Honestly, Respectfully, Joyfully – a current snapshot of my life philosophy

When I started this blog, I was aiming to post every 5-7 days. That hasn’t happened lately.  Sometimes life just doesn’t go according to plan. When I started this blog, I also intended for it be completely raw, truthful and provide you with an insight into who I was and how I see the world, surmount hurdles and arrive at contentment. That has not changed. In fact so much time away from my writing has given me a chance to really think about the way I do live (or try to live my life).  It’s not too complex really. There’s just three essential elements:

  • Honestly

In my eyes, honesty is the most important thing we have – with both ourselves and each other. How can we really understand if something needs addressing and make it better if we don’t acknowledge it in the first place?  At a glance in the mirror I can say I have 55 issues, 10 problems and a need for a cupcake and a cup of tea daily at this moment in time. And sushi for dinner would be great too.  No, I am not perfect. I have a definite need for tweaking and some shiny new bells and whistles. Yes, I am completely comfortable with what my honest reflection says back to me. I am also comfortable to tell my friends and family what I see in the mirror (or at least a summary of it). “I have a problem please. Can you please bring me a shiny new bell? And a cupcake for good measure?”

And I do this quietly, (for the most part calmly) without creating drama. Living honestly does not mean losing your dignity. It means heightening your humanity. It also provides an innate self-understanding and the opportunity to affect change.

Unfortunately we are trained to live dishonestly – to ‘grin and bear it’, ‘buck up’, ‘ride it out’ and pretend everything is fine…. even if it isn’t. Pretence or denial that starts with our peers can often have us fooling ourselves.  A false sense of okayness can become the worst kind of prison. Why is it that we are trained to keep any kind of truth to ourselves that doesn’t exude positivity and strength or success surrounding our progress in life? Does society despise weakness? Is it bad manners to share your hardship? Bollocks to both.

I have seen so many cases (especially in new mums) where they have been silent for so long struggling with an unaddressed issue that it has led to a deeper emotional problem like anxiety or depression. This is not OK.  Denial or a self-perceived quiet strength does not serve anyone well.  As our mamas used to say ‘honesty is the best policy’ – first with yourself, then everyone else. Living honestly takes a great deal of courage, bares your humanity and invites respect.

  • Respectfully

Everyone is travelling a different path in life, has a different beat and a different way of communicating. Along with honesty, it is important to provide the people in our lives with the respect and space to flow in and out of ours as and how they need to.  While we may desperately want them to fit a certain slot in our people map, or a mould we have mentally carved out for them… that’s just not how it works and it’s just not fair to will it on them. By giving people the respect and freedom to be completely themselves:  trackies and uggs, face-stuffing madness, tears, cancellations, cra cra moments or complete radio silence… whatever they need…. You may find that they are able to live honestly with you.  And in turn you can live honestly with them. Respect isn’t just for your very best friends, BFFs and childhood friends. It’s for everyone. Honesty plus respect are the foundations for a strong relationship. The more honestly and respectfully a friendship is cultivated, the more it will flourish. These are the people who you will share your life with… including your joy.

  • Joyfully

Find joy everywhere. As much as possible. In the small things. Lap it up. That’s pretty much it.

To expand briefly… (of course! How could I leave it there, I have a few more sips of tea to drink, so better keep writing!)

Life can be hell of earth sometimes. It really can be the pits. But it can be joyful at the same time. In fact that’s when it should be most joyful. No need to look to big things like holidays, shopping trips, dinners out and fancy shiny things  for your kicks… that’s not joy, That’s window dressing and hullaballoo. The simple things are where the true joy really lies. I make sure to experience joy each day… multiple times… even if I have curled up in a ball and cried. No two emotions are mutually exclusive. Joy is an essential part of everyday living.

Here are some things that I find joy in:

Watching my husband and daughter read stories together

A cup of tea all by myself

A long hot shower

Smelling the aromas from my oil diffuser

The sensation of my muscle melt cream as it heats my back and neck and the pain fades

Sushi. Sushi. And more sushi.

