Friday, July 30, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
So I thought, seeing a few people have asked, I would share the story of how I met the wonderful man who will be my husband in 40 days.
I moved to London in July 2007, and while I was beyond thrilled to be here, it took a while for me to find my feet. In all honesty, it was a bit of a nightmare at first. Job hunting, flat hunting, having to deal with all sorts of other issues that I really didn't need.....it was an incredibly stressful and frightening time. I don't know how I got through it really, because I was so on edge that I barely ate, slept or thought rationally during that time. There was one moment, I remember clearly, where I was sitting in Hyde Park, crying, thinking about going back to the flat I was dossing in, packing my bags, and getting the first plane back to Australia. I didn't want to do it, but it felt like it was slowly becoming my only option. Nothing seemed to be going my way, at all! But finally, after about a million flat viewings, a successful job interview, some tearful conversations with the few people I felt I could be honest with, and a lot of vodka, everything sorted itself out, as it always does when you're where you're meant to be, and I began to feel so much more at home.
And so I'd been in London for nearly two months, and one of my oldest friends from Australia, who happened to live here and had been my lifeline since arriving, was having a birthday party one Saturday night - in fact, I think it was her third birthday related celebration that week! It was a beautiful, balmy evening, the first day of September, golden and sun-flecked. The party was at a bar in Notting Hill. Well, we'd started at a very expensive and exclusive place in Notting Hill, where the cocktails cost about what I was earning per hour in my job. The Aussie dollar exchange rate at the time was absolutely shite, it made me quiver in my boots. Everyone says not to think about the exchange rate, but I couldn't help it! Even though I was earning the pound, I worked out I'd spent the equivalent of $70AUD on just two drinks (the exchange rate was about 2.7 dollars to 1 pound at the time). Yikes!!
We moved on to a more moderately priced bar a few blocks away, where I sipped the cheapest beer I could find, trying to make it last because I was now going to have to live on pitta bread and cheap Tesco hummous until my next pay day. It was about 10.30pm and I was wondering how much longer I could make my beer last, and then make my excuses.
Tom, in the meantime, was in a flat on the other side of town, with his sister, who had been invited to this birthday bash. He'd come up to London earlier that evening to crash with her that night, as he was starting a new casual job (to earn extra cash) the next day. She lives in a part of London where public transport isn't particularly reliable. He had a car, and so she asked if he would mind driving her to Notting Hill to the party, and if so, he should come along as well, you never know, he might meet someone nice......Tom wasn't keen, as he'd been as lucky as I had in the romantic stakes, ie: not at all! But his sister wasn't going to take no for an answer and he was eventually coerced into putting on another shirt and a splash of Gucci cologne, and driving her to the party.
After finally getting a parking spot about 3 blocks away from the bar, Tom and his sister walked up and attempted to enter the party. There was a bouncer on the front door, and as it was after 10pm it was now £10 each for them to get in. Tom, as mentioned, had come up to London to start a casual weekend job in addition to his full time job, so he didn't exactly have £10 to spare and wasn't impressed! He said a few choice words and then goodnight to his sister, and headed back to the car.
He'd gone about a block when he heard someone running behind him. Convinced he was about to be mugged, he turned around.
It was the bouncer.
"Mate, was it the birthday party you were coming for?" he asked.
Tom said yes, but he wasn't paying £10 to get in, forget it!
The bouncer gestured back to the bar. "No, don't worry, I'll let you in for free."
And so Tom, a bit taken aback, went back to the bar, and headed downstairs to the party.
At this point in time, I had said my goodbyes to the birthday girl and was literally about to leave. She pointed out Tom's sister, who I had met once before, so I went over to say a quick hello before heading off. I think I'd only said a few words to her when I noticed a very handsome dark haired guy walk over to her (Tom, of course!). She introduced us, we started talking and I knew within a few minutes that my plan of leaving early had gone out the window.
