10 Things.

Traditionally, I’ve written a lot to myself (into the void), or passed notes from underneath the table to others. Those letters, written to everyone from my parents, to my child, to my husband, to my friends, are the things I often can’t say in person, but have to be said.

Many people do a year round-up of things, and I often did them for myself, in the past. I’ve not done one for many a year, but I’ve realised that – for a lot of reasons – I should. Even if I just read this one Friday evening, in the future.

This is the year we got married. It still feels somewhat surreal, but I’ve realised that’s part of the magic. Our life together wasn’t ever planned for, or theorised. It happened, as it wanted to. That’s not to say we weaved no control over it…it’s just that we let our life happen as it wound towards us. Looking at it now, the stories were writing themselves, long before we picked up our pens. I’m very grateful for that. There is a comfort that comes from knowing someone is on your team, no matter what the format may be.

Things I’ve learnt (and sometimes, had to relearn) this year – 10 things for 2017: 

  1. Insatiable curiosity pays off, unless you’re insatiably curious about something illegal. To be sure, I was not insatiably curious about anything illegal, but I had to make that distinction. Wanting to learn, and working doggedly towards learning…It’s worth it.
  2. Being wrong does not mean the conversation has come to an end. You just have something else to learn. Shut up and listen.
  3. Not knowing the answer to something – saying “I don’t know” – isn’t a reflection of your intelligence. It is an opportunity to learn. Shut up and listen.
  4. Even your worst decisions were still decisions. Stick by them, because decisions always either advance you, or teach you. I have not made all of the best decisions this year, but I have certainly learnt from each one I’ve made.
  5. Sometimes, telling people how you feel is the most difficult thing in the world to do. It’s worth it.
  6. Sometimes, cutting people out of your life feels like you are murdering your own memories. You’ll know when you have to do it. It’s worth it. It hurts, but it’s worth it.
  7. Sometimes, standing up for yourself feels impossible. Defining your sense of self-worth is not the job of someone else. Do the work and then be prepared to defend it. It’s worth it.
  8. If you can speak, half as much as you listen, you’re doing well. This year, I learnt to shut up and listen.
  9. Loyalty isn’t some transient, intangible thing. It lives, and thrives, through action. Pick the team you’re on, make sure it’s worthy, and then commit. The moment you feel that a loyalty needs to be questioned, question it. Any element of doubt here…arrived for a reason. You’re not just paranoid. Your instinct is speaking. Shut up and listen.
  10. Realise, and acknowledge, that you are good at some things, and not good at other things. That’s absolutely okay. Nobody is expecting genius, but you are expected to try your best, and then be able to prove you did. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

Fixing My Face [A Thursday Plantation Review]

 [sponsored]

I was one of those annoying teenagers: perfect skin, serious attitude, and a determined defiance of authority. Two of those things followed me into adulthood, but it’s the perfect skin I miss the most.

Before I turned 18, I experienced the excruciating pain of a pimple exactly once. Yes, one pimple, for the entirety of my teens. Before you hate me though, adult onset acne has done it for you. I had my very first wrinkle, long before my first serious zit. Firmly believing, however, that I was one of the lucky ones, I happily ignored every advertisement for skincare products…until I turned 24, became a mom, and my perfect skin did a perfect leap out of my life.

Fast forward more than a decade later, and I’ve done everything I can to try and sort it out. Bear in mind, however, that I’m not a medically suitable candidate for hormonal treatments and such so, for me, fixing my face must be a topical adventure.

I’ve used potions and products of varying prices, with varying results. The classic result is, of course, that a system or product will work for a while, clear up my skin beautifully and then suddenly, I’ll have an outbreak of mayhem on my face. Usually, stress, a change of season, or some sudden allergic reaction to something unknown will set it off, and I’m back to square one, situation: cystic acne.

Anyway, let’s go back to two weeks ago, when a beautiful little package from Thursday Plantation landed on my desk. They asked me to check out their range, and I’m always happy to try something new out, especially if it ticks three important boxes:

  • The products are not tested on animals. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if your product promises to return my skin to 1995 – if you test on animals, you can get right out of my house, the city, the planet. Bye Felicia, and take your archaic animal cruelty somewhere else.
  • The products are eco-friendly as all heck, vegan, and contain as few chemicals as possible.
  • The products don’t make big promises. I like honesty better than huge promises. Nobody is going to take me back in time to 1995, but I’m willing to give them a chance to try and keep my face as it is now.

