The Miner's Girl

The best of both worlds. Life as a fly-in, fly-out girlfriend.

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A problem shared, is a problem halved

Following on from World Mental Health Day, October is Mental Health Month, where we live, in NSW.

via http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/

via http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/

I’ve written about anxiety before for my Mining Family Matters column, but wanted to write about mental health here too asI think it’s particularly important in mining.

Data from the National Coronial Information System showed that in the three years to the end of 2014, 239 construction and mining labourers died by suicide, which was almost double the suicide rate among skilled construction trades workers.

Isolation, long-distance relationships, working long hours and separation from loved ones can cause additional stress and worry and accentuate pre-existing mental health issues, not just for the miners themselves, but also for partners and families.

I think that’s why the theme for Mental Health Month 2017, “Share the Journey”, resonated so much for me. Sharing is so important where there is a tendency to think that you have to ‘cope’ with everything happening and communication can be made more difficult due to remote working and distance.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a few of my worries, not only because a problem shared is a problem halved, but also because I think we often think we are the only ones to worry about these things, when in fact we’re not alone. So here goes…

I worry about Mini:

I think this is the part of becoming a parent that people don’t tend to warn you about, but from the moment of conception, daily (sometimes hourly) worry consumes me:

Is he too small?

Is he too big?

Why won’t he sleep?

Has he been sleeping too long?

Why won’t he eat?

Is he eating too much?

How many dried apricots is too many?

I’m pretty sure he has watched five episodes of Peppa Pig today….

And then there’s googling every bump and lump you find! Not to mention that every time he looks at me with that toddler manic grin, I wonder if he will turn into a mother-killing psychopath…. Maybe I shouldn’t have read We Need to Talk About Kevin…

Is he missing Daddy?

Which brings me to Mr Miner:

Is he missing Mini too much?

And then there’s obviously the dangerous job; I worry about him working underground, with big machines, driving seven hours each way… my heart can barely take it! And, of course, men die before women so combine that with the night shifts and the fact he’s older than me and I’ve pretty much written him off… the end is nigh!

I worry about work:

Am I doing enough?

Am I doing too much?

Can I get a balance? Does that even exist? (I’m pretty certain the answer is no.)

Financially I should be working more, but I feel like I should also be spending more time with Mini.

Do they think I’m lazy working from home? What am I missing out on working from home?… Oh the FOMO!

Oh, and I should really be writing another blog….

I worry what other people think:via http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/

Why is everyone else so cool/young/pretty/well-dressed/fashionable/successful (according to Instagram, Facebook and all other reliable sources).

There is no way I have the right lipstick/eyebrows/handbag/thigh gap/jeans/job/garden/taste in music/life…. Aarrrggggh!

And then occasionally, I have to admit it, I worry about myself.

I need to sleep more, eat more healthily, exercise more, get that mole checked out.

How can I get my arms to look toned in a wedding dress?

Should I have studied something more useful at University?

Are my eyebrows on fleek? Do people still say on fleek? Etc, etc,

So the list goes on. Add to that some good old mundane concerns, such as; Is that tap leaking on our side of the meter or the council’s side?; Should I paint our bedroom grey?; and; Will Trump’s presidency actually result in WWIII? and it’s a wonder I ever sleep at all!

I realise some of these worries seem pretty small and petty and some of them are, but the point is that whether these are silly worries, or ones that cause great anxiety, talking about them can help.

via http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a huge list of worries, or you think someone else is, remember to share the journey! Good social connections not only improve our overall mental health and wellbeing, they also build our resilience.

For more info on Mental Health Month, go to http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide call Lifeline (13 11 14), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) or a doctor today.

The RU OK? website also has great tips on how to start a conversation if you want to get talking about mental health .

Miner’s girl or mining Mum?

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Copyright Minersgirl.com

I think it’s fair to say that it’s taken me longer than expected to get back in the writing saddle. I knew things would change when I had a baby and I could blame my silence on the general craziness of surviving my first year as a Mum, but in all honesty, I have been nervous to start writing again.

I have always been slightly concerned that calling myself ‘Miner’s Girl’ looks as though I am defining myself by my partner’s career and could come across as; a) a bit old-fashioned; b) the antithesis of my actual feminist view; and c) just a bit sad!

