The quirks experiment – the results are in!

For those of you lovely people who sipped a cup of sweet something and read my last post, you may be wondering if I did in fact keep up my end of the bargain and carry out the experiment I wrote about. I did, did! One thing you should know about me is that I generally do what I say I will; whether it is to make you a cup of tea, start a business or have a baby even if I can’t carry one. So incorporating three uncomfortable things into my week was a sure thing. I stand by my word.
My three tasks were:
1) Do not clean up the sea of toys across the living room during my daughter’s day sleep
2) Drink tea from a tea bag (blerg!)
3) Wear thongs to the supermarket
Now these may all sound like very inconsequential, tiny, random acts to you. However as previously discussed, we all have our quirks, our set little ways that keep us feeling cool, calm and in control and these three are some of my many. Here is how I felt upon venturing out of my rigid routine:
1) Not cleaning up the toys
I walked out of my daughter’s room and surveyed the mess. And my stress level rose. I can’t stand mess. I have learned to accept it as a mother. But only a certain level. And once my child is gone, the mess must be gone. I had to recalibrate my expectation of the next two hours. I lit some essential oil. I took a breathe and stepped over and around the unicorn, dolly, Fisher price eggs and other weird and wonderful play things and into the kitchen to make my tea. The mess was out of sight. My stress level began to equalise. I returned to the living room to watch a bit of trash TV with my tea and spied the mess again. This time, instead of stress, I experienced just slight annoyance and then found acceptance within 10 seconds. Good progress. I also had another realisation –the tea and rest had come 5 minutes quicker due to lack of clean up. A huge benefit!!!! The tea, oil and trash TV started to work their calming magic. While I glimpsed the toys out the corner of my eyes I started to think ‘This isn’t so bad. Maybe I can live with this adjustment to my day’. With my new found Zen, I got up for a pee break, only to stand on infernal Fisher price egg shell and howl in pain. Stupid freaking toys. My stress levels rose again. Along with a surge of anger. This is why clean up! However I was calm with 10 seconds. My rational: Perhaps just the egg shells need to be put in the carton. After my pee break I pondered during my precious couch time. My conclusion is the extra 5 minutes rest is worth mess on the floor. Big tick; phase one of experiment successful.

2) Tea bags
I openly classify myself as a tea snob. I love tea. I drink it all day as many times as I can. I remember when my daughter was a little new born. The thing I missed most was not being able to drink enough tea because you can’t hold a hot drink with a little baby – very irresponsible. And of course I would much rather be cuddling my beautiful girl than drinking tea… but I did miss that sweet hot liquid swooshing down my throat. But I digress…. I only like to drink loose leaf tea. Or those Tea Too loose leaf tea in a bag doodads. Because those manufactured teabags from the supermarket leave the taste of the bag in my mouth. I may sound crazy (or like a snob as I have just self-classified), but that’s just how it is. This makes my habit very expensive and can at times make it a bit difficult at some cafes or at other people’s homes that don’t have the particular tea I like. So as part of my experiment, I decided to try drinking a cup of bag tea, to challenge my taste buds and perhaps make life a little easier and even cheaper. Blerg. Yuk. Nope. I sat in my lovely rocking chair during my daughter’s music time. I even bought a fancy jasmine tea infused with pear to make it as likely as possible to be a pleasant experience. I could still taste that bag. My tea time was not my happy place. My lower lip even jutted out and down-turned involuntarily a little, like it does on occasion when I am really not happy or about to cry. Conclusion. Don’t fore yourself to consume food or drink that you really don’t like. Simple.
3) Wearing thongs to Woolies
Shoes have been a great love of mine. In our home in our twenties, the living room had bookcases lining the main walls and my shoes were on display as foot art for all to see. My yen for footwear has turned down several notches in the past years, but I still have a few standards, one of which is no thongs anywhere except in the house, garden, beach or pool. It’s a silly rule and I wanted to break it. The first step was to take my tootsies for their first spin in thongs outside the home. What better place than Woolies or the local shopping centre? My hubby kindly offered for me to get a foot massage while he did the groceries on the weekend, so I decided to take my thong challenge a step further and wear them to the shops and into the massage centre. Funnily enough I felt because my feet would be so casual the rest of me need to be a bit more dressed up for balance. Black skinny pants and a black and white Country Road t shirt with earrings and a necklace. My thongs were white. Just as I was about to leave the house I realised the pants were completely inappropriate for a massage – they were too skinny to roll up my leg. I grabbed some black shorts and off we went. Parting ways with my two favourite people at the shops, I was very aware of my footwear, the sound they made ‘flip flop flip flop’ rang in my ears and I could feel each step I took, reminding me that I was wearing thongs to the shops. Goodness me! What a cheek I had! But my toes felt lovely and free and light and airy! As I looked around I saw families with trolleys full of groceries, teenage girls giggling to one and other, people talking on their mobile phones and then I realised. No-one cares one bit what is one my feet right now. So neither should I. Ahhhhhhh. It was a lovely internal exhale. I walked into my foot massage with feet that were already happy. And came out with them feeling even happier. I had forgotten about my thongs and the experiment completely. I was in a state of bliss. I was however now wearing shorts, a t shirt and thongs. Again – not my style, or comfort zone. Back at the car with my hubby and snotty (but gorgeous) daughter and shopping trolley in tow, we were greeted by stylish ex neighbors. I was dragged out of my hazy bliss and reminded about my attire. ‘Oh no! Why did I not change back into my skinny pants? And why did I not wear ballet flats and put my snotty daughter in a tutu today of all days?’ This thought was only for a nanosecond. After a rather large exhale and a sleepy post massage smile I realised I didn’t really care. I am a mama with a child who sometimes gets sick and we can all wear shorts and t shirts and thongs to the shops. Judge away. For me in particular, this third phase of the experiment was hugely liberating as I am very visually driven and care greatly about what others think. Perhaps now, a little less.

