Tag Archives: life

How getting a dog changed my life

Getting a dog changed my life

It’s safe to say that getting a dog was very high on the agenda after buying a house. (A refresher: NZ is heinously pet unfriendly when it comes to renting – “No pets and no smokers” reads basically every rental listing ever.)

I had no idea how to choose a dog, really. I wanted to adopt pretty much every single dog listed for adoption on TradeMe, and once at the SPCA, it was just as tough. Heartbreaking, really (I may have gotten a bit teary.) Especially the older ones.

This little lass was just over a year old and had been awaiting adoption for many months. Her previous family lived in government housing and couldn’t keep her.

She’s super affectionate, very alert and aware. She has to sniff ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and find out what you’re up to.

She’s also a bit of a chewer, although hopefully that will fade with age.

She settled in quite quickly, I thought, but a coworker said it would probably take time. And indeed, a couple months in she’s suddenly started to REALLY play with her toys properly – in particular the first two I ever got her – and it warms my heart.

Also, turns out that talking out loud to something that doesn’t talk back isn’t as unnatural as I thought it would be.

Owning a dog has forced/taught me to be:

Tidier

I’ve always struggled with neatness. I have some Type A tendencies that I tap into in order to combat my core messiness and keep on top of life, but organised chaos tends to be how I roll. Now I’m learning to shut doors, put things away, and this dovetails nicely with home ownership as I can now finally store stuff away and know that’s how it’s going to be as long as I want it that way. I’m not much for decor, but practical solutions I can get behind … and home storage is my new addiction. Basket, shelves, hooks, racks … I want them all!

More active

It’s always a struggle, especially in winter. We live near some great parks and tracks, luckily, and often run into other friendly dogs along the way.

Patient

I’m not a naturally patient person. But I know I need to lead calmly by example and focus on positive reinforcement. While she’s quite well behaved there’s room to improve (and I have lots to learn too) and we’re just about to start obedience classes!




She brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing her at the end of every day, and it makes me want to rush home. Sometimes she’s a pain in the ass; for a couple of dark days early on I was afraid we’d bitten off more than we could chew, that she’d never calm down and be manageable. But I wouldn’t give her up for the world.

Leaving saved my marriage

How an ultimatum saved my marriage

I have never really believed in ultimatums.

But there were no other options left.

If the price of stability and a home was being alone, I realised I would take that deal in a heartbeat. See also: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

You need to set your own boundaries; decide:

what you want and need

what you can and cannot accept

what you expect and deserve

It isn’t selfish to put your own oxygen mask on first. To stay true to your own goals. To refuse to  allow someone else to derail your dreams and hold you back.

The end of 2015 was a low, low point for us. I think we both found ourselves disappointed in one another, to varying degrees.

It was an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities (or, for me at least, to reinforce mine and validate my decision), and have the space to take a step back and reflect.

Sometimes, you gotta burn things down if there’s going to be any hope of rebuilding them again.

Should you leave your unemployed partner?

Should you leave a chronically unemployed partner?

You are not a terrible person if you’re thinking of leaving a chronically underemployed/unemployed partner. We only get one life, and you’re allowed to put your own interests first. Love is lovely … but so is peace of mind and financial security. In some circumstances it might be blindingly obvious whether to stay or go. But in others it’s not – this one’s for you. (For the record: While things seem to be back on track, I’m keeping things separate so that they’re easy to untangle again if needed.)

How did I know I couldn’t keep going?

When I asked myself, is this relationship adding net value to my life? I could no longer say yes.

For all the good, the bad outweighed it, and had been for a long time.

Nobody knows all the gory details. They don’t need to. Honestly, I could have coped with it all – as long as he had a full time job. But all those things, combined with zero income … different story. Especially given the fact that going separate ways would render him eligible for unemployment benefits.

It is damn hard to tell where supporting becomes enabling, and being taken advantage of.

I am far from blameless. I made mistakes. There are many things I could have done better. And I’m much wiser for it.

I held on too long. Then I came to a crossroads.

I could keep being passive. And I would almost certainly wind up bitter and drained. Probably having a breakdown and having to take time off work – ironically, the only thing keeping us afloat financially, not to mention the only good thing in my life.

Or I could cut my losses. Put myself first for once. Heal from the toll of two years of uncertainty and stress.

