Thoughts: 50 not out

So, today is my 50th birthday. I’ve been approaching this date with a degree of trepidation. For me it’s a big number. And no, before you think it, 50 is not the new 40. It’s 50.

I have returned from a few days flying solo in Raglan. Raglan is quite possibly the best town in New Zealand to head to for a time of reflection and resetting. And reflection and resetting has been very important for me to do this week.

At the top of the list: My life has not turned out the way I expected.

An upbringing in an environment of Mum, Dad and the kids probably set the expectation that that was what life was supposed to be. Study hard, get a good job, find a girl, settle down etc. etc.

This is the Kiwi multi-generational procedure on repeat.

I did these things.

And they never quite fitted.

I find myself at 50 on the cusp of something new.

I don’t have the ‘happy family’ I once expected and was conditioned to expect. But I do have a happy family and I am happy and content. My kids are my pride and joy. They inspire me.

I don’t have the house, boat, bach and BMW which was the aspirational cry of my youth. Life has thrown me curveballs, which I seriously miss-hit. I’ve de-materialised significantly. Yes, circumstances dictated that I needed to, but it’s also been of choice. Some things have simply become less. It’s healthy.

I have learned what is important to me and what isn’t. I have learned what adds to my journey and what doesn’t. I have learned what values I hold true to and what values can be improved upon.

Most crucially, I have learned to choose wisely.

I have learned a lot about the nature of people and being human.

I’ve learned that people come into your life for a reason. I have learned that It’s not immediately apparent what that reason is and I’ve seen that sometimes years pass before the reason manifests. But it always does, and you have to be open for it.

I’ve learned that human connections are not things I can control. So I relax and see them for what they are and enjoy them. I do like to meet people and connect, recognising that that connection could be for a lifetime, for some years, or only for some minutes.

People come into my life and leave, sometimes without a trace. And you know what? I’m cool with that. They are on their own journey. As I am on mine.

All I can do is strive to make the connection, however fleeting, as meaningful and healthy for both of us as possible.

I’ve learned that the people you surround yourself with influence who you are. Your character. Your attitudes and beliefs. I am who I am in part due to the friend choices I have made. I have learned that it’s ok to end friendships if they are causing harm and making me a worse person.

Choose your people wisely.

I’ve learned about work/life balance. I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s no such thing. It’s just life, and you only have one life assigned to you. Everything you do with the hours in your day is subject to choice.

Choose your time investment wisely.

I’ve learned to look for the good, the humour, the fun, in everything. It’s about getting of the beaten track. Walking down that alley. Going around that corner. Just because it’s there. I adore exploring and talking and discovering.

I’ve thought long and hard about success and failure. I’ve had my share of both. By conventional standards and expectations it could be said that I’m a failure but I thankfully no longer hold conventional standards as my yardstick.

I’m still standing. I’m still smiling. And I have new goals and aspirations.

I feel that I have lived several lifetimes in my 50 years and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few lifetimes bring.

For me:

I will continue to care.

I will continue to communicate.

I will continue to listen and to learn.

I will continue to be open.

I will continue to risk being hurt.

I will continue to tell people I value them.

I will continue to tell people I love them.

I will continue to trust.

I will continue to wander and to wonder.

I will continue to be the best Simon I can be.

^SD

Thoughts: Dealing with Annoyance

It’s sure been an interesting time in my life.

Processing the passing of my birth mother has been a bit of a big deal for me. I was able to be in the moment as well as being somewhat out-of-body at the same time, dealing with the various stages of grief that one goes through.

And now I’m in the stage of Annoyance.

Annoyance is the feeling you get when someone or some thing makes you fairly angry or irritated.

My mother has annoyed me. Yes, it’s a purely selfish response but I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that she’s gone. And what’s worse is that she hated to annoy anybody. Which is partly why she is now gone. She didn’t want to be a bother so didn’t call her doctor for three days when she should have. Sigh. Lessons learned.

So how have I been dealing with this particular annoyance?

Well, I recognise that the source of it is completely out of my control so all I can really do is focus on the good things. The little time we did have. The memories. The fact that I was able to meet her and that she was able to meet her grandchildren. This is pure. And it is healing.

On reflection, I have learned over the last few years that I have an incredible resilience. I don’t get stressed about things. I don’t really get angry. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen (mostly). And consider my response to stimuli rather than react.

Yes, I have been living through the consequences of decisions that I made in the past – owning it, accepting it, growing from it, moving forward.

Yes, I have been impacted hugely by the actions of others. But I recognise that I have no control over other people and what they do or what they say. I don’t necessarily know their stories. Their pain. Their stressors. All I can do is look for the good in the situation.

This approach prevents me from burning bridges or removing people from my life on an emotional whim. Don’t get me wrong though – I am very good at recognising and understanding when a person is toxic for me and I have no energy in my tank to continue to give to them. Thankfully this doesn’t occur very often.

