In sickness and in health

(TL;DR: M has renal failure and a bevy of health issues and will be in hospital for the foreseeable future.)

I’ve had one of the worst weeks of my life. Actually, I shouldn’t be bitching about my own week being bad because I’m not the person in hospital, in a lot of pain with various tubes and things sticking out of my body, but for the purposes of venting, I’m going to say that my week fucking sucked.

M has been in hospital since Monday so for seven days I’ve been a ball of worry who is functioning on very little sleep and spends her days travelling between the hospital, the office and home.

They’re not really sure what the infection is that started everything, but it’s some sort of staph/strep/cellulitis infection on his scrotum (of all places!) that caused it to swell up to the size of a melon. He was shuffling around the house for a few days with that uncomfortable thing between his legs not wanting to go to the doctor – like a typical man – until eventually he made an appointment and when it came time to leave the house, he realised that he’d never be able to put his pants on, let alone walk to the car and drive the 30mins to the doctor, because, you know, that’s what happens when you leave an infection for too long.

So he arranged for a home visit from another doctor and called me to come home because our apartment has super security that means you actually have to go downstairs to the lobby to let people inside and you need a security fob to operate the lift. That week I was travelling over east and roaming through the countryside for several days with customers so the timing of everything was bad. The doctor gave him a script for antibiotics and said if it wasn’t getting better in a couple of days to go to the hospital.

Four days (four days!!!) later he finally gave in and called the non-emergency ambulance/patient transport number. They asked what the problem was and as soon as he said ‘my balls are as big as melons’ he got transferred through to the 000 line (that’s Australia’s version of 911) and if the whole thing hadn’t been so tragic and wrong, I would have laughed about the conversation he had which went something like this:

Operator: “Hello, what’s your emergency?”

M: “It’s not an emergency, I’ve just got big balls.”

Operator: “Ok, we’re going to despatch an ambulance, I need some more details from you.”

M: “I don’t need emergency care, I just can’t walk or drive to get to the hospital.”

And so on and so forth…

About ten minutes later the first ambulance arrived and after assessing the situation they called for a different ambulance because there was a logistical problem with his lack of mobility. After about an hour the second team arrived and they then went to work trying to figure out how to get him into the lift and into the ambulance while negotiating the obstacles, stairs and the slight hill our apartment building is on. We also live on a very busy road and it was morning rush hour and he wasn’t wearing anything from the chest down. Yeah. There was a lot of shielding with sheets and fortunately the cafe that is on the ground floor of the building is still closed for summer holidays and the audience that gathered to see what was going on only included a couple of nosy neighbours.

Anyway, we got to the hospital, he waited four hours to see a doctor then it was another eight hours before he was moved out of the emergency department into a ward. They started pumping him full of antibiotics and said he may be discharged on Wednesday or Friday at the very latest.

Tuesday was a public holiday so I spent most of the day with him playing cards and chatting happily while he sat gingerly on a chair and left about 5pm then Wednesday I went to work and told him to call me if he was going to be discharged before I went to visit. We exchanged a few text messages that night and he asked me to bring a charger for his ipod and the next morning I sent him a couple of messages asking how he was and said that I would visit in the afternoon. I didn’t get any response to the texts but I just assumed his phone was either flat or he’d run out of credit or whatever and I didn’t think anything more of it because he was perfectly fine and reasonably chirpy when I saw him the afternoon before.

So I rocked up at 4pm and got told he was in the operating theatre having a venous catheter inserted because his kidneys had shut down and would probably need dialysis and they’d had two teams in trying to insert a catheter to monitor his urine output which was made all the more difficult and painful because of his infection down there and they were worried about his heart and blood oxygenation and they were checking for fluid on the lungs and I was all, WTF?!?! and just burst into tears and spent the next few hours while I waited for him to come back from theatre bawling my eyes out. I had a long talk with the nurse and he told me that the antibiotics had caused a bad reaction and things had just spiralled out of control after I’d left the previous afternoon and I was super angry at M because he hadn’t told me anything and we’d been texting until about 9:30pm.

So eventually M got wheeled back in with all the tubes and stuff coming out of various parts of his body looking like Frankenstein and I couldn’t stop crying which was bad because then he got upset because I was upset. And then I did the worst thing ever, I expressed my anger about him not telling me that something was wrong during out text messaging (because I assumed he had chosen not to tell me because he does shit like that sometimes not to make me worry.)

Me (crazy bitch voice with angry/upset tears streaming down my face): “You didn’t think there was something more important to tell me other than that you needed your ipod charger???”

M: “Well, it all happened after that and I was being taken from here to there for all the tests and things shoved into me. I didn’t have my phone or a chance to tell you.”

And I’ve never felt so guilty in all my life. Not only because I got angry at him but because I wasn’t there when all this shit was going down (and granted I was angry that no-one from the hospital had contacted me to let me know that shit was going down). I stayed until visiting hours finished that day and walked home (another 45 minutes of crying time) then I spent a sleepless night, went in super early to work the next morning, did what I needed to do, broke down a couple of times when different people asked me if things were ok and then headed back to the hospital where I stayed as long as I could. I went back first thing the next morning, then went to work for a few hours to do a few things then went back to the hospital again. Rinse and repeat for most days.

