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

You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

Have you ever got to a point in life where you thought, what happened to me? Some major event occurred in your life and what was important at that time shifted. Like a huge universal shift. This happened to me. And I know this happens to most parents, or anyone going through huge changes.

Before this version of me I was the partygoing, wild and crazy person. I was a “woo” girl. I still knew how to prioritise, budget and act like an adult, but high on my list of priorities was waltzing down to the local club, bar, pub, party, basically anywhere that my friends were having a “piss up”. I wouldn’t drink enough to erase my memory of the night but would drink enough to lose inhibitions so that I could dance around like a hippie at Woodstock (minus the acid). I loved to listen to music loud enough to make your ears bleed and with such randomness that you’d often hear me listening to Killswitch Engage and Edith Piaf in the same 10 minutes. I’d completed an Associate Degree in Fashion, worked my tush off with a variety of designers until I realised it wasn’t for me, then I continued partying some more. It was fun. There were minimal responsibilities and I was in the process of building a house and planning a European holiday with Shane.

If you know me, or have read any previous posts then you would be aware that what happened next flipped my world upside down and around so hard that it felt like I was slapped in the face. We fell pregnant with Zac and immediately I renounced who I was. I now had to be a mother. Mums don’t have fun. Mums don’t party, that would be ‘unacceptable’. Mums don’t spend time or money on themselves. That would be ‘selfish’. Mums simply cannot behave one iota of the way they did before falling pregnant. That would be ‘immature’. I call bullshit.

Now I know this because I spent a good few years pretending to be a mother, a person, that I was not. The pressure was mostly from myself and the lack of grit to ignore judgement from others. I psychologically beat myself up until I didn’t even know who I was anymore. This was not the first time I had done this. When difficult periods of life arose the same thing would happen.

I even found myself latching onto confident people as if they exuded some sort of contagious confidence disease that I may eventually catch. I lost myself so deeply that whenever I was placed under stress no matter how small, I would explode.

All of me was trapped inside like I was holding myself hostage. It was not sustainable and at various points I would just live each day, not feeling anything but utter emptiness. I silenced my soul, what truly made me happy and forced myself into auto-pilot mode because if I couldn’t keep myself happy then I’d better at least try to make my family and close friends happy so I didn’t feel completely useless. I did what I thought others expected of me.

This became such an issue that for a long time I recall forcing myself to laugh at things. And laying in bed at night wondering why I couldn’t legitimately laugh at anything, even if I thought it was truly funny. Fake me. Fake attitude. Fake smile. Fake life. What on earth was I doing.

I’d like to say that one day I just snapped out of it – but that would be incorrect. It took months and years of “ah ha” moments, reading, practicing yoga, watching inspiring movies (or just reality TV of people’s lives that I envied), exercising and researching on repeat just to get it through my head that if I did not start DOING something this would be my life forever. I would die not doing anything I researched about. I would die not having lived.

My son would not look at me with respect, he would look at me with pity or he would grow up in my image. Don’t speak up, Zac. Sit there, be quiet and be sure not to say what you feel because you might offend someone, Zac. Children are to be seen and not heard. Fuck that. Fuck that thought back to where it came from.

We teach him (and will teach his brother) to respect others but now especially, respect himself. Because if you don’t respect you, and who you are deep down into your core beliefs, then you will forever float through life like a mindless zombie. That type of damage is exponentially tough to reverse.

I remember apologising so often for Zac’s energetic personality that I prevented myself from seeing any good in him. A very difficult truth for me to share. He is a wonderfully motivated, bright child and how in the world could I smother the flame within him because I cared what jo-blo who I hardly know thought of him and my parenting abilities.

I want my children to grow up feeling secure, sure of themselves, confident to ask questions, because if you don’t ask then you don’t get, but also be kind and respectful. Zac is polite, manners have been taught. He is given healthy boundaries, but I simply refuse to apologise or try to mould what makes him who he is, into some robot child.

I want the same for you, whoever you are reading this. I want you to like you who are as a person and I want you to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know you are being true to yourself

The best advice I have received all year was from a midwife while I cried in the hospital room. You do you. Stuff what other people think or say. So long as you are respectful to yourself and the world. Just do YOU, and the people that truly love you will stick by you.

How, though. How do you pull out that wonderful persona back into the forefront?

Commitment. Do you know what is scarier than change? Staying in a shit situation that you hate for the rest of your life. Sometimes it takes getting to the end of your tether to be able to commit to bettering yourself.

