Navigating the highs and lows of life: Do we realise how lucky we are? 24



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There are highs and lows in every life; sometimes we skim through the high points, not taking note of how lucky we are, how blessed we are in a particular phase of life. So the rocky road and the horror can really swamp us when it happens.

From 20 to 30 years old I was healthy, well if you don’t count the time I had TB, but I recovered in an Auckland hospital and went on to have two children in 18 months. In fact I had three in less than four years. We had immigrated to New Zealand in 1959 and lived in a flat then bought a new house in Auckland. I loved my New Zealand life, we had very little money but I was happy, when family needs in England changed we reluctantly returned.

This period was a black spell in my young life, I missed the sunshine, I missed my house, I missed everything. Adjusting to England again took a full five years as we struggled with housing a new job, small children and no washing machine for nearly the first year. By the time I was 30 we had a pretty little house in a small village, my husband had started a business in Bath, we actually started to feel we were OK. I still missed my golden days in New Zealand but we became part of village life. My husband’s graphic business did well and I worked evening or weekends at part time jobs, the children went to school and seemed happy. We slowly dragged ourselves out from under the black cloud that had been hovering over us.

At 40 I had the good life, our children were teenagers, and we could afford the small luxuries that made life worthwhile. I worked in hospitality, nursing, and shop work, in fact anything to supplement our income. I could afford clothes, hair dos and we had holidays. We went to Paris and Spain, I also did an antique stall with a friend, and life was a big colourful bubble for a while. Then we had the problems everyone encounters, our parents’ health became an issue.

My husband lost his father soon after we arrived back in the UK, I looked after his mother for the last six months of her battle with cancer, then my father became ill, and so it went on; we went on dealing with sickness and loss. It was a sad time, as we tried to adjust again. Then after a holiday in Australia where I had a brother, a son and cousins, we decided we would emigrate. A streak of madness seems to run in our family I think!

I was 48 my husband was 52, and it was 1987 when we arrived in Melbourne. I think we should have seen the signs; Hoddle Street massacre happened there was a financial meltdown, and the first house we started to buy had a mortgage and the repayment rate was 17%. Things rapidly went downhill. In the next few years we lost money in a scheme, the work I had been doing in nursing homes became less pleasant due to management issues, my husband was desperate and even more unhappy with the ‘boss from hell’ he should have kept a record of the happenings but instead we decided we would cut our losses, sell what we could and become grey nomads. Life was bleak as we set out in our little caravan and headed towards Gippsland. The house had sold for a pittance because of the financial downturn. We loved the little towns we found around Gippsland and after a few trips away to Broken Hill and Queensland we decided we would stay in Yarram. The park owner offered a very clean new cabin we could rent for a small rent and suddenly we had a house again! We were struggling as we had to buy new furniture; all we had kept from our previous home was our old table and hundred year old chairs. Friends had stored it for us. Money was short as usual. Yet buying from sales and markets we soon had a really good furnished home again.

Within a few months my husband had been asked to be a shire councillor, and I worked at the hospital. Gradually we pulled our socks up and began again. We had the beach close enough to go for walks, and enjoyed the bushland and the fabulous wildlife around us. We slotted into life in the town doing volunteer work for Lions and Rotary, and the hospital. Being part of the town meant we soon had lots of friends.

It is still a battle now as we are older. My husband is 80 and I am 76, we live on a pension, rent a lovely old house, and are happy in this small town, deciding what makes us happy is easy; having friends, having enough to eat, and just being grateful for every good day we encounter. We both write and paint and that and our simple social life is enough. It would be nice to win lots of money but most of the things that matter cannot be bought; they are earned in other ways.

Have you had highs and lows like Jacqui? How has it shaped you as a person and your appreciation for life?

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Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. changing countries so many times, leaves you finacially down

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    • Sorry, I don’t get it – why does moving to different countries leave you financially down? It certainly didn’t for us!

  2. Very good blogJacqui. Your life sounds like the lives of a number of people. We all have our ups and downs. I think if we are lucky enough to have siblings at our age and our own family is reasonably close by,we can enjoy our lives.

  3. Yes. I am greatful every day for the simple fact that I have made it this far and I am happy.
    My ex son-in-law turns 40 today and at dinner last night, he asked us older ones,’tell me, is it true that life begins at 40?’
    My life seriously unravelled in my forties, but I didn’t tell him that. I did say,’ its better as you get older because you get more if a feeling that you can actually be in control of your own thoughts, feelings and responses.’
    Then I realised, this is me. We are all different. The best achievement I have made in my life is being able to do exactly what I told Glenn.

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    • Yes for some life really can begin at 40 or even 60, and beyond, opportunity and attitude make a difference. Hope that 40 year old has the good times instead of the bad.

  4. I have had lots of downs but life goes on there’s away somebody worse off. I have been blessed with 20 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. I may have lost my house and a child and my husband but I’m fortunate to get to this age.

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    • yes I lost my dad when 27 and going through a horrid divorce, mum was sick, my brother had died, then my other brother later at 50. I was left alone as e veryone bar my son had gone, but now I am at peace with myself and the world, don’t want much, don’t need all the new gadgets, devices, holidays, just enjoy my days and nights and living my life… I have 2 wonderful teenage grandchildren and my son and wife, good friends and feel so blessed to have gone through what I did healthwise myself and with others… I made it..

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      • Jennifer you have it right, those are the important things…

  5. This looks much like the house I grew up in in Te Atatu Auckland. Good memories!!

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    • Oh remember that place ours was in Avondale, and I was so happy there. Simple life.

  6. A well written blog, Jacquie! Like you, I find myself often ‘reflecting’ that I didn’t appreciate the ‘good times’ as much as I should have. My life now is not what I imagined it would be; it should have been different; but it’s not but like many have said, there are others who are so much worse off than me.

  7. Jacqui thanks for your blog, my life has been full of ups and downs that I won’t go into! I will say I’m now in my mid 60s and am the happiest I’ve ever been! What ever the journey in life is, we have to remember to be happy and positive and live like there is no tomorrow.

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    • Sue and Marylin both of you have the best way to deal with it, hope life goes on being kind to you now.

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      • OOps fingers tied in knots, meant Marilyn…!

  8. Good on you! Yes, most of us go through some very dark times but it’s up to us to pull ourselves out of them and move on which is what you’ve done, well done! We have to enjoy each and every day. Once these days are gone, they’re gone!

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