This Thursday Plantation package included:

  • Tea Tree Face Wash Foam
  • A bottle of Tea Tree Oil
  • Tea Tree Toothpaste
  • Tea Tree Cream
  • Tea Tree Blemish Stick

With my little arsenal of excellence, I committed to using JUST these products on my face for a few weeks. Bear in mind, of course, that I’m cynical as all heck and was, on the day I started, doing battle with a bulbous zit on my chin. Cystic acne, you’re so irrelevant. Stop trying to make zits happen, please. I was also enjoying a superb little rash of dry skin across my right cheek.

From the very first wash, my face instantly felt cleaner, less oily, and so smooth. If I was feeling that good from Wash Round One, imagine how I feel today, two weeks later. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. [There are no filters applied to these pictures. You may have seen most of these on Instagram, and yes, this is genuinely what I look like, filter-free. Sorry if that’s disturbing 😊]

But it’s not the face wash that changed this game for me. Usually, committing to a certain set of products takes time – my skin must settle into it (that usually means a fab little bust out of zits, at first); then it starts to work; then I’m happy, and then it stops working and I cry a lot. So, I waited for that settling-in breakout to happen, and it didn’t happen. In fact, within two days, that little dry patch of skin was sorted out, and my chin was quickly healing up. WHAT IS THIS MAGICAL STUFF?

Well, it’s not wizardry. It’s Tea Tree Oil. A family member has sworn by it for years, and while I love my little box of essential oils at home, I’ve never really taken to Tea Tree. I probably should’ve, sooner, because, well, I’ll let Thursday Plantation explain:

Tea Tree Oil is distilled from specially selected Melaleuca alternifolia leaves…This 100% pure, 100% natural oil is a powerful antiseptic which inhibits a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi and cleanses and protects skin abrasions…Has demonstrated to be as effective as Benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of mild to moderate acne*”

*Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barneston RS. A comparative study of tea tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust. 1990; 153: 455

Yes, you read right – this little essential oil I’ve been ignoring for so long is probably the solution I’ve been looking for, all along.

I’m going to keep using these products (P.S. The Toothpaste is fluoride-free and flipping great) and I’m going to buy my own set when these bottles run out. I went and checked on their prices at Dischem this week and HELLO AFFORDABLE WIZARDRY, COME TO ME! The blemish stick has put an immediate zing on any zit, and the Tea Tree Oil now has pride of place in my home (and dog!) cleaning routine too. Thank you, Thursday Plantation. I think we’re now BFFs.

Get it here. Read more about it here. Talk to them here.

Notes, from underneath the leaves in the Midlands.

Over the years, people have quizzically asked me why this blog has always included a reference to being from “underneath the table.” It’s taken on many forms, over time, as sometimes I’m writing from underneath the table of a whole life, or from underneath the table of parenting, or from underneath the table that I am actually hiding under.

As a young child, I used to “hide” underneath the table in our lounge. I have exceptionally crisp memories of throwing a blanket over our round table with the bow legs, and climbing underneath there to play. It was the right distance of being close to the noise and love of my family, and alone in my own world, that left me both comfortable and relaxed.

I live my life a lot like this. Hiding underneath the table is a theme that followed me right through my teen years (my dad would often find me reading under my desk, when I was supposed to be studying), and hiding under my desk when things got too chaotic at the office, was a common event. At one point, I remember plugging my laptop in, underneath my desk, when I had a massive project to conquer, and was fighting off a horrible case of heartbreak. Being underneath the table helps me focus, and feel safe. And yes, I know I am strange – I am okay with this.

Recently, my life accomplice – Jane – called me up and told me she was booking us for a night away. As it turned out, the timing could not have been more perfect for the both of us. We’d leave the day after my birthday (and yeah, I know, I didn’t write a birthday letter this year – consider the first 3 paragraphs of this that letter for this year – my re-commitment to being underneath the table) and, unfortunately, as life has her way, Jane suffered a huge loss in her life just two days before we were to make our escape.

You’d imagine, of course, that when someone loses an important person in their life, they want to invoke WH Auden and stop all the clocks. But that’s not who Jane is, and it’s not who the person she lost was. In fact, after witnessing her family wishing their beloved matriarch farewell today, I know her family do not stop clocks for anything, for life is far too fleeting, and memories – not time – are more important to cling to.

So, with the internal jangle of having turned 37 within me, and the hurt of her loss still stinging, Jane and I set off on a meander through the Midlands and a visit to Granny Mouse Country House.

You should know that I don’t travel well and (as Jane will tell you – from our drive back and me hyperventilating on the regular over trucks), it takes a lot for me to leave routine and head away for a bit. But, I need to say this: this little getaway needed to happen and it could not have happened in a prettier place.

We opted to take a slow drive towards our destination, and stop whenever and wherever we felt like it. We stopped at the cheese factory, Rawdons (thanks for my birthday G&T) and Jane had me check out a possibly haunted hut. I’m still not entirely convinced that little hut wasn’t infested with mutant spiders but, hey, I still have my head and haven’t sprung any web from my wrists. I think we’re okay.

