Category Archives: Family

Not an Island.

No man is an island...

Four years ago I took pride in being an island. I wanted to be self-governed. A rogue nation, population: ME.

“Me? Need help? No.”

“Do you think I’m incapable? Not strong enough? I don’t need help. I AM COPING.”

But rather than strengthen me, this self-imposed isolation had me on the fast-track to a crushing burn-out, only I didn’t know it yet.

Strung out, worn down, angry, resentful, a shell of my true self. I was in tears daily, shouting at my family and barely getting by.

Then, things got really bad. I got very dark. Started talking to myself. HATING myself.

One day I found myself staring in the mirror saying, “I hate you. I hate you,” over and over again. And a tiny voice spoke up and said, “Hey, you know this isn’t normal, don’t you?”

That night, I did the hardest thing I could have done at the time. I asked Ben for help. Thank God.

The next day was the beginning of the uphill battle to save my sanity. (Seriously.) Diagnosed with post natal depression, the process was: Doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, medication. Rinse. Repeat.

 

Why Am I Telling You This?

Truth be known, I am terrified to tell you this. It is raw and close and brutal. And you may judge me for it.

But the lessons I learned over the past five years are what have led me to where I am today – a place of contentment, joy, purpose, love, acceptance and happiness – and that is absolutely worth sharing. Even if it prompts one other person to ask for help.

 

The Most Important Lesson?

No matter what your story, your stage in life, your struggles, your support network:

Ask for help when you need it.

Don’t be too proud. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t put up with battling along by yourself. People care about you. People are there to help. Let them.

I care about you. If I can help, let me. Tell me what you’re battling with, because sometimes simply sharing what’s on your mind lightens the weight you carry. (Via email if you would prefer!) xx

 

32 from 32

32 Lessons from 32 Years

This week I celebrated my 32nd birthday. And when I was 18, man, that would have been old. But now that I’m here? Not so much.

In lots of ways, the past year has felt like a game-changer and I wanted to share 32 of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past 12 months.

(In no particular order.)

  1. There really is beauty in the tiniest of things, if you take the time to look for it.
  2. Don’t use an apology as a search for validation. It’s the same as fishing for a compliment, and while we all do it, it makes us feel unworthy.
  3. You’re not, and never will be, everything to everyone – so stop trying and focus on those close to you instead.
  4. Take time to create priorities your life – write them down, talk about them, commit to them – and then act accordingly. It makes a lot of choices much, much simpler.
  5. Physical exercise is vital to my mental health. Even a 15-minute walk is enough to help scare away the black dog that still lurks around here sometimes.
  6. Travelling with kids is challenging but so worthwhile – they bring a whole new depth to your experiences.
  7. It is possible to stop eating Nutella!
  8. Learn from someone else’s strengths. I look at Ben’s ability to celebrate the little wins with a fist pump and I try to adopt it myself.
  9. What I eat has a direct impact on how I feel, both mentally and physically.
  10. I have never regretted a single thing I have given away or decluttered.
  11. Peppermint tea is the best cure for a hangover.
  12. Accept that a new project might not work – and that is perfectly OK. Do it anyway.
  13. They were right when they said, “One day you will pray for time to slow down.” Our kids are growing so fast, some days I just want to stop the clock and soak them up, just as they are.
  14. There is no substitute for a quiet day of movies and popcorn at home when everyone is feeling strung out.
  15. Having something to look forward to is important.
  16. Talk to your kids from a young age about people’s differences.
  17. Exercise your forgiveness muscle whenever possible, with others and yourself.
  18. Indulgence is different to a habit so try not to get the two confused.
  19. Trying new things is, and should be, exhilarating.
  20. I always dreamed of running but never thought I’d have the fitness to do much of it. Turns out I can. And I love it.
  21. Stretching for five minutes every single day has seen my flexibility return and my back and neck pain almost disappear.
  22. It’s OK to feel hungry sometimes. We’re not meant to feel full constantly.
  23. That thing your kids do that’s driving you mad? It really is a phase. Maybe a long phase, but still a phase.
  24. Reading on my iPhone or iPad in bed makes it harder for me to get to sleep. A real book is where it’s at.
  25. It feels really good to just laugh with Ben and our kids.
  26. The Walking Dead is still my all-time favourite TV show.
  27. Time spent in comparison with others it wasted time.
  28. Honestly, people don’t think about you (or me) nearly as much as we fear. They’re too engrossed in their own thing.
  29. As taxing as I find it, getting out and meeting new people really has been food for my soul.
  30. Saying yes to things that terrify me (like speaking on stage) has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
  31. Becoming part of our community is something I resisted for a long time, mostly from fear and anxiety. Getting involved has been so rewarding.
  32. Above all, there is love.