When I started this blog there were no others for ‘partners’ that I could find. There were blogs for families, for mums and for miners themselves, but none for miner’s girls (or boys for that matter). And when I wrote the ‘about me’ section, I thought of myself as ‘sometimes single’, independent, free-spirited, confident etc. I was owning this lifestyle and loving the way it was working out and I wanted to be there for other women (and men) in the same position, who were at the beginning of their adventure and possibly finding it difficult.

But now I am not sure I feel like that – who am I now? Not that I’m having an existential crisis, but having just made the decision not to go back to my previous job, do I have my own life or am I just Mum and Miner’s Girl? Do I now belong to Mr Miner and Mini Miner and have no life outside that?

Before we had Mini Miner and even before I was pregnant, I wasn’t going to be one of those Mum’s, who didn’t do her hair, went out without makeup and wore daggy clothes. I was going to be a cool, young, fun Mum. But now I have mum jeans, mum hair, drive a mum car. I carry a nappy bag, push a stroller and have all the accessories, plus, at 32, I’m not sure who I was kidding with the young mum bit!

I was determined not to become ‘Mum’ and certainly not a ‘Mummy blogger’, mainly because there are plenty of great ones out there and there doesn’t need to be another (slightly mediocre) one.

So what now? I have been through a rigorous year of training and learnt some serious new skills. For instance, in one hour I can hang out washing, wash the floors, clean the bathroom, shower, dress and be ready to go with a toddler in tow. I can function on four hours sleep and I can act efficiently and calmly in the face of a major poonami. But I’m ready for something new, so what now?

Can I even go back to work? I would need a job within an hour’s travel of daycare, which excludes my old Sydney job. The jobs where we live now are few and far between for my skill set (talking about myself, oversharing and occasionally stringing sentences together). So that leaves retail and hospitality, which I would be happy to do, but I can’t be flexible with hours and the pay has to cover the cost of daycare in first place. And this is where my options run thin. I have huge respect for the single mum’s managing this struggle!

So here begins the frustration for so many families, and particularly mums. I had to give up my job for his job. When I say ‘had to’, I wasn’t forced, he didn’t make me, but as a couple it made more financial sense. It’s unfair on both of us as he should be able to have a year with Mini now, but I would have to go back to work full time and our income would still take a big hit. And if we were both working, Mini would be in daycare for 12 hours a day and I would be commuting and still having to do everything at home, a reality for some I know, but again this mixed blessing allows us the choice.

However, whilst I am slightly frustrated at the system and nervous about what comes next, I am very grateful for the opportunities and flexibility that the mining life (and Mr Miner’s hard work) gives me. I am going to enjoy Mini in his toddlerhood, enjoy being ‘Mum’ and hopefully rediscover Miner’s Girl, because I’m sure she’s still in here somewhere!

So there we have it. I’ve had my year (*ahem* 18 months…) off and it’s time to get back to it, to what I’m not sure, but hopefully writing this is a step in the right direction.

Becoming an introvert

via cheesewearingtheology.com

It’s no secret that I have always been a serious sufferer of FOMO (or fear or missing out). I can’t say no to an invitation, even when I have other things to do, and I’m often the last to leave, even when the wine has run out and everything’s going downhill fast.

When I was first in a DIDO relationship, one of the things I found hardest was the thought of a long empty weekend stretching in front of me with nothing to do. In fact a lot of difficulties in our relationship have revolved around my extroverted personality versus Mr Miner’s introvert tendencies, but now things seem to be changing.

Since the creation of Peg (the part-person, part-egg, currently residing in my belly), I’ve had a sudden revelation. I can’t believe I’m about to stay this, but I love staying in!

Of course at first I wanted to stay in because in those first few weeks of nausea and overwhelming exhaustion (seriously, of all the things to do with pregnancy nobody warns just how exhausting that is), anything harder than clicking the remote control from the sofa felt like it would destroy me.

Now though, I am just happy to stay at home all weekend pottering. Maybe it’s a form of nesting or maybe it’s because I can’t hit the vodka shots on a Friday night, but I’m just not interested in going out. And I don’t want to sound all smug and pious, but waking up on a Saturday morning with a clear head and no regrets is a pretty good feeling – who knew you can get so much done in a weekend?!?

I am not saying I don’t still crave a glass of red on a Friday night and I may have had a couple of very small spritzers… (and maybe one Pimms) in the last couple of months, but there has been a definite change  in the way I choose to spend my spare time.

