I heard a memorable piece of experimental music on Classic FM recently. It was performed in a single key; the same notes were repeated over and over, endlessly, and it was painful. I was taking my overtired and delirious son for a drive to help him fall asleep; we were staying with friends at their beach house and I was ready for the day to end; ready to put the children to bed and enjoy a wine in the company of my girlfriends.
I drove along the coast, driven slowly mad by the repetitive melody. ‘Come onnnnn,’ I thought, ‘Change it already!’ But frustration gave way to something like curiosity and empty-minded meditation, and when the key change came, about ten minutes in, I was surprised, but somehow relieved in a strange physiological way. It was like my cells released a long-held breath and it made me smile.
The composer was interviewed later, and he said, ‘I changed the key because I was weak. Because I am human.’
The simplicity of his piece, and the climactic key change, echo the rhythms of my life. The pace is steady and repetitive, but I inevitably encounter regular key changes. They are sometimes significant, mostly small. That particular day changed key when Lewis fell asleep; when the soundtrack of the day shifted away from a steady stream of, ‘Muuuummmm…’ and ‘I’m hungry….’
We resist change, but so often, when it comes, we are revitalised; we see the world anew. Sometimes we are responsible for the key change, other times it is suddenly upon us, unexpectedly. Soon enough it’ll be like Groundhog Day again: school life and work will be like the reprise of a song in a single key, and I will begin to feel that God awful itch. Thankfully, holidays and travel are the punctuation marks of this wealthy western life.
The school holidays always provide an opportunity for change. There is time and space to reflect on the past year and all that is forthcoming. In the last month, we’ve been to three different destinations: Melbourne, Mandurah and Palm Beach; we’ve had so many key changes that I’m beginning to crave the steady humdrum of home and routine. I am also a tiny bit anxious about the return to ‘normal’ life because this year, it’s going to be a new kind of normal. You see, my Lewis starts kindergarten for 2.5 days per week, and I am increasing my teaching workload. I won’t be very involved in Lew’s kindy experience and it makes me sad. Fortunately, my husband is going to pick up the slack, but we will still need to use before and after school care. The logistics are enough to make my head spin. Fortunately, I’ve had the time to reflect on what I need to do to make this imminent busy life of work and family manageable.
I did some of my reflection here:
And some here:
And more here:
Needless to say, a great part of my reflection involved gratitude and a real sense of ‘luckiness’. I feel so lucky at the moment.
I also realised that I need to simplify my life by cleaning and getting organised. I’m a bit scatterbrained and I need systems in place to keep everything running smoothly. I decided to do some renovating to make our home more inviting- a place to retreat and relax. I’ve organised my work space because I can’t write in a cluttered environment.
So, here is evidence of a key change:
I resolved to pull up our revolting stained carpet and polish the floorboards beneath. I’m going to tell you something about my ideas: they come shooting out of the ether when my mind is quiet, and when I’m doing menial labour. I loved completing this project, because I now have the seeds for three new short stories. This is how it went…
New Year’s Day:
And the following week..
So, my writing space went from this:
And my hallway:
I’m delighted with the result. I could write about the way I felt I was communing with my 1960s home as I lovingly worked on the floorboards, but I might sound like a weirdo.
Onto another topic:
I met a woman recently who made a profound impression on me. She made me feel like this:
We were at a mutual friend’s wedding and I’d prepared myself for encounters with exceptional people from all over the world. You see, the bride and groom met and fell in love whilst they were doing aid work in Haiti. Chad and Emma are two of the best people I know. I mean BEST: they are humble and funny and kind and they have their priorities straight. And everyone at that wedding knew it. Half of the guests had flown in from the Northern Hemisphere to be with the couple on their special day. I still have goose bumps when I think about the whole affair.
Back to this woman: Helen. She is one of those ‘shiny’ people you rarely get to meet in life. She emits pure goodwill and love and acceptance. I only spoke with her for a few hours, and I will never forget her. I’ve tried to figure out what her x-factor is, and I believe it is her attitude. It’s an: ‘I can do this, and I can do it with grace and humour!’ kind of outlook. It’s self-belief with humility and kindness. Lately, when I have encountered challenges in life, I’ve asked myself, ‘What would Helen do?’ And then I’ve tried to go forth with courage and kindness and laughter. What a woman!