Life was exhausting. Going from carrying the weight of two people to just me – it was infinitely lighter. I can’t quantify the relief I felt; I slept like a baby those first few nights after leaving.

There was second-guessing, of course. There always is. But after months of internal back-and-forth, I knew it was the right call. I’d done so much soul searching and so much reading, in pursuit of the answer.

What it boils down to, is that the discussions in these three threads hit me like a ton of bricks. Realising that we might never be financially stable  together. And I simply could not live that way.

It’s so important to have a financially responsible partner.

It takes two. You cannot do it all yourself. And nor should you.

Love and trying isn’t enough.

Love is not willingness to live in a cardboard box together.

Love is doing whatever it takes to not get to that point.

Link love (powered by stew and strolls)

NZ Muse link loveI think I need to accept that life just never gets easier. Yes, you become stronger and smarter but as your resilience grows, so do the hurdles. Gone are the days of high-school-sized issues and injustices. It doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the breaks.

Women are awesome. My closest IRL friends may be male, and have been incredible supports when I needed it, but there are some things they will simply never understand. From crushes in long term relationships to emotional labour and pulling your financial weight, female friends get the gender dynamics that my dudes don’t.

I’m very passionate about the state of the housing market and the huge effects it has on people’s lives – mostly from a quite personal angle, but also at a more macro, societal level.  A spirited conversation about this at our weekly all staff meeting about this very topic and what it all means for New Zealanders – especially in retirement – got me quite fired up and reaffirms that I’m in the right place (both at work and at home). It’s incredible how much difference it makes being free of the “emotional and financial challenges of renting”, as it was put.

This week’s links

A great post on household division of labour and finances when the woman earns more (because things do not always fall neatly along the lines of High Earning Busy Spouse and Low Earning But With Lots of Flexibility Spouse)

Sherry sums up some thoughts on the circular logic of early retirement/financial independence more eloquently than I ever could have

Sometimes, YOU’RE the rich friend

A couple of  things about poverty

How important is job satisfaction, really?

Graduating beyond frugal habits 

You’re making life harder for yourself

What does money mean to you?

Sometimes less is just less – minimalism within reason, guys

Hopes and dreams? No thanks, I’m too old for that crap

Sometime I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast

Hope is a cruel thing.

I understand that sometimes it’s needed in order to survive. When there’s nothing else at all to pull you through.

But I’m not a fan of it at all.

I like sure things. Certainty. Probably because there’s been a distinct drought of that good stuff lately.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to dare to hope, those hopes are swiftly dashed.

“How do you people live like this? Day after day, just hoping people are gonna do what you want.”

I love this quote (by Kilgrave) from Jessica Jones. It’s stuck with me ever since.

Not so long ago, I used to be a dreamer. Now I’m the coldest, hardest, steeliest bitch. Got no time nor use for imaginings, only what is.

“The rest of us are just walking around, trying not to be disappointed with the way that our lives turned out.”

This melancholy line from Skeleton Twins (highly recommended, a solid movie with standout performances from usually comic actors) had me literally frozen in place, holding my breath as it washed over me. That is not what I want for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and that is far, far too long.

One cannot subsist on hope alone. But finally, I’m on the very cusp of achieving something I’ve dreamed about for so long.  It’s hard to believe, and it feels so surreal.

Forgiveness is a funny beast

Snowy plants close up in field

Recent events have brought me closer to and further from various people in my life.

It’s gotten me thinking a lot about forgiveness.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known the power of words. I can barely recall a time before I could read and write.

It’s strange, the things – actions and words alike – that I never thought I’d forgive. But looking over my shoulder, I realise that somewhere along the way, I did. It wasn’t a conscious choice.

And conversely, there’s the words that have actually stuck with me for decades and that I don’t think I’ll ever let go of. The funny thing is, I don’t think the people in question realise what impact those throwaway comments had. That’s why I’m so careful about what I say (and write).

Then there’s the things we say in emotional moments that are actually quite manipulative or malicious. We are all flawed, but it’s deeply disappointing  to see this in those closest to us.

Words matter.

While actions do speak a million louder than words, for me it’s words that actually stick in my memory, that have lasting impact, and will refer back to when the actions start to fade from memory.

There’s a lot of things I need to start to forgive and let go of, before they eat away at me.

