The three of us were sitting out on our front porch today, with Indigo playing with the remnants of our yummy lunch made by Mat (a yummy egg and fetta cheese omelette, mmmm!) when I noticed Mat looking intently just beyond our front fence, a bit I couldn't see due to the bushes threatening to engulf the chair I was sitting on. I asked him what he was looking at, and he said, quietly, "A man, right next to our fence," and kept looking. I leaned forward to catch a glimpse of this man, and heard a wizzing sound, and another, and another, and then all of a sudden a motor catching and buzzing into action. It was a wipper snipper thing. And then we both suddenly realised who it was, and what they were doing. It was dear old Barney, my favourite neighbour who lives a little down the road, and who walks past with his lovely wife Heather every day on their trip to and from the local shops. They usually walk pretty slow, as they are in their late sixties/early seventies, but Barney is still as sharp as a tack, with a cheeky glint in his eye he lets with wisecracks fly before you even realise, and giggles as you finally catch on. He's a funny man, and has a really big heart. We always have a nice chat when we see each other, and always enjoy a laugh or two together. Anyway, he has suggested more than once that I borrow his wipper snipper to trim the buffalo grass that has climbed our front picket fence, about a foot and a half high. It is a huge mass of grass that is impossible to mow, it is so thick, and we just ignore it and mow around it and it gets higher and higher. I think each time Barney walks past it it annoys him. We also have a dodgy section of fence which keeps blowing down each time there's a big wind, and each time Mat puts a few more nails into it, which holds it up until the next big wind. Well lately this big of fence has been down a lot, coz the winds have been massive, and I reckon Barney has been muttering under his breath every time he walks past at how lazy we are not trimming the grass or fixing that fence. So finally, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and so he turned up with a wheelbarrow, his wipper snipper, some nails and hammer and some wood, to bloody trim that bloody grass and fix that bloody fence himself! So he just turns up and starts doing it! Without saying anything! Hilarious! We cracked up laughing, gave him a beer, and Mat took the hammer and took over the mending of the fence, under Barney's firm and precise instruction of course. When the grass was trimmed and the fence fixed, he loaded up his tools back into his wheelbarrow, and after many thanks and laughs from us, he wheeled his stuff back home, declining our offered cup of tea but promising to come back with Heather one day to take us up on it. It was just a lovely thing to do, and both Mat and I were filled with a sense of humorous thankfulness. So thank you Barney, the grass is trimmed, and the fence fixed (ugly, but sturdy), and you can resume your daily walking in peace, not having to be irritated by those lovely but lazy people at number 81.
It occurred to me today, whilst changing Indigo's nappy, that I have had a very productive day, and that most of my days are in fact almost as productive. Today I planted out my whole vegie patch (Hooray! Methinks this topic deserves it's own post...), I walked for an hour with Indi in the Ergo to get her to sleep in the morning, I played with Indigo and Mat over lunch (so much fun, giggly chortles aplenty!), I watered my new garden while holding Indi (all bloody 8.5kg of her!), and for the rest of the evening I planned to chop the cat's meat (three kilo's of it), make a lentil vegie soup for our lunches for the next few days, and prepare dinner. It felt like a decent day's work! And I mentioned to Mat that we are both really quite productive in our own ways. I am used to thinking of him as productive - he is a super prolific artist, musician and writer, and the evidence of his productivity surrounds us and crowds his ever cluttered studio (and the garage!) But I am not so used to thinking of myself as overly productive. I usually think of myself as quite a leisurely sort (or at least I did before I became a mum!), who could spend a day lounging around reading quite blissfully. But these days especially I think I really do achieve quite a lot in a day, and most days, with no break at all.
But something else occured to me, standing there at the change table, as Indigo chewed on her foot. Whilst the products of Mat's creativity are visible, audible, readable, the products of my own productivity more often than not end up either on the compost heap or down the toilet! It's kinda horrifying, and a tad disappointing! Well my two main joys are gardening and cooking. So I'm either growing it, or buying it, or preparing and cooking it, or eating it. What we don't eat ends up on the compost, and what we eat, well.... ends up as poo. It's not really what I would consider a life's work. Compost and poo. I really would probably prefer to be remembered for more noble outcomes or products than compost and poo. I mean, sure, we're all kept in good health by my efforts in the kitchen, and we sure do enjoy our delectables on a daily basis (we are not the kind of household that skimps, let's put it that way!). Aesthetically I get to design and create and handle all kinds of lovely foods, and gardening wise I am kept healthy and spiritually whole by my green thumbs.
But I guess the question that inevitably ended up forming itself in my head, whilst standing there changing Indigo's nappy (which was a pooey nappy too, quite apt!), was whether all this effort, delightful and enjoyable as it is, constitutes a meaningful life. A full life. Whether it is enough?
Enough for whom? A good question. Me? Others? Is this about what I think of myself, or how others will judge me? A bit of both I guess. I wonder whether it is enough for me. But also I find myself thinking of how my child(ren?) will view me when they are teenagers. Whether they will be able to respect me, or whether they will look down on me if all I ever do is garden and cook. And occasionally dabble in something creative. While the cake bakes.