32 Lessons from 32 Years

The Beauty and Frustration of Choice

There is choice in every moment.Early this morning, as I lay with our daughter in her bed, trying to convince her that 4:27am is not, in fact, a great time to get up, I came to realise something.

When I try to write this something down it seems elementary and obvious. But it needed to come to me as a realisation, so I guess it’s a truth that I hadn’t fully grasped, elementary as it may be.

I laid down on her bed, frustrated that, yet again, I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t working on my thing. I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to be doing in that moment. And that frustration was exacerbated by the thought that there is so much I want to do, but rarely do I feel like I have the time.

Do you know that feeling? When you have so many plans, so many ideas, so much you want to do, only to be thwarted by the needs of others at every turn?

I don’t think this is an exclusive feeling. I think everyone bears it at some point in their day, whether the ‘others’ are your kids, boss, friends, family, co-workers or one of the hundreds of strangers you may cross paths with.

So what did I realise in the quiet dark this morning?

I realised that I was choosing to be there.

I had chosen to put her needs before mine. I had chosen to lay down with her and coax her back to sleep.

And that meant I was also choosing not to write in that moment.

See? I told you it was elementary and obvious.

But as I recognised that I was making a choice to be there (no matter how automatic it felt) I relaxed. Immediately the tension of being caught between where I am and where I wanted to be was gone.

Suddenly I could enjoy the moment for what it was. Not an inconvenience, but rather a fleeting moment of quiet, watching my girl drift off, feeling the passage of time move on even as I lay there.

And I relaxed into it. I decided that I couldn’t feel frustrated if I was making a choice to be there.

Suddenly I understood that at every moment of every day we choose one thing over another.

We choose sleep over running. Coffee over laundry. Work over play. Laughter over offence. Writing over planning.

But the next time? It’s laundry over coffee. Play instead of work. Planning instead of writing.

The choices aren’t always easy and they are often not obvious, but they are there. And I may be over-analysing here, but I found a beautiful freedom and lightness in this realisation.

Every moment is a choice.

 

 

Hide and Seek

What I learned about play.

I’m a little afraid to admit this, but I’m going to anyway. I think giving some light to this failing of mine, and how I plan to improve it, might help myself and others.

Here goes: I’m not particularly good at playing with my kids.

No-one tells you how hard the simple act of play can be. Or maybe they do, and it just doesn’t register, in the way that, “Get as much sleep as you can now, because there will be precious little given to you when you have a new baby,” didn’t register with me.

And just because I’m not very good at play does not mean I don’t do it. Because I do. A lot.

But I’ve recently realised two things about play:

  1. I put the “need to do” tasks first. Tasks like laundry, vacuuming, tidying the kitchen and folding clothes.
  2. When I play with the kids, I’m not always there. Sure, I’m there with them, squeezing the playdough or cutting and gluing and crafting. But often I’m not engaged with what’s happening.

Instead I’m thinking about the laundry that needs doing, or the emails I have to answer. I think about the process my afternoon will follow as I tidy up, get dinner ready, run through showers and books and bedtime rhythms. I’m not there.

And not only does this steal my attention from the kids, but it robs me of energy and joy.

For so long I would put off the kids’ requests for hide and seek, until I would eventually acquiesce and play half-heartedly for 10 minutes. But I began noticing the sheer joy they got from playing – with me, no less – and suddenly it no longer felt like an imposition. It felt like a privilege.

So I have renewed my effort to really be in the game, whether it’s hide and seek, snap, puzzle-playing or playdough-making. And the day that I asked our four year old if she wanted to play hide and seek? Well, that was priceless. It was also humbling.

So I think we need to learn to adjust our thinking on what needs to happen. Does the ironing need to happen? Or does your child need to feel like you want to spend time together?

And yes, the laundry does need to happen. And the dinner and the sweeping and the seemingly endless tasks involved in running a household. But what if – sometimes, at least – these happened after play? What if they weren’t the number one priority all the time? What if we said yes to play first?

Grow your account balance.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there is an idea in parenting that I have found incredibly helpful when making these sorts of decisions and working out my priorities for the way we want to live.

The idea that we have a ‘bank account’ with each of our children, and playing with them, reading and nurturing and reacting with kindness and compassion all deposit into this bank account. These actions help to grow your balance.

When things like errands or cleaning or phonecalls or work need to happen, even when the kids want to play? These are withdrawals, and they shrink the balance.