I know you shouldn’t have to have alcohol to have a good time, and maybe it’s the realisation that drunk people are boring/annoying (myself included), but I just don’t want to go out in the evening for anything more than a quiet dinner or cinema date.

I don’t want to be one of those people who never go out and it’s important for me not to stop socializing with my friends just because I’m pregnant, especially as I rely on them so much as my support circle when Mr Miner’s away, but I definitely have a limit. I’m a bit like Cinderella, except 10pm is my limit and it’s me, rather than my coach, turning into a pumpkin!

Having said all this, I was driving home at 10pm the other evening after a quiet dinner and it was one of those great summer nights, where the air is buzzing, full of lights and music and that heady mix of cheap perfume, cheaper drinks and the pheromones of attractive, single, twenty-somethings. Suddenly I could feel that familiar pang in my stomach – FOMO.

As I say, it’s not that I really want to go out and get smashed. In fact I miss dancing most of all. But let’s face it, unless you’re Jenna Dewan-Tatum, we’re all much more seductive dancers after a few vinos, and that combined with the fact that a pregnant woman gyrating is pretty terrifying for others, as well as dangerous for nearby glassware, has put me off moving on to a club after one or two soda waters. I am also keen not to end up rejected on the pavement, like a scene from Knocked Up!

Personally, I really think there is currently a missed opportunity for a sober disco for pregnant ladies, with non-alcoholic champagne and mocktails and a strict dress code of lycra maternity wear, elasticated waists and slippers or thongs… a place where pregnant women are welcome, because I’ve also started to feel like I can’t go out when Mr Miner’s away too. It’s as if  I need a partner to explain the pregnancy, to reassure the men folk that I am not a soon-to-be single Mum on a last-minute hunt for a father for my child.

And all of this sends me into a panic about not being myself anymore. Will I ever be allowed to go out without an escort again? Have I lost my independence? If I do go out, will I have to start mum dancing now – swaying from foot-foot-foot to seventies music in a circle with my other Mum friends? (Sorry Mum!).

Of course I have friends with kids who have come out of the other side of newborn chaos and go out and socialise just like we used to. Shock horror, they are still normal human beings, capable of drinking, dancing and having fun! So maybe it won’t be so bad and soon I will be back to my extroverted self, getting in trouble with Mr Miner for going a bit too wild.

But as I wake up with a clear head and a long lazy Sunday stretching out in front of me, my newly found introverted lifestyle also doesn’t seem all that bad after all.

My heart has been split in two, but I couldn’t be happier

I know, I know, it’s been a while since I have posted on here, and for that I seriously apologise – but I have a good reason, I promise.

I would like to announce that Mr Miner and I are expecting our first baby!! And although we are both incredibly excited and happy about this, it has taken me a few months (ok, six!) to work out exactly how I wanted to say this.

Let me say from the start that I feel incredibly, enormously, ridiculously lucky right now, as this is something we have both wanted for a long time, but that doesn’t stop a lot of other feelings coming into play and the last six months have definitely seen some mixed emotions.

Loneliness (with a dash of fear)

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Early on I got a serious reality check that, at points, this will be a journey I am taking on my own (yes, I probably should’ve worked that one out before!).

From the moment I found out I was pregnant when I was home alone (expecting a negative test again), to experiencing terrifying cramps in my first trimester, to lying on the couch feeling sick as a dog, just wishing that the magic cheese-on-toast-making fairies would come and save me, it slowly dawned on me that it wasn’t all going to be easy and there were times it would be hard and I would be alone. The thought ‘what have I got myself into?’, dashed through my mind more than once.

Luckily the midwives have been generally understanding of the DIDO situation and awkward scheduling. Much better than the GP I went to after 12 months of trying to conceive, who asked when Mr Miner would be home. When I explained he worked week on, week off, she replied, ‘And when is he going to be home for good?’ Gah! Although I am still being asked whether a family member could help out… yep, I’ll just get them to nip over from England for that appointment then…

Worry (with extra fear)

Due to the cramps early on we decided not to tell anyone before 12 weeks, but I also needed that time to get my head around it all. I am usually a pretty well person and not known to take sick days, so the first trimester came as a shock, both physically and emotionally. I was not prepared for constant, incessant tiredness and nausea, but less still was I prepared for the overwhelming fear that accompanied it.

