions. I felt sadness waiting to engulf me like a tidal wave. I tuned out. I was tired, I was numb, and barely functioning. But then a small moment broke the dam wall. Something Lucy did made me laugh and the tears came as a relief. I started engaging with the world again instead of just going through the motions.

The thing with emotions is that you can’t just numb the ones you don’t like. I know because I’ve tried (and if we’re being honest, I’ll try again in the future just to double check). Shutting out the sadness meant shutting out joy. The world went from being full of vivid emotions to a watered down, grey colour. And that was fine for a while because I had some tough times to get through. Planning a funeral and telling people of your mother’s death requires a great deal of resilience. I’ve used the strategy of shutting down so many times in my life. This dysfunctional emotional regulation resulted in years of dysfunctional relationships. I needed a way off of the merry-go-round of dysfunction so that I can be a positive influence to my daughter. The last thing I want is for this crazy to be passed onto another generation.

The only way out is vulnerability. Sitting with and acknowledging emotions. Not necessarily buying into or investing in each emotion, but seeing their worth as they exist in the moment. Vulnerability is hard. It’s near impossible to keep up at all times. But if there’s a choice between actively engaging in life and shutting down, I know what I’m choosing.