I spend lots of time at the hospital just holding M’s hand and watching the pee drip into his bag. I help him to the toilet and wipe his bum. I gave him a sponge bath and shaved his face (first time I’ve ever shaved a face and that was scary as hell) and even though he’s fully capable of feeding himself, he likes me to feed him and do “Here comes the aeroplane!” and give him fluids through a straw. When he’s feeling ok we play cards. I banter about the weather and work.  Today I’m going to try to get him into the shower

I talked with the nurses about the importance of getting him mobile again as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the infection and swelling that started this whole thing doesn’t seem to be getting better, and they’re trying various cocktails of antibiotics. His heart seems to be ok and there’s no fluid in his lungs (but there is about 10 litres of fluid in his system that needs to come out.) His kidneys seem to be doing better at the moment, but I’m not sure how much of his output is courtesy of the diuretics that they are also giving him. They’re going to assess him on Monday for dialysis, so fingers crossed he doesn’t need it.

All in all, it’s been a bit of a harrowing week. I’ve got a few other things to write about the emotional side of all of this and impacts on our dynamic, but all of that will have to wait until I’ve got a bit of space in my head and heart.

Newbies

I met an old friend for lunch today. I’ve known her for over ten years and she has always been fascinated by two things: my crooked index finger and my lifestyle.

By the way, I really hate calling it a ‘lifestyle’ but I don’t know what else to say…’life choice’? ‘kink’? ‘out of the ordinary stuff I do’? And the crooked finger thing? That’s a whole other story for another time.

So, my friend, we used to work together when I first came back to Australia and sometime near the end of my first M/s relationship I told her what that necklace around my neck really was and I talked to her about my interests. She was fascinated then and is fascinated now. I’m surprised she hasn’t gone and done something about her curiosity in the past ten years, but I guess like a lot of other people who don’t act on their fantasies, she simply stays curious.

I’d describe her as a switch or maybe a service top. Or maybe she’s just another one of those newbies that doesn’t really know what they like or want and so feels better with a label that broadly covers everything. Anyway, she met a new guy and wants to do kinky stuff with him and she asked for some advice.

What I wanted to say to her was, ‘Really? You’re asking me for advice? Fuck, if I knew what I was doing I wouldn’t have been whining blogging about this stuff for the last ten years,’ but instead I tried to give her some advice and in the middle of it I realised that I sounded like some pompous asshat that was trying to give someone a lecture in the twue way.

The advice I actually wanted to give to her was, “Have fun, be safe and don’t think things through too much,” but what I actually gave her was two hours of, “You guys need to have a talk about your limits, learn how to safely tie each other up and where it’s ok to hit and think about whether you want a dynamic or to just remain play partners.”

Yeah. I don’t know what came over me. I felt like the fun police raining down on her new relationship parade.

I’m pretty sure my kind of advice is what puts a lot of people off getting into kink. It all sounds so serious and overwhelming. It makes it seem like kink is some super science that you need a Ph.d in and ten references before you play with anyone. The reality is that it isn’t. You can have a lot of cheap, low-tech fun with just some occy straps and clothes pegs and no-one is going to go home crying.

It is really necessary to have a first aid kit, basic anatomy knowledge and to have memorised The Mechanics of Safe BDSM Play from cover to cover if you just want to fool around a bit?

Probably not.

I guess, I’ve just heard a lot of stuff about things going wrong and people having bad experiences. I’ve heard stories about random, simple things being a trigger for some people and boundary pushing moving into abuse territory.

But I also think you need to try stuff and experiment. Discover what you like and what you don’t and enjoy the butterflies and the thrill that you get from the unknown. The honeymoon period of bdsm is a joyous one that you really only get to experience once and I think everyone should have the chance to do so without worrying about whether they are doing it ‘right’.

It’s similar to how I feel about the recent trend of helicopter/cottonwool parenting and nanny-state laws. I think removing people’s chance to make conscionable decisions generally results in us becoming more stupid and unable to develop good judgement and the more you restrict people, the more they want to do even stupidier stuff when they get the chance (i.e. we’re breaking the law anyway, so let’s make it worth it.)

After talking with her a bit, apparently they’ve already dappled and she has the cutest safeword (not cute because she has one, but that the actual word is cute and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to say it without laughing.) After lunch we toured the couple of adult shops that are nearby and I manage to get my hands on the legendary thuddy flogger that I’ve been lusting after for a while. I’m not sure what they ended up buying, I was too busy fondling the flogger and wondering if I wanted to spend a hundred dollars on it – which I did, because it is a beautiful thing. Pics to come!

I feel like I want to talk to her again and tell her to just ignore the stuff I said, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already put doubts into both of their minds. Thoughts? Was I wrong or right for saying what I did?

