My European interlude is coming to a close

Whilst I have enjoyed every moment of being in Europe and have loved teaching, mentoring and coaching, it is time to return to Australia – at least for a while.

I have cherished being in my little apartment and not having to worry about anything except myself and meeting a few deadlines. Well, OK, more than a few! I’ll admit that I haven’t entirely squirreled myself away in beautiful Ecija; I have kept up with clients and projects and taken on new ventures further afield thanks to modern communications, but I have made the most of my idyll here and been very present to the charms of a different culture and life experience, including the cold winter! I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those here who have been part of this wonderful sojourn for me. As usual, it is the people who make the experience special.

San Juan, EcijaI’ve needed these months alone to renew. To focus on what is important to me. The past 3 years have passed in a blur where I hardly had a moment to myself so it has been a real luxury to just be able to run my own timetable. I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a quiet apartment, to spending weekends exploring local sites, or sometimes venturing further afield to Seville, Granada, Cordoba or Malaga. I had no one to worry about except myself. It might sound selfish, but actually it’s been more of a lifesaver than anything else and once again, it has given me an additional opportunity to develop and grow as an individual which provides additional experiential tools that I am able to bring to my work.

Sasha's graduation day - Batchelor of Journalism
Sasha’s graduation day – Batchelor of Journalism from Bond University

During this time in Europe I have been able to consider what it is that I really need in life to feel content. When my husband of 30 years decided to leave, and I bought him out of the house, it was a massive struggle to stay afloat financially, but I’ve managed. I only bought the house so my kids had a home base. I had a 5 year plan, of which the largest part was to see Sasha (who was then 16) successfully finish school and then university. Once Sasha graduated, I was in a position to pursue the next stage of my plan, which was to base myself in Europe for a year.

Whilst here, living a simple Spanish lifestyle, without the trappings that go with having a family home, I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I actually need very little to live on. I can be happy in the moment as long as I know that my family is cared for and safe. It’ll be five years this August since Steve and I split up. It’s been tough for me, but at the same time liberating and life affirming as I know we (Wayne, Sasha and I) can manage on our own. Together we look after the house, each other and our dogs. We’ve become a closer family unit even if it meant a bit of a struggle at times. I feel that the kids and I have bonded more closely, and it’s also been a defining moment for both of them as they have stepped up to take more responsibilities. We have jointly made decisions about our future directions and I am extremely proud of the two beautiful people that they are.

It is now time to sit down and decide what the next step will be. What do I really want to do?
Michelle

Me Time

Eating, sleeping and waking up when I feel like it has been wonderful – no alarm clock , no plane to catch, no deadlines. Absolutely bliss. The time in Bologna has been a wonderful luxury as I can actually hear myself think properly without a hundred different competing deadlines and thoughts popping into my head.

Nothing like 'me time'
Nothing like ‘Me Time’

I’ve walked everywhere, even up and down the four floors from the lobby to my hotel room, stopped to eat when I felt hungry and watched the passing parade of life in Bologna. The markets yesterday were quite fascinating with a large turnout of what must be the multicultural community, Chinese, Indian and lots of Muslim ladies who were having a great time shopping for headscarves as there is such a fantastic selection to choose from here. All were speaking Italian and as a TESOL teacher it intrigued me to hear the accents. I wonder was it as hard for them to learn Italian as it is to learn English?

Menswear stores are plentiful with great choices and it is lovely to see lots of colours and styles as opposed to the more staid selections which are generally found in Australian menswear shops.
I had also forgotten how everyone smokes here. Cigarettes are openly on sale everywhere. Immaculately dressed, beautifully tanned and accessorised ladies spoil their look with the presence of a fag in their hand.

Each evening I’ve sat in the lovely garden and enjoyed a glass of wine – only the presence of a ‘’zanzare” (mosquito) yesterday drove me in a little earlier than usual. These 3 days alone have been good for my soul. This afternoon I move on to Ravenna where I’ll be joining my team mates.

