All right, that’s it. It’s time to stop putting it off. Writing a little summin’ summin’ at the end of each year has become sort of a tradition in the Colwill household and this year I did more things, pushed more boundaries and learned more about myself than your average year. And yet for some reason, when I think about sitting down to write this time around, my inner eye glazes over and I find myself doing something else instead.
For some reason, even though there’s more to report on in every facet of life this year, I’m more loathe than ever to sit down and report on it.
But one of the lessons 2019 has taught me is the value of record keeping, journalling and otherwise ensnaring the moments that disappear like so much clumsy metaphor. Another is that something doesn’t have to be perfect to have value and that I should embrace the opportunity to learn and grow regardless of how much “worth” I perceive it to have.
And so! I will begin! I will stream-of-consciousness this bitch out on to the digital parchment and so help me, it will be adequate!
So many major things have happened this year, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Chronologically, I suppose.
Approximately one year ago, Tim and I visited Perth on our semi-regular pilgrimage. Since our niece Evie was born three and a half years ago, we have endeavoured to make it back with enough frequency that she could recall our faces if pressed. During that two week period, we found ourselves surrounded by family, friends, and even more family; people who loved us, wanted to be around us and were sad that we had to leave again.
Hold up, that sounds like I’m casting aspersions on the NSW crew and I want to be clear that I am not. The problem was not that people in NSW didn’t love us and want to be around us, it was more of a geographical issue. Seeing other people in NSW was becoming harder and harder as house prices were sending our friends further and further south. Our closest friends lived 90 minutes and about $40 in tolls away and while it was always something we were happy to do, it was becoming more and more infrequent.
Being in Perth really drove home how lonely I was. Tim was out of the house 12 hours a day, including four hours of commuting a day. We realised then that a lot of the reasons we had moved back to NSW seven years earlier had dried up. We were alone, miserable, our house was cold and dark. By comparison, Perth was sunshine and colour and love and life.
Sitting around the dinner table on Christmas Day with Tim’s parents, his brother and his brother’s wife and their small daughter, it was the happiest I’d felt in a long time. We announced that day that we were moving back to Perth. We didn’t have a date yet, there was a lot to do but that was the plan.
The first half of 2019 was a lot of renovation, painting and goodbyes. All of my oldest friends live in NSW and it was hard to know it would be a long time before I saw them again. My best friend was pregnant with her second daughter and it hurt to know I wouldn’t get to see her grow up as much as I would like. But as the immortal Briggs says, “anything worth having ain’t never coming easy.” This is worth doing and I know in my heart it was what was best for us.
This is where there’d be a montage of painting and scrubbing and cleaning over some really upbeat music, if this were a movie. Life is not a movie and selling our house, packing it up and moving interstate with literally no support network is one of the most stressful things I have ever done and I hope to never repeat it. It almost broke me several times. So let’s give that whole arc a big ol’ star-wipe and move on.
We left the house that had been our home for the last time on August 31st. We pulled out of it in a bloody great motorhome as we embarked on the next adventure of 2019 – driving across Australia.
“But Jess!” you might say, “Aren’t you aware of recent innovations in aviation that allow humans to fly at incredible speeds from one place to another?” Well we are now.
To be perfectly honest, we thought driving across Australia would be a nice holiday after months of grueling work and stress. And in a lot of ways, it was! In a lot of other ways, it was also very tiring and stressful in new and exciting ways.
We spent about two and a half weeks driving down through Canberra, Melbourne, across to Adelaide then across the Bight and the Nullarbor and into WA through Esperance, Albany and finally up to Perth – a total of 5756km or more than 3500 miles. The trip can be roughly divided into three parts: pre-Nullarbor, Nullarbor and post-Nullarbor.
Pre-Nullarbor was mostly spent socialising with family and friends in all the various stops along the way, emotionally fulfilling but extremely taxing as we had to reach certain places by certain times and there was very little downtime for relaxing. My anxiety was also playing up in a big way during this part of the trip so I spent a lot of it trying to figure out a way we could get all our stuff on a plane and just fly the rest of the way.
The highlight of this section was spending time on Brenna’s family farm, where we were welcomed like prodigal sons finally returned home. We got to meet Grandma and were reunited with Honey, a stray cat we found wandering the streets of Perth many years ago, whom Brenna and then later, her family, had adopted and kindly let run roughshod over their hearts.
The Nullarbor section was long and straight. It was relaxing, in its own way, to never have to pass through a major city or traffic light. There was some anxiety as we constantly worried about fuel, animals running onto the road and whether we’d make it to our next stop before nightfall but as we fell into a routine, even the weird alien beauty of the landscape became commonplace. And may I never eat roadhouse chips again (jk, ilu bby).
