I wake up to the light of the day peaking in behind the blinds. My sheets, needing a change, are all crumpled up beneath me. I reach over for my phone, 9.08am.
Dave pops his head in. “Are you keen to go to Healesville?”
I smile, and nod.
Truth be told I would probably opt to stay at home. I have become a hermit of gargantuan proportions. Sedentary lifestyle doesn’t really fit the bill anymore. More like permanently glued to the sofa lifestyle.
My body and mind have been at war, and I, seemingly a third wheel, have been left battered. The more battered I have become, the more I want to retreat, the more I have retreated.
I get up, shower, and get dressed. I have executive functioning deficits – a reality I have had to make peace with – meaning making even the simplest decisions is increasingly difficult for me. One such decision is what to choose to wear. So easy and something I have done my entire life, but now it is a mine field. To manage this, I have whittled my wardrobe down to a small capsule wardrobe of mostly neutral items – black, white, cream, jeans, trackie bottoms and the like. I still find the decision process difficult, but it has been easier to navigate since implementing the system. Now my wardrobe has my “colourful” clothes at one end, and my capsule clothes at the other.
I wash my wig, dry it and put it on. I look at myself, barely recognising the woman in the mirror. It has been so long since I have worn makeup and my hair. I look human. I smile, “Not too bad,” I think. I slip on my comfy shoes, grab my handbag and make my way out the door.
Oh hello world, there you are.
We pile into the car and begin the drive to Healesville Sanctuary. Jordan had mentioned that he would like to go somewhere to visit animals. He has always loved animals, and they seem to adore him. The minute he walks into a room they rush at him, clamouring for his affection. We decided on Healesville because it is relatively close, and can be done in a day.
On the way there, Jordan pops on his noise cancelling headphones and Dave and I start chatting about the only thing we can think about these days – our move from our beautiful property that we spent so much time and money renovating, to a suburban 4 bedroomed house in Berwick.
I cried for weeks when I knew we were going to have to move. The lifestyle property we bought was simply strangling us as a family. It was too big, too expensive to maintain, and we were not doing any living. Jordan hated it and we had become very disconnected as a family. It took us a while to realise this. We were very invested in the house, everything we owned went into it. How on earth could we leave it? Eventually, though, reality hit us and we conceded. Life was for living, not for drowning.
Still, I cried for weeks at the loss.
Dave’s hand reached over to mine. “This is the first of many trips we will be taking again as a family. It will be awesome to reconnect.” I looked over at him, and smiled. “I hope so.” I can never quite allow myself to trust and believe in the goodness of things.
We chat about the new house, and what we will be doing to it when we first move in. It was built in 2001 and is typical of the area. A double storey, almost Edwardian in style with its central door and floor to ceiling windows either side. It has a large top floor front balcony. The house has never been updated. We agreed that rather than gutting the house in a bid to create our “dream” house that nearly killed us as a family, we would instead work with the house. Small updates and doing what we can ourselves is the order of the day now. My OCD is struggling with this and every now and again a small panic arises. We agreed that all we will do for now is the painting inside and out, new carpets, extra lighting and fans for comfort. It will look and feel fresh and new. “You can then add your touch, Sarah. It will look amazing.” Dave squeezes my hand in a bid to sell the move to me.
We talk about how this is all going to work when we first move in. Logistically, we have to get things right for Jordan. The disruption has to be minimised for him.
“You should blog about the journey,” Dave says to me.
I tell him I don’t have the energy nor inclination to create pictures and videos that people of today demand. I love to watch the videos, but it does seem to me that there is a lot of “noise” out there. The world is very noisy. My decorating journey is not needed.
We sit in silence for a while watching the beautiful, vast open countryside glide past us. “It is so beautiful,” I say. “Pity it wasn’t for us in the end.” And in that moment I knew that was our truth. The acreage lifestyle was indeed not for us. In the end, we weren’t the veggie growing, chicken raising, 2 hour lawn mowing, spider/insect loving, bird poop cleaning, mud trudging kind. We just weren’t. We loved the idea of it all, but sometimes, you have to realise that the dream just doesn’t fit who you actually are. The lifestyle in our heads wasn’t our lifestyle in reality. Instead, the dream had become our noose.
I close my eyes, the glorious winter sun warming my cheeks. I imagine our life in suburbia. I am going to love the laundry chute, and the garden that will be so much easier to keep. I will also love being able to take the dogs on streets with foot paths instead of us all sinking deep into muddy, water laden long grass where I feel constantly nervous about the possibility of an unwelcome reptile. We can entertain now, with a covered deck – that will be nice. The attached garage will mean we can access stuff without getting wet, or going into the cold or super hot weather. We can walk to Beaconsfield, or Berwick and enjoy morning breakfasts and coffees, meet with friends who live close by. Will 8km closer really make that much of a difference? Dave seems to think so. We will enjoy sitting on the balcony that leads off our bedroom, watching the glorious sunsets that we so love and adore. There are many positives to be gained by this move. “Hear that heart? MANY positives!” My heart ignores me.
Driving into Healesville, we are surprised to see so many already there, though why would we be surprised on the last day of school holidays and on such a glorious day?
We tumble out of the car, a huge nip in the air catches us. We quickly open the boot to grab our puffer jackets. Pulling our coats around us we enter the park. It is so beautiful. Despite all the families with their beautiful little young ones, it is still so peaceful. We immediately say how a trip like this is so overdue. We try to remember how long ago it was since we last did something like this. No-one can remember, but we all agree it was way too long.
We move from animal to animal, still marvelling at the koalas, the echidnas, the kangaroos and wallabies. We have seen these animals so many times, yet they still delight.
As we wander, I think of mom. She died 12 years ago this month and I have been thinking of her a lot. Every animal we see reminds me of her. The echidna we saw when we took a trip to The Briars in Mornington, the kookaburras we fed on the deck in Apollo, the koalas we saw in the trees on the Great Ocean Road, the pelicans we saw in San Remo on Philip Island. How I suddenly ache for her, to hear her voice and to engage her counsel.
We stop for coffee and some chips at the little cafe. I am not tired, but my body is in some pain. I take some pain killers.
A lady approaches us, mask in place. “Don’t worry,” she says, “I don’t have Covid. I am just getting over that awful flu that’s been going around.” Instinctively, I pull back, managing to not make it overly obvious (I don’t want to offend her). Influenza is a horrible thing to get and is the reason for my ME/CFS. I don’t need another bout of it. She leaves, coughing, and we discuss how horrible she must have felt to have felt it necessary to come over to us to explain, and how conscious we have all become now when we need to cough in public. In the back of my mind, I do think she should probably have stayed in bed.
We finish our trek around Healesville early. Both Jordy and I are starting to wane. Our energy envelope is very small. He has a phobia of birds ever since a kookaburra smashed into him trying to steal his sausage when we were holidaying in Halls Gap. He screamed and screamed with sheer terror, he begged us to lock him in the car so no birds to get to him. When was that now? 2008 maybe? He has managed to do some amazing things with birds since then – holding a huge owl in the UK, and an eagle in Thailand – but today he hasn’t got the will, and that is okay. We opt to bypass the bird exhibits, most of which are walk throughs.
Jordy falls asleep almost immediately in the car. The energy it takes to go out for the day is lost on most. But we understand. I understand. My own eyes are heavy. “I think, when we get home, I may just curl up and have a nap,” I say. Dave looks at me and smiles. “It’s been a good day though, hasn’t it?” I smile at him. “Indeed it has,” I reply, “the first of many more to come.”