Life Lessons of 2018

It’s hard to believe 2018 is nearly over. On one hand the last twelve months seem to have flown by, and on the other it has felt like a long year. But as always life has taught me lessons along the way, and today I thought I’d share the ones I’ve learnt this year with you.

Sometimes You Can’t Control What Happens:

On Friday the 30th of November my phone barely left my hand as I constantly refreshed my Facebook and Google feeds. Earlier that week bushfires had broken out in the Pioneer Valley in Queensland, and were heading up the range. At the top of that range sits the small township of Eungella; consisting of a general store, a pub and a scattering of houses. Twenty minutes down a dirt road from here is where our old house in Dalrymple Heights was situated. We had sold it nearly two years ago to the day. Dalrymple Heights is fairly isolated in that there is no mobile coverage, limited internet access for some and only one way out. 

Early that afternoon alerts started to be shared saying people needed to evacuate if they hadn’t already. An hour later I saw a news reporter talking about how there was some doubt over the best way to fight the fire, that was starting to quickly spread towards the townships at the top of the range. Not long afterwards an emergency post was shared saying if you were in Dalrymple Heights it was too late to head out and to seek shelter. 

Then the news stopped coming through.

After a fitful few hours sleep I checked my phone at 2.30am and was relieved to see the worst was over. All thanks to the local mayor who had organised a 737 airplane to fly over the range and water bomb the fires (the footage of this huge plane swooping in to dump gallons of water was amazing). It had been touch and go but the township had come through to tell the tale. 

Eungella means ‘Land of the Clouds’ due to the fact that is 686 metres above sea level. Often you would look out over the valley below and realise you were literally above the clouds. I always found it interesting we ended up there as the Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. Eungella and Dalrymple Heights sit within a national park, considered to be the longest continual stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia. It is beautiful, remote and one of the best places in the world two introverted hermits could have chosen to live.

The fire has destroyed much of the rainforest. The range that was once lush and green is now charred black. The wildlife have lost their habitat, and the humans have lost their serenity. While it will regenerate, it could take hundreds of years … and it will never be the same again.

While we no longer live there Eungella and Dalrymple Heights hold a very special place in our hearts, and always will. For me it was the place that allowed me to hide away from the world for a while. It was the place that allowed me to start putting the broken pieces of myself back together after the devastating effects the Christchurch earthquake and failed marriage had caused. And it was the place where my fiancé and I started to build the life I am so grateful for today. 

But once again, while watching fire threaten the lives, houses and community of friends we still have there, I was reminded that sometimes we have no control of what happens to us. We can make plans, create goals and build towards our dreams, but sometimes life throws us a curveball. 

These are the events we can’t possibly see coming in our lives, but inevitably help us remember that ...

We Are Stronger Than We Think:

Until the day where we had to say goodbye to Meg I didn’t realise how emotionally draining the first ten months of 2018 had been. For most of this year I felt like I was riding a rollercoaster of emotions. The tears shed during the bad days would be quickly replaced by a glimmer of hope when she was doing well. And the constant conversations about whether it was time to let her go with the dignity and grace she deserved were draining.

We both found the hardest part to be the question of ‘how do you know if it’s time’? Even when she was having a bad day Meg would still greet me with a wagging tail when I got home, follow me about like a shadow and get excited when it came to dinner time. And I swear she knew when we were having ‘one of those conversations’ and think 'bugger that', perking herself up to wander around the yard and lie happily in the sun chomping on an old bone she had discovered.

I had no idea how I was going to be able to make the decision, but I also knew I was going to have to. And ultimately I did. The one question that continues to haunt me to this day is whether I left that decision too late.

If you have read Meg’s Letter you will know that my fiancé was away for work when the day came to say goodbye. I knew he would be. He was when I had to rush Toddy to the vet five years ago, and he died in the backseat before we made it. He was when our neighbour’s dogs viciously attacked ours. And he is whenever anything major seems to happen at home. It’s just how it is.

But each time these things happen they help me remember that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. That during difficult situations I can always handle what is thrown at me. And that while sometimes you can’t control what happens, you can control how you deal with it.

(I’ve talked about this a lot before in earlier posts when it came to losing my house in an earthquake and my marriage breaking up. All these posts are on my About Page, so you can read more about it there).