Planes, grunts and scowls

I spent a few days travelling this week for work. There were a couple of flights, a shitty hotel room, several taxi rides and many hours in cars traversing the countryside with nothing to look at.

Travelling always makes me tired. It takes me a while to be able to sleep in an unfamiliar place and I spend a lot of time worrying about schedules, alarms and people and places I’m not familiar with. Oh, and no matter how many flights I take, I always, always think about the plane crashing and how I should really write a will and give M all my passwords and stuff that he would need to know if I was no longer around.

Plane travel makes me particularly melancholy. I was reading an article in some newspaper or something a while ago on the topic of how plane travel makes a lot of people emotional. Apparently being totally cut off and completely at the mercy of the pilot and flight attendants can be very cathartic and makes you introspective. I would totally concur with that opinion because I know I’ve had very strong reactions to movies I’ve watched on planes that I wouldn’t give a shit about otherwise and I’ve ended up teary for no particular reason on many a flight.

Most of my plane travel I do alone. The last flight I took with anyone was the trip I took to Japan with M in 2010. Before that, it would have been my honeymoon in 2002. So that’s 6 flights out the probably 150 flights or so I’ve taken over the past 21 years where I’ve had someone sitting next to me to talk to instead of drowning in my own thoughts.

There’s a part of me that likes the freedom of being alone and the anonymity of plane travel where nothing is expected of you, but then there’s that part that gets lonely and bogged down in deep thoughts. I find that the energy in airports is more sad and negative and the prospect of travel to me is sad as opposed to exciting and fun. Does anyone else feel like this, or just me?

Anyway, that shitty hotel I stayed at? Well, it wasn’t cheap at $150/night (but I guess it is on the cheap end of hotels in Australia) and everything seemed to be ok until I had a shower and peeled back the bedspread to find this:

AdobePhotoshopExpress_d4d3bcfc68244dbead46445a3ef8e6f4

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would put a sheet on a bed that was a foot too short and feel ok with that. Obviously there were absolutely no fucks to give that day.

A couple of days later I was in a rural town in Western Australia with some clients we went to a cafe for lunch. The waitstaff literally scowled and grunted when I ordered food for the group and when I asked for drinks, I was told to ‘Get ’em yourself’. Cutlery also seemed to be a bit too much and some of us were just given knives and others just forks and apparently five napkins for seven people is enough and asking for one each is just annoying. We paid $150 for some unforgettable food and were happy to get out of there. Sadly, that experience though is pretty on par with what I experience in many local towns.

Australia’s hospitality game is so weak…I often wonder why tourist even want to come here at all.

 

Forget-me-not

I spend a good 85% of my time at work skimming through documents, proof-reading and absorbing (through open-plan office osmosis) conversations going on around me so I know what is happening. The other 15% I spend talking to clients, carefuly composing ranty emails and fighting the urge to kill my colleagues. When I make a coffee, I thumb through the newspaper looking only at the pictures and the headlines and then when I go home I scroll through FB, fet and other newsy internet sites, reading not much more than the title, before half-watching some stuff on tv and doing some reading in bed at night that usually also turns into me skimming through the words so much that I have to often go back and read pages again because I’ve got no idea what is happening.

Most of the stuff I scan through registers with me for a short time – usually enough for me to form some sort of arm-chair opinion about it or to spark a blog topic, but then it is very quickly forgotten. I don’t usually retain the story lines of movies I’ve seen (unless I liked them and watched them multiple times) or remember with a lot of depth what someone has said to me (unless it hit some sort of nerve and I replayed it over and over in my head a few times).

As a result of this, I’ve become very good at skimming through vasts amounts of data and information, but horrendous at remembering anything. Most of my conversations with M go something like this:

M: “You said blah blah blah.”
Me: “Did I?”

or
M: “You did blah blah blah.”
Me: “Did I?”

or
M: “Don’t you remember blah blah blah?”
Me: “Nope, not at all”

Honestly speaking, I was getting really worried for a while that I might be starting to get dementia or had some sort of memory-loss issue, because I was doing or saying stuff and literally having no recollection of it whatsoever. But then I started to really think about what was wrong and I realised that I wasn’t focussing on what I was saying or doing, I wasn’t being ‘mindful’ of my words or actions and that got me to thinking about why that was the case.

I used to be fantastic at remembering stuff. I was one of those people who didn’t have a diary or calendar, who didn’t need to write stuff down at all, but now I know that if I put something down intending to deal with it later, it ain’t ever getting done. I have to immediately pay my bills when I get them and deal with emails as soon as I receive them. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve woken up in a cold sweat at 3am because I’ve suddenly remembered that I forgot to do something. And if that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.

I’ve also noticed with my writing that I’ll often misspell things or leave words out and not notice it at all. I’ll re-read things ten times and not notice what I’ve done, and I was never like that.

So, the question is, has all the skimming that I do day-in-day-out really affected my ability to pick out mistakes and remember things or am I just becoming an old fart and this is part and parcel of being a newly minted 39 year-old?

