Thoughts Over Tea

I feel an intense pressure on myself (all self-created, I know and realise) to have some insightful thoughts on turning 35. Normally, ever year, I take a little time out to reflect on the past year, but this year, I didn’t. I didn’t write about it (I have, for ten years, every year) and I didn’t stop to wallow in my inner sense of what I call “Birthday Emo”. There’s a really good reason for that.

Thoughts over Tea

By nature, I am horribly insecure, needy and annoying. I say this to myself, every day. It’s not a very nice thing to say to oneself though, and it’s also something I’ve been very aware of, especially over the past few years. I have a tendency to overthink everything, take anything said to me as a personal affront, and hit up the defence mechanisms the moment I feel hurt. It’s not been a very successful way to live, and it didn’t make me happy. It also didn’t make the people around me happy.

Perhaps it comes with age, but actively working on my inner monologue has helped to stop myself from constantly trying to gain approval. Yeah, I’m a big mouth about this, because I’ve been all “I don’t need your approval blah blah blah” since my teens but, truthfully, in my head, I’ve wanted it for a long time. It might be a side effect of getting older (cough*wiser*) but I need that less and less every day. I’ve learnt to say no when I need to, and yes when I want to, and to not over-commit myself. Something that the last year has taught me, is that taking care of me, makes everything else easier.

But there’s another side to this. The aggravating level of introspection I’m prone to, led me to beating myself up a lot, and constantly replaying things in my head where I thought I’d failed people (a big thing for me – not so long ago, I did fail at something, or I thought I’d failed someone, but I’ve learnt it was not just me in that situation, but a whole bunch of circumstances too). That beating myself up? Made me feel incapable. It didn’t serve me. It didn’t fix anything. It just made me sad. And, as surprising as it may seem to some people, I actually don’t like being sad.

Dear friends tell me I deserve good things, that I’ve worked towards where I am in my life, determinedly. I don’t think that dogged determination makes you immediately qualifiable for good things, because determination can often mean that you (unwittingly or otherwise) trample over other people. I don’t like trampling on people, possibly because I’ve felt trampled so often in the past.

I try to be a good person, as best I can, but there’s always something that I know I could be better at. Like I could do more charity work, or give more time to things, or, oh I don’t know, reorganise my cupboards in a better fashion. Perhaps I could learn to cook better meals? There’s a list longer than the Great Wall of China of things I could probably be doing better. But that list doesn’t matter in the real life I live, where I am who I am because of what I work towards. I have dreams and goals, ideas and ideals, and if I can go to bed at night having made some personal headway towards them, then I know i am okay. I know I am enough, but I have to remind myself that I am, because I am my own worst enemy sometimes, especially in the wallow of introspection.

So when I woke up on the morning after my 35th birthday, with my dog squished between me and my boyfriend, and my kid cuddled up next to me on the other side, I didn’t question it. I didn’t feel the need to analyse if everyone was where they wanted to be, or worry wart over “gosh, is this the life I wanted? Is this the life they want? Am I enough? Do I deserve this?”

Instead, I lay back, patted my dog, kissed my kid on her head, squeezed my boyfriend’s hand and looked outside to the chilly winter’s morning. And I liked it that way.

Book Review: I Am Pregnant – Dr Dumani Kula

First off, don’t be alarmed (haha), this really is a book review, and not an announcement. It’s also not a sponsored post, but some rather lovely folks sent me a copy of this book to review. It’s one that’s got me thinking a lot over the past few days, since I immersed myself in the text. Here’s my take on:
I Am Pregnant by Dr Dumani Kula.

I Am Pregnant 1

My kid just turned ten so my memories of pregnancy, while burnt into my brain and life, are not as bright as they once were. I’ve probably forgotten about the cankles and the weird cramps that would wake me at 2am. But in reflecting upon my kid’s tenth birthday, the memories of giving birth and all the things that led up to her emergence into the world came flooding back. A dear friend has recently added a son to her family, and it reminded me so much of how the journey towards life is filled with hope. Dr Dumani Kula has related that wonderful, and sometimes tumultuous, story of pregnancy to business, in a new book. I took some time away from my screen to read it.