After trying for nearly two years and having attended our initial appointment with a fertility specialist, it’s fair to say that I was astonished when I fell pregnant naturally. As I suffer from Polycystic Ovary Sydnrome (PCOS), which meant my cycle was in no way regular, and Mr Miner is away 50% of the time, statistically and logically the odds were never in our favour.

When I found out I was pregnant, not only did I find it hard to believe, but also I couldn’t get past the feeling that someone was going to come along and say ‘only joking’, and take it away from me. I didn’t want to do anything to ‘jinx’ it, whether that be telling people, reading too much about it or thinking too far forward.

Despite my boobs swelling to ridiculous proportions (you know they have the fruit and veg scale for the baby’s growth? I could’ve had that for my breasts!), I wouldn’t even allow myself to buy new bras until after the 12 week scan in case,  just by making myself more comfortable, something bad would happen. I was overjoyed, excited, but constantly terrified.

Guilt (with some anxiety)

Obviously you can’t live in a terrified state constantly (although even writing that is making me anxious!) and by the time I started to feel better and my tummy had started to swell, my parents had arrived in Oz and we could start telling people (as I wanted to tell them first), but here come the mixed emotions again….

The reason this is not a Facebook post is because I know what it’s like to see lots of pregnancy and baby announcements when you’re facing constant disappointment, and I was aware that I had friends in the same position.

The more you try and the more disappointment you face, the more you find that other people are going through the same thing. Lots of women, whose partners are also in mining, reached out with stories of how they were trying or tried to get pregnant (including some hilarious stories of conjugal visits and turkey basters!), but also other people in my life who, whether due to fertility issues, timing issues, or those altogether more complicated issues for my friends in same sex relationships, were in exactly the same position as us. This was so comforting when we were trying too, but I suddenly became acutely aware that I had crossed over to the other side and become ‘one of them’ – the gleeful fertile, so shiny and happy, and for this I felt incredibly guilty.

Thankfully my friends are an absolutely stellar bunch (which is probably why I keep them around!) and once I began to tell people they were all supremely happy for us, and brave faces or not, I knew they were truly excited.

And then came the really hard bit, the moment I knew my heart had been split in two forever….

Sadness and joy all rolled into one (with a tiny bit of terror)

The joy of reaching the ‘home straight’ of semester three arrived hand-in-hand with Christmas, which should also be a joyful time, but when you live 17,000km from ‘home’, it is also always a reminder that you have loved ones elsewhere and it’ll never quite be the same without them. Not helped by the fact our family Christmas is the best ever (FACT) and everyone else is doing it wrong (I know you want to hit me right now).

And with Christmas also came the realisation that until now I had been free to come and go as I please. I had always been lucky enough to have the time and funds to be able to go home whenever I wanted, but it suddenly dawned on me that financial implications and responsibilities will mean I can’t be as free as that once we have a new family member, someone else to consider and no longer a full double income! (seriously, you think I would’ve considered at least some of this beforehand).

Despite thinking I had accepted that I was probably here for good a long time ago, because as long as I was with Mr Miner it makes more sense as a couple, it’s more financially viable, (plus he said from the very start that he never wanted to live in England again!), it has all become very, very real. Having an Aussie baby means saying goodbye to my traveller life, goodbye to fantasies of home and fully admitting to myself that I am definitely here forever (gosh, that’s a big word!).

There is a quote, which I think is by the author Miriam Adeney, but let’s face it – I saw it on Facebook! Anyway, I think it sums up what I am trying to say here:

Quote by Miriam Adeney, via Pinterest

– Miriam Adeney, via Pinterest

“You will never be completely at home again, because a piece of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

I know the year ahead is going to be another year of mixed emotions. This is going to be a year of ups and downs, absurd highs, but also lows (I know I will have to say hi and bye to my Mum already). There will certainly be rewards and challenges. But most of all it is a time to be positive, because through it all, I vow to remember that I am incredibly lucky to be able to feel any of this.

Confessions of a shopaholic

I am a Miner’s Girl and I am a shopaholic.

Or rather I was a shopaholic. Not in a maxing-out-all-of-my credit-cards-on-expensive-shoes kind of way (although I have definitely bought shoes that I really couldn’t afford), but more in a,can and will shop anywhere, anytime kind of way.

But this year, I’ve changed. I’m shunning those racks of snuggly, soft winter woolies, slinky dresses and shiny shoes. I am ignoring the smell of buttery soft new leather and the luxurious perfume counter. I am not missing the weight of shopping bags, stiff and new with the promise of something pretty inside (honestly).

