inspiration, life, Personal, self care

5 Lessons My Sons Have Taught Me.

IMG_2966As a parent, you spend a lot of time teaching your kids stuff – how to do basic tasks, why manners are important, how to share when you don’t want to, and why it’s a really bad idea to stab that slug that crept into the dishwasher.

 

But we learn from our children too, most often without being aware of it. With the arrival of 2019 I found myself reflecting on some lessons I have learned from my sons.

 

Taking action on a fear lessens it

This is one of those lessons you learn because you’re teaching it – a case of practice what you preach. I will often get paralysed by fear of bills or the fear of inadequacy. When I was terrified about sending out queries my sons reminded me that I always tell them to face their fears.

 

They were right.

 

I’ve seen them face down fear of public speaking, of telling the teacher they haven’t done their homework, of zooming down a big hill, of embarrassment, and of catching public transport by themselves. I’ve seen them learn that the fear is soon over and that once the action is taken and a decision is made the fear subsides. The movie ‘We Bought A Zoo’ has one of my favourite quotes about courage:

 

You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.

 

This last year I wanted to run away from my writing a great deal but I remembered the look in my sons’ faces when they conquered a fear and I did it anyway.

 

Being useful provides a good sense of self efficacy

 

Recently my parents came around to help us make my garden into something beautiful. The boys dug holes, planted the roses they’d chosen, carried clippings, mowed lawns, weeded. The next weekend they cleaned off the deck and helped clear the garage. They didn’t necessarily start out keen about these things but at the end both of them felt proud of themselves, they felt energised and capable. They had been useful, helpful, and active. All these things help build a view of ourselves as effective and help build our self esteem.

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Patience is more than a virtue, it is a kindness

 

Many, many times, I have wanted to rush my kids through some less than scintillating recount of their latest computer game escapades before my brain explodes. I’ve wanted to rush the bedtime story to get to bed myself or to get on with my own writing or reading. But every time that I have stopped and relaxed into it, been patient with their enthusiasm, their chatter, their slow stories, I’ve seen the pleasure in their faces. Being patient with them and their follies, their passions, their mistakes, their stress about their homework, is a kindness. It shows them that they are valued. They know I don’t love computer games – what they take from this is that I love them. I have a tendency to be impatient in some circumstances but when I remind myself to practice patience I am always reminded that what I am practicing is kindness.

 

And what you reap is joy.

 

One of my best memories is going with my kids to North Head – there are a bunch of old military tunnels and slopes to ride down on cardboard, and seaside caverns to explore. Often on a day trip we go we do the thing and I’m “Okay we gotta go, we’ve done the thing, let’s go.” This day I didn’t. I was patient with them. I listened to the long stories and thoughts and I followed them wherever they wanted to go. We explored that whole darn place. I had so much fun seeing their excitement and pleasure in discovering new things.

 

You also, when you’re patient with the world, see magic.

‘Quick we’re going to be late! Quick! Why have you Stopped!’

‘Look Mum!’

‘What? What are we doing?’

‘Just look!’

There, on his finger, picked up from the fence, was a perfect dew drop, shimmering in the sunlight.

Magic. 

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I took this photo towards the end of last year. I was so entranced by the beauty of these dew drops. I’m glad I stopped to look.

Sometimes you can’t fix things

 

Sometimes things suck. Sometimes you lose everything you’ve worked hard to collect on Roblox and you feel devastated. Sometimes you have to go between two different houses and two different parents and you have to deal with all your conflicted feelings about it. Sometimes you have to go to family things and not the cool thing with your friends. Sometimes you feel scared and sad and lonely and you can’t just wish the feelings away.

 

Being a parent all you want to do is make sure your kids are happy. When you’re able to rebuild the destroyed Ninjago dragon lego the dog knocked over (without instructions!!) you feel like a superhero.

 

But lots of times you can’t do that.

 

My oldest son was bullied a lot in primary school. I could help some, but I couldn’t make it go away. I’ve learned so much about acceptance and about positivity and about holding my kids while they cry for half an hour – not telling them it’s all okay because they know it isn’t, but just letting them know that I am there and they aren’t alone. I’ve learned about respecting people’s distress even if you don’t think Minecraft is anything to cry about.

 

Encouragement and Support goes both ways.

 

This last year was incredibly difficult for me (hence the lack of blogging). My sons have been the most extraordinary cheerleaders and supporters. The care and love they give me has lifted me from spiralling sadness so very many times. I didn’t exactly wander around weeping in front of them, but I was open with them about my battle through depression, I was open with them about my initial hurt over my writing being rejected, I was open with them about my insecurities about my writing, and my struggle to feel ‘enough’. I don’t want to burden them but I think sometimes knowing someone is sad but not why can be very upsetting for kids. My sons were able to cheer me, to remind me to be strong, to let me know they loved me regardless of what I saw as failings, and to show me through small but precious ways that they respect and value me for who I am and what I do.

