The Art of Anticipation

I’ve got a golden ticket.

It’s a ticket to a magical place full of wonder. There are edible plants and astonishing creatures. There are mysteries. There is magnificence. There are strange and unpredictable events. Some of them benefit me, some leave me feeling like I’ve been blown up into a giant blueberry and sent to the juicing room to be juiced.

I began my journey to this place, filled with wonder. I licked wallpaper, ate dog biscuits, crawled into tiny spaces and was in awe at every turn. The further into this place I’ve ventured, the more cautious I have become. I don’t laugh as much. And, I don’t lick wallpaper or eat dog biscuits anymore. Partly because wallpaper tastes disgusting and I realised dog biscuits were for dogs, but the point is, I once was curious and adventurous enough to try them.

Although it bares a remarkable resemblance, my golden ticket is not to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Had you fooled there for a second, didn’t I? In actual fact, my golden ticket is to life. And, there are no guarantees in this place. I keep thinking there are though. I keep expecting guarantees. Even when I don’t think I am, I am. And when things don’t turn out as I think they should… that’s when find I get blue (and need to be sent to that damn juicing room). Expectations are my kryptonite. See the chart I created below for a breakdown.

Expectations, Reality & Resilience

I’m not saying that it is wrong to have expectations. In fact, we need them. It is important we have high expectations around how we are to be treated, for example. Similarly, plans, goals and dreams are an essential part of being a vibrant human being.

Where things can go awry is when we get formulaic about life: If I do x, then I should and will get y for a result. I am a total sucker for this, and like Julia Stone, I blame you, Hollywood. I have had to do a lot of unlearning in this department. The pentecostal prosperity message I was accosted with as a child certainly has not helped with this either. No. But, that’s another blog post.

I like to think I am a realist, but I’m not. I’m a depleted romantic trying to clutch onto the security of certainty. Following dreams gets to be just exhausting when you encounter what feel like endless valleys. I tell myself, just stop expecting anything too much and you’ll be fine. But when I do this, I die a little bit inside. I don’t want to be fine. I want to be alive. I want to hope and dream and become.

Lately I’ve been looking for a full-time job. I’ve always landed on my feet in this area. Always managed to find interesting and satisfying work with ease. This coupled with the fact that we recently had a door slammed in our face direction-wise, meant that I would snap up a job immediately, as that was what I was owed, right? Wrong. It hasn’t happened like that. As a result, I’ve experienced some inner turbulence, which has reminded me of a tune my brother, 11 years my senior composed on the piano in response to his frustrated efforts to break into the IT sector as a graduate in his early 20s. The piece was entitled Unemployed. It was a long series of dark, disturbed, disjointed, foreboding and rather hilarious crashing notes. He is not a musician, at all, but he captured the space well. The good news is I have managed to curb the self-destructive talk and become a bit more philosophical about it all.

I asked myself, if expectations are a form of belief, of faith, then how do I manage them, so I don’t feel like a deflated balloon every time things go a different way to what I imagined?

The answer to this struck me the other week, in the middle of a coffee shop. It’s not a new thought. It was something I just needed reminding of at this specific juncture of life. It was simply this: nothing will unfold as you expect it to, but it will be ok and maybe it will be even better than ok. Roll with it.  Since having accepted this notion, I have experienced an uncanny calm spread through me, like a warming mug of hot chocolate.

So, my aim is not to quash my expectations. It’s to throw them open. It’s about trusting that some of those seemingly ‘crappy’ life experiences are potentially opening up opportunities that will take me to a whole new place. When I think about the surprise arrival of my daughter and a bunch of seemingly impossible challenges that enshrouded her arrival, which ultimately were the makings of me, I know that is the case.

Life really is a little bit like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. You never know what you’re going to stumble into. So, here’s the deal, I am going to keep open, anticipate and wonder at strange and unimagined rooms, which I never thought I would find myself in. I’m not going to get fixated on the fact that certain doors led to rooms which were not as wonderful as I was thinking they would be. I’m going to keep moving through the factory and anticipate adventure.

Do you have any examples of how unexpected challenges yielded some gold? I’d love to hear about them.