Finally, once we hit WA, the real holiday felt like it began at last. No caravan park bookings, nowhere to be, we hit tourist attractions or not as our whims took us. Esperance is thoroughly gorgeous in a touristy, “I know I’m hot shit” kind of way. Albany is even more beautiful and a piece of my heart will reside there henceforth.
We arrived in Perth in late September and have since begun to piece our lives back together. Ah, I’m looking at what I’ve written so far and I’m seconds away from scrapping it all. It’s so long already and I haven’t even started on my emotional, mental and psychological growth. I will forge on and try to edit later.
The major news on the ol’ brain front is my ADHD diagnosis. I just dropped that in there like it ain’t no thang, like it hasn’t changed every aspect of my life, like it hasn’t changed how I imagine my future, how I view the successes and failures of the past, how I view each and every moment as it arrives and passes. It’s hard to overstate how much of my life has shifted thanks to this diagnosis and subsequent treatment. I’m still discovering new ways in which my world has been altered every day. Things that, even once diagnosed, I didn’t realise until I started treatment and they suddenly changed, came under the umbrella of ADHD.
A great example of this is my fatigue. While I still very much have CFS and it’s not somehow magically cured, it has become… how do I put this? It’s not that I am getting less fatigued, it’s more like… a lot of the stresses that would add to my fatigue have been taken away. A lot of the redundant processes that took up brain cycles have been removed.
And the brain fog! Oh my goodness, the brain fog is almost gone! The clarity! That was something else I’d always put down to CFS but it was ADHD! I can think so much more clearly!
And TIME-BLINDNESS. Did you know that was a thing? I didn’t, until it finally went away. The last month or so since I started treatment, I have felt every passing moment, every hour, every day more clearly than any before them. Days and weeks used to rush by with nary a single event to mark their passing. The last month has felt so long, it’s like a year has passed. I feel like my lifespan has been increased exponentially.
I’ve also found that I’m able to recuperate from the fatigue more efficiently. In the past, when I went out and did something social, for example, it was (and is) normal for me to feel exhausted the next day and have to do nothing – TV, video games, low physical effort, high-mental distraction things – to try and catch up. But it wasn’t unusual to feel just as bad the next day. Now, when I take these days of – what I’ve been calling – active recuperation, I can feel myself returning to a state of actually being able to function!
I feel as though I’m reaching the point around which it is probably wise to start wrapping things up. There are so many little things I wish I could impart to you, my friends, and to you, future-Jess re-reading this, probably at the end of 2020. Let’s try and bash some out in a quick and concise way:
- Tim and I finally took the plunge and became vegetarians – This has been something I’ve always wanted to do, in my heart of hearts but I guess never even admitted to myself fully, so convinced was I that I wouldn’t be able to commit to it, that I would fail. We are three months in now and though there have been times when meat was consumed by our treacherous mouths – usually to avoid being a dick about it at other people’s dinner tables – we are largely meat-free. I think a part of me imagined that when I said “I am a vegetarian now”, a switch would be flicked and meat would somehow become disgusting to me and I would never be tempted by it again. But the reality is that each time is a temptation and each time I resist I am more proud of myself. I’m sure there are going to be times in the future when I succumb to the meaty-siren song but I know that, I am, imperfectly, doing my part to reduce the number of cuddly animal murders AND avoid supporting an unsustainable industry that is a major contributor to the climate crisis.
(Incidentally, if it’s something you’ve been thinking about trying, as a fussy eater who has only recently learned to eat vegetables, I can tell you straight up, there has never been a better time to give it a try. There are meat-free options cropping up all over the place and most of them are actually really good. Even Hungry Jack’s has the Rebel Whopper now.)
- I have taken up a new hobby, namely photography, that fulfills me creatively and inspires me to try new things. Sometimes those things don’t work out and I feel a bit silly but the feeling when I take a photo that I really love is indescribable.
- Oh yeah, I guess this is a big one. I quit my job in order to spend 2020 focusing on really getting a handle on my mental, physical and emotional health. Having made that commitment, I have already laid the groundwork by finding an incredible doctor who supports me in a way no other GP ever has, getting back into therapy, setting realistic sustainable goals with regard to exercise and personal growth, and numerous specialist appointments to really nail down all the underlying problems that hold me back.
- I’ve started forging new and scary relationships with my adopted family, making myself emotionally vulnerable, talking to and opening myself up to them in ways I never have with my own family.
2020 is going to be huge. If you’ve made it this far down, you have my eternal gratitude. More than that though, let me know! Because I want to spend more time on the people who care about me and if you’ve made it to the last paragraph, it’s probably you. I know this sounds an awful lot like one of those Facebook memes, “only 1% of people ACTUALLY read these, copy and paste to see who cares about you!!!” but I mean it. 2020 is going to be all quality content, no filler. Like and subscribe for more and don’t forget to hit that bell button.