Iso-gardening for my sanity

If you have followed my instagram at all you would know that my lifestyle changed drastically 18 months ago when my mother (and boss) was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I had an 11 month old and 5 year old just starting school at the time.

Fast forward to this year, the situation worsened and my work/life balance was thrown out. Amongst COVID isolation, being unable to see family, mum knocking at the pearly gates and scaring us all, job insecurity for hubby, Judd being hospitised and, home schooling. Oh the glorious home schooling 👎

There is only so much one naturally anxious person can take without waving the white flag.

This began my journey with depression medication, and later on, growing plants.

I killed 99% of my house plants before I purchased a Zanzibar – labelled “The plant you can’t kill”. It thrives on neglect. My kind of leafy friend. I do recall begging it not to die and promised I’d water it occasionally, they say talking to plants helps (or maybe I had too many of these 🍷).

After a shitful period of time I thought “fuck it”, if I have no control over where I can go, who I can see, no control over much at all at the present, maybe I can gain some control back and master growing something else, fostering little seeds and seedlings into becoming more than dismal disappointments that we’ve all experienced of late.

The metaphoric iso gardening train came and I sat right up front with the driver.

It so happens my work has garden supplies, fabulous, easy access to gardening gear in covid lockdown. It also so happens work opened a nursery recently. Even better!

But prior to that I grabbed whatever seeds I could, old corrugated iron sheets, some sticks of 90×45 pine, a handful of hope and my handy husband, and I knocked together my first raised planter.

I planted carrot seeds, heirloom tomatoes (rouge de marmande), onions, peas, marigolds, cornflower and echinacea. Beside a potted bamboo I planted a seed potato.

Weeks were spent in winter catching up on Gardening Australia. Never thought I’d see myself as a 32 year old watching that show, but it is actually pretty fucking awesome at teaching amatuers like myself.

After a short while of checking moisture levels, and again, speaking to what I thought were inanimate objects, seeds began sprouting.

Somehow, in all of the negativity, the cold wintry frosty weather, I grew my first vegie seedlings.

It may be largely due to there being literally no other entertainment options not previously exhausted, but I think it is rather the sprouting of hope. I physically made something thrive and that helped to gently coax me out of my funk.

Oh the excitement as flowers bloom, and leaf develops from a stick (those crepe myrtle trees are tricky little stickys!)

That’s a whole lot more excitement than I experienced beforehand.

Is gardening hard work? Heck yes. But you receive instant gratification from weeding and harvesting and for a depressive, anxiety ridden human that is worth a lot.

The silver lining of Covid is learning skills that generations past were raised to master at a young age. It somehow feels “right” to go back to our roots and connect with the soil we inhabit.

After joining gardening groups online, you see that age is not a defining factor in how people connect and the desire to give advice and share knowledge is abundant.

That type of community spirit can brighten anyone’s day. Once Cootieville, aka Melbourne, returns to some type of normal I hope to join the local community garden group to learn even more and create more positive pathways.

Gardening is not just for retirees. It has soothing qualities to it that trains your brain in mindfulness, while getting boosts of vitamin D and fresh air. As a parent of young ones it can be challenging juggling the garden and the kids needs, but that is why I teach them to water for me 😂

If I had not began my own gardening adventure I cannot imagine what sort of state I would be in now. No, not a progressed state of talking to indoor plants that can’t talk back, it would be further journeying down a pit of despair and self pity that is neither healthy nor helpful for anyone.

Honestly, give growing your own food or flowers a go! The worst thing that can happen is that they die and you replant with new knowledge not to make that mistake next time.

100% it has changed my brain chemistry for the better and helped me let go of things I cannot change.

Until next time

Sha x

You can grow potato in a decorative planter with a bamboo plant, right? Ugly barricades courtesy of my old dog who likes to bury her bones
Spinach and cornflower grown from seed
Cucumber seeds sprouting

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

I saw her. I could see her heart thumping without seeing her heart at all. Living off adrenaline. Survival mode. Her baby, not quite 6 months old, sitting quietly on her lap with oxygen tubes attached to his face.

A hospital sleep specialist walks by to make himself a coffee. Courageously he asks, “how are you, and how is he going?”.

You could pressume that he was assigned to the baby as his specialist by the way the woman responded, you’d be wrong.

“Exhausted. I’m utterly exhausted.”, the mother replied. “This is so tiring.”

The staff members eyes widen as if to suggest he received more than he’d bargain for, and regretted asking anything in the first place. He walks away – politely but awkwardly smiling.

The room is quiet. After reading a brochure, I look up. She sits there jiggling her leg to bounce her baby. Jittering, fidgeting. This mother has not slept properly for some time.

Her inner engine is at full revs trying to get through the day. A symptom of stress all too familiar.

I blurt out, “Is he in here for sleep testing?”. Fully aware it’s likely to be for something else.

“Oh, he’s on a CPAP. We’ve just had an overnight sleep study a week ago. It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Because I didn’t have to worry and fuss, I knew someone was going to be there to watch him too. It wouldn’t just be me. ”

The flood gates open.

