Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

2016 has been a very strange year for us. And I thought it was just us until I began seeing friends’ posts on FaceBook about what a gnarly old year it’s been for them too. I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go – good riddance! Although I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a continuation of the roller-coaster ride, at least for a while.

Change can be a nasty old hag. She either creeps up on you and hits you in the chops when you least expect it or she parades herself in front of you while you try very hard to ignore her taunts, but eventually she slaps you in the face anyway and you have to accept it’s time for something new.

Change is inevitable. It’s a part of life that some handle well and take in their stride while others fight it or try to control it. I don’t do too well with the whole stride thing. Going with the flow doesn’t come naturally to me as hard as I try and as long as I’ve been alive. I like order. I like neat piles. Lists are good. Change messes with my plans. And the worst kind of Change is the kind where I (we) have to make decisions. Big decisions. Life changing decisions. The kind that will set you on a whole new path to glory or see you sitting in the rubble of shattered dreams. Not to be pessimistic, but Change can be brutal. It can suck the life out of you and make you question everything: your choices, your behaviour, your Wants vs Needs, your Dreams. 2016 has been one of these years and I’m tired. To be honest, a part of me is dreading the first few months of 2017 while decisions made this past year continue to play out, but sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we have tried our absolute best, often selling out on what we believe in to try to keep the peace or maintain the status quo, but we realise that we can no longer ignore the Change that is on the cards, no longer the neat writing on the wall but yelling at you in all it’s new-found graffiti-style glory that if you continue to dig your heels in and not take that leap of faith, Change will roll-on without your cooperation and you’ll be dragged along anyway. All the kicking, screaming and crying in the world won’t help. I know, believe me.

I just wish the adults in the room would stand up and make the darn decisions for me. At 40-something it amazes and humbles me that I sometimes still feel like a child in a grown-up world where I don’t know the rules or have the answers but I’m expected to play the game and am found to be sadly lacking.

Five months ago we took the difficult decision for my husband to leave a very stable and lucrative job that he’d been at for almost a decade, but the politics, games, ill-treatment and resulting ill-health and stress was no longer worth it. It had been building for years and I believe we made the right decision, but the domino effects are a little frightening. It’s been wonderful watching him learn to relax again, to laugh and play in a normal way instead of knowing that his smile hasn’t quite reached his eyes. He is my soul-mate. We’ve been together for half my life and I wouldn’t know what to do if he was no longer with me so I know without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision. But what next…

For a while it looked like we might have left our home of over a decade and moved to Sydney. I love Sydney and have been there many times, but did I actually want to live there? No. But if it meant good things for our family? Maybe. But I could only see more negatives than positives. Another big corporate in another big city. Longer commutes, higher living expenses, the cost to move lock-stock-and-barrel; not to mention starting again in another new country. But it looked so lucrative! Then one night after weeks of investigation we had one of those really good heart-to-hearts at a small local cafe on the marina close to home and discovered we both actually felt the same way. Yes! Decision made. Not moving to Sydney. So what now?

Investigate buying a business.  Oh my goodness! The prices people want for businesses, even the smallest, is crazy. And anything larger meant going into debt. We have a thing about debt, especially in these crazy times. Not a good idea or something we want to be lured into on our own. But do we want a partner? Hmmm. Weeks of investigations, meetings and discussions followed. Decision made – not the right time for a business.

So how about we switch roles then? I return to work full-time and my husband takes a few months off to think about where to next? OK. Deal with the feelings of fear building inside, put on your big-girl-pants and step up. Your family needs YOU (me, in case I’m rambling too much and it is unclear). I loved my part-time job. It has meant I can do school drop-offs and pick-ups, attend after school activities, have dinner on the table on time and feel like I’m having a life. But life is going to look a little different from January. I’m lucky enough to have found a job closer to home that is full-time and although I’m a little nervous, I am trying to be excited about something new. But I can’t ignore the other feelings either.