Boot camp

Normally when I talk about boots, M’s eyes light up like mine do when I spot NY cheesecake on the dessert menu, but I don’t think he’s going to be very excited by this discussion of boots.

I signed up for boot camp last week. Well, when I say boot camp, it’s actually ‘outdoor fitness sessions’ but because it’s doing gym-type stuff outdoors with the flies and at the mercy of the elements in the Perth summer heat, I’m going to call it ‘boot camp’. I’ve seen the boot camp attendees doing their mountain climbers and partner boxing in the park when I’ve shuffled past on my runs and I’ve always said to myself, “Ain’t no way I’d do that shit.” But then I went and signed up. Mostly because it’s free as part of my health insurance (I’m pretty sure I pay for the sessions 100 times over in my premiums though) and because I thought it might be good to do stuff with other people and have some accountability.

I hate all that group fitness stuff and I hate exercising outdoors. Actually I hate exercising. Period. I’m really not looking forward to it in any way, shape or form, but I’ll do it because I said I’ll do it.

Being a martyr and having a slight masochistic streak, I often find some sort of perverse pleasure in doing things that I don’t enjoy. But as I get older the voice inside that says, ‘Life’s too short to spend it doing things you don’t enjoy!’ keeps getting louder and I’m wondering more and more why I bother.

I know everyone has to do things they don’t like. We all have to work, pay taxes, not kill each other etc. But there is a line between stuff that you have to do or else you get into trouble for and stuff that you ‘should’ do, but at the end of the day don’t really have to. Not brushing my teeth won’t kill me (well, it actually could because I have a  dysfunctional heart valve, but that’s just me) and likewise, eating crap and not exercising also won’t kill me ( though it may shorten my life span). They are things that I should do, along with going to the dentist for check-ups, having a pap smear, getting insurance etc. Most of these things I would put into the ‘adulting’ category. I notice that a lot of men don’t ‘adult’ very well. I wonder why that is?

Before I signed up for boot camp I was looking at a lot of ‘challenge’ plans. I was thinking about doing a few 30-day challenges like the plank challenge that takes you from 20seconds of planks to 5mins of planks over 30 days, or the 30-day thigh buster. After looking at all the challenges and feeling a bit overwhelmed, I felt like joining the napping challenge which takes you from a 5 minute snooze to a 2 hour nap over 30 days! It seems much more up my alley.

The other thing I did to go with my exercise regime was order a couple’s set of portion plates. We get two plates, two bowls, a 4-week eating plan, a visual guide to portions and a snack bible.
Portion

I feel like portion-control is something that M and I need to get a handle on and instead of going it alone, I decided to pull him aboard my healthy eating train. I’m hoping that the visual-way the information is presented makes it a bit easier to digest (see what I did there?) than blocks of numbers or needing to bring out a set of scales every time you want to eat something.

Apparently the average diameter of dinner plates has changed from 9 inches to 12 inches in the last 40 years. That might explain why all those women in movies from the 50’s and 60’s have impossibly small waists (or it might be that they have fantastically constrictive underwear.) The new dinner plates I bought when we moved here are so big they don’t even fit into the dishwasher (dinnerware purchase fail…) I’m guessing the new plates will.

Toxic thoughts

I woke up this morning to discover that the twin sister of someone I knew had died from a caffeine overdose. Apparently she had been taking some ‘diet’ pills and after drinking a coffee at a coffee shop, the combined amount of caffeine had been toxic.

She was twenty-seven and had only recently been married. It’s a very sad situation and one that is being made harder by the fact that the media has jumped onto the story and is sensationalising the crap out of it. There’s all the talk about body issues and the pressure on women to be thin and of course the dangers of so-called diet pills and how they can contain stuff that actually can kill you.

I met her twin when she was studying her MBA here in Australia. I hadn’t known until she did a Facebook post about it, but she had apparently been a large girl herself most of her life and had never really worried about her appearance. Then, for whatever reason, she decided she wanted to be different, got a personal trainer and lost 20kgs. She posted some rather unflattering pictures of herself captioned with, ‘This is the old me’ and wrote a little about how she had been ‘tomboyish’ and never bothered dressing ‘like a girl’ because she didn’t think she was attractive enough and that was followed by a slew of selfies of her in skimpy clothes and looking exceptionally hot.

When I saw all of that, my initial feeling was a wave of jealousy. I’d imagine I’m not the only person who would react that way, but it’s still a bit sad that I couldn’t be happy for her. Of course, the reason for my reaction was that she succeeded in doing what I want to do and on some level it felt like she was rubbing my face in my failure.

(And let me just say at this point, that I’m not trying to trivialise the tragic death of her sister and turn it into a ‘woe be me’ thing. What happened just made me think about the games I play with my body from time to time and why I do it.)

I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with my body all my life. My weight has yo-yoed spectacularly every 2-3 years and so much so that I have enough stretch marks to have given birth to a bevy of children. Unfortunately, as a result, there are just parts of my body I cannot bear other people to see and I’m always limited in the types of clothing I can wear.