It's hard to explain, but while there definitely were fireworks (!) it didn't feel like a romantic thing at first. It was fascinating, learning all these things about this new person I'd just met, but we chatted so easily it felt like we were old friends. Tom really is the most jolly person, it is impossible not to like him. And I thought he had a wonderful smile, and when he laughed his whole face lit up. I remember us having the most amazing conversation, where it was like everything and everyone else in the room was blurred or on mute. I was just so absorbed in him. I was just being myself, he was just being himself. There were no games, no smoke screens - we weren't trying to impress each other at all. We talked about literature, theatre, travelling, writing - all mutual interests, as it turned out! I bought him a drink when he confessed he was skint and that was the whole reason he was up in London, something he later felt embarrassed about as he felt he should have been more of a gentleman and bought me a drink! But as he told me later, he'd bought more than his fair share of drinks for girls he'd met in bars in his time, who had eventually lost interest and walked away, so he had no reason to believe I would be any different.
Before I knew it, it was nearly 1am and we'd been talking for about two and a half hours! I had no idea how to get home, as the trains were now finished for the night, and I was only familiar with tube routes! Tom offered to give me a lift home, as a thank you for me buying him a drink, and so we left the party to a few raised eyebrows from my friend and Tom's sister (!), and drove through the centre of London, talking all the way, where he showed me parts that I hadn’t seen before at night, like Sloane Square and Chelsea Bridge, and finally we ended up back at my house in Clapham – after nearly two hours, as we got a bit lost! I couldn't give him directions, because I had only been living in the house for two weeks!
I just remember thinking, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed talking to someone so much......I wished I could have stayed out with him all night, I didn’t want the conversation to end! How could it be possible that we'd only met that night, it felt like we'd known each other for years. I was quite disappointed when we eventually found my house. But we swapped numbers and said we should catch up again sometime, but I had heard that many times and so was determined not to get my hopes up. After a chaste but very charged kiss on the cheek, I went inside and into my room, smiling, and thought "what a great guy. I'll probably never see him again, but what a great guy."
But the next day he texted me, and that was when the butterflies and dreamy smiles started! I stalked him a bit on Facebook, looking through the photos of him and saving some of the ones I liked on my computer so I could just look at them whenever I wanted (turned out he had done the same thing with photos of me!!). We sent each other excerpts from our writing projects, and talked every day either via email or text until we finally met up again that Saturday for dinner…which was the best date I've ever had. Tom recreated it when he proposed last November :)
The whole thing was so unexpected, as I had finally decided, for the first time since becoming single, to just enjoy life and concentrate on me. But, looking back, I think the timing was perfect. And, as crazy as this sounds, I think I’ve loved him from that very first night.
I love telling the story of how we met. Everyone exclaims over the amazing coincidental-ness of it all, and we just smile at each other, because it truly was the last thing either of us expected, given what we had both been through in the years before. Most of all, our story reminds me of the magical connectedness of things. Our story is no more extraordinary than the millions of other true stories about a chain of events that concludes with meeting the love of your life, but to us it is extraordinary....because we might never have met otherwise! I've always been fascinated with the "what if..." factor in people's lives and how those lives might have turned out had one fork in the road been taken rather than the other. I'm reminded of that wonderful line by (who else) TS Eliot - "In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse." Imagine, if I hadn't gone to the party at all, or Tom had stayed home alone in his sister's flat? Imagine if the bouncer hadn't run after him? Imagine if I had left when I was planning to, instead of hanging around just a few minutes longer? You could never have planned it. And yet, in the impeccable timing of those few precious minutes, there were the seeds of a new life.
And that's why we're getting married on September 1st this year - because it's three years to the day that it all happened, a day that could have been like any other were it not for the magical twists of fate that led us to each other.
And that giant cliché is so true - stop looking, for that is when love will find you.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Well, Sweaty Bride, maybe!! These were taken yesterday after doing Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred!! Yowzers!! I moved on to that level last week, after weeks and weeks at Level 2! I wish I had some "before" shots, because my arms have improved out of sight since doing this workout DVD!
