Monday, 22 November 2010

It's up and it's down

When we first started telling friends about going off on our Wondering Wanderers adventure we had a huge range of responses. Several friends asked if I would be blogging it (I have had a blog for some years and done various other blogs at different stages, about living a more frugal life, about Home Education, about moving towards a self -sufficient-ish lifestyle with our allotment, chicken keeping etc.). I said I would be and started to think about at what point to start a blog. I decided the 'story' of the WW adventure was a three parter really. The before, the during and the afterwards. I suspect they will have very different aspects, pace and plotlines in each part. I am also aware that this blog is being written by me and whilst I am writing an account about the adventures of all four of us it is very much in my voice. It has to be said I am very much the driving force behind the whole thing at this stage. The idea was hatched up by me and presented to the others, we have all had an equal voice in what we want but the logistics and facilitation are mostly being carried out by me. This is logical both as these are the skills I possess, I mostly enjoy being the one with the clipboard and I am the one who is around most to do these things with Ady working full time.

I've been reading a few books about adventure / experiments in life changing  pursuits - I think I've linked to them all before but the most relevant are: How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day, How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day, No Impact Man: Saving the Planet One Family at a Time: Saving the World, One Family at a Time, The Tree House Diaries and I'm about a third of the way through The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living. All (except tree house diaries) are year long experiences just like ours is planned to be. All are life changing both in their own right for the year and for the longer term lifestyle, all have a massive leaning towards greener, lower impact, more sustainable lifestyles using less money and resources and more creativity and resourcefulness. Coming from different angles but all with very similar 'journeys'. A decision to do something radical, sometimes as a result of a sudden epiphany, sometimes a gradual realisation that a change is needed. A period of planning and preparation, the telling other people and dealing with their feelings and opinions, a bit of a reality check when the toughness and 'what the hell am I think?' -ness sets in - all this before you actually embark on the adventure in the first place!

During the 'experiment' there seems to be all sorts of highs and lows, unexpected hard times, steep learning curves, kindess from strangers, unanticipated good points, maybe some rationalisation or changes to the original idea. Plenty of serendipity aswell as the universe dealing one rough turn after another at times. Expect the unexpected, seize the day, trust the process, take responsibility all seem to be important things to focus on here.

All of the authors end their time changed in many ways. Ready to return to some aspects of their former life, adamant there are other elements they will never return to. All have learnt so many new skills, ideas and changed their priorities, have different agendas to what they started out with and every single one feels richer for the experience - not least because they have sold books about it! ;)

So back to us and our ups and downs. We are still at the very outset but have already started along the path of our adventure. In many ways we were heading this way for quite a while in others this has come quite suddenly - I have another post in mind in the style of a roll of honour, people who directly or indirectly have a part to play in our planning to go off and do this, I will try and get that written soon. But already we have begun to think further than our initial brief and come to realise there will be more to this adventure than we first thought.

The WW adventure has come about because we have this long term dream of living a self sufficient, sustainable lifestyle. We want to grow our own crops, rear animals for their produce and meat, we want to live off grid, we want to learn about self builds. We think. Chucking everything we have in the air and risking it on what we think we want is a risk too far, so we're going off to learn first. Learn both if it is what we want to do and how to do it.

I had not anticipated how difficult some aspects of the planning and preparation were going to be. I was being very logical about it and had a list: find people to have us to stay and teach us, buy a van to travel in / sleep in when required, rent out our house to pay the mortgage. This meant clearing the house of most of our belongings - to raise money and to empty the house ready for rental. It meant preparing to give up our jobs. It meant realising we'd be living, the four of us, together most of the time, in a small space or sharing housespace and mealtimes with other people. People we've not even met yet.

So we're coming through some downs at the moment. This feels tough because it's all our own making - we could stop now and change our minds and end the things we are struggling with. It's also tough because I am naturally an optimist and inclined to see the best of things or find the way to put them right. But I want to document it. I want to have an honest and accurate account of what we're doing and how it's making us feel. I want to be able to say 'remember when we found it hard and were not sure whether we could make it?'.

