A space ship that has literally everything. It would allow me to go virtually anywhere.
It is cloudy outside right now with tiny patches of blue sky. It is 2 pm in the afternoon in Kordabup, Western Australia. Not thirty minutes ago, the sky was relatively clear and the sun had been out. It’s much more windy in this small corner of the world than most places I have lived. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had days where we started will brilliant sunshine, only to be met with massive downpour of hail in the mid afternoon. Then the day might end on a clear starry night.
The weather is unpredictable here. It matches the daily happenings around this place; there is no strict routine. There is always something new and different each day out here on the farm. Yet there is a sense of peace being out here.
In this tiny, remote corner of the world, we’re sheltered from all political strife. I truly feel like an Untouchable now.
This is the first of a series I am doing of daily writing prompts. I decided to start this today so it’ll help me stay in the habit of writing once a day.
How do we measure happiness, exactly?
I was feeling pretty glum the last couple of days, and all of the things in my life that worried me felt suddenly impossible to overcome. And one thought kept playing on loop in my head: when was the last time I was truly happy?
The answer should be obvious; any moment I get to spend with my husband and my son, that should be my last happiest moment… right?
Except it’s not. Having a newborn is tiring. My son is the best baby and we had him in the best possible circumstance. We’re surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles who don’t hesitate to help out whenever they can. But. I have not had a full night’s sleep since the first day Finn was born. That’s just a fact of life I have to accept.
What about the last time Jamie and I went out on a date? When we celebrated our three year marriage anniversary? I should have been completely happy then, right? But I wasn’t. Because while I was trying to enjoy myself, there was a constant thought running through my mind: Finn. I can’t shut it off. I can’t make myself stop wondering if he’s hungry or uncomfortable.
It may sound like I am unhappy with Finn–that’s not the case. Finn makes me happy. Feeding him and cuddling him makes me happy. Being with him makes me happy, but those are all little happy moments strung together to show that Finn is now a person that makes me happy, but he alone is not responsible for contributing to my overall happiness with life.
Because Happiness, with a capital H, is something that encompasses every area of a person’s life. I can be happy with my son but be unhappy about something else. Being happy with Finn is a distraction, a relief, a burning torch in the darkness against all other depressing things that an adult has to worry about.
So I thought of making a “form”. A sort of a quiz with questions about how I felt about all different areas of my life. The quiz would help me identify what I was unhappy about exactly, and knowing your enemy is half the battle, or some type of saying.
There are many psychological and sociological studies done on Happiness. It’s like an elusive puzzle that countless people have dedicated entire lifetimes to solving.
The way I have always seen it is in categories. There are several different areas of our life that are variable. Some are within our control, some are not. These are:
- Basic Needs (like food and shelter)
- Personal (how you see yourself)
- Relationships (family, friends, love)
- Work (how fulfilled do you feel in society)
- Financial (financial freedom?)
That is how I’ve broken down the different factors that contribute to our overall happiness. Basic Needs and our own perception of self seem to be the most important in my mind, because that’s where it all begins. Then we extend to our close and personal relationships, and then our place in the world, and finally how we feel about our financial standing.
I put myself through the test, and here’s what I found.
- All my basic needs have been met. Happiness filled up to 20%.
- While I am not completely happy with who I am, I am okay with who I am and I am optimistic that I will continue becoming a better person. Add 15% and Happiness is filled up to 35%.
- I am happy with my choice in family. Jamie and Finn are two of the most brilliant bright lights in my life. There are relationships I wish could be better, like the one between my parents and I, but I have come to accept to leave the things I can’t change. I have great friends but I live much too far from them, which makes me lonely. I would say in relationships area I can only add 10%. We’re up to 45%.
- I’m completely out of work right now. I don’t have a job. I started my “career” later than most people, but I did well in it. I don’t work right now because of two reasons: Finn, and living on the farm. Am I worried about unemployment? Yes, but only in so much as wondering how my small family and I will survive. I don’t feel defined by unemployment as it is much by choice. I choose to have the lifestyle I have now and if I were to choose to work again, I would not have much trouble getting work. I am also lucky in that I don’t define myself by a “career”. My measure of “productivity” is tied to everything I can do well rather than the few things I have done. I see boundless potential in myself as I have learned that I am adaptable–and I take pride in that. I’d give myself 20% in this area. So we’re up to 65%.
- Money: Personally I am just okay. When I say personally, I am referring to money that is just my own, and not shared. It’s strange that even though we are married, I don’t see Jamie’s money as mine. I don’t see financial assets as ours unless it is something that we actually put equal shares in. I don’t know why I think this way and I don’t know how to change it. I also don’t think I should change it. Thanks to the Australian government, I have enough parental leave to last me for a few months without worrying. And the cost of living here is very low, therefore I am doing fine. Ultimately money is not very important to me. I do wish I had more of though (doesn’t everyone?). Add 18% and that brings us up to 83%.