So I've been running/yoga-ing/30 Day Shredding (either of the three, or a combo) every day for the last few weeks. I've also been following a pretty clean diet - as clean as I feel comfortable doing, I'm certainly not obsessive about it. I've cut back on the treats, and not eating as much cheese (sob!) and I have noticed that I don't feel as bloated after meals any more now that I've cut the dairy back. Sigh. I love cheese, but it doesn't love me. I actually get a gut when I eat it. I kid you not.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I was really touched by the responses to the post I wrote a few months ago, imagining a conversation with my former self, the 2005 me.
The me who spent most weekends alone with a DVD boxset, a pile of books and few blocks of chocolate to hand.
The me who couldn't wear skirts without tights, even in the height of summer, as otherwise there would be painful chafing that would require half a tub of talcum powder to relieve.
The me who wanted so much more out of life and was heartbroken and resentful she wasn't doing what she wanted to do.
Without the aid of occasional journals (I barely wrote back then) and the few photographs I didn't destroy, I would barely remember that me, that life.
I still am astounded sometimes at how much my life has changed since then. I actually had a moment on my 29th birthday two months ago, in Paris. I was sitting with Tom and we were outside the Shakespeare and Company book store, enjoying the breeze and the view, debating where we'd go for an afternoon tea pit stop, and I just remember thinking wow. I'm 29 and I'm Paris! Who saw that coming?
While I wouldn't choose to relive every experience I've had between 2005 and 2010, I am rather proud of the woman I have become because of them. Everything that happened, good and bad, has led me to my present situation, and for that my gratitude is boundless.
A lot of comments on the aforementioned post raised the idea of the future. What might 2015 Phil say to the 2010 Phil? It's a very valid question. I thought about 2015 Phil calling the present me, and what conversations might ensue. Who knows what the next five years hold?
But I decided maybe it was best not to go there.
Kathryn brought up the very good point - while it might have been comforting to know that things would get better, things would change and my dreams would come true, would 2005 Phil have actually wanted to know all that has happened in the past five years before it all happened? Would it have scared her? Would the knowledge of the hard times that lay ahead, as well as the good times that would come out of them, have been a burden to carry around? I think one of the reasons some people make themselves unhappy is worrying about the future before its even happened.
Also, one of the podcasts I listen to when I need a boost is Episode 3 of Two Fit Chicks where Alison is interviewed, and she says quite rightly that you "shape the details as you go along" with your dreams and goals in life, you don't need to worry too much about how you will get there. If you already knew all the details, what would be the point?
So, even though I'm confident the next five years holds some great times, I think I'd like to be surprised when they do happen! I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself. I definitely have things I hope to have achieved and be doing by the time 2015 rolls around, but I remain certain that whatever does happen will happen for a reason.
I have goals for myself, but I also like not knowing what's going to happen. One day Tom and I talk about buying a house and having a vegie patch, a chook shed and little baby - the next day we're ready to chuck everything in and go travelling again. We don't know, we're always changing our minds. We're going with the flow. That's ok with me.
What I do know is that I'm not afraid, of anything really. Apart from rats, and things happening to people I love - both of which are out of my control! A life lived in fear is a life half lived, as they say in Strictly Ballroom - and I've already lived my life like that, and I have no desire to ever do it again!
The thing I did find very interesting about this whole 2010-2015 thing is that, even though I didn't end up making a five year plan, the idea of it didn't make me break out in a cold sweat.
After my first marriage broke down four years ago I stayed away from long term plans of any kind for a long time. Anything that even hinted it might tie me down left me cold and instantly turned me off, which I guess was understandable. I needed to live that way for a while. I needed to live life without a plan, without expectations, without security, without time limits, without restraint. It was very much a "pay-as-you-go" kind of life. It was fun, but it wasn't easy. We are conditioned to live with a plan, to always be thinking about the future, and it's frightening to be living your life in a manner equivalent to riding in a very fast car without a seatbelt. It's scary to chuck in your secure well-paying job, buy a round the world ticket, and bugger off to somewhere where you know nothing and no one. While there are no guarantees in life anyway, living this way really hammers that home for you.