I Am Pregnant 2

Dr Kula
But before I get into what I think about this enchanting book, I’d like to mention something. The author, Dr Kula, before he began his career in business and worked his way up the ladders of Discovery Health, was a medical doctor. You might think – what the hell does a medical doctor have to think about business? But, really, I want you to put that coffee pot on and let it percolate for a while. Here is a man whose career at one time focused on enabling, sustaining and aiding life. In that case, what better person could there be to write about the life of a business, and especially the beginning of it?

Mentionable Quotes
The thing I’ve enjoyed the most while reading this book, is how Dr Kula’s encapsulated such important concepts in a succinct way. Here are some of my favourite lines:

“The stages before, during and after childbirth are, in many respects, indicative of the journey one has to go through to conceive, carry and deliver dreams and life aspirations”.

“The mark of champions is not always about being the absolute best, but about pushing through the worst, even when all else says it is time to throw in the towel. As for the woman in the labour room, pain is a signal of the concealed greatness that is about to be revealed.”

If you are not mad enough to get out of the rut it is quite possible that you will remain in it.”

A relatable tale
As I read each chapter, I’ve been really enthused by how Dr Kula draws distinctive parallels between a baby’s development, pregnancy and the evolution (and possible obstacles within that!) of a business, but reminding us that life works on cycles, not just a linear pattern. Dr Kula also brings into the story reflections on other business leaders and their practices or approaches, mentioning the like of Steve Jobs and some rather important historical events. There’s also my all-time favourite quote from Victor Hugo included in this book, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover (it’s something my Dad was always determined to distill within my character).

But it’s not just about business
I love the way Dr Kula captures key concepts and makes them relevant for almost every sphere of life, even moving beyond the realm of business. At the end of each chapter, he summarises with key points to remember, and I found that quite useful and reflective to experience as a reader. But it’s Chapter 7 that is my favourite – “Leaving a Lasting Legacy”, because it’s something I am a deep believer in, and I’m not alone in that perspective.

But I’ve said enough for now! Here’s how you can grab a copy of this great book for yourself:

#LoveMyHome with the East Coast Radio House and Garden Show

Moving house is right up there on the stressor scale, and I really think it wigs me out way more than I let on. As you know, we moved towards the end of 2014, and I now love our home. Deeply. It feels like we should’ve been here all along, but I guess that’s a sign of us having made the right move, at the right time. Sure, our house size has expanded too, and we’ve added in our Jake to the mix, turning our house very homely (but then, it was always going to be) and I happily profess that I #LoveMyHome. But the thing about loving this home is that I am constantly in the mood to do something different with it, and always looking for new ways to accent what we’ve got or discover new things for our spaces. That’s why I’m excited for the upcoming East Coast Radio House and Garden Show. Here are the top five things I’m looking forward to this year:

HandGshow 2015

Helping the least green thumb on the planet out:
We’re lucky – our garden is gorgeous and well maintained, thanks to our lovely landlord and incredible help in that department. But I do like to get stuck in now and then and spruce up a little, so it’s cool to see how the House and Garden Show is catering for even the most novice of gardener types. I’ll pop in at The Plant Inn for some indoor and outdoor plants and they’ll have window boxes too – I’ve always loved the idea of window boxes, and I think it’s time I got some.

Living the outdoor life:
To go with that great garden, we’re moving towards eating al fresco more often, so it’s time to invest in a good set of outdoor furniture. That means we’ll have to stop in and chat to the people at the Homewood stand and get some advice on what will suit our dining needs best.

Adding to the Onesie Army:
Overall, we’re big time homebodies and, during the chillier months, you’ll probably find us cuddled up on the couch in our onesies. Yes, all of us. I’ll definitely take a peek at what Chiliwinky has in stock on the onesie and vintage sleepwear side of life!

