Deep Dive Book Club – Anna Karenina

I’ve finished it.

It’s long.

Very long.

This is probably the fourth time I’ve attempted to read it. I think having the audiobook helped somewhat as it meant I stayed with it on the drive to and fro work. But blimey Charlie it was hard work getting through it.

It doesn’t help that each character is called at least three different names, sometimes on the same page. From their full name, to nickname to another nickname. Which, as there are so many characters is confusing, and mostly listening to it, I also didn’t have the handy character list at the front to refer to. Yes it’s a quibble, but it is my quibble dammit.

With the audiobook, I don’t know when it was recorded, the blurb says “This is a vintage recording”. They’re not kidding, aside from the narrator often stumbling over her words, (forever known as Pismonounciations) and hearing pages being turned; the translation was from 1901 and included the N-word too.

In the paperback, translated a bit later in 1918, (in the same passage) Katavasov and Koznyshev are as dark as ‘Arabs’ with dust after riding in a horse and cart. Katavasov says ‘But I am not a negro! [marginally better] When I have had a wash I shall look like a human being!’ [Truly awful].

I know it’s of it’s time, and looking back even at Enid Blyton makes you wince now, but goodness me o.O

Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin is by far my favourite character; he’s sweet, humble and kind. I love how he felt so much for Kitty, he retreated away to the country; read philosophy trying to understand everything and where he fit in the world; how he shared his diaries to show Kitty he wasn’t ‘chaste’ before they got married, and also love that until Kitty got caught in the rainstorm with the baby in the pram, he wasn’t in love with Mitya his son.

I felt the same way about Archie, I loved him – but it was a few months before I was in love with him. I had this big natural birth thing going on in my head and his delivery was so far removed from what I wanted; the rite of love-warrior experience and feeling, it took a while for me to reconcile with the wee human.

I remember one night he was looking at me as he fell asleep, I was standing up, rocking him, he was tiny – he still fitted in one arm. His eyes grew heavy, but he kept looking at me. I told myself “You need to remember this.” And I have.

I’m enjoying the deep dive, if I can get hold of Maggie Gyllenhall’s version, I’ll give that a listen as her voice is like a warm bath.

Anyhoo, I can officially tick it off the classics list!

Deep dive book club

Here are the deep dive books I’m going to interrogate this coming year. I’m going to be too restrictive on this study pile as I’ve learned don’t box yourself into life too tightly! If another book speaks to me, it will get added.

Deep dive book club

From the left:

Steering by Starlight, Martha Beck

Wherever You Go, There You Are, John Kabat-Zinn

Spiritual Liberation, Michael Bernard Beckwith

A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle. I’ll be revisiting the handy chapter breakdown, 10-part series Oprah did too.

Australia Day, Stan Grant

Becoming, Michelle Obama

Everything is Figureoutable, Marie Forleo

Sane New World, Ruby Wax – not pictured because the book itself is in transit. I’ve listened to the audio-book twice though.

I’ll let you know how I go, and if through this self-imposed study I find the answers to life, the universe and everything.

1-366

One of my twenty for 2020 is to blog everyday. Hence the title of this blog post, I’m going to count down, or up, as we go through the year. I got into bed last night on New Years’ Day, and thought “Damnit”, so you’re gonna get two today…

We’ve spent the past week and a bit on the Mornington Peninsula. I was looking online to see if I could book the Air BnB that we used at the beginning of 2019, but I couldn’t get the dates to match up with the Christmas shut-down at work (more on that later). The next morning, R rang me and said she and her family were off to Fiji for a month, did we want to use her house?

Ten minutes away from the cousins.

Yes please.

So we packed up, including the cat, and drove down. We then drove back again, minus the cat, to go to the Boxing Day test, Archie and I left at lunch, then headed back to the Peninsula. Cat very happy to see us and we’ve been here ever since.

As normal, we’ve not done everything we’ve planned to, but we’ve done other things. The jigsaw is mostly done, but we’re struggling with the sky, so many blues! The beach has been hit a couple of times, but we’ve relaxed, unwound and spent quality time together, which is what we needed.

Yesterday we drove to Sorrento and got the ferry over to Queenscliffe. We mooched through the town, walked up to Helen’s chair and spent some time reflecting on both Hubs’ mum and Erika.

Six months ago she passed, it still feels like she should be on the end of a call or a message.

