Thankful.

This week the universe decided to remind me of what I have, and be bloody thankful for it. It was a week of surprising and sad developments, in large unpredictability. Here’s what I took away from life’s casualty room.

Death is a strange thing.
When a life ends, we grieve the loss ceremoniously. We gather with people who we might not ordinarily see, save for such ‘events’. We spend time talking with friends who we’ve not caught up with in a while. Death brings people and families together. Funny, then, that it also often creates the tensions that tear them apart. And there is something heart-breakingly sad about watching families deal with a loved one’s death.
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Relationships are strange things.
They are the source of our greatest joy and our worst heartache. And whilst love is built on trust, shared desires, hopes, beliefs and understandings between two people – the fact of the matter is that people change. It’s the nature of things. Relationships that last are the ones that embrace growth and change together. It is overwhelmingly sad when a relationship ends because that didn’t happen.
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Grief is a process.
It can be a death; it can be a relationship. Either way, the grief that follows is a process that can’t be avoided. It’s amazing to me that more time isn’t spent on arming people to deal with grief, as it’s inevitable that we all face it at sometime in our lives. Grief has recognisable stages, and learning this helped me greatly when I waded through its murk a few years ago. Sometimes long, sometime short, but always – hard.
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Three year olds make everything better.
After a few days of watching friends worlds turn upside down, witnessing their pain and feeling quite helpless…there’s this: my daughter, lying on her tummy on the floor, singing her own songs, writing a letter to Santa because she wants to “make sure he knows I love him”. Her voice is melodic and tuneful, her feet swaying in the air, her letter a zig-zag of lines. She’s so happy. Watching her makes me happy too. I catch my partner’s eye and we share the moment with small smiles. Like everything in this life, she will change and grow, and it is my fondest wish to see it all and be part of it – just as I am right at that moment.
Belle Autumn 1-7
Suddenly I realise exactly what I have, how lucky I am to have it – and I am bloody thankful for it.

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All by myself.

I have a confession to make.

I really, really love time alone. Time with my thoughts. Time with a great book. Time with just me.

I had some of that precious time late last Saturday afternoon. I really needed it – my gorgeous three-year-old daughter had filed down my psyche with hours of incessant ‘why?’, thoughts of work were intruding, urging me to click on the computer and get it done, and I was tired, bone tired.

So I was given a leave pass. I threw on some comfy clothes, grabbed my headphones and music and drove to a nearby favoured beach-walking destination. I felt very free and excited about the prospect of a good, long walk with just my thoughts for company. I marvelled at the ‘want’ for this – as someone who sees exercise as a necessity rather than an enjoyable past-time, I was pretty amazed by my desire to pound the pavement. I walked hard for about an hour, took the occasional photograph on the walk back, and generally left feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the madness of kids and home again.
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But now – today – it’s a different story. It’s early morning and I’m sitting in the kitchen listening to my daughter sing. She’s singing about made-up things, fairy wings and Barbie dolls, pink happiness. It is so honest and beautiful it’s making me weep. How could I have wished time away from this little angel and wanted more for myself? How could I ever intentionally miss these special and innocent moments, the same ones I often wish I could save, bottle and trickle out over time like drops of expensive perfume – tantalising and so wonderfully connected to memory. It will all be gone too soon; I feel ashamed for ever wanting to actually ‘get away’ – this makes me weep more.

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There are a few relevant points to this story. They’re nothing new, but worth reiteration.

Point 1: Everyone needs time to recharge their batteries. People in a ‘happy place’ are usually more tolerant, patient and able to cope with life’s little challenges. And if you’re a Mum – by looking after yourself you become more equipped and better at looking after others. Note: this last point is supported by medical advice. Yes, it’s true – my doctor told me to take a little time out for myself, everyday, to (and I quote) “ensure you don’t officially lose-it”. Point taken.

Point 2: Wanting to be on your own, with your own thoughts, doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person – it makes you human.

Point 3: Motherhood is simultaneously the best and the scariest roller-coaster ride you’ll ever be on. Here’s why this analogy works – you just hang on and try and enjoy the ride; it’s impossible to ensure the safety of all your passengers but you can try; you’ll always worry about whether the wheels are on the track; there are highs, there are lows, either way, it’s a memorable ride; it’s dangerous, thrilling and unpredictable – need I go on?

What have I learned? I try not to feel guilty for wanting time alone. Instead, I remind myself to be thankful for all the time I’m not.

…hear me roar.

Yesterday I attended the Newcastle Writers Festival, a session entitled “How women are changing social media”. Carol Duncan of ABC Radio Newcastle shepherded Jane Caro, Kerri Sackville, Rebecca Olive and Marina Go through a discussion of how these strong women each utilise and influence social media in their work, their careers and their lives. And strong women they are – in thought, in the pursuit of their chosen field, in their passion and in solidarity; even when panelists expressed an apparent difference of opinion, the general discussion moved towards encouraging one speaker not to undervalue her voice, rather than pursue a right/wrong scenario.

