I’ll need a glass of wine for this

It’s amazing what you can discover from a clinical supervision session, a glass of wine and a chat with your mum. 

Mum and I are both terribly hard on ourselves. She is, indeed who I learned this skill from. The ability to criticise yourself for criticising yourself about criticising yourself is surely worth an Olympic medal or something? 

The message that resounds so loudly in my life at the moment is “acknowledge, consider, and forgive/accept”. 

What am I talking about? Ok… Well… In my clinical supervision session, as usual, I was made aware of several blind spots in my future practice. Goodbyes, boundaries and availablity.

  • Goodbyes: a fellow student and I expressed that goodbyes are not challenging or awkward for us. We both see farewells as quite fluid, and are unperturbed by the idea of not seeing someone again because we believe that if we are meant to see one another again- we will. And if not, then we won’t. We believe in the Reason, Season, Lifetime concept of human relationships and do not attach excessively to other humans. The thing about that is that not everyone will be like that. And we need to understand that our clients, and indeed our friends and loved ones, may need more formal closure and may struggle more than we would. Awareness is a beautiful thing. 
  • Boundaries and availability: I’m gonna put these together. Because for me, they go together: just how much am I saying yes, when I need to be saying no? Now, I don’t work a lot. And I don’t have a huge physical workload at uni currently, but the emotional and mental toll it takes on me is significant. And I need to acknowledge that and be ok with it and not make excuses or try to power on when I’m really, actually exhausted… How much am I giving to friends and family and colleagues and to what extent am I ensuring I have a reserve of emotional energy for myself and my romantic relationship. Well I can tell you right now; too much and not enough. The balance needs to shift. I need to prioritise me (I’m getting better, I promise) and my partner. Not everyone else and everything else. 

In a moment of vulnerable insecurity this evening, I asked Mum a question that has been playing on my mind for the last few weeks. I said “mum, what if I don’t lose weight?” What if I put in all this effort to be mindful and aware of what I fuel my body with and aim for health and vitality after 2 years of intensive focus on education and literally no attention paid to what I consumed in a day, and see NO change? And why do I still place so much importance on what the scales say after so much work to disregard everything they claim? 

And she said the most incredible thing. 

My mum. The ex PE teacher, the advocate of an active lifestyle, the creative cook to cater for any diet, the woman struggling with her own journey of self-acceptance. 

She said “you gotta be kind to yourself, Cherie. Balancing study and work and life; it’s hard. And there’s no point pretending it’s not. You’re more sedentary than you’ve ever been, but you’re more focused than you’ve ever been. And you have be ok with not having the energy to be as active because what your doing is TOUGH!”

She’s right. Short term loss for long term gain. Not only am I getting my degree, I’m KILLING my degree. For someone aiming for passes, there are a heck of a lot of high distinctions going on in my academic record. She’s right. I’ve never sat this much or moved this little in my life.

And so, I was re-energised. Re-inspired. Realising that I wasn’t alone in my functioning and acceptance of farewells; realising that any positive changes I make before the end of my degree of bonus. Realising that this really is the short term loss for long term gain. 

Sometimes you’re gonna find yourself in a situation in life where you might not look like you hoped, or be as fit as you’d hoped, or as energetic as you’d hoped; but keep your eyes on the prize. 

This isn’t the destination. In fact, who cares about the destination anyway!? It’s more important that you’re learning about yourself and the world during the journey! We are fluid beings. We’re not going to get to a weight and stay there forever. We won’t reach a level of knowledge and never add any more. We don’t meet one person and assume we have met them all. 

Why do we put so much pressure on where we’re at right now rather than accept it as a crucial piece of our journey!? Live in the now, but don’t put PRESSURE on the now. Allow the now to be. Whatever it will be. 

A path lights up

I have a job interview tomorrow.

A job that is in line with my future career. A ‘real’ job, if you will. Real for me.

But I’m not nervous. I’m not even anxious, and I’m almost always anxious. I’m so calm about it that I started to worry that I was being apathetic…

I realise that I’m certainly not being apathetic, but that I’ve just truly accepted the idea that whatever will be will be. I am here right now because this is exactly where I needed to be. Every job, every relationship and every experience I’ve had have led to me being the person that I am today. Without a single one of them, I might be on a completely different path… And that path would have been exactly what that version of me needed too!