Closing the door after I put my daughter to bed and seeing my husband’s face – we have some couple time in our pjs now.

Watching my daughter kiss herself in the mirror with extrodinary vigor – she loves herself (not nearly as much as I love her)

The list goes on. I have many moments of joy every day. They may not be overwhelming. But they are there, and my insides smile every time. The ability to find joy in small things like these makes my life infinitely more incredible than it would be without it.

So that’s where I am at in life right now. I choose to live honestly, respectfully and joyfully.  Of course sometimes it does all go out the window because like everyone else I am an imperfect human and life doesn’t go according to plan. However no matter what life throws at me, I do come back to these three key points and I must say I am very happy with my little lot.

Be well

Natalia

x

Insights into a Scandal

 

There’s no denying that the latest surrogacy scandal to hit the media is an abomination. No matter which way you spin it, this real life story is horrendous for everyone involved – poor little Gammy,  born through surrogacy with Downs Syndrome and ditched by his intended parents; his twin sister Pippah, ripped apart from her other half; and the incredible surrogate Pattaramon Chanbua who is now raising Gammy as her own.  It doesn’t stop there. The entire international surrogacy community is deeply wounded and wondering if it will ever recover from the backlash following this one mortifying act.  And nobody’s helping – each day, the articles, news spots and calls for new legislation are making it worse. It’s like throwing sticks into a fire that’s already out of control.

There’s no need for me to recap the story so far… or is there? There are multiple new articles popping up every day as new pieces of information are revealed and the ‘truth’ continues to unfold and change. Both news and non-news sources are featuring it regularly. As a nation we have been baffled and angered by this terrible scenario – and rightly so. It seems almost inhuman in nature. The recent 60 minutes interview with intended parents the Farnell’s has enraged the Australian public, sending shockwaves through their hearts and their fingertips; seeing social media discussion rise to an all-time high.

However the story has become more than a human interest piece; raising questions of politics and foreign affairs, its depth and breadth now threatening an entire movement. Many sources, both political and private, are calling for consequences for the parents and bringing surrogacy legislation under fire. At the more heinous and provocative end of the media scale, surrogacy is being compared to prostitution and ‘organ tourism’  . It feels like this story has been the catalyst for a war on surrogacy.

While I am not an expert on surrogacy, I do have personal experience in the area. Our dear friend and surrogate gave birth to our daughter in 2013 and is now six months pregnant with our son. I and many others are proof that surrogacy can be a wonderful and ethically sound way to have a family, if carried out via the right channels with pure intentions. There are many well-meaning families, for whom surrogacy is the last resort, watching in fear as it is demonised in the media. Last week Abbott announced that he will not rush to implement federal changes.  Currently laws vary between each state. While no changes have been announced at state level, the laws could come into question under public pressure.

I agree that there has to be accountability, not just in this situation; the nature of surrogacy demands it. I’m as outraged as anyone. However why jeopardise the future of well-intentioned families because of one couple’s poor decision? Simply saying ‘no’ to surrogacy seems like a quick fix to appease the masses. There are two main problems here:

1)      You just can’t say no to family

So many people have an innate desire to have a family and if we don’t facilitate that in a legal and ethical manner, more will seek to do it illegally; this is where even greater problems occur.

2)      Complex issues need to be addressed from the inside. Band aids don’t work.

Core reasons that situations like this arise are because there are flaws and holes in both international surrogacy law and also individual clinic regulations. If any government or non-government group really wants to ensure that surrogates are protected, intended parents are accountable and the precious babies are born with nothing but the best outcomes, then they need to get down in the trenches. They can’t just say ‘no’ or pass the buck to no one in particular. They need to learn how the current system works, what the flaws are and how to help address them.

