As humans, there’s a rhythm to our lives – night and day, week and weekend, months, seasons, years, decades. Weather, mood, nature, temperature, light, humidity.
Sometimes cycles are like clockwork, sometimes they’re not.
On our property, things happen in their own cycles. We’ll go months without doing much other than basic maintenance – then, suddenly, change happens all at once and it’s messy everywhere you look.
Just when you think the work in progress will never end, it ends. The place feels done. It’s tidy, and we pause for a while to enjoy it.
Over summer, we’d hit that point with the property. We threw a party just at the right time – construction on the new decking was finished and we’d hit a checkpoint with landscaping. We luxuriated in the feeling of being done… for the moment.
A month or two later, construction started up again. All of the windows and doors got ripped out and replaced with new ones. The weatherboards were pulled off and replaced with steel (for easier maintenance). Rotting exterior stairs were rebuilt from scratch.
Now the interior finishing work is about to start. The final stage of this cycle.
Once the construction work is done and we return from vacation, landscaping will start up again with a vengeance. We have big plans, and I’m excited to carry out those plans when the weather improves.
And so the cycles continue.
I spent most of my life being impatient. Want often felt like need, with the accompanying sense of urgency. I’d go into debt buying things I’d decided were absolutely necessary when they weren’t.
In the past, when losing weight was something I cared about, I’d want immediate results; I’d go too hard with diet and exercise, and burn out too quickly. Similarly, when we moved into this house, I wanted to change things now. Renovate the bathrooms! Plant gigantic adult trees! I have a vision, and I want it executed yesterday!
I wanted change, but I didn’t know how to be patient. I also didn’t know how to wait and see what kind of change would work best for our lives. What I wanted back then is not what I want now.
Fortunately, living here has rewired my little brain.
We’re planting trees with an understanding that we may not be here to see them reach maturity. We’re taking open farmland and trying to reshape and reforest it – for practical and aesthetic purposes – but with the total awareness that this kind of thing takes time.
Not months, but years. Decades, even.
Sometimes we fail. Sometimes trees don’t grow. Plants die all the time. But it’s okay – it’s part of the process. Getting comfortable with failure is necessary. It’s how you learn, and helps you practice patience.
Some days I look outside and feel like nothing has changed since we moved in. Other days I step outside and realize that the little wattle tree I planted when it was only 30cm high is suddenly towering over my head, even though it feels like I planted it just yesterday.
I’m learning how to:
- appreciate slow and steady growth
- be patient, because the things I want now may not be the things I want tomorrow
- enjoy delayed gratification
- take pride in patience
…all of this is bleeding into the rest of my life, and it’s paying off.
I don’t care that it took me this long to learn patience.
Better late than never.
3. Baby steps
Along with patience, I’m learning the value of incremental improvement, of small daily effort.
I’ve historically treated my health and fitness as something I could throw a bunch of energy at (for a short time) and then consider “fixed” – but after having ME/CFS and experiencing the never-ending process of recovery, I’ve learned that this approach just does not work.
We’re biological creatures; we can’t eat one big meal and then consider ourselves fed forever. That’s not how our bodies function. It’s the small things we do every day – over and over – that keep us alive.
It’s also the small daily things that keep me constantly improving, growing, changing, and feeling good (not just okay). Things like:
- the 10–30 minutes of daily movement
- grabbing opportunities for small bouts of exercise when I can find them – pedaling on my desk bike during meetings, offering to walk the trash to the street, going for a sunrise walk instead of staying in bed
- remembering to lift some weights once or twice a week to ensure I’m slowly (but constantly) building strength
- making sure that my breakfast contains enough fiber and protein so that I can eat intuitively for the rest of the day (even if intuitive eating = a parma and chips at the pub)
And the same is true for the property – when we moved in, I wanted to do everything now. I had huge plans that I wanted to execute immediately, so that I could be finished.
But things don’t happen that way. Nothing is ever truly done. And I now realize that I don’t want things to be done, anyway. Not me, not my health, not my home.
The joy – the juicy part of life – is in the doing.
We decided to live here for a while before making any major decisions. It turns out that the incremental improvements we’re making are infinitely better than anything we could have done with unlimited resources on Day One. The property is serving us better.
I’m less concerned with maintaining the lifestyle I had in Canada (never-ending hikes and travel), and I’m pouring energy into small, daily acts of kindness towards my body. As a result, I feel better than I have in a long time, and my life is becoming a thing I never could have imagined: peaceful, beautiful, and full of love. I no longer feel the urge to “get away” on weekends.
Home is the place I feel most relaxed. Home is my getaway, because we’ve intentionally built it that way: little by little, piece by piece. Baby steps.
Life here? Now?
It’s in a delicious state of constant flux, but with the right amount of challenge, comfort, and routine. The property is slowly changing into something that’s genuinely ours. My health feels better than it has in at least 10 years.
We’re getting our hands dirty in the soil, mowing grass, planting stuff, and pulling weeds. We’re laughing, we’re loving each other, and having way, way more good days than bad. We’re taking pleasure in the process instead of powering through to the finish line.
Here’s to embracing the cycles, being patient, and taking baby steps.