Having watched Meg go through a multitude of health problems in her final year, combined with McCaw also having had two operations to remove cancerous growths made me realise that ...

Sometimes You Can Control What Happens:

I have been a physiotherapist for 21 years. I should have been a vet. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

Over the years whenever one of our dogs has gotten sick or injured, I have always found myself delving deep into the research behind why, what and how. Some of the research is scary, with one in two dogs getting cancer these days. Health problems in our canine friends has skyrocketed and illnesses once seen only in elderly dogs are starting to become more prevalent in those much younger.

We once had a veterinary specialist tell us McCaw needed tibial osteotomies done for ruptured ligaments in both his back knees, otherwise he would be severely crippled by the time he was five years old. An operation that would cost $5000 each leg! We decided to manage him conservatively with a change of diet and a gradual rehabilitation plan I put in place. Today he is six years old and can happily run for 10km behind the Ute in the forest, without any sign of a limp.

For many reasons retraining as a vet has never been an option. I looked into becoming a vet nurse, but again there were many reasons it wouldn’t have worked. And as you get older you can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that it’s too late to make a change.

Earlier this year I stumbled across the Holistic Animal Therapy Organisation website and found myself signing up to study a Certificate in Animal Nutrition, a pre-requisite for their Diploma in Holistic Animal Therapy which I will do next. Just recently I also began studying a course in Canine Myofunctional Therapy.

So what am I going to do with all this? In all honesty I have no idea. Maybe I will set up a little side hustle massaging dogs in my spare time? Or maybe I can create recipe books for a natural canine diet? Or maybe my dogs will simply benefit from what I am learning? Or maybe one day I will transition from being a human physiotherapist to the equivalent of a dog one?

All I knew was that after 21 years of being a physiotherapist I was becoming bored, and with boredom comes complacency. So something needed to change. And even though my mind was trying to convince me I was too old to start learning something new, I knew it was time to follow a path I was passionate about.

I haven’t been the only one making changes later in life this year. I have a number of friends in their 40’s who have started online businesses, changed jobs, started studying towards new careers, and left relationships. Because even when you’re in your 40’s, the rest of your life is still a long time to be unhappy and it’s never too late to make a change.

When I started studying again part-time it made me realise that ...

Simplicity & Routines are Important Life Foundations:

I’ve written a lot over the past couple of years about why I live a quiet and simple life. I’ve also spoken about how I incorporate routines into my everyday to help create space and decrease the amount of decisions I need to make. I always joke that if I knew this way of life was going to become a ‘thing’ online I would have started writing about it 20 years ago. This way of living isn’t something I’ve ‘found’, but the way I have always lived.

When I first added study to my plate I wondered if I would end up becoming that person who sighs and says they are ‘so busy at the moment’ when people ask how they are. But it hasn’t happened. In fact, I can honestly say I don’t feel any busier, any more stressed, or any more pushed for time.

Some of this may be because I’ve chosen to study in ‘snippets of time’, rather than chunks. So half an hour here, or an hour there. The longest I have sat down to study for in one go was two hours, and that was only because it was a rainy Saturday afternoon. This has worked well for me as doing a small bit most days helps me feel like I’m progressing, rather than doing a big chunk one day and then nothing for the rest of the week. That way of working tends to stress me out more. I’m definitely someone who works best when they just chip away at things.

However, I believe the biggest reason for me not feeling overwhelmed is because simplicity creates the space for me to fit in a small bit of study each day, and the daily routines I live by means my daily life continues to run smoothly. Without having had this foundation in place I’m sure I would have become ‘that person’. 

It’s funny how these four lessons continue to present themselves to me time and again. And I’m sure they will continue to do so.

As the year rolls to a close I am grateful for all it has taught me. It’s been hard year at times, but it has also been the first year in a long time where I have felt I am where I am supposed to be at right now. There’s been no wishing for things to be different, no looking to get to the future in the hope it will be better and no lamenting that I should have it more together than I do. 

In many ways this year has felt like the end of an era. Which means next year will bring with it the start of a new one. What it will bring I’m not sure at this stage, but I’m looking forward to finding out. 

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