Ian and I have spoken nearly every week since then, for which I’m grateful. One of the things I want to do this year is to share what I’m feeling, when I’m struggling, more often. I don’t reach out to people often enough. I seem to know when people need to talk to me, and expect that intuition from others. Doh.

I’ve not finished my Twenty for 2020 list off completely, mainly because as the year unfolds, I want to have room for actions and additions.

This year will be the year I stop drinking though. The past few months of funk has seen me drink more than nights than not, not quite to oblivion, but on the edge of it.

One thing I wanted to do by the beach was to press pause and reset on what I wanted. I feel a long walk by the beach is in my future today. I need to sit and let stuff come to surface.

[Point to note, if the blog posts are numbered, they will be free-form and unedited. If there is anything specific I want to talk about (rant over), I’ll put a title up ok?]

I’ve just cleared my beach visit with Hubs, when I’ve finished my coffee I’ll head off.

The job I started six months ago closes the office down, which I wasn’t that happy about when I first heard about it. I had to go into a negative balance to take a week off work to head over to the UK for Erika’s funeral. I’d just about accrued a week back again, to have to use it for the shut-down. I’ve got no buffer for any appointments, catastrophes or life in general. For the first time in my life, I will be purchasing an additional two weeks leave so I don’t have to worry about having enough time for stuff to happen.

Because stuff happens.

History is just one damned thing after another.

Winston Churchill

Ain’t that the truth.

Other stuff I’ve done over the week is review who I follow on social media, what podcasts I listen to and am umming and ahing over what books to read over the coming year. I did so well with my reading in 2018, I wanted to hit 2019 with reading 100 books. One thing I learnt last year, when I’m depressed or overwhelmed, I now can’t read. I stuff my head into my phone and ignore the world that way. Mind you, I have been known to just read and re-read Mapp and Lucia to avoid life too.

(See what I mean about I need to let whatever needs to come up, come up?)

Listening to the Daily Stoic podcast Ryan Holiday suggested that instead of trying to hit a number of books, why not try to delve deep. To not read widely, but to read deeply, to come to know the authors as though I’d lived with them.

Reading of many books is distraction.

Seneca

I’m going to get twelve books from Book Club, but I’m going to have a think about what ten-fifteen other books I want to read this year, to deep read; not skim over to get to a number. What am I trying to prove?

Well, that’s the story of my life right there. Proving my worth to others. Instead of being happy with who and what I am.

On that note, I’m off to the beach.

2018 reading review, including my book of the year

In 2018, I was aiming to read 52 books. I hit 80 this morning on 28 December, I’ll explain why I posted this early at the bottom of the post.

For one of my “19 in 2019” I want to get to 100 books, which means less time on social media (can only be a good thing) and broadening my reading repertoire (can only be a good thing). The hardest part of getting to 100 books will not be turning books I love around to promptly re-read them – I will be strong! This year has been a period of growth for me, mostly thanks to two women:

  • Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule I read this twice and listened to it twice this year.
  • Brené Brown, with Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead which I promptly brought for the Management Team at work. Yes, seven additional copies. Mine is already dog-eared, highlighted all the way through. Both of these got listened to and read at least twice as well.

As you will see from the list, I’m also addicted to Agatha Christie, with a penchant for audiobooks Joan Hickson reading Miss Marple and Hugh Fraser reading Poirot. Agatha Christie has been a companion for 30 years, I don’t see that changing any time soon. I also finally got round to reading His Dark Materials trilogy, Book Club gave me a couple of books I wouldn’t have picked up, and also one that I could not finish. My rule of thumb is 100 pages plus my age; if I’m not in it by then, I close the book and move on.

Stand out reads of the year include:

  • Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks – damnit, the man can do everything.
  • Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern – a book I hugged with joy when I finished it.
  • Promise Me Dad, Joe Biden – read with tissues, then tell everyone you love that you love them.
  • Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming – I listened to this, then went back and watched his Who Do You Think You Are episode, which prompted the book. Glorious but heartbreaking and his Scottish burr in your ears is really rather lovely.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat – I think I’ve watched the Netflix special eight times (see a pattern here when I get excited about something?) I ordered this for my Christmas present, to me!

Book of the year though, has to be Osher Günsberg’s Back, After The Break. I cannot stress how well this book captures what it feels like to live with ‘a different brain’ as Osher puts it. The book also addresses via Audrey his wife, what it’s like to live with someone who lives with a different brain. I’m up to my fourth reading of it, it is now a permanent fixture on my bed side table.