 

I have always strived to support and encourage and cheerlead my kids. To show them that I’m on the side lines and on their side. Knowing that they were wanting to do the same for me was one of the biggest blessings of a difficult year.

let down five

On writing, Personal

Of drawings and ‘I can’ts’ and maybe I could haves.

I’ve been trawling through old writings I did when I was 14, inspired by a #WriteFightGifClub post on Twitter. I found some real doozies, but I also found some old sketches I made when I was convinced I would be an author someday.

 

Somewhere along the way I lost both the belief that I would be a writer, and the belief that I could draw.

 

I’ve reconnected with my writing soul, but my drawing soul is still very much under the debris of adult skepticism.

 

When you’re a child, you don’t question your ability to create. You just do it. I love watching kids draw and then be overtly and happily proud of the result. It broke my heart when my son stopped drawing because what was on the page didn’t match what was in his head because the same thing happened to me.

 

So these are to remind me that maybe, like the melodramatic and half baked pieces of writing that I unearthed and smiled over, these too are a part of my creative side that could be fostered and dusted off and maybe, just maybe, I can believe again.

 

old sketch commander
This was titled Commander Shereen. I can’t remember what story she was attached to.

 

Old sketch lying down

I was quite influenced by Larry Elmore’s drawings.

 

Old sketch wise warrior

This ‘wise warrior’ kind of looks like my dad.

 

old sketch portrait

I’ve never been great with portraits. They all look the same.

 

old sketch punk witch

This is a very 80s looking witch i believe.

 

old sketch princess

and my princess about to rescue herself.

 

I had fun looking at these old pictures and wondering about the girl I had been, who believed so strongly that she could write, and draw, and do well at both.

 

I think I’m going to try and recapture that.

 

How about you? what did you love doing when you were young that you just stopped doing?

inspiration, life, Personal

Unique or not? We share more than we don’t, and that’s pretty wonderful.

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This week I was challenged by Tiffany Crystal to write a post on something I have encountered or experienced that I’m pretty sure no-one else would have.

I really struggled to think of something.

I’m not the only person to fall down Mt Ngauruhoe. I’m not the only person to have scars all over their face.

I’m not the only person to run off stage crying before her solo song (oh god, I hope I’m not the only one…)

I’m certainly not the only person to have a bad relationship and a broken marriage.

I’m not the only one to have to face illness of loved ones or the suicide of close friends.

I’m not the only one to get in the middle of two massive teenage boys fighting and get them to back down (“Back off. Pretty soon you’re going to hit me, and I really don’t think you want to hit me. You need to back away”)

I don’t even know if I and my flatmates are the only ones to face a possum coming down our chimney and the police coming to our rescue (Yes, that happened. Yes, it was as embarrassing as it sounds)

I don’t even think I’m the only one to ever face the embarrassment of going for a cheek kiss when the kaumatua is going for a hongi and ending up kissing him on the nose.

This made me think about how ‘unique’ my life has really been. Maybe all the important and defining and funny moments are just the same as everyone else’s.

But then, a student said to me the other day:

“Miss, when are you going to write your autobiography?”

“Oh, I don’t think I’m nearly interesting enough for an autobiography!”

“I think you are, Miss.”

This made me think about stories, and voice. There are lots and lots of different stories in the world, but really only a few that get told time and again in different ways. What makes a story truly unique is the person telling it – their voice. We hear often as writers – no-one can tell your story the way you can. It’s the same for life. No-one can live your life the way you can.

It’s like if I had a whole heap of pretty blocks and paper and glitter and pipe cleaners and glue and asked a group of people to each make something that represented them. They would start with the same materials, and what they built might be similar, but each would be different, depending on their vision and their skill.

That’s life.

It’s actually really reassuring knowing that we share more than we don’t. When things were very bad with my marriage and directly after we separated, and I was struggling to understand what had gone wrong, I found a website where many people had shared very similar experiences to mine. It was at once saddening that others had gone through the same thing but a huge relief to see my story played out again and again by strangers. We don’t feel so alone in our experience if we know others have felt it too.

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I am, however, possibly, the only one who has rung back a number to leave a message stating ‘Hi, it’s Clementine from the Auckland University History Department library here, just calling to let you know that Hitler and Germany invaded Warsaw on the 8th of September. Have a good day.’

So there’s that.

What about you? Have you encountered or experienced something you think it’s unlikely that others have? Let me know in the comments!

Personal, self care

A vulnerable moment and how I tried to change it.

