Expectations versus Reality

Everyone says marriage is hard, but sometimes I wonder if it's really supposed to be THIS difficult.

Right now everyone says it's the new baby that's throwing us off. I really hope that is all it is.

How I Live Now

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.

 

Finn

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.

Easy Conversation

Listening to the women of this household chat with each other and they really don’t miss a beat. The last time I was that in tune with someone other than Jamie was probably when I was working at subway.

I miss it. It also makes me a little sad that probably won’t get to enjoy the same thing again, not unless I get to live with my brother again.

Family

For a very long time, “family” was something that I feared. Family was a group of people who despised each other but had no other choice but to stick together. I grew up watching our family fracture and I even participated in some of the friction. I was my mother’s daughter, and my father’s.

Mother had a long list of issues. She was unable to empathize with people and incredibly selfish. My father is in denial. He continued hanging onto an idea of a wife that was more of a dream than reality, and he kicked himself constantly for it.

There were random happinesses in our childhood. Sunday dinners at grandpa’s house. Trips to amusement parks with our father. Chinese New Year fireworks. These happy memories were very rare, but they served their purpose; they kept me relatively sane.

Before Jamie, family meant people I lived with and didn’t necessarily like. Of course my brother was the exception. I would call my brother my best friend even if he wasn’t my brother.

Now family means something entirely new. When I met Jamie, I didn’t expect to end up where we are. I had just been in downward spiral and I was aimless, just floating. Months before we met, I had been fired from my job, went on academic probation, and ended an engagement. I had admitted defeat, moved back home, and I was working a lowly job while trying to bring my GPA back up. I was lost.

Having been in a long distance relationship that kept me out of the dating pool for four years, I jumped back in with an abandon. The first was a man I met in training, and who knows how it even started. Then there was a string of first dates that never panned out. There were also a couple of boys I actually started to like, but just never really that much.

And then there was Jamie. When we first started talking, I thought he was going to be another one of the same. The more we talked, the more I noticed the difference. When we were talking, even just online, I felt that he was really interested in what I had to say. I felt interesting, unlike all the other times when I simply felt like just another online date.

Everything with Jamie was new. It was really the first time I was in a proper relationship. I had a lot to learn. There were things that I didn’t know about in regards to how to properly love another person because my parents were poor models of romantic love. I made many mistakes, and somehow Jamie forgave them all. He would shocked and upset at my lack of experience and human understanding, but still he forgave me and worked with me.

And I’m glad he did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have ended up here–on a remote farm in Western Australia amongst a group of the most wonderful people I have ever known.

I have sisters. One of them repeatedly spoils me with treats. She’s the one current wearing my baby while she cooks dinner for us. She is amazing.

I have a mother. She spoils me even more. She works tirelessly to keep the household going and still she finds time to do special things for all of us, including me.

I am not used to this–this selfless kind of love. I constantly question whether there is something they want back from me. I want to voice my gratitude, but I don’t have the proper words.

Because of them, family means something different now. Family means giving without expectation. Family means unconditional love. Family means disagreeing with each other without attacking each other.

Never in my wildest fantasies would I have imagined this future for myself. But I am happy to be here. I am happy my son has such a family, and I hope I can live up to the legacy.

It’s Been A Few Months

There is so much to say, yet I am not quite sure where to begin.

So I have a son. Finley Tsai Macdougall. We meant to use his Chinese first name as his Anglo middle name, but we didn’t like how the Chinese names translated to English. So we used my Chinese last name instead. This is our contribution to keeping a part of my Chinese heritage. Finn is also part of the Tsai family now.

But what is the Tsai family, really? Our family is now at its most fractured. Physical distance was really the only thing that held us together. Love? Companionship? Turns out distance took away all those things for us. Whose fault was it? Which parent was responsible? I guess it’s never a single person’s fault. I know that now. A marriage works only if all parties involved work at it. A marriage fails as well because all parties involved have given up.

Off on a tangent. I have to get all this out before Finn wakes up again. That’s my life now–my days revolve around Finn. Feeding Finn. Soothing Finn. Changing Finn. Bathing Finn. Staring at Finn. I have so much love for this little boy–more love than I ever thought humanly possible. I can’t stand to watch movies or read books in which a parent loses a child. It hurts too much.

Life on the farm is good. It’s wonderful, really. I have to dedicate another entry entirely to it later.

This entry today is about the use of this site. I pay an annual fee for this domain, yet I barely get any use out of it. It’s my own fault. I neglect this place. I have too many places for my thoughts and feelings. I keep a written journal; I have an on-going “letter to my offspring” thing happening. I talk to Jamie. I talk to my family. I talk to Michelle. There are too many places for me to deposit my thoughts.

Thoughts, once off-loaded, are no longer trapped in my head and there is no longer the need to discard them here.

It is now a couple of hours later. Finn woke up and needed to be changed, then fed, and then put back down again. Rohan adjusted my lower back so now it feels much better.

I have a plan. I plan to write here more often, but starting with at least once a week.

So… until next week!

Job Hunt

Even though I know I’ll have a job in Sydney, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

So I start job hunting for the first time in 4 years. I can’t fathom why it’s much more stressful than I remember.

I mean–if anything, it should feel easier, shouldn’t it? I’m older, I have more work experience, and I know what I want.

But that’s just it. Knowing exactly what type of job I want and knowing what I’m worth are the exactly why job hunting is more stressful than I remember.

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When I was younger, I believed in my own skills less. I felt young and hopeless and I was willing to believe anyone else’s estimations of me. Job hunting in my twenties felt just like Halloween–I’m going from job to job, dressed up like an adult when I feel like a kid. I’m holding out my empty bag of hopes and dreams and just asking random strangers to give me something I normally don’t deserve.

Yet another aspect of why job hunting now is more stressful: I am more of a realist now. Four years ago, I was looking for ANY job. I didn’t care what job I had, because in my mind, I was a writer. I was going to be a writer on my own and whatever job I got to pay the bills really didn’t matter, because I didn’t have to care about enjoying it. I blindly believed I could do both; I could work in a professional field for a living and still accomplish the personal writing goals I set out to do.

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But… four years later, I haven’t made much progress, writing-wise. I do my daily word limits like a good little self-starter. I’ve created some interesting short stories in this time. Overall though, my big writing projects haven’t gone very far. There are a million excuses when you work a day job.

  • I’m too tired thinking about my work that I actually get paid for.
  • My brain is frazzled from my paid work.
  • I need down time from my paid work.

The excuses for not having completed personal writing goals are endless when you actually care about your day job.

It’s depressing, because now that I’m (kind of) an adult, I know better. I know that caring about one’s day job is impossible to avoid. Being a kid, even a young adult, you really have no accurate understanding of what might happened to you if you quit your day job. You have no one counting on you to put food on the table at the end of the day.

So here is where I admit: it’s not possible to care less about my day job. I have to care. Caring means more stress. And that’s okay. Being an adult means I have to stress. Maybe having all these things to stress about will make me a better writer.

Caring about my day job doesn’t have to mean that I just throw in the towel on what I want to achieve with writing; it just means that it’ll be more difficult for me to do, but it’s not impossible. I just have to push myself harder.

Perhaps this is why J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan–to help him (or others) deal with the realities of adulthood.

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