Thanks to the book and subsequent media attention, Australia is now, (at last), catching up with those who’ve been listening to his podcast and had heard from the man behind the TV presenter persona. Sharp suits and counting roses is one thing, but Osher is also proud about sharing his mental health and sobriety journey. I really recommend his podcast; Osher is a skilled interviewer, not being afraid to go ‘there’ in conversations. Also as they are long-form interviews, the conversations are wide-ranging, intimate and every single one of them brings an “a-ha!” moment.

What I really love about the podcasts though is Osher still getting goofy talking about his family, Audrey and Georgia. Audrey recognised how scared he was in one of his fragile moments and told him “It’s ok, because I’ll be there with you” which started leading him towards the light again. Here’s Osher talking about that moment with Todd Sampson – when Todd interviewed him after the release of the book.

I’m so bluddy proud of him. It has been an extraordinary year, Men’s Health cover and all. Here’s me, bursting with joy to meet him back at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

Happy Second Anniversary to all of you. I was going to post this review on 31 December, with my final number but brought it forward to today after he popped a wedding photo up. There was no doubt what my book of the year was as soon as I’d finished reading it.

Osher

 

Father’s Day, weekend redux

Had an odd Saturday, on the one hand – excellent as I got to meet one of my favourite humans; on the other sh!t-house because of a poorly managed night out that left me in the middle of a room on my own staving off anxiety. C’est la vie.

On Friday night Osher Gunsberg shared on Instagram he was whizzing into the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, and was doing a signing in the Atrium at 12:30pm on Saturday. I told Hubs I wanted to head into the city to get my book (re) signed, as I’d brought a signed copy from Booktopia.

We headed into the city to watch Archie play hockey, his last session of the season, which means no more running by the Yarra for me on a Saturday for a few months. But I  spent a half an hour there doing the VA thing, supporting a project I’m passionate about. We drove into the CBD proper from South Yarra; driving past Melbourne Football Club training in a park, watched by fans from the sidelines. No extra security in sight, you can’t imagine any club in the Premiere League doing that.

We parked up, and went to get coffees from one of the coffee shops in the Atrium. I ordered a croissant for the boys to share, and a pear and almond friend for me. Both came out cold, which we weren’t expecting (#brrrr), but they were tasty. The boys headed off into the city to a model shop, I sat on a chair and started to read Osher’s book. I’d been saving it since I knew I’d inhale it, and I must say it’s been a PITA having to go to work and do stuff.

Then suddenly there he was. I’ve got an odd relationship with him, he’s a major party of my life, even if he has no idea who I am. I’ve been listening to his podcast since he was still living in the USA, so we worked it out that was five years. I think I was also the only person in the queue who doesn’t watch the Bachelor(ette), if anyone tries to get anything other than sport or cartoons on our TV at home – good luck.

Osher was as sweet and as gracious as he is to his guests on the podcast; he came round the other side of the table to meet us, when I got my phone out to take a photo, whoever was with him (his manager Lauren maybe?), offered to take a picture. For a nanosecond, I hesitated, then put my arms right round him and leant my head against his. We talked some more, he signed more in my book and after saying ‘Give my love to the girls’, I kissed him and left so other people could get a chance to spend some time with him.

I would so love to talk to him for hours though. It’s not like my schwarm for Tom Hardy or George Clooney; it’s more like how I feel about Stephen Fry, Oprah, Cmdr Hadfield, Brené Brown or Mel Robbins.

—o0o–

In the evening, I’d been invited to an 80s night at the RSL with some of the school mums. I brought my ticket from someone I’d never met and arranged to meet people in the foyer at 7:30pm. I arrived to find no-one waiting, and when I posted in the event on Facebook, I then found out that two separate dinners had been organised without anyone asking if I wanted to join either of them.

Okaaaay.

One school mum rescued me, introduced me to a friend of hers who arrived shortly after me and went back to finish her meal. We made small talk, two more people arrived that this lady knew, but I don’t follow the VFL so a lot of the conversation I watched. We went upstairs, I stood there while we tried to work out where to sit or stand, as there was nowhere free.

Texting my running buddy that as it was Father’s Day, I wouldn’t be able to meet with her as we normally do on Sunday mornings; having said that I then messaged ‘I’m not sure how long I’ll be out for. I’m standing here like a lemon with no one talking to me‘ As I typed it, my anxiety bubbled up and within three minutes over the text conversation, I was out the door and heading back to my car.