Each year for the past three years I have chosen to adopt a cause, picked something I care about and decided that this is my year to make a difference. For example two years ago I decided that I was going to stop using chemical cleaning products (this is where someone will pedantically point out that water is a chemical, but you know what I mean) and last year I gave up buying any beauty products that didn’t state they were not tested on animals on the label.

At the start of this year after returning home from the UK with a suitcase packed full of new purchases, I turned on the radio whilst unpacking, only to come across a program titled ‘Can Choosing to Live with Less Make You Happier?’ and I looked at all my shiny new purchases crammed into my wardrobe and thought, do I really need these?

Now, I am not about to get all preachy and rant on about the fact that everyone should stop shopping, or get all hippy dippy about how I feel so much more ‘free’ without the constraints of shopping, but six months in I need to share this story before I crack like my old leather boots.

The program touched on the obvious economic and environmental aspects of saving both money, (always tempting) and the planet (which we all think would be nice to do), but also looked at psychological issues such as hoarding or shopping addiction, and as I listened it started to dawn on me that I had a problem. Like I said, not a huge problem affecting my life and relationships – I wasn’t selling my vital organs in order to buy Chanel and Gucci – but I was definitely developing a little dependency.

Over the last few years I had come to notice a correlation between Mr Miner being at work and my shopping habit. I would shop because I was bored and it gave me something to do, but also because it was a little thrill that made me feel better and I would reason that because he was away and I was on my own, I deserved a treat.

It could be anything from a new jacket to a fancy moisturiser, but my go to treats were lingerie and pyjamas. I mean lingerie is an essential, right? And when your other half is away you need something nice for when they get home, plus it makes me feel good. Almost as good as it feels to have a bath and cover myself in moisturiser and new pyjamas, before curling up and treating myself to a girly movie when I’m all alone.

But then the guilt would come… I probably shouldn’t have spent that much on things I don’t really need. Should I take something back? Perhaps the pyjamas, I mean how many pairs of pyjamas does one person need? But… they’re so pretty, my favourite colour and so, so soft… plus it’s cold and I haven’t bought any new ones for at least a month. After all I’m saving money staying in ALONE tonight. I deserve a treat. I can live on soup and toast for the rest of the week. Perhaps after I get a take away tonight. How much do you have to order for them to deliver? I’ll probably have to buy extra. I’m sad, I definitely need my pyjamas… and perhaps a new fancy moisturiser for after my bath… and maybe a DVD…. And so it goes on.

And I don’t want to sound flippant, I mean I’m not drowning my sorrows in drink or drugs, but I can understand how easily I could do that. Treating yourself to a nice red wine because it’s Friday night and you’re home alone, but there’s none open so you’ll have to open a bottle and now it’s open you might as well finish it. And the next night you feel guilty, but why should you? This is normal. Open another bottle. And so it goes on.

So despite the fact that it is winter and I have bought no new clothes for six months and those fluffy pyjamas are crying out to me, I am determined to make it to the one year mark, by which point I’ll no longer need them anyway.

If you or someone you know need help with addiction, please contact Lifeline.

Ten things I’ve learnt over five years as a Miner’s girl

I’ve had a bit of a hiatus recently due to a combination of things, one of which has been moving house. We only moved from one side of the city to the other, so not a huge upheaval, but as our last move three years ago was only around the corner (quite literally) and it caused arguments, tears and threats of deportation, I approached this move with some trepidation.

But, in fact it was pretty easy. Of course there were late nights, pulled muscles and we were still packing the kitchen when the movers not only arrived, but had packed the van and gone, but there were no threats of abandonment or cars crashed into moving trucks (yes, I may have reversed Mr Miner’s car into a moving truck on a previous occasion!).

In fact, when our friends brought emergency coffee supplies the morning after the move, we were all cheery, smug and smiley, so pleased with ourselves and our effortless moving style. Obviously we hadn’t unpacked any boxes or braved Ikea at this stage, but still, I was very proud of what we had achieved. And, yes I do count not killing each other on moving day a serious achievement.

The other thing that happened during my Miner’s Girl hiatus is the five year anniversary of us meeting. Now, let’s be honest, I obviously mean five years since a drunken hook-up that neither of us thought was going anywhere (sorry Mum), but there’s no simple word for that. Anyway, the coinciding of the big moving day achievement and our ‘anniversary’ got me thinking about the things I have learnt over the last five years that have helped us go the distance (FIFO pun intended).