So I look forward to my interview tomorrow, realising that if I’m the right person for the job; I’ll be offered it. And that if that’s the right job for me; I’ll accept.
If it’s not the right job or I’m not the right person, then it simply means there’s something else for me around the corner.

Trust that the universe is leading you (or keeping you) exactly where you need to be right now.

Fake tan, periods and chocolate slice

What a week.

I embarked on an ever-cliched “health kick” last week. Starting Monday. It’s now Monday again and a week of calorie counting highlighted a severe weakness for me. Sure, I know I snack… lots… but that my snacks each day are ALWAYS more calories than any single meal (Even huge roast dinners) means that something needs to change. I need to be nurturing my body, not abusing it. It has carried me so powerfully through so many good times and bad… It was time to reassess.

Then there was the change rooms…  Change rooms are rarely anyone’s friends really, with the lighting and the stifled space and the contrived atmosphere… But for some reason I struggled more with them last week than I have in years.
Getting undressed and having a panic attack? What was that about? I was loving my body, not hating it… What was happening? Why the sudden self-loathing? That made me panic even more; was I failing at loving myself? Had I been pretending too much and when faced with the “truth” (change rooms are never the truth. NEVER. EVER) about my body?
I worked my way through this one quite quickly, thanks to friends and mum and breathing… and sushi… and several coffees… and Typo retail therapy… and by the evening I was doing fine… Determined to remain focused on improving my health and getting more energy and more life. While in the shopping centre, I opnely admitted to mum that I’d fallen apart in the change room and proceeded to actively seek out something to lift my spirits. I love buying things. I love stationary. I went to Typo. Where it doesn’t matter what I look like; so I could remind myself of that very fact.
When I got home, I tanned myself, I always feel better tanned. Not for anyone else to view me as tanned, but for me to see myself as sunkissed and energetic. Tans to me are childhood (I was quite the olive skinned youth) and summers well spent getting things done and living my life the way it should be lived: Outside.
So a little bit of colour helped, and some wines and dinner with mum, my partner and his best mate helped…
I did the things that I needed… I exercised self-care. I’m getting better at it.

The next day I was tired, I wrote an essay for uni, I had a nap, I got a massage, I had another nap… Why so tired?!

Then I got my period. And suddenly everything from the last few days made sense!
Now, I’ve worked hard to embrace my monthly visitor, we’ve had a turbulent past. Cysts, endometriosis, agonising pain, endless cycles etc. But I read somewhere that we should learn to embrace them as we embrace our femininity and womanhood. We are strong and powerful and can carry on functioning as if our period pain were a tiny scratch from a kitten if need be. Our monthly cycle is an opportunity to start afresh, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Like a full moon, each month it starts again… What’s not to love about that?!

In recent years, my period arriving has often signaled the “ah ha” moment for a whole week of unexplained emotions, self-loathing and extra kilos on the scales (which shouldn’t bother me, because I KNOW that the number on the scale doesn’t define me, but it’s so ingrained by society, that sometimes, nonchalantness eludes me…).

The more this happened and the more regular my periods became (medications for endometriosis meant that I was period free for 5 years, so I had to get back into the swing of it), the more welcome my periods were. I started associating periods with chocolate. When I got my period, I got chocolate. That first chocolate of my period is never added to any calorie counting and is consumed 100% guilt free. It’s simple conditioning; but it works. So now my period says; “HELLO! I’M HERE!”, my brain says; “Oh thank heavens, I thought I was going mad” and my heart says; “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS CHOCOLATE!!”
All this combines to make getting my period a pretty sweet deal.

So, after all that babble; What did I learn through this week? What can we take away from it?

I’m getting far better at loving myself. A brief moment of disillusion does not spell the beginning of a downward spiral for me into self-loathing and disgust. This is a huge leap forward.

I’m still learning about my body. 31 years on and I still fail to confidently recognise period symptoms before the event… And that’s perfectly ok!

My support network is vast, strong and understanding. I would have flailed significantly longer had I not had such powerful and immediate support.

Anxiety might not go away, you just get better at dealing with it.