Surrogacy Australia provides a wealth of knowledge on both altruistic and commercial surrogacy and works endlessly to advocate for everyone involved. They would be an excellent resource to connect with and start working towards to a better future – a future where babies are born out of love and responsibility in equal parts.

Surrogacy can and should be a beautiful act with the intention of creating a life to be treasured and loved. My heart aches for everyone involved in this current horror story, especially the children.  I do want change but nobody’s helping right now. In fact every inflammatory move is hurting. It’s time to take a step back and start to heal – for Gammy and for the surrogacy community as a whole.

Donate to Gammy

Find out more about Surrogacy in Australia

 

Survival in the Darkness

Life can change in a split second… or sometimes slowly without us even knowing it. Either way, we can be floating along in the sunshine one minute and plunged into a dark ravine the next. And it’s up to us to climb back out. Sometimes all it takes is a little bunny hop. Sometimes it takes some wild eyed, breathless clawing. Sometimes It takes a few helping hands. But it always takes the serenity to breathe deep, plunder on and know the light will return.

I must admit that in my 32 years I have had my fair share of ridiculous shenanigans/bad luck/unfortunate circumstances/shit hit the fan – the kind of stuff that might make people feel uncomfortable or feel sorry for me (please don’t). However I have also been blessed with an amazing amount of fortune/luck/good will/generosity/love/good spirit – the kind that warms my heart to the point of setting it on fire. And over the course of these 32 years I have gone from being completely incapable of coping with the misfortune that came my way, to learning to ride the waves as best I can so that they just feel like a terribly tiring episode of a grade F tv show that should have never been made and aired on free to air television.

Now let me be clear here….

I am still a stress ball. I still lose my nut. I still cry. I still get cranky at inappropriate times. I still need to vent. I still stress eat. I am not some perfectly imperfect alien creature. What I do is find perspective on the darkness as it arrives and find ways to release the pressure as it builds.

My steps to surviving the darkness include:

1)      The initial question: How bad really is it?

If you compare the situation to both others in your life and potential scenarios, is it worth getting upset over and worked up about? This pondering can determine a somewhat appropriate reaction. (Sometimes hysteria sets in when it’s uncalled for and we can nip it in the bud very quickly)

2)      Action Plan

What has to be done to rectify the situation? Can you accomplish it alone, in what timeframe or do you need help? An action plan is always the key to control, some much needed answers and regaining equilibrium.

3)      Letting Go

When you find yourself in a state of overwhelm or the darkness has become thick, long or heavy, it is good to let go of some of the other weights in your life. Cooking, cleaning, kids, work, social responsibilities – they can all be enjoyable (except cleaning – blerg!)but when you are heavy, they make you even heavier. Let go…. Just a little. It will all be there.

4)      Openness

We live in a society where we tend to want to present a perfect happy image of ourselves – one where we don’t need any help. This is codswallop. Now I’m not saying to go and wipe your snot all over town, however if you have a few close friends that you can be honest about with your situation; let them know you are having a rough time or need a bit of help, I bet there will be generosity oozing out of them to make your life a little easier – a meal, watching the kids for an hour, picking up some groceries. These are small things for them but will send you closer to the light. (And you can always pay it forward when the light is shining bright and warming your skin).

5)      Self Soothing

When you are feeling stressed beyond the norm, be kind to yourself. Whatever works for you. For me it’s burning nice oils, as many cups of tea as I can handle, a lovely heat pack on my neck and if I can stretch to it, a massage. When you are working overtime in survival mode or getting through a crisis, you must remember yourself. When you are looking after everyone else, you have to take care of yourself or you won’t be able to continue. It’s not selfish – it’s sensible. It would be selfish not to nurture the nurture.

I was going to add a sixth step which was patience. However on second thought I don’t really think this is a step. Darkness can come and go in a flash or it can feel like your world is imploding and it is getting heavier and thicker and you will never see the light again. Patience is indeed a virtue; however I believe it is more important to practice the above ideas with strength and courage, knowing that the hard times will pass. Life is beautiful, full of wonder and joy just waiting for us to experience it. Even the hard times are abundant with moments of light and joy. It is up to us to see them and experience them. We choose how we live our lives – why not dance in the rain?