Arriving at Granny Mouse, feels like walking back into your own family home. Now, of course, every second place you stay tries to convince you of this, but there’s something about this very particular place that gets it so right. I’d had an hour’s sleep the night before, off the back of a litany of bad, sleepless, nights, that left me with a spiky soul and droopy eyelids. But there’s something in that air, that view, and that comfort, that made me – finally – feel okay. More than okay, in fact.

We were booked in (great idea, Jane, best idea – remind me to listen to you, all the time) for a full body massage at their Spa and – well, I fell asleep very soon into it. I woke up when the masseuse asked me to turn over, and my eyelids sprung upon, where I felt like I’d been asleep for eight hours. Instead, it was just twenty minutes of slight snoring and probably drooling. I felt alive for the first time in a long time.

After my body and mind were once again re-aligned, we headed off to dinner. I’m probably going to talk about dinner a lot more often in my life, because I have this latent-but-obvious desire to become a true food critic and live out my days by reviewing eateries everywhere. I’ll tell you this much about dinner at Granny Mouse: It’s no country bumpkin menu with cheese sauce everywhere. Heck no. Each piece of my meal felt like they’d gone through my food diary, picked out the things I liked the most, mashed them together and gone “OH HEY! WE READ YOU DIARY. THIS WAS MADE FOR YOU”. I mean, who else turns blue cheese into a rosemary-crumbed gorgeousness that makes me feel quite emotional? Hah. Of course, eating dinner in the cellar was a total treat, and being surrounded by such incredible wine made me think very deeply about our selection at home…I think it needs expanding.

After dinner, we holed up in our gorgeous suite, with a crackling fire and, of course, donned our onesies. Curled into bed and blissfully warm, I finally fell asleep – and stayed asleep – for more than 4 hours, for the first time, in a very, very, long time.

Morning came round, and I missed wishing my kid a good day at school, because I slept right through the time she left the house (awful parent, awful) and rolled over for an extra twenty minutes of snoozing. A lazy morning, a beautiful breakfast, and a quick walk along the riverwalk ensued, with us packing up and driving back to Durban shortly thereafter. Of course, we stopped at every possible spot we could along the way, for coffee, shopping, and treats to take home.

Image: Jane in Pictures

Hanging out with my life accomplice (p.s. Did you know we run a business together now too? True story. Maybe I’ll tell you about that one day), in a gorgeous place, surrounded by the wonder of nature that we have somehow lucked up in living around, felt exactly like being underneath the table in my childhood home again. It was the right kind of comfortable, the right kind of quiet and, when I came back out into the real world of life, alarm clocks, and deadlines, I felt like me again, for the first time, in a very long time.

My point? It’s this:

—> Thank you, Jane, for taking me with you on this adventure. I could not ask for a better accomplice in adventure, including all Instagram Husband duties.

—> Thank you, Granny Mouse, for the incredible treat of a stay with you, and the way you shaped every detail around ensuring we had the best time.

—> Thank you, Super Shmooshy and Incredible Child, for taking care of the home life for a little bit. I think I need to trust you both a little more in being able to cover all the bases, and the 20-point list.

You enabled me to spend some time underneath the table of life again. I had forgotten how important this was. Thank you. 

 

The Art Of Growing Up

Twelve

You are turning twelve. Did you know? Twelve is my absolute favourite number. Perhaps it’s the combination of 1+2, and the fact that the number itself is a multiple of 3…there’s just something about it that’s always remained important to me.

About a week before you were born, I was gigantic and round, and attending one of my best friend’s weddings. Your dad was beside me and we were giggling over the history in the room (there was a lot of history in that room). I was, by then, ready to reach in and fetch you myself, but everyone remained convinced that you were a few weeks off from being ready. I knew. I knew when, a few days later, I *had* to hang the curtains, finish unpacking everything for the flat we’d just moved (back) into, and closed the drawers in what would become your room, where you napped sometimes, but never actually slept a night. By the time we’d got you home from the hospital, and I was lying on the floor of your room while you had your very first nap in your cot, I knew we were going to be the co-sleeping, share-a-room, everyone-sleeps, type of family. Any ideas anyone had about sleep training, enforcing routines, doing what the books say, went right out the window the very second I saw your face.

After all, you were going to do it all anyway. As luck (and character) would have it, that’s how it has been every single day. You have done it, and done it all in your way. People used to say you were an “easy baby” and that’s true. You did all the things you were supposed to do, at the time when you were ready to, and you were carving your own way forward while I battled to catch my breath, never mind catch up.

