I Like To Abide By Five Rules

This is an excerpt from I Now Pronounce You Husband and Expat.

I like to abide by five rules. 

  1. If you’re a girl, pee before and after sex.
  2. If you own a dog, let it sleep inside (if he or she wants to).
  3. Buy the worst house on the best street. 
  4. Face your fears.
  5. Bloom where you are planted.

Also, don’t be mean, steal or kill. And definitely don’t ever mistake a tube of cortisone or haemorrhoid cream for toothpaste. Obviously, there are heaps of important rules one should follow in life. However, I’ve focused on following these specific five rules for a while now and I am happy to report that it doesn’t burn when I pee, my dog feels loved (and I don’t feel guilty about not walking him as much as I should), my neighbours are the absolute best humans ever, and I’m often described as a generous person. I did kill a spider recently, but it was a poisonous redback and I was trying to prevent the possible death of another creature, I swear.

I’m not saying any of the above things are easy to do. Getting up to pee after experiencing an intense orgasm that leaves you weak at the knees is difficult. Especially when you have to leave the warm nook of your lover’s embrace to go sit on a cold toilet seat to push out a thimbleful of pee. (Also, don’t forget to always wipe front to back, ladies.) As for having dogs in my house – I’ve had to accept the fact that dog hair may be present in the food I serve and in my child’s nappy at daycare. Luckily, most of the people I hang out with are equally obsessed with dogs and don’t judge me. 

It wasn’t until my twenties that I learned just how import¬ant it is to face your fears. I’m not talking about the time I went skydiving in Boulder, Colorado, or the time I ate mushrooms with my older brother, Brett, and his friends on a Florida beach, or the time I shared a cab with a charming young man from the airport in Cambodia who may or may not have been canvassing for sex slaves. I’m talking about being honest with yourself about what you really want from life and making risky or scary decisions to attain it. At twenty-one I had a bachelor’s degree, a nice enough boyfriend, a job and a mother who could brag about her successful and educated daughter at Garden Club. I knew how valuable those things were, but I felt stagnant. I wanted to see the world, have passionate relationships and not be confined to a desk. This meant quitting my day job and allowing myself to fall in love with someone I didn’t plan on falling in love with. It meant packing up my life and moving from Florida to Australia. It meant not necessarily putting my college degree to use right away. Once I was settled in Australia, I had to face my fears all over again. This time, it was deciding to have children, write a brutally honest book about my life thus far (see my first book, Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did) and, of course, try Vegemite. Without throwing all of my doubts and anxious thoughts out the window, I wouldn’t be able to sit here and ‘preach’ the Summer Land gospel, which brings me to rule #5 – Bloom where you are planted. These wise words came from a magnet on my mom Donna’s fridge and their meaning changed to me over time. (But we’ll get to that later on.) 

Moving to a new country is hard. Having a baby is hard. Having a second baby is hard. Working for minimum wage is hard. Quitting a job is hard. Painting the nails on your dominant hand is hard. Making new friends is hard. Keeping old friends is hard. Being from a country where Donald Trump is allowed to be president is hard. Trying to be an adult with gainful employment is hard. Being original is hard. Defending your beliefs is hard. Doing something without emotional or financial support is hard. Disappointing your family is hard. Renovating your home is hard. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably the hardest. But you know what? It’s all totally doable. Sure you’ll cry and possibly shart in your pants along the way, but just remember – most of that embarrassing and depressing stuff happens to everyone and it’s totally okay. In fact, most of it is pretty funny when you look back on it. (Except the Trump part.) One of my favourite formulas is Comedy = Tragedy + Time. Take it from me, the sooner you can heal from the tragedy, the sooner you can drink a bottle of wine and pee-laugh with your bestie about the time you thought it was okay to get a tattoo in Bangkok. (But seriously, I really did think it was okay to get a tattoo in Bangkok, which turned into an entire chapter in my first book. For shenanigans involving ink-filled needles, the appropriate uses for Vaseline and a story about how I took my own virginity with a tampon when I was ten, please pick up that piece of non-award-winning literature at your earliest convenience.) 

I’m not here just to tell you about a bunch of rules or that I’ve left skidmarks in my undies from all of those down¬right scary, anxiety-inducing times in my life. I also don’t want you to think I’m actually preaching how you should live your life. I’m simply here to tell you about my life in a sunburnt country in the hope that you will feel inspired in some capacity. Inspired to live, inspired to love, inspired to let your friends be your family, inspired to be yourself and inspired to travel the world. We’re going to talk about lifelong friendships, relationships and love, careers and travel, double standards, childbirth and babies, moving countries and Britney Spears. I really hope you can relate to some of my stories, because – let’s be honest – I know I’m not the only one who’s had to pee in a kitty-litter tray. I’m pretty sure that we all just want to love and be loved, learn, see, teach, feel and enjoy some fish tacos by the ocean, right? No matter who you are, where you’re currently sitting, or what your credit-card bill is, YOU absolutely have the capacity to take control of your life and write your own story that may or may not be turned into a movie and star Amy Schumer one day. 

First, I want to tell you why I left the United States and how I became lucky enough to call Natalie Imbruglia’s homeland my home. For the most part, my life in Australia has been red-dust-covered rainbows and Tim Tams, but being on the other side of the Pacific has brought a lot of new challenges. It’s been difficult to leave familiar faces, best-friend life talks over an overpriced pre-cut fruit tray from Whole Foods, warm family hugs, and ridiculously affordable gas. I’ve had to learn to live without free refills of freshly brewed iced tea and complimentary chips and salsa. I’ve also had to learn how to drive (in an economical car) on the left side of the road while in the right side of the car without talking on my cell phone. (Which I’ve also had to start calling my ‘mobile’ and awkwardly pronounce mo-BILE in my painfully American accent.) Luckily, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. I’ve discovered a country full of people who are masters at working to live instead of living to work. As someone who grew up thinking that my adult-life forecast involved university, backpacking Europe for six weeks and then a 9 to 5 job for all eternity, Australia was a refreshing and enlightening place for me. I’ve learned that you don’t always have to do what your society tells you to do. You can rearrange the ‘order’, follow your own rules, and still turn out okay. And sometimes ‘okay’ means pregnant in country New South Wales with a 1989 gold Toyota Corolla named Operation Desert Storm and a husband named Paul.

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