Sunday, August 02, 2009

On The Home Front

All the extra travel we've done this year was a deliberate attempt to break free of a Rut. Taking our holiday to Bali and down the Centre was basically an attempt to break free of the rut, of stress, pressure, disharmony and monotony that our family had fallen into over the past few years.

Things were actually getting pretty grim at home and a fair measure of intolerance and aggravation at each other's idiosyncrasies was leading us down a path of despair! We thought, it's time to hit the road! We'll try it together before circumstances lead us into taking completely different paths... (Which would be a disastrous prospect for our little family). So we planned and booked a trip to Bali, Sam booked tickets for her and the kids to visit her mother for a period when I would be busy at work and we planned our Christmas break. Then there was the recent drive down through the Red Centre which just had to happen, (even though our credit card was already overloaded with debt and the bank account was empty) because neither of us could imagine life at home during school holidays with a couple of hyperactive kids! Thus to prevent the family imploding we resolved to get out of Dodge (Darwin/or at least our flat) at every opportunity to prevent a domestic Apocalypse!

The problems that besieged us appeared to be the result of what happens when two people, who have been living together for more than 10 years, move in two philosophically opposed directions. Or at least when their ideals appear to become incompatible.
My focus had been to reduce my impact on the Earth and live in the most sustainable manner I possibly can. My wife's approach had been totally focused on providing for our kids. (Not a bad objective in itself) Unfortunately though, contrary to what the TV adds tell us, consumer desires can never be satisfied by any quantity of junk purchased from Big W or Kmart! Happiness can not be found inside the plastic wrapper of a McDonald's Happy Meal treat! (Sorry but that stuff really peeves me!). Although we usually only watched ABC and SBS the amount of TV hours in our house was far too high!

We decided that allowing child no. 1 to watch videos on her own TV at night was counteractive to her sleep, play, reading, socialization needs. So we got rid of one TV, introduced a bed time routine and read stories at night and stopped watching Teley between the hours of 6pm and 8:30pm ourselves.

Not long after this we made our trip to Bali, and found the experience kind of stressful, especially at meal times and in restaurants, but the family was together and we managed to have some pretty special experiences.

Some time not long after returning from Bali our 10 year old family TV fizzed out and ceased to work... I drew a sigh of relief and asked Sam what she wanted to do. Knowing that we were already overdrawn on the credit card she looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. Taking the prompt I immediately said, "I don't if we have no TV!" She agreed and we have now gone about two months or so without at TV. Our only regret is that SBS have been screening the second series of Flight of the Conchords!
The benefits of living without a TV have been too numerous to count but basically we now read more, and argue less, the kids get more attention and our power bill has dropped... stuff like that.

We learned somewhere along the way that our youngest has an unusual bone condition and will require specialized surgery later this month! He is likely to be off his feet for at least 3 months and will require a great deal of attention. This made the holiday to Alice Springs an absolute must! We had to get the kids out and have a good time together before the pressures of immobility and full time care take their toll on us all.

The getaway was great. Our little fella ran around everywhere with the kids we met along the way, the place we stayed at in Alice had these enormous jumping pillows that he bounced on every day. On the way home we stopped in Mataranka and watched a local singer perform at the Homestead. Our little bloke danced and danced all night and had the crowd in stitches of laughter and joy!
As we traveled along the Stuart Highway we all had a wonderful time, camping, walking, playing. The desert can be a restorative place and I think we all came back to Darwin with a certain feeling of calm and contentedness. Along the way Sam and I got right into reading a book called How to Be Free. The book is written by an Anarchist who believes life would be so much better if we took on values more like they had in the Middle Ages! Somehow he struck a chord with me and I found the first half of the book absolutely inspirational! It was an affirmation of so much of how I've been trying to change my own life. What was more miraculous was that Sam and I found we shared a lot of the same ideas! Although we'd been struggling to agree on anything previously the simple act of reading the book out loud as we drove brought us closer together. Amazing. The Author Tom Hodgkinson often runs of on flights of fancy and makes some pretty hefty judgements, generalizations and occasionally, omits important facts when accusing others, however he is enormously entertaining and often hits the nail right on the "... F-cking Head." (Damien Hirst).
I don't care if he gets his facts slightly distorted. Just because I don't agree with him advocating smoking in community halls where there are children, or I can't stand the way he raves incessantly about the joys of drinking Ale doesn't alter my acceptance of his basic argument. Even though he makes a few misinformed and obviously antagonistic attacks on Alcoholics Anonymous, the first half of the book has been great! (I'm only now growing weary as I attempt to finish reading it on my own). If you want to make a leap out of the consumer trap give it a go. Along the way I also read Henry Reynolds book 'Why Weren't we told'.
A great read and once again reminding me of the need to live an authentic life, not accept the status quo and always question anything presented to me as "The Truth".

Youtube review here

Our trip down the center has prompted us to make positive changes in our lives. Since returning two weeks ago I have collected 4 bags of horse manure on my Xtracycle, prepared some of the garden for sheet mulching and have been watering our little herb garden every morning and in the evenings with the kids!

Yesterday while at the tip shop I discovered a copy of "Introduction to Permaculture" by Bill Mollison. This book is: ***GOLD***

Life is taking a turn for the better things are looking better every day! Who cares that we spent all our cash and available credit? Soon our second car will burn it's clutch out and we will go back to being a one car family! Who knows what opportunities that will bring with it? Maybe we'll travel by horse??? Or at least give more incentive for cycling?

So all that travel used up quite a bit of carbon, I know! However it may have saved us all our sanity and brought us one step closer to a more satisfying future with less.
Freedom is just around the corner!


Theresa said...

Good luck on your quest for freedom, and all the best to your little man and his upcoming surgery.

We decided not to buy a tv when we moved out of a furnished flat and into our own place--more out of being broke than any other reason, but now I wouldn't consider getting a telly. I didn't realise it until the telly was gone, but we wasted so much freakin time sitting in front of the box and without it we have actual conversations, which is really lovely. We can tune the ABCtv channel into our stereo so we listen to the news and Spicks&Specks, but otherwise we watch movies on the computer or read books, play with the cat, etc.

David J said...

Yeh what a trap! In some ways I reckon the tube is turning out to be part of the great conspiracy that George Orwell warned us about in the book 1984.
I'd lost my ability to tolerate the noise and anxiety produced by commercial TV several years ago and seem to be becoming less able to stand visiting people who leave the TV running while we're trying to talk. Shopping malls always seem to have screens bombarding you with marketing hype! The less TV I have in my life the more invasive it seems to be when I'm exposed to it!

I forgot to mention in this post that while we were away our house sitter noticed we had no TV and left behind a little DC power LCD television! We were going to give it away but thought we might need it while our little guy is recovering from his opp. We will keep it packed away and unplugged until we need that kind of distraction.