1. Communication is key…

 mindy mindreader
 Source: redcrosschat.org

Hints don’t work, be upfront and get on the same page.

2. …But do it your way

 Source: Giphy.com

Contrary to popular belief t’s actually ok not to be on the phone everyday.

3. Get a life!

 Source: Giphy.com

Waiting around for your other half to come home is no way to spend your time. I have joined gyms and bookclubs, I’ve volunteered and I’ve forced myself on new friends, but at least I’m not bored!

4. Give him a break

 Source: Giphy.com

Don’t feel rejected! do you really want to do the kind of things he gets up to with his idiot mates?

5. Sundays are lonely

 Source: Giphy.com

Remember though, every cloud has a silver lining; when he’s home Sunday’s will be appreciated all the more. And when he’s not? You won’t hate Mondays quite as much as everyone else does!

6. Get some help

 Source: Giphy.com

Pay for movers, pay for cleaners. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

7. Know your love language

 cuddling-rabbits
 Source: imgur.com

We all demonstrate love differently. How do you show yours? I love cuddles and Mr Miner apparently shows his love by leaving socks all over the house…

8. Some people won’t get it

 Source: Giphy.com

Sometimes T. Swizzle just says it best! As long as you are making each other happy, it doesn’t matter how they feel about it.

9. A little help goes a long way

 Source: Giphy.com

In this lifestyle the small things make a difference, so help each other out when you can.

10. A ‘routine’ sex life isn’t a bad thing.

 Source: Giphy.com

Just like Ryan Gosling topless, Fly-in night sex. Never. Gets. Boring!

The hardest part is saying goodbye

‘I don’t want to say goodbye’, he said.
‘I know’, I said, ‘but it’s only for now, you’ll feel better later.’
‘But the longer we’re together, the harder it is to say goodbye’, he said.
‘I know’, I said, ‘but it’ll get easier.
‘But I just love having a beard’, he said.

At which point I gave a long sigh of exasperation and told him that it was totally up to him whether or not he decided to shave his beard off.

We have been doing this for five years (the lifestyle, not the beard conversation) and in that time I have learnt that this DIDO/FIFO thing is much easier if you don’t actually have to say goodbye.

The beardI am lucky that due to his 7/7 roster he always leaves on a Wednesday after I’ve gone to work, so I just give him a kiss goodbye as I leave for work at 7am, usually while he’s still asleep and then I come home on a Wednesday evening and he’s not there. I return home and it feels a little too empty, things abandoned where he left them (slightly annoying), but usually with little gestures that make my heart swell (washing up done, dinner in the fridge, a haphazard attempt at last minute tidying) and although he’s gone, I know he’ll be back soon.

I wonder whether missing someone has something to do with being left behind. When we lived in Orange and I used to travel back to Sydney for the week to work, he always used to seem to take it harder too. I would get on a train and end up in Sydney with my friends and work and busy social life and he would be left behind with not much to do.

Similarly now, although he has a long drive ahead of him, he has something to do and somewhere to be, which is enough to keep him busy. As with many situations in this lifestyle, boredom is loneliness’s evil companion and staying busy is often the key to beating it.

So usually we manage not to say goodbye and just carry on our routine as normal, actually quite enjoying the time we have apart to do our own thing.

But this week, not only did Mr Miner go back to work a day early for training, but I decided to work from home to get some projects completed, which brings me back to where I started…

I am working in my office when he comes in to disturb me with ridiculous beard questions! In defence of my flippancy, he has been growing the beard for over a year and I had already suggested that maybe as he is not, a) a hipster, b) a bikie or c) homeless, that maybe it was time to say goodbye to the beard (also he sheds like a cat!).

I stood and watched (read laughed and took pictures) as he shaved it off just before he left to go back to work and as a face emerged that I hadn’t seen for over a year, I was struck by a sudden wave of sadness.

Maybe it was the funny fuzzy face that made me laugh, maybe it was the handsome stubbly face that reminded me of when we first met, or maybe it’s just that I’m not used to doing this anymore, but whichever it was, I suddenly didn’t want to say goodbye.

