How do you grow? You get tested. Not for STDs or that sort of thing (though that sort of thing is very important), but tested in how you handle whatever life throws at you. The purpose is to come out of these tests— challenging, frustrating, anxiety-producing situations—feeling and doing better than before.
It's been nearly four months since we moved our family to South Australia, and I have been tested. Each month has had a different flow and lesson to teach for our new life down under.
January was an energetic re-calibration of new surroundings paired with hard-driving administrative to-do lists.
February was an emotional roller coaster between global events and settling into our new home life. I also finally had the space and time to mourn the life (i.e., community and comforts of home) left in North Carolina. Before leaving I told friends that I wouldn't fully process what it meant to be moving away from them until later on; the realization, with tears and a heavy heart, certainly came later. On the home front, after making our temporary furnished rental feel like home, an animal decided to die in the attic space (or floor, or wall??) of our daughters' bedroom, making it feel like a home we needed to get out of asap (more on this in a moment).
March felt lighter as we soaked up the final month of Summer in Australia, choosing fun over stress. For example, we decided to go to the beach instead of yet another weekend of home inspections for another house that we weren't going to love and would inevitably cost too much.
And April…well, April felt like a homecoming; I felt like I came back to myself again. But before I talk about that, let's get back to the dead animal.
This was my first experience with the smell of a dead animal inside a home, and I do not wish it on anyone! At first, the scent overtook the space gradually. Since the house is the opposite of airtight, and the weather had been rainy, humid, and windy, we thought that maybe it had something to do with the dirt underneath the floorboards and the airflow underneath the house.
But then the smell got INTENSE. Surely it was a dead animal. The pungent odor was so disgusting that I felt desperate to find a new place to call home (when will we find this new home?!?). The room was not habitable, so we quickly moved the girls out of the room to a small living area just outside of it. Thankfully, the girls immediately took to their new space, which also serves as the creaky hallway from our bedroom to the main living area. Joe managed to contain the smell of decay to the bedroom by sealing off the door with plastic and tape, placing large bowls full of white vinegar on the floor, and opening the french doors facing the outside during the day to allow for airflow. All we could do was wait and let nature take its course. I was happy to leave it quarantined until we moved out of the house; there were other things to think about.
With the international move demanding immense attention and energy towards the kids, the home front, and administrative tasks in new and unforseen ways, I had struggled to stay connected to myself and create the space and time for my well-being. And what I now know to be 100% true is that part of my well-being involves having a dedicated workspace. A place to sit and focus, be quiet and productive, and create with few interruptions. I had found this at Industrious back in Raleigh just before we moved, and it was incredible. Now in the Adelaide Hills, where co-working spaces aren't a thing (yet), I needed to find a way to work from home. I had resumed client work and was eager to get back to writing my book and AM Notes. But where would I do deep dives for hours on end with or without our energetic girls at home? In late March, when Joe shared that the dead animal smell had cleared out, he followed up with the idea to use the dead-animal room as my workspace. I said ew, yuck, no, thank you.
Then came April.
Something inside of me shifted in those first days of April. I was done with whatever was making me feel blocked and frustrated, sad even. I had been asking for clarity and guidance during my morning meditations, and on one bright Monday morning, Joe, once again, mentioned using the quarantined room as an office. This time I was open to the idea and said, OK, I'll take a look. It was my first time stepping into the room in what seemed like ages. I braced myself, but there was no smell. All I could sense was the possibility of a perfect workspace. I finally saw what Joe had seen for me, which to his credit, is a very common occurrence. That morning I enthusiastically cleaned the space, vacuumed every nook and cranny I could reach, and found a beautiful antique chair in a storage area of the house. That afternoon, we made a run to IKEA to buy a work desk, rug, and seat cushion. I've always enjoyed putting furniture together, yes, even IKEA furniture, but I enjoyed it the most on that afternoon. The space felt completely transformed, as did I.
I've joked with a few friends that it was almost as if something literally had to die in our house to make room for other ways of thinking and existing. In April, not only did I feel more acclimated to our new home and community at large, but Joe and I reframed our expectations for our next home. We had gone from being sure that we'd buy a house immediately to being anxious and stressed about ever finding one to buy; we're now more focused on finding a long-term rental. (For context, the market is currently at historic highs for the area, with homes listing and selling for 25-40% higher than when we started planning to move two years ago).
A reset was needed for the quantum leap in life that we've undertaken. And I believe that nature taking its course inside the cottage we currently call home was the universe showing me how to press the damn reset button already. I passed a test.
Later in the month, we ventured to Kangaroo Island, just south of Adelaide. The holiday felt restorative with a capital R, exactly what we needed. The island had been through its own recent restorative period, or better put, regeneration. A large natural bushfire overtook half of the island in December 2020. Affected areas have come back to life and show signs of flourishing once again, like the vibrant plant life in Vivonne Bay that has grown around blackened trunks of larger bushes. I felt a sense of kinship with the burned areas. Particularly at the beach where the landscape, both renewed and charred, was right next to the ocean's waves coming and going in infinite motion as they have for millennia. Nature is resilient and abundant; it just keeps doing its thing. No matter what, nature has the potential and purpose of growing and thriving within the elements that surround it.
Today, as I write this on the second day of May, as autumn temperatures set in, a country mouse may be running around somewhere in our house. We spotted it last night, and naturally, it got away. This situation would have driven me mad in March. But now, I'm strangely (or wonderfully) at ease with it as I sit in my current elements, in a once forsaken room inside a home that I, for a moment, desperately wanted to get out of.
There's no doubt that I'd like to find our new home asap, but I've also found a new sense of peace and gratitude for the place we're in now. And at this moment, I'll take this feeling and sense of being as growth.
Now, let's just hope that little Mighty Mouse finds its way out again. No one wants to retake the same test.
Here are some photos from Kangaroo Island and other good times around South Australia these past few months (because it's not all tests😀).