The Penny Dropping tactic. Do you feel something is not sitting right? Like a mad scientist, observe and record what has taken place leading up to this feeling. A pattern will appear. Then “ah huh”, the penny drops and you have narrowed down what to tackle next.

Priorities. Write them down and number them in order of importance and consider if this is ACTUALLY how you want to prioritise, or are you appeasing other people rather than yourself. Now write the list again, this time numbering what you’d ideally like to come first.

Get your shit together. The less time and money spent chasing your tail, the more spent on things that you enjoy. Get a calendar or diary system that suits you. For years I tried to utilise hard copy diaries. I have doctor handwriting which made it totally illegible and I would forget to bring it with me . Now I use Google Calendar on my phone, which allows you to colour code and it syncs to your devices. Winning.

Planning and goal setting. Honestly, try it. A few months ago I mind-mapped goals for the year. what I listed what I wanted to achieve, and I am smashing through that list. Sometimes you just need a visual.

Journaling. Do a personal mind dump of the things that cloud your thoughts. Nobody has to read it. You don’t even have to read it. You can scrunch it up and use it for dunny paper if you really wish. It is all about creating space in your mind for things that hold value to YOU. Not thoughts about other people or topics that are not of personal importance.

Listen to old school music that made you happy and dance around in your lounge room like an idiot. This is probably the most important tip.

Empower yourself to be the driver of your own life. Nobody else will fix your problems. There is no magical knight riding on a unicorn that saves you from yourself. That’s why you need to remember who you are. Live life in a way that does justice to your soul. YOU DO YOU. Stick to your guns and be ballsy and daring in your own life.

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Resources

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Also a movie where Liz is played by Julie Roberts. It is a brilliant journey of self-discovery

Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck) – All out legend. Business mogul but the most REAL motivational speaker, even though he admits he isn’t one officially. Follow him on socials

Robin Sharma – Author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title. By storytelling, Robin conveys many messages regarding self discovery and building your own confidence.

Maggie Dent – A seasoned school principal but shares her most effective strategies for raising children and building their confidence and resilience

Killswitch Engage, or Korn – because when you are mad, frustrated or emotional you need to let it out and a great way to do so is by listening to metal

Mum Guilt: the process of letting it go

We’ve all been there at some point. You feel guilty because your baby cries and you cannot for the life of you figure out why. You get mad at them and feel so horribly guilty for it because they are so beautiful and innocent. Maybe you accidentally bumped their head on the car when putting your little one into their seat, maybe you disciplined your preschooler and they are so upset it feels like it’s tearing your heart out. You needed to go back to work because of finances or maintaining positions in your career (current feels). Or it could be ensuring both children equally get enough attention and love, and do they eat enough fruit and veg? And this one, the absolute peak of my guilt, the most I have ever experienced- “I am depriving my child because I am unable to breastfeed”.

When we look back, we usually see how trivial the guilt is, and how we were simply doing the best we could at the time. However given the fact I’m on my second baby, and I do have that foresight, I wanted to buck up and deal with it NOW so I can enjoy my baby and preschooler without the constant negativity lingering. After moping around for a couple of weeks I set out with determination and put into practice techniques I had learnt to overcome this type of situation (yet had pushed them to the back of my mind while I had my little pity party).

Us parents just want the best for our children. We’d do anything within our capabilities to secure a safe, healthy and happy future for them and instill values that ensue success. But if you are a dweller or a worrier like I am you almost create the opposite environment for them by letting all of the guilt take over from what is important. Reading this you may feel it is time to make a change, as I did. I will give some pointers but first of all, committing to putting the effort in is the guts of change.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘how’.

You are already choosing, in every moment of every day what to give a f*ck about, so change is about as simple as choosing to give a f*ck about something else”

-Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Here are the strategies I use to redirect my thoughts into more positive ones:

    1. Get that nasty and negative word vomit out in a thought diary. Buy yourself a nice little journal, Kmart have some nice plain paged options. Just pick up a pen and let all of your thoughts flow out onto the paper. I believe there is something about physically writing with a pen on paper that can tap into your psyche more so than using a note app on your phone. This helped me to reduce the amount of negative talk to myself, and helps to stop me alienating myself from my friends and family.
    2. Go outside for a walk. The vitamin D does wonders. Just getting out of your house, which apparently contains more toxic allergens in the air than being outdoors, puts you back in touch with reality. Notice the sky, trees and birds or that freshly cut grass smell. Which brings me to…
    3. Practice mindfulness. Ever find yourself completing a task and can’t remember actually doing it? Or sometimes like me I count out the scoops of formula as I tip them into my baby’s bottle, but my mind wanders to irrelevant thoughts about things I feel guilty about and I lose count. It takes time, but as soon as you feel yourself doing it, stop and bring yourself back to earth. Remind yourself of how consuming those negative thoughts are and refocus your energies only onto the task you are undertaking at that moment. For example, now I try to count out loud when filling the bottle.
    4. Write lists. We often feel guilt when we forget something. Eliminate that by writing lists such as daily tasks. Number them in terms of urgency to ensure you prioritise. Cross out the tasks when you complete them so that you have a visual of the achievement. Buy a cheap little notepad for your shopping lists (mine is from Coles and has a magnet so I can keep it on the fridge). Make it known to the family that if they want something at the shops, it needs to be written on the list. This can also apply to goal setting. Create small goals that work toward a bigger achievement. For example, my husband and I are in week 3 of the Max and Maxine’s 12 week Challenge. I need to write shopping lists and follow a written plan to execute the goals.

      Shopping list notepads readily available from Coles
    5. Yoga. Just yoga. What a way to relax and recentre. I was the first in my family to ever try yoga and have been a fan of it for about 12 years now. If you let it, it will mentally and physically strengthen you. You learn deep breathing, how to forgive yourself and literally breathe out guilt and negativity not relative to the moment. If you have tendencies of being a control freak or a bit neurotic (like me), yoga slows you down and helps you to make that space in your mind you otherwise would not have. Try YouTube or online vids for some classes if you can’t leave the house: Yoga With Adriene
    6. Eat and drink water regularly. We would all feed our kids first of course. But you cant be your best if you don’t fuel your body appropriately. Prepare your meals and snacks for the dayahead hthe night before and ensure you nourish your body. Just commit 5 or 10 minutes to it before you relax for the night. I am way more sensitive to unhelpful self talk and lashing out if I dont eat. Hangry is a thing!
    7. Take 10 minutes a day for “you time”. Don’t mistake how important this is for mental health. It seems somewhat contradictory because you might feel guilty, like you should be doing housework constantly or “living” for your spouse and your kids but if you forfeit this time you are almost guaranteed to put yourself in a mentally weaker state of mind that lets those nasty green gremlin thought and guilt patterns back in.
    8. Experience new things with your family. It doesn’t have to be much, maybe you go for a drive to a new park or drink a coffee and babycino at a nice new cafe. If you have more time or finances then book a little family getaway. Make it fun, and if you fear it will turn sour then limit the time you do it for. Memories are worth more than any gift you ever receive and this is an effective way of redirecting thoughts and generating all the happy hormones we all love and crave.
    9. Commit to a gratitude or bullet point journal. What POSITIVE, AMAZING, FUN things did you see, hear or do today? What made you HAPPY? I have never journalled religiously every day but limiting daily writing to bullet points pulled me out of a horrible guilty rut I was in when I gave up breastfeeding. It consumed me until I decided enough was enough and I wanted to direct my energies to positive things. Be it my children, feeling grateful for having a roof over head, sunshine or a nice food I tried. Anything positive small or big is good enough to talk about and before you know it you will have retrained your brain! There are some beautiful gratitude journals out there such as “I am happy, I am here”
    10. Hugs. Hugs all day, every day. Get that oxytocin flowing.
    11. Distraction and diversion. If you fudge any of the previous things up do not waste any time and get up and aim to complete one of them asap! Some guilt about life is normal but we do not need to further pressure ourselves and dwell, creating layers of it that will taking longer to dismantle. Be proactive. You’ve got this. Start with a small happiness inducing tasks and keep up the momentum as much as you can. If it slows,start from the start. Time can only help you to get better at it.

Above all, take it easy on yourself. Failure is normal and natural. We are programmed to think it is a negative experience but it is one of the biggest drivers of motivation if you let it be! Taking any action at all is better than doing nothing. And it’s less for you to fe guilty about later. I hope these tips are useful for someone out there struggling with mum guilt, dad guilt, any type of guilt really.

✌ Sha xoxo

Resources:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson

“The Happiness Project” and Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin

“I am happy, I am here” gratitude journal

“Remarkability” by Lorraine Marks