But it was also exhilirating. The furthest I planned something in advance was a month - two at the most. The only thing I was committed to was living in the moment. It opened me up to people, places and experiences I might not have noticed or been available to take up otherwise.
I regret nothing, in other words :)
Four years down the track, and things are different for me now. I've calmed down and grown up a bit, and got a few things out of my system. I'm a bit more cynical (which is a bit sad, sometimes I wish I could trust people as easily as I used to) and far less naive. I've learned, and continue to learn, what I do and don't need in my life. I am very, very excited about the future. And I am excited that I have found someone amazing to share it with.
Getting married again is a huge leap of faith for me. I was scared about it for a very long time, even though I knew almost straight away that I wanted to spend my life with Tom. I wondered whether it was too soon. I also (predictably) worried about what other people might think, and feared their judgement. But then one day I realised that I was thinking about it way too much, and the only person judging me was myself. I had to forgive myself for my mistake. I also had to get over the fear I had of it all happening again. First of all, everyone was so happy for us! And as for it being too soon or needing more time on my own, it's very convenient to romanticise my single life, and forget about the loneliness that occasionally accompanied my solo adventures.
A while ago I talked to someone who had had an experience almost identical to mine.
"How do you know when you're ready for this again?" I asked him.
"You don't," he said simply. "You just have to take a leap of faith, and trust what you have."
And I do trust what I have. I look at my first marriage and I know why it didn't work. I look at the marriage I am about to embark upon, and I know why it will. I am so much more present in this relationship. Complacency and bottling up my feelings have no place in my relationship with Tom. Unfortunately, much as I hate to admit it, I was very naive and immature in my first marriage. At 20, I had no clue what marriage was really about beyond the superficial idealism and I didn't have any idea who I fundamentally was as a person. Nor did I have the courage to pursue what I truly wanted, rather than what I (or others) expected of myself: this only came with getting older and wiser.
I guess something else I was frightened about by getting married again was that my freedom would be curtailed like it was before. This fear has proved to be groundless. In April I went away for a whole week, on my own, to a writing retreat in Scotland. I go away with girlfriends for city breaks all the time (well, a couple of times a year! It feels like all the time!). Sometimes I take myself off for the afternoon to a cafe or a museum with my journal, and I relish that alone time. And has Tom kicked up a stink about any of this? No - but why would he? He knows what I need to be happy, and for me to be happy I need to be able to do my own thing sometimes. I get this, and so much more, with him. Maybe I still don't really have a clue about marriage, what it is or how it works - but I'm willing to give it another shot. That's something I never thought I'd say four years ago.
I hope that my story can comfort and inspire people who might also be inwardly crucifying themselves over past mistakes. I hope you can see that it is never too late to chase those dreams and live the life you want. While very little can compare to the kind of heartbreak and despair I went through four years ago, regardless of how painful it is at the time, you really will move on - in fact, you can be happier than you've ever been in your life. I hope you know that your life really can change and transform into everything your heart desires - if you want it badly enough and are prepared to get uncomfortable sometimes. And the journey doesn't stop when you see that magical number you dreamed of seeing on the scales, or that impossibly tiny number on a tag inside a pair of jeans (sizes are bullshit, for starters! I was a size 14 and a size 10 in the same shop last week!).
I'd be lying if I didn't say that sometimes I really, really wish some things hadn't happened to me. I wish I had known better. But, I didn't. So I've tried to put right the things I was able to, walked away from the rest and I've got on with my life. And the pay off for being brave has been enormous. While life is certainly not perfect and there are still lots of things I want to sort out and accomplish and get over, I am so grateful for where I am right now. And if anything had been different, maybe I wouldn't be here....well, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be. And that's something I really wouldn't change!