And finally; Love is a whole bunch of tiny little acceptances and realisations. Not grand gestures and big events. Whether loving yourself or someone else. It’s the little pieces that add up.

Snow and emotions

I recently went for a mini “holiday” and discovered something very interesting about myself… What was meant to be a two night getaway turned into a snowed in long weekend with good people, good drinks and good snowdick building!

Now, when I say interesting, I mean surprising; and I shouldn’t have been surprised, but apparently there has been some intense denial going on in my head…

For starters, I’d like to identify a difference between my ideal self and my actual self… They don’t always align quite as seamlessly as I would like them to, but I guess that’s the journey, right?
My ideal self LOVES the prospect of going away to an isolated farm, detached from an isolated country town with no mobile reception, the possibility of snow in an Australian winter, beer, gin, friends, quad bikes and sleep-ins.
My ACTUAL self (apparently, as I learned) screamed internally for 64 hours straight and felt trapped in a dark cell (roughly translates to “huge holiday home”) with only confusing emotions for company…

Since when was I SO uncomfortable with my own feelings? I’ve always liked my own company! I’m fine on my own, I’d rather talk something through than hold it in! What was happening? Why was this particular situation so challenging for me?

As I shut myself down over the weekend and retreated into myself, I was thrown violently into child. There was no woman, no adult viewing this situation, just an uncomfortable and anxious child trying to escape from what she saw as a threatening situation… I felt out of control. One night while I was there, I promised my partner that I’d give him an honest description of how I was feeling and keep him in the loop, yet responded with “I’m fine, it’s nothing” the very next morning… What was happening to me? I had been working so hard at being level and balanced and fair and suddenly I felt i had reverted back to who I was in my early 20’s! Defensive, anxious, withdrawn…

I got home and went straight to my animals. My comfort. My safe place. My positive energy, my light source.
Things began to settle in my mind and in my heart.
It dawned on me that while I may well be “fine in my own company” I’m usually distracted, I’m usually doing something, or pretending I’m doing something so I don’t have to feel some uncomfortable emotion, and more often than not, I’m still communicating with people in some way or another.
Remove the escapism, put me in a house full of people, remove communication with anyone outside that house and I start realising just how many things I’m not dealing with, I’m just running from them

Again, my ideal self runs headfirst towards emotions and feelings. She opens herself up bravely and gracefully and is able to take a step back from an emotionally charged situation and see the bigger picture, and her place in it…
My actual self saw only the emotions, only the proverbial “NO EXIT” sign on the snowed-in country road. She saw only the 10 minute drive to any hint of mobile reception to get some fresh perspective on the situation. She saw a prison.

When I got home and looked back at it (isn’t hindsight a darling?), I smiled.
I found myself feeling almost proud of myself! Proud?! Pardon?

Yeah. Proud. What I’d just done was become aware (painfully so) of an issue, an area for improvement, identified it, voiced it (to my partner) and then simply not known what to do with it. And that’s ok!
Recognising an issue like this, a behaviour that you find undesirable to have in your life, is really half the battle won! Working out how to change it, what to do with it and how to remove it from your habit bank takes practice, skill and a whole bunch of trial and error.

Did I fix the problem? I don’t know. Have I begun to practice mindfulness every (other) day in an attempt to stop charging blindly through my life and flinging emotions to the side to get them out of my way? Definitely.
Has it helped? I believe so.

I want to be ok with silence. Every kind of silence, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. The whole lot. So far, mindfulness exercises are astounding me with their ability to reset my mind, stop the frantic whizzing of thoughts, feelings and information and give me a stable, blank canvas to start again with.

Try here for some good starters on mindfulness. I’ve barely made it past the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise and already finding huge changes in my life…
When I’m getting worked up, I’m getting better at reminding myself (or my wonderful boyfriend reminds me) to take a moment and be mindful. To stop the snowball of frantic thoughts and actions and take a step back.

It’s very easy to lose sight of the big picture when all the little pieces of it are demanding so much of your attention, energy, time… But losing sight of the big picture means we lose sight of what is important to us; what we’re fighting for, or working towards or what we’ve just overcome.

Step back. Breathe in. Breathe out. Count some objects and tell yourself you’re amazing. Then keep going. You’ve got this.