Décor and design:
I’m also on the hunt for great fabrics at the moment, because I’ve got some cool ideas on adding a few accents and pops of colour to our lounge. Elle Kay Fabricswill be at the House and Garden Show and they’ll be selling fabrics by the metre. I’m looking forward to that! Also, I’m Washi Tape MAD, so I’m happy to see that my favourite Washi Tape supplier, Papertree will be at the show too! Did you know that you could use Washi Tape to decorate gifts, schoolbooks and even your house? Yeah you can. Washi Tape is basically magic. Truth!

Because someone is turning ten:
My daughter has just turned ten, and with all this growing up (guys, why the heck does it go so fast?), her needs for her bedroom are quickly changing. It’s fantastic to see that the House and Garden Show has a big focus through their Kids Zone Exhibitors, so I’m heading to Brilliant Wall Stickers  and shooting over to Mathemagics for some educational software too.

Of course, after taking a meander through the show, I’m going to settle us in for a good meal in the Food Zone, mostly so we can chat about what’s going to go where in our house. I’m going to #LoveMyHome at the ECR House and Garden Show!

Pick up your tickets to the ECR House and Garden Show here and let’s go exploring!

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Ten For Ten.

Sweet child, the idea that you are turning ten leaves me breathless. Every parent says it, but it’s so true for me – I blinked and suddenly you’d morphed from mewling infant into this tall, assured and graceful girl before me.

Here are ten things I want you to know, on your tenth birthday:

1. My admiration for you goes deeper than the roots of the world’s oldest tree.
I say admiration for a reason, because you actively inspire me, every single day. You are not scared to feel scared, and you are not afraid to conquer. You teach me about getting back up again, when you feel knocked down.

2. Your spirit is tenacious.
As a toddler, you danced in the leaves outside your gran’s house, and that dance has not stopped. You do not stop dancing, no matter what song the world is singing. You love music, so don’t stop sharing the music you love with me, and I will not stop showing you the music I love. We find a common ground there that I know is, and will always be, important for both of us.

3. You have an incredible way of handling people.
You’re perceptive, but not intrusive. You have an instinctual way of figuring someone out and going with it. Even the people I battle to read, you just know how to handle. Please remember this skill, all through your life. It will stand you in good stead, as you begin to pick and choose the people you spend time with.

4. You have faced so very much in ten years.
Far more than you and I even want to consider right now, because we’ll end up having a tearful laugh and going to make tea, rather than facing it all again. Let those things you put behind you, stay behind you. You are under no obligation to live with the ghosts of your past, at any time. You do not need to look back – you are not going that way.

5. You can and will laugh at your fears. 
Do you remember those nights when it would storm, and you’d wake up, we’d watch Noddy DVDs and laugh at the thunder? Those nights live in my heart like a flower reaching up for the sunshine. Your cheerful face at 2am, even when you were frightened by all the noise, helped me get past a big fear of mine – storms. You taught me how to brave through them, and you’ve never even known how much they scared me. Spoiler alert – I used to wail and weep like a kid who’d lost their ice-cream every time one hit. You just see storms as an opportunity to have fun and laugh at the sky. Thank you.

6. We are a team.
Both feet in, no judgies, no backsies and no questions. When you were three, you suddenly went from being someone I had to care for, to being my teammate. It’s been like that since, even as our family has morphed into a far bigger team. You are an unquestioning ally, and I am yours. I want us to remain as thick as thieves like this, forever. Yes, that includes yelling “Girls Night” when we want to, and ignoring the world while we cuddle up for movies and popcorn. This is team building. This is what a team does.

7. You’re on the precipice of your teenage years.
Please be nothing like me, and everything like me. I know that might not make sense right now, but I want you to know that it is an incredible journey. The most intense adventures await you, but the biggest one will be the one you take within yourself. This is when that great adventure – the biggest one of your life – truly begins. During the next ten years of your life, you will probably fall in love, discover – at least – one thing that makes your heart sing, and you will begin to form your place in the world. Hold strong to the place you find here, for it will lay the pathway to the next ten, twenty and all the other years.