I remember a woman in a novel I read once (dunno which one?), quoting her mother, who once advised her to create something that would not be consumed or messed up each day. To not devote one's entire life to making food that would be eaten or beds that would be slept in (I don't make beds, but still). To make something each day that would last. I find this sentence ringing around in my brain after all these years, even though the names of the author and book from which it came are long gone. Clearly it struck a chord.
I think for so many years of my adult life I have struggled simply to be well and happy. I spent my twenties battling addictions of substance and soul. There was no time, or energy, for grand pursuits over and above trying to be happy and learning how to live well. It has taken me a long time to get where I am now, where I am happy with who I am and where I am at, most of the time at least. At this point in my life I scarcely have time for a shower some days, let alone time to find another meaningful pursuit to add depth to my life. But I think once the hustle and bustle of child-rearing slows a little, enough to create some space, some time to sit and think and breathe slowly (dare I say, time to be contemplative), then I think there will be something else added to this delightful mix of seeds, weeds, cakes and soups. I can feel something forming, taking shape in some way, although it is still way too embryonic and amorphous, too new and fragile just yet, to shed public light on.
But yeah, I think one day there will be more depth, and more meaning, to what I do, in a lasting way. But for now, with a baby, and possibly more on the way, I am happy in my garden and my kitchen, and consider my time spent in both as a rich and wonderful backdrop for my kids' lives. I can see that the things I love to do, as well as providing me with endless joy and satisfaction (anyone who has smelled and bitten into a sun-warmed home grown tomato knows of what I speak), as well as making me happy, I can see how these things provide a lovely environment in which my kids will grow and learn, and one that to be honest I am proud to create and provide.
Well it was during my pregnancy (yes, back in the days beyond time when my life was my own!) that I mosied on down to the good ol' Births, Deaths and Marriages Office in the city and stood in line to change my name. I changed my surname from Yuksel to Arileo. Why? A lot of people ask this, and really it's a fair enough question. Well, at first glance, as you can see, despite my former surname being pronounced Yook-sel, in written form it has the word Yuk in it. "A minor detail!" one may exclaim. But not so! It displeased me. Immensely. It aggravated my aesthetic sensibilities, in fact. It has always niggled at me. I don't like being niggled at. However, despite my anti-niggling preferences, I was prepared to put up with it, and I did for a long time. I mean, it was my name! It was a part of my identity. I couldn't imagine having anything else. Even when I hated my dad for a while, and wanted to break all ties with him, including my surname, despite racking my brain for a good couple of years I never came up with anything that even came close to being imaginable as replacing my actual NAME.
But one day, after putting up with this less than perfect but really quite serviceable name for 31 years, it just began getting stuck in my throat. I remember being asked for my name over the phone for something official, and when I spoke it, it just sounded wrong. It was like I was spitting out something distasteful. And the same thing happened the next time. Suddenly, I just felt as though it wasn't actually my name any more. It was really weird!
Well, now, everyone needs a surname. Our society would collapse if everyone suddenly decided not to have a surname. "I must have a new surname!" I exclaimed. And so began the search, in earnest, of a name befitting a woman of my station. It was not an easy search, oh no! There were trials and tribulations the likes of which I could scarcely convey. Well, I could convey them by just saying it was hard to think of one I guess. That would do it. Mighty hard! It's a huge thing, choosing your new name. I mean, everything you come up with is gonna sound weird, coz it's so new, and the old one so ingrained, so habitual. It really did perplex me for ages, and in the meantime I was stuck with this name that sounded wrong wrong wrong.
I wanted this new name to mean something. I wanted it to be relevant to who I had become. I wanted my spirituality to be involved. I was fairly sure I wanted Leo to be a part of it, since Lions are a part of my spirituality, one of the creatures I feel a deep affinity with. And then one day, as I was walking to work, I came up with Arileo. Don't know why the Ari, it just sounded nice. It was the only name I had come up with that even had a chance. And I liked the feel of it. So I let it roll around in my head for the day, and when I got home I googled Ari, just to see, and lo and behold (and don't you worry, I beheld!) that Ari, in fact, in both Hebrew and Netherlandish, meant... Lion! So inadvertantly (or maybe totally advertantly, or intuitively) I had chosen Lion Lion as my name. Well, it seemed to be getting the spiritual tick of the century, so I went with it. I gave it a month or two to settle into my brain, and then took the plunge.
It was surprisingly hard down at the office. I felt some reservations, some niggles of a new sort. Did I really want to change my name? Was I really gonna go through with it? I ummed, I ahhed, but in the end, after some administrative issues were sorted out, I did it. And it felt good!
Now I toy with my first name. I am thinking of changing it from Nalan to Nalin, officially. I have been trying Nalin on for size for some time now, and I tell you I like what I hear. And see. Again, aesthetically, I like the 'a' and the 'i' in both names - Nalin Arileo. I like that Nalin actually pronounces my name better the way I use it on a day-to-day basis (NAH-lin; as opposed to the Turkish pronunciation, which is more NAH-LAN, and with which I identify less). There are other reasons also, but in the end, I think Nalin does win. It's not a crowd pleaser with my family, but regardless I am pretty sure I'll be back at the old Births, Deaths and Marriages eventually. And from then on I'm not touching it!