Time


I had such a cavalier attitude to time when I was younger, and it was little wonder. I stared up at the tiled ceiling from my spinal rotor bed, counting the dots on each square for months on end. I anxiously waited until I was old enough to make my own choices, and lead a life of my desire. Time seemed to stretch on forever, as it is want to do when pain, isolation and abuse feature. Always impatient, waiting for and recovering from surgery was agonizing, not to mention the years in physiotherapy. I had to learn to break everything down into tiny steps. Those little steps added up and became quite a hike! IVF came along, and each day stretched out. The two-week-wait to find out if I was pregnant seemed to defy time on earth. Pregnancy felt the same; endless, as I impatiently waited to meet this baby.

Since her birth, I have a new respect for time. It can be a hard taskmaster, both when you long for it to speed up, and when you yearn for it to slow down. Having a child has made me yearn for it to lean in and stretch out. If I could turn back the hand’s, I would. How can it be that I almost have a teenager, starting her last term of Year 6 after the holidays? I don’t even know how it is possible? You finally get a handle on differing ages and the milestones reached, and they are gone, replaced with the next expectation.

It is as though an editor has rushed through the movie reel, speeding it up in a race to the end. I have only fully appreciated each age by looking over videos and photographs after the events. It is true that you often don’t know you are enjoying a perfect moment in time whilst living it. As we waited to board a country train to where my daughter would be performing, I turned to her and said “we will look back on these adventures as being some of the most perfect moments in our lives.” She stopped and smiled, nodding her head, and we both ceased our hurriedness to the next destination, to fully appreciate what we had now. In silence, we looked around the small station, hearing the kookaburras and cockatoos in neighbouring gum trees, and admiring the cherry blossoms in bloom. We heard a solitary crow in the distance, and we knew that this moment was magic. Now is all we have.

I peered over at my daughter, and marvelled at how her journey is only just beginning. There is so much for her to look forward to. It won’t be as hard a trip into adulthood; I will make sure of that. I am trying to live in the moment after our sublime experience at the station. On Tuesday, we were waiting for another train, and were sitting near a young Canadian traveller. She was soon joined by a man forty years her senior, and as I heard their banter, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. He was asking her questions at a rapid-fire rate. No sooner had she answered, than he was asking her another. She did that thing where you smile and try to be friendly. So many of us have done, as we secretly hope that the stranger will leave us alone and not hurt us if we do. He asked her if he could show her around Sydney. She politely declined. He then insisted on taking her out to dinner. She stammered and tried to deflect his attention. By this stage I had heard enough, and went over. He was decidedly irritated at my intervention, whilst the traveller was grateful. Eventually he moved away, and left her in peace.

I talked to my daughter about what had transpired, and told her that she need never feel like she has to put up with a stranger being invasive. I told her that I had done it many times, frightened of angering a persistent stranger. So many times, passing women would come to my aid, some pretending to be friends who were meeting me in order to thwart advances. We talked for the whole hour into the city, and it was wondrous. My little girl is growing up and there is nothing to fear. She has this. She is growing up in a time where girls have a voice. She is growing up in a time where she doesn’t feel the pressure to conform nor accommodate everyone. She has got this.

I am planning the next term, and shall be scheduling more trips and adventures, as I know that this precious time won’t come around again; at least not in the same way. I have heard that once a child reaches high school, time seems to speed up. I pray for day trips and camps, walks and other adventures in which time stands still. Right now is perfect. This is all we are guaranteed, this moment in time. I plan to lean into it, and make a second last a day.

 

Papa Al Pomodoro


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This seems like just another food picture, but there is more to it. It is an act of self-care, something I have felt unable to do for the past six months. This Papa Al Pomodoro heralded that I was coming back to life after a time of treading water. Stressful times get the adrenaline surging and self-care recedes. The things you love to do and the fresh food you used to love preparing are swept aside, thought of as time-thieves.

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The thing is, that by making space for preparing good food and doing the things you love, you end up with more time, not less. There is more energy and a clearer head space. I am learning…

Papa Al Pomodoro

1 kg ripe tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, sliced

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 red chilli

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 L veg stock

1/2 bunch basil leaves

1 cup torn sourdough  bread

Preheat oven to 180 C and line oven tray with baking paper. Arrange tomatoes on tray. Drizzle with half the oil. Bake 30 minutes until roasted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil. Cook onion until tender and then add garlic and chilli, stirring for one minute. Stir in roasted tomatoes and canned tomato, mashing tomato slightly. Cook 4 minutes, and add any seasoning you wish. Pour in stock. Simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

After serving, add the basil and sourdough to soup. You can include a sprinkling of Parmesan if you wish. It is divine!