I’ve also tried quite a few pills and potions, done pretty much every major diet that has done the rounds (except paleo…I draw the line at that…) and spend a great deal of every day worrying about my weight and how it’s ‘ruining my life’.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been successful at losing weight enough times to know that losing weight doesn’t magically fix all of your other issues. The only thing it does is free you from the worry of having to lose weight, which then becomes the worry of having to maintain weight. Basically, you don’t lose the worry, it just becomes a different form of worry. But I still do it. I still think about my weight every morning when I get up and try to choose clothes for the day (why don’t I just have a wardrobe of mumus?) when I walk past any windows or shiny surfaces I can see myself in, when I eat by myself, when I eat in front of other people (are they judging what I’m eating?), when I walk and feel my thighs rubbing together, when I go to gym and see myself in the mirror and compare myself to everyone else I see in the mirror.

It’s exhausting, but it’s all stuff that I do to myself. I don’t particularly feel that pressure from the media is making me want to lose weight. I don’t look at models and feel like I have to look like them – they’re models…I know they’re not like normal human beings. I don’t see thin, smiling people on tv and think that I have to lose weight.

I think I have to lose weight because none of my clothes fit and it’s hard to climb stairs and having chafing between your thighs sucks.

There’s a lot of talk these days about embracing plus-sized models. Personally, when I see a catalogue or some sort of advertising with a plus-sized model, it kind of gives me a false sense of security. I don’t feel positive about it, I just feel “Phew, there’s someone else bigger than me!” It almost feels like it is giving me an excuse not to do something about myself.

I honestly have to say that I don’t find plus-sized models attractive. I know that some people enjoy larger people, but health-wise there’s nothing good that comes from being overweight. To me, healthy is good, well-proportioned is good, I don’t need to see every single bone in someone’s body, but I also don’t need to see bulges and rolls when I’m thumbing through  catalogue. I can see enough of that stuff when I look in the mirror.

I have a lot more energy when my weight is lower. I’m healthier. I sleep better. Shopping for clothes is fun. Going somewhere is fun. Food becomes more fun because I appreciate it more instead of shovelling it into my mouth hole.

There are so many positive things that I feel when my weight is lower, but of course being thin is a lot of work for me – I like food, a lot and I do not like exercise or sport- at all. For whatever reason, the person with so much self-control that I am, just cannot control that part of me. I’d like to just be able to stay at a lower weight, but I’ve shown time and time again that I can’t and it irks me like nothing else. That’s why I can’t be happy when people around me succeed and why I can understand and sympathise so much with someone who was taking ‘diet pills’.

I don’t know why her sister felt the need to take the pills. I don’t know if there was a feeling of ‘rivalry’ between them after her sister’s weightless or whether maybe she had taken them in order to lose weight for her wedding and had just continued taking them. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel like what she did was ‘crazy’ or ‘stupid’ and I don’t think that she is a victim of ‘body image portrayal in the media making girls do dangerous things.’

I’d like to think she was trying to lose weight for herself, for her own reasons and what happened was a tragic unintended mistake.

Huffing it

It’s not very well known that I have a floor-plan fetish.  Poring over floor plans is one of the things that I love to do and it makes me quite sad that floor-plans are rarely provided in Australia for properties that are for rent or sale (unless you’re building). I’m surprised that more people don’t demand a layout when perusing properties. It makes it much easier to know whether a property is worthy of going to see than simply reading that something has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Even in Japan, a floor-plan is provided for every single room/property that is for sale or rent through an agent, even though the room sizes and layout of most properties are quite standard.

You may remember that I got quite anal about the layout of the apartment I rented for M and myself last year. It’s mostly due to the fact that I’m very sensitive to noise and I need my space. In an ideal world, I would have my own detached wing where I could create my girl-cave and not worry about getting woken up in the middle of the night or early morning by M’s nocturnal wanderings, but the best I could do was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with an internal hallway. I wasn’t overly impressed with the location of the apartment and the fact that the building didn’t have a pool or a gym, but when I looked at the floor-plan, I decided that I needed to go and have a look at it and when I did, the rest became history. And for your (mostly my) viewing pleasure, here is a slightly blurry look at our 100m² digs:

Floorplan

After actually living in the apartment, we both agree that the use of the internal space could have been better (the way the rooms are placed) and there is a complete waste of storage opportunities, but the high ceilings, lack of adjoining walls and floor to ceiling windows are all positive points.

I’m not a person who has ever been obsessed with home-owning. It is a national past-time in Australia: buy the biggest house you can, as soon as you can and spend the rest of your life struggling with the mortgage. I supposed property has been a good investment over the last 20 years and that’s why, but when I think about buying a house, I think about all the upkeep that needs to be done, gardens that need to be maintained and basically being locked down in a place for the foreseeable future. I know it’s not very secure to not have a place of your own to live in after retirement, but I figure that if worst comes to worst, I could always live in a cave…or a caravan.

But, if I was ever going to build a house, I would definitely build a HUF Haus, because those Germans can certainly make a house.

