autumn leaves in melbourne australia

Autumn in Melbourne has been a few months of beauty and hard. March was probably the hardest month I’ve had in years, and it’s taken a few weeks to recover, but I am always, always amazed at the richness found in the seasons of difficulty. It becomes fuel for the seasons to come. Here’s what I learned in Autumn 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

I want to live in Melbourne. Maybe forever. 

It’s too long a story to share here, but we had to deal with some administrative paperwork related to my husband’s Australian visa this autumn. Having to stare in the face the reality that living in Australia together is not guaranteed is the first time I realized there is nowhere in the world I would rather live than Melbourne. I guess you don’t know what you want until it feels like someone is going to take that away.

Take away social media, add in something else.

I went off social media for Lent, and it was not nearly as restful as my previous social media sabbaticals have been. Instead of surfing Facebook and Instagram, I watched Stephen Colbert’s Late Show monologues every day, I started watching The Crown and SeaChange (an Australian drama from the late 90s). What I learned: Media is easy to consume. Whatever that media may be.

Homemade hot cross buns are a thing of wonder. 

Easter morning was insanely delicious. No need to elaborate.

Music makes miserable moments a bit better. 

Hubby started making playlists, and he finds the best music, and one of my kids is calmed magically by tunes, the other one is obsessed with playing DJ. We have music on most  mornings, evenings and afternoons now via Spotify, and it has been a delight. Music has been bringing tears to my eyes, levity to difficult moments and dance party fun. Some of my current favourites are Stay Alive, Fools Gold, and for something sassy, Hey, Soul Sister.

Don’t just say yes to a project. 

I said yes to a writing project without thinking too much about whether or not I could write it. Saying “Yes” was easy, I was flattered, it involved a contract and pay, but when I got to writing, I felt out of my depth in a way that I did not expect. The deadlines were around some of the personally darkest weeks of the autumn season as well, I could not have anticipated that, but I wonder what would have happened if I had actually sat down, weighed the work and seen. Can I do this? Am I supposed to do this? I won’t be taking on another writing project without having a strong sense of “Yes” to those two questions.

Fidget spinners are a big deal. 

Oh my word. I think this toy initiated us into the “there are cool and not cool toys” stage of having children. My son received so many gifts for his birthday, but the favourite without a doubt – a small triangular shaped piece of metal that spins. And I learned to swallow my fears and just say it. God is good. He gives good things.

I love keeping track of what I’m learning, and thanks to Emily P. Freeman, there’s a place where it can be shared. Head over to her blog to read other great posts about what we’ve been learning and share your own story as well.

rest

One year ago in May we were in Melbourne for my sister’s wedding. It was the trip that led us to move here, so this one year anniversary comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’ve been in Australia seven months now, and it is familiar and strange all at once. Thank goodness for the fabulous weather. It’s a winter day today, bright sun is shining and a high of 15 degrees. I can survive bright winter days. I’m not even wearing a coat.

Here’s what I learned in May.

Ed Sheeran, in keeping with the theme of me discovering musicians years after everyone else does, I listened to Photograph for the first time in May. It’s my new favourite song.

Rest is the key to my sanity, you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come, but for now I’ll say that the first few weekends in May were jammed with events, and I could feel myself wilting day after day. It wasn’t until we scheduled in a Sabbath for two weekends running that it hit me – again – I was not made to go, go, go. I need a hard stop, I need regular, refreshing rest. And rest is not the absence of things to do. Rest is the choice to set aside the things that need to be done, and it is so worth it.

Small changes work, some of the small changes continue to make a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I wrote about a few of them here (a new alarm clock, keeping my bedroom neat, and a simple meal plan).

Red sauce + meat does not work says MasterChef, Husband and I are obsessed with this Australian show, and several weeks ago a contestant cooked duck with a caramelised beetroot broth, which was bright red. Matt Preston remarked that the delicious sauce looked like blood and was quite unappetising to look at.