Those baby days, however, ended a full decade ago. Since then, your ability to shine and commit yourself to doing things your way – your very own way – has become the manner of your life. You’ve shaped stories around your heart, and used your creative skills to imagine a world into life: the world of your own being.

The thirds of growing up

It’s a funny thing, the way they divvy up the art of growing up. From 0 to 6, you’re a baby and then a small kid. From 6 to 12, you’re a small kid becoming a big kid. From 12 to 18, you’re a big kid becoming an adult. It’s always (and yeah, there’s another reference to 3 here) amazed me how the art of growing up is somehow delineated in thirds.

The thing my heart was not prepared for was how quickly two-thirds of it would zoom by. I don’t believe anyone really is ready for it, just as people aren’t ever truly ready for much of what life brings their way. We do, however, try our best to be prepared but, there are no books available in the library entitled: “How to Raise Your Child Who Was Born on June, Just After Midnight, in a Storm, And This Book is For You.”

I know, because I’ve checked.

Instead, you and I have written that book. Sometimes, especially in the early days, it was me who had to take the pen. Nowadays, more and more, the writing is a task I have relinquished to you. Sometimes, I do that happily. Other times, I know you have to wrestle the pen away from me. I’m sorry for that – it’s just that I’m never quite sure when I am supposed to let go, but I do know that – in this third of growing up, I must let go more than ever before. I feel like this third makes the approach taken in the preceding thirds almost irrelevant. During that time, I had to teach you how to handle this one. That, somehow, you will have learnt all the things you need for this part, from the first two-thirds.

I am not certain that I’ve been able to teach you everything, because I am human and a mother. If I’ve skipped a lesson, tell me. If I was determinedly giving us a Mental Health Day on the day I was supposed to be teaching you how to boil an egg, tell me. It’s in this third of growing up, that you and I will learn where I went skew in the first two-thirds. I want you to know that I’m listening, and I want you to know that I am okay with being wrong.

The House That We Built

You and I are both all too aware of my failings. This is something that I’m grateful for, and somehow comforted by. You know the exact way to ask the question, and I know the exact way you’re trying to avoid asking it, so I make you ask it anyway. Hah.

The parts of this team that work like cogs clicking over each other are often so funnily brought to life, that I can only giggle and look at you with a grin. The way we’ll mouth words to each other and know exactly what the other person is saying, even when the room is so noisy our heads might explode. The way we can’t say certain things without collapsing into giggles that nobody else understands. The way we refuse to reference certain people, and the way we’ll always reference certain elements of the world. There is this framework of understanding, of circumstance, and of reference, that builds like a wooden structure. I realise it’s still being constructed every day, but on occasion, I look back and up to it with pride. I hope you do too, especially because life has so often tried to tear it down, and we’ve never once let it topple. We remain a team.

Remain Determined

There’s an element to your character and personality that I can directly link to both myself and your father: your determination. That obstinacy is something that will guide you towards all the success in your life, and the ever-present knowledge that you tried your best, whatever the circumstances. It is – for me (and I am sure for him) – hilarious, annoying, and comforting, that this character trait has played itself out so well within you. Hilarious and annoying, because I most often feel like I’m talking to myself, and comforting because I know that you can do anything you set your mind towards. I know, because you do not set your mind to things without purpose, without keen consideration, and without ensuring that you would be able to give of your best. Just remember that, most often, we know how your brain ticks, because it ticks like ours do. I will admit that your ability to come up with a counter-argument for something is all your dad – he’s the very lateral thinker, while I am more of a checkbox type. Very often, your ability to be empathetic comes from your dad, not me. Remember how I said I know I have failings? That’s one of them, but lucky for you, what you inherited from your dad has prevented you from picking up my flaw in that department.

On that note, never apologise for your character, because it is hewn from genealogy and experience. You may not know this, but I see parts of my own dad in your personality, and so much of my own mom in your eyes. I wish you’d been able to know my dad for longer, but the parts of his character that are sewn into your own are immovably, remarkably, present.

In this last third of growing up, I want to encourage you to explore this character – the things that make you, you. I want you to dig around and find the elements of yourself you like, the things you want to change, and the things you want to learn more about. This is the time when it’s okay to write bad poetry, paint the pictures, treasure every keepsake, and express yourself in the way you dress, do things, act, and respond to the world. So long as you do no harm to yourself or others, and are willing to defend yourself from harm, there are no wrong answers in this final third of growing up. The first two-thirds were all about learning what to do in this world, while the last third – this one – is all about learning who you are.

I could tell you, a thousand times over, that I love you and I’m proud of you. I am certain you know it, but I am putting it here anyway too. There is nothing in this world that can stop me from being those things – nothing ever can.