I wouldn’t mind, but I’d been updating Instagram stories with my exploits as I was so excited about going out with new people. Sigh. Bless her heart, she checked in on me first thing in the morning to make sure I was ok.

I was ok once I got home and talked it through with Hubs. We sat up in bed and read together like the old married couple that we are; I’m currently on American Wife, which is frickin amazing.

Sunday morning we were up and at ’em, outside of bacon and eggs and on the road to Werribee Zoo, we got there early, arriving in time to hop on the first bus heading off on the safari at 9:50. Archie wanted to show Hubs around as Hubs had never been there before. We got up close to the animals, walked round the African part, had a coffee and were out the door in two hours flat. Perfect timing as it was getting busy as we left, we had parts of the zoo to ourselves, talking the whole way round. We saw so many birds too it was wonderful. From Superb Fairy Wrens, to honeyeaters, eagles, kites and little Red-browed finches who look like they’re wearing superhero masks.

I also have perfected poached eggs, I think I’d done them once or twice before this weekend, but Archie and I did some serious YouTube research, cracking the eggs into a tea cup is the way to go folks. It’s amazing how you can learn stuff online so easily now.

Back to Basics

I have issues with Facebook, I need it in my life (apparently), but I hate it. I am out of alignment with it. I find myself comparing myself to others, wondering why when I am doing the exact same things, I am not getting the same results.

I am out of alignment with it because, I would rather sit with others and talk with them. Hold their hands when they’re struggling, laugh till tears stream down our faces, hug hello and goodbye. I love that I can see pictures of people I care about from here when they’re there. But I hate that I have to plonk myself down in front of a computer to do it. Most often, I use my phone. Which means, it is with me all. the. time.

I listen to audiobooks, podcasts and music on my phone. Check emails. The bluddy thing is ruling my life and I am all out of whack. I’m out of flow. I need it, but it’s running me. Not the other way around.

I took Facebook off my phone. I’m about to take other things off too. Go back to using my laptop, so I have set times and boundaries on the phone. Get my chi back.

Stream of consciousness I know, one thing I’m going to do is blog more often. Get the words out my head :D see what happens.

What’s happening next??

surrender2.jpg

Picture credit

The Air That I Breathe

(Don’t worry, there aren’t that many songs with breathing associations left!)

Today I took myself back to the hospital, again on the train, again brought a coffee and a book and settled in for a long wait. Longer than it should have been as I misread the letter, and arrived for a 10am appointment that was actually booked in for 11am. Never mind, I nearly finished Cloud Atlas; as an aside, I’d like to get hold of the film to see how they managed to film it.

I spent over an hour with the consultant, she was amazing. Another incredible lady like the cardiologist, she knew her stuff. Short answer, we still don’t know what’s going on. I maybe on the cusp of something, which as it (whatever it is) is early, doesn’t show on tests yet. Or it may still be pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure inside my heart, but only triggered on exertion. Or it may be an auto-immune issue. Lupus has been mentioned a few times too.

I had more blood tests done, I’m booked back in for an exercise test and a repeat of some of the respiratory tests to see if there is any change. And I may have to have another visit to theatre to get my heart looked at again, as although I told her I’d had a right heart check, there are no notes on it in the system. Whoops.

But, some of my symptoms are easing. I can now walk a bit quicker, than I have been. Walking and talking don’t get me so out of puff too. I also did the vacuuming yesterday and I wasn’t blowing out my arse (technical term) at the end of it. However the fatigue is not letting up. I’m constantly tired, constantly pushing through just to get to the end of the day. If I sit down and I’m not doing something, I will nod off. I’m also cold, yes it is winter, and hoofing it down with rain as I type (I realised the cat was still outside. Whizzed down to let him in – to say he was not amused would be an understatement!), but I go to bed with PJs, socks, under a duvet and a blanket and most nights with a hot water bottle. But I also sweat a lot too, at the slightest exertion, e.g. cleaning my teeth, getting dressed, I have to sit down between tasks in the morning otherwise I’m trying to put make-up on ‘glowing’ skin.

Hubs said that I need to appear on House, then we’d get it figured out in an hour.

I’ve also been given the all-clear to exercise, to do what I can. Not sure what that’ll be, but I’ll head out for a walk tomorrow lunchtime. It’s a start.