I did the dutiful girlfriend thing and walked him to the car, kissed him goodbye and waved him off from the front step and when I walked back inside our flat it felt to quiet, too cold and too empty, slightly abandoned and again I felt a little sad. And just as I was thinking how long a week apart could feel I walked back into the bathroom to see the sink covered in beard hair.

Saying goodbye is hard, but there’s always something to remind me he’ll definitely back. And probably sooner than it takes me to stop finding beard hair all over the place!

Help! Our phones are stopping us communicating!

Ask anyone in a long distance relationship, be that DIDO, FIFO or any other kind, and they will tell you that one of the keys to making it work is communication. The trouble with working FIFO is that often, due to internet connection, time differences and shift work, it can mean  a lot of this communication is via text rather than talking.

Of course we are lucky that there are so many ways to communicate now (we’ve come a long way since patchy satellite phone calls) and for the most part texting is fine. A quick message to say, ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘How was your day?’ is easy enough, but it’s not exactly the best way to convey emotion.

I usually like to think that Mr Miner and I have got it all figured out when it comes to communication.

We know our schedules and what time to call, we give each other space when we’re too tired to talk, we don’t put too much pressure on having to have a conversation if we don’t have much to say and we always try to have one good, long catch up call during a swing. But this last week we’ve had a major communication failure.

I’m sure everyone at some point has received a text where they’ve been confused by (or worse still, misunderstood) the emotion behind it. Are they really angry with me or are they joking? Is that a sarcastic smiley emoji or do they really think that dress looks nice?! Sometimes you just wish you could read their facial expression, or even just hear their tone of voice so that you could know exactly what they’re thinking.

There are some times when text just isn’t the right medium for communication, and then there are times when technology fails completely… which is what happened to us this weekend.

It all started with a simple conversation about whether we want to move house or not. I wrote what I thought was a simple enough text and he responded with a one word reply, ‘What?’

I will say now that Mr Miner has many strengths but written communication is not one of them. Have you ever written a text when you’ve had a few drinks, realised that not all the words are quite right, then decided rewriting it properly is just too hard with your wine-goggles on, and sent it anyway? Well it feels like Mr Miner texts like that at all times!

His seeming allergy to punctuation and unwillingness to either read or use it does get the grammar-Nazi in me fired up. It can also lead to some interesting interpretations and sometimes I think I may have an easier time deciphering semaphore than one of his messages.

So, needless to say, when I received this response I didn’t have much patience, thinking he was just reading it wrongly.

‘What, what?’, I replied.
‘What are you talking about?’ I received in return.

As he was at work this conversation took place over several hours, with each of us getting more frustrated with every response. Shouty capitals and offensive emojis were thrown around like grenades over the treches, phones were slammed onto sofas in exasperation (don’t you miss the slam of a landline?) and crankiness took over. Until finally one of us cracked:

‘I’m done talking’, he said.
‘Sounds about right’, I lobbed back in response.
And then radio silence, both of us raging…

Until, ‘beep, beep’, I offered my phone an angry sideways glare, only to see a screenshot from Mr Miner. This should be good, I thought (of course knowing I was right the whole time). But when I compared his version of the message to mine, it all became clear. Our phones are trying to split us up!

Text confusion

And then I cracked up laughing, because what else can you do with something so ridiculous? I replied with the version from my phone and then we are all ok again, a united front against our terrorising technology.

No matter how far we’ve come since the patchy satellite phone, it just goes to show that sometimes it really is good to talk!

The difference between women and men

I realise that I’m a bit behind with this, but I’ve spent the week catching up on some of the great media produced for International Women’s Day.

There were lots of great articles and quotes doing the rounds on social media from some brilliant women, from all walks of life, including business women, stay at home mums, teenage girls and of course women in mining. But it happened to be one celebrity quote in particular that caught my eye.

Buzzfeed quoted Jennifer Garner in their list of ‘31 Times Celebrities Gave The Best Damn Responses To Sexist Questions’, which highlighted how different the questions directed at her and husband Ben Affleck are:

“Every single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one, asked me ‘How do you balance work and family?’ As for work-life balance, Ben said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to change that conversation?”

I really related to this quote in particular because people ask me all the time; ‘how do you cope with Mr Miner away?’

Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images / Via huffingtonpost.com and Buzzfeed.com

I know some are inferring that I may get lonely or miss him, but I also know I am not being over-sensitive when I say that many outsiders seem to think that it would be impossible for me to cope without a man at home. It’s as if I had a partial lobotomy when we moved in together and lost the ability to carry out simple everyday tasks without his assistance or supervision.