While, as you grow away from the tree of childhood and reach towards the sky with your own branches, remember that I am in the trunk of the tree. In fact, as recently evidenced by your birthday celebrations, this trunk is filled with so many people – so many more than we ever expected or dreamt possible. Lean on the trunk, my darling – we are all listening. We are all immovable and ready. Let this family be your cushion against the world, and a trampoline from which to jump into it.

Go feel the sunshine warm your leaves, and turn your face to the sky to grow. But, always know, I am right here. Immutable, immovable, and ever always, the name you blurted out one funny weekday evening when I was convinced you would never say it:
mama.

Love,

Me.

 

Deadlines For Decisions

In our house, the worst question you can ask anyone is:

“What would you like to eat?”

We will share memes about it, laugh about our own inabilities to make an actual choice and then, of course, opt for the usual favourites that are certain to bring a smile at the dinner table.

I’ve never really been very, naturally good at making choices. It has taken a conscious application of will to force myself into making decisions, because dithering about makes absolutely no sense and wastes a whole bunch of time I don’t really have to spend wandering the inroads of my mind over. Similarly, I’m so bloodymindedly aware of my own choice-making failings, that I’ve focused a tonne of my parenting on teaching my kid how to make choices, on her own, for herself and, without fear – this has made her a better decision maker than I am. But, back to the art of conscious decision making (It is an art, and not a natural talent. This is stuff I had to learn):

Learning to do this was tough, but important and, there are three principles I operate on nowadays, and apply to my own process of making choices. They are:

  1. If it’s a business decision, I need to make it within 24 hours. Anything else stresses me out, and makes a perceived problem or obstacle feel a whole bunch bigger than it actually is. Luckily, I don’t work for shareholders, a boss or anyone but myself, and the only criteria I need to impose upon these decisions are, usually: Can I do this? Do I need to do this? Do I want to do this?
  2. If it’s a personal decision, I give myself 48 hours, to mull over the possibilities, consequences and shout about how frustrating it is for me to have to make a decision. Yes, really. Ask my significant other – when I am frustrated, I shout. There’s also the frenetic texting phase, where I’ll find things out, try and figure things out and, then, well, I make a decision.
  3. How will this decision count in five years’ time? It can feel a little bit strange to think this way, but it’s been a source of both comfort and concern for me. Generally speaking, if I can imagine myself being comfortable with this choice, and its consequences, in five years’ time, then it’s a lot easier to make. It also helps to alleviate fears I may have, because fear-based thinking, and decision-making, is an absolutely stupid way of doing things (this is something it took me a long time to learn).

These are all very nice and wonderful to read, I realise, but they’re not always easy to apply. If you know me in person, you’ll know that I am, on the regular, clouded by emotion. Working my way towards not operating on that is hard for me – so flipping hard – but I try and do it, more and more. Often, I find I have to get the emotion out of the way (see: frenetic texting) and then I can think clearly beyond it. One thing I have realised is that I have to not make decisions when I feel compelled to frenetically text someone. It’s usually Jane.

Which brings me to the bonus #4 part of this brainvent post…find someone you can vent to. I’m lucky in that my vent space is equal parts business and friend, which is something I did not know I lacked a few years back, and yet I have discovered I needed more than I had ever suspected. She’s exceptionally good at conceptualising decisions and helping with point 3 above, which is both useful and helpful. She also supports me, in whichever end of the choice I end up travelling. I am exceptionally grateful for you, Janey Jane.

So, what’s my point? It’s this, really: 

I have, for as long as I could muster, used my own perceived inability to make decisions, as an excuse. It’s not a valid excuse or reason for me to continue feeling adrift when faced with decisions. Even the hardest ones can be tackled if I apply myself. Sometimes,  I do not want to, and that’s okay. But if there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s a deadline. That’s why I have deadlines for decisions now.

The Blume of Blooms

If you grew up in the decade before, during, or after, I did, you’ll know this book. Maybe you read it, maybe you didn’t – it was, back then, very much “a book for girls” (what rubbish, but anyway…even ‘the boys’ knew about it) and I have strong, strong memories of the Judy Blumes always being booked out at the school library, and the sheer exhilaration of being the person who manages to scoop it up on library day.

I digress, but not really.

The book title has always stuck with me – ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’. This post has nothing to do with religion or the contents of that book though, but it does have something to do with my relationship with Judy Blume, and other things other people seem to uphold as quaint and important. I am one of them too – do not get me wrong, Blume was an important reading journey for young me – but there’s  a weird reverence around it that I see matched in other things of my life today.

I should attest to the fact, first, that like a tween heirloom, my kid is now reading the Blumes, and I have, in fact, purchased a few for her during our book store browsing days. 