So….
I completed the experiment. Here are my findings:
Sometimes if we push our boundaries we may feel a little stressed at first but discover we can be a whole lot more relaxed or benefit from pushing through the initial discomfort. However if you enjoy something, why stop doing it? And don’t force yourself to do something you really don’t like. That’s it for now. Be well x

The Truth About Farting (and other things we do)

The other day after a big red-faced cry, my little 1 year old daughter sat on the floor and began to fart and fart and fart. And laugh and laugh and laugh. She was hysterical with glee. It was a joyous and hilarious site to see this tiny cutie so amused by her own bodily functions. I texted a friend to share the moment. Her response, ‘ Very cute… laugh while you can get away with it little lady’, led to an interesting ping pong about farting appropriateness. And it inspired a train of internal musings about our own self-imposed boundaries.
We are all so very different in how we live our lives and how we carry ourselves as we do it. Some of us require a full face of make-up before answering the door, while others will go to a 5 star restaurant slap-free. Some of us may walk around the house naked, while others will not even show the tiniest hint of cleavage in any situation. Some of us may have a chat to the man at Woolies while he scans our groceries, while others may prefer not even to make eye contact. Some of us may find farting offensive even in front of our partners, while others will let one rip in a room full of strangers without a thought.
Some of the things many of us do or don’t do have been encouraged as ‘good manners’ or social etiquette either by our parents when we were young or our peers.
Please
Thank you
No farting in public
Chew with your mouth closed AND don’t talk while you are eating
Always take something if you are going to someone’s place for a meal
Put the toilet seat down (men!)
Cover your mouth when you cough
Shake hands (men) / Kiss on the cheek (ladies)
Help clean up if your kids have made a mess
However, I’d take a random guess that at least half the things we impose on ourselves are our own doing; little quirks we have just picked up along the way from being non-robotic, flawed, emotional creatures strolling in a harsh land. Our idiosyncrasies are part of what make us unique beings. They can add to our personal flair, but they can also make us feel like we have a metal rod running up our back – rigid and tight and unable to just go with the flow.
Some of my self-imposed rules/quirks include:
I will not wear track pants or thongs outside the house
I will not pee with the door open
I like to get dressed alone
I must drink water from a bottle, not a cup
Will only fart in front of family, not friends or strangers
(Side bar: Isn’t it interesting how with all these rules (like with farting) we choose who it is ok to reveal these parts of ourselves to? It’s like we have an onion of people surrounding us. The inside layer gets to experience all the gruesome and beautiful you and as you peel back layer by layer, the people you don’t know as well get to see less and less of the whole and real you).
Back to the list…
Will not make eye-contact with window washing guys at traffic lights – they scare me.
Must disinfect my hands after touching a rubbish bin
Will only drink loose leaf tea as I swear I can taste the bag
Hair must look presentable before seeing anyone other than husband and child
Toys must always be put away when child is sleeping
Oh the list continues… I could be here for hours….
What would happen if we all loosened up a bit? Would we all spontaneously combust? While I freely admit I am a tiny bit of a control freak, I believe that no matter how easy going you are, these little rigidities and quirks are our way of exercising control over our busy manic lives. And for the most part that’s OK. I’m just wondering if we would all feel a little more relaxed, liberated and looser if we ditched a few of our ‘musts’ or ‘must nots’. It is quite possible of course that the opposite could happen and our lack of control could leave us feeling unsettled, disheveled and wild-eyed… not the ideal outcome…. But why not see?
I propose a little experiment to my lovely readers!
Let’s try loosening up (and hopefully not going wild-eyed in the process). Pick 3 things you would not normally do and incorporate them into your week. They can be big or small – seemingly insignificant as long as they are out of your comfort zone. Report back here in the comments section of the blog. Tell us what you did and how it made you feel. Liberated? Happy? Relaxed? Stressed? Nervous? Angry? Did you chortle in delight?
My 3 challenges will include:
Wearing thongs to Woolies
Drinking tea from a tea bag (bleurg)
Not cleaning up the toys during my daughter’s midday nap (I am doing this now!)
I feel stressed thinking about all three of them but I hope by the end of the experiment that all of us will experience the delight that my little girl felt when she was sitting on the floor farting and laughing without a care in the world.