1020-an-exterior-view-huf

I was very familiar with pre-fabricated houses in Japan. There are several companies that pre-build sections of your house in a factory and then put them together on your land. It makes much more sense to me to do that and have a home water-tight and ready-to-move-into home in a month or two than to spend 12mths or more while the frame of your house is exposed to rain and whatever have you not while the thing gets built.

M and I watched a programme about the HUF Haus several years ago and we both decided that it was great. The house was essentially locked together on site in 4 days and then the interior fitting took another 1-2 months. It was all done with German efficiency and attention to detail and while I’m sure the house was quite pricey, I feel like it would be worth every penny.

Huf house

Some people might think that their designs look like something IKEA or LEGO put together or that they have no soul. I think if you were considering building a HUF house, you’d need a nice private block of land (because of the masses of windows) and some awesome furniture and art to decorate the interior with, but I feel like the functionality and workmanship of the house would make up for its chunky design.

Actually I feel like many of the designs feel a little bit Japanesey (particularly the ones with the white and black colour schemes), so maybe that’s why the houses appeal to me – together with the whole Huf Haus service that comes with their creations.

All I need now is the million dollars or so it would take to build the house and how ever much for the land. Somehow I don’t think there will be any house-building in my future, but in the meantime, I’ll keep drooling over floor-plans…nom,nom,nom.

hufplan

sap-hayman-plan

 

Six degrees of separation

I’m about to embark on round two of my Japanese client visits. The busy time of the year in my job coincides with the harvest time of certain agricultural products and so before Christmas and after Christmas are the two times of the year when we host many groups of visitors. In the quieter times are when we travel to see our clients overseas and all of this means that there is a lot of too-ing and fro-ing throughout the year.

People often comment that I’m lucky that I get to do so much travelling in my job and lots of wining and dining at the company expense. I suppose if I was a normal person, that would be true, but I spend a lot of my time staring at my diary and calculating how many free days I have until the next ‘social occasion’ or thinking about ways I can get out yet another awkward dinner (death/birth/wedding in the family?) When I’m on a trip I have an hourly countdown until I can go home and feel free. There is nothing quite as sweet as walking in the door of my apartment after spending a day or several days with clients and/or colleages. I find all this required social stuff exhausting and if I had a choice, I’d rather travel and dine using my own money than have to do it all with people I do not feel completely comfortable with.

I sometimes wonder how my levels of anxiety about this kind of stuff compare with other people. I have a feeling that it’s not normal to spend the night before a day-trip with clients in a cold sweat dreading the small talk I’m going to have to make in the car, but I’m also not that bad that I need to curl up in a dark room with a blanket or drink myself into oblivion beforehand. Most people actually say that they have no idea that I’m not comfortable with all of that social stuff and that I always seem reasonably relaxed and can be the life of the party. I guess I’m just good at putting on a normal face when I’m really dying down inside.

I kind of feel like I can’t really say I have social anxiety unless I’m left shaking in a corner at the mere thought of a social interaction.  And on that point I also tend to see that people who are introverts or who have social anxiety always tend to say that they are not comfortable with larger groups and much prefer a one-on-one or small group situation. I’m actually the opposite. I would much prefer to have a group of people around me because it takes the pressure off me needed to lead the conversation and I can just chill and absorb the discussion and whatnot without needing to actively participate. The fewer the people, the more pressure I feel.

Many of my clients I have been interacting with for over five years and it’s almost a daily interaction thing, whether it be by phone or email. They are people I know quite a lot about and have met their families etc. They are by no means strangers and generally nice people, but I still don’t feel comfortable around them and I still have a gut-churning feeling whenever I need to play host or visit them.

I’d say there are a total of six people in the world that I have reached the level of absolute comfort with and three of them are my mum, sister and grandmother. The other three are my best friend from high school, my ex husband and of course, M. These are the six people in the world that I wouldn’t clean my house for, who I don’t have to think about what to talk about when we’re together and who I can be myself with. It’s a very select and elite group and it takes years before you can possibly be invited to join.

Ii ka warui?

Apparently Japan was the number overseas travel destination for Australians in 2015. That doesn’t really surprise me a great deal given that every other person I met these days is either going to or has recently been to Japan. With super cheap airfares (using some low cost carriers from the eastern side of Australia you can get a return flight for around AUD$400), a so-so exchange rate of around 90cents/100yen and the popularity of Japanese food & skiing, it seems a logical place to go these days.

I actually thought that the number one destination would be Bali. Bali to Australia, is like Ibiza is to the UK or Cancun to the USA. It’s known for its cheap food, beaches and $5 love-you-long-time. I went to Bali on my honeymoon and I haven’t felt the need to go back since. Although the cheap food and cheap everything is a big drawcard, I don’t enjoy feeling like a walking cash machine (a source of money that can and should be scammed) when I go somewhere, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting.

Maybe I just need to go with a group of peeps and have a wild time to understand the attraction. Particularly while living in Perth, as it’s actually cheaper to go to Bali than to travel domestically and closer than flying to Sydney so it seems like a no-brainer.