Or failing that, in the words of Emily Yoffe, I must accept them and move on.

When life gives you lemons, buy lipstick

When life gives you lemons, buy lipstick
By: Filter Forge

Have we decided if the ‘lipstick index’ is for real, or not? (That’s the idea that people keep splurging on lipstick in times of recession – little luxuries, yo.)

Well, on a micro level at least, it’s certainly rung true for me of late. I literally never buy makeup except to replace the one lippy I wear. My annual beauty budget is probably under $200, including skincare and haircuts. But some months ago I got a weird fixation with finding this particular shade that I was absolutely convinced I needed in my life. Sort of a dark vampy red, with maybe a bit of a plum/berry twist. Along the lines of Mac Diva, for those who care.

I spent hours online in the name of research, and far too long in stores lurking around counters and fiddling with the testers. Once, a strange man even peered over my shoulder just after I stepped out of a shop – I had probably close to a dozen swatches smeared on the back of my hand and was eyeing them up in the natural light – and hissed ‘they all look the same!’

I wound up buying probably around four (that’s a massive spree for me) and now I actually wear different colours on different days, sometimes. Crazy.

And at the same time, I dug out some stuff that had been sitting around forever (throwbacks to my days of magazine freebies) like amazing pore-blurring primer powder and electric blue eyeliner (turns out to be a nice pop when you have hooded lids, or in my case, one normal and one hooded). For the first time in probably 15 years I started spending downtime at home playing with makeup for no reason other than I wanted to, even watching YouTube tutorials and stalking beauty reddits.

Related, and possibly also a  reaction to the whole forced austerity thing, I’ve almost grown a little bit of a shopping addiction – at least by my normal standards. I haven’t bought much – a dress here, a pair of pants there – but I can definitely now understand how people might get out of hand.

I think this probably stems from a deep-seated need for control. Not having it in other areas of my life, having my sphere of influence drastically reduced, has manifested itself in a new obsession with my appearance.

I’ll never ever be the kind of person who puts on a full face every day. (Or any day. My wedding being the one exception, and that wasn’t by my own hand…). Yet there’s something weirdly calming about being alone in front of a mirror, going through the ritual of making yourself feel a little more beautiful.

The 5 things keeping me sane right now

starry-skies-at-night-shot

The name of the game, at least for the foreseeable future, is stress management.

Ever heard of active relaxation? Oh, how I love a good oxymoron, but I think this is exactly what I need to be doing. I will report back.

Other things currently saving my sanity:

Running

I’m so thankful to live in a nice neighbourhood with quiet streets, ringed by a coastal bush track. That first glimpse of the sea whenever I head for the trail gets me right to my happy place.

Music

I’ve been on a playlist making binge lately (Guilty pleasures! Rock ballads!) and I’m not even sorry. My commute is basically measured in songs, as are my runs.

Introspection

I’m devouring advice columns at pace. Cheryl Strayed, Mark Manson, Captain Awkward, Ask Polly. If you know of any more along those lines….

People

After so many months of not being able to face other humans outside of work, half the time now it feels like there’s nothing I need more than social contact. Bless the friends who know that life gets away from us sometimes, and pick up right where we left off, be it text, email, or in person. And amazing coworkers and bosses – seriously.

Blogging

Possibly the best thing I’ve ever done. A chronicle of the highlights, the lowlights, the spending and earning. Blogging taught me to negotiate and made me some true friends.

Outside perspectives are so valuable when you’ve lost all sense of orientation. I know none of you can possibly know everything, and so I take them for what they’re worth, but the insights that even readers I’d never known existed until recently have offered have been amazing. I do not exaggerate when I say that comments and emails have honestly made me cry in a good way.

How is your 2016 shaping up? What’s rocking your socks right now?

Let’s see what happens when I choose myself

A goal without a plan is just a wish - NZ Muse

I can’t recall ever being so excited for a new year.

For so long I’ve been putting others first, to the detriment of my own physical and mental wellbeing.

All it’s served to do is drain my bank account and reserves of patience (and let’s face it, neither were all that flush to begin with).

No more.

Resisting that caretaking urge, to take over things, to handle them, goes against every instinct I have. But it must be done.

It’s easier to achieve when you have focus on a singular mission. This year that’s my own health and happiness.

After all, the only good things that happened last year were the things I made happen. Funny that.

What is happiness, anyway?