Happiness – Deserved and Undefinable

Everyone deserves to be happy. Me. You. My best friend. My worst enemy. (Not that I really have one… but you get my drift.) No matter what our personal opinion of one another is, or how they rate on the universal karma/awesome/’good person’ scale; everyone deserves a slice of peachy, happiness pie. Why? Well why not? We are all plodding along in this world together, so we should all get the opportunity to do it with a smile. However being equal yet individual, it’s important to remember that one person’s idea of happiness may be very different from another. Happiness doesn’t discriminate.

When you close your eyes and think of ‘happy’ what do you see? I bet it’s vastly different from the rapid slide show that flashes before my sleepy eyelids.  For me happiness is:

My daughter.

My husband.

Laughing, playing.

Our home, our garden.

Tea.

Fresh Fruit. Fresh Bread

And SUSHI!

More tea. Lots of tea.

Friends coming to visit with lots of squealing laughter.

And rest. Quiet time.

And sleep.

Nice scents all around me.

Massages.

All of this in abundance.

That’s my happiness slideshow.

I can hear choruses of ‘boring’, ‘cheesy’, ‘corny, ‘lame’.  But you know what?  That’s me and those are the things that make me happy. For others it may be a fast pace 60 hour work week and a different restaurant every right, with clinking glasses, the buzz of chatter and exciting delicacies.  It might be the thrill of closing a deal and seeing dollar signs in your eyes, planning your next travel adventure, your next DIY home improvement project – trip to Bunnings and all. Or building a business empire, a community group or fundraiser, learning an instrument, or getting a degree. It could be absolutely anything! And that’s wonderful. Whatever gives you those smiles and that inner warmth is absolutely perfect because it’s your happiness and no one else’s.

Sometimes we take a glimpse at someone else’s life and think – ‘they don’t seem very happy’. Perhaps that’s because they are not living your idea of happiness. I think it’s important to take a second longer look and make the distinction before coming to any conclusions.

None of us are happy all the time. It’s not possible – life brings challenges. We all seem to want to reach this ‘destination happy’.  As we strive to get there it’s important to enjoy the journey.  We all change all the time. And so does our idea of happiness.  5 years ago, my list above would have been completely different. Perhaps the only common items would be husband and sushi!  When life starts feeling difficult and the smiles are fewer and the destination seems further, sometimes it’s good to check in with ourselves and ask ‘is the destination still where I really want to go?’ It’s a confronting question. If it’s a resounding ‘yes’, then in my experience, it usually just means you’ve hit a rough patch. You will wade through it soon enough with the help of tea, tears, (perhaps chocolate and some terrible television) and some good old fashioned hard work. Your ‘destination happy’ will be waiting for you at the other end. If that ‘yes’ doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily, perhaps there’s some re-evaluating to do. Sometimes we keep ploughing headfirst towards things because they are familiar or decided even when deep down they are not what we really want. Funnily enough the remedy here is similar: tea, tears, (perhaps some chocolate and terrible television)… but this time some soul searching is required to decide if it’s time to change paths to a different ‘destination happy’. You decide where your smiles lie.