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Wise and compassionate words


My friend wrote an articulate and heartfelt response to the following:


‘You know what? No! Just no! I’m sick of this sentimental BS being shared around FB and people thinking it’s true. I have been through, and had many friends go through, serious life changes. I have had friends battling ongoing or chronic health problems and are just too physically weak to even handle the thought of a coffee (yes even with close friends). I’ve had friends that use every ounce of energy they have just to get through their day as they have serious challenges with their partner and/or kids (probably worse than you’re imagining cause they’re doing their best to try and keep it a secret too). I’ve had friends battling mental health issues where getting out of bed and getting dressed is a huge accomplishment for the day (again the stigma attached to that one only makes them want to hide it and if you haven’t been there then you just won’t get it so don’t even start to preach at them how they need to think positive etc). 
So screw this sentiment! If your friend doesn’t have time for you for 6 months, suck it up, cause the pain/hell they are going thru that they don’t even have the time/energy for their friends, is more than you’re going through by not seeing them. Rather than adding a guilt trip to their situation just msg them some encouragement and remind them you love them and are there if and when they need. Don’t take it personal, it isn’t about you and making it about you just makes it worse. 
So once again, just to make sure you really get this – no! Just no! This is crap.’

The above is full of compassion and empathy. I am still learning how to be assertive, and on occasion, have had the following happen. A text, asking when I may be free. If I am out each day, I will relay that in a couple of weeks my schedule shall be more open. I then receive more texts, which I don’t have the opportunity the read. This has been followed with emails and messages on Facebook. When I go in to see what I have to reply to, there are scores of messages, which I have neither the time nor energy to answer. I have offered by way of explanation, that my spine has deteriorated, I am in constant, merciless pain, and by the time I arrive home (after travelling up to four hours), all I can do is crawl into bed. I assure them that I shall be in touch in a week or so, and am looking forward to catching up. More messages ensue, (usually involving guilt trips, attempting to shame), at which point I am almost in tears. It is an energy drain at a time when you can’t afford to leak! I have racked my brain, trying to see when I have five minutes to make contact. It has inevitably seeped into precious rest time, or time when I had necessary things to do to keep my life running smoothly. I have found that it isn’t appreciated by these kinds of people. They demand another commitment before the present catch-up is over.

This happened to me regularly, and added to the load, when I was simply trying to get through the days. Every life has it’s seasons; a person’s days have delicious, empty space and then gets crammed with more activity and stress than one can handle. Kindness toward another is being accepting of it. I have long-standing friends whom I haven’t seen all year. When we do catch up, it is as though no time has passed. They don’t question my love for them, nor do I their’s. We both know that if we needed anything, we would move planets to support each other. My friend’s response to memes such as that above is filled with wisdom.

 

Getting out in the Sunshine.


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A friend texted me the other day, and insisted on seeing me. “When are you free today?” he had written. I felt a pain in my chest, knowing I would be flitting from one activity to another, and then another. Then, a smattering of light hit the quagmire, and I replied, “I have an hour whilst L is at a class.” We sat down and conversed, he with green tea, and me with a strong coffee. It was my fifth of the day. He could see I was overwhelmed and questioned all that I forced myself to fit into a day. He was concerned. It was enough for me to be taken aback and review what I was doing. Home schooling my daughter, I was trying to be all things to her. Teacher, mum, social planner, and many more aside. I was trying to please all the people in my world, keep my commitments, and generally be functional. I had around thirty texts a day and around a thousand emails to answer. I was exhausted.

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There was no time to eat lunch, no time to change hormone patches, no time to see a doctor or exercise… Hell, there was barely enough time to down more caffeine! I had been feeling as though I were heading for a nervous collapse. Deadlines for articles and deadlines I put on myself. Put in a noisy neighbour who compromised my sleep… I would wake up and have to down two coffees. I would sit on the couch shaking with anxiety, filled with dread at all I had to do. I had to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I would hyperventilate and my stomach would churn. When you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start… My friend was right, and I acknowledged the wisdom of his observation. “I use business as an avoidance tool,” I replied. If I am busy, I can’t feel lonely. If I am busy, my physical pain is ignored. If I am busy, I don’t have time to feel the sorrow, depression and anger.

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If I am busy, I can avoid my social anxiety. I don’t quite know where I fit in, and if people actually want to see me. I don’t call friends out of fear of rejection. I am unsure of my place in friend’s lives. I am scared. Thus, I drink coffee of a day, run around like a mad thing, and drink wine at night to come down off my adrenaline rush. The wine brings me down, way down. I go to bed, sleep for a few hours, wake up with a dry mouth and start again. It has to stop. My friend held up a mirror, and I saw the truth. I had no spaces in my life. None. I have to let go of control.