Ady and I are coming to terms with what will be an ongoing shift - a change in the dynamic of the four of us. To this point we have all had fairly clearly defined roles - Ady has worked full time and I have been the one at home most of the time. The Home Educating of Dragon and Star, the remembering birthdays, organising holidays and day trips, doing the shopping and deciding what we'll have for dinner, ensuring cars are taxed, insurance is paid, we don't run out of toothpaste - all of these things have been my domain. Now we are realising that next year roles will get smudged. I will no longer be primary parent. Mopping up tears, ensuring teeth have been cleaned, laying down the law etc, all of which Ady can and does do but generally fall to me will no longer be solely my domain. In our lives next year it will be other people teaching all of us, other people calling 'tea time', Ady with the upper hand of more knowledge in some areas and me in others. The dynamics, relationships and intricacies between the fours of us as indivduals and a group will all shift, alter, morph and develop.

Dragon and Star are finding getting rid of things hard. I don't think many 8 and 10 year olds have faced the sorts of dilemmas and life changes they are dealing with now but I think most adults have. I think having your choices laid out before you and a very clear 'if you choose this then you can't have this'. Giving our children a voice, taking them seriously and talking things through with them is very much the way we parent, protecting them from harm whilst at the same time giving them the opportunity to make decisions. So we're talking this through, agreeing that yes it can be hard, suggesting that it will be worth it and reminding them to think about all of the things they want to achieve next year and are looking forward to. Children are pretty resiliant and whilst I'd never patronise them or underestimate the depth of their feelings it is amazing how quickly the angst of sorting out old felt tips can be forgotten and gotten over after a nights sleep and their favourite breakfast cereal when all enthusiasm for next year is renewed.

We're in rather a limbo period just now, with lots of the tough packing our live up stuff done or being done and none of the potential upside of this close enough to touch just yet. It's hard living in a house without furniture, it's taking more discipline than some of us are used to to keep everything tidy and not just spread back out again to use up the newly created space. It's hard to be in work knowing you won't be around to see the results of those planning meetings. I think staying committed to one life whilst already having a foot in the next is just a tough thing to sustain for more than a very brief period. It's unsettling, challenging and a rather harsh reality I'd not necessarily factored in as a possible down side to this whole adventure.

All that said, all of the above has served to illustrate some previously unrealised ups too. I see how much Dragon, Star and Ady have to gain from this increased time spent together. Last weekend Dragon was upset about a chest of drawers leaving the house. It was bought by my grandmother for us when he was born and has been a fixture in his bedroom ever since. It was ten years old, there were knobs missing, several of the drawers were broken. It had done it's time and frankly even if we weren't about to leave it was on borrowed time anyway. Dragon was very upset, he said it was precious, he'd had it a long time, he wanted to put it into storage. I explained that it was no longer any use, not worth putting into storage and that it had to go. We talked about how some decisions are hard ones to make but for the right reasons. I pride myself on being pretty good at talking stuff through with my children in a no nonsense, caring, talking them round and helping them realise things for themselves manner. But I was going round in circles. So Ady took over. He went upstairs with him and they talked about the positives next year will bring - time together, no more 'not now Dragon, I'm busy', no more 'I can't today I have to go to work'. They talked about how they are going to learn new skills together and had the amazing brainwave of taking all the fixtures and fittings off the drawer unit and putting them in a small bag - screws, knobs, hinges and drawer runners. Next year they have pledged one of the things they want to learn is how to use those fixtures to build their own drawer unit from scratch - a reminder of what Dragon let go and considered precious will live on in those hinges and knobs along with new skills and precious time spent with his Dad. I can see from this that there is plenty to gain from me not being the person trying to put it right, that putting it right isn't the answer, coming up with an even better alternative is.

I think that's what we have to learn from this stage. It *is* hard, there are huge changes afoot and far from trying to get back to normal what we need to be doing is readjusting to our new normal and be up for change, ready to adapt and be creative and flexible in our approach. I hope the lessons we are learning during this time will stand us in good stead of the wobbles along the way and that just as we are finding more downs than we first expected it is all relative and unanticipated highs will be there in the mix too.

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I am just so convinced that this will be an amazing positive experience for you all on balance. I am sure there will be some 'kessingland' moments, but hopefully not too many, just enough for some dark humour but no tragedy. As you say, once 'off' I think it will all be so different and exciting, that particularly with their strong enthusiasm for outdoors they will just love [most of] it!