Life is short and long all at once. Whichever way you look at it it’s worth being happy during its course. We all have goals and ideals we want to reach which is wonderful and inspiring – it’s what drives us to be enriched and fulfilled. They are our image of happiness. Just make sure they are affording you a slice of sweet happiness pie of cake or frittata along the way (whatever takes your fancy). It’s the present where you experience your smiles (and fill your belly). And as you enjoy your chosen happiness delicacy, look around and acknowledge that those around you may be enjoying their happiness too – it just looks a bit different.  Cheers x

Okay not to be Okay

‘I’m OK’. We’ve trained ourselves to utter these words to ourselves and to anyone who asks us how we are like a mantra. But are you really OK? If you stop and actually think about it for more than a nanosecond… what’s the answer?  Sure you may be clothed, fed and with a roof over your head but do you have your emotional ducks in a row? I don’t. Not all of them. Not all the time. And I’m happy to admit it. I think this might scare some people. I put forward that it is okay not to be okay.

Life is hard at the best of times. We are always trying to reach multiple goals via different avenues, facing numerous challenges and surmounting hurdle after hurdle while we try and enjoy each passing moment as we strive to reach some greater happiness. Even describing this makes me want to lie down with cucumber slices on my eyes for half an hour.  No matter how much we enjoy ourselves… life is tiring and can be very stressful. So no wonder one or more of those little emotional ducks can wander off once in a while and leave us feeling discombobulated, distressed, sad, angry or just plain ambivalent. Not okay.

We’ve been brought up with a mentality of ‘just get on with it’, ‘keep it to yourself’, ‘someone else has it worse than you do’, shhhhhh’!!!!!!!!!! So as we stuff down our feelings of inadequacy, fear, self-doubt, worry or whatever might come up for us on a particular day we stretch the emotional pit in our stomach and feel it tighten, or lurch or perhaps experience a wave of nausea wash over us. And then someone asks ‘how are you?’… ‘I’m OK’, we answer, with an empty smile on our face. No further explanation given (because really we’re not).  And then we start to believe it’s true. Definitely not okay.

A wise woman once told me that the people who are really not okay are the ones who constantly insist that they really are. This is called denial.  They often claim to know themselves very well. I believe anyone who knows themselves very well would know that they have flaws, issues and feelings to work through. I’ve never come close to enlightenment nor met anyone reaching its sphere.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in happiness – dancing on the table, making goofy faces and singing at the top of your voice kind of happiness. I just don’t equate it with encompassing your entire being. People are so much more complex. And to ignore or deny any part of yourself… not okay.

It can be hard to look inside yourself and admit what is really going on – especially when it may not be all too wonderful all the time. But it’s important to identify in order to challenge these aspects, nurture them and evolve.  I’m not advocating that we all hang from the rooftops, shouting out our problems, more that we learn to look inwards and speak our truth to at least ourselves.  Sharing beyond that is a very personal and difficult step, but can be freeing, liberating and invoke the support we need to move forward.

I’m not afraid to admit that I am rife with not okayness. But I have oodles of wonderful happy lovely bits too. If I stare in my thoughts and feelings looking glass I see a woman who gets hurt easily, wants people to like and appreciate her, can get a bit jealous, is terrified of being alone, is a bit too dependent on her husband and scared to death about the future of her health and ongoing happiness of her family. She is a bit controlling, a bit weird about food and once she decides she doesn’t like her outfit for the day goes into a tailspin. So in many ways… not okay.

But you know what… I am completely okay because I acknowledge the parts that aren’t.

The Judging Circle

‘Don’t judge’. It’s a judgement in itself. And it makes us feel like we have done something wrong. For what? Having a reaction? Thinking? Feeling? Being Human? I’ve been thinking a lot on this topic lately, following an incident where I felt like I was being smacked on the hand for airing my wounds. My somewhat muddled musings turned into clear thought over many cups of tea while I nursed the sting of others’ judgement and did a bit of judging myself.  Past the emotion, in the calm of clarity I realised, we can’t erase the judging. What we can do is filter the way we externalise our judgements – there’s no need to hurt anybody with them. We can also qualify our judgements – just because we think something doesn’t make it true.  Perhaps these applications may make the judging seem a little less evil because really it is a perfectly natural and inevitable part of life.