And just in case I forgot to mention it, I started studying back in October. I haven’t looked at my course notes in weeks as this new life and what it actually means, begins to emerge, and that will have it’s own ramifications, but understanding that we are human and can only deal with so much at a time is very important. Choosing to take time out to poke and prod our emotions can be a luxury for some, or a complete waste of time for others, but I believe that being kind to ourselves during a time of Change is healthy. Exploring thoughts and feelings is important. Try to put them in order or simply “feel” them. Take time out with loved ones and special friends. Quiet time enjoying the simple things is therapeutic. Exercising is a great way to release stress from anxious limbs.

It’s amazing at times like this who actually notices that something is wrong and is there for you. We don’t all blab our daily goings-on to everyone, and a note to those that do…people begin to see you as toxic. They don’t want to be drawn into your drama as they probably already have their own which they are trying to deal with. But it is good to be able to lean on friends and family when you really need to, and know you aren’t as alone as you might feel. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when it is genuinely needed. I have a couple of friends who have been amazing and have listened to me and sent texts of encouragement. A quick phone call to check-in is priceless. Or simply sharing a glass of wine while we take turns wading through the issues of the day. Other friends have run away – completely. Either their own issues are too big or when it isn’t all about them, they can’t cope. They haven’t the skills to be there for someone else. And yes it hurts, but it is also a valuable lesson to learn.

So as 2017 dawns, we have a number of options before us. It might be time to sell our home and down-size, at least for a while. It might be time to move out of Auckland completely. It is definitely time to take stock of what is important – truly important – and realise that life isn’t about “things” or “roots we’ve planted”. We tried so hard to give our son the stability we didn’t have as kids, but perhaps this will make him strong the way it made us strong. What life is about is growing, learning, loving, exploring, adventuring. I had thought that my life to this point had given me more adventure than any one gal could have asked for, but it seems that I was wrong. Perhaps I’m just not one of those settle-down-in-the-same-place with a life-long-career kind of people. My husband and I have both lost a parent at a very young age, both been through our surviving parent’s re-marriages. I’ve had my fair share of half and step-siblings. We both moved around a lot as children, with me moving 9 times before the age of 12. I left my family in a coastal South-African city when I moved to Jo’burg to marry the man of my dreams. Eight years later my husband and I then left South Africa and immigrated to New Zealand. We’ve changed jobs, had our family, watched loved ones come and go, seen our group of friends reduce as we’ve moved around, often wishing we could have brought them with us. It is harder to make friends the older you get and the more you move around. So to expect that I could have lived in the same home and suburb for 12 years and never have more changes was perhaps a little wishful. Seems like some souls are born to explore. Whether we like it or not.

Looking at it another way, perhaps it’s a blessing. We’ve accomplished so much and are strong. I don’t mean strong physically, Lord knows I need a few more muscles. I mean the character-building kind of strength. Strong individually and a strong team, but sometimes we are tired. I’ve considered signing off and leaving Chocolate Goose behind me and maybe that will happen. With all the goings on I’ve not had the time or energy to be creative or share new baking. Gosh, I haven’t baked in ages. My poor son hasn’t even had a birthday cake yet and I’m the Queen of Cakes – at least according to him. I’ve shared what I can and sometimes shared too much, other times perhaps not sharing enough and some of you have stuck by me as I’ve rambled on over the past 3 and a bit years. Thank you.

I have no idea what 2017 will hold. All I know for sure is that there will be more changes. Major changes. And the sooner I embrace them, the easier it will all be. We have our health. We have each other. We have our memories and dreams. We live in a safe country where we are free. The fact that it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited is a bonus. So if I leave this tiny corner of paradise I’ve called home for the past 12 years, yes, my heart will almost break, but I know that I have been truly blessed and that I’m clearly going to be around a while longer as there are obviously more adventures planned for me in the stars.

May your 2017 bring you peace, love, health, happiness and success in whatever form that means to you. Look after each other and take care of yourselves. Watch this space.

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