Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Living the dream

I read something the other day about how we complain in lieu of conversing.  It struck a chord with me as it's something I know I'm guilty of, mainly because I like to make people laugh and there's little humour, though much happiness, in a dialogue about how wonderful life is.  A good rant, on the other hand, can be very enjoyable if done well and in the right company.

That being said, sometimes it's nice to just stop, take stock and appreciate how lucky we really are; and as today marks nine whole years since I landed in Spain ready to start a new life, it seems only fitting to do so now.  

I suppose the thing about being happy is that it never looks how you expect it to.  If I'd been asked back then where I wanted to be nine years down the line, I don't think any of my current life would have featured.  I don't spend my days writing a best-selling novel while sipping wine in my very own beach bar; I'm in bed by 11 most nights and I never did marry a dashing Spaniard (for which I'm sure Mat is eternally grateful).  Instead, my happiness comes from places I'd have found equally boring and terrifying in my early twenties.  

I didn't plan to stay in the first country I got sent to as a holiday rep back in 2005, so falling completely in love with the first town I worked in came as a shock.  Being moved from there after only 6 months to a place I did not like in the slightest took the shine off my job for me, yet losing that same job 12 months later felt like a disaster.  My heart broke when I left Andalucía to move north with Mat, and it was breaking again when I packed up my things and left the home we had made in a little Costa Brava town to strike out on my own in Barcelona.  

Yet these setbacks, difficult and sometimes painful as they were to overcome, set me on a path to the life I have now.  It was in Barcelona that I finally began to settle, that I became part of a wonderful group of friends, that I gained in confidence and started liking myself.  It was this city, "trapped between a crescent of mountains and a sea of light, a city filled with buildings that could exist only in dreams," where a life built itself around me and I finally felt like I'd come home.

Things are very different now to they were when I first got here - people have moved on, nights out have become something I plan weeks in advance and seeing my lovely friends is now an occasional luxury rather than a daily pleasure, but the rarity of this only serves to make me appreciate it more. 

I'm very lucky and very grateful that my dreams were flexible enough to adapt, that there have been setbacks along the way but nothing I'd term a failure, and that I get to wake up every day in a life I love. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, there are problem areas and parts that need work, but it's a project I'm delighted to commit to. Not everyone gets to live their dreams, and even fewer people know it when they're living the version of their dream that's exactly how they should be living. I still have moments where I'm awestruck that THIS IS MY LIFE, and that, to me, is what living the dream is all about. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

I won at parenting today

Perhaps if your experience with toddlers is limited to having been stuck in front of one on a plane as it screams, tantrums and caterwauls its way through an eight hour flight, you might be inclined to believe that a quiet toddler is a desirable thing.  Having heard the apologetic mumbling of a woman with a tiny human, purple and apoplectic with fury at being denied permission to slake its thirst in the cleaning products aisle, shoved under her arm as she tries to manoeuvre a shopping trolley through a busy supermarket, it would seem logical that sweet silence is preferable to the brain-drilling shrieks bursting forth from that little bag of rage and irrationality.  

Of course, a quiet toddler is usually a happy toddler - they're not known for their ability to let their feelings stagnate into ulcers, so it's unlikely that you'd ever have an uncomfortable "Are you OK?"  "I'm FINE" conversation with anyone under 3.  Generally, when they're pissed off, you know about it.  However, those in the know - you'll know them by their eye bags and general demeanour of not quite concentrating - will be more than happy to inform you that contrary to all laws of sense and decency, a quiet toddler is very often NOT A GOOD THING AT ALL.  Because when a toddler is quiet, things like this happen:
Yes, this happened today.

Though I can think of one or two things I'd rather do than see my treasured, expensive, very necessary laptop injured (things like remove my kneecaps with a spoon; bath the cat; relive the clingy phase), the experience wasn't all negative.  I think I handled it pretty well - staying calm, explaining why I wasn't happy about what he'd done and teaching him that his actions have consequences (he couldn't watch Peppa Pig on the laptop as planned as I had to fix the laptop and it was too late once that was done).  I managed not to cry, shout or shame him, and I believe that he's understood me, though I don't think that necessarily means he'd resist the temptation a second time.  He's still two.

I'm pretty impressed that I managed to put into practice all that I've been working on, in the face of a situation which I could easily have handled very badly indeed.  It's not often we give ourselves credit where it's due - most of my posts about this approach have focused on how difficult I find it and how bad I am at sticking to it - so I'm going to be proud of myself for learning enough to override my instinctive reaction to get louder in times of stress.  And I'm going to sing that pride from the rooftops, because let's face it - if we're not good to ourselves, nobody else will be good to us, right?

Plus, publicly outing myself as a Zen master of parenting means I now have to keep it up, kind of like when you tell people you're on a diet so they tear you away from the chips at dinner time or recruit half the office to help you stop smoking by screaming at you every time leave your desk (makes leaving for a toilet break so much fun).  

So, while I'm in Superwoman mode and feeling like I could conquer the world, I need to tackle the next thing on my to-do list - making a very high, toddler-proof shelf for my laptop to live on.