8. You are your own person, without question.  
When you were four, I asked you to pass me something, and, because you were “reading” you looked up at me and said “I’m busy. Please do it yourself. Stop wasting my reading time”. Cheeky, perhaps, but it showed me how you are not afraid to give people their marching orders when required. Never be afraid to cut people off when they are wasting your time. Do not lose this skill (and yes, I know, you learnt all those lines from me). It is something I wish I had learnt earlier.

9. Please be patient with my mom heart. 
I will never again hear the toddler words like “badum” or “ixbah” erupt from your mouth, for your vocabulary is now beautifully forming and your knowledge base expanding at a rate I battle to catch up with. You no longer have that childlike lisp, and you’re carving words into your tree of life. Please allow me to regale people and bore you with these stories of toddler words and the times you made me laugh – they are jewels embedded in my heart, but you can berate me about sharing them when you need to.

10. You are kind. Do not let the world change you.
And the tenth thing. This is the hard one. You are a kind, generous and sweet soul. Over the next ten years, someone or something, or a situation, or whatever, will hurt you, either intentionally or not. Please, whatever it is, come immediately to me. Heck, even if it is something I do. Yell, cry, scream and release it. Give it to me to handle, with you. I will carry the whole thing for you if you need me to. I will do everything I can to protect you from any harm, but life will have its way at some point. You will not face it alone. Ever. I am your mother, even on my absolute worst days, and nothing and nobody can stop me from that. The family tree we swing from is a mighty, mighty oak. We are born from a long line of very loud lioness women, you and I. We roar together and never alone.

Happy tenth birthday, child of my heart.
You are always the greatest surprise of my life, and the joy of my every day.
Thank you for choosing me to be your mama.

Pathways

I can judge the level of how well I know someone, and how well they know me, by the things they say about me, to me (and sometimes, not to me). A lot of people think I have it “all together” and I often want to laugh in their face. I don’t, and I really try not to let it look like I do. Anyone who appears to have it “all sorted” is, almost always, faking it.

The thing is, if you think I have it all sorted, it’s only because you have known me in the last few years. Before then, it was a shmeshmortion of failed attempts to pull myself towards myself. I had to learn to make choices, quickly, and stick to them. My 20s was a time of absolute chaos, for a large part of it. I’m not shy about it anymore – it is what it is and it brought me here.

My decision making skills have never been good, but I have had to carve them like wood into me. They are chiseled and sharpened every day, and – perhaps because I (finally) realised that my refusal to make choices led me into a mess – I am driven by them.

But they were not won easily.

At one point, a number of years ago, I had to make a choice that centred around a person. It is still the most difficult choice I’ve ever made. It was the most horrible, elongated and gigantic conversation that I’ve ever had (and guys, I’ve had awful ones). But I will never forget the pinnacle moment where I made this choice, and then had to follow through on it.

Everything that’s happened since then, has been a direct or indirect result of that decision. Some of it was incredibly unexpected, but some of it was very well rehearsed in my mind.

When I get a bout of the sads, my mind sometimes wanders right back to that conversation. It finds it, like one would happen upon a jewel in a scratch patch. Looking back, I remember it as a battle against myself. In my mind’s eye, it still is – it’s just that this Cath, the one who sits here now, is the one that emerged victorious. She was the one that hoped to be released and lifted into a world that was driven by her choices, and not her inabilities.

I try and have this rule, that I ripped straight out of that movie Hope Floats (which, incidentally, I watched about 97 times after making this choice) – “don’t look back, we’re not going that way”. It’s something I absolutely fail at, because I often find a comfort in looking back and seeing how far I’ve come. It also helps me to carve or design the next choices I may need to make.

But today, when I feel insular and like a grumpy monster with a sore paw, I feel like the other Cath – the one I left behind, who hated decisions and rallied against all the new things that were to be invited in, is still sitting on that chair, having that loaded conversation, knowing she finally facing up to make choices. She’s sitting there, having that decision-focused conversation all over again, and she’s stuck there. It never ends, like some sort of badly scratched record that’s set to play, over and over again.  That girl isn’t me anymore, and I know it. (side note – thank the stars).