Anyway, I was thinking the other day about whether my ten years in Japan was good or bad for me in the sense of ‘did’ anything to me and if it did, was it anything different to what another country would have ‘done’ to me. Deep questions, I know, right?

I didn’t spend any time adulting in Australia before I went to Japan (I was still underage and living at home) so it is a little bit difficult to say what type of person I was back then and I also have to admit to not remembering what I was like 20-ish years ago, but I have a feeling that I was different pre and post Japan.

It’s easy to say that Japan is soooo different and of course it’s going to change you, but I feel like it’s the little, subtle things that change you more than the really big things. I feel like sleeping on the floor, using chopsticks and bowing doesn’t change you as much as needing to be harmonious with those around you or understanding concepts such as wabi-sabi (loosely a feeling that ‘less is more’).

Any environmental change is going to affect you in some way – that’s a given. Who with, where and in what manner you live will change your outlook on life and how you process interactions with other people. When I went to Japan I went through culture shock (or wtf are these people doing? as it is more commonly known) and then when I came back to Australia I went through reverse culture shock (or wtf straya?)

My culture shock was mostly to do with why everything had to be made difficult/manual/overdone in Japan and my reverse culture shock was extreme irritation with people not doing what they said they would do, shoddy service/products and the general inconvenience of Australia when compared with Japan. For a long time I had a feeling that Australia sucked and Japan was so much better or many levels, but now I think I’ve reached that happy medium where I can appreciate that Australia does have some things going for it and that not all is good in the land of the rising sun.

I’ve been back in Australia now for ten years, but I’ve spent those ten years still having Japan in my life – whether it be through work, travel or the  internet. I haven’t actively studied Japanese for about 5 years, but I still get a reasonable amount of exposure to it. People often ask me would I ever forget Japanese? Honestly, I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that it’s such an ingrained part of my life that I don’t think I could forget it completely. I can certainly forget some words easily enough, but forget the grammatical rules, structure, sounds etc? No, I don’t think so.

So back to the original question, did it do anything to me? Yes. I think I am a lot more empathetic and considerate about other people. I don’t touch stuff that is not mine and I always go to extremes not to be a burden on other people. Japan makes you very self-reliant while requiring you to be a part of a group (or many groups) at the same time. I don’t ask other people to do things for me and I would never think about ‘dropping in’ on someone (which I hear is a thing that people often do in Australia.)  I constantly assess whether what I’m doing affects other people and will endeavour not to affect people in negative ways.

I also have an increased appreciation for aesthetics e.g. presentation of things and minimalistic beauty and am much more adventurous with food. There was a time when I couldn’t stomach the smell or sight of seaweed and that the thought of fish still wriggling on my plate would make me heave, but now for me, deliciousness comes in many forms.

On the negative side, I have a deeper understanding of discrimination. What I experienced as a white, native English-speaking, married-to-a-Japanese, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Australian (if you’re going to be a gaijin, that’s what you want to be) was nothing compared to what other people experience, but it was still a disturbing feeling to be treated as a foreigner all day, every day. I had minimal exposure to foreign people growing up in a small country town where everyone I went to school with was white, born in Australia, Christian or Catholic and spoke only English. I basically went from that environment to being the odd one out in every which way so it was a humbling experience. I dealt with it by trying to be more Japanese than the Japanese were, and that effort has sort of helped me gain a sensibility for all things Japanese, but it was still a tough and lonely experience overall.

Fortunately, I never really adopted Japanese work ethics. While I am probably more meticulous and customer-centred than most Australians are, I don’t believe in spending endless hours in the office looking busy, making meaningless graphs, having yet another pointless meeting or prioritising work over life and family. I do my job to the best of my ability and then I get the hell out of there.

I think overall, Japan made me a better person and I’m glad I had the chance to experience it when I did.

Frank

M and I had the beginnings of a frank discussion early on new year’s eve. By ‘frank’ I mean he was all weird and frosty after reading my purge blog, I started crying, he asked me what I wanted, I told him, he responded with mostly what I wanted to hear and then our talk ended in me feeling guilty for ‘making’ him give me what I wanted through emotional blackmail.

All in all, a very frank discussion.

That’s generally how our ‘frank’ discussions have gone for the last ten years, so no surprises there.

When I write in my blog I’m not trying to make him seem like an asshole (unless he has really pissed me off and then it’s all bets off) but I know it often ends up being that way. He refers to it as ‘throwing him under a bus’ or ‘stringing him up’. I get that, because it’s the result of yours truly writing one-sided blog entries about emotionally-charged encounters in an entertaining way.

Unfortunately for M, I’m a much better manipulator of written language than he is and I know how to string a sentence together that paints me as the victim, victor or whatever the hell I want to be at any given moment. While I will always lose when it comes to a verbal exchange with M, I can run rings around him when it comes to writing (my actual conversations are always much better in my head or on paper than they will ever be coming out of my mouth!) And while conversations are soon forgotten, the written word remains and ten years of my whining – over 1200 blogs -are here to trawl back through and think, ‘Gee, M is such an asshole!’

