Hello again, from the end of another month! (Sort of. The fact that I’m only writing this a week into June is kind of indicative of how the month’s been so far).
It’s been a big one, but a good one. I’m getting all perfectionist-y and up in my head about writing this, so here’s me pulling out my finger, mashing down some thoughts and returning to the present month instead of limply hanging on to the one just gone.
June’s first weekend sets a wholesome tone for this month: an early Sunday-morning hike, swim and brunch by Cristo Rei.
You’ll recall I entered May on the verge of an exhaustion slump, grateful for an opportunity to slow down, potter in Dili, and live a little quieter than I had the previous couple of months.
I set an ambitious list of 24 goals to enable this peace — totally counter-intuitive; I know, but as I explained to a canny friend who questioned it I’m very inclined when I’m busy to let work crowd everything and take over my free time, so this long list was an attempt to ensure I was still fitting in the cooking, reading, yoga, craft and journalling I know fills me up and soothes my mind.
I had mixed results with both the list and the work: May was my busiest work month on record, with a new job announcement and a handful of freelance pitches commissioned in addition to the two jobs I was working previously.
Wahoooo work work.
Turns out, I’m not very good at relaxing.
Here’s how the month of rest went.
In May, I wrote.
I finally started pitching the freelance articles that scare me, and I’m thrilled to share I have three published bylines! Thank you to the Lowy Interpreter, Southeast Asia Globe and New Naratif for publishing me, and thank you to Felix for dealing with the existential crisis I had after submitting the Lowy piece about whether I was really the best person to write it.
Early May, at a beach party to say goodbye to a dear, clever friend.
That work on top of my new job at Plan International and my existing work with AI-Com and UNICEF left me busy and sapped, and I didn’t quite have the energy to make good on my commitment to clearing my drafts of this blog and writing everything I wanted to say. I did publish a couple of posts I’ve been muddling over for a while, though: Thoughts on a year in Timor-Leste, One year of language learning, and Living in Timor-Leste with anxiety. I’m happy with that.
In May, I cooked.
I had a goal to resurrect Monday night elaborate cooking with Felix, and we did it! Together we cooked vegetarian lasagne, Korean pancakes, and purple sweet potato gnocchi, and argued a lot and ate late a lot always decided it was all worth it. I also wrote about my relationship with food and how I eat well in a food-importing country.
My usual diet! Elaborate, deep-fried food with wine; overpriced salads and coffee; and MSG vegetables and fake red rice (I always thought it was fibre-rich red rice, but it’s actually normal write rice stained with kidney beans).
Two new, small food-related goals for June: spout some mung beans, and have a second go at making coconut yoghurt.
In May, I farewelled some friends.
It’s starting: the good friends I bonded with fiercely in our first few months of living in Timor-Leste have started to leave, and I said goodbye to two good mates last month.
Diving on Celeste’s last weekend in Dili! Lol @ me eating before everyone else.
This week is also roughly a year since we started planning the Ramelau trip, where our collective friendship began, and in true form I’m already worrying about how I’ll make friends when I return to Australia, and where I’ll find new Dili mates in their absence.
The morning after a combined farewell friends and Felix birthday party we hosted. Felix was thrilled to be awake; especially after I got furiously angry at him the night before. We made eggs and talked it out in the garden.
In May, I read.
Not as much as I would have liked to (see why that’s a good thing here), but I finally finished Life of Pi and the Gut book and spent a lovely couple of sunny afternoons drinking beer with a book on Kaffe Uut’s verandah. Here’s to clearing out muck.
In May, I ignored myself.
At the end of my April update post I shared the request I made of Felix when I was in Bali, alone, realising how exhausted and run-down I felt. “Please help me take better care of myself,” I told him. I closed the post:
This month, I’ll potter at home. I’ll plant basil and take on exactly as much work as I can manage and no more. I’ll continue cooking. I’ll sort out my bank card and ask Laura to teach me how to use the manual settings on my camera. I’ll abandon unnecessary worries and not beat myself up for not achieving things — including this list.
I didn’t plant basil. I over-worked myself. I ignored the bank card and cancelled my camera date with Laura.
I also ignored the niggling perfectionist thoughts in my head that tell me to work myself into a frenzy over every piece of work. The thoughts that cringe the rest of the day when I made a conversational faux pas. The thoughts that set arbitrary rules then beat me up for failing to hit them.
I did abandon the unnecessary worries.
In May, I went to Maubisse.
A last-minute plan to test out the car Felix and I had just bought (but hadn’t really paid for because neither of us has any money). A Saturday lunchtime departure for a long bumpy drive and a single night away. A group of no fewer than 11 loud children and 10 even louder adults crowding the Pousada dining hall. A good sleep and a lazy morning. A frantic Sunday evening reading ahead of a Monday article deadline and some disturbing late-night gin to get through it all. A month I’d promised to spend just in Dili.
I had no time for it and I didn’t want to go. Which is why I’m so glad we did. Maubisse is an antidote, and our trip was one of the highlights of my month.
Funny what can happen when you stop listening to yourself.