‘But what if something happens when he’s not there?’ They ask. Like what? Cockroach infestation? Power cut? Neighbour from hell? They’ve all happened when he’s been away and although I would’ve loved him to be there to help, I coped all the same.

Of course I asked Mr Miner whether this is something he hears a lot, and surprise, surprise, nobody has ever asked him how he copes. Not once. They ask him what it’s like to go underground, how he finds the hours, how good the money is, but he has never had the question phrased as, how do you cope?

Even more importantly this resonated with me, because I think most worryingly, this question isn’t only sexist towards women. As much as it assumes that I wouldn’t be able to cope on my own, because I’m a woman, it also assumes that he would be able to cope on his own, because he’s a man.

This way of thinking perpetuates the issue of men not discussing their feelings, particularly when it comes to feelings of anxiety and depression, which can be amplified by the FIFO or DIDO lifestyle when you are working long hours, away from your loved ones.

So I am not suggesting that I want people to stop asking how I am coping, but re-phrasing the way they ask it. Please do ask how I’m feeling, whether I’m lonely and if I need a hand with anything at all (particularly if you want to come over and kill cockroaches!).
But if you see Mr Miner, please also feel free to ask him… or your mate, or your colleague, or your Dad, or your neighbour or your brother how they’re doing too, because at some point we could all do with someone to help us cope.

If you’re having trouble coping, Beyond Blue are available to help you talk it through, day or night.

 

You don’t know what it’s got ’til it’s gone: Lent and FIFO, the surprising similarities

ChocolateShrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardis Gras, whatever you want to call it, it heralds the start of Lent for many Christian denominations. During Lent observers give up something they consider to be a vice or a luxury for the 40 days and 40 nights leading up to Easter Sunday, as a form of penitence.

My Mum always took us to church as kids and my sister and I always give something up for Lent. This year I have given up chocolate, but also cake… and biscuits… and lollies… and desserts, otherwise I just substitute one for the other – especially when Mr Miner’s away. (I have previously given up alcohol for lent, but I have a camping trip with Mr Miner and his friends coming up and drinking will be a necessity!)

Apologies for my over-simplified version of Lent, but the point I’m trying to make is that, it’s a period where you give something up as a bit of a punishment. You go without something you really like, or enjoy, and understand what it’s like to go without, at least to a small extent. Sounds like something else I can think of!

As well as going without, it also makes you realise that your chosen vice is a luxury that you’re lucky to have and once you have it again, you appreciate it more. Similarly with FIFO, having time without your partner can be hard, but it can make you appreciate them more when they’re back too. And not only do I miss Mr Miner almost as much as I miss chocolate, there are other similarities to be drawn between Lent and FIFO too.

At first I miss chocolate, the velvety smoothness, body temperature melting point and sugary sweetness (oh nom, nom). I constantly think about it because I’m telling myself I can’t have it. When I walk into Coles, all I can see at the moment is the chocolate aisle. It’s also a bit of a test, because I forget that I can’t have it and then suddenly remember – usually just as I accept a lovely slice of cake and I’m about to take a bite.

In the same way, when Mr Miner first leaves, I forget he’s not there. I always think of things I want to tell him when I get home and then remember that I’ll have to text him or wait until he gets off work/wakes up to call him.

Then, after a few days, I slowly start getting used to going without and it’s not so bad. I find substitutes, like frozen banana and cocoa instead of chocolate ice cream, or hanging out with friends instead of him and there are always distractions, I keep myself busy and put my energy into something else (such as searching Pinterest for substitutes to ice cream and convincing myself that they are in fact a substitute and not just frozen fruit).

And once I’ve reached that halfway point, I can start planning for when I can have it again, what I will do with it, how much I will have and how good it will be. Get your mind out of the gutter please! I’m talking about the chocolate here obviously, this is a Christian post!

Finally, Easter day comes and I’m allowed to indulge again and of course I binge, I go overboard, I have it for breakfast and lunch and dinner, until I can’t have any more. Just like FIFO, the first 24 hours are brilliant and I can’t get enough of Mr Miner, but it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing!

And for a few days afterwards, I always feel naughty every time I have it, like I’m doing something wrong. It’s such a treat and time without makes me really appreciate having it back in my life – and the chocolate isn’t too bad either!

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