Let’s be honest. We all judge. Anyone who claims to be above the act of judging is a big fat fraud. See. I have already judged those people by calling them big fat frauds (within the privacy of my own blog).  It’s natural and healthy to make judgements in all facets of our lives. We are just programmed that way.  Whether it’s judging the outfit of the woman across the street:

 ‘Oh I really like her hat. I might get a similar one.’ 

or

‘Gosh her pants are really awful. I’d never wear them.’

To deciding if we like a certain cake:

“Mmmm this chocolate cake is delicious. I can taste strange crunchy bits”.

Or

“ Eeeeewwww I don’t like the strange  crunchy bits in this chocolate cake. I’m not going to eat it. I’ll order something else.”

We make judgements when we use our senses and to help us make decisions. Without judgements we wouldn’t have the benefit of common sense. We judge when the world is safe for us to take action: to cross the road, drink a cup of hot tea, tell a friend bad news or keep our mouth shut and tell a lie by omission (we’ve all done it if we are truly honest!).

When we use the word ‘judge’, the verb, rather than ‘judgement’, the noun, all of a sudden it seems a bit harsher, crueler and altogether not very nice. Perhaps this is because the verb ‘judge’ brings you and me into the equation (as subjects). If we think about ‘judgement’ as a noun, it can be lingering in outer space, seemingly disconnected to us (convenient for our conscience). In truth the only difference is a matter of perspective. In addition to our misconceptions, we have a tendency to correlate ‘judging’ with putting other people down.  For example.

‘He’s so over the top he will never fit in to our circle.’

‘She is so unhealthy she is setting a bad example for her child.’

‘Those children are so spoiled I would never let my children behave that way.’

These are all thoughts/judgements that you (or someone) may have had. It is just that they are negative and are about someone else. I see three points to raise regarding this.

1)      We are all entitled to our thoughts.

2)      Perhaps there’s no need to spread them. Are they helpful?

3)       If you are going to share your judgements, perhaps it may be an idea to qualify them first. Are they true?

To look at this a bit more closely….

Judge judge judge away. It’s natural to think and feel things. It’s like a reflex.  If you tried to stop, it would feel like you were tying yourself in knots.  Our own internal stream of consciousness is ours alone and we can have whatever we like in there. It’s just for us…. No need to sensor your insides. Perhaps the external is a different story. In my opinion there is no need to make anyone feel less than they already do by placing our judgements on them.  We already beat ourselves up enough – with our own self judgements, perceived judgements from our peers, the media and the world at large. We really don’t need direct judgements from anybody else do we? I know I don’t.   Judgements certainly don’t help to lighten our already heavy loads.   So if you think that Louise really shouldn’t eat those extra 10 chips off Carry’s plate because she is meant to be on a diet… think it… but keep it to yourself. She’s thinking it herself. With her own working brain. If you think Harry and Mads shouldn’t be applying for a mortgage while she is only temping because they might not be able to make their repayments and it’s not a smart move. No need to say anything. They know what they are getting into as a couple. As a friend we are not there to take on the role of life coaches and therapists. And who would want one of those at their side every day while they ate, drank, and poured their heart out to their besties? We make appointments to see those kind of professionals and compartmentalise a tiny part of our life for them. To help us with our multitude of judgments.  As friends our purpose is to listen and support without imposing our own ideals (nicer word for judgements) that we will always constantly think and feel no matter what.

Sometimes we can’t help but externalise our judgements.  When judgements are unwanted (which is quite often), qualifying them before expressing them, can ensure their accuracy and help reduce repercussions. This simply means testing a statement’s truth or reality. Qualifying is a method used in psychiatric hospitals by mental health patients who have hallucinations. They are taught to qualify or test to see if these visions could possibly be based in reality. We similarly can use these techniques to see if our judgements are true rather than jumping to conclusions from one snap thought that then comes hurtling out our mouth, or through our fingers on Facebook to hurt someone important to us.  Does it seem a bit extreme using methods a mental health patient would use? Not really. We all have a little bit of crazy in us.  Why not give it a bit of love?

