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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

World Mental Health Day

I penned this post on Thursday 10 October 2019, which was World Mental Health Day. It’s taken me a few days to be ready to share it here. x

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If you’re following our blog for a while now, you’ll know that I have an amazing life, filled with loving relationships and creative passions.

What you might NOT know is that I also have GAD – Generalised Anxiety Disorder. It waxes and wanes with life events (menopause is wreaking havoc at the moment) and on occasion, it’s tipped over into some pretty savage clinical depression.

Until recently, I’ve always seen my anxiety as a flaw, something that I was simply too weak-willed to manage. I didn’t talk about it very much. And then I started to see anxiety manifesting in the next generation of my immediate and extended family, and I began to understand the strong genetic basis behind my anxiety. And I realised that I needed to talk about it more openly, so that I could reassure those whom I love that it’s NOT a flaw. It’s NOT something to beat ourselves up about. It just IS. Once we learn to be a bit kinder to ourselves, it becomes much easier to manage.

As it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d share that with you too.

If you’re an anxious bunny like I am, then I offer you my empathy. I understand waking up with a knot in your stomach for no reason, or overthinking a minor event into a catastrophe. I know that feeling when the worrying gets so overwhelming that you lie in bed and wish you were dead. Honestly, I get it. But I urge you to be kind to yourself – so much has been written today asking others to be kind to folks with mental health issues, but very little has been said about the need to be kind to ourselves.

In a way, having anxiety is like having poor vision – it’s not something you’ve caused or have any control over, it’s just the way you’re made. And like dodgy eyesight, it’s something you can compensate for. Find what works for you – for me, exercise, meditation and a supportive family unit keep things relatively even keeled – but understand that the anxiety is probably going to flare up again at some time. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or stupid or not trying. In fact, I think it means the exact opposite. We’re POWERFUL, because we’re dealing with stuff that so many people can’t even begin to understand.

Years ago, I had a friend whose young son had cerebral palsy (she’s still my friend, and he’s now a strapping teenager). He was high functioning and attending a normal infants school, but he would go completely crazy at 5pm every day. She couldn’t figure out what was happening until a paediatrician explained to her that kids with CP have to work very hard to hold themselves physically upright – something that able-bodied children do instinctively and easily. So by the end of each day, he was completely exhausted and just couldn’t keep it together anymore.

I use this analogy a lot for anxiety. When my anxiety is severe (and please don’t worry, it’s not at the moment), it’s like my cup is full to the brim (not in a good way) and any little thing can cause it to overflow. When this happens, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to function as usual – something that folks with calmer dispositions do without thought – and sometimes the effort of maintaining “normality” completely wipes me out. The difference now (as compared to most of my earlier life) is that when this happens, I try to be kind to myself. I don’t self-flagellate or criticise or get angry at myself. I just try to ease up my hectic schedule, get lots of rest, and wait for it to pass. It always has.

I’m feeling a bit anxious and exposed for having written this, but I hope it helps someone who reads it. If it does, then it was worth it. ♥

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The True Cost

The True Cost is an incredibly moving documentary, and one which is relevant to all of us. I strongly urge you to watch it – it’s available on Netflix, or you can purchase it directly from the movie  website.

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You might never look at clothing in the same way again – I know I certainly won’t. For too long, we’ve simply bought, worn and discarded clothes without really understanding the price being paid for it by both the planet and the one in six people worldwide who work in the industry. Fast fashion is, quite literally, killing the people who make it.

The documentary is confronting and challenging, but also enlightening and extremely important. I didn’t know that clothing consumption had increased by 400% over the past twenty years, or that 250,000 Indian farmers growing cotton had been driven to suicide over the same period. I didn’t know that most cheaply made garments donated to charity were ending up in countries like Haiti and destroying their local industry as a consequence. I didn’t know children were being born with severe mental retardation as a suspected result of pesticide use.

But I do now. Knowledge is the power that informs choices, and our individual informed choices can create change for the greater good.

I hope you have an opportunity to watch this, and that it gives you as much reason to pause and reassess as it gave me. ♥

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Our Urban Village

I came home recently to find teenagers on our back deck, using our wifi.

Don’t worry, they had permission. The internet had gone down at their house, so they’d hot-footed it across the road to use ours. The fact that we weren’t home didn’t make any difference.

And for the umpteenth time since we moved here nearly 30 years ago, I gave thanks for this wonderful urban village that we live in.

We love our house, but it’s just bricks and mortar at the end of the day – what makes it special is the neighbourhood it’s located in. I recently came across a post I wrote six years ago, and it occurred to me that while some of the faces have changed, the essence of our community hasn’t. It’s still a street where folks say hello, share food and conversation, and look out for one other. And it made me wonder – what makes a neighbourhood a village? Why is our little corner of the inner west so magical?

When I was a child, I desperately wanted to live in a village. Perhaps it’s what every new immigrant wants – when my parents arrived in the late 1960s, barely speaking English and the only Chinese family in the area, they left behind all their loved ones. I was only four, but old enough to remember the noise and laughter and camaraderie that filled our house back in Malaysia. We went back for (very) occasional visits as I was growing up, and I have vivid memories of family and friends, gathered around kitchen tables, eating and talking loudly. It seemed to be a wonderful way to live.

So I feel incredibly lucky to have found this neighbourhood.

I love that we’re able to share our food, time and resources in a relaxed, easy way. Mark mows our front lawn, Jane brings me cocktails, and last week, Graeme dropped over sashimi plates and smoked meats. PeteV bought us a fancy bluetooth thermometer for Rosie the Smoker, so that we could sleep through the night rather than getting up three times to check the thermostat. Maude spends early mornings crocheting and drinking tea with me, Margaret made us a jar of her secret family chutney, and on a really good day, June will drop over a plate of her amazing Hungarian cabbage rolls.

In return, we hand out loaves of bread, share our old vintage ports and force feed everyone experimental chocolate. Last weekend, we pulled out an entire bed of perennial leeks from the garden and left them on the back deck so that the neighbours could come and help themselves.

I say “in return”, but in truth, it’s never been a case of quid pro quo. None of us keep track of what we’re giving or receiving, because what’s actually happening is that we’re building a community. Every neighbourly exchange gives us an opportunity to interact, nourish and build relationships, while always respecting each other’s personal space.

It also makes our village a safer place to live – when Pete and I go away, the boys have a dozen numbers to call of folks who will drop everything and run over if they need help (not that it’s such an issue now that they’re both adults). We keep an eye on each other’s houses, chase runaway pets down the road, and text when we think something might be amiss.

Let me give you an example of how well it all works. Darling Norma passed away a couple of months ago at the grand old age of 92. She’d had several strokes and couldn’t remember our names anymore, but she’d been able to keep living at home, on her own, largely because of her neighbours on both sides. They would drive her to doctors’ appointments, take out her rubbish, ring to tell her there was someone at the door (she was quite deaf), and so much more. Norma was born on our street, but it was Jane and Jacinta’s love and care that made it possible for her to spend her final days here.

Over the years, we’ve watched our sons and the other neighbourhood babies grow up and head off into the world, going to university, travelling overseas, starting careers and getting married. I hope that one day, they too will all find villages of their own. ♥

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It’s About Connection

What is it we all need?

Hannah Gadsby would argue that it’s connection.  What every human being wants, at their core, is a way to connect with others.

I watched her program Nanette on Netflix recently, and would urge anyone who has access to it to spend an hour of their time doing the same. Perhaps it will speak to you as powerfully as it did to me. ♥

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Holding Hands

After 35 years together, almost to the day, I love that he still holds my hand on the bus. ♥

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