I have zero regrets about beginning to make choices. I harbour absolutely no misgivings about it – I just got to the point where it had to happen. I did what I had to do, and that’s who I am now.

On days like today though, where I’m all screwed up inside, I wonder to myself though, if she’d won that argument… how would life be?

This song was so indelibly tied to that time, so I’m going to let it play, wonder over this for a minute, and then… then I’m going to drink tea and go back to work.

Because my life is not there anymore, and I chose it to be that way. 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAy3_WyWEgQ

 

Five Years – Mom.

Dear Mom,

When a child turns five, their parents feel this strange sense of pride and longing. Like, five is a “whole hand” and the baby days are very over.

You see, mom, my daughter turned five just after you left us. And now, in a few short days, she’ll turn ten, which means your leaving has turned five. The baby days of your leaving are done. It’s time to grow up.

It seems like simple mathematics but it truly doesn’t communicate the amount of time that you’ve been gone. On some level, it still doesn’t feel real, but on every other plain of life, the void of where you used to be is wide and long.

We recently installed a dining room table into our house. I know, I know, you must be rolling your eyeballs at this, because “eating on your laps is for Philistines!” but, really, we did it for a long time and liked it that way.

Just last night, as we settled down to dinner round the table (side note – I absolutely understand why you loved doing it this way. Looking back, I’d have insisted less on TV dinners as a young kid). So we eat dinner, laugh about our days and then play this hilarious game of Charades. The noise is all familial chaos, and I can’t help but hear the cadence of our family dinners at the table. Where a food fight will happen or we’ll try and figure out the hell it was you cooked for us tonight. I hear that aura of dinners gone past, and see it in front of me, repeated like a chaotic love assembly.

But I’m not here to mourn you. I realised this last week, as I tried to hold the loss of you in my hands again. It used to weigh me down, and it still does. There is a relief in me though, as I feel assured of my ability to provide your legacy with continuance. I feel part of the chain, finally, on my own terms. That is what you wanted for me, after all.

This doesn’t make me miss you any less. It doesn’t make missing you any easier. It is, I know, part of the assimilation I’m supposed to go through. I feel a double grief, where I now think that I know of your going but – in the spirit you infused into me – I feel a tendency to want to not accept it. Acceptance isn’t something you or I could come to easily, but it is something we had thrust upon us, right? Haha.

Your first grandchild is now up to my eyebrows in height. In a year, she will have grown past my head. I mark the time of her life in comparison to you and Dad. Her tenth birthday symbolises the imminent decade of Dad being gone, and the same birthday marks your halfway mark to being gone a decade. I wonder sometimes, Mom, was that planned? I lost you and Dad at all these critical points in my child’s life. There’s an element of life’s cruelty in that, which I can probably never accept, but I have learnt to live with. There’s also an element of beauty in it, because sometimes the saddest things are the most striking. Her existence is evidence of the cycle of life, and how it is all tied back to you and Dad, so remarkably, is a constant reminder.

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As I hold the loss of you in my hands again, for one more year, I feel compelled to celebrate you. Just as a raging rainstorm will wash away the dry dust that’s built up over time, I feel it is abating now. My anger at your loss is fading, but it’s replaced by indelible signs of your spirit and character as they play out in my life. Sometimes I look at my diary and see unmissable symbols and patterns of you, that leave me wondering – would I still see them so clearly if you were here?

Mom, you may no longer be at my table, or being “a nag” about something, but you taught me how to set that table for my own life and family, and “be a nag” about the right type of things. Thank you for that.

But Mom, I hope you’re free. I wish I knew for certain that you were liberated in the way you always wished to be. I can only hope to spy on your beyond-life dance in my dreams sometimes. I have no true symbols of what happiness you feel, except for the joy I feel in my own heart, in a moment where I know you would be happy if you were here.

The magnitude of you is not forgotten. The immense void of where you used to be, widens every day. But it’s not because you are lost to me – you are just woven into my every word, on this side of the void.

With my left arm flung over my head as I talk, I will miss you forever.

Cassie.