 

In previous posts I’ve talked about vulnerability and I’ve talked about mindfulness. I’ve suggested ways to increase resilience. Well, over the last few days I’ve been battling the clouds in my head and so I followed my own advice and I tried to work it all out. This is a vulnerable post – I’m sharing my thought processes with you to show you in a very real way how I try to kick out the demons. I didn’t mean to share two slightly gloomy posts in a row so I apologise to those who followed me for the upbeat motivation or the stories. But I believe that by sharing our vulnerable side we help ourselves, and we help others.

Below is word for word what I wrote. I started out just trying to purge in a catharsis of sorts but you will see where my brain kicked in and stopped me, rerouted the avalanche of words. This is, incidentally, why writing is so good for getting your emotions in order – the structure you impose when you write, the selection you make in the words and where you put them, helps you sort through your feelings more effectively perhaps than other ways of dealing with it.  At the end of it I find I am not ragingly happy but my mind is no longer clogged with the clutter and debris of negativity. I have managed to impose some sense.

 

I hope by sharing my thought process with you, it might help you do the same if you ever need to.

 

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It’s hard when you feel so negative but you can’t do anything about it. The emotions just roil around, tumbling in your head and your chest, batting away the good thoughts and spreading out, making themselves at home.

 

Bad mum

Bad teacher

Crap writer

Shitty friend

 

No Time.

Not putting in the time

Forgetting things

Not making effort in the right way.

Not sticking to routine

 

Eating too much of the wrong things

Hating how you look, hating how unfit you are

Struggling to change

 

 

Okay, stop – focus on that last word – struggling.

 

Struggling is not a negative thing.

 

It is a human thing.

 

We all struggle.

 

We don’t always see other people’s struggles, but they have them.

 

Struggle doesn’t mean that you are rubbish or a loser, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying. Struggle means that you are trying and not succeeding. It implies effort. It implies desire.

 

Existence is a struggle.

 

A struggle to overcome.

A struggle to change

A struggle to improve.

 

These things are hard, they don’t happen without effort, and even with effort they don’t always fall into place easily.

 

Sometimes the only obstacle is you – your motivation or your distraction or your lack of self belief.

 

I think this is the hardest obstacle to overcome. The most difficult to struggle past.

 

So. Change the mindset.

 

First step.

 

Counter the stupid list.

 

You know these things to be true –

 

Good mum

Good teacher

Good writer

Good friend

 

Good person

 

 

You know these things you can fix –

 

Time but lots of things to fit into that time – have to be more organised.

Some things you do need to put more time into – figure them out and then do it.

Write some lists so you don’t forget

Enlist kids to help you enforce routines

 

 

You know these things you have to just do, even though they’re hard –

 

Eat better. This is tough but is one you just have to decide to do.

Stop hating on yourself.  You know you actually like yourself really. Appearance is only one aspect of a person and you know that. You tell other people that all the time. Live by it.

Exercise. Then you won’t be unfit.

 

 

And yes, you feel lonely. Not all the time but sometimes. Remember that it is just waves and they will come and go and you will remain on the shore. Ride it out.

 

 

Let yourself struggle because struggle is ultimately progress. And any progress is good progress.

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life, Personal, self care

When you suddenly feel sad

tragedy 2

I’m mostly a happy and positive person. Sure, I lose my temper and get frustrated and fed up, but mostly I stay positive and cheerful. It’s part of how I see myself and how I present myself to the world.

 

But sometimes I get sad.

 

Sometimes I don’t know why I get sad. I just do.

 

It’s a dark cloud but I don’t feel it around my head, I feel it around my heart. It seems to constrict it, squeezing out the positivity and the optimism and the self love. It leaves behind a tainted mush that makes me feel unsettled.

 

Makes me feel sad.

 

It isn’t a big deal for me – I am fortunate that my sadness is not depression and I have a good life so it isn’t situational. Sometimes I just have waves of unhappy.

 

The thing about waves of sadness is that they’re just like waves of joy – they are transient. Both extremes wash over you, pulling you into the riptide or sometimes just lapping in the shallows. But they go. They might leave you surf battered, or in a beautiful floaty tranquility – but they go.

 

Sadness comes. It comes for all of us and we often don’t know why.

 

A friend once told me that sadness and happiness often don’t have a reason. They just are.

 

So what do you do while you wait for the tide to recede?

 

If it’s a particularly dark bout you might need to hang on to something or someone. Get some help to pull you back to shore.

 

If it’s the kind of sadness that makes you wonder if you need some sleep – you probably need more sleep.

 

Other things we can do to combat the sadness is to let it out – like writing this post – or combat it with active focus on the good things – like the Happy Jar, or talking with people we love.

 

I think, for me, the biggest thing is recognising sadness for what it is – an emotion that will come in, muck things up a bit, and then, after a short or long while, go away.

alexander-ramsey-274193 woman light breaks