Be well

Xx

 

Note if you are having trouble seeing the light or experiencing joy, go to: Beyond Blue for more information .

 

 

 

 

Shifting Gears

This is a somewhat appropriate title for this blog post as we just purchased a new car. A new used car. I loved our zippy little Mazda 3. Unfortunately it will not take a double pram in the boot, nor will it happily house two car seats in the back (without a driver who has knees up to their elbows). So it was off to trawl Parramatta rd for a suitable alternative.
However this post isn’t about cars. Not at all. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we adapt, change, grow, delete, stretch and add as our life shifts. And it shifts often and always.
The way we live our lives depends on the tools we have to wade through the world, the vessels we have to carry us through it (our bodies), and the inclination and will we have to make it a happy ride.
In my mind there are two kinds of metaphorical tools we gather in life. The kind we gain with money – house, car, food, disposable income etc… and the cerebral abstract kind that build up in our toolbox as we travel: knowledge, understanding, compassion, friendship etc. Both are essential to survival and both will constantly change over time. Life can be a little easier if our toolbox is well stocked.
Our vessels (or our bodies), are essential for our life’s journey. So it’s important to be good to them. I’m not going to preach, carb free, sugar free, no caffeine, no alcohol blah blah blah. But as someone with a chronic illness who has seen the inside of far too many doctor’s offices, hospitals and has a good grasp on mortality, I am going to preach this: be kind to your body. Rest, relax and recharge when it tells you to. It will in turn to be good to your for longer. You never know when you will need to call on it for that extra smidge of energy stored in its deep dark depths. That’s it.
As life predictably ebbs and flows with complete unpredictability, it’s up to us to live in the moment, enjoy it and keep stress to a minimum. We never know what’s around the corner, or what we will need to pull out of our toolbox to cope with it. Relationships, babies, property, career, wellness…. These all have ups and downs, with varying extremity. Having the foresight to and understanding that you will need to shift gears often in life, may make it easier to move forwards, backwards, sideways or take great leaps when you need to. The knowledge that it’s normal and the comfort that the gears will shift again may soften the sound of the gears grinding. Having that tool box handy, full and ready to access will make each shift that little bit smoother.
Amidst the extended car and tool metaphors which are not usually something I’d throw into my writing, I guess all I am trying to say is, life can throw us curve balls. And it will. If we are self-aware and prepared, both physically and emotionally, we can meet them head on..or at least not get floored by them. And when life is rosy, we can sip tea, sit pretty and share the love. The gears are always shifting somewhere.