I can’t help but empathise and ask, has she got any help at home. “No. Not if you count a husband who argues with me in the middle of the night about the baby.”

She was alone. She is alone. And vulnerable. Maybe craving for someone to hear her out. And to validate that her emotions are accepted by someone. Her own opinion is not enough.

I sigh for her and share in her disappointment in the lack of support. Then spend the next 5 minutes listening to her story. The story of her baby having a “floppy airway” otherwise known as laryngomalacia. It creates an obstruction which stops him from breathing. She can’t sleep knowing this. Who could? The respiratory team and ENT battle over how to manage it, constantly.

They decided to perform a bronchoscopy recently to get a visual of it. Her son needed to be resuscitated twice in recovery. Putting on hold any surgical solution for the condition. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her.

She counted, almost 50 times she woke up to adjust his machine the previous night. She said her son had always sounded congested from birth but for some time nobody wanted to listen to her concerns. His condition is serious.

We were interrupted by each of our specialist nurses and doctors and went our separate ways.

If she were ever to read this, I would want her to know that I was privileged to hear her story. A stranger she may be, but a fellow comrade she is.

People often steer away from those who are full to the brim with the challenges in their lives, what if we were all eager to engage with them and connect with them? To hear their story, acknowledge their vulnerability and validate their feelings. How different the world could be.

This mother was at the end of her tether. Maybe she needed just one nice thing to show her that all is not dark and grim. That there is more to this life than scary things out of her control that send you pleading on your knees for mercy. To be heard, to have openness and understanding is worth more than any physical gift you can give someone.

Sending out love to all of you in my tribe who did this very thing for me recently. Your kindness makes the day shine a little brighter.

Sha x

**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth

Christmas Anxiety

Christmas Anxiety

Colourful lights, beautiful decorations, Christmas music everywhere and not to mention the Christmas dinners, lunches and other events you are lucky enough to have been invited to. A time to get into the spirit and put a smile on your dial.

Unless you are Mum who already deals with anxiety.

The to-do lists are infinite and with every one task, each present bought, it feels as if 3 more sprout. Like the annoying grey hairs in your regrowth that you pluck out because you haven’t made it to the hairdressers in over 3 months. Or you stopped dyeing your hair because you don’t get the time.

Christmas is a wonderful time when you have small children but being Santa, being the homemaker, or even being the breadwinner, can feel like you have to find more than 24 hours in a day just to get all of the food and gifts prepped before Christmas.

I have spent many years winding myself up over the Christmas rush. Worrying I wouldn’t get a carpark (you eventually do), stressing that the traffic would be too bad (it eventually moves on), or that the gifts I made/bought would not be good enough (if the receiver doesn’t like it then that really is their problem), circulating these thoughts may sound like fun but it sucks the enjoyment out of the festive activities. Who would have thought.

So, when I thought of writing this post a week ago, I have since tested some theories and put them into practice to that I can report back my findings.

One may consider photo printing stores such as Officeworks a no-go so close to Jesus’ birthday but I decided to take the bull (reindeer?) by the horns (antlers?) and strap in for a lengthy wait. After some chaotic and stressful weeks I was able to shift perspective and somewhat crazily look forward to standing a line merely thinking about nothing more than the ground I was standing on. With that perspective and more relaxed attitude, I found the lines to be shorter – even making conversations with other waiting Mum’s (there were a few of us of varying ages) and assisting others to use the machines! If THAT isn’t in the true spirit of Christmas then I don’t know what is.

This technique has carried on and while some days I have become flustered, for the most part I have felt calm enough to let the pushy people push in front of me without wasting my breath telling them off, only to have people waiting behind me comment on my baby boys beautiful smile.

I observed the most delightful elderly couple, who had also commented on JJ’s smile (this happens a lot), walk together as the husband helped his less mobile wife walk with confidence, ensuring she didn’t trip or fall. Stopping to look back and smile at us occasionally. Friendliness you think has dissipated in this world.

Another Christmas anxiety-inducer is the thought that the 25th is a deadline for any fun activities. That you must complete all Christmas traditions before that time. Quickly squeeze in that trip to Santa’s Magical Kingdom when you already want to look at Christmas lights, check out the local estate Christmas party in the park while making sure you are home for Santa to drive around the streets in the firetruck (because what kid doesn’t like that). If only I had Doctor Strange’s time stone. Instead I have chosen a few achievable items on the list and otherwise spent time our family or practicing self-care by doing yoga whilst drinking some bubbles then painting my nails watching Home Alone. Merry Christmas to me! And the daily stress afterwards seemed bearable to cope with.

Anxiety is a horrid and all-consuming condition that helps you find the flaws in almost anything. It amplifies the negatives. What would typically be exciting becomes overwhelming and sickening. If you can get some quality sleep, a couple of minutes or hours to care for yourself then you have more chance of battling the crowds at the shops without becoming so irate you hip and shoulder Barbara in Aisle 5 for cutting in front of you.

My Christmas wish for all of you is that you get some you time, so you can spent the remainder of your time with loved ones living in the moment without accumulated stress or worry.

Enjoy the Holiday Season, Have a Very Merry Christmas and Happiest New Year