So, to get back to the original topic, I'm pretty certain 2015 Phil will be very happy. I think she'll be enjoying life very much. She might have even run a full marathon, done a yoga retreat in India, had a baby, and written a book or two - who knows! I hope she's done all four :)
For now, I'm going to keep living in the moment - and the moment is pretty darn great.
So, my friends, don't crucify yourself for the bumps in the road. Once you've picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, those bumps and detours can actually lead you to some really amazing places. Don't ever think that you're stuck. No one is, ever. Your future is always in your hands.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
One of my favourite posts on this blog has been quoted on this poster that is going to be put in all secondary schools in the greater Shepparton region of Victoria, Australia. Initiated, designed and distributed by REAL magazine, the poster, in their words, "exposes the truths of digital manipulation, shares experiences, challenges and successes of young women, empowers readers to respect their bodies and minds and aims to inspire girls to achieve their potential".
I have so much admiration for the REAL team, and the philosophy behind the magazine. For years I have bemoaned the sad reality that a lot of magazines in the marketplace do very little to help vulnerable young people and their self esteem. I'm glad things seem to be slowly changing, with the use of "real women" in ad campaigns and photo shoots, and the Body Image Advsiory Group in Australia is doing great work too, which I applaud. The world needs more intelligent and empathetic media, print or otherwise, that encourages young people to embrace life and who they are instead of feeling pressured to live up to impossible physical standards. Communicating with young people about self esteem and empowerment issues is something I am very passionate about so I'm thrilled to be involved in this!
The quote they've used from my post is:
There is no such thing as "normal". We all come in different shapes and sizes. Everyone's body is different. If both of your parents are tall, well built people, then chances are, that's what you are too - and you must accept that. But the only thing that really matters is what you think of yourself.
The whole post, edited and modified, will also appear as an article in REAL in the near future, which is very exciting! When I first wrote that post, I wanted to get it out there where young people could read it and hopefully be helped by it. It took me over four years to find it a home - but better late than never, as they say! I know that being a teenager can be a very isolating experience, and there are some things that you just can't or don't want to talk to your parents or friends about, so I hope my words will be the equivalent of a virtual arm around young shoulders and saying "you're ok, more than ok, just as you are."
Thank you Erin and the REAL team for including me in the poster!
Let me know if you see it around anywhere :)
Thursday, July 1, 2010
You all know how much I love tea!
We only have a tiny cupboard for food storage in our kitchen (weird to think I once had a walk in pantry when I lived in Australia!!) and until a few weeks ago, approximately a quarter of it was taken up with tea! Boxes and boxes and boxes of it. I didn't even know what teas I had anymore, that's how crowded it was in there. The solution? Get a pretty cabinet just for tea!
I'd been after a special cupboard/cabinet to house my tea obsession for a few months. The only one I liked was about £130, which seemed a bit extravagant! So I put the tea cupboard to the back of my mind and, attracted by the huge red sale signs, wandered into Laura Ashley in Knightsbridge a few weekends ago, purely on a whim. And that's of course when you're always going to find what you were looking for.....when you stop looking. (Which I'd say is true of most things in life).
Not only was it just what I wanted, but on sale too! Double score!
My lovely fiance was handyman and hung it up for me, and then we filled it with the tea boxes - and found many that we'd forgotten were even in there! Pukka green tea! Rooibos! Twinings chai! Oh my.
The food cupboard then got a clean out - how does stuff leak out of packets so easily? - and now everything has a home and we even have enough room for our enormous "what if there's an earthquake/snow day/apocalypse" stash of soy milk, brown rice and red lentils. We kept grinning at each other and the little tea cupboard like we were some kind of geniuses - who would have thought such a tiny thing would make our lives a bit easier?
But it was far too hot to celebrate with a cup of tea, so we had a beer instead ;)