Someone once told me that their approach is to ask themselves ‘Will this actually matter in five years’? It’s tough to do when you feel the red mist starting to swirl but it is worth making the attempt.

Take a step back. Breathe. And get on with your life. You only have one.

S.

Thoughts: RIP Mum

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Out of nowhere I got news that my birth mother, Rachel, had passed.

It’s been a lot to process.

I have known my whole life that I was adopted. It has never really been a self-defining part of my life, and I always had in the back of my mind the motivation to track down my origins and see if I could get to know my biological family. Years came and went. Every couple of years I’d get motivated to progress things. I obtained my original birth certificate, located a name, located a home address from the 60’s. Then I’d hit a roadblock and have to park the search. Over time, the Internet evolved and around 2007, my mother (well, someone with her name and broad location) popped up on a genealogy website.

I had confirmation. She (I thought it was her) was alive.

I found someone with her surname in the local telephone book, and one night made the call from Auckland to Somerset, UK. I finally had a current address.

I had actually forgotten over the last decade who the person on the end of the phone was, and was delighted to meet him at Mum’s funeral. He’d kept the secret.

So around Christmas 2007 my mothers life irrevocably changed. As did mine. I met her for the first time in 2011. The memories from that occasion flood back with such clarity.

And now I find myself in Somerset, saying goodbye. It’s been hard. The grieving process has been brutal and now the healing begins. I am so grateful to my cousin who has been handling everything – I think we’ve helped each other get through this time.

The funeral was lovely. In a setting steeped with history and legacy. I was proud to be able to address the congregation with some thoughts. I have posted this below for posterity.

So now I continue to sit, and to think, and to process.

 

 

Pieces of the Puzzle

Good morning everyone,

We are here today to celebrate the life of Rachel, my mother.

Everybody here has memories of Rachel. Each memory is different, each memory personal. Each memory is a piece of the puzzle that when collected together presents a picture of who Rachel was.

That’s the great thing about life. People, all of us, have the opportunity to impact others and leave behind a lasting memory.

My story is a little different to most here and I’d like to share some of it.

Rachel was an adventurer. She went to New Zealand to have an overseas experience decades before that became a common thing for young people to do.

I was an outcome of that adventure.

Growing up with my adoptive family, I always felt… different. I think differently to them. I see the world differently to them. I certainly have a mischievous streak and a wanderlust that did not come from the nurture I received. It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to find out more about who I was.

It was around 2007 I think, that I tracked Rachel down. All I had was a name on an original birth certificate and a very basic Internet. I remember finding a Somerset Sealey (I can’t remember who it was) and making a telephone call to locate Rachel’s current address and to ask if he thought it would be ok if I wrote.

Mum received that letter shortly before Christmas Day. And I know her world changed. I like to think for the better.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to come out here to meet her for the first time, and meet many of you here today. My blood relatives. I remember arriving at London Heathrow and seeing her in the arrivals hall quite clearly.

Thank you Mo for being there at that time also.

That moment in 2011 was a time where some of the missing pieces of my own puzzle were located. And placed.

Rachel and I were able to get to know each other as adults without the angst of a parent-child relationship getting in the way. She was desperately proud of her family here and she loved telling me about all what you were doing. She was delighted to get to learn of her grandchildren, my son Aidan and daughter Caitlin, their strengths and interests, and to see her heritage passed on.

Rachel and I realised early on that I am definitely cut from the same cloth as her. My extreme curiousity comes from her. My off-beat sense of humour comes from her.

At this time I would like to acknowledge my birth Father, Phil. I am so grateful to him as he made it possible for Mum to come to New Zealand in 2016 to see me in my habitat, and also to meet Aidan and Caitlin and give them an opportunity to meet and get to know their grandmother. He sends his condolences to us all.

Rachel reflected to me that she felt that she and Phil were incredibly selfish when they gave me up for adoption. I told her that far from being selfish, her actions at that time were completely selfless.

Because of her, I have had a good life, raised by great parents, knowing nothing but love.

And now Rachel is gone.

But she also continues.

In me, in her grandchildren.

I know that she wouldn’t be comfortable with all this attention but I also know that she would be ‘right chuffed’ as to what is happening here. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that this connection grows and strengthens. That this connection endures.

The puzzle that is Rachel may be completed today, but there are more puzzles to complete.

More pieces to find and to place.

I hope that you will help me as I honour her memory through living and in some way, perhaps, I can help you also.

Thank you.

 

Thoughts: The Art Of Receiving Compliments

Compliment

I’ve noticed something over the last few years. It seems to me that people are gradually losing the art of receiving compliments.

It could well be isolated within  this New Zealand society I live it, and I haven’t been immersed in other cultures to test this observation, so feel free to let me know either way.

I am one who compliments. I love acknowledging good work, success, and achievement. I love acknowledging when someone has made an effort with their personal appearance and is proud of it. I do my best to lift someone up – even if it’s just a little bit.