Stocking up the Holiday Entertainment Vending Machine

Abundant, cheap holiday entertainment for kids… now that would be useful.
Vending Machine

Anyone else feel like an entertainment vending machine during school vacation? It’s day 6 of our term one break and I already need a refill. Sorry kids, there’s only pretzels and bottled water on offer here. The boring stuff. I’m already getting that scratchy exhausted wanting-to-exercise feeling. But instead of exercising or being stimulated and feeling useful in paid work, I am finding myself cutting up bits of fruit and sandwiches to put on the food-train that travels at high speed from the supermarket, to the cupboard, to the plate and into the tunnel of the child’s mouth faster than a speeding bullet during the holidays.

There are another 10 days or so of this to go. I’m in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I love having time off with my little treasure, but lately, there’s been a lot of time off to fill. We just finished a very short 8 week term after a 5 week break over Christmas. So, I feel a little ambushed by the early onset of Easter. Also, due to our recent Crazy Life Tsunami experience, which includes a reduced budget and a husband otherwise engaged somewhere in Africa, we haven’t been able to get out of town for the last 3 rounds of school holidays. So personally, I’m over it.

A lot of the kids I teach have parents who are rolling in cash (or rolling in debt), as they head off to Europe or Aspen or somewhere else fabulously inaccessible for us, which is definitely the optimum way to capitalize on school being out. But, what if you, like the other 99.9% of the planet don’t have the money for that kind of extravagance? How do you stop the, “I’m bored” commentary without spending all of your already stretched grocery money? Especially during the colder months. Holidays in the cold, sans snow, are almost certainly always harder to deal with, as the gloriously exhilarating and exhausting effects of rivers, pools and oceans become sick-inducing. We don’t want holidays and sick. Noohohoho. That’s not what we want at all.

I’m an ideas gal, so I’ve decided to sit down and generate a list to top up the old entertainment vending machine. It’s probably going to suck, so, if you have any further suggestions, I’d love to hear them. My daughter is 8 and an only child at present, so this has some baring on the activities I’m cooking up. Plus, I’m trying to avoid screen-time. Lord knows there is too much of that in all of our lives. Here goes…

Dry Weather Activities

  • Friends to play and visa versa – I work on the principle that more kids are less work, as they entertain one another
  • Organise a camping trip – with friends, a cheap way to get out of town
  • Feeding the ducks at the botanic garden
  • Bush walking/strolling
  • A back-yard camp out
  • A picnic
  • Gardening – pruning and/or planting – have kids help you with sweeping and clipping. Or gather some cuttings from a friend’s garden and plant them.
  • Hit the Parks –  playgrounds, skate parks, basketball courts
  • Do a park crawl of all the best local playgrounds
  • Look for freebee events at the Art Gallary etc
  • Hit the beach and collect some shells – make something with them or use them decoratively in your garden
  • Chalk on the pavement – create a mural or play hopscotch
  • Create movies – requires a camera – could edit on iMovies or another editing suite, teach them and they’ll be away
  • Get around and visit your friends living in obscure country locations
  • Lemonade stands or some other enterprise – my sister and I made chocolates and sold them to the neighbors as a way to earn pocket money when we were children.

Wet Weather Activities

  • Sleep overs – pajama parties
  • Visits to grandma/other favorite person
  • Organise some time volunteering together – for an opportunity shop or soup kitchen – I had this idea the other day and would really like to do it, as a way to help encourage my daughter to focus on helping others.
  • Baking – always a hit
  • Play ‘Restaurants’ (tie in cooking dinner with a game – great to incorporate social, literacy and numeracy skills with recipes, menus, sevice etc)
  • Trips to the library
  • An indoor picnic or tea party with teddies
  • Create a book reading cave with the couch in the lounge, a torch and some blankets
  • Choreograph a dance
  • Craft Activities (not my favourite pass-time, but Magic loves these)
  • Pull out the dress up box
  • Board Games
  • Visit the local pet store

Entertainment that costs, but not too much

  • Go dress-up shopping at the local thrift store
  • Trout fishing
  • Strawberry picking
  • Museum, zoo, aquarium, hobby farm visit, miniature train ride
  • Mini Golf

Now just for someone to organise and implement them.

Let me know if you have any creative, simple and cost effective ideas up your sleeve.

Links welcome!