In fact Judgements can be channeled towards love. We can use our judgements to help others. To give advice, help make decisions and complete acts of kindness. We need to asses and judge in order to do all these things.  If we think about it from a holistic viewpoint, it is not the act of judging that is a negative thing. Judging is natural, normal and inevitable. It is the way we choose to judge that can become a problem. If we take a moment to notice our judgements before we so candidly throw them out into the atmosphere, perhaps they would be better processed and received. The judging circle that we all seem to spin in might begin to unfurl or at least seem a little more of a rational whirl.

It’s All Relative

Everyone lives through their own eyes; their own skin; feels their own joy; their own pain and has the right to sing, dance, cry and complain about it. As our experiences are purely internal, it’s impossible to truly compare our own to others. So by trying to compare, we are diminishing the other person’s right to completely own their personal rainbow of emotions. However putting this theory of not comparing into practice is tricky. It’s human nature to compare. Sometimes we feel we are tireder, sicker, sadder, smarter, happier, more informed, more understanding. Or just plain better. The truth is when we are talking about personal experience, what’s on paper doesn’t really matter. It’s how the individual processes it that does. A bump for one person is a mountain for another. A mountain for another is just a bump. Sounds pretty straight forward. It’s when someone keeps placing obstacles in their path and complaining of mountains that life gets tricky for everyone concerned and this theory becomes even harder to stand by.

I have a chronic illness. I feel wretched every day. Really quite horrid. But it’s normal for me and I don’t talk about it often.  I’m generally at peace with it and I try not to let it affect me and those around me. (Full disclosure – there are occasional days where I want to crawl into a deep dark hole but I don’t). So what may seem like a lifelong mountain is really my everyday bumpy terrain.

Most people who know me have varying degrees of understanding about my health concerns. All of them are human with shiny bits and bruised bits. And all of them have their own issues to deal with. They might not be as physically harrowing but whatever they are, they can still be draining, upsetting and require some venting to their dear friend. And as a seriously good listener… I’m up for that. Quite often, mid cathartic release my friends will stop and I can see their mind ticking over – comparing their situation to mine. ‘What am I complaining about?’ Even if they don’t say it, it reads all over their precious faces. I am the first to stop them right there. It doesn’t matter what’s going on with me or anyone else. All that matters is how you feel in this very moment. How you are coping with your experience and what I can do as a friend to help you feel better about it. A cup of tea and some frittata while you let it out. Some constructive suggestions. Physical help to solve the dilemma. Letting the situation run its course knowing I am here in on the sidelines always. Whatever is needed. Everyone is different and every situation is different.

It doesn’t matter that earlier this year we bought a house that electrocuted me, had rotten floor boards and trees that strangled the pipes that needed replacing and blew out our mortgage (and our stress levels). It doesn’t matter that I’ve been learning the ropes as a new mama with a hubby who has been traveling 1-2 weeks of the month with his new job. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t slept a full night in 3 years due to my illness keeping me up. If you tell me you feel awful because you have a cold and sneeze. I will say, ‘Bless you. You must be tired. Sit down and let me make you a cup of tea.’ It’s all relative and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

It’s a hard concept to come to grips with and you might think I’m being insincere. I’m not. I’ve had eight years of illness to come to this way of thinking. If I thought any differently I would be a bitter sourpuss. I truly believe my illness has helped me to become more humble. While it’s taken some things from me it has made me gain an awful lot of insight. This being one small morsel.

I must admit that sometimes it can be extremely hard to apply my thinking. Sometimes I do get the urge to tell someone to ‘get over it’, ‘grow up’, ‘move on’ or ‘take charge’.  (using much nicer turn of phrase than that). But I never do. Why? If someone is constantly unhappy – so unhappy their nature of complaining is like a broken record, then that doesn’t stop them from being entitled to their emotions. It may make it a little more frustrating to listen to them (if we are being completely honest). But they are just as entitled to a kind ear and that warm cup of tea as anyone else. OK and the frittata too. (No-one should be denied my baking!) If they seem to be on the poor me merry-go-round, we can try and help them get off it, but ultimately it is not up to us to affect change for anyone else, all we can do is accept them as they are and support them the best way we can.