As a dad, I know it is incredibly important to compliment my kids. Every little achievement should be noticed and applauded. Even when their team consistently loses by 8 goals, finding the great in the gloom makes a difference.

But even my kids are losing the art of receiving compliments.

My 10 yr old daughter recently won a game of Cluedo against four others. I sent her a text later that day to say I was proud of her winning. Her reply “Yup. Why r u texting me it’s very random”.

Sigh.

I’ve noticed that when I say to someone “You’re looking great” that more often than not the response is along the lines “Yeah… nah” or “I’m fat” or “I’m getting old”. (applies equally to both genders!)

I’ve noticed that if I compliment a female that is significantly younger than me (say, between 20-25) the response is more likely to be guarded than thankful.

This makes me sad.

Are there cultural norms in play here? Are there limitations to who I can compliment or acknowledge that I’m unaware of?

Has society changed to the point where people are now suspicious of someones motives in the first instance if that someone is being nice or kind?

Or is it simply that people have adopted the idea that ‘Not caring about what others think’ to its fullness – which impacts the acceptance of positive as well as protecting from the negative.

I’ve lived a life of thinking of others. I have a personal ethos that I want people to feel better about themselves or be slightly better off having met me. It’s an ethos in which I’m always available to help others if at all possible. (Of course this has caused a few issues where I’ve been taken advantage of, but that’s not common). I want to add to people.

Is this outward-thinking way of life something that has run its course? Does it no longer have a place? Am I actually a dinosaur?

I’m hoping that once again people can learn to just say “Thank you” when complimented. Without qualification or putting a negative spin on it.

Or should I just give up?

Thoughts?

Thoughts: Finding My Passion

I’ve been feeling a little off-balance in recent months and I’m trying to put my finger on what is causing this.

  
I think I have reached a turning point. A fork in the road. They don’t come along all that often, so to recognise one when you see it is fairly important.

I’m examining most (if not all) aspects of my life. 

Some things are set in stone: my kids, what I do with them, how they see me and my existence. It’s a tricky balance as I’m very careful not to disrupt their worldview at this point in time. It is something that I determined to do six years ago, and I’m not about to change.

Being immovable brings issues.

It means I can’t consider, until they’re older, major changes. For example, moving to another town, another country. Not being around and present for them. 

It means that my monthly expenses are higher than they could be. I live alone because I want them to feel that they come ‘home’ when they stay with me. I don’t want them to ever feel like they’re visitors.

It means that other people’s expectations and hopes aren’t met.

I do feel I’ve found balance in work, having made necessary changes a couple of months ago which removed stress and gained a little more flexibility, and therefore time to ponder life.

I’m still trying to determine what it is I’m passionate about. What is it that would energise me, that appears front-and-centre when I remove the dross and distractions of day-to-day? I have many hobbies that I could immerse myself in, but they’re not passions. 

I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I’m engaging with people. Meeting them, hearing their life stories. Listening to their journeys. I actually love people (Caveat: not the dicks. Please don’t be a dick). I don’t like casual shallow conversations. I love to get beneath the surface. To find out who they really are. 

The last couple of years I’ve not been that free to meet and greet but these last couple of months have seen me being able to get back into this and it’s been great. 

This is a passion I need to explore. 

There is another side to me which commands that I have ‘me’ time. Isolation. Being at home, by myself, doing ‘stuff’. If I don’t get this isolation, I don’t recharge. And I get unhappy. Understanding this is key to the above.
  
Balance.

I hate getting trapped into a routine, getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes they’re necessary I guess, but it is important that they’re finite. I sense that some of my routines are coming to a close (yay).

Once I’ve worked out what my passion is, I’ll need to work out how to make it happen. What would the cost be (not just financial of course). That could be the tough scary and challenging bit. 

I’m up for it.

What about you guys? Are you living your dreams? Do you know what your passion is? How’d you find it and make it work? 

Thoughts: getting your body back

Oh ok, maybe it’s more “getting your brain, time and life back”.

From July 1st, I have been in recovery.

This year has been bloody hard slog. I’d been giving one of my clients, on average, over 180 hrs per month. (Getting paid for 168). And then fitting in the workload for my other clients on top of that.

My brain was fried. But I didn’t realize it, although the suspicions were there.

I’d had a few conversations with medical professionals (nothing to be concerned about, I have many more people to annoy in my future) and quite frankly the idea that we work to exhaustion and then use the spare time for sleep is just crazy.

Yes. Needs must. But it takes a toll.

From July 1st, I reduced my hours with that client. Focussing on a few accounts and being more selective with my hours.

I have new clients to inspire and delight me. 

I have felt a weight lift and a sharpening in my mind. I didn’t realize quite how bad shape I was in. 

Sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end of ‘I have no energy to give you any sort of attention’. 

I’ve made changes.

S.