I don’t often talk about the good things in our relationship. I don’t often give M a pat on the back for a job well done or thank him for putting up with the difficult ball of angst that is me for a couple of reasons, firstly, happiness doesn’t make good blogging material (I don’t feel compelled to write about not having a problem) and secondly, I don’t want him to get too cocky *snickers*.

I think in most D/s situations, when something goes wrong, the dominant is always seen as the one to blame. It’s natural for people to take the side of the ‘weaker’ party and I suppose there’s an idea that the dominant is supposed to be the one in control, so if something is broke, the dominant needs to fix it.

As with other mere mortals, the dominant is not a mind-reader, super-human or infallible and likewise, the submissive can undermine, manipulate or essentially just be an asshole. Nothing good is ever going to come out of a relationship where both parties aren’t playing nicely with each other and a healthy relationship relies on both sides putting in some effort.

One of the more interesting comments from M to come out of our frank discussion was,

‘You always make the mistake of holding me to your standards.’

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I have to agree. Not only do I set the same high standards for those around me as I do for myself, but I also assume that everyone has similar hang-ups and reactions to me.

He followed that initial bomb-shell with an equally eye-opening comment that make me stop and think:

‘I’m not you.’

It seems like a no-shit-sherlock thing as well, but I had to really stop and think about it for a moment. It’s wrong and bit egotistical to think that he interprets, thinks and feels in exactly the same way I do and there are a lot of basic things that we process in very different ways.

As exhibit one I’d like to offer that rant I had the other day about how he leaves the dirty dish-water in the sink on a regular basis. There is a large part of me that processes his action as a lack of love because I’ve asked him not to do it over and over again, so his wanton act makes me think:

Not doing as I ask=lack of care=lack of respect=lack of love.

To him though, it’s got nothing to do with how he feels about me, and everything to do with a weird feeling that maybe he will need the water later on (some hang-over from his hoarder-type personality?)

I do take a lot of things personally. I can probably entwine some level of emotional attack into every single thing people do or say around me and I probably just need to step back, take a deep breath and realise that sometimes you need to simply take things on face value or as I like to say, ‘Not everyone is as twisted as I am.’

The First

I started the year by getting a bit retrospective (‘when do you ever do anything differently?’ I hear you all ask…) by putting together a poor-man’s version of toshikoshi soba. Eating toshikoshi soba is one of the more popular rituals for seeing in the new year in Japan – along with watching the first sunrise of the new year and going to a shrine. I was always told that the tradition of eating toshikoshi (literally ‘passing the year’) soba related to the long noodles representing having a long life, but apparently there are a few other meanings including the noodles being easy to chew (cut) when eating, representing ‘letting go of difficulties’ and that the buckwheat is a tough plant so it represents strength and resiliency.

Whatever the meaning, I hashed together some soba from my current meagre store of Japanese ingredients (I discovered I had no wasabi, no mirin and my seaweed had gone soft!) and came up with an approximation to satisfy requirements. Most people eat toshikoshi soba warm in soup (or have some instant noodles bought from 7-11 or the supermarket) because obviously it’s winter in Japan and that makes more sense, but it’s the middle of summer here so cold soba is the way to go.

M and I saw in the New Year watching fireworks from his balcony. I was in my room getting reflective about my last blog and trying to post it before midnight when he came in and said that he could see the fireworks so I joined him out in the windy Perth night.

It’s all a bit subjective, isn’t it? How an arbitrary point in time is supposed to be the beginning and end of a year and, for many people, the time to start or finish something. For me, a person who likes schedules, plans and programmes, I find new year to be a particularly meaningful point. I start thinking about my ‘attack plan’ for the next 365 days and get angsty about another impending birthday. Words from John Lennon’s  “Happy Xmas”, in particular the line,’So this is Christmas, and what have you done?’ generally go through my mind from the time the Christmas music starts playing in December until the pain of my birthday fades in late January.

One of the main things I miss from my time is Japan is the rituals and all the festivals and things that you celebrate/do throughout the year to mark the passage of time and the change of the seasons. At the end of the day, eating toshikoshi soba at new year’s or throwing soya beans around your house to get rid of the demons at setsubun or any of the other myriad things you can choose to do in Japan to celebrate certain times of the year don’t mean anything, but because I like a ‘plan’ to live by, that kind of lifestyle just works for me.

You’ll have noticed that for the last few weeks I’ve been trying to blog more regularly and I’m just pretty much writing about whatever comes into my mind just to get words down on the page. I’m trying to get away from the thing that was dragging me down before,‘Is xxx really blogworthy material?’ and just rolling with it, so apologies if my entries have been a bit eclectic. Maybe I’ll settle into a weekly thing of Mondays are for kinky shit, Tuesdays are for weird shit I find on the internet, Wednesdays are for ranting, Thursdays are for ranting, Fridays are for ranting…and so on and so forth *snickers*.

By the way, 2016 is the year of the Monkey and if you were born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 or 2016, it’s your lucky year! Enjoy.