Venting Vs. Complaining

We all need a good vent every now and then. Sometimes daily. When the heavens bring on a hailstorm, sometimes it feels like all we need to do is sit and drink tea and talk and vent and shed a tear or two until we are too exhausted to take another sip or utter another word… or until the sun starts to shine again. And I think that’s ok if it helps us to get through the day/week/month/year… whatever it is. I also believe it is different to complaining.
I am no English dictionary and I haven’t consulted one in preparation for this outpour of thought. My personal thoughts on the difference between venting and complaining are as following:
Venting: A cathartic release of thought and emotion with no malice or harm intended to any other party. A venter does not wish to change the core of their world, merely express how it affects them at that point in time.
Complaining: A negative monologue regarding either the self or another, usually with the wish to alter some aspect of one or the other. A complainer may often be repetitive and resistant to positive feedback and the idea of change.
Without talking a moment to identify and separate these two acts it can be easy to confuse them and mislabel both the action and the people who are undertaking them. To be fair, it is usually the venter that is mislabelled as a complainer. When someone needs to vent, it is very important that they do. People are like pressure cookers. If we store all our sadness, anger, regret, fear or whatever hard emotions we have feeling inside, they will continue to intensify until they explode in one great mess. It’s far better to release the emotions as they come – fresh, fast and free. That way we are left whole, strong and ready to face whatever the world brings us whether it is storms or rainbows. We will all face both of them and all kinds of other uncharted whether. Expressing your feelings as the skies are changing is not complaining – it’s healthy.
Having done my fair share of venting I have bucket loads of compassion for those in need of a good vent, so always have an ear to share, a cup of tea to make and hands ready to do what I can to help those in need (sometimes it is not very much but we all work within our limits – just an ear is a lovely gift for a venter in need). As both venters and ventees (the people who listen to the venters – no idea what to call them/us so let’s use that term for now) it is important to understand that each single person can only take on so much emotion. As a venter, it is crucial not to be venting in one place too much. Our friends are not our therapists – so we can’t expect them to take on every piece of emotional baggage we want to offload. As a ventee, no matter how much we want to help alleviate our friends and help them through the cathartic process, it is wise not to be carrying too many emotional bags that weigh us down. While kindness is essential in friendship and venting is encouraged, balance is key to everyone’s sanity. It is smart to set limits for ourselves from both perspectives.
While I don’t want to delve too much into the topic of complaining, I feel as both a venter and ventee it is important to identify when what you are spouting or listening to becomes more than that. I.E. Complaints. When life has become something to complain about, it indicates that something needs to shift whether it is circumstance or reaction. This is first and foremost up to the person living the life. In my experience ventees usually have the best intentions, but when trying to assist a complainer find it extremely frustrating. This is because we cannot change anyone else, nor is it our responsibility to. Yes, we can encourage and help, but only if the person is open to it. The first step to change is acceptance and this comes from within. We are all so very different and will respond to complaining in our own way, however I feel that understanding its traits and differences to venting is a good basis for coping with it.
Today my lovely readers, I have nothing to vent or complain about. I have a gorgeous daughter who is fast asleep in her bed, a loving husband who is going to take her out for the morning while I have some ‘mama time’ and a fridge full of food from yesterday’s afternoon of cooking. I am thankful for all the people in my life who I know can be wonderful ventees whenever I need them and I am full of strength for any and all of these same people to return the favour should they ever need me. Life is good.

A note on being different

We are all different. In big ways and little ways. Throughout my journey to date I have found that it can be easy to gravitate towards those who we share things in common with or who are (cringe) ‘like-minded’. I’m not such a fan of that term– our minds are our own and should be encouraged to be individual, open, ever-changing and growing. I don’t believe you have to share an interest, a life path or phase to be able to connect or share time or tea with someone. However I do believe you have to have a mutual understanding, respect and curiosity for each other. You can feel all these things for someone that is your complete polar opposite.

I connect with people easily and often. As I caught up with a new friend in the park recently she confessed she had been worried that we would be ‘too different’ to be friends. After looking under the hood, we realised we actually had a scary amount in common. Surfaces can be deceiving. Never the less, this brought up a whole lot of thoughts for me on both friendship and being different.

1)      Life would be so boring if all my friends were just like me. It would be like talking to myself – yawn

2)      It’s great meeting different people as it allows me to learn, experience and grow

3)      It doesn’t really matter if someone is different to me or does things differently to me. As long as I respect and like them and want to spend time with them (and vice versa) then we are good to go – kettle’s on, biscuit tin open.

4)      My life is richer for all the different and wonderful people I have in it. Thank god I am not part of a zombie suburban mummy tribe wearing tracksuits with juicy on our bums and sipping lattes at the same café every day. I thrive on my hectic, diverse schedule and all the people in it.

5)      People often make quick judgements about each other (including me). They mentally label them as ‘too different’ to fit in their friend-shaped cookie cutter. And that’s that. I feel this is a sad loss. Remember the saying ‘pretty things come in brown paper packages’ – this is true of people too. It is always worth getting to know someone. Everyone has value.