Michelle

Self Care

Self care – taking care of number one – me! This is not something that comes easily but is absolutely essential for both personal and professional wellbeing. In fact, the more senior the role the more important to have a self care strategy in place as in today’s electronic age it is too easy to always be ‘on’ with the expectation that emails are checked and mobile phones answered at all times.

At management level we are faced with tough decision making and coping with the heavy demands that go with expectations of senior roles which frequently includes a tightened budget that often means less human resources to tackle tasks which leads to longer hours. It is easy to become bogged down with a heavy work load and forget to make time to smell the roses.

Having a self care plan in place is essential to maintaining wellbeing. For me it means setting boundaries which include:

  • Only a few people have my personal mobile number and that is the only one which I answer once I sign off for the day
  • I try to take an early morning walk each day – this is my thinking time as well as an opportunity to repeat affirmations and connect with nature.
  • If I happen to sleep in (and that’s okay too) I still take the time for affirmations that set me up for the day
  • On a regular basis I book out for a couple of hours of ‘me time’- no friends, no family – just me!
  • About every 6 weeks I allow myself a couple of day where I just do what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. This usually involves sleeping in late, sitting around in my pj’s reading, meeting good friends, eating what I want and when I feel like it.

Self care techniques need to be embedded into our working lives and it is worth spending a little time thinking about which strategies work best for you.  We are all different and there is no one size fits all but the one thing that is common to us all is the fact that unless we practise self care we will not thrive and function at optimum levels. Learning to say no is also a very large part of successful self care. I will be expanding on this and other aspects of self care in further articles.

Love to hear what kind of self care techniques others are using….

Michelle

Looking back and looking forward

I started this piece at the end of December as I reflected back over the year and as we approach the end of the first month of 2013, I finally have got around to popping it on my blog! 2012 was an amazing year which took me all over the place, not to mention well out of my comfort zone but it was always a great new learning experience – I cannot believe it flew past so fast. Grandma Lucy was right, time does go so much faster as you get older. I remember her with great fondness – seems like only a few years ago we were all watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in her little sitting room in Green Hammerton. How much the world has changed since then! That fuzzy black and white image on the TV was considered very high tech – now we have instant access to just about everything – and it’s not that many years really!

The world is changing so fast and so is my life but I have been very fortunate in 2012 and although there have been difficult times I choose to focus on the highlights instead. The Year of the Dragon was packed with land mark occasions and events which included Sasha’s 18th birthday and flying the nest to move to Bond University, Wayne’s move to Melbourne, my role as campaign manager for Katrina Fong Lim in her (highly successful) bid to become Darwin’s Lord Mayor, the AusDBF National Championships at Docklands – a memorable affair for all the wrong reasons, my first trip to Bali which I enjoyed courtesy of winning the prize at the Government House Ball the previous year, with my good friends Denise Lynn and Bonita Fong, my taking up Italian lessons, working with TESOL students, Yvonne’s 50th birthday and my contract at Lifeline Top End.

One of the things I am looking forward to most in 2013 is the chance to walk 100km of the Camino – it has been on my radar for a few years now and this is the year it will happen!  I am not a Catholic but have had quite an exposure to the various religions through a childhood spent in many different countries, making life-long friends with those of differing faiths and of course one of those locations was the ‘Holy Land’  Jerusalem so it will be interesting to see another other side of this faith. It will also be a great holiday that involves exercise as well as an opportunity to see the countryside at a leisurely pace (no boot camp foot-slogging for me!) and the luxury of being able to meander not just physically but allowing my mind to wander wherever it might take me; generally an opportunity for prolific new ideas to pop into my head.

It’s by having this kind of break to look forward to that I am able to better cope with the challenges that I face on a regular basis – we all need ‘me time’ and the fact that I will be sharing this time with other Dragon Sisters – some of whom have become good friends over the years – makes it all the more enjoyable. A perfect balance of work and pleasure.