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The school holidays began, and I vowed to not over-commit. A new playground opened around the corner, and I set off with my daughter. It felt wrong, and I had a panic attack. I felt guilt that I wasn’t doing things at home. That was a big indicator that I needed to do this, immediately. When depression hits, it hits in a big and scary way, like a tsunami of churned-up emotions. It tells me to stay home and hide. I have to do the opposite. We went to the park, and a friend joined us. We watched the girls play, and we walked in the sun. A few hours later, when we returned home, I felt refreshed. I didn’t drink wine last night. I went to bed early, and had a good sleep. The noisy neighbour was at it early this morning. I had one coffee, made lunch, and we set off for the park again. It was glorious. So many friendly faces, hugs and smiles. A friend even brought her little pony for the kids to pat. I am changing everything at this point. If I continue on this trajectory, I will inevitably collapse. More early nights, and less commitments are required. I have to. It will mean saying “no” to things that are stretching my limits. It will mean more time in the sunshine and for spontaneous gatherings.

Two years ago, I did a free e-course for people with anxiety. I completed a questionnaire which was designed to advise how far I had come.

‘Dear Raphaela,

Thank you again for your ongoing support of this important research – we really appreciate your time and benefit from your support.

We are pleased to say that the questionnaires you completed indicate that your symptoms have reduced since you first completed the questionnaires more than 24 months ago. Specifically, your symptoms of both panic and low mood have reduced by more than 70% and are now in the low to non-clinical ranges. We appreciate that the questionnaires do not always reflect people’s experiences, but these are good improvements to have made and maintained – we hope they are reflected in improvements in your wellbeing.’

I am never going back to how I felt as a young person; to how I felt two years ago. I wont. I do have work to do, and life does get busy, but I am going to cease pushing myself to the brink. It leaves no time for joy and happen-chance. I am going to walk in the sun, and we are going to play most days. I will find time. If emails go unanswered, if my phone gets switched off, so be it. I will snatch back time.

L cloud-busting
L cloud-busting

I have to retrain my nervous system and my brain. I have to learn how to breathe again. I have to understand that caffeine is lovely provided its one cup a day. I have to stop using alcohol to make me feel comfortable socially and to drown out the panic which overtakes me at night. They are only habits, and a habit can be changed.

 

 

 

Making Time


My friend's yurt.
My friend’s yurt.

Sometimes, it feels like there is no time. Racing from one appointment and activity to the next. Friends come into your mind, and you determine to get in touch. The day ends, and by the time you remember (usually late at night), it is too late. I hadn’t seen a group of friends for well over a year. I used to go to a meditation on an old train carriage, placed in a friend’s garden. The foliage around it was moist, and frogs would hop onto you as you slid open the door. You would be treated to ambient music and twinkling lights as you arranged yourself in a chair. We would laugh together and tell stories. They cheered for me when I was going through IVF, and celebrated when I fell pregnant. When my daughter arrived, they cooed over her.

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It was time for a reunion. It was overdue. We met at a glorious place on the way to the Southern Highlands, hugging and chatting as though we had never been apart. Over a lazy Sunday brunch, eight women caught up, and then went to a yurt, owned by one of the ladies. There we sang, and laughed some more. We determined that there weren’t to be any more long intervals between catch-ups in future.

I have another group of friends who were my rock through the early days of endometriosis and infertility. We are all scattered about the city, and we remark often that it is best for society that we aren’t able to see each other frequently. We are noisy, cheeky and quite hilarious when together. Anything can happen, and usually does.

My friends made me do it!
My friends made me do it!

I love them more than all the stars in the sky, so impressed am I with their irreverence and spunk. We went to a high-end jewellery store to inquire about the cleaning of a necklace, and were treated with a look of distaste. One of the ladies below became impertinent, which provoked more giggles. These are the sort of people who encourage an environment where you don’t have to watch what you say. In fact, the ruder your train of thought, the better. Light relief in a world so heavy and grey.
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They haven’t had it easy, but then again, no true heroine ever has. It has propelled them to be funnier, try harder, have more empathy than your average woman.
I broke three umbrella’s in the storms that deluged Sydney earlier this week. My daughter started Term 2 of home schooling, and it was back to our hectic schedule.
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Our erupting volcano
Our erupting volcano

So far, we have made a volcano erupt, worked with clay, attended workshops and kids meditation and she has completed several online lessons. Trying to find balance is ever-challenging. I am working on it, and if I hit upon the secret to organization, I will let you know! One thing I do get, is that maintaining a social life is a necessity. Organizing catch-ups isn’t in spite of the hectic schedules we all have, rather it is so we can keep enduring them.