When it comes to having someone in our life, for me, the most important thing is that we like each other and are good to each other.   I say embrace the differences, learn from them, perhaps even grow with them. Let’s certainly not shut them out.

Friends of Convenience – dispelling the stigma

People are not expendable. We should absolutely cherish each other at every turn.  However we should also recognise that every friendship is born out of purpose, a mutual need and dare I say it… convenience? There is no question that I love each of my friends wholeheartedly and I show them every chance I get. However I also have the integrity to admit that each friend I have has their own special place in my life, just as I do in theirs and it is convenient that way. Many of us fit neatly into the wrongly maligned category: ‘friends of convenience’. And I don’t believe that’s such a bad thing. As we walk life’s incredibly unpredictable path, it is wonderful to weave in and out of the lives of like-minded people. Some stay, some go and when we are really lucky, some relationships rise above the convenience to become our soul mates.

We live in a world of convenience. Quick. Give it to me now. I need it this minute. Easy peasy. Fast food; disposable nappies, single use cleaning wipes, pre-cut vegies. And yes… People. We all have and fill the role of ‘friends of convenience’. They fill a little chasm in our life – make it better, fuller, easier, happier.  Even as the words come tumbling out of my fingers onto my virtual page I feel a wave of guilt wash over me for sharing this truth. But why? None of these conveniences of are a bad thing. Especially the friends.  If our lives are that little bit happier because of any one thing and no one is getting hurt along the way… then I see no real issue. So where does this guilt come from?

We all befriend one another for a reason. There  I have said it. But that is ok. As long as it is mutual and reciprocal. Someone to talk to; someone let off steam with; someone to sip tea with; someone to bitch about a mutual acquaintance with; someone to cook with; someone to share playdates with; someone to exercise with; someone to travel with; someone who has a nice house to sit in; someone who’s cooking you enjoy; someone to learn from; someone to share a phase of your life with…. There are many reasons two people become ‘friends of convenience’.   It is actually very rare to connect with someone on a deep cerebral level and become lifelong soul mates. So along the way, we form passing bonds – friends that come and go with our mutual needs. Perhaps knowing that these friendships are based on convenience or need is where that pang of guilt comes in. But it shouldn’t. Because it’s perfectly natural and should be encouraged.  The soul thrives on human connection.

Reaching out to create new friendships is an important part of personal development. We are constantly in a state of change, experiencing new things, going new places and we require people to share this with – to laugh with, learn from and if we are lucky we can even cry with each other too.  Making space to both give and receive ensures that these friendships are reciprocal. Everyone is being nurtured as they need to be. We receive togetherness and expel aloneness. While at first the term ‘friends of convenience’ may seem harsh or cruel, perhaps after further explanation you can see that it encapsulates all the people that come in and out of our lives as we need each other at the time. A very positive thing.

Like all friendships, there is the potential for a ‘friendship of convenience’ to turn sour.  The most simple is a non-reciprocated friendship. Like any other relationship, if one party is giving and not receiving, over time it is bound to fail. Because this type of relationship is based on mutual need, balance is key. The other way for the sour to seep in is when the relationship becomes inconvenient. This is an incredibly hard thing to admit until you are already at the point of either feeling unappreciated or feel like you have evolved to a new phase in your life.  In either scenario, the relationship is no longer serving the purpose of fulfilling both friends and by this point there are likely to be feelings of hurt, probably not making it convenient at all. The question here becomes whether to rebalance to find that convenience again or not.

Friendship is fluid. Understanding that we all evolve at different times and in different directions, is fundamental to understanding each other’s needs and our place in each other’s lives. Not all friendships will always be convenient. Sometimes we learn to readjust our input and output. Sometimes we do learn to let go. As you ride the waves, do it with grace. Do it with compassion. Do it with lots of tea. And sometimes some sushi too. What is most special is when even after the convenience fades, we hold on tight because that person has become so much more.  For soul mates convenience is irrelevant.