A is for Angst

“Are you happy?”

For someone who professed to be terrible at giving advice, he was a ninja of tact. When in doubt, and pressed for an answer, simply rebut with a question in turn – it’s a fail safe tactic. Particularly when you’ve been put on the spot by someone you don’t know all that well. Oops.

The problem with the ‘are you happy?’ benchmark  is that happiness isn’t static. If we all did what made us happy in the short term, well, the world might be a very different place. It’s called adulting.

“Happiness is fleeting and at times elusive. We won’t always grasp it, and we’ll forgive ourselves if we don’t. Our lives might not always be happy, but they will be full with experience and with one another.”    (via A Practical Wedding)

The struggle

I’ve been finding happiness in the little moments. But I don’t know if those are enough. I don’t know if that makes up for the overall instability of our current existence – because this is my LIFE, and I’m the only one who has to live it and the only one who can take full responsibility for it.

I can’t tell if I’m cold or codependent (that probably changes from moment to moment). I can’t tell if I’m expecting too much and need to learn to roll with the punches or if I’m an idiot for sticking it out so long. I feel like I could paint at least two very different pictures, two very different interpretations, of the past few years, and I honestly don’t know which would be the more accurate. I don’t know where to draw the line, because there is no clear demarcation for these kinds of things.

From a wholly pragmatic perspective, I should have walked months ago. I tried, sort of. But I’m very good at that womanly thing of Putting Others First. Too good.

The question I’ve been asking myself a lot is: How do you know? There are things we’ve been taught are dealbreakers in relationships. But for most of us, it’s not that clear cut. So many times I’ve just wished for someone to tell me what to do, and be done with it.

What is expecting too much? What is expecting too little? Am I settling? Am I being unrealistic?

I ain’t saying she a gold digger, but I do require an equal partner.

Truths to live by

It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Do not expect other people to change.

I am the only person responsible for my own happiness.

(Oh, and the sunk cost fallacy – throw that in there too.)

Words of wisdom

I’ve been finding a lot of comfort in a lovely comment left here some months ago:

“I used to go to sleep some nights thinking I was going to wake up the next morning, pack a suitcase and head to my mom’s and start the separation process. … I also would give myself ultimatums like ‘if it’s not better by this date I’m leaving’”

I remember reading somewhere – I suspect in a post about unconventional relationship advice – that you must be willing to walk away. Now, I know it’s commonly thrown around that people just aren’t committed enough today and that they give up too easily or expect perfection. But to be frank, I’ve yet to see a single example of this in the lives of anyone I know. We’ve all got the opposite problem – we don’t know when to walk away. We hang on for all we’ve got.

I thought I was willing to walk. But it took months to actually muster myself to that tipping point and look over the edge.

And I can’t lie, the terror I felt was almost paralysing.

Being there, though – that was a turning point. I was making plans. I was saving listings on TradeMe. I went and looked at another place to live. It wasn’t just an option; I was committed to leaving. (Not necessarily the relationship, but definitely the living situation, for many pragmatic reasons.)

What changed my mind? So many little things, barely on the spectrum at all, really – a toothbrush, an unexpected encounter – but enough in aggregate to drive me into even deeper contemplation. Ultimately, a third path started to crystallise. I ran scenarios, crunched numbers. I thought I found a way to get what I wanted, without having to shake up my entire life right now. A win-win, as they call it. There’s nothing quite like feeling backed into a corner, and finally seeing a sliver of light in a new option as it reveals itself.

Moving forward

The most important thing is not my marriage. It’s ME.

I certainly haven’t been acting like it. But once I finally cemented this in my mind, things became a lot clearer.

Again, this is my life. I only get one, and I’m the only one living it. There are things I cannot control in it, things that have made life quite miserable. But there are other things I can control, and can change, to mitigate that. Sour as that lemonade is to swallow, it’s not as bitter as the lemons.

So, I’m making plans to achieve the things I want. My number one priority is myself. The status quo is unsustainable; a 2016 without progress is unacceptable.

Hopefully the future still involves us growing old together – but if it doesn’t, I have made peace with that. That might sound depressing, but I find this freeing.

Happiness is having a plan.

TL;DR: Money is the most important thing in the world. Don’t believe anyone who says it isn’t.

(Sorrynotsorry if that offends your romantic heart.)