change

dumplings and change

The face of someone who had been anticipating Melbourne dumplings for some years.

The face of someone who had been anticipating Melbourne dumplings for some years.

On our first night in Melbourne, we made a pilgrimage to my old favourite haunt from the days when I lived in this city - the Shanghai Dumpling House. An unremarkable building down Tattersalls Lane but within lurked the most glorious treasures imaginable.

From September 2005 to April 2007, you would find me there at least one night a week (and maybe one lunchtime too). Such was the lure of dumplings. And I loved the rough-and-ready atmosphere, completely devoid of pretension. It was a place I sought refuge in, for the stomach and the soul.  

At age 25, I felt so alive and powerful in this city, like anything was possible. I loved Melbourne and it loved me right back. While the city changed a lot in the years since I’d been gone, the dumpling house was like a little time portal, exactly the place I remembered. The menus, the tables, the staff, the prices, the urns of tea, the vats of chilli soy sauce, the strange 90s music they played...it was all still the same, every time I returned.

But on our return this time, it had changed. Nothing bad, the food was still yummy, but just lots of those little details were different, which means it is not the place 25 year old Phil frequented any more. That place only exists in my memory now. To not want to claim this space and ritual for myself anymore means acknowledging how much time has passed. While the dumplings were still good, I realised I was now just going there out of nostalgia, nothing more. And that was a surprisingly sad revelation. I guess we’ve all been there, revisiting somewhere that meant so much to us in years past, only to find it doesn’t quite stir the same emotions in us any more. But that’s good, it means we’ve changed. And change is life. 

So, on a friend’s recommendation, the following night we tried another dumpling and noodle house...which was a divinely delicious experience. If you’ve been to the Nong Tang Noodle House and had these chilli oil dumplings, you’ll understand.

nong-tang-chilli-oil-dumplings

So, it would seem that when the time is right, it’s surprisingly easy to move on, grateful for the memories but ready for something new. Especially if it involves chilli.

january

kelvedon-seashells

I always find January a mixed month, no matter what part of the world I'm in.

Everything about my life is different now, and I've been reading many books - including one on parenting, but it was written by one of my favourite psychotherapy writers and I'll read anything she writes! (sidenote: it’s fantastic, I learned so much reading it and would highly recommend it) - that have all had the same themes in common....surrender. Listen to your feelings and honour them. And invest time in doing the right but hard thing, not the comfortable thing.

To be honest, being back in Australia has brought up a lot of discomfort for me.

I spent the first days of January scrambling around, full of raw vulnerability, feeling panicked and desperate to regain control, recreate the life we used to have with walls, boundaries, safety. The armour I had on in London, and the distance that kept me safe, is gone and I didn't know what to do without it. But all the reading and self-reflecting I've done has helped me see that being flexible and accepting will be a far better use of my time than trying to reclaim what we've left behind.

So, for the first time, I am not running away.

Instead, I’ve been leaning in to the discomfort. When unresolved sadness and anger from the past has presented itself, I’ve tried to welcome it and give myself what I couldn’t give at the time. But there have been moments where that has been excruciating. A few wounds are still raw. Wounds reaching back, far back, perhaps they are my earliest memories - not things I logically remember but deeply rooted within me on a soul level, things that formed my perception of myself, that were the foundation of my deepest fears. It’s been quite exhausting, so I’ve needed a lot of rest and gentleness.

But even though I’ve felt frightened, sad and very vulnerable at times, I’ve also felt very loved. I’m back with my people. Being home is a lot of fun. Tom and I are soaking up all the things that make this place wonderful and why we wanted so very much to be here - the fresh air, the clear waters, the endless expanse of sky and beach and mountain, the raucous birdsong, the warmth of the sun, the friendliness of the people (seriously, people in Hobart are SO nice!), the generosity of my family.

And I know deep in my core that this is exactly where we need to be.

As January is slowly turning into February, I feel calmer, more like myself and more secure that the woman I've become in the years I've been gone will quite like it here, back home. There is space for her here.