As a 36-year-old adult though, I am fully aware today that the wet-tongued excitement over things we all believe we should have our moment in the sun with, still exists.

(Oh, by the way, Hi. Sorry. I kinda skipped writing here for a while. I got busy)

At 36, the things I strap to the Blume-like moments are far bigger than books, but a lot less effective or real. That was the attraction of Blume (although many called her controversial – I mean, she wrote about periods, and sex, and all the things young women are supposed to not talk about – what heresy! Burn the witch! NOT) – she said things, and talked about things, we are all taught to care about, desire and work for, but not necessarily speak of, openly and freely.

It is the same now.

As we plan our wedding, and the questions come thick and fast, and stupidly, I’m left feeling like the girl who is last in the queue for the new Blume that’s arrived in the library. There’s one small difference though – the only reason why I would want it, is because I’ve been taught to want it, or led to believe that everyone wants it and so, therefore, there must be something wrong with me for NOT wanting it.

It started with: talking about flowers. The most goddamn expensive accessory to a wedding and, guess what? THEY DIE THE NEXT DAY. SOMETIMES SOONER.

I’m far more keen on skipping the flower jol and using ribbons (reusable), or popping down to Woolies for some country bunches and a couple of fairy lights (again, reusable).

But, as is the way with all things wedding, I did some investigation anyway (By the way, I still live in NOT A CHANCE ARE WE SPENDING THAT ON FLOWERS land).

The responses to my enquiries ranged from “Ooooh, what are your favourites?” – followed by an exceptional markup in the online-listed price of the bloom I had mentioned; to “Well, you should choose a flower that means something to both of you” (LAWD. WE DON’T EVEN HAVE A SONG YET. NOW YOU WANT ME TO FIND MEANING IN SOMETHING NEITHER OF US WILL ACTUALLY PAY ANY ATTENTION TO) and…my best: “Well, yes, but no expense should be spared when you’re creating the most wonderful day of your life, and we’d be so happy to help you, Kathleen.”

HANG ON. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME. SHUT UP. 

What’s to say THIS will be the most wonderful day of our life together? Does it make a difference if I think we’ve already had it? What if I told you we have these days a lot, and that, in fact, just yesterday, when my two people, dogs and assorted dustbunnies were watching Harry Potter, I was utterly enraptured by the way our family just fits together? Do you know how DAMN GOOD that feels? Or what about the time we decided to go for lunch somewhere different and ended up at this insanely expensive restaurant and had an incredible time, giggling, and I was wearing slops, and it felt like we were lampooning the place and – actually – that day is one of the most defining reasons why I love him?

So, why am I even bothering with this? Just as the Blumes have now become the Blooms in my life, I’m realising that…all the things other people deemed so desperately important, actually aren’t, to me. The weirdest thing is that I’m almost expected to be apologetic about this – because it is “very strange” that I absolutely could not give an inch of care about whether or not Bob & Linda will enjoy being seated at the same table as Ted & Teresa (names changed to protect the innocent).

The things that I count as important are the parts we haven’t planned to the second, or decided upon in strung out conversations (you should know, we decided to live together, by choice a few years ago, because I called him at work, and told him my lease was ending. It was, literally, that easy and that plain-speaking. We didn’t choose the wallpaper first).

So, that’s me, right now. Trying to figure out what the Blumes in my life are, and what else is actually lying in the library, waiting to be taken out and read.

For me, the most important book is the one we’re writing together, and not the one that tries to figure out how coordinated his tie needs to be with my shoes. I just don’t care about these Blume Blooms enough to give this any more energy than is required.

The beauty of our life together is not found in some gilted, lacey invitation or the wilted corsage someone tried to sell me over the phone, which cost the same as my kid’s school fees (no, I’m not joking).

It’s in the life we have when he takes the trash out, and I’m in the kitchen wrangling dogs, homework books and cooking dinner. It’s in that moment where I am in a hellfire of a mood and he comes in to ask which ice-cream he can pick up for me while he’s out. And the most magnificent day of our life? It’s the one where I know I can phone him and tell him I wrote this, because I’m pretty damn certain he absolutely hates himself for wanting to marry the hot-headed mess I am on some days. It’s the day where I can lie on our bed and cry with uncertainty over our future, and he steadfastly assures me that we will be more than fine (we were)  and it is every single time I look at my diary and realise I share my life with the most brilliant human, who believes in me beyond myself,  and in our family, beyond every possibility.

There are no flowers for that. 

Self Loathing And Other Stories

Hi.

Yes, this is awkward. I’ve been cheating on you a bit and writing over here, every now and then. Sorry about that.

I suspect, much like many others, that I’ve puddled myself into guilt and self loathing over my own words, thereby shying away from here, because I just felt like I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

I do, however, because we’re all saying worthwhile things every day, even if we fail to notice them.