83% Happiness–that’s not too bad! That’s a B+ if we were to measure it against my old middle school grading scale. I can now tell myself that when it comes to overall happiness, I am doing just fine.
And that’s the whole point of this exercise: helping myself accurately gauge level of Happiness so that I don’t end up trapped in a well of negativity.
Wake up around 5 or 6 am in the morning and wash my face. If Finn is grumbling, I let him grumble while I go through the morning facial routine–one of the few routines that survives motherhood because my brother’s wife is the same age as me but my skin is much older than hers. She has been properly taking care of her skin since she was 20. I was boozing it up with friends when I was 20, not a care in the world about anything, the least of all my skin.
Then I change Finn’s diaper–nappy, as they say in Australia–because that usually calms him down a bit. He likes staring at me from his laying down position. His eyes roam about, looking like he’s writing my face into memory. I have seen the same look before on another baby: my baby brother. Finn makes these cute baby noises and sometimes smiles at me. Changing Finn in the morning is a favorite part of my day.
The two of us wait for Jamie to wake up, or sometimes he is awake already and that’s when I hand Finn over for Daddy-Time. They both enjoy that.
Between 7 am to 8 am, we make our way to the main house from our little hut. We usually bring a bag of things we want at the house. This is where we start our day. Me with the daily baby washing (his clothes and nappies) and Jamie with his morning chores.
For our breakfast, Jamie has coffee and I have a mug of hot chocolate. I used to have at least a cup of coffee a day, but since I’ve had to give up caffeine during pregnancy, I have felt so much more energetic overall. So I decided I would not go back to having coffee daily. Of course there is still caffeine in hot chocolate, but really not enough for it to have a lasting effect on me, I find.
Usually I feed Finn during my breakfast. Then I do the breakfast dishes while everyone else start their day’s work. The rest of the morning depends on whether Finn falls asleep or not. If he falls asleep and stays asleep, which is rare, then I spend the morning either reading or walking around the yard. If it’s a washing day (house laundry), then I spend the morning hanging out the laundry that Marion’s washed.
Lunch is usually a casual DIY deal. I most often have instant noodles, because it’s the easiest.
The afternoons are passed much like the mornings. Again, it all depends on how Finn is. My main activity is reading. I try to continue my writing projects, but it is difficult to do when your thoughts and inspirations can be interrupted by a crying infant.
Most days are passed in a blur. It is usually supper time in a few blinks of the eye. Jamie comes in from his day’s work around 5 pm. He showers so that he’ll be clean enough to handle the baby. I shower just after him. Then we eat. After-dinner washing up is usually my job as well, as I’m the worst at running away after dinner. That and because I hardly ever cook dinner now.
After post-dinner wash up, I soak Finn’s reusable nappies from that day so that they’ll be ready to be washed the next morning. Jamie and I head off to the Hut with Finn and try to get an early night. We go to bed now generally between 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
During the night, I’ll wake up between three to four times, depending on how Finn eats. Some nights I can’t even stay awake and I fall asleep with him still attached to my breast. Some nights I can’t fall asleep and I stay awake reading while Finn sleeps. The extra time feels stolen–cheated, but it’s an essential. I find I need those hours when I am still just myself. When I’m not a wife, not a mother, not anyone but ME.
This entry has taken a whole day to write. Finn is the main reason, but it would be unfair of me to say that I had no free time whatsoever. Finn is laying in his laundry basket of a cot next to me, with a pacifier in his mouth. He is awake but not grumbling because he is sucking. I used to be one of those new moms that decided I wouldn’t use a pacifier. Look at us now.
Today we spent the morning before lunch down at the Bottle Brush Paddock. I sat in the UT with Finn while Marion and Caromy helped Jamie collect fallen pieces of wood. Jamie plans to plow the rest of the paddock so they can get rid of the onion grass growing there. Onion grass has taken over the paddock and the cattle doesn’t eat it.
This is how I live now.
Everytime I look at my son, I am amazed at how much one can possibly love a person.
When I think of having another child, I think that I couldn't possibly love another as much as I love Finn.
But I suppose it would be different, wouldn't it? Much like how you couldn't really compare your love for a sibling with your love for a spouse. I wonder if it is always the first born that is most loved or if it is the last.
I am a middle child.
There are things about me that other people consider weird or anal.
- I don’t like leaving hair in my hair brush
- I always put things away exactly where it’s supposed to go
- I separate utensils in the dish draineR
- I cook egg yolk and egg white separately
These are just a few things. I’m not extremely tied to these habits; I won’t throw a tantrum if these things didn’t go the way I wanted. But the strange preferences are still there.
Things I’ve done in the last 6 months that I’d probably never do if I weren’t living on the farm:
- Raised some Guinea fowls
- Saved a little chicken from freezing
- Picked up a baby goat