I loved this session. And whilst I don’t think these women stayed directly on-topic, I didn’t care. They were successful women talking about a brave new social media world which is all-inclusive, easily accessible and tremendously exciting. They outlined concepts I understood and mentioned platforms I use. They shared anecdotes, made us laugh, nod our heads in understanding and shake them in sympathy. I walked out inspired and more determined than ever to keep exploring and contributing to this new electronic realm. It was bloody great.

I’m not going to revisit the detail of the discussion here, but I will share what I took away:

1. A reaffirmation that social media is here to stay.
This one’s important because I’ve had a minor crisis of late, mainly due to my circle of friends and family not being as enamoured with, or excited by social media as I am. I’ve felt like a bit of an island, so at the very least – the Writers Festival session has propelled me back into the archipelago.

2. An enduring admiration for the panelists.
Already a fan of Jane Caro, and with some memories of Marina Go as a teenage-magazine editor, I was unprepared for the ‘smartness’ of all 5 women at the front of the room. The quickly articulate Kerri; the powerful pocket-rocket Jane; the quietly confident and elegant Marina; the earnest and humble Rebecca; the eloquent and dulcet-toned Carol… what a powerhouse of female intelligence. If I didn’t follow or subscribe to them on twitter, WordPress, BlogSpot or the web before – I certainly do now.

3. A sunny-side-up feeling about life in general.
I’m not saying I’m the smartest person I know, not even close. Nor am I the most philanthropic or even very sympathetic person. I’ve definitely got my faults. But I think I generally recognise them; I am a work in progress. In the meantime I do try to live an ethical, empathetic and mindful life. So with this in mind – lately I’ve been reading, hearing and seeing a God-awful lot of stories about horrible, stupid, rotten and/or just mightily dumb people and things. Selfish acts by thoughtless humans. Harmful, hurtful and generally clueless things. My opinion of current, broader societal values and behaviours has been at an all-time low. My thoughts about the world my daughter will grow into have been particularly bleak. So it was truly wonderful to spend an hour or so being simply inspired, sitting with like-minded peeps and exploring…..possibilities. Thinking about and feeling empowered, acknowledging the ‘good stuff’ that can be and is being achieved by women in social media. Talking about taking people to task, accountability, exposing bullies. Listening to stories of success and shared wisdom. It. Was. Awesome. I left Newcastle City Hall with a spring in my step and a headful of smiley thoughts.

4. A compelling feeling.
I like writing, but haven’t committed to it in a long time. I did write a diary for my daughter during her first 2 years of life about her achievements, cute moments and baby-milestones, for her to read when she’s older (perhaps as a teenager when she’s not liking me so much) – but that’s it. So earlier this year I started this blog: my sanity-saver, my challenge and my biggest leap into the unknown in a long time. I’ve set myself a goal of writing once a week. It doesn’t sound like a huge commitment but as someone who works, has a partner, a 3-year-old, a household and two 15-year-old dogs, well, it is. So to walk away from an experience and actually want to write and write and write…whoa! Be still my fingers! Hold the phone on the thesaurus! Charge that lap-top! Perhaps this point should be entitled ‘Inspired’ or ‘Excited’ or ‘Caffeinated’? It doesn’t matter. The ‘gift of the urge’ is precious.

My final thoughts?
If you’re reading this blog it means you’re somewhat web savvy, so go mull over the social media stylings of the women mentioned above. You won’t regret it.

Thank you ladies.

Little ditty.

Last weekend was Easter. We had a couple of days where we bounced from one event to another. A busy, full and generally happy weekend – but I didn’t make my Sunday blog deadline.

However I did spend some time thinking about what I might write. I realised that lately I’ve been surrounded by ditties: short, simple, catchy, tuneful. The sort that persist in your head. My daughter Belle’s favourite books, all cadence and rhythm, suited to a three year-old’s sensibilities – we read them over and over. Belle’s teenage cousin’s facebook post, a youtube video with a boppy song about keeping all your fingers whilst you knock out the beat with a knife (don’t ask!). The Easter Bunny’s gift to Belle in exchange for her baby-dummys: a toy pony that walks, talks and repeatedly sings ‘Are you excited, are you, are you? Are you excited, are you, are you?’.

I thought about something I once wrote, my own little ditty for Belle. I came up with a four beat rhyming verse (tetrameter?) to accompany a photo of my daughter’s shampooed hair. It was short and punchy – a good companion for the photo – and she loved it. I decided to complete it for this week’s post, so here ’tis. Inspired by, and with thanks to the works of Dr. Seuss.

Belle’s hair.
A ditty for my daughter.

Belle likes her hair,
She likes it lots.
She likes it straight,
Not tied in knots.

She likes it clean,
She likes it shiny.
She keeps it well,
For one so tiny.
Belle's hair
She wears it high,
She wears it low.
She’ll change it twice
Before she goes.

And when she runs,
Her hair does bounce
From left to right,
Like frill or flounce.
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On days when rain
The clouds unfurl,
It makes it frizz,
It makes it curl.

But in the end,
Belle still does smile.
She likes her hair,
In any style.

And I must say,
I like it too!
But ‘why?’ you ask,
‘What works for you?’

And so my friends,
I must then tell –
I like it lots,
Because it’s Belles.
Belle posing