Taking some time away from this screen has had a strange effect on my life: I’ve learnt, and feel, some level of objectivity over the world as I see it, which has enabled me to disengage with the crappiness we seem to read about in the headlines. I’m not saying I’m not terrified of the future – I am, actually. Paralytic, in fact… to the point where I’ve had to untangle my own mental limbs and start to make decisions around my own fears.

Weird, hey? Fear-based decision making is a bad thing, but this is not that. Instead, I’m making my choices around my own fears, rather than because OF them. It’s helped me feel a little sense of clarity, and exhausted the bubbles of confusion I felt for the last 12 months. Feeling headstrong in this time, is important.

Back, however, to the self loathing. My friend Charlie reminded me that we — most of us — live with a level of self loathing that can either propel us to be better, or will swallow us whole.

I admit to letting my self-loathing swallow me whole…and then spit me out. A very dear friend of mine has been through this too, and is now clawing her determined self towards life.

It had to happen, because I need something new to look at the world with. I don’t particularly like this view, but it is the one I need to work with if I’m going to get anywhere that I want to go.

And that’s why I stepped away from the screen. While we’ve all gnashed our teeth over the past year, it hasn’t actually led to anything fruitful, aside from persistent teething problems and a startlingly scary guy who thinks everyone is lesser than him. Sorry-not-sorry.

This post has nothing to do with anyone else, really. I remember, once, reading a poem, written by a friend, where she articulated her way through the world as a being encased in shiny, brushed steel. As the world outside her casing was reflected upon the steel, so she would see brightness and lightness, dark and dustiness. But she would not feel it in a way that affected her, or that led her to change her missile’s course and trajectory. I keep thinking about this poem, every morning, as I flip open my computer and confront the world, my to do list and, well, people.

This wasn’t meant to make sense, anyway.

Sometimes, perhaps, the satellites bleep.

 

It Was Less Than Ideal, But Then We Found Something New

For some reason, or a million of them, this year has felt like hot molasses with no spoon. But, as we move towards the winding up of this year’s clock, I’m finding little beautiful things that make my heart happy.

A friend sent me this, and it’s reminded me of this very discovery.

So, to buck the trend of 2016, I thought I’d list the incredible things I have managed to find in a year that has been less than ideal:

  1. The Gilmore Girls Revival. I cried for the first ten minutes of the first episode. The good cry, like when you meet someone, you haven’t seen in years, at the airport arrivals area.
  2. There’s a beautiful tree outside my bedroom window. It’s lost all its leaves, for no apparent reason. A lot of trees around our neighbourhood have…which is worrying. There is, however, now a clear view to somewhere I wanted to be able to see, but never could. We get the vision we want, eventually.
  3. Today, I watched my kid be proud of something she has worked so hard for. It’s been a less than ideal year for her, for us. It’s been…there have been gaps in our days that used to be filled with something hilarious. We’ve had less to laugh at, but we have not forgotten to laugh at ourselves, so that’s okay.
  4. Rediscovering my ability to be abruptly kind. That sounds like an oxymoron, but if you ask anyone who knows me, I am good in a crisis. I am not particularly maternal, and I’ve softened over the years. Getting back to the part of me who gets to the point has been a weird revelation. I was missing the point, for a long time there.
  5. That little Rolodex of mine has grown this year, and not just been dug into. Expanding that has had to be a priority this year, and I hope it keeps growing next year.
  6. Figuring out and finding the humanity within someone who I dislike. Feels like a mean task to even write that, but it’s something I’ve had to do. Learning about agendas, understanding motives and trying to find something good in even the most awful scenarios or situations…has been hard. But I’m trying, and that has to count for something, right?
  7. I’ve turned my back on things that do not feed me, or respect me. Hard, because I always – so desperately – want to please people. Learning how to not instantly do that has been really, really onerous to navigate.
  8. The acceptance that, at some point, I will have to do that again, and it won’t be pleasant. It’s a constantly nurtured item, not a kneejerk reaction. The more you learn to draw the lines of your life, the better your pencil work gets.
  9. Flurrying around and through life’s demands, but there’s a simple home truth that I get to have in my life every day – a foundation of love, that functions as a unit. We are a trio of fluidity and focus.
  10. Noticing the creativity that gets poured into even the most seemingly simple of things. Take a little time to take notice of it, and you will find it. There’s a person’s mind and motivation beneath there.
  11. This is super lame, but I’ve always wanted to own a coatstand, since I moved out of home, which happened long before you even knew what the difference between 3G and WiFi was. I’ve never bought one, because the expense was just too much, and I always put it off to the One Day List. Today, thanks to an incredible sale, I bought one.