The idea is, of course, to keep the balance as healthy as possible, while also recognising that withdrawals are normal and something that our kids have to get used to.

How this affects my decisions.

Instead of going to the default way of thinking (ie. get the work done first so that the play can come later) I can instead picture what the balance of each bank account looks like and make a better, more well-rounded choice based on that.

So I’ve been saying yes to hide and seek so much more. And do you know what I’m seeing? The kids are happier not only when I play with them, but they are also more content to then play together for much longer. Part of that is simply the ages they’re at, but I also think it’s a reflection of our choice to engage more and to mindfully choose to spend quality time with them.

Side note:

I know the pleasure and the frustration that is full-time stay-at-home parenting. When your kids are at a certain age all they want is you and your company. They don’t care if you need to do the laundry. They don’t see that dinner needs to be cooked and that you’re the one to do it. But your role includes those mundane, house-keeping duties just as much as playing hide and seek with your little ones. This results in (I can only speak for myself of course) a deep frustration.

I understand this, and am saying so because there are days when you will not be able to play endless games of hide and seek. Nor can you bear the thought of pulling out the playdough and the ensuing cleanup, because you’ve just mopped the floor.

So I get it, and the last thing I want is for what I have said above to be misconstrued as criticism or a veiled attempt to shame anyone for not doing enough. You know what needs to happen in your own life, so please read this as a support, not a criticism.

To conclude, the core idea of this post is one that could really apply to most areas of our life:

On those days that we can, I think we should.

 

Can I ask, do you feel a tension between play and work? How do you manage it?

Why Rhythm Trumps Routine

Finding Your Rhythm

From this week, or maybe next, life generally returns to normal.

People are back at work, families are getting prepared for the school year ahead, dance enrolments open, swimming classes fill up, as does the calendar, and the year simply rolls on into another version of its former self.

I know many of us resist this return to Life after the holidays. It feels like a drudgery, a constant battle to remain balanced when there is simply too much to do, a reminder that the more relaxed way of life we have been enjoying was merely an interlude. A pause between hectic periods.

Which is kinda depressing, don’t you think?

Instead, we can see this new beginning as an opportunity. Not an opportunity to create an uber-routine of ultra-productivity, but to create rhythm for our homes and the people who live in it.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Routine. It’s the domain of the successful, the organised, the on-time. It’s what You Should Be Doing. Right?

But do you know what else routine is? It’s restrictive, it’s unfriendly, it’s regimented.

Rhythm, on the other hand, speaks to you. It moves you, it moves with you, it feels good.

You’re right, on the face of it there isn’t much difference between the two. Both help you get things done, both deliver guidelines on what needs to happen and when.

The differences though, are really important. And if you’re looking to create a simpler life with less stress, then…  you gotta have rhythm, baby.

Rhythm Over Routine.

After our daughter was born a few years ago, Ben and I were determined to establish a routine, get her sleeping pattern regulated, and create comfort and predictability for everyone involved.

As it turns out, babies don’t really work like that.

In fact, life doesn’t really work like that.

It took us well over 12 months to learn that routine – a strict, sequential approach to our days – was less than helpful. It made us feel we were failing if we missed a step or fell behind.

Rhythm, however, was a much friendlier notion. It spoke of order, but also flexibility and movement and fluidity. It even sounded friendlier.

Rhythm.

Rhythm moves you. You dance to it, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.

Routine? Notsomuch.

You march to routine. It’s a steady metronome keeping time. And if you sway, if you linger, if you move out of order or miss a step, then you fail. You’re out of time. You’re lagging behind.

Rhythm allows change and flexibility for different seasons in life. Which is why rhythm wins out over routine every day.

Embracing Rhythm

To embrace this idea, you need to ask yourself some questions about the rhythm you want to create.

You can create a rhythm for your mornings, evenings, weeks, seasons or even holidays, and what it looks and feels like is entirely up to you.

Choose a rhythm and ask yourself:

What are my priorities? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?

What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Or perhaps my school-age kids need to pack their bags in the evening?

What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.

What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.

What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.

Once you’ve answered these questions, take some time to work out your best rhythm. Literally write it down on a piece of paper, establish a sequence and then bring it in to your day.

Once it’s there, you simply let your day unfold around it.

And the best thing? There’s no need to keep up a rapid tempo if it’s the season for a slower tune. Similarly, if you feel the urge for dancing, for growth, for expansion, then up the tempo and dance for your life. Always know that it’s your rhythm and you choose the pace. You choose the moves.

 

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