Thanks as always to those of you who subscribe (scroll down to do that), read, comment and share. I appreciate it so much. Now tell me, what did you learn in May?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in May. It’s a wonderful way to chronicle the small and big ways we grow, change and learn, and I love it. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.

air travel
It is hour I don’t even know what anymore on this flight that is too long, on a trip that seemed to never come. We are flying to Melbourne today. German countryside fades into specks in the foggy oval window, my last glimpses of Europe and the dreams I buried in hard earth.

How many cities have I watched disappear into that fog in my lifetime? I can buckle my seatbelt with my eyes closed.

/

When I was a little girl, we only listened to Christian music. I used to think in tiny boxes, a pile of black ones on one side and a pile of white ones on the other side. But airplanes were one of the few times I got a taste of the music that was out there. On a British Airways flight from Sri Lanka to London, I first heard those words, Got a picture of you beside me, got your lipstick marks still on your coffee cup. This was back in the day when each channel on an airplane radio station had a set one-hour or so play list and it played on a loop. It was a total delight to an uncool one like me, I would wait and wait for the song I wanted to hear and delight in the fact that I could hear it multiple times before the flight was over.

Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it. I just want you back for good. 

It was over a decade later when I found out it was Take That who sang those words, but wherever I am even today if I hear Gary Barlow’s mellow voice singing, I guess now it’s time for me to give up, I am 13 again, a geeky country Filipina girl with long frizzy hair sitting on an airplane, wondering where she belonged because when your life is in boxes but you aren’t a square, you get left out of your own story.

I scratched out the words in my journal. It was the best song I had ever heard.

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It is 2001. Train releases Drops of Jupiter, and I listen to the radio now. I’ve wanted it that way, known the meaning of being lonely, and said bye, bye, bye to friends in Manila, Philippines and friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s another flight, United, I think, and I listen to Drops of Jupiter again and again and again.

Now that she’s back from her soul vacation, tracing her way through the constellation…

I am sailing tens of thousands of kilometers in the air, and I can pretend that this is my story, somewhere there is a nonexistent person – preferably he is tall and resembles George Clooney (grace please, I was 17) – and he’s waiting for me to land while I look for myself out there. Because I used to think an adventure was needed for change to come, it needed to be big, bold and radical for it to be real.

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Those were the years when flying meant leisurely hours to watch movies, sleep, crochet and read books. Or to just stare out the window and think about nothing. But this is 2015. Not this flight, not with Little Bear clutching at my clothes as he tries to fall asleep. We cried our tears and said goodbye to Husband’s family, the boys run through security, and delightedly climb into their seats next to the oval windows. Big Boy gets his seat belt on without my help, he’s only interested to see if Cars is on the Emirates media program. It is. Little Bear sits in my lap and plays with my face, with his seat belt, with anything he can touch.

Wheels are off the ground, and I grab the headphones to find music. I’ve hardly listened to any music in the past five years. Beyonce has songs other than Crazy in Love? What? A song called Roar? Who is Katy Perry? I’m mid-30 and have two kids, is that a good excuse?

So this flight I go to the CD of the year, 1989 by Taylor Swift. I listened to it for most of the six hour flight to Dubai and again on the 13-hour flight to Melbourne. Apparently my old habits haven’t died.

Because here I am, wife, mother, woman, moving yet again. The world is a bed of clouds under this piece of machine, and I am taking flight. Higher, higher.

I used to think in boxes of black and white and stories that were big and bold, but now I am small, a speck of molecules and dust zooming through the clouds, living, loving, learning and it is time to meet the next change. There is no morality prize, no medal for pretend heroism, only the reward that comes from slow, painful growth. 

So here we go, a landscape I have forgotten, a life I do not have, a place waiting for us, a story waiting to be written. And I can hear the song in my head, I can feel the wanting for something more, searching for the song I’ve not heard before. The wide expanse of wild Australian earth stretches out its red-carpet welcome to Melbourne, and underneath are the everlasting arms carrying me home.

And it’s a new soundtrack. I could dance to this beat. Forevermore. 

This post is part of Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog for her #OutofSortsBook. I’ve been a huge fan of Sarah’s writing on faith, life and motherhood for the past years. I haven’t read this book, but I’m sure it is full of her beautiful insights and prose. Go check out the synchroblog for other blog posts about I used to think ______ but now I think ______.