We need to hold these moments close to us, as we wander into the wilds of a new year, soon. Just hold them, because our moments are always gone too soon.

 

 

Eight Minutes.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the art of writing letters today. Growing up, letters were a gift passed on in a day, that would live into the future. I need them just as much now, as I did then.

But I fear I’m not very good at writing letters. If anything, the digital age has provoked that. I still write them, but they’re not necessarily letters, in their usual form. In many ways, this is one of them. Who I’m writing it for is, of course, as much a mystery to me as it is to you.

Today, I woke up feeling like someone had run me over with one of those old-school garden rollers that used to flatten the grass and serve not much purpose, from what I understand. We used to have one, in the house I grew up in. I have never understood their purpose, but that suggests more about my lack of gardening skills than it does anything else. That aside, I had a list for today and, after attempting to tackle it, I neatly moved that list to tomorrow. There are some days where you just cannot.

Instead, I retreated to my bed, with a cup of tea and took to scrolling through my ‘must watch’ list on Netflix. And there I found a wonder: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

If you haven’t watched it, or read the book, do so. But – be warned – your heart will relocate to your throat and remain there throughout.

Essentially, it’s a story of a letter that was not sent. Instead, pieced together by things he finds, a young boy embarks upon an expedition (something his father had been in the habit of creating for him, before he was killed) to solve the mystery within. The young boy uses this expedition as a way to feel closer to his father, as he says:

 

“Oskar Schell: If the sun were to explode, you wouldn’t even know about it for 8 minutes because thats how long it takes for light to travel to us.
For eight minutes the world would still be bright and it would still feel warm.
It was a year since my dad died and I could feel my eight minutes with him… were running out.”

Many of the letters and posts I’ve listed here, are about those eight minutes too. In many ways, I am not sure if the eight minutes between my parents and I have elapsed. In some ways, as awful as it is to admit to myself and to type, I think they may have. Sometimes, in the moments imbued by them, and the scenes that play out before me where they’d fit, I feel like those eight minutes continue.

That’s why I write though. That’s why I write here, and there and everywhere. I want those eight minutes to last as long as they possibly can, even if I started them early, so they can continue long into the future beyond me.

Those letters I cling to, those ones that stretched those eight minutes for me, I keep them close. I place my hand upon them and cry. Sometimes, I smile at them. Occasionally, nowadays, I dive in and find an answer I had sought out, but had not seen before. They are my history book and navigational chart, just as the constellations above used to guide sailors to shore.

There was no real reason to write today, except to say that, in the future, I hope the words speak the things I could not say. Or the things I had to skip past. Or that they fill in the gaps we’ve forgotten, or encapsulate a moment we let go by.

Nature is like that.

The passing of Leonard Cohen struck me as unsurprising. Yes, he was 82. But in the year that 2016 is turning out to be, it is a wonder that anyone survives it. When I read the news of Cohen’s passing, I thought strangely of my fish we lost earlier this year. He was robust, stamina-driven and, ultimately, fallible like the rest of us.

Perhaps that’s melodramatic. I’m okay with that. I know people who have had incredible years, filled with flourishing dreams and great things. Yet, even they have felt deeply affected, on a human-base-level, by this year.

But to chalk it up to the year places far too much power into a human-crafted concept which, after all, is an illusion. Time is not a reality because we created the calendar. It was not given to us, nor is it something that Nature looks at, checks on and decides how it should behave. In fact, it is the opposite way round.

Just as time will pass, things transform and the seasonal moves of our world continue to turn. Perhaps we are entering a winter of humanity. Keeping my eyes on spring seemed difficult this week. To be fair though, it’s been difficult for a lot of reasons, and for far longer than these seven days.

Operating within a winter framework feels cold. Just as the season turns many of us to hermits, perhaps I’ve been one all along. Solace is, at least, the comfort of my dogs’ heads on my lap; the cadence of laughter at my dinner table and the texture of home.

I think, very much, that nothing will remain untouched by this year, but there are no guarantees that this will end, or soothe. It’s up to us to do that and, the only way to, is to think beyond the winter. I will think of spring while I try to shovel the snow and make sense of the mess. I will remember that, beyond the rain, grass will grow tall. I’ll think of warm bears in caves, hibernating their way towards sunshine. And sometimes, every now and then, I will look at the winter, determined to find the beauty in it. Occasionally, I will look at the winter and see only the chilled desolation of it, like the tree in my yard that’s – for no reason at all – dropped all its leaves. In the reality of seasons, right now, at my house, it’s spring. And that’s why, when I look at the world with its winter of humanity, I must turn my head back towards spring. Because, if anything, the winter will end and spring will come.

Nature is like that. I should be ready.