Hello friends. What are you up to? Right now, I'm sipping Melbourne Breakfast tea, feeling a fog behind my eyes I'm not sure is grief, exhaustion, screen fatigue, a bit of a hangover, or all four.
I want to tell you all the lovely things that happened in Australia and how humbled and thrilled I was by the support and love for my little book, everywhere I went. That the whole trip was everything I was hoping for and more.
But right now I just need to get some stuff out of my head. I hope you’ll bear with me. If you’d rather not, that’s fine, please come back in a few days and I'll tell you all about Australia then. I’m not offended, I promise.
Tom has just cleaned the windows in our house. It's amazing how different everything looks. We've put off cleaning them for ages, which only made it harder for the light to get in. So in many ways that's what I'm trying to do here. Clean the windows, because I've been putting it off for so long, but once I do it, things might be easier, maybe even look a bit different too. And ultimately, you've got to take care of your house. It's where you live, after all.
And I've just popped in to the living room to see what Tom's up to, to find that now there's bird shit on one of our newly cleaned windows. What an apt metaphor indeed.
Life has been quite hard lately. I didn’t disappear on purpose, but our return to the UK was such a crash to earth, that trying to gather my thoughts about everything that's happened has felt either too hard or kind of pointless.
A week after we got back to the UK, Tom’s mother died. She was terminally ill so it wasn't unexpected - in fact, we were concerned that it might happen while we were away - but the swiftness of it all upon our return was a profound shock. Any plans we had of getting back to normal after our trip were forgotten, we couldn't think much further ahead than the following day, yet life had to resume regardless, we still needed to eat and bills needed to be paid. Having just been away for five weeks, we couldn’t take more time off work to process the loss. The family home is a seven-hour drive away, deep in rural isolation, so our jet-lagged and weary bodies accumulated several more long and tiring journeys. There was no time to recover, from anything, or to take anything in, really. We just had to keep going.
Seven weeks later, we're still exhausted. I know it's grief - not just for the loss of my mother-in-law, but the sadness I feel every time I return from Australia, as leaving there gets harder each time and I miss my family and friends more and more. Watching my husband go through losing his mother has been heartbreaking, and has made me want to gather my own family close to me. There's also another strange sense of loss with The Latte Years - it isn’t out in bookstores in the UK yet and I got used to seeing it everywhere while we were in Australia. But here, it's nowhere to be seen and therefore it doesn't feel real anymore. I know that sounds overdramatic but I can't think of any other way to put it. That wonderful five weeks in Australia, as well as finally being a published author after so many years of working towards it, now feels like it was all a dream. It has been one brutal crash back to reality, that’s for sure.
Instead of whatever it was I was expecting life to be like right now, I've got something else and I haven't really known what to do with it.
And I've realised I'm not very good at letting dust settle. I like to have goals, I like to have things to work towards and look forward to. I like to have a plan. When life isn't going the way I want it to, my strategy has been to shake things up, do something about it, be bold and take life by the horns. But sometimes that just isn't the most appropriate solution. It certainly isn't at the moment.
I'm learning things about life I don't think I was ready to learn just yet, but I didn't have a choice. And if that's how I feel, then I know it's a thousand times harder for my husband. I've tried to be a rock for him, to be whatever he needs me to be and do whatever he needs me to do. But that's been tricky as well, as grief is so unpredictable and complicated. To say nothing of the guilt that sets in when you just wish this wasn't happening. I am one of life's fixers but I can't fix this. I wish I could.
In the midst of this, I've tried to press on with what I'd planned to do when I got back from Oz and that was to write my next book. I'm sure you can guess how that's been going so far. I've been feeling so lost and wishing circumstances were better, calmer and less mucky for me to begin. But I created an entire book out of the muck that was my life 10 years ago, and everything that came after it. The perfect moment to write The Latte Years never arrived, real life was happening all around me and I had to suck it up and get it done. I was hoping things would be different for Book 2, but alas, it appears life will keep hammering me over the head with this lesson until I get over myself.
I think that's probably at the core of this - both my inertia at the moment, and my fear of coming back to this space to report, "hey, life actually hasn't been great lately."
I’ve seen so many writers online talking about ‘the good old days’ of blogging and why can’t it be like that again, more authentic, less polished. I forget that a blog post is just capturing what you're thinking and what is going on for you in that moment. It doesn’t have to stand the test of time. It just has to be written.
And as for the the voice in my head that says “you've got a book out, you can’t just write any old shit and put it on the internet for all to see anymore” - well, I’m telling that voice to fuck off. That’s just fear talking. Fear and I are old friends but it’s starting to get toxic again, where I know it’s not really happy for me and wants to keep me small.
Oh, the deep, deep irony of having written a book about being brave with your life, going after your dreams, believing in yourself, speaking your truth and….that I still have to work on those things every single day.
The messages of The Latte Years have actually never been more relevant for my life right now. That life is messy and complicated and you’ll never have it all figured out. That just because you reach a goal, it doesn’t mean everything will be plain sailing from there. That if you present nothing but a shiny happy outside to the world, you’ll just end up feeling trapped and lonely. That things not working out as you thought they would really isn’t the end of the world, in fact, it’s often a very good thing. That the only way forward is to just keep going. And that if you've got the love and support of good people in your life, ultimately, everything will be OK.
I've been thinking about 'what's next' for me ever since The Latte Years went to print nearly six months ago….but maybe it’s OK for me to just be, to let go and see what happens. I don’t know.
What I do know is that there is no accumulated competence or confidence when it comes to this life and vocation I have chosen, that every day you start again, from scratch. It is a practice, it is a process and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Most of all, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to be alive. Seeing someone I cared for deteriorate over the past year has made me realise how quickly the life you’ve built and all the little pieces of yourself that make up who you are can be snatched away, and there’s nothing you can do when it does. It was tragic to watch.
I am so grateful for my life. For the gift of good health. For the balm of hope and the heart-lifting joy of true love and friendship. For the little things - spring flowers, the freshness of cold air, the comforting smell of onions and garlic frying. Life, in all its highs and lows, wonders and puzzlements, its many tiny moments of clarity, its storms and sunrises. All of it. I try so hard to never to take it for granted.
So, yeah, that’s where I am right now.
Thank you for listening. Here's to keeping it real, eh? *clink* xx