I have time for every person in my life; big, small, sane to a fault, bananas to the moon or the random man who delivers my Ozsale parcels. I will always listen to what they have to say with an open heart and mind. I’ll never compare their situation to mine and I will always try and help them through whatever situation arises in the way that they need me, to the best of my ability. All we can really do in life is strive to get by and be happy.  I hope that my thinking helps those around me to walk their path a little lighter, makes the bumps feel a little smaller and the bruises heal a little faster. And I hope that I am afforded the same human kindness in return.

Life is Liquid

Change. Evolution. Development. Growth. This is the fundamental essence of life and if we resist it, we make things a lot harder for ourselves. Why cling to a slippery rock in murky waters when the tide wants to take you upstream to crystal clear waters? The hard thing is to trust the rip and let go. We become so comfortable with our patterns and routines that define our very sense of self. So when change inevitably erupts we often associate it with fear and loathing. And it subconsciously seeps into the next phase of our lives.

On my 32nd birthday at 4am as I sip my tea in a quiet house, a particular scenario that comes to mind is parenthood.  Becoming a parent is a time of immense change and a huge learning curve. Most people that know me are aware that I am somewhat of a control nut and generally quite stressed (note the word nut not freak as I don’t think I am quite in freak territory).  Becoming a parent has taught me to embrace change, relax and ride the ride. It’s been such an important lesson to learn and while I am nowhere close to enlightenment and still blow my stack every now and then, our little family of three is much happier because of my newfound quasi-acceptance. Two years ago the word ‘change’ would have made my slippers shudder and my tea spill and scald my lap. But here I am, changing myself.

I have read numerous articles and blog posts on the topic of ‘losing a part of yourself’ when you become a parent.  This concept saddens me and fires me up… just a tad. The subject is being framed in the wrong way (in my humble opinion).  This notion suggests that when you come to focus on your children, you lose a piece of yourself, because you no longer have the same energy for work/the gym/social occasions etc. It also breeds a form of ‘online whinging’ from readers about their unhappiness with this shift of energy from me to baby.   I completely support providing a space for discussion and venting. However I don’t support propelling new parents into a negative thinking space during a time of turbulence and change. As any sort of influence it is our (blogger/writer/fellow human being) job to encourage not discourage…. Surely?

If you drill into the argument the crux of it technically is true, it is just being framed in a very sour way. Try this on for size:

Life is liquid. Ever-changing and developing. We gain things, we lose things, move things and return to things. Sometimes it’s hard. But it’s imperfectly perfect. Parenthood is no different.  When our little ones come along, we gain the most important gift of change imaginable. And sometimes it’s hard. But it’s perfect. We now have a little person in our care, to nurture for their whole lives. We are to help them become the very best they can be. We are responsible for developing their character by teaching them about our core values and the world around them. We get to see them smile for the first time, hear their first word, take their first step, tell us they love us and go on to become the people that we have helped them to be. We are lucky to step back from the whirlwind of our life before, experience their innocence and learn with them and through them. Nothing has been lost. Perhaps just shifted or put on hold. Our children, priceless and pure, have certainly been gained. It will feel hard at times. Really hard. But you are still you. With children.

To me, this perspective is a lot more apt and a healthier view than ‘I’ve lost a piece of myself’.  Perpetuating the former view is a social injustice. Parenting is incredibly hard. In the first year, there’s barely time to sit and have a hot cup of tea, shower or watch a mindless episode of whatever brand of filth you like to zone out to (not afraid to say I am currently watching reruns of The Millionaire Matchmaker when I want to turn my brain off – god I love a reality show that’s so bad it’s good). So to perpetuate this idea is a touch irresponsible. New parents are likely already sleep-deprived, hungry, maybe covered in a little baby vomit, haven’t had a shower that day and are taking 5 minutes out for social media and a sweet sweet cup of delicious.  Sounds like an ideal state of mind to cue the violins,  swell the tear ducts and start a train of thought that didn’t need encouraging.  Better post a picture of a kitten or puppy instead and release some much-needed smiles.

You haven’t lost anything when you become a parent. You are just getting used to a new chapter. And it’s going to change constantly. So embrace it, enjoy your tea, your showers and your crappy TV when you can and remember that those things that you aren’t fitting in right now will cycle round again… because life is liquid.

Nothing is ever really lost. We are never really stuck. Life has an ebb and flow that will always change tempo and bring with it a range of experiences and emotions. It’s up to us to steer it in the direction we want and process everything that comes our way in the best way we can. Otherwise, what are we really doing here?